Tuesday, August 12, 2014
As I mentioned in my post last week, I moderated a roundtable discussion at this year's ABA annual meeting entitled Navigating the White Collar Crime Landscape in China. While the discussion included many unique and interesting insights into current trends and challenges in the field of white collar crime in China, I thought I might share just a few of the themes we heard from participants.
First, according to our participants, we should expect to see a continued focus on anti-corruption enforcement actions by both the United States and China. Second, it is important to note that China has begun focusing on the prosecution of high-level corporate employees, not just low-level employees and the corporation. Third, we should anticipate that China will continue to expand its anti-corruption mission, including directing more attention towards U.S. entities. In this regarding, it was also predicted that China may soon explore the adoption of an anti-corruption statute with extraterritorial jurisdiction to assist it in undertaking a broader anti-corruption mission similar to the U.S. This might mean we will soon see a Chinese version of the FCPA. Finally, several of our panelists noted that China is increasing its focus on data privacy and state secrets laws, including enforcing such laws against foreigners more vigorously.
Regarding this last theme from the discussion, I'll note that on the morning of our program two corporate investigators in China, one from the UK and the other from the U.S., were found guilty of purchasing private information regarding Chinese citizens. The pair, who are married, were well known in the internal investigation community in China and regularly performed work for large U.S. corporations, including GlaxoSmithKline. According to the charges, the pair violated Chinese law by illegally acquiring personal information on Chinese citizens and then selling that information to their clients. The first defendant, Peter Humphrey, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. The second defendant, Yu Yingzeng, was sentenced to two years in prison. Those who perform due diligence and internal investigation work in China are keeping a close eye on this and related matters. You can read more about the prosecution in The Wall Street Journal.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
I had the privilege of being at an NYU Conference titled, Deterring Corporate Crime: Effective Principles for Corporate Enforcement. Hats off to Professor Jennifer Arlen for bringing together folks with some different perspectives on corporate crime. Individuals presented data, and I heard different positions presented (corporate, government, industry, judicial) on a host of topics. The individual constituent (CEO, CFO, employee) within the corporation was not a key focus, unless it was a discussion of their wrongdoing or prosecution.
From this conversation it was clear that deterring corporate wrongdoing is not easy. Penalties have increased, yet we continute to see corporate criminality. So the question is, how do we encourage corporations not to engage in corporate wrongdoing?
This is my top ten list of what I think exists and what needs to be changed -
1. Most companies try to abide by the law.
2. Complying with the law is not always easy for corporations. In some instances the law and regulations are unclear, making it difficult to discern what is legal. The array of different laws and regulations (e.g., state, federal, and international), as well as their complexity makes corporate compliance problematic.
3. Companies resort to internal investigations to get information of wrongdoing within the company. In some instances companies will threaten individuals with the possible loss of their jobs if they fail to cooperate with a corporate internal investigation. Individuals who provide information to their employers sometimes do not realize that the company may provide that information to the government and the information may then be used against them.
4. If a company is criminally charged, it typically is financially beneficial for the company to fold, work with the government, and provide information to the government of alleged individual wrongdoing within the company.
5. DOJ's incentives to a corporation that causes it to fold and provide evidence to the government against alleged individual wrongdoers may be causing more harm because it pits corporations against its individual constituents.
6. We need a stronger regulatory system. Our system is broken and one just can't blame agencies like the SEC.
7. If we expect agencies like the SEC to work, Congress needs to provide them with more money to engage in real regulatory enforcement.
8. There are many good folks in DOJ, including AG Holder, who look longterm at stopping corporate wrongdoing. But there are also individuals in DOJ who fail to see the ramifications of what may seem like short-term benefits.
9. Corporate crime can be reduced if everyone - the corporation, government, and also the individual constituents would work together.
10. It would be beneficial in reducing corporate crime if there was more transparency. We all need to hear what works - when there are declinations of prosecutions, or when an agency decides not to fine a company. We can learn from the good things companies do (anonymously) and when DOJ declines to proceed against the company.
Friday, May 25, 2012
The DOJ filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss (Download USA v Lindsey, etc., et al.___ecf.ca9.uscourts) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit the FCPA case involving Lindsey Manufacturing Co., its CEO and CFO. The government had filed an appeal on December 1, 2011 following an Order of District Judge Howard Martz, who ruled that the Lindsey prosecution had been tainted by a pervasive pattern of flagrant government misconduct. Contributing Blogger Solomon Wisenberg posted here excerpts from this initial Order. By today's dismissal, the government is finally dropping this prosecution and it also ends the efforts to get the company to forfeit $24 million.
Attorney Jan Handzlik of Venable LLP stated, "This is a great day for the fair administration of justice. We couldn't be happier for Keith, Steve and the 110 loyal, hard-working employees of Lindsey Manufacturing Company. This dismissal further vindicates Dr. Lindsey's belief in our system of justice and in his innocence. Keith and Steve were steadfast in their belief that the government had not played fair and that the truth would come out."
Congratulations also go to Janet Levine (CrowellMoring), who also represented an accused in this case. Both Jan Handzlik and Janet Levine were the inaugural recipients of the White Collar Criminal Defense Award given at the NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson (see here).
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
I expect that any day now one of my non-white-collar criminal clients will come to my office and ask me to incorporate him to protect him from future criminal liability. Of course, incorporation does not immunize an individual from criminal liability. Nor, generally, does it protect small corporations from prosecution.
However, it appears that just as massive corporations are "too big to fail," they are too big to prosecute. In the wake of the government's destruction of Arthur Andersen because of an ill-conceived, aggressive and ultimately unsuccessful indictment which caused the loss of thousands of jobs, DOJ has been highly reluctant to aggressively prosecute major corporations.
Although there are occasionally indictments of major corporations, most often these are disposed of by "deferred prosecutions," which are essentially delayed dismissals with financial penalties in numbers that are large in absolute terms but meager in comparison to the profits and assets of the corporation. To be sure, even when prosecuted to conviction, corporations do not go to jail and thus there may be little practical difference between a conviction of a corporation and a deferred prosecution. However, to the extent a goal of the criminal justice system is to achieve apparent fairness and equality, there is a genuine, if symbolic, reason for the prosecution of the large and powerful, whether they be individuals or corporations.
According to a thorough account in the New York Times this past Saturday, April 21, see here, Wal-Mart in Mexico, where the company has, according to the Times, one-fifth of its stores, engaged in a systemic countrywide scheme in which it spent millions of dollars to bribe hundreds of Mexican officials to gain favorable and expedited treatment and a competitive advantage. According to the Times, this conspiracy was not, as is often the case in corporate wrongdoing, the act of a rogue individual or group. Rather, it was orchestrated from the very top of the Wal-Mart Mexican hierarchy. Additionally, again according to the Times, when reports of this corruption reached Wal-Mart's U.S. headquarters, top executives took great pains to cover up the wrongdoing.
The alleged conspiracy, if the Times report is accurate, appears to be the kind of corporate crime, therefore, that deserves aggressive prosecution (not just an indictment and a deferred prosecution), especially if the government wants the Federal Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA") to be taken seriously. Of course, there may be statute of limitations or other fact-finding or evidentiary problems involved in putting together a case involving facts from 2005, the year, according to the article, the bribe payments were made. It is far easier to write an article reporting corruption than to prove it under the rules of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, DOJ does with respect to this matter.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Check out this new article by Mike Koehler here. His abstract states:
"Bringing criminal charges and marshalling the full resources of law enforcement agencies against an individual is an awesome power that our government possess. Because that power alters the lives of real people and their families, sidetracks real careers, empties real bank accounts in mounting a defense, and causes often irreversible damage to real reputations, it ought to be exercised with real discipline and prudence.
While it is unrealistic (and probably not desirable from a policy perspective) to expect the Justice Department to win 100 percent of its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecutions against individuals when put to its burden of proof, given the above referenced dynamics, it is realistic (and desirable from a policy perspective) to expect the department to win a very high percentage of its FCPA prosecution against individuals. However, several recent DOJ FCPA prosecutions against individuals have fallen short of this desirable objective, often in spectacular ways. This raises the question - what percentage of DOJ FCPA losses is acceptable?
To borrow from Justice Potter Stewart's classic reasoning in Jacobellis v. Ohio, I don't know what level of DOJ FCPA losses is acceptable and the answer may be indefinable. But I know it when I see it, and the number and magnitude of DOJ's recent FCPA losses is unacceptable."
Sunday, April 8, 2012
In a Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing en Banc, defense counsel raises that the Second Circuit did not consider the Supreme Court's recent decision in Global Tech (for more discussion on this case see here and here). The defense argues that the 2009 conviction of Frederic Bourke Jr. for conspiracy to violate the FCPA and for making false statements was affirmed, but the jury was not apprised that reckless conduct was insufficient for conscious avoidance. Global Tech was issued after oral argument in the case.
Petition for Rehearing - Download Bourkeca2rehearingpetition
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Reported here was the dismissal by the government of the FCPA Sting case. This is a huge dismissal as two cases had already been tried. Comments from some of the defense counsel:
Stephen Bronis, Carlton Fields and defense counsel to Stephen G. Giordanella states "This FCPA sting investigation was ill conceived and ill executed. Our client, Mr. Giordanella, was acquitted and the foreperson of the jury observed that "a number of jurors were troubled by the nature of the FBI sting operation." Unfortunately it took 2 trials spanning a total of 6 months for the Government to pull the plug. Millions of dollars, much of it taxpayer money, have been wasted and the lives of those accused have been forever changed. This sort of injustice should never have happened."
Morvillo Abramowitz partner Lisa Prager, who represented Israel Weisler in this matter, commented, "I am very pleased with the government's dismissal. For my client, it has been a long two years. I believe it was a wise decision to put this case, finally, to rest."
Attorney Todd Foster commented that "I am very pleased with the government’s decision to drop the case against John Wier, but wish they had come to this realization that the charges were unproveable before we spent almost two months in trial and Mr. Wier exhausted most of his financial resources and he and his family had to go through the legal trauma they did."
Attorney Dee Wampler, Joseph S. Passanise & Adam D. Woody noted in a press release that "[u]ltimately, the Government finally did the right thing today and should think twice about going after honest business people in the future."
Trial counsel for group one was Eric Bruce, Matthew Menchel, and David McGill (Patel); Todd Foster, Michael Rubinstein, and Christina Kimball (Wier); Lawrence Jacobs and Connie Mederos-Jacobs (Bigelow); and Joseph Passanise and Dee Wampler (Tolleson). Post-trial, Bigelow hired David Benowitz.
Group two defense attorneys were: David Krakoff and Lauren Randell (John Mushriqui), Charles Leeper (Jeana Mushriqui), Eric Dubelier (Caldwell), Paul Calli and Stephen Bronis (Giordanella); Michael Madigan and Shana Madigan Feldman (Godsey); and Steven McCool (Morales).
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The government filed a dismissal with prejudice in an FCPA African Sting case stating:
"(1) the outcomes of the first two trials in which, after extensive deliberations, the juries remained hung as to seven defendants and acquitted two defendants, and one defendant was acquitted on the sole charge against him pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 29; (2) the impact of certain evidentiary and other legal rulings in the first two trials and the implications of those rulings for future trials, including with respect to Rule 404(b) and other knowledge and intent evidence the government proposed to introduce; and (3) the substantial governmental resources, as well as judicial,defense, and jury resources, that would be necessary to proceed with another four or more trials, given that the first two trials combined lasted approximately six months. In light of all of the foregoing, the government respectfully submits that continued prosecution of this case is not warranted under the circumstances."
See Motion - Download 954646
Thursday, February 16, 2012
The Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs in on FCPA prosecutions here this morning, bewailing DOJ's increasingly broad construction of the statute and calling for reform. The editorial hits the FCPA nail right on the head, noting Mother Justice's recent setbacks in three FCPA cases, but also noting that big companies settle FCPA cases for outrageously large sums instead of shouldering the risks and further financial burdens of protracted litigation against the DOJ and SEC.
Don't expect any of this to change without a statutory fix. DOJ has proven itself remarkably tone deaf, stubborn, and obtuse with respect to FCPA enforcement. Besides, FCPA investigations bring in the big bucks, concomitantly creating a specialty practice that is easily marketable to the private and in-house bar after government employment.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Today's WSJ reports here, in an article by Joe Palazzolo and Emily Glazer, that Avon is facing a DOJ and federal grand jury invesitgation of FCPA allegations. It is unclear who leaked the grand jury aspect of the case, but Avon does not deny that there is an investigation and you can't run a federal FCPA probe without a grand jury. According to the article, an internal 2005 audit report revealed questionable payments to Chinese officials and third parties, but the report wasn't shared with the audit committee, the full Board of Directors, or the finance committee. The article gives no details on the 2005 internal audit report. Avon apparently launched a full fledged internal investigation, but not until 2008. No discussion in the article of any potential statute of limitation issues.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
One of the supposed hallmarks of the American criminal justice system is the prudent exercise of prosecutorial discretion. But prosecutorial discretion, even when it works, is a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because it allows for the flexibility and compromise without which most systems, even well-constructed ones, cannot function. A curse, because liberty should not depend upon the the character and wisdom of the person temporarily wielding power.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California has decided not to prosecute Lance Armstrong. An announcement to that effect was made last Friday. The L.A. Times story is here. A good Washington Post piece is here. Today's Wall Street Journal discusses the declination and a potential future probe of of improper leaks related to the case. (An internal investigation of some kind appears to be warranted given the massive leaking that has occurred.) According to the WSJ, the declination decision by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte and his top aides went against the recommendation of the two line AUSAs handling the case. Maybe, but take it with a grain of salt. News stories about the internal machinations of prosecution teams often get it wrong.
Based on what I know about the case, the decision to decline appears to have been a no-brainer. Recent federal prosecutions involving alleged drug use by star athletes have expended enormous sums of money with mixed or poor results. In the Armstrong matter, the doping, if it occurred, was not itself a federal crime. Prosecutors would have been peddling a wire fraud theory under which Armstrong allegedly defrauded team sponsors by intentionally violating a contractual obligation to avoid improper drug use. Not very sexy. Twelve typical American jurors might well wonder at the start of such a case, "Why are we even here?" Finally, Armstrong is enormously popular and has a sterling defense team with unlimited resources.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) vows to continue its investigation, accurately noting that its "job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws." But USADA wants the grand jury materials. This would be a travesty, and is unlikely to happen. Federal grand jury materials are presumptively secret by law for good reason. Don't count on a federal court sanctioning transfer of grand jury materials to an agency like USADA.
In other declination news, the DOJ attorneys prosecuting the Gabon sting case have informed U.S. District Judge Richard Leon that DOJ is considering dropping all future prosecutions. A decision will be made by February 21. The BLT piece is here. Full disclosure: I briefly represented one of the defendants, and considered representing another of the defendants, neither of whom has gone to trial. My comments here are based on the public record. The two cases brought to date have resulted in three acquittals and two hung juries. Nobody going to trial has been convicted in what DOJ thought was a sure win. Whatever merit there was in initially bringing the case, reconsideration is in order. The two trials to date have revealed a number of weaknesses. First, this was a sting--a crime engineered by the U.S. Government. Second, the informant who helped orchestrate it was far more compromised than the typical informant in a white collar case. Third, in a key tape recorded conversation between that informant and one of the defendants, the defendant seeks to back out of the alleged unlawful transaction, but the informant reels the defendant back in by telling him that attorneys have approved the deal. Fourth, the inherent ambiguities and weaknesses in the FCPA itself.
If there has been a benefit to the Gabon FCPA prosecution it is this--it has taught the white collar defense bar that FCPA cases can be fought and won and, presumably, has taught DOJ that FCPA cases aren't as easy to win as they first appear.
February 8, 2012 in Celebrities, Corruption, Current Affairs, FCPA, Fraud, Government Reports, Grand Jury, Investigations, Media, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Sports, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Mike Koehler has a forthcoming article in the Wisconsin Law Review, titled, "Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense." The abstract states:
This article asserts that the current FCPA enforcement environment does not adequately recognize a company’s good faith commitment to FCPA compliance and does not provide good corporate citizens a sufficient return on their compliance investments. This article argues in favor of an FCPA compliance defense meaning that a company’s pre-existing compliance policies and procedures, and its good faith efforts to comply with the FCPA, should be relevant as a matter of law when a non-executive employee or agent acts contrary to those policies and procedures and in violation of the FCPA. This article further argues that a compliance defense is best incorporated into the FCPA as an element of a bribery offense, the absence of which the DOJ must establish to charge a substantive bribery offense.
Part I of this article contains a case study to demonstrate the type of conduct that would be covered by an FCPA compliance defense. Contrary to the claims of some, an FCPA compliance defense would not eliminate corporate criminal liability under the FCPA or reward "fig leaf" or "purely paper" compliance programs. A compliance defense would not apply to corrupt business organizations, activity engaged in or condoned by executive officers, or activity by any employee if it occurred in the absence of pre-existing compliance policies and procedures.
Part II of this article places an FCPA compliance defense in the context of the broader issue of corporate criminal liability and acknowledges the work of other scholars and commentators who have called for a general compliance defense to corporate criminal liability. This section channels that work into the specific context of the FCPA and argues that the unique aspects and challenges of complying with the FCPA in the global marketplace warrant a specific FCPA compliance defense.
Part III of this article highlights that an FCPA compliance defense is not a new idea or a novel idea. This section contains an overview of the FCPA legislative history of a compliance defense, most notably the compliance defense passed by the House of Representatives in the 1980’s. The justification and rationale for a compliance defense then pales in comparison to now as most U.S. companies engage in international business during an era of aggressive FCPA enforcement. This section also demonstrates that several countries, like the U.S. that are signatories to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (the "OECD Convention"), have a compliance-like defense in their domestic laws.
Against this backdrop, Part IV of this article details the DOJ’s institutional opposition to an FCPA compliance defense, yet argues that the DOJ already recognizes a de facto FCPA compliance defense albeit in opaque, inconsistent and unpredictable ways. Thus, an FCPA compliance defense accomplishes, among other things, the policy goal of removing factors relevant to corporate criminal liability from the opaque, inconsistent, and unpredictable world of DOJ decision making towards a more transparent, consistent, and predictable model best accomplished through a compliance defense amendment to the FCPA. This section concludes by highlighting the growing chorus of former DOJ officials who support an FCPA compliance defense and argues that the DOJ’s current opposition to a compliance defense seems grounded less in principle than an attempt to protect its lucrative FCPA enforcement program.
Part V of this article concludes by highlighting certain policy objectives advanced by an FCPA compliance defense. This section argues that an FCPA compliance defense will better incentivize more robust corporate compliance, reduce improper conduct, and thus best advance the FCPA’s objective of reducing bribery. An FCPA compliance defense will also increase public confidence in FCPA enforcement actions and allow the DOJ to better allocate its limited prosecutorial resources to cases involving corrupt business organizations and the individuals who actually engaged in the improper conduct.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Funk and Minder's Bloomberg Article Serves Up Comprehensive Defense of Incremental, Common Sense FCPA Reform
ABA Global Anti-Corruption Task Force Co-Chair T. Markus Funk and his Perkins Coie colleague M. Bridget Minder just authored "Bribery of Foreign Officials: The FCPA in 2011 and Beyond: Is Targeted FCPA Reform Really the “Wrong Thing at the Wrong Time”? in the Bloomberg Law Reports. This in-depth (6,000+ word) piece summarizes 2011 enforcement trends, but, more importantly, addresses head-on the various arguments raised against the growing call for targeted FCPA reform. For example, is incremental domestic FCPA reform really going to impact foreign anti-corruption efforts? To what extent should we care if it does? Why do the "Busting Bribery" authors' criticisms fall short of the mark? What public policy arguments favor targeted reform? For those following the reform debate, this publication represents the latest fresh thinking on this critically important subject.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
T. Markus Funk has two new extraordinary charts - a UK Bribery Act chart (Download FlowChart_UKBriberyAct_Draft7_Blue) and a chart that compares between the UK, US, German, Chinese, and India's anti-corruption laws (Download Anti Bribery Chart). Thanks for sharing these.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Just in time for the holidays, Judge Leon has thrown out all conspiracy counts against the second set of defendants on trial in the African Sting case. Leon's ruling resulted in the outright acquittal of Stephen Girodanella who was only charged in the conspiracy count. Tom Schoenberg of Bloomberg.com has the story here. The first African Sting case resulted in a hung jury and is set to be retried. A few weeks ago in California, Judge Howard Matz threw out the FCPA convictions against the Linsdey-Lee defendants and dismissed the indictment against them with prejudice. These FCPA cases are often fraught with difficulty for DOJ, even when prosecutors have what they think are incriminating tapes on hand. Hats off to the defendants and their attorneys who are daring to take these cases to trial.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Check out Jon May's Opinion piece in the National Law Journal, Reform the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - A good way would be to create an absolute defense to prosecution when a company self-reports a violation
Thursday, December 1, 2011
"In this Court’s experience, almost all of the prosecutors in the Office of the United States Attorney for this district consistently display admirable professionalism, integrity and fairness.
"In this Court’s experience, almost all of the prosecutors in the Office of the United States Attorney for this district consistently display admirable professionalism, integrity and fairness.So it is with deep regret that this Court is compelled to find that the Government team allowed a key FBI agent to testify untruthfully before the grand jury, inserted material falsehoods into affidavits submitted to magistrate judges in support of applications for search warrants and seizure warrants, improperly reviewed e-mail communications between one Defendant and her lawyer, recklessly failed to comply with its discovery obligations, posed questions to certain witnesses in violation of the Court’s rulings, engaged in questionable behavior during closing argument and even made misrepresentations to the Court."
"Consequently, the Court throws out the convictions of Defendants Lindsey Manufacturing Company, Keith E. Lindsey and Steve K. Lee and dismisses the First Superseding Indictment."
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Maybe FCPA isn't such a slam dunk after all if you take the government to trial. Bloomberg's Businessweek has the story here. The announcement was made in open court yesterday. A written opinion is due today. The Court is apparently relying on its supervisory power, so we can expect a vigorous government appeal. The ruling covers Defendants Lindsey Manufacturing, Keith Lindsey, and Steve Lee.
Monday, November 28, 2011
WSJ's Joe Palazzolo reports here this morning on lobbying efforts to weaken/clarify the FCPA. In yesterday's NYTimes, Gretchen Morgenson commented upon the movement to prevent the CFTC from bringing transparency to the swaps market. In a November 4 piece, WSJ's Michael Rapoport detailed Jon Corzine's successful July 2011 campaign, on behalf of MF Global Holdings, to block a CFTC proposal "that would have placed tighter restrictions on how futures-trading firms can invest cash sitting in customer trading accounts." (Prescient move, Jon.) Most or all of the GOP candidates favor repeal of Dodd-Frank. If a Martian fell to Earth he/she/it would never believe that the same financial elites who brought us to the edge of ruin are still having so much success calling the regulatory shots.
FCPA clearly needs clarification. DOJ, in typical fashion, has given the statute the broadest possible interpretation. But don't expect any significant weakening. Why? FCPA is a cash cow. Big companies, most of whom are quite vulnerable, will do anything to avoid a civil or criminal trial. FCPA becomes a cost of doing business. The money flows into the government. Many of the DOJ attorneys flow into private practice. Because big companies do not want to risk losing at trial, bringing FCPA cases and obtaining huge monetary settlements, at least against those companies, is like shooting fish in a barrel. In other words, the cases are easy to do--just like insider trading cases. They bring big headlines. So the public is diverted from thinking about DOJ's remarkable failure to systematically investigate the top tier entitities and individuals who facilitated the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression.