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On Being An FCPA Associate … A Q&A With Rohan Virginkar

Meet Rohan Virginkar (here), a 2004 graduate of The George Washington University School of Law, and current associate at Foley & Lardner in Washington D.C.

Virginkar has a wealth of FCPA experience and in this post he describes what it takes to succeed as an FCPA associate.

Develop fact investigation skills, pay attention to detail, be self-sufficient, and develop a firm grasp of the FCPA – all good pointers to students and young associates interested in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act practice.

It also helps to have a valid passport and to embrace unpredictability because you may be sitting at your desk on Tuesday and be in Beijing on Saturday in the often fast-paced world of FCPA investigations.

Below is my Q&A with Virginkar.

What was your first FCPA related assignment?

My first FCPA case was within the first few months of starting as an associate. I traveled to Mumbai to investigate an allegation that an Indian subsidiary of our US-based client had paid money to a local government official in exchange for his agreeing not to disrupt their business. The allegations were true, and we discovered that a manager at the company had actually handed a duffel bag of currency to the official under the guise of a “donation” to the official’s favorite “charity”. It was a valuable introduction to the FCPA: shakedowns by foreign government officials, “charitable donations” to potentially suspect charities; it had many FCPA red flags all in one case.

What countries have you visited doing FCPA work?

In addition to India on that very first investigation, the matters I’ve had the good fortune of working on have taken me all over: Angola, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nigeria, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Of those countries, what has been your most memorable experience?

Each country I’ve visited on these matters has been memorable because the people, places and work have always defied expectations and offered nice surprises. That said, having a manager at a Chinese company who we instructed to stop paying kickbacks threaten us by saying that some of the payments were going to the Chinese Triads and that he would have to tell them that “the American lawyers” made him stop paying them is definitely one that sticks in mind.

As you learned more about the FCPA, what surprised you the most?

I’ve perhaps been most surprised by the genuine desire of most people around the world to follow the general goals of the FCPA, even if they don’t always understand the strictures and even when they occasionally get it wrong.

If you could change one thing about the FCPA or FCPA enforcement, what would it be?

I think the underlying goals of the FCPA are just, so there isn’t anything about the law that I would necessarily change. In terms of enforcement, I think the lack of clear judicial guidance on a number of gray areas of the FCPA sometimes makes it difficult to advise clients, who are forced to balance their business interests with a desire to comply with the law. I’d like to see more real case law develop, which is something I’m sure we’ll start to see as more individuals face stiff penalties for violations of the FCPA. The newly passed whistleblower provisions also give me some pause, because companies that have put in the resources to develop effective compliance programs with internal reporting mechanisms may now see that undermined because potential whistleblowers may see a financial incentive to make allegations, when such information may or may not be the basis of an FCPA allegation. However, it is too early at this point to know for sure what the practical effect on both enforcement and compliance will be.

What advice to you have to students or young associates interested in having an FCPA practice?

It’s important for young lawyers to hone their general litigation skills. Internal investigations (particularly when they have international elements) are a different beast from general commercial litigation, but the same skills that make someone a good litigator also form the foundation of being a good investigator. You have to be logical, methodical, with an eye for detail, because you never know what the smoking gun will look like. Being flexible and maintaining a good attitude helps too. You quickly learn that things will rarely go as you plan when working abroad, and many of the technological and other comforts we rely on in our legal practices here in the US are often unavailable when you’re overseas. Additionally, having to navigate the social and cultural norms of the people and places where you’re doing an investigation (and the fact that you’re often operating in an environment where the people you’re investigating may resent you and try to make your life more difficult), can make the mechanics of actually conducting the investigation as complex as the substantive issues you’re investigating. You also won’t regret developing a habit of over-preparing and over-thinking, so that when you and your group face an unexpected issue, you have already considered it, or at least have the foundation to think your way through it. Finally, learn the law backwards and forwards. When I started working in this area, one of the attorneys who mentored me told me that he always kept the statute handy and referred to it often, because the answers he was looking for were usually found inside. In practice, I’ve more often than not found this to be true. At a minimum, having a solid working knowledge of the law and its intricacies helps you communicate with your clients about why you may be offering certain advice or asking them to make certain changes to how they do business.

Anonymous Reporting … Common, But Effective?

A company looking to establish “best-practices” FCPA policies and procedures will often implement anonymous reporting mechanisms so that employees and others can report misconduct that may violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or company policy.

The conventional wisdom (see here for example) is that such anonymous reporting mechanisms are effective because, among other things, they remove the stigma of reporting misconduct.

Anonymous reporting is common, but is it effective?

That is question asked by James Hunton (Bently College – see here) and Jacob Rose (University of New Hampshire – see here) in a recently published study in the Journal of Management Studies titled: “Effects of Anonymous Whistle-Blowing and Perceived Reputation Threats on Investigations of Whistle-Blowing Allegations by Audit Committee Members.”

The answer according to Hunton and Rose?

No it isn’t.

Here is the abstract of the paper.

“A total of 83 experienced audit committee members participated in an experiment in which they evaluated the credibility of and allocated investigative resources towards a whistle-blowing allegation of financial reporting malfeasance by corporate executive officers. We manipulated whether the whistle-blowing allegation was made through anonymous or non-anonymous channels and whether the allegation posed a relatively high or low threat to the personal reputation of the audit committee member who was charged with investigating the allegation. Results indicate that the participating audit committee members attributed lower credibility and allocated fewer investigatory resources when the whistle-blowing report was received through an anonymous versus non-anonymous channel, and when the allegation posed a relatively high versus low level of reputation threat. While the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 requires audit committees of publicly traded firms to provide an anonymous whistle-blowing channel to employees, our findings suggest disturbing unintended consequences of such regulation; specifically, audit committee members might fail to sufficiently investigate whistle-blowing allegations received through anonymous whistle-blowing channels, particularly if the allegation poses a personal reputation threat.”

As noted by the authors, the study “is the first to examine whether and how anonymous whistle-blowing affects corporate directors who are charged with determining the veracity of such allegations” and the study questions “whether anonymous whistle-blowing improves the quality of corporate governance …”

Six Months For The Greens … Plus The Friday Roundup

In September 2009, Gerald and Patricia Green were found guilty by a federal jury of substantive FCPA violations, conspiracy to violate the FCPA, and other charges. According to the DOJ release (see here) the Los Angeles-area film executives were found guilty of engaging in “sophisticated bribery scheme that enabled the defendants to obtain a series of Thai government contracts, including valuable contracts to manage and operate Thailand’s yearly film festival.”

As noted in the DOJ release:

“The conspiracy and FCPA charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and each of the money laundering counts carries a maximum penalty of up to 20years in prison. The false subscription of a U.S. income tax return carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of not more than $100,000.”

Sentencing was originally set for December 17, 2009, was delayed several times, and, at one point, was removed from the calendar altogether (see here).

U.S. District Court Judge George Wu of the Central District of California reportedly wanted to learn more about other FCPA sentences as well as Mr. Green’s health issues.

The DOJ requested a 10 year sentence for both Gerald and Patricia Green.

The DOJ stated that the “court must decline defendants’ remarkable invitation to join the wholesale speculation of FCPA ‘pundits’ as to whether corporate settlements are ‘shielding’ to corporate executives from punishment.”

In closing, the DOJ urged the court to “disregard defendants’ efforts to obscure the landscape of FCPA sentencing, which generally reflects significant prison terms for convicted individuals.”

According to this report, Judge Wu yesterday sentenced the Greens, before a packed courtroom, to six months in prison, followed by three years probation (six months of which must be served as home confinement).

According to the report, Judge Wu “also set a restitution figure of $250,000” but “if the Greens, who have had their accounts frozen and assets seized since being arrested in 2007, can prove that none of the $1.8 million they paid in bribes to Thai officials can be recovered, then they will only have to pay $3,000 in restitution.”

Does the “landscape of FCPA sentencing” truly reflect “significant prison terms” as stated by the DOJ?

True, any prison term is significant for a defendant and his/her family and friends.

But with a top sentence of 60 months (Charles Jumet – see here), the 366 day sentence for Frederic Bourke in November 2009 (see here), the 15 month sentence for Jason Edward Steph and the 366 day sentence for Jim Bob Brown both in January 2010 (see here) and now the 6 month sentence for the Greens – is this yet another instance in which DOJ’s FCPA rhetoric does not match reality?

*****

H-P news that does not involve its former CEO, what others are saying about the Giffen Gaffe, SciClone’s stock drop, and Siemens $1 billion customer … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

H-P Inquiry Escalates

According to a story in today’s Wall Street Journal by David Crawford, the DOJ “has asked Hewlett-Packard Co. to provide a trove of internal records as part of an international investigation into allegations that H-P executives paid bribes in Russia, according to people familiar with the investigations.”

According to the story, the DOJ request “came after German prosecutors complained H-P had refused to provide them with all of the records they requested” and after “H-P initially argued that the German request for bookkeeping records, some of which are five years old, imposed an ‘undue hardship’ on the company.”

The article indicates that the DOJ “asked H-P to comply voluntarily with the request and hasn’t subpoenaed the records” and that “H-P has yet to provide some records” but is “cooperating with the investigations.” According to H-P, the investigation
“involves people that have largely left the company and matters that happened as much as seven years ago.”

What Others Are Saying About Giffen

It’s been one week since the Giffen Gaffe (see here).

Here is what others are saying about the enforcement action that began with charges that James Giffen made “more than $78 million in unlawful payments to two senior officials of the Republic of Kazakhstan in connection with six separate oil transactions”, yet ended with a misdemeanor tax violation against Giffen and an FCPA anti-bribery charge against a functionally defunct entity (The Mercator Corporation -in which Giffen was the principal shareholder, board chairman, and chief executive officer) focused merely on two snowmobiles.

Scott Horton, writing at Harper’s Magazine (see here) noted that “[t]he outcome is a huge embarrassment to federal prosecutors, who had invested a decade in resources in the effort to convict Giffen of FCPA and related violations.”

Horton, who has been following the case for years, highlighted how the “case has been the focus of political manipulation concerns for years” and closed with this paragraph:

“Kazakhs have long claimed that their government’s strategy of resolving the Giffen case by using the right levers with the American administration–a process that led them to hire former attorneys general and high-profile retired prosecutors, private investigators, and public-relations experts–would be successful. The outcome in the Giffen case appears to ratify that view. The notion of an independent, politically insulated criminal-justice administration in America has just taken another severe hit.”

Steve LeVine, author of The Oil and The Glory page at Foreign Policy, noted (here) that the Giffen resolution is “a considerable comedown for the federal government” and that Giffen’s lawyer “understood correctly that he could set up a collision between the Justice Department and the CIA in which the latter would probably prevail.”

The FCPA and Stock Price

What affect, if any, does an FCPA disclosure or resolution have on a company’s stock price?

It’s an issue I’ve explored before (see here) and best I can tell the evidence is inconclusive and the answer is – it depends.

In the case of a company that does business almost exclusively in China disclosing an FCPA inquiry focused on China, the answer is that disclosure of the FCPA inquiry matters – and quite a bit.

On Monday, SciClone Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Delaware company based in California, disclosed in a 10-Q filing (here) as follows:

“On August 5, 2010 SciClone was contacted by the SEC and advised that the SEC has initiated a formal, non-public investigation of SciClone. In connection with this investigation, the SEC issued a subpoena to SciClone requesting a variety of documents and other information. The subpoena requests documents relating to a range of matters including interactions with regulators and government-owned entities in China, activities relating to sales in China and documents relating to certain company financial and other disclosures. On August 6, 2010, the Company received a letter from the DOJ indicating that the DOJ was investigating Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issues in the pharmaceutical industry generally, and had received information about the Company’s practices suggesting possible violations.”

SciClone’s business is focused primarily on China with 90+% of its revenue derived from China sales. Thus, it is not surprising that an FCPA inquiry focused on China had a material impact on the company’s stock price.

As noted in this Reuters story, news of the FCPA inquiry sent SciClone’s shares, at one point, down 41% to a 52 week low.

Siemens $1 Billion Customer

In December 2008, Siemens agreed to pay $800 million in combined U.S. fines and penalties to settle FCPA charges for a pattern of bribery the DOJ termed “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope.” According to the DOJ, for much of Siemens’ operations around the world, “bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure.”

The Siemens enforcement action remains the largest FCPA settlement ever (even though Siemens itself was not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations).

On the one year anniversary of the Siemens enforcement action, I ran a post – Siemens – The Year After (see here) which highlighted how the U.S. government continues to do substantial business with the company it charged with engaging in a pattern of bribery “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope.”

This U.S. government business has helped Siemens outperform its competitors in a difficult recessionary environment and much of the company’s recent success is the direct result of government stimulus programs around the world.

Using Recovery.gov (a U.S. government website designed “to allow taxpayers to see precisely what entities receive Recovery money ..”), I highlighted how several Siemens’ business units have been awarded several dozen contracts funded by U.S. taxpayer stimulus dollars.

It is against this backdrop that Paul Glader’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal “Siemens Seeks More U.S Orders” caught my eye.

According to the article, Siemens Corp. (the U.S. division of Siemens) currently brings in about $1 billion a year from the U.S. government, a figure the division hopes to double by 2015.

Eric Spiegel, chief executive of Siemens Corp., is quoted in the article as saying: “[o]ne of the beauties of the federal-government spending is it didn’t drop off during the recession.”

To that, I’ll add that one of the unfortunate beauties of engaging in bribery the U.S. government terms “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope” is no slow down in U.S. government contracts in the immediate aftermath of the enforcement action.

It’s one of the FCPA greatest headscratchers – FCPA violaters are and remain some of the U.S. government’s biggest suppliers and contracting partners.

As I’ve noted in numerous prior posts, efforts are underway to try to change this. See here, here and here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Report Cards

The start of school is just around the corner, but summer is report card time for various groups focused on reducing bribery and corruption.

This post highlights two such report cards: Transparency International’s Annual Progress Report of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and The OECD Working Group on Bribery Annual Report.

Transparency International 2010 Progress Report of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention

On July 28th, Transprancy International (TI) (see here) released its sixth annual Progress Report on Enforcement of the OECD Convention.

“The 2010 report covers 36 of the 38 parties to the Convention, all except Iceland and Luxembourg. It covers enforcement data for the period ending 2009 unless otherwise stated and includes reports on recent case developments through June 2010. Like prior reports, this report is based on information provided by TI experts in each reporting country selected by TI national chapters.”

According to Appendix A of the report, the U.S. experts responding to the TI questionnaire were Lucinda Low (here) and Tom Best (here) of Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

In summary fashion, the report states:

“The increase in the number of countries with active enforcement from four to seven is a very positive development, because active enforcement is considered a substantial deterrent to foreign bribery. With the addition of Denmark, Italy and the United Kingdom, which previously were in the moderate category, there is now active enforcement in countries representing about 30 per cent of world exports, 8 per cent more than in the prior year.”

“The number of countries in the moderate category has changed from 11 to 9 countries, because three countries have moved up to the active category and one country, Argentina have moved up from the lowest category. The risk of prosecution in the nine countries with moderate enforcement – representing about 21 per cent of world exports – is considered an insufficient deterrent. Among this group are G8 members France and Japan.”

“The most disappointing finding is that there are still 20 countries – including G8 member Canada – with little or no enforcement, representing about 15 per cent of world exports. That number has shown little change in the last five years. This is deeply disturbing because companies in these countries will feel little or no constraint about foreign bribery, and many are not even aware of the OECD Convention. Governments in these countries have failed to meet the Convention’s commitment for collective action against foreign bribery.”

The report contains the following conclusions.

Current Levels of Enforcement are too Low to Enable the Convention to Succeed

“With active enforcement in only seven of the 38 parties to the Convention, the Convention’s goal of effectively curbing foreign bribery in international business transactions is still far from being achieved. The current situation is unstable because the Convention is predicated on the collective commitment of all the parties to end foreign bribery. Unless enforcement is sharply increased, existing support could well erode. Danger signals include efforts in some countries to limit the role of investigative magistrates, shorten statutes of limitations and extend immunities from prosecution. The risk of backsliding is particularly acute during a time of recession, when competition for limited orders is intense.”

Cause of Lagging Enforcement: Lack of Political Will

“The principal cause of lagging enforcement is lack of political will. This can take a passive form, such as failure to provide adequate funding and staffing for enforcement. It can also take an active form, through political obstruction of investigations and prosecutions. The lack of political will must be forcefully confronted not only by the Working Group on Bribery but also by the active involvement of the OECD Secretary-General, as well as high-level pressure on the laggards from governments committed to enforcement.”

Although the TI Report probably did not have the U.S. and U.K. in mind when making the above statement, many have questioned whether both the U.S. and U.K. governments lacked the political will to charge BAE, a large defense contractor to both governments, with bribery offenses. The U.S. enforcement action (see here) was not an FCPA enforcement action and the U.K. enforcement action (here) merely concerned a book keeping issue in Tanzania. And of course, TI’s statement about lack of political will was made before the Giffen Gaffe (see here).

Positive developments noted in the TI Report include:

“During the last year prosecutors in the US, Germany and the UK announced a number of settlements of important foreign bribery cases in which the defendants agreed to pay fines amounting to many hundreds of millions of dollars. These settlements demonstrate the ability of prosecutors to resolve cases without interminable litigation. The settlement levels provide a sharp wake-up call to international business regarding the gravity of foreign bribery.”

In seeming recognition of how aggresive enforcement of bribery laws can become a cash cow (see here for more) for the enforcing government, the report then states: “[The settlements] should also make clear to laggard governments that investing in adequate enforcement can have substantial returns.”

Other snippets from the TI Report.

As to the U.K.’s delay of the Bribery Act (see here for more) the report states:

“… it is regrettable that the entry into force of the law has been delayed until April 2011. There should be no further delay. It is also important that the consultation on the publication of official government guidance on compliance will not result in weakening any provision of the law.”

As to the use of alternative resolution vehicles such as non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements – a common way corporate FCPA enforcement actions are resolved (see here and here for more) and a model the U.K. SFO seeks to follow – the report contains this recommendation:

“The Working Group should undertake a study on the use of negotiated settlements to resolve foreign bribery cases. There are strong reasons for negotiated settlements, most importantly to avoid the high costs, long delays and unpredictable outcomes of litigation. However, there is concern that these settlements could be questionable deals between prosecutors and politically influential companies. Therefore, procedures should be adopted to make settlement terms public and subject to judicial approval. This should follow a public hearing where representatives of the country where the bribes were paid, competitors and other interested stakeholders such as public interest groups should be given an opportunity to present their views.”

The report also states as follows:

“TI considers that all settlements should be submitted to judicial review independent from the Prosecutor’s Office. This review should include a public hearing with representatives of the country where the bribe was paid, competitiors and civil society organisations before the settlement becomes final and published detailed conclusions.”

In a section of the report discussing current cases and trends, the report notes that some fines and penalties are based on the amount of the bribe while in other cases the fines and penalties are based on the amount of profit or gain from the transaction.

In apparent recognition that many FCPA fines and penalties (even eye-popping ones such as Siemens) still result in the company seemingly emerging from the prosecution with a net profit from the improper activity, the report states:

“TI considers that corporate fines should exceed the amount of profit from the wrongdoing.”

Further, the TI report questions whether the increase in enforcement and the penalties imposed are actually making any difference as it states: “[w]hile the amounts paid by companies are rising steadily in some jurisdictions, the question remains whether there is adequate deterrence.”

Continuing the dialogue on the question of “where should fines and penalties” go (see here and here for more) the report states:

“It would be desirable for the OECD Working Group on Bribery to conduct a study on corporate liability and penalties. TI considers that part of the fines paid or profits reimbursed should be made available for the benefit of the country that suffered from the offence.”

In addition to Transparency International, the OECD itself issued a summer report card.

OECD Working Group on Bribery Annual Report

On June 15th, the OECD Working Group on Bribery issued its annual report (see here).

As stated in the report, “the OECD has been at the forefront of international efforts to combat corruption in business, taking a multi-disciplinary approach, via its Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, as well as through its work in the areas of taxation, development aid, and governance.”

The Anti-Bribery Convention (here) has been implemented by 38 countries (see here) and these countries comprise the OECD Working Group on Bribery.

Among recent achievements noted by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría are:

“Israel—the Working Group’s newest member— […] underwent a series of intense
evaluations and implemented significant anti-bribery legislative changes to the anti-bribery standards expected of candidates for membership of the OECD;” and

“Chile, which recently became a member of the OECD, also passed legislation that holds Chilean companies liable for bribing foreign public officials when doing business abroad;”.

Secretary General Gurria also noted that “in 2009, Russia officially asked to join the Anti-Bribery Convention as part of its OECD membership drive” and that the OECD is also deepening relations on anti-bribery issues with China, India, Indonesia and Thailand, and hopes to bring other countries on board.”

As the report notes, 2009 “marked the completion of ten years of monitoring Parties’ implementation and enforcement of the Anti-Bribery Convention.”

This is the first year that official data on enforcement efforts by Parties
to the Anti-Bribery Convention is publicly available. The data (see here) is from “Decisions on Foreign Bribery Cases from 1999 to December 2009.”

According to the report, “the data has been compiled and published by the OECD Secretariat on the basis of statistics, data and information provided by the Parties to Convention in order to provide a realistic picture of the level of enforcement in the jurisdiction of each of the Parties. However, the responsibility for the provision and accuracy of information rests solely with the individual Parties.”

Further, in a seeming reference to U.S. enforcement of the FCPA and the frequency by which FCPA enforcement actions are resolved through non-prosecution agreements, the report notes that the data includes information “provided on a voluntary basis by certain countries concerning the number of foreign bribery cases that have been resolved through an agreement between the law enforcement authorities and the accused person or entity, with or without court approval.”

Interested in how many individuals and business entities have been criminally sanctioned by OECD signatory nations for bribery? Curious as to how many investigations are currently pending by signatory nations? Want to compare Hungary to Iceland or the U.S. to Germany?

It is all possible with OECD data.

Outlining Bourke’s Appeal

The DOJ recently filed its reply brief (here) in Frederic Bourke’s appeal.

A prior post (here) summarized the FCPA related issues in Bourke’s brief and this post summarizes the DOJ’s reply brief.

The DOJ begins with this paragraph:

“The evidence at trial established that Bourke, a successful entrepreneur and multi-millionaire, knowingly backed rogue investor Viktor Kozeny in a corrupt plan to purchase the state-owned Azerbaijani oil industry, in secret partnership with the president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, and his family. The corrupt plan included the payment of bribes to Aliyev and other officials.”

The DOJ states – “[a]t some point, Bourke learned about Kozeny’s business success and strategies from a December 1996 Fortune magazine article.” The brief states that the article “detailed Kozeny’s insider trading, purchase of state secrets from a government official, and other fraudulent activity.” According to the DOJ, “[h]aving read the article and discussed it with his lawyers, Bourke was aware of Kozeny’s questionable business practices; but Bourke was impressed by the outsized profits Kozeny generated in this scheme, and, as Bourke would later tell a prospective investor, Kozeny had not actually been convicted of a crime.”

Bourke’s trial principally focused on his investments in Oily Rock, a vehicle the government maintains was used to funnel bribe payments to Azerbaijan officials to ensure that the officials would privatize the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) in a rigged auction that only the investors, including Bourke, Kozeny and others could win.

The DOJ states that “Bourke made his initial investment in Oily Rock without directing any of his many lawyers to conduct due diligence.”

According to the DOJ:

“Bourke’s interest in the investment was motivated by his knowledge of the corrupt arrangement. Because Bourke knew of the payments to Azerbaijani officials, Bourke demonstrated an assured confidence in the success of the privatization, even though most of the investors who were not privy to the details of the conspiracy viewed it as extremely risky. The inherent risk in the investment arose from the fact that the privatization of SOCAR required a presidential decree.”

The DOJ nevertheless acknowledges that many others invested, directly or indirectly, in Oily Rock including former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and other individuals, institutional investors and hedge funds, AIG and Columbia University.

Bourke’s appellate brief argued that the district court “committed a series of errors that crippled Bourke’s mens rea defense.”

Below is a summary of Bourke’s arguments along with the DOJ’s response as set forth in its reply brief.

Bourke

“The district court improperly instructed on conscious avoidance, despite the absence of evidence that Bourke deliberately avoided knowledge of Kozeny’s bribes.” According to Bourke, this instruction was error “because there was no evidence that Bourke deliberately avoided learning about Kozeny’s bribery.” Bourke states that the conscious avoidance instruction “was particularly damaging because the government presented evidence and argued that Bourke failed to exercise adequate due diligence, thus exacerbating the risk inherent in the conscious avoidance instruction that the jury would convict for negligence or recklessness.

DOJ

“There was an ample factual basis for a conscious avoidance charge in this case. To be sure, the Government’s principal theory at trial was that Bourke had actual knowledge of the bribery scheme. But the jury easily could have found, in the alternative, that Bourke was aware of a high probability of the existence of corrupt arrangements, yet deliberately avoided confirming that fact. Such a finding would have been supported, by, among other things, the following evidence:

• Bourke was aware of the high level of corruption in Azerbaijan generally.

• Bourke had read a Fortune magazine article that described Kozeny’s reliance on illegal business practices, such as insider trading, purchase of state secrets from a government official, and fraud, to accomplish the goals of a privatization scheme. This article alerted Bourke that there was a high probability that Kozeny’s latest scheme involving Azerbaijan also included corrupt arrangements, such as bribe payments or offers to pay bribes.

• Bourke defended Kozeny by stating that he had not actually been convicted of a crime.

• Bourke expressed concern to other investors and their attorneys that Kozeny and his employees were paying bribes.

• Bourke proposed the formation of separate companies affiliated with Oily Rock and Minaret to shield Bourke and other American investors from liability from any corrupt payments.

• Bourke played a role in coordinating United States medical treatments, combined with tourism and shopping excursions, for Azerbaijani officials.

From these facts, among others, a rational juror could have concluded that Bourke was aware of a high probability of the existence of corrupt arrangements, yet deliberately avoided confirming that fact. Accordingly, Bourke is wrong when he suggests that a conscious avoidance was inappropriate because ‘the trial record contains no evidence that Bourke ‘decided not to learn’ about Kozeny’s bribery.’ In fact, a conscious avoidance instruction was particularly appropriate in this case, because Bourke’s corporate attorney had actually cautioned him that, if he thought there might be bribes paid, he could not just look the other way.”

“Bourke’s assertion that the conscious avoidance instruction allowed the jury to convict on a negligence theory is mistaken. To the contrary, the District Court told the jury that it could not find Bourke guilty merely because he was negligent. The Government did not argue that the jury should convict because Bourke was negligent in failing to ask his lawyers to conduct due diligence. Rather, the Government argued that Bourke refrained from asking his lawyers to conduct due diligence either because he was consciously avoiding learning about the bribes or because he did not want his lawyers to learn the true facts of his corrupt investment.”

“In sum, a rational juror could have concluded based on, among other things, Bourke’s close relationship to Kozeny and other co-conspirators, Bourke’s understanding of the Azerbaijan investment and the Azerbaijani government, and Bourke’s previously expressed concerns about Kozeny’s paying of bribes, that Bourke was aware of a high probability that Kozeny was paying bribes but deliberately avoided confirming that fact. Accordingly, the District Court properly instructed the jury on the doctrine of conscious avoidance.”

“Even if the District Court erred in instructing the jury on the doctrine of conscious avoidance (and it did not), the error would provide no basis for vacating Bourke’s conviction. This Court has repeatedly ruled that a conscious avoidance instruction is harmless in cases where, as here, there was sufficient evidence of the defendant’s actual knowledge to support the jury’s verdict.”

“Moreover, conscious avoidance was not a prominent feature of the Government’s arguments to the jury. Although the Government did refer to evidence of Bourke’s conscious avoidance, the Government’s primary argument was that Bourke had actual knowledge of the bribes.”

Bourke

The district court erred in admitting testimony about the due diligence performed by Texas Pacific Group (“TPG”), an investment fund that did not make the same investment as Bourke, because its lawyers advised of the FCPA risk.

According to Bourke, because he knew nothing about their work, their testimony was irrelevant to his state of mind particularly since the results were never shared or communicated with him.

Bourke states that “the government offered the testimony […] solely as a contrast with the comparatively skimpy inquiry that Bourke and his lawyers performed” and that this testimony “increased the risk, created by the conscious avoidance instruction and heightened by the government’s closing, that the jury would convict Bourke based on his negligence or recklessness — what he should have known, rather than what he actually knew.”

Bourke further argues that having admitted the TPG testimony, “the district court should at least have permitted Bourke to present the contrasting testimony” of the head of investments for Columbia University that would have established that “Columbia invested $15 million with Kozeny in Azeri privatization after due diligence comparable to Bourke’s.”

According to Bourke, this excluded testimony “would have rebutted the government’s claim that his lack of due diligence compared to TPG established his culpability.”

Bourke argues that “once the district court permitted the government to present TPG’s due diligence as a benchmark for measuring [his] inquiry, fairness demanded that [he] be allowed to present the contrasting picture of Columbia’s due diligence, which resembled his own.”

DOJ

“The testimony of Wheeler and Rossman [individuals who conducted due diligence for potential Oily Rock investor David Bonderman of TPG] was not offered to show Bourke was negligent; the purpose was to show that Kozeny had not concealed evidence of the corrupt arrangements from potential investors in Oily Rock. Given that Bourke was much closer to Kozeny than Bonderman was, this was important circumstantial evidence of Bourke’s knowledge. As such, the testimony was relevant and appropriately admitted by the District Court.”

“To conduct due diligence on the Oily Rock investment, at Kozeny’s invitation, Wheeler traveled to Baku with Bourke and several other potential investors; together, they toured Kozeny’s operations and were introduced to Azerbaijani government officials. Based on what she saw during her visit and her assessment that the investment was “risky [in] nature”, Wheeler and Bonderman brought in TPG’s outside counsel, Cleary Gottlieb, to perform due diligence. Rossman testified that, in 1998, he was a Cleary Gottlieb attorney. During that time, he was asked to conduct due diligence on the Oily Rock investment for TPG. As a part of due diligence, Rossman met with Bodmer at Bodmer’s law offices. During this meeting, Bodmer provided Rossman with various documents related to the Oily Rock investment, and Bodmer and Rossman discussed various details regarding the investment, including the involvement of Azerbaijani investors. Based on his review of documents, his understanding of the investment thesis, and Kozeny’s reputation, which he researched from news coverage, Rossman concluded that this proposed investment could violate the FCPA, and he advised his client not to make the investment. TPG did not invest in Oily Rock.”

“… Wheeler and Rossman’s testimony was appropriately admitted, because Bourke was exposed at minimum to the same sources of information as Wheeler and Rossman — Wheeler and Bourke took the same factfinding trip to Baku in January 1998, and Rossman, like Bourke, learned of the investment structure from Bodmer. Accordingly, this testimony was probative of Bourke’s knowledge.”

“… the District Court’s decision to admit Wheeler and Rossman’s testimony was entirely appropriate. Moreover, given the volume of direct and circumstantial evidence of Bourke’s knowledge of the conspiracy’s objectives, any conceivable error was harmless.”

“Bourke also contends that the District Court erred in barring the testimony of Bruce Dresner, who served as Columbia University’s Vice President for Investments in 1998, and, in that capacity, based on representations by Omega’s Clayton Lewis and Leon Cooperman, recommended that Columbia invest $15 million in privatization vouchers through Omega. Bourke complains that, although the Government was permitted to call Wheeler and Rossman to contrast their due diligence with Bourke’s, he was not permitted to contrast his due diligence with Columbia’s. The comparison is inapt. Unlike Wheeler and Rossman, who testified about a potential investment in Oily Rock itself, Columbia University was a potential investor in Omega, which was merely planning to invest alongside Oily Rock. The District Court did not abuse its discretion in excluding this proposed testimony.”

“The District Court properly precluded Dresner’s testimony because it was not relevant. As the District Court stated, Dresner’s state of mind “has nothing to do with the defendant on trial.” Unlike other defense witnesses and Government witnesses who were present in Baku with Bourke to consider an investment in Oily Rock and therefore possessed relevant information regarding Bourke’s knowledge, Dresner had no contact with Bourke and was considering investing in Omega, not Oily Rock. Dresner never traveled to Azerbaijan to investigate the investment opportunity, relying instead on the recommendation of Omega. Dresner never met Kozeny, Farrell, or Bodmer — the individuals who discussed the FCPA violations with Bourke.”

“In addition, Dresner’s testimony would not have been particularly helpful to Bourke, and therefore any error in excluding the testimony would have been harmless. Notwithstanding Dresner’s exclusion, Bourke offered evidence through several Government and defense witnesses that Columbia University had invested in the same project, and there was no suggestion in any of that testimony or in arguments that Columbia University was aware of bribes or was prosecuted. Thus, Bourke was able to establish that some investors in the Azerbaijani vouchers were not aware of the bribes. Had Dresner actually testified, he would have revealed that Columbia and Bourke were not similarly situated and that Columbia had much less information about the investment than Bourke did.”

“In sum, the District Court acted within its discretion in excluding Dresner’s testimony, and this ruling does not warrant a new trial.”

Bourke

The district court “refused to instruct that conviction for conspiracy requires the same mens rea as the underlying FCPA offense — meaning (among other things) a bad purpose to disobey or disregard the law.”

According to Bourke, “the district court compounded its error in giving the conscious avoidance instruction by rejecting [his] requested instruction [as to the conspiracy charge] that the government had to prove that he acted corruptly and willfully.”

Bourke argued that “when the district court turned to the mens rea required for the conspiracy offense, rather than for a substantive FCPA offense, it omitted the requirement that the defendant act corruptly” and that this “watering-down of the mens rea requirement for the conspiracy charged […] undermined [his] defense, which rested on his state of mind.”

DOJ

“Bourke did not lodge this objection in this District Court, and therefore, this part of the charge is reviewed for plain error. The District Court’s mens rea instruction was correct and was certainly not plainly erroneous.”

“The District Court instructed the jury on all the elements of a substantive FCPA violation, including the requirement that the defendant act “willfully” and “corruptly,” terms which the Court defined for the jury.”

“The District Court’s charge encompassed the mens rea elements of the FCPA and was not plainly erroneous. The “word ‘corruptly’ in the FCPA signifies . . . a bad or wrongful purpose and an intent to influence a foreign official to misuse his official position. But there is nothing in the word or any thing else in the FCPA that indicates that the government must establish that the defendant in fact knew that his or her conduct violated the FCPA to be guilty.”

“The District Court’s extensive instructions on mens rea included the instruction that Bourke had to act “with the specific intention of furthering [the conspiracy’s] business or objective” and “for the purpose of furthering the illegal undertaking.” It is simply not possible to conspire to act corruptly without acting corruptly.”

“Finally, Bourke failed to raise this highly abstract objection during any of the several conferences on the jury charge.”

“Accordingly, the charge is subject to review only for plain error. There was no error, much less plain error, in this case.”

Bourke

The district court “rejected Bourke’s proposed good faith instructions, even though [he] produced ample evidence to warrant the instructions and no other instruction covered the point.”

Bourke argued that his proposed instruction “accurately reflected the principle that a defendant’s good faith belief that he acted lawfully negates the mens rea for specific intent offenses.”

While Bourke concedes that his efforts to investigate the investment “were not as extensive” as others, his efforts “suffice for a good faith instruction.” Because the case turned on his state of mind, Bourke states that “there is no doubt that the good faith defense, if accepted by the jury, would have produced an acquittal.”

DOJ

“Bourke’s contention is without merit. A separate good faith instruction was not necessary in this case, as the relevant jury instructions effectively communicated the essence of a good faith defense in its discussion of the elements of knowledge and willfulness.”

“Indeed, the District Court’s instructions that an FCPA violation required a defendant to act “with a bad purpose to disobey or disregard the law” and that the Government could not meet its burden of proof by showing that the defendant’s actions were the result of “mere negligence or some other innocent explanation” captured the concepts identified in Bourke’s proposed charge — that Bourke could not be convicted of Count One if he believed he “was acting properly in connection with the matters alleged in [Count One], even if he was mistaken in that belief, and even if others were injured by his conduct.” […] Thus, the good faith instructions Bourke requested were “effectively presented elsewhere in the charge.” Accordingly, the District Court’s decision not to deliver a separate good faith charge was appropriate and does not provide a basis for a new trial.”

Bourke

“Any one of the errors concerning [his] knowledge of Kozeny’s bribes and his specific criminal intent, standing alone, warrants reversal” and if any one error is harmless in isolation, then their “cumulative effect profoundly damaged [his] defense.”

DOJ

“Bourke contends correctly that the cumulative effect of errors that are individually harmless can cast doubt upon the fairness of a conviction. For the reasons set forth above, there were no such errors. Accordingly, Bourke’s “cumulative effect” argument provides no basis for granting a new trial.”

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