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The Purported Trump / Tillerson FCPA Exchange Is Old News … In Any Event, Some Context

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As one who closely follows news related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, I was surprised over the past few days about the amount of coverage given to a purported exchange between President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the FCPA.

The originating source for this coverage was a relatively minor blurb in this New Yorker article. What surprised me (and you certainly would not know this from reading the New Yorker article because it doesn’t mention this) is that the purported exchange was widely reported back in March.

This post highlights how this is an “old news” item, provides facts about FCPA enforcement during the first 8 months of the Trump administration, and demonstrates that President Trump is far from the only politician to raise concerns about the FCPA and its enforcement. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans have long done the same thing.

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Thoughts On The “Combating Global Corruption Act Of 2017”

Congress

Recently Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with Republican co-sponsors such as Senator David Perdue (R-GA) and Senator Marco (R-FL) and others, introduced a bill titled the “Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017.”

As stated in the preamble, the bill seeks “to identify and combat corruption in countries, to establish a tiered system of countries with respect to levels of corruption by their governments and their efforts to combat such corruption, and to assess United States assistance to designated countries in order to advance anti-corruption efforts in those countries and better serve United States taxpayers.” Corruption is defined as “the exercise of public power for private gain, including by bribery, nepotism, fraud, or embezzlement.”

This post provides a summary of the bill and offers two thoughts regarding the bill relevant to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

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Democratic Senator Asks The DOJ, “As Rapidly As Possible,” To Issue An Advisory Opinion “Whether Executives Of The Trump Organization And Related Companies – Including President Trump Himself” Are Violating The FCPA

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Last Friday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) issued this press release (with an accompanying letter) asking the DOJ, “as rapidly as possible,” to issue an advisory opinion “whether executives of The Trump Organization and related companies – including President Trump himself” are violating the FCPA.

As highlighted in this post, there are certain deficiencies in Senator Blumenthal’s letter. Moreover, while the FCPA expressly authorizes the DOJ to issue FCPA advisory opinions, Senator Blumenthal clearly does not qualify as a requestor.

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Once Upon A Time, The DOJ Did Specifically Identify “Foreign Officials” And Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Is Miffed That It Doesn’t Now

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There are several material differences between how the DOJ enforces the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the modern era compared to the past.

For instances, as highlighted in this previous post, in the modern era the vast majority of corporate FCPA enforcement actions do not result in related individual charges against company employees. Between 1977 – 2004, the exact opposite was true – most corporate FCPA enforcement actions did result in related individual charges.

For most of the FCPA’s history, the DOJ either charged a business organization suspected of FCPA violations with an offense or did not charge the organization. In the modern era, the DOJ has created a buffet of options (non-prosecution agreements, deferred prosecution agreements) and added “declinations with disgorgements” to the buffet line in September 2016 (see here for the prior post).

As highlighted in this post, for many years the DOJ specifically identified “foreign officials” implicated in an FCPA enforcement action. However, in the modern era of FCPA enforcement the DOJ does not and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)(pictured) is rightfully miffed.

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Rep. Perlmutter, Once Again, Introduces FCPA Reform Bill, But This Time Goes Political

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U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is persistent.

In 2009, he introduced the “Foreign Business Bribery Prohibition Act” in the House to no avail. (See here and here for prior posts). In 2011, he again introduced the “Foreign Business Bribery Prohibition Act” in the House to no avail. (See here for the prior post). In 2016, he again introduced the “Foreign Business Bribery Prohibition Act” in the House to no avail (See here for the prior post).

Last week, Perlmutter once again introduced the “Foreign Business Bribery Prohibition Act” in the House (H.R. 1549), but this time he attempted to make a political statement.

Even though H.R. 1549 is substantively the same bill as Perlmutter introduced in 2009, 2011 and 2016, the supposed purpose of H.R. 1549, as stated in his press release, is to “help stop corruption and foreign bribery under the Trump Administration.”

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