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A Preview Of Seng’s Appeal

Seng2

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act appeals are not as rare as Halley’s Comet, but nevertheless rare. Thus, when an FCPA appeal occurs and an appellate court is presented with the opportunity to construe the law, almost be definition, it is a big deal.

As highlighted in this prior post, in July 2017 after a long trial a federal jury convicted Ng Lap Seng of two counts of violating the FCPA, one count of paying bribes and gratuities, one count of money laundering and two counts of conspiracy “for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo.”

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Second Circuit Hears Oral Argument In U.S. v. Hoskins

Judicial Decision

Judicial scrutiny of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement is rare. Appellate court judicial scrutiny even more rare. Listening to appellate court oral arguments in an FCPA appeal, let’s just say you can count those instances on one hand and have a couple of fingers left over.

Last week the Second Circuit heard oral argument in U.S. v. Hoskins and you can listen to the arguments here.

The issue before the court, as stated in the DOJ’s brief, is as follows.

“Whether a foreign person (who does not reside in the United States) can be liable for conspiring or aiding and abetting a U.S. company to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act if that individual is not in the categories of principal persons covered in the statute.”

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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Checking in on the Hoskins appeal, checking in up north, checking in across the pond, for the younger generation, if that would happen in a company, and another one dismissed. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

But first, if you got your FCPA from FCPA Professor in 2016, please consider a donation to help defray the yearly costs of running this free public website.

Checking In on the Hoskins Appeal

This previous post highlighted how U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton (D.Conn) significantly trimmed the DOJ’s criminal FCPA enforcement action against Lawrence Hoskins. Unhappy with the decision, the DOJ filed a motion for reconsideration which Judge Arterton denied (see here).

The DOJ appealed to the Second Circuit and this previous post highlighted the DOJ’s opening brief. Recently Hoskins filed this response which states in pertinent part.

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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Scrutiny alert, a potential increase FCPA statutory penalty amounts, Second Circuit appeal begins, SEC enforcement chief on whistleblowers, marketing the black hole, of note, and a ripple. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Update

VimpelCom was not the only company involved in the Uzbek telecommunications bribery scheme. As highlighted in this prior post, Swedish telecom company (a company with ADRs registered with the SEC) and Russia-based Mobile TeleSystems PJSC (a company with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange) have also been scrutiny.

Recently, Telia issued this release:

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11th Circuit Discusses “Routine Governmental Action” Prong Of The FCPA’s Facilitation Payments Exception

11th Cir.

February 2013 post highlighted the criminal appeal of Jean Rene Duperval, the alleged “foreign official” at the center of the various Haiti Teleco enforcement actions, including U.S. v. Esquenazi, the recent 11th Circuit decision concerning the “foreign official” element.

In connection with the Haiti Teleco cases, Duperval was found guilty by a jury on various money laundering charges. As highlighted in the prior post, Duperval appealed his conviction to the 11th Circuit and among the issues appealed were:

  • whether the evidence was “insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Haiti Teleco was a government instrumentality and that Duperval was a foreign official as required to prove that a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act generated proceeds of a specified unlawful activity – a necessary predicate for the convictions on the money laundering conspiracy and substantive money laundering charges.”
  • various due process challenges concerning the declaration of the Haitian Prime Minister; and
  • whether the “trial court erred in not charging the jury in accordance with Duperval’s proffered theory of defense instruction” as to whether the FCPA’s facilitation payments exception applied.

Earlier this week, the 11th Circuit issues this opinion.  The opinion begins as follows.

“This appeal of criminal convictions involving money laundering and foreign bribery presents issues of exposure of jurors to publicity; the sufficiency of the evidence that a telephone company was an “instrumentality” of a foreign government, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(h)(2)(A); whether the administration of a multimillion dollar contract is “routine governmental action,” id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A); whether the government interfered with a witness when it obtained a clarifying declaration from that witness; and four issues about the application of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Jean Rene Duperval appeals both his convictions of two counts of conspiring to commit money laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h), and 19 counts of concealment of money laundering, id. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), and his sentence of imprisonment of 108 months followed by three years of supervised release. Duperval worked as the Director of International Affairs at Telecommunications D’Haiti, a company owned by the government of Haiti. Duperval participated in two schemes in which international companies gave him bribes in exchange for favors from Teleco. Duperval’s arguments fail. We affirm.”

As relevant to “foreign official,” the 11th Circuit’s discussion of this issue in Duperval mirrors the 11th Circuit’s conclusion in U.S. v. Esquenazi.  In short, in Duperval the court stated: “[i]n Esquenazi and this appeal, the government introduced almost identical evidence about Teleco. […] As in Esquenazi, the jury could have reasonably found that Teleco was an instrumentality of Haiti.”

As relevant to the “routine government action” portion of the facilitation payments exception, the 11th Circuit stated:

“Duperval admitted that he received money from Cinergy and Terra, but he asserted that the money was for doing a good job in the administration of the contracts. Duperval’s counsel requested a jury instruction based on an exception to the Act for routine governmental action, id. § 78dd-2(b), but the district court denied this request.”

[…]

“Duperval argues that the district court erred when it refused his proffered jury instruction. Duperval requested that the district court instruct the jury on the exception to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for routine governmental action, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(b). Duperval argues that he was entitled to an instruction on this defense because he introduced evidence that he was paid only for administering the contracts within their terms. But we conclude that the district court did not err when it refused Duperval’s instruction.

A defendant has the right to have the jury instructed on a theory of defense only if “the proposed instruction presents a valid defense and [if] there has been some evidence adduced at trial relevant to that defense.” United States v. Ruiz, 59 F.3d 1151, 1154 (11th Cir. 1995). When we review the refusal to give an instruction for abuse of discretion, we ask whether “the requested instruction is correct, not adequately covered by the charge given, and involves a point so important that failure to give the instruction seriously impaired the party’s ability to present an effective case.” Svete, 556 F.3d at 1161 (internal quotation marks omitted). But we need not engage in this inquiry if the defendant failed to introduce evidence relevant to the jury instruction.

The Act allows “any facilitating or expediting payment to a foreign official . . . the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action.” 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(b). Routine governmental action includes actions such as “obtaining permits . . . to do business[;] . . . processing governmental papers, such as visas and work orders; providing police protection, mail pick-up and delivery, or scheduling inspections[; and] . . . providing phone service, power and water supply, loading and unloading cargo, or protecting perishable products.” Id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A). Other actions are routine governmental action only if they are “actions of a similar nature” to those listed in the statute. Id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A)(v). But routine governmental action “does not include . . . any action taken by a foreign official involved in the decision-making process to encourage a decision to award new business to or continue business with a particular party.” Id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(B).

Duperval argues that he performed a routine governmental action when he administered the contracts, but he misunderstands this exception to the Act. As the Fifth Circuit explained, “[a] brief review of the types of routine governmental actions enumerated by Congress shows how limited Congress wanted to make the . . . exception[].” United States v. Kay, 359 F.3d 738, 750 (5th Cir. 2004). These actions are “largely non-discretionary, ministerial activities performed by mid- or low-level foreign functionaries,” id. at 751, and the payments allowed under this exception are “grease payments” to expedite the receipt of routine services, id. at 747. The administration of a multi-million dollar telecommunication contract is not an “action[] of a similar nature” to the actions enumerated in the Act. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A)(v). Duperval was not a low-level employee who provided a routine service; he was a high ranking official who administered international contracts. And, when Terra and Cinergy paid Duperval, their “grease payment” was not to expedite the receipt of a routine service. Duperval was not “providing phone service” as the Act uses that term, id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A)(iv). “[P]hone service” appears along with “providing . . . power and water supply, loading and unloading cargo, or protecting perishable products.” Id. The text of the statute refers to the government providing a service to a person or business, not to the government administering contracts with companies that provide telephone service.

Duperval’s interpretation also is in tension with the section of the Act that describes what is not routine governmental action, id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(B). A party cannot pay a decision-maker to continue a contract with the government, id., but under Duperval’s interpretation, a party could circumvent this limitation by “rewarding” the decision-maker for doing a good job in administering the current contract. This interpretation, which would provide an end-run around the provisions of the Act, finds no support in the text of the Act. Duperval presented evidence that he administered multi-million dollar contracts. He failed to prove that he performed a routine governmental action. Without any evidence to support his defense, Duperval was not entitled to his requested jury instruction.”

The 11th Circuit’s conclusion as to “routine governmental action,” was hardly surprising given the facts at issue in Duperval and Duperval’s argument.

Nevertheless, the 11th Circuit’s discussion of facilitation payments in Duperval is believed to be the first time an appellate court has squarely  addressed this prong of the FCPA (as the Fifth Circuit’s discussion of facilitation payments in Kay was dicta).

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