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Why The Meaning Of “Foreign Official” Matters

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This is not the first time I’ve written about this general topic nor is it likely to be the last.

In the minds of some, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance is easy – you just don’t bribe.

However, as recent enforcement activity has demonstrated, FCPA enforcement actions often include allegations about internships (BNY Mellon and Qualcomm), sports tickets (BHP Billiton), travel and entertainment (GlaxoSmithKline and several other enforcement actions), charitable donations (Nu Skin) and other inconsequential things of value such as flowers, cigarettes, and golf in the morning and beer drinking in the evening (Eli Lilly, SciClone Pharmaceuticals and several other enforcement actions).

In other words, the underlying activity is legal and socially acceptable in most situations. In fact, it is often called effective sales and marketing, wining and dining the customer, or maintaining good will. Yet when such activity is focused, directly or indirectly, on a “foreign official” the U.S. government is inclined to call it bribery.

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Issues To Consider From The Och-Ziff Enforcement Action

Issues

Previous posts here and here went in-depth into the recent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Och-Ziff, Daniel Och and Joel Frank.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting additional issues to consider. As highlighted below, embedded in the approximately 175 pages of resolution documents were several notable issues.

Time Line

According to Och-Ziff’s prior disclosures “beginning in 2011, and from time to time thereafter, we have received subpoenas from the SEC and requests for information from the U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) in connection with an investigation involving the FCPA and related laws.”

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In Depth Into The Och-Ziff FCPA Enforcement Action

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Last week, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Och-Ziff Capital Management Group (and a related entity) for improper business practices in various African countries. The aggregate settlement amount was $412 million (a $213 million DOJ criminal penalty and a $199 million SEC resolution consisting of disgorgement and prejudgment interest), the 4th largest FCPA settlement amount of all-time.

As highlighted in this previous post, the SEC also found Daniel Och (CEO) and Joel Frank (CFO) culpable for certain of the improper conduct. As indicated in the post, this represents what is believed to be the first time in FCPA history that the SEC also found the current CEO and CFO of the issuer company liable, to some extent, for company FCPA violations. Moreover, the $2.2 million Och agreed to pay, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, is the largest settlement amount in FCPA history by an individual in an SEC action.

Whether the Och-Ziff enforcement action is the “first time a hedge fund has been held to account for violating the FCPA” (as the DOJ stated in its release) is a debatable point. (See here for the 2007 FCPA enforcement action on the DOJ’s FCPA website against hedge fund Omega Advisors).

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If Only The Supreme Court Had Accepted Cert In The “Foreign Official” Challenge

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I was directly involved in the “foreign official” challenges (i.e. are employees of so-called state-owned or state-controlled enterprises “foreign officials” under the FCPA) between 2011 and 2014.

Among other things: (i) I was engaged in connection with the original Carson challenge which relied in part on my “foreign official” declaration; (ii) I was engaged in connection with the Lindsey Manufacturing challenge which also relied in part on my declaration; (iii) I assisted the families of Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez secure competent appellant FCPA counsel and assisted the pro bono counsel in that case; and (iv) after the 11th Circuit’s flawed “foreign official” decision in Esquenazi in 2014 (for a full discussion, see this article), I urged the Supreme Court in this amicus brief to accept cert.

In short, I am very familiar with the challenges and the statutory interpretation issues presented to the Supreme Court.

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Friday Roundup

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From the dockets, you gotta be kidding me, it’s a numbers game, former DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Duross on …, scrutiny updates, a foreign official teaser, a bracket of a different kind, and an event notice. It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

From The Dockets

Two developments in DOJ FCPA individual actions.

One the DOJ apparently wants you to do know about because it issued a press release, the other apparently not because there was no press release.

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