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Why The Odebrecht / Braskem FCPA Enforcement Action Is Unique (And Interesting)

Unique

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action last week against Odebrecht / Braskem was unique – specifically the DOJ’s and SEC’s bribery charges against the companies relating to conduct with alleged Brazilian “foreign officials.”

What makes it unique is that it is believed to be the first FCPA enforcement action in history against a foreign issuer for allegedly bribing its own domestic officials. In other words, a large portion of the U.S. enforcement action against the Brazilian companies is that they bribed Brazilian officials.

All previous FCPA enforcement actions against foreign issuers have not addressed this dynamic. In other words, German companies Siemens and Daimler did not bribe German officials; French companies Alstom, Total and Technip did not bribe French officials; Japanese company JGC did not bribe Japanese officials, etc., etc.

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Odebrecht / Braskem Bribery Schemes Net Approximate $420 Million FCPA Enforcement Action

oder

Yesterday, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Odebrecht S.A. (a Brazilian holding company) and Braskem S.A. (a Brazil-based petrochemical company in which Odebrecht owns 50.1% of the voting shares, 38.1% of the total share capital and which Odebrecht “effectively controlled” according to the DOJ). Braskem has American Depositary Receipts registered with the SEC and traded on the NYSE and thus the enforcement action also included an SEC component.

Perhaps because of the less than clear DOJ release (clear once one actually reads the original source documents), this action is being reported in various places as a $3.5 billion FCPA enforcement action. While that figure represents the overall global settlement amount (Brazil and Swiss law enforcement also brought related actions), yesterday’s action was most certainly not a $3.5 billion FCPA enforcement action. Not even close.

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Friday Roundup

Roundup

DOJ seeks legislative changes, a focus on FCPA Inc., credit ratings, across the pond, scrutiny update, and for the reading stack.

It’s all here in the Friday Roundup

DOJ Seeks Legislative Changes

The DOJ’s efforts to eradicate corruption and bribery is broader than just Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement and includes: “public integrity prosecutions, bribery prosecutions, prosecutions of taxpayers who seek to conceal foreign accounts, money laundering prosecutions, [and its] Kleptocracy Initiative.”

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In Times Like These, We Need To Ask: Is The FCPA Effective?

question marks2

In passing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Congress anticipated that the “criminalization of foreign corporate bribery will to a significant extent act as a self-enforcing preventative mechanism.” Likewise since the FCPA’s earliest days, the DOJ has recognized that the “most efficient means of implementing the FCPA is voluntary compliance by the American business community.”

In short, the FCPA was never intended to be just a mechanism to achieve “hard enforcement” (actual enforcement actions), but more a mechanism to achieve “soft enforcement” (compliance) in furtherance of the statutory objective of  reducing bribery and corruption. Indeed, as stated by the Sixth Circuit in Lamb v. Phillip Morris Inc., 915 F.2d 1024 (1990) and repeated by several other courts, the FCPA’s statutory scheme “clearly evinces a preference for compliance in lieu of prosecution.”

Yet, as the FCPA nears its 40th anniversary those in this space need to start asking the question of whether the FCPA – as currently written and currently enforced – has been effective?

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