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Friday Roundup

The Lindsey defendants argue that “repeated and intentional government misconduct” requires dismissal of their jury convictions, a nondescript Commerce Department statement regarding the July 22nd FCPA Business Roundtable, a World Bank service opportunity, there is now competing FCPA insurance products, Ethisphere launches its Anti-Corruption Resource Center, and the DOJ’s Travel Act opposition brief in Carson … its all here in the Friday Roundup.

Lindsey Supplemental Motion to Dismiss Based on Government Misconduct

A previous post (here) asked whether the Lindsey convictions were hanging by a thread and summarized the June 27th hearing on defendants’ prosecutorial misconduct motion during which Judge Matz made some rather damning comments concerning the DOJ’s first-ever corporate FCPA jury trial verdict. Earlier this week, Lindsey Manufacturing, Keith Lindsey and Steven Lee filed a “Supplemental Brief In Support of Motion to Dismiss the Indictment With Prejudice Due to Repeated and Intentional Government Misconduct” (see here and here in two parts).

Highly factual, the brief begins as follows. “The investigation and prosecution of this case were permeated with instances of purposeful, prejudicial government misconduct. The government’s misconduct was patent and pervasive, designed to win the case, not do justice.” Counsel for Lindsey Manufacturing and Keith Lindsey, Jan Handzlik (Greenberg Traurig – here) stated as follows. “Considered individually or on a cumulative basis, the government’s conduct was extraordinarily damaging. We believe this unfair prejudice should result in a dismissal.”

The Lindsey case was profiled in a July 22nd Wall Street Journal article which detailed how “the Justice Department is grappling with a string of high-profile blunders that have prompted stinging rebukes from judges.” Interestingly, the WSJ did not profile the recent mistrial in the DOJ’s high-profile Africa Sting case (see here for the prior post).

As to the Africa Sting case, this recent post from the Blog of Legal Times detailed a hearing earlier this week in the case during which the DOJ said it “wants to retry the first four defendants before any of the other trials.”

Commerce Department Statement Regarding the July 22nd Business Roundtable

On July 22nd, the Commerce Department hosted, along with Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami, a business roundtable on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The statement (here) released yesterday by Cameron Kerry (Commerce Department General Counsel)  stated as follows. “Over twenty company representatives from a wide range of business sectors, sizes, and geographic locations participated. Participants were recommended by business associations with an interest in this area. We engaged in an open and constructive dialogue and many participants noted that U.S. business and the government must work together to fight international bribery and corruption in order to uphold the rule of law and support human rights. We heard an array of concerns, complaints, and compliments about the statute, its enforcement and related guidance, and I was encouraged by the large turnout, the frank conversation, and the clear dedication of all participants to address the corrosive impact of corruption on international commerce.”

World Bank Sanctions Board Vacancies

The World Bank Sanctions Board is comprised of four external members and three internal (World Bank staff) members. The World Bank is inviting applications and nominations for the positions of two Sanctions Board members to be selected from among non-Bank staff. To learn more see here.

Additional FCPA Insurance Option

A prior post (here) noted that an insurance company (Chartis ) has begun offering Foreign Corrupt Practices Act insurance and how this development only confirmed that FCPA Inc. has become a full-fledged industry in and of itself. Recently, Marsh also launched (here) its own FCPA insurance product. As described in the company’s brochure, “FCPA Corporate Response” – “reimburses companies for investigation costs including legal, accounting, auditing, and consulting fees due to an FCPA claim;” “provides coverage for both the organization and individuals for FCPA investigations;” and “acts as primary insurance to a directors and officers (D&O) liability policy to immediately protect individual directors and officers.” The insurance also covers investigations under the U.K. Bribery Act as well.

Ethisphere Launches Anti-Corruption Resource Center

Earlier this week, Ethisphere (a leading international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability) launched its Anti-Corruption Resource Center – see here for the release. A mix of freely accessible and password protected information, the Anti-Corruption Resource Center contains, among other things, various article regarding FCPA and compliance topics, a schedule of upcoming FCPA conferences and events.

DOJ’s Travel Act Opposition Brief

A prior post (here) discussed certain of the Carson defendants motion to dismiss Travel Act charges based on alleged bribes to employees of private companies located in China and Russia. Among other things, defendants argued that the Travel Act has no foreign application.

Recently, the DOJ filed (here) its opposition brief. According to the DOJ, “[b]ecause the majority of defendants’ unlawful conduct was based in the United States, the statutes at issue [the Travel Act and California’s commercial bribery statute] reach defendants’ conduct without any resort to extraterritorial application.” As stated by the DOJ, “defendants S. Carson, R. Carson, Cosgrove, and Edmonds were all U.S. citizens and served as executives at CCI’s headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita, California” and a “significant portion of the four defendants’ acts in furtherance of the conspiracy occurred either in the United States or through communications with individuals in the United States.” The DOJ further argued as follows. “Although the Court need not consider the question of whether the Travel Act applies extraterritorially, the plain language of the statute, the legislative history, and the case law all indicate that the Travel Act does apply extraterritorially.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Carson Defendants Move To Dismiss Travel Act Counts

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is not the only tool the DOJ has used to charge alleged bribery schemes. The FCPA, after all, requires a “foreign official.”

With increasing frequency, the DOJ – often in conjunction with FCPA charges – charges Travel Act violations when the conduct at issue is missing a “foreign official” yet concerns allegations of commercial bribery. For a useful overview of the Travel Act and its relevance to FCPA enforcement (broadly speaking), see this recent post from the FCPA Blog.

The DOJ’s use of the Travel Act is being challenged in the Carson matter pending in the Central District of California. This is the same case in which “foreign official” was and is being challenged. (See here and here for the prior posts).

Earlier this week, in a significant FCPA-related event, certain of the Carson defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Travel Act charges. As noted in the brief (here), in addition to FCPA charges, the moving defendants were charged with Travel Act violations based on alleged bribes to employees of private companies located in China and Russia.

In sum, the Carson defendants argue as follows.

“In Morrison v. Nat’l Australia Bank Ltd., 130 S. Ct. 2869, 2878 (2010), the Supreme Court explained that unless Congress has clearly indicated that a statute applies extraterritorially, it does not. The Travel Act criminalizes “bribery . . . in violation of the law of the state in which committed,” i.e., domestic bribery. Travel Act application to the foreign bribery alleged in this case violates Morrison’spresumption against the extraterritoriality of United States (“U.S.”) laws.”

“While the face of the Travel Act, considered with Morrison’s presumption against extraterritoriality, shows that the Travel Act has no foreign application, the statute’s legislative history confirms it. Consideration of the Travel Act in conjunction with the subsequently enacted FCPA also demonstrates that Congress did not intend that the Travel Act extend to foreign bribery.”

“Further, the Travel Act Counts are predicated upon California’s commercial bribery statute, Cal. Penal Code § 641.3 (“PC 641.3”), so the applicability of that statute to Defendants’ conduct is essential to the government’s case. PC 641.3 has never been applied to foreign commercial bribery and its legislative history shows its foreign application was never considered.”

“Application of the Travel Act and PC 641.3 would also be unconstitutionally vague. Defendants had no notice that either the Travel Act or PC 641.3 would reach the alleged conduct. The government’s recent application of this fifty-year old statute against foreign commercial bribery, in the face of strong skepticism that it even applies, shows the enforcement of this statute is arbitrary.”

“Additionally, the Travel Act allegations are simply defective. The Travel Act prohibits travel or the use of a facility in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to promote unlawful activity (i.e., state-law bribery), followed by an act to promote the bribery. But the Travel Act Counts fail to allege the essential element of an act following the travel or use of a facility in interstate commerce to promote the alleged bribery. So too, Counts Twelve and Fourteen fail to adequately allege the jurisdictional element of travel or use of a facility in interstate or foreign commerce. Because the Travel Act Counts omit necessary elements, they fail.”

“Finally, the Court cannot guess whether the Grand Jury would have even indicted Defendants for conspiracy had it known that the Travel Act did not apply to Defendants’ alleged conduct. Because the defective Travel Act allegations infect the entire conspiracy count, Count One must be dismissed in its entirety.”

UK Bribery Act – Sensible and Senseless

The U.K. Bribery Act, set to go live on July 1st after much delay, has been the focus of much prognostication and the foundation for many marketing initiatives.

In this post, I highlight two recent events – one sensible, the other senseless.

Sensible

Mark Miller (a partner at Baker Botts – see here) recently published “The U.K. Bribery Act 2010 – Enforcement is the Rest of the Story” in BNA’s White Collar Crime Report. See here.

Miller sensibly notes as follows.

“Much of the commentary about the new U.K. Bribery Act 2010 has been filled with alarm that the new law will be even stricter—and therefore more dangerous—than the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Although there are ways in which the Bribery Act is stricter than the FCPA, that is not the whole story. The real measure of how dangerous the Bribery Act will be is not the provisions of the law itself but how that law will be enforced, and from indications so far, that is a big unknown.”

Countering alarmist commentary of the Bribery Act – including that it represents a major change in law because facilitating payments are not allowed – Miller rightly points out “the predecessors to the Bribery Act (the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 1916 and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001) did not have exceptions for facilitating payments either …”.

Indeed this same point was noted by the U.K. Ministry of Justice in its March 30th guidance (see here). Can anyone point to a prior U.K. enforcement action concerning facilitating payments?

Miller also notes as follows. “The other Bribery Act provision usually pointed to as being stricter than the FCPA is the new offense described in Section 7, failure of commercial organizations to prevent bribery.” However, Miller again sensibly notes as follows. “This appears to create a strict liability standard for companies whose employees, officers, or agents engage in bribery on their behalf. Although the FCPA itself contains no analogous provision, the standard in U.S. law for attributing criminal liability to corporate entities is similar. The more important distinction between the Bribery Act and U.S. law is that the former contains a defense for when the corporation is able to “prove that [it] had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent persons associated with [the corporation] from undertaking such conduct.'”

As to the Bribery Act’s coverage of purely commercial bribery, Miller states as follows. “Another aspect of the Bribery Act has been pointed to as being broader than the FCPA: its prohibition against bribery of nongovernmental officials.” Here again, Miller sensibly points out as follows. “True, the FCPA itself does not contain such a provision, but U.S. law does. The federal government routinely uses other statutes—such as the Travel Act and the mail and wire fraud statutes—to prosecute conduct that would not fall strictly within the FCPA’s prohibitions.”

Miller then notes as follows. “The real story here is not the Bribery Act itself, because there is nothing truly revolutionary about it – except possibly the publicity it has generated. The real story is enforcement, and how the SFO will carry out its duties remains a big question mark.” Miller then identifies several “reasons to believe that the SFO’s enforcement of the Bribery Act will turn out to be a less serious threat than U.S. enforcement.”

All sensible observations and consistent with my own observations that “the Bribery Act may turn out to be more lenient than the FCPA” (see here) and that “enforcement of the U.K. Bribery Act will be disciplined and measured.” (See here).

Senseless

The alarmist commentary Miller spoke of in the above article was on display last week as Deloitte issued a press release (here) stating that “few business professionals are familiar with UK Bribery Act taking effect July 1.”

According to Deloitte’s own survey results – results not actually released – 73% of “business professionals” participating in a Deloitte webcast “earlier this year” said “they are not familiar with provisions in the U.K. Bribery Act.” The leader of Deloitte’s FCPA “consulting services practice” is quoted as saying that “organizations should focus on expanding their anti-corruption programs beyond FCPA to fully address the new Bribery Act 2010 provisions.”

What Deloitte’s release doesn’t mention is that its own survey took place on January 18th (see here) – a time when it was uncertain if or when the Bribery Act would ever go live and a full two months before the U.K. Ministry of Justice released (here) extensive guidance and case studies on the Bribery Act.

Against this backdrop, it is surprising not that 73% of “business professionals” were not “familiar” with the Bribery Act, but that 27% of “business professionals” were familiar with the Bribery Act.

Is it often that the majority of “business professionals” are “familiar” with a foreign law months before the law is scheduled to go live?

Nexus Technologies Inc. et al. – Part I

Unfortunately, the FCPA enforcement action against Nexus Technologies Inc., a Philadelphia-based export company (“Nexus”), Nam Nguyen (Nexus’s President and Owner), and his siblings and fellow Nexus employees, Kim Nguyen and An Nguyen came to an end yesterday.

As noted in this DOJ release, Nexus pleaded guilty to “a conspiracy to bribe officials of the Vietnamese government in exchange for lucrative contracts to supply equipment and technology to Vietnamese government agencies in violation of the FCPA.” The release also notes that Nam and An Nguyen “pleaded guilty to conspiracy, a substantive FCPA violation, a violation of the Travel Act and money laundering” and that Kim Nguyen “pleaded guilty to conspiracy, a substantive FCPA violation and money laundering.” In June 2009, Joseph Lukas (a former Nexus partner) pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to violating the FCPA (see here).

The DOJ release notes that “in connection with the guilty pleas, Nexus and the Nguyens admitted that from 1999 to 2008 they agreed to pay, and knowingly paid, bribes in excess of $250,000 to Vietnamese government officials in exchange for contracts with the agencies and companies for which the bribe recipients worked” and that the defendants “admitted that the bribes were falsely described as ‘commissions’ in the company’s records.”

The DOJ release further notes that in pleading guilty, “Nexus also acknowledged that, as a company, it operated primarily through criminal means and agreed to cease operations as a condition of the guilty plea.”

Why did this post start with “unfortunately?”

Because, unlike most FCPA defendants (corporate or individual) Nexus and the Nguyens actually mounted a legal defense based on FCPA’s elements, including the key “foreign official” element.

You wouldn’t know it just by reading the above DOJ release, but this enforcement action centered on payments to employees of various commerical arms of Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Industry, and Ministry of Public Safety.

While the case may not have been the strongest “test case,” Nexus and the Nguyens, in what is believed to be an FCPA first, challenged the DOJ’s interpretation that employees of state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (“SOES”) are “foreign official” under the FCPA. As readers likely know, this issue is a frequent topic of discussion on this blog (see here for prior “foreign official” posts).

The “foreign official” issue was fully briefed and I will explore in a future post (Nexus Technologies Inc. et al. – Part II) the issues raised by the briefs, including the DOJ’s surprising argument that it does not even need to identify specific “foreign officials” to charge an FCPA antibribery violation as well as the DOJ’s thin and misguided justification for its legal theory that employees of SOEs are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

For the record, the judge in the case, without any comment or analysis, denied the motion to dismiss. Thus, DOJ may claim victory on its “foreign official” interpretation; however, in its brief DOJ specifically argued that a decision on the “foreign official” element was premature and ultimately a jury issue.

For all the talk, including on this blog, about the Africa Sting Case, BAE, Siemens, etc., this little noticed FCPA enforcement action in Philadelphia had the potential to shape the future of FCPA enforcement like no other – considering that over 50% of recent FCPA enforcement actions involve “foreign officials” only under DOJ’s dubious legal interpretation – which still, notwithstanding this resolution, has no judicial support.

Stay tuned for more.

FCPA Enforcement … It’s More Than Just Suitcases Full of Cash to Government Officials

When conducting FCPA training, one of the first things I like to do is immediately dispel the notion that the FCPA only applies to suitcase full of cash to a government official types of situations. While the FCPA does indeed apply to such egregious situations, the FCPA (and certainly DOJ/SEC’s interpretation of the statute) applies to a wide range of other – seemingly less culpable – conduct as well.

My future FCPA training slides will certainly include the recent Control Components Inc. (“CCI”) FCPA enforcement action as it clearly demonstrates the broadness of FCPA enforcement.

First, the big picture.

As described in a recent DOJ release (see here), CCI pleaded guilty to a three-count criminal information charging two counts of violating the FCPA and one count of violating the Travel Act in connection with a “decade-long scheme to secure contracts in approximately 36 countries by paying bribes to officials and employees of various foreign state-owned companies as well as foreign and domestic private companies.”

Pursuant to the plea agreement, CCI agreed to pay a criminal fine of $18.2 million, serve a three-year term of organizational probation and adopt a host of other measures common in FCPA settlements such as create, implement and maintain an anti-bribery compliance program and retain an independent compliance monitor.

The CCI enforcement action demonstrates the broadness of FCPA enforcement in at least two respects: (i) the “foreign official” element; and (ii) the “anything of value” element.

“Foreign Official”

As to the “foreign official” element, para 5 of the Indictment is the key paragraph. It states as follows:

“Defendant CCI’s state-owned customers included, but were not limited to, Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation (China), Guohua Electric Power (China), China Petroleum Materials and Equipment Corporation, PetroChina, Dongfang Electric Corporation (China), China National Offshore Oil Company, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, Petronas (Malaysia), and National Petroleum Construction Company (United Arab Emirates). Each of these state-owned entities was a department, agency, or instrumentality of a foreign government, within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-2(h)(2)(A). The officers and employees of these entities, including but not limited to the Vice-Presidents, Engineering Managers, General Managers, Procurement Managers, and Purchasing Officers, were “foreign officials” within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-2(h)(2)(A).

As I’ve stated before in this forum (see here) and likely will in the future until this legal issue is decided by a court, DOJ’s position that employees of state-owned companies, regardless of position, are “foreign officials” under the FCPA is an unchallenged and untested legal theory – and one I believe is ripe for challenge.

Even if DOJ’s position were to be upheld by a court, those subject to the FCPA could certainly benefit from some clarity as to what DOJ considers to be a state-owned entity. Instead, in the CCI Information (and countless others) all that is there is a mere conclusory statement that each of the relevant companies are “state-owned entities” (see para 5).

What attributes of, for instance, Guohua Electric Power, make it a state-owned entity? I’ve long been curious as to what extent of investigation or discovery DOJ undertakes before it concludes that a company is a state-owned entity? If anyone has insight into this issue, please do share.

Also interesting to note is that even though para 6 of the Information states that CCI, through its former officers and employees, made corrupt payments to officers and employees of “numerous state-owned” customers around the world for the purpose of assisting in obtaining or retaining business for CCI, the Information charges only two FCPA violations.

Count two concerns payments to secure a contract with China National Offshore Oil Company and Count three concerns payments to secure a contract with Korean Hydro and Nuclear Power.

Presumably DOJ did not have sufficient evidence to support other FCPA counts as to CCI’s alleged payments to the other “numerous state-owned” customers, including the others specifically listed in para. 5 of the Information.

So why would a company such as CCI plead guilty to violating the FCPA when the “foreign officials” it allegedly bribed are “foreign officials” only under DOJ’s untested and unchallenged legal theory?

That is a good question, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that companies are in the business of making money and not in the business of setting legal precedent. With a settlement comes certainty, whereas with litigation comes uncertainty.

“Anything of Value”

As to the “anything of value” element, the Information lists the following “things of value” given by CCI, directly or indirectly to “foreign officials” – “overseas holidays to places such as Disneyland and Las Vegas” (para 19); “extravagant vacations” with the following expenses “first-class airfare to destinations such as Hawaii, five-star hotel accommodations, charter boat trips, and similar luxuries” (para 20); “college tuition” [for] the children of at least two executives” at CCI’s state-owned customers (para 20); “lavish sales events” including CCI payment of “hotel costs, meals, green fees for golf, and travel expenses” (para 21); and “expensive gifts” (para 21).

What do all these things have in common? They are not “suitcases full of cash” yet still “things of value” under the FCPA.

This is not the first time FCPA followers have heard of CCI and it is likely not the last time either. As described in the DOJ release, two former CCI executives (Mario Covino and Richard Morlok) have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA (see here and here). In addition, six former CCI executives (Stuart Carson, Hong (Rose) Carson, Paul Cosgrove, David Edmonds, Flavio Ricotti, and Han Yong Kim) were criminally indicted in April 2009 on charges of, among other things, violating the FCPA (see here).

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