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Guilty Verdicts in Lindsey Case

This past October, I asked (here [1]) what will happen to Lindsey Manufacturing Company?

The company (a privately held manufacturer of electrical transmission towers and related products that employs approximately 100 individuals) was indicted along with its President, Keith Lindsey, and its Chief Financial Officer, Steven Lee. [Others outside the company were charged as well in connection with the case].

The case represented a rare instance of a criminal indictment of a company in the FCPA context.

Yesterday, after a five week trial in federal court in the C.D. of California, a jury returned guilty verdicts.

As noted in this [2] DOJ release, Lindsey Manufacturing, Lindsey and Lee were convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and five counts of FCPA violations. The conduct at issue focused on commission payments made by Lindsey Manufacturing to Enrique and Angela Aguilar (directors of Grupo Internacional de Asesores S.A.) that “would be used to pay bribes to Mexican officials in exchange for [Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), a state-owned utility company] awarding contracts to Lindsey Manufacturing.” As noted in the DOJ release, Angela Aguilar was convicted of one count of money laundering conspiracy and the court entered a judgment of acquittal prior to the jury’s verdict on one substantive count of money laundering against her. Enrique Aguilar is currently a fugitive.

Sentencing for Lindsey Manufacturing, Lindsey and Lee is scheduled for Sept. 16, 2011. Angela Aguilar’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 12, 2011.

Reacting to the guilty verdicts, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated as follows. ““Today’s guilty verdicts are an important milestone in our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement efforts. Lindsey Manufacturing is the first company to be tried and convicted on FCPA violations, but it will not be the last. Foreign corruption undermines the rule of law, stifling competition and the health of international markets and American businesses. As this prosecution shows, we are fiercely committed to bringing to justice all the players in these bribery schemes – the executives who conceive of the criminal plans, the people they use to pay the bribes, and the companies that knowingly allow these schemes to flourish. Bribery has real consequences.”

The Lindsey case attracted much interest as it was one of the “foreign official” challenges. See here [3] for the full briefing and here [4] for the written decision.

Prior to the jury verdicts, on Monday, Jan Handzlik (here [5] – attorney for defendants Lindsey Manufacturing and Keith Lindsey) and Janet Levin (here [6] – attorney for defendant Steve Lee) filed a motion to “Dismiss the Indictment with Prejudice due to Repeated and Intentional Government Misconduct.” Handzlik is quoted in this [7] story by Samuel Rubenfeld at the Wall Street Journal as saying “we continue to believe in our clients’ innocence and will pursue our motion to dismiss the indictment on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.” A hearing on that motion is set for June 6. Aguilar’s attorney, Stephen Larson (here [8]) reportedly intends to seek a motion of acquittal as to the one charge his client was found guilty of.

Another case concerning alleged payments to CFE is pending in the Southern District of Texas against John Joseph O’Shea. See here [9] for more.

So the question remains – what will happen to Lindsey Manufacturing?

As a small privately held company, Lindsey Manufacturing was able to aggressively mount a legal defense that publicly traded companies are unwilling, or some would say are logistically unable, to mount. Whether one agrees with certain of the judge’s pre-trial rulings or not, or whether one finds arguments about prosecutorial misconduct persuasive or not, the fact is, the Lindsey case, unlike the majority of FCPA enforcement actions, was subject to an adversary proceeding in which someone other than the enforcement agencies weighed in on the issues – and that is a good thing!