Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton (D. Conn.) trimmed the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement action against Lawrence Hoskins (a former Alstom executive criminally charged in August 2013 – see here) by granting in part his motion to dismiss and denying a DOJ motion in limine.
In pertinent part, Hoskins (a U.K. citizen) moved to dismiss count one of the DOJ’s Third Superseding Indictment “on the basis that it charges a legally invalid theory that he could be criminally liable for conspiracy to violate the FCPA even if the evidence does not establish that he was subject to criminal liability as a principal, by being an “agent” of a “domestic concern.”
As stated by Judge Arterton:
“Relatedly, the Government moves in limine to preclude Defendant from arguing to the jury that it must prove that he was the agent of a domestic concern because the Government contends that Defendant can also be convicted under theories of accomplice liability. For the reasons that follow, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Count One of the Third Superseding Indictment will be granted in part to preclude Defendant’s FCPA conspiracy prosecution from being de-linked from proof that he was an agent of a domestic concern and the Government’s Motion in Limine is denied.”
In the words of Judge Arterton:
“[T]hese two motions put before the Court the question of whether a nonresident foreign national could be subject to criminal liability under the FCPA, even where he is not an agent of a domestic concern and does not commit acts while physically present in the territory of the United States, under a theory of conspiracy or aiding and abetting a violation of the FCPA by a person who is within the statute’s reach.2 The Court concludes that the answer is “no” and that accomplice liability cannot extend to this Defendant under such circumstances and thus Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Count One is granted in part and the Government’s Motion in Limine is denied.”
Judge Arterton began by discussing the Gebardi Principle that has been used previously by judges in dismissing DOJ FCPA enforcement actions against foreign nationals (Castle and Bodmer referenced below) Specifically, the Judge noted as follows.
“[T]he Gebardi principle is that where Congress chooses to exclude a class of individuals from liability under a statute, “the Executive [may not] . . . override the Congressional intent not to prosecute” that party by charging it with conspiring to violate a statute that it could not directly violate. United States v. Castle, 925 F.2d 831, 833 (5th Cir. 1991); see also United States v. Bodmer, 342 F. Supp. 2d 176, 181 n.6 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (“In Gebardi, the Supreme Court held that where Congress passes a substantive criminal statute that excludes a certain class of individuals from liability, the Government cannot evade Congressional intent by charging those individuals with conspiring to violate the same statute.”). The Gebardi principle also applies to aiding and abetting liability.
In determining whether the Gebardi principle applies, the question is “not whether Congress could have” reached a certain class of individuals under the conspiracy or aiding and abetting statutes, “but rather whether Congress intended to do so, or more specifically, whether Congress intended the general conspiracy statute” to apply to these individuals.5 Castle, 925 F.2d at 835 (emphasis in original).
The Government maintains that Gebardi recognized only a “narrow exception to [the] long-established legal principle” that “the conspiracy and accomplice liability statutes apply to classes of persons who lack the capacity to commit a violation of the underlying substantive crime.” It maintains that this exception only “applies in two limited circumstances: (1) where a class of person is a necessary party to the crime and was specifically excluded from prosecution for the substantive violation by Congress (e.g., the foreign official who receives the bribe payment under the FCPA, or the woman who is transported across state lines under the Mann Act); or (2) where the substantive statute was enacted to protect the class of person to which the individual belongs (e.g., victims).” Defendant maintains that Gebardi applies whenever “Congress affirmatively chooses to exclude a certain class of individuals from liability under a criminal statute.”
The Court agrees with Defendant that the Government’s interpretation of Gebardi is too narrow and that while the two “[f]actual scenarios . . . posited by the government bring Congress’s intent into view and, thereby, make it easier to glean the existence of an affirmative legislative policy,” Congressional intent can be evident in other circumstances. For example, in Amen, the Second Circuit applied Gebardi and held that a person who was not the head of a criminal enterprise could not be subject to the drug “kingpin” statute’s sentencing enhancement under a theory that he aided and abetted a violation, because “[w]hen Congress assigns guilt to only one type of participant in a transaction, it intends to leave the others unpunished for the offense.” 831 F.2d at 381.
The Second Circuit’s reasoning was not, as the Government maintains, that a violation of the kingpin statute requires “the participation of two classes of persons— those who lead a criminal enterprise, on the one hand, and those who are led, on the other” and that “Congress chose only to provide for an enhanced punishment of one of those necessary parties.” Rather, the Second Circuit reasoned that while the statute’s “legislative history makes no mention of aiders and abettors, it makes it clear that the purpose . . . was not to catch in the [kingpin] net those who aided and abetted the supervisors’ activities.”
Judge Arterton relied extensively on the FCPA’s legislative history to support her decisions. The application section of the ruling states in its entirety as follows.
“The clearest indication of legislative intent is the text and structure of the FCPA, which carefully delineates the classes of people subject to liability and excludes nonresident foreign nationals where they are not agents of a domestic concern or did not take actions in furtherance of a corrupt payment within the territory of the United States. See Community for Creative Non–Violence v. Reid, 490 U.S. 730, 739 (1989) (“The starting point for [the] interpretation of a statute is always its language.”).
In United States v. Castle, 925 F.2d 831, 832 (5th Cir. 1991), the Fifth Circuit applied Gebardi to conclude that another class of individuals not subject to liability as principals under the FCPA—the foreign officials who accept bribes—could not be prosecuted for conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The Fifth Circuit found an intent in the FCPA to exclude the foreign bribe recipients because, in enacting the FCPA in 1977 in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, Congress was principally “concerned about the domestic effects of such payments,” such as “the distortion of, and resulting lack of confidence in, the free market system within the United States.” Id. at 834–35.
Congress was aware that it “could, consistently with international law, reach foreign officials in certain circumstances,” but it was also concerned about “the ‘inherent jurisdictional, enforcement, and diplomatic difficulties’ raised by the application of the bill to non-citizens of the United States” and decided not to do so. Id. at 835 (quoting H.R.Conf.Rep. No. 831, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 14, reprinted in 1977 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 4121, 4126).7 From the text of the statute and the legislative history expressing concern about reaching non-citizens, the Fifth Circuit found “in the FCPA what the Supreme Court in Gebardi found in the Mann Act: an affirmative legislative policy to leave unpunished a well-defined group of persons who were necessary parties to the acts constituting a violation of the substantive law.” Id. at 836.
Legislative History of 1977
Although the text and structure of the FCPA provide strong indication that Congress did not intend for non-resident foreign nationals to be subject to the FCPA unless they were agents of a domestic concern or acted in the territory of the United States, the Court also considers the legislative history of the Act.
While the extensive legislative history of the enactment of the FCPA in 1977 and its amendments in 1998 identified by the parties contain little discussion of accomplice liability, that which does exist is consistent with what the plain text and structure of the final enactment implies regarding the limits of liability for non-resident foreign nationals. The initial version of the Senate bill introduced by the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on June 2, 1976 made it unlawful for any U.S. “issuer” or “domestic concern” to use any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce to authorize or pay a bribe. S. 3664, 94th Cong. (1976). “Domestic concern” was defined to include (1) U.S. citizens and nationals and (2) entities owned or controlled by U.S. citizens and nationals that were either incorporated in or had a principal place of business in the United States. Id. at 7.
An amendment to the Senate bill responded to a request by the administration of President Carter “to clearly cover under the bill individuals making payments” that was not “crystal clear” in the original version. Markup Session on S. 305, Senate Comm. on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, 95th Cong., 8 (Apr. 6, 1977). The definition of domestic concern was left unchanged, but the proposal added that officers, directors, employees and stockholders acting on behalf of U.S. issuers or domestic concerns, irrespective of nationality, would be liable for making bribes on behalf of the company. S. Rep. No. 95-114, at 11; 123 Cong. Rec. 13817 (1977). Although the Carter Administration requested that liability be extended to foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies, Markup Session on S. 305 at 9, the Senate declined to do so, S. Rep. No. 95-114.
A competing House bill introduced on February 22, 1977 provided for broader liability for non-resident foreign nationals than the Senate bill, proposing liability not just for non-U.S. officers, directors, and employees of domestic concerns, but also (1) any “agent” of a U.S. issuer or domestic concern who “carried out” a bribe and (2) officers, directors, and employees of foreign affiliates irrespective of nationality. H.R. 3815 §§ 30A(c)(2), 3(c)(2), 3(f)(2)(A), 95th Cong. (1977).
The FCPA as enacted included elements from both the Senate and House bills, extending liability to agents of domestic concerns as the House proposed, but limiting criminal liability of agents and employees of domestic concerns to a person who was a “United States citizen, national, or resident or is otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” and predicated such person’s criminal liability on a finding that the domestic concern itself had violated the statute. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(b)(1)(B)(3) (1977).
The final bill excluded foreign affiliates of U.S. companies, as the Senate proposed, which the House Conference Report described as a “recogni[tion] [of] the inherent jurisdictional, enforcement and diplomatic difficulties raised by the inclusion of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies in the direct prohibitions of the bill.” H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 95-831, at *14. The Report explained, however, that because U.S. citizens, nationals, and residents were defined as domestic concerns, they could be liable for engaging in bribery “indirectly” through another person and that the “jurisdictional, enforcement and diplomatic difficulties” that applied to extending liability to foreign subsidiaries did not apply to “citizens, nations, or residents of the United States.” Id.
The Government notes that early versions of the Senate and House committee reports discussed accomplice liability: The committee fully recognizes that the proposed law will not reach all corrupt payments overseas. For example, Sections 2 and 3 would not permit prosecution of a foreign national who paid a bribe overseas acting entirely on his own initiative. The committee notes, however, that in the majority of bribery cases investigated by the SEC some responsible official or employee of the U.S. parent company had knowledge of the bribery and either explicitly or implicitly approved the practice. Under the bill as reported, such persons could be prosecuted. The concepts of aiding and abetting and joint participation would apply to a violation under this bill in the same manner in which those concepts have always applied in both SEC civil actions and in implied private actions brought under the securities laws generally. H.R. Rep. No. 95-640, at 8 (1977); S. Rep. No. 94-1031, at 7 (1976).
As discussed above, this legislative history discussing an early version of the bill was later clarified in response to concerns by the Carter Administration that the extent of individual liability (including for U.S. nationals) was not “crystal clear.” Rather than resorting to concepts of accomplice liability, the enacted version specifically delineated the extent of individual liability by “mak[ing] it clear that” the delineated individuals were “covered directly.” Markup Session on S. 305, Senate Comm. on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, 95th Cong., 8, 12 (Apr. 6, 1977). Therefore, the discussion of accomplice liability cited by the Government does not suggest that Congress intended for those who were excluded from direct liability under the Act to be subject to accomplice liability but only shows that Congress considered imposing individual liability based on concepts of accomplice liability but instead chose to do so directly and carefully delineated the class of persons covered to address concerns of overreaching.
Thus, as in Amen and Gebardi, even absent explicit discussion in the legislative history of accomplice liability, the carefully-crafted final enactment evinces a legislative intent to cabin such liability. See Amen, 831 F.2d at 382; Gebardi, 287 U.S. at 123. As the Fifth Circuit explained, when Congress “listed all the persons or entities who could be prosecuted” under the FCPA, it “intended that these persons would be covered by the Act itself, without resort to the conspiracy statute” and, as in Gebardi, that intent cannot be circumvented by resort to conspiracy and aiding and abetting liability. Castle, 925 F.2d at 836.
While the Government argues that the original version of the FCPA in 1977 provided for accomplice liability, it maintains that after the 1998 amendments to the FCPA “Congress unequivocally provided that it intended the accomplice liability and conspiracy statutes to apply to foreign nationals not otherwise subject to the FCPA as principals.” The 1998 amendments to the FCPA were “enacted to ensure the United States was in compliance with its treaty obligations,” United States v. Esquenazi, 752 F.3d 912, 923 (11th Cir. 2014), after the United States ratified the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (“OECD Convention”). Dec. 17, 1997, S. Treaty Doc. No. 105–43, 37 I.L.M.; International Anti– Bribery and Fair Competition Act of 1998, Pub.L. No. 105–366, 112 Stat. 3302.
The OECD Convention required each signatory country to “take such measures as may be necessary to establish that it is a criminal offence under its law for any person intentionally” to bribe foreign officials. OECD Convention art. 1.1. In response, the 1998 amendments expanded the scope of liability in three ways. First, Congress added 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-3(a), which prohibited those individuals or entities that did not already fall under other provisions of the statute from taking action “while in the territory” of the United States in furtherance of corrupt payments. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-3(a). Second, the 1998 amendments eliminated a disparity in penalties between U.S. and foreign nationals acting as agents of domestic concerns whereby previously foreign nationals were subject only to civil penalties. The amendment made clear that foreign nationals acting as agents of domestic concerns could be criminally prosecuted for violating the FCPA if they used some manner or means of interstate commerce. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2. Third, Congress provided for nationality jurisdiction12, providing that it “shall also be unlawful for any United States person to corruptly do any act outside the United States in furtherance of” a foreign bribe. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(i)(1); see also S. REP. 105-277, at *2–3 (1998) (describing these three changes to the FCPA as being intended “to conform it to the requirements of and to implement the OECD Convention”).
The Government maintains that because the OECD Convention required each signatory country to make it a “criminal offense under its law for any person” to pay a foreign bribe, OECD Convention, art. 1.1 (emphasis added), the “1998 amendments expanded the jurisdictional reach of the FCPA to cover any person over whom U.S. courts have jurisdiction” and a contrary interpretation “would place the United States in violation of its treaty obligations.” While the Supreme Court has admonished that “courts should be most cautious before interpreting . . . domestic legislation in such manner as to violate international agreements,” Vimar Seguros y Reaseguros, S.A. v. M/V Sky Reefer, 515 U.S. 528, 539 (1995), this Court does not agree with the Government’s contention that the OECD Convention required or even contemplated the extent of liability sought by the Government here by using the term “any person.”
Rather, the OECD’s reference to “any person” is cabined by Article 4 of the Convention, addressing jurisdiction, which provides that each signatory “shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the bribery of a foreign public official when the offense is  committed in whole or in part in its territory” (OECD Convention, art. 4.1) or  by its own nationals while abroad (id., art. 4.2). Therefore, there is no indication that the OECD Convention requires the United States to prosecute foreign bribery committed abroad by non-resident foreign nationals who conspire with United States citizens.
Based on the text and structure of the FCPA and the legislative history accompanying its enactment and its amendment, the Court concludes that Congress did not intend to impose accomplice liability on non-resident foreign nationals who were not subject to direct liability. Count One will not be dismissed in its entirety, however, because if the Government proceeds under the theory that Mr. Hoskins is an agent of a domestic concern and thus subject to direct liability under the FCPA, the Gebardi principle would not preclude his criminal liability for conspiring to violate the FCPA. The Government may not argue, however, that Defendant could be liable for conspiracy even if he is not proved to an agent of a domestic concern.”