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Leading FCPA Practitioner Calls For An FCPA Compliance Defense

Joseph Warin (Gibson Dunn) is a leading FCPA practitioner.  With the DOJ’s blessing, Warin has also served as a corporate monitor in connection with several Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions.

In short, Warin knows the FCPA and FCPA compliance.

In this recent article in Corporate Disputes, Warin and his co-authors renew the call for an FCPA compliance defense.  In pertinent part, the article states:

“[This new era of FCPA enforcement] has wrought drastic change on the compliance landscape for transnational corporations, which devote significant resources to promoting FCPA compliance among their thousands of employees and contractors operating in international fora.  In particular, internal compliance, reporting and mitigation systems have grown significantly more robust in past years as companies seek to prevent corrupt practices and – when issues of noncompliance arise – to ferret them out and terminate them.  Even so, the lack of binding guidelines for framing compliance programs and the lack of assurances that robust programs will reliably mitigate the DOJ’s decisions to bring criminal charges leaves corporations in a state of uncertainty:  despite pouring millions into meaningful compliance regimes and sincere efforts to comply with the law, corporations are no more certain than they were 30 years ago that the actions of one, or a few, rogue employees will not bring debilitating criminal liability upon an entire entity.”

[…]

[The enforcement agencies] continued resistance to a compliance defense in light of a completely changed FCPA playing field is short-sighted.  The DOJ and SEC have strong interests in promoting self-policing within companies and turning them into corporate partners.  Where corporate compliance programs are functioning as they should – i.e. internally identifying employees who are operating outside of the bounds of company policy and extinguishing and mitigating illegal practices – companies should be rewarded with indemnification from the actions of those outsider employees, not punished with the threat of criminal and/or civil charges for actions that they took substantial steps to prevent.”

[…]

“It is time to reconsider the need for either an administrative or a statutory compliance defense.  The government’s focus on stemming corporate corruption has also raised the stakes for transnational corporations with ties to the United States.  The costs of internal investigations and compliance efforts are higher than ever before, and yet – as the DOJ and SEC acknowledge in their 2012 FCPA Resource Guide – ‘no compliance program can ever prevent all criminal activity by a corporation’s employees.’  Rather than continue to toe the anti-compliance defense line of a decade ago, the DOJ and SEC should acknowledge this changed landscape and give ethical companies that implement strong compliance programs assurance that they will not be punished for those occasional, inevitable acts by rogue employees who violate otherwise effective corporate policies.”

Warin’s call for an FCPA compliance defense mirror my own – see here for my 2011 article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” (the most extensive article written on the subject).

Numerous posts on FCPA Professor have since returned to the issue of an FCPA compliance defense – see here, here, and here for the most recent posts.

An FCPA compliance defense is a not panacea, but it is the best positive incentive to achieve greater FCPA compliance. The goal of an FCPA enforcement program ought to be constructing an enforcement regime that best promotes compliance, reduces improper conduct, and best advances the FCPA’s objective of reducing bribery.  However, the DOJ and SEC have a “wooden attitude” when it comes to a compliance defense and are seemingly incapable of grasping the benefits of a compliance defense to their enforcement programs.  Can the enforcement agencies soften this “wooden attitude”?  Are the enforcement agencies capable of diverting attention from enforcement statistics, settlement amounts, and political statements filled with empty rhetoric?

The FCPA has witnessed courageous moments before and a courageous moment is once again presented.

Warin’s call for an FCPA compliance defense is an important contribution to the current dialogue.

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