Yesterday, in the Southern District of Florida (a district quickly earning the distinction of handing out the toughest FCPA sentences in the country – see here), Judge Jose Martinez sentenced Joel Esquenazi to a record-setting 15 years (see here) and co-defendant Carlos Rodriguez to 7 years (see here) . The previous record for an FCPA sentence was in April 2010 when Charles Jumet was sentenced to a then record 7.25 years (67 months on an FCPA charge, 20 months on a false statement charge).
In the DOJ’s release (here), Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated as follows. “This sentence – the longest sentence ever imposed in an FCPA case – is a stark reminder to executives that bribing government officials to secure business advantages is a serious crime with serious consequences. A company’s profits should be driven by the quality of its goods and services, and not by its ability and willingness to pay bribes to corrupt officials to get business. As today’s sentence shows, we will continue to hold accountable individuals and companies who engage in such corruption.”
Esquenazi and Rodriguez were two of the defendants in the so-called Haiti Teleco case, the largest FCPA enforcement action in history (minus the manufactured Africa Sting case) in terms of individual defendants – 12. As noted in this prior post, the Haiti Teleco case stands in stark contrast to many corporate FCPA enforcement actions (enforcement actions that sometimes involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in bribe payments) that often yield no individual enforcement actions. Indeed, as noted in this prior post, since 2008 approximately 70% of corporate DOJ FCPA enforcement actions have not (at least yet) resulted in any DOJ charges against company employees.
It is likely that this case will now move to a next stage. Among other things, the case involved a “foreign official” challenge (see here for the prior post) as well as the baffling declaration / revised declaration of Haiti’s Prime Minister (see here for the prior post).
With several individual FCPA defendants currently exercising their constitutional right to a jury trial (Esquenazi and Rodriguez were convicted by a jury), what effect will this record-setting sentence have?