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Russian FCPA: The Law Has Been Signed, Will The Culture Change Result?

Last month, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev signed legislation that criminalizes foreign bribery, with monetary sanctions for companies and individuals who bribe foreign public officials. Soon thereafter, the OECD formally invited Russia to join the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery and to accede to the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention (see here [1] for the OECD release).

Max Chester (Senior Counsel at Foley & Lardner – see here [2]) takes the stage today with this guest post. Chester, a native speaker of Russian with significant experience representing U.S. clients in commercial transactions in Russia, provides an overview and analysis of the new Russian “FCPA-like” law.

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Russian FCPA: The Law Has Been Signed, Will The Culture Change As A Result?

On May 4, 2011, Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev signed into law a measure that significantly increases fines for bribery in Russia and now specifically applies to bribery of foreign government officials. The new federal law (here [3]) is entitled “Federal Law dated May 4, 2011 No. 97-FZ On inclusion of changes to the Criminal Code of Russian Federation and to the Code of Administrative Offences in Connection with the Improvement of Government Administration in the Area of Fighting Corruption.” While the Russian title of the new law is not easy to understand even for a native Russian speaker, its objective is clear: it is intended to fight corruption in Russia, one of President Medvedev’s highest stated priorities, and to support Russia’s bid to accede to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Because the new law specifically prohibits offering or acceptance of a bribe by a foreign government official, we’ll refer to the new law as the “Russian FCPA.” Because the Russian FCPA prohibits commercial bribery and both receiving and offering corrupt payments to foreign government officials, the new law appears to resemble the UK Bribery Act and can be said to have even further reach than the US FCPA.

With respect to commercial bribery, the new law changes art. 46 of the Criminal Code and imposes the maximum fine for bribery in the amount of 100 times the amount of the bribe not to exceed 500 million rubles) (approximately $17.8 million). Prior to the amendment, the maximum monetary fine for acceptance of a bribe was 1 million rubles or an amount equaling salary/other income for the previous 5 year period and the maximum monetary fine for offering a bribe was 500,000 rubles or an amount equaling salary/other income for the previous 3 year period. The monetary fines for commercial grease payments (подкуп “podkup” in Russian) were even lower: the offeror could face a maximum fine of only 300,000 rubles or an amount equaling salary/other income for the previous 2 year period, and the acceptor could face a maximum fine of only 1 million rubles or an amount equaling salary/other income for a 5 year period.

While incarceration up to 12 years for bribery/grease payments was possible prior to the amendment, according Larisa Brycheva, the chair of the Office of Legal Affairs to the President of Russian Federation, only 26% of those convicted for bribery-related offenses were incarcerated. Furthermore, most of those convicted were offering/accepting small bribes (from 500 rubles to 10,000 rubles), making it difficult for Russian judges to impose sentences of up to 12 years in prison resulting from bribes equaling the cost of an average dinner for two at a Moscow restaurant.

Given this unimpressive to-date enforcement regime, the Russian lawmakers have decided that a significantly higher monetary fine would be more effective than a possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. While the anti-corruption professionals should welcome this change in the Russian law, a big question still remains exactly how aggressively Russian authorities will enforce the new law. It may not be palatable to impose a 500 million ruble fine on a Russian bureaucrat whose official government salary is 40,000 rubles and whose only official assets are his apartment (where his family lives and thus is not subject to forfeiture) and his dacha, the title to which is likely held by his relatives. The same can not be said of foreign businesses, however, on whom it would be much easier for Russian authorities to impose and collect fines equaling 100 times the bribe. There is no indication in the Russian FCPA that it would not apply to US companies doing business in Russia. In other words, if a US company or its constituents engage in commercial or foreign government official bribery in Russia, the offenders would be subject to fines and potential incarceration in Russia.

The Specific Provisions of the New Law

Acceptance of a Bribe

The Russian FCPA now specifically prohibits bribery involving foreign government officials. Thus, art. 290 of the Criminal Code (which prohibits acceptance of bribes directly or through intermediaries) as amended applies to government officials, foreign government officials or officials of public international organizations. The new law breaks down the fines into several categories depending on the conduct at issue and the amount of the bribe. In every case, however, in addition to the monetary penalty or a prison sentence with a monetary penalty, the offender may be restricted from occupying certain positions in government or commercial entities. For example, part 1 of art. 290 of the Criminal Code now imposes a penalty between 25-50 times the bribe amount or incarceration up to 3 years with a fine equaling 20 times the bribe amount if the bribe is under 25,000 rubles and was used to have an official perform an act (or refrain from performing an act) which falls within the official’s duties and responsibilities. Part 2 of article 290 states further that if the bribe amount is between 25,000 and 150,000 rubles, then the maximum penalty for a violation is a fine between 30-60 times the bribe amount or incarceration up to 6 years with a fine equaling 30 times the bribe.

If the actions (inactions) of government officials, foreign government officials or officials of public international organizations for which they accept a bribe are considered illegal, Part 3 of art. 290 of the Criminal Code now imposes a penalty equaling 40-70 times the bribe amount or incarceration for a period of 3-7 years with a fine equaling 40 times the bribe amount.

Even stiffer penalties (60-80 times the bribe amount or incarceration for a period of 5-10 years with a fine equaling 50 times the bribe amount) apply if the bribe is accepted by a federal Russian government official or an official of an equivalent body of local government administration. Art. 290, Part 4.

If the actions prohibited by parts 1-3 above involve a conspiracy, or a threat or the amount at issue is over 150,000 rubles, the penalty is 70-90 times the bribe or incarceration for a period of 7-12 years. Art. 290, Part 5

If the actions prohibited by parts 1-4 involve an amount greater than 1 million rubles, then the penalty is 80-100 times the bribe amount or incarceration for a period of 8-15 years with a penalty equaling 70 times the bribe amount.

Giving of a Bribe

The Russian FCPA similarly amends art. 291 of the Criminal Code, which now prohibits giving of a bribe (directly or through an intermediary) to a government official, foreign government official or an official of a public international organization. The giving of a bribe in the amount less than 25,000 rubles is punishable by a fine equaling 15-30 times the bribe amount or incarceration of up to 2 years with a fine equaling 10 times the bribe amount. Art. 291, Part 1.

The giving of a bribe in the amount between 25,000 rubles and 150,000 rubles is punishable by a fine equaling 20-40 times the bribe amount or incarceration of up to 3 years with a fine equaling 15 times the bribe amount. Art. 291, Part. 2.

If the actions prohibited by parts 1-3 above involve a conspiracy or the amount at issue is over 150,000 rubles, the penalty is 60-80 times the bribe or incarceration for a period of 5-8 years with a fine equaling 30 times the bribe amount. Art. 291, Part 4.

The giving of a bribe in the amount exceeding 1 million rubles is punishable by a fine equaling 70-90 times the bribe amount or incarceration for a period between 7 and 12 years with a fine equaling 70 times the bribe amount. Art. 291, Part. 2.

Giving of a bribe to a government official, foreign government official or an official of a public international organization to secure an action/inaction which is itself deemed illegal is punishable by a fine equaling 30-60 times the bribe amount or incarceration of up to 8 years with a fine equaling 30 times the bribe amount. Art. 291, Part 3.

Aiding and Abetting Bribery

The Russian FCPA also introduces new article 2911 to the Criminal Code, which prohibits aiding and abetting bribery if the amount of the bribe exceeds 25,000 rubles. In such circumstances, the Russian FCPA imposes a fine equaling 20-40 times the bribe or incarceration for a period of up to 5 years with a fine equaling 20 times the bribe amount.

If an aider assists with a bribery for an official’s act that itself is considered illegal or if an aider uses his official position in aiding the bribery, the penalty is 30-60 times the bribe or incarceration for a period of time between 3-7 years with a fine equaling 30 times the bribe amount.

If the aiding is committed by an organized group or pursuant to a conspiracy, or the amount of the bribe exceeds 150,000 rubles, the penalty is 60-80 times the bribe amount or incarceration for a period of time between 7-12 years with a fine equaling 60 times the bribe amount.

The penalty for aiding bribery in the amount exceeding 1 million rubles is 70-90 times the bribe amount or incarceration for a period of time between 7-12 years with a fine equaling 70 times the bribe amount.

A promise or an offer to aid in the bribery is also punishable by a penalty equaling 15-70 times the bribe or incarceration for a period of up to 7 years with a fine equaling 10-60 times the bribe amount.

Definition of Foreign Government Official

The Russian FCPA defines a “foreign government official” as any appointed or elected official who has a position in any legislative, executive, administrative, or judicial branch of a foreign country or an individual who serves any public function for a foreign country or a public agency or a public enterprise. This definition seems to suggest that Russian lawmakers embrace the position taken by the DOJ that employees of government owned enterprises are “foreign government officials” for purposes of the FCPA. It would be interesting to see if Russian authorities deem employees of General Motors, AIG or other large US companies where the US government has a substantial equity position, “foreign government officials” for purposes of the Russian FCPA.

Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences of Russian Federation

The Russian FCPA also amends several provisions of the Code of Administrative Offences of Russian Federation. Among those is amendment to article 19.28, which imposes penalties on legal entities for commercial bribery or bribery of foreign government officials if a payment of a bribe or an offer of a bribe was made on a legal entity’s behalf. In such circumstances, the penalty is 3 times the amount of the bribe but not less than 1 million rubles. If the amount of the bribe at issue is greater than 1 million rubles, then the penalty is up to 30 times the bribe amount but not less than 20 million rubles. If the amount of the bribe at issue is over 20 million rubles, then the penalty is up to 100 times the bribe amount but not less than 100 million rubles.

In addition, the Russian FCPA introduces several new protocols for Russian authorities to seek information from their foreign counterparts in connection with the investigation by Russian authorities of violations set forth above as well as protocols for Russian authorities to respond to inquiries from foreign law enforcement agencies in connection with foreign law enforcement agencies’ investigation of crimes. These provisions will undoubtedly strengthen the level of cooperation between Russian and foreign law enforcement agencies in implementing anti-corruption measures. Such efforts are already underway, as evidenced by the recent meetings between Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom in London, with Richard Alderman, Director of the Serious Fraud Office.

Conclusion

No law by itself can change overnight or even within a short period of time the “threatening” level of corruption that exists in Russia, as acknowledged by the Russian President himself. The current state of affairs in Russia is a product of 70+ years of socialist dictatorship and the resulting mindset of many government officials. This state of affairs will change, undoubtedly, and the passing of the Russian FCPA is the step in the right direction for Russia. It is up to the Russian authorities to follow through on the provisions of the new law.