This is certainly not the first time these pages have addressed this topic and of all the topics periodically discussed on these pages, this topic has received some of the most positive feedback. As an individual on social media commented the other day when I first highlighted the most recent problematic example: “These are great points and a substantive and optics concern of many.”
For profit companies that host FCPA conferences are entitled to run their business as they see fit. However, when for profit companies use Foreign Corrupt Practices Act officials at the DOJ, SEC, and FBI like commodities that are then marketed and sold to the public, this is where the line needs to be drawn.
It’s a disgraceful practice and it needs to stop. Moreover public officials need to stop allowing themselves to be used as pawns by for profit companies.
A common marketing device the conference companies use in hopes of driving attendance to their paid events is by touting the public officials who will speak at the event.
The latest example is this press release which states:
“Now in its 34th edition, ACI’s International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act returns … from November 28 – December 1, 2017. Each year, members of the anti-corruption community come from across the globe to gain updates and interface with government officials, in-house professionals and private practitioners involved in some of the highest profile settlements to date.
As an important update, the program now includes the SEC, DOJ and FBI:
• Sandra Moser, Acting Chief, Fraud Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
• Charles E. Cain, Acting Chief, FCPA Unit, Division of Enforcement, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
• Daniel Kahn, Chief, FCPA Unit, Fraud Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
• Darryl Wegner, Unit Chief, International Corruption Unit, Criminal Investigative Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation
On the conference website, under the heading “why attend,” are the following enticements.
“Government has viewed this forum as an important platform for making announcements, and giving critical updates on compliance and enforcement.”
“This acclaimed event marks one of the few worthwhile opportunities to interface with senior U.S. and foreign government officials, corporate executives and leading outside counsel.”
What will it cost you to hear your public officials speak, to hear their supposed “announcements” and “critical updates” and to “interface” with them? According to the conference website, depending on when one registers, it will cost between $2,395 – $2,595 to attend the conference.
It is bit ironic that these conferences focus on FCPA topics, yet the problematic conduct highlighted above occupies the same general space, is marketed in plain view, and has corporate sponsors and an advisory board (see below) well versed in FCPA issues.
A speaker slot at a conference would sure seem like a thing of value that enhances the public official’s self-esteem and feeling of prestige? (After all, FCPA enforcement actions concerning charitable contributions and internships have been based on the enforcement theory that the thing of value enhanced the “foreign official’s” self-esteem and feeling of prestige). Moreover, the thing of value is being provided to the public official to achieve a business objective. Indeed, the thing of value provided to the public official is specifically being marketed in the hope of driving paid attendance to the event.
According to the conference company’s website, the above event has various sponsors (see here). In addition, according to the conference company’s website, it has an advisory board “composed of eighteen pre-qualified industry leaders who advise ACI on the impact of enforcement trends, the FCPA community and relevant speakers, emerging topics, as well as geographic markets for future programs.”
If you are troubled about having to pay to hear public officials speak, if you are troubled by a private company selling supposed government “announcements”and “critical updates,” and if you are troubled by a private company selling the opportunity to “interface” with public officials, contact the sponsors of the conference and the conference company’s advisory board and make your concerns known.
The selling and marketing of FCPA enforcement officials by private companies is a disgraceful practice that needs to stop. FCPA enforcement officials are public officials, not a commodity that a for-profit company should be allowed to sell.
Moreover, public officials need to stop allowing themselves to be used as pawns by for profit companies.
These are serious issues that deserve more attention and corrective action.
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