Top Menu

“The FCPA Guide Presents A Classic Case Of Treating A Symptom While Ignoring The Disease”

This recent post highlighted a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act article by former Deputy DOJ Assistant General Larry Thompson in a recent issue of the American Criminal Law Review (“ACLR”).  Thompson’s article was part of a symposium edition of the ACLR (Volume 51, Number 1, Winter 2014) titled “Reducing Corporate Criminality:  Evaluating Department of Justice Policy on the Prosecution of Business Organizations and Options for Reform.”

In addition to Thompson’s article, there was another FCPA article in the ACLR edition that should likewise make its way onto your reading stack.

Barry Pollack (Miller & Chevalier) was the lead author of an article focusing on DOJ guidance surrounding the FCPA, including the 2012 FCPA Guidance.  (See “Lone Wolf Or The Start Of A New Pack:  Should The FCPA Guidance Represent A New Paradigm In Evaluating Corporate Criminal Liability Risks?”).

Commenting on DOJ settlement documents (NPAs/DPAs, etc.) serving as “de facto agency ‘jurisprudence’ guiding corporate conduct”, Pollack observes, consistent with my own observations in “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (2010), as follows.

“While publicly available resources regarding settlement dispositions through plea agreements, DPAs, and NPAs are helpful in providing corporations with some insight into the DOJ’s enforcement priorities and practices, there are some very important differences and limitations which distinguish these settlement documents from case law. Most importantly, these settlements represent the results of privately-negotiated agreements between the DOJ and corporate defendants, which are subject to little or no judicial scrutiny. While plea agreements and DPAs are filed with the court and are technically subject to a judge’s approval, the DOJ and defendants are not generally required to present or defend the factual assertions or legal theories contained in such agreements. Furthermore, NPAs are subject to no judicial scrutiny because they are not filed with the court. Accordingly, these documents provide fertile ground for the prosecution to advance expansive enforcement theories based on bare-boned and undeveloped factual assertions without having to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, given that the promise of avoiding the costly and risky endeavor of litigation through settlement provides every incentive to corporate defendants to accept the prosecution’s position so long as the matter is resolved quickly and for the lowest fine possible.

As a result, the agreements do not necessarily contain all of the relevant facts that went into determining the outcomes. They may contain broader enforcement theories than what would result from fully litigated cases, they do not have precedential value and thus do not bind the DOJ to act consistently, and they may not represent cases where criminal FCPA violations would have been found had the cases actually been litigated.”

Regarding the 2012 FCPA Guidance, Pollack writes:

“Overall, while the Guide is comprehensive and represents an unprecedented undertaking, it marks no sharp departure from current practice. Rather, the Guide clarifies the statute and how it is applied by the enforcement agencies, expressly confirms pre-existing enforcement practices and policies apparent in settlement documents to practitioners in the field, and consolidates current agency thinking into a single, comprehensive reference source.”

Spot-on and consistent with my own observations in “Grading the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Guidance.”

Further, Pollack states that the “FCPA Guide presents a class case of treating a symptom while ignoring the disease.”

Among the “facets” of the disease is that “the collateral consequences for contesting and litigating corporate criminal liability are far too great for a corporation of any size.”

The article then states:

“Unless and until at least one of these aspects of the disease is eradicated, the symptoms of the disease will continue to exist. The symptoms are over- and under-compliance based on a lack of clear understanding regarding what the law forbids, and the acceptance by risk-adverse corporations of criminal dispositions in cases that are eminently defensible.

In a world where the disease exists, the FCPA Guide makes perfect sense. It provides an authoritative source of information regarding current practice. Before the Guide was issued, practitioners could only cite to their own experience and the limited information available in negotiated settlements.”

[…]

“The FCPA Guide is not as novel as it might appear.”

[…]

“The authors hope that at some point, Congress will turn its attention to fighting the disease.”

I’ll second that, but add the DOJ and SEC to the mix (i.e. hopefully the enforcement agencies will turn its attention to better fighting the disease by reconsidering certain enforcement agency policies and procedures).  (See here among other posts for more).

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes