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Bourke’s Appeal

As previously noted (here), the Frederic Bourke case is arguably the most complex and convoluted case in the history of the FCPA.

The trial court portion of the case ended in November 2009 when Judge Scheindin sentenced Bourke to 366 days for, among other things, conspiracy to violate the FCPA. At sentencing Judge Scheindin stated – “After years of supervising this case, it’s still not entirely clear to me whether Mr. Bourke is a victim or a crook or a little bit of both.”

Bourke has appealed his conviction to the Second Circuit.

An FCPA trial like Bourke’s is rare. An FCPA appeal is even more rare. An FCPA appeal to the influential Second Circuit is even more rare.

Thus, with good reason, this case is of great interest to those who follow the FCPA in that it is hoped to shed some light on the FCPA’s knowledge element, and perhaps other issues as well.

First step in the appeal is Bourke’s brief (see here) filed April 1st. The brief principally focuses on the FCPA’s knowledge element, including the trial court’s conscious avoidance jury instruction (a portion of the brief is redacted and a portion deals with Bourke’s false statement conviction).

This post summarizes the FCPA related issues in Bourke’s brief.


According to the brief, the “trial focused on two related issues: whether Bourke knew that Kozeny was bribing the Azeris, and whether he willfully and corruptly joined the bribery conspiracy.”

The brief argues that the district court “committed a series of errors that crippled Bourke’s mens rea defense.”

The brief then discusses three such errors.

First, the court instructed on conscious avoidance, despite the absence of evidence that Bourke deliberately avoided knowledge of Kozeny’s bribes.” According to the brief, this instruction was error “because there was no evidence that Bourke deliberately avoided learning about Kozeny’s bribery.” The brief states that the conscious avoidance instruction “was particularly damaging because the government presented evidence and argued that Bourke failed to exercise adequate due diligence, thus exacerbating the risk inherent in the conscious avoidance instruction that the jury would convict for negligence or recklessness.” The brief cites Second Circuit case law which emphasizes that “essential to the concept of conscious avoidance is the requirement that the defendant be shown to have decided not to learn the key fact, not merely to have failed to learn it through negligence” and argues that “the trial record contains no evidence that Bourke decided not to learn about Kozeny’s bribery.”

Bourke also argues that the court erred in admitting testimony about the due diligence performed by Texas Pacific Group (“TPG”), an investment fund that did not make the same investment as Bourke, because its lawyers advised of the FCPA risk. The brief states, “[b]ecause Bourke knew nothing about their work, their testimony was irrelevant to his state of mind” particularly since the results were never shared or communicated with Bourke. According to the brief, “the government offered the testimony […] solely as a contrast with the comparatively skimpy inquiry that Bourke and his lawyers performed.” “That testimony” according to the brief, “increased the risk, created by the conscious avoidance instruction and heightened by the government’s closing, that the jury would convict Bourke based on his negligence or recklessness — what he should have known, rather than what he actually knew.” The brief argues that the “government’s tactic had its intended effect on the jury” and it cites the foreman of the of jury telling the press, “It was Kozeny, it was Azerbaijan, it was a foreign country …. We thought he knew and definitely could have known. He’s an investor. It’s his job to know.”

The brief further argues that, having admitted the above testimony relating to TPG, “the district court should at least have permitted Bourke to present the contrasting testimony” of the head of investments for Columbia University that would have established that “Columbia invested $15 million with Kozeny in Azeri privatization after due diligence comparable to Bourke’s.” According to the brief, this excluded testimony “would have rebutted the government’s claim that Bourke’s lack of due diligence compared to TPG established his culpability.” The brief argues that “once the district court permitted the government to present TPG’s due diligence as a benchmark for measuring Bourke’s inquiry, fairness demanded that Bourke be allowed to present the contrasting picture of Columbia’s due diligence, which resembled his own.”

Second, the brief states – “the court refused to instruct that conviction for conspiracy requires the same mens rea as the underlying FCPA offense — meaning (among other things) a bad purpose to disobey or disregard the law.” According to the brief, “the district court compounded its error in giving the conscious avoidance instruction by rejecting Bourke’s requested instruction [as to the conspiracy charge] that the government had to prove that he acted corruptly and willfully.” The brief argues that “when the district court turned to the mens rea required for the conspiracy offense, rather than for a substantive FCPA offense, it omitted the requirement that the defendant act corruptly” and that this “watering-down of the mens rea requirement for the conspiracy charged […] undermined Bourke’s defense, which rested on his state of mind.”

Third, the court rejected Bourke’s proposed good faith instructions, even though Bourke produced ample evidence to warrant the instructions and no other instruction covered the point.” The brief argues that Bourke’s proposed instruction “accurately reflected the principle that a defendant’s good faith belief that he acted lawfully negates the mens rea for specific intent offenses.” While the brief concedes that Bourke’s efforts to investigate the investment “were not as extensive” as others, his efforts “suffice for a good faith instruction.” Because the case turned on Bourke’s state of mind, the brief states “there is no doubt that the good faith defense, if accepted by the jury, would have produced an acquittal.”

The brief argues that “any one of the errors concerning Bourke’s knowledge of Kozeny’s bribes and his specific criminal intent, standing alone, warrants reversal” and if any one error is harmless in isolation, then their “cumulative effect profoundly damaged Bourke’s defense.”

Next up … the DOJ which has until July 29th to file its response brief.

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