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Carson Defendants Move To Dismiss Travel Act Counts

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is not the only tool the DOJ has used to charge alleged bribery schemes. The FCPA, after all, requires a “foreign official.”

With increasing frequency, the DOJ – often in conjunction with FCPA charges – charges Travel Act violations when the conduct at issue is missing a “foreign official” yet concerns allegations of commercial bribery. For a useful overview of the Travel Act and its relevance to FCPA enforcement (broadly speaking), see this recent post from the FCPA Blog.

The DOJ’s use of the Travel Act is being challenged in the Carson matter pending in the Central District of California. This is the same case in which “foreign official” was and is being challenged. (See here and here for the prior posts).

Earlier this week, in a significant FCPA-related event, certain of the Carson defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Travel Act charges. As noted in the brief (here), in addition to FCPA charges, the moving defendants were charged with Travel Act violations based on alleged bribes to employees of private companies located in China and Russia.

In sum, the Carson defendants argue as follows.

“In Morrison v. Nat’l Australia Bank Ltd., 130 S. Ct. 2869, 2878 (2010), the Supreme Court explained that unless Congress has clearly indicated that a statute applies extraterritorially, it does not. The Travel Act criminalizes “bribery . . . in violation of the law of the state in which committed,” i.e., domestic bribery. Travel Act application to the foreign bribery alleged in this case violates Morrison’spresumption against the extraterritoriality of United States (“U.S.”) laws.”

“While the face of the Travel Act, considered with Morrison’s presumption against extraterritoriality, shows that the Travel Act has no foreign application, the statute’s legislative history confirms it. Consideration of the Travel Act in conjunction with the subsequently enacted FCPA also demonstrates that Congress did not intend that the Travel Act extend to foreign bribery.”

“Further, the Travel Act Counts are predicated upon California’s commercial bribery statute, Cal. Penal Code § 641.3 (“PC 641.3”), so the applicability of that statute to Defendants’ conduct is essential to the government’s case. PC 641.3 has never been applied to foreign commercial bribery and its legislative history shows its foreign application was never considered.”

“Application of the Travel Act and PC 641.3 would also be unconstitutionally vague. Defendants had no notice that either the Travel Act or PC 641.3 would reach the alleged conduct. The government’s recent application of this fifty-year old statute against foreign commercial bribery, in the face of strong skepticism that it even applies, shows the enforcement of this statute is arbitrary.”

“Additionally, the Travel Act allegations are simply defective. The Travel Act prohibits travel or the use of a facility in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to promote unlawful activity (i.e., state-law bribery), followed by an act to promote the bribery. But the Travel Act Counts fail to allege the essential element of an act following the travel or use of a facility in interstate commerce to promote the alleged bribery. So too, Counts Twelve and Fourteen fail to adequately allege the jurisdictional element of travel or use of a facility in interstate or foreign commerce. Because the Travel Act Counts omit necessary elements, they fail.”

“Finally, the Court cannot guess whether the Grand Jury would have even indicted Defendants for conspiracy had it known that the Travel Act did not apply to Defendants’ alleged conduct. Because the defective Travel Act allegations infect the entire conspiracy count, Count One must be dismissed in its entirety.”

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