Twelve years ago this week, one of the most embarrassing DOJ FCPA enforcement actions began – an enforcement action that a federal court judge would ultimately call “a long and sad chapter in the annals of white collar criminal enforcement.”
In January 2010, DOJ announced criminal charges against 22 executives and employees of companies in the military and law enforcement products industry for engaging in a scheme to pay bribes to the minister of defense of an African country.
However, there was no actual involvement from any minister of defense. Rather, FBI agents, with the assistance of an individual who had already pleaded guilty to real, unrelated FCPA offenses (Richard Bistrong), posed as representatives of a Gabonese minister. While it was not the first use of proactive, undercover investigative techniques in an FCPA investigation, it was certainly the largest and most dramatic use of such techniques in the FCPA’s history, and the full force of the government’s surveillance capabilities were used against individuals from mostly small private companies located across America.