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Interesting Causation Decision

Judicial Decision

One of the most challenging issues to pin down in many legal and policy discussions is causation.

When thinking of causation, we often fall for the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (in other words, since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X).

However, real life is often more complex and this is also true in many Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions.

For instance, can it really be said that the “only” reason a company got business was because an employee or agent treated a customer to a round of golf or offered tickets to a sporting event? Perhaps it was mostly because the company offered the best product for the best price? Asking the question is not justifying the underlying conduct (although there is nothing inherently wrong with golfing or going to sporting events), it is simply taking a broader (much needed) view of the underlying facts and circumstances.

Against this backdrop, it is worthwhile to analyze this recent federal court decision concerning a high-profile instance of domestic bribery.

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In Post-Trial Motions, Baptiste Seeks Judgment Of Acquittal Or New Trial Based On Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel

Baptiste

As highlighted in this previous post, in 2017 (in connection with an undercover string) the DOJ unsealed criminal charges against Joseph Baptiste (a retired U.S. Army Colonel, practicing dentist, and founder / president of a Maryland-based Haitian focused non-profit) for alleged Haitian bribery.

In the original charging document, it was noted as follows:

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Court In FCPA-Related Civil Claim – Causation Matters

Judicial Decision

Several prior posts (herehere, here and here) have focused on basic causation issues in connection with many Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions.

The lack of causation between an alleged bribe payment and any alleged business obtained or retained may not be a legal defense because the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions prohibit the offer, payment, promise to pay or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value.  Indeed, several FCPA enforcement actions have alleged unsuccessful bribery attempts in which no business was actually obtained or retained.

Nevertheless, causation ought to be relevant when calculating FCPA settlement amounts, specifically disgorgement. However, the prevailing enforcement theory often seems to be that because Company A made improper payments to allegedly obtain or retain Contract A then all of Company A’s net profits associated with Contract A are subject to disgorgement.

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