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Will Dodd-Frank’s Whistleblower Provisions Be Exported?

Meet Markus Funk (here). He is a former DOJ attorney and now a partner at Perkins Coie.

He recently wrote a piece (here) that caught my eye.

It’s about Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions.

You might ask, what isn’t these days!

Funk’s piece however is a bit different because it uses Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions to ask the question – will signatory nations of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (here) incorporate similar provisions into their domestic law to demonstrate commitment to combating bribery?

Interesting question – and more on this below.

First a quick summary of Funk’s piece.

In it, Funk states that “the passage of [Dodd-Frank] signals a significant acceleration of the U.S. government’s already intensified Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement efforts.” He states that by “unveiling” Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions “to the world” “the United States heralds a new phase in its increasingly global anti-bribery enforcement efforts.”

Funk then writes, “as U.S.-led political pressures to enhance national anti-bribery efforts continue to grow, the Dodd-Frank Act’s novel enforcement mechanisms have the potential to attract international imitators.” He further states: “with mounting global pressure (not the least of which originates from the United States) on signatory states to comply with the Anti-Bribery Convention’s requirements, currently under-performing countries will likely be looking for efficient and effective ways to demonstrate their earnest intent to live up to their commitments.” “Given this backdrop,” Funk writes, “the Dodd-Frank’s Act’s new whistleblower provisions may well stand out as an ideal template for others (who are not culturally or otherwise averse to such rewards) to emulate.”

As noted in a prior post (here) Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions are buried deep in the 2,000+ pages of the Dodd-Frank Act. The provisions apply to all securities law violations. It is an open question whether anyone in Congress had the FCPA on their mind when voting for Dodd-Frank, including its whistleblower provisions.

Yet, perhaps because the FCPA bar is such an active group of writers, Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions have come to be reported in some circles as the FCPA whistleblower provisions. After all, the FCPA is indeed part of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 so the generic whistleblower provisions are indeed FCPA relevant.

In any event, I wondered why Funk wrote that “the passage of [Dodd-Frank] signals a significant acceleration of the U.S. government’s already intensified Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement efforts” and why he wrote that Dodd-Frank’s generic whistleblower provisions “symbolize the government’s accelerating fight against foreign corruption.”

So I went to the source and posed Funk the following question.

“Why do you believe that a generic securities law provision in a 2,000+ page financial regulatory reform bill is going to prompt other countries to adopt bribery/corruption specific whistleblower provisions?”

Below is Funk’s response, posted with his express permission.

*****

‘My answer to your question comes in parts.

Let me start out with an observation directed towards your question’s basic premise. I do not see why the raw page-count of the Dodd-Frank Act should have any meaningful bearing on whether its whistle blower provisions are (1) generally known and understood, or (2) likely to generate domestic success or foreign imitators.

Pundits, the media, and legal observers have certainly succeeded in swiftly digging through the bill’s 2,000+ pages of text and zeroing in on the tip-generating provisions we are talking about. Their very public analysis, moreover, strips away from the whistleblower bounty provisions any obscurity they may at one point have enjoyed (and, as the widespread attention to the Act signals, most observers do not categorize the novel provisions as unexceptionally “generic”).

Evidence of the recently-enacted whistleblower provisions’ emergent renown is, indeed, plentiful. Do a simple Google search for “Dodd-Frank” and “whistleblower,” and watch the thousands of hits come pouring in. Most foreign-based white collar websites, whether run by governments or lawyers, moreover, contain extensive and nuanced analysis of the Act’s whistleblower provisions. Hardly the reception accorded to an enactment that got lost in the shuffle.

And the whistleblower provisions’ renown is not the only thing that has confounded critics’ expectations; within a few short months, the Act has begun to yield actual real-world results. As recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, the new whistleblower incentives have generated an average of one tip a day (though the quality of the tips, and the country of origin of the tipsters, is admittedly still unknown).

These newly-generated/motivated tipsters, as well as the steady drumbeat of domestic and international corporate clients expressing concern about, and wanting more information on, this particular aspect of the Dodd-Frank Act, at a minimum place significant doubt on the position that the Act’s whistleblower provisions are so deeply buried within the rest of the Act that their effectiveness is nil because nobody knows about them.

Having addressed your foundational criticism of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower provisions, we can now move on to a companion challenge facing our ramped-up transnational anti-bribery efforts (and, for that matter, facing transnational law enforcement efforts generally).

Skeptics of global anti-bribery efforts now point to the much-cited International Bar Association’s recent survey of 642 legal professionals in 95 jurisdictions for proof that even lawyers don’t know about the world’s leading anti-bribery conventions and instruments. The IBA survey revealed that roughly half of the world’s lawyers have never heard of the FCPA. Some 70 percent of those questioned, moreover, knew nothing about the U.K. Bribery Act, and 40 percent are entirely unfamiliar with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) and United Nations anti-corruption conventions. Four in 10 respondents in developed countries such as Denmark, Germany, Canada, and Japan likewise knew of none of these anti-bribery instruments; the result was bumped up to 7 in 10 for New Zealand and Hong Kong lawyers.

Observers hold these results up as conclusive, damning proof that few in the world’s legal community know, or much care, about these internationally celebrated/hyped anti-bribery enactments.

It would be pointless for me to argue against the existence of an unfortunate, long-standing dissonance between international diplomatic proclamations, on the one hand, and tangible results on the ground, on the other. Indeed, I have personally experienced this frustrating phenomenon while working in post-conflict countries for the U.S. State Department, and have also written a book on the International Criminal Court which takes aim at the international community’s “much talk, little action” habit.

But, in the present context, I remain unmoved by the IBA’s headline-grabbing findings. For one, these survey results smack of a high-minded variant of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” in which Leno probes the proverbial “man on the street’s” basic knowledge of topics such as history, politics, and world affairs. The hapless respondents are inevitably revealed to be, or at least portrayed as being, ignorant dolts.

Similarly, the IBA’s survey results stand for little more than the rather unremarkable proposition that the “average” attorney (the survey omits any indication of specialization or areas of the survey-takers’ expertise) is not particularly well-versed on the topic of international anti-bribery instruments. Wish it weren’t so, but does it really matter?

Surveys of similar type could undoubtedly be constructed to reveal lawyers worldwide as wholly unfamiliar with wide swaths of accumulated substantive legal knowledge (anyone interested in taking a pop quiz surveying the examinee’s understanding of patent, human rights, or regulatory law?).

Are the IBA survey takers’ low scores to be read as meaning that global anti-bribery efforts are under-appreciated by lawyers to such an extent that they are rendered irrelevant? Hardly. What actually matters, of course, is whether the key decision-makers active in the anti-bribery fight know about these provisions. They clearly do.

But even if these survey results are meaningful, the “so what?” question remains: do the low scores represent (1) a call to action, or (2) a call to throw in the towel? Even assuming purely for the purpose of argument that throwing in the towel is the more sensible course, this clearly is not what the U.S. Government has in mind. Quite to the contrary.

In one public pronouncement after another, high-ranking Department of Justice, State Department, and Administration officials reaffirm the U.S. Government’s commitment to remain fully engaged in – and, indeed, to significantly ramp up – the global fight against public corruption.

During his May 31, 2010, address to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, for example, Attorney General Eric Holder publicly announced the U.S. Government’s continued support for the Anti-Bribery Convention: “As Attorney General, I have made combating [global] corruption one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice.” Holder additionally announced the Government’s intent to strengthen global anti-bribery efforts through enhanced transnational collaboration and the sharing of “best practices.” Not coincidentally, in the month following the Attorney General’s speech, the U.S. House passed the Dodd-Frank Act’s conference report of the bill.

Whether through high-minded moral leadership, innovative new initiatives, or more pedestrian, self-interested incentives connected with financial-based trade, aid, and protection, the U.S. has a way of ensuring that its message is heard – heard loud and clear, actually – and acted on. And there is no need to even walk down the increasingly lonely road of American exceptionalism to make this point. Realpolitik will suffice.

Few would dispute that, despite some recent setbacks, the U.S. Government continues on as the dominant force in world affairs. When the U.S. takes action, foreign governments and global businesses take notice.

Well-publicized, enormous fines/disgorgements of corporate wrongdoers collected not only in the U.S., but increasingly also abroad, only further raise awareness, underscoring that the “old way” of doing business is coming to an abrupt end. Even on the enforcement side, good news for corporate criminals is hard to come by.

The proliferation of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) between the U.S. and other countries, moreover, make extradition and public trial a reality. As USDOJ Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer put it during a May 2010 speech: “We are actively working with our foreign counterparts in various areas to ensure that country borders won’t limit our ability to fight fraud . . . . As recently as February, new U.S.- E.U. agreements on mutual legal assistance and extradition went into effect. These agreements offer significant new tools that will streamline cross-border investigations and allow for even greater cooperation with our counterparts abroad.”

The world is clearly growing uncomfortably smaller for corporate criminals. Viewed from this perspective, we are currently experiencing a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

Available international numbers in fact lend support for the argument that mounting U.S. diplomatic pressure aimed at increasing global anti-corruption efforts is, to some extent at least, achieving its desired result. Transparency International (TI) recently released its “July Progress Report 2010: Enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials.” TI notes that, between 2009 and 2010, the number of signatory countries actively enforcing the Anti-Bribery Convention increased from four to seven (those countries representing some 30 percent of world exports). Furthermore, since the mid-2000s, the number of moderately enforcing countries doubled from 8 to 16.

Although these statistics demonstrate that most signatory countries still have considerable room for improvement towards living up to their anti-bribery commitments, the recent uptick in enforcement signals that domestic and international pressures have not gone unnoticed. The Dodd-Frank Act’s novel way of incentivizing individuals with knowledge to step forth and blow the whistle is readily-understood, and provides a simple way to increase OECD Anti-Bribery Convention compliance. Considering that the U.S. Government is giving every available signal that these pressures will, if anything, only increase, it is reasonable to expect global anti-corruption initiatives and cooperation to trend in the same direction.

To the extent that the innovative Dodd-Frank whistleblower bounty provisions continue to generate substantive tips, and that foreign whistleblowers are appropriately protected, there is no reason to think that other countries will not imitate the provisions in the same way as other effective U.S.-born legal provisions have found new second homes throughout the world.”

Will Dodd-Frank’s Whistleblower Provisions Be Exported?

Meet Markus Funk (here). He is a former DOJ attorney and now a partner at Perkins Coie.

He recently wrote a piece (here) that caught my eye.

It’s about Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions.

You might ask, what isn’t these days!

Funk’s piece however is a bit different because it uses Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions to ask the question – will signatory nations of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (here) incorporate similar provisions into their domestic law to demonstrate commitment to combating bribery?

Interesting question – and more on this below.

First a quick summary of Funk’s piece.

In it, Funk states that “the passage of [Dodd-Frank] signals a significant acceleration of the U.S. government’s already intensified Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement efforts.” He states that by “unveiling” Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions “to the world” “the United States heralds a new phase in its increasingly global anti-bribery enforcement efforts.”

Funk then writes, “as U.S.-led political pressures to enhance national anti-bribery efforts continue to grow, the Dodd-Frank Act’s novel enforcement mechanisms have the potential to attract international imitators.” He further states: “with mounting global pressure (not the least of which originates from the United States) on signatory states to comply with the Anti-Bribery Convention’s requirements, currently under-performing countries will likely be looking for efficient and effective ways to demonstrate their earnest intent to live up to their commitments.” “Given this backdrop,” Funk writes, “the Dodd-Frank’s Act’s new whistleblower provisions may well stand out as an ideal template for others (who are not culturally or otherwise averse to such rewards) to emulate.”

As noted in a prior post (here) Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions are buried deep in the 2,000+ pages of the Dodd-Frank Act. The provisions apply to all securities law violations. It is an open question whether anyone in Congress had the FCPA on their mind when voting for Dodd-Frank, including its whistleblower provisions.

Yet, perhaps because the FCPA bar is such an active group of writers, Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions have come to be reported in some circles as the FCPA whistleblower provisions. After all, the FCPA is indeed part of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 so the generic whistleblower provisions are indeed FCPA relevant.

In any event, I wondered why Funk wrote that “the passage of [Dodd-Frank] signals a significant acceleration of the U.S. government’s already intensified Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement efforts” and why he wrote that Dodd-Frank’s generic whistleblower provisions “symbolize the government’s accelerating fight against foreign corruption.”

So I went to the source and posed Funk the following question.

“Why do you believe that a generic securities law provision in a 2,000+ page financial regulatory reform bill is going to prompt other countries to adopt bribery/corruption specific whistleblower provisions?”

Below is Funk’s response, posted with his express permission.

*****

‘My answer to your question comes in parts.

Let me start out with an observation directed towards your question’s basic premise. I do not see why the raw page-count of the Dodd-Frank Act should have any meaningful bearing on whether its whistle blower provisions are (1) generally known and understood, or (2) likely to generate domestic success or foreign imitators.

Pundits, the media, and legal observers have certainly succeeded in swiftly digging through the bill’s 2,000+ pages of text and zeroing in on the tip-generating provisions we are talking about. Their very public analysis, moreover, strips away from the whistleblower bounty provisions any obscurity they may at one point have enjoyed (and, as the widespread attention to the Act signals, most observers do not categorize the novel provisions as unexceptionally “generic”).

Evidence of the recently-enacted whistleblower provisions’ emergent renown is, indeed, plentiful. Do a simple Google search for “Dodd-Frank” and “whistleblower,” and watch the thousands of hits come pouring in. Most foreign-based white collar websites, whether run by governments or lawyers, moreover, contain extensive and nuanced analysis of the Act’s whistleblower provisions. Hardly the reception accorded to an enactment that got lost in the shuffle.

And the whistleblower provisions’ renown is not the only thing that has confounded critics’ expectations; within a few short months, the Act has begun to yield actual real-world results. As recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, the new whistleblower incentives have generated an average of one tip a day (though the quality of the tips, and the country of origin of the tipsters, is admittedly still unknown).

These newly-generated/motivated tipsters, as well as the steady drumbeat of domestic and international corporate clients expressing concern about, and wanting more information on, this particular aspect of the Dodd-Frank Act, at a minimum place significant doubt on the position that the Act’s whistleblower provisions are so deeply buried within the rest of the Act that their effectiveness is nil because nobody knows about them.

Having addressed your foundational criticism of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower provisions, we can now move on to a companion challenge facing our ramped-up transnational anti-bribery efforts (and, for that matter, facing transnational law enforcement efforts generally).

Skeptics of global anti-bribery efforts now point to the much-cited International Bar Association’s recent survey of 642 legal professionals in 95 jurisdictions for proof that even lawyers don’t know about the world’s leading anti-bribery conventions and instruments. The IBA survey revealed that roughly half of the world’s lawyers have never heard of the FCPA. Some 70 percent of those questioned, moreover, knew nothing about the U.K. Bribery Act, and 40 percent are entirely unfamiliar with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) and United Nations anti-corruption conventions. Four in 10 respondents in developed countries such as Denmark, Germany, Canada, and Japan likewise knew of none of these anti-bribery instruments; the result was bumped up to 7 in 10 for New Zealand and Hong Kong lawyers.

Observers hold these results up as conclusive, damning proof that few in the world’s legal community know, or much care, about these internationally celebrated/hyped anti-bribery enactments.

It would be pointless for me to argue against the existence of an unfortunate, long-standing dissonance between international diplomatic proclamations, on the one hand, and tangible results on the ground, on the other. Indeed, I have personally experienced this frustrating phenomenon while working in post-conflict countries for the U.S. State Department, and have also written a book on the International Criminal Court which takes aim at the international community’s “much talk, little action” habit.

But, in the present context, I remain unmoved by the IBA’s headline-grabbing findings. For one, these survey results smack of a high-minded variant of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” in which Leno probes the proverbial “man on the street’s” basic knowledge of topics such as history, politics, and world affairs. The hapless respondents are inevitably revealed to be, or at least portrayed as being, ignorant dolts.

Similarly, the IBA’s survey results stand for little more than the rather unremarkable proposition that the “average” attorney (the survey omits any indication of specialization or areas of the survey-takers’ expertise) is not particularly well-versed on the topic of international anti-bribery instruments. Wish it weren’t so, but does it really matter?

Surveys of similar type could undoubtedly be constructed to reveal lawyers worldwide as wholly unfamiliar with wide swaths of accumulated substantive legal knowledge (anyone interested in taking a pop quiz surveying the examinee’s understanding of patent, human rights, or regulatory law?).

Are the IBA survey takers’ low scores to be read as meaning that global anti-bribery efforts are under-appreciated by lawyers to such an extent that they are rendered irrelevant? Hardly. What actually matters, of course, is whether the key decision-makers active in the anti-bribery fight know about these provisions. They clearly do.

But even if these survey results are meaningful, the “so what?” question remains: do the low scores represent (1) a call to action, or (2) a call to throw in the towel? Even assuming purely for the purpose of argument that throwing in the towel is the more sensible course, this clearly is not what the U.S. Government has in mind. Quite to the contrary.

In one public pronouncement after another, high-ranking Department of Justice, State Department, and Administration officials reaffirm the U.S. Government’s commitment to remain fully engaged in – and, indeed, to significantly ramp up – the global fight against public corruption.

During his May 31, 2010, address to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, for example, Attorney General Eric Holder publicly announced the U.S. Government’s continued support for the Anti-Bribery Convention: “As Attorney General, I have made combating [global] corruption one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice.” Holder additionally announced the Government’s intent to strengthen global anti-bribery efforts through enhanced transnational collaboration and the sharing of “best practices.” Not coincidentally, in the month following the Attorney General’s speech, the U.S. House passed the Dodd-Frank Act’s conference report of the bill.

Whether through high-minded moral leadership, innovative new initiatives, or more pedestrian, self-interested incentives connected with financial-based trade, aid, and protection, the U.S. has a way of ensuring that its message is heard – heard loud and clear, actually – and acted on. And there is no need to even walk down the increasingly lonely road of American exceptionalism to make this point. Realpolitik will suffice.

Few would dispute that, despite some recent setbacks, the U.S. Government continues on as the dominant force in world affairs. When the U.S. takes action, foreign governments and global businesses take notice.

Well-publicized, enormous fines/disgorgements of corporate wrongdoers collected not only in the U.S., but increasingly also abroad, only further raise awareness, underscoring that the “old way” of doing business is coming to an abrupt end. Even on the enforcement side, good news for corporate criminals is hard to come by.

The proliferation of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) between the U.S. and other countries, moreover, make extradition and public trial a reality. As USDOJ Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer put it during a May 2010 speech: “We are actively working with our foreign counterparts in various areas to ensure that country borders won’t limit our ability to fight fraud . . . . As recently as February, new U.S.- E.U. agreements on mutual legal assistance and extradition went into effect. These agreements offer significant new tools that will streamline cross-border investigations and allow for even greater cooperation with our counterparts abroad.”

The world is clearly growing uncomfortably smaller for corporate criminals. Viewed from this perspective, we are currently experiencing a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

Available international numbers in fact lend support for the argument that mounting U.S. diplomatic pressure aimed at increasing global anti-corruption efforts is, to some extent at least, achieving its desired result. Transparency International (TI) recently released its “July Progress Report 2010: Enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials.” TI notes that, between 2009 and 2010, the number of signatory countries actively enforcing the Anti-Bribery Convention increased from four to seven (those countries representing some 30 percent of world exports). Furthermore, since the mid-2000s, the number of moderately enforcing countries doubled from 8 to 16.

Although these statistics demonstrate that most signatory countries still have considerable room for improvement towards living up to their anti-bribery commitments, the recent uptick in enforcement signals that domestic and international pressures have not gone unnoticed. The Dodd-Frank Act’s novel way of incentivizing individuals with knowledge to step forth and blow the whistle is readily-understood, and provides a simple way to increase OECD Anti-Bribery Convention compliance. Considering that the U.S. Government is giving every available signal that these pressures will, if anything, only increase, it is reasonable to expect global anti-corruption initiatives and cooperation to trend in the same direction.

To the extent that the innovative Dodd-Frank whistleblower bounty provisions continue to generate substantive tips, and that foreign whistleblowers are appropriately protected, there is no reason to think that other countries will not imitate the provisions in the same way as other effective U.S.-born legal provisions have found new second homes throughout the world.”

A Conversation With Richard Alderman – Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office

While in London recently to chair the World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum (see here, here and here for previous posts), I was pleased to accept the invitation of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office to visit its offices and meet top-level SFO personnel to discuss Bribery Act and other anti-corruption issues and topics. As part of the invitation, Richard Alderman (here), the Director of the SFO, invited me to submit questions to him on any topic of my choosing.

I submitted approximately thirty detailed questions covering a broad range of topics, including the role and policies of the SFO, the Bribery Act, the BAE and Innospec cases, Bribery Inc., and other questions of general interest. Except for certain questions regarding the BAE case, which is still pending in the U.K. courts, Mr. Alderman provided answers to every question, including on topics I have been critical of the SFO in the past.

In his answers, Mr. Alderman, among other things:

(i) compares and contrasts the SFO’s role with the DOJ’s role in enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including the more active and independent role U.K. courts have in reviewing SFO charging decisions;

(ii) talks about voluntary disclosure, and the role of non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements;

(iii) discusses reputational harm, debarment, and reparations; and

(iv) talks specifically about the Bribery Act which is to be implemented in April 2011.

I thank Mr. Alderman and other SFO personnel for taking a keen interest in my work and commend the “active engagement” approach the SFO has taken in going about its work.

My complete “conversation” with Mr. Alderman can be downloaded here.

Will Bistrong’s Plea Impact The Africa Sting Cases?

Last week Richard Bistrong’s plea agreement was made public.

Who is Richard Bistrong?

He is “Individual 1” – the person who worked with FBI agents as alleged in the Africa Sting indictments. (See here). (See here for the superseding indictment).

Bistrong was soon identified as Individual 1 and criminally charged.

Not in connection with the Africa Sting case, but a completely different matter. (See here). The criminal information (here) charges Bistrong with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s antibribery provisions, books and records provisions, and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and related Export Administration Regulations.

The conspiracy was broad in scope and included charges that Bistrong conspired with others: (i) to obtain for his employer [Armor Holdings, a former publicly-traded company, currently a subsidiary of BAE Systems] United Nations body armor contracts (valued at $6 million) by causing his employer to pay $200,000 in commissions to an agent while knowing that the agent would pass along a portion of that money to a United Nations procurement officer (a “foreign official” per the FCPA) to cause the officer to award the contracts; (ii) to obtain for his employer, a $2.4 million pepper spray contract with the National Police Services Agency of the Netherlands by paying a Dutch agent approximately $15,000 while knowing that the agent would pass along some of that money to a procurement officer with the Police Services Agency to influence the contract; and (iii) to obtain for his employer (although it was never obtained), a contract to sell fingerprint ink pads to the Independent National Elections Commission of Nigeria by making kickback payments to a commission official indirectly through an intermediary company.

Bistrong’s criminal information was filed on January 21, 2010.

It turns out that Bistrong agreed to plead guilty nearly a year before that – in February 2009, as indicated in the Bistrong plea agreement (see here).

So what did Bistrong agree to when he signed the plea agreement in February 2009?

To cooperate fully with with the government, including:

“whenever requested by the Government, working in an undercover role to record meetings and telephone calls under the supervision of United States law enforcement;” and

“attending all meetings at which the Government requests his presence.”

Per the Bistrong plea agreement, Bistrong “and the Department of Justice agree that the [Sentencing Guidelines] sentence is five years’ imprisonment.” Even so, the plea agreement states: “if in the sole and unreviewable judgment of the Government the defendant’s cooperation is of such quality and significance to the investigation or prosecution of other criminal matters as to warrant the Court’s downward departure from the sentence calculated by the Sentencing Guidelines, the Government may at or before sentencing make a motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines reflecting that the defendant has provided substantial assistance and recommending a downward departure from the applicable guideline range.”

Brady Toensing (diGenova & Toensing, LLP) (see here) represents Bistrong.

What impact will Bistrong’s plea have in the Africa Sting case – particularly the defendants’ expected entrapment defense?

Per the superseding indictment, the earliest conduct forming the basis of the criminal charges against the Africa Sting defendants occurred in May 2009. In other words, Bistrong had already agreed to plead guilty to separate criminal charges prior to introducing the Africa Sting defendants to the undercover “foreign official” or the “foreign official’s” undercover representative.

Will this matter?

Unlikely says Dru Stevenson, a Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law (see here). Professor Stevenson previously offered his thoughts on the entrapment issue (here) and offered these thoughts in light of Bistrong’s plea.

“The incentives of the informant or undercover agent have never mattered in an entrapment defense, under either of the tests that courts use. For the subjective test (used in federal court), entrapment analysis focuses entirely on the defendant’s predisposition to commit the crime. The incentives of the agent provocateur are irrelevant. For the objective test (used in a minority of states, but never in the federal courts), entrapment analysis focuses on the actual conduct of the undercover agents – how outrageous it was – but not on the agent’s incentives or motives. It would be a completely novel approach if a court gives any weight to the fact that the agent provocateur had made a plea bargain. And it is not clear why this should matter any more than an undercover police officer who is paid to trick criminals into committing crimes as part of a sting operation.”

On Being An FCPA Associate … A Q&A With Rohan Virginkar

Meet Rohan Virginkar (here), a 2004 graduate of The George Washington University School of Law, and current associate at Foley & Lardner in Washington D.C.

Virginkar has a wealth of FCPA experience and in this post he describes what it takes to succeed as an FCPA associate.

Develop fact investigation skills, pay attention to detail, be self-sufficient, and develop a firm grasp of the FCPA – all good pointers to students and young associates interested in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act practice.

It also helps to have a valid passport and to embrace unpredictability because you may be sitting at your desk on Tuesday and be in Beijing on Saturday in the often fast-paced world of FCPA investigations.

Below is my Q&A with Virginkar.

What was your first FCPA related assignment?

My first FCPA case was within the first few months of starting as an associate. I traveled to Mumbai to investigate an allegation that an Indian subsidiary of our US-based client had paid money to a local government official in exchange for his agreeing not to disrupt their business. The allegations were true, and we discovered that a manager at the company had actually handed a duffel bag of currency to the official under the guise of a “donation” to the official’s favorite “charity”. It was a valuable introduction to the FCPA: shakedowns by foreign government officials, “charitable donations” to potentially suspect charities; it had many FCPA red flags all in one case.

What countries have you visited doing FCPA work?

In addition to India on that very first investigation, the matters I’ve had the good fortune of working on have taken me all over: Angola, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nigeria, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Of those countries, what has been your most memorable experience?

Each country I’ve visited on these matters has been memorable because the people, places and work have always defied expectations and offered nice surprises. That said, having a manager at a Chinese company who we instructed to stop paying kickbacks threaten us by saying that some of the payments were going to the Chinese Triads and that he would have to tell them that “the American lawyers” made him stop paying them is definitely one that sticks in mind.

As you learned more about the FCPA, what surprised you the most?

I’ve perhaps been most surprised by the genuine desire of most people around the world to follow the general goals of the FCPA, even if they don’t always understand the strictures and even when they occasionally get it wrong.

If you could change one thing about the FCPA or FCPA enforcement, what would it be?

I think the underlying goals of the FCPA are just, so there isn’t anything about the law that I would necessarily change. In terms of enforcement, I think the lack of clear judicial guidance on a number of gray areas of the FCPA sometimes makes it difficult to advise clients, who are forced to balance their business interests with a desire to comply with the law. I’d like to see more real case law develop, which is something I’m sure we’ll start to see as more individuals face stiff penalties for violations of the FCPA. The newly passed whistleblower provisions also give me some pause, because companies that have put in the resources to develop effective compliance programs with internal reporting mechanisms may now see that undermined because potential whistleblowers may see a financial incentive to make allegations, when such information may or may not be the basis of an FCPA allegation. However, it is too early at this point to know for sure what the practical effect on both enforcement and compliance will be.

What advice to you have to students or young associates interested in having an FCPA practice?

It’s important for young lawyers to hone their general litigation skills. Internal investigations (particularly when they have international elements) are a different beast from general commercial litigation, but the same skills that make someone a good litigator also form the foundation of being a good investigator. You have to be logical, methodical, with an eye for detail, because you never know what the smoking gun will look like. Being flexible and maintaining a good attitude helps too. You quickly learn that things will rarely go as you plan when working abroad, and many of the technological and other comforts we rely on in our legal practices here in the US are often unavailable when you’re overseas. Additionally, having to navigate the social and cultural norms of the people and places where you’re doing an investigation (and the fact that you’re often operating in an environment where the people you’re investigating may resent you and try to make your life more difficult), can make the mechanics of actually conducting the investigation as complex as the substantive issues you’re investigating. You also won’t regret developing a habit of over-preparing and over-thinking, so that when you and your group face an unexpected issue, you have already considered it, or at least have the foundation to think your way through it. Finally, learn the law backwards and forwards. When I started working in this area, one of the attorneys who mentored me told me that he always kept the statute handy and referred to it often, because the answers he was looking for were usually found inside. In practice, I’ve more often than not found this to be true. At a minimum, having a solid working knowledge of the law and its intricacies helps you communicate with your clients about why you may be offering certain advice or asking them to make certain changes to how they do business.

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