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No – The Consistent Answer In DOJ Responses to Senator Questions Regarding FCPA Reform

On November 30, 2010, the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs (chaired by then Senator Arlen Specter) held a hearing titled “Examining Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” (See here for the prior post).

Following the hearing, Senator Christopher Coons and Senator Amy Klobuchar submitted written questions to Greg Andres (DOJ) – one of the witnesses who testified at the hearing.

The DOJ responses are here.

As evident from the DOJ responses, certain of which are highlighted below, the consistent DOJ response to FCPA-related reform proposals is no.

Profiled below are DOJ’s substantive responses to Senator questions regarding mandatory debarment for egregious FCPA violators; a potential FCPA compliance defense; a potential FCPA amnesty program; whether businesses face FCPA uncertainty; whether clarification of the “foreign official” element is needed; and whether the statute’s corporate intent element needs revising.

Mandatory Debarment

Does the DOJ favor a “mandatory, conduct-based, debarment remedy for companies that engage in egregious bribery”?

No.

The DOJ says that such “mandatory debarment would likely be counterproductive, as it would reduce the number of voluntary disclosures and concomitantly limit corporate remediation and the implementation of enhanced compliance programs.”

In a related question, the DOJ adds that “a mandatory conduct-based debarment for companies could well have a negative impact on the Government’s ability to investigate and prosecute transnational corruption effectively.” “Linking mandatory debarment to a criminal resolution would fundamentally alter the incentives of a contractor-company to reach an FCPA resolution because such a resolution would likely lead to the cessation of revenues for a government contractor – a virtual death knell for the contractor-company. Similarly, mandatory debarment would impinge negatively on prosecutorial discretion. If every criminal FCPA resolution were to carry with it mandatory debarment consequences, then prosecutors would lose the necessary flexibility to tailor an appropriate resolution given the facts and circumstances of each individual case.”

Boiled down to one sentence, the DOJ’s opposition to mandatory debarment for egregious FCPA violators seems to be this – it would lessen our FCPA caseload, it would make our jobs more difficult, and it would take away our flexibility and leverage.

This is hardly a convincing argument to the position I articulated at the Senate hearing (see here) that “egregious instances of corporate bribery that legitimately satisfy the elements of an FCPA anti-bribery violation involving high-level executives and/or board participation should be followed with debarment proceedings against the offender.”

As I noted in this previous post, H.R. 5366 (which passed the House in September 2010) is not the answer. However, the issue of mandatory debarment, in certain instances, remains a valid and legitimate issue notwithstanding the DOJ’s responses.

Compliance Defense

Does the DOJ favor exploring a “formal compliance defense” to the FCPA?

No.

The DOJ “opposes the adoption of a formal compliance defense.”

According to the DOJ, it “already considers a company’s compliance efforts in making appropriate prosecutorial decisions, and the United States Sentencing Guidelines also appropriately credits a company’s compliance efforts in any sentencing determination.” “Among other things” the DOJ states, “the creation of such a defense would transform criminal FCPA trials into a battle of experts over whether the company had established a sufficient compliance mechanism.” “Against this backdrop, companies may feel the need to implement a purely paper compliance program that could be defended by an ‘expert,’ even if the measures are not effective in stopping bribery.” “If the FCPA were amended to permit companies to hide behind such programs, it would erect an additional hurdle for prosecutors in what are already difficult and complex cases to prove.”

As readers likely know, the U.K. Bribery Act, set to go live on July 1st, contains a so-called adequate procedures defense and such a defense should be considered under the FCPA as well.

Amending the FCPA to include a compliance defense is not a new idea. In the mid-1980’s numerous FCPA reform bills included such a defense and provided that a company would not be held vicariously liable for a violation of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions by its employees or agents, who were not an officer or director, if the company established procedures reasonably designed to prevent and detect FCPA violations by employees and agents. In fact, an FCPA reform bill containing such a provision did pass the U.S. House.

A compliance defense is not about hiding behind “paper programs” as the DOJ asserts. Rather a so-called compliance defense, one that would be inapplicable in cases such as Siemens, it is about properly incentivizing corporate FCPA compliance and not putting a company at risk of FCPA scrutiny, costly FCPA internal investigations, and the growing collateral consequences of FCPA inquiries should a non-executive employee engage in conduct contrary to a company’s pre-existing, published, and trained on FCPA compliance policies and procedures.

Amnesty Program

Is the DOJ in favor of a so-called “amnesty program” as recently advocated by some?

No.

The DOJ says it “does not support the idea of an FCPA amnesty program.” Among other things, the DOJ says that “as the beneficiary of [several established sources of information such as voluntary disclosures] the Department does not presently face difficulty in identifying sources of information of FCPA criminal violations.” “Consequently, an amnesty program would provide protection for corporations who violate the law without providing accompanying meaningful benefits to law enforcement.” “Finally, consistent with the United States Sentencing Guidelines and the Department’s Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations, the Department already provides meaningful credit for voluntary self-disclosures, extraordinary cooperation, and substantial remediation by corporations where appropriate and deserved.”

Uncertainty?

Does the DOJ believe that “well-meaning businesses are faced with significant uncertainty as to their potential exposure to civil and criminal penalties under the FCPA?”

No.

The DOJ says that “it provides clear guidance to companies with respect to FCPA enforcement through a variety of means.” It lists the DOJ’s Lay Person Guide to the FCPA, various charging documents, plea agreements, non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements [see here for a recent guest post on prosecutorial common law] and the DOJ’s FCPA Opinion Procedure Releases.

The DOJ concludes its response by saying “in the end, a review of the Department’s FCPA enforcement actions makes clear that companies have never been charged for minor or incidental issues.” “By contrast, the Department’s prosecutions involved extensive and often widespread corruption over significant periods of time.”

As explored in this prior guest post, in the FCPA’s 1988 amendments, Congress directed the DOJ to consider providing formal guidance. However, in 1990 the DOJ declined to issue guidelines and stated as follows. “After consideration of the comments received, and after consultation with the appropriate agencies, the Attorney General has determined that no guidelines are necessary…. [C]ompliance with the [anti-bribery provisions] would not be enhanced nor would the business community be assisted by further clarification of these provisions through the issuance of guidelines.”

“Foreign Official”

Does the DOJ agree that statutory clarification of “foreign official” would help clarify to businesses which of their transactions could be subject to the FCPA?”

No.

The DOJ response begins as follows. “The term ‘foreign official’ has been defined in relevant case law and opinion releases. Some defense attorneys have attempted to argue that the definition of ‘foreign official’ does not extend to the employees of state-owned or state-controlled enterprises.”

For the record, I am not a “defense attorney.” See here for my declaration as to the legislative history on “foreign official.”

In a related question, the DOJ further stated that it “has provided significant guidance regarding the definition of ‘foreign official.'”

Intent

Should the FCPA be amended to “bring the intent standard for corporations in line with the current ‘willfulness” standard that applies to individuals?”

No.

The DOJ responded that it “does not believe that it is necessary or appropriate to amend the FCPA’s intent standard with respect to corporations.” “The Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations already governs the Department’s decisions regarding whether to charge corporations for federal crimes, including under the FCPA.” “Furthermore, the Department is not prosecuting FCPA matters where a corporation engaged in something less than willful criminal conduct.”

Outlining Bourke’s Appeal

The DOJ recently filed its reply brief (here) in Frederic Bourke’s appeal.

A prior post (here) summarized the FCPA related issues in Bourke’s brief and this post summarizes the DOJ’s reply brief.

The DOJ begins with this paragraph:

“The evidence at trial established that Bourke, a successful entrepreneur and multi-millionaire, knowingly backed rogue investor Viktor Kozeny in a corrupt plan to purchase the state-owned Azerbaijani oil industry, in secret partnership with the president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, and his family. The corrupt plan included the payment of bribes to Aliyev and other officials.”

The DOJ states – “[a]t some point, Bourke learned about Kozeny’s business success and strategies from a December 1996 Fortune magazine article.” The brief states that the article “detailed Kozeny’s insider trading, purchase of state secrets from a government official, and other fraudulent activity.” According to the DOJ, “[h]aving read the article and discussed it with his lawyers, Bourke was aware of Kozeny’s questionable business practices; but Bourke was impressed by the outsized profits Kozeny generated in this scheme, and, as Bourke would later tell a prospective investor, Kozeny had not actually been convicted of a crime.”

Bourke’s trial principally focused on his investments in Oily Rock, a vehicle the government maintains was used to funnel bribe payments to Azerbaijan officials to ensure that the officials would privatize the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) in a rigged auction that only the investors, including Bourke, Kozeny and others could win.

The DOJ states that “Bourke made his initial investment in Oily Rock without directing any of his many lawyers to conduct due diligence.”

According to the DOJ:

“Bourke’s interest in the investment was motivated by his knowledge of the corrupt arrangement. Because Bourke knew of the payments to Azerbaijani officials, Bourke demonstrated an assured confidence in the success of the privatization, even though most of the investors who were not privy to the details of the conspiracy viewed it as extremely risky. The inherent risk in the investment arose from the fact that the privatization of SOCAR required a presidential decree.”

The DOJ nevertheless acknowledges that many others invested, directly or indirectly, in Oily Rock including former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and other individuals, institutional investors and hedge funds, AIG and Columbia University.

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

Below is a summary of Bourke’s arguments along with the DOJ’s response as set forth in its reply brief.

Bourke

“The district court improperly instructed on conscious avoidance, despite the absence of evidence that Bourke deliberately avoided knowledge of Kozeny’s bribes.” According to Bourke, this instruction was error “because there was no evidence that Bourke deliberately avoided learning about Kozeny’s bribery.” Bourke 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.

DOJ

“There was an ample factual basis for a conscious avoidance charge in this case. To be sure, the Government’s principal theory at trial was that Bourke had actual knowledge of the bribery scheme. But the jury easily could have found, in the alternative, that Bourke was aware of a high probability of the existence of corrupt arrangements, yet deliberately avoided confirming that fact. Such a finding would have been supported, by, among other things, the following evidence:

• Bourke was aware of the high level of corruption in Azerbaijan generally.

• Bourke had read a Fortune magazine article that described Kozeny’s reliance on illegal business practices, such as insider trading, purchase of state secrets from a government official, and fraud, to accomplish the goals of a privatization scheme. This article alerted Bourke that there was a high probability that Kozeny’s latest scheme involving Azerbaijan also included corrupt arrangements, such as bribe payments or offers to pay bribes.

• Bourke defended Kozeny by stating that he had not actually been convicted of a crime.

• Bourke expressed concern to other investors and their attorneys that Kozeny and his employees were paying bribes.

• Bourke proposed the formation of separate companies affiliated with Oily Rock and Minaret to shield Bourke and other American investors from liability from any corrupt payments.

• Bourke played a role in coordinating United States medical treatments, combined with tourism and shopping excursions, for Azerbaijani officials.

From these facts, among others, a rational juror could have concluded that Bourke was aware of a high probability of the existence of corrupt arrangements, yet deliberately avoided confirming that fact. Accordingly, Bourke is wrong when he suggests that a conscious avoidance was inappropriate because ‘the trial record contains no evidence that Bourke ‘decided not to learn’ about Kozeny’s bribery.’ In fact, a conscious avoidance instruction was particularly appropriate in this case, because Bourke’s corporate attorney had actually cautioned him that, if he thought there might be bribes paid, he could not just look the other way.”

“Bourke’s assertion that the conscious avoidance instruction allowed the jury to convict on a negligence theory is mistaken. To the contrary, the District Court told the jury that it could not find Bourke guilty merely because he was negligent. The Government did not argue that the jury should convict because Bourke was negligent in failing to ask his lawyers to conduct due diligence. Rather, the Government argued that Bourke refrained from asking his lawyers to conduct due diligence either because he was consciously avoiding learning about the bribes or because he did not want his lawyers to learn the true facts of his corrupt investment.”

“In sum, a rational juror could have concluded based on, among other things, Bourke’s close relationship to Kozeny and other co-conspirators, Bourke’s understanding of the Azerbaijan investment and the Azerbaijani government, and Bourke’s previously expressed concerns about Kozeny’s paying of bribes, that Bourke was aware of a high probability that Kozeny was paying bribes but deliberately avoided confirming that fact. Accordingly, the District Court properly instructed the jury on the doctrine of conscious avoidance.”

“Even if the District Court erred in instructing the jury on the doctrine of conscious avoidance (and it did not), the error would provide no basis for vacating Bourke’s conviction. This Court has repeatedly ruled that a conscious avoidance instruction is harmless in cases where, as here, there was sufficient evidence of the defendant’s actual knowledge to support the jury’s verdict.”

“Moreover, conscious avoidance was not a prominent feature of the Government’s arguments to the jury. Although the Government did refer to evidence of Bourke’s conscious avoidance, the Government’s primary argument was that Bourke had actual knowledge of the bribes.”

Bourke

The district 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.

According to Bourke, because he knew nothing about their work, their testimony was irrelevant to his state of mind particularly since the results were never shared or communicated with him.

Bourke states that “the government offered the testimony […] solely as a contrast with the comparatively skimpy inquiry that Bourke and his lawyers performed” and that this testimony “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.”

Bourke further argues that having admitted the TPG testimony, “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 Bourke, this excluded testimony “would have rebutted the government’s claim that his lack of due diligence compared to TPG established his culpability.”

Bourke argues that “once the district court permitted the government to present TPG’s due diligence as a benchmark for measuring [his] inquiry, fairness demanded that [he] be allowed to present the contrasting picture of Columbia’s due diligence, which resembled his own.”

DOJ

“The testimony of Wheeler and Rossman [individuals who conducted due diligence for potential Oily Rock investor David Bonderman of TPG] was not offered to show Bourke was negligent; the purpose was to show that Kozeny had not concealed evidence of the corrupt arrangements from potential investors in Oily Rock. Given that Bourke was much closer to Kozeny than Bonderman was, this was important circumstantial evidence of Bourke’s knowledge. As such, the testimony was relevant and appropriately admitted by the District Court.”

“To conduct due diligence on the Oily Rock investment, at Kozeny’s invitation, Wheeler traveled to Baku with Bourke and several other potential investors; together, they toured Kozeny’s operations and were introduced to Azerbaijani government officials. Based on what she saw during her visit and her assessment that the investment was “risky [in] nature”, Wheeler and Bonderman brought in TPG’s outside counsel, Cleary Gottlieb, to perform due diligence. Rossman testified that, in 1998, he was a Cleary Gottlieb attorney. During that time, he was asked to conduct due diligence on the Oily Rock investment for TPG. As a part of due diligence, Rossman met with Bodmer at Bodmer’s law offices. During this meeting, Bodmer provided Rossman with various documents related to the Oily Rock investment, and Bodmer and Rossman discussed various details regarding the investment, including the involvement of Azerbaijani investors. Based on his review of documents, his understanding of the investment thesis, and Kozeny’s reputation, which he researched from news coverage, Rossman concluded that this proposed investment could violate the FCPA, and he advised his client not to make the investment. TPG did not invest in Oily Rock.”

“… Wheeler and Rossman’s testimony was appropriately admitted, because Bourke was exposed at minimum to the same sources of information as Wheeler and Rossman — Wheeler and Bourke took the same factfinding trip to Baku in January 1998, and Rossman, like Bourke, learned of the investment structure from Bodmer. Accordingly, this testimony was probative of Bourke’s knowledge.”

“… the District Court’s decision to admit Wheeler and Rossman’s testimony was entirely appropriate. Moreover, given the volume of direct and circumstantial evidence of Bourke’s knowledge of the conspiracy’s objectives, any conceivable error was harmless.”

“Bourke also contends that the District Court erred in barring the testimony of Bruce Dresner, who served as Columbia University’s Vice President for Investments in 1998, and, in that capacity, based on representations by Omega’s Clayton Lewis and Leon Cooperman, recommended that Columbia invest $15 million in privatization vouchers through Omega. Bourke complains that, although the Government was permitted to call Wheeler and Rossman to contrast their due diligence with Bourke’s, he was not permitted to contrast his due diligence with Columbia’s. The comparison is inapt. Unlike Wheeler and Rossman, who testified about a potential investment in Oily Rock itself, Columbia University was a potential investor in Omega, which was merely planning to invest alongside Oily Rock. The District Court did not abuse its discretion in excluding this proposed testimony.”

“The District Court properly precluded Dresner’s testimony because it was not relevant. As the District Court stated, Dresner’s state of mind “has nothing to do with the defendant on trial.” Unlike other defense witnesses and Government witnesses who were present in Baku with Bourke to consider an investment in Oily Rock and therefore possessed relevant information regarding Bourke’s knowledge, Dresner had no contact with Bourke and was considering investing in Omega, not Oily Rock. Dresner never traveled to Azerbaijan to investigate the investment opportunity, relying instead on the recommendation of Omega. Dresner never met Kozeny, Farrell, or Bodmer — the individuals who discussed the FCPA violations with Bourke.”

“In addition, Dresner’s testimony would not have been particularly helpful to Bourke, and therefore any error in excluding the testimony would have been harmless. Notwithstanding Dresner’s exclusion, Bourke offered evidence through several Government and defense witnesses that Columbia University had invested in the same project, and there was no suggestion in any of that testimony or in arguments that Columbia University was aware of bribes or was prosecuted. Thus, Bourke was able to establish that some investors in the Azerbaijani vouchers were not aware of the bribes. Had Dresner actually testified, he would have revealed that Columbia and Bourke were not similarly situated and that Columbia had much less information about the investment than Bourke did.”

“In sum, the District Court acted within its discretion in excluding Dresner’s testimony, and this ruling does not warrant a new trial.”

Bourke

The district 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 Bourke, “the district court compounded its error in giving the conscious avoidance instruction by rejecting [his] requested instruction [as to the conspiracy charge] that the government had to prove that he acted corruptly and willfully.”

Bourke argued 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 [his] defense, which rested on his state of mind.”

DOJ

“Bourke did not lodge this objection in this District Court, and therefore, this part of the charge is reviewed for plain error. The District Court’s mens rea instruction was correct and was certainly not plainly erroneous.”

“The District Court instructed the jury on all the elements of a substantive FCPA violation, including the requirement that the defendant act “willfully” and “corruptly,” terms which the Court defined for the jury.”

“The District Court’s charge encompassed the mens rea elements of the FCPA and was not plainly erroneous. The “word ‘corruptly’ in the FCPA signifies . . . a bad or wrongful purpose and an intent to influence a foreign official to misuse his official position. But there is nothing in the word or any thing else in the FCPA that indicates that the government must establish that the defendant in fact knew that his or her conduct violated the FCPA to be guilty.”

“The District Court’s extensive instructions on mens rea included the instruction that Bourke had to act “with the specific intention of furthering [the conspiracy’s] business or objective” and “for the purpose of furthering the illegal undertaking.” It is simply not possible to conspire to act corruptly without acting corruptly.”

“Finally, Bourke failed to raise this highly abstract objection during any of the several conferences on the jury charge.”

“Accordingly, the charge is subject to review only for plain error. There was no error, much less plain error, in this case.”

Bourke

The district court “rejected Bourke’s proposed good faith instructions, even though [he] produced ample evidence to warrant the instructions and no other instruction covered the point.”

Bourke argued that his 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 Bourke concedes that his efforts to investigate the investment “were not as extensive” as others, his efforts “suffice for a good faith instruction.” Because the case turned on his state of mind, Bourke states that “there is no doubt that the good faith defense, if accepted by the jury, would have produced an acquittal.”

DOJ

“Bourke’s contention is without merit. A separate good faith instruction was not necessary in this case, as the relevant jury instructions effectively communicated the essence of a good faith defense in its discussion of the elements of knowledge and willfulness.”

“Indeed, the District Court’s instructions that an FCPA violation required a defendant to act “with a bad purpose to disobey or disregard the law” and that the Government could not meet its burden of proof by showing that the defendant’s actions were the result of “mere negligence or some other innocent explanation” captured the concepts identified in Bourke’s proposed charge — that Bourke could not be convicted of Count One if he believed he “was acting properly in connection with the matters alleged in [Count One], even if he was mistaken in that belief, and even if others were injured by his conduct.” […] Thus, the good faith instructions Bourke requested were “effectively presented elsewhere in the charge.” Accordingly, the District Court’s decision not to deliver a separate good faith charge was appropriate and does not provide a basis for a new trial.”

Bourke

“Any one of the errors concerning [his] 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 [his] defense.”

DOJ

“Bourke contends correctly that the cumulative effect of errors that are individually harmless can cast doubt upon the fairness of a conviction. For the reasons set forth above, there were no such errors. Accordingly, Bourke’s “cumulative effect” argument provides no basis for granting a new trial.”

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.

BAE – The Non-Bribery Bribery Allegations

Back in law school, a professor was fond of the phrase ““if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck.”

Among other allegations, DOJ’s criminal information (here) against BAE alleges that BAE served as the “prime contractor to the U.K. government following the conclusion of a Formal Understanding between the U.K. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“KSA”)” in which BAE sold to the U.K. government, which then in turn sold to the Saudi government several Tornado and Hawk aircraft, “along with other military hardware, training and services.” The information refers to these frequent arrangements as the “KSA Fighter Deals.”

In connection these deals, the information alleges that “BAE provided substantial benefits to one KSA public official, who was in a position of influence regarding the KSA Fighter Deals (the “KSA Official”), and to the KSA Official’s associates.” The indictment alleges that BAE “provided these benefits through various payment mechanisms both in the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. and elsewhere.”

WALKS LIKE A DUCK!

This allegation is important from an FCPA perspective because the FCPA only applies to a company like BAE (a foreign company with no shares listed on a U.S. exchange) if conduct in furtherance of a bribery scheme has a U.S. nexus. See 78dd-3. [BAE does have a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary – a “domestic concern” under the FCPA – but the information states that this entity was not involved in the conduct alleged in the information].

In addition, the information contains additional allegations which clearly demonstrate that BAE’s bribery scheme had a U.S. nexus. For instance, the information alleges that BAE “provided support services to [the] KSA Official while in the territory of the U.S.” and that these benefits “included the purchase of travel and accommodations, security services, real estate, automobiles and personal items.” The information alleges that over $5 million in invoices for benefits provided to the KSA Official were submitted by just one BAE employee during a one year period.

QUACKS LIKE A DUCK!

The information also alleges that BAE “used intermediaries and shell entities to conceal payments to certain advisers who were assisting in the solicitation, promotion and otherwise endeavoring to secure the conclusion or maintenance of the KSA Fighter Deals.”

Specifically, the information alleges that “in connection with the KSA Fighter Deals, BAE agreed to transfer sums totaling more than £10,000,00 and more than $9,000,000 to a bank account in Switzerland controlled by an intermediary. BAE was aware that there was a high probability that the intermediary would transfer part of these payments to the KSA Official.”

Such “high probability” language is a direct quote from the FCPA’s so-called third party payment provisions which prohibit making improper payments to any person “while knowing that all or a portion” of the money will be given to a foreign official in order to obtain or retain business. The FCPA specifically provides that “[w]hen knowledge of the existence of a particular circumstance is required for an offense, such knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability of the existence of such circumstance, unless the person actually believes that such circumstance does not exist.”

In order words, the “high probability” language used in the BAE criminal information is no mere coincidence. In fact, that language (i.e. a company was aware that there was a high probability that the intermediary would transfer part of its payments to a foreign official) is frequently used by the DOJ in resolving FCPA antibribery actions.

For instance, in the InVision FCPA enforcement action, the “investigations by the DOJ and SEC revealed that InVision, through the conduct of certain employees, was aware of a high probability that its agents or distributors” in Thailand, China and the Philippines “had paid or offered to pay money to foreign officials or political parties in connection with transactions or proposed transactions for the sale by InVision of its airport security screening machines.” (See here). Specifically, the non-prosecution agreement (here) notes that: (i) InVision “was aware of a high probability that part of the source of funds” to an agent was to be used by the agent “to fund an offer to promise to make payments” to Thai officials; (ii) InVision authorized a payment to an agent “with awareness of a high probability” that the agent “intended to use part of that payment to influence” Chinese officials; and (iii) InVision sought authorization for a payment to an agent “with awareness of a high probability that” the agent “intended to use part of that payment to influence officials of the government of the Philippines” – all in an effort to obtain or retain business for InVision.

LOOKS LIKE A DUCK!

Yet, the DOJ’s criminal information merely charges one count of conspiracy and it lacks any FCPA antibribery charges. Moreover, the conspiracy charge relates only to “making certain false, inaccurate and incomplete statements to the U.S. government and failing to honor certain undertakings given to the U.S. government, thereby defrauding the United States” and “caus[ing] to be filed export license applications with [various U.S. government entities] that omitted a material fact” concerning fee and commission payments.” Among the false statements BAE is alleged to have made to the U.S. government is its commitment to not knowingly violate the FCPA.

This is the only mention of the FCPA in the information despite the above allegations concerning the KSA Fighter Deals – facts which clearly implicate the FCPA’s antibribery provisions.

In other words, NO DUCK!

For a prior post on BAE (see here).

BAE

In a joint enforcement action that is sure to generate much discussion and controversy, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the U.S. DOJ announced today resolution of an enforcement action against BAE Systems.

The SFO announced (here) that it has “reached an agreement with BAE systems that the company will plead guilty” to the offense of “failing to keep reasonably accurate accounting records in relation to its activities in Tanzania.”

BAE’s press release (here) notes that “[i]n connection with the sale of a radar system by the Company to Tanzania in 1999, the Company made commission payments to a marketing adviser and failed to accurately record such payments in its accounting records. The Company failed to scrutinise these records adequately to ensure that they were reasonably accurate and permitted them to remain uncorrected. The Company very much regrets and accepts full responsibility for these past shortcomings.”

The SFO and company release note that BAE will pay a £30 million penalty “comprising a fine to be determined by the Court with the balance paid as a charitable payment for the benefit of Tanzania.”

In a strange turn of events, the SFO also announced (here) that it has withdrawn charges filed last week (see here) against a former agent charged with “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc.”

The SFO release notes that “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defence contracts.”

So what happened to the charges and allegations involving certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria?

Good question.

Much like the wave of magician’s wand, they have simply disappeared.

Closer to home, the DOJ announced that it:

“filed a criminal charge (here) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against BAE Systems plc charging that the multinational defense contractor conspired to impede the lawful functions of the Departments of Defense and State, made false statements to the Departments of Defense and Justice about establishing an effective anti-corruption compliance program to ensure conformance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and paid hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed commission payments in violation of U.S. export control laws.”

The DOJ and BAE release note that the company “will pay a fine of $400 million and make additional commitments concerning its ongoing compliance.”

According to the DOJ release (which is available through the DOJ Office of Public Affairs, but not yet publicly posted on DOJ’s website) “BAE Systems is charged with intentionally failing to put appropriate, anti-bribery preventative measures in place, contrary to the representations it made to the United States government, and then making hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to third parties, while knowing of a high probability that money would be passed on to foreign government decision makers to favor BAE in the award of defense contracts. BAE Systems allegedly failed to disclose these payments to the State Department, as it was required to do so under U.S. laws and regulations in order to get necessary export licenses.”

The bold language above would expose most companies to an FCPA enforcement action, but BAE is no ordinary company. It is a major defense contractor on both sides of the Atlantic (as noted in the criminal information “in 2008, BAE was the largest defense contractor in Europe and the fifth largest in the U.S. as measured by sales”).

You can bet that these charges were the subject of much negotiation so as to not upset current or future government contracts as well as foreign policy issues and concerns.

The BAE charges and thus similar to those against Siemens in December 2008. In that case, despite the company engaging in bribery “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope” and despite the company being one in which “bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure” (both direct DOJ quotes), the company avoided FCPA antibribery charges. (See here for prior posts about Siemens).

These two cases seriously raise the issue of whether certain companies in certain industries are simply “above” the FCPA.

Can the enforcement agencies on both sides of the Atlantic say with a straight face that this case was merely about improper record keeping, making false statements to the government, and export licenses?

Transparency, corporate accountability, and indeed a criminal justice system all suffered setbacks today.

The FCPA suffered a black-eye as well and one would be right to ask, “what the heck is going on here!”

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