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Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Criticizes Various Aspects Of DOJ FCPA Enforcement

Yesterday at the Dow Jones / Wall Street Journal Global Compliance Symposium, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales openly criticized various aspects of DOJ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement.

During a featured interview at the event with David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal, Gonzales said that the DOJ could “give more guidance and transparency” concerning issues relevant to an FCPA enforcement action.  Gonzales mentioned the FCPA Guidance, but stated that it represents no change in policy and again reiterated that “more transparency” is important because he does not see actual reform of the FCPA statute coming from this Congress or this administration.

Gonzales “salute[d] the efforts of business groups” post-FCPA Guidance who have asked for additional clarification and guidance concerning the FCPA and FCPA enforcement (see here for the prior post) and said that the FCPA Guidance “does not end the need for additional discussion” regarding these topics and the enforcement approach of the agencies.

Gonzales also had pointed criticisms for DOJ non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements.  Asked by Wessel whether the original motivations Congress had in passing the FCPA are being served by the current enforcement environment or whether the current enforcement environment has “lost sight of the [FCPA’s] end point” Gonzales said that it is “hard to tell quite frankly” because many FCPA enforcement actions are resolved via NPA and DPAs and that these resolution vehicles do not necessarily reflect instances of companies violating the FCPA, but rather companies feels compelled to agree to the agreements.

Equally problematic, Gonzales said as to NPAs and DPAs, is that enforcement actions resolved via these vehicles mean that “legitimate wrongdoing is not being prosecuted as it should.”  Gonzales said it is “easy, much easier quite frankly” for the DOJ to resolve FCPA inquiries with NPAs and DPAs, that such resolution vehicles have “less of a toll” on the DOJ’s budget and that such agreements “provide revenue” to the DOJ.  It is all “unfortunate” Gonzales stated.  [For additional reading on this issue, see my article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” and numerous prior posts – including here and here – concerning NPAs and DPAs].

Gonzales further observed that the DOJ appears more focused on FCPA enforcement numbers, how successful it is being, and the dollars it receives from FCPA enforcement actions, rather than achieving the “true objective [of the FCPA] which is to discourage bribery of foreign officials.”

Gonzales also joined the growing chorus of those who have called for the DOJ to release more specific information concerning its so-called declination decisions, and also spoke out in favor, as he has in the past (see here for the prior post) for “common-sense reform” such as compliance defense

So I ask the question yet again (see here for the prior post), – how many former high-ranking DOJ officials and/or former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorneys does it take before the current DOJ realizes that its FCPA enforcement policies and procedures are, in certain cases, broken?

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