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Judge Matz Issues Narrow “Foreign Official” Decision / Calls DOJ Post-Hearing Request “Astounding”

As noted in an April 1st post (see here), United States District Judge Howard Matz (C.D. of California) issued an oral ruling denying the Lindsey defendants “foreign official” challenge. See here for a transcript of the hearing.

As noted in the hearing transcript, Judge Matz stated that the “foreign official” challenge “warrants and will receive a very considered written ruling.”

Yesterday, Judge Matz issued his written decision. See here.

According to Judge Matz, “the question presented by the motion is whether an officer or employee of a state-owned corporation can be a ‘foreign official’ for purposes of FCPA liability.” [In a footnote, Judge Matz noted, “[a]s discussed in the Addendum to this order, the Government never directly challenged that assumption until more than two weeks after the Court had issued its oral ruling denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss and trial had commenced.” (emphasis added)].

Judge Matz’s holding is as follows. “The Court denies the motion to dismiss, because a state-owned corporation having the attributes of CFE may be an ‘instrumentality’ of a foreign government within the meaning of the FCPA, and officers of such a state-owned corporation, as Messrs. Nestor Moreno and Arturo Hernandez are alleged to be, may therefore be ‘foreign officials’ within the meaning of the FCPA.”

As to the meaning of “instrumentality,” Judge Matz stated as follows. “Instrumentality is a noun having an inherently broad scope, but it is unnecessary for this Court to choose a particularly elastic dictionary definition of that word. Instead, the Court will adopt the very definition that Defendants themselves proffer.” Judge Matz then analyzed those definitions.

As to the FCPA’s legislative history, Judge Matz stated as follows. “It is unnecessary to base this ruling upon the legislative history of the FCPA, given that the meaning of ‘instrumentality’ under Defendants’ definition of the term clearly encompasses CFE. Nevertheless, because legislative history was so central to Defendants’ motion, the Court will summarize the parties’ contentions.”

After providing such a summary, Judge Matz stated in dicta as follows.

“The Court finds that the legislative history of the FCPA is inconclusive. Although it does not demonstrate that Congress intended to include all state-owned corporations within the ambit of the FCPA, neither does it provide support for Defendants’ insistence that Congress intended to exclude all such corporations from the ambit of the FCPA.” (emphasis in original).

As discussed above, Judge Matz’s decision contains an Addendum. It begins as follows.

“After the jury trial had been underway for more than two weeks, and just before this order was to be filed, the Government asked the Court to take judicial notice of what the Government claims is this fact. ‘CFE was created by Mexico as a decentralized public entity with its own legal status and assets.’ In a footnote the Government added, ‘… [U]nder Mexican law, CFE is a decentralized public entity, not a corporation.’ This request is astounding.”

Judge Matz then stated, among other things, that:

“throughout the hundreds of pages of argument and exhibits that were filed as part of motion practice, the Government never stated that CFE is not a corporation;”

“nor did it assert that view at the hearing on this motion;”

“in a lengthy footnote in its opposition papers the Government stressed that in more than a dozen FCPA prosecutions, ‘guilty pleas were accepted by U.S. District Courts, involved bribery of officials of state-owned companies‘” (emphasis added)

“the Government cited two cases in which state-owned companies were found to fall within the scope of the FCPA” and the Government “cited and attached jury instructions in yet two additional cases, to the effect that ‘the definition of government instrumentality includes companies owned or controlled by the state;” (emphasis added)

“still later, the Government continued in this vein, purporting to refute the Defendants’ legislative history analysis by stressing that the author of the declaration that the Defendants’ cited ‘is unable to find a single reference … that Congress intended to exclude state-owned companies from the definition of instrumentality …'”; (emphasis added)

“the Government concluded , “from the FCPA’s inception, state-owned and state-controlled companies were within Congress’s intended definition of instrumentalities of a foreign government.'” (emphasis added).

Judge Matz then ends the Addendum as follows.

“There is nothing in the Government’s peculiar request for judicial notice which warrants a change in the foregoing ruling.”

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