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Judge Selna Concludes “The Question of Whether State-Owned Companies Qualify as Instrumentalities Under the FCPA is a Question of Fact”

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge James Selna denied the Carson “foreign official” challenge. See here for his written decision.

Judge Selna concluded that “the question of whether state-owned companies qualify as instrumentalties under the FCPA is a question of fact.”

Judge Selna stated that “several factors bear on the question of whether a business entity constitutes a government instrumentality” including the following.

• The foreign state’s characterization of the entity and its employees;

• The foreign state’s degree of control over the entity;

• The purpose of the entity’s activities;

• The entity’s obligations and privileges under the foreign state’s law,
including whether the entity exercises exclusive or controlling power to
administer its designated functions;

• The circumstances surrounding the entity’s creation; and

• The foreign state’s extent of ownership of the entity, including the level of
financial support by the state (e.g., subsidies, special tax treatment, and

[In April, Judge Howard Matz (C.D. of Cal.), in denying the Lindsey “foreign official” challenge (see here for the prior post) identified the following “non-exclusive list” of “various characteristics of government agencies and departments” that fall within the description of instrumentality:

• The entity provides a service to the citizens – indeed, in many cases to all the inhabitants – of the jurisdiction.

• The key officers and directors of the entity are, or are appointed by, government officials.

• The entity is financed, at least in large measure, through governmental
appropriations or through revenues obtained as a result of government-mandated taxes, licenses, fees or royalties, such as entrance fees to a national park.

• The entity is vested with and exercises exclusive or controlling power to administer its designated functions.

• The entity is widely perceived and understood to be performing official (i.e., governmental) functions]

Judge Selna stated that his above-listed “factors are not exclusive, and no single factor is dispositive.” “As applicable here, their chief utility is simply to point out that several types of evidence are relevant when determining whether a state-owned company constitutes an ‘instrumentality’ under the FCPA – with state ownership being only one of several considerations. Accordingly, for these reasons and those discussed in more detail below, Defendants’ Motion is not entirely segregable from the evidence to be presented at trial, and therefore must be denied.”

Later in the opinion, Judge Selna stated as follows. “Admittedly, a mere monetary investment in a business entity by the government may not be sufficient to transform that entity into a governmental instrumentality. But when a monetary investment is combined with additional factors that objectively indicate the entity is being used as an instrument to carry out governmental objectives, that business would qualify as a governmental instrumentality.”

Judge Selna found that the “meaning of the statutory text is clear,” “that the meaning of instrumentality should be considered both within the context of the preceding terms of the FCPA [departments and agencies] and in view of the FCPA as a whole,” and that the “use of the term instrumentality in the FCPA produces no such crisp exclusion of a state-owned entity.” Judge Selna stated: “to the contrary, a state-owned entity – just like an agency or department – is a modality through which a government may conduct its business.”

Judge Selna then noted that “the fact that corporations have long been used in this country to carry out governmental objectives supports the conclusion that state-owned companies could be considered an instrumentality.” He stated that “given this country’s long history of using corporations to carry out governmental objectives, the Court rejects the idea that governmental and commercial actions are necessarily incompatible.”

Judge Selna also noted as follows. “The fact that Congress passed FSIA a year before the FCPA, and defined instrumentality to include state-owned companies, ultimately supports the Court’s conclusions that an instrumentality could include such entities under the FCPA.”

Judge Selna found “that the statutory language of the FCPA is clear, that the statutory scheme is coherent and consistent, and that resort to the legislative history of the FCPA is unnecessary.”

Under the heading “Conclusion for Statutory Construction,” Judge Selna stated as follows. “The Court concludes that some business entities may be considered an instrumentality but this is a fact-specific question that depends on the nature and characteristics of the business entity.” Elsewhere, Judge Selna similarly stated as follows. “state-owned companies may be considered instrumentalities under the FCPA, but whether such companies qualify as instrumentalities is a question of fact.”


Earlier this week, Judge Selna issued an “Order Regarding Briefing Schedule and Hearing Date.”

Among other things, Judge Selna ordered that “the parties shall submit their proposed jury instructions and legal support for the “instrumentality” and scienter instructions on June 30, 2011. Objections to disputed instructions shall be filed no later than July 25, 2011.” “The hearing to address the “instrumentality” and scienter jury instructions, Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Travel Act charges, and Defendants’ Grand Jury motions, shall be scheduled for August 12, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.”

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