Perhaps it started with Chris Farley’s Saturday Night Live character Bennet Brauer (for a good laugh watch this video). Regardless of the origin, I’ve always had a thing for quotes.
Set forth below are my favorite quotes from 2015 organized by the general category of speakers.
Enforcement Agency Officials
Throughout the year, I frequently highlight the empty rhetoric in DOJ / SEC enforcement attorney speeches or how the DOJ or SEC’s own data undermine certain points made. I am not going to do that here, after a while it becomes a bit repetitive.
- As pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses continue to escalate, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell took to the podium and stated: “we do not expect companies to aimlessly boil the ocean.” Caldwell’s proclamation set off a war-of-words of sorts in the FCPA space and shortly thereafter Caldwell again took to the podium and stated: “That’s not us. That’s the companies” who are responsible for the pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.” My own two cents is both the enforcement agencies and FCPA Inc. share blame for the often high-costs of pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses. (To learn more, read “FCPA Ripples.”). The most direct victims of FCPA scrutiny and enforcement would seem to be shareholders who are footing the bills for these often boundless boondoggles.
- In the minds of many, DOJ officials spent much of 2015 wandering in the wilderness, lost as to how it should prosecute corporate crime. In announcing the “Yates Memo,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates stated: “[I]n order to qualify for any cooperation credit, corporations must provide to the Department all relevant facts relating to the individuals responsible for the misconduct. […] “We make these changes recognizing the challenges that they may present. Some corporations may decide, for example, that the benefits of consideration for cooperation with DOJ are not worth the costs of coughing up the high-level executives who perpetrated the misconduct. Less corporate cooperation could mean fewer settlements and potentially smaller overall recoveries by the government. In addition, individuals facing long prison terms or large civil penalties may be more inclined to roll the dice before a jury and consequently, we could see fewer guilty pleas. Only time will tell. But if that’s what happens, so be it. Our mission here is not to recover the largest amount of money from the greatest number of corporations; our job is to seek accountability from those who break our laws and victimize our citizens. It’s the only way to truly deter corporate wrongdoing.”
- SEC Director of Enforcement Andrew Ceresney stated that the SEC is committed to enforcing “the FCPA to the fullest extent of the statute.” With FCPA enforcement actions in 2015 involving a company that was an official sponsor of the 2008 Summer Olympics and as such, received priority access to tickets, hospitality suites, and accommodations for the games that it then offered to public and private customers alike, as well as an enforcement action involving a company that offer paid and unpaid internships to family members of foreign officials, the question arises: just what is the fullest extent of the FCPA? And in the minds of whom? The mind of the SEC in exercising its leverage against risk averse issuers or in the mind of Congress which passed the FCPA or a court?
- Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell is deserving of mention again when she stated: “We usually publicly announce corporate resolutions and pleas, and make the documents available on our website.” (emphasis added). As highlighted in this prior post, for years there have been whispers in the FCPA space about “secret” FCPA enforcement actions. This statement, along with the other profiled in the prior post, only add to the whispers.
Federal Court Judges
- As highlighted here, for the first time since its trial court debacles in 2011 and 2012, the DOJ was put to its burden of proof in an individual FCPA enforcement action. U.S. v. Joseph Sigelman was in the early stages of trial in June when the DOJ’s star witness Gregory Weisman (an individual who previously pleaded guilty to the same core conduct and was cooperating with the DOJ in the hopes of achieving a lower sentence) ran into some problems on the witness stand. In short, Weisman acknowledged giving false testimony during the trial prompting federal court judge Joseph Irenas (D.N.J.) to ask Weisman “did you have a hallucination?” The trial adjourned for the day, and shortly thereafter the DOJ effectively pulled its case against when it offered Sigelman a plea agreement to substantially reduced charges. As highlighted here, Judge Irenas refused to sentence Sigelman to any jail time and blasted the DOJ. Add the Sigelman debacle to the list of cases highlighted in this article “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses is Acceptable?“
- Sigelman was not the only case in which the DOJ got benchslapped. As highlighted here, in a bribery case, albeit outside the FCPA context, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer (N.D. Cal.) granted a motion to dismiss and stated: “My first reaction in reading this indictment is that your office is to be congratulated because, apparently, you have reduced crime in the Northern District of California, and indeed in the United States of America, to such a point that you are using resources of your office to go after criminal activity that occurs in foreign countries and for that — that’s a rather interesting concept that, apparently, you thought this is a good use of assets and resources of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.[…] And I never in my life, in 50 years of criminal practice, seen a more misguided prosecution as the one that you’ve brought. I just don’t even get it. I don’t get it, how you can — how you can use resources of the United States Attorney’s Office to prosecute some foreign nationals involved in a foreign company, engaged in conduct which was foreign, on doing things that weren’t directly related to the contribution of the United States to that entity.”
- As highlighted in this prior post, FCPA issues often co-exist in two parallel universes. One universe is ruled by all-powerful gods with big and sharp sticks in which subjects dare challenge the gods. Another universe consists of checks and balances in which independent actors call the balls and strikes. The first universe refers to FCPA enforcement by the DOJ and SEC. The second universe refers to litigation of FCPA-related claims in which judges make decisions in the context of an adversarial legal system. This second universe is often referred to as the rule of law universe. In dismissing securities fraud claims brought against Hyperdynamics Corporation in the aftermath of its FCPA scrutiny, U.S. District Court Judge Melinda Harmon (S.D. Tex.) stated: “[The FCPA’s anti-bribery provision] does not bar a company from giving anything of value to a foreign government, as opposed to a foreign official personally, or to a third party such as a nonprofit in order to generate corporate goodwill, even if the gift indirectly influences government officials.”
- As highlighted in this prior post, in rejecting a DPA in U.S. v. Fokker Services, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon (D.D.C) stated: “Both of the parties argue, not surprisingly, that the Court’s role is extremely limited in these circumstances. They essentially request the Court to serve as a rubber stamp […]. Unfortunately for the parties, the Court’s role is not quite so restricted. […] “One of the purposes of the Court’s supervisory powers, of course, is to protect the integrity of the judicial process.” Fokker Services is on appeal to the D.C. Circuit and is certainly worth watching.
- As highlighted in this prior post, in another instance in which a federal court judge questioned judicial authority to approve or reject DOJ deferred prosecution agreements, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan (D.D.C.) stated: “This ambiguity [in the Travel Act], combined with the fact that Congress’s original purpose had nothing to do with the broad-ranging corporate deferred-prosecution agreements that have become commonplace, suggests that congressional action to clarify the standards a court should apply when confronted with a corporate deferred prosecution agreement may be appropriate.” [T]he current use of deferred-prosecution agreements for corporations rather than individual defendants strays from Congress’s intent when it created an exclusion from the speedy trial calculation for the use of such agreements.”
- As highlighted in this prior post, U.S. District Court Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) penned an article about DPAs and the lack of individual enforcement actions and stated: “The preference for deferred prosecutions also reflects some less laudable motives, such as the political advantages of a settlement that makes for a good press release, the avoidance of unpredictable courtroom battles with skilled, highly paid adversaries, and even the dubious benefit to the Department of Justice and the defendant of crafting a settlement that limits, or eliminates entirely, judicial oversight of implementation of the agreement.”
Company / Executive Statements
- Regarding that “boil the ocean” comment, in an investor conference call Hyperdyamics executives stated: “The FCPA investigations restricted our available opportunities to raise capital and significantly increased our legal bills. […] Speaking of legal fees I do want to address the fees we incurred during the FCPA investigation. As you know, we spent $12 MM from inception to closure of that investigation. We were unhappily aware that FCPA investigations can take years to conclude but that we only had until September 2016 because of the date for the conclusion of the concession. We therefore determined that our only option was to do everything in our power to facilitate a resolution of the investigation, and ultimately were able to close the investigations in 20 months. This came at a very heavy legal cost to say the least, but again it was the best option we saw to move forward on the path to drilling the well.” As highlighted in this prior post about the $75,000 enforcement action, Hyperdynamics executives and shareholders ought to be asking some serious questions about the extent of its pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.
- Upon being criminally charged by Canadian authorities, SNL Lavalin stated: “It is important to note that companies in other jurisdictions, such as the United States and United Kingdom, benefit from a different approach that has been effectively used in the public interest to resolve similar matters while balancing accountability and securing the employment, economic and other benefits of businesses.” However, as highlighted in this post, SNC-Lavalin should be grateful, and not pout, that Canadian law enforcement authorities have not abandoned (as U.S. authorities have) traditional legal principles in the name of ease and efficiency. The company should be grateful, and not pout, that it is subject to a legal system in which law enforcement has to prove facts and legal theories to someone other than itself.
You will notice that most of the below quotes are from former high-ranking DOJ or SEC enforcement officials. See here for the prior post “A Former Enforcement Official Is Likely To Say (Or Has Already Said) The Same Thing.”
- Regarding the BNY Mellon “internship” enforcement action, Jay Darden (Paul Hastings and recently the Assistant Chief of the DOJ’s Fraud Section) stated: “it’s not the U.S. government’s job to regulate hiring policy.”
- Commenting generally on the ever-expansive theories of FCPA enforcement, in this Law360 article, Richard Grime (former Assistant Director of Enforcement at the SEC and current partner at Gibson Dunn) states regarding recent alleged FCPA violations. “It’s not that you couldn’t intellectually [conceive of] the violation. It’s that the government is sort of probing every area where there is an interaction with government officials and then working backwards from there to see if there is a violation, as opposed to starting out with the statute … and what it prohibits.”
- In this Global Investigations Review article, Timothy Dickinson (Paul Hastings and a veteran of the FCPA bar) states: “Ten years ago, I would have been happy to bet anyone a doughnut that I could accurately define what a foreign official is. Now, with various court definitions and a lack of clarity from the DoJ, I fear I might actually lose my doughnut.”
- Regarding the DOJ’s trial court debacle in the Sigelman case, Miller & Chevalier’s FCPA Summer Review stated: “The DOJ’s prosecution and trial of Joseph Sigelman deserves special notice, as it was the DOJ’s first trial of an individual on FCPA charges since the acquittal in January 2012 of John Joseph O’Shea. Sigelman’s trial … lasted nine days and ended with prosecutors entering into a negotiated guilty plea with Sigelman on only one of the six counts with which he was charged after a key government witness admitted to lying on the stand. Sigelman’s sentence of probation with no imprisonment was essentially a victory for Sigelman, and the judge was particularly critical of the government’s key witness as well as its sentencing recommendation. The trial adds to a string of recent FCPA prosecutions involving individuals in which the government has failed to secure a conviction or its recommended sentence, highlighting the difficulties the DOJ has sometimes encountered when forced to bear its burden of proof in court.”
- In this Law360 article “FCPA Challenges Make for Spotty Trial Record for DOJ,” Michael Levy (Paul Hastings) states: “We’ve seen several trials in which the judges have been skeptical, if not outwardly hostile, to some of the government’s more aggressive interpretations of the FCPA. While those trials may have fallen apart for other reasons, that skepticism still played, I believe, a substantial role. Without the development of the law through judicial decisions, it’s very unclear what judges believe the FCPA means compared to what the DOJ think the FCPA means.” (See here for Levy’s FCPA Professor guest post titled “Prosecutorial Common Law”). In the same article, George Terwilliger (McGuireWoods and a former high-ranking DOJ official) states: “It is fundamental to due process that a person of ordinary intelligence should be able to read a law and understand what is required or prohibited, as the case may be. Many people of great intelligence on both sides of an FCPA question debate just such issues. That does not produce the fair warning that those subject to the law deserve to have.”
- Paul Pelletier (former principal deputy chief of the DOJ Criminal Division’s Fraud Section) penned a dandy Wall Street Journal editorial titled “The Foreign Bribery Sinkhole at Justice.” In this follow-up piece Pelletier goes into more-depth on the same topic. In pertinent part he writes: “[T]he pattern of costly delay in FCPA investigations continues unabated. While every government investigation and resolution poses unique facts and circumstances that may serve to delay the investigatory process, these recent long-developing FCPA resolutions, together with the findings of the OECD report, are convincingly problematic. The staggering investigative costs, ultimately borne by employees and shareholders alike, however, also can reach unconscionable levels. […] The Department of Justice has recently articulated that at least part of the rationale or justification for these interminable investigations is that “[c]ompared to other white collar crime, the challenges associated with FCPA investigations can be much greater.” The DOJ offered “overseas evidence” as one basis for this greater challenge. But this statement fails to explain the more than twofold increase in investigatory durations from historical norms. A dispassionate, experience-based analysis of this overly broad assertion exposes a faulty premise. Simply put, the DOJ can and must do better. […] Regardless of the reason or reasons for these protracted investigations, both the continued vitality of the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement efforts and the prominence of the United States as the global leader of anti-corruption enforcement would seem to demand a renewed effort to dramatically reduce the time frame necessary to achieve resolution. […] Legitimate enterprises benefit from those kinds of real-time revelations, and criminal political regimes can be immediately identified and deterred. Moreover, when a criminal resolution discloses and punishes criminal conduct that occurred five or more years earlier, any deterrent effect of the resolution is significantly diminished. [..] At that late stage, the principal deterrent effect is relegated to the size of the monetary penalty — something the DOJ continues to emphasize with all too much frequency and relish. […] Given that the DOJ’s FCPA unit within the Fraud Section has more than doubled in size from 2009 to today and has been fortified by a dedicated squad of FBI agents, it is puzzling that many of these investigations seem to drag on interminably. The DOJ must strive to be more than just “FCPA Inc.,” churning out stale resolutions notable only for their record-breaking penalties.” In conclusion Pelletier wrote: “The interests of justice are neither served nor advanced when FCPA investigations routinely drag on for five or more years. Rigorous and prompt FCPA enforcement with respect to current bribery schemes can have a dramatic impact on the insidious and corrosive effect of corruption overseas. Real-time enforcement is just one component of what must be a larger proactive strategy to root out overseas corruption, which includes punishing the bribe takers as well as the bribe payers and dispossessing the government officials of access to ill-gotten gains. Curing the deficiencies that lead to costly and wasteful delays will require a systemic and sustained effort, primarily by the DOJ. It will also require a more focused approach by outside counsel. Although the ameliorative benefits resulting from such change will not be achieved overnight, the long-term vitality and efficacy of the DOJ’s anti-corruption enforcement efforts ultimately rests on the government’s ability to sustainably alter the status quo.”
From the Heart
- In this guest post on FCPA Professor titled “Carlos Rodriguez: My Dad, My Hero,” the adult daughter of Carlos Rodriguez (one of the defendants in the Haiti Teleco “foreign official” enforcement action who is currently in federal prison) stated: “Since he left, my dad has missed three Thanksgiving’s, four Christmas’s, my 15th-18th birthdays, my brother’s college graduation, and my high school graduation, plus all of the celebratory moments and memories in between. The only contact we have consists of letter exchanges and a restricted 15-minute phone call every two weeks. Courtesy of the U.S. government, my connection to my father will remain this way until January 2018. It’s absurd, surreal, ridiculous, and undeniably unfair, but somehow he has maintained his positive outlook on life. That’s why a very small part of me is grateful for this experience. Because of the “foreign official” issue, I’ve realized how much my father once protected me and, in losing that protection, how much strength I myself possess. I may not have the superpowers needed to free him or convince courts of his innocence, but I like to think that by mimicking his optimism I can one day be someone’s hero.”