Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quiz Time Answer

In a prior post (here), I noted that in 2009 there were three FCPA trials - Frederic Bourke, William Jefferson, and Gerald and Patricia Green.

I then posted the question - what is the common thread in these three FCPA enforcement actions - a fact which speaks to the great difficulty individual FCPA defendants generally have in mounting a legal defense?

Before the answer, the background.

Individual FCPA defendants tend to work for companies. Under respondeat superior theories of liability, the company is going to have a very difficult time "distancing" itself from its employees conduct.

Thus, all corporate FCPA enforcement actions tend to be resolved through a non-prosecution agreement, a deferred prosecution agreement, or a plea. Entering into one of these resolution vehicles is often easier, more cost efficient, and more certain than actually mounting a legal defense based on the FCPA's statutory elements. Further, because these resolution vehicles are subject to little or no judicial scrutiny and are entered into the context of the DOJ possessing certain "carrots" and "sticks" they do not necessarily reflect the triumph of one party's legal position over the other.

While these resolution vehicles may indeed avert "another Arthur Anderson" here is the problem.

A key feature of each resolution vehicle is a statement along the following lines:

"[company] admits, accepts, and acknowledges responsibility for the conduct set forth in [the statement of facts] and agrees not to make any public statement contradicting [the statement of facts]" (see UTStarcom NPA here);

"[company] admits, accepts and acknowledges that it is responsible for the acts of its officers, employees and agents as set forth in the Statement of Facts [...] and that the facts described [...] are true and accurate [...] and that should the DOJ initiate prosecution that is deferred by this agreement [company] agrees that it will neither contest the admissibility of, nor contradict, in any such proceeding, the Statement of Facts" (see AGA Medical DPA here); or

"Defendant admits,agrees and stipulates that the factual allegations set forth in the Statement of Facts [...] are true and correct, that it is responsible for the acts of its former officers and employees described in the Statement of Facts, and that the Statement of Facts accurately reflects CCI’s criminal conduct" (see Control Components Inc. Plea Agreement here).

So what can you do if you are the targeted employee of such a company?

More likely than not, your employee has already terminated you (even before all the facts may be known) to demonstrate to the DOJ that it is implementing "prompt remedial actions" - a factor DOJ will consider when making its charging decision (see here).

Then, because of the resolution vehicle your employer entered into to make the DOJ go away, you are stuck with your employer admitting and accepting responsibility for your misconduct, even though there has been no finding that your conduct was even misconduct.

Against this backdrop, it is no surprise that nearly all FCPA individual defendants plead. What choice do they really have?

So that brings us back to the quiz answer.

Perhaps it was pure coincidence, perhaps not, but the three individual FCPA trials all occurred in the context of there being no parallel NPA, DPA or plea with a corporate entity.

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