Friday, May 21, 2010

Is the FCPA a Government Cash Cow?

Last December, I noticed this piece which discussed the increase in FCPA enforcement. One reason, according to the authors (including a former assistant director of the Division Enforcement of the SEC) - "governments will keep pursuing corrupt business practices for one very simple reason--it's lucrative."

Interesting point isn't it?

If one were to calculate the "rate of return" / "return on investment" in a typical Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action it would be enormous. Most FCPA enforcement actions result from corporate voluntary disclosures whereby company counsel deliver to the prosecutors three-ring binders of the relevant documents and witness interview memos from the internal investigation and otherwise cooperate. Thus, it does not take much in terms of government resources to prosecute a typical FCPA enforcement action which typically leads to multi-million dollar fines and penalties.

Where does this money go?

Straight to the U.S. treasury.

Say what you want about the SFO's BAE enforcement action, but at least a portion of that money went to the alleged "victims" of the wrongful conduct prosecuted - the people of Tanzania. (See here).

The suggestion that one of the reasons for the rise in FCPA enforcement is because it is a lucrative cash cow for the government would seem not to be dispelled by comments made this week in an American Lawyer article "Here Comes the Payoff Police" (here) by a former high-ranking DOJ FCPA official. The comment that caught my attention is this:

"The government sees a profitable program, and it's going to ride that horse until it can't ride it anymore."

*****

Here are some other tidbits that caught my eye this week.

More Pre-Enforcement Action News

It used to be that FCPA enforcement actions made the news. Now, it's pre-enforcement action. Alcatel-Lucent (here) stay tuned it's coming. Technip (here) stay tuned it's coming. Panalpina (here) stay tuned it's coming.

Add to the list Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. See here for the Main Justice piece.

FCPA Unit in S.F.

As detailed here and elsewhere, the SEC's San Francisco branch office has a new unit devoted exclusively to the FCPA. "The fact that we have a significant presence of companies in Silicon Valley who do business internationally, specifically in Asia, makes us well-suited for addressing these kinds of issues," said Tracy L. Davis, the assistant regional director in charge of the new San Francisco unit. "That's one of the reasons why San Francisco is a particularly good location for an FCPA unit."

A good weekend to all.

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