Another FCPA hearing on Capital Hill next week, news regarding Goldmann Sachs, questioning the use of NPAs and DPAs, an informative read regarding India, and something for your "foreign official" file.
Its all here in the Friday roundup.
Next Tuesday, June 14th, the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled "Foreign Corrupt Practices Act." According to this report by Christopher Matthews of Main Justice the hearing is expected to focus on the following issues: successor liability, a potential compliance defense, "foreign official," and corporate mens rea issues.
The witness list for the hearing is as follows (see here).
Hon. Michael Mukasey (Former Attorney General, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP - see here); Mr. Greg Andres (Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice); Mr. George Terwilliger (Partner, White & Case LLP - see here); and Ms. Shana-Tara Regon (Director, White Collar Crime Policy, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - see here).
Predictably, some are blasting the very existence of the hearing. For instance, Political Correction, a project of Media Matters Action Network (a self-described progressive research and information center dedicated to analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media), describes the hearing here as "Rep. Lamar Smith's Fight to Make Bribery Easier For Big Business."
The House hearing follows a November 30th Senate hearing titled "Examining Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act." See here for a prior post.
This post, prior to the 2010 hearing provided some guiding words, and if those were not enough, how about this statement from William Brock, U.S. Trade Representative, on April 18, 1983 during a hearing before the House Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
"Mr. Chairman, no one minimizes the complexity of the issue before you today. Just because the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act spotlights a sensitive subject, some people wish to turn a ‘blind eye’ to its shortcomings rather than risk being accused of being ‘soft on bribery.’ That is too easy a way out. Retreating from controversy will not cure the law’s deficiencies. Such inaction will no more eliminate the need for FCPA reforms today than it can eliminate the criticism of the Act brought over the past several years. After five and on half years experience with this law, after legitimate problems have been identified and examined, we have a responsibility to respond. Is there any U.S. law that ought to be above such review and clarification – especially one as complex as the FCPA.”
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported - "Eyes on Goldman-Libya Dealings" - that the SEC is "examining whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other financial firms might have violated bribery laws in dealings with Libya's sovereign wealth fund." The inquiry appears to be focused on a "$50 million fee Goldman initially agreed to pay [but one that was never paid to] the Libyan sovereign-wealth fund as part of a proposal ... to help the fund recoup losses."
A Goldman spokesman is quoted as follows. "We are confident that nothing we did or proposed was or could have been a breach of any rule or regulation. We retained outside counsel, as is our normal practice for any transaction to ensure that we were compliant with all applicable rules."
Can the FCPA be implicated by payments never made?
Yes. The anti-bribery provisions prohibit "an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of payment ...".
What about payments to foreign governments?
No. The anti-bribery provisions only apply to offers, payments, promises of payment, or authorizations of payments to "foreign officials."
However, according to the WSJ article the inquiry appears to focus on whether the contemplated payment would have been passed on to an outside adviser firm "run at the time by the son-in-law of the head of Libya's state-owned oil company."
For more on the Goldman inquiry, see here from Ashby Jones (WSJ Law Blog) and here from Samuel Rubenfeld (WSJ Corruption Currents).
NPAs / DPAs
Non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements ought to be abolished. I've argued here and in other places that these agreements have traded one negative externality of white collar prosecution (the much over-hyped Arthur Anderson effect) for a host of others, including the alarming lack of any meaningful judicial scrutiny to ensure that NPAs and DPAs are truly based on facts and appropriate legal theories to support the charges “alleged.”
Mark Mendelsohn, the former head of the DOJ's FCPA unit during its era of resurgence, stated in a September 2010 interview with Corporate Crime Reporter, that a “danger” with NPAs and DPAs “is that it is tempting” for the DOJ “to seek to resolve cases through DPAs or NPAs that don‟t actually constitute violations of the law.”
Asked directly – if the DOJ “did not have the choice of deferred or non prosecution agreements, what would happen to the number of FCPA settlements every year,” Mendelsohn stated as follows: “if the Department only had the option of bringing a criminal case or declining to bring a case, you would certainly bring fewer cases.”
Add W. Neil Eggleston, a former DOJ enforcement attorney currently a partner at Debevoise (here), to the growing list of former DOJ enforcement attorneys critical of these alternative resolution vehicles.
In this recent interview with Corporate Crime Reporter, Eggleston stated as follows. “I worry that [NPAs and DPAs] will become a substitute for a prosecutor deciding – this is not an appropriate case to bring – there is no reason to subject this corporation to corporate criminal liability. In the old days, they would have dropped the case. Now, they have the back up of seeking a deferred or non prosecution agreement, when in fact the case should not have been pursued at all. That’s what I’m worried about – an easy out.”
If India is a country of concern or focus of yours, you will want to check out the most recent quarterly newsletter of the India Committee of the ABA Section of International Law. (See here).
Guest editor James Parkinson of BuckleySandler (here) provides the following articles, among others, in the newsletter: one devoted to the FCPA risks of doing business in India; another devoted to India's demand-side statute - the Prevention of Corruption Act; another focused on reducing corruption risks in India through compliance programs; and another calling for India to join the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
And finally, because your "foreign official" file would be incomplete without it, here is a transcript of the May 9th oral argument in the Carson "foreign official" challenge. See here and here for previous posts.
A good weekend to all.