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« Panalpina, Shell Near FCPA Settlements, Paper Says | Main | Husband Remains A Fugitive »

The Husband-And-Wife Thing

We had a vision this week. It was of two people, joined together as one flesh, standing before a federal judge. Actually, there were six people, three couples in all, to wit:

  • Gerald and Patricia Green, convicted in September 2009 of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and nine counts of violating the FCPA.
  • Stuart Carson and Hong "Rose" Carson, charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and the Travel Act, and multiple counts of violating the FCPA.
  • And Enrique Faustino Aguilar Noriega and Angela Gomez Aguilar, charged in September this year, him with a seven-count indictment alleging conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, four substantive FCPA violations, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering, and she on only the latter two counts. 

That three married couples have been FCPA-related defendants in recent times struck us as an important development. There hadn't been any husband-and-wife FCPA defendants until 2007, when the Greens were indicted. Although it took thirty years to break through the marital enforcement barrier, two more couples soon followed, with the Carsons' indictment in 2009, and the Aguilars' this year.

From the day the Greens were indicted in December 2007 through today, the DOJ has brought FCPA criminal enforcement actions against 53 individuals, including the massive shot-show indictment of 22 defendants. That indictment is an FCPA enforcement outlier, at least for now, but it still counts in the total.

In any case, with six FCPA-related defendants since December 2007 married to another such defendant, that means husband-and-wife defendants during the period have made up more than ten percent of the total FCPA criminal defendants. That's a statistically meaningful number.

We don't know the analogous stats for other white collar crimes such as embezzlement, securities fraud, tax cheating, and so on. It could be that for those crimes too, married couples make up a statistically meaningful percentage. In tax cheating, for example, couples must be common targets if they file tax returns jointly, or in embezzlement cases if they work together, or even in securities fraud if they trade out of one account.

The DOJ, we assume, looks for opportunities to charge husbands and wives. Doing that creates enormous pressure for one of them to cut a plea deal that will make things easier for the spouse.

Beyond the statistics and strategy, the prosecution of married couples reminds us of something more. There's loads of human wreckage when an individual faces FCPA-related charges, no matter the outcome. But for couples like the Greens, the Carsons, and the Aguilars, we imagine the personal devastation is multiplied many times over.


Note to statisticians: We included in the count of spouse-defendants Angela Gomez Aguilar, who's been charged with a money-laundering conspiracy and money laundering, but not with violating or conspiring to violate the FCPA. We also included her in the overall count of FCPA-related criminal defendants, so it's a wash.

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