Enough already. Ousama Naaman's lawyers say he's already spent just shy of a year in prison in Germany awaiting extradition, and another seven months under strict conditions of release in the U.S.
Entries in Jurisdiction (85)
Fear of the new UK Bribery Act is overblown. UK enforcers will act reasonably, build a track record, and focus on egregious cases of bribery.
We check in with the D&O Diary, the FCPA Prof, lawgents.com, and the WSJ online.
Because the FCPA and the Bribery Act reach everywhere, many companies will need to start complying with both. That's going to be trickier than it sounds.
There's more to FCPA conspiracy charges and aiding and abetting than meets the eye, according to this reader.
What are the odds that the next Congress will amend the FCPA? Not bad, we think.
It's not hard to find reasons why the DOJ and SEC would rather prosecute corporations instead of individuals.
Here are a few:
Corporations can't defend themselves. They're strictly liable under respondeat superior for crimes committed by employees in the scope of their jobs. That's why no company has fought against FCPA charges in court for more than two decades. Individuals, on the hand, can and do fight in court and sometimes win. Recent examples of tough trials with mixed results include Frederick Bourke and William Jefferson.
Corporations cooperate. No all companies self-disclose their FCPA offenses, but most do. They hire outsiders to conduct in-depth internal investigations and hand the results over to the government. That makes life easier for prosecutors and in theory benefits the company. Individuals can also plead guilty, of course, and many do. But they usually first try to defend themselves, which increases the government's burden.
Corporations can't run or hide. Domestic companies are all registered in their home states and can be brought to court there. Foreign corporations that are issuers under the FCPA have also submitted to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. But individuals of any nationality can run. If they make it to another country, they have to be extradited back to the U.S. to face trial, a complicated process that can take years and may not be successful. Some examples include Viktor Kozeny and Jeffrey Tesler.
Corporate cases make headlines. For years, journalists have known that FCPA cases don't generate much buzz with the general public, and cases involving individuals hardly make a ripple (the Bourke and Jefferson cases were exceptions because of the defendants' fame). But giant penalties assessed against well-known global corporations are widely reported. Recent examples are Siemens, KBR, Daimler, and BAE. If the DOJ and SEC want to spread the word about the FCPA, chasing big companies is a good way to do it.
Corporate prosecutions are cost effective. They don't require long and expensive trials, so there's less drain on agency resources. And the payday for the U.S. government can be a quarter or even a half billion dollars per case, swamping the top fines for individuals.
How do any of the above influence prosecutorial decisions, if at all? The DOJ and SEC would say they don't. In other posts, we'll look at the recent enforcement track record, and we'll try to see things from the perspective of the prosecutors.
Iran has all the ingredients to be an FCPA minefield. It's big -- 66 million people in an area about the size of Alaska -- and it's the world's 6th largest oil producer. On top of that, it has a corruption problem, ranking near the bottom of the latest Corruption Perception Index -- 168th, tied with Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, and Turkmenistan.
But although the country routinely makes world headlines, it's hardly mentioned on the FCPA Blog. Why not?
Iran has been off limits to U.S. companies from around the time the FCPA became law in 1977. The U.S. first imposed sanctions on Iran in 1979. After the takeover of the American embassy in Teheran, President Carter banned imports of Iranian oil and blocked all transfers of property in the U.S. owned by the Central Bank and Government of Iran. In 1980, he embargoed all U.S. exports to and imports from Iran, and stopped U.S. citizens from traveling or conducting financial transactions there.
Some of those sanctions were loosened after the U.S. hostages were released. But in 1987, President Reagan imposed a new embargo on Iranian-origin goods and services. And in 1995, after Iran was labelled a sponsor of international terrorism, President Clinton again banned U.S. involvement with Iran's oil and gas development. He later confirmed that "virtually all trade and investment activities with Iran by U.S. persons, wherever located, are prohibited," according to the Treasury Department. With some small adjustments, that's how things stand today.
Criminal penalties for violating the U.S. sanctions are stiff -- fines up to $1,000,000 and prison for up to 20 years, four times harsher than the FCPA's penalties.
Even without America's business, Iran was the focus of an important FCPA case. In 2006 the Norwegian company Statoil was hit with DOJ and SEC enforcement actions for bribery and books and records violations. Statoil in 2002 had paid $5.2 million in bribes to a modern-day prince of Persia -- the son of a former president of Iran, and promised to pay $20 million more for access to the giant Pars oil field. The company eventually self-disclosed the payments and paid $3 million to Norwegian prosecutors and $21 million in penalties and disgorgement to the DOJ and SEC (with credit for the $3 million it paid back home).
That was the first FCPA criminal enforcement action against a foreign company -- Statoil is an "issuer," trading on the NYSE under the symbol STO. Its three-year deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ expired in November 2009.
We could be hearing more FCPA news involving Iran. Last week the Wall Street Journal said the SEC's enforcement and corporation finance divisions have sent letters to several pharmaceutical and energy companies that work in Iran, as well as in Cuba, Sudan, and Syria -- which all appear on the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism. (Some medicines and medical devices are licensed for export from the U.S. to Iran.) The letters reportedly asked the companies, which haven't been named, what they are doing in the four countries to ensure compliance with the FCPA.
The news last week from the U.K. that the Bribery Bill had become the Bribery Act seemed important. But we didn't understand why it still wasn't law.
So we asked London lawyer Kelly Hagedorn about it. Here's what she said:
Dear FCPA Blog,
The U.K.’s Bribery Act received Royal Assent on April 8 and passed onto the statute book.
Britain's been trying to pass a new law to deal with overseas bribery and corruption for a long time -- the predecessor Corruption Bill went back and forth between the Houses of Commons and Lords several times before final rejection in 2003. The Bribery Act nearly ended up with the same fate.
The General Election, however, was called on April 6, requiring Parliament to be dissolved on April 12. That left less than a week for “wash up” -- a process whereby the Government seeks to rush through unfinished legislative business before dissolution. It worked.
But the law isn't yet in force. The statutory instruments needed to implement the Act still have to be released. The “general offences” part should come into force in June 2010. The corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery (section 7) should come into force in October 2010, after the Government issues guidance on “adequate procedures” by July 2010.
The Bribery Act has a broader scope than the FCPA and a wide reach, particularly for the offence of failing to prevent corruption within an organisation. This applies to organisations incorporated anywhere, if they undertake a business or part of a business in the U.K. The defence to this charge is that the organisation had “adequate procedures” in place to attempt to prevent bribery.
Companies should start preparing now, if they haven't already, for implementation of the Bribery Act.
More about the Bribery Act can be found here.
It's hard to bribe a foreign official without someone laundering the money. That's why money-laundering charges are part of most FCPA cases. Each shot-show defendant, for example, was charged with conspiracy to launder money. And it's why the DOJ uses the same law against corrupt foreign officials, as in the recent Haiti telco case. (The FCPA doesn't reach bribe takers, only bribe payers.)
The U.S. anti-money laundering law is 18 U.S.C. §1956. It packs a wallop -- a fine of a half million dollars or more, and up to 20 years in prison. (Jail terms for FCPA anti-bribery violations are five years maximum.)
What's a money-laundering offense? Knowingly using money that comes from an illegal activity; trying to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds of unlawful activity; or trying to avoid reporting a transaction that has to be reported under state or federal law.
Foreigners are subject to the U.S. anti-money laundering law if any part of their transaction happens in the U.S., if they use property in which the U.S. has an interest (through a judgment, lien, or court order), or if they maintain a bank account at a financial institution in the U.S.
Just as bribery usually involves money laundering, money laundering usually involves tax evasion. Again in the Haiti telco case, it was the IRS's Miami field office that investigated Robert Antoine, the former director of international affairs for Haiti telco, who lived in both Miami and Haiti. He pleaded guilty last week to a money-laundering conspiracy (same statute; same potential penalties).
Evidence of money laundering often leads to discovery of other crimes. On its extensive AML website, the University of Exeter says:
Although money laundering is a threat to the good functioning of a financial system, it can also be the Achilles heel of criminal activity. In law enforcement investigations of organised criminal activity, it is frequently the connections made through financial transaction records that allow hidden assets to be located and that establish the identity of the criminals and the criminal organisation involved.
The DOJ hasn't said how often it finds FCPA offenses through money-laundering investigations.