No corporations and just a few individuals have fought Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges in court, so only a handful of people have ever seen an FCPA defense up close. But for the first time, we have a chance to follow not one but three pending prosecutions — in U.S.v. Kozeny (defendant Frederic Bourke, Jr., owner of the luxury handbag brand Dooney & Bourke), U.S. v. Green (husband-and-wife movie producers Gerald and Patricia), and U.S. v. Jefferson (former Rep. William J. Jefferson).
Because alleged FCPA violations usually involve some overseas behavior, prosecution and defense evidence has to be retrieved from beyond U.S. borders. There’s no way to compel production from a foreign entity or individual outside the United States. So prosecutors usually work directly with foreign law enforcement agencies to exchange information on a voluntary basis; defendants don’t have that option. Their route to foreign evidence is through letters rogatory. In United States usage, according to 22 CFR 92.54, “letters rogatory have been commonly utilized only for the purpose of obtaining [overseas] evidence. Requests rest entirely upon the comity of courts toward each other, and customarily embody a promise of reciprocity.”
Mr. Bourke says for his defense he needs stock ownership and transfer records about a Liechtenstein corporation. In his case docket, item 135 is an order directing issuance of a letter rogatory. Attached to the order is the letter rogatory itself, formally called a “Request for International Judicial Assistance (Letter Rogatory) to the appropriate judicial authority of the Principality of Liechtenstein.”
Again, a letter rogatory can’t compel a foreign individual or entity outside the U.S. to produce evidence; it’s only a polite request to a foreign court on behalf of one of the parties, in this case Mr. Bourke. We imagine the normally secretive authorities in Liechtenstein won’t be anxious to release corporate ownership information. What happens if Mr. Bourke never sees the company records he’s after? Can he describe the “missing” evidence to the jury? Can he argue that his right to a fair trial is somehow violated? We’ll keep watching.
For practical advice about how to prepare, obtain and use letters rogatory, the State Department runs an excellent resource site here.
Download the Order Directing Issuance of Letter Rogatory on behalf of Frederic Bourke, Jr., with a copy of the letter rogatory attached (entered October 17, 2008) here.