Lawyers are trained to quibble and criminal defense lawyers do it best. After all, their job is to create reasonable doubt. So it’s no surprise that when talking about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, they say it’s complicated, technically challenging and obscure, poorly drafted and badly organized. But don’t believe it. There’s no evidence in the record that judges or juries have any trouble understanding the FCPA. Just the opposite.
Case in point: U.S. v. Gerald and Patricia Green. Judge George Wu’s final jury instructions show just how simple the FCPA’s antibribery provisions really are. His words are neat, clear and concise. All that’s missing is the ambiguity lawyers like to talk about. (The instructions refer to “an instrumentality of interstate commerce,” a pre-1998 holdover discussed here and here.)
Seeing Judge Wu’s complete FCPA instructions should help dispel the idea that the law is shrouded in mystery. It’s not. That’s one reason why there hasn’t been an acquittal in an FCPA trial since 1991. Juries get it. Which means anyone who’s completed a typical compliance training program has no excuse for not understanding the FCPA.
Here’s what Judge Wu said:
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
One of the alleged objects of the conspiracy charged in Count One of the Indictment is a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (henceforth “FCPA”). In addition, Counts Two through Ten charge both Defendants with nine separate FCPA violations. See paragraph 26 of the Indictment for a description of each of the FCPA counts.
A FCPA violation is described in 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(a) as follows:
It shall be unlawful for any domestic concern . . . or for any officer, director, employee, or agent of such domestic concern . . . , to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value to–
(1) any foreign official [or]
* * * * * *
[(3) any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given, or promised, directly or indirectly, to any foreign official . . .]
for purposes of –
(A)(i) influencing any act or decision of such foreign official in his official capacity, (ii) inducing such foreign official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official, or (iii) securing any improper advantage; or
(B) inducing such foreign official to use his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality,
in order to assist such domestic concern in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person . . .
15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(g) (2)(A) makes it a crime for a person to “willfully violate” Section 78dd-2.
Elements Of A FCPA Violation
To establish that a Defendant violated the FCPA, the Government must prove each of the following seven elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
First, that Defendant was a “domestic concern” or an officer, director, employee or agent of a domestic concern;
Second, the Defendant made use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce;
Third, at which time the Defendant was acting “corruptly”;
Fourth, when the Defendant authorized, offered to pay, or made a gift or payment of anything of value to a foreign official or to any person (knowing that all or a part of such gift or payment would be offered or given directly or indirectly to a foreign foreign official);
Fifth, for the purpose of (a) influencing any act or decision of such foreign official in his official capacity, (b) inducing such foreign official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official, or (c) securing any improper advantage;
Sixth, the gift or payment was authorized or made to assist the domestic concern in obtaining or retaining business for or with (or directing business to) any person; and
Seventh, the Defendant acted willfully.
A “domestic concern” means any individual who is a citizen or resident of the United States and / or any corporation, partnership or business entity which is organized under the laws of a State of the United States or which has its principal place of business in the United States.
A “foreign official” means any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency or instrumentality of the foreign government; or any person acting in an official capacity or on behalf of any such foreign government, department or agency.
The term “interstate commerce” means trade, commerce, transportation or communications among the several States of this country, or between any foreign country and any State, or between any State and any location outside of that State. The term also includes the use of a telephone or other interstate means of communication or any other interstate instrumentality, such as fax transmissions, e-mail correspondence and wire transfers of funds between persons in different States or countries.
An act is “corruptly” done if done voluntarily and intentionally, and with a bad purpose or evil motive of accomplishing either an unlawful end or result, or a lawful end or result but by some unlawful method or means. The term “corruptly” in FCPA is intended to connote that the offer, payment, or promise was intended to induce the recipient to misuse his or her official position.
A violation of the FCPA is “willful” if: 1) the Defendant’s actions are intentional and not the result of an accident or mistake, and 2) the Defendant knows that his or her actions are in some way unlawful. As to the second point, the Defendant does not have to be aware of the existence of the FCPA itself, but the Defendant must have proceeded with the knowledge that he or she was doing a “bad” act under the general rules of law, doing an act with a bad purpose, or taken the action without any ground to believe that it was lawful.
Download a copy of the specific jury instructions in U.S. v. Green here.
Download a copy of the March 11, 2009 second superseding indictment in U.S. v. Green here.
View prior posts about the Greens here.