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Bourke’s Big Day

Frederic Bourke, the wealthy entrepreneur convicted in July of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Travel Act, and lying to FBI agents, is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday, October 13. At his trial, a federal jury in Manhattan found that he invested in Czech-born promoter Viktor Kozeny’s unsuccessful attempt in 1998 to gain control of Azerbaijan’s state oil company, Socar, despite knowing Kozeny planned to bribe Azeri leaders.

Bourke, 63, the co-founder of handbag-maker Dooney & Bourke, faces up to five years in prison on each count. The judge has already said she’ll impose less than the 10-year sentence prosecutors have asked for. Even so, any jail time will complete Bourke’s fall from his “charmed life,” as the American Lawyer’s Andrew Longstreth calls it, to convicted felon.

In an October 9 feature in the American Lawyer (available at here), Longstreth dives deep into the lives of Kozeny and Bourke and their run-in with the FCPA.

Here’s an excerpt:

It’s strange that Kozeny―the alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme―is living in the Bahamas, while Bourke, an investor who merely knew of the bribes is preparing for a possible prison term. But what makes this story even stranger is that the government’s FCPA investigation can be traced back to a civil suit filed by American investors against Kozeny in which Bourke was a witness for the plaintiffs. Kozeny’s lawyers raised the bribes as a defense, and then alerted federal prosecutors about the bribes in the belief that Kozeny would not be charged with FCPA crimes. They were wrong. And Bourke is paying for it.

Before his disastrous investment with Kozeny, Ricky Bourke lived a charmed life. He grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, attended the University of Michigan, and married Eleanor Clay Ford, whose mother was Henry Ford’s only granddaughter. Although Bourke married into money, he has made plenty on his own. In the seventies he teamed up with Peter Dooney, a talented designer at Coach, Inc., to start a leather goods manufacturing company called Dooney & Bourke, which originally sold belts and suspenders, but later became best known for its stylish handbags. (In 1996 Liz Claiborne, Inc., bought the company for an undisclosed amount.) In the nineties, Bourke became one of the first major investors in genome science.

By the time he reached his fifties, Bourke had collected all the material trophies of success: multiple homes, a private plane, and a yacht. But according to the prosecution’s theory at his trial, Bourke wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to be a billionaire. . . .

Read all our posts about U.S. v. Kozeny and the prosecution of Frederic Bourke here.

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