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Overheard In Hollywood

After Gerald and Patricia Green were convicted last year of one count of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, nine counts of violating the FCPA, and seven counts of money laundering, prosecutors asked for ten-year jail terms. The Greens’ lawyers argued for no time behind bars.

In August, and after much delay, Judge George Wu sentenced the husband-and-wife Hollywood movie producers to just six months in jail and six months home confinement. The sentences were among the most lenient for individuals convicted of FCPA and related offenses.

We don’t know Judge Wu’s reasons for imposing the light jail terms. But here’s a fascinating excerpt from a sentencing memo filed by the Greens’ lawyers. Regular readers will see familiar arguments from posts here and here (and we continued the discussion in a more recent post here).

Defense counsel said:

The ten highest FCPA settlements ever have occurred within the last five years. . . . Most involve some combination of criminal fines and SEC disgorgement of profits.

These ten cases have monetary penalties totaling approximately $2.8 billion. Of the ten, the six highest occurred within last 20 months and total approximately $2.67 billion.

This trend has begged the question among pundits whether the government’s goal relating to FCPA cases is actually enforcement, or simply putting a price tag on noncompliance. Do these giant financial penalties actually punish and deter the giants or, simply establish a cost of doing business and shield top executives culpable in the most egregious FCPA violations from punishment?

Despite the government’s repeated assertions regarding increased criminal prosecution of individuals and the sentences those individuals receive, such examples are glaringly absent . . . . In fact, of the ten cases listed, only Titan, Willbros, and KBR have resulted in criminal prosecution of individuals potentially resulting in a term of incarceration.

The prosecutors said in a reply brief:

[T]his Court must decline defendants’ remarkable invitation to join the wholesale speculation of FCPA “pundits” as to whether corporate settlements are “shielding” top corporate executives from punishment. Aside from being pure conjecture, such a question has no bearing on “the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct.” . . . . (citations omitted)

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Our Top Ten post was also cited and linked in the D & O Diary’s much anticipated annual event, What to Watch Now in the World of D&O.

Kevin LaCroix wrote:

Indeed, the top ten FCPA settlements collectively total $2.8 billion, but the top six, all of which took place just in the last 20 months, represent 95% of the total. Four of the top six settlements were reached just in 2010. Because of the massive scale of the settlements that the SEC has been achieving in this area, the potential rewards for whistleblowers are enormous.

*     *     *

Many thanks to all readers, inside the courtroom and elsewhere.

If anyone knows what it means to be called a “pundit” with quotation marks, please let us know. But only if it’s flattering, which we somehow doubt.

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1 Comment

  1. Based in part on my firsthand knowledge of your erudition and experience in potentially inaccessible regions, I offer the following from Wikipedia: "The term originates from the Hindi term pandit, which in turn originates from the Sanskrit (a language from ancient India) term paṇḍitá, meaning "learned" (see also Pandit). It refers to someone who is erudite in various subjects and who conducts religious ceremonies and offers counsel to the king.

    From at least the early 19th century, a Pundit of the Supreme Court in Colonial India was an officer of the judiciary who advised British judges on questions of Hindu law. In Anglo-Indian use, pundit also referred to a native of India who was trained and employed by the British to survey inaccessible regions beyond the British frontier."

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