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Esquenazi Says Appeal Is A Chance To Review ‘Aggressive Enforcement’

Markus Funk was kind enough to send us a copy of the brief he wrote with Michael Sink and Michael Rosen for Joel Esquenazi’s appeal to the 11th Circuit.

The main issue is whether the DOJ’s so-called expansive view of ‘foreign official’ under the FCPA is correct. Esquenazi is also arguing that new exculpatory evidence wasn’t considered, and that the calculation of his 15-year prison sentence was wrong.

Here’s an excerpt from the brief summarizing his arguments:

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Although the FCPA is aimed at corrupt payments made to “foreign officials,” the Government never established that Haiti Teleco performed government functions similar to a governmental department or agency, such that Haiti Teleco’s employees would qualify as “foreign officials.” Instead, the Government relied on the National Bank of Haiti’s ownership of stock in Haiti Teleco and the Haitian government’s appointment of board members and directors.

Six days after the jury reached its verdict, however, the Government disclosed the existence of a declaration from the then-current Prime Minister of Haiti, Jean Max Bellerive, prepared ten days prior to the case going to the jury. The declaration stated that Haiti Teleco “has never been and is not a State enterprise,” and that the by-laws of the company had never been changed as required by law to make Haiti Teleco a government-owned entity. . . . The district court erred in refusing to hold an evidentiary hearing under the circumstances.

Esquenazi is also entitled to an acquittal on all FCPA-based counts because the term “instrumentality” in the FCPA should be construed to encompass only foreign entities performing governmental functions similar to departments or agencies. Here, the Government failed to establish that Haiti Teleco performed a governmental function. Despite the Government’s continued reliance on the premise that state-ownership or state-control of a business entity makes that entity an “instrumentality” of the government under the FCPA, that theory was explicitly considered by the drafters of the FCPA, but not included in the statute, and is inconsistent with the language of the statute as drafted. Because so many individuals and companies prosecuted by the Government prefer to resolve their cases prior to trial, the validity of the Government’s theory has seldom been tested in court, and never before by a United States Court of Appeals.

This case presents an opportunity to review the Government’s aggressive enforcement of a less-than-clear federal statute and properly limit its scope to corrupt payments made to “foreign officials,” including employees of “instrumentalities” that perform governmental functions similar to governmental departments and agencies.

Esquenazi is also entitled to an acquittal or a new trial because the jury instructions failed to require that the jury determine whether Haiti Teleco ever exercised a government function akin to a department or agency, or even define “governmental function.” Because the jury could have reached its verdict without any consideration of the function of Haiti Teleco, the jury instructions were deficient.

Finally, the district court improperly calculated Esquenazi’s sentence. Esquenazi’s leadership role should have been that of an organizer or manager, rather than a leader. Further, his enhanced sentence for perjury was improper, both as to the substance of the district court’s findings and the procedure by which it made the determination.

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The full brief can be viewed and downloaded here.

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