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Lanny Breuer said to be leaving DOJ soon

Lanny Breuer, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, is reported to be preparing his exit.

As the Assistant Attorney General for the criminal division since 2009, Breuer led the 600 DOJ lawyers who prosecute federal criminal cases across the country. The DOJ’s FCPA Unit reported to Breuer.

According to the Washington Post, he hasn’t formally announced his departure or a timetable. But sources inside the DOJ told the paper his ‘days in office are winding down.’

Breuer was appointed by President Obama. He took office in April 2009, making him one of the longest-serving criminal division chiefs.

He presided over the busiest years in FCPA history.

In 2010 — the high-water mark for enforcement — 23 companies paid $1.8 billion to the DOJ and SEC to settle FCPA cases.

Eight of the top ten FCPA cases of all time were resolved during Breuer’s watch.

And while he was in office, the pipeline of FCPA cases being investigated by the DOJ or SEC or both continued to grow. The FCPA Blog’s corporate investigations list included 88 companies at the end of 2012, up from 78 at the end of 2011.

Breuer will probably be best remembered by the compliance community for last year’s release of the much anticipated DOJ-SEC Guidance. In a foreword to the 120-page Guidance, Breuer and then-SEC enforcement chief Robert Khuzami called it ‘an unprecedented undertaking by DOJ and SEC to provide the public with detailed information about our FCPA enforcement approach and priorities.’

Publication of the Guidance followed several years of intense criticism from business groups and politicians who said the FCPA was unclear and the DOJ’s enforcement of it unfair.

But Breuer didn’t back down from the government’s so-called ‘expansive’ interpretation of the FCPA. Under his leadership, for example, the DOJ continued to view all employees of overseas state-owned enterprises as potential ‘foreign officials’ under the FCPA. The Guidance affirmed that view.

(The FCPA prohibits giving or promising to give anything of value to a ‘foreign official’ to obtain or retain business or gain an unfair advantage.)

Breuer targeted more individuals for prosecution under the FCPA. That initiative led to the botched Africa sting prosecution. Our review of the biggest stories of 2012 said, ‘Twenty-two defendants, two hung juries, three acquittals, zero convictions, and the eventual dismissal of all the indictments. The DOJ’s biggest FCPA flop ever was an over-hyped prosecution that always smelled like entrapment and never should have been brought in the first place.’

Despite the setback, Breuer remained a strong champion of the FCPA and the global fight against graft. A few months ago, he said that since he took over the criminal division in 2009, the number of prosecutors working on FCPA cases had doubled.

He called anti-corruption enforcement one of the DOJ’s ‘signature achievements.’ The United States, he said, is in a unique position to spread ‘the gospel of anti-corruption’ because of its enforcement record.

Lanny Breuer’s DOJ bio is here.

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