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Entries in David. H. Mead (8)

Wednesday
Apr062011

FCPA Defendants Face Long Odds

In Los Angeles this week, the trial of Lindsey Manufacturing, Dr. Keith Lindsey, Steve K. Lee, and Angela Aguilar opened in federal court. On Friday, they lost their motion to dismiss the case when the judge ruled that officers of the Mexican electric utility CFE, who the defendants allegedly bribed, aren't foreign officials under the FCPA.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May112010

The Hard Timers

Compliance officers will want to keep a copy of the table below close at hand. What better way to answer those who insist that the FCPA is small potatoes, after all, when you look at the relatively few enforcement actions over the past 33 years.

Here are the 22 men (no women so far), most of them former company executives, who've spent time in prison for FCPA-related convictions. Each name that follows represents a terrible tragedy, often with permanent damage extending to families. As the compiler of the list said: "By my count there have been 187 people charged with violating the FCPA. This list will look a little different at the end of the year."

We'd like to thank the generous individual responsible for this post, but that's not possible. He or she has asked to remain anonymous, making this contribution pro bono publico.

The information is compiled from the Federal Bureau of Prisons' inmate locator. Readers with suggestions and corrections are welcome to let us know.

 

Name

Related Company

Register #

Age Race Sex

Release Date

Location

FERNANDO MAYA BASURTO

ABB Ltd

39135-177

48-White-M

UNKNOWN

HOUSTON FDC

CHARLES PAUL EDWARD JUMET

Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation

75638-083

53-White-M

UNKNOWN

NOT IN BOP CUSTODY

SULEIMAN A NASSAR

Lockheed

45723-019

73-White-M

11/19/1996

RELEASED

DAVID H MEAD

Saybolt

79529-079

72-White-M

7/21/1999

RELEASED

HERBERT STEINDLER

General Electric

02423-061

71-White-M

3/13/2000

RELEASED

HERBERT LAWRENCE TANNENBAUM

Tanner Management Corp

82537-054

85-White-M

4/20/2000

RELEASED

RICHARD G PITCHFORD

Central Asia American Enterprise Fund

26036-016

75-White-M

12/4/2003

RELEASED

ROBERT RICHARD KING

Owl Securities and Investments

14447-045

76-White-M

6/30/2006

RELEASED

STEVEN LYNWOOD HEAD

Titan

95321-198

63-White-M

9/29/2008

RELEASED

YAW OSEI AMOAKO

ITXC Corporation

60267-050

58-Black-M

12/17/2008

RELEASED

PAUL GRAYSON NOVAK

Willbros

43505-279

43-White-M

12/19/2008

RELEASED

ROGER MICHAEL YOUNG

ITXC Corporation

29574-016

49-White-M

4/10/2009

RELEASED

STEVEN JOSEPH OTT

ITXC Corporation

60540-050

50-White-M

6/17/2009

RELEASED

RAMENDRA BASU

World Bank

29254-016

47-White-M

8/7/2009

RELEASED

FAHEEM MOUSA SALAM

 

28567-016

32-White-M

1/7/2010

RELEASED

MISAO HIOKI

Bridgestone

90290-111

56-Asian-M

11/23/2010

LOMPOC USP

DAVID KAY

American Rice

13749-179

58-White-M

1/27/2011

TEXARKANA FCI

JIM BOB BROWN

Willbros

66158-179

48-White-M

1/29/2011

ATLANTA USP

CHRISTIAN SAPSIZIAN

Alcatel SA

78172-004

63-White-M

3/18/2011

NE OHIO CORR CTR CI

JASON EDWARD STEPH

Willbros

36444-177

40-White-M

3/28/2011

EL RENO FCI

DOUGLAS MURPHY

American Rice

13987-179

53-White-M

12/31/2012

EL RENO FCI

SHU QUAN-SHENG

AMAC International

58250-083

69-Asian-M

2/18/2013

LA TUNA FCI

 

Monday
Sep142009

No Hollywood Ending

An LA jury needed not days but hours to convict the husband-and-wife movie producers of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They were also found guilty on related charges, including conspiracy, money laundering, and tax cheating. Gerald Green, 77, and Patricia, 52, are facing at least ten years behind bars and maybe a lot more for bribing a Thai official in exchange for contracts to produce the Bangkok Film Festival.

The trial's tragic outcome shouldn't surprise anyone. There hasn't been an acquittal in an FCPA prosecution since 1991. Not one. That's why comments from Patricia Green's lawyer are hard to understand. Marilyn Bednarski told the LA Times here, "To me it’s a case of circumstantial evidence . . . the people of Thailand were not victimized in any way" because the Greens provided "top notch services." Really?

Gerald Green's lawyer, Jerome Mooney, was more in touch. The DOJ used the case, he said, partly to send a warning to the entertainment industry: clean up the way you deal with "community relations" in foreign countries, or else. "We understand the government taking a shot across the bow of Hollywood," Mooney said. "We just wish the shell hadn't landed on our clients' boat."

From the convictions this year of the Greens, Frederic Bourke and William Jefferson, and those from prior years of David Kay, Douglas Murphy and David Mead, and all the prosecutions and guilty pleas in between, here are some things that every FCPA defendant should keep in mind before their trial starts:

Juries hate graft. FCPA cases are about bribes to corrupt foreign officials. They're about sophisticated and often wealthy people looking for shortcuts, hoping to subvert foreign governments for personal or corporate gain. Wheeling and dealing in exotic places. Flashing cash and pulling strings. Juries lap it up. As we've said before, even if the government's evidence isn't rock solid on all the elements of an FCPA offense, the jury will still get the picture that people stepped over the line of acceptable business behavior. And they'll convict.

There are clouds of witnesses. Forget lone wolves and rogue employees. Foreign bribery is usually a team effort. When the government gets a whiff of the plot, it hauls in everyone -- from those who might have had a hand in it to anyone who could have overheard talk at the water cooler. If it's early in the investigation, the bit players can be persuaded to turn, to become the government's cooperating witnesses or confidential informants. Supporting actors are given immunity or offered the hope of lighter sentences. So they sing about their bosses, colleagues, friends. They have extra incentive if they blame the aforementioned for dragging them into the criminal activity.

Evidence is everywhere. Bribes have to be planned, funded, paid, and covered up. There's always someone on the receiving end, so the complications multiply. It all takes a lot of work and usually leaves behind a trail that's easy to find and follow. Phony contracts and dummy invoices, hot money bouncing from bank to bank, fake agents and distributors, shell companies as fronts, two sets of books, and so on.

Show and tell. These days the government is likely to show up for trial with audio tapes of the accused discussing the bribes or videos showing the actual handover of cash. "Wearing a wire" once meant strapping to your torso an awkward piece of electronic gear the size of a croissant. Not any more. A cell phone on the table can be an open mic. A spy pen in the breast pocket can capture or broadcast sound and pictures. Scary stuff. And once the feds have tapes, they may not even need the cooperating witnesses or informants at the trial.

Related charges a-plenty. In foreign bribery cases, the government might start with FCPA charges. But remember: bribes to foreign officials need to be planned, funded, paid, and covered up. So there's usually a conspiracy, money laundering, traveling to commit the offense, fraud and obstruction in the cover-up, and tax-cheating to boot. What a mess. The government can throw a lot of mud at the wall. If some doesn't stick, so what? Prosecutors can drop weak charges later and plow ahead with the rest.

Examples: Frederic Bourke was convicted of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and a Travel Act offense, but not the FCPA itself. William Jefferson was acquitted of a substantive FCPA charge but found guilty of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, soliciting and taking bribes, depriving citizens of honest services, money laundering and racketeering, and conspiracy to solicit bribes. Gerald Green beat the obstruction rap -- the government ended up dropping the charge -- but he and his wife were convicted of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, eight violations of the FCPA and seven counts of money laundering. Mrs. Green was also found guilty of two counts of falsely subscribing a U.S. tax return.
_______

Not everyone accused of violating the FCPA is guilty. And certainly those accused and awaiting trial are presumed innocent unless and until found guilty in a court of law. But with no acquittals in an FCPA trial since 1991, defendants and their counsel should have their eyes wide open about their chances in court.

View prior posts about the Greens here.
.

Tuesday
Sep082009

The Face Of A Fugitive

He's the only FCPA fugitive with his own wanted poster. That's how we know Frerik Pluimers is a big guy -- six three, two hundred thirty-five pounds. Brown hair, brown eyes. Born September 30, 1946. Netherlands passport number W118268941. Indicted in April 1998, when he was president and CEO of New Jersey-based Saybolt International -- charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Travel Act, aiding and abetting and conspiracy. He was in Rotterdam, Holland when indicted and didn't come back to the U.S. to face prosecution.

A decade passed with no sign of Pluimers. Then, in March 2008, a Washington, D.C. lawyer appeared in federal court on his behalf. The lawyer, J. Sedwick Sollers, III, had some big news. His client, he said, was "scheduled to appear before the Court for arraignment, guilty plea and sentencing on March 28, 2008."

What happened next? Nothing. There's no record of Pluimers appearing in court on that day or any other. In fact, there's nothing in the docket after Sollers' notice. Pluimers had said, through the lawyer, that he'd be there. But he never showed up. Strange.

And about Pluimers' wanted poster. It's not from the Justice Department or the FBI, as you'd expect in an FCPA case, but the Environmental Protection Agency. Why the EPA? Here's what we know.

In the mid-1990s, Pluimers' former company, Saybolt, falsified results for gasoline it tested by understating lead emissions. In January 1999, the company pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and wire fraud. It paid a $4.9 million fine and spent five years on probation. A former Saybolt vice president, Thomas M. Hayes, was also convicted under the Clean Air Act and sentenced to 57 months in prison.

While digging into Saybolt, the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division had discovered a $50,000 bribe in 1995 to a Panamanian government official. In exchange, Saybolt won tax concessions and access to a prime business location along the Panama Canal. Indicted in 1998 for the bribe were Pluimers, along with his colleague David H. Mead. Mead went to trial and was found guilty. He served four months in prison and paid a $20,000 fine (here). But Pluimers ran.

Why, though, is the EPA chasing him? His indictment relates only to the Panama bribe. That's not the EPA's turf. So maybe there's something more. Maybe the EPA also indicted him along the way for criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, but decided to keep the indictment sealed until the day of his arrest, which hasn't come yet.

The lawyer who said in March 2008 that Pluimers would turn himself in defends both environmental and FCPA cases. Was Pluimers ready to cut a deal with the DOJ and EPA? Looks like it. Did something or someone spook him at the last minute? Could be. Whatever happened, Frerik Pluimers, the man on the wanted poster, is still an FCPA fugitive.

Download the November 1, 2008 U.S. EPA / CID Wanted Poster of Frerik Pluimers here.

Download the March 24, 2008 Notice of Appearance: J. Sedwick Sollers, III, appearing for Frerik Pluimers in USA v. MEAD, et al , U.S. District Court District of New Jersey, Case No.: 3:98-cr-00240-AET-2 here.

A special thanks to Cody Worthington in Washington, D.C. for his research for this post.
.

Tuesday
Apr282009

Catching Corrupt Lawyers, Part II

A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns. -- Mario Puzo

With that street-smart aphorism in mind, we went looking for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act-related cases where lawyers were alleged to be on the wrong side of the law.

Turns out there aren't many. Here's the rundown:

Jeffrey Tesler -- indicted by a Houston grand jury in February. Prosecutors say he was a middleman who handled or arranged corrupt payments from KBR to Nigerian officials. The London lawyer was arrested by British police in March at the request of American authorities, who are trying to extradite him to stand trial in the U.S.

Two American law firms were mentioned in November 2008 during an anti--corruption sweep in China. Avon had disclosed possible FCPA violations involving payments to Chinese regulators. Authorities there were reported to be reviewing foreign investment cases in which the two U.S. firms with offices in Hong Kong and Beijing played a role. The firms (and their lawyers) haven't been named.

J. Bryan Williams, a lawyer in Virginia, was an executive at Mobil Oil. He was also a friend of James H. Giffen, an American businessman arrested in New York in 2003 for paying $78 million in bribes to an adviser of Kazakhstan's president and former oil and gas minister. Williams took a $2 million kickback from Giffen for helping negotiate a deal involving Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field. Williams pleaded guilty in September 2003 to tax charges and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. Giffen is awaiting trial.

Hans Bodmer, a Swiss lawyer, represented Viktor Kozeny, the Czech-born fugitive charged with Frederic Bourke with bribing government officials in Azerbaijan. Bodmer was indicted by a New York federal grand jury in August 2003 on single counts of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to launder money. The court dismissed the FCPA charge, ruling that before being amended in 1998, the FCPA didn't apply to non-U.S.-resident foreign nationals who served as agents of domestic concerns. Bodmer then pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money. He's never been sentenced.

Attorney Philippe S.E. Schreiber represented Saybolt Inc. It's president, David Mead, said during his 1998 trial that he paid a $50,000 bribe to government officials in Panama only after Schreiber said it wouldn't violate the FCPA. That advice was wrong. Saybolt and Mead were charged with violating the FCPA. Mead was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison, home detention and probation, and a $20,000 fine; Saybolt's FCPA offenses resulted in five-years probation and a $1,500,000 fine. And Schreiber? Saybolt's shareholders sued him for legal malpractice (the case was settled in 2005); and the government never indicted him.

Alfredo Duran, a Miami lawyer, was charged in 1989 with arranging a bribe to officials in the Dominican Republic. The government said a $20,000 to $30,000 payment was intended to secure release of an airplane confiscated in a drug case. Duran's co-defendant jumped bail and returned to the Dominican Republic. At Duran's federal trial in Florida on FCPA charges, the court excluded evidence concerning the fugitive co-defendant, resulting in Duran's acquittal.

In 1994, attorney Harold Katz was indicted for bribing an Israeli Air Force officer to induce the purchase and maintenance of GE aircraft engines worth $300 million. The bribes, paid into Swiss bank accounts, totaled $7.8 million. A co-defendant was charged under the FCPA, while Katz faced mail and wire fraud and money laundering charges. He was never apprehended and remains a fugitive.

* * *
That's it, then. Pretty thin record, isn't it? So the verdict on Mr. Puzo's wisdom about that briefcase? Well, either he's wrong when it comes to the FCPA and lawyers aren't the culprits after all. Or he's right and they don't get caught.
.

Thursday
May012008

May It Please The Court

We enjoy a good argument just as much as the next lawyer. Stare decisis, analogy, plain meaning, ambiguity -- bring 'em on. Which is why it took us awhile -- the better part of two decades, but who's counting -- to firmly grasp this simple idea: When it comes to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, forget the fancy lawyer stuff.

If the few reported FCPA criminal trials have taught anything, it's that legalistic quibbling and the FCPA don't mix. David H. Mead learned that in 1998. Mead, it has to be said, had a great-looking defense. Evidence at trial showed he'd paid a bribe in Panama on the advice of counsel. His company's lawyer, whom he trusted, told him a payment via a Dutch subsidiary to a Panamanian official wouldn't violate the FCPA. So, he argued, if he was acting on the advice of trusted counsel, how could he have had any corrupt intent to violate the FCPA? It must have shocked Mead and his lawyers when the jury convicted him anyway.

David Kay and Douglas Murphy, in their 2002 criminal trial on FCPA charges, argued that bribes to reduce their company's taxes in Haiti couldn't violate the FCPA. Those bribes, they said, weren't about "obtaining or retaining business" and so aren't covered by the antibribery provisions. The trial court bought the argument and dismissed the case. But the appellate court shot them down, and hard. "A man of common intelligence," it ruled, "would have understood that . . . in bribing foreign officials, [Kay and Murphy were] treading close to a reasonably-defined line of illegality. . . . Defendants took this risk, and splitting hairs . . . does not allow them to argue successfully that the FCPA’s standards were vague."

It's not every day that a United States appellate court describes defendants as hairsplitters, an epithet which shouldn't encourage anyone to put the FCPA under a microscope and begin dissecting it with tiny scalpels. By doing just that, Kay and Murphy landed prison terms of 37 months and 63 months respectively. Meade, meanwhile, was sentenced to four months in federal prison for his counsel-induced FCPA violation.

Years before Meade, Kay and Murphy took their chances in court and lost, another defendant had come up short in an FCPA criminal case. Although a jury acquitted Richard H. Liebo on seventeen FCPA-related counts, it convicted him of one count of violating the antibribery provisions, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1(a)(1), (3); 78dd-2(a)(1), (3); 78dd-2(b)(1)(B) and 78ff(c)(2) (1988), and making a false statement to a government agency, 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (1988). U.S. v. Richard H. Liebo (Cr. No. 4-89-76) (D. Minn., Mar. 1989); 923 F.2d, 1308 (8th Cir. Minn., Jan. 15, 1991).

In 1985, Liebo bought airplane tickets (Niger - Paris - Stockholm - London - Niger; cost - $2,028) for a honeymooning government official from Niger. Liebo was then the vice-president in charge of the Aerospace division of NAPCO International, Inc., located in Hopkins, Minnesota. NAPCO's primary business consisted of selling military equipment and supplies. In Niger, it wanted to service two Lockheed C-130 cargo planes for the Ministry of Defense. The honeymooning Niger official receiving the air tickets was a cousin of another official who could (and did) influence the award of the contract to NAPCO.

Liebo appealed his conviction, arguing that his gift-giving couldn't support the jury's findings. Lawyers at the time thought Liebo's arguments were strong. True, the FCPA prohibits "gifts" that are given "corruptly" for the purpose of "obtaining or retaining business." But, Liebo argued, his gift was just . . . a gift. And the recipient himself said he understood the tickets were from Liebo personally and not from NAPCO. How then, Liebo argued, could the jury find that he acted "corruptly" within the meaning of the FCPA? Such a result would kill gift-giving practices in the commercial world forever, and that couldn't be what the FCPA intended.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit not only rejected Liebo's arguments, it did so with a decisiveness and brevity that took the defense bar's breath away. With minimal discussion about the evidence itself, the court said, "There is sufficient evidence that the airplane tickets were given to obtain or retain business. . . .We are satisfied that sufficient evidence existed from which a reasonable jury could find that the airline tickets were given 'corruptly.'" That was that.

Liebo, however, did win a new trial on another issue. There was newly discovered evidence, he said -- a memo from his corporate superior showing that Liebo's payment for the honeymoon travel was approved by NAPCO. The appellate court ruled that the jury, with the benefit of that evidence, might have found that Liebo didn't act “corruptly” in giving the tickets, if he'd acted at his supervisor’s direction. That looked promising for Liebo, but it didn't change anything. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended with three years’ probation, with 60 days of home confinement and 600 hours of community service.

The lesson from all these cases? The elements of an antibribery offense may look to a 1L as though they're riddled with loopholes. And it's tempting to argue that "gift" and "corruptly" and "obtaining or retaining business" are ambiguous and vulnerable to legal attack. But while lawyers should always think like lawyers, they should also remember that most juries and appellate courts haven't been sympathetic. Jurors and judges, it appears, just don't like it when people pay bribes to foreign officials. That's why, in FCPA trials, lots of smart lawyers have been sent to the showers before anyone even worked up a good sweat.

U.S. v. Liebo, 923 F.2d, 1308 (8th Cir. Minn., Jan. 15, 1991), can be viewed at the Public Library of Law (by free registration) here.

Wednesday
Feb132008

U.S. v. Green, Take One

Two weeks from now, in a Los Angeles federal district court, the husband-and-wife Hollywood movie producers charged with violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act will go on trial. Gerald and Patricia Green were arrested last December and are out on bail. They're accused of bribing a Thai government official with kickbacks of more than $1.7 million in exchange for a film festival contract worth $10 million.

We're not privy to the Greens' defense, of course, but they appear to have a tough legal battle ahead of them. Here are some reasons why:

-- CW-1 and CW-2. According to the FBI's 28-page affidavit, at least two former insiders identified as Confidential Witnesses One and Two are giving evidence against the Greens, and it's juicy. The FBI says the CWs prepared the budgets, arranged the meetings, wrote the checks and ran the bank accounts that are now at the center of the case. The government says it has physical evidence too. When the police raided the Greens' office, among the goods seized was a spreadsheet showing the details of each kickback. And earlier in the investigation, FBI agents even jetted to Thailand to watch (and perhaps listen?) as Mr. Green met with the Thai government official to seal their allegedly corrupt deal. The Greens' defense lawyers, it appears, will have an armory full of smoking guns to deal with at the trial.

-- War on multiple fronts. In addition to the FCPA charges, the government might raise allegations of fraud and obstruction. That's important because the elements of an FCPA offense can be complicated to prove. When prosecutors think they can obtain a conviction based on other charges, as they did in Oscar Wyatt's trial, they'll usually try to do that. Paragraph 12 of the FBI's affidavit is a potential blueprint. It says, "The defendants attempted to conceal their bribery of the Thai official in a variety of ways, among other things, by: (a) employing different business entities, some with dummy business addresses and telephone numbers, in their dealings with the [Tourism Authority of Thailand] in order to hide the large amount of money they were being paid under the contracts; (b) making 'commission' payments to the Thai official through the foreign bank accounts of intermediaries; and (c) once the government's investigation became known to the defendants, attempting to manufacture evidence in support of false, exculpatory explanations for the corrupt payments."

-- There's something rotten in Denmark. The Greens' story as the government is telling it sounds like an Elmore Leonard movie script. Here's the pitch: A high-powered Hollywood couple befriend a Thai government official who controls a prestigious film festival in exotic Bangkok. She's crooked, so she and the Greens hatch a plan. She'll give them the exclusive no-bid right to promote the festival, and they'll kick back a part of every dollar they make. Together the plotters create shell companies and phony invoices. They use borrowed bank accounts, and so much more. The plan works perfectly. But one day someone close to the Greens betrays them and calls the feds. It's a great story, and that's probably bad news for the Greens. Even if the government's evidence isn't rock solid on all the elements of an FCPA offense, the jury will still get the picture that people stepped over the line of acceptable business behavior. To understand the significance, consider what happened to poor David H. Mead, the former president of Saybolt Inc. In 1998, a jury in New Jersey convicted him of paying a $50,000 bribe to government officials in Panama in violation of the FCPA. Mead had admitted making the payment but pleaded not guilty. He only paid the bribe, he said, because the company's outside lawyer assured him it could be done legally from Saybolt's Dutch affiliate. So his defense was that he didn't act "knowingly" to violate the FCPA, which the statute requires. His defense looked great on paper but the jury convicted him anyway. Why? Probably because they just didn't want a $50,000 bribe to a corrupt government official in Panama to go unpunished. Will the government's version of a similarly sordid tale in U.S. v. Green have the same effect on the jury?

-- For better or for worse. Any time family members appear as co-defendants in a criminal case, the defense has a problem. The FBI affidavit separates Mrs. Green's role from her husband's somewhat by indicating that she was part of the conspiracy but less involved in the substantive FCPA violation. But just by bringing her into the case, the government is putting enormous pressure on Mr. Green. He'll want to spare her a trial and possible jail time. And presumably Mrs. Green, who's in her early 50s, will be desperately trying to keep her 75-year-old husband out of jail. Will these terrible worries convince the Greens either to cop a plea before trial or to shape their defense to save one of them from prison?

-- Looking at the numbers. Perry Mason's lucky clients were assured of a successful outcome in their criminal trials. But real-life FCPA defendants have fared much worse. Most accused individuals have plea bargained to avoid jail time -- FCPA convictions carry a prison term of up to five years. Of the few people who've gone to trial since 1991, none have been acquitted. Dan Newcomb, in his invaluable 2007 FCPA Digest, sorts the numbers out this way: "Since, 1990, DOJ prosecutions under the FCPA against seventy-one individual defendants and corporations have been resolved. Of those seventy-one, forty-three were resolved through plea agreements. In only four of those cases was there a conviction after trial. In the cases where a plea was taken or a defendant was convicted, defendants were sentenced to a term in prison, fined, or both. Sentences have been imposed in 26 of those cases, and sentencing has been deferred in two others. Recently, the defendants in U.S. v. David Kay and Douglas Murphy received terms of 37 months and 63 months, respectively. In 1990, seven prosecutions ended in a dismissal of the charges. Since then, only one case (in 2004) has been dismissed. Also, during the years 1990 and 1991 there were five acquittals after trial. There have not been any since. In addition, at least four individuals have failed to appear in court to answer the charges against them." There's not much there to cheer the Greens as their trial date approaches.

View the FBI's Affidavit here.

View the 2007 FCPA Digest here.

View prior posts about the Greens here.

Wednesday
Oct032007

The "I Didn't Know" Defense

As defenses against the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act go, "I didn't know" is among the most popular. I didn't know it was against the law. I didn't know our agent would give money to foreign officials. I didn't know our partner's brother-in-law works for the prime minister. Often the defense has no visible means of support and is only a handy excuse. Other times, though, the defense is sincere and looks strong. But even then it probably won't work, as David H. Mead discovered the hard way back in 1998.

Mead, the former president of Saybolt Inc., was charged with violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions by making a $50,000 corrupt payment to government officials in Panama. Mead pleaded not guilty and went to trial. His defense rested in part on evidence that Saybolt's former outside counsel had advised that the $50,000 payment might not violate the FCPA if it came from Saybolt's Dutch affiliate. That advice was wrong, and Saybolt and Mead were indicted. Saybolt -- which later sued its former lawyer for legal malpractice -- pleaded guilty and paid a $1.5 million fine.

At Mead's trial, prosecutors had the burden of proving Mead acted with "knowledge" that the $50,000 payment was illegal under U.S. law. In his instructions to the jury, the judge explained the concept of legal "knowledge" and how the jury could determine what Mead knew:
_____________

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury:

The element of knowledge may be satisfied by inferences you may draw if you find that the defendant deliberately closed his eyes to what otherwise would have been obvious to him. When knowledge of the existence of a particular fact is an element of the offense, such knowledge may be established if a person is aware of a high probability of its existence and then fails to take action to determine whether it is true or not.

If the evidence shows you that the defendant actually believed that the transaction was legal, he cannot be convicted. Nor can he be convicted for being stupid or negligent or mistaken; more is required than that. But a defendant’s knowledge of a fact may be inferred from willful blindness to the knowledge or information indicating that there was a high probability that there was something forbidden or illegal about the contemplated transaction and payment. It is the jury’s function to determine whether or not the defendant deliberately closed his eyes to the inferences and the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence here.
_____________

The jury, for some reason, didn't believe that Mead believed the payment was legal. Nor did the jury believe he had been stupid or negligent or mistaken. Had he been willfully blind? That would mean he knew more than Saybolt's own lawyer. Unfortunately for Mead, in the face of the evidence the jury somehow found that he had "knowledge" the payment would violate the law. He was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison, home detention and probation, and a $20,000 fine. The best explanation is that the New Jersey jury simply didn't want a $50,000 bribe to a government official in Panama to go unpunished.

If the "I didn't know" defense didn't work back then for David H. Mead -- who violated the FCPA on the advice of counsel -- then it's unlikely to work now in most other cases.

See U.S. v. David H. Mead and Frerik Pluimers (Cr. No. 98-240-01), D.N.J., 1998. See also Stichting Ter Behartiging Van De Belangen Van Oudaandeelhouders In Het Kapitaal Van Saybolt International B.V. (Foundation of the Former Shareholders of Saybolt International B.V.) v. Philippe S.E. Schreiber and Walter, Conston, Alexander & Green P.C. (S.D.N.Y.) (99 Civ. 114411, Memorandum Order, Filed June 13, 2001) and U.S. v. Saybolt North America Inc. (Cr. No. 98CR10266WGY), D. Mass., Aug. 18, 1998.