Archive for the ‘Obtain or Retain Business’ Category

Did Richard Liedo Win Or Lose?

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding "old" FCPA enforcement actions]

This previous post highlighted the 1989 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against NAPCO International in connection with military sales to the Republic of Niger.  The previous post noted that the DOJ also criminally charged the Vice President of the Aerospace Division of NAPCO and that this individual exercised his constitutional right to a jury trial and put the DOJ to its burden of proof.

That person was Richard Liedo and his enforcement action is worthy of its own post.

Among other things, the Liebo enforcement action resulted in a rare appellate FCPA decision, and an often overlooked one at that given that the court concluded that a jury could find that a subordinate who acted at his supervisor’s direction in providing a thing of value to a foreign official lacked “corrupt” intent.

In this lengthy 62 page criminal indictment, the DOJ charged Liebo in connection with the same bribery scheme alleged in the NAPCO action.  In pertinent part, the DOJ alleged that in connection with aircraft sales to Niger, Liebo conspired with others to violate the FCPA by making payments or authorizing payments of money to “officials of the Government of Niger, that is, Tahirou Barke Doka [the First Counselor of the Embassy of Niger in Washington, D.C.] and Captain Ali Tiemogo [Chief of Maintenance for the air force component of the Niger Ministry of Defense] and “Fatouma Mailelel Boube and Amadou Mailele, both relatives of Tiemogo, while knowing that all or a portion of such money would be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to foreign officials, namely Barke and Tiemogo” for the purpose of “influencing the acts and decisions of Barke and Tiemogo in their official capacities, and inducing them to use their influence with the Ministry of Defense.”

In addition to the conspiracy charge (count 1), the DOJ also charged Liebo with 10 counts of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions (counts 2 – 11), one count of violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions (count 12), three counts of aiding and abetting in the preparation of false corporate income tax returns (counts 13 – 15), and five counts of making false statements to the Defense Security Assistance Agency (DSAA) of the U.S. Department of Defense in connection with the sales (counts 16 – 20).

Liebo exercised his constitutional right to a jury trial and put the DOJ to its burden of proof.

The jury considered 19 charges against Liebo (on the first day of trial, the court granted the DOJ’s motion to dismiss one of the false statement charges) and he was acquitted of 17 charges.  The only charges Liebo was convicted of was one count of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and one count of making a false statement to DSAA.  The FCPA charge related to the payment of $2,028 “for the airline tickets purchased for Barke’s wedding and honeymoon travel.”

As noted in this judgment, Liebo was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.  However, as noted in a Trace Compendium entry, “Liebo only served two of the 18 months, having petitioned for, and eventually received, a retrial.”

As noted in this Eighth Circuit opinion, Liebo appealed and argued on appeal that “his convictions should be reversed because of insufficient evidence and because the district court erred in instructing the jury” and that the “district court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence.”

As to the FCPA anti-bribery charge Liebo was found guilty on, he argued on appeal that: (1) there was insufficient evidence to show that the airline tickets were given to obtain or retain business; and (2) that there was no evidence to show that his gift of honeymoon tickets was done corruptly.

After setting forth the standard of review (i.e. considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the government with all reasonable inferences and credibility determinations made in support of the jury’s verdict), the court stated as follows as to obtain or retain business.

“There is sufficient evidence that the airplane tickets were given to obtain or retain business. Tiemogo testified that the President of Niger would not approve the contracts without his recommendation. He also testified that Liebo promised to “make gestures” to him before the first contract was approved, and that Liebo promised to continue to “make gestures” if the second and third contracts were approved. There was testimony that Barke helped Liebo establish a bank account with a fictitious name, that Barke used money from that account, and that Barke sent some of the money from that account to Tiemogo. Barke testified that he understood Liebo deposited money in the account as “gestures” to Tiemogo for some “of the business that they do have together.”

Although much of this evidence is directly relevant to those counts on which Liebo was acquitted, we believe it appropriate that we consider it in determining the sufficiency of evidence as to the counts on which Liebo was convicted.

[…]

Moreover, sufficient independent evidence exists that the tickets were given to obtain or retain business. Evidence established that Tiemogo and Barke were cousins and best friends. The relationship between Barke and Tiemogo could have allowed a reasonable jury to infer that Liebo made the gift to Barke intending to buy Tiemogo’s help in getting the contracts approved. Indeed, Tiemogo recommended approval of the third contract and the President of Niger approved that contract just a few weeks after Liebo gave the tickets to Barke. Accordingly, a reasonable jury could conclude that the gift was given “to obtain or retain business.”

As to corrupt intent, the court stated as follows.

“Liebo also contends that the evidence at trial failed to show that Liebo acted “corruptly” by buying Barke the airline tickets. In support of this argument, Liebo points to Barke’s testimony that he considered the tickets a “gift” from Liebo personally. Liebo asserts that “corruptly” means that the offer, payment or gift “must be intended to induce the recipient to misuse his official position….”  […] Because Barke considered the tickets to be a personal gift from Liebo, Liebo reasons that no evidence showed that the tickets wrongfully influenced Barke’s actions.

We are satisfied that sufficient evidence existed from which a reasonable jury could find that the airline tickets were given “corruptly.” For example, Liebo gave the airline tickets to Barke shortly before the third contract was approved. In addition, there was undisputed evidence concerning the close relationship between Tiemogo and Barke and Tiemogo’s important role in the contract approval process. There was also testimony that Liebo classified the airline ticket for accounting purposes as a “commission payment.” This evidence could allow a reasonable jury to infer that Liebo gave the tickets to Barke intending to influence the Niger government’s contract approval process. We conclude, therefore, that a reasonable jury could find that Liebo’s gift to Barke was given “corruptly.” Accordingly, sufficient evidence existed to support Liebo’s conviction.”

As to Liebo’s argument on appeal that the “district court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence,” Liebo noted that “two months after his conviction, a NAPCO employee provided Liebo with a memorandum showing [a superior's] approval to the charge of the airline tickets.”  Liebo argued that the discovery of this evidence warranted a new trial.  In support, Liebo argued that “he was acquitted on all other bribery counts for which there was evidence that the payment in question was approved [by a superior].  Liebo argued that evidence of a superior’s approval of the wedding trip was a determinative factor in the jury’s verdict by “pointing to a question sent out by the jury during their deliberations asking whether there was ‘any information regarding authorization for payment of wedding trip.’”

After noting that motions for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence are looked upon with disfavor, the court also noted that “courts have granted a new trial based on newly discovered evidence especially when the evidence supporting the defendant’s conviction is weak.”

The court closed its opinion as follows.

“[T]he evidence against Liebo, while sufficient to sustain the conviction, was not overwhelming. Indeed, we believe that the company president’s approval of the purchase of the tickets is strong evidence from which the jury could have found that Liebo acted at his supervisor’s direction and therefore, did not act “corruptly” by giving the tickets to Barke. Furthermore, we are highly persuaded that the jury considered such approval pivotal, especially in light of the question it submitted to the court during its deliberations and its acquittal of Liebo on the other bribery counts in which evidence of approval existed. Accordingly, we hold that the district court clearly abused its discretion in denying Liebo’s motion for a new trial.”

In the re-trial, Liebo was convicted of aiding and abetting FCPA anti-bribery violations and making a false statement to the DSAA.  He was then sentenced to three years probation, two months home detention, and 400 hours of community service.

Based on all of the above, the question is raised – did Richard Liedo win or lose when he put the DOJ to its burden of proof?

In this the exam grading season, I know where I come out when the one with the burden is 90% unsuccessful.

FCPA Guidance Rewrites The FCPA

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Readers have likely read the FCPA Guidance by now, if not multiple times.

The Guidance contains an appendix that includes, among other things, the text of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  In the Guidance, the enforcement agencies have rewritten the text of the FCPA and this post highlights a statutory construction error that even a first year law student would be expected to understand and recognize.

Set forth below is the text of the FCPA regarding the “obtain or retain business” element.

   ”anything of value to

         any foreign official for purposes of

(A) (i) influencing any act or decision of such foreign official in his official capacity, (ii) inducing such foreign official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official, or (iii) securing any improper advantage; or

(B) inducing such foreign official to use his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality,

         in order to assist such issuer in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person;

Set forth below is how the text of the FCPA is portrayed in the FCPA Guidance.

   “anything of value to

         any foreign official for purposes of

(A) (i) influencing any act or decision of such foreign official in his official capacity, (ii) inducing such foreign official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official, or (iii) securing any improper advantage; or

(B) inducing such foreign official to use his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality, in order to assist such issuer in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person;

On one hand, the obvious error and rewriting of the FCPA in the Guidance could be attributed to scrivener’s error.  After all, both the DOJ’s FCPA website and the SEC’s FCPA website contain accurate versions of the FCPA.

On the other hand, scrivener’s error seems unlikely given the substance of the Guidance and that it appears the DOJ and SEC have always wanted an FCPA statute that doesn’t exist.

As I highlight in my article “Grading the FCPA Guidance,” the most disturbing portion of the Guidance concerns the ‘‘obtain or retain business’’ element of the FCPA. The Guidance asserts that ‘‘in 1998, the FCPA was amended to conform to the requirements of the [OECD] Anti-Bribery Convention,’’ and ‘‘these amendments expanded the FCPA’s scope to include payments made to secure ‘‘any improper advantage.’’

The notion that the FCPA’s 1998 amendments conformed the FCPA to the OECD Convention and expanded the FCPA’s scope to include payments made to secure ‘‘any improper advantage’’ is demonstratively false.

Indeed, the DOJ’s position on this specific issue was rejected by both the trial court and the appellate court in United States v. Kay, a case involving payments to Haitian “foreign officials” for the purpose of reducing customs duties and sales taxes a company owed the Haitian government.

The trial court decision stated:

“The OECD Convention had asked Congress to criminalize payments made to foreign officials ‘‘ ‘in order to obtain or retain business or other improper advantage in the conduct of international business.’’ . . . Congress again declined to amend the ‘‘obtain or retain business’’ language in the FCPA . . . . Congress did not insert the ‘‘improper advantage’’ language into the ‘‘obtain or retain business’’ provision of the FCPA.”

Although the Fifth Circuit overruled the trial court’s decision granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the appellate likewise court stated as follows concerning the FCPA’s 1998 amendments:

“When Congress amended the language of the FCPA, however, rather than inserting ‘any improper advantage’ immediately following ‘obtaining or retaining business’ within the business nexus requirement (as does the Convention), it chose to add the ‘improper advantage’ provision to the original list of abuses of discretion in consideration for bribes that the statute proscribes.’’

Others have pointed out this key statutory difference as well, including Philip Urofsky, a former DOJ Assistant Chief of the Fraud Section.  Writing after the 2010 CustomsGate cases involving use of Panalpina (see here for the prior post), Urofsky stated (here) as follows.

“When criminal liability is at issue … it is important that the borders of the statute be carefully limned. Unfortunately, the government’s pleadings in the Panalpina cases do more to blur than clarify the limits of the law. For example, in some cases, the DOJ did not even plead the language of the FCPA but used instead that of the OECD Convention. For example, in Pride International, the conspiracy count alleged that the payments in question were ‘to make corrupt payments to a Mexico government official in order to obtain or retain business and to obtain other favorable treatment.’  Similarly, in the Noble NPA, the DOJ stated that the FCPA was intended to prohibit bribes ‘for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or securing any improper advantage.’  In each case, the italicized language is simply not a part of the statutory element.”

The enforcement agencies state that the Guidance sets forth “what the law is” and has claimed that the document took nearly a year to draft.

Thus, the above statutory construction error is troubling, yet telling at the same time.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement As Seen Through Wal-Mart’s Potential Exposure

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

I am pleased to share my article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement As Seen Through Wal-Mart’s Potential Exposure” recently published in the Bloomberg BNA White Collar Crime Report.

The abstract is as follows.

High-profile instances of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act scrutiny focus attention on the law and its enforcement across a broad spectrum. In spring 2012, arguably the most high-profile instance of scrutiny in the FCPA’s 35-year history occurred as Wal-Mart’s alleged conduct in Mexico dominated the news cycle. Wal-Mart’s scrutiny has been instructive in many ways at a key point in time for the FCPA. The article uses Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure as a prism to view the current FCPA enforcement environment.

Among the issues discussed in the article are the following: whether Congress intended in passing the FCPA to capture the type of payments at issue in Wal-Mart; what caselaw instructs as to the payments; whether what Congress intended or what courts have concluded even matters; the impact of Wal-Mart’s scrutiny on the company as well as industry peers; and the politicization of Wal-Mart’s scrutiny and its impact on FCPA reform.

The complete article can be downloaded here.

A Wide-Ranging Interview

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The FCPA Report is an online publication that contains articles on a variety of FCPA topics to assist lawyers in relevant practice areas, in-house counsel,  and risk and compliance managers stay ahead of the curve.  It launched this June and features thematic sourced and researched by primarily lawyers, as well as contributed articles by experts in the field, interviews with leading figures, and reports on important developments. It is available to subscribers and trial subscribers at www.fcpareport.com.

I was pleased to do a telephone interview with the FCPA Report in mid-August.  Today’s post sends you to the wide-ranging Q&A previously published, in two parts, in the FCPA Report and linked to here with permission.

Topics covered in the Q&A include the following:  statute of limitations, judicial scrutiny, the duration of FCPA scrutiny, voluntary disclosure, Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny, facilitation payments, obtain or retain business, foreign official, corporate fines, victims issues, a private right of action, FCPA Inc. and the revolving door, the three buckets of FCPA financial exposure and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act reform.

An Important FCPA Case You’ve Likely Never Heard About

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Last week (here) I noted, in connection with Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure, that the enforcement theory that payments outside the context of foreign government procurement fall under the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions has been subjected to judicial scrutiny three times.  After summarizing those three instances, I noted that the scorecard was as follows:  US – 1; Defendants – 2; or if you prefer US – .5; Defendants – 2.5 (recognizing that the 5th Circuit decision in Kay is equivocal).

Last week in doing some research, I stumbled upon a fourth instance where this enforcement theory was subjected to judicial scrutiny.

The result?  DOJ lost.

Thus, the scorecard is as follows when an enforcement agency is put to its burden of proof on the enforcement theory that payments outside the context of foreign government procurement fall under the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions:  US – 1; Defendants – 3; or if you prefer US – .5; Defendants – 3.5 (again recognizing that the 5th Circuit decision in Kay is equivocal).

This 1990 FCPA enforcement action is so obscure it was not even cited in any of the decisions of the other challenges which occurred between 2002-2004.   For instance, in the Kay trial court decision in 2002, the court stated that it was confronting an issue of first impression in the federal courts.

Below is a summary of U.S. v. Alfredo Duran.

AEA Aircraft Recovery (“AEA”) was a division of Summerland Engineering Corp. (a Florida corporation) and engaged in the business of recovery of seized aircraft.  The sole shareholder of Summerland was Robert Gurin.

In 1989, the DOJ charged Joaquin Pou (a Dominican Republic citizen and an agent of AEA, Summerland and Gurin), Alfredo Duran (a U.S. citizen and agent of AEA, Summerland, and Gurin)  and Jose Guasch (a U.S. citizen and agent of AEA, Summerland, and Gurin) with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  See here for the criminal indictment.  In a criminal information (see here) the DOJ also charged Robert Gurin.

According to the charging documents, the defendants conspired to make payments to officials of the Dominican Republic in order to obtain the release of two aircraft seized by the government of the Dominican Republic.  The charging documents then proceed to set forth various acts in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Gurin and Guasch pleaded guilty and Pou (a citizen of the Dominican Republic) became a fugitive.  Gurin was sentenced to 5 years probation and 100 hours of community services and Guasch was sentenced to 4 years probation, 1 month of house arrest and 75 hours of community service.

Duran, a former Florida state Democratic Party chairman, pleaded not guilty and put the DOJ to its burden of proof at trial.  At the close of the DOJ’s case, he filed a motion for judgment of acquittal (see here).  Duran argued that “no reasonable jury could find that the purpose of any of the alleged intended payments was to assist [...] in obtaining or retaining business” and that the government “has failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove any intended payments were not facilitating or expediting payments for the purpose of expediting or securing routine governmental action (i.e. grease payments).”

The motion stated that “the legislative history to the 1977 Act makes clear that the evil redressed by the Act was the use of bribery by U.S. corporations to obtain contracts for the sale of good or services to foreign countries.”  The motion then referenced that in 1988 Congress “created an exception for expediting or facilitating payments for the purpose of securing routine governmental action.”  The motion stated, “by clear implication, payments in respect of the awarding of procurement contracts of the foreign government are the type of payments targeted” by the FCPA.

The motion then stated as follows.  “The evidence, taken in the light most favorable to the government, shows at best that payments were to be made to Joaquin Pou and, through him, to unidentified Dominican government officials for the purpose of obtaining the release of a single aircraft to its owner.  Clearly, this is not what Congress intended by the phrase obtaining or retaining business …  The fact that this intended payment may have indirectly benefited Gurin’s business by facilitating the release of an aircraft does not establish the type of direct business purpose contemplated by the statute.”  Duran argued that “the government has failed to establish that the intended payments in this case were for the specific purpose of obtaining or retaining business … and, accordingly, a judgment of acquittal should be entered.

Turning next to facilitating payments, the motion argued that “the government bears the burden of disapproving that the payment was not a ‘facilitating or expediting payment” and that had “Congress intended the ‘facilitating or expediting payment exception’ to be an affirmative defense, it would have placed it” in the portion of the FCPA containing affirmative defenses.  The motion stated as follows.  “By its nature, therefore, the exception creates an additional element which the government must disprove beyond a reasonable doubt to establish the crime.”  The motion then goes through the legislative history of facilitating payments and how in the original FCPA the concept was imbedded in the definition of “foreign official” and how in 1988 Congress created the stand-alone facilitating payment exception.

As to the evidence at trial, the motion stated as follows.  “Here the evidence introduced by the prosecution is only consistent with a finding that the purpose of the alleged intended payments was to facilitate or expedite the release of an aircraft.  The Defendant had been told by an undercover government informant that there was no legal holds upon the aircraft.  He was led to believe that neither the Dominican Republic nor any other government held any legal claim to or right in the aircraft.  He understood that it was simply a straightforward matter of expediting the release of an aircraft on behalf of the owner.  Any intended payment was simply for the purpose of hurrying along a bureaucratic process.  The purpose of the alleged intended payment was to expedite a routine governmental action.  Consequently, no reasonable jury could conclude that the Defendant agreed upon an illegal objective.”

Elsewhere, the motion stated as follows.  “The facts simply show that the army of the Dominican Republic had no discretion in the matter of the release of the aircraft, and that some government officials were simply trying to line their pockets outside of their official capacities.”  Further the motion stated as follows.  “There was no decision-making process in this case, the facts merely demonstrate a ministerial or clerical matter involving the processing of government papers and the automatic release of the aircraft.”

On April 17, 1990, U.S. District Court Judge Jame Kehoe granted a judgment of acquittal (see here).

Original source media accounts note that  Judge Kehoe said “the government failed to prove the charges against [Duran] were a crime under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”  According to media reports, Judge Kehoe refused a government request to stay acquittal while prosecutors appealed.  Duran is reported as stating, “I feel that I have been throughly vindicated.  I was ready to take the stand in my own defense.  I am very happy.”

An additional dynamic in the case was that Pou fled the U.S. and Judge Kehoe agreed with the defense that all evidence concerning Pou should be excluded from the case.

According to media reports, the case began when the Government used an informant to pose as an agent for the owner of a drug plane seized by the Dominican military.    Media reports suggest that the government was investigating Gurin in light of allegations he had bribed high-ranking military officials in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries to recover drug planes.