In April 2009, Stuart and Hong Carson (husband and wife) were criminally charged, along with other defendants who were also former employees of Control Components Inc. (CCI), in a criminal indictment (here) for engaging in ”a conspiracy to secure contracts by paying bribes to officials of foreign state-owned companies as well as officers and employees of foreign and domestic private companies.”

The indictment alleged as follows.

“Company A’s state-owned customers included, but were not limited to, Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation (“JNPC”)  (China), Guohua Electric Power (China), China Petroleum Materials and Equipment Corporation (“CPMEC”), PetroChina, Dongfang  Electric Corporation (China), China National Offshore Oil Corporation (“CNOOC”), Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (“KHNP”),  Petronas (Malaysia), and National Petroleum Construction Company (“NPCC”) (United Arab Emirates).  Each of these state-owned entities was a department, agency, and instrumentality of a  foreign government, within the meaning of the FCPA. The officers  and employees of these entities, including the Vice-Presidents, Engineering Managers, General Managers, Procurement Managers, and Purchasing Officers, were “foreign officials” within the meaning of the FCPA.”

As noted in the DOJ release (here), Stuart Carson was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and the Travel Act, and two counts of violating the FCPA.  Hong Carson was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and the Travel Act, five counts of violating the FCPA, and one count of destruction of records in connection with a matter within the jurisdiction of a department or agency of the United States.  This latter charge was ultimately dismissed by the DOJ.  As stated in the DOJ release, “in the period from 2003 through 2007, the defendants caused the valve company to pay approximately $4.9 million in bribes, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), to officials of foreign state-owned companies …”.

Shortly thereafter, Control Components Inc. resolved an FCPA enforcement action based on the same core set of conduct alleged in the above indictment.  (See here for the prior post).  I noted, then, as I had since launching this website in July 2009, that DOJ’s position that employees of state-owned companies, regardless of position, are “foreign officials” under the FCPA is an unchallenged and untested legal theory – and one I believe is ripe for challenge.

In February 2011 (as noted in this prior post), for the first time in FCPA history, a federal court judge, with the benefit of a detailed and complete overview of the FCPA’s extensive legislative history on the “foreign official” element, was asked to rule on the DOJ’s interpretation that employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled enterprises are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.  My declaration on the FCPA’s legislative history relevant to “foreign official” (here) was used in the “foreign official” motion to dismiss.

In May 2011 (as noted in this prior post), Judge James Selna denied the “foreign official” motion to dismiss and concluded that “the question of whether state-owned companies qualify as instrumentalities under the FCPA is a question of fact.”  The “foreign official” issue thus moved to the jury instructions (as noted in this prior post).

In February 2012 (as noted in this prior post), Judge Selna issued certain jury instructions.  Not surprisingly, Judge Selna carried forward his previous “instrumentality” analysis into the “instrumentality” jury instruction.  Yet, in a significant development in terms of the future of the case, Judge Selna issued an instruction titled “knowledge of status of foreign official.”  In pertinent part, the instruction stated as follows.

[.....]

“(4) The defendant offered, paid, promised to pay, or authorized the payment of money, or offered, gave, promised to give, or authorized the giving of anything of value to a foreign official;

(5) The payment or gift at issue in element 4 was to (a) a person the defendant knew or believed was a foreign official or (b) any person and the defendant knew that all or a portion of such money or thing of value would be offered, given, or promised (directly or indirectly) to a person the defendant knew or believed to be a foreign official. Belief that an individual was a foreign official does not satisfy this element if the individual was not in fact a foreign official.”

In his order, Judge Selna stated as follows.

“The Government proposes to add the following paragraph to element 5:”

The government need not prove that the defendant knew the legal definition of “foreign official” under the FCPA or knew that the intended recipient of the payment or gift fell within the legal definition. The defendant need not know in what specific official capacity the intended recipient was acting, but the defendant must have known or believed that the intended recipient had authority to act in a certain manner as specified in element 6.”

The Court does not believe that this language is necessary, and it is potentially confusing.”

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced (here) that Stuart Carson and Hong Carson “each pleaded guilty … before U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., to separate one-count superseding informations charging them with making a corrupt payment to a foreign government official in violation of the FCPA.”

Unlike the original indictment, the four page superseding information as to Stuart Carson (here) focuses solely on Turow Power Plant in Poland and states as follows.  “Turow was a department, agency, and instrumentality of a foreign government, within the meaning of the FCPA, [...].  The officers and employees of Turow were “foreign officials” within the meaning of the FCPA.”  The superseding information states that on March 8, 2000, Stuart Carson “corruptly caused an e-mail to be sent authorizing the payment of approximately $16,000 to officials of Turow for the purpose of securing Turow’s business.”

Unlike the original indictment, the four page superseding information as to Hong Carson (here) focuses solely on Kuosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Taiwan and states as follows.  “Kuoshen was a department, agency, and instrumentality of a foreign government, within the meaning of the FCPA, [...].  The officers and employees of Kuosheng were “foreign officials” within the meaning of the FCPA.  The superseding information states that on August 14, 2002, Hong Carson “corruptly caused an e-mail to be sent authorizing the payment of $40,000 to officials of Kuosheng for the purposes of securing Kuosheng’s business.”

As noted in the DOJ’s release, “at sentencing (Oct. 15, 2012), Stuart Carson, 73, faces up to 10 months in prison.  Rose Carson, 48, faces a sentence of three years probation, which may include up to six months of home confinement.”

The conclusions are yours to reach.

Paul Cosgrove and David Edmonds remain defendants in the case and their trial is scheduled for June.

*****

Previous posts here and here discussed the motion to suppress filed by Cosgrove and Edmonds (joined by Hong Carson) to suppress certain statements made by the individuals to CCI and its counsel (Steptoe & Johnson) on the basis that its counsel were de facto public actors and that CCI’s actions in compelling their statements were “fairly attributable to the government” and ought to be suppressed.

Earlier this week, Judge Selna, whose practice is to issue tentative rulings, tentatively ruled (here), in connection with a subpoena to Steptoe & Johnson, that production must be made as to the following.  “All communications exchanged between Steptoe, IMI, and/or CCI on the one hand, and the United States Department of Justice, on the other hand during the period August 10 through August 25 2007 which relate to interviews of CCI employees, taken or to be taken, for the purpose of investigating actual or suspected violations of the [FCPA and Travel Act].  This includes but is not limited to all e-mails exchanged between Patrick Norton (Steptoe & Johnson) and Mark Mendelsohn (former DOJ FCPA unit chief).  Judge Selna noted that such information “could yield admissible evidence under the defendants’ Government-actor theory of agreements or understanding between Steptoe that would render Steptoe lawyers agents of the Government, specifically the Department of Justice, at the time the interviews of defendants were conducted.”

Judge Selna also issued another tentative ruling (here) regarding various aspects of the subpoena to Steptoe & Johnson that will be of interest to FCPA practitioners.