When listing reasons why FCPA enforcement has increased, the 78dd-3 prong of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions should be on the list.

The FCPA, since its inception in 1977, always applied to “issuers” and “domestic concerns”, but the 1998 amendments added a third prong providing jurisdiction as to “persons other than issuers or domestic concerns.”

As to this class of persons, the FCPA provides the following jurisdictional requirement: “while in the territory of the United States, corruptly to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce or to do any other act in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value …”. (emphasis added).

Several recent FCPA enforcement actions have been based on the dd-3 prong of the statute including the actions against the Daimler subsidiaries (see here, here, and here); SSI International Far East (see here); and others.

In the Daimler actions, the jurisdictional statements in the charging documents are as follows. “wire transfers … sent from Daimler accounts in Germany to financial institutions in the United States and elsewhere, via international and interstate wires, in furtherance of corrupt payments to Russian government officials;” “payments to third party agents, including shell companies established in the United States knowing that such payments would be passed on in whole or in part to Russian government officials;” ” “wire transfers … sent from Daimler accounts in Germany to financial institutions in the United States and elsewhere, via international and interstate wires, in furtherance of corrupt payments to Chinese government officials;” and “enter[ing] into sham consulting contracts with shell companies incorporated in Delaware and Wyoming for the purpose of making improper payments to Croatian government officials.”

In SSI, the jurisdictional statement in the charging document is as follows. SSI ” transmitted requests to the United States for approval and wire transfer of funds for payment to managers of Schnitzer Steel’s customers in South Korea and China in connection with sales of scrap metal to those customers. Accordingly, defendant SSI acted within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

In my recent Q&A with Homer Moyer (here) he stated as follow: “To be sure, in enforcing the FCPA, the government tries to overreach from time to time — exercising anti-bribery jurisdiction over foreign subsidiaries and aggressive applications of dd-3 jurisdictional on the grounds that some step in the process took place “in the territory of the United States” come to mind as occasional examples. When enforcement agencies overreach, they should be challenged.”

Yet, as with most things FCPA related, these aggressive jurisdictional theories have generally escaped judicial scrutiny.

Until now.

In what is believed to be the first judicial ruling on the jurisdictional prong of the dd-3 prong of the FCPA, earlier this week, Judge Richard Leon (presiding judge in the Africa Sting cases) granted defendant Pankesh Patel’s Rule 29 acquittal motion at the end of the DOJ’s as to an FCPA substantive charge premised on his sending a DHL package – containing a purchase agreement in furtherance of the alleged corrupt scheme – from the U.K. to the U.S.

Pankesh Patel is among the first group of four defendants currently on trial and he is described in the indictment as follows. “[A] citizen of the United Kingdom and [...] a “person” other than an issuer or a domestic concern as that term was defined in the FCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-3(f)(1). Patel was the Managing Director of Company A, a United Kingdom company that acted as a sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries. As a company that maintained its place of business in the United Kingdom, Company A was a “person” other than an issuer or domestic concern as that term was defined in the FCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-3(f)(1).”

Among the charges against Patel was Count 3 – that Patel violated the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions by sending, on October 13, 2009, a DHL package from the U.K. to Washington D.C. “containing one original copy of the purchase agreements for the corrupt Phase Two deal.”

At the close of the DOJ’s case earlier this week, Patel’s attorney, Eric Bruce (Kobre & Kim LLP – see here) moved, as did the other defendants as to other charges, pursuant to Rule 29 for a judgement of acquittal.

Judge Leon did not request briefing as to the Rule 29 motions and his decision and reasoning was not reduced to writing – thus what follows are quotes from the hearing transcript.

As to Count 3, Bruce stated that the DOJ “charged Mr. Patel in Count 3 with something that cannot be a crime under U.S. law. And here’s what I mean by that. As we saw in the FCPA statute with which he’s charged, 78dd-3, because he’s a U.K. citizen, operating a U.K. company, he’s not a domestic concern under the statute, he can only be liable under the FCPA statute for conduct “while in the territory of the United States.” And that’s required by statute. That’s their sort of jurisdictional hook on him. And what they’ve done in Count 3, if you look at the language, if you go back to the indictment, Your Honor –.”

At this point, the following exchange occurred.

“Judge Leon: Sending it DHL?

Bruce: Yeah from London. So in Count 3 it says on the face of the indictment, DHL from the United Kingdom to Washington, D.C., containing one original copy of the purchase agreement for the corrupt phase 2 deal. So literally they’ve charged him with being in London and dropping a DHL package in the mail as a substantive FCPA violation, while the statute very clearly requires that he can only be liable for something while in the territory of the United States.”

Joey Lipton, on behalf of the DOJ, then stated as follow. “And under the FCPA, as long as he’s taking an act as someone who’s not a domestic concern, as Mr. Patel is a U.K. citizen, he falls under section 78dd-3, which Mr. Bruce said. He actually has to do less than a U.S. citizen really, because a U.S. citizen has to make use of the mails or interstate commerce. And Mr. Patel just has to take an act, any act, while he’s in the United States. Doesn’t have to be an illegal act, doesn’t have to be anything related to the deal going forward. He has to take any act in the United States, which he clearly does. First of all, he flies over from the U.K. to the United States, which we established through his travel records. And then he meets with the fictitious official and receives a purchase agreement. He then later takes that purchase agreement and sends it back. So the deal’s not done at that point, contrary to what Mr. Bruce said. But he’s already taken the act, he’s here in the United States, he sends it. With regard to Count 3 — and you don’t have to prove all of the elements of the offense while he’s in the United States. Doesn’t have to be counts or elements 1 through 6 of the FCPA while he actually travels here and does all that stuff. He just has to take an act while he’s in the United States. He did take an act. In Count 3 he then sends back the purchase agreement that he gets from the official, from Mahmadou, and he’s able — and that falls under the FCPA because he’s already taken an act here when he’s done that. So that independently can be its own act. It doesn’t have to be that each substantive count is an act while he’s in the United States, as long as he takes an act while he’s here. So his burden actually as a U.K. citizen is even less than what the other defendants have to do in terms of using the mail or traveling and the like.”

The following exchange then occurred between Lipton and Judge Leon.

“Judge Leon: Help me understand why it doesn’t have to be an act while in the territory of the United States for Count 3, whereas Count 2 [a substantive FCPA offense against Patel based on his attendance at a Washington D.C. meeting to discuss the allegedly corrupt deal], sounds like you admit that that’s the case in Count 2. In Count 3, I think your rationale is since he’s already taken one act within the United States, the subsequent act of mailing doesn’t have to be within the United States, right?

Lipton: Correct, Judge.

Judge Leon: All right. So what’s the rationale for that? Why doesn’t the second act have to be within the United States too? I’m not sure I understand that.

Lipton: Well, as long as he takes an act here, then we’re allowed to charge him with other acts, like a mailing or a travel that goes to the FCPA substantive offense. So it doesn’t have to be that each individual act is the one act while he’s in the United States that he’s taking. As long as he’s taking one act, he can have multiple substantive violations for other acts he’s taking as long as –

Judge Leon: Outside the United States?

Lipton: Outside the United States. Correct, Judge.

Judge Leon: Has the Supreme Court said that?

Lipton: Judge, no.

Judge Leon: Has the D.C. Circuit said that?

Lipton: No.

Judge Leon: How about the 2nd Circuit, where you used to prosecute?

Lipton: Judge, there’s not a lot of case law on the FCPA, as Your Honor I think is well aware.

Judge Leon: So is this a novel interpretation you want me to take?

Lipton: I don’t know if it’s a novel interpretation. I think it’s an interpretation that’s grounded in the law that’s out there.

Judge Leon: Is it grounded in the legislative record?

Lipton: We can go back and we can get Your Honor more particulars about the legislative history if Your Honor wants that.

Judge Leon: I would think the more cautious, conservative interpretation would be that each act has to be while in the territory of the United States, wouldn’t it?

Lipton: Well, Judge, if you read the statute, the way that I understand it and the way it’s been interpreted is that you just have to take an act. And if he’s traveling or if he’s mailing something from outside that comes into the United States, that that on its own would be sufficient. And I also believe Mr. Patel’s charged with an aiding and abetting theory as well, so, I haven’t fleshed that out, but there may be an argument to be made that even less has to be done on an aiding and abetting theory. Also, there’s a Pinkerton theory, which if he knows as a conspirator that acts are being taken by his codefendants or himself in furtherance of the conspiracy, then anything that’s reasonably foreseeable can also be an act, a substantive count. But, Your Honor, I can go back and we can get more details and particulars. Frankly, I don’t have the case law or the legislative history to the extent that that’s going to be helpful. That goes to that point.”

In reply, Bruce stated as follows. “I heard Mr. Lipton say that Mr. Patel only has to do an act in the United States, it doesn’t even have to be illegal. If that’s the government’s position, I’m happy to take that to the D.C. Circuit if there’s a conviction on these points. That is absurd, with all due respect to Mr. Lipton. The statute plainly requires, Your Honor, that while in the territory of the United States he has to corruptly make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce or do any act in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay or authorization. It’s clear as day.”

After a recess, Judge Leon dismissed Count 3 against Patel.

Judge Leon also dismissed Count 8 (a substantive FCPA violation charge) as to defendant Lee Allen Tolleson; and dismissed Count 10 (money laundering) as to all four defendants. In all other respects, Judge Leon denied the Rule 29 motion.

Judge Leon’s ruling is a significant FCPA development as many FCPA charges (as demonstrated by the above cases) are based on similar “novel” jurisdictional theories under the dd-3 prong of the FCPA.