Dismissal of FCPA Cases Represents Cautionary Tale for DOJ

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A dramatic, headline-grabbing white-collar crime sting in January 2010 involved the arrest of 22 executives and employees of companies in the military and law enforcement products industry – and ultimately led only to a series of acquittals and mistrials, causing many to wonder whether the case should have been brought at all. After two trials for a total of 10 defendants that failed to result in any convictions, the U.S. Department of Justice dropped its case against all remaining defendants last month.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits people in the United States from bribing foreign officials for the purposes of obtaining or retaining business. The DOJ press release announcing the sting said that it was the single largest investigation and prosecution against individuals in the 32-year history of the DOJ’s enforcement of the FCPA. The defendants were charged with violating the Act for allegedly agreeing to pay kickbacks to a Gabon minister of defense in exchange for contracts to supply the country’s presidential guard. The deal, however, was a ruse, with FBI agents posing as Gabonese defense officials.

When the DOJ announced the arrests, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer promoted these undercover actions as “a turning point,” saying that the indictments “reflect the Department’s commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who try to advance their businesses through foreign bribery.”

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