DOJ’s FCPA Enforcement Focus on Central and Latin America

The Volkov Law Group

The Volkov Law Group

When it comes to FCPA enforcement, the Justice Department’s global focus for many years was on Asian countries, and in particular, China.  This trend, however, has continued, but in the past few years, DOJ has brought a larger percentage of criminal cases against Central and Latin American entities and individuals.  The reason for this focus reflects DOJ’s long-standing and closer working relationships with prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in these regions, as well as continuing work by two significant U.S. Attorneys’ Offices — in Houston Texas, and Miami, Florida.

Beginning with Brazil’s “Operation Car Wash” investigation, and stretching into Venezuela’s rampant corruption surrounding PDVSA, DOJ has brought a number of FCPA enforcement actions against companies and several individuals.  In a number of cases, corrupt government officials and actors have had close links to U.S.-based financial institutions, especially in Miami, Florida.  With these close financial ties to the United States, DOJ has been able to target bad actors and related money laundering activities involving U.S. assets and bank accounts. In addition, DOJ has brought criminal cases against individuals who often conduct illicit meetings to arrange bribery schemes and payoffs in U.S locations.  With this significant level of conduct in the United States and Latin America, DOJ prosecutors find it easier to capture such illegal conduct and prosecute under federal jurisdiction requirements.

Brazil’s energy conglomerate. Petrobras, along with Venezuela’s corrupt energy company, PDVSA, have both been at the core of a number of DOJ FCPA prosecutions. DOJ has a very strong working relationship with Brazil prosecutors and law enforcement.  This close relationship extends beyond anti-corruption enforcement and includes antitrust violations, cryptocurrency fraud schemes and other fraudulent conspiracies.

According to the Stanford FCPA Website, which is a terrific statistical resource, the number of FCPA enforcement actions tied to various countries of interest include:

Country Number FCPA Actions
China 75
Brazil 33
Mexico 26
India 24
Indonesia 24
Iraq 24
Nigeria 24
Gabon 19
Russia 19
Saudi Arabia 17
Venezuela 17
Argentina 15
Angola 14

As an example, last year DOJ’s enforcement action against Freepoint Commodities was initiated through individual enforcement actions against Glenn Oztemel and Eduardo Innecco, a third-party oil and gas broker. Eventually Oztemel’s brother, Gary, was added to the case.  The bribery scheme centered on Petrobras’ fuel oil business.  A Petrobras oil and gas trader received bribes to provide confidential information an engage in bidding schemes resulting in Freepoint’s winning of various competitive bids.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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