Voyager II Launches and The FCPA Professor’s New Book

by Thomas Fox

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act In A New EraMany readers of this blog will recall that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is 37 years old this year. Perhaps less might remember that also 37 years ago, NASA launched Voyager II, which was an unmanned spacecraft. It was the first of two such crafts to be launched that year on a “Grand Tour” of the outer planets, organized to coincide with a rare alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Aboard Voyager II was a 12-inch copper phonograph record called “Sounds of Earth.” Intended as a kind of introductory time capsule, the record included greetings in 60 languages and scientific information about Earth and the human race, along with classical, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll music, nature sounds like thunder and surf, and recorded messages from then President Jimmy Carter and other world leaders. Being good engineers, NASA conveniently included instructions on how to play the record, with a cartridge and needle provided.

In light of the age of the FCPA and our celebration of reaching for the stars, today I wanted to celebrate a volume from one of the FCPA’s most prolific commentators, Mike Koehler, the FCPA Professor. The author of numerous legal and scholarly articles and his eponymous daily blog, The FCPA Professor, he joined the thin ranks of those authors with hard bound volumes concerning the FCPA with his edition, The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act In A New Era.

As you would expect from the FCPA Professor he has lengthy sections on the genesis of the FCPA and its legislative history; general legal principals as they relate to FCPA enforcement and interpretation as well as the specifics of the text of the FCPA itself; and a review of enforcement actions. He also gives his insights as to why there was such an explosion of FCPA enforcements, beginning in 2004 and continuing right up until the present. He provides some pointers on FCPA compliance programs and ends the book with a discussion of FCPA reform. Of course, as you would expect from the FCPA Professor, the entire work is chocked full of quotations, citations and endnotes.

I would like to highlight some of my favorite discussions in the book. In Chapter 5 entitled FCPA Enforcement, he identifies “Three Buckets” of FCPA financial exposure. They are “(i) pre-enforcement actions professional fees and expenses; (ii) fine, penalty and disgorgement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action; and (iii) post-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.” With this tripartite description he lays out what a company might reasonably expect if it finds itself embroiled in an FCPA investigation and enforcement action. The message I got from this Chapter was that you had better have a strong compliance program in place because it is going to be a long hard and costly slog going forward if you don’t.

In Chapter 6, entitled Reasons for the increase in FCPA enforcement, The Professor sets out his thoughts on why there has been such an explosion of growth in FCPA enforcement. While both the use of Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) and Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) are noted along with the passage and implementation of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX); there are other reasons cited in the section entitled (appropriately enough) ‘Provocative Reasons’. These include that FCPA enforcement is “lucrative for the US government”; “the emergence and rapid rise of a lucrative industry called FCPA Inc.” (full disclosure – I am a card carrying member of FCPA Inc.); and the revolving door of lawyers who go into government service, enforce the FCPA and then leave government service to defend clients under government scrutiny for FCPA issue.

As the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ guy, I was very interested in Chapter 8, entitled FCPA Compliance and best practice. Fortunately he left some room for folks like me to go into the weeds of a compliance program but he did state, “While FCPA risk cannot be eliminated, it can be effectively managed and minimized when doing business in the global marketplace, and one positive result of the increase in FCPA enforcement in this new era has been the related increase in ‘soft’ enforcement of the FCPA through compliance policies and procedures.” He went on to define ‘soft enforcement’ as “a law’s ability to facilitate self-policing and compliance to a greater degree than can be accomplished through ‘hard’ enforcement alone. This was music to my ears. He also gave some practical approaches to implementing or enhancing your compliance program that I found to be quite useful for the compliance practitioner.

The Professor ends his book with a renewed call for FCPA reform. While he recognizes that, post Walmart, the impetus in Washington for amending the FCPA has all but died out; he does lay out all his reasons for the creation of a compliance defense amendment to the FCPA. Another cornerstone of his call for reform is to abolish NPAs and DPAs from the Department of Justice’s (DOJs) prosecutorial arsenal. Both of these issues bear serious weight and scrutiny and the FCPA Professor lays out his thoughts on each. Whatever your position on these issues is, you need to read up on what the Professor has to say to fully form your own internal debate.

As I have often remarked about the FCPA Professor, you may disagree with him but your FCPA knowledge and experience will be enriched by reading anything he puts out there for the rest of us to consume. However, after the publication of this book, I will have to add that it should become one of the standard texts for any FCPA compliance practitioner, law student studying the FCPA or anyone else interested in anti-bribery and anti-corruption. It should be on your FCPA library bookshelf. It certainly now sits proudly on mine.

You can purchase a copy of The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act In A New Era by clicking here.

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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