What’s The Message From BizJet? Self-Disclose And Cooperate

by Thomas Fox

Over the past week there has been a plethora of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions released. One group was the four enforcement actions involving individuals concerning BizJet. While I cannot say that the enforcement actions against the individuals were stunning, perhaps what was surprising were the penalties that two of the individual received. The lineup of those three BizJet executives and one employee involved in these enforcement actions is as follows:

  1. Bernd Kowalewski – President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO);
  2. Peter DuBois – Vice President of Sales and Marketing;
  3. Neal Uhl – Vice President of Finance; and
  4. Jald Jensen – Regional Sales Manager

Defendants DuBois and Uhl pled guilty in January, 2012 and had their pleas unsealed on April 5, 2013. Defendants Kowalewski and Jensen were charged by Criminal Indictment, also in January, 2012 but are still at large today. The Department of Justice (DOJ) Press Release states that “The two remaining defendants are believed to remain abroad.”

BizJet Bribery Box Score

From the previously released Bizjet Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) and the recently released documents, I have updated the “BizJet Bribery Box Score”.

BizJet Executive or Employee Named Payment Made To Amount of Payment Others Involved
Jald Jensen Official 6 Cell Phone and $10K Peter DuBois and Neal Uhl
Jald Jensen Official 3 $2K Peter DuBois
Peter DuBois, Neal Uhl and Jald Jensen Official 2 $20K  
Neal Uhl Official 2 $30K Jald Jensen
Peter DuBois Mexican Federal Police Chief $10K Neal Uhl and Jald Jensen
Neal Uhl Official 5 $18K Jald Jensen
Jald Jensen Official 4 $50K  
Jald Jensen Mexican Federal Police $176 Neal Uhl
Jald Jensen Official 4 $40K  
Jald Jensen Mexican Federal Police $210K Neal Uhl
Jald Jensen Official 5 $6K Neal Uhl
Neal Uhl Official 5 $22K  

The above bribes were characterized as “commission payments” and “referral fees” on the company’s books and records. Payments were made from both international and company bank accounts here in the United States. In other words, this was as clear a case of a pattern and practice of bribery, authorized by the highest levels of the company, paid through US banks and attempts to hide all of the above by mis-characterizing them in the company’s books and records.

Penalty Box Score

As bad as the conduct of the BizJet executives and sales manager was – and it was very bad – the thing that stood out in the enforcement actions announced last week was the sentences. So without further ado here is the “Penalty Box Score” for defendants DuBois and Uhl.

Individual Fine or Disgorgement Potential Incarceration Actual Incarceration
Peter DuBois $159,950 108 to 120 months in jail 8 months home incarceration, 60 month’s probation
Neal Uhl $10,000 60 months in jail 60 month’s probation

The clear import of the BizJet DPA was that a company can make a comeback in the face of very bad facts. In the BizJet DPA, the calculation of the fine, based upon the factors set out in the US Sentencing Guidelines, ranged between a low of $17.1MM to a high of $34.2MM. The final agreed upon monetary penalty was $11.8MM. This was a significant reduction from the suggested low or high end, or as was noted by the FCPA Blog “BizJet’s reduction was 30% off the bottom of the fine range, and a whopping 65% off the top of the fine range.” Finally, BizJet was able to avoid having an external monitor put in place.

Cooperation is the Key

What led to these sentence reductions? Quite simply the answer is full cooperation with the DOJ. The FCPA Professor stated, in a post entitled “Unsealed Documents In Enforcement Acton Against Former BizJet Executives Reveal A Trove Of Information”, that “As part of his plea agreement, DuBois worked in an undercover capacity for the government. The motion specifically states as follows. “As part of his work in an undercover capacity, Mr. DuBois has recorded conversations with former BizJet executives and other subjects of the government’s ongoing investigation.” Later, the motion to seal states that “public identification of Mr. DuBois as a defendant who likely is cooperating with the government may jeopardize the undercover aspect of the government’s investigation.”

In addition to his work as an undercover operative, the Professor quoted from the DOJ Sentencing Memorandum that “assisted in the investigation from the outset and cooperated fully with the government throughout its investigation. DuBois submitted to multiple interviews by the government and has assisted in every way that the government has asked. DuBois told the truth to the government from the outset and continued to do so up until this very day. DuBois’ cooperation not only assisted the government in connection with its investigation into BizJet, but also led to the investigation of another maintenance, repair, and overhaul company engaged in a similar scheme to pay bribes to government officials overseas.”

With regarding to UHL, the Professor quoted from the DOJ Motion for a Downward Departure as follows, “Uhl “agreed to a voluntary proffer session and, when confronted by the government, admitted to the illegal conduct. Throughout the course of the investigation, Uhl was cooperative and provided truthful information that substantially assisted the government in confronting other co-conspirators and witnesses. Uhl offered to assist in any way that he could.”

In another post, entitled “Where Was the BizJet Board?”, the FCPA Professor noted that the conduct engaged in by BizJet was “egregious” and I would certainly second that, perhaps adding that it was about as bad as it could get in the FCPA world. He goes on to state that “Yet, BizJet was allowed to resolve the enforcement action via a deferred prosecution agreement, meaning that should it abide by the terms and conditions of the agreement, BizJet will never be required to plead guilty to anything.” He went on to pose the question, “If that is the DOJ position, then it must be asked – does corporate criminal liability actually mean anything if a company like BizJet – given the DOJ’s allegations – is not actually criminally prosecuted or required to plead guilty?” He ended his post with the following, “In short, the resolution vehicles the DOJ has created and championed has again lead to a “facade of enforcement” – albeit an instance on the opposite end of the spectrum that I normally highlight.”

I think that there is another way to look at the BizJet enforcement action and the individual enforcement actions against DuBois and Uhl. BizJet self-disclosed to the DOJ, engaged in what the DOJ termed “extraordinary cooperation” and remediated the people and conduct in question. Further, DuBois and Uhl not only offered themselves up but actively worked with and assisted the DOJ in its investigation going forward. If one of the goals of the DOJ is to achieve greater compliance with the FCPA, I think that the BizJet cases is a clear demonstration that if a company has FCPA violations they can self-disclose and be given credit for working very diligently in conjunction with the DOJ to remedy the conduct at issue and move the investigation forward.

I believe the same is true for individuals who have engaged in FCPA violations. If a person provides the same level of cooperation as DuBois and Uhl and the DOJ then prosecutes them to the full extent of the US Sentencing Guidelines, how much cooperation do you think the DOJ will engender going forward once the word gets out in the white collar defense bar?

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.

© Thomas Fox, Compliance Evangelist | Attorney Advertising

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Thomas Fox

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