In addition to learning about the FBI’s compliance program, understanding white collar criminals, and a visit to the FBI Academy, the FBI Corporate Compliance Officer Outreach Event included a very frank discussion of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The program brought in attorneys from the Department of Justice to discuss their approach to bringing FCPA cases.

Anyone who has read the FCPA Opinion releases may be surprised to hear the practical approach spoken by the presenters. The opinion releases paint a vary minimal threshold for ordinary business entertainment expenses to not be outside the boundaries of a bribe.

The presenters started off with four types of payments that are not bribes:

  1. Facilitation payments (still suspect)
  2. reasonable and bona fide gifts and entertainment
  3. duress payments, when there is a threat of physical harm
  4. Extortion

They pointed out that the key to a bribery case is the corrupt intent. They painted a picture that the DOJ has a hard time finding proof of corrupt intent and an even harder time convincing a jury that there was corrupt intent. In my view, that leaves a lot of grey areas between the de minimis standard in the opinion releases and the much larger payments in prosecuted cases.

They pointed to the Morgan Stanley case as one where the firm’s compliance program stopped the DOJ from seeking further prosecution. As to the compliance defense and credits under the sentencing guidelines for effective compliance programs, the speakers admitted that you rarely see those in cases. However, that is because the DOJ rarely brings cases when they see an effective compliance program.

The last piece of news was to be on the lookout for some substantial guidance on the FCPA. The guidance is not coming out  as a response to the Chamber of Commerce or other critics of the FCPA. It’s a response to the OECD’s review of the US corruption laws in 2010. The Phase III report recommended consolidation and summarization of available information on the application of the FCPA. This guidance will be that consolidation. To meet the deadline of the OECD report, we should expect the guidance to come out in October.