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    Pietragallo's White Collar Criminal Defense Group

    In today's environment, the government has never more aggressively regulated, investigated, pursued and prosecuted white collar crime. If you or your company becomes embroiled in any type of federal or state government investigation, you need experienced trial lawyers who have gone toe-to-toe with prosecutors and government agents.

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    Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 2019

    As we enter 2019, the government’s enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) shows no signs of slowing down. The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have joint responsibility to enforce the FCPA. DOJ’s FCPA enforcement is handled through the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The SEC’s Enforcement Division has a specialized unit focusing on FCPA enforcement. Helpful resources on this topic include the DOJ’s Corporate Enforcement Policy found here and the SEC’s Resource Guide found here.

    FCPA enforcement can take a variety of forms.  As highlighted below, violations of the FCPA’s “books and records” provisions are often handled short of criminal charges, but FCPA bribery allegations are often handled via criminal charges. Here are a few of the governments resolutions in late 2018:
    • On November 27, 2018, Alejandero Andrade Cedeno, a Florida resident and former national treasurer of Venezuela, was sentenced to 10 years in prison based on his role in a billion dollar currency exchange and money laundering scheme. Andrade admitted to receiving over $1 billion in bribes in exchange for using his position as national treasurer of Venezuela to conduct currency exchange transactions at favorable rates for the Venezuelan government. He received cash, private jets, yachts, cars, and homes from the alleged co-conspirators. He agreed, through the plea agreement, to a forfeiture of a money judgment of $1 billion and all assets tied to the scheme. The case is being prosecuted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
    • On October 30, 2018, Roger R. Boncy was charged in a superseding indictment for alleged participation in a scheme to bribe government officials in Haiti connected to a $84 million port development project and laundering of the associated funds. Boncy is a Spain resident with dual United States and Haiti citizenship. The indictment alleges that Bonci and an alleged co-conspirator, Joseph Baptiste, solicited bribes from undercover agents posing as potential investors in connection with the proposed port project. The undercover agents recorded a meeting at a Massachusetts hotel during which Boncy and Baptiste allegedly told agents they would funnel payments to Haitian officials through a non-profit entity controlled by Baptiste purporting to help impoverished residents of Haiti. The agents also intercepted telephone calls during which Boncy and Baptiste allegedly discussed bribing an aide to a Haitian official with a job on the port project in exchange for the aide’s help in obtaining authorization for the project. The case is being prosecuted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
    • On September 27, 2018, DOJ announced non-prosecution agreements between United States and Brazilian authorities and Petroleo Brasilerio S.A. – Petrobas (Petrobas), a Brazilian state-owned energy company related to alleged violations of the FCPA for alleged “facilitating payments” to Brazilian politicians and political parties. DOJ alleged that high ranking members of Petrobas, including members of its Executive Board and Board of Directors, facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and then “cooked the books” to conceal the bribe payments. Through the non-prosecution agreement with the U.S., Petrobas agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $853.2 million, a 25% discount off the low end of the applicable sentencing guidelines fine range based on the company’s full cooperation and remediation.
      At the same time, the SEC also reached an agreement with Petrobas through which it would pay to the SEC disgorgement and pre-judgment interest totaling $933.47 million. That amount will be reduced by any payment Petrobas makes to the class action settlement fund. The SEC matter is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
    With results such as these, the government undoubtedly views its return on investment of time and resources as positive. Knowledgeable and experienced counsel is critical in defending against such actions – not only for corporate entities, but for individuals as well.

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