Two-Tiered FCPA Justice?

Certain corporations (acting through employees and agents) in certain industries, most often selling certain things to certain customers, can seemingly violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions with very little consequence.

In fact, with increasingly frequency, such companies are not even charged with FCPA antibribery violations and/or may not even have to plead guilty to anything. See here for the recent Daimler, here for the recent BAE, and here for the (somewhat) recent Siemens “bribery, yet no bribery” enforcement actions.

Sure, these companies coughed up hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases offered up a few subsidiaries to take the fall, but yet were allowed to escape the full legal consequences of their action despite DOJ and SEC allegations that these companies paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to obtain or retain hundreds of millions, and in some cases billions, of dollars of business.

The deterrent message in these cases is so strong that the U.S. government continues to do business with these companies – see here for the recent $28 million dollar contract between the U.S. government and a BAE business unit and see here for a general overview of Siemens post-bribery scandal U.S. government contracts.

On the other hand, Charles Paul Edward Jumet of Fluvanna County, Virginia will probably not be getting U.S. government contracts in the near future. In fact, he probably will not be doing much of anything (other than sitting around) in the near future.

Why?

Because yesterday he was sentenced to approximately 7.25 years in federal prison (see here for the DOJ release).

His crime?

Conspiring to violate the same law that Daimler, BAE, Siemens, its employees, and several other corporations, apparently are immune from violating … the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

Surely, Jumet’s conduct was more egregious than that of Daimler, BAE, Siemens, and others?

Well, not exactly.

Not to make light of his crime, but according to the DOJ, the total amount that Jumet and others paid to Panamanian government officials to receive a lighthouse and buoy contract was approximately $200,000 – an amount that pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of bribe payments in the above referenced enforcement actions.

Even though Jumet’s sentence is equal part FCPA and equal part making false statements to federal agents, it is not surprisingly being termed the “longest prison term imposed against an individual for violating the FCPA.”

The DOJ release contains the usual get tough language (i.e. “foreign corruption carries with it very serious penalties,” “bribery isn’t just a cost of doing business overseas [... but] a serious crime that the U.S. government is intent on enforcing.”

Serious penalties and intent on enforcing against whom is the question.

The issue is not whether the DOJ was too lenient in the Daimler, BAE, and Siemens case or whether the DOJ was too harsh in the Jumet case.

Rather, the issue is that there appears to be a two-tiered justice system when it comes to FCPA enforcement.

As noted in the DOJ’s release, Jumet’s co-defendant John Warwick, who also pleaded guilty, is scheduled to be sentenced by the same judge on May 14th. (See here for prior posts on this entire enforcement action).

About the Author

Mike Koehler

fcpa-professor-Mike-KoehlerAbout the Author Mike Koehler is an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law and is an expert FCPA columnist for Corporate Compliance Insights. Professor Koehler is a leading expert on the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws and initiatives and he founded and maintains the site FCPA Professor, an industry leading forum that has earned national and international recognition.