Over at the FCPA Ethics and Compliance Blog, Tom Fox, Esq. has a timely and excellent post on the “Ides of March”. The premise is a good one. Company anti-corruption policies and procedures should, often, apply to dealings with customers, not just vendors or counter-parties.
In the economic sanctions world for example, the one I navigate closely, there is usually no choice. Banks need to screen more than other sectors. How much is enough? It really does depend on the industry you’re in as well as the circumstance in each transaction. You should take a few minutes to read Tom’s post. You’ll be glad you did.
While on the subject of corruption, it was front and center in the global political stage. A Ukrainian oligarch faces corruption charges in U.S. federal court. I expect a lot more of these as the U.S. starts to calibrate appropriate responses to the deteriorating situation in the Crimea and Ukraine. And, according to Congressional sources I deal with, there may even be an expansion of the Magnitsky law in as well. Stay tuned.
However, right here in Washington, DC, the two prominent Senators from the state of Utah seem to have dodged, at least for now, a Department of Justice Public Integrity Section investigation. Turns out that FBI agents and Utah state prosecutors (a Democrat and a Republican) have been investigating whether either or both Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mike Lee took political contributions in exchange for political favors to on-line poker gaming companies.
When does a political favor for a constituent cross over to criminal corruption? In many cases, you’ll know it when you see it. Seriously. And I think a majority of lawyers and lobbyists in this town who must engage with Congressional offices want clarity. In some cases, the law is as clear as mud. And, yes, there are Congressional staffers and Members that constantly push the limits and you can unwittingly do things that you are not supposed to do.
One the one hand, 18 USC § 201 makes it a crime for federal employees to offer or accept bribes in exchange for an official act. What is a bribe? A bribe is, essential, anything of value given directly or indirectly. Does a campaign contribution count? A dinner? Some reform advocates argue that the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (Pub.L. 110–810) was not correctly named, for starters, and that more reform needed. They’re right.
Read Neil Volz’s book, Into the Sun. A lot of what he talks about in that book is still taking place in this town. Neil is a good man that went through a rough patch. I’d make his book mandatory reading for all new Congressional staff.
Reid called the investigation an “publicity stunt” and, the best I could tell, Lee has not issued a statement except through a spokesman denying any wrongdoing. People are now saying that high-level politicos at DOJ have blocked the Public Integrity Section from taking the case. A FBI field agent in Utah was even “summoned” to FBI HQ.
In other words, this is just getting started.
And folks in this fair city wonder why voters are upset???