Record Sentence Imposed in Miami Bribery Case. On October 25, 2011, a federal judge in Miami sentenced Joel Esquenazi, the former president of Terra Telecommunications Corp., to 15 years in prison for his role in a scheme to bribe officials at a Haitian state-owned company. The judge also sentenced Terra’s former executive vice president, Carlos Rodriguez, to 86 months in prison for his role in the scheme. The sentence against Esquenazi is the longest sentence ever imposed in a case involving the FCPA — over double the length of the previous record.
Esquenazi and Rodriguez were convicted in August 2011 of one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud; seven counts of FCPA violations; one count of money laundering conspiracy; and 12 counts of money laundering. The payments at issue totaled over $890,000. Four other individuals have been previously convicted and sentenced for their roles in the bribery scheme. Defense counsel have announced that they intend to appeal the convictions and sentences.
Breuer Promises Detailed FCPA Guidance in 2012. On November 8, 2011, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, spoke at the 26th National Conference on the FCPA. Breuer signaled that DOJ expects to release detailed new guidance on the FCPA’s criminal and civil enforcement provisions in 2012. He also indicated that the Department will not support amendments to the FCPA that “make it a less effective tool for fighting foreign bribery.”
Although Breuer indicated that DOJ is “always open” to working with Congress on ways to improve our criminal laws and acknowledged that “there have been a number of efforts made this year to amend the FCPA, by the Chamber of Commerce and others,” he advised that DOJ would not support “reforms whose aim is to weaken the FCPA.” This would include, according to Breuer, eliminating successor liability in the FCPA context.
SEC Posts Cases Eligible for Whistleblower Rewards. The SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower recently published its first list of enforcement actions that are potentially eligible for whistleblower rewards. The list, which includes FCPA-related cases, sets forth Commission actions where “a final judgment or order, by itself or together with other prior judgments or orders in the same action issued after July 21, 2010, results in monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million.”
According to the SEC, “individuals who voluntarily provided the Commission with original information after July 21, 2010 that led to successful enforcement of [an action included on the list] are eligible to apply for a whistleblower award,” subject to the final rules implementing the Securities Whistleblower Incentives and Protection provisions of the Exchange Act. Inclusion of a matter on the list is not, of course, a determination that a reward will be paid or even that a whistleblower complaint led to the SEC’s opening an investigation or filing an action.
UK’s Serious Fraud Office Launches Hotline. On November 1, 2011, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched a new confidential hotline (called “SFO Confidential”) for whistleblowers to report inside information on suspected fraud or corruption. The SFO is the lead agency in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for investigating and prosecuting cases of domestic and foreign corruption. It is charged with enforcing the provisions of the Bribery Act (2010) in respect of foreign corruption.