The recent and very prominent media coverage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and money laundering charges brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against employees at Direct Access Partners, a New York broker-dealer, and a senior Venezuelan bank officer highlight an important shift in FCPA and anti-bribery enforcement. The alleged payments made to secure preferential treatment and business in the Venezuelan bond markets open up a new frontier in SEC FCPA enforcement, and, as has been discussed in the FCPA blogosphere, are a vivid illustration of the expanding investigative and audit tools available to the SEC. Indeed, it is safe to conclude that periodic SEC examinations of broker-dealers and other financial services firms will no longer be the province of only audit and financial personnel at these firms. Compliance professionals and internal counsel will need to ensure that they are involved in the process.
There is an even more important observation that the recent indictment and enforcement action in Direct Access Partners punctuates. The list of industries and business sectors that must direct their compliance professionals to consider FCPA and anti-bribery laws in their business conduct and compliance programs has both expanded and evolved. To be sure, broker-dealers, hedge funds and other financial services firms need to enhance and strengthen their compliance programs and incorporate clear FCPA and anti-bribery policies and procedures, if only to anticipate the scrutiny of SEC examiners. However, this most recent result in the government’s FCPA enforcement program only further populates the expanding universe of industries that have found themselves the subject of public FCPA investigations.