The DOJ’s FCPA unit hires more attorneys

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is upping the number of prosecutors working on cases related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

In November, Asst. Attorney General for the Criminal Division Leslie Caldwell announced in a speech that the DOJ was “preparing to add 10 new prosecutors to the Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit, increasing its size by 50 percent.”

It is believed there are about 20 attorneys currently in the FCPA unit—so the new total will be about 30, according to government sources.

Back when Charles “Chuck” Duross ran the unit between 2010 and 2014 there were about 20 or fewer attorneys on staff.

Now in private practice at Morrison & Foerster, Duross said when he was at the DOJ, it was hard to hire attorneys, and recalls having to “beg and plead” to hire one additional FCPA prosecutor.

He says the additional 10 prosecutors will help the DOJ if it wants to prosecute individuals involved with corporate wrongdoing – as was called for in the Yates Memo, authored in 2015 by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

Duross explains that investigating and prosecuting “high-level executives” and others involved in corporate FCPA cases “takes the most time.” They are very “labor-intensive,” he adds.

This way, the Justice Department can turn announced priorities “into action…. It’s turning it into action is what matters,” Duross says.

There is also a message here for general counsel, inside counsel and other attorneys who represent companies or individuals in anti-bribery cases. They need to take FCPA enforcement seriously. Just because the number of these kind of cases appeared to be smaller in 2015 does not mean anti-bribery inquiries are not still a priority for the DOJ, Duross says.

“Ten positions is not a small number,” he adds. It shows a “significant commitment” on the part of the Justice Department, Duross says, “to pursue these cases … vigorously…. Adding prosecutors is something that makes a lot of sense.”

Similarly, F. Joseph Warin, an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who formerly worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, said the addition of the attorneys helps companies. Cases can be reviewed and processed “more expeditiously,” Warin says. That means companies “will be able to have a quicker evaluation,” he adds. Complex cases can take a lot of time when finding documents and witnesses, especially if it involves foreign nations, Warin explains.

He speculates that the DOJ will be able to allocate more resources to more complicated cases going to trial.

“I don’t think it ought to send alarm bells to the corporate community,” Warin says about the hiring of 10 prosecutors and its impact on companies.

The addition of FCPA attorneys comes after the DOJ over the past year “increased our FCPA resources, including by adding three new fully operational squads to the FBI’s International Corruption Unit that are focusing on FCPA and Kleptocracy matters,” according to Caldwell. 

“These new squads and prosecutors will make a substantial difference to our ability to bring high-impact cases and greatly enhance the department’s ability to root out significant economic corruption,” she explained in the speech.

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein is a veteran writer and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. A graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he has won several...

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