FCPA prosecutions of foreign agents

FCPA prosecutions of foreign agents

February 10, 2020 | By Keith Martin in Washington, DC

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act can be used to prosecute a foreigner who pays a bribe to win a contract outside the United States if the US government can show he is acting as an agent for a US company.

A federal district court in Connecticut was expected to sentence Lawrence Hoskins, a former Alstom executive, as the NewsWire went to press.

Hoskins was charged in 2012 with helping hire consultants during the period 2002 through 2004 who were paid a percentage of a $118 million contract that Alstom won with PLN, the state-owned power company in Indonesia. Prosecutors said the consultants used part of the money to pay bribes to win the contract.

Hoskins is British. Alstom is a French conglomerate. He worked for Alstom in Paris and was never physically in the US during the period.      

A US appeals court blocked prosecution in August 2018 unless the prosecution could show a link to the United States. (For earlier coverage, see “Prosecuting Foreigners under the FCPA” in the October 2018 NewsWire.)

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is a 1977 US law that makes it a crime to offer anything of value to an official of a foreign government, political party or public international organization in an effort to win or retain business or secure any improper advantage.

US prosecutors can charge a foreigner only if they can show that he committed the crime while present in the United States or while working as an agent for a US company or for a foreign company whose securities are either traded on a US exchange or over-the-counter market or widely held in the United States.

US prosecutors said that Hoskins approved hiring the consultants and knew that part of what they were paid would be used for bribes. Several parts of the scheme were executed in the United States. Several Alstom executives attended meetings in the US about the scheme and made calls and sent emails about it while on US soil. The bribes were paid from Alstom bank accounts in the US and went into a US bank account of one of the consultants.

Nevertheless, the appeals court said Hoskins could not be charged as an accomplice or co-conspirator of others whom the statute can reach.

The judge told the jury that to conclude Hoskins was an “agent” of the Alstom US subsidiary, which was the only way to convict him, there would have to be evidence that he was appointed by the US subsidiary, accepted the assignment and understood that he was working under the direction of the US subsidiary.

The jury took a single day to decide he was such an agent after an eight-day trial.

The case is United States v. Lawrence Hoskins.