07 October 2008

FCPA: 21st Century Investigations...

Intellectual property theft, corporate espionage, transnational economic crime and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are on collision course with international 21st Century investigators. New age professionals who were almost born with a keyboard or PDA in their hand; remain ever vigilant.

The use of third parties, offshore banking and other avoidance mechanisms such as Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE) increases the potential for theft, corruption and abuse buried in global commerce using the Internet Protocol (IP).

The FCPA prohibits corrupt payments through intermediaries. It is unlawful to make a payment to a third party, while knowing that all or a portion of the payment will go directly or indirectly to a foreign official. The term "knowing" includes conscious disregard and deliberate ignorance. The elements of an offense are essentially the same as described above, except that in this case the "recipient" is the intermediary who is making the payment to the requisite "foreign official."

Intermediaries may include joint venture partners or agents. To avoid being held liable for corrupt third party payments, U.S. companies are encouraged to exercise due diligence and to take all necessary precautions to ensure that they have formed a business relationship with reputable and qualified partners and representatives. Such due diligence may include investigating potential foreign representatives and joint venture partners to determine if they are in fact qualified for the position, whether they have personal or professional ties to the government, the number and reputation of their clientele, and their reputation with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate and with local bankers, clients, and other business associates. In addition, in negotiating a business relationship, the U.S. firm should be aware of so-called "red flags," i.e., unusual payment patterns or financial arrangements, a history of corruption in the country, a refusal by the foreign joint venture partner or representative to provide a certification that it will not take any action in furtherance of an unlawful offer, promise, or payment to a foreign public official and not take any act that would cause the U.S. firm to be in violation of the FCPA, unusually high commissions, lack of transparency in expenses and accounting records, apparent lack of qualifications or resources on the part of the joint venture partner or representative to perform the services offered, and whether the joint venture partner or representative has been recommended by an official of the potential governmental customer.

Digital fingerprints and technology has changed the way we manage and store information just as it has changed the way cases are developed and presented to new juries who understand the evidence. Organizations operating on a global scale with branch offices in London, Frankfurt, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Shanghai are continually exposed to operational risks associated with rogue employee behavior in the normal course of doing business in country. The legal matrix of risk exposures are magnified by Internet commerce, privacy, intellectual property and transnational policing.

In the recent "2008 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse" by the ACFE, the Banking / Financial Services industry group suffered the highest frequency of losses:

  • # of Cases - 132
  • % of Cases - 14.6%
  • Median Loss - $250,000.00
The type of scheme with the highest percentage was corruption at 33.3% of banking cases. Government had 106 cases with 26.4% of these associated with corruption. The telecommunications sector endured the biggest impact with 16 cases reported yet with a median loss of $800,000.00 . Healthcare suffered 76 fraud cases at 26.3% involving corruption.

In all cases the digital trail is there for the forensic professionals to track, trace and assemble the history and chronology of events. Unfortunately for the prosecution and the plaintiffs, there is a tremendous backlog for the collection and analysis of this modern day CSI. Independence and expertise is the key element of getting your favorable day in court. Judges and juries are far more educated on the new Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure. Lawyers are utilizing the eDiscovery threat to force premature settlements. Meanwhile, the digital evidence continues to be collected, imaged and stored for analysis waiting it's day in court.

21st Century investigators utilize digital forensic certifications and training combined with years of education and experience. Managing the legal risk to institutions and those who have been implicated is their only priority by achieving a defensible standard of care. Judging the evidence is not their interest nor their objective. Insuring that the relevant information is soundly collected, preserved and presented without spoilation or prejudice, is the primary mission.

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