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Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman Delivers Keynote Address at the Global Anti-Corruption Congress


United States

Thank you, [Kimberly Parker of Wilmer Hale], for that kind introduction.  I appreciate your warm welcome, and I am so pleased to be here today to address this audience.

I began my career as a federal prosecutor almost 17 years ago in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and I have been honored, over the last several months, to serve as Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Division.  The work of the Criminal Division is extraordinarily wide-ranging – from fighting financial fraud, to dismantling drug cartels, combating cybercrime, and prosecuting dangerous organized crime groups.  Today, I want to focus my remarks on one of our most important enforcement priorities – our efforts to combat corruption around the world. 

Corruption corrodes the public trust in countries both rich and poor, and inflicts particular harm on emerging economies.  When a developing country’s public officials abuse their power for personal gain, its people suffer.  Political institutions lose legitimacy, threatening democratic stability and the rule of law; and people lose hope that they will ever be able to improve their lot.  When corruption takes hold, the fundamental notion of playing-by-the-rules gets pushed to the side, and individuals, businesses and governments instead begin to operate under a fundamentally unfair – and destabilizing – set of norms.  This undermines confidence in the markets and governments, and destroys the sense of fair play that is absolutely critical for the rule of law to prevail.

For these reasons, fighting global corruption is, and always will be, a core priority of the Department of Justice.  Since 2005, the Department has secured close to three dozen corporate guilty pleas in FCPA cases.  And just since 2009, the Department has entered into over 40 corporate resolutions, including nine of the top 10 biggest resolutions ever in terms of penalties, resulting in approximately $2.5 billion in monetary fines.  And, perhaps most important, in that same period, we have successfully secured the convictions of over three dozen individuals for engaging in foreign bribery schemes. 

Our recent string of successful prosecutions of corporate executives is worth highlighting.  Those actions show, in concrete terms, that we are not going away – indeed, our efforts to fight foreign bribery are more robust than ever.  By redoubling our commitment to bring to justice those individuals who bribe for business, we are sending an unmistakable message to corporate executives around the world – if you engage in corrupt conduct, you should be prepared to face very real consequences, including jail time. 

Our enforcement record in this area speaks for itself.  In just the last two months, in federal districts across the country, we have announced charges or guilty pleas against 12 executives and others on foreign bribery-related charges:

• In Tulsa, Okla., we announced charges against four former executives of BizJet International, an aircraft services company, for participating in a scheme to pay bribes to government officials in Latin America;

• In federal court in New York, we charged a French citizen with attempting to obstruct an ongoing investigation into whether a company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea;

• In Connecticut, we announced charges against one current and one former executive, and secured a guilty plea from another former executive of a U.S. subsidiary of a French power and transportation company that paid bribes to Indonesian officials;

• In Houston, we secured a 15-month prison sentence against a former consultant for Willbros International Inc. for his role in a conspiracy to pay more than $6 million in bribes to Nigerian government and political party officials; and

• And, in Manhattan, we charged three employees of a U.S. broker-dealer – including one just last week – as well as a senior official in Venezuela’s state economic development bank for their roles in a bribery scheme designed to steer the state bank’s financial trading business to the broker-dealer.

The message to be drawn from these prosecutions over the last few months is clear:  we are now – more than ever – holding individual wrongdoers to account.

In addition to our stepped-up prosecutions of individuals, our recent enforcement actions against French oil and gas company Total highlight another important shift in the anti-corruption realm – the development of stronger anti-bribery enforcement programs in foreign countries, the continuing and encouraging rise in cross-border cooperation, and the increasing efforts of our foreign law enforcement partners to hold individual perpetrators accountable.  Just this last month, on the same day that the Justice Department and SEC resolved criminal and civil foreign bribery charges with Total, French enforcement authorities requested that Total, Total’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and two additional individuals be referred to the French Criminal Court for violations of French law, including France’s foreign bribery law.  The Total case represents the first ever coordinated action by U.S. and French law enforcement in a foreign bribery case; and because of that close collaboration, Total now faces criminal consequences across two continents.  This unprecedented, joint action by U.S. and French authorities reflects our renewed commitment to work as closely as we can with our foreign counterparts to stamp out bribery across the globe.  
Meanwhile, countries around the world are passing new anti-bribery legislation, or revising outdated laws, and more countries are joining international bodies such as the OECD Working Group on Bribery.  And each day, more countries are joining the fight.  Just in the past few years, Russia and China have outlawed foreign bribery, and India may soon join that list.  Earlier this year, Colombia became the 40th party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.  Through our increased work on prosecutions with our foreign counterparts and our participation in various multi-lateral fora like the OECD and United Nations, it is safe to say that we are cooperating with foreign law enforcement on foreign bribery cases more closely today than at any time in history.

This type of collaboration is absolutely critical if we are going to have a meaningful impact on corruption internationally.  As our economies become more interdependent, corruption itself is increasingly transnational.  What may be a domestic corruption concern for one country may very well be a foreign bribery concern for another. 

Of course, the upsurge in foreign enforcement and global collaboration did not happen overnight or by accident.  It is, instead, the product of hard work and strategic coordination – including face-to-face engagements that have allowed us to forge the partnerships that are essential to fight global corruption.  In February of this year, for example, the Justice Department, SEC, and FBI hosted about 130 judges, prosecutors, investigators, and regulators from more than 30 countries, multi-development banks, and international organizations around the world for a training course to exchange ideas and best practices on combating foreign corruption.  This unprecedented meeting provided a critical opportunity to meet our partners, discuss cases, identify new opportunities to collaborate, and improve our intelligence sharing.  Needless to say, we were able to advance a number of specific prosecutions through that meeting and, as important, forge new bonds with an entire generation of prosecutors dedicated to combating global corruption.

These day-to-day efforts by the Justice Department and our counterparts around the world might not be visible to the public, but the fruits of these efforts are.  Many of you have heard, for example, of the Siemens prosecution, which began with dawn raids not by U.S. authorities, but by the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office.  And long before the U.K. Bribery Act was even proposed, we were working together with the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office to bring cases against U.S. and U.K. companies alike, as well as their executives and agents involved in bribery schemes.  Our friends in Canada, meanwhile, have also increased their anti-corruption resources with two Royal Canadian Mounted Police units focused on international corruption, and the results speak for themselves with two major cases being brought against Niko Resources and Griffiths International in the past few years.  We have worked with our partners in Thailand on the Gerald and Patricia Green case, involving bribes paid to a Thai official in exchange for a series of government contracts; and in Costa Rica, on the Sapsizian and Alcatel matters, we worked with our partners to prosecute cases involving corrupt payments to Costa Rican government officials, including the payment of bribes to obtain a mobile telephone contract from the state-owned telecommunications authority.  All of these prosecutions are a testament to what we can do when we work hand-in-glove with our foreign partners.

Another important manifestation of our international collaboration on foreign bribery is the peer-review monitoring system of the OECD Working Group on Bribery, which is considered by Transparency International to be the “gold standard” of monitoring, and has resulted in remarkable improvements in anti-bribery enforcement around the world.  This review process is rigorous, and we see our role in this process to be mission critical, as it is one of the best ways to level the playing field for U.S. companies doing business abroad.  In fact, just last month, we sent a seasoned foreign bribery prosecutor to Moscow to help lead the Phase 2 review of Russia, and we will be sending another foreign bribery prosecutor to review South Africa, the only country in Africa to be a member of the Working Group on Bribery. 

But we do more than conduct reviews; we are subject to them, too.  In October 2010, we underwent a Working Group review, and one of the recommendations from that report was part of the impetus behind the Justice Department’s and SEC’s Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  The Guide may be the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken by either the Justice Department or the SEC to explain our approach to enforcing a particular statute.  And, we have received extremely positive reviews about the Guide from the business and legal communities.  In particular, we have heard praise from numerous compliance and ethics officers, who have focused on our Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program and have even told us that they are incorporating the Guide into their in-house training programs.

All of these achievements are the product of years of work by a talented corps of dedicated and tenacious prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, who team up with similarly committed prosecutors in United States Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country to enforce the FCPA.  Simply put, our global anti-corruption mission is now ingrained in the Criminal Division’s DNA, and the FCPA is now a reality that companies know they must live with and adjust to; and this nation, and the world, are better off for it.  Notably, moreover, our FCPA prosecutors are not alone in our fight against corruption.  Our Public Integrity Section, everyday, prosecutes corruption cases involving federal, state, and local officials – indeed, just last week, our Public Integrity prosecutors secured an important conviction against former Congressman Richard Renzi.  And, through our Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, prosecutors in our Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section are working to identify the proceeds of foreign official corruption, seize them, and repatriate the recouped funds for the benefit of the people harmed.  And our Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training, known as OPDAT, and our International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, known as ICITAP, deploy prosecutors and police officers around the globe to establish rule of law programs and ensure – through those programs and training – that corruption does not take hold.  

As head of the Criminal Division, I am acutely aware that we have many urgent law enforcement priorities – indeed, every day, our prosecutors work to combat violent crime, financial fraud, cybercrime, and organized crime.  Yet, even with all these competing demands, I am here to tell you that fighting global corruption will remain a mainstay of the Criminal Division’s mission.  Indeed, with the momentum of so many countries behind us, I am certain that now is the time to enhance, not diminish, our anti-corruption efforts.  The fight against global corruption is a critical mission, and one I’m very proud to be part of.

 Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today.  It has been a privilege to be here.

Updated September 17, 2014