Justice News

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein Delivers Remarks at the International Economic Forum of the Americas Conference of Montreal
Monday, June 11, 2018

Remarks as prepared for delivery

John, thank you for that kind introduction.

I am grateful to the International Economic Forum of the Americas for the invitation to join you. It is an honor to be here with leaders of some of the world’s most influential public and private organizations.

Montreal and the Quebec province have a long history of importance — from the First Nations, to the French and British, and now to peoples around the world.  And Montreal and Quebec hold special historical interest for me.

My parents raised me in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. My wife and I raised our children in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Both counties are named for Richard Montgomery, an American hero who died in Quebec during the American Revolutionary War.  A few years ago, I took my daughters on a trip to visit the spot where Montgomery fell and learn more about the history of Canada and its relationship with the United States.

Richard Montgomery helped to build that history. His life story is revealing about the international rivalries of his era; the inexorable quest for liberty; and the lessons for our own time.

Montgomery was born in Ireland in 1738. In 1756, at age 18, he joined the British Army to fight in the Seven Years’ War. He traveled to North America to battle against France. So during Montgomery’s first war in Canada, he fought the British to control the territory and the French Canadians living there.

In 1772, Montgomery left the British Army to become a farmer in New York, hoping never to return to combat. But three years later, in 1775, George Washington appointed Montgomery as brigadier general of the newly formed Continental Army, which fought to free the American colonies from British control.

Returning to military service was not a happy development for Montgomery. When news of the assignment arrived, he accepted it reluctantly, with these words: “The Congress having done me the honor of electing me brigadier-general in their service, is an event which must put an end, for awhile, perhaps for ever, to the quiet scheme of life I had prescribed for myself; for, though entirely unexpected and undesired by me, the will of an oppressed people, compelled to choose between liberty and slavery, must be obeyed.”

Montgomery once again traveled north and went to war in Canada. This time, he fought against his British homeland, as part of an expedition hoping to enlist the Canadian colonies in the American Revolution.

Montgomery fought his former colleagues courageously, but with a deep sense of regret. In October 1775, he wrote, “I most earnestly request to retire…. I have not the talents or temper for such a command. I am under the disagreeable necessity of acting eternally out of Character to wheedle, flatter, and lie…. I will bear with it for a short time, but I cannot support it long.”

In November 1775, Montgomery’s forces took Montreal. The next month, during the Battle of Quebec, he was shot and killed on New Year’s Eve. His role in the Revolutionary War lasted for only six months.

Montgomery’s final order was recorded as follows: “Come on, my good soldiers, your General calls upon you to come on.”

The British soldiers who defeated Montgomery nonetheless held him in high regard. British General Guy Carleton ordered a burial with dignity. An American prisoner who witnessed the funeral remarked that “Montgomery was beloved, because of his manliness of soul, heroic bravery, and suavity of manners.”

Montgomery fought valiantly for the cause of liberty.  He helped to build a nation that produced an enduring Constitution and a commitment to human dignity that promoted and preserved liberty throughout the world, and continues to do so today.

We are all fortunate to gather at this forum as representatives of nations that seek to resolve disagreements amicably, and that share a common interest in preserving freedom and promoting economic progress.

The United States Department of Justice is my nation’s primary law enforcement agency.  Our name states our mission.  We pursue the goal of maintaining a just and law-abiding society.

Justice is a noble cause.  It is no coincidence that the preamble to our Constitution identifies “establish[ing] justice” among its primary objectives.  James Madison, one of the drafters of the Constitution, wrote that “justice is the [goal] of government.  It is the [goal] of civil society.  It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”

A free and prosperous society depends upon the rule of law.  The concept dates to the fourth century B.C. In the words of Aristotle, “justice is the bond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society.”

When the rule of law breaks down, it undermines essential aspects of modern civilization, including mutual trust and economic progress. They require a framework of established rules.  For that reason, John MacArthur Maguire described law as a system of “wise restraints that make men free.”

The rule of law is essential for commerce. It allows businesses to enter contracts, make investments and project revenue with reasonable assurance about the future.  It establishes an objective and fair mechanism to resolve disputes, and it provides a degree of protection from arbitrary government action.

A stable legal environment allows investors, innovators, and manufacturers to create and deliver the goods and services that sustain us and improve our lives.

I visited the nation of Armenia in 1994, when it was transitioning to democracy. I delivered a lecture about laws that prohibit public corruption in the United States.  When I finished, a perplexed student raised his hand.  He asked, “If you can’t pay bribes in America, then how do you get electricity?”

That pragmatic question illustrated how the young man learned to think about his society. Corruption undermines law. It stifles innovation, creates inefficiency, and inculcates distrust.

In a rule of law system, when you apply to the government for a permit and you satisfy the legal requirements, you are not asking for a favor. You are entitled to the permit, and it is the government’s duty to give it to you.

I studied business in college, and I understand how businesspeople view lawyers.  Lawyers frequently have the unpleasant duty of telling you what you may not do, and what you must do, whether you like it or not. That does not make us the most popular profession.  But attorneys are essential to a civilized society governed by the rule of law. 

Former Solicitor General of the United States John W. Davis eloquently conceded that lawyers “build no bridges.  We raise no towers.  We construct no engines.  We paint no pictures — unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement.  There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see.  But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men’s burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”  

The founders of the United States strongly believed that government should support private enterprise.  The American Revolution was not just a political revolution. It was also an economic revolution.  It was led by merchants like John Hancock, farmers like George Washington, shopkeepers like Paul Revere, and other ordinary men and women who banded together to pursue freedom.  

The rebellious colonists wanted a more accountable government. They were angry about taxation without representation, and burdensome trade restrictions.

The colonists engaged in a major public protest in December 1773.  That event, now known as the Boston Tea Party, was a critical moment in my nation’s path to democracy.

Establishing the ground rules for commerce is a core function of government. Those of us who are responsible for law enforcement must include among our top priorities the goal of protecting people from fraud, theft, and other crimes that undermine the rule of law.

President Donald Trump spent most of his life as a private businessman. He understands the importance of promoting entrepreneurialism and avoiding unnecessary governmental interference in law-abiding enterprises.  Under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, our Department of Justice helps to promote an environment where businesses that play by the rules can thrive.

My undergraduate business training helped me to investigate fraud cases and explain complex concepts to juries and judges.  In my current job, business skills are useful for a more practical reason.  The Deputy Attorney General is responsible for helping to manage an organization of 115,000 employees and tens of thousands of contractors.  The Deputy is sometimes described as the chief operating officer of our department.

The Department of Justice is not a business, but we confront many issues that are familiar to anyone who works in a large organization.

When I started my first management job, I completed a computerized training program that simulated decision-making in challenging circumstances.  In one scenario, I was managing a team trapped in a collapsed mine.  An engineer developed a plan to detonate a small explosive and open a path out of the mine. My choices included multiple options, such as, “I have great confidence in you, go ahead,” and, “That sounds risky, let’s stop and reconsider.”

I always liked supportive supervisors. So I chose option 1: “I have great confidence in you.” 

Can you guess what happened next? Of course, the mine blew up. Everybody died. That was quite a decisive lesson about leadership.  It is best to learn that kind of lesson in training and not on the job.

People may think that they want the boss to stand behind them and offer support.  But they really need a leader to stand in front of them and take responsibility.

One of the most important leadership duties is managing change. It is fitting that the theme for your conference this year is “Managing Uncertainty.”  As a prominent Canadian businessman pointed out at the speakers’ dinner last night — I omit his name, only because the master of ceremonies announced that the remarks were off the record — change is constant and unavoidable, but it is usually unpleasant. Moreover, as a prominent international investment adviser mentioned at breakfast this morning, investors require some level of uncertainty about the future in order to earn profits. Many of you are in the business of weighing probabilities and anticipating change.

Twenty years ago, one of the most popular management books in America was called “Who Moved My Cheese?”  It is a fable about how to manage change. The story involves two small men who live in a maze.  There is a place in the maze where they always find cheese. But one day, the cheese stops showing up in the usual spot.  One man chooses to adapt to the new challenge. He ventures through the maze in search of the cheese.  The other man sticks with his routine and refuses to change.

The adaptable man learns that the cheese is always moving.  He constantly explores the maze, altering his pattern to prevent complacency from setting in.

The complacent man goes hungry.

That simple lesson is a reminder about the need to evolve to meet changing circumstances.  Renowned management consultant Peter Drucker put it this way: “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is [acting] with yesterday’s logic.”  If the cheese moves, you need to move, too.

Philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the term “antifragile” to describe the most successful model. According to Taleb, the opposite of fragile is not merely “robust” or “resilient,” as most people assume.  Things that are robust or resilient resist breaking when placed under stress, but that merely demonstrates that they are non-fragile.  Things that are antifragile grow stronger with stress, like muscles.

Risk and randomness cannot be eliminated, so Taleb recommends embracing them.  Entities that seek to avoid stress are quickly defeated when they inevitably experience unforeseeable events.  In contrast, antifragile entities welcome risk and are prepared to flourish when the unexpected occurs.

The point is that external factors are always changing, so whatever business you are in, you sometimes need to realign your practices to achieve your goals.  The movie “Moneyball,” based on a book by Michael Lewis, summarizes the lesson in three words borrowed from Charles Darwin: “Adapt or die.”

At our Department of Justice, we must adapt to new challenges posed by the global marketplace and cyber commerce, such as safeguarding intellectual property, preventing cyber intrusions, and ensuring open and fair markets.

Many of the organizations represented here today are on the cutting-edge in science, technology, research, and development.  Unfortunately, that makes you a target for hostile individuals, organizations, and governments.  They attempt to profit from your ingenuity by infiltrating your computer systems and stealing your intellectual property.

When hackers gain unlawful access to computers, it can take only a few minutes to exfiltrate discoveries that took many years of work and many millions of dollars of investment to produce.  Your challenge is to protect your organization from attacks and prepare to respond when they occur.

Law enforcement is mostly reactive — prosecuting criminal wrongdoing only after it happens.  Usually, victims have already lost considerable sums of money, valuable trade secrets, or other confidential information.

Criminal prosecutions are an important deterrent, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  A company with a robust compliance program can prevent crime, or detect it before too much harm is done.

Threats to safety and security grow more complex over time. When crimes transcend political boundaries and pose grave threats to privacy, security, and financial stability, we all need to work more closely together to combat the threats.

It is usually in the interest of the private sector to help government investigators and prosecutors. When organizations are victimized, government agencies can help limit the damage and prevent problems from spreading.

When businesses work with law enforcement, you help us uphold the rule of law and sustain the conditions necessary for your organization to thrive.  That is good for your business, good for your country, and good for us all.

When governments work together, we strengthen our defenses and enhance our ability to detect, deter, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations that pose a threat to our citizens, companies, and nations.

Consider the case of an American lawyer recently charged with money laundering and tax crimes.  He allegedly stole millions of dollars from clients, then drove to Canada, flew to Paris, and ultimately arrived in Madagascar. 

Madagascar authorities provided considerable assistance, by seizing criminal proceeds and detaining the fugitive for return to the United States.

In another recent case, U.S. authorities charged the chief executive and four associates of a company that provided encryption services to criminals for the purpose of facilitating the importation and distribution of illegal drugs.  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the International Assistance Group of the Canadian Department of Justice helped with the investigation.

Canadian law enforcement authorities provided valuable intelligence and evidence from their own investigations. They also conducted surveillance, participated in undercover operations, executed search warrants, and responded promptly to Mutual Legal Assistance requests.  The RCMP later captured the lead suspect when he attempted to flee.

In another case, a Canadian computer hacker advertised his services through the Internet.  American authorities charged the defendant and three other people for conspiring to illegally access thousands of webmail accounts on an internet service provider’s network.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Crown Prosecutor’s Office for Ontario, and the International Assistance Group of the Canadian Department of Justice helped to secure the fugitive’s arrest and return to the United States. Last month, he was sentenced to serve five years in prison and pay a fine. 

Those are just a few examples of a deep commitment to international collaboration. Through personal relationships, policy changes and additional resources, the United States is enhancing its commitment to international law enforcement coordination.

We recently adopted a new policy instructing our federal prosecutors to work jointly with foreign enforcement agencies that conduct investigations of the same companies.

And we devoted additional resources to improve our ability to support foreign partners by promptly and efficiently responding to requests for assistance in securing evidence and detaining fugitives within our borders.

We hope that other nations will reciprocate and expedite their responses to our requests for assistance in obtaining evidence and returning fugitives.

Processing assistance requests more quickly, developing information sharing protocols, making foreign witnesses available for interviews, and promptly sharing information about data intrusions are examples of ways that nations can collaborate with each other and work cooperatively with the private sector to advance our mutual interests. 

Working together is not always easy.  There may be legal and practical barriers to cooperation.  We speak different languages, reside in different time zones, and are governed by different laws.  But strong leadership is not about avoiding problems. It is about embracing challenges and overcoming obstacles.

In conclusion, by working together, we can lead our organizations through uncertain times while enhancing our effectiveness in preventing crime, promoting the rule of law, preserving freedom and ensuring economic progress. Those are worthy goals.

I appreciate your attention and your collegiality.

Merci beaucoup.

Updated June 11, 2018