DOJ Ramps Up Recovery Of Bribery Proceeds From Foreign Officials

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By Yin Wilczek

Nov. 19 — To combat foreign bribery, the Department of Justice is ramping up its use of criminal and civil actions to strip foreignofficials of the fruits of their “ill-gotten riches,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said Nov. 19.

“Stripping individuals of the proceeds of their conduct—and thus depriving them of the very profits that are driving the corrupt conduct in the first place—is one technique that we are using increasingly in our fight against foreign bribery,” said Caldwell, the chiefof the DOJ's Criminal Division.

That effort has been beefed up by the DOJ's greater cooperation and collaboration with other jurisdictions, Caldwell said.

The DOJ not only is sharing more information with its foreign counterparts but also is discussing strategy and coordinating its use ofinvestigative techniques, “especially in very high-impact cases,” she said. In addition, more and more countries have enacted anti-corruption laws over the past few years.

‘Tide has Turned.'

“Transnational bribery is a global problem, and an international solution truly is beginning to develop,” Caldwell said. “Admittedly, the global trend against foreign corruption continues to face many challenges, but the tide has turned and I truly believe that it is now on our side.”

The DOJ official spoke at a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act conference in National Harbor, Md., organized by the American Conference Institute.

As an example of the kinds of cases that the DOJ is “prioritizing,” Caldwell cited the department's charges in April against the chief executive officer and the managing partner of broker-dealer Direct Access Partners arising out of a scheme that paid more than $5 million in bribes to a Venezuela official. The DOJ seized several millions of dollars of illegal proceeds from the defendants, including the Venezuelan official, she said.

Caldwell also cited the department's recent settlement of a forfeiture action against a senior official in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea involving money laundering and corruption charges. The settlement required the senior official to forfeit his U.S. assets, which included a $30 million Malibu mansion, a Ferrari and Michael Jackson's “famous glove,” she said.

These and other successes “demonstrate that we are ready, willing, and able to confiscate the riches of corrupt leaders who drain the resources of their countries for their own benefit,” Caldwell said.


In other comments, Caldwell warned that while the DOJ welcomes self-reporting from companies, “we are far from reliant on it.” In a world that includes whistle-blowers and international cooperation, “I expect” that going forward, the DOJ “more often than not” will develop cases on its own, she said.

Nonetheless, the department continues to encourage and reward self-disclosure and cooperation, Caldwell said. She urged companies to:

• promptly disclose misconduct;

• undertake a thorough internal investigation;

• share “useful facts in a timely manner” with the department, including, “importantly, facts about the individuals responsible for the misconduct, no matter how high their rank may be”; and

• not hide behind foreign data-privacy laws with respect to overseas materials.


If a company delays telling the DOJ about an executive's misconduct or tries to “whitewash the facts,” it risks receiving no credit for its cooperation, Caldwell warned.

However, that doesn't mean the DOJ expects any entity to use “law-enforcement style techniques” to investigate its employees, she added. “To the contrary, it simply means that when you do an internal investigation, and you choose to cooperate with us, you should understand that we will expect to hear not just what happened, but who did what, when, and where,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yin Wilczek in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Moore at

The text of Caldwell's speech is available at