On Monday, April 19, 2010, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia handed down “the longest-ever prison sentence” for a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violation. Charles Jumet was sentenced to 87 months in prison for conspiring to violate the FCPA and for making false statements to federal agents. Jumet, a vice president of Ports Engineering Consultants Corp. (PECC), pled guilty to paying over $200,000 in bribes to high-ranking Panamanian government officials between 1997 and 2003 in exchange for maritime contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterways. (PECC’s president, John Warwick, also has pled guilty to the same conduct and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14). In addition to the long prison term (over 7 years) Jumet was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and fined $15,000.
Neil MacBride, the U.S. Attorney leading the prosecution team, noted, “Bribery isn’t just a cost of doing business overseas. Today’s sentence makes clear that this is a serious crime that the U.S. government is intent on enforcing.” This statement succinctly illustrate the US DOJ’s commitment to prosecute individuals who violate the FCPA.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has made no secret that the “prosecution of individuals is a cornerstone of [the DOJ’s FCPA] enforcement strategy.” “Put simply,” Breuer said in a November speech, “the prospect of significant prison sentences for individuals should make clear to every corporate executive, every board member, and every sales agent that we will seek to hold you personally accountable for FCPA violations.” Thus, the FCPA poses a hazard not just for corporate reputations and profits but also for the individual executive. Companies can be fined, but only individuals can be put in prison, and DOJ well knows that the prospect of a stretch in the Federal pen can have considerably greater deterrent effect than the possibility of your employer having to pay a fine. Look for more such announcements in the months and years to come, as FCPA enforcement efforts continue to escalate.