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Lawyers Behind Closed Doors

Blackout on Corporate Crime Enforcement

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Put top corporate crime law enforcement officials and defense attorneys behind closed doors for two days at a posh resort outside of Washington, D.C.

Call it the American Conference Institute’s National Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Charge $2,000 to $4,000 per person to attend.

And for 90 percent of the conference sessions, slam the door shut on the press.

Is that any way to discuss foreign bribery in a democracy?

Probably not.

But that’s what’s happening at the Gaylord National Resort just south of Washington, D.C. later this week.

Reporters will be allowed to cover the keynote address by Justice Department Criminal Division Chief Lanny Breuer and two other sessions.

But they will not be allowed to cover twenty other sessions, including ones where top FCPA law enforcement officials will be speaking.

So, for example, Tracy Price, the assistant director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) FCPA unit, will speak on Friday at a session titled “FCPA Internal Controls amid Increased SEC Expectations: What Your Books and Records Need to Accomplish.”

Reporters are not allowed to cover her talk.

Sean McKessy, the SEC’s top whistleblower official, will be speaking on Thursday at a session called “Creating a Home for the Whistleblower: How to Facilitate Open Communication and Appropriately Respond to Allegations in a Bounty Hunter Environment.”

Reporters are not allowed to cover his talk.

Nathaniel B. Edmonds, assistant chief at the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section will be speaking at a session called “Friend or Foe?: A Dissection of a Monitorship from Start to Finish.”

Reporters are not allowed to cover his talk.

James M. Koukios is another assistant chief at the Fraud Section.

He’ll be speaking at a session titled “Where Companies Go Wrong on FCPA Compliance: What Not To Do and Lessons Learned from the Most Costly Mistakes.”

Reporters are not allowed to cover his talk.

Jason Jones, another assistant chief of the Fraud Section, will be speaking at a session titled “10 Trip Wires to Avoid When Conducting an FCPA Internal Investigation.”

Reporters are not allowed to cover his talk.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has never prohibited press from covering their sessions – including last month when the ABA held it’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 2012 Conference at the Westin Hotel in Georgetown.

In fact, according to the ABA’s Earnestine Murphy, the ABA has an open meetings policy – which means that all conference sessions – with the exception of business meetings – are open to the media.

Mike Koehler, who runs the FCPA Professor blog and is an Assistant Professor of Law at Southern Illinois University, recently questioned the wisdom of putting law enforcement officials and corporate defense attorneys behind closed doors to discuss FCPA policy.

“Should public servants be allowed to speak at private conferences and events that charge thousands of dollars to attend?” Koehler asked. “Should public servants be used as pawns by corporate conference organizers to boost attendance and thus revenue? Should the enforcement agencies release all speeches, comments and remarks, including answers to questions posed by the audience? Do small to medium size enterprises have the resources to attend such events?”

Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.