In a May 27, 2011 post on the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog (here), Tom Fox has some interesting observations about the ongoing FCPA gun sting trial. (Readers will recall that this prosecution involves numerous individuals from the armaments industry who were caught up in a government sting operation that included extensive wiretaps and an FBI agent posing as a representative of an African government.)
Among other things, Fox comments that this prosecution is a “game changer” because of the government’s use of “organized crime fighting techniques in very mundane white collar crime.”
Fox’s point is a serious one, particularly in view of the government’s use of wiretaps in several other recent high-profile prosecutions. The insider trading conviction of Raj Rajaratnam depended critically on extensive government wiretaps. The prosecution of the former big law associate who had passed along inside information gained from the law firms where he worked also relied on use of wiretaps.
The government’s use of these aggressive crime-fighting techniques underscores how seriously the government is taking its responsibility to enforce these laws. The government’s willingness to use these techniques also has important implications for anyone concerned about the potential exposures for companies and their executives. The most obvious lesson is that the government is vigilant and will actively pursue criminal activity. For that reason, corporate compliance efforts are critically important.
Another, perhaps more chilling implication is that presuming confidentiality for even the most private conversations and communications could be dangerous. There is probably a larger essay for another day here. Suffice it to say that the line between necessary vigilance and intrusive surveillance is a fine one, and the government’s involvement in monitoring its citizen’s activities is fraught with difficulties. Some might say it is only those involved in criminal activities that have any thing to fear. I note that we only hear about the wiretaps that result in criminal prosecutions. One can only wonder about the extent of governmental intrusion into purely lawful communications.
Independent Director Liability Insurance: Do independent directors need a separate liability insurance policy? The IDL insurance product has been around for years, though relatively few companies buy it. The problem is that sometimes when things go wrong, things go catastrophically wrong. Though IDL continues to attract relatively few buyers, there are occasions when it could be critically important. A May 26, 2011 article from Corporate Secretary magazine (reprinted here) takes a closer look at the IDL product. (Full disclosure, I was interviewed for the article).
Take Two: Perhaps there are no panaceas, but there may be one thing Americans could do to solve many of their problems — everything “from stuck zippers to the national debt” — according to a recent report you might have missed.
The American Scene: A series of recent trips has reminded me that there are a multitude of beautiful places in this big country. Among other delightful places I have visited are several that are well worth the journey, including Davidson, North Carolina; Lake Tahoe, California; Denver, Colorado; and Lexington, Virginia.
My most recent sojourn, a Memorial Day weekend trip to South Carolina for a wedding, introduced me to Greenville, which is yet another delightful surprise. The cluster of restored buildings and pedestrian bridges surrounding the waterfalls on the Reedy River and the blocks of shops and restaurants along the tree-lined Main Street make the town a pleasant and enjoyable place to explore. Greenville is only one of several U.S. cities that recently have made big investments in reorienting themselves toward their riverine setting, including Dubuque, Iowa and Jacksonville, Florida.
Travel has its stresses and headaches, but it also occasionally affords agreeable discoveries that reward the exertion. Truly, you could explore this country endlessly and never exhaust its aesthetic possibilities.
Greenville, South Carolina May 28, 2011