The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has retained former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to lobby on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, another big-time hire by the influential business lobby as it throws its full weight behind reforming the foreign bribery law.
The former federal judge joins a team of former Justice Department officials and counsels to the Senate Judiciary Committee retained by the Chamber to lobby on the FCPA. Just Anti-Corruption first reported on the team last week.
Mukasey, who is currently a partner at Debevoise and Plimpton LLP, registered to lobby on the FCPA for the Institute for Legal Reform, the Chamber’s legal issues arm, on March 3, according to Senate lobbying disclosures. The FCPA, which prohibits bribes to foreign officials to obtain or retain business, has become a huge risk for international U.S. business as the government levies penalties worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mukasey declined to comment through a spokeswoman.
Will Moschella, a shareholder at Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck who served as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration, is registered with the Senate to lobby on the FCPA, as is JDM Public Strategies LLC founder John McMickle, formerly a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP.
Also working on the issue is Andrew Weissmann, a partner at Jenner & Block LLP, who has drafted specific reforms to the FCPA for the Chamber; and long-time Chamber lobbyist Jeffrey Peck of Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart Inc.
“We are very pleased to have Judge Mukasey help advance our efforts to reform the FCPA,” said Harold Kim, the Institiute’s senior vice president for legal reform initiatives. “He brings a wealth of experience to the table given his past position as the 81st Attorney General of the United States and former Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.”
Kim is coordinating the chamber’s internal efforts. He joined the Institute in 2008 after serving as deputy chief counsel to former Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Arlen Specter. Specter, who lost a bid for re-election last year after switching from the Republican to Democratic parties, convened his final Judiciary Committee hearing in November. The topic: FCPA enforcement.
The Chamber’s push to reform the FCPA comes at a time of ramped up enforcement of the 33-year-old law. The Justice Department has levied more than $1 billion in criminal penalties in the past year to resolve FCPA cases. The SEC has imposed more than $600 million in civil sanctions.
The massive penalties and soaring costs of corporate internal investigations have drawn the ire of the U.S. business community, which argues the government’s aggressive FCPA enforcement regime is having a negative impact on American companies doing business in an increasingly globalized world.
The lobbying effort was jump-started in October by a paper written by Weissmann for the Institute. Weissmann proposed changes to the government’s enforcement of the FCPA, and urged Congress to amend the statute, then testified during Specter’s hearing on the FCPA. He previously served as chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and as director of the DOJ’s Enron Task Force.
Weissman’s paper called for five specific reforms including limiting a company’s “successor liability” for the prior actions of a firm it has acquired and giving a clear definition of “foreign official” under the statute. Shortly after the paper was released, Mukasey moderated a panel on FCPA reform sponsored by the Chamber.
Mukasey served as Attorney General from November 2007 to January 2009. During his tenure at the Justice Department, FCPA enforcement became more aggressive. Siemens AG paid the largest ever criminal fine under the law, nearly $450 million, in 2008.
Mukasey previously was a judge in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court from 1988 to 2006, becoming chief judge in 2000. He joined Debevoise’s New York office as a partner in the litigation practice in February 2009, focusing his practice primarily on internal investigations, independent board reviews and corporate governance, according to his firm profile.
Mukasey has not previously registered as a lobbyist, according to Senate disclosures. His stature would seem to add potency to the Chamber’s efforts, though it remains unclear how much of an appetite Congress’ will have for reforming the FCPA.
Two Senate Judiciary Committee members, Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons, have said they are working on “legislative changes.” But the 1998 amendments to the statute, which, among other things, essentially extended the law’s jurisdiction to cover foreign nationals and companies, were reported out of the Senate Banking and House Commerce committees, but not out of the Judiciary Committee.