What is White-Collar/FCPA Law?
White-collar crime refers to those offenses that are designed to produce financial gain using some form of deception. This type of crime is usually committed by people in the business world who, as a result of their job position, are able to gain access to large amounts of other people’s money. Examples of white-collar crimes are tax evasion, insider trading, insurance fraud, bribery, embezzlement, and money laundering.
White-collar crime also encompasses those businesses that are international, which is covered under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The FCPA prohibits American businesses from making payments to government officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business and contracts in foreign countries; it also prohibits third-party payments, including joint-venture partnerships, in which payment is made to a third party with the knowledge that some or all of that payment will be passed on to a foreign government official as a bribe.
Therefore, the FCPA applies not only to bribery but also to money laundering. It also applies to foreign businesses listed on the U.S. Stock Exchange and those conducting business from within the United States.
What Does a White-Collar/FCPA Lawyer Do?
White-collar is a very specific area of practice and the “day-to-day” practice is similar to civil litigation with a lot of research, drafting, factual development, and argument, but with more significant client contact, which tends to be very close.
Most white-collar crime is investigated and prosecuted by federal authorities, so defense attorneys have to like going to court against the government. Defense attorneys often come from the government, which makes this area of practice one with more senior attorneys, who aid their clients through government investigations, compliance issues, and possibly trial. The community of white-collar practitioners is considered smaller and they “all know each other.”
Conducting internal or external investigations is a substantial piece of the work of a white-collar/FCPA lawyer. In-house investigations may involve the drafting and implementation of investigation policies and protocols and the management of resources issues — regulatory expectations by the government as well as compliance resources. They will also deal with the creation of an ombuds program and respond to whistleblower complaints. As a government white collar/FCPA attorney, much of the work involves ensuring that the corporate policies and protocols in place are aligned with the regulations and policies outlined by the government and its respective regulatory agencies.