U.S. Anti-Bribery Chief Duross Joins Morrison & Foerster

Charles “Chuck” Duross, who secured almost $2 billion in corporate penalties as the head of the U.S. Justice Department unit devoted to pursuing foreign bribery cases, left the government to join Morrison & Foerster LLP in Washington.

Duross led the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit from April 2010 through Jan. 24. He oversaw several of the largest FCPA settlements in U.S. history, including those involving Alcoa Inc., Weatherford International Ltd. and Total SA. Duross also secured convictions of more than two dozen individuals.

“In order to have the greatest deterrence possible, it was always our goal to hold individuals accountable and not just corporations,” Duross, 43, said today in an interview.

Under Duross, the Justice Department began an FCPA investigation of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer. He declined to confirm the Wal-Mart probe, which the company announced, or discuss any specific investigations. He said 2014 will be a “significant year” in FCPA enforcement.

“You’re going to continue to see FCPA enforcement in large-scale corruption cases, involving both corporations and individuals,” he said.

Patrick Stokes, who helped run the securities and financial fraud unit, will take over the FCPA unit, according to the department. Stokes investigated banks accused of manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and was a lead prosecutor in the trial of Lee Farkas, convicted in 2011 of running a $3 billion scheme involving fake mortgage assets.

Guide Published

Duross said that beyond increasing prosecutions of individuals, he is proudest of how the department and the Securities and Exchange Commission explained the anti-bribery law through a guide published in November 2012.

“We didn’t want the FCPA to be a game of gotcha,” Duross said. “We wanted to explain to everybody what the FCPA prohibited and how to avoid those violations.”

In an e-mail, Mythili Raman, acting head of the department’s criminal division, said, “Chuck’s strategic, tenacious, and thoughtful approach to our FCPA enforcement program has not only resulted in individuals and institutions being held accountable for FCPA violations, but has helped to change corporate culture for the better.”

Duross joined the Justice Department in 2001, working first in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami before moving to the fraud section in 2006.

Some Defeats

As the FCPA chief, he suffered some defeats. The U.S. prosecution of 22 individuals in a sting operation fell apart, with the government failing to sustain any convictions.

The case, which was filed before he took over the unit, was the first time the government used a sting operation involving undercover techniques to charge violations of the FCPA.

“I still believe it was a better case than most people thought,” he said. “One of my takeaways is we needed to make the illegality of what was done much clearer.”

At San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster, Duross will lead the global anti-corruption group, working on “a healthy mix” of internal investigations and corporation compliance, he said.

“They clearly have the talent and a global platform,” he said of the firm. “They have particularly deep roots in Asia.”

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