As sure as the sun rises in the east and dogs bark – and following a well traveled career path – DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Christopher Cestaro is joining a law firm (WilmerHale) for an FCPA practice. (See here).
According to the WilmerHale release:
“As head of the FCPA Unit, Mr. Cestaro oversaw all the Justice Department’s FCPA investigations, prosecutions and resolutions in the US. He supervised many of the government’s most challenging and high-profile cross-border investigations, involving every significant industry sector, and he oversaw investigations of individuals at the highest levels of companies and government, including corporate board members, executives and senior foreign government officials. He led the unit at a time when enforcement authorities in other nations increasingly launched corruption probes and enforcement actions, requiring careful international coordination and diplomacy—a shift from the past, when such actions were mainly the province of US authorities acting alone. As a result, more companies now confront complex cross-border FCPA investigations and negotiations.”
There is lots of puffery in the WilmerHale release such as Cestaro is “among the world’s leading anti-corruption practitioners” and that WilmerHale is “home to one of the world’s preeminent FCPA and anti-corruption practices.”
What makes one among the “world’s leading anti-corruption practitioners” and what makes a law firm “home to one of the world’s most preeminent FCPA and anti-corruption practices?”
These are serious questions. (See here).
Moreover, the following statement in the WilmerHale release is factually dubious.
“[Cestaro] led the [FCPA] unit at a time when enforcement authorities in other nations increasingly launched corruption probes and enforcement actions, requiring careful international coordination and diplomacy—a shift from the past, when such actions were mainly the province of US authorities acting alone.” (Emphasis added).
For the record, Cestaro was appointed to acting chief of the DOJ’s FCPA Unit in July 2019 and became permanent chief later in 2019. Other nations were launching corruption probes and enforcement actions – and coordinating with other law enforcement actions- long before July 2019.
In the WilmerHale relase, the firm’s co-managing partner states: “We couldn’t be more pleased to have Chris join our best-in-class white collar team. His exceptional enforcement and compliance experience and insights will be a tremendous resource for our clients, who face ever-increasing scrutiny and enforcement activity.”
As this Wall Street Journal article correctly notes:
“Several of Mr. Cestaro’s predecessors now hold lucrative positions at competitors of his new firm. The market for the unit’s prosecutors has been driven by the rising prominence of the FCPA.”
Regarding the general issue of DOJ or SEC FCPA enforcement attorneys leaving for lucrative positions with FCPA Inc. to provide defense and compliance services to business organizations subject to the enforcement climate they helped create, for over a decade these pages have called for restrictions when DOJ / SEC FCPA enforcement attorneys with supervisory and discretionary authority leave the government for private practice careers devoted to the FCPA. (See here, here, here and here among other posts).
Indeed, the legitimacy and credibility of the DOJ and SEC’s entire FCPA enforcement programs hinge on this policy proposal being adopted.