Morrison & Foerster adds a Justice Department expert in foreign corruption cases

Charles Duross, one of the federal government’s key enforcers of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, is joining the Washington office of law firm Morrison & Foerster, the firm announced Monday.

Duross was deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit from April 2010 until last Friday. He is slated to begin Feb. 17 at Morrison & Foerster — an international law firm with about 1,000 attorneys worldwide — as a partner and head of the firm’s global anti-corruption practice. His replacement will be Patrick Stokes, a 15-year Justice Department veteran and co-head of the fraud section’s securities and financial fraud unit.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act forbids U.S companies from bribing foreign officials to further their business interests abroad. The area of the law has exploded since the 1990s and continues to boom as the global expansion of U.S. businesses means more interaction with foreign officials.

Duross was the principal author of the government’s main text on enforcing anti-corruption law, “Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” Under his direction, the FCPA unit resolved more than 40 corruption cases that resulted in $2 billion in penalties and the conviction of more than two dozen individuals for bribery, kickbacks, money laundering and other crimes, according to a statement from the firm.

Duross said he expects the department to continue “robust enforcement” of the anti-bribery law that is increasingly affecting a broader range of industries than before.

“FCPA had a reputation of being traditionally focused on certain businesses or sectors like oil and gas, the extraction industry and defense products. Over the past five years, and this is a trend that is going to continue, you’ve seen FCPA applies to all business sectors,” he said, pointing out that in the last year, companies such as Ralph Lauren and Diebold, an Ohio ATM manufacturer, have found themselves in the crosshairs of bribery investigations.

Duross said that after he decided last October to start looking for opportunities at a law firm, he recused himself from cases that involved the law firms he was considering working for. Going forward, ethics rules bar Duross from representing companies that he had a “personal” and “substantial” involvement in investigating while at the department.

Duross said he expects his practice at Morrison & Foerster to focus on advising companies on how to design preventive compliance programs, and conducting internal investigations.

“Where I think I bring a lot of value is. . . I’ve seen what ‘best in class’ means with compliance programs,” he said. “I can say, ‘This is good, but here is where I think the weaknesses are.’ So if people in the C-suite ask if a program is good enough, I have the ability to give them comfort.”

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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