Prosecutor disciplined for non-disclosure

In San Francisco a former Santa Clara County prosecutor Ben Field lost his licence to practice for four years when it turned out he had failed to give proper disclosure in a series of criminal cases.  Last week he took his fight to clear his disciplinary record to a State Bar of California appellate panel.  Unfortunate move, it turns out as the judges sent a strong signal that  his four-year suspension for misconduct may not be harsh enough.

During an hour long hearing, Field’s lawyer, Allen Ruby, encountered generally hostile questioning from the three-judge appellate review panel.   At least two of the judges, Presiding Judge Joann Remke and Judge Judith Epstein, grilled State Bar prosecutor Donald Steedman on why his office didn’t seek to permanently strip Field of his law license, given the argument at trial that he’d repeatedly violated ethical rules and the constitutional rights of defendants in criminal cases.

Its a shame that our regulators lack the cojones to adopt similar measures here. How many times can the prosecution simply fail to hand over glaringly obvious relevant material before one gets knocked down?

UK Bribery Act is coming

The Queen announced the birth of a new bribery and corruption bill in her speech on Wednesday.   Doing business corruptly would carry a 10 year sentence if the bill succeeds – though it may be a big “if” unless the Conservatives support it.

The bill is admirably simple –  defining bribery by its objective of “improperly performing a relevant function”…. Guess we’ll know what that means when we see it?

It forbids  anyone from offering, promising or giving a bribe, as well as accepting, soliciting or agreeing to receive an illicit payment. Its provisions cover foreign public officials without the current get-out for nations which sanction or solicit such payments  at the very top.

Prosecuting  companies and senior management will be far easier where bribes have been offered, paid or received.  Companies will be exposed to prosecution for failed policies, systems and controls.  A new class of operational risks is born!

The new legislation will reach even further than the Amercian  Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, because it covers deals struck between businesses as well as with governmental bodies.

The bill can be viewed on http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldbills/003/10003.i-ii.html