Discussing White Collar Crime

In a question and answer session reported on the Law360 website, Sean Hecker discussed his career. Hecker is a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a white collar practice group in New York City. His clients are individuals and companies involved in white collar criminal and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigations. He focuses on issues involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, especially those cases involving the financial industry and pharmaceutical companies.

When asked about the most challenging case he has worked on, Hecker described the two-year internal investigation of corruption issues affecting the Siemens AG Compliance Committee. This investigation was particularly difficult because it involved coordinating investigations in several different countries with different languages, cultures and legal systems; completing an extremely complex investigation in a two-year period; and constant travel. Hecker commented that not only was this case the most challenging case he has worked on, but it was also the most rewarding because he very quickly learned how to conduct investigations abroad and was able to work with more experienced colleagues in his office, Bruce Yannett and Matt Fishbein.

Hecker discussed sentencing reform in FCPA cases. He believes the criminal justice system gives too much discretion to prosecutorial charging decisions, includes too many mandatory minimum sentences, and relies too much on lengthy incarceration, even for nonviolent crimes.

Hecker also discussed what he considers an important issue in his practice area, jurisdiction in the FCPA area. The FCPA gives the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission “territorial jurisdiction.” This means any use, even de minimus, of U.S. mail, interstate commerce, or payment in the territory of the United States, is sufficient to create territorial jurisdiction, such as making wire transfers through U.S. correspondent bank accounts, sending email though U.S. servers, or mailing a package into the U.S.

Sean Hecker named Andy Schapiro, now a partner at Quinn Emanuel, as an attorney who has impressed him. Fifteen years ago, when Hecker was a young law clerk, he watched Schapiro skillfully maneuver through advocating for his client in a difficult sentencing hearing. He was impressed with Schapiro’s ability to know exactly which arguments to make and how he used his credibility and persuasiveness to obtain a better outcome for his client. This sparked Hecker’s interest in criminal defense work.