Film Festival Couple Sentencing Thursday

Lawyer for Greens: “Hollywood is going to have to pay more attention to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”

Last Updated: January 21, 2010 @ 10:24 AM

Gerald and Patricia Green, the West Hollywood couple convicted last September of bribing a Thai official while running Thailand’s Bangkok International Film Festival, will be sentenced Thursday morning in U.S. District Court.

The original 22-count indictment alleged that between 2002 and 2006 the Greens received $13.5 million from a senior official of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for bogus contracts, of which the couple kicked back $1.8 million. A Department of Justice source tells TheWrap that prosecutors will seek far less than the roughly two centuries of maximum prison time the law allows for. Gerald Green is 78 years old and ill with Stage III emphysema. (His wife will be 55 this year.)

The statute used to hammer the Greens, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, is a high-minded piece of legislation passed in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Watergate. The act was intended to level the capitalist playing field so that corporations that refused to bribe foreign government officials weren’t punished by the marketplace for being uncompetitive. 

Yet one recurring criticism of the act – and one heard from the Greens’ defenders – is that it doesn’t take into consideration “real world” environments in which it’s necessary to occasionally grease a palm to get a deal moving forward.

Gerald Green’s attorney, Jerry Mooney, however, sees problems closer to home because of his client’s conviction.

“Everyone, including Hollywood, is going to have to pay more attention to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” says Mooney. “It’s getting out there — trickling down to small companies. It’s been a difficult thing in the past for companies operating overseas, especially in the entertainment industry where time is such an important factor — you can’t have people standing around and equipment held up in airports.”

Other experts say that FPCA is not so draconian that it prohibits small gratuities.

“The act tries to make express exceptions for ‘facilitating payments,’” says Curtis Dombek, a partner and international trade expert at the Los Angeles law firm Sheppard Mullin. “Business licenses or visas are being held up until a small payment is required to an official behind a desk – those may require such payments.”

Dombek notes that American companies are protected from prosecution if their largesse includes entertaining foreign VIPs or if the host country’s written laws allow for certain gratuities to be exchanged.

“The act has to be done corruptly – with corrupt intent,” says Dombek.

In the Greens’ case federal jurors found there was $13.5 million of intent.