Alleged Bribery, Fraudulent Record keeping—Tyson Top Executives Escape U.S. Prosecution

Are there two different sets of criminal justice standards in America?

Mr. Greg Lee, a former top executive at Tyson, may be one to gratefully raise his hand.

The New York Times reports that top executives at U.S. based Tyson International had knowingly been involved in criminal conspiracy to commit bribery, and falsify records to cover their tracks. Originally, the payments to key personnel (and their wives) were intended to circumvent quality export standards to foreign markets (not to the U.S. market)—at their poultry processing plants in Mexico.

Despite evidence available through internal memos identifying the conspirator’s (and the sums of money) involved, a decision was made at the Justice Department not to prosecute.

According to the Times article, two of the factors involved in the decision not to seek prosecution were the high litigation costs involved in foreign cases, and the difficulty in proving such cases. This, despite the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that lists bribery and maintaining fraudulent records as both felony acts, punishable under the statute: “fines of up to $5 million and a prison term of up to 20 years for individuals, as well as fines of up to $25 million for companies.”

Instead, Tyson settled with both the Justice Department and the S.E.C. for $5.2 million dollars, and voluntary dealt internally with those who were involved. One of the alleged conspirator’s, Greg Lee, was asked to retire early, and provided by Tyson with:

“nearly $1 million when he retired and awarded him a 10-year consulting contract providing an additional $3.6 million in compensation. Mr. Lee continues to be reimbursed for country club dues and use of a car, and enjoys “personal use of the company-owned aircraft for up to 100 hours per year,” according to his employment agreement.”

Here’s a link to the original post: Writing a Check to Make a Bribery Charge Go Away

Postscript question: How much profit did Tyson presumably make as a direct result of their bribes, and how does that amount compare to the $5.2 million they ultimately paid in fines?


  1. Tom says

    Law firms representing Foreign Corrupt Practice Acts hired the top DOJ attorney that was there to prosecute them. Their sales in the Mexican bribing fiasco was reported to be almost a billion dollars in those years which makes the fine and penalties less than one half of one percent of the sales that Tyson reported (never mind their funny accounting admissions).

    Here is the top dog at DOJ FCPA going to work for companies litigating FCPA claims and making millions:

    “Many law firms have tried to gain an advantage for their clients by picking off former Justice Department officials. Last year Paul Weiss scored a coup by picking up Mark Mendelsohn, who presided over the FCPA crackdown for DOJ.”

    If you can’t win, just “buy ’em”. The corruption is out of control.

    • says

      If the fines do represent less than one percent of the actual revenues achieved, and I have no reason not to believe it, that hardly can be considered a deterrent toward future criminal behavior.

      At what point does a seemingly inattentive public become morally outraged, and demand of our elected officials real action and accountability?

      If bringing these types of blatant atrocities to light doesn’t produce change—our democracy faces extinction.

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