Former Stericyle Official Charged in Foreign Bribery Scheme

According to the terms of a superseding information made public by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York on or about February 13, 2024, Mauricio Gomez Baez (“Baez”)—a former Stericycle executive for Latin America—was officially charged with a single count of  conspiracy for his role in a multi-year scheme to expand Stericycle’s business opportunities in the Latin American region (particularly, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina) through the outright bribery of foreign officials associated with government-owned enterprises.

Stericycle—a United States based company operating as an international network of medical, industrial, maritime, and document waste disposal entities—was itself charged with violating the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) several years prior to the current criminal case. Stericycle subsequently resolved both an administrative enforcement action with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and a criminal case with the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). 

According to the criminal complaint against Baez, from approximately 2011 through 2016, he actively conspired with other Stericycle employees and agents to pay approximately $10.5 million in bribes to Mexican, Brazilian, and Argentinian government officials to secure an improper advantage in the award of waste disposal contracts.

During the course of the bribery scheme in question, Baez enlisted co-conspirators to make bribe payments—often in cash—to government customers in each of the three aforementioned jurisdictions. The criminal information alleges that these payments were calculated as a percentage of the underlying contract payments “made by or owing from a government customer.” Tellingly, an estimated 70% of the contracts consummated by Baez and his co-conspirators on behalf of Stericycle involved “regional government customers” that were indispensable in building the company’s capacity to support waste services in disparate regions. Often, the contracts lasted for a term of a single year, whereupon the contracts would be re-bid and Stericycle—benefiting from illegal payments made to regional governmental officials—would be chosen over its competitors to dispose primarily of medical waste. To conceal this fraudulent activity, Baez and his co-conspirators utilized the abbreviation “IP” to describe the illegal payments in spreadsheets maintained during the normal course of business operations. 

The prosecution of Baez comes on the heels of Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco’s solemn promise to hold individual perpetrators accountable for corporate crime. Indeed, during a speech given in the fall of 2022 at New York University’s Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement, Monaco put would-be white collar criminals on notice with a bold declaration that the DOJ would vigorously pursue “individuals who commit and profit from corporate crime.”

To that end, Monaco announced a policy of requiring cooperating companies to produce critical evidence of malfeasance committed by corporate officials on an expedited basis or risk forfeiting cooperation credit altogether. While the resolution of the Stericycle case preceded the individual prosecution of Baez—seemingly in contravention of Monaco’s preference to have individual cases resolved first—it is pellucidly clear that federal prosecutors are intent on arresting and reversing the decline of individual criminal prosecutions associated with corporate malfeasance over the past decade. 

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