“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.” ~ John Wayne
By Vanessa Biard-Schaeffer
This week in Via Europa, you’ll have the opportunity to hear the incredible story of an exceptional man, Frédéric Pierucci. Frédéric is a former Senior Executive at Alstom, a French energy company with a global presence.
In the 1960s, the President of France, Charles de Gaulle, decided to focus on achieving energy independence through the use of nuclear energy, which today accounts for 75% of the country’s electricity production. Alstom was THE company that made this possible. Although the company experienced some financial difficulties in the early 2000s, it continued to expand its business.
In 2013, Frédéric Pierucci was appointed as the head of Alstom’s partnership in Asia and moved to Singapore. At the time, he visited the United States regularly as he had ongoing business there. On Sunday April 14, 2013, he was arrested by the FBI in a plane that had just landed in New York. The ensuing events make for a gripping story worthy of John Grisham’s thrillers.
In this interview, Frédéric explains the legal and financial traps that he and Alstom faced. From his high-security prison in Wyatt, Rhode Island—one of the prisons privatized in the ’90s—Frédéric began to assemble the pieces of a puzzle that eventually allowed him to understand why his fate was dependent on Alstom’s, and how the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) was being misused to target foreign companies, particularly in Europe.
As he moved through this haze, dealing with numerous obstacles—ultimately resolved with the sale of Alstom to General Electric—Frédéric came to understand that he had been taken hostage in a merciless economic war.
Frédéric’s story helps us understand the legal, political, and human ramifications of this targeted attack against a foreign company but also against people who acted in good faith as links in a long chain of decisions and decision-makers. Frédéric’s courage and patience were remarkable as he stood up to his opponents.
In addition to the FCPA, Frédéric highlights another program, the CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act), which represents a risk for any company whose data are stored by a U.S. company. To conclude the interview, Frédéric shares his thoughts about the future of Europe vis-à-vis the United States—and the need to turn the page on the post-1945 period.
In Let's Go to the Movies, Catherine will discuss Terms and Conditions May Apply, an eye-opening documentary on all the things you are agreeing to when clicking “I accept.”
In Money & Markets, Catherine will cover the latest events in finance and politics. E-mail your questions for Ask Catherine or post them at the Money & Markets commentary for the third week of February when it is posted.
Please join us for the interview with Frédéric Pierucci on February 18th.
Talk to you then!
Book review of The American Trap by Frédéric Pierucci, with Matthieu Aron.
Frédéric Pierucci’s company website: IKARIAN