Summary List Placement
A prosecutor who played a leading role in the US Department of Justice investigation of the multibillion-dollar bribery scandal tied to the investment fund 1MDB has quietly taken a role at Facebook leading “special investigations,” Insider has learned.
A source directly familiar with the move told Insider that Woo S. Lee had joined Facebook. Lee, who is still listed on the DOJ’s website, began working at Facebook in December, according to his LinkedIn profile. He previously worked at the DOJ, where he was on the team that charged Goldman Sachs and extracted a $2.9 billion settlement over its role in the 1MDB bribery scandal.
Facebook declined to comment on the hire. A job listing for Lee’s role says he “will oversee a worldwide team of attorneys and investigators” that will field inquiries from the DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The listing indicates he will also conduct internal investigations “on matters such as anti-corruption, taxation, fraud, sanctions, and international trade.”
The addition of Lee comes as Facebook faces a thicket of legal and regulatory threats. The US Federal Trade Commission and 48 state attorneys general have sued Facebook to try to force it to sell WhatsApp and Instagram. Con artists have used the site to steer victims to scams and users have sued Facebook, alleging it violated their privacy rights.
Facebook has also found itself thrust into the spotlight on issues around how it moderates potentially dangerous content on its platforms. After years of pressure from activists and its own employees, the company banned President Donald Trump on Jan. 7, saying his fanning the flames of conflict could “provoke further violence” after the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
And as Facebook has expanded into payments, it has also faced new regulations. Job listings show it has been hiring people with experience building sanctions and compliance programs.
Lee’s move comes with several major cases that he played a role in having wound down. The Goldman investigation was settled in October with Goldman Sachs Group, the corporate parent, inking a nonprosecution agreement and a Malaysian subsidiary pleading guilty to criminal charges. Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York are still set to go to trial in 2021 against Roger Ng, a Goldman banker.
The 1MDB saga was seen as a dark cloud over Goldman for years, with three employees said by US prosecutors to be implicated in the bribery scheme others accused of ignoring “significant red flags.” The bank made $606 million in fees from arranging bonds for the state-owned Malaysian investment fund, but ended up having to pay billions in penalties, not just to US prosecutors, but also to authorities in Malaysia.
Jho Low, a businessman who has been criminally charged with stealing billions from the 1MDB investment fund, settled several asset-forfeiture cases in 2019 for $700 million. The agency reached other civil settlements connected to 1MDB in 2020. Low has not yet been arrested and is reportedly thought by the US to be in China.
But some of the 40-plus civil forfeiture lawsuits filed by the Justice Department in connection with the 1MDB scheme are still ongoing. Even though the first complaints were filed in 2016, prosecutors are still digging, having filed suit over $96 million in allegedly ill-gotten assets as recently as July.
Other cases Lee is credited with working on involved an alleged scheme to move $20 million in violation of Iranian financial sanctions and efforts to assist South Korea in seizing assets looted by its corrupt former president Chun Doo Hwan.
It’s not clear when Lee’s last day in government was. The DOJ didn’t respond to an inquiry from Insider. His title was deputy chief of the international unit of the money-laundering and asset recovery section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. He also worked on the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
Lee didn’t respond to a request for comment from Insider.