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Friday Roundup

A company in jeopardy of violating an existing SEC injunction, a leading supplier of communication devices to the federal government in the midst of an FCPA inquiry, an FCPA enforcement action nearing the finish line, Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, more on multilateral development banks, and the U.K. Serious Fraud Office’s annual report … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Diebold’s Disclosure

Last month, Diebold, Inc., a Ohio based security services company, settled an SEC accounting fraud enforcement action by paying a $25 million civil penalty (see here). The SEC charged Diebold with, among other charges, violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions (i.e. Sections 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934). However, you likely never heard about this because the enforcement action was what I call “a non-FCPA, FCPA enforcement action.” In other words, the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions are generic and are not just implicated by overseas business conduct. As part of the settlement, Diebold, as in common, consented to a final judgment permanently enjoining the company from future violations.

Diebold appears to be in jeopardy of violating that injunction.

Why?

Yesterday in an 8-K filing (see here) Diebold disclosed as follows:

Voluntary disclosure related to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

“While conducting due diligence in connection with a potential acquisition in Russia, Diebold identified certain transactions and payments by its subsidiary in Russia (primarily during 2005 to 2008) that potentially implicate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), particularly the books and records provisions of the FCPA. While the company’s current assessment indicates that the transactions and payments in question do not materially impact or alter the company’s financial statements, the company continues to collect information and is conducting an internal review of its global FCPA compliance. At this time, Diebold cannot predict the outcome or impact of this global review. In addition, the company has voluntarily self-reported its findings to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission and intends to fully cooperate with these agencies in their review.”

The day of the disclosure, the company’s shares lost approximately 5%.

Here is what Diebold had to say about the FCPA in its most recent 10-Q filing in May:

“We are subject to compliance with various laws and regulations, including the FCPA and similar worldwide anti-bribery laws, which generally prohibit companies and their intermediaries from making improper payments to non-U.S. officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. While our employees and agents are required to comply with these laws, we operate in many parts of the world that have experienced governmental corruption to some degree and, in certain circumstances, strict compliance with anti-bribery laws may conflict with local customs and practices. Despite our commitment to legal compliance and corporate ethics, we cannot assure you that our internal control policies and procedures always will protect us from reckless or negligent acts committed by our employees or agents. Violations of these laws, or allegations of such violations, could disrupt our business and result in a material adverse effect on our business and operations.” (emphasis added).

The Latest on Digi International

According to its website (here), Digi International Inc. is “the leading supplier of multifunction communication devices to the U.S. Federal Government.”

It is also in the midst of an FCPA investigation, one which implicates its Chief Financial Officer who is no longer with the company.

Here is what the company disclosed in a recent 8-K filing (see here):

“As previously reported, after receiving allegations regarding possible violations of our gifts, travel and entertainment policy for activities in the Asia Pacific region by a few employees, we initiated an investigation of these policy and corresponding internal control issues, and any possible related violations of applicable law, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). We voluntarily disclosed the allegations to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The investigation has been under the direction of the Audit Committee, comprised solely of independent directors, utilizing outside counsel, and focused on the APAC region. For completeness purposes, the investigation reviewed certain other foreign regions where no allegations have been made. We believe the investigation is substantially complete, pending the input from the DOJ and SEC. We have been providing the DOJ and SEC with updates and our proposed remediation plan. We will continue to cooperate fully with the SEC and DOJ process, which could include additional investigative procedures. This investigation found violations of company policy and internal controls that primarily involved three individuals in Hong Kong and our Chief Financial Officer. All four individuals have either been terminated or resigned from the company. The investigation also identified certain books and records and related internal controls issues under the FCPA. The ultimate impact and outcome of the DOJ and SEC process is unknown at this time. The Company is unable to estimate the potential costs relating to this matter, including any penalties that might be assessed for any FCPA violations, and accordingly, no provision has been made in our consolidated financial statements other than with respect to expenses incurred prior to June 30, 2010. In the Digi International Reports Third Fiscal Quarter 2010 Results quarter and nine months ended June 30, 2010, we incurred additional general and administrative expense of $1.0 million related to the cost of the investigation. Based upon what we have learned from the investigation, we are strengthening our monitoring controls over foreign locations and other operational and regulatory compliance procedures, including third party assistance in implementation of our remediation plan. Based on the results of our investigation to date, we are not aware of any material impacts to our reported consolidated financial statements that would require restatement, and no issues were detected outside of the Asia Pacific region. We are also evaluating any impact of this matter on our Internal Controls over Financial Reporting. The timing and final outcome of the DOJ and SEC process cannot be predicted, and it may have a materially adverse impact on our business prospects and our consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flow.”

I’ve noted in a prior post (see here) that one factor companies need to be mindful of when analyzing the important voluntary disclosure decision is the high likelihood of the enforcement agencies asking the “where else” question (i.e. if conduct occurred in country x, convince us that the conduct also did not occur in countries y and z). Digi’s disclosure highlights this issue when it states: “[f]or completeness purposes, the investigation reviewed certain other foreign regions where no allegations have been made.”

Maxwell Technologies Inc. Nears Settlement

In a 8-K filing yesterday, Maxwell Technologies (here), a manufacturer of energy storage and power delivery products, stated as follows:

“As previously disclosed in its public filings, the company has engaged in settlement discussions with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) with regard to the ongoing FCPA investigations involving Maxwell’s Swiss subsidiary, Maxwell S.A. The company has negotiated an agreement in principle with the SEC to resolve the ongoing FCPA investigation for a payment of approximately $6.35 million, with half to be paid upon signing and the remaining half on the one year anniversary of signing, as well as certain other non-financial settlement terms. The settlement with the SEC remains subject to final approval of the Commission. Settlement discussions with the DOJ are ongoing, and the company is awaiting a response to its offer to the DOJ to settle the ongoing investigation for $6.35 million. Prior discussions with the DOJ have indicated that they would accept a settlement offer of $8.0 million, but as indicated earlier, we are continuing our discussions with the DOJ and are awaiting a response to our most recent offer. The DOJ has also previously indicated that settlement terms could include a payment plan over a period of up to three years. The company anticipates that it will have to pay interest on any deferred amounts due in both the SEC and DOJ settlement agreements. In Q409, the company accrued $9.3 million for a potential settlement, and has accrued an additional $3.4 million in Q210 to reflect the full amount of its pending settlement offers to the SEC and DOJ. However, there can be no assurance that the settlement with the SEC will be approved or that the company will be able to settle with the DOJ for $6.35 million.”

The day of the disclosure, the company’s shares lost approximately 4%.

Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative

In a recent speech (see here) before the African Union Summit in Uganda, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

In the speech Holder said that “the United States will act in partnership and in common cause to help the African Union achieve its goals and fulfill its mission.”

Among other things, Holder said that the U.S. “will strengthen current efforts to promote good governance and to combat and prevent the costs and consequences of public corruption.”

He stated as follows:

“Today, when the World Bank estimates that more than one trillion dollars in bribes are paid each year out of a world economy of 30 trillion dollars, this problem cannot be ignored. And this practice must never be condoned. As many here have learned – often in painful and devastating ways – corruption imperils development, stability, competition, and economic investment. It also undermines the promise of democracy.

As my nation’s Attorney General, I have made combating corruption, generally and in the United States, a top priority. And, today, I’m pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Justice is launching a new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative aimed at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended – and proper – use: for the people of our nations. We’re assembling a team of prosecutors who will focus exclusively on this work and build upon efforts already underway to deter corruption, hold offenders accountable, and protect public resources.

And although I look forward to everything this new initiative will accomplish, I also know that prosecution is not the only effective way to curb global corruption. We will continue to work with your governments to strengthen the entire judicial sector, a powerful institution in our democracy which depends on the integrity of our laws, our courts, and our judges. We must also work with business leaders to encourage, ensure, and enforce sound corporate governance. We should not, and must not settle for anything less.”

For other speeches by Holder on this subject, see here.

More On Multilateral Development Banks

A prior post (see here) discussed how five multilateral development banks (MDB’s) – the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Inter-American Development Bank Group – signed an agreement to cross-debar firms and individuals found to have engaged in wrongdoing in MDB-financed development projects.

To learn more about sanctions investigations by the World Bank and other MDB’s see this piece from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP.

The SFO Annual Report

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office recently issued its annual report (see here).

Among the highlights noted by SFO Director Richard Alderman:

“In the first prosecution brought in the UK against a company for breaching UN sanctions, Mabey and Johnson Ltd admitted offences of overseas corruption and breaching UN sanctions. The company was ordered to pay a fine of £3.5 million and restitution of £3.1 million.

Currently one third of our work concerns overseas corruption. This will continue to be an important part of our work, with the introduction of the new law on bribery which we believe will place a greater emphasis on UK companies to maintain high levels of business ethics and integrity. It is also notable that the Act allows me as Director of the SFO to prosecute non-UK companies that carry on business in the UK if they use bribes in any country as a way of doing business.”

Mounties Lay Corruption Charges

The U.S. is not the only country with an anti-bribery law on its books.

In this guest post, Mark Morrison (here) and Michael Dixon (here) of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP discuss a recent enforcement action brought under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

*****

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) recently announced that they have laid charges under the Canadian equivalent of the FCPA, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (“CFPOA”), against a former employee of an Ottawa based technology company in relation to alleged overseas bribery. Few details have been released at this time, but it appears that the charges relate to alleged bribes paid to a foreign government official in an effort to secure a multi-million dollar contract. At this point in time, no charges have been laid against the company or other individuals, but comments by the RCMP suggest that further charges may be pending.

This is the second charge laid to date under CFPOA. The first related to the conduct of a United States Immigration Officer who was hired as a consultant by a Canadian corporation. In 2005, that corporation pled guilty and was sentenced to a fine of $25,000. A number of other bribery cases in Canada have also dealt with the corruption of domestic officials, but these have proceeded under the provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code.

What is interesting about this case to those of us who practice in the area is that we have been expecting something of this nature for some time as Canada has been under significant pressure from the OECD to meet its international anti-corruption enforcement obligations. In response to this pressure, the RCMP has established a special unit solely dedicated to investigating international bribery. The unit, with divisions in Ottawa and Calgary, has been actively engaged in several investigations, however, this is the first charge they have laid. Further charges are anticipated as other investigations progress.

Another interesting point raised by this case is the extent to which the Canadian courts are willing to apply the CFPOA to the extraterritorial actions of Canadian citizens. While the Canadian government previously introduced a Bill to amend the CFPOA to clarify its application to Canadians acting outside Canada, this Bill was not passed into law. In the absence of this Bill, the Canadian test for jurisdiction, as determined by the case law, is different than that employed in the US. Historically, only cases with a “real and substantial” link to Canada will be considered as falling within the jurisdiction of the Canadian courts. Accordingly, the Canadian test requires that a portion of the illegal activity occur within Canada or a real connection to Canada. While we do not know to what extent the alleged corrupt activity occurred in Canada, this case appears to represent the first opportunity for the Canadian courts to clarify the reach of the CFPOA to Canadian citizens acting abroad.

DOJ, SEC Receive FCPA Training

The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

It is thus a bit strange that the DOJ and SEC are receiving FCPA training.

Yet, piecing together information from two prominent law firm event calendars (see here and here) that is exactly what is occuring today in Washington D.C. at the SEC headquarters.

Described as a “joint FCPA training program” for the DOJ, SEC, and FBI and the “SEC’s FCPA Boot Camp” the speakers appear to include a who’s who of the FCPA defense bar.

What prompted this training session? What is the full agenda of topics? What type of questions will DOJ and SEC personnel ask?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Inquiring minds may also wonder – is it proper for the DOJ and SEC to receive training from lawyers and law firms that are frequent “adversaries” in FCPA enforcement actions?

The event is not included on the SEC’s event calendar (see here), but DC readers may want to show up at the SEC’s headquarters today and say “I’m here for the FCPA training” to see what happens.

If anyone has information or insight as to this event, please leave a comment.

A few other DOJ / SEC items of interest to pass along.

Make Your Voice Heard

According to this release, the SEC is seeking public comment on various sections of the recently enacted Dodd-Frank financial reform package. The SEC will post all submissions on SEC’s Internet Web site. As noted in the release, “members of the public who wish to submit official comments on particular rulemaking initiatives should submit comments during the official comment period that starts with the notice of the initiative published in the Federal Register.” (emphasis added).

To learn more about Section 922’s whistleblower provisons, see here and here. To learn more about Section 1504’s Resource Extraction Issuer Disclosure provisions see here.

The Revolving Door Continues to Revolve

Some of you, I know, think it is no big deal when a DOJ prosector enforces a law one day and then the next day defends clients against enforcement of that same law.

Others of you, I know, think that this is an important public policy issue worthy of discussion.

Whatever your persuasion, it should be noted that yet another DOJ attorney with FCPA responsibilties has left government service for a private law firm to engage in an FCPA practice.

According to this Main Justice story, Steven Fagell, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer’s deputy chief of staff, is leaving the DOJ to return to Covington & Burling LLP (Breuer’s previous employer), the firm he worked at prior to joining the DOJ in January 2009. Main Justice reports that “as a member of the Criminal Division’s senior leadership team, Fagell served as a counselor to Breuer and worked on a broad range of issues including the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” According to Tim Hester, Covington’s managing partner, Fagell is expected to work on FCPA matters at the firm (see here).

For other recent movement betweent the DOJ and the FCPA bar see here, here and here.

General Electric Settles Iraqi Oil For Food Matter

Just when you think Iraqi Oil for Food Program FCPA-related enforcement actions have run their course, along comes another.

The SEC announced this morning (see here) that General Electric Company (GE) agreed to resolve an FCPA books and records and internal controls enforcement action based on allegations that “two GE subsidiaries – along with two other subsidiaries of public companies that have seen been acquired by GE – made illegal kickback payments in the form of cash, computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry or the Iraqi Oil Ministry in order to obtain valuable contracts under the U.N. Oil for Food Program.”

As noted in the SEC release, “the SEC has now taken 15 FCPA enforcement actions against companies involved in the Oil for Food-related kickback schemes with Iraq, recovering more than $204 million.”

The GE enforcement action, like other Iraqi Oil for Food enforcement actions with a few exceptions, does not allege FCPA anti-bribery violations presumably because the alleged payments were made directly to the Iraqi government or government ministries – not to specific “foreign officials” as prohibited by the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

The GE enforcement action is also an outlier of sorts in that it is merely a SEC enforcement action with no parallel DOJ enforcement action – a fact mentioned in GE’s press release detailed below.

For instance, the March 2010 enforcement action against Innospec (which was part Iraqi Oil For Food) involved a DOJ criminal information as to those allegations (see here); the September 2009 enforcement action against AGCO Corporation involved a DOJ criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement (see here); and the May 2009 enforcement action against Novo Nordisk A/S involved a DOJ criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement (see here).

So much for substantively similar conduct being resolved in a similar fashion.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations (detailed below), GE, GE Ionics Inc. and GE Healthcare Ltd. consented to a court order permanently enjoining future violations of the FCPA books and records and internal control provisions. GE agreed to pay $23.4 million to settle the matter – including approximately $18.4 million in disgorgement of profits on the alleged contracts at issue.

The SEC complaint (see here) alleges as follows:

“From approximately 2000 to 2003, two subsidiaries of the General Electric Company (“GE”) — Marquette-Hellige (“Marquette”) and OEC-Medical Systems (Europa) AG (“OEC-Medical”) — made approximately $2.04 million in kickback payments in the form of computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry under the Program. Prior to GE’s acquisition of their parent companies, two other current GE subsidiaries –Ionics Italba. S.r.L. (“Ionics Italba”), and Nycomed Imaging AS, currently GE Healthcare AS (”Nycomed”) – made approximately $1.55 million in cash kickback payments under the Program. Nycomed was a subsidiary of publicly-registered Amersham plc, which was acquired by GE after the conduct at issue in this Complaint and is currently known as GE Healthcare Ltd. Ionics Italba was a subsidiary of publicly-registered Ionics, Inc., which was acquired by GE after the conduct at issue in this Complaint and is currently known as GE Ionics, Inc.”

According to the complaint:

“Marquette, OEC-Medical, Ionics Italba, and Nycomed each authorized and paid kickbacks to Iraqi government ministries through agents in the form of ‘aftersales service fees’ (ASSF) on sales of products to Iraq. All four subsidiaries knew that such kickbacks were prohibited by the Oil for Food Program and U.S. and international trade sanctions on Iraq.”

According to the complaint, the above subsidaries, “only two of which were GE subsidiaries during the relevant time period,” “working through third-party agents, made ASSF kickback payments of approximately $3,584,842. The four subsidiaries earned profits of approximately $18,397,949 as a result oftheir illegal kickbacks.”

As to the acquired subsidiaries, the SEC simply alleges, without any elaboration, that GE acquired the liabilities of Amersham and Ionic, along with assets, in the acquisitions and that “GE Ionics, Inc. and GE Healthcare Ltd., both subsidiaries of GE, are the respective successors to the liability of Ionics and Amersham.”

Cheryl Scarboro, the Chief of the SEC’s newly formed FCPA Unit, stated as follows:

“GE failed to maintain adequate internal controls to detect and prevent these illicit payments by its two subsidiaries to win Oil for Food contracts, and it failed to properly record the true nature of the payments in its accounting records. Furthermore, corporate acquisitions do not provide GE immunity from FCPA enforcement of the other two subsidiaries involved.”

In a press release (see here) GE stated that the enforcement action “concludes the SEC’s investigation and related Department of Justice review of GE regarding the Oil-for-Food Program.” The release notes that the company “has received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Justice that the Department has closed its investigation and will take no action relating to these matters.”

As to the merits of the SEC’s allegations, the company stated as follows:

“In this case, the SEC has identified 18 contracts under the Oil-for-Food Program that it alleges were not accounted for or controlled properly. Fourteen of these transactions involve businesses that were not owned by GE at the time of the transactions. The SEC alleges that, in acquiring these companies, GE acquired their liabilities as well as their assets. The other four transactions relate to GE Healthcare units in Europe. These units declined to make cash payments to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, but they acquiesced when their agent offered instead to make in-kind payments of computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry, and then failed to reflect the transactions accurately in their books and records. This conduct did not meet our standards, and we believe that it is in the best interests of GE and its shareholders to resolve this matter now, without admitting or denying the allegations, and put the matter behind us.”

No matter how flimsy the SEC’s legal theory of liability, the agency continues to extract multi-million dollar FCPA settlements from the companies it oversees. These companies view settlement as easier and more cost efficient than engaging in a protracted legal dispute with a principal government regulator.

The end result, in such cases, is a continuation of the facade of FCPA enforcement.

General Electric Settles Iraqi Oil For Food Matter

Just when you think Iraqi Oil for Food Program FCPA-related enforcement actions have run their course, along comes another.

The SEC announced this morning (see here) that General Electric Company (GE) agreed to resolve an FCPA books and records and internal controls enforcement action based on allegations that “two GE subsidiaries – along with two other subsidiaries of public companies that have seen been acquired by GE – made illegal kickback payments in the form of cash, computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry or the Iraqi Oil Ministry in order to obtain valuable contracts under the U.N. Oil for Food Program.”

As noted in the SEC release, “the SEC has now taken 15 FCPA enforcement actions against companies involved in the Oil for Food-related kickback schemes with Iraq, recovering more than $204 million.”

The GE enforcement action, like other Iraqi Oil for Food enforcement actions with a few exceptions, does not allege FCPA anti-bribery violations presumably because the alleged payments were made directly to the Iraqi government or government ministries – not to specific “foreign officials” as prohibited by the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

The GE enforcement action is also an outlier of sorts in that it is merely a SEC enforcement action with no parallel DOJ enforcement action – a fact mentioned in GE’s press release detailed below.

For instance, the March 2010 enforcement action against Innospec (which was part Iraqi Oil For Food) involved a DOJ criminal information as to those allegations (see here); the September 2009 enforcement action against AGCO Corporation involved a DOJ criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement (see here); and the May 2009 enforcement action against Novo Nordisk A/S involved a DOJ criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement (see here).

So much for substantively similar conduct being resolved in a similar fashion.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations (detailed below), GE, GE Ionics Inc. and GE Healthcare Ltd. consented to a court order permanently enjoining future violations of the FCPA books and records and internal control provisions. GE agreed to pay $23.4 million to settle the matter – including approximately $18.4 million in disgorgement of profits on the alleged contracts at issue.

The SEC complaint (see here) alleges as follows:

“From approximately 2000 to 2003, two subsidiaries of the General Electric Company (“GE”) — Marquette-Hellige (“Marquette”) and OEC-Medical Systems (Europa) AG (“OEC-Medical”) — made approximately $2.04 million in kickback payments in the form of computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry under the Program. Prior to GE’s acquisition of their parent companies, two other current GE subsidiaries –Ionics Italba. S.r.L. (“Ionics Italba”), and Nycomed Imaging AS, currently GE Healthcare AS (”Nycomed”) – made approximately $1.55 million in cash kickback payments under the Program. Nycomed was a subsidiary of publicly-registered Amersham plc, which was acquired by GE after the conduct at issue in this Complaint and is currently known as GE Healthcare Ltd. Ionics Italba was a subsidiary of publicly-registered Ionics, Inc., which was acquired by GE after the conduct at issue in this Complaint and is currently known as GE Ionics, Inc.”

According to the complaint:

“Marquette, OEC-Medical, Ionics Italba, and Nycomed each authorized and paid kickbacks to Iraqi government ministries through agents in the form of ‘aftersales service fees’ (ASSF) on sales of products to Iraq. All four subsidiaries knew that such kickbacks were prohibited by the Oil for Food Program and U.S. and international trade sanctions on Iraq.”

According to the complaint, the above subsidaries, “only two of which were GE subsidiaries during the relevant time period,” “working through third-party agents, made ASSF kickback payments of approximately $3,584,842. The four subsidiaries earned profits of approximately $18,397,949 as a result oftheir illegal kickbacks.”

As to the acquired subsidiaries, the SEC simply alleges, without any elaboration, that GE acquired the liabilities of Amersham and Ionic, along with assets, in the acquisitions and that “GE Ionics, Inc. and GE Healthcare Ltd., both subsidiaries of GE, are the respective successors to the liability of Ionics and Amersham.”

Cheryl Scarboro, the Chief of the SEC’s newly formed FCPA Unit, stated as follows:

“GE failed to maintain adequate internal controls to detect and prevent these illicit payments by its two subsidiaries to win Oil for Food contracts, and it failed to properly record the true nature of the payments in its accounting records. Furthermore, corporate acquisitions do not provide GE immunity from FCPA enforcement of the other two subsidiaries involved.”

In a press release (see here) GE stated that the enforcement action “concludes the SEC’s investigation and related Department of Justice review of GE regarding the Oil-for-Food Program.” The release notes that the company “has received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Justice that the Department has closed its investigation and will take no action relating to these matters.”

As to the merits of the SEC’s allegations, the company stated as follows:

“In this case, the SEC has identified 18 contracts under the Oil-for-Food Program that it alleges were not accounted for or controlled properly. Fourteen of these transactions involve businesses that were not owned by GE at the time of the transactions. The SEC alleges that, in acquiring these companies, GE acquired their liabilities as well as their assets. The other four transactions relate to GE Healthcare units in Europe. These units declined to make cash payments to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, but they acquiesced when their agent offered instead to make in-kind payments of computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry, and then failed to reflect the transactions accurately in their books and records. This conduct did not meet our standards, and we believe that it is in the best interests of GE and its shareholders to resolve this matter now, without admitting or denying the allegations, and put the matter behind us.”

No matter how flimsy the SEC’s legal theory of liability, the agency continues to extract multi-million dollar FCPA settlements from the companies it oversees. These companies view settlement as easier and more cost efficient than engaging in a protracted legal dispute with a principal government regulator.

The end result, in such cases, is a continuation of the facade of FCPA enforcement.

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