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Save The Date …. and … The Friday Roundup

Save The Date

Deferred prosecution agreements, affirmative defenses, companies x, y, and z.

On a daily basis this site and – those who follow it – are, to use the analogy, generally focused on the trees. However, the trees are part of a vast forest.

Against the backdrop of aggressive enforcement of bribery and corruption laws worldwide, several basic questions remain unanswered, or at least subject to dispute.

It is these big-picture questions that will be the focus of an upcoming roundtable discussion (“Bribery – What is It, What Can Be Done, What Should Be Done, and How to Comply?”) at International Law Weekend, an event presented by the American Branch of the International Law Association and the International Law Students Association. The roundtable will take place on Saturday, October 23 at 10:45 at Fordham University School of Law.

I am pleased to co-chair the panel along with Corinne Lammers (Paul, Hastings – see here). Other participants include: Bruce Bean (Michigan State College of Law – here), Daniel Chow (The Ohio State University College of Law – here), Elizabeth Spahn (New England College of Law – Boston – here), and Andy Spalding (Chicago-Kent College of Law – here).

See here for the full event schedule.

Friday Roundup

An FCPA investigation in the midst of a merger, a voluntary disclosure involving “minor” entertainment and gifts relating to a few “discrete transactions involving immaterial revenue,” World Bank debarment, and the blogging life … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

FCPA Investigation in the Midst of a Merger

In June, Spain-based Grifols, S.A. (a global healthcare company and leading producer of plasma protein therapies) and Talecris (a U.S.-based biotherapeutics products company) announced that they signed a definitive agreement by which Grifols will acquire Talecris. See here and here.

In the meantime, Talecris is conducting a mammoth FCPA internal investigation. Here is the lastest from the recent Form F-4 Registration Statement of Grifols.

“Talecris is conducting an internal investigation into potential violations of the FCPA that it became aware of during the conduct of an unrelated review. The FCPA investigation is being conducted by outside counsel under the direction of a special committee of the Talecris Board of Directors. The investigation into certain possibly improper payments to individuals and entities made after Talecris’ formation initially focused on payments made in connection with sales in certain Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries, primarily Belarus, Russia and Iran, but Talecris is also reviewing sales practices in Brazil, China, Georgia, Turkey and other countries as deemed appropriate.”

“In July 2009, Talecris voluntarily contacted the U.S. Department of Justice, which is referred to as the DOJ, to advise them of the investigation and to offer its cooperation in any investigation that they want to conduct or they want Talecris to conduct. The DOJ has not indicated what action it may take, if any, against Talecris or any individual, or the extent to which it may conduct its own investigation. The DOJ or other federal agencies may seek to impose sanctions on Talecris that may include, among other things, injunctive relief, disgorgement, fines, penalties, appointment of a monitor, appointment of new control staff, or enhancement of existing compliance and training programs. Other countries in which Talecris does business may initiate their own investigations and impose similar penalties. As a result of this investigation, Talecris suspended shipments to some countries while it put additional safeguards in place. In some cases, safeguards involved terminating consultants and suspending relations with or terminating distributors in countries under investigation as circumstances warranted. These actions unfavorably affected revenue from these countries in 2009 and have an ongoing unfavorable impact on revenue in 2010. Talecris has resumed sales in countries where it has appropriate safeguards in place and is reallocating product to other countries as necessary. To the extent that Talecris concludes, or the DOJ concludes, that Talecris cannot implement adequate safeguards or otherwise need to change its business practices, distributors, or consultants in affected countries or other countries, this may result in a permanent loss of business from those countries. These sanctions or the loss of business, if any, could have a material adverse effect on Talecris or its results of operations.”

What has the internal investigation cost thus far?

According to the same filing, approximately $12.9 million (see pg. 303).

The above was not the only FCPA disclosure news this week.

The Voluntary Disclosure Involving “Minor” Entertainment and Gifts Relating to a Few “Discrete Transactions Involving Immaterial Revenues”

Real estate is not generally thought of as an FCPA high-risk industry.

Yet, earlier this week CB Richard Ellis, a “global leader in real estate services” (see here), disclosed as follows in its 8-K:

“As a result of an internal investigation that began in the first quarter of 2010, the Company determined that some of its employees in certain of its offices in China made payments in violation of Company policy to local governmental officials, including payments for non−business entertainment and in the form of gifts. The payments the Company discovered are minor in amount and the Company believes relate to only a few discrete transactions involving immaterial revenues. Nonetheless, the Company believes that the payments may have been in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or other applicable laws. Consequently, the Company voluntarily disclosed these events to the U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on February 27, 2010 and has continued to cooperate with both the DOJ and the SEC in connection with this
investigation. The Company engaged outside counsel to investigate these events and has implemented thorough remedial measures.

In addition, in the third quarter of 2010, the Company began another internal investigation, with the assistance of outside counsel, involving the use of a third party agent in connection with a purchase in 2008 of an investment property in China for one of the funds the Company manages through its Global Investment Management business. This investigation is ongoing and at this point the Company is unable to predict the duration, scope or results thereof. In light of the Company’s cooperation with the DOJ and the SEC as described above, the Company voluntarily notified both agencies of this separate internal investigation and will report back to them when the Company has more information.”

One can perhaps understand a voluntary disclosure when the payments at issue involve suitcases full of cash to government officials to obtain or retain government contracts.

But a voluntary disclosure based on “minor” entertainment and gifts involving a “few discrete transactions involving immaterial revenues?”

Has it truly come to this rather than the company internally handling such “minor” “discrete transactions involving immaterial revenue” in an effective manner?

Did FCPA counsel advise the company that voluntary disclosure was necessary in this instance? Perhaps not necessary, but preferable? How would you handle this issue if you were the company’s in-house counsel or on the company’s board?

Interesting questions indeed.

For more on voluntary disclosure and the role of FCPA counsel see this prior post.

World Bank Debarment

The EU and US debarment directives and regulations may be “toothless,” but the World Bank is in charge of its own debarment decisions when it comes to World Bank financed or executed projects.

A prior post (here) discussed the World Bank’s debarment of Macmillan Limited and recently the World Bank announced (see here) that its Sanctions Board debarred “four companies and two individuals for fraudulent practices in projects in India and Afghanistan” following “inquiries by the World Bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency (INT), which is responsible for investigating fraud and corruption in World Bank-financed projects.”

According to the release:

“In India, the World Bank Group debarred Ambalal Sarabhai Enterprises Limited (ASE) and Chemito Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (Chemito) for having engaged in fraudulent practices relating to the Food and Drugs Capacity Building project. Both ASE and Chemito are ineligible to be awarded contracts under any Bank Group-financed or Bank Group-executed project or otherwise participate in the preparation or implementation of such projects for three years. The debarment may be reduced to two years if the companies put in place and implement effective corporate compliance programs.”

“The third decision relates to fraudulent practices by Global Spin Weave Limited (GSW) and its Director Sudhir Agrawal. The company’s misconduct was substantiated in relation to three Bank-financed projects in India; namely: First Reproductive and Child Health Project, Second National HIV/AIDS Control Project and the Malaria Control Project. According to the Sanctions Board decision, GSW is ineligible to be awarded contracts under any Bank Group-financed or Bank Group-executed project or otherwise participate in the preparation or implementation of such projects for five years. The debarment may be reduced to four years if GSW puts in place and implements an effective corporate compliance program. Mr. Agrawal’s period of ineligibility is three years.”

“In relation to the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Afghanistan, the Sanctions Board debarred Ronberg Gruppe LLC, AG (Ronberg) and its Director Nikolay V. Vakorin for having engaged in fraudulent practices. Ronberg and Mr. Vakorin are ineligible to be awarded contracts under any Bank Group-financed or Bank Group-executed project or otherwise participate in the preparation or implementation of such projects for three years.”

The World Bank release notes that the above “cases are eligible for cross debarment under the April 2010 Agreement for Mutual Enforcement of Debarment Decisions entered into by the African Development Bank Group, Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank Group.” For more on that Agreement see here.

The Blogging Life

Interested in blogging?

See here for my recent interview with Jerod Morris of Corporate Compliance Insights. We also talk a bit about the FCPA!

A good weekend to all.

Securency International Probe Heats Up

According to this U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) release, “a coordinated search and arrest operation” involving U.K., Spanish, and Australian authorities focused on Securency International PTY Ltd. has taken place. According to the release, the action involves the “activities of employees and agents of Securency International and their alleged corrupt role in securing international polymer banknote contracts.”

Securency International (here) is a joint venture between the Reserve Bank of Australia, the country’s central bank, and Innovia Films (here), a Cumbria, England-based company that makes cellulose films for packaging and labels.

According to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald the “Reserve Bank is reeling after Federal Police and overseas law-enforcement agencies staged co-ordinated global raids yesterday to uncover evidence of corruption and bribery involving the bank note firm Securency.” Bribery is suspected to have occurred in several countries, including Vietnam, Nigeria, Malaysia and Indonesia. As the article notes, if criminal charges are filed, it would be Australia’s first foreign bribery prosecution.

The above linked Sydney Morning Herald article also has an informative five minute audio clip about the raid and the allegations against Securency International.

Will the U.S. get involved?

That depends if there is even jurisdiction.

Neither Securency or Innovia appear to be an “issuer” or “domestic concern.” But there is still the 78dd-3 prong of the FCPA which applies to “any person” (corporate or individual) that generally performs any act in furtherance of an improper payment scheme while in the territory of the U.S. Like most FCPA issues, the DOJ takes an expansive view of this jurisdictional element and prior enforcement actions have been based on use of the U.S. bank accounts, U.S. dollar-denominated financial transactions, and use of the U.S. mail and wires (such as e-mail) in connection with the improper payment scheme.

For more on expansive FCPA jurisdiction over non-U.S. companies, see this July 2010 Shearman & Sterling publication.

A Conversation With Richard Alderman – Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office

While in London recently to chair the World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum (see here, here and here for previous posts), I was pleased to accept the invitation of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office to visit its offices and meet top-level SFO personnel to discuss Bribery Act and other anti-corruption issues and topics. As part of the invitation, Richard Alderman (here), the Director of the SFO, invited me to submit questions to him on any topic of my choosing.

I submitted approximately thirty detailed questions covering a broad range of topics, including the role and policies of the SFO, the Bribery Act, the BAE and Innospec cases, Bribery Inc., and other questions of general interest. Except for certain questions regarding the BAE case, which is still pending in the U.K. courts, Mr. Alderman provided answers to every question, including on topics I have been critical of the SFO in the past.

In his answers, Mr. Alderman, among other things:

(i) compares and contrasts the SFO’s role with the DOJ’s role in enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including the more active and independent role U.K. courts have in reviewing SFO charging decisions;

(ii) talks about voluntary disclosure, and the role of non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements;

(iii) discusses reputational harm, debarment, and reparations; and

(iv) talks specifically about the Bribery Act which is to be implemented in April 2011.

I thank Mr. Alderman and other SFO personnel for taking a keen interest in my work and commend the “active engagement” approach the SFO has taken in going about its work.

My complete “conversation” with Mr. Alderman can be downloaded here.

“A Tip A Day”

According to Joe Palazzolo’s recent post in Corruption Currents (a Wall Street Journal blog), “a person familiar with the matter” said the SEC “has been receiving at least one tip a day about potential foreign bribery violations” pursuant to Dodd-Frank’s new whistleblower provisions.

Whether those tips turn into enforcement actions will be the question.

As I noted in this prior post, my guess is that the new whistleblower provisions will have a negligible impact on FCPA enforcement.

Speaking generally on Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions (i.e., not just in terms of the FCPA) SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro had this to say (see here) in September 30th testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs:

“Staff in the Division of Enforcement, with assistance from other divisions and offices, is actively working to draft implementing regulations for the whistleblower program. Pending the issuance of these regulations (due no later than 270 days after the date of enactment of the Act), the staff has been and will continue to be able to receive whistleblower complaints. Also, information for potential whistleblowers has been posted on our website. Already, since the passage of the Act, we have seen a slight uptick in the number of tips and complaints received, and, more importantly, an uptick in the quality of complaints.”

As noted in Schapiro’s testimony, “the first report to Congress on the whistleblower program will be provided on October 30, 2010.”

For more on Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions see here.

ABB

Earlier this week the DOJ and SEC announced a wide ranging enforcement action against ABB Ltd. and its subsidiaries ABB Inc., and ABB Ltd. – Jordan.

Swiss-based ABB Ltd. (here) is a provider of power and automation technologies with American Depositary Shares publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

This post summarizes the various aspects of the enforcement action in which ABB Ltd. and ABB Inc. agreed to pay a total of $58.3 million ($19 million in DOJ criminal penalties and $39.3 million in SEC disgorgement and civil penalties).

DOJ

ABB Ltd. Deferred Prosecution Agreement

As noted in this DOJ release, ABB Ltd. agreed to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). ABB’s press release (here) states that the DPA “includes provisions related to the involvement of a subsidiary in Jordan in the Oil for Food Program” and that “in lieu of an external compliance monitor, the DOJ and SEC have agreed to allow ABB to report on its continuing compliance efforts and the results of the review of its internal processes for a three-year period going forward.”

In other words, the DPA appears limited to the conduct of ABB Ltd. – Jordan (summarized below) and not the conduct of ABB Inc. (summarized below).

[Note – to my knowledge the DPA has yet to be publicly released. Here is a request for DOJ readers of this blog. Under the DOJ’s “old” website, the charging documents were released and linked along with the press release. With the revamped website, the charging documents are nowhere to be found requiring interested persons to go to Pacer or other sources. The charging documents ultimately end up on the DOJ’s FCPA specific website, but in many cases it takes weeks. DOJ may want to consider the old system which provided real-time access to these important charging documents]

ABB Ltd. – Jordan Criminal Information

The information charges ABB Ltd. – Jordan (“ABB-Jordan”) with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

According to the information (here), ABB-Jordan was a wholly-owned subsidiary of ABB Ltd. ABB-Jordan, through its 95% owned subsidiary ABB Near East Trading Ltd. (“ABB Near East”) provided equipment and services to electrical utilities, including control measurement and protection systems, transducers, and metering equipment.

The information charges that ABB Near East “had three principle customers under the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program (“OFFP”) … the General Company for Electricity Energy Production, the Baghdad Mayoralty, and State Company Baghdad Electricity Distribution all of which were regional companies of the Iraqi Electricity Commission, an Iraqi government agency” (collectively the “Iraqi Electricity Companies”).

The information charges that “from in or about April 2000 through in or about April 2004, ABB Near East, received eleven purchase orders for electrical equipment and services worth over $5.9 million with the Iraqi Electricity Companies, pursuant to the OFFP.” According to the information, “to obtain these purchase orders, ABB Near East caused over $300,000 in kickbacks to be paid to the government of Iraq” and that “in order to generate the funds to pay the kickbacks to the Iraqi government and conceal those payments, ABB Near East would inflate the price of its contracts with the Iraqi government by approximately 10% before submitting the contracts to the U.N. for approval.”

According to the information, the kickback payments were falsely characterized on ABB-Jordan’s or ABB Near East’s books and records which were “incorporated into the books and records of ABB Ltd. for purposes of preparing ABB Ltd’s year-end financial statements.”

According to the DOJ release, “ABB Ltd. admitted that [ABB-Jordan] agreed to pay kickback payments to the former Iraqi government” in connection with OFFP contracts and “agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $1.9 million.”

ABB Inc. Criminal Information

According to the information (here) ABB Inc. is an “indirect subsidiary” of ABB Ltd. incorporated under Delaware law. The information charges that ABB Inc. “conducted business, in part, through a business unit called ABB Network Management (“ABB NM”) that had its principal place of business in Sugar Land, Texas and was acquired by ABB Inc. in or around January 1999.”

According to the information, “ABB NM’s primary business was to provide products and services to electrical utilities for network management in power generation, transmission, and distribution.” The information charges that “many of ABB NM’s clients were foreign state-owned utilities” and that “ABB NM conducted business in a number of its foreign markets through sales representatives.”

The information largely centers on the conduct of John Joseph O’Shea and Fernando Maya Basurto and business with Comision Federal de Electricidad (“CFE”) – a Mexican electrical company. According to the information, O’Shea was the “General Manager of ABB NM” who “oversaw its operations both before and after its acquisition by ABB Inc.” and was “responsible for approving payments to sales representatives.” According to the information, Basurto was a “citizen of Mexico” who “performed work for ABB NM on its contracts with CFE.”

O’Shea was criminally charged in November 2009 (see here). Basurto has pleaded guilty (see here). For more, see this prior post.

For additional FCPA enforcements involving CFE see this recent post.

The information details an elaborate scheme that is summarized in the DOJ release as the payment of bribes “from 1997 to 2004 that totaled approximately $1.9 million” to various officials at CFE and that “in exchange for the bribe payments … ABB NM received contracts worth more than $81 million in revenue.”

As noted in the DOJ release, “ABB Inc. pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging it with one count of violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and one count of conspiracy to violating these provisions of the FCPA.” According to the release, the court “imposed a sentence that included a criminal fine of $17.1 million.”

The information specifically states that “ABB Inc. terminated O’Shea in November 2004 and thereafter conducted a thorough internal investigation of the improper payments. It voluntarily disclosed the conduct to the DOJ and the SEC in April 2005.”

SEC

The SEC’s civil complaint against ABB Ltd. (see here) picks up both the Iraq and Mexico conduct mentioned above and charges ABB Ltd. with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records, and internal control provisions.

The complaint alleges in summary fashion as follows:

“From 1999 to 2004, ABB, through a U.S. subsidiary and six foreign-based subsidiaries, offered and paid bribes to government officials in Mexico to obtain and retain business with government owned power companies, and paid kickbacks to Iraq to obtain contracts under the United Nations Oil for Food Program. In all, ABB’s subsidiaries made at least $2.7 million in illicit payments in these schemes to obtain contracts that generated more than $100 million in revenues for ABB.”

The complaint describes numerous payments, including payments to “pay for the Mediteranean cruise vacation for two CFE officials and their wives” and “tuition for the son of a CFE official” at a “private military school in Wisconsin.”

As to the “Mexican bribery scheme”, the SEC alleges that “ABB, which failed to conduct any due diligence on the use or payments to [a Mexican agent] and other companies, improperly recorded the illicit payments on its books as payments for commission and services on the projects.”

As to the OFFP, the complaint alleges that “from approximately 2000 to 2004, ABB participated in the Oil for Food program through six of its subsidiaries” and that the “six subsidiaries developed various schemes to pay secret kickbacks to Iraq in order to obtain contracts. The kickbacks were characterized as after sales service fees but in reality they were nothing more than bribes paid to the Iraqi regime.” According to the SEC, “kickbacks of approximately $810,793 were paid in connection with the subsidiaries’ sales of goods on twenty-seven contracts with promises to pay additional kickbacks of $239,501 on three other contracts. The total revenues on the contracts were approximately $13,577,727 and profits were $3,801,367. ABB improperly disguised the [after sales service fees] on its books and records by mischaracterizing them as legitimate after sales services, consultation costs or commissions.”

Further the SEC alleged as follows:

“as evidenced by the extent and duration of the illicit payments to foreign officials, the large number of ABB subsidiaries involved in these bribery and kickback schemes, ABB’s knowledge from the prior Commission action of illicit payments by other ABB subsidiaries, the improper recording of millions of dollars of illicit payments in ABB’s books and records, ABB’s failure to detect these irregularities, and ABB’s failure to conduct sufficient due diligence on local agents and others, ABB failed to devise and maintain an effective system of internal controls to prevent or detect these anti-bribery and books and records violations.”

In an SEC release (see here) SEC officials stated: “as the sanctions in this case demonstrate, there are significant consequences for public companies that fail to implement strong compliance programs and prevent corrupt payments to government officials” and that “multi-national companies that make illicit payments through layers of subsidiaries will be held accountable.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, ABB Ltd. consented to the entry of a final judgment that permanently enjoins the company from future FCPA violations, orders the company to pay $17,141,474 in disgorgement, $5,662,788 in prejudgment interest, and a $16,510,000 penalty. According to the SEC release, “the order also requires the company to comply with certain undertakings regarding its FCPA compliance program.”

In a press release (here), ABB noted that it “initiated these matters in a voluntary disclosure to the DOJ and SEC beginning in 2005.” The company stated that it “cooperated fully with the DOJ and SEC and has put in place a global comprehensive compliance and integrity program the DOJ has said ‘may become a benchmark for the industry.'”

Laurence Urgenson (here) and others from Kirkland & Ellis LLP represent the ABB entities.

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