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Darden to Patton Boggs

Last month, it was Mark Mendelsohn who left his DOJ FCPA prosecutor job for a lucrative FCPA private practice career (see here and here).

This month, it is John “Jay” Darden, the lead DOJ prosecutor in the recent Daimler enforcement action (see here). Earlier this week, Darden (here) began at Patton Boggs (see here).

While at DOJ, Darden was an active speaker on the FCPA circuit (see here and here and here).

As noted in Patton Boggs’ press release (titled “Patton Boggs Snares Senior Justice Fraud Prosecutor”), Darden, who has government health-care fraud experience as well, will play a “key role” in the firm’s FCPA practice.

In the release, the managing partner of Patton Boggs states that Darden’s “keen strategic insight and deep knowledge of how the Justice Department approaches investigations in different areas of the criminal law will help a diverse range of clients overcome allegations of wrongdoing” and that the firm is “delighted to have such a talented and experienced prosecutor join our ranks.” Darden noted that he “look[s] forward to using my expertise to assist clients with their compliance needs and to defend them against criminal allegations.”

A few weeks ago, Nathan Vardi’s Forbes article (see here) generated much coverage (see here, here, here and here).

If you found Vardi’s points about a revolving door (and all the questions that may arise from this) valid and legitimate, you have another recent example to cite.

If you found Vardi’s article a “low blow,” “unbalanced and “unhinged,” you may be asking, what’s the big deal, DOJ prosecutors leave the agency all the time for private practice careers … that’s just how Washington works.

Q & A With Martin Weinstein

Martin Weinstein (here) is a “dean” of the FCPA bar. Much of my early understanding of the FCPA came as a direct result of working with Martin on FCPA investigations and enforcement actions. I also have Martin to thank for several of the stamps in my passport.

Below is a Q & A exchange with Martin in which he talks about the FCPA’s early years, the current state of enforcement, and suggestions for change.

*****

Q: As a 1984 law school graduate did you have any exposure to the FCPA? Describe your first exposure to the FCPA?

A: When I was in law school, I never heard of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and didn’t even know that it existed until around 1991. I was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and a witness I was interviewing mentioned to me that she thought that some payments had been made to an Egyptian government official. I remember turning to the investigating agent who was with me and saying, “isn’t there a statute somewhere that prohibits this?” That was my first exposure to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Q: You were lead DOJ counsel in the Lockheed case in the mid-1990’s. Generally describe this matter, how it was resolved, and whether resolution of this case, if brought in 2010, would look any different?

A: I was the lead counsel in the Lockheed case that was resolved in the mid-1990’s, specifically January 1995. It was, by all accounts, the first really serious corporate case brought in the then 20 year history of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In that case, the company actually was indicted, and the allegations involved payments to a member of the Egyptian Parliament to obtain a contract through which the Egyptian Air Force would buy three C130 aircraft from Lockheed. There were two individuals also charged. The cases against all three defendants (the company and the two individuals) were resolved before trial, in the company’s case, literally days before the jury was to be selected.

The company agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It agreed to pay a combination of civil and criminal damages in the amount of $24.8 million, which was twice the profit of the contract they had with the Egyptian military to sell the C130 aircraft.

One of the individuals pled guilty to a lesser charge, and the other individual, a marketing manager named Suleiman Nassar, actually fled to Syria. That was one of the most interesting parts of the case for me because I visited Damascus on several occasions and negotiated directly with the government. Nassar was imprisoned in Syria on these charges, but was ultimately released and returned to the U.S. to plead guilty to violating the FCPA and became, I believe, the first person to go to jail under the FCPA.

Q: Did FCPA enforcement, during the last decade, morph into something other than what Congress intended the FCPA to address when passed in 1977?

A: The last decade of FCPA enforcement has seen extraordinary evolution, and I think you have to say that when Congress passed the law in 1977, they did not envision the wide reach of enforcement today and the types of things that the government gets involved in, such as transactions, joint ventures, and successor liability. I do think that the DOJ and the SEC have stayed generally true to the vision of the FCPA, which focuses on things of value, primarily money, going to foreign government officials in exchange for business.

Q: What is your biggest challenge as an FCPA practitioner? How has your FCPA practice changed over the past decade?

A: The challenges as an FCPA practitioner have mainly involved keeping up with the pace of the enforcement agencies in recent years. Whereas cases used to involve U.S. companies and their businesses in a few countries, the typical case now involves enforcement actions by multiple sovereigns involving the same company at the same time, and that makes the practice more challenging and more fascinating.

Q: What are your clients’ biggest challenges / frustrations with the FCPA or FCPA enforcement? Have these challenges / frustrations changed over the past decade?

A: I think that companies’ main frustration is that even with an outstanding compliance program and 99% of the employees maintaining strict adherence to the laws, you can still have violations which expose the entire company to extraordinarily serious penalties. I think the government has, at times, lost track of the main motivations for this statute and has become focused on the amounts of penalties, the imposition of compliance monitors, and exercising government control over what are basically private businesses. The vast majority of companies are absolutely committed to following the spirit and the letter of the FCPA, but when a company gets into trouble, the whole enterprise can be put at risk because of the conduct of a few people, and that doesn’t seem right. I worry that the government has come to see private industry through “dirty” glasses: the punishments don’t seem to fit the crimes.

Q: The FCPA was passed in 1977, amended in 1988 and also amended in 1998. Given this approximate ten year cycle, is the FCPA in need of further amendment? If so, what would the “Weinstein” amendment look like?

A: I think the Weinstein amendment would focus on the very significant issue of who is a foreign official and what constitutes a state-controlled instrumentality. There is so little guidance in this area that an amendment to the law providing clarity to companies wishing to comply is really essential. For example, after the U.K. government takeovers of certain British banks and U.S. intervention in the auto industry, did all these private businesses become state-controlled instrumentalities rendering all their employees government officials? Companies should not have to guess who is and who is not a government official.

Q: Arguably the two most egregious bribery schemes in recent years involved Siemens and BAE. In both instances, the companies were not charged with FCPA antibribery violations. What message does this send?

A: Siemens and BAE were not charged with antibribery violations largely for two different reasons. In the Siemens case and a number of other cases, charging a company with antibribery violations renders it susceptible to significant suspension and debarment risks. If the government can find suitable alternatives to antibribery charges and still tell the full story of the conduct to the public, it is really a much more just solution not to expose the company to extreme suspension and debarment risks. In BAE, I think the issue was much more one of jurisdiction, and I think the government is going to find this issue repeatedly if it continues to seek to prosecute foreign companies that have relatively little contact with U.S. interstate commerce.

Q: How can law and business schools best expose future lawyers and business leaders to the FCPA? What advice do you have for law students interesting in a future FCPA practice?

A: The FCPA has been a fantastic area in which to practice and to watch evolve. For students who are interested in the field, I think the most important thing is to learn as much as you can about U.S. criminal law and U.S. securities law and their interplay with various anticorruption laws around the world. It has become a very complicated field and I think it is safe to say the stakes for companies and individuals have never been higher.

Alcatel-Lucent’s Woes Continue

First it was Lucent Technologies. It settled parallel DOJ and SEC enforcement actions principally based on providing excessive travel and entertainment benefits to Chinese “foreign officials” (see here and here).

Then it was Alcatel-Lucent. It settled Costa Rican charges that it paid “kickbacks to former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez and other government officials in return for a 2001 contract worth $149 million to supply cellular telephone equipment.” (See here).

Then it was Alcatel-Lucent that disclosed it had reached agreements with the DOJ and SEC to resolve bribery and corruption allegations in several countries, including Costa Rica, Taiwan, and Kenya. These agreements have not yet been announced. Here is what the company most recently said in its March 23rd Form 20-F:

“FCPA investigations: In December 2009 we reached agreements in principle with the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice with regard to the settlement of their ongoing investigations involving our alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in several countries, including Costa Rica, Taiwan, and Kenya. Under the agreement in principle with the SEC, we would enter into a consent decree under which we would neither admit nor deny violations of the antibribery, internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA and would be enjoined from future violations of U.S. securities laws, pay U.S. $ 45.4 million in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest and agree to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor. Under the agreement in principle with the DOJ, we would enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), charging us with violations of the internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA, and we would pay a total criminal fine of U.S. $ 92 million, payable in four installments over the course of three years. In addition, three of our subsidiaries – Alcatel-Lucent France, Alcatel-Lucent Trade International AG and Alcatel Centroamerica – would each plead guilty to violations of the FCPA’s antibribery, books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. If we fully comply with the terms of the DPA, the DOJ would dismiss the charges upon conclusion of the three-year term. Final agreements must still be reached with the agencies and accepted in court.”

[For those of you “scoring at home” this would appear to be yet another DOJ “bribery, yet no bribery” enforcement action against the parent company. The DOJ’s eventual sentencing memorandum is likely to mention the European Union debarment provisions which would be applicable to Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent should it have been charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations.]

As if all of the above were not enough, it was recently reported (here) that “El Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Costa Rica’s telecommunications and electricity provider, filed a complaint in the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, Miami, Florida, against Alcatel Lucent S.A. and other related parties.” According to the article, “the complaint asserts claims for violations of civil racketeering and other laws of Florida in connection with Alcatel Lucent’s bribery and corruption of Costa Rican officials to secure telecommunications contracts with ICE” and that “if successful, the lawsuit will allow ICE to recover three times the amount of its damages.”

Focus on Pharma

Yesterday, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler spoke at the National Institute on Health Care Fraud in Miami. Part of his remarks (see here) included the following:

“… in the months ahead, you can expect to see the department increasingly using the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to prosecute kickbacks and bribes paid to foreign government officials by pharmaceutical companies. As the drug companies do more and more of their business overseas where so much of the health care business is government run, we unfortunately see the opportunities for FCPA violations proliferating. In some foreign countries, nearly every aspect of the approval, manufacture, import, export, pricing, sale and marketing of a drug product may involve a “foreign official” within the meaning of the FCPA. The department will not hesitate to charge pharmaceutical companies and their senior executives under the FCPA if warranted to root out foreign bribery in the industry.”

If the above “nearly every aspect” snippet sounds familiar, you have a good memory.

It is nearly verbatim what Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said during a keynote address to the 10th Annual Pharmaceutical Regulatory and Compliance Congress and Best Practices Forum last November. (See here).

Innospec’s Positive Financial Results

In March, Innospec got hit on both sides of the Atlantic (see here) and agreed to pay $40.2 million in combined DOJ/SEC/SFO fines and penalties for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other laws.

However, it could have been worse.

The SEC release (see here) notes that Innospec, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, was ordered to pay $60,071,613 in disgorgement, but because of Innospec’s “sworn Statement of Financial Condition” all but $11,200,000 of that disgorgement was waived.

The release states that “[b]ased on its financial condition, Innospec offered to pay a reduced criminal fine of $14.1 million to the DOJ and a criminal fine of $12.7 million to the SFO. Innospec will pay $2.2 million to OFAC for unrelated conduct concerning allegations of violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.”

In other words, Innospec got a pass on approximately $50 million.

This occured on March 18th.

Last week, Innospec announced (see here) it financial results for the first quarter ended March 31th (i.e. approximately two weeks from March 18th).

The results?

“Total net sales for the quarter were $163.5 million, up 10% from $148.1 million in the corresponding period last year. Net income was $7.4 million, or $0.30 per diluted share, a 16% increase from $6.4 million, or $0.26 per diluted share, a year ago. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and impairment) for the quarter was $15.4 million, compared with $16.0 million a year ago.”

“As of March 31, 2010, Innospec had $67.5 million in cash and cash equivalents, $22.5million more than its total debt of $45.0 million.”

Innospec’s President and Chief Executive Officer stated, “we are very pleased with our first quarter operating results …”.

I am a lawyer by training, not a finance professional.

So forgive me, but I am scratching my head over this one.

March 18th – Innospec gets a pass on $50 million in an FCPA case because of its financial condition.

March 31st – Innospec reports positive financial results, including $67.5 in cash and cash equivalents.

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