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World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum – Comments By U.K. Officials

Day one of the World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum in London featured addresses by Dominic Grieve (the U.K. Attorney General) and Robert Amaee (Head of Anti-Corruption U.K. Serious Fraud Office). This post provides a summary overview of their comments.

Tomorrow’s post will provide a summary overview of comments made by Charles Duross (Deputy Chief – Fraud Section, DOJ) and Thierry Olivier Desmet (Assistant Regional Director, FCPA Unit, SEC).

Before turning to Grieve and Amaee’s remarks, the U.K. Ministry of Justice yesterday (see here) officially launched the consultation process to “gather the views of interested parties” on the Bribery Act that “will help shape guidance about procedures which commercial organisations can put in place to prevent bribery.” In connection with the launch, the Ministry of Justice released this 35 page document which contains statements of various officials, draft guidance, and draft illustrative scenarios. Interested persons are encouraged to make their views known (see here).

Remarks of Attorney General Grieve

Attorney Grieve began by noting the “pernicious” effects of bribery and that tackling bribery requires an effective law – something he firmly believes the U.K. Bribery Act (with implementation slated for April 2011- see here for a prior post) will do. Attorney Grieve noted that the Bribery Act takes the U.K.’s antiquated bribery laws and modernizes these laws into a modern statute.

However, Attorney Grieve noted that one would be wrong to assume that the U.K. was ignoring bribery issues prior to passage of the Bribery Act. Indeed, he stated that even under the U.K.’s existing law strong enforcement has taken place and that it was “pleasing” that the U.K.’s recent enforcement actions were recognized in Transparency International’s recent report (see here for a prior post on the subject).

Attorney Grieve provided a brief overview of the Bribery Act’s offenses (see here for the Act itself), including, most notably the Section 7 offense for “failure to prevent bribery.”

Attorney Grieve noted that while “it has been suggested that Section 7 creates a strict liability offense” he emphatically stated that “it does not.” He drew upon his prior experience as a health and safety prosecutor and stated that the practice of having an occurrence of an event “and then reversing the burden of proof” is a “perfectly acceptable tool within [the U.K.] legal system.” Regarding adequate procedures which indeed are a defense under Section 7, Attorney Grieve noted that “any company small or large” that puts into place a system of adequate procedures “has nothing to fear” when an employee or agent “goes off the rails” and makes a bribe payment.

Speaking of the Bribery Act more generally, Attorney Grieves said that “it is not a bad thing” that the Bribery Act views bribery broadly because in practice bribery can “take many forms” and the Bribery Act “needs to take account of that.”

Attorney Grieve spent a few minutes talking about corporate hospitality. He said that the starting point is that corporate hospitality is “not illegal” and that the Bribery Act is “not intended to clamp down” on acceptable corporate hospitality. He did caution however that lavish hospitality “can be used as a bribe” and that the Bribery Act “must be capable of penalizing such conduct.”

Attorney Grieve referenced a recent article in the Financial Times “Mining and Oil Groups Dig In For Bribery Act.” The article notes concern by the mining industry over an example of a company arranging to fly a local Chilean mayor to a remote region of the country to view the company’s production facilities and that during the trip, food and lodging would also be provided by the company. Attorney Grieve said he “found it difficult” how any “sensible person” could think that this was bribery. He contrasted this example with a company paying for a foreign public official to stay at the Ritz in Paris with “go-go girls” also provided.

In concluding his remarks on this issue, Attorney Grieve said that “common sense” needs to be taken into account when providing corporate hospitality.

Returning to the issue of adequate procedures, Attorney Grieve said that a company should have nothing to fear if it is “walking the walk, and talking the talk” when a rogue employee makes an improper payment. On the other hand, Attorney Grieve stated that that “those who don’t heed the warnings and don’t take the necessary steps have something to fear.”

Remarks of Robert Amaee

Amaee began by stating that the SFO “welcomes the opportunity [delay of the Bribery Act] provides for business to digest and implement remedial actions” to put them in compliance with the new Bribery Act.

Amaee spoke of the “main problem” confronting SFO prosecutors under existing U.K. law and that is the “concept of a controlling mind” – in other words, to indict a case today, the SFO needs to show that “at least one controlling mind (a person at the board level or close to such a position) knew of and participated in the conduct at issue. Given the nature of the modern multinational corporation – where decision making is often made on a regional basis, Amaee said that this standard is difficult to meet.

Amaee noted that “Section 7 sweeps away that whole requirement” and establishes the new corporate offense of failing to prevent bribery. Under Section 7, Amaee explained that a corporate can be criminally liable if its employees or agents made improper payments – something he described as a shift in U.K. law and a new and “novel offense for U.K. law.”

Amaee also commented how the Bribery Act will “significantly extend” the SFO’s jurisdictional reach in prosecuting bribery offenses. He noted that if a company is registered anywhere in the world, but conducts some business in the U.K., that company can be prosecuted for failing to prevent bribery wherever in the world that bribe was paid.

Even with the new offense, Amaee stressed that the Bribery Act does provide some “comfort in the form of a defense” and that is the defense of adequate procedures.

Amaee also touched upon certain risk areas that he is often asked about.

The first is intermediaries. He noted that the SFO clearly recognizes that intermediaries serve a useful purpose by opening up doors in foreign markets, but that “in the past, some companies have chosen not to ask too many questions” of the intermediary or that companies have in the past “ignored clear warning signs” as to the intermediary. He noted that under the Bribery Act – neither of these past practices “will do” and that corporates should think about re-vetting their entire intermediary base. Amaee stated – “a board should always ask – where are we doing business and how, and that if the board doesn’t like the answers it receives, it should be prepared to take the business elsewhere.”

The second area of risk is joint venture. Amaee acknowledged that in certain sectors joint ventures are routine. However, he cautioned that companies should be mindful of not partnering up with a company that is not “willing to be open and transparent or not willing to demonstrate that its code of conduct does not match your own.”

Like Attorney Grieve, Amaee also spoke of corporate hospitality. He noted that during passage of the Bribery Act, assurance was provided that the U.K. government will not seek to penalize legitimate corporate hospitality. He stated however that “lavish corporate hospitality can be used to secure an advantage and that the Bribery Act must be wide enough to cover it.”

Amaee next spoke of the SFO’s approach to combating bribery. He spoke of two strands – active engagement to assist companies improve its corporate culture and to maintain high standards and vigorous enforcement when dealing with corporates who believe in using corruption and thus put others at a disadvantage.

Amaee stated that the “criminal courts are the right place for the right defendants,” but he also noted that criminal prosecution is not the “only means of effective enforcement.”

He stated that the SFO has discretion to consider non-criminal resolutions such as civil sanctions and listed the following factors as relevant to the issue of resolution: sufficiency of the evidence, public interest considerations, concurrent jurisdiction issues, and potential debarement issues.

Amaee also spent a few minutes talking about the SFO’s approach to individuals and he noted that the Bribery Act contains several sections under which individuals may be prosecuted – both rogue employees who bypass a company’s adequate procedures and high-ranking corporate executives who consent or condone the improper conduct. Amaee stated that with the Bribery Act, the “stakes are higher than ever before for senior officers within a company” and that under the Bribery Act “it is no longer possible” for senior executives “to bury their head in the sand and look the other way.”

During a panel discussion about self disclosure, Amaee was asked when a corporate should consider making the voluntary disclosure decision. In summary fashion, he said that the SFO’s preference is “as soon as possible” because this allows the SFO a much better chance for it to tell the company what the SFO is thinking and that if the company self-reports early in the investigative process the company can actually end up saving money because the SFO may suggest a more limited scope of investigation than the company perhaps was considering.

Opening Remarks – World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum

Greetings from London where I am pleased to be chairing the World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum.

For a copy of my opening remarks see here.

Stay tuned for additional coverage, including the keynote address by Dominic Grieve (QC MP, Attorney General – U.K.), a special address by Charles Duross (Chief – Fraud Section DOJ), a special address by Robert Amaee (Head of Anti-Corruption – U.K. Serious Fraud Office) and commentary from other SFO, SEC, and other officials.

DOJ Seeks Sentencing Enhancement

The starting point in calculating a criminal fine for an FCPA anti-bribery violation is Section 2C1.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (see here).

By way of example, see here (pg. 8) for how this section was used to determine the “total offense level” in the Alliance One plea agreement, here (pg. 6) for how this section was used to determine the base fine in the Technip deferred prosecution agreement.

Over the summer, the DOJ submitted its required report “commenting on the operation of the sentencing guidelines, suggesting changes in the guidelines that appear to be warranted, and otherwise assessing the [U.S. Sentencing] Commission’s work.”

In the June 28th letter (see here) from Jonathan Wroblewski (Director, Office of Policy and Legislation) to The Honorable William Sessions III of the Commission, Wroblewski states (see p. 5, footnote 4) the DOJ’s belief that changes are needed to 2C1.1 to address crimes that occur overseas.

Specifically, Wroblewski stated that the Commission ought to add an enhancement in 2C1.1 – similar to the one found in 2B1.1 – that increases penalties for defendants who “increase the prosecutorial expenses associated with detection and investigation by committing a substantial part of their offense outside of the United States.”

The enhancement found in 2B1.1(b)(9)(B) (see here) that the DOJ wants added to 2C1.1 offenses states: “If … (B) a substantial part of a fraudulent scheme was committed from outside the United States; … increase by 2 levels. If the resulting offense level is less than level 12, increase to level 12.”

Although Wroblewski’s letter does not specifically mention the FCPA, the starting point for calculating FCPA fines is 2C1.1, thus the enhancement DOJ seeks would increase base fine amounts in DOJ FCPA enforcement actions.

As applied to FCPA enforcement, such an enhancement would be ironic given that the DOJ routinely assesses fines significantly below even the floor suggested by the Sentencing Guidelines.

For instance, in the recent Universal Corp. enforcement actions (see here) the fine was 30% below the bottom of the sentencing guidelines range; in the recent Technip enforcement action (see here) the fine was 25% below the bottom of the sentencing guidelines range; and in the recent Snamprogetti enforcement action (see here) the fine was 20% below the bottom of the sentencing guidelines range.

A Favor … Plus The Friday Roundup

A Favor

Each year, LexisNexis honors a select group of blogs that set the online standard for a given industry.

I am pleased to share that FCPA Professor is one of the nominated blogs for the LexisNexis Top 25 Business Law Blogs of 2010.

LexisNexis invites the business law community to comment on the list of nominees so that it can narrow the field to the Top 25.

The link to submit comments is here.

To submit a comment, you must register, but registration is free and does not result in sales contacts. The comment box is at the very bottom of the page and the comment period ends on October 8, 2010.

Many of the other blogs nominated are the work of multiple bloggers and/or for-profit entities. Thus, as a single blogger, I am honored to be included on this list. My mission remains the same since I launched FCPA Professor in July 2009. That is to inject a much needed scholarly voice into FCPA and related issues, to explore the more analytical “why” questions increasingly present in this current era of aggressive enforcement, and to foster a forum for critical analysis and discussion of the FCPA and related topics among FCPA practitioners, business and compliance professionals, scholars and students, and other interested persons.

I hope you value the content delivered to you each day on FCPA Professor and I thank you for your consideration.

Friday Roundup

HP speaks, checking in with the Africa Sting case, Smith & Wesson’s reduced international shipments, BAE news, The Bribery Centre, and the International Anti-Corruption Academy … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

HP Speaks

In April (see here) it was reported that German and Russian authorities were investigating whether Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) executives paid millions of dollars in bribes to win a contract in Russia with the office of the prosecutor general of the Russian Federation. U.S. authorities then launched an investigation, something HP publicly acknowledged (see here). Yesterday, for the first time, HP “talked” about the investigation(s) in an SEC filing. In its 10-Q filing (see here) the company disclosed as follows:

“Russia GPO and Related Investigations

The German Public Prosecutor’s Office (“German PPO”) has been conducting an investigation into allegations that current and former employees of HP engaged in bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion relating to a transaction between Hewlett−Packard ISE GmbH in Germany, a former subsidiary of HP, and the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation. The €35 million transaction, which was referred to as the Russia GPO deal, spanned 2001 to 2006 and was for the delivery and installation of an IT network. The German PPO has recently requested information on several non−public sector transactions entered into by HP and its subsidiaries on or around 2006 involving one or more persons also involved in the Russia GPO deal.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC have also been conducting an investigation into the Russia GPO deal and potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). Under the FCPA, a person or an entity could be subject to fines, civil penalties of up to $500,000 per violation and equitable remedies, including disgorgement and other injunctive relief. In addition, criminal penalties could range from the greater of $2 million per violation or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss from the violation. The U.S. enforcement authorities have recently requested information from HP relating to certain governmental and quasi−governmental transactions in Russia and in the Commonwealth of Independent States subregion dating back to 2000.

HP is cooperating with these investigating agencies.”

Africa Sting

It’s been a while since I posted on the Africa Sting case (see here for numerous prior posts). You’ll recall that the 20+ defendants were snared in an undercover operation in which FBI agents posed as a Gabon “foreign official.” Entrapment is sure to be a legal issue the defendants will formally raise – and indeed it has been an issue defense lawyers have already publicly stated. As noted in this Blog of Legal Times post, during a hearing earlier this week, defense counsel “are demanding access to internal Justice Department and FBI manuals that govern the planning and execution of undercover operations.” According to the post, defense counsel have already claimed violations of DOJ/FBI policy in connection with the sting operation.

Smith & Wesson’s Reduced Shipments

Speaking of the Africa Sting case, one of the company’s indirectly, at least at this point, implicated in the matter is Smith & Wesson, the employer of Amaro Goncalves – one of the indicted individuals. In July (see here), the company disclosed the existence of a DOJ/SEC investigation and yesterday’s 10-Q filing (see here) does not seem to add much from the previous filing. However, this sentence from pg. 26 of the filing caught my eye: “Pistol sales decreased 25.3%, driven by the reduction in consumer demand as well as reduced international shipments related to our investigation of the FCPA matter.”

BAE News

The BAE bribery, yet no bribery enforcement action (see here) may be over in the U.S. and the U.K. Serious Fraud Office – BAE plea agreement may be waiting judicial approval in the U.K. (see here), but that does not mean that BAE’s potential exposure in other jurisdictions is over. For instance, this recent Businessweek article suggests that South African authorities remain interested in corruption allegations concerning the purchase of fighter jets from BAE. In addition, according to this recent story in The Prague Post “the Czech Republic has asked the United States for help in its inquiry into alleged corruption in a 2002 deal to buy 24 fighter jets from … BAE Systems.” The DOJ’s non-FCPA criminal information against BAE (see here) included allegations regarding the sale of fighter jets to the Czech Republic.

The Bribery Centre

The U.S. is not the only country with a vibrant and aggressively marketed anti-bribery sector. With implementation of the U.K. Bribery Act expected in April 2011, an industry is developing on the other side of the Atlantic as well. The Bribery Centre (here) seeks to provide a “unique resource to manage compliance to the Bribery Act 2010.” Described as a “collaboration between Ten Alps plc and Venalitas Ltd” the Centre “aims to become the predominant online resource for those companies who need assistance to become compliant with this new landmark piece of legislation.” Contributors include Clifford Chance and KPMG. As noted near the top of the site, you only have “29 weeks to implement adequate procedures.”

International Anti-Corruption Academy

The IAAC as it is known (see here) recently had its coming out party. As described on its website, the IAAC is “a joint initiative by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Republic of Austria, the European Anti-Fraud Office, and other stakeholders” and it “is a pioneering institution that aims to overcome current shortcomings in knowledge and practice in the field of anti-corruption.”

Located near Vienna, Austria, the academy “will function as an independent centre of excellence in the field of anti-corruption education, training, networking and cooperation, as well as academic research.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

My Two Cents On The FCPA’s Affirmative Defenses

Students looking for scholarship ideas, should consider the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Why?

There is a good chance that publication of an article will generate coverage and discussion on the blogosphere and elsewhere.

Case in point is Kyle Sheahen’s “I’m Not Going to Disneyland: Illusory Affirmative Defenses Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” (see here).

For prior coverage of Sheahen’s article see here, here and here.

Sheahen’s article is about the FCPA’s two affirmative defenses – the so-called local law and promotional expense defenses.

Big picture, Sheahen terms these defenses as being “hollow,” “illusory,” and “useless in practice.”

For starters, I respectfully disagree with Sheahen’s statement that “business and businessmen accused of giving bribes to foreign officials have fared poorly in federal courts” as well as the implication that this somehow supports his thesis.

The three FCPA trials cited from 2009 – Frederick Bourke, William Jefferson, and Gerald and Patricia Greene were a mixed bag for the DOJ, not slam-dunk successes.

For starters, the jury found Jefferson not guilty of substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations (see here).

Sure, Bourke was found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and the Travel Act (as well as making false statements to the FBI) (see here), yet when the DOJ alleges that one is a key participant of a “massive bribery scheme” yet secures only a 366 day sentence (see here) from a judge who remarks that “after years of supervising this case, it’s still not entirely clear to me whether Mr. Bourke is a victim or a crook or a little bit of both” – I struggle to put such a case in the decisive “win” category for the DOJ. Plus, Bourke’s case is currently on appeal (see here).

The Green case (see here) would seem to represent the cleanest win for the DOJ even though the sentencing judge expressed concerns whether the Green’s conduct caused any harm in sentencing the couple to six months in prison thereby rejecting the DOJ’s recommended ten year sentence. (See here).

Sheahen’s article was published before the Giffen Gaffe (see here). Giffen aggressively mounted a legal defense and, whether for legal, political or other reasons, the case that began with charges that Giffen made “more than $78 million in unlawful payments to two senior officials of the Republic of Kazakhstan in connection with six separate oil transactions, in which the American oil companies Mobil Oil, Amoco, Texaco and Phillips Petroleum acquired valuable oil and gas rights in Kazakhstan” ended with a one-paragraph superseding information charging a misdemeanor tax violation. Further, back in 2004, Giffen was successful in having FCPA-related criminal charges dismissed when the trial court judge (see here) concluded that the DOJ offered “the slenderest of reeds” to support the collateral criminal charge.

Going back in time …

George McLean won his FCPA case when the Fifth Circuit concluded, see 738 F.2d 655 (5th Cir. 1984) that the FCPA, as it then existed because of the subsequently repealed Eckhardt Amendment, barred prosecution.

Donald Castle and Darrell Lowry (two Canadian “foreign officials”) won their FCPA-related cases, see 741 F.Supp. 116 (N.D. Tex. 1990), when the court dismissed their criminal indictments. The DOJ asserted that even though the officials could not be prosecuted under the FCPA, they could be prosecuted under the general conspiracy statute (18 USC 371) for conspiring to violate the FCPA. However, the court declined DOJ’s invitation to extend the reach of the FCPA through the application of the conspiracy statute to Castle and Lowry.

Richard Liebo was acquitted, following a three week jury trial, of several counts including nine counts of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and one count of violating the FCPA’s accounting and record keeping provisions. See 923 F.2d 1308 (8th Cir. 1991). He was found guilty of one FCPA count concerning his company’s purchase of honeymoon airline tickets for the cousin and close friend of Captain Ali Tiemogo, the chief of maintenance for the Niger Air Force. In connection with this conviction, the Eighth Circuit found that the district court “clearly abused its discretion in denying Liebo’s motion for a new trial” and remanded for a new trial.

Hans Bodmer didn’t fare too badly either in 2004 when Judge Shira Scheindlin (the same judge in the Bourke case) held that the portion of the criminal indictment “charging Bodmer with conspiracy to violate the FCPA contravenes the constitutional fair notice requirement, and the rule of lenity demands its dismissal.”

Of course, the DOJ has had its fair share of FCPA successes, but it remains a misperception that FCPA defendants have “fare[d] so badly” in FCPA trials as Sheahen, and others, have asserted.

Returning to the substance of Sheahen’s article, he discusses the October 2008 Bourke decision by Judge Scheindlin (see 582 F.Supp.2d 535) – a case of first impression on the FCPA’s local law defense.

Bourke argued that the FCPA’s local law affirmative defense was applicable because, under Azeri law even though the payments were illegal, he was relieved from criminal responsibility when he reported the payments at issue to the President of Azerbaijan.

Judge Scheindlin disagreed, drawing a hard line between payments – the focus of the FCPA’s local law affirmative defense in her mind – and the related issue of whether a person could not be prosecuted in the foreign country because a provision may relieve that person from criminal responsibility.

Judge Scheindlin concluded that “an individual may be prosecuted under the FCPA for a payment that violates foreign law even if the individual is relieved of criminal responsibility for his actions by a provision of the foreign law.”

I agree with Sheahen’s statement that Judge Scheindlin’s decision of first impression narrowed the FCPA’s local law defense “to the point of extinction.”

I would go a step further and argue that Judge Scheindlin’s decision would seem to violate the basic axiom that a statute should be construed so that effect is given to all of its provisions, so that no part will be inoperative or superfluous, void or insignificant.

In other words, courts should not suppose that Congress intended to enact unnecessary statutes and there is a presumption against interpreting a statute in a way that renders it ineffective.

The local law affirmative defense was added to the FCPA in 1988 and we must presume that Congress intended to enact the affirmative defense for some reason.

It was widely assumed by Congress in 1977 (when the FCPA was enacted), and by the Congress that amended the FCPA in 1988 to include the local law defense as well, that no nation’s written law permitted bribery of its officials.

Yet, given Judge Scheindlin’s narrow construction of the local law defense, the decision would appear to render the local-law defense (a statutory term that must have some meaning) inoperative, superfluous and insignificant.

As to the promotional expense defense, I would respectfully disagree with Sheahen’s apparent conclusion that the defense is meaningless just because it has never been successfully invoked by an FCPA defendant at trial.

Because of the “carrots” and “sticks” the DOJ and SEC possess in an FCPA enforcement action, and because of the resolution vehicles typically offered to FCPA defendants to resolve an FCPA enforcement action (such as non and deferred prosecution agreements) there is much about the FCPA that has never been subjected to judicial scrutiny.

That does not mean however that an element or defense not successfully invoked at trial renders that element or defense meaningless or hallow.

Indeed, Sheahen discusses the FCPA Opinion Procedure Release process. Through this mechanism, those subject to the FCPA have gained degrees of comfort from DOJ “no enforcement” opinions that are based on the promotional expense defense.

Although the Opinion Procedure Releases are not precedent, countless others in the legal, business, and compliance communities find comfort in these releases, as well as the statute itself, when analyzing real-world conduct for potential FCPA exposure.

FCPA enforcement is in need of many fixes and indeed the Opinion Procedure Release process is likely not the best way for the DOJ to make its enforcement positions known.

However, these structural flaws in FCPA enforcement, coupled with the typical ways in which FCPA enforcement actions are resolved, necessarily leads to the conclusion that the FCPA’s affirmative defenses are “hollow,” “illusory,” and “useless in practice.”

*****

I provided Sheahen with my draft post so that he could respond and here is what he said.

“Professor Koehler,

Thank you for your thorough analysis. Although DOJ’s trial record in FCPA prosecutions is not a clean sheet, the government has still been substantively successful in almost every FCPA case that has gone to trial. Further, the fact remains that no FCPA defendant has successfully invoked either the local law or the promotional expenses defense in an FCPA enforcement action.

Also, while I agree that the promotional expenses defense provides some guidelines for compliance with the FCPA, neither it nor the local law defense provide a meaningful defense to an enforcement action. Accordingly, Congress must take action to ensure that individual and corporate defendants have the actual ability to raise the affirmative defenses contemplated by the statutory scheme.

Thanks again and all the best,

Kyle Sheahen
sheahen2010@lawnet.ucla.edu

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