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World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum

I am pleased to serve as Chair of the World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum in London, September 14-15th.

As indicated on the conference brochure (here) speakers will include the U.K. Attorney General, and representatives from the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the OECD, the World Bank, Transparency International, Trace International as well as global business compliance professionals and legal practitioners.

Readers of the FCPA Professor Blog are entitled to 20% off the conference fee by using the above brochure and additional savings will be earned by booking by July 2nd.

“Foreign Official” Brain Teasers

Two “foreign official” brain teasers are highlighted below.

One touches upon sovereign wealth funds, the other a Chinese state-owned enterprise (as well as sovereign wealth funds). Both are based on recent events.

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A prior post discussed sovereign wealth funds and the FCPA (see here).

I noted that while no FCPA enforcement action has yet involved a sovereign wealth fund, such funds and the investments these funds make in private companies, are clearly on the radar screen of the enforcement agencies as both DOJ and SEC officials have in the past publicly stated that sovereign wealth funds pose FCPA risks because the funds are government owned (see here and here).

The next frontier of the enforcement agencies often times aggressive and dubious “foreign official” interpretation may thus be application to the investments made by sovereign wealth funds.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Chesapeake Energy Corp. (here) recently sold $900 million in preferred stock to a group of investors. Among others, Chesapeake sold shares to China Investment Corp. (a Chinese government sovereign wealth fund – here), Korea Investment Corp. (a South Korea government sovereign wealth fund – here) and Temasek Holdings (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund – here). For good measure, Abu Dhabi Investment Council (Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund – here) also invested in Chesapeake.

What would it take for Chesapeake employees to become Chinese “foreign officials”? A majority investment by China Investment Corp.? What if the investment was not a majority investment, but China Investment Corp. exercised veto rights over certain business decisions?

If not Chinese “foreign officials,” what would it take for Chesapeake employees to become Korean “foreign officials.” What if Korea Investment Corp. had the opportunity to appoint Chesapeake board members?

If not Korean “foreign officials,” what fact or factors would it take for Chesapeake employees to become Singapore or Abu Dhabi “foreign officials”?

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Numerous prior posts have discussed Chinese state-owned enterprises (“SOEs”) and the enforcement agencies interpretation (one that has never been accepted by a court) that employees of alleged Chinese SOEs are Chinese “foreign officials” because the SOE is an alleged “instrumentality” of the Chinese government – notwithstanding the fact that it has publicly traded shares and other attributes of private ownership.

One of the largest ever IPO’s is expected to soon price.

It involves Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. (a Chinese government owned bank – here) and its attempts to raise US$20 billion – $30 billion by listing shares on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Qatar Investment Authority (Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund – here) is expected to invest US$2.8 billion in the offering. Kuwait Investment Authority (Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund – here) is expected to invest $800 million. Other investors expected to participate in the deal include Temasek Holdings (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund).

Can an entity such as Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. truly be considered a Chinese government instrumentality when it has publicly traded shares and multi-billion and million dollar investments from other nation’s sovereign wealth funds? At what point could Agricultural Bank of China employees cease being Chinese “foreign officials” and become Qatar or Kuwait “foreign officials”?

It is not just sovereign wealth funds that are planning to make massive investments in Agricultural Bank of China. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Archer Daniels Midland Co. (here) is also expected to invest $100 million to $200 million in the IPO.

Can Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. truly be considered a Chinese government instrumentality while at the same time securing a multi-million dollar investment from a US food giant?

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A recent article by Samuel Rubenfeld (Dow Jones News Service) titled “To Comply with Bribery Laws, Companies Must Decide Who’s ‘Official'” explores the meaning of the FCPA’s “foreign official” element. In the article, a DOJ spokeswoman merely referred to the statutory definition of “foreign official” in the FCPA as her agency’s comment for the article.

The FCPA defines “foreign official” as follows:

“Foreign official” means any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, or of a public international organization, or any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of any such government or department, agency, or instrumentality, or for or on behalf of any such public international organization.”

So these aren’t brain teasers after all, the DOJ apparently feels that the answer is found in the statute itself.

The Second Africa Regional Anti-Corruption Seminar

Last week in Cameroon, the U.S. Department of Justice and Cameroonian Ministry of Justice co-sponsored the Second Africa Regional Anti-Corruption Seminar (see here for the U.S. Embassy’s press release). As noted in the release, the annual seminar series “was started by the U.S. government because of the growing transnational nature of corruption and the importance many African nations attached to the recovery of stolen assets abroad” and because “the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and several other multilateral initiatives call for increased international cooperation to combat corruption.” According to the release, working sessions included: “international standards to fight against corruption and recover stolen assets; investigating corruption in state-owned corporations and enterprises; international funds transfers; and investigating corruption in customs and revenue services.”

U.S. Ambassador Janet Garvey (see here) opened the seminar and here comments can be found here.

Among other things, Ambassador Garvey stated that “corruption is a global problem and I don’t have to tell you that much work needs to be done at every level to combat it.”

She then stated:

“In the United States, companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges are subject to stiff punishment under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) if they are caught engaging in corruption. We take this very seriously and such major corporations as Siemens, Daimler, BHP Billiton, Kellog, Brown and Root, and Britain’s BAE Systems have recently been forced to pay huge fines under the FCPA.”

Stiff punishment under the FCPA?

Does Ambassador Garvey know that Siemens, Daimler, and BAE System were not even charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations?

[Note – BHP Billiton has not recently been forced to pay huge fines under the FCPA. Rather, the company disclosed in April 2010 (see here) as follows: “Following requests for information from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a part of an investigation relating primarily to certain terminated minerals exploration projects, the Company has disclosed to relevant authorities evidence that it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials. Accordingly, the Company is cooperating with the relevant authorities including conducting an internal investigation, which is continuing. It is not possible at this time to predict the scope or duration of the investigation or its likely outcome.”]

Ambassador Garvey also stated as follows:

“In the U.S., we have taken other important steps to contribute to the global anti-corruption regime. Presidential Proclamation 7750 requires the U.S. Department of State to deny visas to citizens and government officials who have engaged in serious corruption.”

For more on Presidential Proclamation 7750, including what happens when the Forest and Agriculture Minister of Equatorial Guinea and the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president shows up at the U.S. “doorstep” on his way to his $35 million Malibu estate (see here). Short answer, he is let in. Despite the fact that federal law enforcement officials believe that “most if not all” of his wealth came from corruption related to oil and gas reserves in his home country. Despite the fact that the DOJ believes that he “may be receiving bribes or extortion payments” from oil companies operating in the country.

Thumbs up to the U.S. for sponsoring global anti-corruption seminars.

Thumbs down for yet another instance of “official rhetoric” not matching reality.

Honest Services Fraud and the FCPA

While much of the white-collar bar awaits the Supreme Court’s decisions in the trio of honest services fraud cases on its docket (Jeffrey Skilling, Conrad Black and Bruce Weyhrauch) why not talk about the FCPA and honest services fraud!
What is honest services fraud? Stay tuned for the Supreme Court’s decisions.

For present purposes, honest services fraud is part of the mail and wire fraud statutes and is found at 18 USC 1346 which simply states that the term “scheme or artifice to defraud” includes a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.

What does this have to do with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

It turns out, not much, but that is not how the DOJ saw it when charging James Giffen in 2004. (For more on the Giffen case see here).

The Giffen superceding indictment focuses on charges that he made unlawful payments totaling more than $78 million to the former Prime Minister and Oil Minister of Kazakhstan in violation of the FCPA.

In addition to the FCPA charges, the indictment also alleged that Giffen’s actions violated 18 USC 1346 by depriving the citizens of Kazakhstan of the honest services of their government officials.

Yes, you did read that correctly – the DOJ alleged that Giffen deprived the citizens of Kazakhstan of the honest services of their government officials. That is why the Giffen honest services fraud charge is one of the more curious “tag-a-long” charges ever in an FCPA enforcement action.

Unlike most FCPA defendants (corporate and individual) Giffen mounted, and still is mounting, an aggressive legal defense.

In 2004, Giffen moved to dismiss portions of the charges that alleged a scheme to deprive the citizens of Kazakhstan of the honest services of their government officials. He asserted that application of the honest services fraud theory of Section 1346 to Kazakhstan impermissibly extended the mail and wire fraud statutes to cover activities beyond Congress’ original intent.

Judge William Pauley of the Southern District of New York agreed with Giffen and granted his motion to dismiss portions of the charges that alleged a scheme to deprive the citizens of Kazakhstan of the honest services of their government officials. See U.S. v. Giffen, 326 F.Supp.2d 497 (S.D.N.Y. 2004).

In so holding, Judge Pauley stated that the DOJ offered “the slenderest of reeds to support its expansive interpretation.” Among other things, Judge Pauley noted that the DOJ could not point to “any decision where a court upheld application of the honest services theory in an international setting involving a foreign government and its citizens.”

When the DOJ pointed to “two 25-year old indictments” charging a similar theory, Judge Pauley noted that the DOJ “has not unearthed any published decision on the issue” and that the DOJ “conceded that there were no court decisions addressing the validity of the two 25-year old indictments.” Judge Pauley further stated that just because certain U.S. Attorneys were able to obtain indictments “under an intangible rights theory, grounded between a foreign government and its citizenry, is not the kind or quality of precedent this Court need consider.”

Accordingly, Judge Pauley concluded that “Congress did not intend that the intangible right to honest services encompasses bribery of foreign officials in foreign countries” and that “application of Section 1346 to Giffen [was] unconstitutional.”

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As FCPA practitioners well know, many current FCPA legal theories are aggressive, untested and not supported by any case law or other meaningful precedent or guidance.

If challenged, would a judge (like Judge Pauley in Giffen) conclude that the DOJ offered the “slenderest of reeds” to support its expansive interpretations?

What case law would the DOJ cite to support certain of its aggressive interpretations (such as employees of seemingly “commercial” enterprises being “foreign officials” under the FCPA)? Would DOJ not have to concede that there are no court decisions addressing the validity of its interpretations?

All interesting (and important) questions to ponder while awaiting the Supreme Court’s honest services fraud decisions.

“I was taught if they violated a law, you charge them. If they didn’t violate the law, you don’t charge them.”

In 2008 (the most recent year for which I’ve seen the following statistic) seven of the sixteen non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements entered into by the DOJ were in the FCPA context. (See here).

NPAs and DPAs are thus very much a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act topic and these resolution vehicles are frequently covered on this blog. (See here and here).

Thus, the following exchange between Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and James Cole caught my eye. It occurred during Cole’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings last week for the Deputy Attorney General position.

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SEN. SESSIONS: […] I noticed just as an aside you did a speech entitled role of an in-house lawyer in a corporation in October of ’06, and you stated this. Quote: “The experience with Arthur Andersen taught the government something that consequences were too drastic and hurt too many innocent employees. The government now tries to work settlements with companies that find themselves in that kind of predicament and the company does not get indicted and therefore can continue to exist.” Closed quote. Well, we know that Arthur Andersen failed immediately upon being charged as I recall that. So I’m not suggesting this is a totally improper statement. But it seems to go beyond strict enforcement of the law and try to preserve corporations who perhaps should be charged and suffer whatever consequences might result from their criminal acts. Do you have any second thoughts about that quote that I just read?

MR. COLE: Senator Sessions, I don’t. The point of that was to say that there are reasons why you charge corporations and reasons why you don’t charge corporations. And certainly the Justice Department starting back when the Attorney General Eric Holder was deputy attorney general has issued a series of memoranda that guide prosecutors in determining when a corporation should be charged. The issue is so sensitive because when you charge a corporation and you cause its demise through that charge, thousands and thousands of employees who had no role in the misconduct are hurt. Thousands and thousands of shareholders who had no role in the misconduct and whose savings were invested in that corporation are hurt, and it’s those people who had no role who are hurt are the ones you need to think about, as well, when you decide whether to charge a corporation.

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, I think that’s, I guess, a reality, but it’s got to be carefully thought through, else you’re just picking and choosing winners. You’re saying BP is too big to fail. They’ve got employees, too. This is a dangerous philosophy. Normally, I was taught if they violated a law, you charge them. If they didn’t violate the law, you don’t charge them.

MR. COLE: Well — and one of the issues, Senator, that is very much, as I understand it, in the forefront of the prosecution decisions in the Department is to prosecute the individual executives in these companies who are responsible for these criminal acts because that’s how you’re going to get the most deterrence.

SEN. SESSIONS: But are you now saying that you’re backing off corporate indictments?

MR. COLE: No, I am not at all. I’m just saying there are many ways to be quite effective, and I think you have to balance the interests of how much damage you’re doing to people who had nothing to do with the wrongdoing versus how much deterrence you’re going to be placing on future conduct like this. And I think you have to make sure that you are effective in the prosecution, both of corporations and of the individual officers.

SEN. SESSIONS: Yeah, so how much empathy you have for the employees. Well, anyway, it’s a tough decision. I guess we could go ’round and ’round, but I think you need to be careful with that philosophy. It has some danger to it. I think you fully recognize, as an experienced prosecutor that you are, the — I also salute you for wanting to reinvigorate traditional prosecutions in the Department. I hope that you will look at the numbers, you will look at the prosecutions and make sure that they are working effectively and that they’re high enough based on the number of prosecutors and investigators in the country. I’m not sure that we are. We’ve added a lot of prosecutors and assistant United States attorneys around the country. They’re paid big salaries. They need to be producing day after day. […]

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The above exchange raises an interesting question – what is the “shelf life” of the Arthur Anderson prosecution?

In other words, how long will the 2002 prosecution (and related consequences) guide DOJ corporate charging decisions? Will a DOJ prosecutor in 2015 or 2020 be persuaded not to criminally indict a corporation because of what happened in 2002? Should a corporation escape the most severe consequences of criminal conduct just because it employs lots of people? Just because the corporation sells certain products to certain customers?

All questions to ponder as another week begins.

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