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What If Triton Energy Were Resolved Today?

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]

Certain of the “old” Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions reviewed thus far in this periodic series were dubious (see here for instance).

Other “old” FCPA enforcement actions contain egregious allegations concerning high-level executive knowledge, acquiescence and cover-up of bribery yet were resolved  in what can only be called – a light fashion.  Case in point is the 1997 enforcement actions against Triton Energy and several executives.   The Triton enforcement action makes reporting of Wal-Mart’s supposed corporate governance failures and oversight look garden-variety.

Learning of the Triton enforcement action causes one  to ponder – what if the enforcement action were resolved today?

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In February 1997, the SEC announced the filing of this settled civil complaint against Triton Energy Corporation and Richard McAdoo and Philip Keever (former officers of Triton Indonesia Inc. – a wholly owned subsidiary of Triton).  In summary fashion, the complaint alleged:

“This action concerns the activities in Indonesia of Triton Indonesia …  During the years 1989 and 1990 defendants McAdoo and Keever, then officers of Triton Indonesia, authorized numerous improper payments to Roland Siouffi, knowing or recklessly disregarding the high probability that Siouffi either had or would pass such payments along to Indonesian government employees for the purpose of influencing their decisions affecting the business of Triton Indonesia.  McAdoo and Keever, together with other Triton Indonesia employees, concealed these payments by falsely documenting and recording the transactions as routine business expenditures.  Triton Indonesia also recorded other false entries in its books and records.  During the relevant time period, Triton failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls to detect and prevent improper payments by Triton Indonesia to government officials and to provide reasonable assurance that transactions were recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.  Triton Energy did not expressly authorize or direct these improper payments and misbookings.”

The complaint charged Triton Energy with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal controls provisions.  Keever and McAdoo were charged with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and knowingly circumventing a system of internal controls and knowingly falsifying books and records.

The complaint noted that Keever retired from Triton in 1996 and that McAdoo was terminated by Triton in 1989.

The conduct at issue focused on Triton Indonesia being a party to a joint venture agreement which resulted in Triton Indonesia being a party to a Rehabilitation and Secondary Recovery Contract (“RSRC Contract”) with Pertamina, a national oil company owned by the Republic of Indonesia.  As alleged in the complaint, the project Triton Indonesia was working on “was subject to taxation by the Indonesian Ministry of Finance and tax liability was determined by auditors from the Ministry of Finance’s audit branch (“BPKP”).

According to the complaint:

“During the Pertamina/BPKP audits, after the auditors completed their review of the books and records, they had an exit meeting with representatives of Triton Indonesia during which they provided their preliminary written findings, including problems with the books and records that might lead to reductions in cost recovery.  Following the auditors’ presentation, Triton Indonesia prepared a written response to the audit exceptions.  Triton Indonesia and Pertamina/BPKP auditors then entered into negotiations concerning the content of the final audit report.  The Pertamina/BPKP auditors had discretion to make a determination as to whether audit exceptions would be included in their audit report or withdrawn.  […]  These ‘negotiations’ culminated in numerous improper payments to Indonesian auditors.”

The complaint stated that “at the beginning of Triton’s Indonesia’s tenure as operator of the joint venture … the poor books and records and internal controls made it difficult for Triton Indonesia to calculate and document project costs, and threatened the company’s ability to obtain recovery of [project] costs incurred prior to Triton Indonesia’s tenure as operator.”  The complaint noted that “from the outset, Triton Indonesia and Triton Energy management anticipated that the deficient state of the books and records of the [project] would adversely impact Triton Indonesia’s ability to obtain certification of the unrecovered costs pool for [two] fiscal years.”

According to the complaint, Triton agreed with its joint venture partner to “retain Roland Siouffi as its business agent for the purpose of acting as an intermediary between Triton Indonesia and Indonesian government agencies, including Pertamina and the Ministry of Finance.”

According to the complaint, “when Keever went to Indonesia … to become Commercial Manager, Triton Energy’s controller at the time told Keever that his performance would be measured by the extent to which [project] expenditures were found to be costs recoverable in the annual Pertamina/BPKP audits.”

The complaint alleged:

“During 1989 and 1990, McAdoo and Keever authorized a number of improper payments to Siouffi entities for the purpose of influencing specific actions by various Indonesian government agencies.  To conceal the true purpose of the payments, Triton Indonesia employees created false documents that indicated that the funds were expended for transactions with Siouffi entities for legitimate purposes, such as the purchase of seismic data or repair of equipment used for oil exploration.  The expenditures were then recorded on Triton Indonesia’s books and records as having been made for the purpose reflected in the false documentation.  These false entries were made in the books and records of Triton Indonesia with the knowing participation of certain Triton Indoensia employees, including McAdoo and Keever.”

The SEC complaint contains separate allegations regarding improper payments: “in connection with a tax audit;” “Pertamina/BPKP Audits;” a corporate tax refund;” the refund of value added tax;” and “relating to a pipeline tariff.”  The complaint also references payments of cash totaling $13,500 to Indonesian auditors for the purpose of developing general good will” and “cash payments totalling $1,000 per month to Pertamina clerical employees made for the purpose of expediting payment of monthly crude oil invoices.”

Under the heading “Triton Energy Management Received Information Concerning Improper Payments and False Books and Records” the complaint alleges, in pertinent part:

“From the start of Triton Indonesia’s role as operator [of the joint venture], some Triton Energy officers and managers had concerns about the relationship with Siouffi, including concerns about the vagueness of his contractual duties, the large amounts of money he was receiving, how he might be using that money, and his honesty. Despite these concerns, Triton Energy’s former management did not establish any policies or procedures concerning the circumstances under which Triton Indonesia could make payments to Siouffi for the purpose of influencing a government decision or what activities Siouffi could engage in on Triton Indonesia’s behalf.  In addition, at the outset of Triton Energy’s involvement in Indonesia, Triton Energy’s former management became aware of additional information that should have led to a heightened degree of vigilance about the possibility of FCPA violations. Instead, Triton Energy management ignored danger signs and took no precautions.”

Among the facts alleged is that a finance manager (who acted as a liaison to Pertamina/BPKP auditors in connection with annual audits) who was terminated was reinstated in response to “pressure from Pertamina.”  In addition, the complaint alleged that “Keever informed certain members of Triton Energy’s former management about certain of the payments being made to Siouffi in order to obtain favorable government decisions” and “although the Triton Energy officers expressed concern, none ordered Triton Indonesia to discontinue these practices.”  The complaint further alleged that Triton’s new Internal Auditor, after visiting Indonesia, wrote a confidential memo to Triton Energy’s former management describing his concerns about, among other things, improper payments by Triton Indonesia to Indonesian government officials.”  According to the complaint, “the former President of Triton Energy, after reading the Internal Auditors Memorandum in the internal auditor’s presence, ordered the internal auditor to collect all copies of the memorandum and destroy them.”

According to the complaint:

“Triton Energy’s former management made no meaningful effort to determine whether the allegations in the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum were supported by facts.  Instead, after learning that the source of the information in the memorandum came from conversations with Triton Indonesia officers and personnel, Triton Energy’s former management dismissed the allegations in the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum.  No investigation was conducted and no policies and procedures were revised as a consequence of the conduct described in the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum.”

According to the complaint, “when Triton Energy’s outside auditors raised concerns about possible unlawful activities by Triton Indonesia,” Triton Energy management made a partial disclosure, omitting most of the improper payments and most of the false books and records.  At the meeting with the auditors, Triton Energy’s then senior management represented that there was no evidence that money was paid to Indonesian auditors.”

According to the complaint, the payments totaled approximately $450,000.

Without admitting or denying the SEC allegations, Triton Energy consented to entry of a final judgment that permanently enjoined the company from violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions and ordered the company to pay a $300,000 civil penalty.  The SEC’s release states:

“In accepting the settlement, the Commission has considered the fact that the violations occurred under former management and that certain remedial actions have been implemented by the current board of directors and senior management.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Keever also consented to entry of a final judgment that permanently enjoined him from violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions and ordered him to pay a $50,000 penalty.

As noted in this SEC release, approximately four months later , McAdoo also consented to entry of a final judgment that permanently enjoined him from violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions as well as the books and records and internal controls provisions.  McAdoo was also ordered to pay a $35,000 civil penalty.  This original source article indicates that McAdoo originally asserted his innocence and planned to contest the charges.

Simultaneous with the filing of the above civil complaint against Triton Energy, Keever and McAdoo, the SEC also instituted this administrative action against David Gore (a Director and President of Triton Energy from 1988 until his resignation in 1992), Robert Puetz (Triton Energy’s Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer / Senior Vice President of Finance until his resignation in 1993), William McClure (a contract auditor with Triton Indonesia and thereafter Commercial Manager of Triton Indonesia in 1990 until he left the country) and Robert Murphy (CPA / Controller of Triton Indonesia until 1990) based on the same core conduct alleged in the SEC civil complaint.

The SEC found:

“As Commercial Manager, McClure assumed direct supervisory authority over the accounting function at Triton Indonesia.  McClure was required to review and initial documents to authorize certain expenditures.  These documents contained the descriptions of expenditures that determined how expenses were recorded in Triton Indonesia’s books and records.  As Controller, Murphy had direct responsibility for preparing entries in Triton Indonesia’s books and records.  McClure supervised Murphy’s preparation of entries for the books and records of Triton Indonesia.  Murphy was responsible for determining that all underlying documentation was present when a bank voucher was issued and initialling the voucher to signify that all required documents were present.”

Consistent with the SEC’s allegations in the civil complaint, the SEC order found that Gore and Puetz “were well aware that Triton Indonesia has entered into contracts with Siouffi entities” and had concerns with various aspects of the relationship.    The order further found that “Keever briefed Gore and Puetz about certain of the payments and false books and records” and then states that the “Triton Energy officers expressed concern about such practices which they had neither director nor authorized, but failed to require Triton Indonesia to discontinue these practices.”

As to the Internal Auditor Memorandum referenced in the civil complaint, the SEC’s order found that it was distributed to “Gore and Puetz, among others.”  The SEC’s order found:

“Gore, after reading the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum in the internal auditor’s presence, ordered the internal auditor to collect all copies of the memorandum and destroy them.  Gore and Puetz made no effort to determine whether the allegations in the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum were supported by facts.  Instead, after learning that the source of the information in the memorandum came from conversations with Triton Indonesia officers and personnel, Triton Energy’s former management dismissed the allegations in the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum.  As a result, they did not conduct an investigation or revise any policies or procedures relating to the various issues raised in the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum.”

The SEC order also found:

“… [S]hortly before Gore received the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum, Keever informed Gore that Triton Indonesia was making payments to Siouffi in connection with decisions by the Indonesian government and told Gore that money may have been paid to Indonesian auditors, including payments in connection with the predecessor’s tax audit, and the corporate tax refund. Keever also told Gore that the payments were recorded inaccurately in Triton Indonesia’s books and records.  Gore responded that he had worked in another foreign country and understood that such things had to be done in certain environments.”

The SEC’s order concluded as follows regarding McClure and Murphy.

“As Triton Indonesia’s Controller, Murphy knowingly participated in creating and recording false entries in Triton Indonesia’s books and records.  As Triton Indonesia’s Commercial Manager, McClure failed to assure that the entries prepared by Murphy accurately reflected the underlying transactions.  Keever informed both McClure and Murphy that the payments were for a purpose other than what was indicated in documents presented for their signatures.  Nevertheless, Murphy signed documents authorizing the expenditures and mischaracterizing them as legitimate business expenses.  In addition, Keever informed Murphy about the false characterization of payments which Murphy did not have any role in authorizing. Thereafter, Murphy participated in making false entries in Triton Indonesia’s books and records characterizing the payments as expenses incurred for the purpose indicated in fabricated documentation. By engaging in this conduct, McClure and Murphy violated [the FCPA’s books and records provisions].”

The SEC’s order concluded as follows regarding Gore and Puetz.

“As members of Triton Energy senior management, Gore and Puetz each received information indicating that Triton Indonesia was engaged in conduct that was potentially unlawful.  Gore and Puetz received the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum … but took no action to initiate an investigation of the serious issues raised by the internal auditor.  Indeed, Gore ordered the internal auditor to collect and destroy all copies of the Internal Auditor’s Memorandum.  In addition, as described above, Keever described for Gore and Puetz certain payments made to Siouffi to obtain favorable Indonesian government decisions.  After receiving such information, Gore and Puetz failed to investigate the potentially unlawful conduct.  Instead, as the senior management of Triton Energy, Gore and Puetz simply acknowledged the existence of such practices and treated them as a cost of doing business in a foreign jurisdiction.  The toleration of such practices is inimical to a fair business environment and undermines public confidence in the integrity of public corporations.  Accordingly, Gore and Puetz caused Triton Energy to violate [the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records provisions].”

In the SEC’s order, McClure, Murphy, Gore and Puetz were ordered to cease and desist from committing or causing any future FCPA violations.


This original source New York Times article noted that the SEC’s complaint was “unusual” and that “it has been more than 10 years since the commission brought this kind of case against a United States company, but William McLucas, director for enforcement of the S.E.C., said the agency has ”a number of investigations under way” relating to improper foreign payments.”

According to media reports, Triton sold its Indonesian operations in 1996.

The First FCPA Enforcement Action Against A Foreign Issuer, Plus An Interesting Issue

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]

In 1996, the SEC brought this civil complaint against Montedison, an Italian corporation with headquarters in Milan that had interests in the agro-industry, chemical, energy and engineering sectors.  The enforcement action was principally a financial fraud case as the SEC alleged that the company committed “financial fraud by falsifying documents to inflate artificially the company’s financial statements.”  (See here for the SEC’s release).

However, the enforcement action also included allegations that Montedison violated the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions based on allegations that the company concealed “hundreds of million of dollars of payments that, among other things, were used to bribe politicians in Italy and other persons.”

As described in the SEC’s complaint, Montedison wanted to enter into a joint venture with an Italian state energy agency and “determined to secure political backing” to change the terms of the underlying joint venture agreement as well as overturn a judge’s decision that had the effect of making the proposed transaction more difficult.  According to the complaint, “Montedison determined that to achieve these ends, the company would need to pay extensive bribes.”

The complaint then states:

“In an attempt to do so, Montedison management entered into an arrangement with a Rome real estate developer (the “Developer”), who was developing real estate complexes in Rome for Montedison at that time.  Under their agreement, Montedison, directly or through companies it controlled, effected numerous real estate purchases and sales at artificially high prices.  The artificial prices had the effect of transferring hundreds of million of dollars to the Developer.  On information and belief, the Developer used this money to bribe politicians in Italy and other persons on Montedison’s behalf.”

For example, the complaint alleges that Montedison, through a wholly-owned subsidiary, overpaid the Developer approximately $95 million and agreed to pay an additional $123 million “for properties that were either owned by, or had connections to, various politicians.

As noted in the SEC’s complaint, “despite these efforts, Montedison’s management was ultimately unsuccessful” in its bribery scheme.

According to the complaint:

“The fraudulent conduct … continued undetected for several years because of a seriously deficient internal control environment at Montedison.  In fact, Montedison’s internal controls were so deficient that, according to Montedison, neither the company itself, nor its auditors, have been able to reconstruct previously what occurred and who was responsible.”

The Montedison enforcement action was the first SEC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against a foreign issuer and was based on the company having American Depository Receipts ADRs listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Montedison did not immediately resolve the SEC’s complaint as is the norm today.  Rather, the 1996 complaint was resolved in 2001.   As noted in the SEC’s release Montedison was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $300,000 and resolved the enforcement action without admitting nor denying liability for the allegations in the complaint.  According to the release, “the fraudulent conduct was disclosed only after new management was appointed when Montedison disclosed it was unable to service its bank debt.  Virtually all of the former senior management at Montedison responsible for the fraud were convicted by Italian criminal authorities and were sued by the company.”

The release notes as follows.

“Montedison was acquired by Compart, S.p.A., in late 2000 and its ADRs were delisted. Compart then changed its name to Montedison. No securities of Compart are listed for sale by U.S. stock exchanges. Compart, which agreed to the settlement on behalf of the former Montedison, was not a defendant in the Commission’s complaint.”

In original source media reports, Paul Gerlach (SEC Associate Enforcement Director at the time) stated:

“The case’s message is if you are a foreign company wanting to trade stock here, you are going to have to adhere to the same reporting, accounting and internal control standards followed by U.S. companies.”

Of interest, a 1996 Washington Post article about the enforcement action noted:

“The commission has been locked in debate with the NYSE for years over whether foreign companies that raise money from U.S. investors should be held to the same reporting standards as U.S. companies. SEC officials have argued that loosening the standards would hurt U.S. investors. The exchange has responded that overly stringent rules will discourage foreign companies from raising capital in the United States and erode the preeminent position of U.S. securities markets.”

Why, despite the SEC’s allegations, was Montedison not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations?  Jurisdictional issues aside, according to a knowledgeable source at the SEC at the time, there was a belief that there were no “foreign” officials involved because Montedison, an Italian company, allegedly bribed Italian officials.

It’s an interesting question.

Does the “foreign” in official mean as it relates to the specific company at issue or as to the U.S.?

I believe that the legislative history supports the later, but will also add that Congress likely never understood that it was legislating as to foreign issuers when the FCPA was passed in 1977 because there were few foreign issuers.  Today, there are approximately 1,000 foreign issuers.  (See here and here).

In most FCPA enforcement actions against foreign issuers (Siemens, Daimler, Total, Technip, Alcatel-Lucent, etc.) the question is not relevant as, for example, German or French officials were not among the officials allegedly bribed.

Alleged Bribes For Buses, However A Bumpy Road For The DOJ

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]

This post highlights related Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions brought by the DOJ in the early 1990s concerning an alleged scheme to sell buses to the Saskatchewan, Canada Transportation Company (STC), an alleged instrumentality of the Canadian government.

The enforcement action was a bumpy road for the DOJ.  Among other things, both the trial court and appellate court rebuked the DOJ’s position that the alleged “foreign officials” could be charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and both decisions contain an extensive review of the FCPA’s legislative history.  As to the alleged bribe payors, two defendants put the DOJ to its burden of proof at trial and were acquitted.

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In March 1990, the DOJ charged George Morton in this criminal information with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. Morton is described as a Canadian national agent who represented Texas-based Eagle Bus Manufacturing Inc. (a subsidiary of issuer Greyhound Lines, Inc.) in connection with the sale of buses in Canada.  According to the information, Morton conspired with others in paying $50,000 to alleged Canadian “foreign officials” to obtain or retain business for Eagle Bus in violation of the FCPA.

The foreign officials were Darrell Lowry and Donald Castle, both Canadian nationals, and the Vice-President and President, respectively, of Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC), an alleged instrumentality of the government of the Province of Saskatchewan.

The information specifically alleged that Morton requested “that Eagle pay money, in the sum of approximately two percent of the purchase price of 11 buses to be purchased by STC from Eagle, to officials of STC in order to ensure that Eagle received a contract for the sale of the buses.”  The information also alleged that Morton and others “offered, promised and agreed to pay, and authorized the payment of money to officials of the government of the Province of Saskatchewan in order for Eagle to obtain and retain a contract to sell buses to STC.”

According to the information, Morton and his conspirators used “various methods to conceal the conspiracy in order to insure the continuing existence and success of the conspiracy, including but not limited to: preparing and using false invoices and other documentation; and arranging to have an STC check drawn payable to a corporation owned and controlled by Morton and converting the proceeds into Canadian currency.”

The information alleges, as to overt acts among other things, that Morton traveled from Canada to Texas “to discuss the payment of money to officials of STC in order to obtain and retain a contract to sell the 11 buses.”

In this plea agreement, Morton pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the DOJ.

This “Factual Resume” in the Morton case suggests that the purchase price of the buses was approximately $2.77 million.  It further suggests that Lowry told Morton “that a payment of Canadian $50,000 would be necessary in order for Eagle to ensure that the bus contract would be approved by STC’s Board of Directors” and that “Morton, whose compensation from Eagle was dependent upon the transaction being completed, agreed to attempt to obtain Eagle’s agreement to make the requested payment.” The Factual Resume further suggested that, while in Texas, “Morton met with Eagle’s President, John Blondek, and with Vernon Tull, a Vice-President of Eagle” and that “at the meeting, it was agreed that the requested payment would be made.”

A few days after Morton pleaded guilty, the DOJ filed this criminal indictment against Blondek and Tull (the Eagle executives) and Castle and Lowry (the alleged “foreign officials”).

The allegations were based on the same core conduct alleged in the Morton information and the indictment charged all defendants with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  Original source media reports suggest that videotaped evidence existed in which Tull told an official at Greyhound (who helped the FBI arrange the videotaped exchange) that Lowry was accepting the money for “political purposes.”

Castle and Lowry moved to dismiss the charge against them on the basis that “as Canadian officials, they cannot be convicted of the offense charged against them.”  In this June 1990 Memorandum Opinion and Order (741 F.Supp. 116), the trial court granted the motion.  The issues, as framed by the court, were as follows.

“[It is undisputed] that Defendants Castle and Lowry could not be charged with violating the FCPA itself, since the Act does not criminalize the receipt of a bribe by a foreign official.  The issue here is whether the government may prosecute Castle and Lowry under the general conspiracy statute, 18 USC 371, for conspiring to violate the FCPA.  Put more simply, the question is whether foreign officials, whom the government concedes it cannot prosecute under the FCPA itself, may be prosecuted under the general conspiracy statute for conspiring to violate the Act.”

By analogizing to a prior Supreme Court [Gebardi v. U.S.] which addressed a similar issue, the court stated:

“Congress intended in both the FCPA [and the statute at issue in Gebardi] to deter and punish certain activities which necessarily involved the agreement of at least two people, but Congress chose in both statute to punish only one party to the agreement.  In Gebardi the Supreme Court refused to disregard Congress’ intention to exempt one party by allowing the Executive to prosecute that party under the general conspiracy statute for precisely the same conduct.  Congress made the same choice in drafting the FCPA, and by the same analysis, this Court may not allow the Executive to override the Congressional intent not to prosecute foreign officials for their participation in the prohibited acts.”

The court next reviewed the FCPA’s legislative history and concluded that “Congress had absolutely no intention of prosecuting the foreign officials involved, but was concerned solely with regulating the conduct of U.S. entities and citizens.”

In rejecting the DOJ’s position, the court stated, among other things as follows.

“… Congress knew it had the power to reach foreign officials in many cases, and yet declined to exercise that power.  Congress’s awareness of the extent of its own power reveals the fallacy in the government’s position that only those classes of persons deemed by Congress to need protection are exempted from prosecution under the conspiracy statute.  The question is not whether Congress could have included foreign officials within the Act’s proscriptions, but rather whether Congress intended to do so, or more specifically, whether Congress intended the general conspiracy statute, passed many years before the FCPA, to reach foreign officials.”  (emphasis in original).

The court then stated:

“The drafters of the statute knew that they could, consistently with international law, reach foreign officials in certain circumstances. But they were equally well aware of, and actively considered, the “inherent jurisdictional, enforcement, and diplomatic difficulties” raised by the application of the bill to non-citizens of the United States. See H.R.Conf.Rep. No. 831, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 14, reprinted in 1977 U.S. Cong. & Admin.News 4121, 4126. In the conference report, the conferees indicated that the bill would reach as far as possible, and listed all the persons or entities who could be prosecuted. The list includes virtually every person or entity involved, including foreign nationals who participated in the payment of the bribe when the U.S. courts had jurisdiction over them. Id. But foreign officials were not included.

It is important to remember that Congress intended that these persons would be covered by the Act itself, without resort to the conspiracy statute. Yet the very individuals whose participation was required in every case—the foreign officials accepting the bribe—were excluded from prosecution for the substantive offense. Given that Congress included virtually every possible person connected to the payments except foreign officials, it is only logical to conclude that Congress affirmatively chose to exempt this small class of persons from prosecution.

Most likely Congress made this choice because U.S. businesses were perceived to be the aggressors, and the efforts expended in resolving the diplomatic, jurisdictional, and enforcement difficulties that would arise upon the prosecution of foreign officials was not worth the minimal deterrent value of such prosecutions. Further minimizing the deterrent value of a U.S. prosecution was the fact that many foreign nations already prohibited the receipt of a bribe by an official. See S.Rep. No. 114 at 4, 1977 U.S. Cong. & Admin.News at 4104 (testimony of Treasury Secretary Blumenthal that in many nations such payments are illegal). In fact, whenever a nation permitted such payments, Congress allowed them as well.

Based upon the language of the statute and the legislative history, this Court finds in the FCPA what the Supreme Court in Gebardi found in the Mann Act: an affirmative legislative policy to leave unpunished a well-defined group of persons who were necessary parties to the acts constituting a violation of the substantive law. The Government has presented no reason why the prosecution of Defendants Castle and Lowry should go forward in the face of the congressional intent not to prosecute foreign officials. If anything, the facts of this case support Congress’ decision to forego such prosecutions since foreign nations could and should prosecute their own officials for accepting bribes. Under the revised statutes of Canada the receipt of bribes by officials is a crime, with a prison term not to exceed five years, see Criminal Code, R.S.C. c. C–46, s. 121 (pp. 81–84) (1985), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been actively investigating the case, apparently even before any arrests by U.S. officials. Defendant Castle’s and Lowry’s Supplemental Memorandum In Support of Motion to Dismiss, filed May 14, 1990, at 10. In fact, the Canadian police have informed Defendant Castle’s counsel that charges will likely be brought against Defendants Castle and Lowry in Canada. Id. at 10 & nn. 3–4. Thus, prosecution and punishment will be accomplished by the government which most directly suffered the abuses allegedly perpetrated by its own officials, and there is no need to contravene Congress’ desire to avoid such prosecutions by the United States.

As in Gebardi, it would be absurd to take away with the earlier and more general conspiracy statute the exemption from prosecution granted to foreign officials by the later and more specific FCPA. Following the Supreme Court’s admonition in an analogous criminal case that “[a]ll laws are to be given a sensible construction; and a literal application of a statute, which would lead to absurd consequences, should be avoided whenever a reasonable application can be given to it, consistent with the legislative purpose,” […] the Court declines to extend the reach of the FCPA through the application of the conspiracy statute.”

Accordingly, Defendants Castle and Lowry may not be prosecuted for conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the indictment against them is Dismissed.”

It is also interesting to note that the trial court observed as follows regarding the FCPA’s legislative history.

“The legislative history repeatedly cited the negative effects the revelations of such bribes had wrought upon friendly foreign governments and officials.  […]  Yet the drafters acknowledged, and the final law reflects this, that some payments that would be unethical or even illegal within the United States might not be perceived similarly in foreign countries, and those payments should not be criminalized.”

The DOJ appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the conspiracy charge against Castle and Lowry. In this March 1991 5th Circuit opinion (925 F.2d 831) the court stated:

“We hold that foreign officials may not be prosecuted under 18 USC 371 for conspiring to violate the FCPA.  The scope of our holding, as well as the rationale that undergirds it, is fully set out in [the trial court opinion] which we adopt and attach as an appendix hereto.”

In this July 1991 superseding indictment, the DOJ charged Blondek and Tull with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, Blondek with two substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations and Tull with three substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations.  In addition, the superseding indictment charged Blondek, Tull, Castle and Lowry with violating 18 USC 1952 (interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises – also known as the Travel Act).

In October 1991, the DOJ filed this Civil Complaint for Permanent Injunction against Eagle Bus based on the same core conduct. Without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, in this Consent and Undertaking Eagle Bus agreed to a Final Judgment of Permanent Injunction enjoining the company from future FCPA violations.  Of note, the Consent and Undertaking states:

“[Eagle Bus] has cooperated completely with the Department of Justice in a criminal investigation arising from the circumstances described in the complaint […] and will continue to cooperate.  The DOJ has agreed that, in the event neither Eagle Bus, nor its parent corporation Greyhound Lines shall violate the FCPA during the period of the following three years, the DOJ will not object to the defendant’s subsequent motion to dissolve the permanent injunction.”

This February 1992 DOJ Motion for Downward Departure in Morton’s case states as follows.

“Morton cooperated with the United States in the investigation and indictment of defendants John Blondek, Donald Castle, Darrell Lowry and Vernon Tull.  Blondek and Tull were tried and acquitted of all charges on October 12, 1991.  Castle and Lowry have not been been apprehended and remain fugitives.  Morton rendered substantial assistance to the United States in the preparation and prosecution of the case against Blondek and Tull.  […]  Morton also appeared as a witness for the Crown in criminal proceedings in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, against Castle and Lowry.  The United States is informed that Morton was of substantial assistance in that case.  In the Canadian case, Castle was acquitted of all charges, while Lowry was convicted of all charges.  Lowery has been sentenced to approximately 16 months incarceration.”

Morton was sentenced to three years probation.

According to docket entries, in April 1996, the DOJ moved to dismiss the charges against Castle and Lowry.

Other than a single sentence in the above mentioned DOJ motion for a downward departure in the Morton case, I was unable to find any public reporting or reference to the Blondek and Tull trial in which they were acquitted of all charges.  There is no reference to the trial on the DOJ’s FCPA website and efforts to learn more about the trial from former DOJ enforcement attorneys or those representing Eagle Bus were either not fruitful or unsuccessful.

FCPA trials are rare.  Thus if anyone has any information about the Blondek and Tull trial, please contact me at fcpaprofessor@gmail.com.

*****

One final note about the “buses for bribery” enforcement action.  In an original source media article, George McLeod, the provincial cabinet minister responsible for STC, said “he has seen no information that Saskatchewan paid an inflated price for the luxury buses.”  He is quoted as follows.  “I don’t think the product is on trial.  As far as I’m aware, we received an excellent product for the price.”

Did Richard Liedo Win Or Lose?

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]

This previous post highlighted the 1989 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against NAPCO International in connection with military sales to the Republic of Niger.  The previous post noted that the DOJ also criminally charged the Vice President of the Aerospace Division of NAPCO and that this individual exercised his constitutional right to a jury trial and put the DOJ to its burden of proof.

That person was Richard Liedo and his enforcement action is worthy of its own post.

Among other things, the Liebo enforcement action resulted in a rare appellate FCPA decision, and an often overlooked one at that given that the court concluded that a jury could find that a subordinate who acted at his supervisor’s direction in providing a thing of value to a foreign official lacked “corrupt” intent.

In this lengthy 62 page criminal indictment, the DOJ charged Liebo in connection with the same bribery scheme alleged in the NAPCO action.  In pertinent part, the DOJ alleged that in connection with aircraft sales to Niger, Liebo conspired with others to violate the FCPA by making payments or authorizing payments of money to “officials of the Government of Niger, that is, Tahirou Barke Doka [the First Counselor of the Embassy of Niger in Washington, D.C.] and Captain Ali Tiemogo [Chief of Maintenance for the air force component of the Niger Ministry of Defense] and “Fatouma Mailelel Boube and Amadou Mailele, both relatives of Tiemogo, while knowing that all or a portion of such money would be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to foreign officials, namely Barke and Tiemogo” for the purpose of “influencing the acts and decisions of Barke and Tiemogo in their official capacities, and inducing them to use their influence with the Ministry of Defense.”

In addition to the conspiracy charge (count 1), the DOJ also charged Liebo with 10 counts of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions (counts 2 – 11), one count of violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions (count 12), three counts of aiding and abetting in the preparation of false corporate income tax returns (counts 13 – 15), and five counts of making false statements to the Defense Security Assistance Agency (DSAA) of the U.S. Department of Defense in connection with the sales (counts 16 – 20).

Liebo exercised his constitutional right to a jury trial and put the DOJ to its burden of proof.

The jury considered 19 charges against Liebo (on the first day of trial, the court granted the DOJ’s motion to dismiss one of the false statement charges) and he was acquitted of 17 charges.  The only charges Liebo was convicted of was one count of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and one count of making a false statement to DSAA.  The FCPA charge related to the payment of $2,028 “for the airline tickets purchased for Barke’s wedding and honeymoon travel.”

As noted in this judgment, Liebo was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.  However, as noted in a Trace Compendium entry, “Liebo only served two of the 18 months, having petitioned for, and eventually received, a retrial.”

As noted in this Eighth Circuit opinion, Liebo appealed and argued on appeal that “his convictions should be reversed because of insufficient evidence and because the district court erred in instructing the jury” and that the “district court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence.”

As to the FCPA anti-bribery charge Liebo was found guilty on, he argued on appeal that: (1) there was insufficient evidence to show that the airline tickets were given to obtain or retain business; and (2) that there was no evidence to show that his gift of honeymoon tickets was done corruptly.

After setting forth the standard of review (i.e. considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the government with all reasonable inferences and credibility determinations made in support of the jury’s verdict), the court stated as follows as to obtain or retain business.

“There is sufficient evidence that the airplane tickets were given to obtain or retain business. Tiemogo testified that the President of Niger would not approve the contracts without his recommendation. He also testified that Liebo promised to “make gestures” to him before the first contract was approved, and that Liebo promised to continue to “make gestures” if the second and third contracts were approved. There was testimony that Barke helped Liebo establish a bank account with a fictitious name, that Barke used money from that account, and that Barke sent some of the money from that account to Tiemogo. Barke testified that he understood Liebo deposited money in the account as “gestures” to Tiemogo for some “of the business that they do have together.”

Although much of this evidence is directly relevant to those counts on which Liebo was acquitted, we believe it appropriate that we consider it in determining the sufficiency of evidence as to the counts on which Liebo was convicted.

[…]

Moreover, sufficient independent evidence exists that the tickets were given to obtain or retain business. Evidence established that Tiemogo and Barke were cousins and best friends. The relationship between Barke and Tiemogo could have allowed a reasonable jury to infer that Liebo made the gift to Barke intending to buy Tiemogo’s help in getting the contracts approved. Indeed, Tiemogo recommended approval of the third contract and the President of Niger approved that contract just a few weeks after Liebo gave the tickets to Barke. Accordingly, a reasonable jury could conclude that the gift was given “to obtain or retain business.”

As to corrupt intent, the court stated as follows.

“Liebo also contends that the evidence at trial failed to show that Liebo acted “corruptly” by buying Barke the airline tickets. In support of this argument, Liebo points to Barke’s testimony that he considered the tickets a “gift” from Liebo personally. Liebo asserts that “corruptly” means that the offer, payment or gift “must be intended to induce the recipient to misuse his official position….”  […] Because Barke considered the tickets to be a personal gift from Liebo, Liebo reasons that no evidence showed that the tickets wrongfully influenced Barke’s actions.

We are satisfied that sufficient evidence existed from which a reasonable jury could find that the airline tickets were given “corruptly.” For example, Liebo gave the airline tickets to Barke shortly before the third contract was approved. In addition, there was undisputed evidence concerning the close relationship between Tiemogo and Barke and Tiemogo’s important role in the contract approval process. There was also testimony that Liebo classified the airline ticket for accounting purposes as a “commission payment.” This evidence could allow a reasonable jury to infer that Liebo gave the tickets to Barke intending to influence the Niger government’s contract approval process. We conclude, therefore, that a reasonable jury could find that Liebo’s gift to Barke was given “corruptly.” Accordingly, sufficient evidence existed to support Liebo’s conviction.”

As to Liebo’s argument on appeal that the “district court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence,” Liebo noted that “two months after his conviction, a NAPCO employee provided Liebo with a memorandum showing [a superior’s] approval to the charge of the airline tickets.”  Liebo argued that the discovery of this evidence warranted a new trial.  In support, Liebo argued that “he was acquitted on all other bribery counts for which there was evidence that the payment in question was approved [by a superior].  Liebo argued that evidence of a superior’s approval of the wedding trip was a determinative factor in the jury’s verdict by “pointing to a question sent out by the jury during their deliberations asking whether there was ‘any information regarding authorization for payment of wedding trip.'”

After noting that motions for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence are looked upon with disfavor, the court also noted that “courts have granted a new trial based on newly discovered evidence especially when the evidence supporting the defendant’s conviction is weak.”

The court closed its opinion as follows.

“[T]he evidence against Liebo, while sufficient to sustain the conviction, was not overwhelming. Indeed, we believe that the company president’s approval of the purchase of the tickets is strong evidence from which the jury could have found that Liebo acted at his supervisor’s direction and therefore, did not act “corruptly” by giving the tickets to Barke. Furthermore, we are highly persuaded that the jury considered such approval pivotal, especially in light of the question it submitted to the court during its deliberations and its acquittal of Liebo on the other bribery counts in which evidence of approval existed. Accordingly, we hold that the district court clearly abused its discretion in denying Liebo’s motion for a new trial.”

In the re-trial, Liebo was convicted of aiding and abetting FCPA anti-bribery violations and making a false statement to the DSAA.  He was then sentenced to three years probation, two months home detention, and 400 hours of community service.

Based on all of the above, the question is raised – did Richard Liedo win or lose when he put the DOJ to its burden of proof?

In this the exam grading season, I know where I come out when the one with the burden is 90% unsuccessful.

One Of The More Dubious FCPA Enforcement Actions Of All-Time

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]

If one were to compile a list of the most dubious Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions of all-time, near the top of the list would be the DOJ’s 1994 enforcement action against Vitusa Corporation and its President Denny Herzberg.

In this criminal information, the DOJ alleged that Vitusa (a New Jersey corporation engaged in the business of selling commodities and other goods) “entered into a lawful contract to sell milk powder to the Government of the Dominican Republic.”

The DOJ then alleged as follows.

“Although Vitusa delivered the milk powder to the Government of the Dominican Republic, the Dominican government did not pay Vitusa promptly for the milk powder received and, in fact, maintained an outstanding balance due for an extended period of time.  Vitusa, therefore, made various efforts to collect the outstanding balance due, including contacting officials of the United States and Dominican Governments to obtain their assistance in securing payment in full.”

According to the DOJ, “during the pendency of the contract, Servio Tulio Mancebo (a citizen of the Dominican Republic) communicated to Herzberg a demand made by a foreign official [a senior official of the Government of the Dominican Republic] which called for the payment of a ‘service fee’ to that official in return for the official using that official’s influence to obtain the balance due to Vitusa for the milk powder contract from the Dominican Government.”

According to the DOJ, “Herzberg agreed to Mancebo’s proposal that Vitusa would pay a ‘service fee’ indirectly to the foreign official.”  Thereafter, the DOJ alleged that the Government of the Dominican Republic made payment of $63,905.12 to Vitusa on the contract, but that following Herzberg’s instruction, “Mancebo retained $20,000 from that payment.”

According to the DOJ, Vitusa and Herberg knew “that all or a portion of the money would be given to the foreign official for the purpose of inducing the official to use that official’s position and influence with the Government of the Dominican Republic in order to obtain and retain business, that is, full payment of the balance due for Vitusa’s prior sale of milk powder to the Government of the Dominican Republic.”

Based on the above allegations, the DOJ charged Vitusa with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

Based on the same allegations, the DOJ also charged Herzberg with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  (See here for the DOJ’s Statement of Facts).

Vitusa pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $20,000 criminal fine (see here).

Herzberg also pleaded guilty and was placed on two years probation (see here).  Herzberg was also ordered to pay a $5,000 criminal fine, but the judgment notes that “this fine shall be applied to the $20,000 fine to be paid by Vitusa Corp.”

In the DOJ’s sentencing document (as to both Vitusa and Herberg – see here and here) the DOJ stated:

“The unlawful payments to the foreign official were made in order to obtain payment of a legitimate and lawful obligation owed by the Government of the Dominican Republic to Vitusa.  There was no loss to any party and no individual victim exists.”

See here Vitusa Corp.’s current website.

FCPA aficionados know that the Vitusa / Herzberg action is not the only FCPA enforcement action in which an enforcement agency alleged that payments in connection with securing a bona fide receivable violated the anti-bribery provisions.  See here for the prior post on the SEC’s 2010 FCPA enforcement action against Joe Summers.

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