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BNY Mellon Becomes The First – Of What Is Expected To Be Several Financial Services Companies – To Pony Up Millions Based On Its Internship Practices

BNY Mellon

Congress never intended the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to be an all-purpose corporate ethics statute.  But with increasing frequency, this is what the DOJ and SEC have converted the FCPA into based on enforcement theories that are rarely subject to judicial scrutiny.

Previously there have been FCPA enforcement actions that included allegations of improper hiring of spouses or children of alleged “foreign officials” (see here for a prior post), but until yesterday there has not been, it is believed, an enforcement action based exclusively on such a theory.

The financial industry has been under intense FCPA scrutiny the past two years (see here for a prior post) concerning its alleged hiring and internship practices. This scrutiny has generated a significant amount of critical commentary.  For instance, in this Wall Street Journal editorial former SEC Commissioner Arthur Levitt called the FCPA scrutiny of the financial industry “scurrilous and hypocritical.”  He wrote:

“If you walk the halls of any institution in the U.S.—Congress, federal courthouses, large corporations, the White House, American embassies and even the offices of the SEC—you are likely to run into friends and family members of powerful and wealthy people.”

Yesterday this scrutiny yielded the first – of what is expected to be many in coming months – enforcement action.

It was against BNY Mellon Corp. (see here for the SEC’s press release) and the action was based on findings the company provided “valuable student internships to family members of foreign government officials affiliated with a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund.”

Internships of course have been provided to relatives of customers so long as their have been internships.  For the U.S. government to now equate this with corrupt intent and bribery is questionable.  But then again, FCPA enforcement is not necessarily about the law, but more a game of the SEC using its leverage against risk averse corporations to extract settlement amounts.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, and based on an enforcement theory not subjected to any judicial scrutiny, BNY Mellon ponied up $14.8 million dollars rather than engage its principal government regulator in litigation.

The SEC’s administrative cease and desist order states in summary fashion:

“This matter concerns violations of the anti-bribery and internal accounting controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by BNY Mellon. The violations took place during 2010 and 2011, when employees of BNY Mellon sought to corruptly influence foreign officials in order to retain and win business managing and servicing the assets of a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund.

These officials sought, and BNY Mellon agreed to provide, valuable internships for their family members. BNY Mellon provided the internships without following its standard hiring procedures for interns, and the interns were not qualified for BNY Mellon’s existing internship programs.

BNY Mellon failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls around its hiring practices sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that its employees were not bribing foreign officials in contravention of company policy.”

Under the heading “BNY Mellon’s Business with the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund” the order states:

“During the relevant time period, BNY Mellon’s business in the EMEA region collected fees for services provided to the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund. [The Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund is described as follows.  “[A] government body responsible for management and administration of assets of a Middle Eastern country, as entrusted to it by that country’s Minister of Finance. The Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund is wholly owned by that country and was created to perform the function of generating revenue for it. The Minister of Finance serves as Chairman of the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund’s Board of Directors and its most senior members are political appointees. The Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund generally hires external managers to make day-to-day investment decisions concerning its assets.”] Those fees arose from government contracts awarded to BNY Mellon through a process requiring approval from certain foreign government officials, and also from additional assets allocated to BNY Mellon under existing contracts at the discretion of certain foreign government officials.

The Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund first became a client of BNYM Asset Servicing in 2000, when the European Office [The European Office is described as follows:  “[T]he Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund’s office in Europe. The European Office is responsible for managing a portion of the assets entrusted to the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund. Unlike the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund, its parent, the European Office generally uses its own inhouse investment professionals to actively manage assets for which it is responsible.”] awarded to BNY Mellon custody of certain assets. Since then, BNY Mellon has earned regular fees for the safekeeping and administration of Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund assets. According to the terms of the custody agreement, these fees are subject to increase from time to time as the European Office allocates additional assets to BNY Mellon. While the total amount of Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund assets under custody by BNY Mellon has varied over time, during the relevant time period BNY Mellon held Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund assets totaling approximately $55 billion.

BNY Mellon entered an additional agreement with the European Office in 2003 permitting BNYM Asset Servicing to loan out certain of the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund assets under custody within set guidelines, which varied over time.

This securities lending arrangement significantly increased BNY Mellon’s revenues from its dealings with the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund. In 2010 and 2011, BNYM Asset Servicing repeatedly sought to modify the lending guidelines, which had been significantly restricted following the 2008 economic crash, in order to bring the guidelines back to pre- 2008 levels and further grow the securities lending business with the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund. During the relevant time period, BNYM Asset Servicing sought to increase the amount of assets under custody from the European Office.

In 2009, the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund became a client of BNYM Asset Management when the fund entered into an investment management agreement designating the Boutique [described as a wholly owned asset management firm operating within BNYM Asset Management] to manage assets worth approximately $711 million (the “Boutique mandate”). The bulk of the assets under the investment management agreement were funded in November 2009, with an additional portion transferring to BNY Mellon in June 2010. Official X [described as a senior official with the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund during the relevant time period] was BNYM Asset Management’s principal point of contact in connection with the Boutique mandate. According to the terms of the agreement, the amount of assets under management was subject to change, as the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund could allocate additional assets to the Boutique mandate at any time. In June 2010, the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund transferred an additional $689,000 to BNY Mellon under the Boutique mandate. During the relevant time period, BNY Mellon sought to increase the amount of its Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund assets under management.”

Under the heading “The Internships” the order states:

“Officials X and Y [described as was a senior official at the European Office during the relevant time period] requested that BNY Mellon provide their family members with valuable internships. Officials X and Y made numerous follow-up requests about the status, timing and other details of the internships for their relatives after the internships had been offered, and delivering the internships as requested was seen by certain relevant BNY Mellon employees as a way to influence the officials’ decisions.

In February 2010, at the conclusion of a business meeting, Official X made a personal and discreet request that BNY Mellon provide internships to two of his relatives: his son, Intern A [described as a recent college graduate], and nephew, Intern B [also described as a recent college graduate]. As a Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund department head, Official X had authority over allocations of new assets to existing managers such as the Boutique, and was viewed within BNY Mellon as a “key decision maker” at the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund. Official X later persistently inquired of BNY Mellon employees concerning the status of his internship request, asking whether and when BNY Mellon would deliver the internships. At one point, Official X said to his primary contact at BNY Mellon that the request represented an “opportunity” for BNY Mellon, and that the official could secure internships for his family members from a competitor of BNY Mellon if it did not satisfy his personal request. The same BNY Mellon employee later wrote to a BNY Mellon colleague that Official X had become “angry” because BNY Mellon was experiencing delays in delivering the internships, and had openly questioned the employee’s job performance and professionalism because of the delays.

As reflected in contemporaneous e-mails and other documents, BNY Mellon delivered the valuable internship sought by Official X in order to assist BNY Mellon in obtaining or retaining business. For example:

A Boutique account manager wrote in a February 2010 e-mail concerning the internship request for Interns A and B that BNY Mellon was “not in a position to reject the request from a commercial point of view” even though it was a “personal request” from Official X. The employee stated: “by not allowing the internships to take place, we potentially jeopardize our mandate with [the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund].”

In June 2010, an employee of BNY Mellon with primary responsibility for the Asset Management relationship with the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund wrote of the internships for Interns A and B: “I want more money for this. I expect more for this. . . . We’re doing [Official X] a favor.”

In a separate e-mail to a different BNY Mellon colleague, the same employee stated “I am working on an expensive ‘favor’ for [Official X] – an internship for his son and cousin (don’t mention to him as this is not official).”

The same employee advised a colleague in human resources: “[W]e have to be careful about this. This is more of a personal request . . . [Official X] doesn’t want [the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund] to know about it.” The same employee later directed his administrative assistant to refrain from sending e-mail correspondence concerning Official X’s internship request “because it was a personal favor.”

After granting Official X’s request to hire Interns A and B, BNY Mellon retained the Boutique mandate, and further assets were transferred to BNY Mellon by Official X’s department within a few months.

In February 2010, around the same time that Official X made his initial internship request, Official Y asked through a subordinate European Office employee that BNY Mellon provide an internship to the official’s son, Intern C [also described as a recent college graduate]. As a senior official at the European Office, Official Y had authority to make decisions directly impacting BNY Mellon’s business. Internal BNY Mellon documents reflected Official Y’s importance in this regard, stating that Official Y was “crucial to both retaining and gaining new business” for BNY Mellon. One or more European Office employees acting on Official Y’s behalf later inquired repeatedly about the status and details of the internship, including during discussions of the transfer of European Office assets to BNY Mellon. At the time of Official Y’s initial request, a number of recent client service issues had threatened to weaken the relationship between BNY Mellon and the European Office.

The BNY Mellon employee with primary responsibility for managing the custody relationship with the European Office viewed Official Y’s request as important to assist BNYM Asset Servicing in obtaining or retaining business. For example:

The BNY Mellon custody relationship manager explained to more senior officers within BNY Mellon that granting Official Y’s request was likely to “influence any future decisions taken within [the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund].”

The same BNY Mellon relationship manager expressed to colleagues his concern that one of BNY Mellon’s competitors would agree to hire Intern C if BNY Mellon would not, and that BNY Mellon might lose market share to the competitor as a result.

The relationship manager wrote: “Its [sic] silly things like this that help influence who ends up with more assets / retaining dominant position.”

The relationship manager separately wrote that meeting Official Y’s requests was the “only way” to increase BNY Mellon’s share of business from the European Office, aside from obtaining assets in new countries.

After granting Official Y’s request to hire his son, Intern C, BNY Mellon retained its existing custody and securities lending business from the European Office, which continued to grow.

During the relevant time period, BNY Mellon had an established summer internship program for undergraduates as well as a separate summer program for postgraduates actively pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or similar degree. Admission to the BNY Mellon postgraduate internship program was highly competitive and characterized by stringent hiring standards. To recruit postgraduates, BNY Mellon had relationships with a small number of the most highly selective schools in the United States and the United Kingdom from which it sourced candidates. Successful applicants had to achieve a minimum grade point average, and had to advance through multiple rounds of interviews in addition to having relevant prior work experience and a demonstrated affinity for and interest in financial services work. BNY Mellon also placed an emphasis on relevant leadership experience.

The Interns did not meet these rigorous criteria and BNY Mellon did not evaluate or hire the Interns through its established internship programs. For example, as recent graduates not enrolled in any degree program, the Interns did not meet the basic entrance standard for a BNY Mellon postgraduate internship. Further, contrary to BNY Mellon’s goal of converting student interns to full-time hires, the Interns were to return to the Middle East at the conclusion of their internship and BNY Mellon had no plan to hire them as full-time employees. Nor did the individual Interns have the requisite academic or professional credentials for its existing internship programs.

Though they did not meet the criteria of BNY Mellon’s existing internship programs, BNY Mellon hired Interns A, B and C. Contrary to its standard practice, BNY Mellon decided to hire the Interns before even meeting or interviewing them. Indeed, the special “work experiences” sought by Officials X and Y were not regular undergraduate or graduate summer internships at all, but customized one-of-a-kind training programs. The internships were valuable work experience, and the requesting officials derived significant personal value in being able to confer this benefit on their family members. As requested by Officials X and Y, BNY Mellon designed customized work experiences for the Interns. These bespoke internships were rotational in nature, meaning that Interns A, B and C had the opportunity to work in a number of different BNY Mellon business units, enhancing the value of the work experience beyond that normally provided to BNY Mellon interns. Interns A and B were placed in Boston, Massachusetts and were employed by BNY Mellon from August 6, 2010 through February 25, 2011. Intern C was onboarded and placed in London, England and interned with BNY Mellon from July 4, 2010 through December 17, 2010. These approximately six-month internships were significantly longer than the work experiences typically afforded to BNY Mellon interns through the normal summer internship program.

The internships were neither inexpensive nor easy for BNY Mellon to structure. BNY Mellon determined, because Interns A and B had already graduated from college, that Interns A and B should be paid above the normal salary scale for BNY Mellon undergraduate interns but below the scale for postgraduate interns. Intern C was unpaid. BNY Mellon also coordinated obtaining visas for all three of the Interns so that they could travel from the Middle East to work in the countries in which they were placed. BNY Mellon paid the legal fees and filing costs related to the visas. As the BNY Mellon Asset Management employee responsible for arranging two of the three internships wrote in a contemporaneous e-mail, the internships constituted an “expensive favor” for the requesting foreign official.

BNY Mellon hired all three of the Interns, with the knowledge and approval of senior BNY Mellon employees:

According to the BNY Mellon Asset Management employee with primary responsibility for arranging the internships for Interns A and B, he had initially struggled to deliver the internships as requested by Official X until the internships had the “blessing” of a senior BNY Mellon employee, after which “it started to move.” The senior employee facilitated the internships by contacting human resources on behalf of the Interns, forwarding their resumes and stating that he “would like us to support.”

The BNY Mellon relationship manager with lead responsibility for arranging the internship for Intern C sent an e-mail to two senior BNYM Asset Servicing officers describing Official Y’s request and seeking their “support” for the internship. The same relationship manager later wrote to BNY Mellon colleagues seeking assistance in arranging the internship and stating “[p]lease know that this request has the backing of both [senior officers].”

In October 2010, Official Y made a further request that BNY Mellon modify the custom internship it had created for Intern C so that he could rotate through an additional BNY Mellon business unit. This request was also granted with the knowledge and approval of senior BNY Mellon employees.

The Interns were less than exemplary employees. On at least one occasion, Interns A and B were confronted by a BNY Mellon human resources employee concerning their repeated absences from work. A Boutique portfolio manager who worked with Intern C observed that his performance was “okay” and that “he wasn’t actually as hardworking as I would have hoped.” Despite these issues, BNY Mellon accommodated the Interns in order to favorably influence Officials X and Y.

Under the heading “BNY Mellon’s FCPA-Related Policies, Training and Internal Controls” the order states:

During the relevant time period, BNY Mellon had a code of conduct, as well as a specific FCPA policy, which prohibited BNY Mellon employees from violating the statute. While BNY Mellon’s policies stated that “any money . . . gift . . . or anything of value” provided to a foreign official might constitute a bribe, employees were provided with little additional guidance that was tailored to the types of risks related to hiring faced by BNY Mellon’s international asset servicing unit and asset management business division.

During the relevant time period, BNY Mellon provided training on employees’ obligations under the FCPA and BNY Mellon’s policies, but did not ensure that all employees took the training or understood BNY Mellon’s policies.

During the relevant time period, BNY Mellon had few specific controls relating to the hiring of customers and relatives of customers, including foreign government officials. Sales staff and client relationship managers were permitted wide discretion in making initial hiring decisions and human resources was not trained to flag hires that were potentially problematic. Senior managers were able to approve hires requested by foreign officials with no mechanism to ensure that potential hiring violations were reviewed by anyone with a legal or compliance background. BNY Mellon’s system of internal accounting controls was insufficiently tailored to the corruption risks inherent in the hiring of client referrals, and therefore inadequate to fully effectuate BNY Mellon’s policy against bribery of foreign officials.”

Based on the above, the order finds:

“BNY Mellon violated [the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions] by corruptly providing valuable internships to relatives of foreign officials from the Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund in order to assist BNY Mellon in retaining and obtaining business. BNY Mellon also violated [the FCPA’s internal controls provisions], by failing to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that its employees were not bribing foreign officials.”

Under the heading “Commission Consideration of BNY Mellon’s Cooperation and Remedial Efforts” the order states:

“In determining to accept the Offer, the Commission considered cooperation BNY Mellon afforded to the Commission staff and the remedial acts undertaken by BNY Mellon. Prior to the investigation by the Commission of the Interns, BNY Mellon had begun a process of enhancing its anti-corruption compliance program including: making changes to the Anti-Corruption Policy to explicitly address the hiring of government officials’ relatives; requiring that every application for a full-time hire or an internship be routed through a centralized HR application process; enhancing its Code of Conduct to require that every year each employee certifies that he or she is not responsible for hiring through a non-centralized channel; and requiring as part of a centralized application process that each applicant indicate whether she or a close personal associate is or has recently been a government official, and, if so, additional review by BNY Mellon’s anti-corruption office is mandated.”

In the SEC’s press release, Andrew Ceresney (Director of the SEC Enforcement Division) stated:

“The FCPA prohibits companies from improperly influencing foreign officials with ‘anything of value,’ and therefore cash payments, gifts, internships, or anything else used in corrupt attempts to win business can expose companies to an SEC enforcement action. BNY Mellon deserved significant sanction for providing valuable student internships to family members of foreign officials to influence their actions.”

Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated:

“Financial services providers face unique corruption risks when seeking to win business in international markets, and we will continue to scrutinize industries that have not been vigilant about complying with the FCPA.”

As noted in the release:

“Without admitting or denying the findings, the company agreed to pay $8.3 million in disgorgement, $1.5 million in prejudgment interest, and a $5 million penalty.  The SEC considered the company’s remedial acts and its cooperation with the investigation when determining a settlement.”

Yesterday BNY Mellon’s share price closed up .7%.

Jay Holtmeier (Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr) represented the company.

DOJ / SEC Bring FCPA Enforcement Action Against Former SAP Sales Exec

Garcia

Yesterday the DOJ and SEC announced (see here and here) a rare joint Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against an individual – Vicente Garcia (a U.S. citizen and former head of Latin American sales for SAP – see here for Garcia’s SAP biography).

SEC Action

The SEC brought this administrative cease and desist order against Garcia.

In summary fashion, the order states:

“This matter concerns violations of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (“FCPA”) by Vicente E. Garcia (“Garcia”), a U.S. citizen and the head of Latin American sales for SAP SE (“SAP”), a European Union corporation headquartered in Waldorf, Germany. SAP provides technology solutions and services in approximately 188 countries and has more than 68,000 employees. Garcia and others offered to pay bribes to two government officials, and paid bribes of at least $145,000 to another senior government official of the Republic of Panama in order to secure software license sales of approximately $3.7 million to various government agencies; the sales were recorded initially in the books and records of SAP Mexico and subsequently consolidated into the financial statements of SAP. Garcia circumvented SAP’s internal controls by falsely justifying the discount amount offered to its local partner. In doing so Garcia helped to facilitate the local partner’s ability to generate excess earnings on the final, end-user sale, which earnings were then used to create a slush fund to finance the bribes paid to government officials.”

The order finds as follows.

“From at least June 2009 through November 2013, Garcia, along with others, planned and executed a scheme to offer and pay bribes to three senior government officials of the Republic of Panama in order to obtain approximately $3.7 million worth of software sales by SAP to the Panamanian government. Garcia, in concert with others, paid bribes to one Panamanian government official in the amount of $145,000, and promised to pay bribes to two other government officials, all in contravention of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (the “FCPA”).

Garcia was SAP’s Vice-President of Global and Strategic Accounts, responsible for sales in Latin America from February 2008 until April 2014, when SAP requested that he resign for his misconduct discussed herein. Garcia was employed by SAPI and worked on large deals all over Latin America using resources and personnel from other SAP subsidiaries including SAP Mexico.

SAP, through its 272 subsidiaries, sells software licenses and related services to 263,000 customers in 188 countries. SAP’s global business is directed and operated from its headquarters in Waldorf, Germany and executed through its numerous subsidiaries. Approximately 15% of SAP’s sales are directly to the customer. The remainder of SAP’s business is conducted through a network of more than 11,500 partners worldwide that provide an additional workforce of 380,000 individuals skilled in SAP software solutions and technology. SAP’s sales using a partner can be either (i) a direct sale to a customer with a sales commission paid to a partner that provides assistance, (ii) an indirect sale through a partner that purchases the software license and resells it to a customer at an independently determined increased price, or (iii) a direct sale to the partner, which acts as a distributor and independently resells the software licenses to customers in the future.

In June 2009, Garcia’s business associate, a Panamanian lobbyist (the “Lobbyist”), informed Garcia about potential software sales opportunities with the government of Panama and that he had an existing relationship with the newly elected government, including a high ranking Government Official A, who was tasked with improving technology solutions across multiple government agencies in Panama and had significant influence over Panama’s software purchasing decisions. Thereafter, SAP began investigating possible software sales to the Panamanian government. Initially this endeavor was led by local SAP sales employees in Mexico. Garcia, however, took over the business opportunity by recommending that SAP designate the Panama government as part of the Premier Customer Network – a group of large, strategically important, regional customers – which Garcia headed.

On February 9, 2010, Government Official A asked in an e-mail whether SAP could send him a letter inviting him to Mexico for “some fictional meetings in order to justify a trip there on Monday and Tuesday of Carnival.” The same day, Garcia acceded to the request and sent an e-mail to Government Official A with an attached fictitious letter on SAP letterhead inviting him “to Mexico City so that you can directly and personally evaluate the benefits that the Government of Mexico has obtained by adopting our products and services.” The letter also included a fictitious itinerary of proposed meetings that never occurred. The next day, on February 10, Garcia sent an e-mail from his personal Yahoo! e-mail account inquiring about possible business opportunities from Government Official A stating: “Any news . . . ? Was the document OK for him? Can you ask him to finalize a deal for us in Feb-March, I need between $5 and $10 million.”

In late February 2010, Garcia and another SAP employee traveled from Miami, Florida to Panama and met with Government Official A and others to discuss business opportunities. Thereafter, in April 2010, Garcia began preparing a proposal to sell approximately $29 million worth of software licenses to the Panamanian social security agency, anticipating that this sale would be the first of multiple deals with various ministries and agencies of the Panamanian government totaling over $100 million. Ultimately, some of these additional sales never materialized and others were smaller than expected.

Garcia and others were informed by the Lobbyist that in order to obtain these contracts from the government of Panama, they needed to bribe three Panamanian government officials that had significant influence in the Panamanian government’s award of contracts to purchase software.

In anticipation of the sales to the government of Panama, Garcia and others began planning the details of the bribery scheme. On June 9 and 10, 2010, Garcia discussed with others, including via e-mail, their plans to pay bribes to Government Official A (2% of the value of the contract) and Government Official B (10%), and receive kickbacks for themselves (2%). Also, on October 26, 2010, e-mails were exchanged with two attached spreadsheets referencing planned payments to Government Officials A and C of approximately $100,000 and $300,000, respectively.

To facilitate payments to Government Official B, the Lobbyist proposed using a sham contract for fictitious services to be provided by Government Official B’s brother-in-law’s company. On June 17, 2010, Government Official A received two draft sham contracts with the stated purpose of having these two back-to-back contracts so that “no trace remains if SAP conducts an audit . . . . I made it as simple as possible and made it look like a real contract.” On June 18, 2010, the Lobbyist e-mailed Garcia an unsigned corrected copy of the proposed consulting agreement, which provided that Government Official B’s brother-in-law’s company would receive “10% (ten percent) for performance of its Services and Consulting duties” relating to all “business opportunities” with the Panamanian government.

On October 19, 2011, the Lobbyist e-mailed a spreadsheet to Government Official C indicating that they would share $274,000 in 2011 and $226,000 in 2012. On January 9, 2013, another business associate of Garcia e-mailed Government Official A stating that Garcia and his business associate had agreed to give Government Official A some of their kickback so that Government Official A could receive a larger “commission” of $150,000. In addition, the business associate confirmed that Government Official A already had been paid $45,000 and acknowledged that $105,000 was still outstanding.

As a result of Garcia’s conduct in the bribery scheme, SAP, with its local partner, was able to sell software to the Panamanian government through four contracts from 2010 to 2013. These contracts generated revenues of $3.7 million to SAP.

One of the four contracts was a software license sale to the Panamanian social security agency, which was initially proposed to be a direct sale with the assistance of local partners. In order to facilitate the bribery scheme, the existing partners were replaced with a new local Panamanian partner. Because SAP refused to pay additional commission to this new Panamanian company, Garcia and others began looking for other ways to advance the bribery scheme. Finally, in the fall of 2010, Garcia finalized an indirect sale of the software license to the agency through the local partner, which, with Garcia’s assistance, ultimately sought and obtained an 82% discount on the sale price. Garcia caused various approval forms to be submitted that misstated the reasons for the large discount. Garcia stated that the discounts were necessary to compete with other software companies in establishing a relationship with the government of Panama when, in fact, the discounts were necessary to pay bribes to government officials. Garcia and others planned to sell SAP software to the intermediary at an 82% discount, who in turn would sell them at significantly higher prices to the Panamanian government and use part of the profits from the sale to pay bribes.

SAP agreed to sell the software licenses for the Panamanian social security agency to the local partner for approximately $2.1 million. In November 2010, the local partner successfully bid $14.5 million for the contract, which was awarded by the Panamanian government on January 31, 2011. Garcia, along with others, planned to pay bribes to Panamanian government officials from the proceeds of the software sale to the government of Panama.

Thereafter, as noted above, between June 2012 and December 2013, the Panamanian government awarded three additional contracts that included SAP software products valued at approximately $13.5 million, which were also sold at deep discounts by SAP to its local partner. For these contracts also, Garcia and others agreed to pay bribes to Panamanian officials from the proceeds of the software sales.

Between April 11, 2012 and August 13, 2013, Garcia and his business associate paid at least $145,000 in bribes to Government Official A. Between December 27, 2011 and October 29, 2012, another Garcia business associate paid Garcia a kickback of approximately $85,965 in his bank account in Florida from the proceeds of the sale of SAP software licenses to the Panamanian government. Thus, Garcia, with the assistance of others, bribed one government official and promised to pay bribes to two other government officials to obtain contracts to sell software to Panamanian government, all in violation of the FCPA.”

Based on the above, the order finds:

“By engaging in the conduct described above, Garcia, as an agent of SAP, violated [the anti-bribery provisions] in connection with the sale of software licenses and other related services to the government of Panama. On behalf of SAP, Garcia participated in structuring the deal as an indirect sale through the local partner, with the understanding that it would act as a conduit to send corrupt payments to several government officials. Garcia, along with others, promised to make bribe payments to two senior government officials and made bribe payments to another government official, all in violation of the FCPA. Garcia used the mails and other means and instrumentalities of interstate commerce to bribe government officials. Garcia used his SAP email account and his personal Yahoo! e-mail account to plan and execute the bribery scheme. In addition, as part of the bribery scheme, Garcia flew from Miami to Panama to meet with government officials and others, and Garcia received $85,965 in “kickbacks” into his bank account in Florida.”

“Garcia knowingly falsified SAP Mexico’s books and records by engaging in a scheme to create a slush fund at the local partner, which was used to pay bribes to Panamanian government officials. Garcia also knowingly circumvented the company’s internal controls to change the sale of the software licenses from a direct sale to the government of Panama to an indirect sale through intermediaries at deep discounts in order to facilitate payments to government officials. Specifically, Garcia justified the deep discounts by falsely claiming in approval forms that the discounts were necessary to beat competitors and obtain entry into the Panamanian market when, in fact, the discounts were necessary to generate funds to pay bribes to government officials. With respect to the leisure trip for Government Official A, Garcia prepared a fictitious letter and itinerary, and even used a personal e-mail account to avoid detection of his corrupt activities. Finally, despite signing SAP’s Code of Conduct prohibiting bribery, he engaged in an elaborate bribery scheme. Accordingly, Garcia violated Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act, and Rule 13b2-1.”

In the SEC release, Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated: “Garcia attempted to avoid detection by arranging large, illegitimate discounts to a corporate partner in order to generate a cash pot to bribe government officials and win business for SAP.”

As noted in the SEC’s release,  the order “finds that Garcia violated the anti-bribery and internal controls provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Garcia consented to the entry of the cease-and-desist order and agreed to pay disgorgement of $85,965, which is the total amount of kickbacks he received, plus prejudgment interest of $6,430 for a total of $92,395.”

DOJ Action

Based on the same core conduct described above, in July the DOJ filed this criminal information against Garcia charging conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. As noted in the DOJ’s release, Garcia pleaded guilty and sentencing is to occur on Dec. 16, 2015.

Note – the plea agreement was filed with the court yesterday but is not publicly available.  This post will be updated when the plea agreement is made public.

Next Up – Mead Johnson

Mead

First it was Johnson & Johnson (see here – $70 million enforcement action in April 2011).

Then it was Smith & Nephew (see here – $22 million enforcement action in February 2012).

Then it was Biomet (see here – $22.8 million enforcement action in March 2012).

Then it was Pfizer / Wyeth (see here  – $60 million enforcement action in August 2012).

Then it was Eli Lilly (see here – $29 million enforcement action in December 2012).

Then it was Stryker (see here – $13.2 million enforcement action in October 2013).

The latest of the most recent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions (there are many more than those listed above) premised on the theory that physicians of certain foreign health care systems are “foreign officials” under the FCPA is Mead Johnson Nutrition Company. Some will say this enforcement action – like certain of the others mentioned above – merely involved the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, but make no mistake about it, this action – as well as the prior actions – was all about the alleged “foreign officials.”

Yesterday, the SEC announced that Mead Johnson (a leading pediatric nutrition products) agreed to pay approximately $12 million pursuant to an administrative cease and desist order in which the company neither admitted or denied the SEC’s findings.

The substance of the order is approximately four pages and states in summary fashion as follows.

“This matter concerns violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Mead Johnson. The violations, which occurred in connection with the operations of Mead Johnson’s subsidiary in China, took place up through 2013.

The conduct at issue relates primarily to the misuse of marketing and sales funds in China. Despite prohibitions in the FCPA and Mead Johnson’s internal policies, certain employees of Mead Johnson’s majority-owned subsidiary in China, Mead Johnson Nutrition (China) Co., Ltd. (“Mead Johnson China”), made improper payments to certain health care professionals (“HCPs”) at state-owned hospitals in China to recommend Mead Johnson’s nutrition products to, and provide information about, expectant and new mothers. These payments were made to assist Mead Johnson China in developing its business. For the period from 2008 through 2013, Mead Johnson China paid approximately $2,070,000 to HCPs in improper payments and derived profits therefrom of approximately $7,770,000.

Mead Johnson China failed to accurately reflect the improper payments in its books and records. Mead Johnson China’s books and records were consolidated into Mead Johnson’s books and records, thereby causing Mead Johnson’s consolidated books and records to be inaccurate. Mead Johnson failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls over Mead Johnson China’s operations sufficient to prevent and detect the improper payments that occurred over a period of years.”

Under the heading “Mead Johnson China’s Improper Payments to HCPs,” the order states in full as follows.

“A portion of Mead Johnson China’s marketing efforts during the 2008 to 2013 period was through the medical sector, which included marketing through healthcare facilities and HCPs. Despite the prohibitions in the FCPA and Mead Johnson’s internal policies, certain employees of Mead Johnson China improperly compensated HCPs, who were foreign officials under the FCPA, to recommend Mead Johnson’s infant formula to, and to improperly provide contact information for, expectant and new mothers.

Funding for those payments came from funds generated by discounts provided to Mead Johnson China’s network of distributors.

Mead Johnson China uses third-party distributors to market, sell and distribute product in China. Some of Mead Johnson China’s funding of its marketing and sales practices were effected through discounts provided to the distributors. Pursuant to contracts between Mead Johnson China and its distributors, Mead Johnson China provided the distributors a discount for Mead Johnson’s products that was allocated for, among other purposes, funding certain marketing and sales efforts of Mead Johnson China. This form of funding was referred to as “Distributor Allowance.”

Although the Distributor Allowance contractually belonged to the distributors, certain members of Mead Johnson China’s workforce exercised some control over how the money was spent, and certain Mead Johnson China employees provided specific guidance to distributors concerning the use of the funds. Mead Johnson China staff also maintained certain records related to Distributor Allowance expenditure by distributors. In addition, Mead Johnson China used some of the funds to reimburse Mead Johnson China’s sales personnel for a portion of their marketing and other expenditures on behalf of Mead Johnson China.

Mead Johnson China’s sales personnel marketed product through medical channels, including healthcare facilities. These sales personnel encouraged HCPs at the healthcare facilities to recommend Mead Johnson products to mothers and to collect contact information of the mothers for Mead Johnson China’s marketing purposes. To incentivize HCPs to recommend Mead Johnson product and collect information from the mothers, these sales personnel improperly paid HCPs, providing cash and other incentives, contrary to Mead Johnson’s internal policies. The Distributor Allowance was the funding source for the cash and other incentives paid to HCPs.”

Under the heading “Mead Johnson Failed to Make and Keep Accurate Books and Records and Devise and Maintain an Adequate Internal Control System,” the order states in full as follows.

“The Distributor Allowance funds contractually belonged to the distributors, but were in large part under Mead Johnson China’s control. Mead Johnson China’s employees maintained certain records related to the Distributor Allowance, including records reflecting payments to HCPs. However, those records were incomplete and did not reflect that a portion of Distributor Allowance was being used contrary to Mead Johnson’s policies.

Mead Johnson failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal controls over the operations of Mead Johnson China to ensure that Mead Johnson China’s method of funding marketing and sales expenditures through its distributors was not used for unauthorized purposes, such as the improper compensation of HCPs. The use of the Distributor Allowance to improperly compensate HCPs was contrary to management’s authorization and Mead Johnson’s internal policies. Mead Johnson failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that Mead Johnson China’s funding of marketing and sales expenditures through third-party distributors was done in accordance with management’s authorization.”

Notwithstanding the above, the order otherwise specifically states:

“Mead Johnson has established internal policies to comport with the FCPA and local laws, and to prevent related illegal and unethical conduct. Mead Johnson’s internal policies include prohibitions against providing improper payments and gifts to HCPs that would influence their recommendation of Mead Johnson’s products.”

Under the heading “Internal Investigation and Remedial Efforts,” the order states in full:

“In 2011, Mead Johnson received an allegation of possible violations of the FCPA in connection with the Distributor Allowance in China. In response, Mead Johnson conducted an internal investigation, but failed to find evidence that Distributor Allowance funds were being used to make improper payments to HCPs. Thereafter, Mead Johnson China discontinued Distributor Allowance funding to reduce the likelihood of improper payments to HCPs, and discontinued all practices related to compensating HCPs by 2013. Mead Johnson did not initially self-report the 2011 allegation of potential FCPA violations and did not thereafter promptly disclose the existence of this allegation in response to the Commission’s inquiry into this matter.

As a result of its second internal investigation commenced in 2013, Mead Johnson undertook significant remedial measures including: termination of senior staff at Mead Johnson China; updating and enhancing financial accounting controls; significantly revising its compliance program; enhancing Mead Johnson’s compliance division, adding positions including a second senior-level position; establishing new business conduct controls and third party due-diligence procedures and contracts; establishing a unit in China that monitors compliance and controls in China on an on-going basis; and providing employees with a method to have immediate access the company’s policies and requirements.

Despite not self-reporting the 2011 allegation of potential FCPA violations or promptly disclosing the existence of this allegation in response to the Commission’s inquiry into this matter, Mead Johnson subsequently provided extensive and thorough cooperation. Mead Johnson voluntarily provided reports of its investigative findings; shared its analysis of documents and summaries of witness interviews; and responded to the Commission’s requests for documents and information and provided translations of key documents. These actions assisted the Commission staff in efficiently collecting valuable evidence, including information that may not have been otherwise available to the staff.”

Based on the above findings, the order finds:

“Up through 2013, certain Mead Johnson China employees made payments to HCPs using funds maintained by third parties. These funds and payments from the funds were not accurately reflected on Mead Johnson China’s books and records. The books and records of Mead Johnson China were consolidated into Mead Johnson’s books and records. As a result of the misconduct of Mead Johnson China, Mead Johnson failed to make and keep books, records, and accounts, which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflected its transactions as required by [the FCPA’s books and records provisions].

Up through 2013, Mead Johnson failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls to ensure that Mead Johnson China’s method of funding marketing and sales expenditures through third-party distributors was not used for unauthorized purposes, such as improperly compensating Chinese HCPs to recommend Mead Johnson’s products. As a result of such failure, the improper payments to HCPs occurred contrary to management’s authorizations, in violation of [the FCPA’s internal controls provisions].”

In the SEC’s release Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC Enforcement Divisions’s FCPA Unit) stated:

“Mead Johnson Nutrition’s lax internal control environment enabled its subsidiary to use off-the-books slush funds to pay doctors and other health care professionals in China to recommend its baby formula and give the company marketing access to mothers.”

As noted in the release:

“The company consented to the order without admitting or denying the findings and agreed to pay $7.77 million in disgorgement, $1.26 million in prejudgment interest, and a $3 million penalty.”

In this press release, Mead Johnson’s CEO Kasper Jakobsen stated:

“We are pleased to have reached this final resolution with the SEC. Integrity and compliance with laws and regulations are central to the success of our operations around the world. We will continue to reinforce these operating principles in all our interactions with customers and business partners. Our China business is one of Mead Johnson’s most important operations, and we remain confident in its continued long-term growth.”

Yesterday Mead Johnson’s stock closed up .64%.

According to reports, Mead Johnson was represented by F. Joseph Warin, Michael S. Diamant and Christopher W.H. Sullivan of Gibson Dunn.

Louis Berger International And Two Former Employees Resolve Enforcement Action

LB

Last Friday, the DOJ announced the second corporate Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action of 2015.

It was against Louis Berger International Inc. (LBI, a New Jersey-based infrastructure and development company) and focused on the conduct of two former employees (one located in the Philippines, the other located in India) that allegedly occurred approximately 5 – 17 years ago in connection with projects in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Kuwait.

The former employees are described as:

  • Richard Hirsch was a high-level executive at the Company, located in the Philippines, who at times oversaw the Company’s overseas operations in, inter alia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • James McClung was a high-level executive at the Company, located in India, who at times oversaw the Company’s overseas operations in Vietnam and India.

According to the DOJ, LBI directly and indirectly made payments totaling approximately $3.9 million to foreign government officials in India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Vietnam and elsewhere. To resolve the enforcement action, LBI agreed to pay $17.1 million pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement and to engage a compliance monitor for a three year period.

Criminal Complaint

The criminal complaint charges LBI with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

According to the criminal compliant, the purpose of the conspiracy “was to make and conceal corrupt payments to foreign officials in India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Vietnam and elsewhere in order to obtain and retain contracts with government entities in those countries and, thus, to enrich the Company and the co-conspirators with the full economic benefits anticipated from such contracts.” In addition, the criminal complaint alleges that “terms like ‘commitment fee,’ ‘counterpart per diem,’ ‘marketing fee,’ and ‘field operation expenses’ [were used] as code words to conceal the true nature of the bribe payments” and that “cash disbursement forms and invoices [were utilized] which did not truthfully describe the services provided or the purpose of the payment.” Moreover, the complaint alleges that members of the conspiracy created “ostensibly legitimate but ultimately illicit accounts, or “slush funds,” for the payment of bribes through third parties.”

Deferred Prosecution Agreement

The criminal charges were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement.

The Statement of Facts in the DPA state, under the heading “Overview of the Bribery Scheme” as follows.

“From in or about 1998 until in or about 2010, the Company, through its employees and agents, engaged in a scheme to pay bribes to various foreign officials in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Kuwait to secure contracts with government agencies and instrumentalities in those countries on behalf of the Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates.  The Company, through its employees and agents, together with others, discussed making the bribe payments to the foreign officials and the ways in which they intended to conceal the corrupt payments.  For example, the Company, through its employees and agents, together with others, used terms like ‘commitment fee,’ ‘counterpart per diem,’ ‘marketing fee’ and ‘field operation expenses’ as code words to conceal the true nature of the bribe payments and utilized cash disbursement forms and invoices which did not truthfully describe the services provided or the purpose of the payment.

In order to effectuate the payments, the Company, through its employees and agents, utilized various methods.  In many instances, employees and agents of the Company submitted inflated and fictitious invoices to generate cash that was then used later for the payment of bribes through intermediaries.  The Company, through its employees and agents, would then wire certain funds from bank accounts of the Company in New Jersey to bank accounts in various other countries for the purpose of making payments to foreign officials.  In Vietnam, the Company, through its employees and agents, used the Foundation – which was in part a local labor pool – as a conduit for the payment of bribes to foreign government officials in Vietnam to conceal the bribe payments.

In total, the Company, through its employees and agents, together with others, made payments directly and indirectly to foreign officials, including in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Kuwait, totaling approximately $3,934,431.”

Under the heading “Corrupt Conduct in Indonesia,” the DPA states that “beginning in approximately 2005, the Company sought contracts with the Indonesian government as a subcontractor by interposing a one-man consulting company as the prime contractor in order to avoid directly paying bribes to foreign officials even though the Company was well aware that the prime contractor was paying bribes.”  According to the DPA, in 2008 “when the law firm handling the Company’s internal review directed scrutiny [at a citizen and national of Indonesia employed by the Company in Jakarta] Richard Hirsch and others attempted to discourage [the employee] from speaking with the Company’s review team.” According to the DPA, Hirsch also communicated with co-conspirators on his personal e-mail account to avoid detection by the company.

Under the heading “Corrupt Conduct in Vietnam,” the DPA states that “the Company began its operations in Vietnam during the early 1990s and secured numerous public contracts across the county.  In order to obtain and maintain these contracts, the Company through its employees and agents paid bribes to Vietnamese officials through the Foundation [a non-governmental organization which the Company engaged as a local sponsor, and which served as a key source for local labor and operational support in Vietnam.]  Sometimes the bribe money was disguised as ‘donations’ to the Foundation paid from the Company’s bank accounts in New Jersey to a bank account jointly held by the Company and the Foundation in Vietnam.  On other occasions the bribe money was masked by invoices from the Foundation that were paid from the Company’s New Jersey account to a joint account.”  The DPA further states that beginning in “approximately 2005, when James McClung assumed responsibility for the Company’s Vietnam operations, the Company through its employees and agents generated bribe money by paying vendors for services that had never actually been rendered; those vendors would then serve as conduits for the payment of bribe money to foreign officials.”

Under the heading “Corrupt Conduct in India,” the DPA states: “Along with several consortium partners, the Company won two water development projects in Goa and Guwhati.  The Company paid bribes to win both of those contracts.  The bribe money was disguised as payments to vendors for services that had never actually been rendered.  The Company through its employees and agents and its consortium partner kept track of the bribe payments by circulating a spreadsheet amongst themselves showing the proportionate share of each bribe that they had paid to the foreign officials overseeing their work on the Goa and Guwhati projects.”

Under the heading “Corrupt Conduct in Kuwait,” the DPA states: “In approximately 2005, the Company won a $66 million road construction project with the Kuwait Ministry of Public Works.  In order to secure that contract, the Company through its employees and agents and its joint venture partner made a series of corrupt payments [totaling approximately $71,000) to an official with the Ministry of Public Works.  Some of the payments were made upfront under the guise of ‘proposal’ costs.  Other payments were made through a purported contract for ‘business development’ with another firm.”

In the 3-year DPA, LBI admitted, accepted and acknowledged responsibility for the conduct as described above.

Under the heading “relevant considerations,” the DPA states:

“[The DOJ enters] into this Agreement based on the individual facts and circumstances presented by this case and by LBI … Among the factors considered were the following:  (a) after the government had made LBI … aware of a False Claim Act investigation, [the Company] conducted an internal investigation, discovered potential FCPA violations, and voluntarily self-reported to the [DOJ] the misconduct …; (b) [the Company’s] cooperation, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, collecting analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for [the DOJ] and providing updates to the [DOJ] as the conduct and results of the internal investigation; (c) [the Company] has engaged in extensive remediation, including terminating the employment of officers and employees responsible for the corrupt payments, enhancing its due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, and instituting heightened review of proposals and other transactional documents for all Company contracts; (d) [the Company’s] improvements to date to its compliance program and internal controls, as well as its commitment to continue to enhance its compliance program and internal controls, including ensuring that its compliance program satisfies the minimum elements [set forth in the DPA]; (e) the nature and scope of the offense conduct; and (f) [the Company’s] agreement to continue to cooperate [with the DOJ] in any ongoing investigation.”

The Sentencing Guidelines calculation in the DPA sets forth an advisory fine range of $17.1 million – $34.2 million. The DPA states that the ultimate $17.1 million fine “is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of this case, including the cooperation in this matter and the nature and scope of the offense conduct.”  As indicated in the DPA, $7.1 million of the fine amount is payable immediately with the remaining amount payable within 12 months.

Pursuant to the DPA, LBI is required to retain an independent compliance monitor for a three year period.

Typical of most corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the DPA contains a “muzzle clause” in which LBI agreed that it shall not directly or indirectly make any public statement contradicting the information set forth in the DPA.

As noted in the DOJ’s release, Hirsch (61, of Makaati, Philippines) and McClung (59, of Dubai, United Arab Emirates) each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA. The sentencing hearings for Hirsch and McClung are scheduled for Nov. 5, 2015.

Louis Berger issued this release which states:

“Louis Berger International, has agreed to a three-year deferred prosecution agreement and $17.1 million fine with the U.S. Department of Justice for self-reported improper business activities principally conducted overseas by former managers between 1998 and 2010. All of the managers associated with these improper business activities were separated from the company following the early findings of Louis Berger’s internal investigations.

“The DOJ has acknowledged the extensive global reforms undertaken at Louis Berger since 2010,” said Nicholas J. Masucci, Louis Berger chairman. “2010 was a pivotal year in our company’s history. It marked a clear departure from the past as we assumed new management, new processes and comprehensive system reforms that are the core of our global operations today. Today’s settlement is the critical final milestone in our reform, as it was important for us to take responsibility for the historic actions of former managers and close the chapter on the company’s pre-2010 era.”

Prior to Louis Berger’s 2010 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for improper billing on U.S. government overhead accounts, the company undertook a thorough review of past practices of former managers, including improper overseas business activities. The company self-discovered and self-reported potential Foreign Corrupt Practices Act infractions to the U.S. government starting in 2010 and has been working with the government to resolve these issues since that time. In total, the company self-identified and self-reported findings of misconduct in Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Kuwait between 1998 and 2010 totaling $3.9 million in bribes.

Since 2010, Louis Berger has undergone a massive $25+ million reform effort that resulted in new internal controls, new policies and procedures, and comprehensive systems investments, including a new global accounting system.

The company has actively supported the government in its investigation of the culpable individuals and their activities. In addition to separating these former managers from the company, the firm also has added new managers to key positions, including chief financial officer and controller, and regional management teams throughout Asia and the Middle East. Additionally, the company implemented a new corporate operational model to ensure greater centralized oversight and control of overseas business activities. Moreover, the company has reformed its ownership structure by implementing an Employee Stock Ownership Program.

The company established an independent compliance and ethics department under the oversight of an independent audit committee, introduced a global helpline through which employees can report potentially non-compliant activities, and implemented a global code of business conduct. Investments also have funded annual worldwide compliance, ethics and anti-corruption training for all employees.

Under the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, the company will work with a government-appointed monitor to test and report on its internal processes and controls as well as its compliance and ethics policies and training for three years.

“Transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of a sustainable business, and we are a much more efficient, responsible and transparent company today than we were five years ago,” said Masucci. “We will continue to monitor and improve our existing compliance system while delivering quality work to our clients with a level of integrity they expect.”

Brian Whisler (Baker & McKenzie) and Michael Himmel (Lowenstein Sandler) represented LBI.

DOJ Brings First Corporate FCPA Enforcement Action Of 2015

IAP

No doubt it was a coincidence, but it was hard to ignore the timing.

Hours after the formal conclusion of the DOJ’s latest FCPA trial court debacle in U.S. v. Sigelman (see here, here and here for prior posts), the DOJ announced its first corporate FCPA enforcement action of 2015.

The enforcement action was against IAP Worldwide Services, Inc. (a small Florida-based company that provides facilities management, contingency operations, and professional and technical services in contracting capacities to the U.S. military and other governmental agencies world-wide).

According to its website, approximately 30% of IAP’s workers are veterans and the company was recently recognized by U.S. Veterans Magazine’s as one of the Top Veteran-Friendly Companies in 2014.  IAP has several contracts with the U.S. Government including the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force.

Per the DOJ’s allegations, the improper conduct occurred 7-10 years ago and was engaged in by one individual at IAP who left the company approximately 7 years ago.

The allegations focus on James Rama who was IAP’s Vice President of Special Project and Programs between 2005 and 2007. Prior to arriving at IAP, Rama, while employed in Kuwait by a large American defense contractor not affiliated with IAP, was introduced to a Kuwaiti Consultant and learned that the Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior (MOI) was planning to build a large-scale homeland security systems called the KSP.

When Rama joined IAP he began pursuing Phase I of the KSP contract on behalf of IAP as well as the more lucrative Phase II of the KSP project.  According to the DOJ, Rama and others formed Ramaco International Consulting LLC “to hide IAP’s involvement in the KSP bidding and contracting process.”

According to the DOJ:

“In or about November 2005, IAP (through Rama) received non-public indications that the MOI would select it for the Phase I contract, although the formal bidding process had not yet begun. In February 2006, at the direction of the MOI and Kuwaiti Consultant, Rama and others agreed to and did set up Ramaco as a shell company to “bid” on the Phase I contract. One purpose of setting up Ramaco was to allow IAP to hide its involvement in Phase I and participate in the later Phase II without any apparent conflict of interest. Ramaco began acting as the agent for IAP on the KSP.

IAP agreed with the MOI that it would perform the KSP Phase I contract for approximately $4 million. Of that amount, IAP agreed that half, or approximately $2 million, would not be for actual work executing the KSP Phase I contract, but instead would be diverted to Kuwaiti Consultant.

In or about 2006, IAP, Ramaco, Rama, and others structured an illicit payment scheme to funnel approximately 50% of the payments received on the Phase I contract to Kuwaiti Consultant so that he could pay bribes to Kuwaiti government officials and took numerous steps to hide these payments and prevent the detection of their scheme. IAP, Ramaco, and Rama understood that to pay Kuwaiti Consultant, Kuwaiti Company would first inflate its invoices to IAP by charging IAP for the total amount of both the legitimate services that Kuwaiti Company was providing and the payments that Kuwaiti Company was funneling to Kuwaiti Consultant without listing or otherwise disclosing the payments that were funneled to Kuwaiti Consultant. After the MOI paid Ramaco for work on the KSP Phase I contract, Ramaco would transfer funds to a bank account of IAP, and IAP would then transfer funds to Kuwaiti Company. IAP, Ramaco, and Rama knew that Kuwaiti Company was then paying Kuwaiti Consultant approximately 50% of the KSP Phase I contract amount. IAP, Ramaco, and Rama knew that these payments to Kuwaiti Consultant were often further disguised.

In or about April 2006, Ramaco opened a bank account in Kuwait for Ramaco that would be used, in part, to pay Kuwaiti Consultant a portion of the money that IAP and Ramaco received from the KSP Phase I contract.

On or about May 10, 2006, Rama signed the KSP Phase I contract between Ramaco and the Government of Kuwait, which included a markup of approximately $2 million that would be kicked back, in whole or in part, to Kuwaiti government officials through Kuwaiti Consultant.

On or about September 19, 2006, IAP wired KD 120,000 (approximately $420,000) from its bank account to Kuwaiti Company’s bank account, and, on or about that same day, Kuwaiti Company paid that amount to Kuwaiti Consultant.

In or about October 2006, employees of IAP and G3 met with Rama and others at IAP’s office in Arlington, Virginia, which is in the Eastern District of Virginia, in an effort to persuade IAP to continue making payments to Kuwaiti Consultant.

On or about October 18, 2006, IAP wired KD 63,000 (approximately $220,500) from its bank account to Kuwaiti Company’s bank account, and, on or about that same day, Kuwaiti Company paid that amount to Kuwaiti Consultant.

On or about June 5, 2007, IAP wired KD 29,962.27 (approximately $105,000) from its bank account in the United States to Kuwaiti Company’s bank account in Kuwait so that Kuwaiti Company could pay Kuwaiti Consultant, and, on or about June 13, 2007, IAP wired that amount from its bank account in the United States to Kuwaiti Company’s bank account.

On or about December 6, 2007, Ramaco paid Kuwaiti Consultant KD 52,250 (approximately $183,000). 22. On or about March 10, 2008, Ramaco paid Kuwaiti Consultant KD 44,250 (approximately $155,000).

Between September 2006 and March 2008, IAP and its co-conspirators paid Kuwaiti Consultant at least KD 509,625 (approximately $1,783,688) on the understanding that some or all of that money would be provided as bribes to Kuwaiti government officials to assist IAP in obtaining and retaining the KSP Phase I contract and to obtain the KSP Phase II contract.”

The above allegations were resolved via a non-prosecution agreement in which IAP agreed to pay”a monetary penalty in the present value amount of $7.1 million”.  Pursuant to the NPA, the penalty is to be paid in four yearly installments of $1.775 million. The NPA, which has a three year term, states as follows:

“Among the facts considered were the following: (a) the Company has cooperated with the Offices, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Offices; (b) the Company has engaged in remediation, including disciplining the officers and employees responsible for the corrupt payments or terminating their employment, enhancing its due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, and instituting heightened review of proposals and other transactional documents for relevant Company contracts; (c) the Company has committed to continue to enhance its compliance program and internal controls, including ensuring that its compliance program satisfies the minimum elements set forth in Attachment C to this Agreement; and (d) the Company has agreed to continue to cooperate with the Offices in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of the Company and its officers, directors, employees, agents, and consultants relating to possible violations under investigation by the Offices.”

As noted in the DOJ’s release:

“[The] non-prosecution agreement requires IAP to conduct a review of its existing internal controls, policies and procedures, and make any necessary modifications to ensure that the company maintains accurate record keeping and a rigorous anti-corruption compliance program.  The non-prosecution agreement further requires IAP to report periodically to the Criminal Division and to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia regarding remediation and implementation of the aforementioned compliance program and internal controls, policies and procedures.”

Typical of most corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the NPA contains a “muzzle clause” in which IAP agreed that it shall not directly or indirectly make any public statement contradicting the information set forth in the NPA.

Based on the same core conduct alleged in the NPA, the DOJ announced a plea agreement with James Rama to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.  See here for the plea agreement, here for the Statement of Facts, and here for the criminal information.

For additional coverage of the enforcement action see here from Reuters.

 

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