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BAE – Every Circus Has A Final Act

Today in a Washington D.C. courtroom, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates had authority, pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, to reject the BAE plea agreement (see here).

However, as district court judges often do, Judge Bates “rubber-stamped” the plea agreement according to this first-hand account by Christopher Matthews at Main Justice.

In allowing the BAE “bribery yet no bribery” circus to leave town, Judge Bates reportedly said that the plea agreement was “fully reflective” of BAE’s crimes. This is surely subject to debate and for prior acts in this circus (see here).

According to the DOJ’s Release (see here), BAE pleaded guilty today to “conspiring to defraud the United States by impairing and impeding its lawful functions, to make false statements about its FCPA compliance program, and to violate the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations” and was sentenced to “pay a $400 million criminal fine, one of the largest criminal fines in the history of DOJ’s ongoing effort to combat overseas corruption in international business and enforce U.S. export control laws.”

The DOJ’s release continues to reference BAE’s non-bribery, bribery allegations. See here for a prior post.

So too does the government’s sentencing memorandum (see here). Should you be wondering whether national security and/or debarment issues drove resolution of this prosecution, you may want to check it out.

One immediately sees that the National Security Division (“NSD”) played a role in the BAE case. According to its website: “[t]he mission of the National Security Division is to carry out the Department’s highest priority: to combat terrorism and other threats to national security.” (see here).

Among other things, the Sentencing Memorandum repeats the government’s non-bribery, bribery allegations.

Relevant quotes include: “BAE made some third party payments while aware that there was a high probability that part of the funds would be passed on to a foreign government official to influence a decision in favor of BAES” and that “BAES made other payments aware that there was a high probability that the payments would be used to influence government decision makers in the purchase of defense materials.”

In addressing relevant factors under the Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations (see here), the government notes that these payments: were “a major and longstanding business strategy replete with corruption risk; “were pervasive across the Company, covered numerous markets, and lasted for decades; “were tolerated or condoned up to the highest corporate levels; and that “corporate leadership created the structures” for the payments “in order to frustrate investigations and avoid identification of those payments to and through marketing advisers.”

And then there is this relevant paragraph regarding collateral consequences:

– “Europen Union Directive 2004/18/EC, which has recently been enacted in all EU countries through implementing legislation, provides that companies convicted of corruption offenses shall (emphasis in original) be mandatorily excluded from government contracts.”

– “BAES’s business is primarily from government contracts, including with several EU customers.”

– “Mandatory exclusion under EU debarment regulations is unlikely in light of the nature of the charge to which BAES is pleading. Discretionary debarment will presumably be considered and determined by various suspension and debarment officials.”

– “The Department will communicate with U.S. debarment and regulatory authorities, and relevant foreign authorities, if requested to do so, regarding the nature of the offense of which BAES has been convicted, the conduct engaged in by BAES, its remediation efforts, and the facts relevant to an assessment of whether BAES is presently a responsible government contractor.”

The Sentencing Memorandum also notes that “[i]ndividuals responsible for criminal activities may be beyond reach of U.S. authorities based on U.S. statute of limitations or jurisdictional limitations.”

Now that the curtain has closed on this circus and the elephants and monkeys are back in their cages, it is worthwhile to take a step back and analyze how DOJ prosecutors are supposed to resolve corporate criminal liability through plea agreements.

The Principles of Prosecution, part of the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, state: “[i] negotiating plea agreements with corporations, as with individuals, prosecutors should generally seek a plea to the most serious, readily provable offense charged.”

Additional commentary states that a “corporation should generally be required to plead guilty to the most serious, readily provable offense charged;” that a “corporation should be made to realize that pleading guilty to criminal charges constitutes an admission of guilt and not merely a resolution of an inconvenient distraction from it business;” and that “where the corporation is a government contractor, permanent or temporary debarment may be appropriate” and “where the corporation was engaged in fraud against the government […], a prosecutor may not negotiate away an agency’s right to debar or delist the corporate defendant.”

This last clause, part of the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, seems particularly relevant here given that the DOJ release and the Sentencing Memorandum both expressly state that BAE “defrauded” the U.S.

Sections 9-27.400-530 of the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual supplement the above corporate specific provisions by setting forth information relevant to “Selecting Plea Agreement Charges.”

Among other things, this section notes: “the defendant should be required to plead to a charge or charges” “that is the most serious readily provable charge consistent with the nature and extent of his/her criminal conduct” and “that has an adequate factual basis.” Commentary notes that “except in unusual circumstances, this charge will be the most serious one.”

It sure seems, per the government’s own evidence, that there was a more serious readily provable charge against BAE. But all things, even the circus, must come to an end, so perhaps this was one of those “except in unusual circumstances” type of cases.

The BAE circus is still playing out across the Atlantic and the next post will discuss how various public interest organizations, subject to less restrictive “standing” rules than here in the U.S. for challenging agency decisions, are challenging the SFO’s plea agreement with BAE.

Understanding Issuers

The FCPA (both the antibribery provisions and the books and records and internal control provisions) apply to issuers.

That was easy.

What is not so easy is figuring out just which companies are issuers. The FCPA defines an issuer as when a company “has a class of securities registered” with the SEC pursuant to the securities laws or when a company is “required to file reports” with the SEC pursuant to the securities laws.

These terms can be confusing, particularly when talking about non-U.S. based companies.

In connection with both the BAE and Technip matters, there was some mention of a potential SEC angle despite the fact that neither company currently has shares traded on a U.S. exchange.

Miller & Chevalier’s release in connection with the BAE matter (here) states:

“The U.S. pleadings detail significant issues with BAE’s compliance program and internal controls, yet the pleadings did not allege substantive violations of the FCPA’s accounting provisions, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has yet to bring an action against BAE. The absence of SEC charges may reflect a lack of SEC jurisdiction because BAE was not subject to the registration and reporting requirements of the Securities and Exchange Act during the relevant time period, which is required for FCPA accounting provision jurisdiction. According to press accounts, however, the SEC may have investigated BAE in connection with the al-Yamamah arms sale. The status of this possible investigation remains unclear.”

Technip’s release (here) speaks of both the DOJ and SEC involvement in resolution of that matter.

Enter James Tillen (here), one of the co-authors of the Miller & Chevalier piece, to help explain SEC jurisdiction in these two similar, yet different matters.

Here is what he had to say.

“We specifically note in the Client Alert that the absence of an SEC resolution was likely due to the fact that the SEC did not have jurisdiction: ‘The absence of SEC charges may reflect a lack of SEC jurisdiction because BAE was not subject to the registration and reporting requirements of the Securities and Exchange Act during the relevant time period, which is required for FCPA accounting provision jurisdiction.’ Press accounts reported that the SEC was investigating at some point so it was worth raising the question of why no SEC resolution (especially since the DOJ effectively brought an internal controls case).

I looked quite closely at the issue of whether BAE was an issuer and concluded the following:

The definition of issuer includes any entity “which has a class of securities registered pursuant to” Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 or “which is required to file reports under” Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act. 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1(a), 78c(a)(8), 781, 78o(d). During the relevant time period, BAE Systems plc’s ADRs were sold in the United States Over The Counter (“OTC”), and not on any national securities exchanges, such as the NYSE, which require registration with the SEC. In fact, BAE has filed for an exemption from registration under Section 12(g) of the Exchange Act since at least 2002. See List of Foreign Issuers That Have Submitted Information Under the Exemption Relating to Certain Foreign Securities, SEC Release No. 34-45855 (May 1, 2002) (BAE listed as British Aerospace plc), SEC Release No. 34-49846 (June 10, 2004), and SEC Release No. 34-51893 (June 28, 2005). Pursuant to this exemption, BAE must provide information to the SEC on a yearly basis by completing Form F-6. See Rule 12g3-2. However, BAE is exempt from the annual and other periodic reports under Section 15(d) of the Act. See 17 C.F.R. § 240.15d-3. Based on these considerations, it would appear that BAE is not subject to the registration and reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act and therefore not an “issuer” for purposes of FCPA jurisdiction.”

In contrast, Tillen stated that Technip “had American Depository Shares listed on NYSE from at least 2001 until 2007. Thereafter, it delisted (see here and here) and now only trades on the OTC (over-the-counter) market. When it was listed, Technip was an ‘issuer’ for purposes of the FCPA.”

*****

Thanks for the explanation James.

As my mentor was fond of saying … “at least now I am confused on a higher level.”

Friday Roundup

Some FCPA news to pass along on this Friday.

SFO Defends BAE Settlement

Richard Alderman, the Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) recently defended the SFO settlement with BAE (see here).

Among other things, Alderman argued that any suggestion BAE “got off lightly” ignores “London’s contribution in enabling the U.S. to impose a $400 million fine.”

Point taken.

Alderman then says that the DOJ “would not have achieved what they achieved without [the SFO] and [the SFO] would not have achieved what [the SFO] achieved without [the DOJ].”

Point not taken.

What actually did the DOJ and SFO achieve in the BAE matter? What is achieved when a company settles a case invovling allegations of worldwide bribery, per the allegations in the public documents, WITHOUT being held accountable bribery?

What is achieved when you charge BAE’s agent (presumably based on evidence that the following did occur) for “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc” and then a few days later withdraw the charges and state “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defence contracts.”

As to this issue, Alderman stated that “the public interet lay in drawing a line under the whole investigation.”

The article notes that “two campaigning groups said they would launch a legal challenge to Mr. Alderman’s decision, saying it failed to reflect the scale and scope of the bribery allegations relating to BAE’s network of hundreds of agents on four continents.” If anyone knows who these groups are, or the legal framework (including standing) under U.K. law to allow such a challenge, please do share.

For prior posts on BAE, includng the DOJ’s non-bribery, bribery allegations see here.

Alderman did also suggest that additional joints DOJ/SEC settlements are being negotiated.

The Pipes May Soon Burst

Ocassionaly, I have covered “cases” reportedly in the FCPA pipeline (see here). Set forth below is some “pre-news” about some coming attractions.

Given the above, it seems fitting to start with KBR, Inc.

KBR, Inc.

Here’s what Halliburton had to say earlier this week regarding its exposure via M.W. Kellogg / KBR for the SFO piece of the investigation into Bonney Island (Nigeria)(pgs. 35-36, 63-64). For a prior post see here.

Pride International Inc.

Earlier this week, Pride disclosed (here) that:

“it has accrued $56.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 in anticipation of a possible resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of potential liability under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. {…] The accrual in the fourth quarter 2009 represents the company’s best estimate of potential fines, penalties and disgorgement related to settlement of the matter with the DOJ and SEC. The monetary sanctions ultimately paid by the company to resolve these issues, whether imposed on the company or agreed to by settlement, may exceed the amount of the accrual.”

For prior posts about Pride see here.

Innospec, Inc.

Here is what Innospec had to say about its on-going FCPA matter:

“”We have made substantial progress, but not yet completed, negotiations of final settlements of the Oil for Food Program and FCPA investigations, in either the U.S. or United Kingdom. However, we have charged a further $21.9 million in the quarter, based on the status of ongoing discussions, to bring the total amount accrued to $40.2 million. The Company will make no further comments on the ongoing proceedings.”

Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent recently provided (here) details (see pg. 112) on its FCPA (and other) exposure concerning conduct in Costa Rica and other places. In pertinent part the company stated:

“As previously disclosed in its public filings, Alcatel-Lucent has engaged in settlement discussions with the DOJ and the SEC with regard to the ongoing FCPA investigations. These discussions have resulted in December 2009 in agreements in principle with the staffs of each of the agencies. There can be no assurances, however, that final agreements will be reached with the agencies or accepted in court. If finalized, the agreements would relate to alleged violations of the FCPA involving several countries, including Costa Rica, Taiwan, and Kenya. Under the agreement in principle with the SEC, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a consent decree under which Alcatel-Lucent would neither admit nor deny violations of the antibribery, internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA and would be enjoined from future violations of U.S. securities laws, pay U.S.
$45.4 million in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest and agree to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor to evaluate in accordance with the provisions of the consent decree (unless any specific provision therein is expressly determined by the French Ministry of Justice to violate French law)
the effectiveness of Alcatel-Lucent’s internal controls, record-keeping and financial reporting policies and procedures. Under the agreement in principle with the DOJ, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), charging Alcatel-Lucent with violations of the internal controls and
books and records provisions of the FCPA, and Alcatel-Lucent would pay a total criminal fine of U.S. $ 92 million—payable in four installments over the course of three years. In addition, three Alcatel-Lucent subsidiaries—Alcatel-Lucent France, Alcatel-Lucent Trade and Alcatel Centroamerica—would each plead guilty to
violations of the FCPA’s antibribery, books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. The agreement with the DOJ would also contain provisions relating to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor. If Alcatel-Lucent fully complies with the terms of the DPA, the DOJ would dismiss the charges upon
conclusion of the three-year term.”

For the trials and tribulations on both sides of this corporate hyphen see here and here.

Thirsty for more? OK, here is the last one.

Maxwell Technologies Inc.

Here is what the company’s CEO had to say about its $9.3 million accural for a potential FCPA settlement:

“Unfortunately, all this good news is tempered by the GAAP required $9.3 million accrual we recorded in Q4 for the potential settlement of FCPA violations in connection with the sale of high-voltage capacitor products in China by our Swiss subsidiary. As we reported previously, after we became aware of questionable payments made to an independent sales agent in China, we disclosed that discovery and initiated an internal review and we have been voluntarily sharing information with the SEC and the Justice Department.”

See also here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Some FCPA news to pass along on this Friday.

SFO Defends BAE Settlement

Richard Alderman, the Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) recently defended the SFO settlement with BAE (see here).

Among other things, Alderman argued that any suggestion BAE “got off lightly” ignores “London’s contribution in enabling the U.S. to impose a $400 million fine.”

Point taken.

Alderman then says that the DOJ “would not have achieved what they achieved without [the SFO] and [the SFO] would not have achieved what [the SFO] achieved without [the DOJ].”

Point not taken.

What actually did the DOJ and SFO achieve in the BAE matter? What is achieved when a company settles a case invovling allegations of worldwide bribery, per the allegations in the public documents, WITHOUT being held accountable bribery?

What is achieved when you charge BAE’s agent (presumably based on evidence that the following did occur) for “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc” and then a few days later withdraw the charges and state “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defence contracts.”

As to this issue, Alderman stated that “the public interet lay in drawing a line under the whole investigation.”

The article notes that “two campaigning groups said they would launch a legal challenge to Mr. Alderman’s decision, saying it failed to reflect the scale and scope of the bribery allegations relating to BAE’s network of hundreds of agents on four continents.” If anyone knows who these groups are, or the legal framework (including standing) under U.K. law to allow such a challenge, please do share.

For prior posts on BAE, includng the DOJ’s non-bribery, bribery allegations see here.

Alderman did also suggest that additional joints DOJ/SEC settlements are being negotiated.

The Pipes May Soon Burst

Ocassionaly, I have covered “cases” reportedly in the FCPA pipeline (see here). Set forth below is some “pre-news” about some coming attractions.

Given the above, it seems fitting to start with KBR, Inc.

KBR, Inc.

Here’s what Halliburton had to say earlier this week regarding its exposure via M.W. Kellogg / KBR for the SFO piece of the investigation into Bonney Island (Nigeria)(pgs. 35-36, 63-64). For a prior post see here.

Pride International Inc.

Earlier this week, Pride disclosed (here) that:

“it has accrued $56.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 in anticipation of a possible resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of potential liability under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. {…] The accrual in the fourth quarter 2009 represents the company’s best estimate of potential fines, penalties and disgorgement related to settlement of the matter with the DOJ and SEC. The monetary sanctions ultimately paid by the company to resolve these issues, whether imposed on the company or agreed to by settlement, may exceed the amount of the accrual.”

For prior posts about Pride see here.

Innospec, Inc.

Here is what Innospec had to say about its on-going FCPA matter:

“”We have made substantial progress, but not yet completed, negotiations of final settlements of the Oil for Food Program and FCPA investigations, in either the U.S. or United Kingdom. However, we have charged a further $21.9 million in the quarter, based on the status of ongoing discussions, to bring the total amount accrued to $40.2 million. The Company will make no further comments on the ongoing proceedings.”

Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent recently provided (here) details (see pg. 112) on its FCPA (and other) exposure concerning conduct in Costa Rica and other places. In pertinent part the company stated:

“As previously disclosed in its public filings, Alcatel-Lucent has engaged in settlement discussions with the DOJ and the SEC with regard to the ongoing FCPA investigations. These discussions have resulted in December 2009 in agreements in principle with the staffs of each of the agencies. There can be no assurances, however, that final agreements will be reached with the agencies or accepted in court. If finalized, the agreements would relate to alleged violations of the FCPA involving several countries, including Costa Rica, Taiwan, and Kenya. Under the agreement in principle with the SEC, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a consent decree under which Alcatel-Lucent would neither admit nor deny violations of the antibribery, internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA and would be enjoined from future violations of U.S. securities laws, pay U.S.
$45.4 million in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest and agree to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor to evaluate in accordance with the provisions of the consent decree (unless any specific provision therein is expressly determined by the French Ministry of Justice to violate French law)
the effectiveness of Alcatel-Lucent’s internal controls, record-keeping and financial reporting policies and procedures. Under the agreement in principle with the DOJ, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), charging Alcatel-Lucent with violations of the internal controls and
books and records provisions of the FCPA, and Alcatel-Lucent would pay a total criminal fine of U.S. $ 92 million—payable in four installments over the course of three years. In addition, three Alcatel-Lucent subsidiaries—Alcatel-Lucent France, Alcatel-Lucent Trade and Alcatel Centroamerica—would each plead guilty to
violations of the FCPA’s antibribery, books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. The agreement with the DOJ would also contain provisions relating to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor. If Alcatel-Lucent fully complies with the terms of the DPA, the DOJ would dismiss the charges upon
conclusion of the three-year term.”

For the trials and tribulations on both sides of this corporate hyphen see here and here.

Thirsty for more? OK, here is the last one.

Maxwell Technologies Inc.

Here is what the company’s CEO had to say about its $9.3 million accural for a potential FCPA settlement:

“Unfortunately, all this good news is tempered by the GAAP required $9.3 million accrual we recorded in Q4 for the potential settlement of FCPA violations in connection with the sale of high-voltage capacitor products in China by our Swiss subsidiary. As we reported previously, after we became aware of questionable payments made to an independent sales agent in China, we disclosed that discovery and initiated an internal review and we have been voluntarily sharing information with the SEC and the Justice Department.”

See also here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

The BAE “Soapbox”

Below is a compilation of what certain others in the FCPA community are saying about the BAE enforcement action.

Steven Tyrrell (here) notes (here) that the BAE “case again demonstrates the DOJ’s willingness to push its jurisdictional reach in cases involving foreign-based, non-issuers that make suspect payments outside the United States.” Tyrrell notes that “in spite of [a] seemingly slight jurisdictional nexus, DOJ aggressively pursued this FCPA matter and obtained an agreement from BAE to plead guilty to a felony and pay a $400 million penalty.” Even though the BAE criminal information contained bribery allegations (see here), the information did not change any FCPA offenses. Yet, Tyrrell and many others, continue to describe the BAE matter as an “FCPA matter.” Tyrrell’s aggressive comments are curious (and perhaps telling) in that he was the DOJ Chief of the Fraud Section responsible for prosecuting the FCPA from 2006 until his recent departure into private practice. (See here).

Miller Chevalier recently released (here) a thorough alert on the BAE matter. Among other things, the alert points out that the BAE matter “raises a host of significant legal and policy questions that are only partly explained in the public documents” associated with the matter. The alert points the “differences in the factual allegations in the two settlements” [SFO/DOJ] and notes that “the oblique nature of the violations charged, the negotiated terms of the settlements, and the allegations that are not made in the public settlement documents provide a glimpse of the political undercurrents, legal maneuvering, and policy objectives that underlie this settlement and raise potentially far-reaching precedential issues.”

Brian Whisler (here) had this to say:

“In a nutshell, the BAE resolution: (1) reconciles with DOJ’s publicly-stated commitment to deter corruption and bribery through the enforcement / prosecution of high impact, high profile cases — there are apparently other similar large scale matters in the DOJ pipeline (e.g., DaimlerChrysler); (2) reconciles with the UK’s effort to become a bigger player on the world enforcement scene, with the enhancement of penalties and other legislative efforts to give more teeth to the UK’s anti-corruption regime (keeping up with Germans in the aftermath of Siemens); and (3) suggests that defense contractor and procurement fraud in general will remain in the sights of the enforcement community for a considerable time, so long as we have one or more theaters of active military engagement.”

An FCPA lawyer who wished to remain anonymous had this to say:

“First, the SFO and the British justice system in general suffer in this settlement. From the British side, the deal has the feel of something that was quickly put together to put a lid on what else might develop. SFO investigators reportedly were still interviewing people on the morning the BAE resolution was announced. Larger than that issue, BAE clearly did wrong in Tanzania, but its actions in other markets were far equally disturbing and there will be no formal accounting for those acts. The unwritten message seems to be that industrialized nations continue to recognize that certain companies are “too big to fail,” and will take steps to protect even a company that does wrong, so long as the company is critical to some important national issue like defense or homeland security. Ultimately, these types of actions erode the moral authority of the industrialized world to demand the developing world to clean up its house. U.S. authorities have made a strong effort to have others step up and take the lead on anti-corruption issues, so that the world does not see anti-corruption as simply a U.S. issue. To some degree, the settlement in the U.S. diminishes that effort, as well. The developing world will see this deal as having been pushed by the U.S. They also will see the deal as not doing much to help the countries that BAE harmed through its corrupt business efforts. The small charity payment to Tanzania seems almost an afterthought inside of a $400 million deal, which is a drop in the bucket compared to BAE’s profits. The world likely will view the entire fine as a fairly minor slap for a company that has made a lot of money in the world market place because of its improper conduct.”

Finally, Ben Heineman, Jr. (here) noted that the BAE story is “depressingly familiar.” He notes that the BAE matter (and the Siemens matter) represent problems “in the developed world (!!), not in the developing world” and states that if “these iconic developed world companies had such widespread issues, it is reasonable to think that they are hardly alone.”

Willing to share you thoughts on the BAE matter? The comment box is open.

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