Top Menu

Friday Roundup

blog1

Not something you see everyday, Yates Memo related, quotable, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Not Something You See Everyday

It’s not everyday that you see a director of a publicly-traded company publicly resign because the director thinks the company is engaged in improper conduct including FCPA violations.

But that is just what Michael Moss, until recently a director of Malvern Bancorp, did.

Continue Reading

Friday Roundup

The FCPA in the hallways, Super Bowl bribery, no FCPA charges, quotable, survey says, FCPA reform advocate nominated to the federal bench, interesting homework assignment, scrutiny alert, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

FCPA in the Hallways

Avon’s FCPA scrutiny brought the FCPA to main street.  News Corp.’s and Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny generated world-wide media coverage.  Will the FCPA next become the topic of discussion in middle school and high school hallways across America?

According to this TMZ report:

“A Canadian border official has been fired for allegedly accepting a $10,000 bribe in return for allowing members of Justin Bieber’s entourage with criminal records to enter Canada. Bieber’s camp reportedly gave a female officer at the Niagara Falls border thousands of dollars in backstage passes to get members of his posse into the country while he performed. Canada has a strict policy on not allowing people with certain types of criminal records to enter. It’s unclear when the alleged bribes went down … but Justin performed 2 shows in Toronto last year. The accusations surfaced after more of Bieber’s friends allegedly showed up at the border looking for the same special treatment — and the officers on duty blew the whistle. The Canada Border Services agency reportedly circulated an internal memo reminding officers not to take bribes … and to rat out anyone who does.”

In case you are wondering, there have been several FCPA enforcement actions in recent years concerning alleged payments to customs, immigration and other regulatory officials in connection with a business purpose broadly speaking.

Super Bowl Bribery?

Providing money or other things of value to a person or entity to influence the discretionary acts of that person or entity in connection with a business purpose is bribery … is it not?

Yet, according to this Wall Street Journal article, the above may determine which artist receives the coveted Super Bowl half-time performance slot.  According to the article, the NFL “has asked artists under consideration for the high-profile gig to pay to play” including whether the artists “would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig.”

According to the article, the NFL’s only goal is to “put on the best possible show.”

No FCPA Charges

It is sometimes perplexing why certain alleged conduct results in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges, whereas other alleged conduct – clearly implicating the FCPA – does not result in FCPA charges.

Case in point, the recent DOJ prosecution of Alisa Bivens, a U.S. citizen and former foreign program director of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG – a South Carolina company).  (See here for the DOJ release).  Bivens recently pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. in violation of 18 U.S.C. 317.  As noted in the DOJ release:

“Bivens admitted as part of her plea that she and her co-conspirators submitted fraudulent documents to the State Department to facilitate adoptions of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents from 2006 until 2009.  In support of U.S. visa applications for the Ethiopian children, Bivens and others submitted false documentation, including contracts of adoption signed by orphanages that could not properly give the children up for adoption because, for example, the child in question was never cared for or never resided at the orphanage.”

The DOJ release further states:

“In entering her guilty plea, Bivens also admitted that she and others paid bribes to two Ethiopian officials so that those officials would help with the fraudulent adoptions.   The first of these two foreign officials, an audiologist and teacher at a government school, accepted money and other valuables in exchange for providing non-public medical information and social history information for potential adoptees to the conspirators.   The second foreign official, the head of a regional ministry for women’s and children’s affairs, received money and all-expenses-paid travel in exchange for approving IAG’s applications for intercountry adoptions and for ignoring IAG’s failure to maintain a properly licensed adoption facility.”

Quotable

U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus recently delivered this speech to the APEC Network of Anti-Corruption Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies.  Ambassador Baucus stated:

“The Obama Administration takes a firm stand against American and foreign companies that engage in bribing foreign officials to obtain or retain business.  Other economies here do this as well. In the United States, one of the most effective tools we use to combat corruption is enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  We pursue corruption at many levels:

  • corporations, both big and small;
  • everyone from sales agents to CEOs;
  • U.S. and foreign companies;
  • citizens and foreign nationals; and
  • direct payers and intermediaries.

Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice has taken in $3.4 billion from criminal fines, penalties and forfeitures. And the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has seized another $1 billion of profits obtained by illegal or unethical acts over the last ten years.  As a result, more American companies have changed the way they do business.  Companies are now more willing to voluntarily disclose corrupt behavior and report on solicitations for bribes.”

The last sentence of course is debatable.

Even so, what is not debatable is the following from Ambassador Baucus – “we need to adopt international best practices of transparency and rule of law” in the fight against corruption.

U.S. officials preach this virtue abroad, yet the reality is we need to work on these virtues here at home as well.

As to the rule of law, and as noted in this speech by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker who was the keynote speaker at the International Bar Association’s annual conference:

“There is frank recognition that the combination of a weak rule of law and corruption is not only economically debilitating, but threatening the political health of both new and old democracies. I do not exclude the United States. We think of ourselves as exemplars of the rule of law. We are certainly world champions in the extent of legislation and regulation governing bribery, conflicts of interest, procurement procedures, campaign financing, protection of human rights and most of all, transparency. All of these are ingredients of what some think of as the rule of law. But we still face the sad fact that in the United States itself, only a quarter of Americans believe that corruption is not widespread in our country. My feeling is that the impression of serious corruption has increased further, a reflection largely of the concern that campaign financing has come to gravely distort the political process. Should we be satisfied that we live with a really effective rule of law, when the perceived need for heavy campaign spending has come to dominate our political process? We let those financing practices infringe in a very basic way upon the rule of law, with its sense of even-handedness and openness. Does it not breed behaviour that is accomplished by any reasonable definition of corruption?”

Survey Says

PwC’s 2014 State of Compliance Survey asked:  “Please select your top 3 areas in terms of current perceived level of risk to your business.”  The most popular responses from survey participants were:

  • Industry-specific regulations – 31%
  • Privacy and confidentiality – 25%
  • Bribery/corruption – 22%

FCPA Reform Advocate Nominated to the Federal Bench

Earlier this week, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Haywood Stirling Gilliam, Jr. (Vice-Chair of Covington & Burling’s White Collar Defense and Investigations practice group) to serve on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

As noted in this previous post, in a 2013 Law360 Q&A Gilliam was asked “what aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?” and he stated:

“Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement stands out as an area in need of further reform. Over the past several years, FCPA enforcement has been characterized by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission advancing aggressive enforcement theories, but there have been limited opportunities for courts to scrutinize those theories. Most FCPA enforcement cases end in negotiated resolutions such as deferred prosecution or nonprosecution agreements. In that context, regulators often insist that the settling company or individual accept the government’s expansive theories as a condition of resolving the case.  For example, the DOJ has extracted penalties from non-U.S. based, non-U.S. traded companies not covered under the four corners of the statute by asserting broad theories such as aiding and abetting or conspiracy — even when the foreign entity has not taken any action in the U.S. As a practical matter, that could be a hard case to prove at trial — but the government almost never has to.  The result of this trend has been to enshrine the government’s aggressive enforcement positions as quasi-precedent: The law means what the DOJ and SEC say it means, and defendants (especially publicly traded companies) seldom have a realistic opportunity to push back in court, given the financial and practical costs of fighting a contested enforcement action. Relatively recently, district courts have begun to weigh in on these theories, which is a positive development, but there still is a dearth of FCPA case law as compared to other areas of criminal law.  This absence of settled law makes it challenging for companies to decide how to handle thorny FCPA compliance issues. For example, companies routinely face a difficult choice in deciding whether to self-report potential violations to the government, as opposed to thoroughly investigating and remediating the issues internally. While regulators insist that they will give “meaningful credit” to companies that self-report, the tangible benefits of doing so are far from clear. The recent FCPA resource guide issued by the DOJ and SEC says that the agencies place a “high premium” on self-reporting, but does not give concrete guidance as to how the government weighs self-reporting in deciding whether to charge a case, as opposed to offering a deferred prosecution or nonprosecution agreement, or declining the case outright. While the resource guide is a start, companies and their counsel would benefit from more specific guidance when they are weighing the potential, but uncertain, benefits of disclosure against the cost and distraction that can result from voluntarily handing the government a case that otherwise might not have come to its attention.”

Interesting Homework Assignment

Professors are supposed to give homework, not receive homework.

Yet, as highlighted in this Corporate Crime Reporter article, Professor Brandon Garrett (UVA) recently received a homework assignment from a federal court judge.

The assignment:  “to appear in [a] case as an amicus curiae for the limited purpose of providing the Court with advocacy on questions regarding the scope of the Court’s authority, if any, to consider the fairness and reasonableness of a deferred prosecution in deciding whether to accept or reject such an agreement.”

As noted in the Corporate Crime Reporter article, the DPA is between the DOJ and Saena Tech, a defense contractor and grew out of a domestic bribery investigation.

To say the least, I look forward to reviewing Professor Garrett’s homework and so should you.

Scrutiny Alerts

Och-Ziff

Bloomberg goes in-depth in this article “The Hedge Fund and the Despot” concerning Och-Ziff’s relationships in Zimbabwe and the company’s overall scrutiny.

Barclays

Previous posts (here) have detailed Barclay’s scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic regarding its business relationships with various Middle Eastern investors.

Reuters reports

“Britain’s fraud prosecutor could decide as soon as next month whether to charge former Barclays executives over undisclosed payments the bank made to Qatari investors in 2008.”

According to the article, “U.S. authorities are also investigating the same Barclays’ Qatari commercial agreements and whether third-party relationships breached anti-bribery rules.”

Reading Stack

From Bloomberg, an in-depth look at  the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and its relationships with various companies in the financial services industry which has resulted in FCPA scrutiny.

Informative article here titled “Land of Confusion:  Insurance Coverage for Pre-Suit FCPA Investigation Costs Under D&O Liability Policies.”

An interesting front-page read here from the Wall Street Journal regarding China’s anti-corruption crackdown.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Enforcement agency speeches, “foreign official” delay, and for reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Enforcement Agency Speeches

This prior post detailed comments by Mary Jo White prior to becoming SEC Chairman.

Last week, White spoke before the Investment Company Institute on the general topic of the SEC’s role in an increasingly global financial and regulatory system.  She stated as follows (see here) concerning the SEC’s enforcement of the FCPA.

“Of course, misrepresentations and other unlawful actions travel in both directions across borders, which is another reason why our partnership with our regulatory counterparts abroad is so important.  Among the most prominent concerns in this regard is bribery by U.S. companies overseas, which not only undermines international markets and governments but also simultaneously undermines the reporting and disclosure integrity of our own markets.  Thus, strong and fair enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials, has been and will continue to be a priority for us. Our first objective is to help companies avoid FCPA violations by educating them. And so our staff along with our colleagues at the Department of Justice recently published a comprehensive Guide to the FCPA to give clear guidance and clear up some myths.  Of course, the other side of education is deterrence.  Deterrence can mean strong enforcement actions with tough disgorgement and penalties.  But it can also mean the tangible benefits that come with cooperation – as demonstrated by the Non-Prosecution Agreement with Ralph Lauren Corporation we announced in April. In this particular case, the corporation’s Argentine subsidiary paid bribes to government and customs officials to improperly secure the importation of their products into the country.  The bribes occurred during a period when the U.S. parent company lacked meaningful anti-corruption compliance and control mechanisms over its foreign subsidiary.  The misconduct came to light as a result of the company’s efforts to improve internal controls and compliance.  And the company immediately reported the problem to the SEC and provided exceptional assistance to our investigation. Successful FCPA cases also increasingly require assistance from foreign law enforcement authorities.  That is why we recently partnered with the DOJ and FBI in conducting a foreign bribery training program that provided intensive training to 130 foreign investigators and prosecutors from 30 countries, many on which the SEC staff relies for mutual legal assistance in FCPA cases.”

Yesterday, Daniel Suleiman (DOJ Deputy Chief of Staff for the Criminal Division) spoke at the Minnesota Bar Association’s Annual International Business Law Institute.  (See here).  Suleiman offered “some views from the U.S. Department of Justice on the topic of anti-corruption enforcement” and “what the Justice Department is doing in the area of criminal enforcement to fight corruption at home and abroad.”  He stated, in pertinent part, as follows.

“I think of our anti-corruption efforts as falling into three principal buckets:  number one is criminal prosecution; number two is assisting foreign countries to build up their judicial, prosecutorial, and investigative institutions; and number three is the pursuit, through civil actions, of the proceeds of foreign official corruption.  I will discuss each of these buckets in turn.

First and foremost, the Criminal Division is a litigating operation.  We investigate and prosecute cases.  Our corruption prosecutions are of two kinds:  we prosecute corruption by domestic officials, and we prosecute foreign bribery offenses under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA.”

[…]

“[W]e have an incredibly strong team of prosecutors who focus exclusively on enforcing the FCPA.  Depending upon how familiar you are with FCPA enforcement, you may know that the Criminal Division is the entity in the United States with primary responsibility for criminal enforcement of the Act.  It is Justice Department policy that no FCPA prosecution can be brought without authorization from the Criminal Division, which distinguishes FCPA prosecutions from most other kinds of federal criminal cases.  The Securities and Exchange Commission, which is a few blocks up the street from us, has primary responsibility for the Act’s civil enforcement.”

“Foreign bribery enforcement has for a long time been an important aspect of U.S. policy.  The FCPA was enacted roughly 35 years ago, around the same time that our Public Integrity Section was created to focus on public corruption prosecutions, and it was the first effort of any nation to specifically criminalize the act of bribing foreign officials.  The statute was enacted in the wake of the Watergate scandal, but it took more than 20 years for the Act to become a strong enforcement tool.  And, over the past several years, the Justice Department has substantially increased its enforcement of the Act.”

“One important aspect of our FCPA enforcement involves, of course, our corporate resolutions.  We have collected billions of dollars in criminal fines and penalties to resolve FCPA investigations against companies doing business abroad, including BizJet International Sales and Support Inc., a Lufthansa subsidiary; Alcatel-Lucent; Johnson & Johnson; and many others.”

“But another, critically important aspect of our enforcement regime involves holding individuals responsible for FCPA offenses.  There is no greater deterrent to corporate crime than the prospect of prison time.  As many have recognized, if people don’t go to prison, then enforcement can come to be seen as merely the cost of doing business.  In the past four years, the Criminal Division’s FCPA Unit has obtained over three dozen criminal convictions of individuals, including of people who have been sentenced to as many as 15 years in prison.”

“We are as active today in this area as we have ever been.  In the past month alone, we have announced charges against several key defendants in ongoing, active FCPA investigations.  In mid-April, in a case that we are prosecuting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, we secured the arrest of a defendant in connection with an alleged bribery scheme to secure mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.  In a separate case, which we are prosecuting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, we also secured the arrest last month of a defendant in connection with an alleged bribery scheme to secure power contracts in Indonesia.  And just two days ago, together with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, we announced charges against two broker-dealer employees and a senior Venezuelan banking official for engaging in a multi-million dollar bribery scheme.”

[…]

“Finally, I want to tell you about a relatively new Justice Department initiative.  About three-and-a-half years ago, Attorney General Holder gave a speech in Qatar, at which he pledged to increase the United States’ commitment to recovering foreign corruption proceeds.  Since that time, the Criminal Division has led the charge in developing what we refer to as the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.”

“The initiative’s purpose is to identify the proceeds of foreign official corruption – in other words, the spoils – forfeit them through civil actions, and, to the extent possible, repatriate the forfeited funds for the benefit of the people harmed. In most criminal prosecutions, a court can order forfeiture, upon conviction, as part of the defendant’s sentence.  Often, however, it may be impractical or impossible to bring a criminal prosecution against a particular person – because that person is immune from prosecution, for example, beyond our jurisdiction, or otherwise unavailable.  In these circumstances, we have begun bringing civil forfeiture actions to recover the stolen property.”

“We have brought several Kleptocracy cases in the past couple of years, and forfeited millions of dollars in corrupt proceeds.  The most high-profile of our Kleptocracy cases to date involves two civil actions we have brought against approximately $70 million in assets allegedly belonging to a government minister in Equatorial Guinea who is also the son of that country’s president.  According to court papers, despite an official government salary of less than $100,000 per year, this minister amassed wealth of over $100 million.  Among the items we are seeking to forfeit are nearly $2 million worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia (including the white glove), a Gulfstream G-V jet worth $38.5 million, and a $30 million house in Malibu.  These are hard, and hard-fought, cases, but we believe strongly that foreign officials who amass wealth through corruption should not be permitted to use the United States as a haven for their ill-gotten gains.”

“Foreign Official” Delay

Oral argument in the “foreign official” challenge pending in the 11th Circuit – originally scheduled for later this month, has been postponed until the week of October 7th.

This is a historic appeal in that it will be the first instance in which a circuit court directly confronts the enforcement theory that employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled entities are “foreign officials” under the FCPA (see here for a prior post, including embedded links).

Scrutiny Alerts

For more on Barclay’s scrutiny, on both sides of the Atlantic, see this recent article in Middle East Monitor concerning the bank’s relationship with the Abu Dhabi government, including Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

Samuel Rubenfeld (Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance Journal) has the latest (here) regarding BSG Resources Ltd. a Guernsey-based company in the news after Frederic Cilins, a French citizen associated with the company, was recently arrested and accused of attempting to obstruct an ongoing investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.  (See here for the prior post).  As noted in the WSJ article, BSG recently released this detailed statement concerning its conduct in Guinea.

Reading Stack

Several articles of interest to pass along from last week’s Corporate Crime Reporter conferenceThis article details comments made by Denis McInerney (DOJ Criminal Division Deputy Assistant Attorney General) regarding non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements.  This article details comments made by McInerney concerning my suggested two-step reform plan (see here for the prior post) and also details McInerney’s response to my question concerning the definition of a declination.  Articles here and here concern corporate monitors.

*****

Over the years, Bloomberg’s David Glovin has written some excellent articles concerning Viktor Kozney, Frederic Bourke, et al.  With Bourke soon to report to prison, Glovin pens another great article here.

*****

This prior post discussed the NY Times recent “With Bags of Cash, CIA Seeks Influence in Afghanistan” story and how the story put our stark double standards in the headlines once again.  More recently, the NY Times reports (here) as follows. “[Afghan President] Karzai said he had called a meeting […] with the CIA’s Kabul station chief. “I told him because of all these rumors in the media, please do not cut all this money, because we really need it,” he said. “We want to continue this sort of assistance, and he promised that they are not going to cut this money.”  For more on the situation, including the views of others, see here from Alison Frankel’s On the Case column.

*****

See here from Josh Goodman (an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission) titled “The Anti-Corruption and Antitrust Connection.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

A prosecutorial common law defeat, the SEC repeats its prior positions, better but not good, document issues, and recent scrutiny news.

Prosecutorial Common Law Defeat

One of the best guest posts in FCPA Professor history was this 2011 post from Michael Levy in which he described the concept of prosecutorial common law.  Prosecutorial common law is all around us.  Take a look at the footnotes of the recent FCPA Guidance – most of the “authority” cited for “legal” propositions is DOJ or SEC settlements.

For obvious reasons, prosecutorial common law does not sit well with federal court judges.  For instance, in U.S. v. Bodmer, Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York, in rejecting the DOJ’s position that the FCPA’s criminal penalty provisions applied to a foreign national prior to the 1998 FCPA amendments, noted as follows – “the Government’s charging decision, standing alone, does not establish the applicability of the statute.”  Likewise as noted in this previous post about the Giffen enforcement action, Judge William Pauley of the Southern District of New York stated that prosecutorial common law “is not the kind or quality of precedent this Court need consider.”

Prosecutorial common law recently suffered a major defeat when the Second Circuit, in a non-FCPA case, rejected (see here for the opinion)  a DOJ theory of prosecution concerning off-label promotion of drugs that it has previously used to secure billions (yes that is a “b”) in recent settlements with pharmaceutical companies.

Commenting on this recent development, Levy stated as follows.  “It is amazing to me how consistently this pattern seems to repeat but, given the incentives on both sides, I don’t really see any structural solutions that would change it.”

For additional reading, see this client alert from Debevoise & Plimpton, this client alert from Arnold & Porter, and this client alert from Gibson Dunn.

SEC Responds to Magyar Telekom Execs Motion to Dismiss

Given the SEC’s positions in its recent response to Herbert Steffen’s motion to dismiss (see here for the prior post), it comes as little surprise that the SEC is taking the same positions in its response to the motion to dismiss filed by former Magyar Telecom executives Elek Straub, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai.

In its response brief (here), the SEC states, in summary form, as follows.

“The defendants move to dismiss the complaint, arguing that (1) the Court lacks personal jurisdiction; (2) the SEC’s claims are time-barred; (3) the complaint fails to allege facts supporting the SEC’s anti-bribery claims; and (4) the complaint fails to allege facts supporting the SEC’s lying to auditors claims. The Court should deny the motion on all four grounds.

First, the defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction because their conduct caused foreseeable consequences in the United States. The complaint alleges that the defendants orchestrated a bribery scheme in Macedonia; that they concealed their bribes through the use of sham contracts and falsified books and records; that they lied to Magyar’s auditors by signing false annual and quarterly certifications; and that their actions caused Magyar to file annual and quarterly reports with the SEC in the United States that misrepresented the company’s financial statements and included false Sarbanes-Oxley certifications.

Second, the complaint was timely filed within the statute of limitations set forth at 28 U.S.C. § 2462. That provision expressly states that the limitations period does not begin to run until the defendants are “found within the United States.” The defendants acknowledge in their brief that they have remained outside of the United States since their commission of this scheme. Thus, the statute of limitations period has not begun to run as to them. In any event, claims for equitable relief are not subject to the limitations period of Section 2462, which by its terms applies only to “penalties.”

Third, the complaint pleads all facts necessary to support every element of every claim against the defendants.  The defendants met the “interstate commerce” prong of Exchange Act Section 30A, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1, by sending, in furtherance of their bribery scheme, electronic mail messages that were routed through servers located in the United States. Because the use of interstate commerce is a jurisdictional element, the Exchange Act does not require that defendants know, let alone “corruptly” intend, that their messages would reach the United States. The complaint sufficiently identifies the foreign officials whom the defendants bribed; Section 30A does not require that the officials be expressly named. And the complaint sufficiently identifies the specific false statements made by each defendant to Magyar’s auditors and why those statements were material.”

Of particular note as to “foreign official,” the SEC makes the sweeping statement that “there is no requirement under the FCPA or in the case law interpreting it that the SEC’s complaint [needs to] identify bribed foreign officials by name.”  The SEC then states in a footnote as follows.  “Any such requirement would be completely at odds with the FCPA’s statutory scheme. […]  By its very structure, [the anti-bribery provisions were] drafted to prohibit corrupt transactions in which the precise identity of a government official might not be known even to the payor.”

As noted in this previous post, the SEC is asserting the same “foreign official” position in the Mark Jackson / James Ruehlen challenge.  Oral arguments are to take place today on that motion in Houston.

It should be noted that in the DOJ’s unsuccessful prosecution of John O’Shea, Judge Hughes stated as follows.  “[W]hile the Government does not have to trace a particular dollar to a particular pocket of a particular official, it has to connect the payment to a particular official, that the funds made under his authority to a foreign official, who can be identified in some reasonable way, that is, with no reasonable doubt.” Judge Hughes also stated as follows.  “You can’t convict a man promising to pay unless you have a particular promise to a particular person for a particular benefit. If you call up the [intermediary] and say, look, I’m going to send you 50 grand, bribe somebody, that does not meet the statute.”

Corruption Perception Index

Transparency International (“TI”) recently released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI”) (see here).  The CPI ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be and is a composite index drawing on corruption-related data collected by a variety of reputable institutions and reflecting the views of observers from around the world including experts living and working in the countries/territories evaluated.

The top three (very clean) countries in the CPI were Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. The bottom three (highly corrupt) countries were Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia.

The United States placed 19th on the list of 176 countries.  While this is better than last year’s 24th place finish, as noted in this prior post it’s a bit ironic that as the U.S. aggressively expands its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement theories, the U.S. remains far from the top of the CPI.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer recently spoke of the U.S. FCPA enforcement effort in religious terms (“we in the United States are in a unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption, because there is no country that enforces its anti-bribery laws more vigorously than we do”), yet CPI’s rankings should again cause pause as to our claimed moral superiority.

Document Issues

I am not one to usually highlight FCPA Inc. marketing material, but I thought this video clip from e-discovery firm H5 was instructive as to many of the document issues involved in an FCPA investigation.  The enforcement agencies have commented from time to time that FCPA Inc. has a tendency to sometimes over do it in this area, but be that as it may – data collection, data storage, data analysis, etc. are among the reasons why FCPA investigations often soar into the millions.

Recent Scrutiny News

Rolls-Royce

Reuters reports (here) that Rolls-Royce, the world’s second-largest maker of aircraft engines “said the [U.K. Serious Fraud Office] had asked it to conduct an internal inquiry into dealings involving intermediaries in China, Indonesia and other overseas markets.”  According to the report, “a source close to the investigation said the allegations relate to events in the “distant past” and Rolls-Royce had told the U.S. Department of Justice about the inquiry.”

As noted in this previous post, in June, Data Systems & Solutions, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rolls-Royce Holdings, resolved an FCPA enforcement action.

Barclays

Reuters also reports (here) that a previously disclosed DOJ and SEC “investigation into whether Barclays Plc paid bribes to win a banking license in Saudi Arabia has spread to other banks that operate in the region.”

Net 1

Earlier this week, Net 1 UEPS Technologies Inc. disclosed in an SEC filing (here) as follows.

“On November 30, 2012, we received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division (the “DOJ”) informing us that the DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have begun an investigation into whether Net 1 UEPS Technologies, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including their officers, directors, employees, and agents (collectively, “Net 1”) and other persons and entities possibly affiliated with Net 1 violated provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other U.S. federal criminal laws by engaging in a scheme to make corrupt payments to officials of the Government of South Africa in connection with securing a contract with the South African Social Security Agency to provide social welfare and benefits payments and also engaged in violations of the federal securities laws in connection with statements made by Net 1 in its SEC filings regarding this contract. On the same date, we received a letter from the Division of Enforcement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) advising us that it is also conducting an investigation concerning our company. The SEC letter states that the investigation is a non-public, fact-finding inquiry.”

In this additional release, the company states as follows.

“These investigations appear to be directed at matters which are similar to those that were the subject of articles which appeared in various South African newspapers after AllPay Consolidated Investment Holdings (Pty) Limited (“AllPay”) instituted legal proceeding in the South African courts to set aside the contract awarded to us in January 2012 by SASSA. AllPay was an unsuccessful bidder for the SASSA contract.”

News of the company’s FCPA scrutiny caused the company’s U.S. listed shares to plunge approximately 58%.  This of course caused several plaintiff law firms to announce investigations of their own.  See here, here, and here.  In the meantime, the company’s shares have risen 46%.

It’s an FCPA world.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Motion to dismiss filed in the former Magyar Telekom execs case, a noticeable lack of FCPA charges, checking in on recent disclosures, quotable from the current SEC FCPA Unit Chief, quotable regarding FCPA Inc., what’s up with that investigation, I hear you travel alot, there’s an app for that, counter-points, and for the weekend reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Motion to Dismiss Filed in SEC Enforcement Action

This previous post highlighted how former Magyar Telekom executives Elek Straub, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai planned to challenge the SEC’s charges against them.  Earlier this week, the defendants filed this memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss.

In summary fashion, the memorandum states as follows.

“There are several bases for dismissing the complaint.

 First, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The complaint alleges conduct by foreign national defendants that occurred wholly outside, and with no nexus to, the United States. Nowhere does the complaint allege that defendants purposefully directed their conduct at the United States. Following constitutional due process principles, the defendants lack the requisite minimum contacts with the forum, and it would be inconsistent with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice to require them to defend this action in the United States. Indeed, the SEC has acknowledged that its jurisdictional position lacks precedent “on all fours factually” and “may be breaking new ground[.]”

“Second, the SEC’s claims are time-barred […]  There is no doubt that the complaint was filed outside the five-year period. Specifically, the complaint was filed on December 29, 2011, more than five years after all three defendants had left Magyar Telekom, and more than five years after the alleged conduct occurred. Consequently, the five-year period has expired.”

“Third, with regard to the remaining claims, the complaint fails to adequately state the claims alleged. More specifically, the complaint: (i) fails to adequately plead that the defendants corruptly made use of interstate commerce, as is required to state a claim for bribery and the claims stemming from the alleged bribery under the FCPA (books and records and internal controls violations, falsifying books and records, and lying to auditors); (ii) fails to adequately plead that the intended payment recipients were “foreign official[s]” under the FCPA; (iii) fails to allege sufficient facts supporting the aiding and abetting claims; and (iv) fails to meet the heightened pleading requirements under Rule 9, including allegations of individualized culpable conduct by each defendant. The complaint also merely parrots the statutory language and fails to allege that the defendants profited personally from any of the alleged conduct. For all these reasons, the complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.”

As to “foreign official” the motion states that the complaint’s reference to “officials” “government officials” and other vague allegations represent “mere legal conclusions that the recipients were “foreign officials” under the FCPA.  The motion states as follows.  “A legal conclusion couched as a ‘factual allegation’ is insufficient to establish the essential element that the intended recipient be a foreign official.  Repeated references to “government officials” without underlying facts presents nothing ‘more than labels and conclusions’ that constitute ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.””

Indeed, in my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (here) I noted the frequency in which enforcement agency FCPA pleadings “contain little more than uninformative, bare-bones statement of facts replete with legal conclusions.”  I said that the “most common and troubling use of bare-bones, uninformative, legal conclusory statements of facts or allegations is when the enforcement agencies describe the ‘foreign officials’ involved in the alleged conduct giving rising to the FCPA violation.”  In the article, I noted that because there is generally no threat that these bare-boned, uninformative facts or legal conclusions will ever be subject to meaningful judicial scrutiny, that the enforcement agencies get away with such practices.

At least until recently.

Noticeable Lack of FCPA Charges

Numerous FCPA enforcement actions have been based on allegations of payments to foreign customs personnel in connection with customs, license, permit type issues.

Thus, the lack of FCPA charges were noticeable in the DOJ’s recent criminal indictment of APEGO Inc., and various of is employees and agents.  As noted in this recent DOJ Release (N.D. of Georgia), charges were filed alleging conspiracy and twelve counts of importing notebooks and filler paper from China using false  documents.

The indictment (here) includes the following allegations.

“It was further part of the conspiracy that [certain individuals] paid bribes to Taiwanese customs officials on behalf of defendants APEGO and Gung to allow U.S.-bound lined paper products made by the Watanabe Group in China but lacking required country of origin labels, or mislabeled ‘Made in Taiwan,’ to enter Taiwan from China and clear Taiwanese customs.”

Elsewhere, the indictment alleges: (i) that in December 2006 various bribes were paid to Taiwanese customs officials which “allowed defendant APEGO to transship these products from Taiwan to the United States more quickly and less expensively by limiting the need to ‘rework’ the products and cartons (i.e. relable ‘Made in Taiwan’) in Taiwan”; (ii) that in March 2007 when customs officials at a certain Taiwan port no longer accepted bribes, the company arranged for its shipments to be processed through another port in a different part of the country where bribes were paid for the same purpose

Recent Disclosures

Owens-Illinois

Owens-Illinois, Inc. (an Ohio based company that describes itself as the world’s largest glass container manufacturer and preferred partner for many of the world’s leading food and beverage brands) recently disclosed as follows.

“The Company is conducting an internal investigation into conduct in certain of its overseas operations that may have violated the antibribery provisions of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, the Company’s own internal policies, and various local laws. In October 2012, the Company voluntarily disclosed these matters to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Company intends to cooperate with any investigation by the DOJ and the SEC. The Company is presently unable to predict the duration, scope or result of its internal investigation, of any investigations by the DOJ or the SEC or whether either agency will commence any legal action. The DOJ and the SEC have a broad range of civil and criminal sanctions under the FCPA and other laws and regulations including, but not limited to, injunctive relief, disgorgement, fines, penalties, and modifications to business practices. The Company also could be subject to investigation and sanctions outside the United States. While the Company is currently unable to quantify the impact of any potential sanctions or remedial measures, it does not expect such actions will have a material adverse effect on the Company’s liquidity, results of operations or financial condition.”

Given the recent FCPA scrutiny of the beverage industry (Diageo, Beam Inc., and Central European Distribution Company) one might wonder whether Owens-Illinois’s recent disclosure is connected to those developments.

Barclays

This previous post detailed how Barclays PLC’s relationship with Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund was under scrutiny by U.K. authorities.

The company recently disclosed (here) as follows.  “Subsequent to reporting the investigations of the Financial Services Authority and Serious Fraud Office in July and August 2012 respectively, Barclays has been informed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that they are undertaking an investigation into whether the Group’s relationships with third parties who assist Barclays to win or retain business are compliant with the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Barclays is investigating and fully co-operating with the DOJ and SEC.”

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, the focus is “on Barclay’s use of external brokers who facilitated meetings between bank officials and powerful Middle Eastern families.”  The article further notes that “Barclays recently started conducting an internal investigation, with the help of an outside law firm, to figure out whether it or its Middle Eastern introducers might have run afoul” of the FCPA.

Schlumberger

The company recently disclosed as follows.

“In 2007, Schlumberger received an inquiry from the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) related to the DOJ’s investigation of whether certain freight forwarding and customs clearance services of Panalpina, Inc., and other companies provided to oil and oilfield service companies, including Schlumberger, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In October 2012, Schlumberger was advised by the DOJ that it has closed its inquiry as it relates to Schlumberger.”

For more on the numerous Panalpina-related enforcement actions – what I’ve termed CustomsGate – see here.

The company’s recent disclosure would seem not to address the issues previously the focus of a front-page Wall Street Journal article in October 2010 concerning alleged conduct in Yemen.  (See here for the prior post).

Quotable

In this recent Reuters article, current SEC FCPA Unit Chief Kara Brockmeyer stated as follows.

“I would hate to think the companies view [FCPA] enforcement actions as the cost of doing business.  If we find that out, it will certainly increase the size of the penalty.”

One thing that is becoming increasingly clear in this new era of FCPA enforcement is that investors do appear to view FCPA scrutiny and enforcement actions as a cost of doing business and akin to a regulatory violation.

The Reuters article also stated that there has yet to be a repeat FCPA prosecution.  This is a false statement.  Companies that have resolved more than one FCPA enforcement action over time include: Tyco, ABB, Baker Hughes and General Electric.

Quotable

On his Corruption, Crime & Compliance site (here) Michael Volkov recently observed as follows.

“The FCPA Paparazzi has done a great disservice to the business community.  Call it a complete lack of credibility.  Legal marketing has become confused in this day and age – marketing has now been turned into the “Fear Factor,” meaning that lawyers need to scare potential clients into hiring them.  That is flat out wrong.   Each week, new client alerts, client warnings and other cries of impending disaster are transmitted through the Internet to businesses.  If I were a general counsel, I would have them on “auto delete.”  Talk about a waste of time and effort.”

What’s Up With That Investigation?

One of the many FCPA industry sweeps reportedly underway concerns Hollywood movie industry in China.  (See here for the prior post).  This recent post on the New York Times Media Decoder blog highlights the “powerful gatekeeper of China’s rapidly growing film world, the China Film Group chairman Han Sanping who was recently in the U.S. to receive a China Entertainment Visionary of the Year award, and asks what’s up with the investigation.

I Hear You Travel Alot

My frequent searches for FCPA content often turn up interesting content.  Such as this thread from top-law-schools.com which asks what type of attorneys get to travel the most?  One response was as follows.   “From what I hear, FCPA is the way to go for travel to other countries because you have lots of interviews of foreign employees.”

The FCPA is certainly the reason for the majority of stamps in my passport.

Counter-Points

Alexandra Wrage (President of Trace International) made some observations recently in her Corporate Counsel column (here) about FCPA enforcement in various Presidential administrations.  While interesting to think about, the actual stats have little substantive value.  Instances of FCPA scrutiny tend to last between 2-4 years (and thus straddle administrations) and various instances of FCPA scrutiny (for instance Pfizer) can last approximately 8 years.  Moreover, rather than “aggressively enforce the FCPA,” as the article notes, what the enforcement agencies more often than not actually do (as evidenced by statistics demonstrating which enforcement actions resulted from voluntary disclosures) is process corporate voluntary disclosures.

There’s An App for That

Law firm O’Melveny & Myers announced (here) the “launch of its FCPA app, the first multi-functional mobile application (app) created by a law firm.”  Richard Grime, partner and head of O’Melveny’s FCPA practice stated as follows.  “We understand the complexities our clients and colleagues face in achieving their business goals in the global marketplace, and thus, have created this mobile application as a fast, yet informative, way for them to remain current with the evolving statutes and provisions imposed by the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws.”

Weekend Reading

Sidley & Austin recently released its Anti-Corruption Quarterly (here).  Among other articles is one focused on the new “sheriff in town.”

The article states as follows.

“Investigating potential violations of the FCPA historically has been the purview of the SEC and the DOJ, but recently, Congress has entered the fray. Two House committees, the House Oversight and House Energy committees, recently instituted an independent FCPA investigation of Wal-Mart, after a New York Times article reported on an alleged massive bribery campaign at Wal-Mart’s Mexican affiliate. These House investigations mean that companies now have to consider the possibility of facing a congressional investigation—in addition to investigations by the SEC and the DOJ—when FCPA violations have occurred.”

The article further states as follows.

“Although congressional committees routinely investigate companies, the current congressional investigation into Wal-Mart is the first investigation in the FCPA context and it may signal the beginning of a trend: high-profile companies or companies that are drawn into political fights (often unwillingly) may find themselves the target of a congressional inquiry if their FCPA problems become public. Whatever effect the congressional investigation may have on Wal-Mart, the possibility of such an investigation is a factor that high-profile companies facing FCPA concerns should weigh.”

For more on Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny, see my recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement As Seen Through Wal-Mart’s Potential Exposure” (here).

Miller Chevalier also recently released its FCPA Autumn Review – see here.

Morrison Foerster also recently released its End of Summer Round-Up – see here.

This recent Jones Day publication concerning upcoming FCPA Guidance contains the following paragraph that should be read by those who simply label companies that have resolved FCPA enforcement actions or are the subject of FCPA scrutiny as bad or corrupt companies.

“It is the job of a prosecutor to make charging decisions and to decide in the first instance what does and does not violate the law. As prosecutors and enforcement attorneys assess the facts to make charging decisions, they are compelled to view the world, therefore, in binary terms: black and white, right and wrong. As defense counsel, settlement discussions with our counterparts in the DOJ and SEC frequently hinge on which side of the line the conduct sits. Particularly for those of us who served as prosecutors, we acknowledge in these discussions the difficult mission of the enforcement officials to draw and defend lines. The world of business, however, frequently operates in territory that is somewhat grey: a world in which business persons strive to grow the company ethically in situations where the application of the existing rules are not entirely clear. For instance, in the current era of FCPA enforcement, international businesses struggle with their responsibilities to monitor and control the conduct of third parties with whom they do business: distributors and sub-distributors, joint venture partners, dealers, and resellers. Even for companies that are firmly dedicated to compliance with the FCPA, is not always clear when a third party amounts to an agent whose improper conduct might someday be ascribed to the company and its employees. Good and ethical companies struggle, every day, with the concept of defining an agent of the company as opposed to an independent customer who engages in an arm’s-length transaction to purchase the company’s products.”

*****
A good weekend to all.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes