Scrutiny alert and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
In August 2012, the Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals first disclosed its FCPA scrutiny and in its most recent annual report the company disclosed as follows.
“For several years, we have been conducting a voluntary worldwide investigation into business practices that may have implications under the FCPA. We have engaged outside counsel to assist in the investigation, which was prompted by the receipt, beginning in 2012, of subpoenas and informal document requests from the SEC and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to produce documents with respect to compliance with the FCPA in certain countries. We have provided, and will continue to provide, documents and other information to the SEC and the DOJ, and are cooperating with these agencies in their investigations of these matters. In the course of our investigation, which is continuing, we have identified certain business practices and transactions in Russia, certain Eastern European countries, certain Latin American countries and other countries in which we conduct business, which likely constitute violations of the FCPA and/or local law. In connection with our investigation, we have also become aware that affiliates in certain countries under investigation provided to local authorities inaccurate or altered information relating to marketing or promotional practices. We have brought and continue to bring these issues to the attention of the SEC and the DOJ. Our internal investigation is not complete and additional issues or facts could become known to management as the investigation continues, which may expand the scope or severity of the potential violations and/or extend to additional jurisdictions. Our investigation is expected to continue through the end of 2015, and may continue beyond that date.”
From Shearman & Sterling attorneys in the New York Law Journal “A Bribe Is a Bribe: FCPA’s Influence on International Arbitration.”
“Although bribery investigations conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may appear, at first glance, detached from the world of international arbitration, BSG Resources v. Guinea highlights an issue that practitioners should understand when advising their clients on the potential repercussions of FCPA liability. While practitioners are generally aware of the litigation risks associated with FCPA investigations in the U.S. courts, they would also be well advised in considering the implications that FCPA liability may have on their clients’ recourse to foreign investment protections and bilateral investment treaties, and related international arbitration.”
For additional information on this topic, see this prior guest post.
The attorneys who represented Mark Jackson in SEC. v. Jackson (the SEC’s failed case against Noble executives in connection with Nigerian permits – see here, here, and here for prior posts) ask whether the SEC has written the facilitating payments exception out of the FCPA? The article states:
“Last summer, a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleging Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations against two individuals related to Noble Corporation, a global oil and gas drilling services company, nearly went to trial in federal court in Texas. SEC v. Jackson and Ruehlen, No. 12-cv-563 (S.D. Tex.). […] As one of the only civil FCPA cases to proceed to that stage of litigation, the case provided unique insights into the SEC’s interpretation of key provisions of the FCPA. The case ultimately settled on very favorable terms for the individuals, but the SEC’s position on the facilitating payments exception to the FCPA was a notable departure from its own stated guidance and may herald a renewed attempt by the SEC to further narrow the exception to the point of irrelevance.”
“Due to the settlement [in the case], the court never had the opportunity to rule on the fate of the FCPA’s facilitating-payments exception under the SEC’s newfound interpretation. But the SEC’s position on this issue signals a shift in policy toward the practical elimination of the exception. If the SEC continues down the road established in this case, it will be interesting to examine whether courts accept the SEC’s position eliminating the exception. However, since most FCPA cases are not litigated, the SEC may seek to push its novel interpretation into law, without approval by the courts, by including it in settlement agreements going forward. Counsel should be aware of this effort and, where possible and appropriate, resist the SEC’s efforts to rewrite the law.”
My own two cents on the issue is consistent with other observations, and that is yes, the enforcement agencies have largely read facilitating payments out of the FCPA, along with the corrupt intent element in many cases.
Much has been written about the recently leaked records from HSBC, including this piece regarding Jeffrey Tesler’s role in the Bonny Island, Nigeria bribery cases (4 out of 10 cases in the top ten in terms of FCPA settlements). According to the article:
“Leaked records from HSBC, a huge global bank based in London, reveal new details about the bank’s role as a conduit for the bribes — and new details about how Tesler operated. The files, obtained by the French newspaper Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, show ties between Tesler and high-ranking Nigerians not previously named publicly in connection with the scandal, raising the possibility of renewed questions about Nigeria’s handling of the affair.”
The files obtained by Le Monde and ICIJ show that nine people, including members of the Tesler family and Nigerian nationals, held a variety of roles with accounts at HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) between 1990 and 2003 — months before the completion of the gas plant. Nine of the 12 accounts instructed HSBC to keep all correspondence under lock and key in a bank safe.
Despite Tesler being under investigation since 2003, HSBC continued to offer advice, services and cash withdrawals to Tesler and his family, whose accounts with the bank totaled tens of millions of dollars at one point in 2006/2007. HSBC advised the family even though its individual files for Tesler and those close to him include references to “criminal cases” and “the Tesler affair.”
A good weekend to all.