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Issues To Consider From The Telia Enforcement Action

Issues

This previous post went in-depth into the Telia Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action which contemplates a net $483 million settlement (after accounting for various credits and deductions for contemplated Swedish and Dutch enforcement actions) – the 5th largest net FCPA settlement of all-time.

Set forth below are several additional issues to consider from the enforcement action.

No Books and Records Findings

Off the top of my head, I can recall only one prior instance (BNY Mellon) of an SEC FCPA enforcement action not involving books and records violations or findings. The Telia action is the second instance which is odd given that the SEC found that the “bribe payments were funneled through payments for sham lobbying and consulting services to a front company controlled by the official.”

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The Chiquita Enforcement Action – A Bunch Of Bananas With A Slippery Origin

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

If you think strict liability enforcement of the FCPA books and records and internal controls provisions is a recent invention, think again.

If you think off-the-rails FCPA enforcement (that is enforcement theories seemingly in conflict with actual legal authority) is a recent invention, think again.

A dubious FCPA enforcement action occurred in 2001 when the SEC announced this administrative cease and desist order finding that Chiquita Brands International Inc. violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

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A Case Study In Risk Aversion Or What Happens When Defendants Fight Back

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

Previous posts here and here highlighted the 2001 DOJ/SEC FCPA enforcement action against KPMG Siddharta Siddharta & Harsono (KPMG-SSH) and Sonny Harsono and Baker Hughes regarding alleged improper payments in connection with an Indonesia tax assessment. All of the defendants resolved the enforcement actions without putting the DOJ/SEC to its burden of proof (the risk aversion portion of this post).

However, also in 2001 the SEC charged Eric Mattson (the former CFO of Baker Hughes) and James Harris (the former Controller of Baker Hughes) with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act offenses based on the same substantive allegations. Unlike the other defendants, as highlighted in this post, Mattson and Harris fought back – a process that resulted in a federal court judge dismissing the FCPA charges against them.

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Further To The SEC’s Inconsistent Approach To Enforcing The FCPA’s Books And Records And Internal Controls Provisions

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As highlighted in previous posts on this subject (here and here), a basic rule of law principle is consistency.

In other words, the same legal violation ought to be sanctioned in the same way. When the same legal violation is sanctioned in materially different ways, trust and confidence in law enforcement is diminished.

However, there sure does seem to be a lack of consistency between how the SEC resolves Foreign Corrupt Practices Act books and records and internal controls violations.

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United Airlines Resolves Books And Records And Internal Controls Action Based On Domestic Bribery And The SEC’s Inconsistencies Are Once Again Highlighted

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If the above headline is confusing, you’ve forgotten (as it seems some commentators have) that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is a law much broader than its name suggests.

Because of the FCPA’s generic books and records and internal controls provisions, most FCPA enforcement actions (as a technical matter) do not involve any allegations or findings regarding foreign bribery. (This dynamic – termed non-FCPA FCPA enforcement actions for lack of a better term – has been highlighted in prior posts here, here and here).

Case in point is last week’s SEC enforcement action against United Continental Holdings Inc., the parent company of United Airlines Inc.

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