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Next Up – Pfizer

First it was Johnson & Johnson (see here – $70 million in combined fines and penalties in April 2011).  Then it was Smith & Nephew (see here – $22 million in combined fines and penalties in February 2012).  Then it was Biomet (see here – $22.8 million in combined fines and penalties in March 2012).  The latest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement based on the enforcement theory that various foreign health care providers are “foreign officials”  is Pfizer / Wyeth (an entity acquired by Pfizer in 2009).

Total fines and penalties in the Pfizer / Wyeth enforcement action are approximately $60 million ($15 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $45 million via separate settled SEC civil complaints against Pfizer and Wyeth).  This post goes long and deep as to the DOJ’s and SEC’s allegations and resolution documents (approximately 100 pages in total).

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against Pfizer H.C.P. Corp. (an indirectly wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer Inc.) resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

The criminal information begins with a description of Pfizer HCP and notes that during the relevant time period it “operated in several international markets through representative officers, including offices in Bulgaria, Croatia, and Kazakhstan, as well as through contracts with Russian distributors and employees of a representative officer of Pfizer HCP’s parent company in Moscow (‘Pfizer Russia’).”  According to the information, “books and records of Pfizer HCP … were consolidated into the books and records of Pfizer for purposes of preparing Pfizer’s year-end financial statements” filed with the SEC.

The information alleges, in summary fashion, as follows.

“The manufacture, registration, distribution, sale, and prescription of pharmaceuticals were highly-regulated activities throughout the world. While there were multinational regulatory schemes, it was typical that each country established its own regulatory structure at a local, regional, and/or national level. These regulatory structures generally required the registration of pharmaceuticals and regulated labeling and advertising. Additionally, in certain countries, the government established lists of pharmaceuticals. that were approved for government reimbursement or otherwise determined those pharmaceuticals that might be purchased by government institutions. Moreover, countries often regulated the interactions between pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, pharmacies, and healthcare professionals. In those countries with national healthcare system, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies were generally agencies or instrumentalities of foreign governments, and, thus, many of the healthcare professionals employed by these agencies and instrumentalities were foreign officials within the meaning of the FCPA. During the relevant period, for the purpose of improperly influencing foreign officials in connection with regulatory and formulary approvals, purchase decisions, prescription decisions, and customs clearance, employees of Pfizer HCP and Pfizer Russia made and authorized the making of payments of cash and the provision of other things of value both directly and through third parties. Funds for these payments were often generated by employees of Pfizer HCP and Pfizer Russia through the use of collusive vendors to create fraudulent invoices.”

The information charges two counts: (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records provisions and (ii) substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations.  The conduct at issue took place between 1997 and 2006 and focuses on payments to alleged “foreign officials” as listed below “in exchange for improper business advantages for Pfizer HCP, including the approval of pharmaceutical products and increased sales of pharmaceutical products.”

Croatian Official (a citizen of the Republic of Croatia who held official positions on government committees in Croatia and had influence over decisions concerning the registration and reimbursement of Pfizer products marketed and sold in the country).

Russian Official 1 (a citizen of the Russian Federation who was a medical doctor employed by a public hospital who had influence over the Russian government’s purchase and prescription of Pfizer products marketed and sold in the country).

Russian Official 2 (a citizen of the Russian Federation who was a high-ranking government official who held official positions on government committees in Russia and had influence over decisions concerning the reimbursement of Pfizer products marketed and sold in the country).

Russian Official 3 (a citizen of the Russian Federation who had influence over decisions concerning the treatment algorithms involving Pfizer products marketed and sold in the country).

In addition to the above alleged “foreign officials” the information describes “other foreign officials in various countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan and Russia.”

Under the heading “Manners and Means of the Conspiracy” the information alleges as follows.

“Pfizer HCP through its employees and agents agreed to make improper payments and provide benefits (including kickbacks, cash payments, gifts, entertainment and support for domestic and international travel) to numerous government officials, including physicians, pharmacologists and senior government officials, who were employed by foreign governments or instrumentalities of foreign governments, including in Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan, and Russia.  During the relevant time period, Pfizer HCP, through its employees and agents, corruptly authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of at least $2,000,000 to intermediary companies, government officials, and others, to corruptly induce the prescription and purchase of Pfizer products and to obtain regulatory approvals for Pfizer products.  Pfizer HCP through its employees falsely recorded the improper transactions by booking them in a variety of ways, including as educational or charitable support, “Travel and Entertainment,” “Convention and Trade Meetings and Conferences,” “Distribution Freight,” “Clinical Grants/Clinical Trials,” “Gifts,” and “Professional Services —Non Consultant,” in order to conceal the improper nature of the transactions in the books and records of Pfizer HCP.”

As to “Corrupt Payments in Bulgaria” the information alleges as follows.

“On or about January 24, 2003, a District Manager in Pfizer HCP’s representative office in Bulgaria (“Pfizer HCP Bulgaria”) sent an email to his subordinates that discussed marketing programs and “various possibilities to stimulate the prescribers” and instructed them to give individual doctors employed in Bulgarian public hospitals “a specific target as to how many packs (or new patients) per month he should achieve” and then provide support for international travel on the basis of the promises to prescribe made by the doctors.  On or about October 14, 2003, a Pfizer HCP Bulgaria sales department manager sent an electronic message to multiple sales representatives containing instructions for submitting sponsorship requests. The manager wrote, “[e]ach representative wanting to sponsor someone …must very precisely state the grounds for recommending the sponsorship, and also what the doctor in question is expected to do or has already done (which is the better option).”

As to “Corrupt Payments in Croatia” the information alleges as follows.

“On or about July 9, 2003, employees of Pfizer HCP’s representative office in Croatia (“Pfizer HCP Croatia”) caused a wire transfer of $1,200 to be made from a bank account in Belgium to an account in Austria controlled by Croatian Official, which wire transfer was part of more than $85,000 paid to Croatian Official between 1997 and 2003, and which was for a purpose described by the country manager as follows: “as [Croatian Official] is a member of the Registration Committee regarding pharmaceuticals, I do expect that all products which are to be registered, will pass the regular procedure by his assistance. On or about February 18, 2004, a Pfizer HCP Croatia sales representative drafted a memorandum reporting on her discussions with doctors at Croatian public hospitals regarding bonus agreements for purchases of a Pfizer product, which reflected an agreement with the chief doctor who promised purchases of the product in exchange for Pfizer HCP providing various things of value, including travel benefits and bonuses based on a percentage of sales.”

As to “Corrupt Payments in Kazakhstan” the information alleges as follows.

“On or about May 5, 2000, Pfizer HCP entered into an exclusive distribution contract for a Pfizer product with Kazakh Company [a Kazakh company that contracted with Pfizer HCP to provide distribution services and related services in the Republic of Kazakhstan] that was valued at a minimum of $500,000 believing that all or part of the value of the contract would be provided to a high-level Kazakh government official. On or about September 23, 2003, a regional supervisor responsible for Pfizer HCP’s representative office in Kazakhstan sent a memorandum to his supervisor memorializing a conversation held in Kazakhstan, in which he indicated that the controller of Kazakh Company was “very close to government officials,” and that Kazakh Company was likely responsible for Pfizer HCP’s past problems with the registration of a Pfizer product in Kazakhstan.”

As to “Corrupt Payments in Russia” the information alleges as follows.

“On or about September 8, -2003, a Pfizer Russia. employee emailed colleagues that a Russian government doctor, Russian Official 1, requested funds to attend a conference and, in return, “has pledged to prescribe at least 20 packs of [a Pfizer product] per month, and 20 [] packs [of another Pfizer product].  On or about November 19, 2003 in an invoice cover letter, a Pfizer Russia employee requested “payment for the (motivational) trip of [Russian Official 2] for the inclusion of [a Pfizer product] into the list … of medications refundable by the state” in order to influence Russian Official 2 to add the product to the regional formulary list.  On or about April 7, 2004, a Pfizer Russia employee requested that a payment be made to a Russian government official “who took an active part in getting [a Pfizer product] into the bidding.”  On or about July 26, 2004, a Pfizer Russia employee sent an email to his supervisors stating that Russia Company 1 [a Russian company that bid on tenders issued by Russian healthcare institutions and worked with Pfizer HCP and Pfizer Russia to fill tenders using Pfizer products] had won a tender for the use of a Pfizer product, and that Russian Company 1’s costs included “10% – Motivation of Officials.”  On or about December 2, 2004, a Pfizer Russia employee requested sponsorship for a local department of health employee who was assisting the chief pharmacologist of a regional pediatric hospital, Russian Official 3, who was compiling algarithms for antibiotic therapy and wanted “to be financially compensated” for this work. The Pfizer Russia employee noted that, “in return for this,” the pharmacologist “will include our product’s in the treatment algorithms” to be used in government hospitals.  On or about June 9, 2005, a Pfizer Russia employee sent an email to her supervisor stating that a cash payment had been made to an individual government doctor, which represented 5% of the value of the purchases of a Pfizer product made by a certain government hospital during the month of March 2005.  On or about June 27, 2005, a Pfizer Russia employee emailed that a government doctor “should be assigned the task of stretching the amount of the purchases … to US $100 thousand” as an “obligation” in exchange for a trip to a conference in the Netherlands or Germany.  On or about September 14, 2005, a Pfizer Russia employee emailed that an”agreement on cooperation” had been reached with a government doctor, and that Pfizer Russia’s requirements were the “purchase quantities,” and the government doctor’s requirement was “a trip to a conference.”  In or around October 2005 through on or about December 8, 2005, Pfizer Russia caused payments totaling at least $69,000 to be made to Russian Company 2 [a Russian company that provided certain services to Pfizer HCP and Pfizer Russia, including making improper payments to Russian government officials and other companies on Pfizer HCP’s behalf, in order to conceal the payments]  with the understanding that the payments would be provided to individual Russian doctors employed in public hospitals, and that the payments represented 5% of the value of the purchases of Pfizer products in the doctors’ respective government hospitals.  In or around October 2005, Pfizer Russia employees discussed how a regional distributor would provide Pfizer Russia with companies that have “neutral names,” to which Pfizer Russia could make improper payments that would be booked as conferences to provide benefits to government doctors.”

DPA

The DOJ’s charges against Pfizer HCP were resolved via a deferred  prosecution agreement.  Pursuant to the DPA, Pfizer HCP admitted, accepted and acknowledged “that it is responsible for the acts of its officers, employees and agents” as set forth in the information.  As is customary in DOJ FCPA corporate enforcement actions, Pfizer HCP agreed not to make any public statement contradicting the acceptance of responsibility for the conduct set forth in the resolution documents.

The term of the DPA is two years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors: “(a) the extraordinary cooperation of Pfizer HCP’s parent company, Pfizer Inc., (“Pfizer”}, with the Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), including thorough and responsive reporting of potential violations, including the conduct of other companies and individuals; (b) Pfizer’s initial voluntary disclosure of potential improper payments and the timely and complete disclosure of the facts [described in the DPA] as well as facts relating to potential improper payments in various countries that had been identified by its compliance program, internal audit function and global internal investigations concealing bribery and related misconduct; (c) the early and extensive remedial efforts undertaken by Pfizer, including the substantial and continuing improvements Pfizer has made to its global anticorruption compliance procedures; (d) Pfizer’s agreement to maintain an anti-corruption compliance program for all of its subsidiaries worldwide, including Pfizer HCP, to continue in its efforts to implement enhanced compliance measures [as required by the DPA] and to provide to the Department written reports on its progress and experience in maintaining and enhancing its compliance policies and procedures [as described in the DPA].”

Pursuant to the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $22.8 – $45.6 million.  The DPA specifically states that a downward departure “is warranted for substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of others.”  The DPA then states as follows. “The Government and Pfizer HCP agree that $15 million is the appropriate monetary penalty, which is a 34% reduction off the bottom of the recommended Guidelines fine range.  Pfizer HCP and the Department agree that this fine is appropriate given the nature and extent of Pfizer’s voluntary, prompt and thorough disclosure of the misconduct at issue, the nature and extent of Pfizer’s extensive cooperation in this matter, Pfizer’s cooperation … in the Department’s investigation into other misconduct in the industry, and Pfizer’s extraordinary and ongoing remediation.”

Pursuant to the DPA, Pfizer’s HCP’s parent company, Pfizer, agreed that it will report to the DOJ during the term of the DPA regarding remediation and implementation of certain compliance measures required under the agreement.

The DPA contains a section titled “Origin of the Investigation and Cooperation with the authorities” and states as follows.

“In May 2004, Pfizer’s Corporate Compliance Division learned of potentially improper payments by the Croatian representative office of Pfizer HCP (“Pfizer HCP Croatia”). After conducting a preliminary investigation using external counsel, Pfizer made a voluntary disclosure to the Department and to the Commission. At the time, neither agency was aware of the allegations of improper payments or had any open investigation involving the overseas operations of Pfizer or any of its subsidiaries. From 2004 to the present, Pfizer, using external counsel and forensic accountants, internal Legal, Compliance, and Corporate Audit personnel, conducted an extensive, global review of its operations regarding allegations of improper payments to government officials and government doctors, including in Pfizer HCP markets and those of other Pfizer subsidiaries. This included a review of allegations that were identified by Pfizer’s own internal investigations and compliance controls, including its system of proactive FCPA reviews and enhanced audits. Pfizer reported to the Department and the Commission on the results of these investigations on a regular basis. At the request of the Department and the Commission, Pfizer agreed to periodically toll the statute of limitations on its own behalf and on behalf of its subsidiaries.  In addition, starting immediately in 2004, Pfizer launched extensive remedial actions including: undertaking a comprehensive review of its compliance program, implementing enhanced anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures on a worldwide basis, developing global systems to support employee compliance with the enhanced procedures, adding FCPA-specific reviews to its internal audits, performing proactive anti-corruption compliance reviews in approximately ten markets annually, and conducting comprehensive anti-corruption training throughout the organization. Pfizer regularly reported to the Department and the Commission on these activities and sought their input concerning the scope and focus of these remedial activities.”

In a release (here) DOJ representatives stated as follows.  “Pfizer took short cuts to boost its business in several Eurasian countries, bribing government officials in Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan and Russia to the tune of millions of dollars.” “Corrupt pay-offs to foreign officials in order to secure lucrative contracts creates an inherently uneven marketplace and puts honest companies at a disadvantage.  Those that attempt to make these illegal backroom deals to influence contract procurement can expect to be investigated by the FBI and appropriately held responsible for their actions.”

SEC

The SEC enforcement action includes separate settled civil complaints against Pfizer and Wyeth.

Pfizer Complaint

The settled civil complaint (here) against Pfizer alleges, in summary, as follows.

“This action arises from violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the [FCPA by Pfizer] relating to improper payments made to foreign officials in numerous countries by the employees and agents of Pfizer’s subsidiaries in order to assist Pfizer in obtaining or retaining business.  At various times from at least 2001 through 2007, employees and agents of subsidiaries of Pfizer, conducting business in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Serbia, engaged in transactions for the purpose of improperly influencing foreign officials, including doctors and other healthcare professionals employed by foreign governments. These improper payments were variously made to influence regulatory and formulary approvals, purchase decisions, prescription decisions, and to clear customs. Employees in each of the involved subsidiaries attempted to conceal the true nature of the transactions by improperly recording the transactions on the books and records of the respective subsidiaries. Examples included falsely recording the payments as legitimate expenses for promotional activities, marketing, training, travel and entertainment, clinical trials, freight, conferences and advertising.  These improper payments were made without the knowledge or approval of officers or employees of Pfizer, but the inaccurate books and records of Pfizer’s subsidiaries were consolidated in the financial reports of Pfizer, and Pfizer failed to devise and maintain an appropriate system of internal accounting controls.”

The SEC’s allegations concerning conduct in Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan and Russia are substantively similar to the DOJ’s allegations described above.

As to Russia, the SEC complaint contains the following additional allegations concerning customs related payments. “During the relevant period, Russian Federation customs officials would not clear pharmaceutical products for importation unless the importer provided an official certification indicating that the products conformed to the specific terms of the product registration and packaging requirements filed by the manufacturer with the Ministry of Health. The Russian government licensed a private certification company (the “Certification Center”) to perform this governmental function, which performed inspections and furnished the necessary certificates.  In the spring of 2005, Pfizer Russia began to experience increasing difficulty in obtaining the necessary certificates because the Pfizer products did not conform to the precise terms of the product registration and packaging requirements filed with the Ministry of Health.  On or about September or October 2005, a Certification Center employee proposed that the Certification Center would overlook the non-compliance of Pfizer Russia’s products in exchange for monthly payments of approximately $3,000. With the approval of the then-Pfizer Russia Country Manager, between October and December 2005 Pfizer Russia made payments of over $13,000 through an intermediary company, which then forwarded the payments to a company Pfizer Russia employees believed to be controlled by the Certification Center’s employees.  The customs clearing problems ceased after Pfizer Russia started making payments, but they resumed when Pfizer Russia stopped the payments in 2006 after Pfizer began a Corporate Compliance review in Russia.”

As to conduct in China, the SEC alleges as follows as to Pfizer subsidiary Pfizer Investment Co. Ltd. (Pfizer China).  “From at least 2003 through 2007, Pfizer China, through its employees and agents, provided cash payments, hospitality, gifts, and support for international travel to doctors employed by Chinese government healthcare institutions. The payments of cash and other things of value were intended to influence these government officials to prescribe Pfizer products, provide hospital formulary listing, and otherwise use their influence to grant Pfizer China an unfair advantage.”  The SEC further alleged as follows.  “Pfizer China employees took steps to conceal the true nature of the cash payments, gifts, and travel support made to Chinese government doctors by failing to accurately record the transactions.”

As to conduct in the Czech Republic, the SEC alleges as follows as to Pfizer subsidiary Pfizer spol. s.r.o. (Pfizer Czech).  “From at least 2003 and through 2004, Pfizer Czech, through its employees and agents, provided support for international travel and recreational opportunities to doctors employed by the Czech government with the intent to influence these government officials to prescribe Pfizer products.”  The SEC further alleged as follows.  “Pfizer Czech employees took steps to conceal the true nature of these transactions, and failed to accurately record these transactions by falsely booking them as “Conventions and Trade Meeting,” among other false and misleading descriptions.”

As to conduct in Italy, the SEC alleges as follows as to Pfizer subsidiary Pfizer Italia S.r.l (Pfizer Italy).  “From at least 2001 and continuing through early 2004, Pfizer Italy provided, directly or through vendors, cash payments, gifts, support for domestic and international travel, and other benefits to doctors employed by Italian government healthcare institutions. The payments of cash and other things of value were intended to influence these government officials to prescribe Pfizer products.”  The SEC further alleged as follows. “Pfizer Italy employees took steps to conceal the true nature of these transactions and failed to accurately record these transactions by falsely booking them as “Marketing Expenses,” “Professional Training,” and “Advertising in Scientific Journals,” among other false and misleading descriptions.”

As to conduct in Serbia, the SEC alleges as follows as to a representative office of Pfizer HCP (Pfizer HCP Serbia).  “Pfizer HCP Serbia, through one of its sales representatives, paid for a government employed doctor to attend a conference in Chile in exchange for the doctor’s agreement to increase his department’s purchases of Pfizer products. Although Pfizer HCP Serbia management discovered the improper agreement and terminated the responsible sales representative, it still provided the support after the doctor threatened to spread negative information about Pfizer’s reputation as a company.”

Under the heading “accounting and internal controls” the SEC alleged as follows.  “[F]our Pfizer subsidiaries engaged in transactions in eight countries which were intended to improperly influence foreign government officials in connection with regulatory and formulary approvals, purchase decisions, prescription decisions, and customs clearance. Through the four subsidiaries, Pfizer earned aggregate profits of $16,032,676 as a result of these improper transactions. [D]uring the relevant period the Pfizer subsidiaries recorded transactions associated with the improper payments in a manner that did not accurately reflect their true nature and purpose. The false entries in the subsidiaries’ books and records were consolidated into the books and records of Pfizer, which reported the results of its subsidiaries’ operations in its consolidated financial statements.  [D]uring the relevant period Pfizer failed to devise and maintain an effective system of internal controls sufficient to prevent or detect the above-described conduct.”

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Pfizer with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

The SEC complaint further notes as follows.  “Pfizer made an initial voluntary disclosure of certain of these issues to the Commission and Department of Justice in October 2004, and thereafter diligently and thoroughly undertook a global internal investigation of its operations in no less than 19 countries, which identified additional potential violations, and regularly reported on the results of these investigations and fully cooperated with the staff of the Commission. Pfizer also undertook a comprehensive compliance review of its operations, enhanced its internal controls and compliance functions, engaged in significant disciplinary measures, and developed and implemented global FCPA compliance procedures, including the development and implementation of innovative proactive procedures, and sophisticated supporting systems.”

In addition, the SEC complaint contains a separate section titled “remedial efforts” that states as follows.

“Pfizer has taken extensive remedial actions including: undertaking a comprehensive worldwide review of its compliance program; implementing enhanced anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures on a worldwide basis; developing global systems to support employee compliance with the enhanced procedures; adding FCPA-specific reviews to its internal audits; performing innovative and proactive anti-corruption compliance reviews in approximately 10 markets annually; and conducting comprehensive anti-corruption training throughout the organization.”

Wyeth Complaint

The SEC also brought a settled civil complaint (here) against Wyeth LLC.  According to the complaint, Wyeth was an issuer but in connection with its acquisition by Pfizer in October 2009, Wyeth delisted and became a wholly-owned subsidary of Pfizer.

The complaint alleges, in summary fashion, as follows.  “This action arises from violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the [by Wyeth], while an issuer, relating to improper payments made to foreign officials in numerous countries by the employees and agents of Wyeth’s subsidiaries in order to assist Wyeth in obtaining or retaining business. During the time relevant to this Complaint, Wyeth was a pharmaceutical company engaged in business throughout the world, and an issuer as that term is used under the FCPA.  At various times from at least 2005 through 2010, subsidiaries of Defendant Wyeth conducting business in several countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, China, and Saudi Arabia, engaged in transactions for the purpose of improperly influencing foreign officials, including doctors and other healthcare professionals employed by foreign governments. Employees in each of the involved subsidiaries attempted to conceal the true nature of the transactions by improperly recording the transactions on the books and records of the respective subsidiaries. Examples include falsely recording the payments as legitimate expenses for promotional activities, marketing, training, travel and entertainment, conferences and advertising.  These improper payments were made without the knowledge or approval of officers or employees of Wyeth, but the inaccurate books and records of Wyeth’s subsidiaries were consolidated in the financial reports of Wyeth, and Wyeth failed to devise and maintain an appropriate system of internal accounting controls. Certain of these payments were made following the acquisition of Wyeth by Pfizer Inc. (“Pfizer”) without the knowledge or approval of officers or employees of Pfizer, and the inaccurate books and records of Wyeth’s subsidiaries regarding those payments were consolidated in the financial reports of Pfizer.”

As to Indonesia, the complaint alleges as follows.  “From at least 2005 until 2010, Wyeth Indonesia [an Indonesian company that was an indirect majority-owned subsidiary of Wyeth], through its employees and agents, provided cash payments and nutritional products to employees of Indonesian government-owned hospitals, including doctors employed by the Indonesian government. The cash payments and products were intended to influence the doctors’ recommendation of Wyeth nutritional products to their patients, to ensure that Wyeth products were made available to new mothers at the hospitals, and to obtain information about new births that could be used for marketing purposes.”  The SEC further alleged as follows. “Wyeth Indonesia employees also took steps to conceal the true nature of the transactions by inaccurately recording them as “Miscellaneous Expenses – Joint Promotions,” “Medical Education – Promo,” “Trade Allowances,” and “Miscellaneous Selling Expenses,” among other false and misleading descriptions.”

As to Pakistan, the complaint alleges as follows.  “Starting at least in 2005 and continuing into 2009, Wyeth Pakistan [a Pakistani company that was an indirect majority-owned subsidiary of Wyeth] employees provided improper benefits to doctors who were employed by healthcare institutions owned or controlled by the Pakistani government. These improper benefits included cash payments, travel, office equipment and renovations, and were intended to influence the doctors to recommend Wyeth products to new mothers.”  The SEC further alleged as follows.  “Wyeth Pakistan employees and local management took steps to conceal the true nature of the transactions by inaccurately recording them as “Advertising and Sales Promotion,” “Film Show,” “Entertainment,” “Product Meetings,” and “Give Aways and Gifts,” among other false and misleading descriptions.”

As to China, the complaint alleges as follows.  “From at least 2005 through 2010 and until the conduct was stopped by Pfizer, Wyeth China [a Chinese company that was an indirect majority-owned subsidiary of Wyeth], through its employees and agents, provided cash payments to Chinese state-owned hospitals and healthcare providers (including doctors, nurses, and midwives) employed by the Chinese government that were intended to influence the healthcare providers’ recommendation of Wyeth nutritional products to their patients, to ensure that Wyeth products were made available to new mothers at the hospitals, and to obtain information about new births that could be used for marketing purposes.”  The SEC further alleged as follows.  “Wyeth China employees took steps to conceal the true nature of the payments by falsifying expense reimbursement requests and, in concert with local travel agencies, by submitting false or inflated invoices and other supporting documentation for large-scale consumer education events, resulting in those transactions being falsely recorded in Wyeth China’s books and records.

As to Saudi Arabia, the complaint alleges as follows.  “In June 2007, the local distributor, at the direction of Wyeth Saudi Arabia [a Delaware corporation that operated a representative office in Saudi Arabia], made a cash payment to a Saudi Arabian customs official to secure the release of a shipment of promotional items that were to be used in connection with the marketing and sale of Wyeth’s nutritional products. These promotional items were held in port because Wyeth Saudi Arabia had failed to secure a required Saudi Arabian Standards Organization Certificate of Conformity.  In July 2007, Wyeth Saudi Arabia reimbursed the distributor for this cash payment and improperly recorded it as a “facilitation expense” in its books and records.”

Under the heading “accounting and internal controls,” the SEC alleged as follows. “Wyeth Indonesia, Wyeth Pakistan, and Wyeth China engaged in transactions which were intended to improperly influence foreign government officials. Through these three subsidiaries Wyeth earned aggregate profits of approximately $17,217,831 as a result of these improper transactions. […] During the relevant period, the Wyeth subsidiaries recorded transactions associated with the improper payments in a manner that did not accurately reflect their true nature and purpose. False entries in the subsidiaries’ books and records were consolidated into the books and records of Wyeth, which reported the results of its subsidiaries’ operations in its consolidated financial statements. […] During the relevant period, Wyeth failed to devise and maintain an effective system of internal controls sufficient to prevent or detect the above-described conduct.

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Wyeth with violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

The SEC complaint notes as follows.  “Following Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth, which was finalized on or about October 15, 2009, Pfizer undertook a risk-based FCPA due diligence review of Wyeth’s global operations and reported the results of that diligence review to the Commission staff within 180 days of the closing. Pfizer’s post-acquisition review identified potential improper payments, and it diligently and thoroughly undertook a global internal investigation of Wyeth’s operations and voluntarily disclosed the results to the Commission staff, which included identifying improper payments made by Wyeth’s Nutritional Products Division in Indonesia, Pakistan, China, and Saudi Arabia, as well as additional improper payments made by other Wyeth subsidiaries. Following the acquisition, Pfizer diligently and promptly integrated Wyeth’s legacy operations into its compliance program and cooperated fully with the Commission staff.”

In this SEC release, Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) states as follows.  “Pfizer subsidiaries in several countries had bribery so entwined in their sales culture that they offered points and bonus programs to improperly reward foreign officials who proved to be their best customers.  These charges illustrate the pitfalls that exist for companies that fail to appropriately monitor potential risks in their global operations.”

As noted in the SEC release, in settling the charges Pfizer and Wyeth neither admitted nor denied the allegations.  The release states as follows.  “Pfizer consented to the entry of a final judgment ordering it to pay disgorgement of $16,032,676 in net profits and prejudgment interest of $10,307,268 for a total of $26,339,944. [Pfizer] also is required to report to the SEC on the status of its remediation and implementation of compliance measures over a two-year period, and is permanently enjoined from further violations” of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.  “Wyeth consented to the entry of a final judgment ordering it to pay disgorgement of $17,217,831 in net profits and prejudgment interest of $1,658,793, for a total of $18,876,624. As a Pfizer subsidiary, the status of Wyeth’s remediation and implementation of compliance measures will be subsumed in Pfizer’s two-year self-reporting period. Wyeth also is permanently enjoined from further violations” of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Brett Campbell and Peter Clark (Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft – here and here) represented Pfizer.  Clark is a former head of the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program.

See here for Pfizer’s press release.

The FCPA Meets Insurance – Aon Resolves Enforcement Action

This post analyzes the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions against Aon Corporation (one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world) announced yesterday.  Total fines and penalties are approximately $16.3 million ($1.8 million via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement and $14.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

DOJ

The NPA (here) begins as follows.  The DOJ will not criminally prosecute Aon Corporation or its subsidiaries for any crimes “related to Aon’s knowing violation of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA .. arising from and related to the making of improper payments to government officials in Consta Rica in order to assist Aon in obtaining and retaining business” or “for the conduct related to improper payments and associated recordkeeping […] relating to Aon’s improper payments in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Egypt, Indonesia, Myanmar, Panama, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam that it discovered during its thorough investigation of its global operations.”

The NPA has a term of two years.  As is typical in FCPA NPAs or DPAs, Aon agreed “not to make any public statement” contradicting the below facts.

According to the NPA, the DOJ agreed to resolve the action via an NPA based, in part, on the following factors:

(a) Aon’s extraordinary cooperation with the DOJ and SEC;

(b) Aon’s timely and complete disclosure of facts relating to the above payments; [unlike many corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the Aon action does not appear to be the result of a voluntary disclosure; as stated in Aon’s most recent quarterly SEC filing, “following inquiries from regulators, the Company commenced an internal review of its compliance with certain U.S. and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”]

(c) the early and extensive remedial efforts undertaken by Aon, including the substantial improvements the company has made to its anti-corruption compliance procedures;

(d) the prior financial penalty of 5.25 million paid to the U.K. Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) [see here] by Aon Limited, a U.K. subsidiary of Aon, in 2009 concerning certain of the conduct at issue; and

(e) the FSA’s close and continuous supervisory oversight over Aon Limited.

The NPA’s Statement of Facts begin by detailing the business of reinsurance – that is insurance for insurance companies.  Specifically, the NPA states as follows.  “Reinsurance involves the transfer of all or part of the risk of paying claims under a policy from the insurance company that issued the policy to a reinsurance company.  A reinsurance broker arranges this transfer of risk, which takes place under a contract of reinsurance.  The insurance company is the reinsurance broker’s client and the broker acts on behalf of the insurance company.  The broker collects the premium due from the insurance company under the contract of reinsurance, and is typically paid for its services by retaining a portion of the premium for its own account.  The portion of premium retained by the broker is known as ‘brokerage.'”

The conduct at issue focuses on the Instituto Nacional De Deguros (“INS”), Costa Rica’s state-owned insurance company” (here) that “had a monopoly over the Costa Rican insurance industry.”  The NPA states as follows.  “INS was created by Act No. 12 of October 30, 1924, with the aim of meeting the protection needs of Costa Rican society.  All insurance agreements in Costa Rica, including the reinsurance contracts that Aon Limited [a subsidiary of Aon Corporation based in and organized under U.K. law that “reported financially through a series of intermediary entities into its U.S.-based issuer parent] assisted in obtaining to insure Costa Rican entities, were required to be issued through INS.  The head of INS was appointed by the President of Costa Rica.”

According to the NPA, a company Aon Limited acquired established a “Training and Education Fund” or “Brokerage Fund” for the benefit of INS “to sponsor training and education trips for INS officials.”  The NPA states that the “Brokerage Fund eventually became used for a wide variety of purported ‘training’ purposes, as well as to pay for client renewal trips to European insurers.”  The NPA also states that a second training account (the so-called 3% Fund) was funded by premiums to reinsurers and that “INS required that Aon Limited manage the fund, handle the paperwork, and provide reimbursement for the expenses incurred by INS officials.”

According to the NPA, “the supposed purpose of both the Brokerage Fund and the 3% Fund was to provide education and training for INS officials.”  However, the NPA states, “Aon Limited used a significant portion of the funds to reimburse for non-training related activity or for uses that could not be determined from Aon’s books and records.”

The NPA cites an e-mail from a former Aon Limited executive which stated as follows.  “INS started telling [another brokerage company] how [various reinsurers] were inviting their managers to seminars and were contributing positively to INS’s technological improvement with all expenses paid by the reinsurers.  The message was clear to both [the other brokerage company] and ourselves that unless we did the same we would see the gradual process of disintermediation and a continued erosion of our orders.”

The NPA then states as follows.  “Aon Limited disbursed nearly all of the $215,000 in the Brokerage Fund from 1997 until 2002, approximately $650,000 of the money in the 3% Fund from 1999 until 2002, and made a small number of additional disbursements from these funds between 2003 and 2005 to pay for the third-party services used by INS officials. These services often included travel related expenses, such as airfare and hotel accommodations, as well as conference fees, meals,  and other related expenses for INS officials and their relatives. It was common for INS to hire a
travel agency or tourism company to arrange for the particulars of the travel and educational conferences attended by its officials.  The majority of the money paid from the two funds was disbursed to a tourism company in Costa Rica. The director of INS’ reinsurance department, who played an active role in setting up the training funds, served on the board of directors of tourism company.  The director of INS’ reinsurance department himself took fourteen trips from 1996 to 2001 with expenses totaling approximately $44,000 that Aon Limited paid from the two funds. The funds also covered the official’s wife’s attendance on at least five of the trips.  On several occasions, Aon Limited reimbursed the official directly for expenses that were invoiced for his various trips, sometimes with cash payments.  The director of INS took six trips from 1998-2001 with expenses totaling approximately $20,000 that Aon Limited paid from the two funds. The director’s spouse accompanied him on four of these trips. The director of INS, the director of reinsurance at INS, their wives, and another INS official and her husband traveled to Europe in 1998 and charged their expenses of approximately $15,160 to the Brokerage Fund. While these trips had a small business-related component, a significant portion of the funds expended on the trips were used for the personal benefit of the officials and their wives.  A  substantial number of the trips taken by INS offcials were in connection with conferences and seminars in tourist destinations, including London, Paris, Monte Carlo, Zurich, Munich, Cologne, and Cairo. Many of the invoices and other records for these trips do not provide the business purpose of the expenditures, if any, or showed that the expenses were clearly not related to a legitimate business purpose. In addition, the subject matters of some of the better documented conferences and trainings, such as a literary conference and a Mexican information technology conference, had no logical connection to the insurance industry.  INS officials traveled to the United States for approximately twenty-five training events.  Aon Limited paid approximately $115,000 out of the funds in connection with these events in the United States.  In some instances, Aon Limited paid third parties at INS’s direction where the business purpose of the travel or expenses could not be discerned from the documentation, or where the purpose of the travel and expenses appeared to be improper, such as those pertaining to literary conferences, holiday expenses, and pure entertainment. Aon Limited paid large expenses for hotels, without any indication that the stays were business related. Aon Limited’s employees did not question the requests for payment or reimbursement from the funds.  While virtually all payments made in connection with the funds originated in London, Aon Limited made at least forty payments via, or that terminated in, the United States.  From 1995 to 2002, Aon Limited [and the company it acquired] earned profits of approximately $1.840,200 in connection with reinsurance brokerage business with INS.”

As to statute of limitation issues, Aon’s recent quarterly filing states as follows.  Aon “has agreed with the U.S. agencies to toll any applicable statute of limitations pending completion of the investigations.”

Under the heading “Books and Records/Internal Controls,” the NPA states as follows.  “The books and records of Aon Limited were consolidated into those of Aon Corporation. With respect to the Costa Rican training funds, although Aon Limited maintained accounting records for the payments that it made from both the Brokerage Fund and the 3% Fund, these records did not accurately and fairly reflect, in reasonable detail, the purpose for which the expenses were incurred. A significant portion of the records associated with payments made through tourist agencies gave the name of the tourist agency with only generic descriptions such as “various airfares and hotel.”  Additionally, to the extent that the accounting records did provide the location or purported educational seminar associated with travel expenses, in many instances they did not disclose or itemize the disproportionate amount of leisure and non-business related activities that were also included in the costs.  As a result, during the relevant time period, Aon failed to make and keep books, records and accounts which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflected the transactions and disposition of its assets and failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls with respect to foreign sales activities sufficient to ensure compliance with the FCPA.”

Pursuant to the NPA, “Aon admits, and accepts and acknowledges responsibility” for the above conduct; however, there is no suggestion or implication in the NPA that anyone at Aon Corporation  knew of, participated in, or authorized the conduct at issue.

See here for the DOJ’s release.

Pursuant to the NPA, Aon agreed to pay a monetary penalty in the amount of $1.76 million.  The NPA states as follows.  “This substantially reduced monetary penalty reflects the Department’s determination to credit meaningfully Aon for its extraordinary cooperation with the Department, including its thorough investigation of its global operations and complete disclosure of facts to the Department, and its early and extensive remediation.  In agreeing to this monetary penalty, the Department also took into account the penalty paid to the FSA relating to Aon Limited’s systems and controls in countries other than Costa Rica.”  Pursuant to the NPA, Aon also agreed to “continue to strengthen its compliance, bookkeeping, and internal controls standards and procedures” as set forth in “Corporate Compliance Program” appendix to the NPA.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (here) begins as follows.  “From as early as 1983 until as recent as 2007, subsidiaries of Aon Corporation in numerous countries made improper payments to various parties as a means of obtaining or retaining insurance business in those countries.  During this period, over $3.6 million in such payments were made, including some directly or indirectly to foreign government officials who could award business directly to Aon subsidiaries, who were in position to influence others who could award business to Aon subsidiaries, or who could otherwise provide favorable business treatment for the Company’s interest.  These payments were not accurately reflected in Aon’s books and records.  During this period, Aon failed to maintain an adequate internal control system reasonably designed to detect and prevent these payments.”

According to the SEC complaint, “the improper payments made by Aon’s subsidiaries fall into two general categories:  (i) training, travel and entertainment provided to employees of foreign-government owned clients and third parties and (ii) payments made to third-party facilitators.”

As to the first category of payments, the SEC complaint is largely focused on the same Costa Rica / INS payments described in the DOJ’s NPA.  Additional payments concern Egypt and the complaint alleges that from 1983 to 2009 Aon (or its predecessor) “served as insurance broker for an Egyptian government-owned company, the Egyptian Armament Authority (“EAA”), and its U.S. arm, the Egyptian Procurement Office (“EPO”).  According to the complaint, delegation trips for EAA and EPO officials to various U.S. destinations “had some business component” but also “included a disproportionate amount of leisure activities and lasted longer than the business component would justify.”  According to the SEC, the company’s “books and records did not fairly and accurately reflect the true nature of the payments made in connection with the delegation trips.”

As to the second category of payments, under the heading “Payments to Third-Party Facilitators” the complaint alleges as follows.  “Aon’s subsidiaries also made payments to third parties that were retained to assist in obtaining accounts in several countries.  In some instances, the subsidiaries made payments to the third parties without taking steps to assure that they would not be passed to foreign government officials.  The subsidiaries made some payments under circumstances in which the third parties appeared to have performed no legitimate services relating to the prospective accounts, thereby suggesting that they were simply conduits for improper payments to government officials in order to obtain or retain business for Aon.”

In Vietnam, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited served as a co-broker on an insurance policy for Vietnam Airlines, a Vietnamese government-owned entity, since 2003.”   According to the complaint, a third-party facilitator assisted in securing the account and “company record indicate that the third-party facilitator did not provide legitimate services, but instead transferred some of the money that Aon Limited paid under its consultancy agreement to unidentified individuals referred to as ‘related people.'”

In Indonesia, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited served as a broker on reinsurance contracts with BP Migas and Pertamina, two Indonesian state-owned entities in the oil and gas industry.”    The complaint alleges that “several former Aon Limited employees authorized improper payments to government officials in Indonesia to secure the Pertamina and BP Migas accounts for Aon Limited.”

In the United Arab Emirates, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited provided brokerage services to a privately-held insurance company” and that payments were made “to the general manager of the insurance company as inducements to secure and retain the account for Aon Limited.”

In Myanmar, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited retained an introducer in Myanmar to assist Aon Limited in connection with its account with Myanmar Airways and Myanmar Insurance, two government-owned entities.”  According to the complaint, “company records indicate that the introducer likely used a portion of his commission to improperly influence a government official on Aon Limited’s behalf in connection with the Myanmar account.”

In Bangladesh, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited made approximately $1.07 million in payments to secure its account with Biman Bangladesh Airways and Sudharan Bima Corporation, two government-owned entities.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC complaint alleges FCPA books and records and internal controls violations – but not FCPA anti-bribery violations – notwithstanding the fact that the DOJ’s NPA refers to “Aon’s knowing violation of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls.”

As stated in the SEC’s release (here), without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, Aon consented to entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from future FCPA books and records and internal controls violations and ordering the company to pay “disgorgement of $11,416,814 in profits together with prejudgement interest thereon of $3,128,206 for a total of $14,545,020.”

In a release (here) Aon stated as follows.  “Since beginning an internal review of these issues in 2007, Aon has put in place a comprehensive, global and robust anti-corruption program designed to prevent and detect improper conduct.”  Greg Case, Aon’s President and Chief Executive Officer stated as follows.  “Acting with integrity is Aon’s core value and we embody this in our commitment to the highest professional standards for our clients, markets and colleagues.  Aon has invested a significant amount of time and resources in anti-corruption compliance and transparency to greatly enhance our controls and processes.”

Kirkland & Ellis attorneys Laurence Urgenson (here) and Craig Primis (here) represented Aon.

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