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FCPA And Then Some As Alere Resolves SEC Enforcement Action

alere

One instance of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act scrutiny that has attracted significant investor interest over the past few years (because it occurred in the context of an M&A transaction) involved Alere Inc.

As highlighted in this previous post, the company disclosed in August 2015 that it received an SEC subpoena inquiring about its foreign business practices. Thereafter, Alere announced that it would be acquired by Abbott in a $5.8 billion transaction.

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

chiquita

[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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Odebrecht / Braskem Bribery Schemes Net Approximate $420 Million FCPA Enforcement Action

oder

Yesterday, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Odebrecht S.A. (a Brazilian holding company) and Braskem S.A. (a Brazil-based petrochemical company in which Odebrecht owns 50.1% of the voting shares, 38.1% of the total share capital and which Odebrecht “effectively controlled” according to the DOJ). Braskem has American Depositary Receipts registered with the SEC and traded on the NYSE and thus the enforcement action also included an SEC component.

Perhaps because of the less than clear DOJ release (clear once one actually reads the original source documents), this action is being reported in various places as a $3.5 billion FCPA enforcement action. While that figure represents the overall global settlement amount (Brazil and Swiss law enforcement also brought related actions), yesterday’s action was most certainly not a $3.5 billion FCPA enforcement action. Not even close.

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Olympus Latin America Pays $22.8 Million In Latest FCPA Enforcement Action To Allege That Health Care Professionals Are “Foreign Officials”

olympus

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced (as part of a much larger enforcement action) a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act action against Olympus Latin American Inc. (OLA), a Miami-headquartered company that distributes medical imaging equipment in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America for Olympus Corporation (a Japanese company).

This post highlights the OLA enforcement action (the latest FCPA enforcement based on the theory that certain health care professionals are “foreign officials” under the FCPA) in which the DOJ charged the company in this criminal complaint with conspiring to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. The charges were resolved via this deferred prosecution agreement in which OLA agreed to pay $22.8 million.

According to the charging documents, from 2006 to 2011 OLA provided approximately $3 million in “hundreds of unlawful payments” to publicly employed healthcare professionals in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and Costa Rica to “induce the purchase of Olympus products, influence public tenders, or prevent public institutions from purchasing or converting to the technology of competitors.” According to the charging documents, OLA recognized approximately $7.5 million in profits as a result of the alleged unlawful payments.

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DOJ Announces FCPA Enforcement Action Against Former CEO’s and General Counsel Of PetroTiger

Yesterday the DOJ announced FCPA and related charges against former executives of PetroTiger Ltd., a British Virgin Islands oil and gas company with operations in Colombia and offices in New Jersey, “for their alleged participation in a scheme to pay bribes to foreign government officials in violation of the FCPA, to defraud PetroTiger, and to launder proceeds of those crimes.”

The individuals charged were former co-CEOs of PetroTiger Joseph Sigelman and Knut Hammarskjold and former general counsel Gregory Weisman.

According to the DOJ release, Sigelman and Hammarskjold “were charged by sealed complaints filed in the District of New Jersey on Nov. 8, 2013” and “Hammarskjold was arrested Nov. 20, 2013, at Newark Liberty International Airport” and “Sigelman was arrested on Jan. 3, 2014, in the Philippines and appeared [yesterday] in Guam before a U.S. Magistrate Judge” and “will have an initial appearance in New Jersey federal court on a date to be determined.”  According to the release, Weisman “pleaded guilty on Nov. 8, 2013, to a criminal information charging one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud.”

Sigelman

This criminal complaint, charges Sigelman with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions as well as three substantive FCPA charges.  The FCPA charges are based on allegations that Sigelman and others made at least four transfers of money in the approximate amount of $333,500 to an account in Colombia of a “foreign government official in Colombia.”

Elsewhere, the complaint identifies the foreign official as “an official at Ecopetrol [who] had influence over the approval and award of contracts by Ecopetrol, including the Mansarovar Contract.”  Ecopetrol is alleged to be “the state-owned and state-controlled petroleum company in Colombia” and the complaint states as follows.

“Ecopetrol was created by national law, and it was required by law that Colombia conserve, at a minimum, eighty percent of the shares in circulation, with voting rights. During the relevant time period, Colombia controlled 89.9% of Ecopetrol’s outstanding capital stock, and held the right to elect the majority of the members of the company’s board of directors. Ecopetrol’s board of directors included the Minister of Mines and Energy, the Minister of Finance, and the Director of the National Planning Agency of Colombia. Ecopetrol was responsible for approving contracts to drill or perform services on oil fields in Colombia, including the Mansarovar Contract.”

The complaint also refers to the official’s wife and states that “the Official’s Wife purportedly provided finance and management related consulting services for PetroTiger [when] in reality, the Official’s Wife served as a conduit for bribe payments to the Official.”

Under the heading “Bribery Scheme,” the complaint alleges that Sigelman and other PetroTiger executives [Hammarskjold and Weisman] “attempted to secure the Mansarovar Contract” and “because Ecopetrol had ultimate authority for approving projects and contracts to perform oil-related services in Colombia, Sigelman [and the other executives] were required to obtain approval from Ecopetrol for the Mansarovar Contract.”

According to the complaint, Sigelman and others “in order to secure Ecopetrol’s approval for the Mansarovar Contract,” “paid bribes to the Official, who had the ability to influence the approval process.”

The complaint states that Sigelman and others “attempted to conceal the bribes by funneling the payments through the Official’s Wife and by falsely claiming in documents that the payments were for finance and management consulting services that the Official’s Wife purportedly performed for PetroTiger.”  The complaint further states that “when transfers to the bank account in the name of the Official’s Wife failed as a result of incorrect account information,” Sigelman and others “transferred the money directly to a bank account in the name of the Official.”

According to the complaint, PetroTiger was successful in “obtaining Ecopetrol’s approval, and secured the Mansarovar Contract” which was valued “at approximately $39.6 million, and has resulted in a gross profit to date, of approximately $3.5 million.”

The Sigelman complaint also charges one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  These charges are based, in pertinent part, on allegations that an owner of a company “being acquired by Sigelman and others” transferred approximately $262,000 “as part of an illegal kickback scheme” to Sigelman’s bank account and that Sigelman then “divided up the money and transferred portions of the money” to other PetroTiger executives.  According to the complaint, Sigelman and the others “did not disclose to their investing partners that they were receiving a kickback in exchange for the additional money that the investing partners would be paying in connection with the acquisition of the Target Company.  As a result, the investing partners were deprived of money and property and the honest services of” Sigelman and others.  According to the complaint, this “Target Company” was “an oil services company with operations in Colombia” that PetroTiger acquired in 2009 for approximately $53 million.

Hammarskjold

This criminal complaint also charges Hammarskjold with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions as well as three substantive FCPA charges based on the same conduct alleged in the Sigelman complaint.

The Hammarskjold complaint also charges one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud based on the same kickback scheme alleged in the Sigelman complaint.

Weisman

This criminal information alleges the same bribery scheme and kickback scheme as the Sigelman and Hammarskjold complaints.  However, the information only charges one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud.

The Weisman information further states as follows.

“On or about September 28, 2010, at board meeting of PetroTiger, Executive A [Sigelman] stated that he and others were dealing with non-transparent commercial practices in Colombia.  On or about September 28, 2010, at the board meeting … in response to a question about whether Executive A was upholding PetroTiger’s Code of Business Principles, which included a prohibition on bribery, Executive A stated that he was.”

The Weisman information also contains a forfeiture allegation seeking forfeiture of approximately $52,000 (the amount of the alleged kickback Weisman received).

In the DOJ’s release, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman stated:

“We have said – repeatedly and emphatically – that foreign corruption, whether committed by companies or by the individuals entrusted to run those companies, will not be tolerated.   And, our track record in vigorously enforcing the FCPA has shown that message to be undeniably true.  The charges unsealed today against two former CEOs of PetroTiger and the guilty plea announced today of the former General Counsel reaffirm our clear message that we will prosecute corruption and fraud wherever we find it.   Bribery distorts what should be a level playing field and deprives corporations and governments of funds that should instead be used to strengthen those institutions.   Today’s announcement should be a reminder to CEOs and other executives who seek to corrupt the system at the expense of honest businesses:   we are not going away.”

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman of the District of New Jersey stated:

“Bribery of public officials, whether at home or abroad, corrupts business opportunity and undermines trust in government.  The under-the-table deals alleged in today’s charges are not an acceptable way of doing business.”

Special Agent in Charge Aaron Ford of the FBI’s Newark Division stated:

“The FBI is committed to pursuing those who disrupt the level playing field to which companies in the U.S. and around the world are entitled.  We will continue to investigate these matters by working with law enforcement agencies, both foreign and domestic, to ensure that both corporations and executives who bribe foreign officials for lucrative contracts are punished.”

The DOJ’s release further states:

“The department has worked closely with and has received significant assistance from its law enforcement counterparts in the Republic of Colombia and greatly appreciates their assistance in this matter.   The department also thanks the Republic of the Philippines, including the Bureau of Immigration, for its assistance in this matter.   Significant assistance was also provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.”

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