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Issues To Consider From The Embraer Enforcement Action

Issues

This previous post went in-depth into the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Embraer.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting additional issues to consider from the enforcement action.

Timeline

In previous SEC filings Embraer stated: “In September, 2010, we received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, and associated inquiries from the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, concerning possible non-compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act, or FCPA, in relation to certain aircraft sales outside of Brazil.”

Thus from start to finish Embraer’s FCPA scrutiny lasted over six years.

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FCPA Ripple – Court Orders U.S. Navy To Terminate Contract Award to Louis Berger Entity

Ripple

Looking for further proof that settlement amounts in an actual Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement in this new era? (See here for the article Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples).

Check out this recent opinion from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims involving a successful post-award bid protest based on Louis Berger Aircraft Services Inc.’s failure to inform the Navy of its parent company’s involvement in corruption and fraud (see here for the prior post highlighting the July 2015 FCPA enforcement action against Louis Berger Int’l Inc.).

FCPA practitioners with clients involved in federal government contracting and subject to FCPA scrutiny would be wise to read the decision.

Not only is the opinion instructive on the FCPA’s many ripples, it also contains some candid admissions by U.S. government attorneys that FCPA enforcement actions are carefully crafted in the hopes of avoiding negative collateral consequences as well as evidence that the”right hand” of the government does not always know what the “left hand” of the government is doing,

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Friday Roundup

Roundup2

Double standard (sports edition), recent sentencing activity, and scrutiny alerts.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Double Standard (Sports Edition)

A public official wants tickets to a high-profile sporting event. So, through his aides, he asks the entity hosting the event for free tickets. The entity obliges because it needs the public official’s support in a variety of contexts.

A prudent FCPA practitioner would spot the “red flags” as the free tickets (mostly certainly something of value) could be viewed as a way to curry favor with the public official.  Indeed, the competent FCPA practitioner will recall that several FCPA enforcement actions have been based, in whole or in part, on free tickets to sporting events.

However, the public officials in the above example are not “foreign officials,” they are current U.S. officials who want tickets to high-profile college sporting events.

Bribery? Silly you for even mentioning the “b” word.  This is the US of A.

For the latest edition of the double standard, see this Wall Street Journal article titled “Why Tickets Come Easy on Capitol Hill.”

Why do interactions with “foreign officials” seem to be subject to different standards than interactions with U.S. officials? Why do we reflexively label a “foreign official” who receives “things of value” from private business interests as corrupt, yet generally turn a blind eye when it happens here at home? Is the FCPA enforced too aggressively or is enforcement of the U.S. domestic bribery statute too lax? Ought not there be some consistently between enforcement of the FCPA and the domestic bribery statute?

As you contemplate these questions, just remember in the words of the DOJ – “we in the United States are in a unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption”

For additional reading, see here for the recent article “The Uncomfortable Truths and Double Standards of Bribery Enforcement.” In addition, for approximately 50 other posts highlighting double standards, see this subject matter tag.

Sentencing Activity

Vicente Garcia

The DOJ announced:

“Vicente Eduardo Garcia, 65, … was sentenced to 22 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California.  On Aug. 12, 2015, Garcia pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  On July 15, 2015, Garcia and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) entered into a settlement of the parallel SEC investigation in which Garcia agreed, among other things, to pay disgorgement of $85,965 plus prejudgment interest.  For this reason, the United States did not request, and the court did not order, forfeiture in the criminal action.”

For the specifics of the underlying actions, see this prior post.

Garcia’s sentencing memo contains a section titled “Why Vicente Did It.” It states:

“Vicente participated in the bribery scheme here for two reasons: first, to get $150,000 that Advanced [a Third Party] owed him and, second, to secure the Panamanian government as a new customer for his employer SAP.

Vicente’s did not start his business dealings with the Panamanian government intending to commit a crime. But Vicente ultimately did conspire to bribe Panamanian officials.

He has cooperated with authorities since FBI and IRS agents confronted him at his offices. Other than this instance, Vicente’s business dealings have all been above board and legal.

However, here, once the Minister of Technology made clear to Vicente and his colleagues that for Advanced to receive the contract he would require a bribe, Vicente, rather than refuse, acceded and assisted in the scheme—a decision that he deeply regrets. Though not an excuse, he rationalized it at the time as a way to correct his failure in trying to run his own business.”

Vadim Mikerin

This previous post highlighted the FCPA enforcement action against Daren Condrey, an owner and executive of a Maryland Transportation Company, for allegedly bribing Vadim Mikerin, an alleged foreign official employed by an alleged Russian state-owned / controlled entity.

As highlighted in the prior post, Mikerin was also criminally charged and pleaded guilty to money laundering offenses. Earlier this week, the DOJ announced that Mikerin was sentenced to four years in prison and order to forfeit approximately $2.1 million dollars.

As noted in the release, Condrey awaits sentencing.

Jose Hurtado

In 2013 and 2014 the DOJ brought FCPA and related charges against various individuals associated with broker dealer Direct Access Partners in connection with alleged improper payments to Maria Gonzalez (V.P. of Finance / Executive Manager of Finance and Funds Administration at Bandes, an alleged Venezuelan state-owned banking entity that acted as the financial agent of the state to finance economic development projects).

Recently Jose Hurtado was sentenced to three years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and consented to a $11.9 million forfeiture .

Previously:

  • Ernesto Lujan was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and consented to a $18.5 million forfeiture.
  • Tomas Clarke was  sentenced to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and consented to a $5.8 million forfeiture.
  • Benito Chinea was sentenced to four years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and consented to a $3.6 million forfeiture; and
  • Joseph DeMeneses was sentenced to four years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and consented to a $2.7 million forfeiture.

Scrutiny Alerts

Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A.

Santiago, Chile based Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM), a company with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, recently issued this release stating:

“[The] Company’s Board of Directors met … to receive and review a report presented by the U.S. law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP (the Report) for SQM’s AdHoc Committee, which was appointed by the Company’s board in a meeting held February 26, 2015.

[…]

SQM previously informed the relevant authorities and markets that this Committee had been formed and that it had hired the professional services of Shearman & Sterling LLP to investigate and analyze the possible liability for SQM under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a United States of America law that applies to the Company as an issuer of securities in the U.S. market. The Chilean law firm Grupo Vial / Serrano Abogados and the international forensic services firm FTI Consulting, Inc. assisted Sherman & Sterling.

The investigation specifically analyzed: (a) Whether the Company had made any payment defined as corrupt for FCPA purposes. (b) Whether the Company had breached the accounting provisions of the FCPA.

The Company’s Management was fully cooperative and transparent during the investigation. Among other procedures, investigators collected more than 3.5 million documents and selected approximately 930,000 for review. In addition, 24 individuals were interviewed, including members of the board prior to April 2015, as well as SQM’s senior executives and other relevant employees. A forensic analysis of the Company’s accounting since 2008 was also conducted. Interviews were also requested from Mr. Patricio Contesse G.—former CEO of SQM—and Mr. Patricio Contesse F.—former director of SQM, but they declined.

After close to nine months of investigation, Shearman & Sterling, assisted by Grupo Vial / Serrano Abogados and FTI Consulting, informed the Committee that for FCPA purposes: (a) payments were identified that had been authorized by SQM’s former CEO, Mr. Patricio Contesse G., for which the Company did not find sufficient supporting documentation; (b) no evidence was identified that demonstrates that payments were made in order to induce a public official to act or refrain from acting in order to assist SQM obtain economic benefits; (c) regarding the cost center managed by SQM’s former CEO, Mr. Patricio Contesse G., it was concluded that the Company’s books did not accurately reflect transactions that have been questioned, notwithstanding the fact that, based on the amounts involved, these transactions were below the materiality threshold defined by the Company’s external auditors determined in comparison to SQM’s equity, revenues, expenses or earnings within the reported period; and (d) SQM’s internal controls were not sufficient to supervise the expenses made by the cost center managed by SQM’s former CEO and that the Company trusted Mr. P. Contesse G. to make a proper use of resources.

Throughout this process, SQM has taken and will continue to take the proper measures to strengthen its corporate governance and internal controls in order to correct the issues identified in the Report. The measures that have already been adopted include: (i) dismissing Mr. P. Contesse G. from his position as SQM’s CEO; (ii) filing corrected tax returns with the Chilean Internal Revenue Service; (iii) creating SQM’s Corporate Governance Committee, which is comprised of three of its directors; (iv) separating and strengthening the team and responsibilities of the Internal Audit and Compliance departments, both of which report to SQM’s board of directors, while the latter also reports to the Company’s CEO; (v) hiring KPMG, the auditing firm, to review SQM’s payment process controls; (vi) improving the Company’s payment process controls and approvals; and, (vii) reformulating SQM’s Code of Ethics.

Lastly, after acknowledging receipt of the Report, the directors expressed that the Company will continue to cooperate with authorities and adopt the appropriate measures to improve its corporate governance and internal controls.”

SNC Lavalin

One reason SNC Lavalin has been pouting about Canada’s lack of deferred prosecution agreements is because of the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.

On that front, the company recently announced:

“[The Company] has signed an administrative agreement with Public Services and Procurement of the Government of  Canada  (PSP) under the Government of  Canada’s  new Integrity Regime. The administrative agreement allows companies – that have federal charges pending against them – to continue to contract with or supply the Government of  Canada

“This is another example of our commitment to move forward. I thank PSP for recognizing SNC-Lavalin’s significant efforts and dedication to continuous improvement in ethics and compliance, which have allowed us to meet the difficult criteria of the new Integrity Regime. I am proud of our ethics and compliance program that is an integral part of the way we work every day, here in Canada  and globally. Our clients and partners have recognized our concrete actions, efforts and accomplishments over the past three years,” stated Neil Bruce, President and CEO, SNC-Lavalin. “This agreement is a milestone that allows us to continue to be an important contributor to the Canadian economy. It protects the public, and is good for our employees, clients, investors and all of  Canada.”

The administrative agreement is due to the federal charges filed against three of the company’s legal entities in , which SNC-Lavalin contests. SNC-Lavalin confirms that, provided the company complies with the terms of the administrative agreement, it will be able to continue to bid on and win contracts to provide procurement goods and services to all Canadian government departments and agencies, in Canada  and abroad, until the final conclusion of those charges.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Issues To Consider From The Louis Berger Enforcement Action

Issues

This recent post highlighted the DOJ FCPA enforcement action against Louis Berger International (LBI) and two former employees.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting various issues to consider from the enforcement action.

Not The First Time

Last week’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against LBI was not the only recent enforcement action against the company or related entities.

As highlighted here, in November 2010 the company reached a global settlement with the DOJ related to an investigation of its cost allocating methodologies for overseas U.S. federal contracts. As part of the settlement, the company paid a total of $65 million and the settlement was composed of three separate agreements:

  • A two-year deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ in which an independent monitor was appointed.
  • A related civil settlement agreement with the DOJ and the relator of a whistleblower lawsuit. In accordance with the agreement, the company accepted responsibility for the actions of former employees who violated the U.S. False Claims Act.
  • An Administrative Agreement with the company’s lead federal agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development.

As highlighted here, in December 2014 Derish Wolff (the former President, CEO and Chairman of the company) pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the U.S. Agency for International Development with respect to billions of dollars in contracts for reconstructive work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As highlighted here, in November 2010 Salvatore Pepe (a former controller and the former CFO of the company) and Precy Pellettieri (a former controller of the company) also pleaded guilty to criminal informations charging them with conspiring to defraud the government with respect to the above conduct.

Government Contracts

Despite the prior enforcement action and the company’s FCPA scrutiny, Louis Berger has raked in numerous government contracts.

For instance, in just the past 9 months the company has been awarded the following government contracts.
  • A $14.8 million operations and maintenance fuels contract by the Defense Logistics Agency Energy for Fort Knox, Kentucky (see here).
  • A $21.6 million operations and maintenance fuels contract by the Defense Logistics Agency Energy at Fort Bliss, Texas (see here).
  • A $20 million contract with Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to provide facility maintenance and repair services for toll plaza buildings along turnpike roadways in South Florida (see here).
  • A contract to provide air terminal and ground handling services at Kunsan Air base and Gimhae Republic of Korea air base in South Korea under a five-year contract with the United States Transportation Command (see here).
  • A contract from the U.S. Army, Europe to provide transient aircraft services at Stuttgart Army Airfield, Stuttgart Germany, a U.S. Army Airfield operated and maintained by the U.S. Army (see here).
  • A $95 million contract to assist the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District in responding to natural disasters and emergencies by providing temporary emergency power (see here).

World Bank Sanction

In February 2015, the company announced that it had accepted a World Bank Sanction based on the Vietnam conduct alleged in last week’s FCPA enforcement action. As noted in the company’s release:

“Louis Berger Group, the U.S.-based operating company within Louis Berger, has been barred from working on World Bank-funded projects for 12 months, subject to compliance with certain conditions. In addition, the Louis Berger parent has accepted terms of a conditional non-debarment for the same period. The sanctions are based on findings of misconduct under the World Bank standards by former employees on two 2007/08 World Bank-funded contracts in Vietnam that Louis Berger self-identified and self-reported to the U.S. government and World Bank.”

Rogue Employees?

Notwithstanding the above prior enforcement action, in relation to last week’s FCPA enforcement action it is fair to pose the question of whether the conduct at issue was engaged in by rogue employees (Richard Hirsch – an employed located in the Philippines, who at times oversaw the Company’s overseas operations in Indonesia and Vietnam and James McClung an employee located in India, who at times oversaw the Company’s overseas operations in Vietnam and India).

For instance, the DPA makes several references to the employees concealing conduct and otherwise creating false documents. Moreover, the DPA twice mentions the “nature and scope of the conduct” as a presumed mitigating factor, something not often found in FCPA resolution documents.

Moreover, compared to most corporate FCPA enforcement actions, there is little mention in the LBI action regarding the company’s control environment or compliance policies and procedures.

Was That Really a Voluntary Disclosure?

The DPA states that LBI voluntarily disclosed the conduct at issue and the Sentencing Guidelines calculation in the DPA credits the company for voluntarily disclosing.

Yet, is it really a voluntary disclosure when the company only took action after – in the words of the DPA – “the government had made LBI … aware of a False Claim Act investigation …”?

Did the Company Need a Compliance Monitor?

The DPA requires that LBI engage a compliance monitor for a three-year period.

Notwithstanding LBI’s prior troubles, query whether the compliance monitor was truly necessary or a government required transfer of shareholder wealth to FCPA Inc. (see here for the prior post).

For instance, in the DPA the DOJ stated that the company “has engaged in extensive remediation, including terminating the employment of officers and employees responsible for the corrupt payments, enhancing its due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, and instituting heightened review of proposals and other transactional documents for all Company contracts.”

Moreover, LBI’s press release (which the company had to clear with the DOJ pursuant to the DPA) states:

“Since 2010, Louis Berger has undergone a massive $25+ million reform effort that resulted in new internal controls, new policies and procedures, and comprehensive systems investments, including a new global accounting system. The company has actively supported the government in its investigation of the culpable individuals and their activities. In addition to separating these former managers from the company, the firm also has added new managers to key positions, including chief financial officer and controller, and regional management teams throughout Asia and the Middle East. Additionally, the company implemented a new corporate operational model to ensure greater centralized oversight and control of overseas business activities. Moreover, the company has reformed its ownership structure by implementing an Employee Stock Ownership Program. The company established an independent compliance and ethics department under the oversight of an independent audit committee, introduced a global helpline through which employees can report potentially non-compliant activities, and implemented a global code of business conduct. Investments also have funded annual worldwide compliance, ethics and anti-corruption training for all employees.”

Timeline

Regardless of the merits of the voluntary disclosure, according to LBI’s press release the company self-reported the conduct at issue to the U.S. government starting in 2010.

Thus, LBI’s FCPA scrutiny lasted 5 years.

SNC-Lavalin Should Be Grateful And Not Pout

Child Crying

But Mom / Dad, when Johnny gets into trouble his parents do things a little bit differently, why can’t I benefit from that?

As I told The Globe and Mail in this article, that is my reaction to SNC-Lavalin’s unusual statement upon being criminally charged by Canadian authorities for alleged improper payments to Libyan officials.

As noted in this previous post, last week the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced charges against the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., its division SNC-Lavalin Construction Inc. and its subsidiary SNC-Lavalin International Inc.

Upon being charged, SNC-Lavalin issued this release, which as relevant here, stated:

“It is important to note that companies in other jurisdictions, such as the United States and United Kingdom, benefit from a different approach that has been effectively used in the public interest to resolve similar matters while balancing accountability and securing the employment, economic and other benefits of businesses.”

SNC-Lavalin should be grateful about various aspects of Canada’s legal system (compared to the U.S.) and not pout.

For starters SNC-Lavalin can only be found guilty of the charges alleged to the extent one of its “senior officials” engaged in improper conduct.  This is a much more exacting standard than the very lenient U.S. standard of respondeat superior corporate criminal liability in which a business organization can face criminal liability to the extent any employee engaged in improper conduct within the scope of employment and intended, at least in part, to benefit the organization.

Perhaps most importantly, SNC-Lavalin should be grateful, and not pout, that Canadian authorities will have to prove the facts and legal theories alleged in the enforcement action.  In the U.S., FCPA enforcement agencies are rarely put in the position of having to prove anything in a corporate FCPA enforcement action.  Rather, the DOJ (or SEC) occupy the position of prosecutor, judge and jury all at the same time and use resolution vehicles such as non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements (NPAs / DPAs) or administrative settlements – all of which are not subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny.

In short, SNC-Lavalin should be grateful, and not pout, that Canadian law enforcement authorities have not abandoned (as U.S. authorities have) traditional legal principles in the name of ease and efficiency. Accusing a person – whether a natural person or a legal person such as SNC-Lavalin – was never meant to be easy or efficient and it is interesting that SNC-Lavalin appears to be begging for such a system.

In other portions of its recent statement, SNC-Lavalin stated that the criminal charges “are without merit.” In other words, SNC-Lavalin seems to be saying that even though the criminal charges “are without merit,” it would have gladly forked over tens of millions – or perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars – of shareholder money to make the RCMP go away.  How would that benefit SNC-Lavalin’s employees and shareholders?

It is also worth nothing that SNC-Lavalin’s statement casts several opinion statements as fact.

For instance, many would disagree that companies subject to the FCPA “benefit” from the common enforcement approach in which the DOJ (or SEC) are not put in a position to prove anything in relation to the facts and legal theories alleged.  Many would also disagree that companies subject to the FCPA “benefit” from the excessive leverage the DOJ (or SEC) have over companies in extracting corporate settlement.  Moreover, many would disagree that the U.S. approach to resolving corporate FCPA enforcement actions through NPAs and DPAs or administrative SEC actions have “been effectively used in the public interest.”

In short, SNC-Lavalin should be grateful, and not pout, that it is subject to a legal system in which law enforcement has to prove facts and legal theories to someone other than itself.

And let’s face it, the problem with SNC-Lavalin’s predicament has little to do with Canada’s legal regime for prosecuting companies, but rather Canada’s recent – and foolish – automatic debarment rules (see here and here).

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