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Firtash Files Motion To Dismiss DOJ FCPA And Related Charges Brought In 2014

firtash

As highlighted in this prior post, in April 2014 the DOJ announced the unsealing of a criminal indictment charging six individuals “with participating in an alleged international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of state and central government officials in India to allow the mining of titanium minerals.”

Among those charged was Dmitry Firtash, a high-profile Ukrainian businessman.

Prior to the April 2014 unsealed indictment, Firtash was arrested in Austria and thereafter paid $174 million to post bail. Responding to the U.S. criminal charges, as noted in this prior post, Firtash released a video which insisted he is an innocent party caught at the center of a “battlefield for the two biggest global players of Russia and the USA.”

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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Firtash extradition, scrutiny alerts and updates, spot-on observation, and refreshing words. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Firtash Extradition

In April 2014, the DOJ announced the unsealing of a criminal indictment charging six individuals “with participating in an alleged international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of state and central government officials in India to allow the mining of titanium minerals.” (See here for the prior post).

Among those charged was Dmitry Firtash, a high-profile Ukrainian businessman.

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Austrian Judge Denies Extradition Request, Calls DOJ’s Case Against Firtash “Politically Motivated” And Lacking “Sufficient Proof”

Denied

In the DOJ’s self-declared “new era of FCPA enforcement,” it has been very successful in exercising its leverage against risk averse corporate defendants to secure settlements largely resolved through resolution vehicles not subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny.

Yet, when the DOJ actually is put in a position to prove an FCPA case to someone other than itself or to defend other aspects of its case, the DOJ has generally struggled.  (See here for “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses is Acceptable?”).

As highlighted in this prior post, in April 2014 the DOJ criminally charged Dmitry Firtash, a high-profile Ukrainian businessman, and several others  “with participating in an alleged international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of state and central government officials in India to allow the mining of titanium minerals.”

Prior to the April 2014 unsealed indictment, Firtash was arrested in Austria and thereafter paid $174 million to post bail.

Responding to the U.S. criminal charges, as noted in this prior post, Firtash released a video which insisted he is an innocent party caught at the center of a “battlefield for the two biggest global players of Russia and the USA”.

As highlighted last week prior to an Austrian court ruling on the U.S.’s request to extradite Firtash, “Firtash’s lawyers will argue that his arrest — on charges of bribing officials in India to secure a titanium mining deal that never materialized — was really an effort by the United States to remove him from public life in Ukraine, where he controls major business interests and still holds considerable clout” (quoting from the New York Times article).

As reported by the New York Times, an Austrian judge refused last week to order the extradition of Firtash “siding with defense lawyers who said the American request was politically motivated.”

According to the article:

“The ruling, by Judge Christoph Bauer of the Landesgerichtsstrasse Regional Court in Vienna, amounted to a scathing rebuke of the Justice and State Departments, and reflected the diminished credibility of the United States authorities, even in the eyes of a European ally.

Judge Bauer said that he did not doubt the veracity of two witnesses cited by American prosecutors in their filings, “but whether these witnesses even existed,” because the Justice Department repeatedly refused to provide requested information or respond to questions.

At a hearing that stretched late into the evening, Mr. Firtash’s defense team sought to demolish the American case and discredit the Justice Department’s extradition request.

The main thrust of the team’s arguments, and the issue that clearly dominated the attention of Judge Bauer, was that the case was directed by the State Department in pursuit of larger American foreign policy goals.

[…]

In perhaps their most electrifying argument, Mr. Firtash’s lawyers asserted that an initial request by the United States for his arrest, on Oct. 30, 2013, was directly tied to a trip to Ukraine by an assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, in which she sought to prevent Mr. Yanukovych from backing out of a promise to sign sweeping political and trade agreements with Europe.

Ms. Nuland left Washington on the day the arrest request was submitted toAustria. The request was rescinded four days later, said a lawyer, Christian Hausmaninger, after Ms. Nuland came to believe she had received assurances from Mr. Yanukovych that he would sign the accords.

From that point, nothing happened in the Indian bribery case, Mr. Hausmaninger said, until Feb. 26 — four days after Mr. Yanukovych was ousted after months of street protests.

The arrest request was renewed then, and the Austrian authorities detained Mr. Firtash two weeks later, the same day the new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, was visiting President Obama at the White House.

The Justice Department has denied any political motivation in the case.

In a statement issued by the State and Justice Departments, the government said it was “disappointed” by the ruling and hoped for an appeal.

[…]

Judge Bauer said he had concluded that the American authorities had been after Mr. Firtash since at least 2006 and he noted that a finding of political motivation was sufficient to reject extradition even if a crime had occurred.

“America obviously saw Firtash as somebody who was threatening their economic interests,” Judge Bauer said, explaining his decision from the bench. But he also said the United States had not provided coherent evidence of a crime either: “There just wasn’t sufficient proof.”

The Firtash enforcement action is certainly not the first Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against a foreign national in which the DOJ has suffered extradition defeats.  (See here for a prior guest post regarding Victor Kozeny).

 

Friday Roundup

Roundup2

Exasperated, skittish, checking in, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Exasperated

This recent post highlighted Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell’s recent speech in which she stated – in reference to FCPA internal investigations – “we do not except companies to aimlessly boil the oil.”

This recent Law360 article notes that some attorneys are exasperated by Caldwell’s remarks.  The article states:

“[D]efense attorneys have balked at the idea that they’re spending too much time or money on investigations they’re conducting in large part for the government’s sake, saying they’re not willfully adding unnecessary work to an FCPA probe.

Many companies still feel like they’re being forced to walk the fine line between investigating problems thoroughly enough to satisfy the government without making it seem like they’re holding something back or impeding an investigation, according to Day Pitney LLP partner Bob Appleton.

“On the one hand they’re saying, ‘Be fast and don’t do an over-thorough job,’ but on the other hand, they’re saying, ‘If you only partially disclose you’ll get in trouble,’” said Appleton, a former assistant U.S. attorney.

And the costs of an investigation aren’t just limited to what a company self-reports, since the government will often then ask how the company can be sure the problem isn’t popping up anywhere else, according to Colleen P. Mahoney, partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

“One of the biggest challenges is the expense after it starts,” Mahoney said about FCPA investigations at a Practicing Law Institute event Friday.

At the PLI event, SEC enforcement chief Andrew Ceresney said it was up to a company to decide what law firm to retain and how deep to investigate a potential bribery matter.

“We’re not micromanaging your internal investigation,” he said.”

Numerous posts on FCPA Professor have highlighted the staggering amount of pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses (see also “FCPA Ripples“).

Speaking of which, Key Energy Services disclosed yesterday $18 million in expenses – for the first quarter of 2015 -“related to the previously disclosed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) investigations.”

I’ve had several conversations with FCPA practitioners about this issue.  For what it is worth, the common response is something along the following lines: FCPA practitioner agrees that pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses have spun out of control in many instances, but FCPA practitioner insists that his/her firm is not part of the problem.

Other practitioners are also pushing back as to other aspects of Caldwell’s recent speech – namely “what cooperation looks like”.  In this recent post on the FCPA Blog an anonymous contributor states:

 “When client companies and I have opted to cooperate early on and open up all information and records to the DOJ investigative units, I have seen the FCPA investigative team to be less interested in whether facts or evidence show violations or point to evidence raising red flags, as to how the client (and lawyer also) is bowing and mewling in anguish and sorrow before the government.

Provided the client is willing to genuflect and cry out mea culpa and beg for mercy (all three are required) there can be a happy and acceptable outcome in correcting corporate deficiencies and reaching an early valid resolution.

Executives who have somewhat less capacity to grovel underfoot are punished with the promise of crippling expansions of the process including raids and countless subpoenas to uninvolved officers, employees, consultants and accountants.

My experience is that this is not based on early findings of probable cause, but rather a haughty outrage that there was insufficient willingness to self-immolate.”

Skittish

Much has been written about whether the FCPA and its enforcement deters foreign investment.  (See here for instance).

Companies obviously make foreign investment decisions based on a host of legal and non-legal risks and thus empirically separating and measuring the impact of FCPA enforcement on foreign investment decisions is difficult.  Moreover, despite the general rise in FCPA enforcement concerning conduct in certain high risk jurisdictions such as China, India, and Brazil, there continues to be vast amounts of foreign direct investment in those countries by companies subject to the FCPA prohibitions.

Any “evidence” that the FCPA and its enforcement deters foreign investment thus tends to be anecdotal.

Following up on this prior post regarding Cambodia, the Phnom Penh Post reports:

“Despite high-profile US companies like Coca-Cola announcing plans to expand their footprint in the Kingdom, foreign investment from the US remains low compared to regional heavyweights. Large US businesses appear reluctant in setting up in the Kingdom due to corruption concerns, an unpredictable regulatory environment, and a lack of economic attractiveness that allows US interests to thrive.

[…]

Corruption remains one of the major factors keeping US companies away. According to an American Chamber of Commerce survey for 2015, 82 per cent of American businesses in Cambodia were dissatisfied with corruption – the second highest in the region after Laos.”

Checking In

Way back in 2010, Steven Jacobs, the former President of Macau Operations for Las Vegas Sands Corp., filed a civil lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands (LVS) in which Jacobs alleged various improprieties at LVS including in the FCPA context.

As noted in this Bloomberg article, Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire founder and chairman of LVS, recently testified in open court about the case and stated, among other things, that “after four years of investigating, they [the DOJ and SEC]  haven’t found a shred of evidence yet.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

CSC / ServiceMesh

CSC is a Virginia-based IT company and in October 2013 it acquired acquire ServiceMesh, a cloud management company.  Various reports note that Eric Pulier, the former CEO of ServiceMesh, and head of the ServiceMesh division within CSC since ServiceMesh was acquired by that company, has left the company.

CSC sent the following statement to media about Pulier’s departure:

“On March 26, 2015 Eric Pulier was notified that his actions involving payments from the ACE Foundation—an organization founded by Mr. Pulier and not related to CSC—to former IT executives of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a CSC client, violated CSC’s code of conduct related to conflicts of interests and appearance of improprieties. Mr. Pulier was further notified that these violations were grounds for termination of his employment.”

PTC

In this release, PTC stated:

“We have, since making a voluntary disclosure to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, been cooperating to provide information to those agencies concerning expenditures by certain of our business partners in China and by our China business, including for travel and entertainment, that apparently benefitted employees of customers regarded as state owned enterprises in China. This matter involves issues regarding compliance with laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Negotiations with the SEC to reach a resolution of its investigation have begun but have not been concluded. We expect to begin negotiations with the Department of Justice to resolve its investigation in the near future. Resolution of this matter is likely to include fines and penalties. Given the uncertainty regarding whether settlements can be reached and, if reached, on what terms, we are not able to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss with regard to any such settlements and have not recorded any liability in connection with this matter. If settlements are reached, we believe that the associated financial liability could be material to our results of operations for the fiscal period in which the liability is recorded. Further, any settlement or other resolution of this matter could have collateral effects on our business in China, the United States and elsewhere.”

Braskem SA

Brazil-based Braskem recently disclosed in an SEC filing:

“In the context of anti-corruption allegations against certain individuals and entities in Brazil, including Petrobras, we were mentioned in allegations of improper payments made in order to receive favorable treatment in connection with certain contracts that we are party to with Petrobras. We have not received notice of any proceeding or investigation involving us that has been commenced in Brazil or the United States in connection with these allegations.

Although we have certain procedures in place, we have implemented additional procedures and controls to monitor our compliance with applicable anti-corruption laws and as a result of the recent allegations against us, have engaged Brazilian and U.S. legal counsel to conduct a voluntary internal investigation of this matter.  If any of these allegations prove to be true, or if we or any of our subsidiaries, or joint venture partners fails to comply with any of these laws, we could be subject to applicable civil or criminal penalties, which could adversely affect our overall performance.”

[…]

In early March 2015, declarations made by defendants in lawsuits filed against third parties were made public, in which Braskem and two of its former executive officers were cited in allegations of supposed improper payments between 2006 and 2012 to benefit the Company in raw-material supply agreements entered into with Petrobras. As of April 24, 2015, to the knowledge of the management, Braskem has not received any notification of the filing of any proceeding or investigation by Brazilian or U.S. authorities.

In light of such facts, the Company’s Management and Board of Directors approved in April the internal plan for investigation into the allegations (“Investigation”) to be carried out by law firms experienced in similar cases in the United States and in Brazil.  The law firms will work under the coordination of an ad hoc committee formed by members of its Board of Directors, specially created for this purpose.

In addition, the following measures have already been taken:

i)    Voluntary announcement about the Investigation and periodical updates sent to regulatory agencies of capital markets in Brazil (Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil – CVM) and the United States (Securities and Exchange Commission – SEC, and the Department of Justice – DOJ);

ii)    Publication of two Material Fact notices and one Notice to the Market to clarify the news reports and to keep shareholders and the market informed of actions taken by the Company;

iii)   Updating the Audit Board and external auditors about the progress of the Investigation and of the actions already taken.

Braskem and its subsidiaries are subject to a series of anticorruption and anti-bribery laws in the countries where they operate. To reduce the likelihood of infringement of such laws, a series of procedures and controls were implemented and are continuously being improved.

On the other hand, if any of the allegations proves to be true, the Company may be subject to material penalties envisaged in law. At this moment, the Company Management believes that it is not possible to estimate the duration or outcome of the Investigation and, consequently, whether it will have any impact on future financial statements.

The Management is committed to taking all the necessary measures to clarify the facts and will keep the market informed of any progress on this matter.”

United Technologies

Recently, the company disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, in December 2013 and January 2014, UTC made voluntary disclosures to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Division of Enforcement and the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office to report the status of its internal investigation regarding a non-employee sales representative retained by United Technologies International Operations, Inc. (UTIO) and IAE for the sale of Pratt & Whitney and IAE engines and aftermarket services, respectively, in China.  On April 7, 2014, the SEC notified UTC that it was conducting a formal investigation and issued a subpoena to UTC.  UTC continues to cooperate fully with the investigations and has responded to requests for documents and information.  The DOJ and SEC also continue to request information, and the SEC issued a second subpoena on March 9, 2015 seeking documents related to internal allegations of alleged violations of anti-bribery laws from UTC’s aerospace and commercial businesses, including but not limited to Otis businesses in China.  Because the investigations are ongoing, we cannot predict the outcome or the consequences thereof at this time.”

For the Reading Stack

The NY Times goes in depth regarding the U.S’s attempt to extradite Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian national criminally indicted in April 2014 along with others (see here for the prior post).  According to the article:

“An Austrian judge will issue a crucial ruling in the case on Thursday at an extradition hearing here, where Mr. Firtash’s lawyers will argue that his arrest — on charges of bribing officials in India to secure a titanium mining deal that never materialized — was really an effort by the United States to remove him from public life in Ukraine, where he controls major business interests and still holds considerable clout. The Justice Department has repeatedly declined to discuss the case because it is an active prosecution, but the United States attorney’s office in Chicago, which led the investigation, has flatly denied any political motivations.

[…]

Andras Knopp, a Hungarian businessman and longtime associate of Mr. Firtash’s who is also charged in the case, said that the United States authorities had made no effort to extradite him, or even to talk to him about the case, even though he was at the center of the Indian titanium deal …”.

*****

The most recent edition of the always informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update is here.  Among the topics discussed are developments in India including potential amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act providing for liability for a commercial organizations whose employees bribe but also creating a defense for a commercial organization commercial organization if it can prove it had “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery.

*****

This Bloomberg article (“The Dinner Proposal That Led United Into Corruption Probe”) begins:

“United Airlines Inc. was seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment for the airport in Newark when its chief executive dined with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s top Port Authority official in September 2011.

Jeffery Smisek, United’s chief executive officer, wanted funding for several projects, including an estimated $600 million extension of the PATH train from downtown Newark to the airport, as the airline worked through its merger with Continental Airlines.

Halfway through dinner at Novita, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Port Authority Chairman David Samson surprised the group with a request of his own. He complained that he and his wife had grown weary of the trip to their weekend home in Aiken, South Carolina, because the best flight out of Newark was to Charlotte, North Carolina, 150 miles away. Until 2009, Continental had run direct service from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, 100 miles closer.

In a tone described by one observer as “playful, but not joking,” Samson asked: Could United revive that route? An awkward silence fell over the table.

Though the United CEO didn’t agree to the request at the dinner, according to the accounts of some who attended, the airline ultimately added the money-losing route that became known as “the chairman’s flight.” Now federal prosecutors are looking into whether its genesis crossed the line from legitimate bargaining into illegal activity.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Is trust “reasonable,” Sigelman formally indicted, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Is Trust “Reasonable”

This prior post asked:

Would FCPA compliance be better achieved if companies had fewer formal internal controls and instead devoted greater effort to fostering trust within a business organization?  Would such an approach even satisfy an issuer’s obligations under the FCPA’s internal controls provisions which require that issuers devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that transactions are properly authorized, recorded, and accounted for by the issuer?

The questions are posed once again after reading this New York Times article titled “Berkshire’s Radical Strategy: Trust.”  In the article, Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (arguably one of the most well-respected companies in America) “ruminates on the state of corporate governance, offering a counternarrative to the distrustful culture of most businesses: instead of filling your ranks with lawyers and compliance people, he argued, hire people that you actually trust and let them do their job.”

As highlighted in the article:

“Here’s a little-known fact: Berkshire Hathaway, the fifth-largest company in the United States, with some $162.5 billion in revenue and 300,000 employees worldwide, has no general counsel that oversees the holding company’s dozens of units. There is no human resources department, either.

If that sounds like a corporate utopia, that’s probably because it is. To some people in this day and age — given the daily onslaught of headlines about scandal and fraud in corporate America — that also may sound almost like corporate negligence.”

Sigelman Formally Indicted

In January 2014, 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.  (See this prior post for additional details).

In this criminal complaint, Sigelman was charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions as well as three substantive FCPA charges.  The FCPA charges were 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.”

In this release, the DOJ announced today that Sigelman was formally criminally indicted for the same conduct.  The release states that Sigelman “charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and substantive FCPA and money laundering violations.”

The DOJ release further states:  “The case was brought to the attention of the department through a voluntary disclosure by PetroTiger, which cooperated with the department’s investigation.”

As previously noted, both Hammarskjold and Weisman have pleaded guilty.

Scrutiny Alerts

Key Energy Services

Key Energy Services disclosed in its recent SEC filing:

“The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has advised us that it is investigating possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act involving business activities of Key’s operations in Russia. We take any such allegations very seriously and are conducting an investigation into the allegations. We are fully cooperating with and sharing the results of our investigation with the Commission. While the outcome of our investigation is currently not determinable, we do not expect that it will have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations, or cash flows.”

Quanta Services

Quanta Services (an engineering, procurement and construction services company) disclosed in its recent SEC filing:

“On March 10, 2014, the SEC notified Quanta of an inquiry into certain aspects of Quanta’s activities in certain foreign jurisdictions, including South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. The SEC also requested that Quanta take necessary steps to preserve and retain categories of relevant documents, including those pertaining to Quanta’s U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance program. The SEC has not alleged any violations of law by Quanta or its employees. Quanta has complied with the preservation request and is cooperating with the SEC.”

PTC Inc.

PTC Inc. (formerly known as Parametric Technology) first disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in August 2011 and recently disclosed in this  SEC filing:

China Investigation
We have been cooperating to provide information to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice concerning payments and expenses by certain of our business partners in China and/or by employees of our Chinese subsidiary that raise questions concerning compliance with laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Our internal review is ongoing and now includes periods earlier than those previously examined. We continue to respond to requests for information from these agencies, including a subpoena issued to the company by the SEC. We cannot predict when or how this matter may be resolved. Resolution of this matter could include fines and penalties; however we are unable to estimate an amount that could be associated with any resolution and, accordingly, we have not recorded a liability for this matter. If resolution of this matter includes substantial fines or penalties, this could materially impact our results for the period in which the associated liability is recorded or such amounts are paid. Further, any settlement or other resolution of this matter could have collateral effects on our business in China, the United States and elsewhere.”
Fresenius Medical Care
Germany-based Fresenius Medical Care first disclosed FCPA scrutiny in August 2012 and stated as follows in its recent SEC filing:
“[The previously disclosed internal] review has identified conduct that raises concerns under the FCPA or other anti-bribery laws that may result in monetary penalties or other sanctions.  In addition, the Company’s ability to conduct business in certain jurisdictions could be negatively impacted.  The Company has recorded a non-material accrual for an identified matter.  Given the current status of the internal review, the Company cannot reasonably estimate the range of possible loss that may result from additional identified matters or from the final outcome of the continuing internal review.”
Financial Services Industry

In case you had not heard that numerous financial services companies were under FCPA scrutiny for alleged hiring practices, the Wall Street Journal reports:

“U.S. regulators have expanded their investigation into large banks’ hiring practices in Asia, seeking more information from at least five U.S. and European firms, according to people close to the probe.  The Securities and Exchange Commission in early March sent letters to a group of companies including Credit Suisse Group AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG seeking more information about their hiring in Asia, according to people.  […]  The SEC late last year issued a round of letter to at least six banks, seeking information on their hiring practices, such as whether the firms had special programs dedicated to relatives of influential officials, according to people close to the inquiry.  The second round of requests reflects a deepening of the probe.  The agency is seeking more data on the banks’ recruiting in Asia, including lists of employees hired as a result of referrals from foreign officials and clients, added the people familiar with the investigation.”

As to the above, Goldman disclosed in its most recent SEC filing:

“Regulatory Investigations and Reviews and Related Litigation.

[The company] and certain of its affiliates are subject to a number of other investigations and reviews by, and in some cases have received subpoenas and requests for documents and information from, various governmental and regulatory bodies and self-regulatory organizations and litigation relating to various matters relating to the firm’s businesses and operations, including:

compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including with respect to the firm’s hiring practices …”

Reading Stack

No surprise that an individual who paid $174 million to post bail has hired an A-list legal team in defense of DOJ allegations that he violated, among other laws, the FCPA.  (See here for a recent New York Times article regarding Dmitry Firtash).

Sound advice from former DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Chuck Duross in this MoFo Tech article concerning FCPA risk and the technology industry:

“[T]echnology companies are also at risk from the distribution model that’s often used in the industry. Many companies sell their products to channel partners, which add some value to the product or service—such as other hardware, software, an installation, or a service plan—and then resell it at a higher price. That’s an entirely appropriate business model. But as with any third party, companies need to appreciate the potential risk if, for example, the distributor is simply reselling at a higher price without adding any legitimate value and using that profit as a slush fund to funnel bribes to government officials. It may seem to the company that it is not violating the FCPA. It has simply sold its product to another company. But if a company’s employees are aware that the distributor is paying (or just offering) bribes to government officials to help sell the product, the company and its employees could be criminally liable as conspirators and aiders and abettors.

What should tech companies be doing to avoid these issues?

One thing is to know the third parties they’re doing business with. It is also fundamental to understand the business reason for working with third parties. One of the first questions asked during a DOJ or SEC investigation will often be, “What was the business purpose behind working with X?” Having a clear answer will earn credibility with regulators and underscore the company’s commitment to compliance. Also, making sure employees—and third parties—understand company policies, are properly trained, execute FCPA certifications, and are subject to appropriate ongoing reviews can prevent violations and mitigate (or avoid altogether) penalties if a problem does occur. That is just good business. Corruption tends to occur at companies with loose control environments. While I was at DOJ, we routinely saw loose control environments leading to embezzlement, self-dealing, fraud, and even antitrust violations. When a company doesn’t know where its money is going, that’s bad business and negatively impacts shareholder value. When companies invest in a compliance program, they are investing in the health of the business.”

This Kyiv Post article notes:

“Some of Ukraine’s underpaid cadre of civil servants might get bonuses from international finance institutions to reduce the temptation of taking bribes. According to Ukrainian Tax Service chief Ihor Bilous, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is exploring the idea of setting up a fund that would provide officials with additional pay. ‘Last week I had a meeting with EBRD representatives and they proposed to create a fund to pay money for people who serve the state in high positions,’ Bilous told the Kyiv Post. This idea was successfully implemented in Georgia, he adds, “we need to change the system, state salaries are very low and this situation creates some kind of temptation.”

*****

A good weekend to all, and to all mothers, Happy Mother’s Day!

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