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A Unique FCPA Enforcement Action Then And Still Unique Now

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

As highlighted in this prior post, the DOJ used to civilly enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. One of enforcement actions highlighted, indeed the last time the DOJ used this express statutory provision, was a 2001 enforcement action against KPMG Siddharta Siddharta & Harsono and Sonny Harsono.

It was a unique FCPA enforcement action at the time (believed to be the first time the DOJ/SEC had ever brought an FCPA action against a professional services firm – i.e. a law firm or accounting firm) and still remains unique in that the DOJ/SEC are believed to have never again brought an FCPA enforcement action against a professional services firm.

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Why Has The DOJ Stopped Civilly Enforcing The FCPA?

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The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act specifically authorizes the DOJ to civilly (not just criminally) enforce the statute against non-issuers.

Indeed, between 1991 and 2001 approximately 35% of all DOJ corporate FCPA enforcement actions were civil actions. However, the last time the DOJ invoked this express statutory remedy was in 2001 and the question is posed: why has the DOJ stopped civilly enforcing the FCPA?

Make sure to read to the end of the post to hear the DOJ’s non-responsive answer to this question.

Perhaps instead of creating new ways to enforce the FCPA not even mentioned in the statute (such as non-prosecution agreements, deferred prosecution agreements and most recently declinations with disgorgements) the DOJ should go back to enforcing the FCPA in ways expressly authorized by Congress.

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In An Unusual Development, The DOJ Brings A $7 Million FCPA Enforcement Action Against Las Vegas Sands Nine Months After The SEC’s $9 Million Enforcement Action Based On The Same Conduct

LVS

Parallel DOJ and SEC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions against issuers based on the same core conduct are common. However, such actions are coordinated and announced on the same day.

In a highly unusual development, late yesterday the DOJ announced an FCPA action against Las Vegas based on the same core conduct at issue in the SEC’s April 2016 FCPA enforcement action against Las Vegas Sands. (See here and here prior posts).

Quite frankly, I can’t recall another instance of this happening.

But then again some strange things are happening in the final weeks and days of the Obama administration before existing DOJ officials exit. (See this Wall Street Journal article titled “Obama Administration Races To Finish Probes, Wring Payments From Firms” noting that in the past approximate week the U.S. has reached settlements worth approximately $20 billion).

Adding to the intrigue is that Sheldon Adelson (founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands) is a major Republican contributor.

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No U.S. Nexus, No Problem As U.S. Brings $30.5 Million FCPA Enforcement Action Against Chilean Company In Relation To Its Conduct With Chilean Officials

SQM

Last week the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a $30.5 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM), a chemical and mining company based in Chile, in relation to its conduct with Chilean officials.

The enforcement action is rife with policy issues including the proper scope of FCPA enforcement given that there is no U.S. nexus alleged other than SQM having Series B shares, a form of American Depository Shares, listed on the New York Stock Exchange and thus being required to file periodic reports with the SEC.

The enforcement action included: (i) a DOJ criminal information charging SQM with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions that was resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement in which the company agreed to pay a $15.5 million criminal penalty; and (ii) an SEC administrative order finding FCPA books and records and internal violations in which the company agreed to pay $15 million civil penalty.

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Biomet Becomes An FCPA Repeat Offender

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For many years, the DOJ has advanced the policy position that DPAs and NPAs “have had a truly transformative effect on particular companies and, more generally, on corporate culture across the globe.” (See here for the prior post). Specifically in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act context, the DOJ has stated that “the companies against which DPAs and NPAs have been brought have often undergone dramatic changes.”  (See here for the prior post).

As highlighted here, in March 2012 Biomet resolved an FCPA enforcement action involving alleged conduct in Brazil, Argentina, and China by agreeing to pay approximately $22.8 million ($17.3 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $5.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

Since then, FCPA Professor has chronicled (herehere and here) how Biomet’s DPA was extended, how the DOJ ultimately came to conclude that Biomet had breached its DPA based on subsequent improper conduct, and how an additional FCPA enforcement was expected.

Last week, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) the additional FCPA enforcement action against Zimmer Biomet Holdings (in 2015 Zimmer Holdings acquired Biomet) and Biomet. As highlighted below, a portion of the improper conduct involved the same distributor in Brazil that gave rise to the 2012 FCPA enforcement action.

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