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Foreign Enforcement Action Roundup

The U.S., of course, is not the only country with an FCPA-like law. Canada’s version is the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (“CFPOA”).  Australia’s version is part of its general Criminal Code.

For years, Canada and Australia have been hammered by various civil society organizations for its general lack of enforcement. For instance, Transparency International’s recent Annual Progress Report of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (here) noted that “Canada is the only G7 country in the little or no enforcement category, and [it] has been in this category since the first edition of [TI’s] report in 2005.”  Australia likewise was in the little to no enforcement category and TI stated as follows.  “The continued absence of prosecution for the past decade under the Criminal Code, as well as the absence of cases reported under the taxation law for this type of bribery offence, makes it difficult to demonstrate that successful prosecution is feasible under the present system.”

Against this backdrop, it was noteworthy that Canada and Australia authorities recently brought enforcement actions.  This post summarizes the enforcement actions as well as recent developments in the U.K.

Canada

Niko Resources

On June 24th, it was announced that Niko Resources (an oil and natural gas exploration and production company headquartered in Calgary) agreed to resolve a CFPOA enforcement action.

The Agreed Statement of Facts (here) states that Niko “did, in order to obtain or retain an advantage in the course of business provide goods and services to a person for the benefit of Foreign Public Officials to induce the officials to use their position to influence any acts or decisions of the foreign state for which the official performs duties or functions, contrary” to the CFPOA. 

The conduct at issue focused on Bangladesh and Niko Resources (Bangladesh) Limited (an indirectly wholly owned subsidiary) and specifically how Niko Bangladesh “provided the use of a vehicle [a Toyota Land Cruiser] costing [$190,984 Canadian dollars] to AKM Mosharraf Hossain, the Bangladeshi State Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources in order to influence the Minister in dealings with Niko Bangladesh within the context of ongoing business dealings.”  In addition, the Statement of Facts states that “Niko paid the travel and accommodation expenses for Minister AKM Mosharraf Hossain to travel from Bangladesh to Calgary to attend GO EXPO oil and gas exploration, and onward to New York and Chicago, so that the Minister could visit his family who lived there, the cost being approximately $5000.”

According to the Statement of Facts, Canada’s investigation began after news stories surfaced concerning a possible violation of the CFPOA by Niko.

The total fine imposed on Niko was $8,260,000 plus a 15% Victim Fine Surcharge for a total of $9,499,000 (all Canadian dollars).  This would seem to be a very aggressive fine amount for providing a Toyota Land Cruiser to a Bangladeshi Minister and paying $5,000 of non-business travel expenses to the official.  The Statement of Facts states that the “fine reflects that Niko made these payments in order to persuade the Bangladeshi Energy Minister to exercise his influence to ensure that Niko was able to secure a gas purchase and sales agreement acceptable to Niko, as well as to ensure the company was dealt with fairly in relation to claims for compensation for the blowouts, which represented potentially very large amounts of money.”  The Statement of Facts further state that Canadian authorities were “unable to prove that any influence was obtained as a result of providing the benefits to the Minister.”

The Probation Order (here) in the case reads very much like a U.S. style plea agreement or NPA/DPA in the FCPA context.  Among other things, Niko agreed to continue its cooperation in the investigation, to implement a series of compliance undertakings, and to report to relevant Canadian authorities concerning its compliance and remediation.

In this Bulletin, Mark Morrision and Michael Dixon of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP noted that “a particularly significant aspect of this case is the amount and nature of the penalty imposed upon Niko” given that the only prior conviction under the CFPOA – in 2005 against Hydro Kleen – resulted in a $25,000 fine. The Bulletin notes that “the sentencing precedents submitted by the Prosecutor were U.S.Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases and the authors state that “the court’s willingness to accept these precedents and impose a fine of this amount now sets the benchmark for CFPOA fines in Canada.”

For additional coverage of the Niko enforcement action, see here from The Globe and Mail. For a related development connected to the Niko enforcement action involving a former member of Canada’s Parliament, see here from The Globe and Mail.

In a press release (here), Niko Chairman and CEO Ed Sampson stated as follows. “What happened was wrong. We acknowledge this. We accept responsibility, and we appreciate the seriousness of the actions. As a result of these events we have taken extensive steps in all aspects of our organization. One such step is the creation of the position of Chief Compliance Officer who reports directly to our Board, to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.” Niko’s release notes that since 2009 it has “adopted a full anti-corruption compliance program, training program and processes for risk assessment due diligence and compliance monitoring and reporting around the world.”

Australia

Securency International, et al

For years there has been news of an investigation of Securency International and certain of its executives for alleged breaches of Australia’s criminal code which prohibit payments to foreign government officials to obtain a business advantage.  See here and here for the prior posts.

On July 1st, the Australian Federal Police commenced prosecutions against Securency International (“Securency”), Note Printing Australia Ltd (“NPA”) and a number of senior executives of those companies for criminal offences concerning the bribery and corrupting of various foreign public officials.  Criminal charging documents are not publicly available in Australia, but Robert Wyld of  Johnson Winter & Slattery (see here) provides this overview based on press reports.

“The event generated considerable publicity and banner headlines in Victoria where The Age has been prominent in investigating and following the story. The Federal Police commander, Chris McDevitt was quoted by The Age as saying that the case should send “a very clear message to corporate Australia” about avoiding bribery overseas.

The Securency allegations might be summarised as follows, taken from the news coverage of the events, noting that all corporations and individuals charged are innocent until proven guilty.

Securency and NPA have each been charged with criminal offences.  The CEO (Myles Curtis), the CFO (Mitchell Anderson) and a Sales Executive (Ron Marchant) of Securency together with the CEO (John Leckenby), the CFO (Peter Hutchinson) and a Sales Executive (Barry Brady) of NPA and each been charged with bribery offences contrary to sections11.5(1) and 70.2 of the Criminal Code.  The offences are alleged to have taken place between 1999 and 2005 and involved payments totalling nearly $10 million.  The conduct in question involved activity in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam concerning the payment of moneys to consultants or others characterised as public officials in circumstances which resulted in the  award of contracts to Securency and NPA for the printing of foreign currency polymer banknotes.  Specifically,  in Malaysia, Securency and NPA secured a contract to print the 5 ringgit polymer banknotes through the services of an arms broker and a United Malays National Organisation MP and official and a former Malay central bank assistant governor has been charged with bribery by Malaysian authorities.  In Indonesia, Securency and NPA secured a contract to print 500 million 100,000 rupiah polymer banknotes through the services of a consultant, Radius Christanto who received nearly US$4.9 million in commissions.  In Vietnam, Securency secured a contract to print all Vietnamese currency on polymer banknotes, through the services of a local agent Anh Ngoc Luong (said to be a colonel in the Vietnam internal spy agency) and his company CFTD (whose directors were said to be relatives of Communist Party officials).  In  addition, in Nigeria, investigations are ongoing concerning up to $20 million that may have been paid to intermediaries to secure contracts.  Further investigations are ongoing in Europe, the UK and in the US involving the identified conduct and potentially, conduct in other countries.

To the extent that any offences result in convictions, the applicable penalties will be determined under the old Criminal Code regime which existed (and was heavily criticised by the OECD and by Transparency International) before the penalties were substantially amended in February 2010.”

U.K.

Macmillan Publishers

On July 22nd, the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) announced (here)  that an Order was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act  for Macmillan Publishers Limited (“MPL”)  “to pay in excess of  £11 million in recognition of sums it received which were generated through unlawful conduct related to its Education Division in East and West Africa. ”  As noted in the SFO release, “the initial enquiry commenced following a report from the World Bank” (see here for a prior post discussing the World Bank debarment proceeding of the MPL.)   The SFO release goes into detail regarding the ” procedure based on the guidance contained within [the SFO’s] published protocol document” that the SFO required MPL to follow and the release also sets forth  “a number of relevant features, which have informed the resolution” of the matter.   This SFO guidance will be of interest to those following SFO expectations in this Bribery Act era.  For more on the MPL enforcement action see here from Field Fisher Waterhouse.

Willis Limited 

On July 21st, the U.K. Financial Services Authority announced (here) a £6.895 million fine against Willis Limited for “failings in its anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls.”  The FSA release states as follows.  “Between January 2005 and December 2009, Willis Limited made payments to overseas third parties who assisted it in winning and retaining business from overseas clients, particularly in high risk jurisdictions. These payments totalled £27 million. The FSA investigation found that, up until August 2008, Willis Limited failed to: ensure that it established and recorded an adequate commercial rationale to support its payments to overseas third parties; ensure that adequate due diligence was carried out on overseas third parties to evaluate the risk involved in doing business with them; and adequately review its relationships on a regular basis to confirm whether it was still necessary and appropriate for Willis Limited to continue with the relationship.  These failures contributed to a weak control environment surrounding payments to overseas third parties and gave rise to an unacceptable risk that these payments could be used for corrupt purposes, including paying bribes. In addition, between January 2005 and May 2009, Willis Limited failed to adequately monitor its staff to ensure that each time it engaged an overseas third party, an adequate commercial rationale had been recorded and that sufficient due diligence had been carried out. Although Willis Limited improved its policies in August 2008, it failed to ensure that its staff were adequately implementing them. Lastly, throughout the period, Willis Limited’s senior management did not receive sufficient information about the performance of Willis Limited’s relevant policies to allow them to assess whether bribery and corruption risks were being mitigated effectively. During the FSA investigation, Willis Limited identified as suspicious a number of payments totalling $227,000 which it made to two overseas third parties in respect of business carried out in Egypt and Russia.”

According to the FSA,  Willis’s “failings created an unacceptable risk that payments made by Willis Limited to overseas third parties could be used for corrupt purposes.”  The FSA release states that the fine is the  largest “in relation to financial crime systems and controls to date.”  For more on the Willis Limited enforcement action see here from Adam Greaves of McGuireWoods.  The FSA’s Willis Limited enforcement action is similar to a January 2009 enforcement action against Aon Limited (see here).

Regime Change Due Diligence?

Today’s post is from a reader with government experience who wished to remain anonymous.

*****

“I have read with interest this blog’s prior post (here) relating to the recent political turmoil in Egypt, and the possible implications of those events from the standpoint of the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws and regulations around the world. Also of interest was this blog raising the question whether the next generation enforcement device by anti-corruption officials looking at these regime changes might include the “country sweep” as a corollary to the “industry sweep” that has been used in past corruption exercises. These considerations are brought further under the klieg light when considering the evolving state of affairs in the Middle East and the possible additional regime changes that may take place after certain leaders have been in power for decades and have amassed reported family fortunes that would make the most ardent of capitalists sit up and take notice.

Reading posts on this blog and others (see here for a similar recent post on the FCPA Blog), as well as observing general media reports on the amounts that these leaders have supposedly put in their bank accounts, makes one wonder of the level of criminality that must have occurred. It shouldn’t take one with an overly cynical view to surmise that we must be talking of thousands of crimes by hundreds or more actors.

Surely, there will be investigations galore by new regimes to try to discredit the vanquished and reclaim national funds. It will be easier to determine who were the beneficiaries or recipients of all the funds to the extent tracing is possible. But given the sums that are being bandied about, there will be a far larger number of sources from which such funds may have originated that ultimately found their way to the autocrats and their legion. And it will be interesting to see where the investigations and questioning leads in terms of where all that money has come from. One can only hope that people with important titles on their business cards sitting in governmental agencies around the world are also sitting up and paying attention and are planning to use those titles and the power that goes along with them to further the goals of the laws they have sworn to uphold. It goes far beyond simply freezing assets. It will be a massive undertaking. Where it leads could raise delicate issue for businesses. Perhaps also national security and statecraft.

All this also makes one test their empathy skills by playing the “What-Would-You-Do” game. That game goes something like this: imagine you were standing in the high priced wing-tips of a Chief Risk/Compliance Officer or a General Counsel of any public company that has been doing business in that part of the world. What should you be thinking just about now? Surely you have seen the news reports and heard the stories. Do you just shake your head on the speed with which change occurs? Or would you feel compelled (either because you believe it’s the right thing to do, or, more basically, because you would never want to be in a position of being criticized later for at least never having raised it) to walk down the hall to the CEO’s office or the board room for that matter, and say: “we really should be thinking about running an audit or review or bringing in people to run an audit of everything we’ve been doing in [Insert Country or Countries of Choice] just so we understand what we’ve got in terms of any issues. We should be refreshing and testing our protocols.” Board members should be thinking along these lines too. They should be asking these kinds of questions if their own management teams aren’t raising them. You can bet your shareholders’ bottom dollar that plaintiffs’ counsel are or will be thinking like this and pursuing claims, and D&O insurance providers will be concerned about it too. It may be a long way off, and telescoping is never easy, but it will be surprising if the fallout zone in the aftermath doesn’t include some of this laundry.”

Egypt – A Country Sweep?

As has been widely reported, various countries have frozen (or have been asked to freeze) the assets of former President Hosni Mubarak and other former top officials. See here for Samuel Rubenfeld’s roundup at Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents.

Were any of the billions or millions of Mubarak’s assets, or those of other former top officials, obtained because of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations?

That is the question posed by a reader who notes that corruption investigations generally follow regime change.

During Mubarak’s regime, several FCPA enforcement actions alleged conduct involving (in whole or in part) Egypt such as Lockheed, Metcalf & Eddy, Textron, United Industrial Corporation, York, and Daimler.

It is one thing to allege conduct implicating low-ranking “foreign officials” or employees of state-owned or state-controlled entities.

It is quite another to investigate conduct involving top officials of a government generally viewed as an ally in a volatile area of the world. Such barriers would seem to be removed with Mubarak’s ouster and an investigation may now even be viewed as a way to further U.S. relations with a new Egyptian government.

The reader asks, will Mubarak’s removal result in FCPA floodgates being opened in Egypt?

The past few years have witnessed certain “industry sweeps.” Will a “country sweep” be next?

When the Dust Settles

Documents used to resolve a typical FCPA enforcement action (whether a non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreement, plea, or settled civil complaint) are often peppered with vague generalities.

This is not surprising given that there is little serious threat of defense challenges and/or judicial scrutiny.

One element that is often vaguely described is the “foreign official” recipient of the alleged bribe. (This is in contrast to what the U.K. SFO has been doing in some of its recent enforcement actions when it “names names” – see here and here).

For instance, in the recent Daimler action (see here), certain of the “foreign officials” are described simply as follows:

“Nigerian government officials,” “high-level members of the executive branch of the Nigerian government,” “high-level executive branch official of Nigeria,” and “a member of the Nigerian police force” and

“senior official of a [Egypt] government owned factory.”

Given the ease in which information now flows and the world-wide interest in corruption and bribery, FCPA enforcement actions are read around the world.

Not only by foreign government officials and law enforcement agencies, but also by foreign media, foreign-based non-governmental organizations, and just plain old people.

It is thus not surprising that when the dust settles on the U.S. FCPA enforcement action, many are left wondering … who are those “foreign officials”?

For the foreign government involved, it is potentially embarrassing to have “one of your own” (assuming that all “foreign officials” in FCPA enforcement actions are properly deemed as such) become the focus of a bribery investigation in the U.S. without doing something about it “at home.”

Thus, with increasing frequency, one sees stories such as this recent Reuters report which details how the Nigeria Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has begun to probe the alleged bribe payments to the Nigerian “foreign officials” mentioned above.

What about that “senior official of a [Egypt] government owned factory”?

I’ve been told that this issue has become sort of a guessing game in Egypt and that Egyptian authorities have launched an investigation (see here)

Whether such foreign government investigations are bona fide or merely politically expediate cover is a valid question.

However, the take-away point is that just because the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action is over, does not necessarily mean that all the dust has settled. Often, other persons, for entirely different reasons, remain interested.

Q & A With Martin Weinstein

Martin Weinstein (here) is a “dean” of the FCPA bar. Much of my early understanding of the FCPA came as a direct result of working with Martin on FCPA investigations and enforcement actions. I also have Martin to thank for several of the stamps in my passport.

Below is a Q & A exchange with Martin in which he talks about the FCPA’s early years, the current state of enforcement, and suggestions for change.

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Q: As a 1984 law school graduate did you have any exposure to the FCPA? Describe your first exposure to the FCPA?

A: When I was in law school, I never heard of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and didn’t even know that it existed until around 1991. I was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and a witness I was interviewing mentioned to me that she thought that some payments had been made to an Egyptian government official. I remember turning to the investigating agent who was with me and saying, “isn’t there a statute somewhere that prohibits this?” That was my first exposure to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Q: You were lead DOJ counsel in the Lockheed case in the mid-1990’s. Generally describe this matter, how it was resolved, and whether resolution of this case, if brought in 2010, would look any different?

A: I was the lead counsel in the Lockheed case that was resolved in the mid-1990’s, specifically January 1995. It was, by all accounts, the first really serious corporate case brought in the then 20 year history of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In that case, the company actually was indicted, and the allegations involved payments to a member of the Egyptian Parliament to obtain a contract through which the Egyptian Air Force would buy three C130 aircraft from Lockheed. There were two individuals also charged. The cases against all three defendants (the company and the two individuals) were resolved before trial, in the company’s case, literally days before the jury was to be selected.

The company agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It agreed to pay a combination of civil and criminal damages in the amount of $24.8 million, which was twice the profit of the contract they had with the Egyptian military to sell the C130 aircraft.

One of the individuals pled guilty to a lesser charge, and the other individual, a marketing manager named Suleiman Nassar, actually fled to Syria. That was one of the most interesting parts of the case for me because I visited Damascus on several occasions and negotiated directly with the government. Nassar was imprisoned in Syria on these charges, but was ultimately released and returned to the U.S. to plead guilty to violating the FCPA and became, I believe, the first person to go to jail under the FCPA.

Q: Did FCPA enforcement, during the last decade, morph into something other than what Congress intended the FCPA to address when passed in 1977?

A: The last decade of FCPA enforcement has seen extraordinary evolution, and I think you have to say that when Congress passed the law in 1977, they did not envision the wide reach of enforcement today and the types of things that the government gets involved in, such as transactions, joint ventures, and successor liability. I do think that the DOJ and the SEC have stayed generally true to the vision of the FCPA, which focuses on things of value, primarily money, going to foreign government officials in exchange for business.

Q: What is your biggest challenge as an FCPA practitioner? How has your FCPA practice changed over the past decade?

A: The challenges as an FCPA practitioner have mainly involved keeping up with the pace of the enforcement agencies in recent years. Whereas cases used to involve U.S. companies and their businesses in a few countries, the typical case now involves enforcement actions by multiple sovereigns involving the same company at the same time, and that makes the practice more challenging and more fascinating.

Q: What are your clients’ biggest challenges / frustrations with the FCPA or FCPA enforcement? Have these challenges / frustrations changed over the past decade?

A: I think that companies’ main frustration is that even with an outstanding compliance program and 99% of the employees maintaining strict adherence to the laws, you can still have violations which expose the entire company to extraordinarily serious penalties. I think the government has, at times, lost track of the main motivations for this statute and has become focused on the amounts of penalties, the imposition of compliance monitors, and exercising government control over what are basically private businesses. The vast majority of companies are absolutely committed to following the spirit and the letter of the FCPA, but when a company gets into trouble, the whole enterprise can be put at risk because of the conduct of a few people, and that doesn’t seem right. I worry that the government has come to see private industry through “dirty” glasses: the punishments don’t seem to fit the crimes.

Q: The FCPA was passed in 1977, amended in 1988 and also amended in 1998. Given this approximate ten year cycle, is the FCPA in need of further amendment? If so, what would the “Weinstein” amendment look like?

A: I think the Weinstein amendment would focus on the very significant issue of who is a foreign official and what constitutes a state-controlled instrumentality. There is so little guidance in this area that an amendment to the law providing clarity to companies wishing to comply is really essential. For example, after the U.K. government takeovers of certain British banks and U.S. intervention in the auto industry, did all these private businesses become state-controlled instrumentalities rendering all their employees government officials? Companies should not have to guess who is and who is not a government official.

Q: Arguably the two most egregious bribery schemes in recent years involved Siemens and BAE. In both instances, the companies were not charged with FCPA antibribery violations. What message does this send?

A: Siemens and BAE were not charged with antibribery violations largely for two different reasons. In the Siemens case and a number of other cases, charging a company with antibribery violations renders it susceptible to significant suspension and debarment risks. If the government can find suitable alternatives to antibribery charges and still tell the full story of the conduct to the public, it is really a much more just solution not to expose the company to extreme suspension and debarment risks. In BAE, I think the issue was much more one of jurisdiction, and I think the government is going to find this issue repeatedly if it continues to seek to prosecute foreign companies that have relatively little contact with U.S. interstate commerce.

Q: How can law and business schools best expose future lawyers and business leaders to the FCPA? What advice do you have for law students interesting in a future FCPA practice?

A: The FCPA has been a fantastic area in which to practice and to watch evolve. For students who are interested in the field, I think the most important thing is to learn as much as you can about U.S. criminal law and U.S. securities law and their interplay with various anticorruption laws around the world. It has become a very complicated field and I think it is safe to say the stakes for companies and individuals have never been higher.

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