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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Question to ponder, scrutiny alerts and updates, Caremark, and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Question to Ponder

If publicly-traded companies can put law enforcement to its burden of proof in peer countries, why do publicly traded companies (nearly universally) roll over and play dead when the subject of U.S. law enforcement inquiries?

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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Is ISO 37001 a flop?, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Is ISO 37001 a Flop?

Microsoft has been under FCPA scrutiny since March 2013.

This recent blog post by David Howard (Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President & Deputy General Counsel) titled “An Update on Microsoft’s Approach to Compliance” caught my eye. It begins:

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Friday Roundup

Scrutiny alerts, misleading yet interesting, the flip side, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Updates

Baxter International

The Wall Street Journal reports that Baxter International “investigated a joint venture in China and discovered expense violations there last year.”  According to the article, Baxter took action after employees of Guangzhou Baxter Qiaoguang Healthcare Co., reported problems internally in July 2012.  According to the article, similar allegations were made in July 2013 that “employees at Baxter’s joint venture paid travel agencies for arranging conferences between 2011 and 2012 for Chinese health officials.”  According to the article, “employees at several hotels identified as the conference sites in the documents said they had no records of the conferences.”

ENI

IntelliNews report here:  “ENI SpA  chief executive Paolo Scaroni will become a target of a major US Foreign Corruption Practices Act investigation by the US Department of Justice and the US Securities Exchange Commission in connection with an Algerian bribery scandal, [Italian] judicial sources said.” Among other things, the article states: “Judicial sources in Milan said they have compelling evidence Scaroni had personal knowledge of the bribe paid by SAIPEM and that SAIPEM is directly controlled by ENI and its management.”

As noted in this previous post, Eni has ADRs registered with the SEC.  In 2010, Eni resolved (see here) an SEC FCPA enforcement action concerning Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct.  In resolving the action, Eni consented to the entry of a court order permanently enjoining it from violating the FCPA’s books and record and internal controls provisions.

Weatherford

The company recently disclosed as follows concerning its long-lasting FCPA scrutiny.

“During the quarter ended June 30, 2013, negotiations related to the oil-for-food and FCPA matters progressed to a point where we recognized a liability for a  loss contingency that we believe is probable and for which a reasonable estimate  can be made.  Certain significant issues remain unresolved in the negotiations and, if these issues are not resolved to the Company’s satisfaction,  negotiations may be discontinued and such unresolved issues may ultimately  impact our ability to reach a negotiated resolution of the matters.  At this  time, the Company estimates that the most likely amount of this loss is $153 million.”

A $153 million settlement would be the eighth largest in FCPA history.

Avon

The company recently disclosed as follows concerning its long-lasting FCPA scrutiny.

“As previously reported in August 2012, we are in discussions with the SEC and the DOJ regarding resolving the government investigations. Our factual presentations as part of these discussions are substantially complete. In June 2013, we made an offer of settlement to the DOJ and the SEC that, among other terms, included payment of monetary penalties of approximately $12. The DOJ and the SEC have rejected the terms of our offer. Although we expect that the DOJ and the SEC will make a counterproposal to our offer, they have not yet done so. Our discussions with the DOJ and the SEC are ongoing.

There can be no assurance that a settlement with the SEC and the DOJ will be reached or, if a settlement is reached, the timing of any such settlement or the terms of any such settlement. We expect any such settlement will include civil and/or criminal fines and penalties, and may also include non-monetary remedies, such as oversight requirements and additional remediation and compliance requirements. We may be required to incur significant future costs to comply with the non-monetary terms of any settlement with the SEC and the DOJ. Under certain circumstances, we may also be required to advance significant professional fees and expenses to certain current and former Company employees in connection with these matters. Until any settlement or other resolution of these matters, we expect to continue to incur costs, primarily professional fees and expenses, which may be significant, in connection with the government investigations.
At this point we are unable to predict the developments in, outcome of, and economic and other consequences of the government investigations or their impact on our earnings, cash flows, liquidity, financial condition and ongoing business.  However, based on our most recent discussions with the DOJ and the SEC, the Company believes that it is probable that the Company will incur a loss upon settlement that is higher than the offer made by the Company of approximately $12, which was accrued by the Company as of June 30, 2013. We are unable to reasonably estimate the amount of any additional loss above the amount accrued to date; however it is reasonably possible that such additional loss will be material.”

Owens-Illinois

The beverage company recently disclosed as follows.

“The Company conducted an internal investigation into conduct in certain of its overseas operations that may have violated the anti-bribery provisions of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”), the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, the Company’s own internal policies, and various local laws. In October 2012, the Company voluntarily disclosed these matters to the U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). The Company intends to cooperate with any investigation by U.S. authorities. On July 18, 2013, the Company received a letter from the DOJ indicating that it presently did not intend to take any enforcement action and is closing its inquiry into the matter. The Company is presently unable to predict the duration, scope or result of any investigation by the SEC or whether the SEC will commence any legal action.”

AB InBev

The beverage company recently disclosed as follows.

“As previously disclosed, we have been informed by the SEC that it is conducting an investigation into our affiliates in India, including our non-consolidated Indian joint venture, InBev India Int’l Private Ltd, and whether certain relationships of agents and employees were compliant with the FCPA. We continue to cooperate in this investigation and have been informed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that it is also conducting a similar investigation. Our investigation into the conduct in question is ongoing and we are cooperating with the SEC and the DOJ.”

Misleading Yet Interesting

Perhaps one reason for why there appears to much confusion about the FCPA and FCPA enforcement is due to the vast amount of misleading information in the public domain concerning the FCPA.

This recent article in the Economic Times of India concerning Wal-Mart is an instructive example.

Stating that the FCPA is a “law that prohibits American companies and their foreign subsidiaries from bribing officials” is not a completely accurate statement concerning the scope of the law.  Stating that “the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA are enforced by the Department of Justice and the accounting provisions by the Securities and Exchange Commission” is not completely accurate either.  The SEC can also bring civil actions for FCPA anti-bribery violations and the DOJ can also bring criminal actions for wilful violations of the accounting provisions.

“In 2008, for example, Siemens paid a fine of $1.6 billion, the largest ever for an FCPA violation.”  This is a false statement.  While the Siemens enforcement action is indeed the largest in FCPA history in terms of fine and penalty amount, the amount was $800 million.”

Citing a source that says Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny could result in an enforcement action “between $4.5 billion and $9 billion” is outrageous beyond belief.

Despite its deficiencies, the article highlights an interesting tension between conducting a thorough internal investigation and the treatment of employees.  The article states:

“The long shadow of Bentonville, channelled by the permanent gaze of investigators, is causing angst among the Indian staff of Walmart. A company official quoted earlier says the army of investigators, who enjoy sweeping powers to seize documents and equipment of the staff, are seen by many employees as intrusive and as an extra-judicial authority in the office. For example, the investigators scan even the couriers sent out by the staff. The official quoted above says the objective to ensure FCPA compliance is causing even minor situations to snowball.”

[…]

“In another case, Richard Leonard, a British citizen and general manager for asset protection in India, was on a store visit to Ludhiana, that too with Asia head Price, when he received a frantic call from a colleague that KPMG executives were trying to seize his desktop computer and break open his drawer. He immediately called other colleagues, asking them to stop the investigators from taking possession of his workstation. On his return to the office, Leonard dashed off e-mails to his bosses, including Walmart’s global head Mike Duke, on how employees like him have lost respect in the office and they are being portrayed as “criminals” by independent auditors.”

The article also states:

“Walmart is asking all India employees who have left or been suspended to sign a three-page ‘consultancy and cooperation agreement’, ostensibly with the FCPA fallout in mind. The agreement essentially requires them to make themselves available to provide any information or explanation of materials or documents requested by Walmart or any government authority. “The manner in which lawyers and audit team are going about doing their business, I have started believing that I have done something wrong,” says an employee.”

The Flip Side

This Forbes columnist asks – in the context of GlaxoSmithKline –  “is big pharma addicted to fraud?”

The question reminded me of the spot-on statement previously profiled here.  In a Law360 interview, Stephen Jonas (here), a partner in the Boston office of WilmerHale, was asked “what aspects of law in your practice are in need of reform, and why?”  He stated:

“One area greatly in need of reform, in my view, is the investigation of alleged health care fraud. This is an area in which the government regularly secures enormous settlements, starting in the tens of millions of dollars, and now exponentially expanding to the billions of dollars. Virtually every pharmaceutical company has now been subjected to one or more of these investigations and the results are predictable — enormous monetary contributions to the federal government. I find it hard to believe that wrongdoing is so rampant in this industry that every company has at least several hundred million dollars worth of it. The more likely answer is that these settlements often have far more to do with the leverage the government enjoys than the merits of what the company did or didn’t do. In order to stay in business, pharmaceutical and medical device companies must be able to sell products that can be paid for by Medicaid and Medicare. But a conviction for a health care offense would result in exclusion of the companies from federal health insurance and essentially a death sentence for their business. So they cannot afford to fight even the most debatable of charges. One of the results is that novel legal theories and sketchy evidence will never be tested in a court of law and negotiated settlements (under threat of exclusion) serve as “precedent” for the next case. That is a system badly in need of reform.”

Related to GSK, see here for my recent TV interview with LinkAsia.

Reading Stack

The always informative Miller & Chevalier FCPA Summer Review 2013.  As noted in the review “while investigation activity levels appear robust, the overall pace of  enforcement in 2013, in terms of resolved dispositions, remains at its lowest  level since 2006.”  This is correct, although difficult to square with a recent article from Compliance Week titled “FCPA Enforcement on the Rise Once Again.”  This is why an FCPA lingua franca is so important.  (See prior posts here and here).  Among other things, the Miller & Chevalier review contains useful charts including the nationality of companies under FCPA investigation and the countries implicated most frequently in FCPA enforcement actions.

Press coverage of BSG Resources and Beny Steinmetz (the wealthy Israeli for whom BSG Resources is named) regarding its business in Guinea continues.  (See this recent article from the U.K. Guardian).

An informative read from John Rupp (Covington) on how corporate interests and individual interests in a bribery investigation can collide and what corporate counsel can do to prevent this dynamic.

An interesting read from Trace Blog on how bribery schemes fall apart.  The post states:

“The reality is that many bribery schemes simply self-implode.  Think of it this way, once a bribe is paid, a corresponding debt is created to all who are involved in the scheme:  to the business partner who provides the funds; to the third party “consultant” who launders them through false pretense; to the accountant who cooks the books; to the bagman who delivers the payment; to each and every role player, big or small, who helps to bring about the bribe. At the time, loyalties may seem obvious: each co-conspirator will usually have a clear self-interest in keeping the bribery scheme hidden.  But as situations change, so too do incentives, and in business there are few guarantees as unsure as the honor among thieves.  […] Think of all the bribery stories that have come to light simply by their own accord.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

Friday Roundup

From the SEC Chairman, Congress is capable, adding to the list, scrutiny alerts, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

From the SEC Chairman

SEC Chairman Elisse Walter stated as follows earlier this week (see here) in opening a Foreign Bribery and Corruption Training Conference for law enforcement officials from around the world.

“[W]e have found that corrupt practices by a registered company are generally indicators of larger problems within the business – problems with the potential to harm that business’s shareholder-owners.  Bribery and other corrupt practices may result in accounting fraud and falsified disclosures where shareholders are not getting an accurate picture of a company’s finances in their regulatory filings.  Bribery means losing control of – or deliberately falsifying – books and records.  Often, key executives or board members are kept in the dark, limiting their ability to make informed decisions about the company’s business. Obviously, engaging in corrupt practices means weakening or circumventing internal control mechanisms, leaving a company less able to detect and end not just corruption but other questionable practices. A company that has lost its moral compass is in grave danger of losing its competitive roadmap, as well – while shareholders are kept in the dark.”

Congress Is Capable

Well, at least as to certain issues.

Such as introducing and passing laws that expressly describe state-owned entities (“SOEs”).  In reading my historical account of the FCPA’s legislative history, “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” or my “foreign official” declaration here, you will learn that despite being aware of SOEs, despite exhibiting a capability for drafting a definition that expressly included SOEs in other bills, and despite being provided a more precise way to describe SOEs, Congress chose not to include such definitions or concepts in S. 305, the bill that ultimately became the FCPA in December 1977.

This prior post highlighted Congress’s capability in capturing SOEs in Dodd-Frank Section 1504 and along comes another example which demonstrates that Congress is capable of legislating as to SOEs.  Recently, H.R.491 – the Global Online Freedom Act of 2013 was introduced in the House.  The purpose of the bill is “To prevent United States businesses from cooperating with repressive governments in transforming the Internet into a tool of censorship and surveillance, to fulfill the responsibility of the United States Government to promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to restore public confidence in the integrity of United States businesses, and for other purposes.”

The bill defines “foreign official” as follows.

The term ‘foreign official’ means– (A) any officer or employee of a foreign government or of any department; and (B) any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of, or acting under color of law with the knowledge of, any such government or such department, agency, state-owned enterprise, or instrumentality.” (emphasis added).

It is a basic premise of statutory construction that Congress is presumed not to use redundant or superfluous language.  Granted, H.R.491 is not yet law, but let’s assume it becomes law as introduced.   If instrumentality includes SOEs (as the enforcement agencies maintain), then Congress will violate this legislative maxim by using redundant or superfluous language in H.R. 491.

Adding To The List

The Heritage Foundation recently published (here) a speech by Peter Hansen titled “Unleashing the U.S. Investor in Africa: A Critique of U.S. Policy Toward the Continent.”  Hansen critiqued U.S. government thinking about African development, including Ambassador statements that it is important to raise incentives for overly “cautious” U.S. companies to invest in Africa.  Hansen stated that this “mistaken assumption” assumed that “mainstream U.S. companies will be motivated more by the prospect of higher rewards than by the diminishment of risks.”  He noted that this view is not just wrong, but counterproductive and stated as follows.

“The problem with Africa is not a lack of attractive prospects, but rather Africa’s risk profile. With few exceptions, sensible U.S. direct investors (that is, those who run projects, not just take portfolio positions) have steered clear of Africa for the simple reason that Africa’s risks often exceed their risk tolerance. The African market has been left largely to non-Americans, to the unsophisticated seekers of El Dorado, and to a legion of “chancers” who seek sweetheart deals with no money down. The resulting tales of woe coming out of Africa, due largely to poor investment planning or thwarted get-rich-quick schemes, serve wrongly to tarnish Africa’s reputation.  By exclusively raising incentives and failing to reduce risks, Ambassador Carson’s approach simply encourages those already prone to failure, without inspiring broad-spectrum investment by serious U.S. companies. Such bedrock U.S. firms do not need higher incentives. Africa already presents high-return opportunities. What serious U.S. firms need instead is for Africa’s risks to be reduced. Rewards that cannot be obtained are, after all, just mirages. The easiest way for the U.S. government to reduce risks for U.S. investors in Africa is to provide them with legal protection.  The basic legal tools for protecting U.S. investors are double tax treaties (DTTs), often called double tax agreements (DTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs).”

Query whether an FCPA compliance defense should be added to this list?  See here to download my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

This previous post highlighted the scrutiny Brookfield Asset Management (a Toronto based global asset management company with shares traded on the NYSE) was facing in Brazil concerning allegations that its subsidiary paid bribes to win construction permits.  As the Wall Street Journal recently reported (here), Sao Paulo, Brazil prosecutors filed civil charges against the company’s Brazilian subsidiary, two of its top executives and a former employee.  The prosecutor is quoted in the WSJ as saying that “Brookfield has created a high system of bribery in order to obtain approval for its projects quickly and with irregularities.”  A spokesman for the company stated as follows.  “These are unproven allegations made by a former employee.  We don’t believe Brookfield did anything wrong and we are cooperating with authorities.”

This previous post highlighted scrutiny of EADS subsidiary, GPT Special Management Systems in the U.K.  The Financial Times recently reported here that the FBI is also probing corruption allegations against GPT “relating to a contract in Saudi Arabia.”  The article states as follows.  “The FBI has interviewed a witness and taken possession of documents in connection with allegations that GPT bribed Saudi military officials with luxury cars and made £11.5m of unexplained payments – some via the US – to bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.”

This recent Reuters article reports that Italian police arrested the head of defense group Finmeccanica SpA (Giuseppe Orsi) on a warrant alleging that he paid bribes to win an Indian contract.  According to the report, Prosecutors accuse Orsi of paying bribes to intermediaries to secure the sale of 12 helicopters in a 560 million euro ($749 million) deal when he was head of the group’s AgustaWestland unit.  Finmeccanica, which is approximately 30% owned by the Italian government, has ADRs registered with the SEC and AgustaWestland does extensive business in the U.S. (see here), including with the U.S. government.  According to this Wall Street Journal article, Italian prosecutors are also “investigating [Finmeccanica] on suspicion that it engaged in corrupt activities to win various types of contracts in Latin America, Asia, and at home.”

This recent Bloomberg article reports that “Eni SpA Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni is being investigated for alleged corruption in an Italian probe of contracts obtained by its oil services company, Saipem SpA, in Algeria.”  Eni has ADRs registered with the SEC.  In 2010, Eni resolved (see here) an SEC FCPA enforcement action concerning Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct.  In resolving the action, Eni consented to the entry of a court order permanently enjoining it from violating the FCPA’s books and record and internal controls provisions.

NCR Corporation stated in a recent release here, in pertinent part, as follows concerning its FCPA scrutiny.

“Update regarding OFAC and FCPA Investigations

The Company and the Special Committee of the  Company’s Board of Directors have each completed their respective internal investigations regarding the anonymous allegations received from a purported whistleblower regarding certain aspects of the Company’s business practices in China, the Middle East and Africa. The principal allegations relate to the Company’s compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and federal regulations that prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in certain activities in Syria.

[…]

The Company has made a presentation to the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission(“SEC”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) providing the facts known to the Company related to the whistleblower’s FCPA allegations, and advising the government that many of these allegations were unsubstantiated.  The Company’s investigations of the whistleblower’s FCPA allegations identified a few opportunities to strengthen the Company’s comprehensive FCPA compliance program, and      remediation measures were proposed and are being implemented.  As previously disclosed, the Company is responding to a subpoena of the SEC and requests of the DOJ for documents and information related to the FCPA, including matters related to the whistleblower’s FCPA allegations.”

Investigating the purported whistleblower’s allegations has been a costly exercise for NCR.  In a recent earnings conference call, company CFO Bob Fishman stated that the “overall cost” has been approximately $4.8 million.

Reading Stack

See here for the New York Times DealBook writeup of oral arguments in SEC v. Citigroup – an appeal which focuses of Judge Jed Rakoff’s concerns about common SEC settlements terms, including neither admith nor deny.

FCPA enforcement statistics are over-hyped for compliance assessments says Ryan McConnell (Morgan Lewis) in this Corporate Counsel article.  In this Corporate Counsel article, McConnell and his co-author compare 2012 to 2011 numbers in terms of facilitation payments data found in corporate policies.

The three types of employees one encounters when conducting FCPA training – here from Alexandra Wrage (President, Trace International).

If for no other reason, because of the picture associated with this recent post on thebriberyact.com.

*****

A good weekend to all.

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