Top Menu

Six Months For The Greens … Plus The Friday Roundup

In September 2009, Gerald and Patricia Green were found guilty by a federal jury of substantive FCPA violations, conspiracy to violate the FCPA, and other charges. According to the DOJ release (see here) the Los Angeles-area film executives were found guilty of engaging in “sophisticated bribery scheme that enabled the defendants to obtain a series of Thai government contracts, including valuable contracts to manage and operate Thailand’s yearly film festival.”

As noted in the DOJ release:

“The conspiracy and FCPA charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and each of the money laundering counts carries a maximum penalty of up to 20years in prison. The false subscription of a U.S. income tax return carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of not more than $100,000.”

Sentencing was originally set for December 17, 2009, was delayed several times, and, at one point, was removed from the calendar altogether (see here).

U.S. District Court Judge George Wu of the Central District of California reportedly wanted to learn more about other FCPA sentences as well as Mr. Green’s health issues.

The DOJ requested a 10 year sentence for both Gerald and Patricia Green.

The DOJ stated that the “court must decline defendants’ remarkable invitation to join the wholesale speculation of FCPA ‘pundits’ as to whether corporate settlements are ‘shielding’ to corporate executives from punishment.”

In closing, the DOJ urged the court to “disregard defendants’ efforts to obscure the landscape of FCPA sentencing, which generally reflects significant prison terms for convicted individuals.”

According to this report, Judge Wu yesterday sentenced the Greens, before a packed courtroom, to six months in prison, followed by three years probation (six months of which must be served as home confinement).

According to the report, Judge Wu “also set a restitution figure of $250,000” but “if the Greens, who have had their accounts frozen and assets seized since being arrested in 2007, can prove that none of the $1.8 million they paid in bribes to Thai officials can be recovered, then they will only have to pay $3,000 in restitution.”

Does the “landscape of FCPA sentencing” truly reflect “significant prison terms” as stated by the DOJ?

True, any prison term is significant for a defendant and his/her family and friends.

But with a top sentence of 60 months (Charles Jumet – see here), the 366 day sentence for Frederic Bourke in November 2009 (see here), the 15 month sentence for Jason Edward Steph and the 366 day sentence for Jim Bob Brown both in January 2010 (see here) and now the 6 month sentence for the Greens – is this yet another instance in which DOJ’s FCPA rhetoric does not match reality?

*****

H-P news that does not involve its former CEO, what others are saying about the Giffen Gaffe, SciClone’s stock drop, and Siemens $1 billion customer … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

H-P Inquiry Escalates

According to a story in today’s Wall Street Journal by David Crawford, the DOJ “has asked Hewlett-Packard Co. to provide a trove of internal records as part of an international investigation into allegations that H-P executives paid bribes in Russia, according to people familiar with the investigations.”

According to the story, the DOJ request “came after German prosecutors complained H-P had refused to provide them with all of the records they requested” and after “H-P initially argued that the German request for bookkeeping records, some of which are five years old, imposed an ‘undue hardship’ on the company.”

The article indicates that the DOJ “asked H-P to comply voluntarily with the request and hasn’t subpoenaed the records” and that “H-P has yet to provide some records” but is “cooperating with the investigations.” According to H-P, the investigation
“involves people that have largely left the company and matters that happened as much as seven years ago.”

What Others Are Saying About Giffen

It’s been one week since the Giffen Gaffe (see here).

Here is what others are saying about the enforcement action that began with charges that James Giffen made “more than $78 million in unlawful payments to two senior officials of the Republic of Kazakhstan in connection with six separate oil transactions”, yet ended with a misdemeanor tax violation against Giffen and an FCPA anti-bribery charge against a functionally defunct entity (The Mercator Corporation -in which Giffen was the principal shareholder, board chairman, and chief executive officer) focused merely on two snowmobiles.

Scott Horton, writing at Harper’s Magazine (see here) noted that “[t]he outcome is a huge embarrassment to federal prosecutors, who had invested a decade in resources in the effort to convict Giffen of FCPA and related violations.”

Horton, who has been following the case for years, highlighted how the “case has been the focus of political manipulation concerns for years” and closed with this paragraph:

“Kazakhs have long claimed that their government’s strategy of resolving the Giffen case by using the right levers with the American administration–a process that led them to hire former attorneys general and high-profile retired prosecutors, private investigators, and public-relations experts–would be successful. The outcome in the Giffen case appears to ratify that view. The notion of an independent, politically insulated criminal-justice administration in America has just taken another severe hit.”

Steve LeVine, author of The Oil and The Glory page at Foreign Policy, noted (here) that the Giffen resolution is “a considerable comedown for the federal government” and that Giffen’s lawyer “understood correctly that he could set up a collision between the Justice Department and the CIA in which the latter would probably prevail.”

The FCPA and Stock Price

What affect, if any, does an FCPA disclosure or resolution have on a company’s stock price?

It’s an issue I’ve explored before (see here) and best I can tell the evidence is inconclusive and the answer is – it depends.

In the case of a company that does business almost exclusively in China disclosing an FCPA inquiry focused on China, the answer is that disclosure of the FCPA inquiry matters – and quite a bit.

On Monday, SciClone Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Delaware company based in California, disclosed in a 10-Q filing (here) as follows:

“On August 5, 2010 SciClone was contacted by the SEC and advised that the SEC has initiated a formal, non-public investigation of SciClone. In connection with this investigation, the SEC issued a subpoena to SciClone requesting a variety of documents and other information. The subpoena requests documents relating to a range of matters including interactions with regulators and government-owned entities in China, activities relating to sales in China and documents relating to certain company financial and other disclosures. On August 6, 2010, the Company received a letter from the DOJ indicating that the DOJ was investigating Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issues in the pharmaceutical industry generally, and had received information about the Company’s practices suggesting possible violations.”

SciClone’s business is focused primarily on China with 90+% of its revenue derived from China sales. Thus, it is not surprising that an FCPA inquiry focused on China had a material impact on the company’s stock price.

As noted in this Reuters story, news of the FCPA inquiry sent SciClone’s shares, at one point, down 41% to a 52 week low.

Siemens $1 Billion Customer

In December 2008, Siemens agreed to pay $800 million in combined U.S. fines and penalties to settle FCPA charges for a pattern of bribery the DOJ termed “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope.” According to the DOJ, for much of Siemens’ operations around the world, “bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure.”

The Siemens enforcement action remains the largest FCPA settlement ever (even though Siemens itself was not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations).

On the one year anniversary of the Siemens enforcement action, I ran a post – Siemens – The Year After (see here) which highlighted how the U.S. government continues to do substantial business with the company it charged with engaging in a pattern of bribery “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope.”

This U.S. government business has helped Siemens outperform its competitors in a difficult recessionary environment and much of the company’s recent success is the direct result of government stimulus programs around the world.

Using Recovery.gov (a U.S. government website designed “to allow taxpayers to see precisely what entities receive Recovery money ..”), I highlighted how several Siemens’ business units have been awarded several dozen contracts funded by U.S. taxpayer stimulus dollars.

It is against this backdrop that Paul Glader’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal “Siemens Seeks More U.S Orders” caught my eye.

According to the article, Siemens Corp. (the U.S. division of Siemens) currently brings in about $1 billion a year from the U.S. government, a figure the division hopes to double by 2015.

Eric Spiegel, chief executive of Siemens Corp., is quoted in the article as saying: “[o]ne of the beauties of the federal-government spending is it didn’t drop off during the recession.”

To that, I’ll add that one of the unfortunate beauties of engaging in bribery the U.S. government terms “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope” is no slow down in U.S. government contracts in the immediate aftermath of the enforcement action.

It’s one of the FCPA greatest headscratchers – FCPA violaters are and remain some of the U.S. government’s biggest suppliers and contracting partners.

As I’ve noted in numerous prior posts, efforts are underway to try to change this. See here, here and here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Additional Lighthouses and Buoys Sentence

Last Friday, the DOJ announced (see here) that John Warwick was sentenced to approximately three years in federal prison “for his role in a conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian government officials to secure maritime contracts.” U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson also sentenced Warwick to two years of supervised release following his prison term and ordered Warwick to forfeit approximately $330,000 in proceeds from his crime.

In February, Warwick pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to Panamanian officials for the purpose of securing business for Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The business involved contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterways.

This is the same conduct at issue in the prior plea and sentencing of Charles Edward Jumet. (See here for additional posts on this matter). In April, Jumet was sentenced to approximately 7.25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to two charges – conspiracy to violate the FCPA and making false statements to federal agents. (See here). Even though Jumet’s charges were equal part FCPA and equal part making false statements to federal agents, his sentence was described as the “longest prison term imposed against an individual for violating the FCPA.”

Given that Warwick was charged and pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy as Jumet, it suggests that the FCPA component of Jumet’s sentence was between 3-4 years.

Two-Tiered Justice?

Certain corporations (acting through employees and agents) in certain industries, most often selling certain things, to certain customers can seemingly violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions with very little consequence. In fact, with increasingly frequency, such companies are not even charged with FCPA antibribery violations and/or may not even have to plead guilty to anything. See here for the recent Daimler, here for the recent BAE, and here for the (somewhat) recent Siemens “bribery, yet no bribery” enforcement actions. Sure these companies coughed up hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases offered up a few subsidiaries to take the fall, but yet were allowed to escape the full legal consequences of their action despite DOJ and SEC allegations that these companies paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to obtain or retain hundreds of millions, and in some cases billions, of dollars of business. The deterrent message in these cases is so strong that the U.S. government continues to do business with these companies – see here for the recent $28 million dollar contract between the U.S. government and a BAE business unit – see here for a general overview of Siemens post-bribery scandal U.S. government contracts.

Charles Paul Edward Jumet of Fluvanna County, Virginia will probably not be getting U.S. government contracts in the near future.

In fact, he probably will not be doing much of anything (other than sitting around) in the near future.

Why?

Because yesterday he was sentenced to approximately 7.25 years in federal prison (see here for the DOJ release).

His crime?

Conspiring to violate the same law that Daimler, BAE, Siemens, its employees, and several other corporations, apparently are immune from violating … the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

Surely, Jumet’s conduct was more egregious than that of Daimler, BAE, Siemens, and others?

Well, not exactly.

Not to make light of his crime, but according to the DOJ, the total amount that Jumet and others paid to Panamanian government officials to receive a lighthouse and buoy contract was approximately $200,000 – an amount that pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of bribe payments in the above referenced enforcement actions.

Even though Jumet’s sentence is equal part FCPA and equal part making false statements to federal agents, it is not surprisingly being termed the “longest prison term imposed against an individual for violating the FCPA.”

The DOJ release contains the usual get tough language (i.e. “foreign corruption carries with it very serious penalties,” “bribery isn’t just a cost of doing business overseas [… but] a serious crime that the U.S. government is intent on enforcing.”

Serious penalties and intent on enforcing against whom is the question.

The issue is not whether the DOJ was too lenient in the Daimler, BAE, and Siemens case or whether the DOJ was too harsh in the Jumet case.

Rather, the issue is that there appears to be a two-tiered justice system when it comes to FCPA enforcement.

As noted in the DOJ’s release, Jumet’s co-defendant John Warwick, who also pleaded guilty, is scheduled to be sentenced by the same judge on May 14th. (See here for prior posts on this entire enforcement action).

Potpourri

A Friday roundup of recent FCPA events.

An FCPA Sentencing Trend?

As noted in yesterday’s DOJ release (here), two former executives of Willbros International Inc. (a subsidiary of Houston-based Willbros Group Inc.) were sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to make improper payments to “foreign officials” in Nigeria and Ecuador.

Jason Edward Steph was sentenced to 15 months in prison and Jim Bob Brown was sentenced to 366 days in prison.

For more on the Willbros matter, see here and here.

The DOJ’s sentencing recommendations appear to be sealed, but one can assume, given the “light” sentences, that perhaps the DOJ likely sought sentences greater than those issued by District Court Judge Simeon Lake.

If so, this would appear to continue a trend of judges sentencing FCPA defendants to prison sentences less than those recommended by DOJ.

For instance, in Frederic Bourke case, a case which involved a “massive bribery scheme” according to DOJ, Judge Shira Scheindin rejected the 10-year prison sentence proposed by DOJ and sentenced Bourke to 366 days in prison. (see here). In sentencing Bourke, Judge Scheindin is reported to have said “after years of supervising this case, it’s still not entirely clear to me whether Mr. Bourke is a victim or a crok or a little bit of both.”

With several FCPA sentencing dates on the horizon, this apparent trend will be an issue to watch.

See here for local media coverage regarding the sentences.

Kozeny’s Tan Not in Jeopardy

While Bourke (see here) prepares his appeal, Viktor Kozeny, the alleged master-mind of the scheme to bribe officials in Azerbaijan in connection with privatization of the state-owned oil company, will be staying put in The Bahamas as an appellate court again rejected DOJ’s extradition attempts.

As noted in the recent Bahamian Court of Appeals decision (here), Kozeny, a Czech national, has been living in The Bahamas since 1995 and has not departed the country since 1999.

The opinion notes that there is no dispute “that there was a conspiracy to corrupt the Azeri officials and that such officials were paid money, given gifts and provided shares in certain companies under the control of [Kozeny] without payment; and had certain medical procedures paid for them by [Kozeny].

Even so, the court concluded that while The Bahamas did indeed have a bribery/corruption statute, it applied only to bribes within The Bahamas or given to a Bahamian public officer. Thus, because Kozeny’s conduct would not violate Bahamian law, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s denial of the extradition request.

For additional coverage (see here and here and here).

According to these reports, the decision may be appealed to London’s Privy Council pursuant to Bahamian legal procedure. Kozeny’s U.S. lawyer is quoted as saying “enough is enough” and U.S. prosecutors should finally accept the fact that Kozney, a non-U.S. citizen, could not violate the FCPA as it existed in 1998 – the year in which the bribe scheme perhaps ended – although, as noted in the opinion, the U.S. alleges that the bribe scheme continued into 1999.

Why is this relevant?

Because the FCPA was amended in 1998 to include, among other provisions, 78dd-3 which applies the antibribery provisions to “any person” (i.e. foreigners) “while in the territory of the U.S.” from making use of the mails or any other means or instrumentality of interstate commerce in furtherance of an improper payment.

The SFO Continues to “Step-It-Up”

Today, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (the functional equivalent of the DOJ) issued a release (here) indicating that a former BAE agent has been charged with “conspiracy to corrupt” for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc.”

For local media coverage of the charges (see here).

With a new Bribery Bill expected in the U.K. by years end, the SFO continues to “step-it-up” (see here for more on the SFO).

Disclosing FCPA Compliance

Public companies dislose FCPA issues all the time. Rarely though do the disclosures concern issues other than internal investigations and potential enforcement actions.

Accordingly, two recent SEC filings caught my eye.

China MediaExpress Holdings, Inc. (a Delaware company) recently disclosed (here) that it:

“[e]ntered into a securities purchase agreement with Starr Investments Cayman II, Inc. Under this agreement, Starr will, subject to various terms and conditions, purchase from the Company 1,000,000 shares of Series A Convertible Preferred Stock and warrants to purchase 1,545,455 shares of the Common Stock of the Company for an aggregate purchase price of US$30,000,000.”

One of the conditions was that the company “shall have adopted a program with respect to compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” and a post-closing covenant obligates the company to “implement a program regarding compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act not later than April 30, 2010.”

Cardtronics Inc. (an operator of ATM networks around the world) (here) recently disclosed (here) that:

“On January 25, 2010, the Board of Directors by unanimous vote approved three management proposed modifications to the Company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics. The modifications as approved by the Board include: (i) adding a section that addressed compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and International Anti-Bribery and Fair Competition Act of 1998.”

Costa Rica Joins the Club

Last, but certainly not least, Costa Rica recently announced a first … the first time a foreign corporation has paid the government damages for corruption.

As noted here, telecom company Alcatel-Lucent recently disclosed a $10 million payment to settle a corruption case in Costa Rica in which it was accused of paying kicbacks to former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez (and others government officials) in return for a 2001 contract worth $149 million.

There has been FCPA/corruption issues on both sides “of the hyphen” as noted here in this recent Main Justice article.

And with that, have a nice weekend.

Jefferson Sentenced / When a Jury Verdict is Relegated to a Footnote

[Please scroll down, there are three posts today]

Today, former Congressman William Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison. He was convicted in early August of a variety of charges (solicitation of bribes, honest services wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, and conspiracy)(see here for the DOJ release).

However, he was acquitted on the substantive FCPA antibribery charge.

As mentioned above, Jefferson was convicted of conspiracy, but what conspiracy was unclear as the indictment charged conspiracy to solicit bribes, to commit honest services wire fraud, and to violate the FCPA.

Problem is, the jury was instructed that to convict it only needed to find Jefferson guilty on two out of three of those counts.

In announcing the jury verdict, the court did not specify which counts the jury agreed on … the jury may have concluded that Jefferson conspired to violate the FCPA or it may have not. (See here for my prior post). See here for what others have said.

This uncertainty / ambiguity, it would seem, matters little to the DOJ as its sentencing memorandum in the Jefferson case says that “… as egregious and illegal as [Jefferson’s] bribe solicitations were, Congressman Jefferson further compounded his criminal culpability by conspiring with others to pay a bribe to the then-sitting Vice President of Nigeria.” (p. 6).

Given the above, this statement would seem to be a bit of a stretch based on the jury’s verdict.

Sure, the DOJ sentencing memorandum mentions the jury’s verdict on this issue, but it relegates the verdict to a mere footnote. Here is the footnote in its entirety:

“The government recognizes that the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty” to the charge contained in Count 11 of the indictment, a substantive violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The government believes that the jury found Congressman Jefferson not guilty on Count 11, at least in part, because he ultimately failed to deliver the $100,000.00 in cash to the Nigerian Vice President before the Vice President departed the United States on July 31, 2005. However, the evidence fully supports the proposition that the jury, nevertheless, found that the defendant conspired to bribe the Vice President of Nigeria, an object of the conspiracy charged in Count 1, a count on which the jury returned a guilty verdict. Such a verdict would not require proof of the actual delivery of the cash to the Vice President (front end) or actual payment of the percentage of the proceeds of the joint venture (back end). The government believes that the evidence supports such a split finding by the jury as to Counts 1 and 11. Although delivery of the cash to the Vice President of Nigeria was not a legal pre-requisite to finding Congressman Jefferson guilty of Count 11, it offers a compelling explanation for the jury’s split verdict. Finally, the government recognizes that such a split verdict can never be completely confirmed because the conspiracy charged in Count 1 contained three objects, one of them being the charge related to the bribe of the Vice President of Nigeria. The verdict form completed by the jury on August 5, 2009 did not require the jury to delineate which, if not all, of the objects charged in the conspiracy in Count 1 were found to have been proved, only that at least one of the objects was proven by the government beyond a reasonable doubt.”

As if relegating a jury verdict to a footnote is not unsettling enough, yesterday Assistant Attorney General Breuer in his speech (see here for the post) was so bold as to say this:

“In the past few months, we have the completed the trials of the Greens in California, of Mr. Bourke in New York and of former Congressman William Jefferson in Virginia. In each of these cases, individuals were found guilty of FCPA violations and face jail time.”

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes