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Friday Roundup

Writer’s cramp at the DOJ, the well fed U.K. Ministry of Defence officials, and a potential cost-savings due diligence tool … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Writer’s Cramp at the DOJ?

When Charles Paul Edward Jumet was sentenced in April to 87 months in prison for FCPA and related offenses, the DOJ issued a press release the same day (see here).

When John Warwick was sentenced in June to 37 months in prison for conspiracy to violate the FCPA, the DOJ issued a press release the same day (see here).

When Juan Diaz was sentenced in July to 57 months in prison for conspiracy to violate the FCPA, the DOJ issued … you got it … a press release the same day (see here).

All three instances represented, in FCPA terms at least, a harsh sentence.

So what happens when a sentencing judge rejects the DOJ’s ten year sentencing recommendation and instead sentences the defendants to six months in prison?

Well, let’s just say that the DOJ appears to have experienced a sudden case of writer’s cramp.

As indicated in this prior post, on August 12th, U.S. District Court Judge George Wu of the Central District of California rejected the DOJ’s requested ten year prison sentence for Gerald and Patricia Green and sentenced the couple to six months in prison.

It’s not like the DOJ hasn’t been issuing press releases throughout this case (see here and here), but apparently when a judge materially disagrees with the DOJ, it is time to stop the presses.

Or perhaps it was a mere oversight in which case the DOJ will soon issue a release.

Well Fed U.K. Ministry of Defence Officials

The Guardian recently ran a story that caught my eye.

Written by Rob Evans, the article (see here) details how BAE Systems “regularly wined and dined mandarins and senior military officers.”

The article also claims that BAE Systems “frequently gives jobs to politicians and civil servants in a ‘revolving door’ after they have left public service, including officials who negotiated multi-million pound deals with the company” and that “MoD secretly lobbied to end the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation into allegations that BAE bribed foreign politicians and officials to secure large contracts.”

An MoD spokesman is quoted in the article as saying “It is vital for the MoD to maintain a close relationship with the defence industry to ensure that we have the best equipment for our armed forces. All the meetings are subject to strict guidelines.”

Due Diligence Co-Op Programme

I don’t often highlight the latest in FCPA compliance services, but Red Flag Group’s new offering seemed to make sense to me – plus it is a service that would seem to lead to cost savings for companies.

The ad (here) asks a simple question: “tired of paying full price for the same due diligence report that another company ordered just a few months ago?”

If you answered yes to this question, you may be interested in Red Flag Group’s Due Diligence Co-Op Programme, also explained in the ad.

*****

A good weekend to all.

This & That

A bit of catch up with today’s post which discusses the recent sentence of Juan Diaz in the continuing Haiti Teleco saga (including an interesting post-enforcement action twist) and a DOJ release that flew under the radar.

Juan Diaz

Juan Diaz was recently sentenced to 57 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to a one-count information charging him with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering. (See here for the DOJ release). As noted in the release, Diaz was also ordered to: (i) serve three years of supervised release following his prison term; (ii) pay $73,824 in restitution; and (iii) forfeit $1,028,851.

In May 2009, (see here) Diaz pleaded guilty for his role in an improper payment scheme involving employees of Haiti Teleco, an alleged state-owned national telecommunications company. In the DOJ’s view, that would make the Director of International Relations and the General Director of Haiti Teleco, persons Diaz and others allegedly bribed, Haitian “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

The interesting twist is this.

If Diaz bribed these same employees today, he would be bribing (presumably in the DOJ’s view) not Haitian “foreign officials” but Vietnamese “foreign officials.”

Why?

Because in May, Viettel, a telecommunications company run by Vietnam’s military, purchased a 60% stake in Haiti Teleco. (See here).

The 57 month sentence Diaz received is similar to the 60 month FCPA sentence Charles Jumet received in April (see here). Jumet was sentenced to 87 months after pleading guilty to a two-count criminal information charging conspiracy to violate the FCPA and making false statements to federal agents. The false statements portion of the sentence was 20 months.

Civil Forfeiture Action Against Properties Owned by Former President of Taiwan

In July, the DOJ issued a release (see here) about a civil forfeiture complaint it filed against certain U.S. properties “that represent a portion of illegal bribes paid to the former president of Taiwan and his wife.”

With Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent announcement of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative (see here), the release should be of interest to those who follow this initiative and the general issue of asset recovery.

Bribe recipients can not be prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, but U.S. based assets (or other assets that flow through U.S. financial institutions) of bribe recipients can be subject to U.S. legal proceedings under other laws.

As noted in this post from November 2009, Attorney General Holder has called asset recovery a “global imperative” and announced a “redoubled commitment on behalf of the United States Department of Justice to recover” funds obtained by foreign officials through bribery.

The prior post discussed the January 2009 civil forfeiture action the DOJ filed in the aftermath of the Siemens enforcement action against bank accounts located in Singapore in the names of Zulfikar Ali, Fazel Selim, and ZASZ Trading and Consulting Pte Ltd. (“ZASZ”) (see here). According to the DOJ’s complaint (see here), these accounts were used by Siemens and another company to bribe foreign officials in violation of the FCPA, specifically Arafat Rahman (“Koko”), the son of former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. The DOJ alleges that the illicit funds in these accounts flowed through U.S. financial institutions thereby subjecting them to U.S. jurisdiction.

Similarly, in January 2010, the DOJ unsealed a criminal indictment against Juthamas Siriwan and Jittisopa Siriwan, the foreign official bribe recipient of the Green’s improper payments and her daughter. See here. Among other things, the indictment seeks forfeiture of approximately $1.7 million.

Thus, the DOJ’s July announcement that it is pursuing U.S. based assets of the former president of Taiwan and his wife very much continues a trend.

According to the DOJ release:

“The former president and his wife were convicted in Taiwan on Sept. 11, 2009, for bribery, embezzlement and money laundering. They are currently sentenced to 20 years in prison. Their convictions were upheld on appeal and are now pending before the Supreme Court in Taiwan. […] The former president and his wife are also currently under indictment in Taiwan for additional alleged acts of graft and money laundering.”

Director John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated that the enforcement action “serves as a warning to those corrupt foreign officials who abuse their power for personal financial gain and then attempt to place those funds in the U.S. financial system” and that “ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations agents will continue to work with our law enforcement partners both here and abroad to investigate and prosecute those involved in such illicit activities and hold corrupt foreign officials accountable by denying them the enjoyment of their ill ?gotten gains.”

What appears to make this recent civil forfeiture action different than the previously filed Siemens-related forfeiture action and the previously filed Siriwan enforcement action is that the bribe payor may be beyond the reach of the FCPA.

According to the DOJ release, the entity paying the bribes to the president of Taiwan and his wife was Yuanta Securities Co. Ltd. (YSC). The release notes that YSC “was attempting to increase its ownership share of Fuhwa Financial Holding Company Limited” and that “YSC paid a bribe of 200 million New Taiwan dollars, or approximately $6 million U.S. dollars, […] to ensure that the authorities on Taiwan would not interfere with its acquisition of additional shares and to attempt to establish a relationship with the head of the authorities on Taiwan.”

Neither YSC (here), nor its parent company, Yuanta Financial Holdings, appear to be U.S. issuers. Under 78dd-3 of the FCPA, foreign companies can be subject to the FCPA’s jurisdiction. However, this prong of the FCPA requires a U.S. nexus. A quick scan of the forfeiture complaint does not suggest a U.S. nexus in terms of making the bribe payments – although the complaint clearly does allege a U.S. nexus once the payments were received and used by the former president of Taiwan and his wife.

*****

Curious as to what happened in the above referenced Siemens-related enforcement action? In April 2010, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates granted the DOJ’s motion for default judgment and judgment of forfeiture against the subject properties.

What’s happening in the Siriwan enforcement action? According to the docket, nothing since the indictment was unsealed in January 2010.

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).

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