Top Menu

Friday Roundup

Further trimmed, scrutiny alerts and updates, facts and figures, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Further Trimmed

When the SEC announced its enforcement action against James Ruehlen and Mark Jackson  (a current and former executive of Noble Corp.) in February 2012, I said that this would be an interesting case to follow because the SEC is rarely put to its burden of proof in FCPA enforcement actions – and when it has been put to its ultimate burden of proof – the SEC has never prevailed in an FCPA enforcement action.

Over the past two years, the SEC’s case has been repeatedly trimmed.  (See this recent post containing a summary).  In the latest cut, the SEC filed an unopposed motion for partial voluntary dismissal with prejudice on March 25th.  In pertinent part, the motion states as follows.

“To narrow this case and streamline the presentation of evidence to the jury, the SEC hereby moves for leave to voluntarily dismiss with prejudice all portions of its claims … predicated upon Noble Corporation’s violation of [the FCPA’s internal controls provisions”.

For additional specifics, see the filing.

As highlighted in this previous post, in 2010 the SEC charged Noble Corporation with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls provisions based on the same core conduct alleged in the Jackson/Ruehlen action. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Noble agreed to agreed to an injunction and payment of disgorgement and prejudgment interest of $5,576,998.

In short, the SEC’s enforcement action against Ruehlen and Jackson is a shell of its former self.   Interesting, isn’t it, what happens when the government is put to its burden of proof in FCPA enforcement actions.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Alstom

Bloomberg reports speculation that a future FCPA enforcement action against Alstom could top the charts in terms of overall fine and penalty amounts.  (See here for the current Top 10).

The article states:

“The Justice Department is building a bribery case against Alstom SA , the French maker of trains and power equipment, that is likely to result in one of the largest U.S. anticorruption enforcement actions, according to two people with knowledge of the probe. Alstom, which has a history checkered with corruption allegations, has hindered the U.S. investigation of possible bribery in Indonesia and now faces an expanded probe including power projects in China and India, according to court documents in a related case. Settlement talks haven’t begun, the company said.”

In response to the Bloomberg article, Alston released this statement.

“Robert Luskin of Patton Boggs, Alstom’s principal outside legal advisor in the USA, states that the Bloomberg article published on 27 March 2014, regarding the investigation of Alstom by the US Department of Justice, does not accurately reflect the current situation: “Alstom is cooperating closely, actively, and in good faith with the DOJ investigation. In the course of our regular consultations, the DOJ has not identified any on-going shortcomings with the scope, level, or sincerity of the company’s effort”.

“The discussions with the DOJ have not evolved to the point of negotiating a potential resolution of any claims. Any effort to estimate the size of any possible fine is sheer speculation, as would be any comparison with other cases that have recently been resolved. Alstom has agreed to focus its efforts on investigating a limited number of projects that we and the DOJ have identified in our discussions. We are working diligently with the DOJ to answer questions and produce documents associated with these specific projects so that we can address any possible improper conduct”.

VimpelCom

Netherlands-based and NASDAQ traded telecommunications company VimpelCom recently disclosed:

“[T]hat in addition to the previously disclosed investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Dutch public prosecutor office, the Company has been notified that it is also the focus of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice. This investigation also appears to be concerned with the Company’s operations in Uzbekistan. The Company intends to continue to fully cooperate with these investigations.”

On March 12, 2014, VimpelCom disclosed:

“The Company received from the staff of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission a letter stating that they are conducting an investigation related to VimpelCom and requesting documents. Also, on March 11, 2014, the Company’s headquarter in Amsterdam was visited by representatives of the Dutch authorities, including the Dutch public prosecutor office, who obtained documents and informed the Company that it was the focus of a criminal investigation in the Netherlands. The investigations appear to be concerned with the Company’s operations in Uzbekistan. The Company intends to fully cooperate with these investigations.”

Orthofix International

As noted in this Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance post, Orthofix International recently disclosed:

“We are investigating allegations involving potential improper payments with respect to our subsidiary in Brazil.

In August 2013, the Company’s internal legal department was notified of certain allegations involving potential improper payments with respect to our Brazilian subsidiary, Orthofix do Brasil. The Company engaged outside counsel to assist in the review of these matters, focusing on compliance with applicable anti-bribery laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”). This review remains ongoing.”

As noted in this previous post, in July 2012 Orthofix International resolved a DOJ/SEC FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct by a Mexican subsidiary.  In resolving that action, the company agreed to a three year deferred prosecution agreement.  As is typical in FCPA DPAs, in the Orthofix DPA the DOJ agreed not continue the criminal prosecution of Orthofix for the Mexican conduct so long as the company complied with all of its obligations under the DPA, including not committing any felony under U.S. federal law subsequent to the signing of the agreement.

See this prior post for a similar situation involving Willbros Group (i.e. while the company while under a DPA it was investigating potential additional improper conduct).  As noted here, Willbros was released from its DPA in April 2012, the original criminal charges were dismissed and no additional action was taken.

Besso Limited

Across the pond, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) recently issued this final notice to Besso Limited imposing a financial penalty of £315,000 for failing “to take reasonable care to establish and maintain effective systems and controls for countering the risks of bribery and corruption associated with making payments to parties who entered into commission sharing agreements with Besso or assisted Besso in winning and retaining business (“Third Parties”).”

Specifically, the FCA stated:

“The failings at Besso continued throughout the Relevant Period [2005-2011] and contributed to a weak control environment surrounding the making of payments to Third Parties. This gave rise to an unacceptable risk that payments made by Besso to Third Parties could be used for corrupt purposes, including paying bribes to persons connected with the insured or public officials. In particular Besso:  (1) had limited bribery and corruption policies and procedures in place between January 2005 and October 2009. It introduced written bribery and corruption policies and procedures in November 2009, but these were not adequate in their content or implementation; (2) failed to conduct an adequate risk assessment of Third Parties before entering into business relationships; (3) did not carry out adequate due diligence on Third Parties to evaluate the risks involved in doing business with them; (4) failed to establish and record an adequate commercial rationale to support payments to Third Parties; (5) failed to review its relationships with Third Parties, in sufficient detail and on a regular basis, to confirm that it was still appropriate to continue with the business relationship; (6) did not adequately monitor its staff to ensure that each time it engaged a Third Party an adequate commercial rationale had been recorded and that sufficient due diligence had been carried out; and (7) failed to maintain adequate records of the anti-bribery and corruption measures taken on its Third Party account files.”

The FCA has previously brought similar enforcement actions against Aon Limited (see here), Willis Limited (see here), and JLT Speciality Limited (see here).    For more on the U.K. FCA and its focus on adequate procedures to prevent bribery , see this guest post.

Facts and Figures

Trace International recently released its Global Enforcement Report (GER) 2013 – see here to download.  Given my own focus on FCPA enforcement statistics and the various counting methods used by others (see here for a recent post), I particularly like the Introduction of the GER in which Trace articulates a similar “core” approach that I use in keeping my enforcement statistics.  The GER states:

“[W]hen a company and its employees or representatives face multiple investigations or cases in one country involving substantially the same conduct, only one enforcement action is counted in the GER 2013.  An enforcement action in a country with multiple investigating authorities, such as the U.S., is also counted as one enforcement action in the GER 2013.”

The Conference Board recently released summary statistics regarding anti-bribery policies.  It found as follows.

39% of companies in the S&P Global 1200; 23% of companies in the S&P 500; and 14% of companies in the Russell 1000 reported having a policy specifically against bribery.

Given the results of other prior surveys which reported materially higher numbers, these results are very surprising.

Quotable

This recent Wall Street Journal article “Global Bribery Crackdown Gains Steam” notes as follows.

“Cash-strapped countries are seeing the financial appeal of passing antibribery laws because of the large settlements collected by the U.S., according to Nathaniel Edmonds, a former assistant chief at the U.S. Department of Justice’s FCPA division.  “Countries as a whole are recognizing that being on the anticorruption train is a very good train to be on,” said Mr. Edmonds, a partner at Paul Hastings law firm.”

The train analogy is similar to the horse comment former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorney William Jacobson made in 2010 in an American Lawyer article that “[t]he government sees a profitable program, and it’s going to ride that horse until it can’t ride it anymore.”  For additional comments related to the general topic, see this prior post.

Reading Stack

This recent Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance Journal post contains a Q&A with former DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Chuck Duross.  Contrary to the inference / suggestion in the post, Duross did not bring “tougher tactics” such as wires and sting operations to the FCPA Unit.  As detailed in prior posts here and here, undercover tactics and even sting operations had been used in FCPA enforcement actions prior to the Africa Sting case.

Speaking of the Africa Sting case, the Q&A mentions reasons for why the Africa Sting case was dropped.  Not mentioned, and perhaps relevant, is that the jury foreman of the second Africa Sting trial published this guest post on FCPA Professor after the DOJ failed in the second trial.  Two weeks later, the DOJ dismissed all charges against all Africa Sting defendants.

Further relevant to the Africa Sting case, the Wall Street Journal recently ran this article highlighting the role of Richard Bistrong, the “undercover cooperator” in the case.  Bistrong has recently launched an FCPA Blog – see here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Across The Pond

This post highlights recent developments from the United Kingdom.

Enforcement Action

In an enforcement action similar to the 2009 action against Aon Limited (see here) and the 2011 action against Willis Limited (see here), the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (a regulator of the financial services industry) recently announced that JLT Specialty Limited (JLTSL – a company that provides insurance broking and risk management services) was fined “over £1.8million for failing to have in place appropriate checks and controls to guard against the risk of bribery or corruption when making payments to overseas third parties.”

According to the FCA release:

“JLTSL was found to have failed to conduct proper due diligence before entering into a relationship with partners in other countries who helped JLTSL secure new business, known as overseas introducers. JLTSL also did not adequately assess the potential risk of new insurance business secured through its existing overseas introducers.

[…]

JLTSL’s failure to manage the risks created by overseas payments, which occurred between 19th February 2009 and 9th May 2012, breached the FCA’s principle on management and control. During this period, JLTSL received almost £20.7 million in gross commission from business provided by overseas introducers, and paid them over £11.7 million in return. Inadequate systems around these payments created an unacceptable risk that overseas introducers could use the payments made by JLTSL for corrupt purposes, including paying bribes to people connected with the insured clients and/or public officials.”

The FCA’s director of enforcement and financial crime stated:

“These failings are unacceptable given JLTSL actually had the checks in place to manage risk, but didn’t use them effectively, despite being warned by the FCA that they needed to up their game.  Businesses can be profitable but firms must ensure that they take the necessary steps to control the risks in that business.  Bribery and corruption from overseas payments is an issue we expect all firms to do everything they can to tackle. Firms cannot be complacent about their controls – when we take enforcement action we expect the industry to sit up and take notice.”

The FCA release notes that “JLTSL’s penalty was increased because of its failure to respond adequately either to the numerous warnings the FCA had given to the industry generally or to JLTSL specifically.”

Add Another to the Compliance Defense List

What is most striking about many of the opposition pieces written about FCPA reform is that while opponents of FCPA reform warn of a U.S. retreat on bribery and corruption issues should the FCPA be amended, opponents fail to address the fact that an amended FCPA, or revisions to FCPA enforcement policy, would actually align the FCPA with many FCPA-like laws or enforcement policies of peer nations.

For instance, and as discussed in my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense,” many countries have compliance-like defenses in their FCPA-like law.

Add the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown Dependency, to the list.  Its recent Bribery Act 2013, largely modeled on the U.K. Bribery Act, states:

“(1) A relevant commercial organisation (“C”) is guilty of an offence under this section if a person (“A”) associated with C bribes another person intending —

(a) to obtain or retain business for C; or

(b) to obtain or retain an advantage in the conduct of business for C.

(2) But it is a defence for C to prove that C had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent persons associated with C from undertaking such conduct.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

As noted in this previous post, Rolls-Royce Holdings has long been under scrutiny concerning its business conduct in China, Indonesia, and other markets.   The Wall Street Journal reports:

“U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office has opened a formal investigation into concerns that employees of the U.K.-based engineering group may have been involved in bribery and corruption. The maker of engines for aerospace, defense and marine customers said a year ago that it had handed over material to the SFO having previously initiated its own independent review into allegations of malpractice in overseas countries, including China and Indonesia. “We have been informed by the Serious Fraud Office that it has now commenced a formal investigation into these matters,” Rolls-Royce said. Rolls-Royce declined to provide further details on the progress of the investigation. An SFO official confirmed that “a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery at Rolls-Royce” is under way but declined to comment further.”

See here for the related U.K. Serious Fraud Office statement.

As noted in this previous post, in June, Data Systems & Solutions, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of  Rolls-Royce Holdings, resolved an FCPA enforcement action.

*****

Interesting snippets from a recent Financial Times article – “GSK China Probe Flags Up Wider Concerns” – concerning GSK in China.

“[A]cross the healthcare spectrum, from doctors to hospital officials to sales representatives for rival local companies, there is agreement that foreign pharmaceutical groups are not the main culprits of corruption in the Chinese healthcare industry. Local companies are far more profligate with so-called “commissions” to doctors because they are not subject to the kind of scrutiny that foreign companies face under global anti-bribery laws. A medical student in a leading Shanghai hospital says: “The supervising doctor in my department sees as many as 80 patients in a morning, and prescribes as much as Rmb100,000 worth of drugs. She definitely takes commissions from drug companies, but that only affects what she prescribes when there are two similar drugs.” That situation normally arises when both are local generic businesses, industry analysts say. “In China, foreign drug companies are the best boys, but the parents beat them first,” says one industry insider, echoing a sentiment heard frequently from Chinese doctors who say foreign drug companies pay for educational activities that no one else will pay for in China.  “Financial flows – both legal and illegal – tied to drug and device sales are funding perhaps 60-80 per cent of total hospital costs,” says George Baeder, an independent drug industry adviser. “Without this funding, the current system would collapse.” Many drug analysts see kickbacks as structural, and therefore hard to eradicate: central and provincial Chinese governments cannot afford to pay doctors a living wage, and many patients cannot afford to pay the true cost of care. Up to now, Beijing has turned a blind eye as pharma companies find ways to subsidise doctor salaries and underwrite their medical education.”

Speaking of GSK, as noted in this New York Times article, the company recently announced that it “will no longer pay doctors to promote its products and will stop tying compensation of sales representatives to the number of prescriptions doctors write.”

Great Speech, But a Major Contradiction

Ben Morgan (SFO – Joint Head of Bribery and Corruption) recently delivered this speech titled “Striking Tigers As Well As Flies:  Non-Selective Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement.”

Morgan talked about “the widely accepted premise that the law should apply to everyone, equally, regardless of any external factors such as the identity of an alleged offender, their background, their status, who they know or, if they are a commercial organisation, their size, their share price, their line of business or their financial resources.”

Morgan stated as follows:

“So if we’re being asked to discuss the need to be non-selective in the way we enforce anti-corruption legislation – to treat all potential defendants equally regardless of the external factors I have mentioned – that implies, does it not, that we have a problem in the way we currently enforce anti-corruption law.  The implicit accusation we are answering in this session is “you don’t strike Tigers; you only strike flies”.  So let’s test that.

First, let’s look at why it might be tempting not to prosecute certain offenders.  Well, on the one hand, it might be for practical reasons.  Many of our countries have endured difficult financial times recently.  In times of austerity and ever decreasing resources, there might be a temptation to avoid prosecuting the really difficult, complex cases that are likely to consume resources.  Those kinds of cases where the evidence is scattered all over the globe, where there are lots of witnesses and perhaps where specialist skills are needed.  Far easier, surely, to deploy what resources one has into the easier targets, the “low hanging fruit”.

Another reason not to prosecute certain offenders might be for political reasons.  Does a situation appear to involve state officials of one’s own country, or of an important ally?  Does it concern an issue that those with power would prefer not to be investigated?  Or perhaps, in the corporate world, does it involve a company that is of real national significance – a major employer and tax payer?

These are the sorts of situations where it seems to me there is a risk that the Tigers might be treated differently to the Flies.  And while they are not to be underestimated, I hope that one thing we can all agree on here is that as a statement of principle, we cannot accept that for any reason the rule of law should be applied differently to some groups than others.”

Morgan’s points are spot-on of course.

However, the irony is that the U.K. government – in the minds of many – contradicted all of these points in its handling of BAE over the past several years. (See here).  (So too did the U.S. government – see here and here).

The FCPA Meets Insurance – Aon Resolves Enforcement Action

This post analyzes the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions against Aon Corporation (one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world) announced yesterday.  Total fines and penalties are approximately $16.3 million ($1.8 million via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement and $14.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

DOJ

The NPA (here) begins as follows.  The DOJ will not criminally prosecute Aon Corporation or its subsidiaries for any crimes “related to Aon’s knowing violation of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA .. arising from and related to the making of improper payments to government officials in Consta Rica in order to assist Aon in obtaining and retaining business” or “for the conduct related to improper payments and associated recordkeeping […] relating to Aon’s improper payments in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Egypt, Indonesia, Myanmar, Panama, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam that it discovered during its thorough investigation of its global operations.”

The NPA has a term of two years.  As is typical in FCPA NPAs or DPAs, Aon agreed “not to make any public statement” contradicting the below facts.

According to the NPA, the DOJ agreed to resolve the action via an NPA based, in part, on the following factors:

(a) Aon’s extraordinary cooperation with the DOJ and SEC;

(b) Aon’s timely and complete disclosure of facts relating to the above payments; [unlike many corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the Aon action does not appear to be the result of a voluntary disclosure; as stated in Aon’s most recent quarterly SEC filing, “following inquiries from regulators, the Company commenced an internal review of its compliance with certain U.S. and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”]

(c) the early and extensive remedial efforts undertaken by Aon, including the substantial improvements the company has made to its anti-corruption compliance procedures;

(d) the prior financial penalty of 5.25 million paid to the U.K. Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) [see here] by Aon Limited, a U.K. subsidiary of Aon, in 2009 concerning certain of the conduct at issue; and

(e) the FSA’s close and continuous supervisory oversight over Aon Limited.

The NPA’s Statement of Facts begin by detailing the business of reinsurance – that is insurance for insurance companies.  Specifically, the NPA states as follows.  “Reinsurance involves the transfer of all or part of the risk of paying claims under a policy from the insurance company that issued the policy to a reinsurance company.  A reinsurance broker arranges this transfer of risk, which takes place under a contract of reinsurance.  The insurance company is the reinsurance broker’s client and the broker acts on behalf of the insurance company.  The broker collects the premium due from the insurance company under the contract of reinsurance, and is typically paid for its services by retaining a portion of the premium for its own account.  The portion of premium retained by the broker is known as ‘brokerage.'”

The conduct at issue focuses on the Instituto Nacional De Deguros (“INS”), Costa Rica’s state-owned insurance company” (here) that “had a monopoly over the Costa Rican insurance industry.”  The NPA states as follows.  “INS was created by Act No. 12 of October 30, 1924, with the aim of meeting the protection needs of Costa Rican society.  All insurance agreements in Costa Rica, including the reinsurance contracts that Aon Limited [a subsidiary of Aon Corporation based in and organized under U.K. law that “reported financially through a series of intermediary entities into its U.S.-based issuer parent] assisted in obtaining to insure Costa Rican entities, were required to be issued through INS.  The head of INS was appointed by the President of Costa Rica.”

According to the NPA, a company Aon Limited acquired established a “Training and Education Fund” or “Brokerage Fund” for the benefit of INS “to sponsor training and education trips for INS officials.”  The NPA states that the “Brokerage Fund eventually became used for a wide variety of purported ‘training’ purposes, as well as to pay for client renewal trips to European insurers.”  The NPA also states that a second training account (the so-called 3% Fund) was funded by premiums to reinsurers and that “INS required that Aon Limited manage the fund, handle the paperwork, and provide reimbursement for the expenses incurred by INS officials.”

According to the NPA, “the supposed purpose of both the Brokerage Fund and the 3% Fund was to provide education and training for INS officials.”  However, the NPA states, “Aon Limited used a significant portion of the funds to reimburse for non-training related activity or for uses that could not be determined from Aon’s books and records.”

The NPA cites an e-mail from a former Aon Limited executive which stated as follows.  “INS started telling [another brokerage company] how [various reinsurers] were inviting their managers to seminars and were contributing positively to INS’s technological improvement with all expenses paid by the reinsurers.  The message was clear to both [the other brokerage company] and ourselves that unless we did the same we would see the gradual process of disintermediation and a continued erosion of our orders.”

The NPA then states as follows.  “Aon Limited disbursed nearly all of the $215,000 in the Brokerage Fund from 1997 until 2002, approximately $650,000 of the money in the 3% Fund from 1999 until 2002, and made a small number of additional disbursements from these funds between 2003 and 2005 to pay for the third-party services used by INS officials. These services often included travel related expenses, such as airfare and hotel accommodations, as well as conference fees, meals,  and other related expenses for INS officials and their relatives. It was common for INS to hire a
travel agency or tourism company to arrange for the particulars of the travel and educational conferences attended by its officials.  The majority of the money paid from the two funds was disbursed to a tourism company in Costa Rica. The director of INS’ reinsurance department, who played an active role in setting up the training funds, served on the board of directors of tourism company.  The director of INS’ reinsurance department himself took fourteen trips from 1996 to 2001 with expenses totaling approximately $44,000 that Aon Limited paid from the two funds. The funds also covered the official’s wife’s attendance on at least five of the trips.  On several occasions, Aon Limited reimbursed the official directly for expenses that were invoiced for his various trips, sometimes with cash payments.  The director of INS took six trips from 1998-2001 with expenses totaling approximately $20,000 that Aon Limited paid from the two funds. The director’s spouse accompanied him on four of these trips. The director of INS, the director of reinsurance at INS, their wives, and another INS official and her husband traveled to Europe in 1998 and charged their expenses of approximately $15,160 to the Brokerage Fund. While these trips had a small business-related component, a significant portion of the funds expended on the trips were used for the personal benefit of the officials and their wives.  A  substantial number of the trips taken by INS offcials were in connection with conferences and seminars in tourist destinations, including London, Paris, Monte Carlo, Zurich, Munich, Cologne, and Cairo. Many of the invoices and other records for these trips do not provide the business purpose of the expenditures, if any, or showed that the expenses were clearly not related to a legitimate business purpose. In addition, the subject matters of some of the better documented conferences and trainings, such as a literary conference and a Mexican information technology conference, had no logical connection to the insurance industry.  INS officials traveled to the United States for approximately twenty-five training events.  Aon Limited paid approximately $115,000 out of the funds in connection with these events in the United States.  In some instances, Aon Limited paid third parties at INS’s direction where the business purpose of the travel or expenses could not be discerned from the documentation, or where the purpose of the travel and expenses appeared to be improper, such as those pertaining to literary conferences, holiday expenses, and pure entertainment. Aon Limited paid large expenses for hotels, without any indication that the stays were business related. Aon Limited’s employees did not question the requests for payment or reimbursement from the funds.  While virtually all payments made in connection with the funds originated in London, Aon Limited made at least forty payments via, or that terminated in, the United States.  From 1995 to 2002, Aon Limited [and the company it acquired] earned profits of approximately $1.840,200 in connection with reinsurance brokerage business with INS.”

As to statute of limitation issues, Aon’s recent quarterly filing states as follows.  Aon “has agreed with the U.S. agencies to toll any applicable statute of limitations pending completion of the investigations.”

Under the heading “Books and Records/Internal Controls,” the NPA states as follows.  “The books and records of Aon Limited were consolidated into those of Aon Corporation. With respect to the Costa Rican training funds, although Aon Limited maintained accounting records for the payments that it made from both the Brokerage Fund and the 3% Fund, these records did not accurately and fairly reflect, in reasonable detail, the purpose for which the expenses were incurred. A significant portion of the records associated with payments made through tourist agencies gave the name of the tourist agency with only generic descriptions such as “various airfares and hotel.”  Additionally, to the extent that the accounting records did provide the location or purported educational seminar associated with travel expenses, in many instances they did not disclose or itemize the disproportionate amount of leisure and non-business related activities that were also included in the costs.  As a result, during the relevant time period, Aon failed to make and keep books, records and accounts which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflected the transactions and disposition of its assets and failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls with respect to foreign sales activities sufficient to ensure compliance with the FCPA.”

Pursuant to the NPA, “Aon admits, and accepts and acknowledges responsibility” for the above conduct; however, there is no suggestion or implication in the NPA that anyone at Aon Corporation  knew of, participated in, or authorized the conduct at issue.

See here for the DOJ’s release.

Pursuant to the NPA, Aon agreed to pay a monetary penalty in the amount of $1.76 million.  The NPA states as follows.  “This substantially reduced monetary penalty reflects the Department’s determination to credit meaningfully Aon for its extraordinary cooperation with the Department, including its thorough investigation of its global operations and complete disclosure of facts to the Department, and its early and extensive remediation.  In agreeing to this monetary penalty, the Department also took into account the penalty paid to the FSA relating to Aon Limited’s systems and controls in countries other than Costa Rica.”  Pursuant to the NPA, Aon also agreed to “continue to strengthen its compliance, bookkeeping, and internal controls standards and procedures” as set forth in “Corporate Compliance Program” appendix to the NPA.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (here) begins as follows.  “From as early as 1983 until as recent as 2007, subsidiaries of Aon Corporation in numerous countries made improper payments to various parties as a means of obtaining or retaining insurance business in those countries.  During this period, over $3.6 million in such payments were made, including some directly or indirectly to foreign government officials who could award business directly to Aon subsidiaries, who were in position to influence others who could award business to Aon subsidiaries, or who could otherwise provide favorable business treatment for the Company’s interest.  These payments were not accurately reflected in Aon’s books and records.  During this period, Aon failed to maintain an adequate internal control system reasonably designed to detect and prevent these payments.”

According to the SEC complaint, “the improper payments made by Aon’s subsidiaries fall into two general categories:  (i) training, travel and entertainment provided to employees of foreign-government owned clients and third parties and (ii) payments made to third-party facilitators.”

As to the first category of payments, the SEC complaint is largely focused on the same Costa Rica / INS payments described in the DOJ’s NPA.  Additional payments concern Egypt and the complaint alleges that from 1983 to 2009 Aon (or its predecessor) “served as insurance broker for an Egyptian government-owned company, the Egyptian Armament Authority (“EAA”), and its U.S. arm, the Egyptian Procurement Office (“EPO”).  According to the complaint, delegation trips for EAA and EPO officials to various U.S. destinations “had some business component” but also “included a disproportionate amount of leisure activities and lasted longer than the business component would justify.”  According to the SEC, the company’s “books and records did not fairly and accurately reflect the true nature of the payments made in connection with the delegation trips.”

As to the second category of payments, under the heading “Payments to Third-Party Facilitators” the complaint alleges as follows.  “Aon’s subsidiaries also made payments to third parties that were retained to assist in obtaining accounts in several countries.  In some instances, the subsidiaries made payments to the third parties without taking steps to assure that they would not be passed to foreign government officials.  The subsidiaries made some payments under circumstances in which the third parties appeared to have performed no legitimate services relating to the prospective accounts, thereby suggesting that they were simply conduits for improper payments to government officials in order to obtain or retain business for Aon.”

In Vietnam, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited served as a co-broker on an insurance policy for Vietnam Airlines, a Vietnamese government-owned entity, since 2003.”   According to the complaint, a third-party facilitator assisted in securing the account and “company record indicate that the third-party facilitator did not provide legitimate services, but instead transferred some of the money that Aon Limited paid under its consultancy agreement to unidentified individuals referred to as ‘related people.'”

In Indonesia, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited served as a broker on reinsurance contracts with BP Migas and Pertamina, two Indonesian state-owned entities in the oil and gas industry.”    The complaint alleges that “several former Aon Limited employees authorized improper payments to government officials in Indonesia to secure the Pertamina and BP Migas accounts for Aon Limited.”

In the United Arab Emirates, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited provided brokerage services to a privately-held insurance company” and that payments were made “to the general manager of the insurance company as inducements to secure and retain the account for Aon Limited.”

In Myanmar, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited retained an introducer in Myanmar to assist Aon Limited in connection with its account with Myanmar Airways and Myanmar Insurance, two government-owned entities.”  According to the complaint, “company records indicate that the introducer likely used a portion of his commission to improperly influence a government official on Aon Limited’s behalf in connection with the Myanmar account.”

In Bangladesh, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited made approximately $1.07 million in payments to secure its account with Biman Bangladesh Airways and Sudharan Bima Corporation, two government-owned entities.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC complaint alleges FCPA books and records and internal controls violations – but not FCPA anti-bribery violations – notwithstanding the fact that the DOJ’s NPA refers to “Aon’s knowing violation of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls.”

As stated in the SEC’s release (here), without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, Aon consented to entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from future FCPA books and records and internal controls violations and ordering the company to pay “disgorgement of $11,416,814 in profits together with prejudgement interest thereon of $3,128,206 for a total of $14,545,020.”

In a release (here) Aon stated as follows.  “Since beginning an internal review of these issues in 2007, Aon has put in place a comprehensive, global and robust anti-corruption program designed to prevent and detect improper conduct.”  Greg Case, Aon’s President and Chief Executive Officer stated as follows.  “Acting with integrity is Aon’s core value and we embody this in our commitment to the highest professional standards for our clients, markets and colleagues.  Aon has invested a significant amount of time and resources in anti-corruption compliance and transparency to greatly enhance our controls and processes.”

Kirkland & Ellis attorneys Laurence Urgenson (here) and Craig Primis (here) represented Aon.

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).

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes