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Interesting, Significant and Bold

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in Securities Docket’s Year in Review webcast (see here for viewing – the FCPA portion begins at about 51 minutes).

For those of you who missed the event, below are my thoughts on four significant events from 2010, three interesting events from 2010, and two bold predictions for 2011.

The FCPA in 2010 was interesting, significant, and bold all at once. Among other things, it was a year in which Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer declared a “new era of FCPA enforcement.” (see here).

Significant Events

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

If anyone out there still believes that the FCPA is a law that only applies to U.S. companies, you clearly have been living under a rock.

2010 was the year of non-U.S. companies resolving FCPA exposure.

BAE (here)(I am hesitant to call this matter an FCPA enforcement action because it wasn’t, but everyone seems to be doing so), Daimler (here), Technip (here), Eni/Snamprogetti (here), ABB (here), Panalpina (here), and most recently Alcatel-Lucent (more in a future post).

It has been reported that approximately 90% of 2010 FCPA fines and penalties were paid by foreign companies.

I expect this trend to continue – albeit perhaps not at the level seen in 2010. The 4th member of the JV involved in Bonny Island bribery – JGC of Japan – has yet to settle, certain of the medical device and pharma companies that have disclosed FCPA issues are non-U.S. companies, and an emerging trend I see is an increased focus on China-based issuers. For instance, last year, 25% of the IPOs were China based issuers and last month, Rino International (see here) disclosed an FCPA inquiry, the first time I believe a China-based issuer has been the focus of an FCPA inquiry.

Two Tiers of Justice

Under basic rule of law principles, the law is to be equally and consistently applied to all subject to the law, regardless of how big or small the company is and regardless of what type of company is involved.

In a troubling trend, two tiers of justice have emerged from FCPA enforcement.
If the company is a large multinational company, the company will end up paying large fine, but chances are the company will not be charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations.

For instance, the DOJ’s allegations against BAE (see here) included that the company provided various benefits – through U.S. payment mechanisms – to influence Saudi officials through and through other conduct that clearly had a U.S. nexus. Yet, BAE, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, was not charged with any FCPA anti-bribery violation.

Daimler, according to the DOJ (see here), had a corporate culture that tolerated and/or encouraged bribery and its numerous bribery schemes involved various high-ranking executives. Yet, Daimler, was not charged with any FCPA anti-bribery violations.

It’s bribery yet no bribery, and it contributes to what I’ve called the façade of FCPA enforcement (see here).

While certain companies in certain industries appear immune from FCPA anti-bribery charges, in other instances, instances generally involving small companies such as Nexus Technologies (here) or Lindsey Manufacturing (here), the DOJ seems to come out with guns a blazing and criminally indicts the company for violating the FCPA. One can legitimately ask what did these companies do that BAE, Daimler, and some other companies didn’t do?

The two tiers of justice is also present when it comes to individual enforcement actions. As was highlighted in the recent Senate hearing, one odd aspect of the most high-profile, egregious instances of corporate bribery is that, for the most part, no individuals are charged. Yet in cases that can only be called minor in comparison, Nexus Technologies, Lindsey Manufacturing and the Haiti Teleco cases come to mind, the DOJ again seems to come out with guns a blazing and criminally indicts multiple individuals.

Companies that commit bribery on a major scale, involving hundreds of millions dollars, are still able to secure multi-million dollar U.S. government contracts (see here and here). On the other hand, individuals like Charles Jumet are sent to prison for nearly 7 years for making a $200,000 payment to secure a lighthouse and buoy contract and conspiring to violate the same law that major companies are apparently immune from violating. (See here).

DOJ officials frequently talk about the rule of law (here), and the importance of consistency and transparency in charging decisions (here), but these examples raise the issue of whether such principles are followed when it comes to FCPA enforcement.

Is the Facilitating Payments Exception Meaningless?

When Congress passed the FCPA in 1977 and amended it in 1988 it clearly understood and accepted that the statute was not going to cover every conceivable unethical payment made in transacting overseas business. (See here). The legislative history is clear on this point and that is why the FCPA contains an express exception for so-called facilitating or grease payments.

Yet one can legitimately ask whether this exception intended by Congress has any meaning.

In November, a group of companies collectively paid approximately $235 million to settle FCPA enforcement actions principally involving import permits for oil rigs, other customs and duty payments to Nigerian officials, and payments to expedite shipment of product in Nigeria and some other jurisdictions. (See here for a summary of the CustomsGate enforcement actions).

It seems a bit silly when several major companies settle an FCPA enforcement action for this amount of money to ask the question – did the conduct at issue even violate the FCPA, but this question should be asked in connection with the CustomsGate enforcement actions. It is also a question that can legitimately be asked as to several other recent FCPA enforcement actions that involve permits, licenses, certifications and other administrative tasks that have nothing to do with obtaining or retaining government contracts.

The issue as I see it is not whether such payments are ethical, but whether such payments violate the narrow anti-bribery provisions Congress intended and whether, once again, the DOJ and the SEC are actually enforcing the FCPA as Congress intended or whether the FCPA has morphed into a broader corporate ethics statute.

If the FCPA should become a broader corporate ethics statute, let Congress make that decision – not the DOJ or the SEC.

Emergence of a Plaintiff’s Bar

The FCPA, it has been held by some courts, does not contain a private right of action – yet there are other legal avenues available to plaintiffs to hold companies that violate the FCPA accountable. (See here).

Common causes of action include derivative claims against officers and directors, securities fraud claims by investors, RICO claims, unfair competition claims and antitrust claims such as last year when one of Innospec’s competitors sued it in Virginia state court in connection with its recently settled FCPA enforcement action. (See here).

Such causes of action have been pursued before 2010, but 2010 witnessed an explosion in such claims and so-called investigations by plaintiff firms representing investors.

The most noteworthy example is what I called the feeding frenzy surrounding SciClone Pharamaceutials. (See here). Last August, the company simply made an FCPA disclosure – that it was contacted by the SEC and the DOJ in connection with the government’s pharma industry sweep. The company’s stock dropped about 30%. Within weeks about a dozen plaintiff firms announced “investigations” and/or filed securities fraud cases – never mind the company’s stock price regained all that value within about a month.

When a company’s FCPA violations are found to be condoned or encouraged by the board or officers, such plaintiff causes of action would seem to be warranted.

However, these types of FCPA violations are rare – the more typical situation is where, because of respondeant superior, a company faces FCPA exposure because of the actions of a single or small group of employees whose conduct was in violation of the company’s FCPA policies and procedures. In these typical situations, I question what value these so-called “investigations” by plaintiff firms have or what purpose these derivative or securities fraud claims serve.

Interesting Events

Giffen Enforcement Action

When an enforcement action begins with allegations (here) that James Giffen made more than $78 million in unlawful payments to two senior Kazakhstan officials in connection with oil transactions for major American oil companies and abruptly ends with a one-paragraph superceding information (here) charging a misdemeanor tax violation and the company he worked for settling an FCPA enforcement action focused solely on two snowmobiles (here) – I call that interesting.

Even more interesting is that part of Giffen’s defense was that his actions were taken with the knowledge and support of the CIA, the National Security Council, the Department of State and the White House. (See here for a prior post).

A few years ago George Clooney and Matt Damon starred in Syriana (here) a movie about the FCPA.

The Giffen enforcement action presents a superb Hollywood script – it is the most mysterious conclusion to an FCPA enforcement action ever – made even more interesting given that the presiding judge called Giffen a cold war hero and stated that the case should never have been brought in the first place. (See here for the prior post).

Africa Sting Cases

In January 2010, the DOJ arrested 22 defendants – most while attending a gun show in Las Vegas – in connection with a major undercover sting operation in which the government, utilizing an individual who had already pleaded guilty to separate FCPA violations, assisted the government in manufacturing a case involving a fake foreign official from Gabon. (See here, here and here for prior posts).

The defendants (see here) are principally owners or employees of small gun and weapons companies.

I would put this case in the interesting category.

Contrary to media reports and even DOJ statements, it is not the first time undercover tactics were used in connection with an FCPA investigation (see here), but the magnitude and breadth of the tactics were indeed unprecedented.

This case is far from over and the remaining defendants are sure to raise entrapment, among other legal issues, and this will be an interesting case to follow in 2011.

The Africa Sting case has draw the attention of an industry that probably had never thought much about FCPA compliance. Thus, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the case, it has likely resulted in an industry and small enterprises thinking more proactively about FCPA compliance and risk assessment.

Greater Scrutiny and Why Questions

2010 also saw greater scrutiny and why questions about the FCPA, FCPA enforcement and what I have called FCPA Inc.

For the time time in nearly a decade, Congress held hearings (see here) on the FCPA in which some basic why questions were asked.

The U.S. Chamber sponsored a paper (here) titled “Restoring Balance – Proposed Amendments to the FCPA” that was widely covered and, in some circles, railed.

Several members of Congress are legitimately scratching their heads as to why companies that settle fraud, bribery and corruption cases continue to secure lucrative U.S. government contracts and the House passed a bill (here) that seeks to debar companies found to be in violation of the FCPA from receiving U.S. government contracts. Problem is, because of the façade of FCPA enforcement (see here), it will be an impotent bill.

In May 2010, Congressman Towns, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Attorney General Holder expressing concern that settlements of civil and criminal cases, including FCPA cases, by the DOJ are being used as a shield to foreclose other appropriate remedies such as suspension and debarment. (See here for the prior post).

And in Spring 2010, Forbes ran a front-page story titled “The Bribery Racket,” an article, notwithstanding some of its flamboyant language, raised several valid and legitimate questions and issues when it comes to FCPA enforcement. (See here for the prior post).

This scrutiny in 2010 raised valid and legitimate public policy questions that hopefully will be picked up on in 2011.

Bold Predictions

After a year in which (1) the largest individual prosecutions involved a fake “foreign official” (2) the most egregious cases of corporate bribery were prosecuted without FCPA anti-bribery charges; and (3) a signature case abruptly ended with a misdeamenor tax violation and a corporate prosecution involving two snowmobiles, I wonder what bold will look like in 2011.

Here are two bold predictions for 2011.

The Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Provisions Will Have a Negligible Impact on FCPA Enforcement

My (what seems) contrarian thoughts are the same as when I first made this post in July.

Enforcement of the U.K. Bribery Act Will Be Disciplined and Measured

The U.K. Bribery Act, already delayed, and with implementation slated for April 2011, has been the subject of much discussion and much over-hype in my opinion.

It has been called the FCPA “on steroids” (here) and if one subscribes to the industry marketing material, you might be left with the impression that the end of the world is near.

True, the Bribery Act is broader than the FCPA. For starters, it is an all-purpose bribery and corruption statute and addresses bribery and corruption in the private sector – not just bribery to “foreign officials” like the FCPA.

True, the Bribery Act has potentially a very broad reach – so does the FCPA.

True, the Bribery Act has no exception for facilitating payments – the FCPA does – although as highlighted above, query whether this exception means anything.

However, the Bribery Act has the “adequate procedures” defense – something the FCPA does not have – but query whether it should.

Thus, while the Bribery Act is indeed more broad than the FCPA, because of this defense, it is at the same time more narrow than the FCPA.

Public statements by U.K. officials suggest that this adequate procedures defense is a meaningful defense. For instance, in September at the World Corruption and Compliance Forum, an event I chaired in London, the U.K. Attorney General (Dominic Grieve) stated (see here) that “any company small or large” that puts into place a system of adequate procedures “has nothing to fear” when an employee or agent “goes off the rails” and makes a bribe payment. Attorney Grieve said that a company should have nothing to fear if it is “walking the walk, and talking the talk” when a rogue employee makes an improper payment. On the other hand, Attorney Grieve stated that that “those who don’t heed the warnings and don’t take the necessary steps have something to fear.” Richard Alderman, the Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, stated in October (see here) as follows. “I have heard some people say that this offence is one of strict liability. I do not agree. No offence will have been committed if there were adequate procedures. I have also heard people say that the fact of bribery might mean that there were inadequate procedures by definition and so the defence can never be made out. Again, I do not agree. In the real world there may be occasional lapses despite adequate procedures rigorously enforced. The issue ultimately for the Judge and jury (and for the SFO in deciding on a prosecution) will be – were those procedures adequate?” As to the adequate procedures defense, Vivian Robinson (General Counsel of the Serious Fraud Office) said in an October webcast (here) that because of the defense “there is every reason to be optimistic that we won’t get as a result of the Act and this particular section a huge expanse in the number of prosecutions of corporates.”

As demonstrated by the Innospec matter (see here), the U.K. courts are playing, and rightfully so, a much greater role than U.S. courts in reviewing bribery and corruption cases. I’ve been told that even if the SFO prosecutes a corporate bribery case with an NPA or DPA, the U.K. courts will still play a meaningful oversight role – a role that is unfortunately not true here in the U.S.

In sum, I don’t see how companies already subject to the FCPA and already thinking about compliance in a pro-active manner, have much to worry about when it comes to the U.K. Bribery Act because of the adequate procedures defense.

I will be surprised if U.K. enforcement of the Bribery Act reaches the level of U.S. enforcement of the FCPA and I will be surprised if the U.K. Bribery Act develops outside of the judicial system as has generally been true with U.S. enforcement of the FCPA.

All About Panalpina

Last but certainly not least in the analysis of CustomsGate enforcement actions is Panalpina.

See here for the prior post on the Pride International enforcement action, here for the prior post on the Shell enforcement action, here for the prior post on the Transocean enforcement action, here for the prior post on the Tidewater enforcement action here for the prior post on the Noble enforcement action and here for the prior post on the GlobalSantaFe enforcement action.

The Panalpina enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was approximately $81.9 million ($70.6 million criminal fine via a DOJ plea agreement and deferred prosecution agreement; $11.3 million in disgorgement via a SEC settled complaint).

This is a long post, but the enforcement action takes up 230 pages.

What you will find in these pages is that Panalpina paid millions of dollars of alleged bribes on behalf of certain of its customers (and in some instances for its own benefit as well), that a majority of the improper payments relate to Nigeria, and that a majority of Nigerian payments relate to temporary importation permits in connection with importing rigs and other vessels into Nigerian waters.

As to a U.S. nexus of these payments (a nexus necessary to find Panalpina, a foreign based non-issuer company, liable under the FCPA) you will find that the information alleges one e-mail and one conference call in which a certain Nigerian payment was discussed.

You will find that Panalpina also engaged in alleged improper conduct in numerous other countries besides Nigeria, but because of how the deferred prosecution agreement is structured, Panalpina ended up paying $0 for this non-Nigeria improper conduct.

You will find how Panalpina, despite an alleged corporate culture of bribery, including at the most senior levels of the company, was offered a deferred prosecution agreement even though it did not disclose the conduct at issue, even though it did not cooperate at all times in the DOJ’s investigation, and even though certain improper payments continued while the company was engaged in discussions with the DOJ.

You will also find how the SEC asserted a rather unique jurisdictional basis against Panalpina. That is Panalpina acted as an agent for certain of its issuer-customers and violated the FCPA by masking the true nature of bribe payments in invoices submitted to its issuer customers that allowed the customers to then violate the FCPA.

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information against Panalpina World Transport (Holdings) Ltd. (“PWT”) resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement and a criminal information against Panalpina Inc. resolved through a plea agreement.

PWT Criminal Information

Basel, Switzerland based PWT (here) “is one of the world’s leading suppliers of forwarding and logistics services, specializing in global supply chain management solutions and intercontinental air freight and ocean freight shipments and associated supply chain management solutions.” It operates “a close-knit network with some 500 branches in over 80 countries,” does business in a further 80 countries with partner companies, and employs approximately 15,000 individuals.

The criminal information (here) focuses on a “network of local subsidiaries … each of which was responsible for providing the freight forwarding and logistics services to customers and for coordinating with other Panalpina-affiliated companies with respect to the transportation and shipment of cargo from abroad.” In addition, PWT and its subsidiaries “provided customers with importation, customs clearance and ground shipment services once the shipped goods reached their destination jurisdiction.”

The subsidiaries are:

Panalpina Inc. (“Panalpina U.S”), a wholly-owned subsidiary and agent of PWT located in New Jersey with 38 branches in the U.S. ,including Houston – the office that had the “primary relationship for [Panalpina’s] oil and gas industry customers”;

Panalpina World Transports (Nigeria) Limited (“Panalpina Nigeria), a majority-owned subsidiary and agent of PWT until 2008 located in Lagos, Nigeria that was an “affiliate of Panalpina U.S. and provided a wide variety of services for Panalpina U.S.’s customers”;

Panalpina Transportes Mundiasis, Navegacao e Transitos, SARL (“Panalpina Angola”), a wholly-owned subsidiary and agent of PWT located in Luanda, Angola;

Panalpina Limitada (“Panalpina Brazil”), a wholly-owned subsidiary and agent of PWT located in Sao Paulo, Brazil;

Panalpina Azerbaijan LLC (“Panalpina Azerbaijan”), a wholly-owned subsidiary and agent of PWT located in Baku, Azerbaijan;

Panalpina Kazakhstan LLP (“Panalpina Kazakhstan”), a wholly-owned subsidiary and agent of PWT located in Almaty, Kazakhstan;

Panalpina World Transport Limited (Russia) (“Panalpina Russia”), a wholly-owned subsidiary and agent of PWT located in Moscow, Russia; and

Panalpina World Transport Limited (Turkmenistan) (“Panalpina Turkmenistan”), a wholly-owned subsidiary and agent of PWT located in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan.

The information refers to PWT and the above subsidiaries collectively as “Panalpina.”

The criminal information begins with a heading titled “Panalpina’s Culture of Corruption.” This section states as follows.

“Prior to 2007, dozens of employees throughout the Panalpina organization were involved in paying bribes to foreign offcials. Panalpina generally made payments on behalf of customers in order to circumvent the customs process for imports and exports of goods and items. Panalpina paid these bribes for various reasons, such as to cause officials to overlook insufficient, incorrect, or false documentation and to circumvent the local laws and inspections so as to allow the shipment of contraband (mainly unauthorized food and clothing). Panalpina also on occasion paid bribes to secure foreign government contracts for itself or to obtain favorable tax treatment by foreign governments.”

According to the information, “the highest levels of PWT’s leadership, including a former member of PWT’s Board of Directors (“Board Member A”), knew of and tolerated Panalpina’s payments of bribes.”

The information states as follows:

“Panalpina’s longstanding practice of making bribe payments in violation of the FCPA resulted from a variety of factors, including: (1) pressure from Panalpina’s customers to have services performed as quickly as possible, or to receive preferential treatment in obtaining services; (2) an inadequate compliance structure; (3) a corporate culture that tolerated and/or encouraged bribery prior to 2007 as customary and necessary in various markets; (4) the involvement of management in PWT’s Swiss headquarters that tolerated the improper payments prior to 2007; and (5) the involvement of Panalpina management in the U.S. and in other countries that encouraged the improper payments prior to 2007.”

According to the information, between 2002 and 2007 “Panalpina paid bribes to foreign officials valued at approximately $49 million” and “payments paid on behalf of Panalpina’s U.S. customers and their foreign subsidiaries accounted for approximately $27 million of these bribes payments.”

The criminal information (here) alleges bribery schemes in Nigeria, Angola, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkenistan.

Nigeria

According to the information:

“Panalpina had a substantial number of oil and gas customers that shipped items into Nigeria, including customers in the United States. The goods shipped by Panalpina into Nigeria could only be imported into the jurisdiction if they satisfied the local statutory and regulatory requirements, which required product inspection, submission of satisfactory paperwork, and payment of customs duties and other taxes. Furthermore, once the items had been imported, they remained subject to local laws or regulations. Some of Panalpina’s customers, including its U.S. customers, sought to avoid local customs and import laws and processes by seeking to import goods without sufficient documentation, without being inspected, or without paying the required taxes, duties or fees. Panalpina used a portion of the revenue earned from its customers to make bribe payments to local customs officials in exchange for their cooperation in assisting Panalpina in circumventing these local legal or regulatory requirements on behalf of Panalpina’s customers. Panalpina sought reimbursement for these bribe payments through invoices that used false terms to characterize the bribe payments.”

According to the information, Panalpina used “approximately 160 different terms [internally and externally to invoice customers] to falsely describe the bribes it paid in Nigeria relating to the customs process.”

The information alleges that “the bribes paid by Panalpina relating to the customs process were paid to officials in the Nigerian Customer Service (“NCS”), a Nigerian government agency” responsible for “assessing and collecting duties and tariffs on goods imported into Nigeria.”

According to the information, between 2002 and 2007, “Panalpina paid over $30 million in bribes to Nigerian government officials” and “payments made on behalf of Panalpina’s U.S. customers and their foreign subsidiaries accounted for at least $19 million of these bribe payments.”

The information describes four types of “bribery payments” in Nigeria – (1) Pancourier; (2) Temporary Import Permits payments; (3) “special” and other bribe payments; and (4) “recurring payments to government officials.” According to the DPA statement of facts “the overall largest category of payments, accounting for the largest amount of bribes, related to securing Temporary Importation Permits on behalf of its customers” and “those bribes ranged in value from $5,000 to over $75,000 per transaction.”

Pancourier

“Pancourier” was Panalpina’s “express courier service” that certain Panalpina customers used instead of “the normal shipping process” to “import goods or contraband into Nigeria without complying with Nigerian customs law.” According to the information, “Panalpina charged its customers a premium for this service and explained that no government receipt or paperwork would be available from NCS for the goods that were imported.” The information alleges that “Panalpina typically billed its customers for two separate charges” (1) a charge based on the weight of the shipment; and (2) a “special fee” that was a “bribe paid to the NCS officials for the purpose of securing an improper advantage for the customer.”

According to the information, between 2002 and 2007 “Panalpina, through Panalpina Nigeria, paid hundreds of bribes to NCS officials in relation to the Pancourier service.”

Special and Other Improper Payments

The information states as follows:

“In addition to the Pancourier service, Panalpina also offered standard freight forwarding and shipping services. For standard Panalpina freight forwarding and shipping, once the goods arrived at their destination, a Panalpina Nigeria employee would ensure that the goods cleared customs. The clearance process typically required the submission of documents, an inspection of the product being shipped, and the payment of any customs and other fees associated with the importation of that product. The goods shipped by Panalpina frequently encountered delays in clearng customs for various reasons, including insufficient or missing documentation or delays due to the legally-required inspection process. Panalpina customers often sought to avoid local customs and import laws and processes to expedite their shipments into Nigeria. Panalpina made cash bribe payments, through Panalpina Nigeria, to local government officials, including NCS employees, to expedite customs clearance, avoid the required cargo inspections, avoid fines, duty payments, and tax payments, and to circumvent permit requirements and other legal requirements.”

According to the information, between 2002 and 2007, “Panalpina, through Panalpina, Nigeria, paid thousands of bribes on behalf of its customers to Nigerian government officials to resolve these types of customs and immigration matters.”

Temporary Import Permits Payments

The information states as follows:

“Another service offered by Panalpina involved obtaining Temporary Import Permits (“TIPs”) required under Nigerian law to import high-value special equipment, such as rigs and other large vessels, into Nigerian water. A TIP could be extended through two six-month extensions (known as “TIP extensions”). Vessels imported under a TIP (and TIP extensions) could not remain in Nigeria longer than the period allowed for by the TIP and/or TIP extensions. Upon expiration, the vessel was required to be exported from Nigeria and, if appropriate, the customer could re-apply for a new TIP. Panalpina, through Panalpina Nigeria, made improper payments to Nigerian government officials to assist some of its customers to circumvent TIP regulations. Specifically, Panalpina Nigeria made payments to NCS officials, on behalf of customers, to extend TIPs without complying with Nigerian TIP regulations. As a result, the customers avoided the time and cost of removing vessels upon the expiration of the TIP, as was otherwise required by Nigerian law.”

According to the information, between 2002 and 2007, “Panalpina, through Panalpina Nigeria, paid over a hundred bribes to Nigerian government officials on behalf of Panalpina’s customers to improperly secure TIPs and TIP extensions.”

Payment of Bribes to Secure a Contract

The information alleges that between November 2003 and August 2005, “Panalpina promised to pay $50,000 to a National Petroleum Investment Management Services official (the “NAPIMS Official) in exchange for the official’s assistance in securing the award by NAPIMS of a logistics contract to Panalpina.” According to the information, “Panalpina was awarded a global framework logistics contract in or around November 2003” and “in or around November 2005, PWT directed the $50,000 bribe payment to be made to the NAPIMS Official in cash.”

The information states that NAPIMS supervised and managed Nigeria’s investment in the oil and gas industry and NAPIMS officials had the authority to approve or disapprove logistics contracts awarded for certain projects.

Recurring Payments to Government Officials

Although referenced in the information, the information does not contain any detail about such payments.

However, the DPA’s statement of facts states as follows.

“Panalpina Nigeria made improper payments to a wide variety of Nigerian officials, including, but not limited to, NCS offcials, Port Authority offcials, Maritime Authority officials, Police officials, Deparment of Petroleum officials, Immigration Authority officials, and National Authority for Food and Drug Control officials. Most of these improper payments were tied to specific transactions, however, Panalpina Nigeria also provided certain officials weekly or monthly allowances to ensure the officials would provide preferential treatment to Panalpina and its customers. Between in or around 2002 and in or around 2007, Panalpina made hundreds of improper weekly and monthly payments to Nigerian government officials.”

Angola

The information charges that between 2002 and 2008 “Panalpina Angola paid approximately $4.5 million in bribes to Angolan government officials.” Two types of payments are described: “Customs and Immigration Payments” and “Payments to Secure Contracts.”

Customs and Immigration Payments

According to the information, the payments were made to “Angolan government officials responsible for customs and immigration matters” and the purpose of the payments was to “cause such officials to: overlook incomplete or inaccurate documentation; avoid levying proper customs duties; or avoid imposition of fines relating to the failure of Panalpina Angola, or its customer, to comply with legal requirements.” According to the information, Panalpina Angola paid “hundreds of bribes” ranging from “de minimus amounts to $25,000 per transaction.”

Payments to Secure Contracts

The information charges that between December 2006 and March 2008, “Panalpina Angola paid over $300,000 to two Angolan government officials responsible for Angolan oil and gas operations to secure two separate logistics contracts.” According to the information, the officials “had the authority to approve or disapprove the retention of logistics companies to provide services for projects that Panalpina sought to secure.” According to the information, in connection with certain of these payments, Panalpina Angola “invoiced an Angolan government-controlled entity for a non-existent employee (referred to as the ‘ghost employee’) who was allegedly dedicated to the Angolan entity to work on the logistics for the particular project.”

Azerbaijan

The information states as follows.

“Between in or around 2002 and in or around 2007, Panalpina Azerbaijan paid approximately $900,000 in bribes to Azeri government officials responsible for assessing and collecting duties and tariffs on imported goods. […] The purpose of many of the bribes paid to the Azeri government officials was to cause these officials to overlook incomplete or inaccurate documentation; avoid levying proper customs duties; or avoid imposition of fines relating to the failure of Panalpina, or its customer, to comply with legal requirements. In addition, Panalpina also made bribe payments to Azeri tax officials to secure preferential treatment for Panalpina Azerbaijan.”

Brazil

The information states as follows.

“Between in or around 2002 and in or around 2007, Panalpina Brazil paid over $1 millon in bribes to Brazilian govermnent officials responsible for assessing and collecting duties and tariffs on imported goods on behalf of its customers. […] The purpose of many of these bribes was to expedite the customs clearance process; to avoid the imposition of fines and penalties; to circumvent Brazilian law requirements for customs declaration of courier shipments; to permit shipments to be imported in Brazil without an import license; and to allow exports from Brazil of goods originally imported without accurate and complete documentation. Many of the bribe payments made by Panalpina Brazil on behalf of its customers were in connection with shipments to Brazil originating with Panalpina U.S. from the United States.”

Kazakhstan

The information states as follows.

“Between in or around 2002 and in or around 2007, Panalpina Kazakhstan paid over $4 milion in bribes to Kazakh governent officials, including, for example, payments to Kazakh government officials responsible for assessing and collecting duties and tariffs on imported goods and officials responsible for administering and enforcing Kazakhstan tax policy. […] The purpose of many of the bribes paid to the Kazakh government officials was to cause officials to overlook incomplete or inaccurate documentation; avoid levying proper customs duties; and avoid imposition of fines relating to the failure of Panalpina, or its customer, to comply with legal requirements.”

According to the information, the payments “ranged from several hundred dollars to $50,000 per transaction.”

The information further states that “Panalpina Kazakhstan paid bribes to Kazakhstan officials responsible for administering Kazkhstan tax policy in conjunction with its annual tax audits to minimize the duration and depth of the audits as well as to reduce proposed fines.”

Russia

The information states as follows.

“Between in or around 2002 and in or around 2007, Panalpina Russia paid over $7 milion in bribes to Russian government officials responsible for assessing and collecting duties on imported goods. […] The purpose of many of the bribes paid to the Russian government officials was to avoid delays, administrative fines, and other legal action as a result of missing, incomplete or erroneous documentation; to avoid problems arising out of the improper use of a TIP; and to bypass the customs process in total.”

Turkmenistan

The information states as follows.

“Between in or around 2002 and in or around 2009, Panalpina Turkmenistan paid over $500,000 in cash bribes to: (i) Turkmen government officials responsible for assessing and collecting duties and tariffs on imported goods in order to expedite the release of shipments and undocumented shipments and to circumvent the official Turkmen customs and immigration regulations; (ii) Turkmen government officials responsible for auditing, assessing, and collecting taxes on economic activity in Turkmenistan to minimize the duration of audits and investigations and to reduce proposed fines; and (iii) Turkmen govermnent officials responsible for enforcing Turkmenistan labor, health, and safcty laws, including through the use of audits and inspections, to minimize the duration of audits and investigations and to reduce the proposed fines.”

Based on all of the above conduct, the information charges conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. In addition, as to the Nigeria conduct, the information charges FCPA anti-bribery violations.

As to a U.S. nexus (a requirement for an entity such as PWT to be in violation of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions under 78dd-3), the information merely alleges that in November 2003 “a Panalpina U.S. employee located in Houston, Texas, sent an e-mail to a Panalpina employee based in Switzerland advising that the NAPIMS Official would award a logistics contract with the Nigerian government to Panalpina in exchange for a bribe of $50,000” and that in November 2003 “Panalpina employees based in Switzerland, Panalpina U.S. employees located in Houston, Texas, and others participated in a conference call to discuss the $50,000 payment to the NAPIMS Official.”

PWT DPA

The DOJ’s charges against PWT were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement (see here).

Pursuant to the DPA, PWT admitted, accepted and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its directors, officers, employees, subsidiaries, agents and consultants as set forth above.

The DPA’s statement of facts contains a separate section titled “Panalpina U.S.’s Assistance to its Issuer-Customers in Circumventing Books and Records Controls.” This section states that between 2002 and 2007 “Panalpina U.S. provided services to over 40 customers that were issuers” and that “in total, Panalpina paid approximately $27 million in bribes to foreign officials on behalf of these issuer-customers.”

In pertinent part, the statement of facts state as follows.

“Many of Panalpina U.S.’s issuer-customers knew, or were aware of facts indicating a high probability, that Panalpina was paying bribes on their behalf. Further, those issuer-customers with knowledge of the bribe payments failed to properly record the payments in their books and records.”

“Many of Panalpina’s issuer-customers were aware of the bribes paid by Panalpina. Importantly, those issuer-customers with strong compliance programs or rigorous audit standards were either not offered services such as Pancourier, which included improper payments to governent officials, or Panalpina paid bribes on the issuer-customer’s behalf but would not invoice the issuer-customer for the payment.”

“Panalpina US., through the local Panalpina affiiates, knowingly and substantially assisted the issuer-customers in violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions by masking the true nature of the bribe payments in the invoices submitted to the issuer-customers. By providing an invoice to the issuer-customer for what appeared to be a legitimate payment, the customer could use that invoice as support for recording a particular charge as a legitimate service in its corporate books and records when, in fact, the invoice was for a bribe.”

The statement of facts then describe how Panalpina Nigeria specifically assisted Customer A (Shell) and Customer B (Tidwater) in making bribe payments for Pancourier services and TIP payments.

The DPA’s statement of facts provides further information about “Panalpina’s Corporate Culture and Senior Management Knowledge.” According to the statement of facts: “Prior to 2007 a culture of corruption within Panalpina emanated from senior level management in Switzerland who tolerated bribery as business as usual in various markets. This trickled down to other Panalpina employees who accepted bribery as a part of Panalpina’s standard business practice.” According to the statement of facts: “Many employees openly used the terms ‘apples,’ ‘interventions,’ ‘special handling,’ and ‘evacuations’ on a daily basis in conversations, written correspondence, and e-mail exchanges” even though “most employees understood that these terms referred to cash payments provided to government officials in exchange for preferential treatment.”

The term of the DPA is three years and seven months and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement “based on the individual facts and circumstances” of the case and PWT. Among the factors stated are the following.

(a) PWT conducted comprehensive anti-bribery compliance investigations of operations of PWT’s subsidiaries in seven countries, as well as separate investigations related to U.S. and Swiss operations;

(b) PWT conducted a review of certain transactions and operations conducted by its subsidiaries or agents in another 36 countries;

(c) PWT promptly and voluntarily reported its findings from all investigations to the Department, including arranging to provide information from foreign jurisdictions which significantly facilitated the Department’s access to such information;

(d) PWT mandated employee cooperation from the top down and ensured the availabilty of more than 300 employees and former employees for interviews during and following the investigations;

(e) PWT instituted a limited employee amnesty program to encourage employee cooperation with the investigations;

(f) PWT expanded the scope of the investigations where necessary to ensure thorough and effective review of potentially improper practices, and promptly and voluntarily reported any improper payments identified after internal and Department investigations had begun;

(g) After initially not cooperating with the investigation for several months, PWT fully cooperated with the Department’s investigation of this matter, as well as the SEC’s investigation, and on the whole exhibited exemplary
cooperation with the Departent’s investigation;

(h) PWT provided substantial assistance to the Department and the SEC in its investigation of its directors, officers, employees, agents, lawyers, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, subsidiaries and customers relating to violations of the FCPA;

(i) PWT undertook substantial remedial measures [the DPA then lists 10 such measures including “of its own initiative and at a substantial cost, PWT closed down its operations and withdrew from Nigeria to avoid potential ongoing improper conduct”]; and

(j) PWT agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of PWT and its directors, officers, employees, agents, lawyers, consultants, subcontractors, subsidiaries, and customers relating to violations of the FCPA.

As stated in the DPA, the fine range for the above described conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $72.8 million to $145.6. Pursuant to the DPA, PWT agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $70.56 million. However, the DOJ and PWT agreed “that any criminal penalty that is imposed by the Court and paid by Panalpina U.S., in connection with its guilty plea and plea agreement entered into simultaneously herewith will be deducted from the $70,560,000 criminal penalty required by this Agreement.” Because the Panalpina Inc. plea agreement (which relates only to Nigeria conduct) contemplates a payment of $70,560,000, the effect of the above clause is that PWT will end up paying $0 for the non-Nigeria conduct described in the DPA.

Also of note, even though the DPA states that PWT did not initially cooperate with the DOJ’s investigation for several months, PWT nevertheless received sentencing credit for “fully cooperating” in the DOJ’s investigation.

Pursuant to the DPA, PWT agreed to a host of compliance undertakings and to report to the DOJ (during the term of the DPA) “on its progress and experience in implementing and, as appropriate, enhancing its compliance policies and procedures.”

The DPA references three tolling agreements agreed to between January 2008 and October 2010.

As is standard in FCPA DPAs, PWT agreed not to make any public statement “contradicting the acceptance of responsibility by PWT as set forth” in the DPA and PWT further agreed to only issue a press release in connection with the DPA if the DOJ does not object to the release.

Panalpina U.S. Criminal Information

The criminal information (here) describes “Panalpina U.S.’s Actions to Conceal Bribes on Behalf of Its Issuer-Customers in Nigeria.” Separate sections concern “Pancourier Express Courier Payments” and “Temporary Importation Payments.”

Count One of the information charges Panalpina U.S., a non-issuer, with conspiring and agreeing with Customer A [Shell] and Customer B [Tidewater] “to knowingly falsify and cause to be falsified books, records, and accounts which were required, in reasonable detail, to accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of Customer A, Customer B, and other issuers” in violation of the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

Count Two of the information charges Panalpina U.S. with aiding and abetting FCPA books and records violations by aiding, abetting, and assisting Customer A [Shell] “in mischaracterizing payments for freight forwarding costs as ‘administration/transport charges’ in Customer A’s books and records when, in truth and in fact, Customer A knew that these payments were bribes, paid through Panalpina Nigeria, intended to be transferred to NCS officials.”

Panalpina U.S. Plea Agreement

The above criminal charges against Panalpina U.S. were resolved via a plea agreement (see here).

As stated in the plea agreement, the fine range for Panalpina U.S.’s conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $72.8 million to $145.6. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Panalpina U.S. agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $70.56 million.

In an “Agreed Motion to Waive the Presentence Report” (here) the DOJ states as follows.

“…Panalpina’s cooperation and remediation in this matter has been exemplary. Panalpina provided substantial assistance to the Deparment in its investigations relating to these matters. In addition, where Panalpina encountered evidence of new violations in the course of its internal investigation, it expanded the scope of the investigation accordingly and reported the new findings to the Department. Panalpina acknowledged and accepted responsibility for misconduct, investigated and identified the nature and extent of the misconduct, and undertook comprehensive global remediation and training during the course of the investigation. Panalpina’s remediation was global and included a dramatic change in its busincss model, paricularly in higher risk countries.”

As to how the DOJ’s investigation of PWT and its related entities began, the Report states as follows. “In approximately 2006, the Department opened an investigation into Panalpina’s business practices based on evidence obtained through several Panalpina customers indicating Panalpina had paid bribes to foreign government officials on behalf of its customers.”

The Report continues as follows. “In total, between in or around 2002 and in or around 2007, Panalpina paid bribes to offcials in at least seven countries, including Angola, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Russia, and Turkmenistan. Approximately $27,000,000 of that total related directly to, and was paid on behalf of, customers that were US. issuers or “domestic concerns” within the meaning of the FCPA.

The Report contains a footnote that states “a small number of improper payments continued into 2008 and 2009.” As to these payments, the Report notes elsewhere as follows. “Despite PWT’s and Panalpina U.S.’s extensive efforts to transform its compliance program, during the course of the investigation, PWT uncovered a few instances in which employees were continuing to pay bribes to foreign officials. This improper conduct, although limited, continued to occur into 2008 and early 2009. Upon discovery, PWT took swift action to stop the payments, to disclose the conduct to the Department, to terminate and/or reprimand the employees implicated in the conduct, and to retrain employees in the relevant countries regarding the importance of adhering to PWT’s compliance rules and regulations.”

As to Panalpina’s “Cooperation and Assistance” the Report states as follows.

“The Department initiated its investigation of Panalpina in or around mid-2006 based on conduct disclosed by Panalpina customers. Panalpina learned of the
investigation in or around late-2006 from its customers. Despite knowledge of the investigation, Panalpina did not voluntarily disclose the conduct to the Department and did not stop the illegal payment of bribes that was occurring on multiple continents. In or about early-2007, the Department requested documents and information from Panalpina; however, at that time, Panalpina exhibited a reluctance to cooperate with the investigation. Thereafter, Panalpina engaged and instructed its legal counsel (“Counsel”) to conduct a comprehensive internal investigation, and ultimately authorized Counsel to report the findings to the Department and SEC. Thereafter, Panalpina exhibited exemplary cooperation with the Department and SEC, and conducted a comprehensive internal investigation that fully supported and paralleled the Department’s investigation. Specifically, Panalpina engaged Counsel to lead investigations encompassing 46 jurisdictions and hired an outside audit firm to perform forensic analysis and other support tasks. Panalpina’s internal investigation included a comprehensive review of operations in nine countries – the United States, Switzerland, Nigeria, Brazil, Angola, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan – and a detailed review of 102 additional issues in another 36 countries. Panalpina expanded the scope of its internal investigation where necessary, and promptly and voluntarly reported its findings from all investigations to the Department and SEC in over 60 meetings and calls. When potential issues were identified in countries not subject to a full investigation, Panalpina thoroughly investigated and remediated those issues. Panalpina voluntarily supplied to the Department and the SEC information from interviews and documentary evidence regarding potential violations by Panalpina customers and third parties used as conduits for improper payments and for facilitating improper transactions. Panalpina provided substantial assistance to the Department and SEC in the investigation of its own directors, officers, and employees, mandated employee cooperation from the top down, and made over 300 current and former employees available for interviews to Counsel, the Department, and the SEC during and after the internal investigation. Panalpina also adopted a limited employee amnesty program to encourage employee cooperation with the internal investigation.”

The Report further notes as follows. “On September 30, 2010, in an unelated matter, PWT was charged in a three-count criminal information with fixing prices on surcharges added to air cargo shipments in certain trade lanes, in violation of Title 15, United States Code, Section 1. See United States v. Panalpina World Transport (Holding) Ltd., 10270-RJ (D.D.C.). The Company has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a fine of $11,947,845. No date has yet been set for entry of
the plea or sentencing.”

SEC

The SEC’s civil complaint (here) alleges, in summary, as follows.

“Between 2002 and continuing until 2007, Panalpina, Inc. engaged in a series of transactions whereby it directed business to affiliated companies within the Panalpina Group, which then used part of the revenues generated from this business to pay a significant number of bribes to government officials in countries including Nigeria, Angola, Brazil, Russia, and Kazakhstan. These bribes were paid by the Panalpina Group companies in order to assist Panalpina, Inc.’ s issuer customers in obtaining preferential customs, duties, and import treatment in connection with international freight shipments. The practice of Panalpina Group companies making these payments was known to certain Panalpina, Inc. employees, including some
members of Panalpina, Inc.’s management. Although the reasons for the bribes, and the payment schemes themselves, differed from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and transaction by transaction, most shared several similarities. The issuer customers often used Panalpina, Inc. or other Panalpina Group companies to ship goods from the United States, or elsewhere, to another jurisdiction or sought Panalpina, Inc.’s assistance in obtaining customs or logistics services in the country to which the goods were shipped. However, for various reasons including delayed departures, insufficient or incorrect documentation, the nature of the goods being shipped and imported, or the refusal of local government officials to provide services without unofficial payments, Panalpina, Inc.’ s issuer customers sometimes faced delays in importing the goods. In other cases, Panalpina, Inc.’s issuer customers sought to avoid local customs duties or inspection requirements or otherwise sought to import goods in circumvention of local law. In order to secure the importation of goods under these circumstances, Panalpina, Inc.’ s issuer customers often authorized Panalpina, Inc. and the local affiliated Panalpina Group companies (e.g., Panalpina Nigeria) to bribe local government offcials. These cash payments to government officials were typically made by employees of the local affiliated Panalpina Group companies. The affiliated Panalpina Group companies generally invoiced the issuer customers for the bribes, along with other legitimate fees, either directly or through an affiliated billing entity (“Affiliated Billing Entity”). These invoices, which contained both legitimate and illegitimate costs incurred by the Panalpina Group companies, inaccurately referred to the payments as ‘local processing,’ ‘special intervention,’ ‘special handling,’ and other seemingly legitimate fees. In reality, these payments were bribes to local government officials in order to secure improper benefits for the issuer customers.”

By engaging in this conduct, the SEC alleged that Panalpina, “while acting as an agent of its issuer customers” violated the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and aided and abetted its issuer customers’ violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal control provisions. The SEC complaint specifically states that “neither Panalpina, Inc. nor PWT is an issuer for purposes of the FCPA.”

As to Pancourier payments, the complaint alleges that in order to assist its issuer customers avoid certain Nigerian legal requirements, “Panalpina Inc. would ship the product to Nigeria wrapped in a distinctive manner so that customs officials would recognize it as a Pancourier shipment and not inspect it, require a Form M, or otherwise subject it to normal customs procedures. In order to secure its preferential treatement, Panalpina Nigeria made regular improper cash payments to Nigerian customs officials.”

The SEC complaint also describes “additional bribes paid on behalf of issuer customers in Nigeria, Angola, and Brazil” including temporary importation payments described as “the largest category of customs-related payments made by Panalpina Nigeria on behalf of the issuer customers.” The complaint also describes “pre-release, intervention, evacuation, and special payments” made by Panalpina Nigeria to “Nigerian government officials on behalf of the issuer customers to secure the release of goods from customs prior to the completion of the inspection process” and to “secure improper benefits for the issuer customers.”

The Angola payments related to immigration matters “in order to obtain visas for the issuer customers on an emergency basis, often requesting that the visa be issued same-day, in contravention of Angolan law;” and customs matters “in order to assist the issuer customers to import goods into Angola without complying with Angolan law.” The complaint also describes “other payments” in Angola including “unofficial payments to Angolan military officials on behalf of the issuer customers in order to permit them to use military cargo aircraft to transport their commercial goods.”

The Brazil payments related to “improper payments to Brazilian government officials on behalf of its issuer customers in order to expedite the customs clearance process, and where necessary, to resolve customs and import-related issues.”

The complaint also alleges that between 2002 and 2007 “Panalpina Kazakhstan and Panalpina Russia made or authorized the making of several types of improper payments on behalf of issuer customers to government officials in Russia, Kazakhstan, and other parts of Central Asia, in order to assist the issuer customers improperly import goods into these jurisdictions or to obtain other types of improper benefits.”

According to the SEC, “Panalpina Inc. obtained improper benefits totatling at least $11,329,369 from the illegal conduct” described in the complaint.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Panalpina agreed to an injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations and agreed to pay disgorgement of $11,329,369.

In a press release (here), Panalpina CEO, Monika Ribar stated as follows. “The settlement of these claims marks the closing of an extremely burdensome chapter in Panalpina’s history and the end of a very demanding three-year effort to address and eliminate serious concerns. Now it is time for us to look to the future and to build on the strong and sustainable compliance culture we have put in place. We are also looking forward to strengthened relationships with our customers who have ceased or reduced business activities with Panalpina due to the investigation. Based on new leadership and significant enhancements of our compliance systems we are a much stronger company today.”

Richard Dean (here) and Douglas Tween (here) both of Baker & McKenzie represented the Panalpina entities.

Coming Soon … Panalpina

No, it’s not another Hollywood FCPA movie like Syriana (see here), although it sort of sounds like it.

Rather it is the Panalpina enforcement action. And its coming soon. According to Panalpina, a Swiss company and one of the world’s leading suppliers of forwarding and logistics services, “last week” it “commenced settlement discussions” with the DOJ concerning its FCPA exposure and the matter is “coming to a close.” (see here).

Not familar with the Panalpina matter?

In February 2007, DOJ announced (see here) the guilty pleas of three Vetco International Ltd. subsidiaries for violating the FCPA. In the plea documents, the Vetco entities acknowledged making improper payments to employees of the Nigerian Customs Services “through a major international freight fowarding and customs clearance company.”

In July 2007, Panalpina announced (see here) that the above guilty plea triggered a number of events. First, Panalpina’s U.S. subsidiary was requested to produce documents relating to the services it provided to the Vetco entities in Nigeria. Second, and more broadly, Panalpina announced that “several other customers have announced to U.S. authorities the review of their practices related to Nigerian importation procedures.” Further, the company noted that “U.S. authorities have extended the scope of their review to Panalpina’s documents related to services into Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia for a limited number of customers.”

Soon thereafter, Panalpina “suspended part of its service offering in Nigeria including its temporary importation services for oil and gas customers.” (see here). Later, Panalpina stopped all domestic services in Nigeria. (see here).

When announced, the Panalpina FCPA enforcement action is likely to be broad in scope and potentially entangle other companies as well.

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