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If Only The Supreme Court Had Accepted Cert In The “Foreign Official” Challenge

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I was directly involved in the “foreign official” challenges (i.e. are employees of so-called state-owned or state-controlled enterprises “foreign officials” under the FCPA) between 2011 and 2014.

Among other things: (i) I was engaged in connection with the original Carson challenge which relied in part on my “foreign official” declaration; (ii) I was engaged in connection with the Lindsey Manufacturing challenge which also relied in part on my declaration; (iii) I assisted the families of Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez secure competent appellant FCPA counsel and assisted the pro bono counsel in that case; and (iv) after the 11th Circuit’s flawed “foreign official” decision in Esquenazi in 2014 (for a full discussion, see this article), I urged the Supreme Court in this amicus brief to accept cert.

In short, I am very familiar with the challenges and the statutory interpretation issues presented to the Supreme Court.

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Friday Roundup

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From the dockets, you gotta be kidding me, it’s a numbers game, former DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Duross on …, scrutiny updates, a foreign official teaser, a bracket of a different kind, and an event notice. It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

From The Dockets

Two developments in DOJ FCPA individual actions.

One the DOJ apparently wants you to do know about because it issued a press release, the other apparently not because there was no press release.

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Case Law Of Note

Judicial Decision

Judicial opinions construing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are rare. Thus, when they occur (even if only a trial court opinion on a pre-trial motion to dismiss) FCPA judicial opinions are worthy of note.

As highlighted in this prior post, in January 2015 the DOJ criminally charged Dmitrij Harder, the former owner and President of Chestnut Consulting Group Inc. and Chestnut Consulting Group Co., for allegedly bribing an official with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (“EBRD”).

The enforcement action was notable in that it invoked the rarely used “public international organization” prong of the FCPA’s “foreign official” element.

As highlighted here, in October 2015, Harder filed this motion to dismiss:  In summary fashion it stated:

“The Indictment fails to accurately allege the elements of a violation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) – it is devoid of any allegations that Mr. Harder paid an allegedly corrupt payment to a “foreign official,” fails to state required allegations when an allegedly corrupt payment is made to a third party, and impermissibly substitutes “public international organization” in the charging language against Mr. Harder. The FCPA counts should also be dismissed because the provision permitting the President to expand the term “foreign official” by identifying “public international organizations” as authorized by 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(h)(2)(B) is unconstitutional.”

In an unsurprising development given the procedural posture of the motion, last week Judge Paul Diamond (E.D. Pa.) denied the motion. It is believed to be the first judicial decision in FCPA history construing the rarely implicated “public international organization” prong of the FCPA’s “foreign official” definition.

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Issues To Consider From The PTC Enforcement Action

IssuesThis post went in-depth regarding this week’s $28 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against PTC Inc. and related entities.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting various issues to consider.

Timeline

As highlighted in this previous post, the company first disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in August 2011. Thus, the timeline was approximately 4.5 years.

Pre and Post – Enforcement Action Professional Fees and Expenses

Unlike some issuers under FCPA scrutiny, PTC does not appear to have disclosed its pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses over the past 4.5 years. If the company’s scrutiny followed a typical path, those pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses likely were equal to or exceeded the $28 million settlement amount.

Given that PTC did not disclose its pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses, it is unlikely that the company will disclose its post-enforcement action professional fees and expenses either. However, there will be plenty because, as a condition of settlement, the company is required to report to the DOJ for a three year term.

Let’s pause to consider whether this is truly necessary or simply another government required transfer of shareholder wealth to FCPA Inc. (see here, here and here for prior posts).

In the words of the DOJ:

“The [PTC Entities] engaged in extensive remedial measures, including a review and enhancement of the Companies’ and PTC Inc.’s compliance program, the establishment of a dedicated compliance team at the corporate level and at PTC China and enhanced policies for business partners, the termination of the business partners involved in the misconduct described in the Statement of Facts …, and the implementation of new customer travel policies and additional controls around expense reimbursement.”

In the words of the SEC:

“As part of its internal review and investigation, PTC undertook significant remedial measures including terminating the senior staff at PTC-China implicated in the FCPA violations. PTC also revised its pre-existing compliance program, updated and enhanced its financial accounting controls and its compliance protocols and policies worldwide, and implemented additional specific enhancements in China. These steps included: (1) reviewing and enhancing its anti-bribery policy, code of ethics, and gifts and entertainment policies to correct previous deficiencies; (2) establishing a dedicated compliance team, including a chief compliance officer and a new compliance director in China; (3) expanding its other compliance resources in China, including hiring a new vice president of finance for Asia and adding additional legal staff in China; (4) hiring a new management team in China, including a new China President; (5) enhancing its FCPA training for employees; (6) severing its relationships with the business partners that were implicated in the FCPA violations and discontinuing the use of COD partners or business referral partners generally; (7) implementing a comprehensive due diligence program for all other business partners that includes a risk-scoring system operated by a third party vendor and that includes FCPA training as part of the onboarding process; (8) obtaining quarterly anti-corruption certifications from sales staff; and (9) undertaking periodic compliance audits.”

Against this backdrop, is it truly necessary for PTC to report to the government for three years regarding its “remediation efforts to date, their proposals reasonably designed to improve the Companies’ internal controls, policies, and procedures for ensuring compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws, and the proposed scope of the subsequent reviews”?

One Core Enforcement Action

Certain FCPA Inc. participants have adopted creative counting methods when it comes to keeping FCPA enforcement statistics.

No doubt, some will count the PTC enforcement action as three separate enforcement actions (the DOJ component, the SEC component as to the company, and the SEC component as to the individual) even though each action was based on the same core conduct. Counting FCPA enforcement actions this way distorts FCPA enforcement statistics because this week’s action was one core action.

First Individual DPA by the SEC

The Yu Kai Yuan DPA, which the SEC termed the first DPA with an individual in an FCPA case, might be the most inconsequential legal document you will ever read.

Based on the same core conduct in the DOJ NPA and the SEC administrative order, the SEC alleged that Yuan (a Chinese citizen who resides in Shanghai and was last a sales executive for PTC entities in China in 2011) caused violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

The only specific allegation as to Yuan in the DPA is the first paragraph which merely identifies him. There is no other specific allegation regarding him including how he caused violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Yuan agreed to refrain from violating the “federal and state securities law” and to “refrain from violating the applicable rules promulgated by any self-regulatory organization or professional licensing board.”

If what the SEC is seeking is more individual enforcement actions in connection with corporate FCPA actions, the Yuan DPA represents one way to juice the statistics.

Additional Sloppy or Incomplete Pleading

The recipients of the travel and entertainment alleged were employees of alleged Chinese state-owned entities.

That is all the DOJ and SEC state in the resolution documents.

Even though the two-factor control and function test set forth in Esquenazi is flawed (see pgs. 24-43 in this article for a detailed discussion of why), it would seem incumbent on the enforcement agencies to include allegations or findings relevant to this two-factor test as the business community (at least one intended audience of FCPA resolution documents) remains confused regarding the contours of the “foreign official” element.

Assumed Causation

Like many, many other FCPA enforcement actions, the PTC action assumes causation.

In other words, it is assumed that the only reason the Chinese SOEs purchased PTC products and services is because certain of the SOE employees engaged in non-business travel and received other things of value such as iPods, wine and clothing from PTC entities.

Such assumed causation, very much relevant to disgorgement issues, would seem to speculative at best.

Just Plain Silly

Speaking of assumed causation, some have asserted that the Yuan individual DPA by the SEC was “inspired in part by the Yates memo issued over at the Justice Department.”

My own two cents is that suggesting such a connection is just plain silly. The Yuan DPA signatures began in November 2015 and as stated by the SEC the DPA was the “result of significant cooperation [Yuan] provided during the SEC’s investigation” – an investigation which began in 2011.

Application of DD-3

One often overlooked reason for the general increase in FCPA enforcement in the modern era is that in 1998 the statute was expanded through the dd-3 portion of the FCPA which applies to, generally speaking, non-issuer foreign companies and foreign nationals, to the extent the “while in the territory of the U.S.” jurisdictional prong has been satisfied.

The DOJ’s NPA was against PTC China entities, not PTC Inc., and invoked dd-3. While not explicit in the resolution documents, the “while in territory of the U.S.” jurisdictional prong was presumably met given that certain PTC China employees accompanied the alleged Chinese “foreign officials” on their travels to the U.S.

Issues To Consider From The SciClone Enforcement Action

IssuesThis recent post highlighted the SEC’s $12.8 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against SciClone Pharmaceuticals.

The action was based on the marketing and promotional activities of a subsidiary that provided various things of value to healthcare professionals employed by state-owned hospitals in China including weekend trips, foreign language classes, “golf in the morning and beer drinking in the evening,” and travel to the Grand Canyon and Disneyland.

This post continues the analysis of the enforcement action by highlighting various issues to consider.

Time Line

In August 2010, SciClone disclosed that the SEC had issued the company a subpoena inquiring about its business practices in China.

If the SEC wants the public to have confidence in its SEC enforcement program, it must resolve instances of FCPA scrutiny much quicker. 5.5 years is simply inexcusable.

For instance, SciClone previously disclosed that in “July 2015, SciClone reached an agreement in principle with the staff of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a proposed settlement” and its disclosure specified the exact amount in last week’s settlement.

Should it really take 7 months to finalize an agreement in principle to settle?

Nearing 20

According to my figures, SciClone is the 18th corporate FCPA enforcement action based on the enforcement theory that employees of certain foreign health care systems are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

This enforcement theory has never been subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny and, perhaps most telling as to its validity and legitimacy, is that none of the corporate enforcement actions based on this theory have resulted in related charges against an individual.

Initial Disclosure of Settlement Amount

In March 2014, SciClone disclosed, in connection with its FCPA scrutiny, “that a payment of $2.0 million to the government in penalties, fines and/or other remedies is probable.”

As highlighted above, the final settlement was $12.8 million.

Anything of Value

The enforcement action contains the following list of things of value.

  • “weekend trips, vacations, gifts, expensive meals, foreign language classes, and entertainment”
  • attendance at “the annual Qingdao Beer Festival consisting of golf in the morning and beer-drinking in the evening”
  • “vacations to Anji, China”
  • “paying for family vacations and regular family dinners”
  • “$8,600 in lavish gifts”
  • non-business “travel to Las Vegas and Los Angeles with tours of the Grand Canyon or Disneyland.”
  • “sightseeing and [travel to] tourist locations such as Mt. Fuji.”
  • “a weekend stay on the island of Hainan, a resort destination”

Chinese Travel Companies

Purported travel companies, as well as the fapiao’, are well-known compliance risks in China. On these issues, the SEC’s order states:

“Local Chinese travel companies were routinely hired to provide services (such as arranging transportation, accommodations, and meals for HCPs) in connection with what were ostensibly legitimate conferences, seminars, and other events. In addition to a lack of due diligence for these third party vendors … there was a lack of controls over the events to ensure they had an appropriate business purpose and that the events actually occurred. Many events did not include a legitimate educational purpose or the educational activities were minimal in comparison to the sightseeing or recreational activities.”

[…]

As part of its remedial efforts, SciClone conducted a detailed, comprehensive internal review of promotion expenses of employees … This review found high exception rates indicating violations of corporate policy that ranged from fake fapiao, inconsistent amounts or dates with fapiao, excessive gift or meal amounts, unverified events, doctored honoraria agreements, and duplicative meetings.”

Professional Fees and Expenses

Even though SciClone, in its March 2015 annual report, disclosed for the FY ended December 31, 2013 “$5.3 million related to legal matters associated with the ongoing government investigation and our ongoing improvements to our FCPA compliance efforts,” the company’s other disclosures over its long period of FCPA scrutiny lack specifics regarding pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.

Nevertheless, it is a safe assumption that the aggregate of such fees and expenses exceeded the $12.8 million settlement amount. Add to this SciClone’s post-enforcement action reporting obligations and the biggest “winner” of SciClone’s FCPA journey would appear to be the law firm representing SciClone.

Other Ripples

FCPA Professor has followed SciClone’s FCPA scrutiny since day one in August 2010 (see here).

As chronicled on FCPA Professor, the biggest storyline was how SciClone’s disclosure of the SEC subpoena triggered a nearly 40% drop in the company stock price, resulting in an absolute feeding frenzy of plaintiff lawyers filing FCPA-related civil claims. (See here and here).

Indeed, SciClone’s FCPA scrutiny is prominently featured in the article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples“ which highlights how settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement in this new era.

Nevertheless, savvy investors know that FCPA-induced dips often present buying opportunities and SciClone’s stock closed last Friday (the first day of trading after announcement of the FCPA enforcement action) up 8% and substantially higher compared to its August 2010 close (recognizing of course that a number of factors can influence a company’s stock price over the course of nearly 6 years).

For Your Viewing Pleasure

In this 2014 video, SciClone’s CEO talks about the company’s FCPA scrutiny and, more generally, compliance.

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