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In An Unusual Development, The DOJ Brings A $7 Million FCPA Enforcement Action Against Las Vegas Sands Nine Months After The SEC’s $9 Million Enforcement Action Based On The Same Conduct

LVS

Parallel DOJ and SEC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions against issuers based on the same core conduct are common. However, such actions are coordinated and announced on the same day.

In a highly unusual development, late yesterday the DOJ announced an FCPA action against Las Vegas based on the same core conduct at issue in the SEC’s April 2016 FCPA enforcement action against Las Vegas Sands. (See here and here prior posts).

Quite frankly, I can’t recall another instance of this happening.

But then again some strange things are happening in the final weeks and days of the Obama administration before existing DOJ officials exit. (See this Wall Street Journal article titled “Obama Administration Races To Finish Probes, Wring Payments From Firms” noting that in the past approximate week the U.S. has reached settlements worth approximately $20 billion).

Adding to the intrigue is that Sheldon Adelson (founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands) is a major Republican contributor.

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Whistled For A Foul: Las Vegas Sands Agrees To Pay $9 Million To Resolve Books And Records And Internal Controls Action

CBA

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has always been a law much broader than its name suggests.

In addition to anti-bribery provisions, the FCPA also contains more generic books and records and internal controls provisions. While there are a few sentences in this 15 page administrative order released yesterday against Las Vegas Sands (LVS) that touch upon issues relevant to the anti-bribery provisions, the enforcement action was on balance a pure books and records and internal controls action.

Among other things, the SEC found that LVS lacked supporting documentation or appropriate authorization concerning the company’s involvement with a Chinese basketball team, the purchase of a building, a high-speed ferry service, and other aspects of its casino business in Macau.

The substance of yesterday’s enforcement action has been in the public domain for years. (See this 2012 New York Times article and this 2012 Wall Street Journal article). Indeed, FCPA Professor has been following LVS’s scrutiny since November 2010 upon the “noisy exist” of Steven Jacobs (the former President of Macau Operations) from the company. (See here for the original post).

In summary fashion, the order states:

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Friday Roundup

In the classroom, what if, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

In the Classroom

I am pleased to share this release concerning a new Foreign Corrupt Practices Act class I am teaching this semester at Southern Illinois University School of Law.  As noted in the release, the course is believed to be one of the first specific FCPA law school classes offered that is exclusively devoted to the FCPA, FCPA enforcement and FCPA compliance.

I am grateful for the media coverage the class has attracted.  See here from Corporate Counsel, here from Main Justice, and here from Corporate Crime Reporter.

What If?

As highlighted in this previous post concerning JPMorgan’s scrutiny in China,  the conduct at issue in the front-page New York Times article was disclosed (sort of) in the company’s August 7th quarterly filing.  That filing identified, under the heading “Regulatory Developments” the following.

“A request from the SEC Division of Enforcement seeking information and documents relating to, among other matters, the Firm’s employment of certain former employees in Hong Kong and its business relationships with certain clients.”

In the disclosure context, it has been noted by various courts that once a company “speaks” on an issue, its statements to the market can not be so incomplete as to be misleading.  Was JPMorgan’s August 7th disclosure misleading?  If not misleading, a bit “too cute?”  If JPMorgan’s August 7th disclosure mentioned the reason for the SEC’s request for information and that the request was in connection with an FCPA inquiry, would there even have been a front-page article in the NY Times on August 18th?  And if there was no front-page NY Times article would JPMorgan’s FCPA scrutiny have dominated the news this week?

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Entertainment Gaming Asia

Entertainment Gaming Asia, Inc., a company with shares listed on NASDAQ, is the focus of this article in the Cambodia Daily which states:

“Venturing into Cambodia’s casino market in May 2011, Macau-backed gambling firm Entertainment Gaming Asia (EGA) promised tens of thousands of dollars to the wife of Pailin’s provincial governor in order to lease land for the construction of a new casino … […]   There is no suggestion that the land lease arrangement breaks any laws.  But EGA’s registration with the SEC means the company is subject to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). […] EGA senior vice president Traci Mangini declined to comment on the land-lease arrangement.“We are not available for comment,” Ms. Mangini said in an email. Contacted this week, Mr. Chhean [who has held the powerful local position of governor in Pailin for more than a decade] insisted there was nothing improper about the land being rented from his wife. “It is correct that they hire the land [from my wife], they have hired it for two years already,” he said. He said the casino was fully approved by the government in Phnom Penh, and that he had no role in the licensing decision. Mr. Chhean said there was nothing inappropriate about the wife of a governor having business interests.”

Microsoft

This March 2013 post highlighted Microsoft’s FCPA scrutiny and how the DOJ and SEC “are examining kickback allegations made by a former Microsoft representative in China, as well as the company’s relationship with certain resellers and consultants in Romania and Italy.”  Add Pakistan and Russia to the list.  As reported in this Wall Street Journal article:

“In Russia, an anonymous tipster told Microsoft that resellers of its software allegedly funneled kickbacks to executives of a state-owned company to win a deal, the people familiar with the matter said. In Pakistan, a tipster alleged that Microsoft authorized a consulting firm to pay for a five day trip to Egypt for a government official and his wife in order to win a tender, the people familiar with the matter said. The two contacted Microsoft directly in the last eight months, the people said.”

Eli Lilly

In December 2012, Eli Lilly agreed to pay $29 million to resolve an SEC FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct in China, Brazil, Poland and Russia (see here for the prior post).

Lilly is again under scrutiny.  As referenced here by Reuters:

“U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co said it was ‘deeply concerned’ about allegations published in a Chinese newspaper that it spent more than 30 million yuan ($4.90 million) to bribe doctors in China to prescribe the firm’s medicines instead of rival products. A former senior manager for the company, identified by the pseudonym Wang Wei, told the 21st Century Business Herald that bribery and illegal payments at Eli Lilly’s China operations were widespread. […] Eli Lilly said in an emailed statement to Reuters that it was looking into the matter. ‘Although we have not been able to verify these allegations, we take them seriously, and we are continuing our investigation,’ the statement said. The U.S. firm said it had been made aware of “similar allegations” of kickbacks in 2012 by a former sales manager. It said the firm had opened an investigation at that time involving staff interviews, e-mail monitoring and expense report audits.”

For the Reading Stack

Informative posts here and here on the FCPAmericas blog on how Brazil’s new bribery law compares to the FCPA.  Also on the FCPAmericas blog, informative posts here and here regarding the unknows of the law.

In reference to JPMorgan’s FCPA scrutiny over its alleged hiring of family members of alleged “foreign officials,” this article in the Economist states:

“Connections also count in the West, of course. Following initial reports of the SEC’s investigation in the New York Times, a flood of stories have noted the jobs held in politically sensitive American firms by the sprogs of American politicians. Even when offspring are not involved, the revolving door between the public and private sectors raises questions about why people are hired. JPMorgan Chase did not hire Tony Blair as a senior adviser for his knowledge of risk weights, after all. Mary Schapiro, a former head of the SEC, recently joined Promontory, a consultancy packed with ex-regulators used by banks to cope with regulation (she has said she will not lobby any government body in her new role). If it is unfair to cite these names, it is only because there are so many others. If the regulators genuinely fret about why firms make hiring decisions, they may want to extend their inquiries to Washington, DC, and New York as well.”

In the context of GlaxoSmithKline’s scrutiny in China, this Wall Street Journal article highlights “China’s fast-growing but deeply underfunded medical system” where “doctors are widely seen as underpaid, which makes them prime recipients of honorariums, which are
legal, or illegal cuts of sales from drug companies …”.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Wynn – Okada And Offensive Use Of The FCPA

Rarely does one hear of offensive use of the FCPA to accomplish a business objective.  Usually it is the other way around – the FCPA thwarts a business objective such as acquiring a foreign target, not hiring the foreign agent who says he knows a way to get that lucrative contract, etc.

But then again, rarely does one hear of a corporate board member accusing the company of conduct that could implicate the FCPA, which then causes the SEC to open an inquiry, which then results in the company accusing the board member of separate and distinct conduct that could implicate the FCPA.

This post discusses Wynn’s internal investigation report that accuses Kazuo Okada (a member of its board) of prima facie FCPA violations.  For previous posts on the Wynn-Okada dispute, see here and here.  The Wynn internal investigation report (here) discusses a number of issues (such as breach of fiduciary duty, issues under Nevada gaming laws and issues under Philippine law), but this post will focus on the FCPA issues in the report authored Louis Freeh (former Director of the FBI) of Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan LLP.

In summary, the Freeh Report states as follows.  “Mr. Okada, his associates and companies appear to have engaged in a longstanding practice of making payments and gifts to his two (2) chief gaming regulators at the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (“PAGCOR”), who directly oversee and regulate Mr. Okada’s Provisional Licensing Agreement to operate in that country.  Since 2008, Mr. Okada and his associates have made multiple payments to and on behalf of these chief regulators, former PAGCOR Chairman Efraim Genuino and Chairman Cristino Naguiat (his current chief regulator), their families and PAGCOR associates, in an amount exceeding $110,000.”  The report categorizes this conduct as “prima facie violations” of the FCPA.

Because jurisdiction will clearly be an issue in any potential FCPA enforcement action against Okada (a Japanese national currently serving as Director and Chairman of the Board of Universal Entertainment Corporation, a Japanese company), the Freeh Report sensibly begins with a jurisdictional analysis.

According to the report, Aruze USA Inc. (“Aruze USA”) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Universal incorporated in Nevada and Okada is a Director of Aruze USA and serves as its President, Secretary, and Treasurer.  In addition, the report states that Okada also currently serves as a Director, Secretary, and Treasurer of Aruze Gaming America, Inc. (“Aruze Gaming”), a U.S. company.

Thus, based on the information in the Freeh report, depending upon which “hat” Okada wears at any given time, he is, in the language of the FCPA, a “domestic concern” or “any person other than an issuer or a domestic concern.”  The Freeh Report covers both bases and correctly notes that FCPA violations can be committed by a “domestic concern” regardless of any U.S. nexus (this was part of the FCPA’s 1998 amendments), but that FCPA violations can be committed by “any person” only if the “while in the territory of the U.S.” jurisdictional test is met.  If Okada is merely “any person” under the FCPA, the Freeh Report states that “means or instrumentalties of interstate commerce” were used by Okada.  Specifically, the Freeh Report states that many of Okada payments at issue passed through the accounts (either the Universal City Ledger Account or the Aruze City Ledger Account) “maintained at the corporate offices of Wynn Resorts, Limited in Las Vegas, Nevada where periodic deposits are made from Universal into the Wynn Resorts, Limited operating account at Bank of America in Las Vegas, Nevada.”

Back to the Freeh Report’s discussion of Philippine PAGCOR Officials at Wynn Resort properties.  The report highlights 36 “separate instances, from May 2008 through June 2011 when Mr. Okada, his associates and companies made payments exceeding $110,000 which directly benefited senior PAGCOR officials, including two chairman and their family members.”  For starters, 35 of the 36 instances involve charges to the Aruze City Ledger account in amounts ranging from $253 to $5,380 for stays (generally multi-night stays) at the Wynn Macau or Wynn Las Vegas.  As separately discussed below, the one instance that sticks out is the September 2010 stay of various PAGCOR officials at the Wynn Macau for which approximately $50,000 was charged to the Aruze City Ledger.

The Freeh Report terms all of these instances “prima facie” FCPA violations, a term presumably chosen carefully because as every first-year law student knows “prima facie” means on first appearance, on the face of it, a fact presumed to be true unless disproved by some evidence to the contrary.

It is here that the Freeh Report is shockingly deficient as it does not contain any discussion of the FCPA’s affirmative defense for payments, gifts, etc. that are a “reasonable and bona fide expenditure, such as travel and lodging expenses, incurred by or on behalf of a foreign official … directly related to (a) the promotion, demonstration, or explanation of products or services; or (b) the execution or performance of a contract with a foreign government or agency thereof.”  The Freeh Report notes, yet disagrees with, Okada’s assertion that “all his efforts in the Philippines prior to the change of presidential administration in the summer of 2010 were undertaken on behalf of and for the benefit of Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts.”  Summer 2010 is obviously a vague term, but Okada’s assertion could be relevant to 23 of the 36 instances detailed in the Freeh Report.

The one instance identified in the Freeh Report that sticks out is approximately $50,000 charged to the Aruze City Ledger in September 2010 for a five day stay at the Wynn Macau by “then and current PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Cristino L. Naguiat, Jr., his wife, three children, nanny and other PAGCOR officials.”  The Freeh Report devotes five pages to this visit and states, among other things, that Chairman Naguiat occupied Villa 81 (the most expensive accommodation at Wynn Macau – a room that costs approximately $6,000 per day and is mostly reserved for “high-rollers”).  Even if Chairman Naguiat and his delegation visited the resort, in whole or in part, for a business purpose it is unlikely that such expenses would be viewed as “reasonable and bona fide” and directly related to a business purpose – even if the Freeh Report does note that some of the charges may have been reimbursed by Chairman Naguiat’s delegation.

In addition, the Freeh Report says that “Mr. Okada, his associates and companies” made “similar payments to a Korean government official who oversees Mr. Okada’s initial gaming investment in that country.”  The report notes that Okada was pursuing development of a resort complex in the Incheon Free Economic Zone and the report notes six instances in which “possible Korean government officials” stayed at Wynn properties.  Total charges to the Aruze City Account were $5,945 and ranged from $507 to $1,597.  The Freeh Report states that “these payments made for or on behalf of possible Korean government officials may be part of a continuing pattern by Mr. Okada and his associates to commit prima facie violations of the FCPA.”

Finally, the Freeh Report also states that “Universal paid expenses related to then-PAGCOR Chairman Genuino’s trip to Beijing during the 2008 Olympics.

Have there been FCPA enforcement actions focused on excessive and travel entertainment expenses paid to “foreign officials”?  The answer is yes.  In 2007, Lucent Technologies resolved related DOJ and SEC enforcement actions (see here and here) focused on hundreds of trips for Chinese “foreign officials” that included primarily sightseeing, entertainment and leisure.  According to the allegations in that enforcement action, Chinese “foreign officials” were treated to trips to Boston, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Hawaii “for strictly entertainment, travel and leisure purposes.”  In 2009 UTStarcom resolved related DOJ and SEC enforcement actions (see here for the prior post) focused on hundreds of trips for Chinese “foreign officials” that likewise were to places such as Hawaii, Las Vegas, and New York.

However, in pointing numerous FCPA fingers at Okada, even the Freeh Report points a few fingers back at Wynn.  For instance, as to the accounts Okada allegedly used to make the improper payments the report states as follows.

“As a Director of Wynn Resorts, Mr. Okada is entitled to receive the courtesy of what is called a “City Ledger Account.”  Such accounts were originally instituted as a result of Sarbanes Oxley’s prohibition of extensions of credit, in the form of a personal loan from an issuer to an officer or director.  The accounts were funded by deposits from the director or his company.  Such an account exists for billing conveniences related to charges incurred at various Wynn Resorts locales.  Mr. Okada has availed himself of this courtesy and established such a City Ledger Account.  Within Wynn Resorts, this Okada City Ledger Account is referred to either as the “Universal City Ledger Account” or as the “Aruze City Ledger Account.””

Elsewhere, the Freeh Report states that funds in connection with the problematic September 2010 visit were “advanced from the Wynn Macau” to a representative of Aruze USA.

In other words, while accusing Okada of committing “prima facie” FCPA violations through his use of the accounts, including the September 2010 visit, the Freeh Report acknowledges that the accounts were provided to him by Wynn as a courtesy for billing conveniences related to charges incurred at various Wynn Resort locales and that portions of the money used in connection with the problematic September 2010 visit were advanced from the Wynn Macau.

The Freeh Report puts the DOJ (and perhaps even the SEC given Okada’s membership on the Wynn Board) in a difficult position.  How can the agencies not investigate the conduct at issue when the former Director of the FBI is terming the conduct “prima facie” FCPA violations.  An analogy would be like calling the fire department to inform that your house is on the fire, but the fire department fails to show up.  Based on media reports, it appears that the agencies are indeed in active investigation mode.  According to a Feb. 24th article in the Financial Times (“US Probes Wynn Resorts’ Allegations), “the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation is looking into allegations that Mr Okada made at least $110,000 in unauthorised payments to two gaming officials in the Philippines” and last week “Wynn’s attorney, Debra Yang, a partner with Gibson Dunn &  Crutcher and former US attorney for the Los Angeles area, flew to Washington and met with criminal prosecutors at the Department of Justice.”

Does the Freeh Report and the FCPA allegations against Okada evidence offensive use of the FCPA to accomplish a business objective?  The FCPA allegations against Okada – a Wynn business rival – contributed to a finding that Okada was “unsuitable” under Nevada gaming regulations, which then facilitated Wynn’s purchase of Okada’s Wynn shares at a substantial discount.

Another way of asking the same question is as follows – if the Freeh report found the same exact conduct (i.e. 36 instances – 35 of which were very minor in scope, totaling $110,000 involving a person other than Okada) would Wynn have gone public with such “prima facie” FCPA violations through a voluntary disclosure?  I highly doubt it.

By publicly stating that Okada’s conduct (36 instances of lodging expenses and entertainment for “foreign officials” – 35 of which were very minor in scope) evidences “prima facie” FCPA violations, is Wynn opening itself up to greater scrutiny as to its own relationships with the “foreign officials” which regulate its businesses abroad?  Is Wynn supremely confident that someone associated with the company did not charge $253 to a corporate account for a “foreign official” to stay a night at one of its hotels?  Did Wynn leave a chocolate for the “foreign official” on his pillow or pay for a fancy dinner?

In a strange twist to the story, yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that Wynn competitor Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson stated that “complimentary hotel rooms is a common practice in the gambling industry.”  Las Vegas Sands is already under FCPA scrutiny (see here for the prior post) and if that investigation was not already focused on travel and entertainment issues, you can bet it is headed in that direction.

I agree with Professor Peter Henning who writes the White Collar Crime Watch at the New York Times that Wynn’s accusations against Okada “open up a can of worms” (see here) and that Wynn’s accusations “means the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission will be scouring the company’s books for possible violations, a front that neither side can control” and that “by invoking the specter of overseas bribery, Wynn has effectively opened itself up to a wide-ranging federal investigation of its dealings in Macao and elsewhere.”

The question Wynn will have to ask itself as this presumably goes forward is whether it was worth using the unhinged FCPA enforcement theories defining this new era to oust a business rival?

As to the big, big picture, if the DOJ or SEC do bring an enforcement action against Okada (or Wynn) for the conduct described in the Freeh Report, are we prepared to confront the glaring double standard increasingly coming into focus during this new era of FCPA enforcement?  For more on the double standard and corporate benefits given to U.S. officials, see here, here, here, and here.

Wynn’s Boardroom Battle Royale

[There are two posts today]

Rarely does a company issue a press release accusing a director of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.  But then again, rarely does a director file a lawsuit against the company alleging facts that could implicate the FCPA, which then sets into motion an SEC inquiry.

Welcome to Wynn Resorts boardroom battle royale.

As indicated in this prior post, in January, Wynn boardmember Kazuo Okada filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada alleging facts which could implicate the FCPA – a $135 million Wynn donation to the University of Macau.  As noted in the post, last week Wynn announced that the SEC has launched an inquiry requesting information relating to the donation, other donations made by the company and the company’s “casino or concession gaming licenses or renewals in Macau.”

Yesterday, in a Sunday press release (here), Wynn announced that its “Compliance  Committee has concluded a year-long investigation after receiving an  independent report detailing numerous apparent violations of the U.S.  Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by Aruze USA, Inc. [see here], its parent company Universal Entertainment Corporation [see here] and its principal shareholder, Kazuo Okada.”

Okada’s bio on Wynn’s website (here) states as follows.  “Mr. Okada founded Universal Lease Co. Ltd., which became Aruze Corp. in 1998, a company listed on the Japanese Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation Securities Exchange. In November 2009, Aruze Corp. changed its name to Universal Entertainment Corporation. Universal Entertainment Corporation a Japanese manufacturer of pachislot and pachinko machines, amusement machines, and video games for domestic sales. In 1983, Mr. Okada also founded Universal Distributing Nevada, Inc., which changed its name to Aruze Gaming America, Inc. in 2005. Aruze Gaming America, Inc. is a manufacturer and distributor of gaming machines and devices in the United States and is expanding its sales business in Asia, Australia and South Africa. Mr. Okada currently serves as director and Chairman of the board of Universal Entertainment Corporation, as director, President, Secretary and Treasurer of Aruze USA, Inc., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal Entertainment Corporation, and as director, President, Secretary and Treasurer of Aruze Gaming America, Inc.”

In yesterday’s release, Wynn further stated as follows.  “The Compliance Committee, chaired by former Nevada Governor Robert Miller, engaged several investigators, including Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan, LLP, led by Louis J. Freeh, the former Director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which conducted a thorough independent investigation. Freeh’s investigators uncovered and documented more than three dozen instances over a three-year period in which Mr. Okada and his associates engaged in improper activities for their own benefit in apparent violation of U.S. anti-corruption laws and gross disregard for the Company’s Code of Conduct. These troubling discoveries include cash payments and gifts totaling approximately$110,000 to foreign gaming      regulators.  “Mr. Okada and his associates and companies appear to have engaged in a longstanding practice of making payments and gifts to his two chief gaming regulators at the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), who directly oversee and regulated Mr. Okada’s Provisional Licensing Agreement to operate in that country,” according to the Freeh Report. The report further stated that Mr. Okada and his associates have “consciously taken active measures to conceal both the nature and amount of these payments.””

Based on the Freeh Report, the Wynn releases states as follows.  “The Board has requested that Mr. Okada resign as a Director of Wynn Resorts. The Company will immediately inform the Board of Directors of its Hong Kong listed subsidiary, Wynn Macau, Limited, of its actions and will recommend that Mr. Okada be removed from the Wynn Macau Board.”  […] “The Freeh Report is the culmination of a year-long investigation by the Compliance Committee based on increasing concerns the Board had relating      to the activities of Mr. Okada and Aruze USA, Inc. in the Philippines and statements made by Mr. Okada to Wynn Resorts’ Directors that gifts to regulators are permissible in Asia. Mr. Okada is the only Director of Wynn Resorts who has continued to refuse to sign the Company’s Code of Conduct or participate in mandatory Foreign Corrupt Practices Act training for Directors.”

To learn more, see here from Reuters.

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