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Canada-Based Kinross Gold Corp. Resolves Approximate $1 Million SEC Action Because Its Acquired Indirect African Subsidiaries Had Deficient Internal Controls

Kinross

Silly you for believing certain commentator hype that the Trump SEC would stop enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or for thinking that the general lull in SEC corporate enforcement during the fourth quarter of 2017 meant anything.

In the second SEC corporate FCPA enforcement action in the last 2.5 weeks (see here for the prior Elbit Imaging action), the SEC announced yesterday that Canada-based Kinross Gold Corporation (a company with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange) resolved an enforcement action “arising from the company’s repeated failure to implement adequate accounting controls of two African subsidiaries.” Without admitting or denying the SEC’s finding in this administrative order, Kinross agreed to, among other things, pay a $950,000 civil penalty.

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Danish Subsidiary Exposes Analogic To $14.9 Million Enforcement Action

analogic

Yesterday the DOJ and SEC announced (see here and here) a parallel Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against medical device manufacturer Analogic Corp. and BK Medical ApS (Analogic’s Danish subsidiary) in which the entities agreed to pay approximately $14.9 million.

The conduct at issue involved alleged improper payments by BK Medical, primarily in Russia through distributors, and the government alleged that BK Medical took various steps to conceal its conduct from Analogic.

The enforcement action involved a DOJ non-prosecution agreement with BK Medical in which the company agreed to pay a $3.4 million criminal penalty and an SEC administrative order against Analogic in which the company agreed to pay approximately $11.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest. In connection with the same administrative order, the SEC also announced that “Lars Frost, BK Medical’s former Chief Financial Officer, agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty to settle charges that he knowingly circumvented the internal controls in place at BK Medical and falsified its books and records.

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Across The Pond

Posts last week largely focused on two Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions (see here, here and here).

This post goes across the pond to check in on three U.K. developments.

First, a recent Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) pre-Bribery Act enforcement action against Smith & Ouzman Ltd. and related individuals, second recent speeches by SFO officials, and third the start of criminal trials against various former top-level executives of News Corp.’s News of the World publication.

SFO Flexes Its Pre-Bribery Act Muscle

The U.K. Bribery Act went live on July 1, 2011 and its provisions are forward looking only (this is the most obvious reason why there has yet been a FCPA-like Bribery Act enforcement).  However, the SFO recently flexed its muscles in an enforcement action concerning conduct pre-dating the Bribery Act.

Last week, the SFO announced that “Smith & Ouzman Limited [a U.K. based printing company specialising in security documents such as ballot papers], two of its directors, an employee and one agent have been charged by the Serious Fraud Office with offences of corruptly agreeing to make payments totaling nearly half a million pounds, contrary to section 1 Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.”

According to the SFO release:

“The individuals, all British nationals, are:

Chris Smith – the former Chairman of Smith and Ouzman Limited

Nick Smith – the Sales and Marketing Director of Smith and Ouzman Limited

Tim Forrester –  the International Sales Manager for Smith and Ouzman Limited

Abdirahman Omar – an agent for Smith and Ouzman Limited

The alleged offences are said to have taken place between November 2006 and December 2010 and relate to transactions in Mauritania, Ghana, Somaliland and Kenya.”

SFO Director David Green On Self-Reporting

This October 2012 post highlighted an SFO release detailing “revised policies” concerning, among other things, corporate self-reporting.

Last week, SFO Director released this statement concerning self-reporting.

“It is now a year since I changed the published SFO guidance on self-reporting by corporates.  The guidance I inherited contained an implied presumption that self-reported misconduct would be dealt with by civil settlement rather than prosecution.  I took the view that no prosecutor should appear to offer such a guarantee in advance. As a prosecutor, you can never anticipate what set of facts and conduct might be next in through the door.  I took the guidance back to the historic position agreed with the Director of Public Prosecutions: that we would apply the full code test for crown prosecutors to self-reported criminality. In other words, we ask (after our own investigation): is there sufficient evidence to prosecute, and if so, is a prosecution in the public interest?  The SFO’s message is carefully expressed and nuanced. Assume the evidential sufficiency test is passed. If a company made a genuine self-report to us (that is, told us something we did not already know and did so in an open- handed, unspun way), in circumstances where they were willing to cooperate in a full investigation and to take steps to prevent recurrence, then in those circumstances it is difficult to see that the public interest would require a prosecution of the corporate. Some parts of the blogosphere seem to have difficulty with this, writing that it means self-reporters will be prosecuted. It means no such thing.”

As to Green’s comment about the blogosphere, the prior post stated.  “For the most part, although much ink is likely to be spilled by FCPA Inc. / Bribery Act Inc. in the coming days, the SFO’s “revised policies” are a yawner.”

Back to Green’s statement.

“Some corporate lawyers complain that the new approach (actually, the principled, established approach) creates “uncertainty”. I disagree: and I think that when they say “certainty” it is code for “guarantee”.  For the avoidance of doubt, the SFO continues to receive self-reports, and I anticipate the numbers will only rise as Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) bed in next year.  So why should a company self-report instances of suspected criminal misconduct to the SFO?

(i) A self-report at the very least mitigates the chances of a corporate being prosecuted.  It opens up the possibility of civil recovery or a DPA; (ii) There is the moral and reputational imperative: it is the right thing to do and it demonstrates that the corporate is serious about behaving ethically; (iii) If the corporate chooses to bury the misconduct rather than self-report, the risk of discovery is unquantifiable. There are so many potential channels leading to exposure: whistle-blowers; disgruntled counterparties; cheated competing companies; other Criminal Justice agencies in the UK; overseas agencies in communication with SFO; and the SFO’s own developing intelligence capability, to name but a few;(iv) If criminality is buried and then discovered by any of the above routes, the penalty paid by the corporate in terms of shareholder outrage, counterparty and competitor distrust, reputational damage, regulatory action and possible prosecution, is surely disproportionate; (v) Last but not least, burying such information is likely to involve criminal offences related to money laundering under sections 327-9 of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

There are, I suggest, very powerful arguments in favour of self-reporting.  Once the decision to self-report has been made by the corporate, then the question of timing arises. Common sense suggests that an initial report of suspected criminality should be made to the SFO as soon as it is discovered. This surely protects the company against the SFO finding out by other means whilst the company investigates further. The corporate can then investigate in depth and report back to the SFO. The SFO will carry out its own assessment with possible use of S2A powers (in the case of bribery), and, if justified, the opening of a criminal investigation and the exercise of S2 powers.  One argument I have heard against self-reporting is that the SFO does not prosecute corporates, because it is said to be too difficult in our jurisdiction.  Certainly I am used to unfavourable comparisons being made of the SFO with US prosecutors in this area of activity.  The reason is simple: a US prosecutor uses the respondeat superior principle: a corporate is vicariously liable for the acts of its managers and employees.”

There is another simple reason for the disparity between U.S. and U.K. “prosecutions” for bribery and corruption offenses.  Simply put, the U.S. has the option of a non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreement.  At present, the U.K. does not have these options, although it is close to utilizing DPAs.  As even the OECD has observed (see here) “it seems quite clear that [NPAs and DPAs] is one of the reasons for the impressive FCPA enforcement record in the U.S.”  I’ve long viewed the U.K.’s desire to use DPAs as a public relations tactic to catch up in the enforcement competition game (see here).

Back to Green’s statement.

“In English law, the test for corporate criminal liability requires proof that the “controlling mind” of the company (ie, board level senior management) was complicit in the relevant criminality. Absent emails, or a cooperating witness, that is never an easy thing to show.  An answer to this would be to extend the principle contained in S7 of the Bribery Act 2010, which creates the corporate offence of a company failing to prevent bribery by its employees, with a statutory defence of adequate procedures.  The reach of the section could easily be extended to cover not just bribery but acts of fraud by employees.

I have heard objections to such a change:-  (a)  That this would be punishing mere corporate negligence (to which I say, it would be about improving bad corporate culture).  (b) That prosecution of the corporate adds nothing to the prosecution of the guilty individuals (I am not proposing that a corporate should face prosecution in every case- far from it. But there will be cases where it is right and just that failure to prevent certain types of conduct should result in the corporate being marked with a criminal conviction).  (c)  That it would simply punish the shareholders (shareholders, particularly large institutional shareholders, should be vigilant about where they invest and how the corporate in which they invest behaves).

I would argue that prosecution of a corporate would be appropriate where, for example, the company profited from fraud by its employees; where a particular illegal practice was common and tolerated in a particular sector; where deterrence was needed in a sector; or where a company has brought in a compliance regime but senior management had failed to ensure enforcement of that regime.  Such a change would also cure a problem inherent in the DPA regime. If prosecution of a corporate is currently difficult, why should a corporate agree to enter a DPA at all?  DPA’s represent a very useful addition to the prosecutors’ toolbox for use in appropriate circumstances. They avoid the collateral damage caused by a full blown prosecution of a corporate. They are not a panacea. But the problem I have highlighted (which admittedly will not necessarily arise in every case) needs to be addressed. I think it comes to this: if the public interest demands more corporate prosecutions, then this change would help make that happen.”

In a separate speech before the World Bribery and Corruption Compliance Forum in London, Alun Milford (General Counsel of the SFO) touched upon many of the same issues Green discussed.

Among other things, Milford talked about the “Bribery Act industry” and I took note of Milford’s following statement given my often expressed view that an FCPA compliance defense can better incentivize corporate conduct and further advance the objectives of the FCPA.  Milford stated that “the Bribery Act [which contains an adequate procedures defense] has led to a significant amount of work in developing stronger, more ethical corporate cultures.”

Former News Corp. Exec Trials

In July 2011, worldwide media attention was focused on News Corp (see here).

The conduct at issue had many prongs, including various privacy issues.  One prong concerned allegations that News Corp’s News of the World publication paid up to five U.K. police officers to obtain information that better allowed it to write juicy stories.  Thus began News Corp.’s FCPA-like scrutiny and since then the original point of inquiry has – as is typical – expanded to include other conduct.

As to the alleged U.K. payments at issue, focus turned to the old “who knew what and when did they know it” question.  Several individuals associated with News of the World were criminally charged, including for conduct implicating the alleged bribery prong of News Corp’s scrutiny.

Two individual charged were Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of News of the World and Andy Coulson, another former News of the World editor.  The criminal trial of these individuals, along with others, began this week in London.

What happens in these trials concerning the bribery offenses will not determine the outcome of any potential News Corp. FCPA enforcement action.  But you can bet that the DOJ and SEC will be interested in the ultimate outcome.  In short, if there is a judicial finding that Brooks and/or Coulson or other high-level executives in London authorized or otherwise knew of the alleged improper payments, this will likely be a factor in how the DOJ and SEC ultimately resolve any potential enforcement action and how News Corp.’s overall culpability score may be calculated under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines.

For more on the trials and individuals involved see here, here, here and here.

Friday Roundup

Docket exploration in this Friday roundup.

SEC v. Jackson & Ruehlen

My first post concerning the SEC’s enforcement action against Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen asked – will the SEC be put to its burden of proof?   I noted that the case would be most interesting to follow as the SEC is rarely put to its burden of proof in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions and I highlighted, at the time, how the last time that happened (in 2002) the SEC lost.

As time would demonstrate, Jackson and Ruehlen indeed did put the SEC to its burden of proof and in December 2012 Judge Keith Ellison (S.D. of Tex.) granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the SEC’s claims that sought monetary damages while denying the motion to dismiss as to claims seeking injunctive relief.  (See here for the prior post).  Even though Judge Ellison granted the motion as to SEC monetary damage claims, the dismissal was without prejudice meaning that the SEC was allowed to file an amended complaint.  As noted in this prior post, that is indeed what happened next, and as noted here a second round of briefing began anew.

In the Defendant’s renewed motion to dismiss (filed Feb. 22nd) they argued that the SEC could not rely on the fraudulent concealment or continuing violations doctrine to extend the limitations period to cover certain claims that accrued before May 12, 2006.  A week later the Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in SEC v. Gabelli (see here for the prior post) and soon thereafter on March 11th the Defendants filed a notice of supplemental authority with the court arguing that Gabelli “bolstered” their position.

On March 22nd, the same day the SEC’s opposition brief was due, the parties jointly notified the court “that in lieu of opposing the [motion to dismiss] the SEC intends to file a Second Amended Complaint.”  The filing noted that the then proposed Second Amended Complaint “moots the relief sought in the [the motion to dismiss] because it clarifies that, among the violations alleged, the SEC seeks civil penalties … only to the extent such violations accrued on or before May 12, 2006.

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Speaking of statute of limitations, a recent article highlights how the DOJ is “testing a novel argument” to extend statute of limitations in certain cases.  The theory.  We are at war … in Afghanistan … and regardless of whether the conduct at issue has anything to do with that war in Afghanistan, the 1948 Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act gives prosecutors unlimited time to go after alleged fraud during times of war.

No this article was not in the Onion, it was in the Wall Street Journal (see here).

Former Siemens Executive Sharef Settles 2011 SEC Enforcement Action

The SEC announced earlier this week (here) that Uriel Sharef, “a former officer and board member of Siemens” agreed to settle – as had long been expected – the SEC’s action against him.  As noted in this previous post, Sharef, along with others was charged (both by the DOJ and SEC) in December 2011 in connection with an Argentine bribery scheme that was also the focus, in part, of the 2008 Siemens corporate enforcement action.

As noted in the SEC’s release, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Sharef consented to entry of a final judgment prohibiting future FCPA violations and he agreed to pay a $275,000 civil penalty – a penalty the SEC called “the second highest penalty assessed against an individual in an FCPA case.”

[In connection with the Innospec FCPA enforcement action, in August 2010, Ousama Naaman resolved an SEC enforcement action by agreeing to disgorge $810,076, pay prejudgment interest of $67,020 and pay a civil penalty of $438,038.  See here for the prior post].

The burning question of course is whether the SEC would have prevailed against Sharef if he put the SEC to its burden of proof.  As highlighted in this previous post, Sharef’s co-defendant, Herbert Steffen, did just that and in February Judge Shira Scheindlin dismissed the SEC’s complaint against Steffen finding that personal jurisdiction over Steffen exceeded the limits of due process.

The SEC’s allegations against Sharef mention the phone call Sharef placed in the U.S. to Steffen.  As to this call, Judge Scheindlin stated as follows in the Steffen decision.

“Neither Sharef’s call to Steffen from the United States nor the fact that a portion of the bribery payments were deposited in a New York bank provide sufficient evidence of conduct directed towards the United States to establish minimum contacts.  First, Steffen did not place the calls to Sharef.  Further, Steffen did not direct that the funds be routed through a New York bank.  […]  His conduct was focused solely on ensuring the continuation of the Siemens contract in Argentina.”

The SEC complaint did however state the following additional as to Sharef.

“Sharef met in New York, NY [in January 2003] with payment intermediaries and agreed to pay $27 million in bribes to Argentine officials in connection with the [contract at issue].

Obstruction Charges Filed Against French Citizen in Connection With FCPA Investigation

The DOJ announced (here) earlier this week that “Frederic Cilins a French citizen, has been arrested and accused of attempting to obstruct an ongoing investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.”

The Criminal Complaint charges Cilins with one count of tampering with a witness, victim, or informant; one count of obstruction of a criminal investigation; and one count of destruction, alteration, and falsification of records in a federal investigation.

Under the heading “Overview of the Defendant’s Crimes” the complaint states, in pertinent part, as follows.

“Cilins … has made repeated efforts to obstruct an ongoing federal grand jury investigation … concerning potential money laundering violations and potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including such violations by a domestic concern as defined by the FCPA, relating to bribes to officials of a former government of the country of Guinea for the purpose of obtaining valuable mining concessions in Guinea.  During monitored and recorded phone calls and face-to-face meetings with a cooperating witness “CW” [identified as the former wife of a now deceased high-ranking official in the Government of Guinea who is cooperating with the government “in the hopes of obtaining immunity for her own potential criminal conduct”] assisting in this investigation, Cilins, among other things, agreed to pay large sums of money to the cooperating witness to induce the cooperating witness to: (1) provide to Cilins, for destruction, documents Cilins knew had been requested from the cooperating witness by special agents of the FBI and which were to be produced before a federal grand jury; and (2) sign an affidavit containing numerous false statements regarding matters within the scope of the grand jury investigation.  Cilins repeatedly told the cooperating witness that the documents needed to be destroyed ‘urgently’ and that Cilins needed to be present to personally witness the documents being burned.”

Various reports (see here for instance) have linked Cilins to Guernsey-based BSG Resources Ltd and the Criminal Complaint would seem to reference this company as a “particular business entity not based in the United States engaged in the mining industry” (the “Entity”).  The Criminal Complaint sketches a bribery scheme and states, in pertinent part, as follows.

“CW was visited by several individuals including Cilins who identified themselves as representatives of the Entity.  According to the CW, these individuals told the CW, on behalf of the Entity, that they wished to invest in mines in Guinea and asked the CW for help with the Guinean Official, who was then CW’s spouse.  Cilins offered the CW $12 million, to be distributed to the CW and ministers or officials within the Government of Guinea who might be needed to secure the mining rights if all went well after their introduction to the Guinean Official.”

The Criminal Complaint further states that “some of the money paid to the CW by the Entity and its affiliates or agents was wired to a bank account in Florida controlled by the CW.”

It would appear from the Criminal Complaint that BSG Resources is not the sole focus of the U.S. investigation.   Indeed, BSG Resources does not fit the description of a “domestic concern” as referenced in the Criminal Complaint which further states that “subjects of the grand jury investigation include one or more “domestic concerns” within the meaning of the FCPA …”.

Contrary to this assertion, obstruction charges were not first used in the FCPA enforcement against Hong Carson.  Prior to Carson (in which the charge was ultimately dropped) obstruction charges have been used in several FCPA enforcement actions since the FCPA’s first-mega case in 1982 (see here for the prior post).  Although not always successful prosecuted, the following FCPA defendants were nevertheless also charged with various obstruction charges:  Gerald Green, David Kay and Douglas Murphy, Leo Winston Smith and John O’Shea

TJGEM, LLC Complaint

In another example of the noticeable trend of increasing “offensive” use of the FCPA, in late March, Missouri-based TJGEM, LLC filed this civil complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging a variety of claims, including RICO, against various Ghana officials and New Jersey-based Conti Construction Co. Inc. in connection with a sewer project.  AllAfrica reports here as follows.

 “TJGEM is claiming that [a Ghanian official] inflated the contract sum for the construction of the sewer system, which has now been awarded to Conti Construction, also an American company, by $10 million …  According to [the complaint] because TJGEM’s representatives, who were negotiating with [the official] for the contract, were totally non-receptive and unresponsive to the [official’s] corrupt practices and solicitations, and refused to neither entertain  nor accede to same, but instead, rejected said corrupt practices, the contract  was taken away from them. [TJGEM] argues that the selection of a company whose price for the reconstruction of the sewer  project was some $10,000,000 in excess of the price fixed by TJGEM, leads to a reasonable inference that the [official] inflated the price of the sewer project, in order to receive said $10,000,000 as a bribe and kickback in the award of the  sewer project contract to his own use and benefit, and to the use and benefit of other Ghanaian public officials with whom he is acting in concert in the said criminal enterprise.”

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A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

The DOJ appears not interested in Anadarko’s allegations and more disclosure news … its all here in the Friday roundup.

DOJ Appears Not Interested in Anadarko’s Allegations

The Jubilee field is located off the coast of Ghana.

Participants in the West Cape Three Points Block include: Kosmos Energy LLC; Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; Tullow Oil PLC; Ghana National Petroleum Corporation; E.O. Group Ltd.; and Sabre Oil and Gas Limited.

Anadarko (here) apparently reported Kosmos (here) to U.S. authorities for possible violations of the FCPA “in connection with securing licensing and exploration and production agreements.”

Anadarko apparently made similar allegations against EO Group.

Apparently, the DOJ is not interested – according to this Bloomberg article by David Wethe and and Jason McClure.

The article, which cites to a May 12 letter from the DOJ to Kosmos and June 2 letter from the DOJ to EO Group, states that the DOJ does not intend to “take any enforcement action” or pursue charges against either company and that the DOJ closed its inquiry into the matter.

According to the article, “Ghana is pressing ahead with its own criminal inquiry into alleged corruption in the development of the field.”

Disclosure News

From Orthofix International N.V.’s Form 8-K filed August 31 (see here):

“During a recent internal management review of Promeca S.A. DE C.V. (“Promeca”), one of its Mexican subsidiaries, the Company received allegations of improper payments, allegedly made by certain of Promeca’s local employees in Mexico, to employees of a Mexican governmental health care entity. The Company has engaged Hogan Lovells US LLP and Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP to conduct an internal investigation focusing on compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and voluntarily contacted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States Department of Justice to advise both agencies that an internal investigation is underway. During 2009, Promeca accounted for approximately one percent of the Company’s consolidated net sales and consolidated total assets. The internal investigation is in its early stages and no conclusions can be drawn at this time as to its outcome; however, the FCPA and related statutes and regulations provide for potential criminal and civil sanctions in connection with FCPA violations, including criminal fines, civil penalties, and disgorgement of past profits.”

From Diageo PLC’s 2010 Preliminary Results Release, dated August 26th (see here)

“SEC investigation: As previously reported, Diageo Korea and several of its current and former employees have been subject to investigations by Korean authorities regarding various regulatory and control matters. Convictions for improper payments to a Korean customs official have been handed down against two former Diageo Korea employees, and a former and two current Diageo Korea employees have been convicted on various counts of tax evasion. Diageo had previously voluntarily reported the allegations relating to the convictions for improper payments to the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC has commenced an investigation into these and other matters, and Diageo is in the process of responding to the regulators‟ enquiries regarding activities in Korea, Thailand, India and elsewhere. Diageo‟s own internal investigation in Korea, Thailand, India and elsewhere remains ongoing. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and related statutes and regulations provide for potential monetary penalties, criminal sanctions and may result in some cases in debarment from doing business with governmental entities in connection with FCPA violations. Diageo is unable to quantify meaningfully the possible loss or range of loss to which these matters may give rise.”

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A good Labor Day weekend to all.

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