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Comverse Technology … Is It Really That Simple?

Question: “If you did not have the choice of deferred or non prosecution agreements, what would happen to the number of FCPA settlements every year.

Answer by Mark Mendelsohn, former FCPA chief DOJ: “If the Department only had the option of bringing a criminal charge or declining to bring a case, you would certainly bring fewer cases.”

Mark Mendelsohn on the Rise of FCPA Enforcement, 24 Corporate Crime Reporter 35, September 10, 2010.

“… [T]he S.E.C.’s practice of permitting defendants to neither admit nor deny the charges against them remains pervasive, presumably for no better reason than that it makes the settling of cases easier.”

U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) in SEC v. Vitesse Semiconducter Corp., March 21, 2010.

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A U.S. company has a subsidiary A.

Subsidiary A has a subsidiary – subsidiary B.

Subsidiary B engaged an agent who made improper payments partially facilitated by subsidiary’s B’s inflated commission payments to him.

There is no allegation that Subsidiary A knew about the payments.

There is no allegation that the U.S. company knew about the payments.

But subsidiary B’s books, records and accounts are incorporated into the books, records and accounts of the U.S. company for purposes of financial reporting.

These are the essential facts from last week’s FCPA enforcement action against Comverse Technology Inc. – “a world leader in multimedia telecommunications applications”.

The enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was $2.8 million ($1.2 million criminal fine via a DOJ non prosecution agreement; $1.6 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest via a SEC settled complaint).

Is it really that simple?

Some have suggested that Comverse received “lenient” treatment (see here). Yet, it is questionable whether Comverse would have faced any criminal liability should the DOJ have been required to satisfy its high burden of proof in court.

Yet, FCPA enforcement actions like Comverse seem to be becoming norm.

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action was resolved via a non-prosecution agreement, meaning there was not, and will never, be judiciary scrutiny of the DOJ’s enforcement theory.

The NPA (here) begins as follows.

The DOJ “will not criminally prosecute Comverse Technology, Inc. (“CTI”), Comverse Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of CTI (“Comverse Inc.”), and the subsidiaries of Comverse Inc., including Comverse Ltd. (collectively referred to as Comverse) for any crimes … related to Comverse’s knowing violation of the books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act … arising from and related to Comverse’s failure accurately to record certain improper payments made by employees of Comverse Ltd. and certain subsidiaries of Comverse Ltd. and a third party agent from 2003 to 2006.”

According to the NPA, Comverse Inc. was wholly-owned subsidiary of CTI and Comverse Ltd., an Israeli company based in Tel Aviv, was a wholly owned subsidiary of Comverse Inc.

The NPA has a term of two years and Comverse admitted, accepted, and acknowledged responsibility for the below described conduct. As is typical in FCPA NPAs or DPAs, Comverse agreed “not to make any public statement contradicting” the information below.

The conduct at issue focuses on monthly retainer fees paid by Comverse Ltd. to Agent G (an Israeli citizen engaged by Comverse Ltd. as an independent consultant with a particular focus on Greece) and commissions paid to Agent G on purchase orders. According to the NPA, “Agent G would keep 15% of the total commission, and the remaining 85% was used to make improper payments.”

According to the NPA, “between 2003 and 2006, Comverse Ltd. made approximately $536,000 in cash payments to Corporation H [a Cyprus-based company created by Agent G at the direction of Comverse Ltd. employees to facilitate the payment of cash to representatives of certain Comverse Ltd. customers in exchange for securing purchase orders] with the intent that the money woudl be passed on to individuals connected to OTE, including employees of OTE’s subsidiaries Cosmote, Cosmofon, and Cosmorom, in order to obtain purchase orders from those companies for Comverse Ltd. products and services, resulting in approximately $1.25 million in adjusted operating income.”

OTE?

That would be the “Hellenic Telecommunications Organization S.A. – a telecommunications provider controlled and partially owned by the Greek Government.” According to the NPA, “the Greek Government was OTE’s largest single shareholder and maintained an interest in over one-third of OTE’s issued share capital.”

The DOJ agreed to resolve the enforcement action via a NPA “based, in part, on the following factors: (a) Comverse’s timely, voluntary, and complete disclosure of the facts” [described above]; (b) Comverse’s full cooperation with the Department and the [SEC]; and (c) the remedial efforts already undertaken and to be undertaken by Comverse.”

The DOJ release (here) states as follows. “The [NPA] recognizes the company’s thorough self-investigation and the results of its investigation, voluntary disclosure of the underlying conduct, and full cooperation with the department. CTI has also undertaken extensive remedial efforts and overhauled its overall compliance culture, including through the implementation of mandatory training programs focused on anti-corruption and the use of third-party agents and intermediaries, as well as more rigorous accounting controls for the approval of third-party payments. As a result of these mitigating factors, the department has agreed not to prosecute CTI or its subsidiaries for failing to maintain accurate books and records, provided that CTI satisfies its obligations under the agreement for a period of two years. Those obligations include ongoing cooperation, payment of the $1.2 million penalty, and the continued implementation of rigorous internal controls.”

SEC

The SEC’s civil complaint (here) is based on the same core conduct described above.

The complaint alleges, in summary fashion, as follows.

“Between 2003 and 2006, Comverse Technology, Inc. (“Comverse”) violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) when its Israeli operating subsidiary, Comverse Limited (“Comverse Limited”), engaged in a scheme to make improper payments to obtain or retain business.”

“In order to facilitate and conceal the payments, Comverse Limited employed a third-party agent (the “Agent”) to establish an offshore entity in Cyprus which, in turn, funneled the improper payments to Comverse Limited’s customers. Employees of Comverse Limited made payments to the Cyprus entity and, after taking 15% off the top of these payments, the Agent paid or facilitated the payment of the remaining 85% to Comverse Limited’s customers in the form of cash bribes.”

“Comverse Limited did not accurately record these improper payments in its books and records, which, in turn, caused them to be improperly classified in Comverse’s consolidated financial statements. Comverse failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that transactions at all levels of the organization were recorded properly.”

Specifically, the SEC alleged as follows.

“Between 2003 and 2006, Comverse Limited made improper payments to employees connected to OTE in order to obtain or retain business with OTE. The scheme originated in Comverse Limited’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) sales division and the improper payments were inaccurately recorded on Comverse Limited’s books and records, which, in turn, were consolidated with Comverse’s financial results.”

“Between 2003 and 2006, Comverse Limited, using [Corporation H], made improper payments totaling approximately $536,000 to individuals connected to OTE, including employees of OTE’s subsidiaries Cosmote, Cosmofon, and Cosmorom to obtain or retain OTE’s business. The improper payments resulted in $1.2 million of improper benefit to Comverse Limited, which flowed through to Comverse.”

As to internal controls, the SEC alleged as follows. “During the relevant time period, neither Comverse nor Comverse Limited had a process, formal or otherwise, for conducting due diligence of third-party agents or for the independent review of third-party agent contracts outside of the sales departments.” The SEC further alleged as follows. “At the time of the conduct, while Comverse did have an omnibus anti-corruption policy that prohibited improper payments to government-affiliated third parties and others, Comverse did not widely circulate this policy and provided no training on it to any employees.”

As to books and records, the SEC alleged as follows. “Comverse Limited falsified its books and records by characterizing and recording the bribes as legitimate sales commissions, thereby failing accurately to reflect the payments and their purpose. These improper expenses, in turn, were consolidated into Comverse’s financial records.”

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Comverse with FCPA books and records and internal control violations.

As noted in the SEC release (here) without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Comverse consented “to a conduct-based injunction that prohibits Comverse from having books and records that do not accurately reflect, or from having internal controls that do not prevent or detect, any illegal payments made to obtain or retain business.” In addition, Comverse consented to pay $1,249,614 in disgorgement and $358,887 in prejudgment interest.

Daniel Horwitz (Lankler and Carragher – see here) represented Comverse.

The company’s 8-K filing on April 7th stated as follows. ” As originally disclosed by the Company on March 16, 2009, the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors of the Company conducted its own internal investigation into such payments. The Audit Committee found that the conduct at issue did not involve the Company’s executive officers.”

The company’s 10-K filing on January 25, 2011 suggests that the company’s internal investigation was prompted by a whistleblower complaint and the filing details the company’s remedial actions in connection with the investigation. According to the filing “the Company recorded charges of $2.9 million associated with [the FCPA matter] during the fiscal year ended January 31, 2009.” The company has not yet disclosed what its fees and expenses were during the fiscal year ended January 31, 2010.

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Another interesting item from Comverse’s SEC filings. “For the fiscal year ended January 31, 2010, approximately one quarter of Verint’s [Comverse’s majority-owned publicly traded subsidiary] business was generated from contracts with various governments around the world, including federal, state, and local government agencies.”

Johnson & Johnson Enforcement Action Focuses on Health Care Providers As “Foreign Officials”

That was quite the 72-hour period for FCPA enforcement last week. On Wednesday, it was JGC Corporation of Japan ($218.8 million in criminal fines). On Thursday, it was Comverse Technologies ($2.8 million in combined DOJ and SEC fines, penalties, and disgorgement). On Friday, it was Johnson & Johnson ($70 million in combined DOJ and SEC fines, penalties and disgorgement – plus approximately $7.9 million in a related U.K. Serious Fraud Office civil recovery).

This post analyzes the Johnson & Johnson enforcement action. Separate posts regarding the Comverse and JGC Corp. enforcement actions will follow later this week.

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Johnson & Johnson (“J&J), a global pharmaceutical, consumer product, and medical device company, resolved enforcement actions focused on business conduct in Greece, Poland, Romania. The enforcement actions also resolved an investigation of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary companies in the United Nations Oil for Food Program in Iraq.

The J&J enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was $70 million ($21.4 million criminal fine via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement; $48.6 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest via a SEC settled complaint).

This post summarizes the DOJ, SEC and SFO enforcement actions.

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against DePuy Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of J&J and a global manufacturer and supplier of orthopedic medical devices) resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

The background section of the information begins as follows. “Greece has a national healthcare system wherein most Greek hospitals are publicly owned and operated. Health care providers who work at publicly-owned hospitals (“HCPs”) are government employees, providing health care services in their official capacities. Therefore, such HCPs in Greece are “foreign officials” as that term is defined in the FCPA.”

The conduct at issue focuses on Depuy International. In 1998, J&J acquired DePuy, including its subsidiary Deputy International (a U.K. company).

According to the information, between 1998 through 2006, DePuy and others conspired to “secure lucrative business with hospitals in the Greek public health care system by making and promising to make corrupt payments of money and things of value to publicly-employed Greek HCPs.”

The information alleges that “DePuy, its executives, employees, and subsidiaries agreed to sell products to Company X [an agent and distributor for DePuy and its subsidiaries in Greece until 2001 when it was acquired by DePuy and named DePuy Medec and later renamed DePuy Hellas] at a 35% discount, then paid 35% of sales by Company X to an off-shore account of Company Y [based in the Isle of Man and a consultant for DePuy International in Greece until 1999] in order to provide off-the-books funds to Agent A [a Greek national who was the beneficial owners of both Company X and Y] for the payment of cash incentives and other things of value to publicly-employed Greek HCPs to induce the purchase of DePuy products, while concealing the payments.”

The information further alleges that “DePuy, its executives, employees, and subsidiaries agreed to pay Agent A and Agent B [a Greek national who acted as a consultant to DePuy International and DePuy Hellas] a percentage of the value of sales of DePuy products in Greece in order to provide funds to Agent A and Agent B for the payment of cash incentives and other things of value to publicly-employed Greek HCPs to induce the purchase of DePuy products, while concealing the payments.”

The information further alleges that between 2002 and 2006 “approximately £500,000 was withdrawn by DePuy Hellas MD [a Greek National who was an employee of Company X until it was acquired by J&J when she became the Managing Director of DePuy Hellas] and others and used to cover payments owed to HCPs by the agents but not yet paid.”

The information charges as follows. “In total, from 1998 to 2006, defendant DePuy, DePuy International, and their related subsidiaries and employees, authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of approximately $16.4 million in cash incentives to publicly-employed Greek HCPs to induce the purchase of DePuy products. In order to conceal the payments, DePuy Hellas and DePuy International falsely recorded the payments in their books and records as “commissions.””

As to a U.S. nexus, the information describes the following: certain phone calls made to Executive B (a U.S. citizen and officer and senior executive of DePuy) in Indiana to discuss the Company X acquisition and due diligence on Greek Agent A; e-mails sent to Executive B in Indiana regarding Agent A or Greek business in general; e-mails Executive A (a British citizen who was an officer and senior executive in charge of DePuy at the time it was purchased by J&J and who retained that position until 1999 when he became a senior executive at J&J retaining control of DePuy and its related operating companies) sent or received in New Jersey regarding Agent A.

Based on the above allegations, the information charges: (i) a conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records provisions; and (ii) a substantive FCPA anti-bribery violation.

DPA

The DOJ’s charges against DePuy were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement (dated January 14, 2011) between the DOJ and J&J, its subsidiaries, and its operating companies “relating to illegal conduct committed by certain J&J operating companies and subsidiaries.” In addition to DePuy Inc., other operating companies named are Cilag AG International and Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V.

Pursuant to the DPA, J&J admitted, accepted and acknowledged “that it is responsible for the acts of its officers, employees, and agents, and wholly-owned subsidiaries and operating companies” as set forth in a Statement of Facts attached to the DPA.

The term of the DPA is three years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors.

(a) J&J voluntarily and timely disclosed the majority of the misconduct described in the Information and Statement of Facts [Note – the Iraq Oil for Food conduct was not voluntarily disclosed];

(b) J&J conducted a thorough internal investigation of that misconduct;

(c) J&J reported all of its findings to the Department;

(d) J&J cooperated fully with the Department’s investigation of this matter;

(e) J&J has undertaken substantial remedial measures as contemplated by [the DPA];

(f) J&J has agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department in any investigation of the conduct of J&J and its directors, officers, employees, agents, consultants, subsidiaries, contractors, and subcontractors relating to violations of the FCPA and related statutes;

(g) J&J has cooperated and agreed to continue to cooperate with the SEC and, at the direction of the Department, foreign authorities investigating the conduct of J&J and its directors, officers, employees, agents, consultants, subsidiaries, contractors, and subcontractors relating to corrupt payments;

(h) J&J has cooperated and agreed to continue to cooperate with the
Department in the Department’s investigations of other companies and individuals in connection with business practices overseas in various markets;

“(i) J&J has also agreed to resolve related cases being investigated by the SEC and the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office (the “SFO”); and

(j) Were the Department to initiate a prosecution of J&J or one of its operating companies and obtain a conviction, instead of entering into this Agreement to defer prosecution, J&J could be subject to exclusion from participation in federal health care programs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(a).

With respect to the corporate compliance reporting obligations imposed on J&J by the DPA, the agreement states as follows.

(i) J&J has already engaged in significant remediation of the misconduct described in the Statement of Facts and reviewed and improved its compliance program and implementation thereof;

(ii) J&J conducted an extensive, global review of all of its operations to determine if there were problems elsewhere and has reported on any areas of concerns to the Department and the SEC;

(iii) J&J has and will undertake enhanced compliance obligations
described in [the DPA];

(iv) J&J’s cooperation during this investigation and its substantial assistance in investigations of others has been extraordinary; and

(v) J&J had a pre-existing compliance and ethics program that was effective and the majority of problematic operations globally resulted from insufficient implementation of the J&J compliance and ethics program in acquired companies.”

As stated in the DPA, the fine range for the above described conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $28.5 million to $57 million. Pursuant to the DPA, J&J agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $21.4 million (25% below the minimum amount suggested by the guidelines). The DPA states as follows. “J&J and the Department agree that this fine is appropriate given J&J’s voluntary and thorough disclosure of the misconduct at issue, the nature and extent of J&J’s cooperation in this matter, penalties related to the same conduct in the United Kingdom and Greece, J&J’s cooperation in the Department’s investigation of other companies, and J&J’s extraordinary remediation.”

Pursuant to the DPA, J&J agreed to self-report to the DOJ “periodically, at no less than six-month intervals” during the term of the DPA “regarding remediation and implementation of the compliance measures” described in the DPA.

As is standard in FCPA DPAs, J&J agreed not to make any public statement “contradicting the acceptance of responsibility” by J&J as set forth in the DPA.

The Statement of Facts attached to the DPA include, in addition to the Greece conduct described above, conduct relating to Poland, Romania and in connection with the U.N. Oil for Food Program in Iraq.

Poland

As to Poland, the DPA states, in summary fashion as follows.

“Poland has a national healthcare system. Most Polish hospitals are owned and operated by the government and most Polish HCPs [health care providers] are government employees providing health care services in their official capacities. Therefore, most HCPs in Poland are “foreign officials” as defined by the FCPA.”

“Polish hospitals purchase their medical products through a tender process, whereby suppliers of medical products compete for business by submitting bids to tender committees. Each tender committee may be associated with one or more hospitals.”

“In general, the tender committees evaluate the competitive bids and select the winning supplier for each purchase. Because most Polish hospitals are government owned, the tender committees effectively determine, on behalf of the government, from whom the government will purchase medical products.”

“J&J Poland [a wholly owned subsidiary of J&J] made payments and provided things of value to publicly-employed Polish HCPs, in the form of “civil contracts,” travel sponsorships, and donations of cash and equipment, to corruptly influence the decisions of HCPs on tender committees to purchase medical products from J&J Poland.”

As to civil contracts, the DPA states as follows.

“J&J Poland engaged in professional services contracts with publicly-employed Polish HCPs, known as “civil contracts.” The contracts were purportedly for professional services including lecturing, leading workshops, and conducting clinical trials.”

“J&J Poland did not require that its sales representatives provide proof that the work, for which payment had been made, was actually ever performed.”

“From January 2000 until June 2006, J&J Poland awarded civil contracts to publicly-employed Polish HCPs to corruptly influence them, in their official capacities as members of tender committees, in order to induce those HCPs to select, or favorably influence the selection of, J&J Poland as the winning supplier in tender processes.”

As to travel, the DPA states as follows.

“J&J Poland sponsored some publicly-employed Polish HCPs to attend conferences in order to corruptly influence them, in their official capacities as members of tender committees, in order to induce the HCPs to select, or favorably influence the selection of, J&J Poland as the winning supplier in tender processes.”

As to “Total Improper Payments in Poland,” the DPA states as follows.

“In total, from in or around 2000 to in or around 2007, J&J Poland and its employees authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of approximately $775,000 in improper payments, including direct payments and travel, to publicly-employed Polish HCPs to induce the purchase of J&J products.”

Romania

As to Romania, the DPA states as follows.

“The national healthcare system in Romania is almost entirely state-run. The healthcare system is funded by the National Health Care Insurance Fund (“CNAS”), to which employers and employees make mandatory contributions. Most Romanian hospitals are owned and operated by the government and most HCPs in Romania are government employees. Therefore, most HCPs in Romania are “foreign officials” as defined by the FCPA.”

“From in or around 2005 through in or around 2008, J&J Romania [a wholly owned subsidary] employees made arrangements with J&J Romania distributors for the distributors, on behalf of J&J Romania, to provide cash payments and gifts to publicly-employed Romanian HCPs in exchange for prescribing certain pharmaceuticals manufactured by J&J subsidiaries and operating companies.”

As to “Total Improper Payments in Romania,” the DPA states as follows.

“In total, from in or around July 2005 to in or around mid-2008, J&J Romania and its employees authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of approximately $140,000 in incentives to publicly-employed Romanian HCPs to induce the purchase of pharmaceuticals manufactured by J&J subsidiaries and operating companies.”

Oil for Food Program

As to the U.N. Oil for Food Program, the DPA states as follows.

“Between in or around December 2000 and in or around March 2003, Janssen [a wholly-owned subsidiary of J&J headquarted in Belgium] and Cilag [a wholly-owned subsidiary of J&J headquartered in Switzerland] were awarded 18 contracts for the sale of pharmaceuticals to the Iraqi Ministry of Health State Company for Marketing Drugs and Medical Appliances (“Kimadia”) under the [Oil for Food Program], with a total contract value of approximately $9.9 million, which generated approximately $6.1 million in profits. Janssen and Cilag secured these contracts through the payment of approximately $857,387 in kickbacks to the government of Iraq.”

“The kickbacks were paid to the government of Iraq through JC-Lebanon Agent [a Lebanese citizen who was an agent for both Janssen and Cilag in Iraq]. The kickbacks were concealed from the United Nations by inflating Janssen and Cilag’s contract prices by 10%.”

The DPA concludes with a section titled “Books and Records” that states as follows.

“In order to conceal the payments to the Greek, Polish, and Romanian HCPs on the books and records of J&J and its subsidiaries, the payments were misrepresented as, among other things, “commissions,” “civil contracts,” “travel,” “donations,” and “discounts.””

“In order to conceal the kickback payments made to the Iraqi government through JC-Lebanon Agent for contracts under the OFFP on the books and records of Janssen and Cilag, the payments were misrepresented as “commissions.””

“At the end of J&J’s fiscal year from in or around 1998 to in or around 2007, the books and records of DePuy International, DePuy Hellas, J&J Poland, J&J Romania, Janssen, and Cilag, including those containing false characterizations of kickback and bribe payments given to the Iraqi government and Greek, Polish, and Romanian officials, were incorporated into the books and records of J&J for purposes of preparing J&J’s year-end financial statements, which were filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

The DOJ’s release (here) states as follows.

“Johnson & Johnson has admitted that its subsidiaries, employees and agents paid bribes to publicly-employed health care providers in Greece, Poland and Romania, and that kickbacks were paid on behalf of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary companies to the former government of Iraq under the United Nations Oil for Food program. Johnson & Johnson, however, has also cooperated extensively with the government and, as a result, has played an important role in identifying improper practices in the life sciences industry. As [the DPA] reflects, we are committed to holding corporations accountable for bribing foreign officials while, at the same time, giving meaningful credit to companies that self-report and cooperate with our investigations.” “The agreement recognizes J&J’s timely voluntary disclosure, and thorough and wide-reaching self-investigation of the underlying conduct; the extraordinary cooperation provided by the company to the department, the SEC and multiple foreign enforcement authorities, including significant assistance in the industry-wide investigation; and the extensive remedial efforts and compliance improvements undertaken by the company. In addition, J&J received a reduction in its criminal fine as a result of its cooperation in the ongoing investigation of other companies and individuals, as outlined in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. J&J’s fine was also reduced in light of its anticipated resolution in the United Kingdom. Due to J&J’s pre-existing compliance and ethics programs, extensive remediation, and improvement of its compliance systems and internal controls, as well as the enhanced compliance undertakings included in the agreement, J&J was not required to retain a corporate monitor, but it must report to the department on implementation of its remediation and enhanced compliance efforts every six months for the duration of the agreement.”

SEC

The SEC’s civil complaint (here) is based on the same core set of facts contained in the above DPA and alleges, in summary, as follows.

“This matter concerns violations of the Foreign Conupt Practices Act by J&J as a result of the acts of its subsidiaries to obtain business for J&J’s medical device and pharmaceutical segments.”

“Since at least 1998 and continuing to early 2006, J&J’s subsidiaries, employees and agents paid bribes to public doctors in Greece who selected J&J surgical implants for their patients. Further, J&J’s subsidiaries and agents paid bribes to doctors
and public hospital administrators in Poland who awarded tenders to J&J from 2000 to 2006. J&J’s subsidiaries and agents also paid bribes to public doctors in Romania to prescribe J&J pharmaceutical products from 2002 to 2007. Finally, J&J’s subsidiaries and agent paid kickbacks to Iraq in order to obtain contracts under the United Nations Oil for Food Program (“Program”) from 2000 to 2003.”

As to Greece, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“One of J&J’s product lines is surgical implants such as artificial knees, hips and other products that surgeons implant into patients. Surgical implants are a lucrative, but competitive business. In many countries, orthopedic surgeons control which implants they use.”

“In 1998, J&J acquired another medical device company, DePuy Inc., a NYSE company. A top DePuy executive then went on to become a top J&J executive in the United States in J&J’s medical device and diagnostics business (“Executive A”). At the time of the acquisition, DePuy was engaged in a widespread bribery scheme in Greece to sell its implants. Executive A and DPI executives knowingly continued that scheme. From 1998 to 2006, J&J earned $24,258,072 in profits on sales obtained through bribery.”

The SEC complaint alleges that “J&J’s internal audit group discovered the payments to Greek doctors in early 2006 after receiving a whistleblower complaint.” According to the complaint, “the issue of payments to surgeons had been previously raised in an anonymous 2003 letter to a different internal audit team concerning a related J&J subsidiary in Greece … however, that team concentrated their investigation on allegations about a possible conflict ofinterest by local management and J&J did not fully investigate the alleged payments to doctors.”

As to Poland, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“Employees of … a J&J subsidiary, bribed publicly-employed doctors and hospital administrators to obtain business. [Subsidiary] executives running three business lines oversaw the creation of sham contracts and travel documents and also the creation of slush funds as a means to funnel bribe payments to doctors and
administrators. From 2000 to 2006, J&J earned $4,348,000 in profit from its sales through the bribery.”

“The bribery appears to have stopped when Polish prosecutors began to investigate payments to doctors.”

As to travel issues, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“[Subsidiary] also paid for public doctors and hospital administrators to travel to medical conventions in Poland and abroad in order to influence tender committee decisions in their favor. Sponsored doctors were taken on trips in exchange for influencing the doctors’ decisions to purchase J&J’s medical products or to award hospital tenders to J&J. Some of the trips were to the United States for conferences. Some of the trips were to tourists areas in Europe, and some included spouses and family members to what amounted to vacations.”

As to Romania, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“Employees of … a J&J subsidiary, bribed publicly-employed doctors and pharmacists to prescribe J&J products that the company was actively promoting. The employees worked with [the subsidiary’s] local distributors to deliver cash to publicly-employed doctors who ordered J&J drugs for their patients. [The subsidiary] also provided travel to certain doctors who agreed to prescribe J&J products. From 2000 to 2007, J&J earned $3,515,500 in profit from its sales through the bribery.”

As to Iraq Oil for Food conduct, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“J&J participated in the Program through two of its subsidiaries, Cilag AG International and Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V. (collectively “Janssen-Cilag”). During the program, Janssen-Cilag sold pharmaceuticals to an arm of the Iraqi Ministry of Health known as Kimadia. Janssen-Cilag conducted business with Kimadia in Iraq through a Lebanese agent (the “Agent”). The Agent’s primary contact with the J&J companies was an area director at Janssen-Cilag’s office in Lebanon.”

“In total, secret kickback payments of approximately $857,387 were made in connection with nineteen Oil for Food contracts. The payments were made through the Agent to Iraqi controlled accounts in order to avoid detection by the U.N. The fee was effectively a bribe paid to the Iraqi regime, which were disguised on J&J’s books and records by mischaracterizing the bribes as legitimate commissions.”

“In order to generate funds to pay the bribes and to conceal those payments, Janssen-Cilag and its agent inflated the price of the contracts by at least ten percent before submitting them to the U.N. for approval. J&J’s total profits on the contracts were $6,106,255.”

Under the heading “Anti-Bribery Violations” the complaint alleges as follows.

“J&J, through its subsidiaries and agents, knowingly allowed its employees and third parties to pay Greek and Polish public doctors and public hospital administrators for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business.”

“Executive A, a U.S. resident and a senior executive at J&J, approved the arrangements with the Greek Agent in Greece. Executive A and DPI executives knew that the Greek Agent was bribing Greek doctors. In addition, Polish doctors were bribed to use J&J products in return for trips. Use of the mails and interstate commerce was also used to facilitate the bribery schemes in both Greece and Poland.”

Under the hearing “Failure to Maintain Its Books and Records” the complaint alleges as follows.

“J&J’s subsidiaries made numerous illicit payments for the purpose of obtaining contracts in Iraq, Romania, Greece, and Poland. J&J’s books and records did not reflect the true nature of those payments. For example, they did not record that a portion of its payments to the Greek and Iraqi agents constituted reimbursements for bribes, and they did not record the true terms of the civil contract payments to Polish doctors. Efforts were made to obscure the purpose of trips to the United States and abroad. Certain J&J subsidiaries created false contracts, invoices, and other documents to conceal the true business arrangement it had with its consultants and distributors to pay bribes. False travel documents were created, and petty cash was used to pay bribes. United Nations contracts were also falsified.”

Under the heading “Failure to Maintain Adequate Internal Controls,” the complaint alleges as follows.

“J&J failed to implement internal controls to detect or prevent bribery. The conduct was widespread in various markets, Greece, Poland, Romania, and Iraq. The conduct involved employees and managers of all levels. False documents were routinely created to conceal the bribery in each country.”

“Rather than cease the bribery that was happening at DePuy prior to J&J’s acquisition, J&J through its subsidiaries, employees and agents allowed the bribery to continue. They created sham businesses and entered into contracts that were merely
conduits to allow the bribery to flourish. They failed to conduct due diligence on the Greek Distributor. The Company also paid its consultant outside of Greece to avoid detection of bribery. The Company had two different J&J corporate entities make
payments to the Greek Agent to conceal the amount of money that was being funneled to
doctors as bribes.”

“[Polish subsidiary] entered into fake civil contracts with Polish doctors and J&J also created false travel arrangements in Poland and Romania to create slush funds.”

“Cilag and Janssen paid bribes to Iraq despite the fact that trade sanctions were in place against doing business in Iraq. Cilag and Janssen falsified their contracts with the United Nations to conceal the kickbacks being paid to Iraq.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC charged J&J with FCPA anti-bribery violations and FCPA books and records and internal control violations.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, J&J agreed to an injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations and agreed to pay $38,227,826 in disgorgement and $10,438,490 in prejudgment interest.

The SEC’s release (here) contains the following statement from Robert Kuzami (Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement): “The message in this and the SEC’s other FCPA cases is plain – any competitive advantage gained through corruption is a mirage. J&J chose profit margins over compliance with the law by acquiring a private company for the purpose of paying bribes, and using sham contracts, off-shore companies, and slush funds to cover its tracks.” In the release, Cheryl Scarboro (Chief of the SEC Enforcement Divisions FCPA Unit) stated as follows. “Bribes to public doctors can have a detrimental effect on the public health care systems that potentially pay more for products procured through greed and corruption.”

The SEC release states as follows.

“J&J voluntarily disclosed some of the violations by its employees and conducted a thorough internal investigation to determine the scope of the bribery and other violations, including proactive investigations in more than a dozen countries by both its internal auditors and outside counsel. J&J’s internal investigation and its ongoing compliance programs were essential in gathering facts regarding the full extent of J&J’s FCPA violations.”

SFO

On the same day as the above U.S. enforcement actions, the U.K. SFO announced (here) a Civil Recovery Order against DePuy International Limited “in which DePuy International Limited will pay £4.829 million [approximately $7.9 million], plus prosecution costs, in recognition of unlawful conduct relating to the sale of orthopaedic products in Greece between 1998 and 2006.”

According to the SFO release, the SFO “launched an investigation into the activities of DePuy International Limited in October 2007 following a referral from the DOJ.” Richard Alderman, Director of the SFO, stated as follows. “When Johnson & Johnson reported the DePuy corruption, the DOJ informed the SFO of issues within our jurisdiction. We worked with the DOJ to find a solution that served both the interests of justice and the company’s desire to put illegal activity behind it and move on. I believe the order approved […] will illustrate to other companies how the SFO works closely with organisations across the world in enforcing the highest ethical standards, but is willing to engage and listen to companies that come to us with problems and help them find solutions.”

The SFO release further states as follows. “On the facts of this case, criminal sanction of the Greek conduct has been achieved by the conclusion of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with DePuy International Limited’s parent company and the DOJ. The Director of the Serious Fraud Office has concluded that a prosecution was therefore prevented in this jurisdiction by the principles of double jeopardy. The underlying purpose of the rule against double jeopardy is to stop a defendant from being prosecuted twice for the same offence in different jurisdictions. The DOJ Deferred Prosecution Agreement has the legal character of a formally concluded prosecution and punishes the same conduct in Greece that had formed the basis of the Serious Fraud Office investigation. […] Consequently the Serious Fraud office is satisfied that the most appropriate sanction is a Civil Recovery Order, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.”

As highlighted in this prior post, in April 2010, former DePuy executive Robert Dougall pleaded guilty to conspiring with others “to make corrupt payments and/or give other inducements” to “medical professionals within the Greek state health care system” contrary to Section 1 of the UK Prevention of Corruption Act of 1906.

*****

Eric Dubelier (Reed Smith – see here – a former DOJ enforcement attorney) represented J&J.

J&J’s press release (here) notes as follows. “In 2007, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily disclosed to the DOJ and the SEC that subsidiaries outside the United States were believed to have made improper payments in connection with the sale of medical devices. In the course of comprehensive compliance efforts and reports into the Company, similar issues in additional markets and businesses were identified and brought to the attention of the agencies.” William Weldon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of J&J stated as follows. “More than four years ago, we went to the government to report improper payments and have taken full responsibility for these actions. We are deeply disappointed by the unacceptable conduct that led to these violations. We have undertaken significant changes since then to improve our compliance efforts, and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure this does not occur again. I know that these actions are not representative of Johnson & Johnson employees around the world who do what is honest and right every day, in the conduct of our business and in service to patients and customers worldwide. We will continue to demonstrate that Johnson & Johnson is a company that embraces responsible corporate behavior.”

More On Alliance One and Universal

Earlier this month (see here) the DOJ and SEC announced FCPA enforcement actions against tobacco companies – Alliance One International, Inc. and Universal Corporation.

Both the DOJ (here) and the SEC (here) issued a consolidated press release – the first time (to my knowledge) the agencies have consolidated an enforcement action against two unrelated companies in such a fashion. Perhaps the reason was, as explained below, a significant part of the improper conduct at both companies involved the same entity – The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (“TTM”) – an alleged agency and instrumentality of the Thai government.

This is a long post, but then again, at nearly 300 pages, there was much in the DOJ and SEC resolution documents.

For instance, Alliance One’s entire exposure was based, not on anything it did, but rather successor liability theories.

Both the Alliance One and Universal enforcement actions were the product of voluntary disclosure. In fact, the Universal inquiry began when a former employee contacted the company’s internal compliance hotline. Query whether that individual today would do the same thing given Dodd-Frank’s whistlblower provisions – provisions which, if applicable, would make him / her a millionaire.

The Universal enforcement action is an FCPA first, in that it concerns conduct in Mozambique and Malawi.

There are also many remedial measures / compliance nuggets waiting to be digested from these enforcement actions.

The Alliance One enforcement action has already spawned a related individual enforcement action against Bobby Elkins (see here) and the Universal enforcement action may do the same as the DOJ’s Statement of Facts contains an alphabet soup of employees, including U.S. citizens, allegedly involved in the improper conduct.

This post describes the DOJ and SEC’s enforcement actions against Alliance One as well as the DOJ and SEC’s enforcement actions against Universal Corp.

Alliance One

The Alliance One enforcement action included a non-prosecution agreement between the DOJ and Alliance One, criminal pleas by Alliance One International AG and Alliance One Tobacco OSH, LLC, as well as an SEC enforcement action against Alliance One.

Edward Fuhr, Hunton & Williams LLP (see here), represented Alliance One entities. Colleen Mahoney, Skadden (see here), the former Deputy Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, represented Alliance One’s Board of Directors and Audit Committee.

DOJ

Pursuant to a non-prosecution agreement (see here), the DOJ agreed not to prosecute Alliance One related to:

1. “improper payments (or agreements to make improper payments) made by employees and agents of its subsidiary or predecessor corporations in the form of:

a. corrupt payments made to foreign officials in Kyrgyzstan including (i) bribes paid to officials of the Kyrgyz Tamekisi; (ii) bribes paid to Akims; and (iii) bribes paid to Kyrgyz tax officials, which payments were made for the purpose of obtaining and retaining business with Kyrgyzstan government entities; and

b. corrupt payments made to foreign officials in Thailand in the form of
kickbacks paid to officials of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, which payments were made for the purpose of obtaining and retaining business with Thailand government entities; and

2. The accounting and record-keeping practices associated with these improper
payments.”

Pursuant to the NPA, Alliance One “admitted, accepted, and acknowledged successor corporate responsibility for the conduct of its corporate predecessors” as set forth in a Statement of Facts attached to the NPA.

In summary fashion, the Statement of Facts are as follows:

Prior to 2005, Dimon, Inc. (“Dimon”) was a publicly traded leaf tobacco merchant subject to the FCPA. Dimon also had an obligation to ensure that its wholly owned subsidiaries, including Dimon International Kyrgyzstan, Inc. (“DIK”) and Dimon International AG (“DIAG”), maintained accurate books and records.

Prior to 2005, Standard Commercial Corp. (“Standard”) was a publicly traded leaf tobacco merchant subject to the FCPA. Standard also had an obligation to ensure that its wholly owned subsidiaries, including Standard Brazil Ltd., maintained accurate books and records.

In 2005, Dimon and Standard merged to form Alliance One.

Kyrgyzstan

Dimon maintained a wholly owned subsidiary, DIK, that was organized under Kyrgyzstan law. During the relevant time period, DIK purchased and processed tobacco grown in Kyrgyzstan and shipped processed tobacco to Dimon’s customers throughout the world.

According to the Statement of Facts, “DIK maintained its principal place of business in Osh, Kyrgyzstan and made regular reports of its business operations and financial accounts to officers of Dimon located at its headquarters in Danville, Virginia. DIK regularly sought approval for management decisions from Dimon managemeut and worked with and communicated with individuals acting as DIK’s agents in Danville, Virginia, and Farmville, North Carolina, who undertook certain acts within the territory of the United States such that DIK was a “person” within the meaning ofthe FCPA.

After the merger of Dimon and Standard in 2005, Alliance changed the name of DIK to Alliance One Tobacco Osh, LLC (“Osh”) which continued to operate in Kyrgyzstan as a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliance One.

According to the Statement of Facts, “Osh is the corporate successor to DIK, and is legally accountable for the criminal acts of its predecessor corporation.

Like the DOJ and SEC’s prior enforcement action against Bobby Elkins (see here and here), the Statement of Facts focus on improper payments to “Kyrgyz Official A,” “the Akims” and the “Kyrgyz Tax Inspection Police.”

Kyrgyz Official A served as the “General Director of the Tamekisi” “an agency and instrumentality of the [Kyrgyz] government [established] to manage and control the government-controlled shares of the tobacco processing facilities throughout Kyrgyzstan.” According to the Statement of Facts, the Tamekisi agreed to issue a license to Dimon to process and export tobacco and that from October 1996 through at least February 2004, DIK delivered approximately $2.6 million in cash payments to the official. According to the Statement of Facts, these payments were intended to “influence acts or decisions” of the official in his official capacity and to secure DIK’s “continued access to the tobacco processing facilities controlled by the Tamekisi.”

According to the Statement of Facts, an Akim is a head of Kyrgyz local government with “authority over the sale of tobacco by the growers” within a specific municipality or geographic area. The Statement of Facts indicate that beginning in 1996 “it became necessary for DIK to obtain permission from local Akims to purchase tobacco from the growers in each area” and “several of the Akims demanded payment of a “commission” from DIK “in order to secure the relevant Akim’s approval” for DIK to purchase tobacco from local growers. According to the Statement of Facts, from January 1996 to at least March 2004 DIK made cash payments “to the Akims of five different municipalities totaling approximately $283,762 in order to influence the acts and decisions of the Akims and to secure DIK’s continued ability to purchase tobacco from growers in the muncipalities controlled by the Akims.”

As to the Kyrgyz Tax Inspection Police, the Statement of Facts indicate that “during periodic audits” of DIK, the police assessed penalties and threatened to shut down DIK. According to the Statement of Facts, from March 2000 to March 2003 DIK “made approximately nine cash payments to officers of the Kyrgyz Tax Inspection Police totaling approximately $82,850 in order to influence the acts and decisions” of the police and to secure DIK’s “continued ability to conduct its business in Kyrgyzstan.”

According to the Statement of Facts, DIK maintained a company bank account in Kyrgyzstan, known as the “special account” to make the above described improper payments and when a DIK employee “needed to replenish money in the special account, he sent requests for funds by electronic mail or facsimile transmission to other employees and officers of Dimon or its affiliates in the U.S.” accompanied by a wire transfer request to Dimon’s Financial Accounting Department in Virginia.

According to the Statement of Facts, “the financial reporting on the special account from DIK and all other Dimon subsidiaries went directly to Dimon’s corporate headquarters in the U.S.” and in July 2002 “an internal audit report to Dimon headquarters stated that DIK management continued to be challenged by a ‘cash environment’ and cited corruption in Kyrgyzstan as a financial risk because of the potential control issue with cash payments.”

According to the Statement of Facts, between January 1996 and December 2004, “the Kyrgyzstan business operations of DIK generated profits of approximately $4.8 million for its parent corporation, Dimon.”

Thailand

Prior to 2005, Dimon maintained a wholly owned subsidiary, DIAG, which was organized under Swiss law and conducted business in the U.K., Brazil, Thailand, the U.S. and elsewhere. According to the Statement of Facts, “during the relevant time period, DIAG provided financial, accounting and management services to other Dimon subsidiaries that purchased tobacco grown in Brazil, and sold it to Dimon’s customers including the [TTM].” According to the Statement of Facts, DIAG, which maintained its principal place of business in the U.K., “made regular reports of its business operations and financial accounts to officers of Dimon located at its headquarters in Danville, Virginia” and DIAG “regularly sought approval for management decisions from Dimon management and worked with and communicated with individuals acting as DIAG’s agents” in Virginia and North Carolina “who undertook certain acts while in the territory of the United States such that DIAG was a “person” within the meaning ofthe FCPA.

Prior to 2005, Standard maintained a wholly owned subsidiary, Standard Brazil Ltd (“Standard Brazil”), which was organized under the laws of the Isle of Jersey, Channel Islands, and conducted business in Brazil, Thailand, and elsewhere. During the relevant period, Standard Brazil provided financial, accounting and management services to other Standard subsidiaries that purchased tobacco grown in Brazil, and sold it to Standard’s customers including the TTM. Standard Brazil regularly sought approval for management decisions from Standard management and worked with and communicated with individuals at Standard, acting as Standard Brazil’s agents in the United States and undertaking certain acts within the territory of the United States such that Standard Brazil was a “person” within the meaning of the FCPA.

The Statement of Facts concern improper payments to TTM (see here) “an agency and instrumentality” of the Thai government established to “manage and control the government-owned tobacco industry in Thailand.” According to the Statement of Facts, the TTM “supervised the cultivation of domestic tobacco crops, purchased imported tobacco and manufactured cigarettes and other tobacco products in Thailand.”

According to the Statement of Facts, the TTM was headed by a Managing Director (“Thai Official A”), appointed by the Finance Ministry, who reported through a Board of Directors directly to the Minister of Finance of Thailand and, as such, was a “foreign official” within the meaning of the FCPA. (See here for TTM’s current organizational chart).

According to the Statement of Facts, during the relevant time period, Dimon purchased tobacco from growers in Brazil and sold the Brazilian tobacco to the TTM through DIAG and Standard sold the Brazilian tobacco to the TTM through Standard Brazil. To help facilitate these sales, Dimon and Standard Brazil retained sales agents in Thailand and the companies paid sales commissions to the agents in varying amounts as a percentage of its tobacco sales to the TTM.

According to the Statement of Facts:

“Beginning in or around 2000 and continuing through at least in or around 2004, Dimon and Standard, through their agents, subsidiaries and affiliates, collaborated together and with a competing tobacco merchant, Company A, [presumably Universal Corp.] to apportion tobacco sales to the TTM among themselves and to coordinate their sales prices in order to ensure that each company would share in the Thai tobacco market. Beginning in or around 2000 and continuing through at least in or around 2004, Dimon, Standard and Company A agreed among themselves to pay bribes to officials of the TTM in exchange for their purchase of tobacco. The three companies agreed to pay ‘special expenses,’ calculated at an agreed rate per kilogram of tobacco sold to the TTM, that were paid as kickbacks to Thai Official A and other TTM officials to induce the TTM to purchase tobacco and to secure an improper advantage for Dimon, Standard and Company A.”

According to the Statement of Facts, between 2000 and 2004 “Dimon realized net profits of approximately $4.3 million from the sale of Brazilian tobacco to the TTM” and paid “special expenses totaling approximately $542,950 as kickbacks to Thai Official A and other TTM officials…” According the Statement of Facts, during the same time period, “Standard realized net profits of approximately $2.7 million from the sale of Brazilian tobacco to the TTM” and paid “special expenses totaling approximately $696,160 as kickbacks to Thai Official A and other TTM officials…”

According to the Statement of Facts, the companies and individuals involved “knew and intended that the corrupt special expenses paid to Thai Official A and other TTM officials” would “secure an improper advantage for Dimon and Standard by influencing the TTM’s decision to purchase Brazilian tobacco from Dimono and Standard.”

According to the Statement of Facts:

“After the merger of Dimon and Standard in 2005, Alliance One consolidated the assets, liabilities, and business affairs of Standard Brazil with DIAG and renamed the subsidiary corporation Alliance One International AG” (“Alliance One AG”). According to the Statement of Facts, as the successor corporation, Alliance One AG “is legally accountable for the criminal acts of both DIAG and Standard Brazil” and Alliance One AG “continued to operate in the U.K. and elsewhere as a wholly owned subsidiary” of Alliance One and accordingly is a “person” within the meaning of the FCPA.”

The Statement of Facts then lists several acts in furtherance of the improper payments that had a U.S. nexus such as e-mail messages and wire transfers to or from the U.S.

According to the DOJ, it agreed to enter into the NPA with Alliance One based, in part, on the following factors: “(a) Alliance’s timely, voluntary and complete disclosure of the conduct and events at issue; (b) Alliance’s thorough, real-time cooperation with the Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its voluntary production of documents; (c) the remedial compliance efforts undertaken and to be undertaken by Alliance; and (d) no further criminal conduct has occurred since the merger that created Alliance.”

During the three-year NPA, Alliance One shall, among other things, cooperate in any related DOJ or SEC investigation. Pursuant the NPA, Alliance One must also strenghen its internal controls and retain an independent corporate monitor.

The criminal informations against Alliance One AG (here) and Osh (here) concern the same core conduct described above.

The criminal information against Alliance One AG concerns Thailand conduct and charges: (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to knowingly falsify books, record and accounts of Dimon and Standard; (ii) substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations; and (iii) aiding and abetting FCPA books and records violations.

The Alliance One AG Plea Agreement (here) notes that the benefit received from the improper conduct was approximately $7 million. The company received a “culpability score” credit for “self-reporting, cooperation, acceptance of responsibility.” The fine range, per the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $4.2 – $8.4 million. The DOJ and Alliance One AG agreed that the appropriate sentence should be $5.25 million. The plea agreement notes that the plea was “the result of the voluntary disclosure made by [Alliance One AG] and its parent [Alliance One] to the Department beginning in May 2004, and the disclosure of evidence obtained as a result of the extensive investigation subsequently conducted by [Alliance One] into the operations of [Alliance One AG], its parent, affiliates, and subsidiaries.” The agreement states that “at the time of the initial disclosure, the conduct was unknown to the Department.”

The criminal information against Osh concerns Kyrgyzstan conduct and charges: (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to knowingly falsify books, record and accounts of Dimon; (ii) substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations; and (iii) aiding and abetting FCPA books and records violations.

The Osh Plea Agreement (here) notes that the benefit received from the improper conduct was approximately $4.8 million. The company received a “culpability score” credit for “self-reporting, cooperation, acceptance of responsibility.” The fine range, per the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $4.2 – $8.4 million. The DOJ and Osh agreed that the appropriate sentence should be $4.2 million. The plea agreement notes that the plea was “the result of the voluntary disclosure made by [Osh] and its parent [Alliance One] to the Department beginning in May 2004, and the disclosure of evidence obtained as a result of the extensive investigation subsequently conducted by [Alliance One] into the operations of [Osh], its parent, affiliates, and subsidiaries.” The agreement states that “at the time of the initial disclosure, the conduct was unknown to the Department.”

In the DOJ’s Consolidated Sentencing Memorandum (here), it notes that the “corporations have executed a tolling agreement that provides that the statute of limitations was tolled on May 24, 2004, the date on which the corporation first notified the Department that they were undertaking an internal investigation.”

As to the ultimate fine amounts, the DOJ states that it “and the defendant corporations have negotiated a fine that is at or above the minimum fine in the range.”

As to Osh’s $4.2 million fine, the DOJ states:

“The Department submits that a fine at the low end of the Guidelines range is
appropriate in this case given the company’s prompt and timely self-disclosure of the potentially corrupt payments as soon as they were discovered, the remedial measures taken and the nature and extent of the company’s cooperation throughout the
government’s investigation. The company retained outside counsel to conduct an extensive internal investigation and voluntarily produced thousands of pages of documents and memoranda of witness interviews. The company’s remedial measures, outlined below, included the termination of all employees found to have authorized or participated in the improper payments.”

As to Alliance One AG’s $5.25 million fine, the DOJ states:

“This fine is above the minimum of the range partly to account for the fact
that two subsidiaries (DIAG and Standard Brazil) participated in the commission of the offense, along with a third unrelated company, although they were subsidiaries of different parent corporations at the time. Further, because DIAG, Standard Brazil and Company A collaborated to fix prices and pay bribes to the Thai officials, the conduct was not limited to a few employees or confined to a single business unit.”

The Government’s Sentencing Memorandum concludes as follows:

“Alliance’s cooperation was both timely and thorough. During the course of the government’s investigation, Alliance and its outside counsel fully cooperated in good faith with the Department, and produced thousands of pages of documents and financial records. Alliance tenninated or sought resignations from all employees who were found to have knowledge of or participated in the improper payments. Alliance voluntarily produced memoranda of employee interviews conducted by counsel. Alliance and their counsel have been available to meet with Department attorneys to brief them on the progress and findings of their internal investigation. The agreed dispositions, described above, reflect the Department’s recognition of Alliance’s timely and thorough cooperation.”

“Alliance took remedial actions including enhancement of its corporate compliance program, replacement of responsible management, and discipline or termination of wrongdoers. Specifically, Alliance took the following remedial actions:

• The Special Account maintained in the name of employees was closed.

• On May 24, 2004, the Audit Committee directed management to deliver a “clear and proactive message” that:

o “Illegal acts will not be tolerated in Dimon;”

o “any potentially illegal act should be brought to the attention of the CLO prior to execution of the transaction;” and

o “any individual that believes that an illegal act may have occurred should contact the CLO immediately.”

• Management issued a directive to regional executives and all accounting personnel that any questionable expenses or payments and expenses without adequate
explanation or documentation must be reported to the Corporate Compliance Officer.

• The Audit Committee implemented a new policy requiring CFO or Controller pre-approval of any material payment in cash.

• Management issued a direction to employees that “[n]o payments to public officials or political parties are to be made in any form without the express advance approval of the Corporate Compliance Officer.”

• Compliance Officer required all personnel to re-take an online training course covering the FCPA provided by Integrity Interactive.

• Responsible personnel, including senior management in Europe and Kyrgyzstan were terminated or left company voluntarily. Other employees were reprimanded.

• Corporate Accounting required supporting information for all payments made in cash from any entity where such payments exceed $2500 annually, and issued a directive to minimize cash payments for anything other than incidental expenses.

• All cash accounts must be maintained in the company’s name.

• All cash transactions are required to be documented by receipts and signed by the recipient and they established a periodic review and approval process for all
non-incidental types of expenses paid in cash to ensure payments would comply with Company policy and the law.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 21, 2010.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (see here) alleges the same core Kyrgyzstan and Thailand conduct as the DOJ’s enforcement action.

As to books and records and internal controls, the SEC alleges that “Dimon’s Country Manager authorized, directed, and made” the improper payments in Kyrgyzstan through a DIK bank account held under his name (the above mentioned special account), that “Dimon’s Regional Financial Director authorized all fund transfers from a Dimon subsidiary’s bank account to the Special Account” and that “Dimon’s International Controller formalized the accounting methodology used to record the payments made from the Special Account for purposes of internal reporting by Dimon.”

In summary fashion, the SEC also alleged as follows:

“Despite their extensive international operations, Dimon and Standard lacked sufficient internal controls designed to prevent or detect violations of the FCPA. During the 2000-2004 period, Dimon and Standard each had a policy manual prohibiting bribery, but the training and guidance provided to their employees regarding compliance with the FCPA were not adequate or effective. Dimon and Standard each also failed to establish a program to monitor compliance with the FCPA by its employees, agents, and subsidiaries.”

As I’ve indicated in prior posts, before a company settles an FCPA enforcement action, it usually has to answer the enforcement agencies’ “where else” question – as in, if you engaged in improper conduct or had internal control problems in Kyrgyzstan and Thailand, where else did you engage in improper conduct or have internal control problems. To answer this broad question, the company is forced to conduct a world-wide review of its operations and that is why one sees, as in the SEC’s complaint against Alliance One, a laundry list of other alleged improper conduct.

In summary fashion, the SEC’s complaint also alleges as follows:

“By at least May 2005, Standard provided gifts, travel, and entertainment expenses to foreign government officials in the Asian Region, including China and Thailand.” “For example, in 2002 and 2003, contemporaneous documents show that Standard employees provided watches, cameras, laptop computers, and other gifts to Chinese and Thailand tobacco officials. Standard also paid for dinner and sightseeing expenses during non-business related travel to Alaska, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas for Chinese and Thailand government delegations.”

“In 2004, Standard made a $50,000 payment to a political candidate who was also Standard’s agent for tobacco sales in Thailand.” “The $50,000 payment was falsely recorded in Standard’s books as payment for consulting work.”

“In April 2003, Dimon’s subsidiary in Greece made a payment of $96,000 to a Greek tax official in exchange for the tax official’s agreement not to pursue certain irregularities discovered during an audit, thus significantly reducing Greece’s tax liability. Separately, the controller of Dimon’s subsidiary in Indonesia made a $44,000 cash payment to an Indonesian tax official in exchange for receiving a tax refund.”

The SEC complaint charges Alliance One with violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, books and records and internal control provisions.

The SEC release (here) notes that Alliance One, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, consented to entry of a permanent injunction enjoining future FCPA violations and agreed to pay a disgorgement penalty of $10 million.

In an Alliance One press release (see here) R. E. Harrison, the Company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, stated:

“Our Company is committed to the highest standards of conduct in all transactions in all jurisdictions where we do business throughout the world. In these cases, although occurring prior to our merger in May, 2005, the conduct by those predecessor companies did not meet our standards and we believe it to be in the best interest of the Company, our shareholders and our other stakeholders to put these issues behind us by means of these negotiated agreements. As indicated in our agreement with the DOJ, we have cooperated fully throughout the course of this investigation and believe that since our merger we have demonstrated our complete commitment to conducting our business in accordance with the highest standards of legal and ethical conduct.”

Universal

The Universal enforcement action included a non-prosecution agreement between the DOJ and Universal, a criminal plea by Universal Leaf Tabacos Ltda. (“Universal Brazil”), as well as an SEC enforcement action against Univeral.

Patrick Hanes, Williams Mullen (see here) represented Univeral.

DOJ

Pursuant to a non-prosecution agreement (see here) the DOJ agreed not to prosecute Univeral Corp. related to:

“the making of improper payments, by employees and agents of Universal and/or its subsidiaries to officials of the Government of Thailand in connection with Universal Brazil’s efforts to secure business, namely, to secure the improper sale of leaf tobacco to the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, from 2000 to 2004, and the accounting and record-keeping associated with these improper payments.”

Pursuant to the NPA, Universal Corp. “admitted, accepted, and acknowledged responsibility for the conduct of its subsidiaries” as set forth in a Statement of Facts attached to the NPA.

In summary fashion, the Statement of Facts are as follows:

Universal is a publicly traded company headquartered in Richmond, Virginia which, through its subsidiaries, is a worldwide purchaser and supplier of processed leaf tobacco. As an issuer, Universal was required to make and keep accurate books, records and accounts reflecting its transactions and disposition of assets of Universal and its subsidiaries including Universal Brazil.

Universal Brazil, a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal, was a Brazilian corporation, headquartered in Santa Cruz do Sul, Brazil. Universal Brazil was a “person” under the FCPA, and individuals and entities affiliated with and acting on behalf of Universal Brazil while in the territory of the United States, used and caused the use of the mails and means and instrumentalities of interstate commerce and performed other acts in furtherance of an offer, promise, authorization, or payment of money or anything of value to foreign government officials for the purpose of assisting in obtaining or retaining business.

The Statement of Facts refers to the same general kickback scheme involving TTM officials as alleged in the Alliance One enforcement action. The Statement of Facts indicate that “from in or around March 2000 to in or around July 2004, the TTM awarded Universal Brazil five orders for the sale of Brazilian leaf tobacco. To obtain these orders, between June and December 2004, Universal Brazil paid approximately $697,800 in kickbacks to representatives of the TTM through Agent X (a Thai national).”

The Statement of Facts then details the kickback scheme including the involvement of Employee A (a U.S. citizen who was the President of Universal Brazil); Employee B (a Brazilian citizen who was the Commercial Director for Universal Brazil); Employee C (a Brazilian citizen who was a Sales Manager for Universal Brazil); Employee D (a Zimbabwean citizen who was a Sales Director for Universal Brazil); Employee E (a Brazilian citizen who was the Finance Director for Universal Brazil); Employee F (a Brazilian citizen who was the Export Superintendent for Universal Brazil); Employee G (a Brazilian citizen who was a Sales Manager for Universal Brazil); Employee H (a Zimbabwean citizen who was the Sales Director for Universal Leaf Asia); Employee I (a Brazilian citizen who was an account manager in Brazil); Employee J (a U.S. citizen who was a Vice President of Universal Leaf Tobacco – a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal Corp. – who approved wiring instructions for payments to Agent X); Employee K (a U.S. citizen who was the Controller of Universal who approved wiring instructions for payment to Agent X); and Employee L (a U.S. citizen who was the Director of Financial Accounting for Universal Leaf Tobacco who approved wiring instructions for payments to Agent X).

Given the alleged involvement of others, including U.S. citizens, it will be interesting to see if additional DOJ or SEC enforcement actions against such individuals are forthcoming.

According to the Statement of Facts:

“The scheme ended in or about April 2005 when the TTM switched to an ‘electronic auction’ process to award orders. The electronic auction process increased the transparency of all of the bids received by the TTM, allowed for more open competition, and prevented Universal Brazil [and others] from including additional amounts in the price of their tobacco sales, thereby eliminating the ability of the companies to mask kickback payments used to secure sales orders.”

According to the Statement of Facts – “from in or around 2000 through in or around 2004, Employee E and others falsely characterized Universal Brazil’s kickback payments to TTM representatives in Universal Brazil’s books, records and accounts (which were incorporated into the books, records and acconts of Universal Corp. for purposes of preparing year-end financial statements) as “commission payments” to Agent X.”

As to Universal’s internal controls, the Statement of Facts indicates as follows:

“Universal Brazil’s employees, including Employees E and F, directed that
kickback payments be paid through LATCO, a wholly owned Universal subsidiary. The financial records of LATCO were maintained with insufficient oversight or review by Universal’s legal, finance, or compliance departments and were never audited by Universal during the period from 2000 to 2004. Universal Brazil’s Finance Department and executives and employees from either Universal Corp. or Universal Leaf Tobacco, including Employee J, Employee K, and Employee L approved or directed the transfer of the multiple ‘commission’ payments to Agent X even though: (a) some of the payments were described as ‘special expense’ payments; (b) there was no contractual basis for the payment of the additional commission amounts; (c) the payments were to accounts unassociated with the Agent; (d) the instructions that were provided when wiring the money indicated that Universal Corp. should not identify the agent or that the amounts were for ‘special expenses;’ and (e) the payments were above the standard five (5) percent commission typically paid by Universal Brazil to its agents.

The Statement of Facts also indicate that “Universal Brazil did not conduct sufficient due diligence prior to engaging Agent X.”

According to the DOJ, it agreed to enter into the NPA with Universal based, in part, on the following factors: “(a) Universal’s discovery of the violations through its own internal hotline process; (b) timely, voluntary, and complete disclosure of the facts; (c) Universal’s extensive, thorough, real-time cooperation with the Department and the SEC; and (d) the remedial efforts already undertaken and to be undertaken by Universal.”

During the approximate three-year NPA, Universal Corp. shall, among other things, cooperate in any related DOJ or SEC investigation. Pursuant the NPA, Universal Corp. must also strenghen its internal controls and retain an independent corporate monitor.

The criminal informations against Universal Brazil (see here) concerns the same core conduct described above.

The criminal information against Univeral Brazil charges: (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to knowingly falsify books, record and accounts of Universal; and (ii) substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations.

The Universal Brazil Plea Agreement (here) notes that the benefit received from the improper conduct was between $1 million – $2.5 million. The company received a “culpability score” credit for “self-reporting, cooperation, and acceptance of responsibility.” The fine range, per the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $$6.3 million – $12.6 million. The DOJ and Univeral Brazil agreed that the appropriate sentence should be $4.4 million. The plea agreement states that the fine amount (30% below the bottom of the sentencing guidelines range) “was appropriate” based on the following factors:

“Universal Corporation and Universal Brazil’s extensive cooperation
during the course of the investigation, including the provision of relevant documents and information; Universal Corporation and Universal Brazil’s substantial assistance with other related Department investigations regarding the bribery of foreign government officials; and Universal Corporation and Universal Brazil’s remedial efforts, including enhancing the companies’ compliance resources and compliance policies, procedures, and internal controls.”

The plea agreement further states that the investigation was “a result of the voluntary disclosure made by Universal Brazil and its parent corporation Universal Corporation, through their counsel, to the Department and the disclosure of evidence obtained as a result of the investigation subsequently conducted through their counsel and the extraordinary cooperation by Universal Brazil and its parent Universal Corporation throughout the Department’s investigation” and that “at the time of the initial disclosure, the conduct was unknown to the Department.”

The Agreed Sentencing Memorandum (here) sheds light on how the facts at issue were first uncovered. The memo states:

“The government’s investigation began with a self-disclosure by counsel for Universal in 2006. In 2006, a former Univeral Brazil employee with knowledge of the bribery scheme in Brazil reported the conduct to Universal through Universal’s website. Based on the tip provided by the former employee, Universal’s counsel and outside auditors investigated the matter, identified a series of suspicious payments, and reported this information to the Department. Thereafter, Universal and Univeral Brazil cooperated in the Department’s and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s joint investigation of this matter.”

In footnotes, the DOJ states as follows:

“The Department encourages companies to disclose evidence of potential FCPA violations promptly. The agreed disposition with Universal Brazil and its parent Universal partly reflect credit given for Universal’s timely self-disclosure, thorough investigation, and ongoing cooperation.”

“Pursuant to Universal’s internal compliance program, Universal maintained on its website an employee ‘hotline’ that allowed current and former employees to report improper conduct. It is because of this useful compliance initiative that the improper conduct came to light. The agreed upon disposition partly reflects credit given for Universal’s pre-existing compliance program.”

According to the sentencing memo, Universal Brazil realized net profits of approximately $2.3 million on four contracts secured through the $697,800 in kickbacks to TTM officials.

As to the $4.4 million fine amount, the DOJ stated “that a fine below the Guidelines range is appropriate in this case given the company’s prompt and timely self-disclosure of the potentially corrupt payments as soon as they were reported, the nature and extent of the company’s cooperation throughout the government’s investigation, and the remedial measures taken.”

The sentencing memo details timely disclosure and cooperation as follows:

“Universal and Univeral Brazil’s cooperation was both timely and thorough. The company retained outside counsel to conduct an extensive internal investigation. Universal, Universal Brazil, and their counsel were consistently available to meet with Department attorneys to brief them on the progress and findings of their internal investigation. During the course of the government’s investigation, Universal and Univeral Brazil and its outside counsel fully cooperated in good faith with the Department and produced thousands of pages of documents and financial records and made employees available for interviews. Further, Universal and Univeral Brazil terminated or reprimanded employees who were determined to have authorized and facilitated the improper payments.”

As to remedial measures, the sentencing memo states:

“The company’s remedial measures, outlined below, included the implementation of an enhanced compliance program. Further, Universal Brazil, pursuant to the plea agreement, and its parent, Universal, pursuant to an Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA), have agreed to further strengthen their internal controls, implement a rigorous compliance program and engage an independent corporate monitor (“monitor”) who will conduct a comprehensive review of the Universal and Univeral Brazil’s compliance standards and procedures and its internal controls. The monitor will prepare an initial report and two follow-up reports of his or her findings and make recornmendations for improvements in the companies’ compliance programs over the three-year term. Universal and Univeral Brazil took remedial actions including enhancement of the corporate compliance program, replacement of responsible management, and discipline of wrongdoers.

Specifically, Universal and Univeral Brazil took the following remedial
actions:

• Management established a Compliance Committee comprised of the Chief Financial Officer, the General Counsel, the Head of Internal Audit, the Treasurer, the Controller, and the Principle Sales Director. The Compliance Committee meets on a monthly basis to review and evaluate Universal’s compliance programs and training.

• Management established a Chief Compliance Officer who is responsible for the day-today operations of Universal’s compliance program and Chairs the Compliance Committee.

• Management issued a revised and updated Code of Conduct and translated the Code into fourteen (14) languages.

• Management required sales, finance, and executive-level personnel to attend a day long in-person training session devoted to FCPA and local anti-bribery laws.

• Management revised and enhanced its payment approval policy which now requires an ‘approving officer’ to review all supporting documentation for a payment and to understand the purpose of the payment prior to approval. The ‘approving officer’ must certify that he or she has reviewed the existing documentation and obtained an understanding of the legitimate business purpose of the payment. The policy also requires that employees investigate any questionable payments and determine that they
are legal, legitimate, and appropriate prior to approving the payment.

• Management revised and enhanced its due diligence process for agents. Initially, Universal suspended all commission payments to agents worldwide subject to legal department confirmation that each requested payment was adequately supported. Thereafter, Universal instituted a formal and standardized process for the assessment and approval of existing and proposed sales agents, which is coordinated by Universal’s Legal Department. As part of this policy, an officer of Universal, known as a ‘Relationship Officer,’ must complete a ‘Sales Agent Due Diligence Checklist’ for each prospective sales agent. This detailed checklist includes disclosure of relationships with foreign governments by owners, officers, directors and employees of the third-party agent or their family members, reference checks, and a list of potential red flags.

• Management conducted, and has pledged to continue to conduct, compliance and/or FCPA training at every global conference held for Universal employees.

• Management terminated and reprimanded certain employees involved in the improper
conduct.”

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (see here) alleges the same core Thailand conduct as the DOJ’s enforcement action.

Further to the “where else” issue discussed above, the SEC’s complaint also alleges conduct related to Mozambique and Malawi business.

In summary fashion, the SEC’s complaint alleges:

“From 2000 through 2007, Universal Corporation violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (the “FCPA”) by paying, through its subsidiaries, over $900,000 to govemment officials in Thailand and Mozambique to influence acts and decisions by those foreign officials to obtain or retain business for Universal. Those payments were directed by employees at multiple levels of the company, including management in its corporate offices and at its wholly-or majority-owned and controlled foreign subsidiaries. The Company had inadequate internal controls to prevent or detect any of these improper payments, and improperly recorded the payments in its books and records.”

“Between 2000 and 2004, Universal subsidiaries paid approximately $800,000 to bribe officials of the government-owned Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (“TTM”) in exchange for securing approximately $11.5 million in sales contracts for its subsidiaries in Brazil and Europe. From 2004 through 2007, Universal subsidiaries made a series ofpayments in excess of $165,000 to government officials in Mozambique, through corporate subsidiaries in Belgium and Africa. Among other things, the payments were made to secure an exclusive right to purchase tobacco from regional growers and to procure legislation beneficial to the Company’s business.”

“In addition, between 2002 and 2003, Universal, subsidiaries paid $850,000 to high ranking Malawian government officials. Those payments were authorized by, among others, two successive regional heads for Universal’s African operations. Universal did not accurately. record these payments in its books and records.”

As to the Mozambique payments, the complaint alleges:

(i) that two $10,000 payments were made to the “wife of an official in Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries” to obtain the official’s “assistance in revising legislation to impose a 20% export tax on unprocessed tobacco” – legislation that would have “benefited Universal over competitors because Universal was building a tobacco processing plant in the country;

(ii) that “Universal Leaf Africa directed that Universal’s Belgian subsidiary pay $50,000 to the brother of an official of in Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries” to “enable the Company’s Mozambican subsidiary to avoid incurring an export tax that it otherwise would have incurred for shipping unprocessed tobacco out of Mozambique;”

(iii) that “Univeral Leaf Africa made a series of payments totaling $86,830 from its own account and the account of the Mozambican subsidiary to secure a land concession given the subsidiary exclusive rights to purchase tobacco from growers on that land from the 2006 growing season.” According to the complaint Universal Leaf made “cash payments to a Governor in Mozambique; and gave gifts including supplies for a bathroom renovation, and personal travel on a Company jet.” and

(iv) that “Universal Leaf Africa forgave a debt and directed an additional series of payments from its own accounts and the account of the Mozambican subsidiary totaling $19,061” – according to the complaint the “debt forgiveness and payments were provided to Mozambican government officials and their family members in exchange for continued business favors.”

As to the Malawi payments, the complaint alleges as follows:

“Between approximately October 2002 and November 2003, Universal Leaf Africa made payments totaling $500,000 to one high-ranking Malawian government official; $250,000 to a second high-ranking government official; and $100,000 to a political opposition leader.”

As to Universal’s books and records and internal controls, the SEC alleges in summary fashion that Universal made payments under circumstances in which the Company lacked adequate internal controls to ensure that such payments were not being transmitted to government officials in order to obtain or retain business and that Universal’s books and records falsely characterized the payments.

The SEC complaint charges Universal with violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, books and records and internal control provisions.

The SEC release (here) notes that Universal, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, consented to entry of a permanent injunction enjoining future FCPA violations and agreed to pay a disgorgement penalty of approximately $4.6 million.

In a Universal press release (see here) George C. Freeman, III, Universal’s Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, states:

“Universal prides itself on conducting business with honesty and integrity. These past payments were – and are – contrary to the policies and standards of Universal and its subsidiaries. We have absolutely no tolerance for this type of activity. Our Audit Committee conducted a rigorous and thorough investigation, we voluntarily reported this matter to federal authorities, and we have fully cooperated with federal authorities at each step of the investigation. We have since taken steps to strengthen our culture of ethical and legal compliance, and our efforts are supported by our operations around the world. Our regional management is fully committed to our culture.”

Facilitating Payments or Bribes?

In Greece, it’s the “little envelopes” that affect everyone from “hospital patients to fishmongers.” (see here for the Wall Street Journal story).

In India, it’s needing to “string up some wire and get licenses from the government” to start a “tiny business delivering telephone and Internet service” but “getting those things done without hassles require[s] a bribe.” (see here for the story from National Public Radio).

In July 2009, Nature’s Sunshine Products found out that it’s about payments to Brazilian customs agents to import certain unregistered products into Brazil (see here).

Also in July 2009, Helmerich & Payne found out that it’s about payments to various officials and representatives of the Argentine and Venezuelan customs services in connection with importation and exportation of goods and equipment (see here).

Numerous other examples abound.

Facilitating payments or bribes?

The FCPA has a specific exception for “facilitating or expediting payment[s] to a foreign official … the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action by a foreign official.”

Where a facilitating payment ends and where a payment to “obtain or retain business” begins is a difficult question.

U.S. v. Kay, 359 F.3d 738 (5th Cir. 2004) is commonly viewed as answering that question.

However, Kay merely holds that Congress intended for the FCPA to apply broadly to payments intended to assist the payor, directly or indirectly, in obtaining or retaining business and that payments to a “foreign official” to reduce custom and tax liabilities can, under appropriate circumstances, fall within the statute. The Kay court empathically stated that not all such payments to a “foreign official” outside the context of directly securing a foreign government contract violate the FCPA; it merely held that such payments “could” violate the FCPA. The key question, according to Kay, is whether the payments at issue were intended to lower the company’s costs of doing business enough to assist the company in obtaining or retaining business. The Kay court recognized that “there are bound to be circumstances” in which such attenuated payments merely increase the profitability of an existing profitable company and thus, presumably, do not assist the payer in obtaining or retaining business. In fact, the court specifically stated: “…if the government is correct that anytime operating costs are reduced the beneficiary of such advantage is assisted in getting or keeping business, the FCPA’s language that expresses the necessary element of assisting in obtaining or retaining business would be unnecessary, and thus surplusage – a conclusion that we are forbidden to reach.”

Post-Kay none of the above seems to matter much.

Because the Nature’s Sunshine Products and Helmerich & Payne enforcement actions (as well as numerous other similar enforcement actions) were not challenged, it remains an open question whether the payments at issue in these cases, if subjected to judicial scrutiny, would satisfy the “obtain or retain business” element as interpreted in Kay or would be excepted as facilitating payments.

Many of these payments would appear attenuated to any specific cause-and-effect business nexus or otherwise would appear to have merely increased the profitability of an existing profitable business and, per the Kay holding, would presumably not satisfy this key FCPA antibribery element.

While some find facilitating payments to be a corrupt payment under a different name, the fact remains that the FCPA passed by Congress and signed by the President contains an express exception for facilitating payments.

It is this statute that the enforcement agencies are obligated to enforce and this express exception would certainly appear relevant to the above-described actions. Because these enforcement actions were not challenged, this obviously relevant defense was not explored in these cases and these post-Kay cases stand as de facto FCPA case law, notwithstanding the fact that the alleged conduct in these cases may have been excused because of the FCPA’s facilitating payment exception.

It’s a complex world.

Congress recognized that when it passed the FCPA, including the facilitating payment exception.

The Kay court recognized that when concluding that not all such attenuated payments violate the FCPA.

A U.K. First

History was made in the U.K. today when Robert John Dougall, a former DePuy executive, pleaded guilty to conspiring with other “to make corrupt payments and/or give other inducements” to “medical professionals within the Greek state health care system” contrary to Section 1 of the UK Prevention of Corruption Act of 1906 (see here).

According to the SFO release (here) and media reports (here and here), Dougall, a former Director of Marketing with responsibility for business development in Greece, blew the whistle on others within the company thus becoming the “first ‘co-operating defendant’ in a major SFO corruption investigation.”

According to the SFO release, DePuy made commission payments to a distributor “to induce or reward surgeons to use” DePuy products.

A SFO spokesperson said that Dougall’s seniors “were clearly consenting and driving the [improper] activity” and Dougall reportedly told investigators that he considered the payments “distasteful” but that he didn’t feel like he had any other choice.

Dougall was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. In sentencing Dougall, the judge rejected a joint suggestion by the SFO and the defense that he should be given a suspended sentence.

According to the SFO, Dougall is cooperating and providing substantial assistance in connection with the ongoing investigation. The case commenced following a referral to the SFO by the DOJ in October 2007.

Even though the charge Dougall pleaded guilty to does not contain a “foreign official” or “foreign public official” element, it is clear that the SFO is taking an expansive view as the recipients in this case were Greek surgeons. This is not surprising given that the SFO has stated its intention to model its enforcement on the DOJ’s enforcement of the FCPA.

In November 2009, Assistant Attorney General Breuer, speaking before a pharma audience (see here), provided an expansive interpretation of the “foreign official” element in the context of the health care industry.

Dougall may be thinking, “what if I worked for BAE” or what if my name was “Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly”?

Why? (see here)

But then again, the “I was speeding just like the rest of traffic” has never been a good legal defense.

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