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Friday Roundup

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A plethora of scrutiny alerts and updates, dismissed, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Crawford & Company

The company, a “provider of claims management solutions to the risk management and insurance industry, as well as to self-insured entities, with an expansive global network serving clients in more than 70 countries.” recently disclosed:

“The Company has voluntarily self-reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) and the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) certain potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act discovered by the Company during the course of its regular internal audit process. Upon discovery, the Company, with the oversight of the Audit Committee and the Board of Directors, proactively initiated an investigation into this matter with the assistance of external legal counsel and external forensic accountants. The Company has been cooperating fully, and expects to continue to cooperate fully, with the SEC and the DOJ in this matter. The Company cannot currently predict when or what, if any, action may be taken by the SEC or the DOJ, or other governmental authorities, or the effect any such actions may have on the Company’s results of operations, cash flows or financial position.”

In the same disclosure, the company disclosed approximately $3.4 million in “legal and professional fees … related to the ongoing investigation of potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

SciClone Pharmaceuticals

One of the longest instances of FCPA scrutiny concerns SciClone Pharmaceuticals. The company has been under FCPA scrutiny since August 2010 and recently disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, since 2010 the SEC and the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have each been conducting formal investigations of the Company regarding a range of matters, including the possibility of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), primarily related to certain historical sales and marketin g activities with respect to the Company’s China operations. I n response to these matters, the Company’sBoard appointed a Special Committee of independent directors (the “Sp ecial Committee”) to oversee its response to the government inquiry. Based on an initial review, the Special Committee decided to undertake an independent investigation as to matters reflected in and arising from the SEC and DOJ investigations in order to evaluate whether any violation of the FCPA or other laws occurred. The Company continue s to cooperate fully with the SEC and DOJ in the conduct of their investigations.

The Company has engaged in settlement discussions with the SEC related to its investigation into possible violations of the FCPA by the Company. The Company has finalized the terms of an offer of settlement of these matters, subject to final approval by the Commissioners of the SEC. Under the terms of the offer of settlement, the Company, without admitting or denying liability, would consent to the entry of an administrative order requiring that the Company cease and desist from any future violations of the FCPA. The Company also would pay disgorgement of $9.4 million, prejudgment interest of $0.9 million and a civil money penalty of $2.5 million. If the offer of settlement is approved by the Commissioners of the SEC, an administrative order will be issued by the SEC and $ 12,826,000   (which was placed in an escrow facility subsequent to September 30, 2015) will immediately be released to the SEC .

The Company has not yet reached a resolution of these matters with the DOJ and management continues to work diligently to obtain closure on this matter.”

Brookfield Asset Management

The company which previously disclosed FCPA scrutiny recently disclosed:

“[I]n 2012 we were notified by the SEC that it was conducting an anti-bribery and corruption investigation related to a Brazilian subsidiary of ours that allegedly made payments to certain third parties in Brazil and those payments were, in turn, allegedly used, with our knowledge, to pay certain municipal officials to obtain permits and other benefits. The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) opened an investigation in 2013. A civil action against our Brazilian subsidiary by a public prosecutor in Brazil has been ongoing since 2012. All involved have denied the allegations. The SEC and DOJ sought information from us and we cooperated with both authorities in this regard. In 2012, a leading international law firm conducted an independent investigation into the allegations, and based on the results of that investigation we have no reason to believe that our Brazilian subsidiary or its employees engaged in any wrongdoing. In June 2015 the SEC staff informed us in writing that it concluded its investigation and, based on the information it has to date, does not intend to recommend an enforcement action against us. We hope to resolve any remaining outstanding matters in due course and do not expect that any legal outcome will be financially material to the company.”

Alexion Pharmaceuticals 

The company which previously disclosed its FCPA scrutiny this past summer recently disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, in May 2015, we received a subpoena in connection with an investigation by the Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requesting information related to our grant-making activities and compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in various countries. The SEC also seeks information related to Alexion’s recalls of specific lots of Soliris and related securities disclosures. In addition, in October 2015, Alexion received a request from the U.S. Department of Justice for the voluntary production of documents and other information pertaining to Alexion’s compliance with the FCPA. Alexion is cooperating with these investigations. At this time, Alexion is unable to predict the duration, scope or outcome of these investigations. Given the ongoing nature of these investigations, management does not currently believe a loss related to these matters is probable or that the potential magnitude of such loss or range of loss, if any, can be reasonably estimated.”

Alexion was founded by a Yale University professor and the above disclosure was viewed as a big deal by the Yale Daily News (see here).

Hines

According to various media reports (see here and here), Houston-based Hines, a privately-owned real estate firm, is conducting an internal investigation in connection with alleged payments in Brazil involving Petrobras officials.  According to reports, the internal investigation follows a report in a Brazilian newspaper that appeared over the summer alleging improper payments by Hines Brazil in relation to commissions for Petrobras office leases in Rio de Janeiro.

Noble Corp.

Noble Corporation recently disclosed:

“We have used a commercial agent in Brazil in connection with our Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (“Petrobras”) drilling contracts.  We understand that this agent has represented a number of different companies in Brazil over many years, including several offshore drilling contractors. This agent has pled guilty in Brazil in connection with the award of a drilling contract to a competitor and has implicated a Petrobras official as part of a wider investigation of Petrobras’ business practices.  We are not aware of any improper activity by Noble in connection with contracts that Noble has entered into with Petrobras, and we have not been contacted by any authorities regarding such contracts or the investigation into Petrobras’ business practices.”

As highlighted in this previous post, in 2010 Noble Corp. resolved an $8.2 million FCPA enforcement action  ($2.6 million via a DOJ NPA and $5.6 million in disgorgement and interest via a SEC complaint) in connection with alleged conduct in Nigeria.

Dismissed

This recent post asked where does the truth lie in FCPA enforcement actions?

The post focused on the Mexico prong of the HP enforcement action in which the DOJ and SEC alleged that HP Mexico indirectly made cash payments to a Pemex Chief Information Officer. After the enforcement action, Pemex disclosed in an SEC filing that “the Internal Control Body of [Pemex] concluded its investigation after finding no improper payment.”

HP highlighted the Pemex disclosure in its defense of civil RICO claims brought by Pemex that accused HP of paying bribes to win contracts. As highlighted here, Pemex recently dismissed its lawsuit.

Quotable

Sound advice from Marcus Asner (Arnold & Porter) in this Law360 article titled “A Measured Approach to Internal Investigations” in which he rightly notes: “Outside law firms and vendors … have strong economic incentives to expand investigations.”

For the Reading Stack

From Clifford Chance, an updated version of “A Guide to Anti-Corruption Legislation in Asia Pacific.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Roundup2

Scrutiny alerts and updates, civil litigation updates, SEC enforcement statistics, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Millicom

The telecom and media company headquartered in Luxembourg with shares traded over the counter (OTC) in the U.S. recently disclosed:

“Millicom … announced that it has reported to law enforcement authorities in the United States and Sweden potential improper payments made on behalf of the company’s joint venture in Guatemala. A Special Committee of the Board of Directors made the decision in connection with an independent investigation being overseen by the Special Committee and conducted by international law firm Covington & Burling LLP, with the support of Millicom’s management team. Millicom is committed to fully cooperating with the authorities. It is not possible at this time to predict the matter’s likely duration or outcome. Millicom is committed to the highest ethical business standards and to full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations in every market in which the company operates.”

AEI

Speaking of FCPA scrutiny in Guatemala, according to this article in the Nation, Jaguar Energy Guatemala, a subsidiary of Houston-based AEI, “participated in an influence-trafficking scheme to obtain privileged information and favors from high-level Guatemalan officials. Among other things, the subsidiary is accused of paying to obtain meetings with the country’s former president Otto Pérez Molina.”

Goldman Sachs

The Wall Street Journal recently went in-depth regarding a Malaysian government investment fund,  1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, and the role of Prime Minister Najib Razak. As noted in this article:

“[T]he fund has become the center of a political scandal that has engulfed Malaysia’s government. The fund is mired in debts of over $11 billion. It is a subject of a raft of local and international investigations, including, in Malaysia, by the central bank, auditor general, anticorruption agency and a parliament committee. It has faced accusations that billions of dollars are missing and that money was misused for political purposes or siphoned off in corruption by individuals.”

According to this article:

“Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s role as adviser to a politically connected Malaysia development fund resulted in years of lucrative business. It also brought exposure to an expanding scandal. As part of a broad probe into allegations of money laundering and corruption investigators at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department have begun examining Goldman Sachs’s role in a series of transactions at 1Malaysia Development Bhd., people familiar with the matter said. The inquiries are at the information-gathering stage, and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the bank, the people said. Investigators “have yet to determine if the matter will become a focus of any investigations into the 1MDB scandal,” a spokeswoman for the FBI said.”

Bristol-Myers

It was fairly obvious to knowledgeable observers that when the SEC brought an FCPA enforcement action against Bristol-Myers earlier this month (see here for the prior post), but the DOJ did not, that this signaled that there would not be a DOJ enforcement action as such parallel actions are almost always brought on the same day. Should there be any doubt, the company recently disclosed: “The Company has also been advised by the Department of Justice that it has closed its inquiry into this matter.”

Civil Litigation Updates

As highlighted in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples, settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement. Among other things, FCPA scrutiny or enforcement often leads to private shareholder litigation as well as other civil claims such as wrongful termination by employees who allegedly “blew the whistle.”

Two developments from the FCPA-related civil dockets.

This recent post highlighted the civil lawsuit filed by Sanford Wadler, the former General Counsel and Secretary of Bio-Lab Laboratories, against the company and certain executive officers and board members in the aftermath of the company’s FCPA scrutiny and enforcement action. In his complaint, Wadler alleged various unfair employment practices. In this recent decision from the Northern District of California, the court largely denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss and allowed the bulk of Wadler’s claims to proceed.

It did not take long for the Ninth Circuit to affirm a lower court order dismissing derivative claims against H-P directors for, among other things, alleged breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the company’s FCPA scrutiny.  The court’s 4 page order is here.

SEC Enforcement Statistics

Although the SEC has a specialized FCPA Unit (one of only five specialized units at the SEC) and declared the FCPA to be a “vital part” of its overall enforcement program, the fact remains that FCPA enforcement is a relatively minor part of the SEC’s overall enforcement program.

Indeed, as noted in this recent SEC release:

“In the fiscal year that ended in September, the SEC filed 807 enforcement actions covering a wide range of misconduct, and obtained orders totaling approximately $4.2 billion in disgorgement and penalties.  Of the 807 enforcement actions filed in fiscal year 2015, a record 507 were independent actions for violations of the federal securities laws and 300 were either actions against issuers who were delinquent in making required filings with the SEC or administrative proceedings seeking bars against individuals based on criminal convictions, civil injunctions, or other orders.”

In the SEC’s FY 2015, there were 13 FCPA enforcement actions.

Nevertheless, the SEC’s release does mention:

Combating Foreign Corrupt Practices

Reading Stack

The most recent FCPA Update by Debevoise & Plimpton is here.

Miller & Chevalier’s Autumn FCPA Review is here.

An informative read here from Professor Peter Henning at his White Collar Crime Watch column in the New York Times titled “Reforming the SEC’s Administrative Process.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Where Does The Truth Lie?

Truth

If the DOJ and/or SEC make allegations in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action, and a risk averse corporation agrees to resolve the enforcement action in the absence of judicial scrutiny, does that mean the allegations are true?

Not necessarily.

For instance, a component of the 2014 HP enforcement action (see here and here for prior posts) involved DOJ and SEC allegations concerning business conduct in Mexico.

In this NPA, the DOJ alleged that HP Mexico indirectly made cash payments to a Pemex Chief Information Officer. In this administrative order, the SEC alleged the same thing.

Pemex raises money from private investors, including those in the U.S., and thus every year files an annual report with the SEC. The company’s most recent annual report states as follows concerning the allegations in the DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement action.

“On April 9, 2014, the SEC issued an order imposing sanctions against Hewlett-Packard Company (or HP) based on its findings that HP’s subsidiaries in Mexico, Russia and Poland made improper payments to certain public officials in order to obtain public contracts in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In the case related to Mexico, the sanctions related in part to allegations that [HP Mexico] paid a Mexican information-technology and consulting company more than U.S. $1 million to win a software and licensing contract with [Pemex] worth approximately U.S. $6 million. The SEC’s order alleged that a former officer of [Pemex] received a portion of the HP subsidiary’s unlawful payment to the consulting company. The Internal Control Body of [Pemex] concluded its investigation after finding no improper payment.”

Where does the truth lie?

The public will likely never know, but this much is true.

The DOJ and SEC allegations, while accepted by a risk averse company, were not subjected to any judicial scrutiny. Moreover, there are no consequences to the DOJ and SEC should the allegations not be accurate and there is no accountability for untrue statements.

On the other hand, Pemex’s statement are contained in an SEC filing and are thus statements to the market. The consequences to Pemex should its statements not be true can be securities fraud actionable under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 for making untrue statements of material facts.  Such actions could be brought by, among other plaintiffs, the SEC and shareholders.

To the extent the DOJ and SEC allegations in the HP Mexico are not accurate, it would be the first time agreed to allegations in a corporate FCPA enforcement action fall apart when subjected to scrutiny.

As highlighted in this prior post, in 2010, Innospec agreed to pay approximately $26 million to resolve DOJ and SEC enforcement actions. The conduct was wide-ranging in that the enforcement action involved alleged violations of U.S. sanctions regarding doing business in Cuba in addition to alleged conduct in violation of the FCPA.  Even as to the FCPA conduct, the enforcement action was wide-ranging and included typical Iraq Oil-for-Food allegations found in a number of previous enforcement actions (i.e. inflated commission payments to an agent which were then used to pay kickbacks to the government of Iraq) as well as alleged conduct in Indonesia.

The bulk of the enforcement action though concerned DOJ allegations that Ousama Naaman (Innospec’s agent in Iraq) paid various bribes to officials in Iraq’s Ministry of Oil (“MoO”) to “ensure” that a competitor’s product “failed a field trial test and therefore would not be used by the MoO” as well as other allegations that Naaman paid other bribes to officials of the MoO to obtain and retain contracts with MoO on Innospec’s behalf.

The DOJ’s criminal information alleged (or perhaps merely assumed) a casual connection between the alleged bribes and the failed field test, as well as two specific contracts: a 2004 Long Term Purchase Agreement (“LTPA”) and a 2008 Long Term Purchase Agreement.

However, in a U.K. civil proceeding, Innospec denied that bribes or the promise of bribes induced the 2004 LTPA, lead to the requirement of the field test or its result, or induced the 2008 LTPA.  Innospec argued that despite its admissions in the FCPA enforcement actions, the “court must look carefully and analytically at the evidence there is as to what bribes were paid and promised and when and whether any bribes paid or promised actually led to a decision different from that which would have been made anyway.”

The U.K. court held approximately 15 days of hearings with multiple witnesses to actually determine if there was a casual link between the alleged bribe payments or other benefits that Innospec obtained. The end result of this process is that the U.K. court did not find any casual links and indeed found false certain allegations in the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement action.

Friday Roundup

An invite, ripples, the odd dynamic, and scrutiny alerts and updates.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

You Are Invited

King & Spalding is pleased to host Professor Mike Koehler for an informal lunch discussion of his recently published book The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a New Era. The conversation and related question-and-answer session will be of interest to anyone seeking a candid and comprehensive discussion of legal and policy issues present in this new era of FCPA enforcement.

The event takes place on Thursday, October 2nd at noon at King & Spalding’s office (1700 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Washington, D.C.). There is no charge for this event, but pre-registration is required. If you would like to attend, please send your name and contact information to Sylvia Gates at sgates@kslaw.com.  For additional information, see here.

Ripples

My recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples” highlights how settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement in this new era.

Regarding those ripples, Canada’s Globe and Mail reports:

“Hewlett-Packard Co., one of the leading technology suppliers to the Canadian government, is facing a possible 10-year ban on selling products and services to Ottawa in the wake of a high-profile U.S. bribery conviction. The recent criminal conviction, involving bribes paid to Russian government officials, marks the first major test of strict new Canadian integrity rules quietly introduced in March by Public Works and Government Services. Under the new regime, companies face an automatic ban on future government contracts if they or any of their affiliates are convicted of a list of various crimes, such as bribery, even if those crimes occurred outside Canada. “The department is reviewing the recent U.S. court decision regarding HP Russia and is examining the impact of this court decision on our current and future business with HP Canada,” confirmed Alyson Queen, communications director for Public Works Minister Diane Finley. The department will conduct its review “as quickly as possible,” Ms. Queen insisted, adding that the government is “committed to doing business with suppliers who respect the law and act with integrity, including affiliates of suppliers.”

The main point of “Foreign Corrupt Practices Ripples” was described above.  However, the article also states:

“This Article accepts the fact that FCPA scrutiny and enforcement results in many other ripples in this new era. Yet, throughout this Article many questions are posed regarding the legitimacy of certain ripples. Moreover, while it is beyond the focus of this Article, it must nevertheless be highlighted that because of the many ripples of FCPA enforcement, it is important that FCPA enforcement be subjected to meaningful judicial scrutiny and that enforcement actions represent legitimate instances of provable FCPA violations, not merely settlements entered into for reasons of risk aversion. This would seem like an obvious statement. However, the reality is that the majority of corporate FCPA enforcement actions in this new era are based on aggressive and controversial enforcement theories, yet resolved via non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements (NPAs / DPAs) not subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny by risk-averse business organizations mindful of the adverse consequences of putting the enforcement agencies to its burden of proof in an adversarial proceeding.”

Perhaps Canadian authorities should review this prior post “HP Enforcement Action – Where to Begin.”  The post begins:

“Where to begin? That is the question when analyzing last week’s $108 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against HP and related entities.  (See here). Should the title of this post have been “The FCPA’s Free-For-All Continues”? Should the title have been “HP = Hocus Pocus” (as in look what the enforcement agencies pulled out their hats this time)? Should the title have been “Warning In-House and Compliance Professionals:  This Post Will Induce Mental Anguish”? Unable to arrive at the best specific title for this post, I simply picked the generic “Where to Begin?” In short, if the HP enforcement action does not leave you troubled as to various aspects of FCPA enforcement you: (i) may not be well-versed in actual FCPA legal authority; (ii) don’t care about the rule of law; or (iii) somehow derive satisfaction from government required transfers of shareholder money to the U.S. treasury regardless of theory. Least there be any misunderstanding, let me begin this post by stating that the enforcement actions against HP Poland, HP Russia and HP Mexico allege bad conduct by certain individuals –  a “small fraction of HP’s global workforce” to use the exact words of the DOJ. As to that “small fraction,” those individuals should be held accountable for their actions by relevant law enforcement authorities. However, as to the actual defendants charged in the enforcement actions – HP Russia, HP Poland and HP Mexico in the DOJ actions – and HP in the SEC administrative proceeding – there are actual legal elements that must be met and there is also prior enforcement agency guidance that ought to be followed.  The entire credibility and legitimacy of the DOJ and SEC’s FCPA enforcement programs depend on these two basics points.”

The Odd Dynamic

I have consistently stated (see here for the most recent iteration) that, based on recent judicial decisions, an odd dynamic exists between application of Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provisions and Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower bounty provisions. As noted in the recent post concerning the Second Circuit’s decision in Liu Meng-Lin v. Siemens, courts have held that the former provisions lack extraterritorial effect while acknowledging that a foreign national could receive a bounty under the whistleblower provisions.

The odd dynamic is front-and-center in the SEC’s recent announcement of “an expected award of more than $30 million to a whistleblower who provided key original information that led to a successful SEC enforcement action.”  According to the release,  “the award will be the largest made by the SEC’s whistleblower program to date and the fourth award to a whistleblower living in a foreign country, demonstrating the program’s international reach.”

In the release, Sean McKessy, Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower states:

“This award of more than $30 million shows the international breadth of our whistleblower program as we effectively utilize valuable tips from anyone, anywhere to bring wrongdoers to justice.  Whistleblowers from all over the world should feel similarly incentivized to come forward with credible information about potential violations of the U.S. securities laws.”

Regarding the odd dynamic, the SEC’s order states:

“We believe an award payment is appropriate here notwithstanding the existence of certain extraterritorial aspects of Claimant’s application. See generally Morrison v. Nat’l Austl. Bank Ltd., 561 U.S. 247, 266 (2010) (discussing analytical framework for determining whether an application of a statutory provision that involves certain foreign aspects is an extraterritorial or domestic application of the provision; explaining that it is a domestic application of the provision if the particular aspect that is the “focus of congressional concern” has a sufficient U.S. territorial nexus); European Community v. RJR Nabisco, Inc., F.3d , 2014 WL 1613878, *10 (2d Cir. Apr. 23, 2014) (applying Morrison framework and finding that “[i]f domestic conduct satisfies every essential element to prove a violation of a United States statute that does not apply extraterritorially, that statute is violated even if some further conduct contributing to the violation occurred outside the United States.”). In our view, there is a sufficient U.S.  territorial nexus whenever a claimant’s information leads to the successful enforcement of a covered action brought in the United States, concerning violations of the U.S. securities laws, by the Commission, the U.S. regulatory agency with enforcement authority for such violations.  When these key territorial connections exist, it makes no difference whether, for example, the claimant was a foreign national, the claimant resides overseas, the information was submitted from overseas, or the misconduct comprising the U.S. securities law violation occurred entirely overseas. We believe this approach best effectuates the clear Congressional purpose underlying the award program, which was to further the effective enforcement of the U.S. securities laws by encouraging individuals with knowledge of violations of these U.S. laws to voluntarily provide that information to the Commission. See S. Rep. No. 111-176 at 110 (2010) (“to motivate those with inside knowledge to come forward and assist the Government to identify and prosecute persons who have violated the securities laws ….”). Finally, although we recognize that the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that there was an insufficient territorial nexus for the anti-retaliation protections of Section 21F(h) to apply to a foreign whistleblower who experienced employment retaliation overseas after making certain reports about his foreign employer, Liu v. Siemens, F.3d , 2014 WL 3953672 (2d Cir. Aug. 14, 2014), we do not findthat decision controlling here; the whistleblower award provisions have a different Congressional focus than the anti-retaliation provisions, which are generally focused on preventing retaliatory employment actions and protecting the employment relationship.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

BHP Billiton

In its most recent annual report the company stated:

“As previously disclosed, BHP Billiton received requests for information in August 2009 from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Following that request, the Group commenced an internal investigation and disclosed to relevant authorities evidence that it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anticorruption laws involving interactions with government officials. The issues relate primarily to matters in connection with previously terminated exploration and development efforts, as well as hospitality provided as part of the Company’s sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Group is currently discussing a potential resolution of the matter. As has been publicly reported, the Australian Federal Police has indicated that it has commenced an investigation and the Group continues to fully cooperate with the relevant authorities. In light of the continuing nature of the investigations, it is not appropriate at this stage for BHP Billiton to predict outcomes.”

General Cable Corp.

General Cable Corporation (a Kentucky-based company involved in the development, design, manufacture, marketing and distribution of copper, aluminum and fiber optic wire and cable products and systems for the energy, industrial, specialty, construction and communications markets) recently disclosed:

“We have been reviewing, with the assistance of external counsel, certain commission payments involving sales to customers of our subsidiary in Angola. The review has focused upon payment practices with respect to employees of public utility companies, use of agents in connection with such payment practices, and the manner in which the payments were reflected on our books and records. We have determined at this time that certain employees in our Portugal and Angola subsidiaries directly and indirectly made payments at various times from 2002 through 2013 to officials of Angola government owned public utilities that raise concerns under the FCPA and possibly under the laws of other jurisdictions. We also have been reviewing, with the assistance of external counsel, our use and payment of agents in connection with our Thailand and India operations, which may have implications under the FCPA. We have voluntarily disclosed these matters to the SEC and the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and have provided them with additional information at their request. The SEC and DOJ inquiries into these matters are ongoing. We continue to cooperate with the DOJ and the SEC with respect to these matters. We are implementing a screening process relating to sales agents that we use outside of the United States, including, among other things, a review of the agreements under which they were retained and a risk-based assessment of such agents to determine the scope of due diligence measures to be performed by a third-party investigative firm. However, this screening process may not be effective in preventing future payments or other activities that may raise concerns under the FCPA or other laws. At this time, we are unable to predict the nature of any action that may be taken by the DOJ or SEC or any remedies these agencies may pursue as a result of such actions. Any determination that our operations or activities are not in compliance with existing laws or regulations could result in the imposition of substantial fines, civil and criminal penalties, and equitable remedies, including disgorgement and injunctive relief. Because our review regarding commission payment practices and our use and payment of agents described above is ongoing, we are unable to predict its duration, scope, results, or consequences. Dispositions of these types of matters can result in modifications to business practices and compliance programs, and in some cases the appointment of a monitor to review future business and practices with the objective of effecting compliance with the FCPA and other applicable laws.”

In the first trading day after the disclosure, the company’s stock dropped 6.4% to 17.74.

Embraer-Related

As highlighted in this previous post, Brazil based Embraer (one of  the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial jets with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange) has been under FCPA scrutiny since 2010.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Brazilian authorities have filed a criminal action against eight Embraer employees accusing them of bribing officials in the Dominican Republic in return for a $92 million contract to provide the country’s armed forces with attack planes.”

According to the article:

“[The DOJ and SEC] are also investigating the company’s dealings in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere and have provided their Brazilian counterparts with evidence, according to a request last year for legal assistance from Brazilian prosecutors.

[…]

Brazilian prosecutors filed the 31-page complaint in a criminal court in Rio de Janeiro in August, the first step in a criminal prosecution. A spokesman for the Brazilian prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the case.

The complaint alleges that Embraer sales executives agreed to pay a $3.5 million bribe to a retired Dominican Air Force colonel, who then leaned on legislators to approve the deal and a financing agreement between the Dominican Republic and the National Economic and Social Development Bank. The sale was completed and the aircraft were delivered.

The retired colonel, Carlos Piccini Nunez, was serving as the Dominican Republic’s director of special projects for the armed forces in 2008, around the time of the contract negotiations. The contract provided the Dominican Republic with eight Embraer Super Tucanos, turboprop attack support aircraft that have been a darling of air forces in developing countries for their low maintenance and affordability.

[…]

The criminal complaint alleges that an Embraer vice president for sales, Eduardo Munhos de Campos, promised to pay the bribe, and that he was assisted in arranging the payments by Orlando Jose Ferreira Neto, another vice president; Embraer regional directors Acir Luiz de Almeida Padilha Jr., Luiz Eduardo Zorzenon Fumagalli and Ricardo Marcelo Bester ; and managers Albert Phillip Close, Luiz Alberto Lage da Fonseca and Eduardo Augusto Fernandes Fagundes.”

Goldman Sachs

The company was recently the focus of this Wall Street Journal article which began:

“A yearslong probe of Goldman Sachs Group’s ties to Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund is focusing on an internship and other perks allegedly offered by the Wall Street bank to win business from the Gadhafi regime, according to people familiar with the matter. The Securities and Exchange Commission is reviewing the New York-based bank’s decision in June 2008 to hire as an intern the brother of Mustafa Zarti, then deputy chief of the Libyan Investment Authority, the people said. The move came after Goldman entered into more than $1 billion worth of trades with the authority, and just as the firm’s relationship with the Libyan fund had begun to sour. The investigators are also reviewing why the brother, Haitem Zarti, was allowed to remain at the firm for almost a year, long after most Wall Street internships last, the people added.”

AgustaWestland / Finmeccanica Related

The Wall Street Journal goes in-depth into the Italian trial of Giuseppe Orsi, former CEO of AgustaWestland – a unit of Finmeccanica Spa, concerning bribery allegations in India. As highlighted in this previous post, Finmeccanica, which is approximately 30% owned by the Italian government, has ADRs registered with the SEC and AgustaWestland does extensive business in the U.S. (see here), including with the U.S. government.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

The problem with NPAs and DPAs, how does your product go to market in China, media coverage in China, victory, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

The Problem With NPAs and DPAs

I’ve long called for the abolition of NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context as part of a two-pronged reform approach (see here among other posts).  As highlighted here among other posts, NPAs and DPAs are problematic across a wide spectrum and the agreements often contain meaningless or senseless language.

This recent Wall Street Journal Law Blog post titled “5 Things Companies Agree to But Can’t Deliver On in DPAs” is a worthy read. It begins:

“FCPA lawyers have a love-hate relationship with deferred-prosecution agreements,” said Laurence Urgenson, a partner at Mayer Brown. “We need them to get around the collateral consequences of prosecutions…but there is language in the agreements that drives us crazy.” Mr. Urgenson said the agreements originated with settlements prosecutors would reach with individuals, often children, placing certain requirements on them as a condition for the charges eventually being dropped. But many of those requirements make no sense in a settlement with a company; Mr. Urgenson picked out some of his favorites.”

How Does Your Product Go To Market In China?

Returning to issues discussed in this 2011 post and this 2011 post, this recent article in Food Navigator – Asia (not my typical source of FCPA material) states as follows concerning practices in China:

“One currently emerging trend is how companies are apparently becoming more comfortable to talk openly about measures they are taking to avoid gaining approvals and still move their products to market.  Indeed, four companies outlined to us the agreements they had made with Chinese distributors to deliver their products to locations near to China and then leave the local partners to navigate their movement into the People’s Republic.  Most likely, this would be done in cahoots with ministry officials in deals that would involve sweeteners and other transactions.  ‘Once we’ve delivered the product, it isn’t our problem what our partner decides to do with it,’ an executive at a U.S.-based multinational told us in Hong Kong.  ‘It’s not the cost of approvals that concerns us, it’s the time,” a mid-market manufacturer, also from the U.S., told us.  “It is important for us that we hit China right now.’  Not all the companies we talked to about this were from America, but the fact that two were was surprising.  This is not least because business practices there are governed by the FCPA …  […]  What is surprising to us is not the fact that these practices exist at all, it is how U.S. businesses in particular have now become comfortable enough to openly brief the press about their part in this trend.”

That makes two of us that are surprised!

Media Coverage in China

This prior 2012 post titled “All the News That Fit? To Print” highlighted the practice of paying journalists for media coverage in China.  Related to the general issue is this recent New York Times article which describes how “journalists who worked for a business news website under investigation in Shanghai have described a scheme of extorting Chinese companies, which were pressed to pay in return for the production of flattering articles or the burying of damaging ones.”

Victory

In this prior post I exposed how the DOJ and SEC literally re-wrote the FCPA statute in the November 2012 issued FCPA Guidance. The post highlighted the difference – even a first year law student would be expected to see – between what the FCPA actually says and the version of the FCPA in the Guidance.

Set forth below is the text of the FCPA regarding the “obtain or retain business” element.

   ”anything of value to

         any foreign official for purposes of

(A) (i) influencing any act or decision of such foreign official in his official capacity, (ii) inducing such foreign official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official, or (iii) securing any improper advantage; or

(B) inducing such foreign official to use his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality,

         in order to assist such issuer in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person;

Set forth below is how the text of the FCPA was [originally] portrayed in the FCPA Guidance.

   “anything of value to

         any foreign official for purposes of

(A) (i) influencing any act or decision of such foreign official in his official capacity, (ii) inducing such foreign official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official, or (iii) securing any improper advantage; or

(B) inducing such foreign official to use his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality, in order to assist such issuer in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person;

Recently, I received an interesting e-mail from a reader who was confused by my prior post because the FCPA Guidance does not portray the FCPA as suggested in my original post.  The reader was right!  That’s because the DOJ/SEC changed the version of the FCPA originally set forth in the Guidance to its proper form.  To prove that the original FCPA Guidance literally re-wrote the FCPA, here is the version of the FCPA that originally appeared in the FCPA Guidance which relevant portions highlighted.

Subtle yes, but sometimes victory occurs in the shadows.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

HP Russia

Related to the April 2014 DOJ enforcement action against HP related entities (see here for the prior post), the DOJ announced yesterday that HP Russia formally pleaded guilty.

As stated in the DOJ release

“In a brazen violation of the FCPA, Hewlett Packard’s Russia subsidiary used millions of dollars in bribes from a secret slush fund to secure a lucrative government contract,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Marshall Miller.  “Even more troubling was that the government contract up for sale was with Russia’s top prosecutor’s office.   Tech companies, like all companies, must compete on a level playing field, not resort to secret books and sham transactions to hide millions of dollars in bribes.  The Criminal Division has been at the forefront of this fight because when corruption takes hold overseas, American companies and the rule of law are harmed.  Today’s conviction and sentencing are important steps in our ongoing efforts to hold accountable those who corrupt the international marketplace.”

“Today’s conviction and sentence of HP Russia demonstrates that the United States Attorney’s Office is dedicated to aggressively prosecuting all forms of corporate fraud that touch our district, wherever they may occur,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.  “HP’s cooperation during the investigation is what we expect of major corporate leaders facing the challenges of doing business around the world.”

“For more than a decade HP Russia business executives participated in an elaborate scheme that involved paying bribes to government officials in exchange for large contracts,” said Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Andrew McCabe. “There is no place for bribery in any business model or corporate culture.  Along with the Department of Justice, the IRS and international law enforcement partners, the FBI is committed to investigating corrupt backroom deals that threaten our global commerce.”

Image Sensing Systems

Earlier this week, the company issued the following release:

“Image Sensing Systems, Inc. today announced that the DOJ has closed its inquiry into the Company in connection with the previously disclosed investigation of potential violations of the FCPA citing the Company’s voluntary disclosure, thorough investigation, cooperation and voluntary enhancements to its compliance program.  The SEC earlier notified the Company that it had closed its investigation under the FCPA without recommending enforcement action. Kris Tufto, Image Sensing Systems chief executive officer, commented, “We are very pleased to conclude the DOJ and SEC investigations without further action.  From the very beginning, we have voluntarily cooperated with the authorities and have worked diligently to implement measures to enhance our internal controls and compliance efforts. We understand that those efforts have been recognized and that the resolution of the investigation reflects this cooperation.”  As previously reported by Image Sensing Systems, it had learned in early 2013 that Polish authorities were conducting an investigation into alleged violations of Polish law by two employees of Image Sensing Systems Europe Limited SP.Z.O.O., its Polish subsidiary, who had been charged with criminal violations of certain laws related to a project in Poland. A special subcommittee of the audit committee of the board of directors immediately engaged outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation.  Image Sensing Systems voluntarily disclosed the matter to the DOJ and the SEC, and it has cooperated fully with those agencies in connection with their review.”

Alstom

Regarding the previously announced U.K. criminal charges against Alstom (see here for the prior post), the U.K. Serious Fraud Office recently released this charge sheet detailing the charges in connection with alleged conduct in India, Poland and Tunisia.

Reading Stack

A very interesting read from the New York TimesForeign Powers By Influence at Think Tanks.”  The article begins as follows.

“More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington.”

Forbes asks – is it “silly season” in China?  What is perhaps silly is the advice highlighted in the article to negotiate the regulatory minefield:

“[B]uild a network. ‘Involve some powerful local Chinese partners in some peripheral areas in order to build a political foundation. I don’t necessarily recommend an overall partnership, since they would be better off with a well-placed approach in specific areas. Have a partnership in marketing or R&D and develop a perception that you are working closely with Chinese firms, but in reality you will not give away anything that is sensitive.”

This is probably only going to increase a company’s risk because of the FCPA’s third-party payment provisions.

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

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