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Friday Roundup

Dear Attorney General Holder, U.K. developments not involving News Corp., and Halliburton updates its disclosure … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

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Senators Klobuchar and Coons Write to Attorney General Holder On FCPA Guidance

As noted in this previous post, in November 2011, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) asked Attorney General Holder for detailed information about the DOJ’s promised upcoming FCPA guidance.

Earlier this week, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) sent Attorney General Holder this letter regarding the DOJ’s forthcoming FCPA guidance.  From my perspective, the most notable paragraph of the letter was as follows.  “[I]t has become apparent that too many companies are devoting a disproportionate amount of resources to FCPA compliance and internal investigations.  To be clear, it is both necessary and desirable that companies pay adequate attention to compliance efforts, and in certain cases, adequate anti-corruption initiatives may require a significant corporate committment.  Over-compliance, however, can have a negative effect on product development, export promotion, and workforce expansion.”

I agree and devoted an entire section of “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (see here pages 997-1009) to why the facade of FCPA enforcement matters including the breeding of overcompliance and time-consuming internal investigations.  See also here pages 8-9 of my Senate FCPA testimony.

In addition, Senator Klobuchar and Coons encouraged the DOJ “to seek out the participation of U.S. corporate stakeholders when formulating its guidance.”  The Senators stated as follows.  “Engagement with the stakeholder community ought to occur prior to the release of guidance.  In the alternative, guidance should be issued in draft form and finalized after a comment period of sufficient length.”

U.K. Developments

Some recent U.K. developments that do not involve News Corp.

In this release, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced that Bruce Hall was charged with corruption offenses based on his alleged receipt of bribes while an employee of Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (“Alba”).  The charges against Hall relate to previous SFO charges against Victor Dahdaleh, an agent for Alcoa, who allegedly made bribe payments to Alba – see here for the prior post.  In recent years, the DOJ has likewise brought non-FCPA charges against bribe recipients.  See here for instance.

In this release, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced charges against a fourth person in connection with the Innospec enforcement action.  (See here for more on the corporate enforcement action).  Miltos Papachristos, a former Regional Sales Director for the Asia Pacific Region for Innospec, was charged with “conspiracy to corrupt in that he gave or agreed to give corrupt payments to public officials and other agents of the Government of Indonesia as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from the Government of Indonesia for the supply of Innospec Ltd products including Tetraethyl Lead.”  For more on the other three individuals charged – see here.

Halliburton Updates Disclosure

Yesterday’s post (here) touched upon FCPA disclosures and how it seems like every week there is new disclosure to report.

Halliburton’s disclosure yesterday was not new, but it stated as follows.  “We are conducting an internal investigation of certain areas of our operations in Angola, focusing on compliance with certain company policies, including our Code of Business Conduct (COBC), and the FCPA and other applicable laws. In December 2010, we received an anonymous e-mail alleging that certain current and former personnel violated our COBC and the FCPA, principally through the use of an Angolan vendor. The e-mail also alleges conflicts of interest, self-dealing and the failure to act on alleged violations of our COBC and the FCPA. We contacted the DOJ to advise them that we were initiating an internal investigation with the assistance of outside counsel and independent forensic accountants. During the third quarter of 2011, we met with the DOJ and the SEC to brief them on the status of our investigation and provided them documents. We are currently responding to a subpoena from the SEC regarding this matter and are producing all relevant documents. We understand that one of our employees has also received a subpoena from the SEC regarding this matter. We expect to continue to have discussions with the DOJ and the SEC, and we intend to continue to cooperate with their inquiries and requests as they investigate this matter. Because these investigations are at an early stage, we cannot predict their outcome or the consequences thereof.”

In 2009, Halliburton (and related entities) resolved a $579 million DOJ/SEC FCPA enforcement action concerning conduct at Bonny Island, Nigeria.  (See here).

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A good weekend to all.

SFO Flexing It Muscle Even Without the Bribery Act

In previous statements (see here for instance) U.K. officials have said that it would be wrong to assume that the U.K. was ignoring bribery issues prior to passage of the Bribery Act.

Case(s) in point – the recent enforcement actions announced by the Serious Fraud Office against MK Kellogg Ltd. and Mabey & Johnson directors.

MK Kellogg Ltd.

Yesterday, the SFO announced (here) that M.W. Kellogg Limited (“MKWL”) has been ordered to pay “just over £7 million [approximately $11.2 million] in recognition of sums it is due to receive which were generated through the criminal activity of third parties.”

This SFO enforcement action has been expected for some time, as noted in this previous post from October 2009.

MKWL was the entity that originally formed the TSKJ consortium the focus of the Bonny Island bribery scandal. See this post for current enforcement statistics as to KBR/Halliburton, Technip, and Snamprogetti / ENI.

MKWL is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of KBR and as noted in this previous post as well as KBR’s release (here) Halliburton has indemnification obligations to KBR in connection with the SFO enforcement action of “55% of such penalties, which is KBR’s beneficial ownership interest in MWKL.”

According to the SFO release, “the SFO recognized that MKWL took no part in the criminal activity that generated the funds” but that the “funds due to MKWL are share dividends payable from profits and revenues generated by contracts obtained through bribery and corruption undertaken by MWKL’s parent company and others.” The SFO release notes that “MWKL was used by the parent company and was not a willing participant in the corruption.”

As noted in the SFO release, the court order against MKWL was pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. What is the Proceeds of Crime Act? See this piece from John Rupp (Covington & Burling).

Richard Alderman, the Director of the SFO, stated in the release: “our goal is to prevent bribery and corruption or remove any of the benefits generated by such activities – this case demonstrates the range of tools we are prepared to use.”

Mabey & Johnson Directors

In July 2009, the SFO brought an enforcement action against Mabey & Johnson Ltd. (a U.K. company that designs and manufacturers steel bridges). The conduct at issue involved allegations (that the company voluntarily disclosed) that it sought to influence decision-makers in public contracts in Jamaica and Ghana between 1993 and 2001. The prosecution also involved breaches of United Nations sanctions in connection with the Iraq Oil for Food program.

It was the first ever prosecution against a U.K. company for overseas corruption. See here and here for the prior post.

On February 10th, the SFO announced (here) that “two former directors … of Mabey & Johnson Ltd. [Charles Forsyth and David Mabey] have been found guilty of inflating the contract price for the supply of steel bridges in order to provide kickbacks to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.”

According to the release, at the time of the offense, Forsyth was the Managing Director of Mabey & Johnson and Mabey was the Sales Director. The release notes that Richard Gledhill, a Sales Manager for contracts in Iraq, previously pleaded guilty. According to the release, all individuals are to be sentenced on February 23rd.

The U.S. has prosecuted numerous companies in connection with Iraqi Oil-For-Food fraud. See here for such allegations in the ABB matter, here for such allegations in the Innospec matter, here for such allegations in the General Electric matter.

However, these prosecutions have generally been corporate only prosecutions with few related enforcement actions against individuals.

In just its single Mabey & Johnson prosecution, the SFO would appear to have prosecuted more individuals than the U.S. has in its approximately 15 Iraqi Oil for Food corporate enforcement actions combined.

Bonny Island Bribery Developments

As reported elsewhere earlier this week (see here among other places), JGC Corporation of Japan (here) is close to resolving an FCPA enforcement action. JGC is the fourth joint venture partner along with KBR, Technip and Snamprogetti in the TSKJ consortium (a consortium originally formed by M.W. Kellogg) involved in the Bonny Island, Nigeria project.

In a disclosure earlier this week (here) the company stated:

“JGC and DOJ have been engaged in discussions about a potential resolution of the investigation relating to JGC. It was confirmed at the meeting of JGC’s board of directors held on January 31, 2011 that the Board has approved a potential resolution of the investigation. Based on this approval, JGC recognized a provision for the cost estimated for such a resolution, which will be appropriated as a financial loss in the 3rd Quarter Financial Result. The amount of such loss is 17.8 billion Japanese yen [approximately $218 million]”.

The expected JGC settlement would thus fall in the Top Ten FCPA enforcement actions of all time (see here for the FCPA Blog’s current list) and would bump the total amount of corporate fines and penalties U.S. authorities have collected in Bonny Island bribery cases to approximately $1.52 billion.

See here for my current Bonny Island bribery statistics.

How will JGC’s expected settlement affect KBR (a company, along with its current or former affiliated entities, that has already paid $579 million in U.S. fines and penalties in connection with Bonny Island)?

In early January, KBR announced (here) that it “completed the acquisition of the 44.94 percent share interest in M.W. Kellogg Limited (MWKL) previously held by JGC Corporation. With the completion of the transaction, MWKL, which was previously an affiliate of both companies since 1992, is again a wholly-owned KBR subsidiary.”

During a January 13th earnings call, Sue Carter (KBR – Senior VP and CFO) stated as follows:

“Also in regards to MWKL, included in the transaction is an estimate of JGC’s share of the ongoing [Serious Fraud Office] investigation. Any potential liabilities at this point are only estimated. Therefore any financial impact pending an actual outcome in the investigation will be trued up positive or negative.”

During the Q&A, William Utt (KBR – Chairman, President and CEO) was asked “can you tell us what kind of risks are structured in the MWKL deal? I mean, you have indemnification clauses for FCPA from Halliburton on your original stake. Do you have a similar clause with JGC?” He responded as follows: “Well I think the indemnification from Halliburton goes towards any financial penalties associated with the SFO investigation and as Sue commented, we’ve already factored that into the purchase price with JGC subject to a true-up.”

As Halliburton disclosed in its Oct. 22, 2010 10-Q filing, its indemnification obligations to KBR in connection with the SFO investigation “is limited to 55% of such penalties, which is KBR’s beneficial ownership interest in MWKL.”

Friday Roundup

Save the date, Halliburton speaks on Nigeria, and the SEC’s first non-prosecution agreement … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Save the Date

FCPA enforcement 2010 is coming to a close. The three most significant events from 2010? The three most interesting events from 2010? And a bold prediction?

That is my task on December 29th when I participate in Securities Docket’s annual “Year in Review” webcast slated for 1 p.m. EST. The webcast is free and you can sign up here.

Other participants who address the same questions as to their area of expertise include Compliance Week editor Matt Kelly, Francine McKenna (re: The Auditors), Francis Pileggi (Delaware corporate law guru), Kevin LaCroix (The D&O Diary), Tracy Coenen (The Fraud Files), Lyle Roberts (The 10b-5 Daily) and Securities Docket’s Bruce Carton.

Halliburton Statement on Nigeria Charges

In last week’s Friday roundup, it was noted that Nigeria dropped charges against Dick Cheney after his former employer, Halliburton, reportedly agreed to pay a $250 million fine. According to various media reports, the sum consisted of $120 million in penalties and the repatriation of $130 million.

A Halliburton spokesman was quoted as saying “we have no comment to make on this.”

Halliburton has now spoken and its statement (here) contradicts the widely reported $250 million figure. The statement reads, in full, as follows:

“Halliburton announced today the resolution of the previously disclosed investigation by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) arising out of allegations of improper payments to government officials in Nigeria in connection with the construction and subsequent expansion by a joint venture known as TSKJ of a natural gas liquefaction project on Bonny Island, Nigeria, in which Halliburton’s former subsidiary KBR, Inc. had an approximate 25 percent interest. Pursuant to this agreement, all lawsuits and charges against KBR and Halliburton corporate entities and associated persons have been withdrawn, the FGN agreed not to bring any further criminal charges or civil claims against those entities or persons, and Halliburton agreed to pay US$32.5 million to the FGN and to pay an additional US$2.5 million for FGN’s attorneys’ fees and other expenses. Among other provisions, Halliburton agreed to provide reasonable assistance in the FGN’s effort to recover amounts frozen in a Swiss bank account of a former TSKJ agent and affirmed a continuing commitment with regard to corporate governance. Any charges related to this settlement will be reflected in discontinued operations.”

SEC’s First Non-Prosecution Agreement

In January 2010, the SEC announced a series of measures (see here) “to further strengthen its enforcement program by encouraging greater cooperation from individuals and companies in the agency’s investigations and enforcement actions.”

“New cooperation tools” not previously available to the SEC, include, among other things:

* “Cooperation Agreements — Formal written agreements in which the Enforcement Division agrees to recommend to the Commission that a cooperator receive credit for cooperating in investigations or related enforcement actions if the cooperator provides substantial assistance such as full and truthful information and testimony.”

* “Deferred Prosecution Agreements — Formal written agreements in which the Commission agrees to forego an enforcement action against a cooperator if the individual or company agrees, among other things, to cooperate fully and truthfully and to comply with express prohibitions and undertakings during a period of deferred prosecution.”

and

* “Non-prosecution Agreements — Formal written agreements, entered into under limited and appropriate circumstances, in which the Commission agrees not to pursue an enforcement action against a cooperator if the individual or company agrees, among other things, to cooperate fully and truthfully and comply with express undertakings.”

The SEC release noted that “similar cooperation tools have been regularly and successfully used by the Justice Department in its criminal investigations and prosecutions.”

Earlier this week, the SEC announced (here) its first non-prosecution agreement against Carter’s Inc. related to enforcement action against its former Executive Vice President (Joseph M. Elles) for engaging in financial fraud and insider trading.

The SEC’s announcement states as follows:

“The SEC also announced that it has entered a non-prosecution agreement with Carter’s under which the Atlanta-based company will not be charged with any violations of the federal securities laws relating to Elles’s unlawful conduct. The non-prosecution agreement reflects the relatively isolated nature of the unlawful conduct, Carter’s prompt and complete self-reporting of the misconduct to the SEC, its exemplary and extensive cooperation in the investigation, including undertaking a thorough and comprehensive internal investigation, and Carter’s extensive and substantial remedial actions. This marks the first non-prosecution agreement entered by the SEC since the announcement of the SEC’s new cooperation initiative earlier this year.”

The NPA (here) is similar to DOJ NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context. Carter’s agreed to cooperate in the investigation of its former employee and any other related enforcement action and Carter’s is prohibited from making any public statement contrary to the factual basis of the agreement (notwithstanding that the NPA does not contain a factual basis or a statement of facts). The NPA specifically states that the agreement should not “be deemed exoneration of [Carter’s] or be construed as a finding by the Commission that no violation of the federal securities laws have occurred.”

Although the Carter NPA is not in an FCPA enforcement action, it is likely that NPAs (and DPAs) will be frequently used by the SEC (as they are by the DOJ) in the FCPA context.

As I note in the “Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (here), DOJ NPAs and DPAs have exploded in recent years and the “lions share” of these agreements are used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions. Many observers believe that NPAs and DPAs have taken the place of declinations and that companies are pressured to enter into such agreements prematurely even before each element of the relevant charge is established.

With the SEC now using such alternative resolution vehicles, the end result will be even less judicial scrutiny (not that there is much judicial scrutiny at present) as to SEC interpretations of the FCPA and whether factual evidence actually exists to support each element of an FCPA charge.

Friday Roundup

Save the date, Halliburton speaks on Nigeria, and the SEC’s first non-prosecution agreement … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Save the Date

FCPA enforcement 2010 is coming to a close. The three most significant events from 2010? The three most interesting events from 2010? And a bold prediction?

That is my task on December 29th when I participate in Securities Docket’s annual “Year in Review” webcast slated for 1 p.m. EST. The webcast is free and you can sign up here.

Other participants who address the same questions as to their area of expertise include Compliance Week editor Matt Kelly, Francine McKenna (re: The Auditors), Francis Pileggi (Delaware corporate law guru), Kevin LaCroix (The D&O Diary), Tracy Coenen (The Fraud Files), Lyle Roberts (The 10b-5 Daily) and Securities Docket’s Bruce Carton.

Halliburton Statement on Nigeria Charges

In last week’s Friday roundup, it was noted that Nigeria dropped charges against Dick Cheney after his former employer, Halliburton, reportedly agreed to pay a $250 million fine. According to various media reports, the sum consisted of $120 million in penalties and the repatriation of $130 million.

A Halliburton spokesman was quoted as saying “we have no comment to make on this.”

Halliburton has now spoken and its statement (here) contradicts the widely reported $250 million figure. The statement reads, in full, as follows:

“Halliburton announced today the resolution of the previously disclosed investigation by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) arising out of allegations of improper payments to government officials in Nigeria in connection with the construction and subsequent expansion by a joint venture known as TSKJ of a natural gas liquefaction project on Bonny Island, Nigeria, in which Halliburton’s former subsidiary KBR, Inc. had an approximate 25 percent interest. Pursuant to this agreement, all lawsuits and charges against KBR and Halliburton corporate entities and associated persons have been withdrawn, the FGN agreed not to bring any further criminal charges or civil claims against those entities or persons, and Halliburton agreed to pay US$32.5 million to the FGN and to pay an additional US$2.5 million for FGN’s attorneys’ fees and other expenses. Among other provisions, Halliburton agreed to provide reasonable assistance in the FGN’s effort to recover amounts frozen in a Swiss bank account of a former TSKJ agent and affirmed a continuing commitment with regard to corporate governance. Any charges related to this settlement will be reflected in discontinued operations.”

SEC’s First Non-Prosecution Agreement

In January 2010, the SEC announced a series of measures (see here) “to further strengthen its enforcement program by encouraging greater cooperation from individuals and companies in the agency’s investigations and enforcement actions.”

“New cooperation tools” not previously available to the SEC, include, among other things:

* “Cooperation Agreements — Formal written agreements in which the Enforcement Division agrees to recommend to the Commission that a cooperator receive credit for cooperating in investigations or related enforcement actions if the cooperator provides substantial assistance such as full and truthful information and testimony.”

* “Deferred Prosecution Agreements — Formal written agreements in which the Commission agrees to forego an enforcement action against a cooperator if the individual or company agrees, among other things, to cooperate fully and truthfully and to comply with express prohibitions and undertakings during a period of deferred prosecution.”

and

* “Non-prosecution Agreements — Formal written agreements, entered into under limited and appropriate circumstances, in which the Commission agrees not to pursue an enforcement action against a cooperator if the individual or company agrees, among other things, to cooperate fully and truthfully and comply with express undertakings.”

The SEC release noted that “similar cooperation tools have been regularly and successfully used by the Justice Department in its criminal investigations and prosecutions.”

Earlier this week, the SEC announced (here) its first non-prosecution agreement against Carter’s Inc. related to enforcement action against its former Executive Vice President (Joseph M. Elles) for engaging in financial fraud and insider trading.

The SEC’s announcement states as follows:

“The SEC also announced that it has entered a non-prosecution agreement with Carter’s under which the Atlanta-based company will not be charged with any violations of the federal securities laws relating to Elles’s unlawful conduct. The non-prosecution agreement reflects the relatively isolated nature of the unlawful conduct, Carter’s prompt and complete self-reporting of the misconduct to the SEC, its exemplary and extensive cooperation in the investigation, including undertaking a thorough and comprehensive internal investigation, and Carter’s extensive and substantial remedial actions. This marks the first non-prosecution agreement entered by the SEC since the announcement of the SEC’s new cooperation initiative earlier this year.”

The NPA (here) is similar to DOJ NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context. Carter’s agreed to cooperate in the investigation of its former employee and any other related enforcement action and Carter’s is prohibited from making any public statement contrary to the factual basis of the agreement (notwithstanding that the NPA does not contain a factual basis or a statement of facts). The NPA specifically states that the agreement should not “be deemed exoneration of [Carter’s] or be construed as a finding by the Commission that no violation of the federal securities laws have occurred.”

Although the Carter NPA is not in an FCPA enforcement action, it is likely that NPAs (and DPAs) will be frequently used by the SEC (as they are by the DOJ) in the FCPA context.

As I note in the “Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (here), DOJ NPAs and DPAs have exploded in recent years and the “lions share” of these agreements are used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions. Many observers believe that NPAs and DPAs have taken the place of declinations and that companies are pressured to enter into such agreements prematurely even before each element of the relevant charge is established.

With the SEC now using such alternative resolution vehicles, the end result will be even less judicial scrutiny (not that there is much judicial scrutiny at present) as to SEC interpretations of the FCPA and whether factual evidence actually exists to support each element of an FCPA charge.

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