Top Menu

Friday Roundup

Hits and misses, does it really need to cost this much, the Wal-Mart effect, survey says, Senate hearing quotable, while they’re at it, checking in on Hollywood and Goldman too, spot on, and some refreshing words.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Hits and Misses

I read pretty much everything churned out by FCPA Inc., including the flood of recent client alerts concerning the Straub and Steffen decisions.  (See here and here for previous posts summarizing the decisions).  Many of these alerts are good and informative (for instance, see here from Debevoise & Plimpton).  However, some of these alerts are just plain wrong.

The headline of one alert was “District Court Decision Limits the Extraterritorial Reach of the FCPA.”  The headline of another alert was “Court Sets Limits on Extraterritorial FCPA Reach; Dismisses Case Against Foreign Siemens Executive.”

Neither the Straub nor Steffen decisions concerned extraterritorial application of the FCPA.  In fact, there is no extraterritorial reach of the FCPA as to foreign actors.  Yes, the FCPA was amended in 1998 to provide for alternative “nationality” jurisdiction (i.e. extraterritorial jurisdiction) over U.S. persons (both legal and natural), however, 78dd-1(g) and 78dd-2(i) are strictly limited to U.S. persons.

Rather, the Straub decision concerned the scope of territorial jurisdiction under 78dd-1(a), specifically the meaning of “use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce …”.

The Steffen decision did not even reach this issue as the judge found the initial threshold issue of personal jurisdiction lacking.

Wal-Mart’s FCPA Scrutiny Expenses Mount

During the media feeding frenzy after the New York Times April 2012 Wal-Mart article (see here for the prior post), I had the pleasure to appear on Eliot Spitzer’s Viewpoint program on Current TV.  At the end of the segment, after the substantive issues were discussed, Spitzer offered that he has several contacts in the FCPA bar and that, regardless of the substantive issues involved in Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny or the ultimate outcome, lots of lawyers were poised to make lots of money.

Spitzer of course was right.

Wal-Mart recently stated (here) that it has incurred “$157 million of professional fees and expenses related to the ongoing” FCPA matter during its last fiscal year and that it expect to incur an additional “$40 to $45 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2014.”  During Wal-Mart’s recent earnings conference call, a company executive stated as follows.  “On FCPA, we continue  to work closely with anticorruption compliance experts to review and to assess  our programs and help us implement concrete steps for each particular market. In  the various markets, these experts have spent tens of thousands of hours on  anti-corruption support and training. We remain committed to follow all laws and  regulations in the markets where we operate.”

The $157 million Wal-Mart spent in the last FY equates to approximately $604,000 in professional fees and expenses per working day.

I observed in this March 2011 articles as follows.

“This new era of enforcement has resulted in wasteful overcompliance, companies viewing every foreign business partner with irrational suspicion, and companies deploying teams of lawyers and specialists around the world spending millions to uncover every potential questionable or unethical $100 corporate payment.  This new era of enforcement has proven lucrative to many segments of the legal, accounting, and compliance industries and the status quo would, from their perspective, seem desirable.”

The question again ought to be asked – does it really need to cost this much or has FCPA scrutiny turned into a boondoggle for many involved?  For more on this issue, see my article “Big, Bold, and Bizarre: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enters a New Era.”

While minor compared to Wal-Mart’s FCPA professional fees and expenses, Beam Inc. recently disclosed here that in 2012 the company spent approximately $4.2 million for “legal, forensic accounting, and other fees related to our internal investigation into Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance in our India operations.”

Wal-Mart Effect

Switching gears, but sticking with Wal-Mart related issues, this May 2012 post highlighted a potential “Wal-Mart effect.”  In short, the point was that Wal-Mart is clearly not the only company subject to the FCPA that needs licenses, permits and the like when doing business in Mexico.  I predicted that Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure would cause sleepless nights for many company executives doing business in Mexico and the general region.  The post then discussed statements made during a Kimco Realty Corporation earnings call in May 2012 concerning its properties in Mexico.

Earlier this week, Kimco Realty stated in an SEC filing as follows.

“On January 28, 2013, the Company received a subpoena from the Enforcement Division of the SEC in connection with an investigation, In the Matter of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (FW-3678), that the SEC Staff is currently conducting with respect to possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Company is responding to the subpoena and intends to cooperate fully with the SEC in this matter. The Company has also been notified that the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is conducting a parallel investigation, and the Company expects that it will cooperate with the DOJ investigation. At this point, we are unable to predict the duration, scope or result of the SEC or DOJ investigation.”

Survey Says

The annual Litigation Trends and Survey report by Fulbright & Jaworski is always a good read.  This year’s report (see here to download) surveyed 392 “senior corporate counsel” (275 in the U.S., 100 in the U.K. and 17 in other jurisdictions) on a wide-range of litigation and related matters.  The following were FCPA or related survey results.

“Companies that have retained outside counsel to assist with a corruption or bribery investigation in the past 12 months (including, but not limited to, FCPA in U.S. and equivalent in U.K.”

  • 9% of U.S. respondents answered “yes”; 18% of U.K. respondents answered “yes.”  As noted, “U.S. figures [2010-2012] have remained relatively stable.”

“Companies that have engaged in due diligence for bribery or corruption (including FCPA matters) relating to a merger, acquisition or other business transactions with a foreign country in the past 12 months.”

  • 18% of U.S. respondents answered “yes”; 26% of U.K. respondents answered “yes.”  As noted, “more companies this year have engaged outside counsel in due diligence for corruption or bribery investigations due to business transactions with entities based in a foreign country.”

As to the due diligence figures, in the abstract these figures do not mean much, unless one knows how many responding companies actually engaged in foreign acquisitions or other business combinations.

The last survey result in the report perhaps speaks best to the over-hyped nature of the U.K. Bribery Act.

“Has your company changed the way it operates due to the emergence of anti-bribery legislation outside the U.S., such as U.K. Bribery Act 2010?”

  • 78% of U.S. respondents answered “no” and 63% of U.K. respondents answered “no.”

Senate Hearing Quotable

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had some quotable moments (here) during a recent Senate Banking hearing.  The hearing concerned financial regulation, not the FCPA.  Nevertheless, some of the issues have some overlap to FCPA enforcement – including how settlement policies in regulatory enforcement actions create conditions in which there is “not much incentive to follow the law” and how “too big to fail” perhaps means “too big for trial.”

Disclosure Issues

This recent Wall Street Journal CFO Journal post notes as follows.

“Securities and Exchange Commissioner Troy Paredes called for a complete review of the information companies disclose to investors, amid concerns that investors suffer from “disclosure overload” that could hamper their ability to gauge the importance of the data.  “What we need is a top-to-bottom review of our disclosure regime,” Mr. Paredes said at the Practising Law Institute’s annual “SEC Speaks” conference in Washington, D.C. on Friday.”

While they’re at it, the SEC should take a look at its absurd position that all payments in violation of the FCPA, no matter how small the payment and no matter how large the company, are “qualitatively material.”  For instance, as noted in this previous post concerning comments made by enforcement officials at a conference I chaired, an SEC official suggested that the concept of materiality itself has two “sub-concepts”: (i) quantitative materiality (something that impacts a company’s financial statements) and (ii) qualitative materiality.  While conceding that very few improper payments are “quantitatively material” and while recognizing that “qualitative materiality” is a “complicated gray area,” the SEC officials nevertheless said that all bribes can be considered qualitatively material because they may “automatically trigger a books and records violation.”  For formal SEC guidance on this issue, see here.

Checking In

Hollywood Industry Sweep

From the New York Times regarding the on-going scrutiny of Hollywood movie studios in China.

“Last March, word reached several studios of a confidential inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commissionand the Justice Department into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by people or companies involved in the China film trade. Since then, executives and their advisers have been waiting for some public sign of the scope or focus of the government’s interest.  So far, there has been none. But official silence has not kept the investigation from casting a chill over dealings between Hollywood and China.”

Goldman

From the Wall Street Journal regarding the on-going scrutiny of Goldman’s dealings with Libya’s sovereign wealth fund.

“Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund said it is cooperating with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in its ongoing investigation into Goldman Sachs Group Inc. over the securities firm’s dealings with the fund when Col. Moammar Gadhafi was in power.  […]  People close to the Libyan investment fund said officials have authorized some former fund executives to give testimony to the SEC. The officials also agreed to provide documents and other data to U.S. regulators about the fund’s ties to Goldman, these people said.”

Spot On

Two recent Q&A’s on Law360 caught my eye.  The question was “what is an important issue or case relevant to your practice area and why.”

Neil Eggleston (Kirkland & Ellis) stated as follows.

“We are beginning to see the development of case law in the FCPA area, which I believe is good for the process. Most of these cases have been settled. When that occurs, defendants have little incentive to refuse to agree to novel Department of Justice theories of prosecution or jurisdiction, so long as the penalty is acceptable. The department then cites its prior settlement as precedent when settling later ones. But no court approved the earlier settlement, and the prior settlement should have no precedential value in favor of the DOJ in later settlements. As the DOJ increases its prosecution of individuals, we will see many more trials, which will give rise to courts, not the DOJ, interpreting the statute.”

For more on these issues, see my article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” and this previous guest post on “prosecutorial common law.”

Richard Marmaro (Skadden) answered the same question as follows.

“An issue of importance in the white collar area is the issue of prosecutorial misconduct, and appropriate remedies for prosecutors who intentionally conceal evidence, intimidate witnesses, or otherwise compromise or impact a defendant’s right to a fair trial. I have seen firsthand in several of my cases shocking misconduct, which has gone undisciplined by the U.S. Department of Justice. I have been fortunate enough to expose this misconduct, and have had cases dismissed as a result. Indeed, over the last decade, there have been several dismissals nationwide at trial or reversals on appeal based on willful misconduct by government lawyers. Despite these judicial findings, however, the Justice Department’s record of disciplining misbehaving prosecutors is shockingly inadequate. I don’t know of any prosecutor that has been terminated based on a judicial finding of intentional misconduct. In addition, I believe that only two prosecutors have received any discipline at all (both in the Stevens case). In my view, the failure to sanction prosecutors who have been found by judges to have committed misconduct sends the wrong signal to defendants, the public and the vast majority of prosecutors who do their jobs honestly every day.”

For more, see this previous post titled “Should There Be A Difference?”

Refreshing Words

Every now and then it is refreshing to read some common sense words about FCPA compliance and risk assessment.  Such as this recent post from the Trace blog.

“Remember, perfection is neither possible nor necessary.  When devising a compliance plan, it’s important to remind oneself of the big picture.  A company need not break the bank to have a compliance program that follows accepted best practices.  As discussed below, there are various ways that good compliance can be affordable.  And companies are not responsible for developing full-proof compliance programs; they only need to develop programs proportionate to the risk they face, with the understanding that no program will completely eliminate all risk from the equation.  Unlike in other areas of business, when it comes to compliance, being in the middle of the pack is okay.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Potpourri

Retail Industry Sweep

This previous post discussed the Wal-Mart effect, how Wal-Mart is clearly not the only company subject to the FCPA that needs licenses, permits and the like when doing business in Mexico, and that it is likely that Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure has caused sleepless nights for many company executives doing business in Mexico and the general region.

Sure enough.

Aruna Viswanatha reports in this Reuters story that “retailers have been reviewing their international operations in light of a bribery scandal at Wal-Mart’s operations in Mexico that is the subject of investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.”  According to the story, “other retail companies have also since reported to U.S. agencies suspicions of their own potential violations, which in turn has the Justice Department and SEC considering a sweep of the entire industry.”  For more on industry sweeps, see this previous post.

Barclays Dealings With Sovereign-Wealth Funds Scrutinized

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday (here) that Barclays PLC’s “chief financial officer is under investigation by British authorities related to the bank’s 2008 fundraising activities with Middle Eastern investors.”  According to the story, the “probe is focused at least in part on how Barclays wooed Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund to pump billions of pounds into the bank as the financial crisis intensified.”  According to this Wall Street Journal article, Barclays previously disclosed “£240 million of payments made to Qatar Holding and Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan related to its £7.3 billion capital raise in 2008.”

Barclays has ADRs traded on the New York Stock Exchange and, according to the article, the SEC “is aware of the probe” and will be updated on its progress.  As the article notes, the SEC is currently conducting an expansive investigation of various financial institutions concerning relationships with sovereign-wealth funds.

Halliburton’s Latest Disclosure

Halliburton previously disclosed potential FCPA issues concerning the use of an Angolan vendor.  Last week in this quarterly report, the company provided an update on that investigation as well as new investigations concerning additional conduct in Angola as well as Iraq.  The disclosure states as follows.

“We are conducting internal investigations of certain areas of our operations in Angola and Iraq, 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. Since the third quarter of 2011, we have been participating in meetings with the DOJ and the SEC to brief them on the status of our investigation and have been producing documents to them both voluntarily and as a result of SEC subpoenas to the company and certain of our current and former officers and employees. During the second quarter of 2012, in connection with a meeting with the DOJ and the SEC regarding the above investigation, we advised the DOJ and the SEC that we were initiating unrelated, internal investigations into payments made to a third-party agent relating to certain customs matters in Angola and to third-party agents relating to certain customs and visa matters in Iraq. We expect to continue to have discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding the Angola and Iraq matters described above and have indicated that we would further update them as our investigations progress. We have engaged outside counsel and independent forensic accountants to assist us with the investigations. We intend to continue to cooperate with the DOJ’s and the SEC’s inquiries and requests in these investigations. Because these investigations are ongoing, we cannot predict their outcome or the consequences thereof.”

In 2009, Halliburton and related entities settled DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions concerning Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct by agreeing to pay $579 million in combined fines and penalties.  See here and here.  Pursuant to the SEC settlement, Halliburton is permanently enjoined from violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

W.W. Grainger Updates Its Disclosure

This previous post discussed W.W. Grainger’s February disclosure concerning an investigation that sales employees of a China subsidiary may have provided prepaid gift cards to certain customers.  As noted by Chris Matthews in this recent Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, the company in a recent SEC filing stated as follows.

“The results of the investigation, which have been submitted to the DOJ and the SEC, did not substantiate initial information suggesting significant use of gift cards for improper purposes. The Company cannot predict at this time whether any regulatory action may be taken or any other potential consequences may result from this matter.”

The Corruption Currents post contains a quote from Grainger spokeswoman as follows.  “We conducted a very thorough investigation, and based on our findings we do not believe this is a material issue.  We have submitted our findings to the DOJ and the SEC and we are in conversations with them regarding the conclusion of this matter.”

Contrary to the Corruption Currents headline “W.W. Grainger’s FCPA Probe Finds No Wrongdoing” the disclosure is qualified by the term “significant” use of gift cards for improper purposes and the quote from the company representative is qualified by the term “material” issue.  Very few FCPA issues in multinational companies rise to the level of quantitative materiality – even if the SEC takes the view that all payments in violation of the FCPA are qualitatively material.

As noted in this previous post concerning Congressional interest in DOJ FCPA declination decisions, the DOJ has stated that it “has declined to prosecute corporate entities in several cases based on particular facts and circumstances presented in those matters” including the following:  “a single employee, and no other employee, was involved in the provision of improper payments; and the improper payments involved minimal funds compared to the overall business revenues.”

Friday Roundup

Coming attractions, monitor talk, LatinNode related individual sentences, just who are those “gestores,” scholarship of note, and Supreme Court quotables.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Coming Attractions

This prior post contained FCPA practitioner Homer Moyer’s discussion of industry sweeps.  Industries that have been subjected to industry sweeps or are reportedly in the middle of industry sweeps include:  oil and gas, pharmaceutical / medical devices, and financial services.

Add Hollywood film studies to the list.

Reuters reports (here) that the SEC “has sent letters of inquiry to at least five movie studios in the past two months, including News Corp’s 20th Century Fox, Disney, and DreamWorks Animation” that “ask for information about potential inappropriate payments and how the companies dealt with certain government officials in China.”

The New York Times (here) also reported on the letters of inquiry and stated that the SEC “has begun an investigation into whether some of Hollywood’s biggest movie studios have made illegal payments to officials in China to gain the right to film and show movies there.”

In other disclosure news, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell), Turkey’s only New York Stock Exchange listed company, recently disclosed in an SEC filing (here) as follows.  “Some of [the countries the company operates in] also suffer from relatively high rates of fraud and corruption. For example, allegations have been made regarding improper payments relating to the operations of KCell, a mobile operator in Kazakhstan and 51% subsidiary of Fintur Holdings B.V., in which we hold a 41.45% stake, while TeliaSonera holds the remainder. The allegations were discussed by Turkcell’s Board of Directors, which requested an independent investigation of the allegations made. TeliaSonera initiated an independent investigation as agreed by the Fintur Board. The Turkcell Board has been informed that to date there has not been substantiated any such allegations and the Fintur Board informs us that it has completed its own investigation. Since no assurance can be given that there will not be further requests for investigation, we remain vigilant on this matter.”

In other disclosure news, in October 2006, the SEC informed the Bristol Myers Squibb Company that it had begun a formal inquiry into the activities of certain of the company’s German pharmaceutical subsidiaries and its employees and/or agents.  The company previously disclosed that “the SEC’s inquiry encompasses matters formerly under investigation by the German prosecutor in Munich, Germany, which have since been resolved,” that the inquiry concerns potential violations of the FCPA and that “the company is cooperating with the SEC.”  Yesterday, in a 10-Q filing, the company stated as follows.  “In March, 2012, the Company received a subpoena from the SEC. The subpoena, issued in connection with an investigation under the FCPA, primarily relates to sales and marketing practices in various countries. The Company is cooperating with the government in its investigation of these matters.”

According to my tally, over the past two months, approximately 15 companies have newly disclosed, or been linked to, FCPA scrutiny.  See here for the prior post “The Sun Rose, a Dog Barked, and a Company Disclosed FCPA Scrutiny.”  (And no, Wal-Mart is not included in this list, the company disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in December 2011).

Hercules Offshore disclosed better news in its 10-Q filing yesterday.  The company stated as follows.  “On April 4, 2011, the Company received a subpoena issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) requesting the delivery of certain documents to the SEC in connection with its investigation into possible violations of the securities laws, including possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in certain international jurisdictions where the Company conducts operations. The Company was also notified by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) on April 5, 2011, that certain of the Company’s activities were under review by the DOJ. On April 24, 2012, the Company received a letter from the DOJ notifying the Company that the DOJ has closed its inquiry into the Company regarding possible violations of the FCPA and does not intend to pursue enforcement action against the Company. The DOJ indicated that its decision to close the matter was based on, among other factors, the thorough investigation conducted by the Company’s special counsel and the Company’s compliance program. The Company, through the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, intends to continue to cooperate with the SEC in its investigation. At this time, it is not possible to predict the outcome of the SEC’s investigation, the expenses the Company will incur associated with this matter, or the impact on the price of the Company’s common stock or other securities as a result of this investigation.”

For the second straight day, I say kudos to the DOJ.  Yet, I also ask on consecutive days – would anything really change with an FCPA compliance defense?  As I note in “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” (here) the DOJ already recognizes a de facto FCPA compliance defense albeit in opaque, inconsistent and unpredictable ways. Thus, an FCPA compliance defense accomplishes, among other things, the policy goal of removing factors relevant to corporate criminal liability from the opaque, inconsistent, and unpredictable world of DOJ decision making towards a more transparent, consistent, and predictable model best accomplished through a compliance defense amendment to the FCPA.

Monitor Talk

As discussed in this prior post, in March Biomet resolved an FCPA enforcement action involving $22.8 million in combined fines and penalties ($17.3 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $5.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).  Pursuant to the DPA, Biomet agreed to engage an independent compliance monitor “for a period of not less than 18 months” and to provide periodic reports to the DOJ regarding remediation and implementation of the enhanced compliance measures as described in an attachment to the DPA.

As evidence that investor concern regarding FCPA issues does not end on enforcement action day, during a recent earnings conference call, an analyst asked Biomet CEO Jeff Binder the following question.

“I guess just with regard to the DOJ settlement that was announced for the FCPA potential violations, I’m just wondering — I guess you’re going to have an 18-month monitoring period. So I assume that would only apply to your international business? And then maybe even within the international business, would that only apply to certain regions where there have been problems found? And then what sort of a pricing — sorry, not pricing, but cost impact do you expect from that monitoring? Is it something material or not?”

Binder responded as follows.  “Yes. You’re correct that the monitorship will apply to our businesses outside the United States, but the monitors purview is broad outside the United States. The monitor has the ability to take a look at our businesses across the world. The monitor will do a risk assessment upfront. They’ll understand where our issues have been and they’ll take a look at our processes. They’ll develop that risk assessment. They’ll come up with a work plan that’s based on that risk assessment. And we’ll take it from there. We don’t expect that additional expenses for the monitor will be material to the business. DOJ and SEC require the candidates for the monitorship to submit budgets of the projected services for their work. And I’d just say that the amounts that were set forth in those budgets are not material, and we don’t anticipate significant internal expenses associated with the monitorship.”

LatiNode Individual Sentences

As noted in this DOJ release, in April 2009 LatiNode, a privately held Florida corporation, pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with improper payments in Honduras and Yemen and agreed to pay a $2 million criminal penalty.  Thereafter, several of its former executives – Jorge Granados, Manuel Caceres, Manuel Salvoch, and Juan Vasquez were criminally charged and pleaded guility.

Earlier this week Caceres (former vice president of business development at LatiNode) and Vasquez (a former senior commercial executive at LatiNode) were sentenced.  U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard (S.D. of Fl.) sentenced Caceres to 23 months followed by 1 year supervised release – the DOJ sought a 36 month sentence.  U.S. District Court Judge Patrricia Seitz (S.D. of Fl.) sentenced Vasquez to 3 years probation, community service, home detention and monitoring and ordered him to pay a $7,500 criminal fine – the DOJ originally sought a 36 month sentence and recently stated that it “would not oppose a sentence for Vasquez that was less than the sentence for Caceres and Salvoch [who is yet to be sentenced].”

As noted in this prior post, in September 2011, Granados was sentenced to 46 months in prison.

“Gestores”

The New York Times article suggested that many of the Wal-Mart Mexican payments at issue were routed through Mexican gestores.   Just who are those “gestores.”?  I found this article from CBS of interest.  The article states as follows.   “A visit to any government office is likely to bring the sighting of a well-dressed man carrying reams of documents who will glide past the long lines, shake hands with the official behind the counter and get ushered into a backroom, where his affairs presumably get a fast-track service. The suspicion is these go-betweens funnel a portion of the fees they charge clients to corrupt officials to smooth the issuance of permits, approvals and other government stamps.  In a country where laws on zoning rules, construction codes and building permits are vague or laxly enforced, the difference between opening a store quickly and having it held up for months may depend on using a gestor.”

Scholarship of Note

Pre-Wal-Mart, the FCPA conversation of the spring focused on charitable contributions in the context of the Wynn-Okada dispute.  See here, here and here for the prior posts.  Other posts have noted (see here) that, strange as it may sound, the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions are only implicated when something of value is provided, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the official in obtaining or retaining business.  The FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions are not implicated when the thing of value is provided to a foreign government itself.  Other prior posts (here and here) have discussed Dodd-Frank Act Section 1504’s Resource Extraction Disclosure Provisions.

Given my prior writings on these issues, I was pleased when Emory University School of Law student Francesca Pisano sent me the student comment “Anti-Corruption Law & Corporate Philanthropy: Rethinking the Regulations” (here) selected for publication in a forthcoming issue of the Emory Law Journal.

The abstract states as follows.

“When the 2010 earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, U.S. companies donated over $146.8 million to the relief effort. Despite this impressive display of global engagement, commentators suggested that the US anti-corruption laws had discouraged corporations from greater involvement. Even with the laws in force, however, reports of corruption in the relief effort soon surfaced, derailing Haiti’s recovery. Foreign aid that feeds corruption will never achieve sustainable growth, but development efforts will similarly fail if U.S. anti-corruption laws discourage corporate philanthropy.  This comment analyzes the application of two U.S. anti-corruption laws, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and the Dodd-Frank Section 1504, to international corporate charity. It shows how the FCPA’s ambiguous nature has the unfortunate effect of being both over- and under-inclusive, discouraging bona fide charity while at the same time failing to capture corrupt donations. The recently-enacted Dodd-Frank Section 1504 has great potential, but the SEC’s proposed rules have created a loophole to allow corruption to continue if hidden in corporate charity.  This comment proposes a modification to FCPA enforcement: creating a Safe Harbor Option. This will offer businesses the opportunity to “buy” a rebuttable presumption of legitimacy for their charitable donations by publically disclosing the payments, projects, and recipients of their philanthropy. Granting a presumption of legitimacy to disclosed donations will ameliorate many of the over-inclusive aspects of the FCPA. The increased disclosure will allow the public to monitor corporate charity and question suspicious gifts, ameliorating the under-inclusive aspects of FCPA enforcement. This comment also argues that Section 1504 should be defined expansively to prevent charity from being used to circumvent the congressional goals of increasing transparency and combating corruption. If properly defined, Section 1504 is an excellent example of regulation through disclosure and transparency, rather than prohibitions.”

Supreme Court Quotable

This recent post discussed non-FCPA caselaw that touched upon issues relevant to the recent “foreign official” challenges.  Last week, the Supreme Court issued its opinion (here) in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority concerning the scope of the Torture Victim Protection Act.  The Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Sotomayor held that the term “individual” in the TVPA encompasses only natural persons, and thus the law does not impose liability against corporatons.  In her opinion, Justice Sotomayor’s stated, among other things, as follows.

“Congress remains free, as always, to give the word [individual] a broader or different meaning. But before we will assume it has done so, there must be some indication Congress intended such a result.”

“We add only that Congress appeared well aware of the limited nature of the cause of action it estab­lished in the Act.”

“The text of the TVPA convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not. There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the Act, and it is not the province of this Branch to do otherwise.”

*****

I went to Walmart last night.  After completing my purchase and before exiting the store, I stopped, looked around, and thought, wow, what a week!

A good weekend to all.

Next Up – Biomet

First it was Johnson & Johnson (see here – $70 million in combined fines and penalties in April 2011).  Then it was Smith & Nephew (see here – $22 million in combined fines and penalties in February 2012).  Next up in the sweep of the medical device industry – based on the enforcement theory that certain foreign health care providers are “foreign officials” –  is Biomet.  Biomet (here) is an Indiana-based company that designs, manufactures and markets products used primarily by musculoskeletal medical specialists in both surgical and non‐surgical therapy.

Total fines and penalties in the Biomet enforcement action were approximately $22.8 million ($17.3 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $5.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against Biomet resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

In substance, the information begins as follows.  “Argentina has a public healthcare system wherein approximately half of hospitals are publicly owned and operated.  Health care providers (“HCPs”) who work in the public sector are government employees, providing health care services in their official capacities.  Therefore, such HCPs in Argentina are ‘foreign officials’ as that term is defined in the FCPA.”  “Brazil has a socialized public healthcare system that provides universal health care to all Brazilian citizens, and the majority of hospitals are publicly-controlled.  HCPs who work in the public sector are government employees, providing health care services in their official capacities.  Therefore, such HCPs in Brazil are ‘foreign officials’ as that term is defined in the FCPA.”  “China has a national healthcare system wherein most Chinese hospitals are publicly owned and operated.  HCPs who work at publicly-owned hospitals are government employees, providing health care services in their official capacities.”

The information charges one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, three substantive FCPA anti-bribery charges (one charge focused on conduct in Argentina, one charge focused on conduct in Brazil, and one charge focused on conduct in China) and one charge of violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

As to the conspiracy charge, the information alleges that between 2000 to 2009, Biomet and others conspired to “secure lucrative business with hospitals in the Argentine, Brazilian, and Chinese public health care systems by making and promising to make corrupt payments of money and things of value to publicly-employed HCPs.”

According to the information, it was part of the conspiracy that “Biomet, certain of its executives, employees, and subsidiaries” – (1) “agreed to pay publicly employed Argentine HCPs 15-20 percent commissions in exchange for the purchase of Biomet products” (2) “agreed to pay Brazilian HCPs 10-20 percent commissions through Brazilian Distributor [a Brazilian company that had exclusive distribution rights for Biomet reconstructive products in Brazil] in exchange for the purchase of Biomet products” and (3) “agreed to pay Chinese HCPs commissions through Chinese Distributor [a Chinese company that acted as a distributor of Biomet products in China], and paid for travel for Chinese HCPs, in exchange for the purchase of Biomet products.”

The information also alleges that it was further part of the conspiracy that at the end of Biomet’s fiscal year from 2000 to 2009 “Biomet, its executives, employees, and subsidiaries falsely recorded the payments on its books and records as ‘commissions,’ ‘royalties,’ ‘consulting fees,’ ‘other sales and marketing,’ and ‘scientific incentives,’ in order to conceal the true nature of the payments in the consolidated books and records of Biomet Argentina [a wholly-owned Argentine subsidiary of Biomet through which Biomet conducted business in Argentina], Biomet International [a wholly-owned Delaware subsidiary of Biomet through which Biomet sold products into Brazil], Scandimed [a wholly-owned Swedish subsidiary through which Biomet sold products into China and elsewhere], and Biomet China [a wholly-owned Chinese subsidiary through which Biomet sold products into China], which books and records were incorporated into the books and records of Biomet for purposes of preparing Biomet’s year-end financial statements, which were filed with the SEC …”.

The information alleges as follows.  “In total, from 2000 to 2008, Biomet, Biomet Argentina, Biomet International, Scandidmed, and Biomet China, and their related subsidiaries and employees, authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of at least $1.5 million, some or all of which was paid to publicly-employed HCPs to induce the purchase of Biomet products.”

As to Argentina, the information largely focuses on internal e-mails or memos which indicated that “royalties are paid to surgeons if requested” and that the payments “are disclosed in the accounting records as commissions.”  The information details a 2005 internal investigation into certain allegations of improper conduct, but alleges that thereafter problematic payments continued to be made.  For instance, a 2007 internal e-mail states as follows.  “Doctors receive a ‘consulting fee’ for every surgery.”  According to the information, in August 2008 “Biomet distributed new compliance guidelines that emphasized the FCPA and related issues, and the company’s managing director for Argentina sought advice from the company’s lawyers, causing Biomet to suspend payments to Argentine doctors.”

As to Brazil, the information largely focuses on internal e-mail or memos noting that the Brazilian Distributor was paying commissions to doctors and that the Brazlian Distributor admitted that it “paid doctors for buying Biomet products and described the payments as ‘scientific incentives.”

As to China, the information discusses various internal e-mails which reference: the China Distributor “paying a 10-15% ‘rebate’ to surgeons on the sale of Biomet artificial hips;” a Scandimed employee stating that, regarding commissions to surgeons, “Scandimed has no control over this … as we understand it, giving commissions or gifts of various kinds to surgeons is common in China;”the China Distributor stating that a “Doctor will become the most loyal customer of Biomet if we send him to Switzerland”;  and the China Distributor stating as follows – “Doctor is the department head of [public hospital] and that Doctor uses about 10 hips and knees a month and its on an uptrend, as he told us over dinner a week ago … Many key surgeons in Shanghai are buddies of his.  A kind word on Biomet from him goes a long way for us.  Dinner has been set for the evening of the 24th.  It will be nice.  But dinner aside, I’ve got to send him to Switzerland to visit his daughter.”  The information also references a distribution memo which states that “Chinese surgeons typically receive a commission on sales, which can range from 5% to 25% and that distributors are expected to hold banquets for surgeons and to sponsor meetings.”  Another internal e-mail discusses “consulting fees paid to doctors for conducting clinical trials” and a “proposal for a two week visit for Chinese doctors to the United Kingdom, with the second week being a ‘holiday’ paid for by Chinese Distributor.”  The information also alleges that in October 2007 “Biomet China sponsored the travel of 20 surgeons to Barcelona and Valencia for training, including a substantial portion of the trip being devoted to sightseeing and other entertainment at Biomet’s expense.”  According to the information, in 2005 “Director of Internal Audit [based in Warsaw, Indiana] instructed an auditor to classify improper payments being made to doctors in connection with certain clinical trials as ‘entertainment’ and in 2007, the product manager for Biomet China sent an e-mail to [an Associate Regional Manager based in Hong Kong] “discussing ways to evade efforts by the Chinese government to halt corruption in health care by requiring all international companies to declare actual cost for import to the government, noting, ‘obviously, China government doesn’t have ability to forbid the corruption from hospitals & surgeons …’ and proposing four methods for avoiding the regulation, including falsified invoices.

DPA

The DOJ’s charges against Biomet were resolved via a deferred  prosecution agreement.  Pursuant to the DPA, Biomet admitted, accepted and acknowledged “that it is responsible for the acts of its officers, employees and agent, and  wholly-owned subsidiaries” as set forth in the information.

The term of the DPA is three years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors: Biomet investigated and disclosed to the DOJ and SEC the misconduct, “a portion of which was voluntarily disclosed”; Biomet reported its findings to the DOJ and SEC; Biomet cooperated fully in the DOJ and SEC investigation; Biomet undertook remedial measures, including the implementation of an enhanced compliance program and agreed to undertake further remedial measures as set forth in the DPA; Biomet agreed to continue to cooperate with the DOJ, SEC, and foreign authorities in any related investigations; “Biomet has cooperated and agreed to continue to cooperate with the DOJ in the DOJ’s investigations of other companies and individuals in connection with business practices overseas in various markets;” and “were the DOJ to initiate proseuction of Biomet and obtain a conviction, instead of entering into the agreement to defer prosecution, Biomet would potentially be subject to exclusion from participation in federal health care programs pursuant to 42 USC 1320a-7(a).”

Pursuant to the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $21.6 – $43.2 million.  The DPA states as follows.  “Biomet agrees to pay a monetary penalty in the amount of $17.28 million, a 20 percent reduction off the bottom of the fine range.  Biomet and the DOJ agree that this fine is appropriate given Biomet’s extensive internal investigation, the nature and extent of Biomet’s cooperation in this matter, Biomet’s cooperation in the DOJ’s investigation of other companies … and Biomet’s extraordinary remediation.”    The guidelines calculation notes that Biomet received a credit for “substantial assistance in the prosecution of others.”

Pursuant to the DPA, Biomet agreed to engage an independent compliance monitor “for a period of not less than 18 months” and to provide periodic reports to the DOJ regarding remediation and implementation of the enhanced compliance measures as described in an attachment to the DPA.  As is customary in FCPA DPA’s, Biomet agreed that it shall not make any public statement contradicting its acceptance of responsibility.

See here for the DOJ’s release.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (here) against Biomet is based on the same core conduct as described above.  In summary it alleges “violations of the FCPA by Biomet and four of its subsidiaries to obtain sales for their medical device business” and that from “2000 through August 2008, Biomet and its four subsidiaries paid bribes to public doctors employed by public hospitals and agencies in Argentina, Brazil, and China.”

Among other things, the SEC’s complaint alleges that “executives and auditors at Biomet’s Indiana headquarters were aware of the Argentine payments to doctors as early as 2000.”    The SEC alleges as follows.  “Internal audit took no steps to determine why royalties were paid to doctors purchasing Biomet medical devices, or why the payments to the doctors were 15-20 percent of sales.  The internal auditors did not obtain any evidence of services provided for the payments.  In fact, the internal audit report concluded that there were adequate controls in place to properly account for royalties paid to surgeons without any supporting documentation.”  Elsewhere, the SEC alleges that “despite the bribery” [the] Latin America Auditor’s only recommendation was to change the journal entry from ‘commission expenses’ to ‘royalties.'”

The SEC complaint references the September 2007 letter “Commission staff” sent to Biomet “inquiring of payments made to public doctors” but that “while the inquiry was underway in certain countries, additional conduct was occurring at Biomet Argentina.”  For instance, the complaint alleges that in March 2008, “Managing Director of Biomet Argentina again reported the payments to surgeons to internal compliance personnel but no efforts were made by compliance to stop the practice.”

As to Biomet’s FCPA anti-bribery violations, the SEC complaint alleges that “Biomet employees who were U.S. nationals approved the payments to Argentine doctors and the arrangements with the Brazilian Distributor and Chinese Distributor that included payments to doctors.”

As to Biomet’s failure to maintain adequate internal controls, the complaint alleges as follows.  “Biomet failed to implement internal controls to detect or prevent bribery.  Biomet and four subsidiaries were involved in bribery that lasted for over a decade.  The conduct involved employees and managers of all levels involved in Biomet’s sales in Argentina, Brazil and China.  False documents were routinely created or accepted that concealed the improper payments.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC complaint charges violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal controls provisions.

As stated in the SEC’s release (here), without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Biomet consented to the entry of a court order requiring payment of approximately $4.4 million in disgorgement and approximately $1.1 million in prejudgment interest.

The SEC’s release states as follows.  “Biomet’s compliance and internal audit functions failed to stop the payments to doctors even after learning about the illegal pratices.”  Kara Brockmeyer (Head of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated as follows.  “A company’s compliance and internal audit should be the first line of defense against corruption, not part of the problem.”

In this release, Biomet’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Jeffrey R. Binder, stated: “Biomet has long been committed to upholding the highest standards of ethical and legal conduct both in the United States and abroad. Over the past several years, we have significantly enhanced our global compliance procedures and financial controls, and we fully intend to work with the independent monitor and the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission to bolster our FCPA compliance practices and procedures. Moving forward, we intend to continue to adhere to our enhanced global compliance procedures, and to promote the Company’s commitment to the highest ethical standards in all the markets that we serve.”

Laurence Urgenson (Kirkland & Ellis – here) and Asheesh Goel (Ropes & Gray – here) represented Biomet.

As to the origins of the FCPA inquiry, Biomet’s most recent quarterly filing stated as follows.  “On September 25, 2007, Biomet received a letter from the SEC informing the Company that it is conducting an informal investigation regarding possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the sale of medical devices in certain foreign countries by companies in the medical devices industry. […]  On November 9, 2007, the Company received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting any information provided to the SEC be provided to the Department of Justice on a voluntary basis.”

Industry Sweeps

[A new job has been posted to the Jobs Board – see here.  Both job seekers and organizations seeking to hire individuals with FCPA or related experience will benefit from a wide selection of job listings, so please spread the word and send the job link to your HR department and professional contacts]

Industry sweeps – it’s a term in the vocabulary of most FCPA practitioners.  And with good reason.  Industries that have been subjected to industry sweeps or are reportedly in the middle of industry sweeps include:  oil and gas, pharmaceutial / medical devices, and financial services.

But what are industry sweeps, what issues do they pose, and what policy implications are implicated?

Homer Moyer (Miller & Chevalier) recently penned (here) “The Big Broom of FCPA Industry Sweeps” and it is re-posted below with his permission.

*****

The Big Broom of FCPA Industry Sweeps

Inaugurated by the series of so-called “Panalpina cases,” which focused on companies doing business with the giant Swiss freight forwarding company, FCPA enforcement has seen additional industry-wide government investigations that have come to be known as “industry sweeps.” Focusing on particular industries —  pharmaceuticals and medical devices come to mind — industry sweeps are  investigations that grow out of perceived FCPA violations by one company that  enforcement agencies believe may reflect an industry-wide pattern of wrongdoing.

Industry sweeps are often led by the Securities and Exchange Commission  (“SEC”), which has broad subpoena power as a regulatory agency, arguably broader  oversight authority than prosecutors. They are different from internal  investigations or traditional government investigations, and present different challenges to companies. Because the catalyst may be wrongdoing in a single company, agencies may have no evidence or suspicion of specific violations in the companies subject to an industry sweep. A sweep may thus begin with possible cause, not probable cause. In sweeps, agencies broadly solicit information from companies about their past FCPA issues or present practices. And they may explicitly encourage companies to volunteer incriminating information about competitors. This practice not only fuels the “salesman’s defense” (that “everybody does it”), but can also generate anecdotal or speculative information that simply leads to additional rounds of inquiries.

Inevitably, industry sweeps become organic and evolve, with government investigators using information from one company as the basis for additional requests to others. Pooling information about unreliable third parties, suspect government instrumentalities, and information about employees who have worked for multiple companies can prolong an investigation or cause its scope to expand or turn in new directions.

The coming year could well force some of the issues of industry sweeps to the surface. What threshold of evidence is appropriate to target a particular company in an industry sweep? What prevents sweeps from becoming fishing expeditions that are costly to the companies and unconstrained in the agencies? What are the disclosure considerations for a company in a sweep investigation focused on Asia if issues arise in Latin America? Can a company decline to participate or cooperate, and, if so, what are the risks or trade-offs for doing so? Answers to questions such as these — which often raise policy issues, not legal ones — could affect corporate attitudes about disclosure generally, and  possibly result in challenges to the agencies.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes