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Friday Roundup

Roundup

The Bible?, Rampage?, scrutiny alert, cert denied and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

The Bible?

This Vinson & Elkins alert calls the FCPA Guidance “the ‘Bible’ for those operating in the FCPA space.”

The “Bible” for those operating in the FCPA space is the law and other legal authority – not non-binding enforcement agency guidance.

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Issues To Consider From The Alexion Enforcement Action

Issues

This recent post went in-depth into the SEC’s recent $21.5 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Alexion Pharmaceuticals and this post highlights additional issues to consider.

Timeline

Alexion became the subject of FCPA scrutiny in May 2015. Thus, from start to finish, its scrutiny lasted more than 4 years. I’ve said it many times, and will continue saying it until the cows come home, if the SEC wants its FCPA enforcement program to be viewed as credible and effective it must resolve instances of FCPA scrutiny much quicker.

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Wow – The SEC Acknowledges That Section 13(b)(6) Exists

wow

In 1988, the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions were amended to include a de facto “good faith” compliance defense in certain situations involving issuers. (See 15 USC 78m(b)(6) – so-called Section 13(b)(6) of the ’34 Act). Since then, Section 13(b)(6) has seemed to be relevant to several Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions, however the enforcement actions were silent on this important statutory provision.

The recent Eni enforcement action (see here and here for prior posts) is believed to be the first FCPA enforcement to meaningfully address Section 13(b)(6). In this regard, wow – the SEC actually acknowledged that Section 13(b)(6) exists after completely ignoring this relevant statutory provision in several prior relevant enforcement actions. But did the SEC get it right?

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Eni Joins The Repeat Offender Club – This Time Resolves A $24.5 Million SEC FCPA Enforcement Action

eni

As highlighted in this prior post, in 2010 ENI S.p.A (an Italy-based oil and gas company with American Depositary Shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange) along with its wholly-owned subsidiary Snamprogetti resolved a $125 million SEC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action concerning conduct in Nigeria.

On Friday, the SEC announced that ENI resolved another FCPA enforcement action – this one a $24.5 million enforcement action concerning conduct in Algeria by Saipem S.p.A. (a minority-owned and controlled subsidiary during the relevant time period). The conduct at issue in the enforcement action occurred 10 – 13 years ago.

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It’s Important To Remember That The Internal Controls Standard Is “Reasonable”

Reasonable

This recent post discussed how the COVID-19 crisis once again demonstrates that there is a difference between the FCPA anti-bribery provisions (the statute) and how the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions are enforced by the DOJ/SEC.

In the current crisis, some have raised legitimate concerns that doing risk assessments, due diligence of third parties, monitoring of third parties, in-country audits, and a host of other internal controls “best practices” have become difficult if not practically impossible – and thus Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations are lurking. After all, the DOJ says a business organization should do the above-listed things (among others) in its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (“ECCP”)

Compliance professionals – take a deep breath. The ECCP is not the law and courts have held that failure to follow supposed “best practices” is not a legal violation.

Rather, in times like these remember that the internal controls standard is “reasonable.” “Reasonable” is a term used throughout the law and when used the standard contemplates a variety of factors including the circumstances in which conduct occurs. Indeed, this position finds grounding in the FCPA itself, its legislative history, FCPA judicial decisions, and even prior FCPA enforcement agency guidance.

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