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Innospec Gets Hit on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Last month (see here) Innospec, Inc. disclosed that it accured $40.2 million for potential settlement of corruption investigations on both sides of the Atlantic. Yesterday, on both sides of the Atlantic, it was announced that Innospec agreed to resolve these enforcement actions by, among other things, paying $40.2 million in combined fines and penalties. How’s that for an accurate corporate disclosure!

See here for the DOJ release and criminal information, here for the SEC release and complaint, and here for the SFO release and supporting documents.

If you are looking for additional evidence / validation that the DOJ and SFO cooperate in enforcement actions, this would be it!

As explained more fully below, the Innospec enforcement action is part Iraqi Oil for Food, part payment of excessive travel and entertainmet expenses, part Cuba, part Indonesia and it involves U.S. companies, U.K. entities, Swiss entities, U.S. citizens, British citizens, German citizens, South African citizens, and Iraqi citizens.

Innospec manufacturers and sells speciality chemicals and is apparently the “world’s only manufacturer of the anti-knock compound tetraethyl lead, used in leaded gasoline.”

DOJ

According to the DOJ criminal information (here), Innospec, Innospec Limited (a wholly-owned U.K. subsidiary), Alcor Chemie Vertriebs GmbH (a wholly-owned Swiss subsidiary), Ousama Naaman (an agent for Innospec and Alcor in Iraq and elsewhere), and others, knowingly conspired: (i) to defraud the U.N. Oil for Food Program; (ii) to violate the FCPA’s antibribery provisions; and (iii) to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

According to the information, the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to “obtain and retain lucrative business with the government of Iraq through payment and promise of payment of kickbacks and bribes to the Iraqi government and its officials.

In addition to the “standard” Oil for Food allegations found in previous enforcement actions (i.e. inflated commission payments to an agent which were then used to pay kickbacks to the government of Iraq), the information further alleges that “Naaman, on behalf of Innospec, paid approximately $150,000 in bribes to officials of the [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]…”

In addition, the information alleges that “Innospec and Naaman agreed to pay and promise to pay bribes, including but not limited to money, travel, gifts, and entertainment, to officials of the MoO to obtain and retain contracts.”

Among other overt acts, the information details an e-mail Naaman sent to, among others, Executive B (a U.S. citizen and former senior Innospec executive) that indicates “with [Director’s (a U.K. citizen and former Innospec Division Managing Director)] instructions, we proceeded, as we don’t want to discuss this issue in writing any further because it is so delicate, and as per [Director’s] instructions that we don’t elaborate in writing, for which I agree.”

According to the information, Innospec paid Naaman over $700,000 to reimburse him for payments to Iraqi officials.

The information also contains “travel” allegations including: that Innospec paid approximately $35,000 for eight Iraqi officials to travel to Switzerland for a morning meeting and “four days of sightseeing” complete with “9,000 in pocket money” for the officials;” that Naaman arranged for cash filled envelopes to be given to Iraqi officials visiting the U.K.; that Innospec paid for an Iraqi official’s “vacation with his wife in Thailand” a trip with cost approximately $13,000 including “pocket money” for the official; and that Alcor reimbursed Naaman $35,000 “to cover the cost of the travel of the three Iraqi MoO officials to Lebanon for the half-day meeting to finalize the 2008 Long Term Purchase Agreement, including hotel accomodations for six days, $1,800 for ‘entertainment, lunches, & dinners in Lebanon,’ $1,650 for ‘mobile phone cards for international calling + 3 cameras’ and $15,000 in ‘pocket money.'”

According to the information, all of these payments were improperly recorded on Alcor’s books and records (which were consolidatd with Innospec’s for purposes of financial reporting) as “commissions” or “sales promotion expenditures.”

In addition to the above described conspiracy charge, the information also charges five counts of wire fraud, five counts of FCPA antibribery violations and an FCPA books and records violation.

The DOJ release notes that, pursuant to a yet to be released plea agreement, “Innospec also admitted to selling chemicals to Cuban power plants in violation of the U.S. embargo against Cuba.” The DOJ release further notes that Innospec acknowledged paying “approximately $2.9 million in bribes to officials of the Indonesian government to secure sales.”

According to the DOJ release, as part of the plea agreement, “Innospec agreed to pay a $14.1 million criminal fine and to retain an independent compliance monitor for a minimum of three years to oversee the implementation of a robust anti-corruption and export control compliance program and report periodically to the DOJ.” According to the release, “Innospec also agreed to fully cooperate with the DOJ and other U.S. and foreign authorities in ongoing investigations of corrupt payments by Innospec employees and agents.”

In other words, stayed tuned for more. Previously, Naaman (the agent) was indicted (see here).

In annoucing the charges, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer noted that “[t]oday’s case is a win for law-abiding companies trying to compete fairly in the marketplace” and that “fraud and corruption cannot be viewed simply as a cost of doing business.”

For more on the Innospec plea hearing, including Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle’s concern about the compliance monitor, see here for Christopher Matthew’s piece from Main Justice. For more on compliance monitors, and the controversy often associated with them, see here.

SEC

In its complaint (here), the SEC alleges that “[f]rom 2000 to 2007, Innospec violated the anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA when it routinely paid bribes in order to sell Tetra Ethyl Lead (“TEL”) … to government owned refineries and oil companies in Iraq and Indonesia.”

According to the SEC, “Innospec’s former management did nothing to stop the bribery activity, and in fact authorized and encouraged it.” The SEC alleges that “Innospec’s internal controls failed to detect the illicit conduct, which continued for nearly a decade.”

According to the SEC, “[i]n all, Innospec made illicit payments of approximately $6,347,588 and promised an additional $2,870,377 in illicit payments to Iraqi ministries, Iraqi government officials, and Indonesian government officials in exchange for contracts worth $176,717,341 in revenues and profits of $60,071,613.”

The SEC’s charges relating to Iraqi are substantively similar to the DOJ’s allegations in the criminal information and include both Iraqi Oil for Food conduct as well as additional improper conduct after the Oil for Food Program was terminated in late 2003.

The SEC’s complaint has more detail than the DOJ’s criminal information concerning Indonesia and alleges: (i) that “[f]rom 2000 until approximately 2005, Innospec used [a] Indonesian Agent [an Indonesian citizen] and his company to pay bribes of approximately $1,323,507 to Official X [a senior official at BP Migas, an Indonesian state owned oil and gas company … who previously was a senior official at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources]”; (ii) that “in 2000 and 2001, Innospec also made payments [totaling $700,000] to government officials at Pertamina, another state owned oil compay related to BP Migas” through a “privately owned bank in Geneva, Switzerland;” and (iii) that Innospec “also bribed other officials at Pertamina in order to influence their decisions regarding TEL purchases.”

The SEC charged that “at least one U.S. person and officer was complicit in the scheme” and that “[m]any of the bribes were mischaracterized as legitimate commissions, travel and legal fees in Innospec’s books and records.”

According to the SEC, “as evidenced by the extent and duration of the improper payments to foreign officials made by Innospec, the improper recording of these payments in Innospec’s books and records, and the significant involvement of certain members of management at the highest levels of the company, Innospec failed to devise and maintain an effective system of internal controls to prevent or detect these anti-bribery and books and records violations.

The SEC release (here) notes that Innospec, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, was ordered to pay $60,071,613 in disgorgement, but because of Innospec’s “sworn Statement of Financial Condition” all but $11,200,000 of that disgorgement will be waived. The release states that “[b]ased on its financial condition, Innospec offered to pay a reduced criminal fine of $14.1 million to the DOJ and a criminal fine of $12.7 million to the SFO. Innospec will pay $2.2 million to OFAC for unrelated conduct concerning allegations of violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.

***

Stay tuned for additional analysis of the SFO – U.K. prong of this enforcement action.

Blackwater In Hot Water

The New York Times (here) reports that the DOJ “is investigating whether officials of Blackwater Worldwide tried to bribe Iraqi government officials in hopes of retaining the firm’s security work in Iraq.”

According to the Times, the DOJ’s fraud section open an investigation “late last year” to determine whether Blackwater employees violated the FCPA. The investigation follows a November 2009 times article (here) which first raised questions about Blackwater’s (now known as Xe Services) conduct in Iraq. That article suggested that the alleged payments at issue were made to Iraqi “foreign officials” to help secure an operating license the company needed to continue doing business in Iraq.

As noted in a prior post (here), this case is interesting on several levels.

First, the case (from an FCPA antibribery perspective) would seem to hinge on the FCPA’s “obtain or retain” business element, and is another example of the post-Kay explosion in enforcement actions in which alleged improper payments were made to help secure foreign government licenses, permits, etc. An interesting wrinkle to this analysis is that the Iraqi license was apparently needed so that Blackwater could retain its contract with the U.S. State Department – not with a foreign entity as is usually the case.

Second, rarely if perhaps ever, has an FCPA inquiry focused on the conduct of a company so intertwined with U.S. government agencies (State Department and CIA) operating in a war zone.

In the News

Some interesting news articles to pass along.

The first piece is from today’s New York Times and is titled “Blackwater Said to Pursue Bribes to Iraq After 17 Died” (see here).

The article suggests, based on former company sources, that Blackwater (and its executives) could … well … be in some murky FCPA water in connection with alleged secret payments to Iraqi officials.

According to former company officials, the payments were intended to silence the officials’ “criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians” an event which generated much media coverage and congressional interest (see here among other sources).

The specific recipients of the payments? According to sources, officials in the Iraqi Interior Ministry who demanded that Blackwater secure an operating license after the September 2007 incident in order to continue doing business in the country.

The FCPA anti-bribery provisions contain an obtain or retain business element.

You ask, does making payments to foreign officials to secure a license satisfy that important element?

This general issue was addressed by the Fifth Circuit in U.S. v. Kay, 359 F.3d 738 (5th Cir. 2004) (one of the few instances in which a court has rendered a substantive FCPA decision).

The issue in Kay was whether payments to Haitian officials for the purpose of avoiding custom duties and sales taxes in Haiti could satisfy the FCPA’s obtain or retain business element.

Concluding that the obtain or retain business element was vague, the court analyzed the FCPA’s legislative history and concluded that such payments (even though they do not lead to specific government contracts) could nevertheless provide an unfair advantage to the payor over competitors and thereby assist the payor in obtaining and retaining business.

The court did not hold that ALL such payments could satisfy the FCPA’s obtain or retain business element, only that such payments COULD satisfy this key element if, for instance (as in the Kay case), the payments were intended to lower the company’s cost of doing business in the foreign country.

Post-Kay there has been an explosion in FCPA enforcement actions involving payments made to secure foreign government licenses, permits, and certifications or otherwise involving custom duties and the like. Because these enforcement actions have not been contested, it remains an open question as to whether all such payments can indeed satisfy the FCPA’s obtain or retain business element and under what circumstances.

Blackwater (now called Xe Services), through a spokeswomen, dismissed the allegations as baseless.

Nevertheless, some juicy stuff here – the U.S. military’s then prime security contractor in Iraq (and a company which did classified work for the CIA) making bribe payments in a war zone.

One wonders who knew what within official Washington.

Will this alleged conduct be pursued by the DOJ or put on the backshelf due to national security / foreign policy issues?

To my knowledge, this angle of Blackwater’s activities in Iraq has never been disclosed and, if so, the piece would seem to represent a dandy piece of investigative journalism.

The second article, titled “A Morgan Stanley Star Falls In China,” is from Reuters (see here).

The piece examines the rise and fall of Garth Peterson, a U.S. citizen, who joined Morgan Stanley’s Hong Kong office earlier this decade and quickly rose through the ranks of V.P., executive director, and ultimately managing director of Morgan Stanley’s real estate investment operation in China.

Peterson was fired by Morgan Stanley last December over concerns that he may have violated the FCPA.

Morgan Stanley disclosed the results of its internal investigation into Peterson’s conduct to both the DOJ and the SEC. Here is the company’s February 2009 8-K filing.

What did Peterson do that may have violated the FCPA?

The article suggests that Peterson’s relationship with Shanghai Yongye Group (a real estate developer) and its former Chairman, Wu Yonghua, and his daughter, Linda Wu, are at issue. Also relevant, it appears, is Shanghai Dragon Investment Co.

I hate to be the one always bringing up this issue, but if employees of Shanghai Yongye Group and Shanghai Dragon Investment Co., are somehow being considered “foreign officials” under the FCPA, I would sure love to see that legal analysis.

Anyway, back to the story.

The article is an interesting read on a number of fronts and provides an insight into one company’s handling of an FCPA issue.

First, the article notes that Morgan Stanley sent Peterson to an FCPA workshop. Given that this occured in 2008, it is debatable whether this was “too little too late.”

Second, comes an internal review, which from the article, appears to have been done in the ordinary course of business. The ordinary internal review uncovers some extraordinary issues.

Next, the company initiates an internal investigation to look into the suspicious issues. And what an internal investigation it was. According to the article, more than 7.4 million pages of e-mails were reviewed. According to the article, the investigation “found that in a discrete number of instances, investment assets were used for improper purposes not authorized by senior management” an occurrence which would seem to violate, at the very least, the FCPA’s internal control provisions which require, among other things, that an issuer like Morgan Stanley devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that: (i) transactions are executed in accordance with management’s general or specific authorization; and (ii) access to assets is permitted only in accordance with management’s general or specific authorization.

Next, comes the corrective measures, in this case, Peterson was fired.

Next, comes the disclosure (see above).

The article closes by saying that even if found guilty Peterson is “unlikely to be jailed as he and the firm are expected to pay damages and fees, possibly through a deferred prosecution agreement.”

Spot-on with the company likely entering into a deferred prosecution agreement.

However, the authors (and their sources) apparently have never heard the names of Frederic Bourke, Albert Jack Stanley, Steven Ott, Roger Michael Young (and many others) who are currently living in a federal prison (or waiting to check in) for violating or conspiring to violate the FCPA.

According to article, Peterson currently lives in Singapore.

Iraq … And What Constitutes An FCPA Violation?

A couple of Iraq articles of interest to pass along.

As noted (here), yesterday in Washington D.C. the “Iraqi government, backed by the Obama administration, kick[ed] off its biggest post-Saddam investment roadshow […] to convince American businesses to join the country’s reconstruction efforts.”

According to the article, “[d]ozens of Iraqi government officials, provincial governors, state investment commission authorities and others will give presentations” and “present overviews of sectors such as oil, agriculture and construction” and “investment opportunities in about 750 projects.”

Bringing the topic home, there are lots of Iraqi “foreign officials” in Washington this week.

The article points out the obvious security and legal risks awaiting U.S. investors and businesses seeking to do business in Iraq.

The articles also concludes by saying that “[t]he biggest potential roadblock for most U.S. companies in Iraq is corruption” and that “American companies are generally under much closer scrutiny by U.S. regulators when it comes to overseas operations.”

Although the article does not mention the FCPA specifically, readers of this blog obviously know that the comment invokes and relates to the FCPA.

So here is the question.

Corruption is high in Iraq. But what constitutes “corruption” or more to the point, what constitutes an FCPA violation when doing business or seeking business in Iraq?

Last month, when commenting on the Green’s FCPA trial verdict, our friends over at the FCPA Blog (see here) said that the trial judge’s jury instructions “show just how simple the FCPA’s antibribery provisions really are” and noted that the only ones who seem to think that the FCPA is “complicated, technically challenging and obscure, poorly drafted and badly organized” are the lawyers who are trained to “quibble.”

I agree (and to use my favorite cliche) when offering a suitcase full of cash to a government official to secure a government contract, the FCPA is straightforward and provides little room for lawyers to “quibble.”

However, most FCPA issues are not as straightforward.

Given a number of reasons (the general lack of substantive FCPA case law, untested and unchallenged legal theories, etc.), there remains much about the FCPA that justifiably causes lawyers to … well … quibble.

So here is an exam question.

Let’s say you are interested in doing business in Iraq – specifically its oil and gas sector. You learn that, per the applicable production sharing agreement or joint venture agreement being proposed, x% of employees will need to be Iraqi. Problem is, these prospective employees are not technically competent to perform the job. You are then told that it will be up to you to establish special colleges to train them.

Scratching your head?

Well, this is no academic hypothetical, this is very real world.

Iraqi’s oil minister was recently quoted as saying (see here) that “Iraqis would have to make up 85 percent of the work force for the international oil companies doing business here.” The minister acknowledged the fact that Iraq currently lacked the “hundreds of thousands of Iraqi engineers and technicians” needed and that “it would be up to the foreign oil companies to establish special colleges to train them.”

So let’s run this fact pattern through the FCPA elements assuming that the foreign oil company is an issuer or domestic concern under the FCPA.

“foreign officials” check – at least under the DOJ/SEC’s untested and unchallenged assertion that employees of state-owned companies (regardless of title or rank) are foreign officials.

“thing of value” check – surely an education and obtaining technical skills is valuable.

“to obtain or retain business” check – it is a contractual term which you must agree to in order to get the business.

Sure the FCPA does have a “corrupt intent” element, but that element is often read out of the statute. For instance, many enforcement action merely set forth in conclusory fashion the corrupt intent element without providing any factual support.

The above Iraq example is not unique as most production sharing agreements or joint venture agreements in the foreign extraction industry contain similar terms or conditions requiring the U.S. company to buy “local content,” fund certain community causes, and the like.

What’s there to quibble about in such crystal clear examples as these?

Plenty.

“We Don’t Want The Auditors Raising Any Questions on Iraq Business”

Yet another Iraqi Oil-For-Food enforcement action.

Yesterday, the DOJ and SEC announced resolution of an enforcement action against AGCO Corp. (a Georgia-based manufacturer and supplier of agricultural machinery and equipment) as well as AGCO Limited (AGCO’s a wholly-owned subsidiary headquartered in the United Kingdom responsible for AGCO’s business in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East)(see here, here, here, here, and here).

Big picture, AGCO acknowledged responsibility for improper payments made by its subsidiaries and agents to the former government of Iraq in order to obtain contracts with the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture under the United Nations Oil-For-Food program.

DOJ filed a criminal information against AGCO Limited charging one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

According to the DOJ, AGCO Limited paid approximately $550,000 to the former government of Iraq to secure three contracts. DOJ and AGCO entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement under which DOJ will defer prosecution upon, among other things, AGCO’s payment of a $1.6 million penalty. According to the DOJ, the basis for the deferred prosecution agreement was, among other things, AGCO’s cooperation in the DOJ’s investigation, its implementation of remedial measures, and its settlement with the SEC (see below).

Why no substantive FCPA anti-bribery charges in this case and other Iraqi Oil-For-Food cases (Novo Nordisk, Fiat, AB Volvo, etc.)? The anti-bribery provisions apply to payments to “foreign officials,” not foreign governments. Thus, in this and the other cases, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the FCPA books and records provisions were charged.

Because AGCO is an issuer, the SEC also played a role in the enforcement action. The SEC filed a settled civil complaint charging AGCO with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

According to the SEC, certain AGCO subsidiaries made – through a Jordanian agent – approximately $5.9 million in kickback payments to Iraq in the form of “after-sales service fees” to secure contracts worth approximately $14 million. These payments were disguised or improperly recorded in the subsidiaries’ books and records which were consolidated with AGCO’s for SEC filing purposes. According to the SEC, “AGCO knew or was reckless in not knowing that kickbacks were paid in connection with its subsidiaries’ transactions.”

The SEC ordered AGCO to pay $18.3 million in combined disgorgement, interest, and penalties.

In a previous post (see here), it was noted that FCPA compliance is a task that not just company lawyers need to be concerned with, but rather a task that internal audit and finance should also be concerned with and actively involved in as well. It was noted that internal audit and finance personnel must be specifically trained to approach their specific job functions with “FCPA goggles” on.

Reading the SEC complaint against AGCO, it is clear that various AGCO personnel could have used a pair of “FCPA goggles” as the complaint is an indictment of the entire company’s control function.

In para 23, the SEC charges, among other things, that:

the “accrual account [where the kickback payments were recorded] was created by AGCO Ltd.’s marketing staff with virtually no oversight from AGCO Ltd.s’ finance department;”

“no one questioned the existence of the dual accounts;”

“no one questioned why the [accrual account] contained approximately ten percent of the contract value despite the fact that there was no contract in place requiring that such ten percent be paid to the ministry or anyone else;”

“when the finance department authorized payments from the [accrual account], it did not ask for or receive any proof of service to warrant the payments;” and

an employee cautioned the business manager for Iraq and his supervisor that “we don’t want the auditors raising any questions on Iraq Business!”

Further, in para 25, the SEC charges, among other things, that:

“Sales and marketing personnel were able to enter into contracts without review from the legal or finance departments;”

“an accounting employee described the Finance Department employees as ‘blind loaders’ who input information into AGCO’s books without any adequate oversight role;” and

“marketing personnel were able to create accrual accounts […] without any oversight and caused accounts to be created and payments to be made without proper documentation.”

In para. 26, the SEC charges, among other things, that:

“AGCO Ltd.’s structure at the time allocated inappropriate accounting and finance responsibilities to the marketing department;” and

“turnover in the marketing department […] was high and employees were forced to shoulder a great deal of the accounting burden.”

AGCO’s management and legal department did not fare much better.

In para. 27, the SEC charges, among other things, that:

“AGCO did not conduct any due diligence on the [Jordanian] agent or require that the agent undergo FCPA training;” and

the “agent’s contract with AGCO did not accurately explain the agent’s services and payments, and lacked any FCPA language.”

What would the results look like if your company or your client’s company was “put under the internal controls microscope” in an FCPA enforcement action?

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