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GlaxoSmithKline Coughs Up $20 Million In SEC FCPA Enforcement Action Based On China Conduct

GSKChina

In this 2016 preview post, I noted that the end of September was likely to be an active period for FCPA enforcement.

Why? Because the SEC’s fiscal year ends on September 30th that’s why.

In the third SEC FCPA enforcement action of the week, the SEC announced this enforcement action in which GlaxoSmithKline plc (a U.K. company with shares traded on the NYSE) will cough up $20 million to resolve an administrative cease and desist order based on employees and agents of its China-based subsidiary and China-based joint venture providing various things of value to healthcare professionals in China.

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On National Drink Beer Day, AB InBev Agrees To Pay $6 Million To Resolve FCPA (And Related) Enforcement Action

ABInBev

Yesterday was National Drink Beer Day.

Fitting then that yesterday the SEC announced this administrative cease and desist order against Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Belgium brewer with American Depository Receipts traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The conduct at issue involved improper payments by an Indian joint venture “to Indian government officials to obtain beer orders and to increase brewery hours.” AB InBev held a minority interest in the joint venture which marketed and distributed the beer of AB InBev’s wholly-owned Indian subsidiary.

The SEC found that AB InBev violated the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, AB InBev agreed to pay approximately $6 million to resolve the matter. As highlighted below, the SEC also found that AB InBev entered into a separation agreement with a former employee that violated an SEC Rule implementing Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions.

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Next Up – Bristol-Myers

BMS

First it was Johnson & Johnson (see here – $70 million enforcement action in April 2011).

Then it was Smith & Nephew (see here – $22 million enforcement action in February 2012).

Then it was Biomet (see here – $22.8 million enforcement action in March 2012).

Then it was Pfizer / Wyeth (see here  – $60 million enforcement action in August 2012).

Then it was Eli Lilly (see here – $29 million enforcement action in December 2012).

Then it was Stryker (see here – $13.2 million enforcement action in October 2013).

Then it was Mead Johnson (see here – $12 million enforcement action in July 2015).

The latest of the most recent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions (there are many more than those listed above) premised on the theory that physicians of certain foreign health care systems are “foreign officials” under the FCPA is Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (“BMS”).

Some will say this enforcement action – like certain of the others mentioned above – merely involved the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, but make no mistake about it, this action – as well as the prior actions – was all about the alleged “foreign officials.”

Yesterday, the SEC announced this administrative cease and desist order in which BMS agreed, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, to pay approximately $14.7 million.

The order states in summary fashion as follows.

“These proceedings arise out of violations of the internal controls and recordkeeping provisions of the FCPA by BMS and its majority-owned joint venture in China. Between 2009 and 2014, BMS failed to design and maintain effective internal controls relating to interactions with health care providers (“HCPs”) at state-owned and state-controlled hospitals in China. Through various mechanisms during this period, certain sales representatives of the joint venture improperly generated funds that were used to provide corrupt inducements to HCPs in the form of cash payments, gifts, meals, travel, entertainment, and sponsorships for conferences and meetings in order to secure new sales and increase existing sales. BMS falsely recorded the relevant transactions as legitimate business expenses in its books and records.”

The findings focus on Bristol-Myers Squibb (China) Investment Co. Limited (“BMS China), a company through which BMS conducts business in China, and how BMS China, in turn, primarily operates in China through Sino-American Shanghai Squibb Pharmaceuticals Limited (“SASS”), a majority-owned joint venture.

According to the Order:

“BMS holds a 60% equity interest in SASS and has held operational control over this entity since 2009 when it obtained the right to name the President of SASS and a majority of the members of SASS’s Board of Directors.

BMS began operating in China in 1982 when it formed SASS, the first SinoAmerican pharmaceutical joint venture. Following a successful product launch in 2005, BMS China’s business grew quickly. By 2009, BMS China had 1490 full-time employees and net sales of more than $200 million. This upward trend continued through 2014 when the number of full-time employees expanded to 2464 and net sales reached nearly $500 million.

Certain BMS China employees achieved their sales, in part, by providing HCPs and other government officials with cash and other inducements in exchange for prescriptions and drug listings.”

Under the heading “Failure to Respond to Red Flags,” the Order states:

“BMS China failed to respond effectively to red flags indicating that sales personnel provided improper payments and other benefits in order to generate sales from HCPs. In 2009, BMS China initiated a review of travel and entertainment expenses submitted for reimbursement by its sales personnel and found non-compliant claims, fake and altered invoices and receipts, and consecutively numbered receipts. Shortly thereafter, BMS China retained a local accounting firm to conduct monthly post-payment reviews of all claims for travel, entertainment, and meeting expenses to identify false, improperly documented, and unsubstantiated claims. BMS China brought this function in-house in early 2011 and the results of both the external and internal reviews were provided to management of BMS China as well as regional compliance and corporate business managers who reported directly to senior management of BMS.

During the period between mid-2009 and late 2013, BMS China identified numerous irregularities in travel and entertainment and event documentation, including fake and altered purchase orders, invoices, agendas, and attendance sheets for meetings with HCPs that likely had not occurred. BMS China inaccurately recorded the reimbursement of these false claims as legitimate business expenses in its books and records, which were then consolidated into the books and records of BMS.

Certain BMS China employees admitted that they had submitted false reimbursement claims and used the funds for the benefit of HCPs in support of sales by BMS China. They also alleged that the use of false reimbursement claims to fund payments to and for the benefit of HCPs in order to secure prescription sales was a widespread practice at BMS China. In emails to the BMS China President in November 2010 and January 2011, certain terminated employees wrote that they used the funds to pay rebates, provide entertainment, and fund gift cards for HCPs, as there was no other way to meet their sales targets. Citing the “open secret” that HCPs in China rely upon the “gray income” to maintain their livelihood, they said that they tried to meet the demands of the HCPs for the benefit of BMS China. Despite the widespread exceptions and serious allegations of potentially widespread bribery practices, BMS China did not investigate these claims.”

Under the heading “Compliance and Controls Environment,” the Order states:

“Despite its longstanding presence in China, BMS did not implement a formal FCPA compliance program until April 2006 when it adopted its first standalone anti-bribery policy and corresponding corporative directive. At approximately the same time, BMS began conducting compliance assessments and audits of BMS China that included a review of internal controls relating to anti-bribery risks. These internal reviews revealed weaknesses in the monitoring of payments made to HCPs, the lack of formal processes around the selection and compensation of HCPs as speakers, deficiencies in obtaining and documenting the approval of donations, sponsorships, and consulting arrangements with HCPs, and the failure to conduct post-event verification of meetings and conferences sponsored by sales representatives. Reports of these findings were provided to senior management of BMS China as well as members of BMS’s global compliance department.

These identified controls deficiencies were not timely remediated and compliance resources were minimal. The corporate compliance officer responsible for the Asia-Pacific region through 2012 was based in the U.S. and rarely traveled to China. There was no dedicated compliance officer for BMS China until 2008, and no permanent compliance position in China until 2010. In addition, the BMS sales force in China received limited training and much of it was inaccessible to a large number of sales representatives who worked in remote locations. For example, when BMS rolled out mandatory anti-bribery training in late 2009, 67% of employees in China failed to complete the training by the due date.

Annual internal audits of BMS China repeatedly identified substantial gaps in internal controls, and the results were reported to the Audit Committee and senior management of BMS. In connection with each audit, the audit team cited a lack of effective controls and documentation relating to interactions with HCPs and the monitoring of potential inappropriate payments to HCPs. Among Internal Audit’s conclusions were that BMS China’s controls around the review and approval of travel and entertainment expenses and gifts to HCPs were not effective and that it failed to track payments to HCPs, including high-risk payments, in its quarterly review of potential inappropriate payments, and to enforce controls relating to the documentation, approval, and payment of distributor rebates. Internal Audit also cited the lack of due diligence assessments of distributor compliance, including anti-bribery compliance, the failure to properly document and approve agreements with HCPs who served as speakers, and the lack of a mechanism to ensure that services were received in exchange for sponsorships. As a result, Internal Audit issued a series of qualified opinions in connection with its annual audits of BMS China between 2009 and 2013.”

Under the heading “Internal Documents Reveal Improper Benefits Provided to HCPs,” the Order states:

“Emails and other BMS China documents detail, among other things, proposed “activity plans,” “action plans,” and plans for “investments” in HCPs to increase prescription sales. These contemporaneous documents were prepared at the direction of, and sometimes transmitted to, district and regional sales managers of BMS China, and show that sales representatives used funds derived from travel and expense claims to make cash payments to HCPs and to provide gifts, meals, entertainment, and travel to HCPs in order to induce them to prescribe products sold and marketed by BMS China. The sales representatives provided a variety of benefits to HCPs, ranging from small food and personal care items to shopping cards, jewelry, sightseeing, and cash payments, in exchange for prescription sales. This kind of conduct was captured in a July 2013 email from a sales representative to a regional manager. The sales representative explained that a former sales representative had offered cash for sales to HCPs at a local hospital and “the attitude of the director of the infectious diseases department was extremely clear when I took over: ‘No money, no prescription.’” Similarly, the work plans prepared by other sales representatives also identified correlations between the value of the benefits provided to specific HCPs and the volume of prescription sales expected.

Certain documents within BMS China were replete with references to “investments” made in order to obtain sales, such as offering speaking engagements and sponsorships for domestic and international conferences and meetings in exchange for prescriptions. Some sales representatives also sought to increase prescription sales and maintain drug listings at pharmacies by hosting cash promotions and events for pharmacy employees. Based on the volume of prescriptions, certain BMS China sales representatives gave cash, shopping cards, and foodstuffs as promotional prizes to pharmacy employees; at least one sales representative characterized the expenses as a “departmental development fee” in contemporaneous documents.”

Based on the above, the Order finds:

“As described herein, BMS, through the actions of certain BMS China employees, violated [the FCPA’s books and records provisions] by falsely recording, as advertising and promotional expenses, cash payments and expenses for gifts, meals, travel, entertainment, speaker fees, and sponsorships for conferences and meetings provided to foreign officials, such as HCPs at state-owned and state-controlled hospitals as well as employees of state-owned pharmacies in China, to secure prescription sales. BMS also violated [the FCPA’s internal controls provisions] by failing to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls relating to payments and benefits provided by sales representatives at BMS China to these foreign officials. As identified in various internal reviews, audits, and investigations conducted since at least 2009, BMS lacked effective internal controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that funds advanced and reimbursed to employees of BMS China were used for appropriate and authorized purposes.”

Under the heading “Remedial Efforts,” the Order states:

“BMS has implemented significant measures to enhance its anti-bribery and general compliance training and policies and to strengthen its accounting and monitoring controls relating to interactions with HCPs, including travel and entertainment expenses, meetings, sponsorships, grants, and donations funded by BMS China. BMS took numerous steps to improve the internal controls and compliance program at BMS China. Examples include a 100% pre-reimbursement review of all expense claims; the implementation of an accounting system designed to track each expense claim, including the request, approval, and payment of each claim; and the retention of a third-party vendor to conduct surprise checks at events sponsored by sales representatives. Additionally, BMS terminated over ninety employees, and disciplined an additional ninety employees, including sales representatives and managers of BMS China, who failed to comply with or sufficiently supervise compliance with relevant policies. In addition, BMS replaced certain BMS China officers as part of an overall effort to enhance “tone at the top” and a culture of compliance. Further, BMS revised the compensation structure for BMS China employees by reducing the portion of incentive-based compensation for sales and distribution, eliminated gifts to HCPs, implemented enhanced due diligence procedures for third-party agents, implemented monitoring systems for speaker fees and third-party events, and incorporated risk assessments based on data analytics into its compliance program.”

As stated in the Order:

“Without admitting or denying the findings, Bristol-Myers Squibb consented to the order and agreed to return $11.4 million of profits plus prejudgment interest of $500,000 and pay a civil penalty of $2.75 million.  Bristol-Myers Squibb also agreed to report to the SEC for a two-year period on the status of its remediation and implementation of FCPA and anti-corruption compliance measures.”

In the SEC’s release Kara Krockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit stated):

“Bristol-Myers Squibb’s failure to institute an effective internal controls system and to respond promptly to indications of significant compliance gaps at its Chinese joint venture enabled a widespread practice of providing corrupt inducements in exchange for prescription sales to continue for years.”

Yesterday Bristol-Myers’s stock closed down .47%.

According to reports, Bristol-Myers was represented by F. Joseph Warin of Gibson Dunn.

Like A Kid In A Candy Store

It is mid-January and, like every year around this time, I feel like a kid in a candy store given the number of FCPA year in reviews hitting my inbox.  This post highlights various FCPA or related publications that caught my eye.

Reading these publications are recommended and should find their way to your reading stack.  However, be warned.  The divergent enforcement statistics contained in them are likely to make you dizzy at times and as to certain issues.

Given the increase in FCPA Inc. statistical information and the growing interest in empirical FCPA-related research, I again highlight the need for an FCPA lingua franca (see here for the prior post), including adoption of the “core” approach to FCPA enforcement statistics (see here for the prior post), an approach endorsed by even the DOJ (see here), as well as commonly used by others outside the FCPA context (see here)

Gibson Dunn

The firm’s Year-End FCPA Update is a quality read year after year.

Consistent with this prior post “FCPA Settlement Amounts Have Come a Long Way In a Short Amount of Time,” the Update notes as follows.  “An unmistakable characteristic of the year in FCPA enforcement is that the market rate for resolving a corporate FCPA enforcement action spiked precipitously in 2013.”

Numerous previous posts have highlighted various double standards relevant to FCPA enforcement and the following passage from the Update is well-stated.

“The paradigm of international anti-corruption enforcement is frequently viewed, at least in the United States, through the prism of U.S. enforcers determined to root out the illicit dealings of corrupt foreign officials.  We speak of sovereign nations as “risky neighborhoods” in which to do business, denoted by dark shades of red on the ubiquitous Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI”).  So the authors frequently note the quizzical looks on the faces of audience members in training sessions when we reveal that the United States barely qualifies as a Top 20 country on the CPI, tied at 19 with South America’s Uruguay.  To be sure, the less-than-stellar CPI ranking of the United States has as much to do with an unparalleled domestic enforcement regime as any other factor, but the sad truth is that corruption is not a problem unique to government officials outside our borders.”

Gibson Dunn also released (here) its always informative “Year-End Update on Corporate Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs).”  The update: “(1) identifies the NPAs and DPAs announced in 2013 and the trends they reflect; (2) surveys the role NPAs and DPAs may play in federal civil litigation collateral to the criminal resolutions of the agreements themselves; (3) analyzes the challenges that non-contradiction clauses in NPAs and DPAs can present for companies when they address the underlying conduct and facts outside the context of the criminal settlement; and (4) discusses debarment and suspension implications of NPAs and DPAs.”

According to the Update, of the 28 NPAs or DPAs the DOJ (or SEC) entered into in 2013, 8 (28%) were in FCPA enforcement actions and the FCPA was the single largest source of NPAs and DPAs in 2013 in terms of primary allegation.

According to previous Gibson Dunn reports on this subject, in 2012 (a year in which saw a large number of trade sanctions, export controls, and money laundering enforcement actions resolved via NPAs or DPAs) 23% of all NPAs and DPAs were in FCPA enforcement actions; in 2011, approximately 40% of DOJ NPAs or DPAs were in FCPA enforcement actions; and in 2010, approximately 50% of DOJ NPAs or DPAs were in FCPA enforcement actions.

Shearman & Sterling

The firm’s “Recent Trends and Patterns in the Enforcement of the FCPA” is also another quality read year after year.

Consistent with Philip Urofsky’s previous critique of the Ralph Lauren Corporation enforcement action (see here), the report states as follows.

“We have previously highlighted the SEC’s disconcerting practice of charging parent companies with anti bribery violations based on the corrupt payments of their subsidiaries, even when the facts alleged in the pleadings do not establish any parental involvement in bribery. In the Ralph Lauren case, both the SEC and DOJ took an even larger leap, by seemingly imposing apparently strict criminal and civil liability on a parent company for the corrupt acts of its subsidiary. […] Neither agency … included any allegation of any authorization, direction, or control by RLC of its subsidiary’s corrupt conduct, or even its knowledge of such conduct.  […]  [T]he government apparently intends to treat a subsidiary as the parent’s agent by focusing not on the formal relationship, present in all cases, between a parent and a subsidiary, informed by the practical realities of how the parent and subsidiary interact, and then apply “traditional principles of respondeat superior” to hold the parent liable for bribery by the subsidiary, whether or not specifically authorized, directed, or controlled by the parent.  Under this theory, a subsidiary is virtually always an agent of its parent, and thus the parent is strictly liable for any acts ‘‘within the scope of [the agent’s] duties’’ and intended to benefit the parent—even if the parent had policies prohibiting bribery. This flagrantly disrespects the corporate form and the black letter rule that to ‘‘pierce the corporate veil’’ the parent must have operated the subsidiary as an alter ego and itself paid no attention to the corporate form.  Although we have noted elements of this approach in prior SEC actions, the DOJ’s espousal of such a theory is particularly worrisome, as it impacts non issuer domestic concerns and foreign companies —a much broader universe of companies.  […] The fact that the Ralph Lauren case was resolved through an NPA rather than a DPA (or a guilty plea) does not excuse this approach—when the DOJ announces it will not prosecute but requires the company to admit to facts establishing a criminal violation of the law, it is stating, as a fact, that the company committed a crime. In such case, it is obligated to demonstrate, through the pleadings, in whatever form they are presented, that it could, in fact, prove each and every element of the offense.”

Hughes Hubbard

The firm’s Winter Alert is thick and comprehensive and begins in dramatic fashion:

“To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the FCPA’s death were greatly exaggerated.  Although at times many pillars of anti-corruption enforcement seemed to be crumbling or at least showing cracks, 2013 has seen a string of developments that reinforce that anti-bribery laws — and their vigorous enforcement — are here to stay. Where once we watched the Shot Show prosecution crumble, we now see indictments and plea deals for even non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. issuers. Where once we saw monitorships seemingly falling into disfavor, we now see them restored and imposed in the most high-profile, high-stakes cases.”

Other Items for the Reading Stack

See here for “Mitigating Potential Bribery-Related Risks Associated With Minority Owned and Non-Controlled Joint Ventures” by Covington & Burling attorneys Robert Amaee, David Lorello, John Rupp and Ashely Sprague.

See here for “Top Ten Compliance Trends for the New Year” by Perkins Coie attorneys Markus Funk and Sambo Dul.

In Depth On The Weatherford Enforcement Action

Last week, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) that Switzerland-based oil and gas services company Weatherford International agreed to resolve a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action based primarily on alleged conduct by its subsidiaries in Angola, the Middle East, and in connection with the Iraq Oil for Food program.  The enforcement action has been expected for some time (as noted in this prior post, in November the company disclosed that it had agreed in principle to the settlement announced last week).

The enforcement action involved a DOJ criminal information against Weatherford Services Ltd. resolved via a plea agreement, a criminal information against Weatherford International Ltd. (“Weatherford”) resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement, and a SEC settled civil complaint against Weatherford.  [Note, the SEC enforcement action also alleged violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions in regards to commercial transactions with various sanctioned countries in violation of U.S. sanction and export controls laws.  The DOJ – or other government entities – also alleged such conduct, but in resolution documents separate and apart from the FCPA resolution documents highlighted below].

Weatherford agreed to pay approximately $153 million to resolve its alleged FCPA scrutiny ($87 million to resolve the DOJ enforcement action and $66 million to resolve the SEC enforcement action).  The Weatherford action is the 8th largest FCPA settlement of all-time (see here for the top ten FCPA settlements).

DOJ

Weatherford Services Ltd.

Weatherford Services (“WSL”), incorporated in Bermuda, is identified as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Weatherford International that “managed most of Weatherford’s activities in Angola.”

The conduct at issue involved “two schemes to bribe Sonangol officials to obtain or retain business.”

Sonangol is alleged to be a “government-owned and controlled corporation” of the Angolan government. The information specifically states:

“Sonangol was the sole concessionaire for exploration of oil and gas in Angola, and was solely responsible for the exploration, production, manufacturing, transportation, and marketing of hydrocarbons in Angola.  Sonangol was run by a board of directors established by governmental decree in 1999.  Each member of the board was also appointed or renewed in their position by governmental decree.  Because Sonangol was wholly owned, controlled, and managed by the Angolan government, it was an ‘agency’ and ‘instrumentality’ of a foreign government and its employees were ‘foreign officials'” under the FCPA.

According to the information, the first bribery scheme “centered around a joint venture which WSL and other Weatherford employees established with two local Angolan entities.”  The information alleges that “Angolan Officials 1, 2, and 3 (described as “high-level, senior officials of Sonangol” with influence over contracts) controlled and represented one of the entities” and that a “relative of Angolan Official 4 (described as a “high-level, senior official of Angola’s Ministry of Petroleum” with influence over contracts entered into by the Angolan government) controlled and represented the other.”

The information alleges that the “joint venture began because WSL sought a way to increase its share of the well screens market in Angola” and states that “WSL learned that Sonangol was encouraging oil services companies to establish a well screens manufacturing operations in Angola with a local partner.”  Thereafter, “a high-level Weatherford executive sent Angolan Official 1 a letter expressing Weatherford’s intent to form a well screens manufacturing operation in Angola with a local partner and requesting Sonangol’s participation in the process.”

The information next alleges that “Angolan Official 1 advised WSL that Sonangol had selected local partners for WSL and that Sonangol would support the joint venture.”  According to the information:

“… the parties agreed that two local Angolan entities (“Angolan Company A” and Angolan Company B”) would be WSL’s joint venture partners.  Angolan Officials 1, 2 and 3 conducted all business with WSL on behalf of Angolan Company A.  Angolan Company B was owned in part by the daughter of Angolan Official 4.”

According to the information, “certain WSL and Weatherford employees knew from the outset of discussions regarding the joint venture that the members of Angolan Company A included a Sonangol employee and Angolan Official 3’s wife, while Angolan Company B’s members included Angolan Official 4’s daughter and son-in-law.”

According to the information, “prior to entering into the joint venture, neither Weatherford nor WSL conducted any meaningful due diligence of either joint venture partner.”  The information specifically alleges that Weatherford Legal Counsel A (a citizen of the U.S. and a Senior Corporate Counsel at Weatherford from 2004 to 2008) reached out to a law firm “to discuss whether partnering with the Angolan companies raised issues under the FCPA,” but that Weatherford Legal Counsel A “did not follow the advice” that had been provided to him.  In addition, the information alleges that Weatherford Legal Counsel A “falsely told [another] outside counsel that the joint venture had been vetted and approved by another outside counsel, when, in fact, no outside law firm ever conducted such vetting or gave such approval.”

The information alleges that WSL signed the final joint venture agreement with Angolan Company A and Angolan Company B in 2005, but that “neither Angolan Company A nor Angolan Company B provided any personnel or expertise to the joint venture, nor did they make any capital contributions.”

According to the information:

“In 2008, Angolan Company A and Angolan Company B received joint venture dividends for 2005 and 2006, including on revenues received in 2005 [before the joint venture agreement was executed].  […]  In total, the joint venture paid Angolan Company A $689,995 and paid Angolan Company B $136,901.”

The information alleges that “prior to the distribution of joint venture dividends, WSL executives knew that Angolan officials were directing the distribution of those dividends.”

According to the information, “WSL benefitted from the joint venture arrangement” in the following ways: “Sonangol began taking well screens business away from WSL’s competitors, even when a competitor was supplying non-governmental companies, and awarding it to WSL”  and “WSL received awards of business for which its bids were, by its own admission, not price competitive.”

The second bribery scheme alleged in the information relates to the “Cabinda Region Contract Renewal” in which WSL allegedly “bribed Angolan Official 5 (described as “a Sonangol official with decision-making authority in Angola’s Cabinda region”) so that he would approve the renewal of a contract under which WSL provided oil services to a non-governmental oil company in the Cabinda region of Angola.”  The information alleges that even though the contract was between WSL and a non-governmental company, Angolan law required “that it be approved by Sonangol before being finalized” and that “Angolan Official 5 was the Sonangol official responsible for approving or denying the renewal contract.”

The information alleges that Angolan Official 5 solicited the bribe and that “WSL executives agreed to pay the bribe Angolan Official 5 had demanded” even though a prior WSL Manager had refused to pay it.  According to the information, WSL made the payments to Angolan Official 5 through the Freight Forwarding Agent (described as a Swiss Company who provided freight forwarding and logistics services in Angola) who had previously paid bribes on behalf of WSL.”

As to the Freight Forwarding Agent, the information alleges that WSL retained the agent via a consultancy agreement in which the agent rejected a specific FCPA clause, but that “WSL and Weatherford acquiesced by removing the FCPA clause and inserting a clause requiring the Freight Forwarding Agent to ‘comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations issued by any governmental entity in the countries of business involved.”  According to the information, “WSL generated sham purchase orders for consulting services the Freight Forwarding Agent never performed, and the Freight Forwarding Agent, in turn, generated sham invoices for those non-existent services.”  The information alleges that the Freight Forwarding Agent passed money on to Angolan Official 5.

Based on the above, the information charges WSL with one count of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and specifically invokes the dd-3 prong of the statute applicable to “persons” other than issuers or domestic concerns.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, WSL agreed to pay a criminal fine in the amount of $420,000.

Weatherford International

The Weatherford information largely focuses on the company’s internal accounting controls and alleges as follows.

“Weatherford, which operated in an industry with a substantial corruption risk profile, grew its global footprint in large part by purchasing existing companies, often themselves in countries with high corruption risks.  Despite these manifest corruption risks, Weatherford knowingly failed to establish effective corruption-related internal accounting controls designed to detect and prevent corruption-related violations, including FCPA violations, prior to 2008.

Prior to 2008, Weatherford failed to institute effective internal accounting controls, including corruption-related due diligence on appropriate third parties and business transactions, limits of authority, and documentation requirements.  This failure was particularly acute when it came to third parties, including channel partners, distributors, consultants, and agents.  Weatherford failed to establish effective corruption-related due diligence on third parties with interaction with government officials, such as appropriately understanding a given third party’s ownership and qualifications, evaluating the business justification for the third party’s retention in the first instance, and establishing and implementing adequate screening of third parties for derogatory information.  Moreover, Weatherford failed to implement effective controls for the meaningful approval process of third parties.  Weatherford also did not require, in practice, adequate documentation supporting retention and in support of payments to third parties, such as appropriate invoices and purchase orders.

Prior to 2008, Weatherford did not have adequate internal accounting controls and processes in place that effectively evaluated business transactions, including acquisitions and joint ventures, for corruption risks and to investigate those risks when detected.  Moreover, following the establishment of joint ventures and certain other business transactions, Weatherford did not appropriately implement its policies and procedures to ensure an effective internal accounting control environment through proper integration.

Prior to 2008, Weatherford also did not have an effective internal accounting control system for gifts, travel, and entertainment.  In practice, expenses were not typically adequately vetted to ensure that they were reasonable, bona fide, or properly documented.

These issues were exacerbated by the fact that, prior to 2009, a company as large and complex as Weatherford – with its substantial risk profile – did not have a dedicated compliance officer or compliance personnel.  Although Weatherford promulgated an anti-corruption policy that it made available on its internal website, it did not translate that policy into any language other than English, and it did not conduct anti-corruption training.

Prior to 2008, Weatherford did not have an effective system for investigating employee reporting of ethics and compliance violations.  If an employee’s ethics questionnaire response indicated an awareness of payments or offers of payments to foreign officials or of undisclosed or unallocated funds, Weatherford did not have a protocol in place to perform any further investigation into the alleged corruption.  As a matter of practice, in fact, Weatherford did not conduct additional investigation of such allegations.  Prior to 2004, Weatherford did not require any employee to complete any kind of ethics questionnaire.

Further, Weatherford lack effective mechanisms to control its many foreign subsidiaries’ activities to ensure that they maintained internal accounting controls adequate to detect, investigate, or deter corrupt payments made to government officials.”

Under the heading “corrupt conduct” the information alleges – in summary form – as follows:

“Due to Weatherford’s failure to implement such internal accounting controls, a permissive and uncontrolled environment existed within Weatherford in which employees of certain of its wholly owned subsidiaries in Africa and the Middle East were able to engage in various corrupt conduct over the course of many years, including both bribery of foreign officials and fraudulent misuse of the United Nations’ Oil for Food Program.”

Thereafter, the information contains nine paragraphs of allegations that track the Angola allegations in the WSL information.

In addition, the information contains allegations about another alleged “scheme, in the Middle East, from 2005 through 2011” in which “employees of another Weatherford subsidiary [Weatherford Oil Tool Middle East Limited (WOTME) – described as a British Virgin Islands corporation headquartered in Dubai that was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Weatherford and responsible for managing most of Weatherford’s activities in North Africa and the Middle East] awarded improper ‘volume discounts’ to a distributor who supplied Weatherford products to a government-owned national oil company, believing those discounts were being used to create a slush fund with which to make bribe payments to decision makers at the national oil company.”

According to the information, “officials at the national oil company had directed WOTME to sell goods to the company through this particular distributor” and the information alleges:

“Prior to entering into the contract with the distributor, neither WOTME nor Weatherford conducted any due diligence on the distributor, despite (a) the fact that the Distributor would be furnishing Weatherford goods directly to an instrumentality of a foreign government; (b) the fact that a foreign official had specifically directed WOTME to contract with that particular distributor, and (c) the fact that executives at WOTME knew that a member of the country’s royal family had an ownership interest in the distributor.”

According to the information, “between 2005 and 2011, WOTME paid approximately $15 million in volume discounts to the distributor” that were “recorded in WOTME’s general ledger under a heading titled “Volume Discount Account.”

The information next contains four paragraphs of allegations relevant to the Iraq Oil for Food program and how Weatherford’s “failure to implement effective internal accounting controls also permitted corrupt conduct relating” to the program.

In a summary allegation, under the heading “Profits from the Corrupt Conduct in Africa and the Middle East” the information states:

“Due to Weatherford’s failure to implement internal accounting controls, an environment existed within Weatherford in which employees of certain of its wholly owned subsidiaries in Africa and the Middle East were able to engage in various corrupt business transactions, which conduct earned profits of $54,486,410, which were included in the consolidated financial statements that Weatherford filed with the SEC.”

Based on the above conduct, the information charges Weatherford with violating the FCPA’s internal controls provisions – specifically – that Weatherford knowingly:

“(a) failed to implement, monitor, and impose internal accounting controls and to maintain their effectiveness; (b) failed adequately to train key personnel to implement internal accounting controls to detect and avoid illegal payments and to identify and deter violations of those controls; (c) failed to monitor and control the financial transactions of its subsidiaries, in a manner that provided reasonable assurances that its subsidiaries’ transactions were executed in accordance with management’s general and specific authorization; (d) failed to monitor and control the financial transactions of its subsidiaries, in a manner that provided reasonable assurances that its subsidiaries’ transactions were recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles and any other criteria applicable to such statements; (e) failed to maintain a sufficient system for the selection and approval of, and performance of corruption-related due diligence on, third party business partners and joint venture partners, which, in turn, permitted corrupt conduct to occur at subsidiaries; (f) failed to investigate appropriately and respond to allegations of corrupt payments and discipline employees involved in making corrupt payments; (g) failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the company’s compliance and ethics program was followed, including training employees, and performing monitoring to detect criminal conduct; (h) failed to maintain internal accounting controls sufficient to prevent a subsidiary from entering into a joint venture agreement to funnel improper benefits to, and receive preferential treatment from, foreign government officials; (i) failed to maintain internal accounting controls sufficient to prevent a subsidiary from making payments to a channel partner not authorized by contract knowing there was a substantial likelihood that those payments were used to make corrupt payments; and (j) failed to maintain internal accounting controls sufficient to prevent kickbacks paid to the government of Iraq by a subsidiary.”

The charge against Weatherford was resolved via a DPA in which the company admitted, accepted, and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its officers, directors, employees, and agents as charged in the information.

The DPA has a term of three years and under the heading “relevant considerations” it states:

“The Department enters into this Agreement based on the individual facts and circumstances presented by this case and the Company.  Among the facts considered were the following:  (a) the Company’s cooperation has been, on the whole, strong, including conducting an extensive worldwide internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Department, including the production of more than 3.8 million pages of data; (b) the Company has engaged in extensive remediation, including terminating the employment of officers and employees responsible for the corrupt misconduct of its subsidiaries, establishing a Compliance Officer position that is a member of the Company’s executive board, as well as a compliance office of approximately 38 full-time compliance professionals, including attorneys and accountants, that the Compliance Officer oversees, conducting more than 30 anti-corruption compliance reviews in many of the countries in which it operates, enhancing its anti-corruption due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, and retaining an ethics and compliance professional to conduct an assessment of the Company’s ethics and compliance policies and procedures designed to ensure compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws; (c) the Company has committed to continue to enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls …; (d) the Company has already significantly enhanced, and is committed to continue to enhance, its compliance program and internal controls …; and (e) the Company has agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department in any ongoing investigation …”

Pursuant to the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $87.2 million to $174.4 million.  The DPA states that the monetary penalty of $87.2 million “is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of this case, including the nature and extent of the Company’s criminal conduct, the Company’s extensive cooperation, and its extensive remediation in this matter.”

The DPA specifically states that “any criminal penalties that might be imposed by the Court on WSL in connection with WSL’s guilty plea to a one-count Criminal Information charging WSL with violations of the FCPA, and the plea agreement entered into simultaneously, will be deducted from the $87.2 million penalty agreed to under this Agreement.”

Pursuant to the DPA, Weatherford agreed to review its existing internal controls, policies and procedures regarding compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws.   The specifics are detailed in Attachment C to the DPA.  The DPA also requires Weatherford to engage a corporate compliance monitor for ”a period of not less than 18 months from the date the monitor is selected.”  The specifics, including the Monitor’s reporting obligations to the DOJ, are detailed in Attachment D to the DPA.

As is common in FCPA corporate enforcement actions, the DPA contains a “muzzle clause” prohibiting Weatherford or anyone on its behalf from “contradicting the acceptance of responsibility by the company” as set forth in the DPA.

In the DOJ’s release, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman stated:

“Effective internal accounting controls are not only good policy, they are required by law for publicly traded companies – and for good reason.  This case demonstrates how loose controls and an anemic compliance environment can foster foreign bribery and fraud by a company’s subsidiaries around the globe.  Although Weatherford’s extensive remediation and its efforts to improve its compliance functions are positive signs, the corrupt conduct of Weatherford International’s subsidiaries allowed it to earn millions of dollars in illicit profits, for which it is now paying a significant price.”

Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, stated:

“When business executives engage in bribery and pay-offs in order to obtain contracts, an uneven marketplace is created and honest competitor companies are put at a disadvantage.  The FBI is committed to investigating corrupt backroom deals that influence contract procurement and threaten our global commerce.”

SEC

The SEC’s complaint (here) is largely based on the same core set of facts alleged in the above DOJ action.

In summary fashion, the complaint alleges:

“Between at least 2002 and July 2011, Weatherford and its subsidiaries authorized bribes and improper travel and entertainment intended for foreign officials in multiple countries to obtain or retain business or for other benefits. Weatherford and its subsidiaries also authorized illicit payments to obtain commercial business in Congo and authorized kickbacks in Iraq to obtain United Nations Oil for Food contracts.  Weatherford realized over $59.3 million in profits from business obtained through the use of illicit payments.”

As to the additional Congo allegations, the complaint states:

“In addition to bribery schemes involving Angolan government officials, WSL made over $500,000 in commercial bribe payments through the Swiss Agent to employees of a commercial customer, a wholly-owned subsidiary of an Italian energy company, between March 2002 and December 2008.

[…]

WSL mischaracterized the bribe payments as legitimate expenses on its books and records. Bank account records and a U.S. brokerage account statement show that among the recipients were two employees of the commercial customer who were responsible for awarding contracts to WSL. Weatherford obtained profits of$1,304,912 from commercial business in Congo relating to payments made by Swiss Agent.”

The SEC complaint also contains allegations concerning conduct in Algeria and Albania.

Under the heading “Improper Travel and Entertainment in Algeria,” the complaint alleges:

Weatherford also provided improper travel and entertainment to officials of Sonatrach, an Algerian state-owned company, that were not justified by a legitimate business purpose. The improper travel and entertainment to Sonatrach officials include:

• June 2006 trip by two Sonatrach officials to the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Hanover, Germany;

• July 2006 honeymoon trip of the daughter of a Sonatrach official; and

• October 2005 trip by a Sonatrach employee and his family to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for religious reasons that were improperly booked as a donation

In addition, on at least two other occasions, Weatherford provided Sonatrach officials with cash sums while they were visiting Houston. For example, in May 2007, Weatherford paid for four Sonatrach officials, including a tender committee official, to attend a conference in Houston. Prior to the trip, a Weatherford finance executive sent an email to a Weatherford officer requesting $10,000 cash to be advanced to a WOTME employee without providing any explanation tor the cash advance. The request was approved and a portion of the funds was provided to the tender committee official. There is no evidence the cash was used for legitimate business or promotional expenses. In connection with a December 2007 trip by three Sonatrach officials traveling to Houston, a Weatherford finance employee questioned the propriety of a WOTME employee’s request for a $14,000 cash advance in connection with the trip.  The finance employee’s concern was disregarded and the request was ultimately approved at high levels within Weatherford and a portion of the funds was provided to the officials.  In total, Weatherford spent $35,260 on improper travel, entertainment and gifts for Algerian officials from May 2005 through November 2008 that were recorded in the company’s books and records as legitimate expenses.”

Under the heading “Improper Payments to Albanian Tax Authorites,” the complaint alleges:

“From 2001 to 2006, the general manager and financial manager at a Weatherford Italian subsidiary, WEMESP A, misappropriated over $200,000 of company funds, a portion of which was improperly paid to Albanian tax auditors. WEMESPA’s general manager and financial manager misappropriated the funds by taking advantage of Weatherford’s inadequate system of internal accounting controls. They misreported cash advances, diverted payments on previously paid invoices, misappropriated government rebate checks and received reimbursement of expenses that did not relate to business activities, such as golf equipment and perfume. 

[…]

In addition to the cash payments, in 2005, after a regime shift in Albania, the Country Manager provided three laptop computers for the tax director and two members of Albania’s National Petroleum Agency, which the WEMESPA executives approved and misrecorded in the books and records.”

Under the heading “Misconduct During the Investigation and Subsequent Remediation Efforts,” the complaint states:

“Certain conduct by Weatherford and its employees during the course of the Commission staffs investigation compromised the investigation. These activities involved the failure to provide the staff with complete and accurate information, resulting in significant delay. In one instance, the staff sought information concerning the Iraq Country Manager who signed letters agreeing to pay bribes to Iraqi officials during the Oil for Food Program. The staff was informed that the Country Manager was missing or dead when, in fact, he remained employed by Weatherford. In at least two instances, email was deleted by employees prior to the imaging of their computers. On another occasion, Weatherford failed to secure important computers and documents and allowed potentially complicit employees to collect documents subpoenaed by the staff.  Subsequent to the misconduct, Weatherford greatly improved its cooperation and engaged in remediation efforts, including disciplining employees responsible for the misconduct, establishing a high level Compliance Officer position, significantly increasing the size of its compliance department, and conducting numerous anti-corruption reviews in many of the countries in which it operates.”

Under the heading “Anti-Bribery Violations,” the complaint states in pertinent part:

“Weatherford’s conduct in the Middle East and Angola violated [the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions]. From 2005 through 2011, Weatherford authorized $11.8 million in payments to national oil company officials through a distributor intended to wrongfully influence national oil company decision makers to obtain and retain business.  Weatherford also violated [the anti-bribery provisions] when it retained the Swiss Agent to funnel bribes to a Sonangol official to obtain the Cabinda contract. Weatherford similarly violated [the anti-bribery provisions] by bribing other Sonangol officials via the joint venture in return for contracts and preferential treatment.”

Under the heading “Failure to Maintain Books and Records,” the complaint states in pertinent part:

“Weatherford, directly and through its subsidiaries, also violated [the books and records provisions] when it made numerous payments and engaged in many transactions that were incorrectly described in the companys books and records. In the Middle East, for example, the money given to a distributor to be used as bribes was reflected in Weatherfords books and records as legitimate volume discounts. In Angola and Congo, payments to foreign officials and others were described as legitimate consulting fees rather than bribe payments.  Payments to Sonangol executives through the joint venture were misrecorded as legitimate dividend payments.”

Under the heading “Failure to Maintain Adequate Internal Controls,” the complaint states in pertinent part:

“Weatherford violated [the internal controls provisions] by failing to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls.  The violations were widespread and involved conduct at Weatherford’s headquarters as well as at numerous subsidiaries. Executives, managers and employees throughout the organization were aware of the conduct, which lasted a decade.  Weatherford paid millions of dollars to consultants, agents and joint venture partners without adequate due diligence. Weatherford approved cash payments to Algerian officials traveling to Houston without any justification for the payments. Employees made payments to agents without regard to grants of authority and, on some occasions, without even receiving an invoice. In Italy, internal accounting controls were ineffective, allowing executives to embezzle and pay bribes for years.

In the Middle East, the company failed on several occasions to perform due diligence on the distributor it used, despite the fact that the agent was imposed upon them by a national oil company official and would be selling to a government entity. The use of large volume discounts was not routinely reviewed.  […] Weatherford also failed to provide FCPA … training.  While Weatherford did require certain employees to complete a yearly ethics questionnaire seeking instances of alleged misconduct, Weatherford failed to investigate or even review the responses.”

As noted in the SEC’s release, Weatherford agreed to pay approximately $65.6 million to the SEC, including an approximate $1.9 million penalty assessed in part for lack of cooperation early in the investigation.

In the SEC’s release, Andrew Ceresney (Co-Director of the SEC’s enforcement division) stated:

“The nonexistence of internal controls at Weatherford fostered an environment where employees across the globe engaged in bribery and failed to maintain accurate books and records.  They used code names like ‘Dubai across the water’ to conceal references to Iran in internal correspondence, placed key transaction documents in mislabeled binders, and created whatever bogus accounting and inventory records were necessary to hide illegal transactions.”

Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated:

“Whether the money went to tax auditors in Albania or officials at the state-owned oil company in Angola, bribes and improper payments were an accustomed way for Weatherford to conduct business.  While the profits may have seemed bountiful at the time, the costs far outweigh the benefits in the end as coordinated law enforcement efforts have unraveled the widespread schemes and heavily sanctioned the misconduct.”

Joseph Warin (Gibson Dunn) represented Weatherford.

In this statement, Bernard Duroc-Danner (Weatherford’s Chairman, President and CEO) stated:

“This matter is now behind us. We move forward fully committed to a sustainable culture of compliance.  With the internal policies and controls currently in place, we maintain a best-in-class compliance program and uphold the highest of ethical standards as we provide the industry’s leading products and services to our customers worldwide.”

On the day of the enforcement action, Weatherford’s shares closed up approximately 1.2%.

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