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Summer Reading Spectacular

Grab your beverage of choice, find some shade, and sit back and enjoy the recent work product of FCPA Inc – plus the recent annual report of the OECD Working Group on Bribery.

Gibson Dunn

Gibson Dunn recently released it 2012 mid-year FCPA update (see here).  The update begins as follows.   “As the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act turns 35 years old, the spike in enforcement activity that we first observed five years ago appears (at least for the moment) to be leveling off. Nevertheless, numerous developments this year bespeak a statute that is maturing rather than falling into obscurity: the first sustained pattern of trial activity; increasing “private attorney general” enforcement; and serious policy debates between industry, executive, and legislative interests leading up to much-anticipated statutory guidance from government regulators. The first half of 2012 was packed with important FCPA developments.”  Thereafter, the update is a buffet of useful information and summaries including recent sentencing activity, a discussion of FCPA-related civil litigation, legislative and policy developments, U.K. developments, and a handy chart containing DOJ and SEC statements on corporate cooperation.

Another Gibson Dunn update you should read concerns NPA and DPAs.  The firm recently released (here) its mid-year update on corporate deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements.  As noted in the update, once again among the most frequent use of such agreements is to resolve FCPA enforcement actions.

Speaking of NPAs and DPAs, Law36o carried an article yesterday titled “DOJ Develops a Taste for Deferred Prosecution Deals.”  I liked what Skadden partner John Carroll (here) had to say – that such agreements are a “way for the government to outsource its work and harvest relatively easy settlements” because “the government only has to win the case in the government’s office; it doesn’t have to win in the courtroom.”

Miller Chevalier

Miller & Chevalier recently released its FCPA Summer Review 2012 (see here).  The review begins as follows.  “‘Expectant’ describes the mood of FCPA practitioners during the first half of 2012. With a slow first half of the year for enforcement releases, and expected developments such as the issuance of the new FCPA Guidance around the corner, the second half of 2012 should be eventful, if not historic, for the 35-year old statute.”  Thereafter, the review contains several goodies such as a chart containing known declinations in FCPA investigations 2008 to the present, “comings” and “goings” in the DOJ’s FCPA team, and how a recent district court rulings(discussed in this previous post) appears to have impacted the deferred prosecution agreement in the recent Data Systems enforcement action (see here for the previous post).

Debevoise & Plimpton

Debevoise & Plimpton recently released its periodic FCPA Update (see here).  Among other things, the update contains an article on the “current status of the ‘selective waiver’ doctrine, i.e., the notion that a waiver of attorney-client privilege or work-product protection in a submission to the government is not a ‘waiver to all others.'”  As the article notes, this is often an issue for counsel to consider in FCPA investigatons when disclosing to the DOJ or SEC.

Sidley Austin

Sidley Austin recently released its anti-corruption quarterly (see here).  Although the quarterly did not include a certain FCPA related development from the second quarter, it did contain an informative lead article concerning FCPA joint venture liability.

OECD Annual Report

The OECD Working Group on Bribery recently released its annual report (here).  Spectacular it is not.  For all the good the OECD does in raising awareness of bribery and its effects and seeking to reduce bribery and corruption around the world, its enforcement statistics remain misleading, incomplete and in some cases inaccurate.

For instance, as noted in this prior post, it is fairly obvious why OECD member countries have varying degrees of enforcement of bribery and corruption offenses.  Among other reasons, in most OECD member countries, prosecuting authorities have two choices – to prosecute or not to prosecute – there is no such thing as non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements.  Moreover, in many OECD member countries there is no such thing as corporate criminal liability – or even if there is – such corporate liability can only be based on the actions of high-ranking executives or officers. This of course is materially different than the U.S. respondeat superior standard in which a business organization can face legal liability based on the actions of any employee to the extent the employee was acting within the scope of his or her duties and to the extent the conduct was intended to benefit, at least in part, the organization.

The OECD’s statistics as to the U.S. are incomplete.  Footnotes in the report state that DOJ and SEC enforcement actions “exclusively for violations of the books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA” are not captured.  This misses a meaningful chunk of FCPA enforcement actions as it is common for the DOJ and SEC to structure settlements (so as to avoid collateral consequences or to reward cooperation or both) without charging FCPA anti-bribery violations (such as in Siemens and Daimler).

Moreover, the OECD statistics as to the U.S. are inaccurate in some cases.  In a table “Decisions on Foreign Bribery Cases from 1999 to December 2011,” in a column titled number of individuals and legal persons acquitted / found not liable, the report indicates that only 1 individual or legal person has been acquitted or found not liable in a U.S. foreign bribery case.  Not true.

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A good weekend to all.

The Sun Rose, A Dog Barked, And A Company Disclosed FCPA Scrutiny

Yesterday, a colleague stopped by my office and commented how it seems like every day the news contains a story about a company subject to FCPA scrutiny.  Every day may be a stretch, but a new company every week is probably accurate.

In its Feb. 14th 10-K filing, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company disclosed as follows.

“In June 2011, an anonymous source reported, through our confidential ethics hotline, that our majority-owned joint venture in
Kenya may have made certain improper payments. In July 2011, an employee of our subsidiary in Angola reported that similar
improper payments may have been made in Angola. Outside counsel and forensic accountants were retained to investigate the
alleged improper payments in Kenya and Angola, including our compliance in those countries with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act. We do not believe that the amount of the payments in question in Kenya and Angola, or any revenue or operating
income related to those payments, are material to our business, results of operations, financial condition or liquidity.
Following our internal investigation, we have implemented, and are continuing to implement, appropriate remedial measures
and have voluntarily disclosed the results of our investigation to the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Securities and
Exchange Commission (“SEC”), and are cooperating with those agencies in their review of these matters. We are unable to predict the outcome of any review that may be undertaken by the DOJ and SEC.”

In this prior post, I asked why in this era of increased FCPA compliance there seems to be more, not less, FCPA inquiries?  Does effective compliance reduce FCPA scrutiny or does effective compliance uncover more potential FCPA issues?  Based on Goodyear’s disclosure, it seems that in its case, the later is true, its compliance policies and procedures worked!  If so, does this not argue in favor of an FCPA compliance defense?  See here for a webcast next Tuesday on this topic.

If every company hired FCPA counsel to do a thorough review of its world-wide operations would – given the enforcement agencies theories of interpretation – 50% of companies find technical FCPA violations?  75%? 95%?  If the answer is any one of these numbers, is that evidence of how corrupt business has become or is that evidence of how unhinged FCPA enforcement theories have become?

In other words, what does it say about enforcement of a law if, at any given time, the majority of corporations are on the wrong end of how that law is enforced?  After all, according to the FCPA Blog’s most recent corporate disclosure list (here) approximately 80 companies are currently under investigation for FCPA violations.  As the FCPA Blog rightly notes “nearly all entries are based on disclosures in SEC filings. That means non-issuers (non-public companies) aren’t included. And perhaps not all issuers have made a disclosure about a pending FCPA investigation, in which case the company may not appear on this list.”

Indeed, today’s Wall Street Journal editorial is titled “Justice’s Bribery Racket.”  It begins as follows.  “The Justice Department’s creative prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) continue to disintegrate […]  The 1977 FCPA was intended to prevent American companies from joining the Third World’s payoff habits. Over the last five years, however, Justice has begun to stretch the law into a far more blunt instrument. Instead of going after clear violations, the vague statute has become a tool to prosecute or threaten legions of companies.”  I agree and the issues discussed in the WSJ editorial have been the focus of my writing for years.  See here for the “Facade of FCPA Enforcement,” here for “Revisiting A Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense,” here for my Senate FCPA testimony and here for my “foreign official” declaration.  [As to the WSJ’s reference to News Corp. “if Justice tries to portray payments made as part of traditional news-gathering as criminal acts, the list of felons won’t stop at the tabloids,” I’ve stated before (here) that News Corp.’s FCPA exposure – and the intense media coverage it has generated – does shine a much needed light on the current era of FCPA enforcement and raises two distinct questions.  The first question is whether – given the DOJ and SEC’s current enforcement theories – the News Corp. payments at issue can expose it to FCPA liability and the answer is yes.  The second question is whether Congress intended the FCPA to apply to the numerous enforcement actions in this new era that have nothing to do with obtaining or retaining foreign government contracts.  This is a valid and legitimate question and the same question could also be asked as to many other current FCPA enforcement theories.]

Goodyear states in its disclosure that it does not believe that the amount of the payments in question or any revenue or operating income related to those payments, are material to its business, results of operations, financial condition or liquidity.  Then why disclose?  It is perfectly acceptable in a situation like this to promptly implement remedial measures, revise and enhance compliance policies and procedures – all internally without disclosure to the enforcement agencies.

Yet the steady stream of disclosures feed a growing and vibrant FCPA industry where FCPA issues, no matter how limited in scope, often turn into a boondoggle for many involved.  Corporate voluntary disclosures are like a rainbow and waiting on the other side is often the pot of gold “where else” question.  For more on this dynamic, see this prior post.

ABM Industries Discloses Merger Related Issue

One FCPA reform proposal is to amend the law to provide a period of repose following an acquisition.  Championed by George Terwilliger (here – an FCPA practitioner at White & Case and former Deputy Attorney General) the idea, as Terwilliger explains in this piece “is that US companies, with notice to US enforcement authorities, would have a defined period after an acquisition in which to perform a rigorous FCPA compliance review of the acquired entity. If FCPA compliance issues were uncovered, the acquiring company would remediate them, and disclose both the existence of the problem and its remediation to the government. The acquiring company would be immune from civil or criminal enforcement as to matters uncovered during the review period, which could be on the order of 90 to 120 days.” 

I was reminded of Terwilliger’s reform proposal when reading ABM Industries Inc. recent disclosure.  Before getting to the disclosure, a bit of background.  In December 2010, ABM Industries Inc. (a leading provider of facility services) announced its acquisition of The Linc Group LLC (“TLG”).  (See here).  ABM President and CEO Henrik Slisager described the acquisition as a “game changer” in that the transaction, among other things, would bring ABM “into the $70 billion government marketplace, where TLG brings broad experience and deep client relationships.”

According to the ABM,  substantially all of its operations are conducted in the United States, but it does do business internationally through joint ventures.  In ABM’s annual report filed last week (see here) the company disclosed as follows.  “During October 2011, the Company began an internal investigation into matters relating to compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Company’s internal policies in connection with services provided by a foreign entity affiliated with a Linc joint venture partner. Such services commenced prior to the Company’s acquisition of Linc. As a result of the investigation, the Company has caused Linc to terminate its association with the arrangement. In December 2011, the Company contacted the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to voluntarily disclose the results of its internal investigation to date. The Company cannot reasonably estimate the potential liability, if any, related to these matters. However, based on the facts currently known, the Company does not believe that these matters will have a material adverse effect on its business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.”

JGC of Japan Formally Joins the Bonny Island Bribery Club

In an enforcement action anticipated for months (see here for the prior post), JGC Corporation on Japan last week became the fourth joint venture partner to resolve its FCPA exposure in connection with the Bonny Island, Nigeria project.
Other joint venture partners in the so-called TSKJ consortium to previously resolve Bonny Island bribery probes were KBR / Halliburton (see here), Technip (see here) and Snamprogetti (see here). In addition, M.W. Kellogg Ltd., the entity that originally formed the TSKJ consortium resolved a U.K. Serious Fraud Office enforcement action (see here). In terms of individual prosecutions, Albert Jack Stanley pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing (see here); Wojciech Chodan pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing (see here); and Jeffrey Tesler recently pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing (see here).

The JGC enforcement action involved only a DOJ component. Total settlement amount was $218.8 million and the criminal charges (see here for the information) were resolved via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

The substance of the criminal allegations are the same as in the prior KBR, Technip, and Snamprogetti enforcement actions. That is, the TSKJ consortium, of which JGC was a member, was formed for purposes of bidding on and performing a series of engineering, procurement, and construction (“EPC”) contracts to design and build a liquefied natural gas plant on Bonny Island, Nigeria.

Tesler was hired by TSKJ to “help it obtain business in Nigeria, including by offering to pay and paying bribes to high-level Nigerian government officials” and Tesler “was an agent of TSKJ and of each of the joint venture companies.”

According to the information, TSKJ also hired “Consulting Company B” – a “global trading company headquartered in Tokyo” to help it “obtain business in Nigeria, including by offering to pay and paying bribes to Nigerian government officials” and “Consulting Company B was an agent of TSKJ and of each of the joint venture companies.”

Most of the allegations in the information focus on the conduct of the JGC’s alleged co-conspirators such as Stanley, Tesler, and Tesler’s corporate entity, Tri-Star Investments Ltd. As to U.S. nexus, the information alleges money flowing through U.S. based accounts “to bribe Nigerian government officials” and co-conspirators faxing or e-mailing information into the U.S. in furtherance of the bribery scheme.

Based on the above conduct, the information charges conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and aiding and abetting FCPA anti-bribery violations.

DPA

The DOJ’s charges against JGC were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement.

Pursuant to the DPA, JGC admitted, accepted and acknowledged “that it is responsible for the acts of its employees, subsidiaries, and agents” as set forth above. As is typical in FCPA DPAs, JGC expressly agreed not to make any statements, directly or indirectly, “contradicting” the facts alleged.

The term of the DPA is two years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors.

“(a) after initially declining to cooperate with the Department based on jurisdictional arguments, JGC began to cooperate, and has agreed to continue to cooperate, with the Department in its ongoing investigation of the conduct of JGC and its present and former employees, agents, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, subsidiaries, and others relating to violations of the FCPA;

(b) JGC has undertaken remedial measures, including evaluating and enhancing its compliance program, and has agreed to undertake further remedial measures as contemplated by this Agreement; and

(c) the impact of JGC, including collateral consequences, of a guilty plea or criminal conviction.”

As stated in the DPA, the fine range for the above conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $312.6 million to $625.2 million. Pursuant to the DPA, JGC agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $218.8 million (30% below the minimum amount suggested by the guidelines). DPAs frequently then state why such a below-guidelines fine amount is “appropriate,” however the JGC DPA is silent as to this issue. Interesting also is that the conduct at issue took place between 1995 and 2004. Yet, the 2010 sentencing guidelines were used in calculating the fine rather than the 2003 guidelines that were used in the prior KBR, Technip, and Snamprogetti enforcement actions.

Pursuant to the DPA, JGC agreed to “engage a corporate compliance consultant.”

The DOJ release (here) states as follows. “With [the JGC] resolution, each of the four companies in the TSKJ joint venture, the former chairman of the U.S. joint venture partner, and several other individuals have now been held accountable for a massive conspiracy to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain lucrative construction contracts.” “The approximately $1.5 billion in criminal and civil penalties that have been imposed on the members of the joint venture far exceed their profits from the scheme. Foreign bribery is a serious crime, and as this case makes clear, we are investigating and prosecuting it vigorously.”

Manny Abascal (Latham & Watkins – see here – a former DOJ enforcement attorney) represented JGC.

This may not be the last we hear of Bonny Island bribery. Consulting Company B (based in Japan) was a key participant in the bribery scheme. Does anyone know anything about Consulting Company B and whether it might be next to resolve its Bonny Island exposure? If so, please share.

Robert Amaee on U.K. Bribery Act Guidance

Yesterday, in a much anticipated development, the United Kingdom Ministry of Justice released (here) its long awaited guidance (here) as to the U.K. Bribery Act – a delayed law now set to go live on July 1, 2011.

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office, the U.K. law enforcement agency tasked with enforcing the Bribery Act, also issued a release (here) and prosecuting guidance (here).

In this guest post, Robert Amaee (the former Head of Anti-Corruption and Proceeds of Crime Unit at the U.K. Serious Fraud Office and current counsel with Covington & Burling LLP in London – see here) provides insight and analysis of the U.K. developments.

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The Bribery Act: Countdown to Implementation

The UK Ministry of Justice yesterday published its long awaited Bribery Act 2010 (the “Bribery Act”) guidance entitled “Guidance about procedures which relevant commercial organisations can put in place to prevent persons associated with them from bribing (section 9 of the Bribery Act 2010).” This publication marks the official start of a ninety day countdown to the implementation of the Bribery Act which will now be brought into force on 1 July 2011.

Companies that already have reviewed and updated their anti-bribery and corruption procedures will be ahead of the game but will still need to study the new guidance to see what, if any, further amendments may be required. Those who have yet to complete the process of updating their procedures to ensure compliance no doubt will draw a modicum of comfort from the fact that they have a further ninety days in which to digest and absorb the guidance and implement the necessary policies and procedures.

The comments made by the Minister of Justice, Ken Clarke QC MP, and the guidance itself aim to reassure companies that the Bribery Act will be enforced with common sense and pragmatism.

The Minister of Justice ushered in the guidance by saying that “[t]he ultimate aim of [the Bribery Act] is to make life difficult for the minority of organizations responsible for corruption, not to burden the vast majority of decent and law-abiding businesses.”

That is a message that prosecutors at the UK Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) — the organisation tasked with leading enforcement efforts under the Bribery Act — have espoused for some time. What is less clear is whether the guidance provides any tangible assistance on some of the Bribery Act’s thorniest issues such as the UK’s jurisdiction over non-UK registered companies, the extent of liability for the actions of third parties and the boundary between acceptable corporate hospitality and a prosecutable bribe, particularly when foreign officials are concerned.

Government Policy and the Section 7 Corporate Offence

The guidance, as expected, focuses on six high level principles which companies will need to familiarise themselves with and which are supported by 11 case studies. It also sets out the Government policy in relation to the section 7 corporate offence stating that “[t]he objective of the [Bribery] Act is not to bring the full force of the criminal law to bear upon well run commercial organisations that experience an isolated incident of bribery on their behalf” and recognises that “no bribery prevention regime will be capable of preventing bribery at all times.” This part of the guidance already has attracted criticism from some respected quarters. (See here).

The guidance deals with the section 1 offences of bribing another person but the most noteworthy commentary relates to the section 6 offence (Bribery of foreign public officials). This section highlights the fact that bribery of a foreign public official could be prosecuted under the section 1 offence but that evidential difficulties in proving that a bribe was paid to a foreign public official with the intention to induce him or her to perform his or her role “improperly”, something the guidance calls “a mischief”, means that prosecutors would seek to rely on the section 6 offence which needs no such proof. The guidance goes on to make a number of assertions in relation to the interpretation of section 6 which bear closer scrutiny. The guidance says “…it is not the Government’s intention to criminalise behaviour where no such mischief occurs…” In other words it appears that the guidance may be advocating that the concept of “improper performance” be read into section 6. What is clear is that Parliament did not include any such wording in section 6 in clear contrast to section 1.

Corporate Hospitality and other Business Expenditure

In addressing the topic of corporate hospitality and other business expenditures, the guidance adopts what can only be described as a permissive tone. It codifies the comments that the Minister of Justice has made over the last few weeks and states that “[b]ona fide hospitality and promotional, or other business expenditure which seeks to improve the image of a commercial organisation, better to present products and services, or establish cordial relations, is recognised as an established and important part of doing business and it is not the intention of the Act to criminalise such behaviour” and goes on to endorse “reasonable” and “proportionate” hospitality and business expenditure.

In determining what is reasonable and proportionate, the guidance proposes taking into account “all of the surrounding circumstances” which include matters such as “the type and level of advantage offered, the manner and form in which the advantage is provide, and the level of influence the particular foreign public official has over awarding business”. It states that “the more lavish the hospitality or the higher the expenditure in relation to travel, accommodation or other similar business expenditure provided to a foreign public official, then, generally, the greater the inference that it is intended to influence the official to grant business or a business advantage in return.”

Much of this is elementary and already part of the mantra of compliance departments but the guidance goes further and appears to give the green light to certain interactions with foreign public officials which would, today, be closely and critically scrutinised by those responsible for compliance. As an example, the guidance envisages that the provision of flights, airport to hotel transfers, hotel accommodation, “fine dining” and tickets to an event for a foreign public official and his or her spouse are “unlikely to raise the necessary inference” to engage section 6 and therefore unlikely to violate the Act so long as there is a business rational for the trip.

A Question of Jurisdiction

The guidance makes it clear that “the courts will be the final arbiter as to whether an organisation ‘carries on a business’ in the UK taking into account of the particular facts in individual cases” and sets out the “Government’s intention” in relation to the phrase “carries on a business, or part of a business in the United Kingdom.” The thrust of the approach appears to be a reliance on a “common sense approach.”

In cases where there may be dispute, the guidance again defers to the courts as the final arbiter but says that “… the Government anticipates that applying a common sense approach would mean that organisations that do not have a demonstrable business presence in the United Kingdom would not be caught.” That much is uncontroversial but what follows has elicited a great deal of comment. The guidance states that “[t]he Government would not expect, for example, the mere fact that a company’s securities have been admitted to the UK Listing Authority’s Official list and therefore admitted to trading on the London Stock Exchange, in itself, to qualify that company as carrying on a business or part of a business in the UK and therefore falling within the definition of a ‘relevant commercial organisation’ for the purposes of section 7.” This commentary has been welcomed in some quarters but has been criticised by some as undermining the concept of a level playing field. (See here).

In the vast majority of cases, it will be clear whether a company is or is not carrying on a business or part of a business in the UK. There will, however, be cases where there is room for debate. If, for example, a non-UK registered company sets up a joint venture with a UK company and the joint venture is not registered in the UK, is the non-UK registered company carrying on a business or part of a business in the UK? What if the non-UK registered company then seconds an employee to work at the UK partner’s offices in London looking after the joint venture – is the non-UK registered company carrying on a business or part of a business in the UK? What if it sends 5 employees? Those are the type of intricacies that need to be worked through by company advisors and in the worst case prosecutors and the courts.

Associated Persons

When considering the potential liability imposed on a company by virtue of its supply chains or its involvement in a joint venture, the guidance introduces the concept of “the level of control”– a concept that does not appear in the Bribery Act — as one of the “relevant circumstances” that would be taken into account when seeking to determine if the person creating liability can be deemed to be an “associated person” i.e. someone who is performing services for or on behalf of a company that falls within the UK’s jurisdiction. The guidance states that “[t]he question of adequacy of bribery prevention procedures will depend in the final analysis on the facts of each case, including matters such as the level of control over the activities of the associated person and the degree of risk that requires mitigation.”

Facilitation Payments

In the run up to the publication of the guidance, there had been some suggestion that there may an attempt to ‘soften’ the approach to facilitation payments. This is not at all the case. While the Government has recognised the problems faced by commercial organisations in some parts of the world and in certain sectors, the guidance reiterates that there are no exemptions in the Act and sets out the OECD position that facilitation payments are corrosive and that exemptions create artificial distinctions that are “difficult to enforce, undermine corporate anti-bribery procedures, confuse anti-bribery communication with employees and other associated person, perpetuate an existing ‘culture’ of bribery and have the potential to be abused.” In circumstances where an individual has no alternative but to make a facilitation payment in order to “protect against loss of life, limb or liberty”, the guidance states that “the common law defence of duress is very likely to be available”. It stresses that it is a matter for prosecutorial discretion whether to prosecute an offence and defers to the Joint Prosecution Guidance when it comes to the “prosecution of facilitation payments.”

Conclusion

Companies will of course be pleased to have more guidance and will look to draw as much comfort as they can from the more ‘permissive’ tone of the MoJ guidance but global companies will not be looking at their UK exposure in isolation and will certainly not be rushing to relax their anti-bribery and corruption policies and procedures. It is not much comfort for a company to avoid prosecution in the UK for interactions with foreign government officials for example but to be in violation of their industry codes of conduct or be called to account in a US court for that same conduct. Global companies will continue to be mindful of their global exposure.

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