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Development From The “Other Universe” – In Dismissing FCPA-Related Securities Fraud Claims, Judge States That Merely Conducting Business In Countries “Rife With Corruption Does Not Demonstrate Knowledge Of FCPA Violations”

parallel universe

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issues often co-exist in two parallel universes.

One universe is ruled by all-powerful gods with big and sharp sticks  in which subjects dare challenge the gods. Another universe consists of checks and balances in which independent actors call the balls and strikes.

The first universe refers to FCPA enforcement by the DOJ and SEC. The second universe refers to litigation of FCPA-related claims in which judges make decisions in the context of an adversarial legal system. This second universe is often referred to as the rule of law universe.

There are several examples of theories used in the first universe that do not work in the second universe. For instance, the FCPA enforcement agencies frequently take a seeming “if / then” position when it comes to issuer internal controls.  In other words, if some misconduct occurred somewhere within an issuer’s business organization or if some employee within that organization circumvented the issuer’s internal controls, then the issuer did not have effective internal controls.

However, when this simplistic theory is used in civil litigation, courts have routinely concluded that just because improper conduct allegedly occurred does not mean that internal controls must have been deficient.  (See e.g., Midwest Teamsters Pension v. Baker Hughes, 2009 WL 6799492 (S.D. Tex. 2009);  Freuler v. Parker Drilling 803 F.Supp.2d 630 (S.D. Tex. 2011).

This post concerns the most recent example regarding the parallel universe. Interestingly, the recent development comes from the same judge (U.S. District Court Judge Melinda Harmon (S.D. Tex.) highlighted in this September 2015 post about the parallel universe.

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Potpourri

Potpourri

Disgraceful, scrutiny alerts, resource alert, for the reading stack, and for your consideration.  It’s all here in a potpourri edition of FCPA Professor.

Disgraceful

It’s a disgraceful practice.

A for-profit business invites a high-ranking DOJ official to its private event in which people have to pay to hear the public official speak.

It’s a disgraceful practice.

The for-profit company treats the DOJ official’s comments as if they own his words and then put the words behind a paywall.

Andrew Weissmann, the DOJ’s fraud section chief, recently spoke at GIR Live, an event hosted by a private for-profit company. According to this teaser post Weissmann spoke about issues of public concern including “how the department will factor in compliance, how it intends to reward those that self-report, and how it aims to increase transparency around resolutions and declinations.”

I requested a transcript of Mr. Weissmann’s remarks from the DOJ press office and was told: “[Mr. Weissmann] did not prepare formal remarks but spoke from notes, so I don’t have anything to provide. You’re welcome to check with the event organizers to see if they have a recording of it.”

Thankfully, Carlos Ayres was at the event and publicly posted a summary of Mr. Weisssmann’s remarks on the FCPAmericas website. According to his post:

“Weissmann said that the DOJ will publish in the next weeks a list of questions that companies can expect to be asked when being assessed by the DOJ’s new compliance consultant.”

“Weissmann said that the DOJ will shed more light on declination decisions in the short term, publishing related data with aggregate information.”

“Weissmann stated that DOJ will make an effort to complete cases for companies that self-report within one year.”

Thank you Mr. Ayres for your public service in sharing the comments of a high-ranking DOJ official on matters of public concern.

Scrutiny Alerts

HSBC Holdings

The company recently disclosed:

“Hiring practices investigation

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (the ‘SEC’) is investigating multiple financial institutions, including HSBC, in relation to hiring practices of candidates referred by or related to government officials or employees of state-owned enterprises in AsiaPacific. HSBC has received various requests for information and is cooperating with the SEC’s investigation. Based on the facts currently known, it is not practicable at this time for HSBC to predict the resolution of this matter, including the timing or any possible impact on HSBC, which could be significant.”

Novartis

The Swiss company, which qualifies as an issuer under the FCPA, was recently the focus of news reports. According to this article:

“South Korean authorities raided Novartis offices in search of evidence the company provided bribes to local doctors, according to media reports. The Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office confiscated various documents, including account books, in order to determine whether rebates the drug maker offered physicians may have actually been bribes.”

Mondelēz International, Inc.

Approximately five years ago (see here for the prior post), Kraft Foods disclosed FCPA scrutiny resulting from its acquisition of Cadbury in connection with a manufacturing facility in India.  Kraft, now known as Mondelēz International, Inc., recently disclosed:

“As we previously disclosed, on February 1, 2011, we received a subpoena from the SEC in connection with an investigation under the FCPA, primarily related to a facility in India that we acquired in the Cadbury acquisition. The subpoena primarily requests information regarding dealings with Indian governmental agencies and officials to obtain approvals related to the operation of that facility. We are continuing to cooperate with the U.S. and Indian governments in their investigations of these matters, including through ongoing meetings with the U.S. government to discuss potential conclusion of the U.S. government investigation. On February 11, 2016, we received a “Wells” notice from the SEC indicating that the staff has made a preliminary determination to recommend that the SEC file an enforcement action against us for violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Exchange Act in connection with the investigation. We intend to make a submission to the staff of the SEC in response to the notice.”

So-called Wells Notices are rare in the FCPA context for the simple reason that few issuers actually publicly push back against the SEC.  See here for an example of a company that prevailed against the SEC after receiving a Wells Notice.

Key Energy Services

The company has been under FCPA scrutiny since Spring 2014 and continues to bleed cash in connection with its scrutiny. In this recent filing, the company disclosed $2.7 million “related to” its FCPA scrutiny.

Sweet Group

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office recently announced:

“Construction and professional services company Sweett Group PLC was … sentenced and ordered to pay £2.25 million as a result of a conviction arising from a Serious Fraud Office investigation into its activities in the United Arab Emirates. The company pleaded guilty in December 2015 to a charge of failing to prevent an act of bribery intended to secure and retain a contract with Al Ain Ahlia Insurance Company (AAAI), contrary to Section 7(1)(b) of the Bribery Act 2010. The relevant conduct occurred between 1 December 2012 and 1 December 2015.”

In the release, David Green (Director of the SFO) stated:

“Acts of bribery by UK companies significantly damage this country’s commercial reputation. This conviction and punishment, the SFO’s first under section 7 of the Bribery Act, sends a strong message that UK companies must take full responsibility for the actions of their employees and in their commercial activities act in accordance with the law.”

As further noted in the release:

“His Honour Judge Beddoe described the offence as a system failure and said that the offending was patently committed over a period of time. Referring to Section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 and to Sweett’s ignorance of its subsidiary’s actions , HHJ Bedoe said:

The whole point of section 7 is to impose a duty on those running such companies throughout the world properly to supervise them. Rogue elements can only operate in this way – and operate for so long – because of a failure properly to supervise what they are doing and the way they are doing it.

The SFO’s investigation into Sweett Group PLC, which commenced on 14 July 2014, uncovered that its subsidiary company, Cyril Sweett International Limited had made corrupt payments to Khaled Al Badie, the Vice Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Real Estate and Investment Committee of AAAI to secure the award of a contract with AAAI for the building of the Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The amount is broken down as £1.4m in fine, £851,152.23 in confiscation. Additionally, £95,031.97 in costs were awarded to the SFO.”

Maxwell Technologies

In 2011, Maxwell Technologies (a California-based manufacturer of energy storage and power delivery products) resolved parallel DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions concerning alleged business conduct in China by agreeing to pay approximately $14 million. The company recently disclosed:

“In January 2011, we reached settlements with the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) with respect to charges asserted by the SEC and DOJ relating to the anti-bribery, books and records, internal controls, and disclosure provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and other securities laws violations. We paid the monetary penalties under these settlements in installments such that all monetary penalties were paid in full by January 2013. With respect to the DOJ charges, a judgment of dismissal was issued in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on March 28, 2014.

On October 15, 2013, we received an informal notice from the DOJ that an indictment against the former Senior Vice President and General Manager of our Swiss subsidiary had been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. The indictment is against the individual, a former officer, and not against the Company and we do not foresee that further penalties or fines could be assessed against us as a corporate entity for this matter. However, we may be required throughout the term of the action to advance the legal fees and costs incurred by the individual defendant and to incur other financial obligations. While we maintain directors’ and officers’ insurance policies which are intended to cover legal expenses related to our indemnification obligations in situations such as these, we cannot determine if and to what extent the insurance policy will cover the legal fees for this matter. Accordingly, the legal fees that may be incurred by us in defending this former officer could have a material impact on our financial condition and results of operation.

Swiss Bribery Matter

In August 2013, our Swiss subsidiary was served with a search warrant from the Swiss federal prosecutor’s office. At the end of the search, the Swiss federal prosecutor presented us with a listing of the materials gathered by the representatives and then removed the materials from our premises for keeping at the prosecutor’s office. Based upon the our exposure to the case, we believe this action to be related to the same or similar facts and circumstances as the FCPA action previously settled with the SEC and the DOJ. During initial discussions, the Swiss prosecutor has acknowledged both the existence of our deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) with the DOJ and our cooperation efforts thereunder, both of which should have a positive impact on discussions going forward. Additionally, other than the activities previously reviewed in conjunction with the SEC and DOJ matters under the FCPA, we have no reason to believe that additional facts or circumstances are under review by the Swiss authorities. In late March 2015, we were informed that the Swiss prosecutor intended to inform the parties in April 2015 as to whether the prosecutor’s office would bring charges or abandon the proceedings. However, to date, the Swiss prosecutor has not issued its formal decision. At this stage in the investigation, we are currently unable to determine the extent to which we will be subject to fines in accordance with Swiss bribery laws and what additional expenses will be incurred in order to defend this matter. As such, we cannot determine whether there is a reasonable possibility that a loss will be incurred nor can we estimate the range of any such potential loss. Accordingly, we have not accrued an amount for any potential loss associated with this action, but an adverse result could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operation.”

As noted here by Wall Street Journal – Risk & Compliance Journal, in the same disclosure Maxwell disclosed approximately $2.4 million in FCPA professional fees and expenses in 2015.

Resource Alert

As highlighted here, Stanford Law School and Sullivan & Cromwell recently announced the launch of an FCPA clearinghouse –  “a public database that aggregates and curates source documents and provides analytic tools related to enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).”

For the Reading Stack

An informative read here in Bloomberg Law from John Cunningham and Geoff Martin (both of Baker & McKenzie) titled “Casting a Wider Net: Conspiracy Charges in FCPA Cases.”

Another informative read here in the New York Times regarding the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

For Your Consideration

Did U.S. involvement in Afghanistan result in more corruption? Did the U.S. fail to conduct adequate due diligence on intermediaries (a frequent FCPA enforcement theory against companies)? NPR explores the issue here.

Friday Roundup

Roundup2

FCPA trial starts, scrutiny alerts, ripples, and job alert.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

FCPA Trial Starts

The DOJ is rarely put in a position to actually prove FCPA offenses.

Sure, there have been some DOJ successes in recent years, but more often than not the DOJ has failed when put to its burden of proof.  See here for the article “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses Is Acceptable?”  See this prior post for the six most recent instances of the DOJ being put to its burden of proof.

Earlier this week, the first criminal FCPA trial since 2012 began in New Jersey.  The defendant is former PetroTiger CEO Joseph Sigelman. For media coverage of the beginning of the trial, see here and here.

As noted by Bloomberg:

“[O]pening arguments confirmed that the government’s case against Sigelman relies heavily on the testimony of the defendant’s former lawyer. Under pressure from the FBI, the lawyer, Gregory Weisman, implicated Sigelman in wrongdoing and then tried to get his former client to incriminate himself during a covertly recorded conversation.

Lead prosecutor Patrick Stokes, who heads the Justice Department’s FCPA unit, told the jury in his opening remarks that Weisman’s testimony—supplemented by surveillance tape of the witness’s encounter with Sigelman in December 2012—would demonstrate that the defendant knew he had broken the law and was afraid of getting caught. At one point during the December 2012 conversation, Sigelman demanded that Weisman lift his shirt to show he wasn’t wearing a wire. Weisman complied. Sigelman didn’t notice, however, that the FBI had equipped his former attorney with a “button camera” that captured the entire episode.

Sigelman’s behavior, Stokes told the jury, was “something an innocent man doesn’t do.”

In fact, when viewed in its entirety, the grainy undercover tape is ambiguous. When Weisman informed Sigelman that the FBI was asking questions about their actions in Colombia, Sigelman said: “Whatever this is about, I’m ready to be with you.”

“And I’m with you, but I’m extremely scared,” Weisman responded.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about,” Sigelman said. “We paid a guy. We paid a consultant. … The point is, this wasn’t a bribe in any way, shape, or form.”

In his opening argument yesterday, Sigelman’s defense attorney, William Burck, a partner with the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, told the jury: “We want you to see that tape.” Burck indicated that in cross-examining government witnesses, he would show jurors that in its zeal to find corruption, the Justice Department has transformed a series of corporate and personal entanglements into a criminal conspiracy that never existed. If anyone was truly trying to fight corruption at PetroTiger, it was Sigelman, the defense lawyer said. Resentful of Sigelman’s finger-pointing, the company’s board turned the tables and fed information to U.S. prosecutors, making the ex-CEO out to be the villain, Burck added.”

For a main issue in the case (the status of Colombia’s Ecopetrol S.A.) , see this prior post.

For additional coverage of the trial, see here.

Scrutiny Alerts

CBCNews reports:

“[Canadian authorities] are investigating allegations from a whistleblowing accountant at [Toronto Stock Exchanged]-listed mining company MagIndustries that his bosses paid bribes to officials in the Republic of Congo to win approvals tied to a potash mine development in that country. According to newly unsealed court documents, the RCMP’s sensitive and international investigations unit raided the Toronto offices of MagIndustries in January. The company has been developing a $1.5-billion potash mine and processing facility in the West African country for several years. Search warrant materials obtained by CBC News tell a cautionary tale about the company, which is registered in Toronto but controlled by Chinese interests since a takeover in 2011. Those investors and managers are now ensnared in an international police bribery investigation. The RCMP believe four top executives with the company, including CEO Longbo Chen who took over in 2012, ignored warnings from Canadian financial advisers and signed off on a string of illegal payments to Congolese officials.”

Bloomberg reports:

“Prosecutors investigating Brazil’s largest corruption scandal say they notified the U.S. Department of Justice of evidence that at least four foreign companies allegedly paid bribes to win Petroleo Brasileiro SA contracts. The allegations are against units or affiliates of Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Skanska AB, AP Moeller-Maersk A/S and Toyo Engineering Corp., Carlos Lima, the senior prosecutor in a nine-member task force, said in an interview. Companies could face charges in Brazil that would restrict local operations as well as possible sanctions under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, he said last week from Curitiba, Brazil.”

Ripples

Further evidence of FCPA ripples (in other words –  how settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement in this new era).

Moody’s Investors Service recently downgraded Key Energy Services.

Among the reasons? According to this release:

“The negative outlook reflects significant ongoing cash expenditures (~$59 million as of Q1-2015) associated with the ongoing Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations, the uncertainty around final resolution of these legal matters and the severity of any potential penalties or fines that could further pressure liquidity and credit metrics.”

See here for here for the full article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples”

Job Alert

Exactech (a company based in Gainesville, Fla. that develops and markets orthopaedic implant devices, related surgical instruments and biologic materials and services to hospitals and physicians) is looking for a Senior Director of Legal to “to provide legal expertise to guide the company’s actions and transactions with particular emphasis on its Anti-Corruption Compliance program.” See here for the full job description.

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A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Roundup2

Exasperated, skittish, checking in, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Exasperated

This recent post highlighted Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell’s recent speech in which she stated – in reference to FCPA internal investigations – “we do not except companies to aimlessly boil the oil.”

This recent Law360 article notes that some attorneys are exasperated by Caldwell’s remarks.  The article states:

“[D]efense attorneys have balked at the idea that they’re spending too much time or money on investigations they’re conducting in large part for the government’s sake, saying they’re not willfully adding unnecessary work to an FCPA probe.

Many companies still feel like they’re being forced to walk the fine line between investigating problems thoroughly enough to satisfy the government without making it seem like they’re holding something back or impeding an investigation, according to Day Pitney LLP partner Bob Appleton.

“On the one hand they’re saying, ‘Be fast and don’t do an over-thorough job,’ but on the other hand, they’re saying, ‘If you only partially disclose you’ll get in trouble,’” said Appleton, a former assistant U.S. attorney.

And the costs of an investigation aren’t just limited to what a company self-reports, since the government will often then ask how the company can be sure the problem isn’t popping up anywhere else, according to Colleen P. Mahoney, partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

“One of the biggest challenges is the expense after it starts,” Mahoney said about FCPA investigations at a Practicing Law Institute event Friday.

At the PLI event, SEC enforcement chief Andrew Ceresney said it was up to a company to decide what law firm to retain and how deep to investigate a potential bribery matter.

“We’re not micromanaging your internal investigation,” he said.”

Numerous posts on FCPA Professor have highlighted the staggering amount of pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses (see also “FCPA Ripples“).

Speaking of which, Key Energy Services disclosed yesterday $18 million in expenses – for the first quarter of 2015 -“related to the previously disclosed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) investigations.”

I’ve had several conversations with FCPA practitioners about this issue.  For what it is worth, the common response is something along the following lines: FCPA practitioner agrees that pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses have spun out of control in many instances, but FCPA practitioner insists that his/her firm is not part of the problem.

Other practitioners are also pushing back as to other aspects of Caldwell’s recent speech – namely “what cooperation looks like”.  In this recent post on the FCPA Blog an anonymous contributor states:

 “When client companies and I have opted to cooperate early on and open up all information and records to the DOJ investigative units, I have seen the FCPA investigative team to be less interested in whether facts or evidence show violations or point to evidence raising red flags, as to how the client (and lawyer also) is bowing and mewling in anguish and sorrow before the government.

Provided the client is willing to genuflect and cry out mea culpa and beg for mercy (all three are required) there can be a happy and acceptable outcome in correcting corporate deficiencies and reaching an early valid resolution.

Executives who have somewhat less capacity to grovel underfoot are punished with the promise of crippling expansions of the process including raids and countless subpoenas to uninvolved officers, employees, consultants and accountants.

My experience is that this is not based on early findings of probable cause, but rather a haughty outrage that there was insufficient willingness to self-immolate.”

Skittish

Much has been written about whether the FCPA and its enforcement deters foreign investment.  (See here for instance).

Companies obviously make foreign investment decisions based on a host of legal and non-legal risks and thus empirically separating and measuring the impact of FCPA enforcement on foreign investment decisions is difficult.  Moreover, despite the general rise in FCPA enforcement concerning conduct in certain high risk jurisdictions such as China, India, and Brazil, there continues to be vast amounts of foreign direct investment in those countries by companies subject to the FCPA prohibitions.

Any “evidence” that the FCPA and its enforcement deters foreign investment thus tends to be anecdotal.

Following up on this prior post regarding Cambodia, the Phnom Penh Post reports:

“Despite high-profile US companies like Coca-Cola announcing plans to expand their footprint in the Kingdom, foreign investment from the US remains low compared to regional heavyweights. Large US businesses appear reluctant in setting up in the Kingdom due to corruption concerns, an unpredictable regulatory environment, and a lack of economic attractiveness that allows US interests to thrive.

[…]

Corruption remains one of the major factors keeping US companies away. According to an American Chamber of Commerce survey for 2015, 82 per cent of American businesses in Cambodia were dissatisfied with corruption – the second highest in the region after Laos.”

Checking In

Way back in 2010, Steven Jacobs, the former President of Macau Operations for Las Vegas Sands Corp., filed a civil lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands (LVS) in which Jacobs alleged various improprieties at LVS including in the FCPA context.

As noted in this Bloomberg article, Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire founder and chairman of LVS, recently testified in open court about the case and stated, among other things, that “after four years of investigating, they [the DOJ and SEC]  haven’t found a shred of evidence yet.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

CSC / ServiceMesh

CSC is a Virginia-based IT company and in October 2013 it acquired acquire ServiceMesh, a cloud management company.  Various reports note that Eric Pulier, the former CEO of ServiceMesh, and head of the ServiceMesh division within CSC since ServiceMesh was acquired by that company, has left the company.

CSC sent the following statement to media about Pulier’s departure:

“On March 26, 2015 Eric Pulier was notified that his actions involving payments from the ACE Foundation—an organization founded by Mr. Pulier and not related to CSC—to former IT executives of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a CSC client, violated CSC’s code of conduct related to conflicts of interests and appearance of improprieties. Mr. Pulier was further notified that these violations were grounds for termination of his employment.”

PTC

In this release, PTC stated:

“We have, since making a voluntary disclosure to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, been cooperating to provide information to those agencies concerning expenditures by certain of our business partners in China and by our China business, including for travel and entertainment, that apparently benefitted employees of customers regarded as state owned enterprises in China. This matter involves issues regarding compliance with laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Negotiations with the SEC to reach a resolution of its investigation have begun but have not been concluded. We expect to begin negotiations with the Department of Justice to resolve its investigation in the near future. Resolution of this matter is likely to include fines and penalties. Given the uncertainty regarding whether settlements can be reached and, if reached, on what terms, we are not able to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss with regard to any such settlements and have not recorded any liability in connection with this matter. If settlements are reached, we believe that the associated financial liability could be material to our results of operations for the fiscal period in which the liability is recorded. Further, any settlement or other resolution of this matter could have collateral effects on our business in China, the United States and elsewhere.”

Braskem SA

Brazil-based Braskem recently disclosed in an SEC filing:

“In the context of anti-corruption allegations against certain individuals and entities in Brazil, including Petrobras, we were mentioned in allegations of improper payments made in order to receive favorable treatment in connection with certain contracts that we are party to with Petrobras. We have not received notice of any proceeding or investigation involving us that has been commenced in Brazil or the United States in connection with these allegations.

Although we have certain procedures in place, we have implemented additional procedures and controls to monitor our compliance with applicable anti-corruption laws and as a result of the recent allegations against us, have engaged Brazilian and U.S. legal counsel to conduct a voluntary internal investigation of this matter.  If any of these allegations prove to be true, or if we or any of our subsidiaries, or joint venture partners fails to comply with any of these laws, we could be subject to applicable civil or criminal penalties, which could adversely affect our overall performance.”

[…]

In early March 2015, declarations made by defendants in lawsuits filed against third parties were made public, in which Braskem and two of its former executive officers were cited in allegations of supposed improper payments between 2006 and 2012 to benefit the Company in raw-material supply agreements entered into with Petrobras. As of April 24, 2015, to the knowledge of the management, Braskem has not received any notification of the filing of any proceeding or investigation by Brazilian or U.S. authorities.

In light of such facts, the Company’s Management and Board of Directors approved in April the internal plan for investigation into the allegations (“Investigation”) to be carried out by law firms experienced in similar cases in the United States and in Brazil.  The law firms will work under the coordination of an ad hoc committee formed by members of its Board of Directors, specially created for this purpose.

In addition, the following measures have already been taken:

i)    Voluntary announcement about the Investigation and periodical updates sent to regulatory agencies of capital markets in Brazil (Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil – CVM) and the United States (Securities and Exchange Commission – SEC, and the Department of Justice – DOJ);

ii)    Publication of two Material Fact notices and one Notice to the Market to clarify the news reports and to keep shareholders and the market informed of actions taken by the Company;

iii)   Updating the Audit Board and external auditors about the progress of the Investigation and of the actions already taken.

Braskem and its subsidiaries are subject to a series of anticorruption and anti-bribery laws in the countries where they operate. To reduce the likelihood of infringement of such laws, a series of procedures and controls were implemented and are continuously being improved.

On the other hand, if any of the allegations proves to be true, the Company may be subject to material penalties envisaged in law. At this moment, the Company Management believes that it is not possible to estimate the duration or outcome of the Investigation and, consequently, whether it will have any impact on future financial statements.

The Management is committed to taking all the necessary measures to clarify the facts and will keep the market informed of any progress on this matter.”

United Technologies

Recently, the company disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, in December 2013 and January 2014, UTC made voluntary disclosures to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Division of Enforcement and the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office to report the status of its internal investigation regarding a non-employee sales representative retained by United Technologies International Operations, Inc. (UTIO) and IAE for the sale of Pratt & Whitney and IAE engines and aftermarket services, respectively, in China.  On April 7, 2014, the SEC notified UTC that it was conducting a formal investigation and issued a subpoena to UTC.  UTC continues to cooperate fully with the investigations and has responded to requests for documents and information.  The DOJ and SEC also continue to request information, and the SEC issued a second subpoena on March 9, 2015 seeking documents related to internal allegations of alleged violations of anti-bribery laws from UTC’s aerospace and commercial businesses, including but not limited to Otis businesses in China.  Because the investigations are ongoing, we cannot predict the outcome or the consequences thereof at this time.”

For the Reading Stack

The NY Times goes in depth regarding the U.S’s attempt to extradite Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian national criminally indicted in April 2014 along with others (see here for the prior post).  According to the article:

“An Austrian judge will issue a crucial ruling in the case on Thursday at an extradition hearing here, where Mr. Firtash’s lawyers will argue that his arrest — on charges of bribing officials in India to secure a titanium mining deal that never materialized — was really an effort by the United States to remove him from public life in Ukraine, where he controls major business interests and still holds considerable clout. The Justice Department has repeatedly declined to discuss the case because it is an active prosecution, but the United States attorney’s office in Chicago, which led the investigation, has flatly denied any political motivations.

[…]

Andras Knopp, a Hungarian businessman and longtime associate of Mr. Firtash’s who is also charged in the case, said that the United States authorities had made no effort to extradite him, or even to talk to him about the case, even though he was at the center of the Indian titanium deal …”.

*****

The most recent edition of the always informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update is here.  Among the topics discussed are developments in India including potential amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act providing for liability for a commercial organizations whose employees bribe but also creating a defense for a commercial organization commercial organization if it can prove it had “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery.

*****

This Bloomberg article (“The Dinner Proposal That Led United Into Corruption Probe”) begins:

“United Airlines Inc. was seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment for the airport in Newark when its chief executive dined with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s top Port Authority official in September 2011.

Jeffery Smisek, United’s chief executive officer, wanted funding for several projects, including an estimated $600 million extension of the PATH train from downtown Newark to the airport, as the airline worked through its merger with Continental Airlines.

Halfway through dinner at Novita, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Port Authority Chairman David Samson surprised the group with a request of his own. He complained that he and his wife had grown weary of the trip to their weekend home in Aiken, South Carolina, because the best flight out of Newark was to Charlotte, North Carolina, 150 miles away. Until 2009, Continental had run direct service from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, 100 miles closer.

In a tone described by one observer as “playful, but not joking,” Samson asked: Could United revive that route? An awkward silence fell over the table.

Though the United CEO didn’t agree to the request at the dinner, according to the accounts of some who attended, the airline ultimately added the money-losing route that became known as “the chairman’s flight.” Now federal prosecutors are looking into whether its genesis crossed the line from legitimate bargaining into illegal activity.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Roundup2

Scrutiny updates, the story of the FCPA, keep it simple, and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Updates

Goodyear

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has been under FCPA scrutiny for approximately three years concerning conduct in Kenya and Angola. Earlier this week the company disclosed:

“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.

As a result of our review of these matters, we have implemented, and are continuing to implement, appropriate remedial measures and have voluntarily disclosed the results of our initial investigation to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and are cooperating with those agencies in their review of these matters. As a result of ongoing discussions with the government, we have recorded a charge of $16 million in connection with these matters in the third quarter of 2014. While we currently estimate that the most likely amount of the loss associated with these matters is approximately $16 million, the actual amount of the loss could vary, and the timing of any resolution and payment cannot yet be determined.”

Key Energy Services

Here is what the company disclosed about its third quarter expenses associated with its FCPA investigation.

“The results for the third quarter include a pre-tax charge of $60.8 million, or $0.25 per share, for an impairment of the Company’s U.S. assets and pre-tax costs of $16.1 million, or $0.07 per share, related to the previously disclosed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) investigations.”

Doing the math, that is approximately $243,000 in professional fees and expenses per working day.

Avon

Avon has been under FCPA scrutiny since June 2008.  As highlighted here, in May 2014 the company disclosed that it and the DOJ/SEC reached an agreement in principle to resolve FCPA enforcement actions for an aggregate amount of $135 million. Approximately six months later, there has still yet to be an enforcement action.  Yesterday, Avon disclosed:

“As previously reported, we have reached an understanding with respect to terms of settlement with each of the DOJ and the staff of the SEC. Based on these understandings, the Company would, among other things: pay aggregate fines, disgorgement and prejudgment interest of $135 with respect to alleged violations of the books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA, with $68 payable to the DOJ and $67 payable to the SEC; enter into a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) with the DOJ under which the DOJ would defer criminal prosecution of the Company for a period of three years in connection with alleged violations of the books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA; agree to have a compliance monitor which, with the approval of the government, can be replaced after 18 months by the Company’s agreement to undertake self monitoring and reporting obligations for an additional 18 months. If the Company remains in compliance with the DPA during its term, the charges against the Company would be dismissed with prejudice. In addition, as part of any settlement with the DOJ, a subsidiary of Avon operating in China would enter a guilty plea in connection with alleged violations of the books and records provision of the FCPA. The expected terms of settlement do not require any change to our historical financial statements.

Final resolution of these matters is subject to preparation and negotiation of documentation satisfactory to all the parties, including approval by our board of directors and, in the case of the SEC, authorization by the Commission; court approval of the SEC settlement; and court approval of the DPA and acceptance of the expected guilty plea by an Avon subsidiary operating in China. We can provide no assurances that satisfactory final agreements will be reached, that authorization by the Commission or the court approvals will be obtained or that the court will accept the guilty plea or with respect to the timing or terms of any such agreements, authorization, and approvals and acceptance.”

The Story of the FCPA

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell’s recent speech (see here for the prior post) has generated follow-up discussion at the FCPA Blog (here and here), including as to the motivation of Congress in passing the law.

Read the “story” of the FCPA for yourself.  This article weaves together information and events scattered in the FCPA’s voluminous legislative record to tell the FCPA’s story through original voices of actual participants who shaped the law.

Keep it Simple

Over at thebriberyact.com, this post begins:

“Three years ago Bribery Inc. went mad.  Every law firm, accounting firm and uncle Tom Cobley and all got into the anti bribery business. Many detailed anti-bribery policies were sold, placed on corporate intranets and training given. Three years on and many are reviewing their policies and looking back at how they’ve been operating for the last three years.  This is a sensible thing to do. Many anti-bribery policies are extensive. […] We could go on.  And many policies do. And this is where they go wrong. Because the longer they are the less likely it is anyone will read them or even know where to find them.”

Referencing comments made by U.K. Serious Fraud Office Director David Green, the post states:

“The SFO Director said that he doesn’t really like long anti-bribery policies.  Broadly speaking he is concerned that they probably won’t be read or understood by employees. The obvious consequence of the anti-bribery policy not being read is that it is unlikely to be followed. His observation and the concern which underpins it resonates with us.”

It resonates with me as well.  (See this previous post titled “Compliance Fatigue?”).

That is why my global anti-bribery online training course (created in conjunction with Emtrain) keeps things simple. To see how the course engages employees in a business organization and inspires them to spot risk (see this video). To see how the course trains gatekeepers in a business organization to minimize risk (see this video).

Reading Stack

Thomas Fox (FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog) is out with a new book titled “Doing Compliance: Design, Create, and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program.”  (See here for more information).

The latest FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton is here.

Dorsey & Whitney’s Anti-Corruption Digest (Oct. 2014) is here.

Sidley & Austin’s Anti-Corruption Quarterly is here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

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