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Judicial Decision

This previous post mentioned that the DOJ filed a superseding indictment adding Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges to its existing 2015 enforcement action against Ng Lap Seng and Jeff Yin.

This previous post highlighted the May 2015 civil case brought by Sanford Wadler (the former General Counsel of Bio-Rad) asserting various employment claims against the company in the aftermath of the company’s 2014 FCPA enforcement action in which it agreed to pay approximately $55 million to resolve DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions.

This post further highlights the DOJ’s individual criminal charges against Ng and Yin as well as the strange twist in the Wadler – Bio-Rad litigation.

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Friday Roundup

Roundup

New DOJ FCPA Unit Chief, “noisy exit” lawsuit settled, an Uber instrumentality?, and for the reading stack.

It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

DOJ FCPA Unit Chief

According to this report:  “The U.S. Justice Department has named Daniel S. Kahn to lead the government’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit … Mr. Kahn has led the Justice Department’s anti-bribery unit since March on a temporary basis, taking over from Patrick Stokes. Mr. Stokes was made senior deputy chief in the Fraud Section.”

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Friday Roundup

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Not something you see everyday, Yates Memo related, quotable, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Not Something You See Everyday

It’s not everyday that you see a director of a publicly-traded company publicly resign because the director thinks the company is engaged in improper conduct including FCPA violations.

But that is just what Michael Moss, until recently a director of Malvern Bancorp, did.

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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Scrutiny alerts, noisy exit, double standard, quotable and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts

FIFA-Related

As predicted in this May post about the FIFA-related enforcement action, while the enforcement action was not an FCPA enforcement action it was likely to lead to scrutiny of various companies concerning books and records and internal controls issues.

Sure enough.

Various reports (see here and here for instance) suggest that the SEC is :examining the behavior of several companies with links to FIFA or other soccer bodies caught up in a major corruption scandal to see if there were possible violations of U.S. federal bribery laws, a person with knowledge of the matter said.”  According to the article:

“The civil probe, which is in its early stages and may not lead to any findings of wrongdoing or enforcement action, is being conducted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.” […] The SEC probe centers on publicly-traded companies who have been involved in soccer contracts, such as athletic shoes and sportswear company Nike Inc, said the source, who asked not to be named because of the non-public nature of the investigation. The exact scope of the probe and the names of other companies being scrutinized could not be learned. An SEC spokeswoman declined to comment.”

GSK

Reuters reports:

“Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, which was fined a record 3 billion yuan ($483 million) for corruption in China last year and is examining possible staff misconduct elsewhere, faces new allegations of bribery in Romania. GSK confirmed it was looking into the latest claims of improper payments set out in a whistleblower’s email sent to its top management on Monday. A copy of the email was seen by Reuters. The company is already probing alleged bribery in Poland, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. The latest allegations say GSK paid Romanian doctors hundreds, and in one cases thousands, of euros between 2009 and 2012 for prescribing its medicines, including prostate treatments Avodart and Duodart and Parkinson’s disease drug Requip. According to the email, the doctors were notionally paid for speaking engagements, but in three out of six cases, including the most highly paid one, they did not give any speech. The other three medics gave only one speech each, despite receiving multiple payments. GSK also provided doctors with many international trips and made payments to them under the guise of participation in advisory boards, the email said. […] The sender of the Romania email said its contents would be passed on to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which are investigating GSK for possible breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

Noisy Exit

My article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples” chronicles, among other things, how the FCPA is increasingly being used offensively by litigants.  One such example is a “noisy exit” a term coined by FCPA Professor in 2010 to describe an employee alleging unfair employment practices in connection with some aspect of FCPA scrutiny or enforcement.

The latest example is this civil complaint recently filed by Keisha Hall (a certified public accountant, certified fraud examiner and former director of finance for the Latin America region of Teva Pharmaceutical USA, INC.’s (“Teva”).

According to the complaint,  Teva allegedly fired Hall after she “began cooperating in a Securities and Exchange Commission/Department of Justice investigation into potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”), stemming from, among other things, allegations of bribery of government officials in the region.”

As highlighted in this prior post, Teva has been under FCPA scrutiny since July 2012.

Double Standard

A few weeks after an official is sworn in to a high-ranking government position, the official asserts herself into a pending government investigation against a corporation and brokers a settlement (an unusual task given the official’s position).

From that point forward, the corporation significantly increases its contributions to a charitable organization set up by the official’s family and pays the official’s spouse $1.5 million to participate in a series of question and answer sessions with the corporation’s CEO.

A prudent FCPA practitioner would immediately see numerous red flags and recommend an internal investigation.

But wait, the official is not a foreign official, it’s a U.S. official and once again it is Hillary Clinton.  (See here for the Wall Street Journal’s recent article “Clinton’s Complicated UBS Ties.”)

*****

On the other side of the Presidential ticket is Donald Trump.  Regardless of what you think of “The Donald” he is blunt.  In this recent Wall Street Journal article, Trump explains why he previously donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and other political campaigns.

“As a businessman, [Trump] needed to curry favor with an influential senator from his home state. In turn, he said, [Clinton] had incentive to court him as a campaign donor. “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Mr. Trump said. “As a businessman, I need that.”

Quotable

In this recent Law360 article “FCPA Challenges Make for Spotty Trial Record for DOJ,” Michael Levy (Paul Hastings) states:

“We’ve seen several trials in which the judges have been skeptical, if not outwardly hostile, to some of the government’s more aggressive interpretations of the FCPA. While those trials may have fallen apart for other reasons, that skepticism still played, I believe, a substantial role.”

“Without the development of the law through judicial decisions, it’s very unclear what judges believe the FCPA means compared to what the DOJ think the FCPA means.”

(See here for Levy’s FCPA Professor guest post titled “Prosecutorial Common Law”).

In the same article, George Terwilliger (McGuireWoods and a former high-ranking DOJ official) states:

“It is fundamental to due process that a person of ordinary intelligence should be able to read a law and understand what is required or prohibited, as the case may be. Many people of great intelligence on both sides of an FCPA question debate just such issues.”

“That does not produce the fair warning that those subject to the law deserve to have.”

For the Reading Stack

An informative article here by Jon N. Eisenberg (K&L Gates) titled “Are Public Companies Required to Disclose Government Investigations.”  While not FCPA-specific, the article is FCPA relevant and begins as follows.

“For many public companies, the first issue they have to confront after they receive a government subpoena or Civil Investigative Demand (“CID”) is whether to disclose publicly that they are under investigation. Curiously, the standards for disclosure of investigations are more muddled than one would expect. As a result, disclosure practices vary—investigations are sometimes disclosed upon receipt of a subpoena or CID, sometimes when the staff advises a company that it has tentatively decided to recommend an enforcement action, sometimes not until the end of the process, and sometimes at other intermediate stages along the way. In many cases, differences in the timing of disclosure may reflect different approaches to disclosure. We discuss below the standards that govern the disclosure decision and practical considerations. We then provide five representative examples of language that companies used when they disclosed investigations at an early stage.”

Former Bio-Rad General Counsel Brings Employment Claims Against Company And Executives In The Aftermath Of An FCPA Enforcement Action

Bio-Rad

In recent years several terminated corporate employees have alleged unfair employment practices in connection with some aspect of FCPA scrutiny or enforcement.

Indeed, in 2010 FCPA Professor coined the term “noisy exit” to describe this dynamic.

Last week, Sanford Wadler, the former General Counsel and Secretary of Bio-Lab Laboratories, filed this civil complaint in federal court (N.D. Cal.) against the company and certain executive officers and board members alleging various unfair employment practices.  In summary fashion, the complaint alleges:

“This matter presents the classic case of whistleblower retaliation. After learning of his employer Bio-Rad’s involvement in extensive bribery occurring in Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam, Wadler investigated evidence of similar violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in China, where corruption is notoriously endemic. Key Bio-Rad officers and directors wanted Wadler to turn a blind eye to this misconduct or sweep it under the rug, but he refused. Instead, and following his mandatory duties under federal securities laws as the Company’s chief legal officer, Wadler investigated this potential criminal activity and reported it up the ladder. When Wadler reasonably began to believe that the conspiracy to violate the FCPA went all the way to the top of the corporate hierarchy, he reported his concerns to the Company’s audit committee. Then, just shortly before Bio-Rad was scheduled to present to the SEC and DOJ regarding the Company’s investigation into potential FCPA violations, the Company fired Wadler precisely because he refused to be complicit in its wrongdoing. A company is not allowed to attempt to silence whistleblowers in this manner.”

Wadler’s complaint asserts various federal and state law claims.

As highlighted in this previous post, in November 2014 Bio-Rad agreed to pay approximately $55 million to resolve DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions.

Wadler’s complaint contains interesting allegations as to the inner-workers of how FCPA allegations were handled at Bio-Rad as well as critical allegations concerning the law firms hired by Bio-Rad to conduct the FCPA internal investigation.

Wadler is represented by Michael Von Loewenfeldt of Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP

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