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Deputy Assistant AG Miner On M&A Issues, The DOJ’s Opinion Procedure Program, And Other Issues (With Rebuttal)

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As highlighted in this prior post, while in private practice Matthew Miner criticized the “Yates Memo,” DOJ transparency, the deficiencies of DOJ guidance as a solution in the FCPA space, and the FCPA’s “foreign official” element.

Now that he is Deputy Assistant Attorney General and – in his words – “wear[ing] a different hat,” Miner largely read from the DOJ’s FCPA script in this speech yesterday.

This post excerpts Miner’s speech and provides various rebuttal points.

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FCPA Flash – A Conversation With Alice Fisher Regarding DOJ FCPA Enforcement And Policy

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The FCPA Flash podcast provides in an audio format the same fresh, candid, and informed commentary about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related topics as readers have come to expect from written posts on FCPA Professor.

This FCPA Flash episode is a conversation with Alice Fisher (Latham & Watkins and former Assistant Attorney General in charge of the DOJ’s Criminal Division). During the podcast, Fisher discusses: the DOJ’s recent non-binding policy discouraging “piling on”;  the DOJ’s FCPA Opinion Procedure program in light of her 2006 comments as Assistant AG that the program should “be something that is useful as a guide to business”; whether the DOJ’s long-standing efforts to encourage voluntary disclosure have failed (for instance in the same above-linked speech Fisher stated: “I can tell you [companies] in unequivocal terms that you will get a real benefit” for voluntary disclosure; whether FCPA enforcement (in terms of resolution vehicles, enforcement theories, DOJ/SEC policy, etc.) has evolved for the better or the worse since her time at the DOJ; and what about the FCPA (the actual statute) or FCPA enforcement (DOJ/SEC enforcement policy, resolution vehicles, etc.) should change and why.

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It’s Been A While Since A DOJ FCPA Opinion Was Released

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The FCPA, when enacted, directed the DOJ Attorney General to establish a procedure to provide responses to specific inquiries by those subject to the FCPA concerning conformance of their conduct with the DOJ’s “present enforcement policy.”

However, it’s been a while since a DOJ FCPA opinion was released. To be specific, the last time the DOJ issued a so-called FCPA opinion procedure release was November 7, 2014.

This post provides a general overview of the DOJ’s FCPA Opinion Procedure Release Program and highlights reasons why it has largely been viewed as a useless program.

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Democratic Senator Asks The DOJ, “As Rapidly As Possible,” To Issue An Advisory Opinion “Whether Executives Of The Trump Organization And Related Companies – Including President Trump Himself” Are Violating The FCPA

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Last Friday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) issued this press release (with an accompanying letter) asking the DOJ, “as rapidly as possible,” to issue an advisory opinion “whether executives of The Trump Organization and related companies – including President Trump himself” are violating the FCPA.

As highlighted in this post, there are certain deficiencies in Senator Blumenthal’s letter. Moreover, while the FCPA expressly authorizes the DOJ to issue FCPA advisory opinions, Senator Blumenthal clearly does not qualify as a requestor.

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Friday Leftovers

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Scrutiny update, a double standard, ripples, that’s interesting, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in a leftovers edition of the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Update

One of the longest-lasting instances of FCPA scrutiny concerns PBSJ Corporation (a global engineering and architectural firm) that first disclosed FCPA scrutiny in December 2009.  PBSJ was subsequently acquired by WS Atkins (a U.K. company) and WS Atkins disclosed in a recently regulatory filing as follows.

“There are ongoing discussions regarding the longstanding and previously reported Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission enquiries relating to potential Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations by the PBSJ Corporation prior to its acquisition by the Group. We anticipate resolution of this matter before the end of the current financial year.”

Double Standard?

Several FCPA enforcement actions or instances of FCPA scrutiny have been based on providing things of value such as meals, entertainment and consulting fees to foreign physicians.

Against this backdrop, the Wall Street Journal reports:

“As it fights to buy Botox maker Allergan Inc.,  Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. is investing cash and time wooing the doctors it would need on its side after a takeover. A centerpiece of the effort: Valeant said it met with a total of 45 influential cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists in September at events in Aspen, Colo., and Palm Beach, Fla. Valeant paid for the physicians’ airfares, two-night stays at luxury hotels and meals. The company also agreed to provide consulting fees that could amount to as much as $30,000, according to doctors who attended the meetings. Valeant, a smaller player than Allergan in cosmetic medicine, must win over doctors if it wrests control of the Botox maker, since it will rely on the physicians for business. Valeant said the pursuit seems to be paying off. Several doctors who attended the sessions, of what Valeant called its special advisory committee, said they were won over by the company’s plans for Allergan—including attracting patients to physicians’ offices and introducing new products.”

Ripples

My recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples” highlights that 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.

One such ripple is offensive use of the FCPA to further advance a litigating position and that is just what Instituto Mexicano Del Seguro Social (“IMSS”) has done in this recent civil complaint against Orthofix International.

You may recall that in July 2012 Orthofix resolved a $7.4 million FCPA enforcement action based on allegations that its Mexican subsidiary paid bribes totaling approximately $317,000 to Mexican officials in order to obtain and retain sales contracts from IMSS. (See here for the prior post).

In the recent civil complaint, IMSS uses the core conduct at issue in the FCPA enforcement action and alleges various RICO claims, fraud claims, and other claims under Mexican law.

That’s Interesting

As has been widely reported (see here for instance), “President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission … to declare broadband Internet service a public utility, saying that it was essential to the economy …”.

That’s interesting because – as informed readers know – in the 11th Circuit’s “foreign official” decision the court concluded that an otherwise commercial enterprise can be a “instrumentality” of a government if the “entity controlled by the government … performs a function the controlling government treats as its own.”  Among the factors the court articulated for whether an entity performs a “function the controlling government treats as its own” was “whether the public and the government of that foreign country generally perceive the entity to be performing a governmental function.”

Reading Stack

Several law firm client alerts regarding the DOJ’s recent FCPA Opinion Procedure release concerning successor liability (see herehere, here).  In this alert, former DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Charles Duross leads with the headline “Is DOJ Evolving Away from the Halliburton Opinion Standard?” (a reference to this 2008 Opinion Procedure release).

From Foley & Larder and MZM Legal (India) – “Anti-Bribery and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Guide for U.S. Companies Doing Business in India.”

Recent interviews (here and here) with Richard Bistrong, a real-world FCPA violator and undercover cooperator.  See here for my previous Q&A with Bistrong.  As noted here, Bistrong recently spoke to my FCPA class at Southern Illinois University School of Law. Having the ability to hear from an individual who violated the law my students were studying, and being able to hear first-hand of real-world business conditions, was of tremendous value to the students and added an important dimension to the class.

Should the government reconsider its use of deferred prosecution agreements?  That is the question posed in this New York Times roundtable (in the context of recent bank prosecutions).

Finally for your viewing pleasure, an FCPA-related interview here of SciClone’s CEO (a company that has been under FCPA scrutiny since approximately August, 2010).

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A good weekend to all.

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