Better late than never, Judge Leon pulls a Judge Rakoff, Edmonds sentenced, it’s official, whistleblower statistics, it ought to stop marketing, China related issues, ICE melted quickly, and a U.K. enforcement action. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Under The Microscope
Academic publishing is seldom quick. Yet before the calendar flips into another year, I am pleased to share my article concerning 2011 FCPA enforcement. The abstract of “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Under The Microscope” (see here to download) recently published in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law is as follows. Information in the article is current as of January 16, 2012.
For most of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s history, key decisions concerning its scope and enforcement were made behind closed doors around conference room tables in Washington, D.C. The FCPA took on a life of its own and, in many instances, the statute came to mean whatever the DOJ or SEC could get putative corporate FCPA defendants (mindful of the consequences of actual prosecuted charges) to agree to behind those closed doors. However, as the enforcement agencies continued to push the envelope on enforcement theories and practices, and as the DOJ brought more individual FCPA enforcement actions, including through manufactured sting operations, business entities and individuals alike began to openly fight back. While many FCPA enforcement decisions and procedures remain opaque, 2011 witnessed the most intense year of public scrutiny in the FCPA’s history. This Article (i) provides an overview of 2011 FCPA enforcement and discusses certain problematic enforcement trends, and (ii) highlights how in 2011 the FCPA was subjected to the most meaningful public scrutiny in its history. FCPA enforcement trends and scrutiny demonstrate that as the FCPA nears its thirty-fifth year, basic legal and policy questions remain as to the purpose, scope, and effectiveness of the FCPA.
Judge Leon Pulls a Judge Rakoff
My post concerning the SEC’s March 2011 enforcement action against IBM was titled “Questions Abound in IBM Enforcement Action.” (See here). Among the issues I discussed were the following. That in December 2000, IBM resolved an FCPA enforcement action and consented, as part of the settlement, to the entry of an Order that requires IBM to cease and desist from committing or causing any future violation of [the FCPA’s books and records provisions]. I noted that because the March 2011 enforcement action alleged FCPA books and records charges, that IBM was thus in clear violation of the 2000 court order.
The case was assigned to Judge Richard Leon (of Africa Sting fame) and lingered for a long time. This Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post and this Bloomberg article report that Judge Leon has refused to approve the settlement.
As stated by Bloomberg – “The heart of the dispute is that Leon, who has had the case under review for 22 months, wants reporting on a broader range of possible wrongdoing than the company is willing to turn over. Leon, who spoke loudly and angrily, asked why the regulator would agree to limit such requirements for a company with a history of books-and-records violations. […] “I guess you want that $10 million judgment on your list of achievements this year,” Leon told [the SEC lawyer]. “Well, it’s not going to happen.” He scheduled a hearing for Feb. 4.”
As stated by Wall Street Journal Corruption Current – “Leon also questioned broader SEC settlement policies and warned that he was among “a growing number of district judges who are increasingly concerned” by those policies.”
In not “rubber stamping” the SEC – IBM settlement, Judge Leon pulled a Judge Rakoff. Judge Rakoff of the S.D. of N.Y. has been a frequent focus on this site – see here, here, here and here. See also, the discussion of Judge Rakoff in my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement.”
This past June, David Edmonds, a defendant in the long-running “Carson” enforcement action involving former employees of Control Components Inc., agreed to plead guilty on the eve of trial to substantially reduced charges. (See here for the prior post). Earlier this week, Judge James Selna sentenced Edmonds to four months in prison and four months of home confinement. (See here for Judge Selna’s sentencing memo). As noted in the DOJ’s sentencing memo (here), the DOJ sought a 14 month prison sentence.
Other defendants previously sentenced in the case are Stuart Carson (4 months in prison followed by 8 months of home detention), Hong Carson (3 years probation to include 6 months of home detention) and Paul Cosgrove (13 months home detention).
Imagine a foreign country in which the president is actively seeking and accepting corporate money to fund inaugural festivities. All sorts of red flags right?
But wait, this describes the United States and President Obama’s upcoming inauguration. As detailed in this prior post, President Obama’s fundraising advisers “have urged the White House to accept corporate donations for his January 2013 inaugural celebration rather than rely exclusively on weary donors who underwrote his $1 billion re-election effort.”
It’s now official. As noted by this recent New York Times article “President Obama’s finance team is offering corporations and other institutions that contribute $1 million exclusive access to an array of inaugural festivities.” As noted in the article, Obama’s finance team is offering four different packages “with differing levels of access depending on the level of contribution.”
Our FCPA enforcement agencies are bringing enforcement actions against companies for conduct that includes providing $600 bottles of wine, Cartier watches, cameras, kitchen appliances, business suits, and executive education classes to individuals employed by foreign companies that are allegedly state-owned or state-controlled. (These are all allegations found in recent FCPA enforcement actions).
But remember, as Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer recently declared (see here), “we in the United States are in a unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption.”
The Dodd-Frank Act enacted in July 2010 contained whistleblower provisions applicable to all securities law violations including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In this prior post from July 2010, I predicted that the new whistleblower provisions would have a negligible impact on FCPA enforcement. As noted in this prior post, my prediction was an outlier (so it seemed) compared to the flurry of law firm client alerts that predicted that the whistleblower provisions would have a significant impact on FCPA enforcement.
So far, there have not been any whistleblower awards in connection with FCPA enforcement actions. Given that enforcement actions (from point of first disclosure to resolution) typically take between 2-4 years, it still may be too early to effectively analyze the impact of the whistleblower provisions on FCPA enforcement.
Whatever your view, I previously noted that the best part of the new whistleblower provisions were that its impact on FCPA enforcement can be monitored and analyzed because the SEC is required to submit annual reports to Congress. Last month, the SEC released (here) its annual report for FY2012.
Of the 3,001 whisteblower tips received by the SEC in FY2012, 3.8% (115) related to the FCPA. As noted in this similar post from last year, in FY2011 (a partial reporting year) 3.9% of the 334 tips received by the SEC related to the FCPA.
It Ought to Stop Marketing
In this previous post titled “It Ought to Stop” I focused on the FCPA conference industry and how conference firms drive attendance to their events by touting the public servants who will speak at the event.
Here is how conference firm C5 touts its upcoming conference in a press release (here).
Ask the U.S. DOJ and U.S. SEC directly how your company can remain compliant
Hear the latest on the newly released FCPA guidance. Along with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission’s, Charles E. Cain, the Deputy Chief of the FCPA Unit, Enforcement Division, we will have Matthew S. Queler, from the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, presenting comprehensive, insightful and practical details of the U.S. government’s interpretation of the guidance, and highlight recent examples designed to help prevent future violations. Their session at 14:00 on Day 1, will help you navigate the ever evolving markets and recognize the current enforcement trends; giving you the tools to reanalyse risk profiles and minimize areas of exposure. Finally, to top off the hour you will be given an exclusive opportunity to have your FCPA questions answered. The only way to obtain answers directly from the U.S. DOJ and U.S. SEC is to register for this forum!
The event, depending when you register and which package you select, costs between €4341 – €1795.
It ought to stop.
China Related Issues
An occassional topic of discussion on this site is Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and how such companies are frequently doing business outside its borders, including here in the U.S. (See here, here, and here for prior posts).
Wall Street Journal Columnist Dennis Berman “hit the nail on the head” in his recent column when he noted that one of “the most intriguing business stories of the past month has been taking place in San Francisco, where a group of U.S. developers is planning the biggest real-estate expansion there since the 1906 earthquake. The group—which includes Lennar Corp., Ross Perot Jr. and others —isn’t getting financing from an American bank or pension fund. No, the money, some $1.7 billion of it, is coming from the China Development Bank, a policy arm of the Chinese state. As Berman further notes, a financing contingency is that China Railway Construction Corp. – a state-owned infrastructure builder with roots in the People’s Liberation Army—take part in the projects, which will develop up to 20,000 new homes.
Another occasional topic of discussion on this site is how Chinese companies are listing shares on U.S. exchanges and thus becoming “issuers” for purposes of the FCPA. (See here for a prior post). A core FCPA enforcement action of a Chinese issues has never occurred, but I predict it will some day – diplomatic and foreign policy issues aside. Only now, the universe of potential targets is shrinking. As noted in this recent Wall Street Journal article, several Chinese companies have delisted from U.S. exchanges. The article provides the following information. “At the peak, at year-end 2010, 167 Chinese companies were listed on Nasdaq and 99 on the NYSE. That compares with 84 China-based companies on NYSE and 129 on Nasdaq as of Nov. 30, 2012, according to the exchanges.” For more, see this recent article from the New York Times.
ICE Melted Quickly
This recent post highlighted the cert petition of Instituto Constarricense de Electricidad of Costa Rica (“ICE”) to the Supreme Court related to victim issues in connection with the December 2010 Alcatel-Lucent FCPA enforcement action. After several unsuccessful 11th Circuit appeals, ICE petitioned the Supreme Court to hears it case (see here). The question presented for review is as follows. “Whether a crime victim who is denied rights conferred by the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act has a right to directly appeal the denial of those rights.”
The ice melted quickly as recently the Supreme Court denied ICE’s petition.
U.K. Enforcement Action
Earlier this week, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced (here) charges against former employees of Swift Group (an oil and gas services provider) following “a two-year investigation into allegations of corruption in relation to the tax affairs of Swift Technical Energy Solutions Ltd, a Nigerian subsidiary of the Swift Group of companies.” According to the SFO release, “the value of the bribes alleged to have been paid is approximately£180,000.”
The SFO release notes that Paul Jacobs (the former Chief Financial Officer of Swift), Bharat Sodha (the former Tax Manager of Swift), Nidhi Vyas (the former Financial Controller of Swift), and Trevor Bruce (the former Area Director for Nigeria of Swift) were charged in relation to “bribes to tax officials to avoid, reduce or delay paying tax on behalf of workers placed by Swift. The charges relate to payments said to have been made to agents of the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue and the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue, both in Nigeria. The payments were made in 2008 and 2009.”
A happy holiday season to all.