Top Menu

Friday Roundup

Some FCPA news to pass along on this Friday.

SFO Defends BAE Settlement

Richard Alderman, the Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) recently defended the SFO settlement with BAE (see here).

Among other things, Alderman argued that any suggestion BAE “got off lightly” ignores “London’s contribution in enabling the U.S. to impose a $400 million fine.”

Point taken.

Alderman then says that the DOJ “would not have achieved what they achieved without [the SFO] and [the SFO] would not have achieved what [the SFO] achieved without [the DOJ].”

Point not taken.

What actually did the DOJ and SFO achieve in the BAE matter? What is achieved when a company settles a case invovling allegations of worldwide bribery, per the allegations in the public documents, WITHOUT being held accountable bribery?

What is achieved when you charge BAE’s agent (presumably based on evidence that the following did occur) for “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc” and then a few days later withdraw the charges and state “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defence contracts.”

As to this issue, Alderman stated that “the public interet lay in drawing a line under the whole investigation.”

The article notes that “two campaigning groups said they would launch a legal challenge to Mr. Alderman’s decision, saying it failed to reflect the scale and scope of the bribery allegations relating to BAE’s network of hundreds of agents on four continents.” If anyone knows who these groups are, or the legal framework (including standing) under U.K. law to allow such a challenge, please do share.

For prior posts on BAE, includng the DOJ’s non-bribery, bribery allegations see here.

Alderman did also suggest that additional joints DOJ/SEC settlements are being negotiated.

The Pipes May Soon Burst

Ocassionaly, I have covered “cases” reportedly in the FCPA pipeline (see here). Set forth below is some “pre-news” about some coming attractions.

Given the above, it seems fitting to start with KBR, Inc.

KBR, Inc.

Here’s what Halliburton had to say earlier this week regarding its exposure via M.W. Kellogg / KBR for the SFO piece of the investigation into Bonney Island (Nigeria)(pgs. 35-36, 63-64). For a prior post see here.

Pride International Inc.

Earlier this week, Pride disclosed (here) that:

“it has accrued $56.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 in anticipation of a possible resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of potential liability under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. {…] The accrual in the fourth quarter 2009 represents the company’s best estimate of potential fines, penalties and disgorgement related to settlement of the matter with the DOJ and SEC. The monetary sanctions ultimately paid by the company to resolve these issues, whether imposed on the company or agreed to by settlement, may exceed the amount of the accrual.”

For prior posts about Pride see here.

Innospec, Inc.

Here is what Innospec had to say about its on-going FCPA matter:

“”We have made substantial progress, but not yet completed, negotiations of final settlements of the Oil for Food Program and FCPA investigations, in either the U.S. or United Kingdom. However, we have charged a further $21.9 million in the quarter, based on the status of ongoing discussions, to bring the total amount accrued to $40.2 million. The Company will make no further comments on the ongoing proceedings.”

Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent recently provided (here) details (see pg. 112) on its FCPA (and other) exposure concerning conduct in Costa Rica and other places. In pertinent part the company stated:

“As previously disclosed in its public filings, Alcatel-Lucent has engaged in settlement discussions with the DOJ and the SEC with regard to the ongoing FCPA investigations. These discussions have resulted in December 2009 in agreements in principle with the staffs of each of the agencies. There can be no assurances, however, that final agreements will be reached with the agencies or accepted in court. If finalized, the agreements would relate to alleged violations of the FCPA involving several countries, including Costa Rica, Taiwan, and Kenya. Under the agreement in principle with the SEC, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a consent decree under which Alcatel-Lucent would neither admit nor deny violations of the antibribery, internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA and would be enjoined from future violations of U.S. securities laws, pay U.S.
$45.4 million in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest and agree to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor to evaluate in accordance with the provisions of the consent decree (unless any specific provision therein is expressly determined by the French Ministry of Justice to violate French law)
the effectiveness of Alcatel-Lucent’s internal controls, record-keeping and financial reporting policies and procedures. Under the agreement in principle with the DOJ, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), charging Alcatel-Lucent with violations of the internal controls and
books and records provisions of the FCPA, and Alcatel-Lucent would pay a total criminal fine of U.S. $ 92 million—payable in four installments over the course of three years. In addition, three Alcatel-Lucent subsidiaries—Alcatel-Lucent France, Alcatel-Lucent Trade and Alcatel Centroamerica—would each plead guilty to
violations of the FCPA’s antibribery, books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. The agreement with the DOJ would also contain provisions relating to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor. If Alcatel-Lucent fully complies with the terms of the DPA, the DOJ would dismiss the charges upon
conclusion of the three-year term.”

For the trials and tribulations on both sides of this corporate hyphen see here and here.

Thirsty for more? OK, here is the last one.

Maxwell Technologies Inc.

Here is what the company’s CEO had to say about its $9.3 million accural for a potential FCPA settlement:

“Unfortunately, all this good news is tempered by the GAAP required $9.3 million accrual we recorded in Q4 for the potential settlement of FCPA violations in connection with the sale of high-voltage capacitor products in China by our Swiss subsidiary. As we reported previously, after we became aware of questionable payments made to an independent sales agent in China, we disclosed that discovery and initiated an internal review and we have been voluntarily sharing information with the SEC and the Justice Department.”

See also here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Some FCPA news to pass along on this Friday.

SFO Defends BAE Settlement

Richard Alderman, the Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) recently defended the SFO settlement with BAE (see here).

Among other things, Alderman argued that any suggestion BAE “got off lightly” ignores “London’s contribution in enabling the U.S. to impose a $400 million fine.”

Point taken.

Alderman then says that the DOJ “would not have achieved what they achieved without [the SFO] and [the SFO] would not have achieved what [the SFO] achieved without [the DOJ].”

Point not taken.

What actually did the DOJ and SFO achieve in the BAE matter? What is achieved when a company settles a case invovling allegations of worldwide bribery, per the allegations in the public documents, WITHOUT being held accountable bribery?

What is achieved when you charge BAE’s agent (presumably based on evidence that the following did occur) for “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc” and then a few days later withdraw the charges and state “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defence contracts.”

As to this issue, Alderman stated that “the public interet lay in drawing a line under the whole investigation.”

The article notes that “two campaigning groups said they would launch a legal challenge to Mr. Alderman’s decision, saying it failed to reflect the scale and scope of the bribery allegations relating to BAE’s network of hundreds of agents on four continents.” If anyone knows who these groups are, or the legal framework (including standing) under U.K. law to allow such a challenge, please do share.

For prior posts on BAE, includng the DOJ’s non-bribery, bribery allegations see here.

Alderman did also suggest that additional joints DOJ/SEC settlements are being negotiated.

The Pipes May Soon Burst

Ocassionaly, I have covered “cases” reportedly in the FCPA pipeline (see here). Set forth below is some “pre-news” about some coming attractions.

Given the above, it seems fitting to start with KBR, Inc.

KBR, Inc.

Here’s what Halliburton had to say earlier this week regarding its exposure via M.W. Kellogg / KBR for the SFO piece of the investigation into Bonney Island (Nigeria)(pgs. 35-36, 63-64). For a prior post see here.

Pride International Inc.

Earlier this week, Pride disclosed (here) that:

“it has accrued $56.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 in anticipation of a possible resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of potential liability under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. {…] The accrual in the fourth quarter 2009 represents the company’s best estimate of potential fines, penalties and disgorgement related to settlement of the matter with the DOJ and SEC. The monetary sanctions ultimately paid by the company to resolve these issues, whether imposed on the company or agreed to by settlement, may exceed the amount of the accrual.”

For prior posts about Pride see here.

Innospec, Inc.

Here is what Innospec had to say about its on-going FCPA matter:

“”We have made substantial progress, but not yet completed, negotiations of final settlements of the Oil for Food Program and FCPA investigations, in either the U.S. or United Kingdom. However, we have charged a further $21.9 million in the quarter, based on the status of ongoing discussions, to bring the total amount accrued to $40.2 million. The Company will make no further comments on the ongoing proceedings.”

Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent recently provided (here) details (see pg. 112) on its FCPA (and other) exposure concerning conduct in Costa Rica and other places. In pertinent part the company stated:

“As previously disclosed in its public filings, Alcatel-Lucent has engaged in settlement discussions with the DOJ and the SEC with regard to the ongoing FCPA investigations. These discussions have resulted in December 2009 in agreements in principle with the staffs of each of the agencies. There can be no assurances, however, that final agreements will be reached with the agencies or accepted in court. If finalized, the agreements would relate to alleged violations of the FCPA involving several countries, including Costa Rica, Taiwan, and Kenya. Under the agreement in principle with the SEC, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a consent decree under which Alcatel-Lucent would neither admit nor deny violations of the antibribery, internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA and would be enjoined from future violations of U.S. securities laws, pay U.S.
$45.4 million in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest and agree to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor to evaluate in accordance with the provisions of the consent decree (unless any specific provision therein is expressly determined by the French Ministry of Justice to violate French law)
the effectiveness of Alcatel-Lucent’s internal controls, record-keeping and financial reporting policies and procedures. Under the agreement in principle with the DOJ, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), charging Alcatel-Lucent with violations of the internal controls and
books and records provisions of the FCPA, and Alcatel-Lucent would pay a total criminal fine of U.S. $ 92 million—payable in four installments over the course of three years. In addition, three Alcatel-Lucent subsidiaries—Alcatel-Lucent France, Alcatel-Lucent Trade and Alcatel Centroamerica—would each plead guilty to
violations of the FCPA’s antibribery, books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. The agreement with the DOJ would also contain provisions relating to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor. If Alcatel-Lucent fully complies with the terms of the DPA, the DOJ would dismiss the charges upon
conclusion of the three-year term.”

For the trials and tribulations on both sides of this corporate hyphen see here and here.

Thirsty for more? OK, here is the last one.

Maxwell Technologies Inc.

Here is what the company’s CEO had to say about its $9.3 million accural for a potential FCPA settlement:

“Unfortunately, all this good news is tempered by the GAAP required $9.3 million accrual we recorded in Q4 for the potential settlement of FCPA violations in connection with the sale of high-voltage capacitor products in China by our Swiss subsidiary. As we reported previously, after we became aware of questionable payments made to an independent sales agent in China, we disclosed that discovery and initiated an internal review and we have been voluntarily sharing information with the SEC and the Justice Department.”

See also here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Lack of Pride (And That CITGO Sign Too)

If the SEC were to put titles on its complaints, the above may be fitting for the complaint released (see here) earlier this week against Bobby Benton (the former Vice President, Western Hemisphere Operations for Pride International, Inc.).

In its complaint (see here), the SEC alleges that “Benton was responsible for, among other things, ensuring that Pride conducted its Western Hemisphere operations in compliance with the FCPA, that adequate controls were in place to prevent illegal payments, and that the company’s books and records were accurate.”

Despite this position, the SEC alleges that: (i) “Benton authorized the payment of $10,000 to a third party, believing that all or a portion of the funds would be given by the third party to a Mexican customs official in return for favorable treatment by the official regarding certain customs deficiencies identified during a customs inspection of a Pride supply boat; (ii) “Benton learned that a customs agent engaged by Pride’s Mexican subsidiaries paid approximately $15,000 to a Mexican customs official to ensure that the export of a rig would not be delayed due to customs violations; and (iii) Benton concealed the bribe payments made by the manager of the Venezuelan branch of a French subsidiary of Pride from Pride’s internal and external auditors by “redact[ing] references to the Venezuelan payments in an action plan responding to an internal audit report.”

The SEC further alleges that “[d]espite his knowledge, and in one instance authorization, of the Venezuelan and Mexican bribes, Benton signed two false certifications in connection with audits and reviews of Pride’s financial statements denying any knowledge of bribery.” The financial results of the Mexican and Venezuelan entities were consolidated with Pride’s for purposes of financial reporting.

The “foreign officials” involved are Mexican customs officials / customs agents and an official of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Benton with violating the FCPA’s antibribery provisions, aiding and abetting FCPA violations, and aiding and abetting violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Most SEC FCPA enforcement actions (whether against a company or an individual) are settled on the same day the civil complaint is filed. Not so in this case and the SEC complaint notes that Benton asserted his 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination when subpoenaed to testify by the SEC. Will the SEC actually be put to its burden of proof in an FCPA case?

Pride International’s most recent disclosure on this issue is in its 10-Q filed on November 2, 2009 (see here – pgs. 17-18). As noted in the disclosure, what began as an inquiry into Latin America operations has spawned into a substantial worldwide review of the company’s operations.

*****

The Benton complaint mentions Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.

The DOJ/SEC’s interpretation of the “foreign official” element of an FCPA anti-bribery violation is well known by now – all employees of state-owned or state-controlled entities (SOEs), such as PDVSA, are “foreign officials” regardless of title or position.

Further, all employees of SOE wholly-owned subsidiaries are considered “foreign officials” under this interpretation. In fact, a business entity does not even need to be majority owned by a SOE for its employees to be considered “foreign officials” by DOJ/SEC (see the KBR/Halliburton enforcement action (see here paras 13-14) where officers and employees of Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) are deemed “foreign officials” despite the fact that NLNG is owned 51% by a consortium of private multinational oil companies (see here).

Applying DOJ/SEC’s untested and unchallenged interpretation to PDVSA can, well, let’s just say it can lead to some rather weird results.

Why?

One of PDVSA’s wholly-owned subsidiaries is Citgo Petroleum Corporation (“CITGO”) (see here).

Thus, under DOJ/SEC’s view, all CITGO employees are “foreign officials” under the FCPA regardless of title or position.

This despite the fact that CITGO is a Delaware corporation based in Houston.

In other words, CITGO is both subject to the FCPA and all of its employees (under the DOJ/SEC interpretation) are “foreign officials.” How’s that for a little mental gymnastics.

At the very least, this gives readers something to think about the next time they attend a ball game at Fenway Park (see here).

FCPA Collateral Effects and Those “Pesky” Shareholders

I previously posted (see here) that while there is little in terms of substantive FCPA case law – this much is clear – there is no private right of action under the FCPA – enforcement of the law is in the hands of the DOJ and the SEC.

That does not mean that aggrieved third parties, including a company’s own shareholders, are without legal recourse should a company become subject to an FCPA enforcement action or merely disclose a potential FCPA issue.

Indeed, shareholder derivative litigation is often a collateral effect of FCPA disclosures or enforcement actions.

Case in point, the shareholder derivative complaint filed last week on behalf of Pride International, Inc. in Texas state court against certain members of its board of directors and certain of its executives officers seeking to remedy defendants’ breach of fiduciary duties. (see here).

The breach?

According to the complaint, “[f]rom 2001 to 2006, Pride repeatedly violated the [FCPA] through its business operations in numerous countries.” (see para. 1). “Certain current and former officers and directors of the company were aware of the violations and that the violations could, and eventually did, cause substantial harm to Pride and its shareholders, yet they knowingly failed to make a good faith effort to correct or prevent the misconduct.” (see para. 1).

The complaint alleges at para 23 that “[t]he individual defendants were aware of the violations well before the company announced the FCPA Investigation to the company’s shareholders and the public at large.” “Nevertheless,” according to the complaint, “the Individual Defendants took no action until an undisclosed employee of the company complained about the violations.”

The complaint then details Pride’s numerous public statements – beginning in March 2006 – regarding its potential FCPA issues and exposure. Certain of these disclosures and statements have been covered elsewhere (see here and here).

Beyond re-stating Pride’s numerous public statements, the complaint is sparse on detail, including little specific factual evidence to support the allegation that the Director Defendants “knew or were reckless in not knowing of the Company’s violations of the FCPA.” (see para. 50).

Regardless of the complaint’s ultimate fate, the Pride derivative suit is but the latest example of the collateral effects / sanctions a company will likely face when its business conduct is subject to FCPA scrutiny.

For those keeping track at home, such collateral effects / sanctions are yet another reason for companies to have effective, robust and well-communicated FCPA compliance policies and procedures which are periodically monitored and strengthened.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes