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