Top Menu

DOJ Is Noncommittal Regarding The Future Of Its FCPA Pilot Program, But Who Really Cares?

DOJ2

On April 5, 2016, the DOJ announced a one-year FCPA Pilot Program (see here for the prior post).

With just a few weeks left in the program, the DOJ could easily make an emphatic statement about the future of the program.

But that is not what Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco did last week in a speech at the ABA National Institute on White Collar Crime.

Continue Reading

Across The Pond, Rolls-Royce Also Resolves A $625 Million U.K. Enforcement Action

Rolls

This recent post went in-depth into the $170 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Rolls-Royce. As mentioned in the post, the FCPA enforcement action against Rolls-Royce was part of a broader $800 million global resolution that also included a U.K. Serious Fraud Office component as well as Brazil law enforcement action.

The approximate $625 million U.K. enforcement action comprised the bulk of $800 million global resolution (that would seem to make sense, Rolls-Royce is after all a U.K. company) and is summarized below including the several failure to prevent bribery counts under the Bribery Act.

Continue Reading

Friday Roundup

Roundup

Harder pleads guilty, scrutiny alerts and updates, when the dust settles, visual proof, and golf. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Harder Pleads Guilty

As highlighted in this post, in January 2015 the DOJ announced a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Dmitrij Harder for allegedly bribing an official with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Harder is a Russian national, naturalized German citizen and permanent resident of the U.S. and the former owner and President of Chestnut Consulting Group Inc. and Chestnut Consulting Group Co. both based in Pennsylvania.

The enforcement action was notable in that it invoked the rarely used “public international organization” prong of the FCPA’s “foreign official” definition.

Continue Reading

Issues To Consider From The Alstom Action

Issues

recent post dived deep into the Alstom FCPA enforcement action.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting various issues to consider associated with the enforcement action.

A Real Head-Scratcher

Alstom entities engaged in conduct in violation of the FCPA.  This is clear from the DOJ’s allegations and consistent with DOJ enforcement theories.  Yet, if the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program is to be viewed as legitimate and credible, the charged conduct must fit (for lack of a better term) the crime.

The charges against Alstom S.A. are a real head-scratcher.

The conventional wisdom for why the Alstom action involved only a DOJ (and not SEC) component is that Alstom ceased being an issuer in 2004 (in other words 10 years prior to the enforcement action).

Yet, the actual criminal charges Alstom pleaded guilty to – violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions –  were based on Alstom’s status as an issuer (as only issuers are subject to these substantive provisions).

In other words, Alstom pleaded guilty to substantive legal provisions in 2014 that last applied to the company in 2004.

This free-for-all, anything goes, as long as the enforcement agencies collect the money nature of FCPA enforcement undermines the legitimacy and credibility of FCPA enforcement.

Enforcement Action Origins

What were the origins of the Alstom enforcement action?

It appears to be a 2011 Swiss enforcement action that began in October 2007.  (See here, here and here).

Indeed, in briefing in an individual enforcement action (Lawrence Hoskins) connected to the Alstom Indonesia conduct, the DOJ stated:

“When the Government began investigating this case, it sought evidence from various countries including Switzerland […].  The Government obtained orders pursuant to 18 USC 3292, tolling the statute of limitations in this case for the shorter of three years or the time it took to receive the evidence sought.  The first request, to Switzerland, was transmitted on September 22, 2010, and the tolling order reflects tolling beginning on that date.  Switzerland provided responses to the request on December 23, 2013.”

In the Swiss action, “Alstom Network Schweiz AG … was fined CHF2.5 million for negligence in implementing proper controls to prevent bribery by company officials in Latvia, Tunisia and Malaysia, and it was ordered to pay an additional CHF36 million for profits connected to the negligence.”

The foreign law enforcement origins of the Alstom action are typical of other enforcement actions in the Top Ten List of FCPA settlements (Siemens and the Bonny Island, Nigeria enforcement actions – KBR/Halliburton, Snamprogetti/ENI, Technip, and JGC Corp).

No Monitor

On one level, it seems odd that the Alstom enforcement action did not involve a corporate monitor as a condition of settlement. After all, the $772 million enforcement action was the largest DOJ FCPA enforcement action of all-time and per the DOJ “Alstom’s corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents. It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences.”

However, the resolution documents note “that Alstom is already subject to monitoring requirements pursuant to a February 2012 World Bank Resolution.” (See here).  As stated in the DOJ resolution documents: “in the event that the Integrity Compliance Office [of the World Bank] does not certify that the Company has satisfied the monitoring requirements contained in the World Bank Resolution, the Company shall be required to retain an Independent Compliance Monitor.”

Moreover, the vast majority of the alleged improper conduct in the DOJ enforcement action resided in business units that will soon be part of General Electric in 2015.  Thus, to impose a monitor on Alstom would, in effect, have been to impose a monitor on General Electric.

Third Party Red Flags

Most FCPA enforcement actions result from the conduct of third parties and ineffective corporate controls over third parties.

In this regard, the following paragraph from the Alstom enforcement is a dandy regarding third party red flags.

“A number of consultants that Alstom hired raised a number of “red flags” under Alstom’s own internal policies.  Certain consultants proposed for retention had no expertise or experience in the industry sector in which Alstom was attempting to secure or execute the project.  Other consultants were located in a country different than the project country.  At other times, the consultants asked to be paid in a currency or in a bank account located in a country different than where the consultant and the project were located.  In multiple instances, more than one consultant was retained on the same project, ostensibly to perform the very same services.  Despite, these “red flags,” the consultants were nevertheless retained without meaningful scrutiny.”

FCPA enforcement actions of course are no laughing matter, but the following specific allegations sort of make one chuckle.

“Alstom did not perform any due diligence on the consultant even though the consultant had no knowledge about, or experience in, the power industry.  Rather, the information alleges, the consultant “sold furniture and leather products, and exported chemical products and spare parts.”

“An Alstom entity formally retained a consultant on a [rapid transit] project even thought the consultant did not have the requisite expertise in the transport sector.  According to the information, the consultant’s expertise was as a “wholesaler of cigarettes, wines and pianos.”

More Information Needed As to Lack of Cooperation

Repeatedly in the resolution documents, the DOJ states that Alstom did not “cooperate.”

“The Defendant initially failed to cooperate with the Department’s investigation, responding only to the Department’s subpoenas to the Defendant’s subsidiaries.  Approximately one year into the investigation, the Defendant provided limited cooperation, but still did not fully cooperate with the Department’s investigation.”

“The Company and its parent initially failed to cooperate with the Department’s investigation, responding only to the Department’s subpoena.  Approximately one year into the investigation, the Company and its parent provided limited cooperation, but still did not fully cooperate with the Department’s investigation.”

Likewise, at the DOJ press conference, Assistant Attorney General Caldwell stated:

“The guilty pleas and resolutions announced today also highlight what can happen when corporations refuse to disclose wrongdoing and refuse to cooperate with the department’s efforts to identify and prosecute culpable individuals.”

[…]

“Alstom did not voluntarily disclose the misconduct to law enforcement authorities, and Alstom refused to cooperate in a meaningful way during the first several years of the investigation.”

If the DOJ wants its cooperation message to be fully absorbed by the corporate community, the DOJ should have been more specific about Alstom’s lack of “cooperation.”

Moreover, if “responding only to the DOJ’s subpoena” is considered lack of cooperation by the DOJ, this is troubling.  (See here for the prior post “Does DOJ Expect FCPA Counsel to Role Over and Play Dead?”).

A “Foreign Official” Stretch?

It was a relatively minor allegation in the context of the overall Alstom enforcement action, but one which caught my eye because of its extraordinarily broad implication.

As highlighted in this previous post, Asem Elgawhart was employed by Bechtel Corporation (a U.S. company) and was assigned by Bechtel to be the General Manager of Power Generation Engineering and Services Company (PGESCo), a joint venture between Bechtel and Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (the alleged “state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt”). According to the DOJ, Elgawhart “used his position and authority as the General Manager of a power generation company to solicit and obtain millions of dollars of kickbacks for his personal benefit from U.S. and foreign power companies that were attempting to secure lucrative contracts to perform power-related services.” “In total,” the DOJ alleged, “Elgawhart received more than $5 million in kickbacks to help secure more than $2 billion in contracts for the kickback-paying companies, all of which he concealed from his employer, from bidding companies that did not pay kickbacks and from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.” Based on these allegations, and as indicated in this DOJ release, Elgawhart was charged in a 8-count indictment with mail and wire fraud, money laundering and various tax offenses.

In the Alstom enforcement action, PGESCo and Elgawhart are described as follows:

As to Egypt, the information concerns bidding on various projects with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (“EEHC”), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt.  According to the information, “EEHC was not itself responsible for conducting the bidding [on projects], and instead relied on Power Generation Engineering & Services Co. (“PGESCo”), which was controlled by an acted on behalf of EEHC.”

PGESCo was controlled by and acted on behalf of EEHC. PGESCo worked “for or on behalf of’ EEHC, within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-l (f)( 1) [the FCPA’s “foreign official” definition].

According to the DOJ, Alstom used a consultant whose primary purpose “was not to provide legitimate consulting services to Alstom and its subsidiaries but was instead to make payments to Egyptian officials, including Asem Elgawhary who oversaw the bidding process.”

In short, in the Alstom action the DOJ alleged that Elgawhary, a Bechtel Corporation employee, was an Egyptian “foreign official.” This is an extraordinarily broad “foreign official” interpretation with implications for any person (privately employed) working on foreign projects with participation by a foreign government department, agency or instrumentality.

Rhetoric Undermined

As highlighted in this post, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell recently defended the DOJ’s frequent use of NPAs and DPAs by stating that the DOJ is able to achieve through such negotiated settlements reforms, compliance controls, and all sorts of behavioral change compared to what it could achieve without use of NPAs and DPAs.

As highlighted in the prior post, the notion that the DOJ is powerless to effect corporate change through old-fashion law enforcement (that is enforcing the FCPA without use of NPAs and DPAs) is plainly false.

Indeed, the Alstom and Alstom Network Schweiz AG plea agreements contain substantively the same corporate compliance program and reporting obligations as the Alstom Power and Alstom Grid DPAs.

False Certification

A likely overlooked allegation in the Alstom enforcement action concerns bidding on various grid projects with alleged state-owned and state-controlled entities in Egypt. According to the charging documents, certain of these projects were “funded, at least in part, by the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”)” and “an Alstom entity “repeatedly submitted false certifications to USAID in connection with these projects, and did not disclose that consultants were being used, that commissions were being paid, or that unlawful payments were being made.”

These allegations are similar to DOJ allegations in the BAE enforcement action (an enforcement action that alleged conduct that could have served as the basis for FCPA violations, but resulted in no actual FCPA charges).  As noted in this previous post, in the BAE action, the DOJ “filed a criminal charge against BAE Systems charging that the multinational defense contractor conspired to impede the lawful functions of the Departments of Defense and State, made false statements to the Departments of Defense and Justice about establishing an effective anti-corruption compliance program to ensure conformance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and paid hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed commission payments in violation of U.S. export control laws.”

How to Count FCPA Enforcement Actions

It is a basic issue:  how to count FCPA enforcement actions.

I use the “core” approach to counting FCPA enforcement actions (see here), an approach endorsed by the DOJ, but many in FCPA Inc. use various different creative counting methods that significantly distort FCPA enforcement statistics (see here).

Pursuant to the “core” approach, the Alstom action was one core enforcement action even though it involved the following components all based, in whole or in part, on the same core conduct.

  • Alstom S.A.
  • Alstom Network Schweiz AG
  • Alstom Power Inc.
  • Alstom Grid Inc.
  • Individual enforcement actions against Frederic Pierucci, David Rothschild, William Pomponi, and Lawrence Hoskins.

Counting the above as 8 FCPA enforcement actions instead of 1 core action highly distorts FCPA enforcement statistics and impacts the denominator of just about any FCPA enforcement statistic imaginable.

With several 2014 FCPA Year in Reviews to be published in January, one needs to be cognizant of these creative counting methods.

Friday Roundup

Roundup2

A double standard dandy, scrutiny alerts, when the dust settles, quotable, asset recovery, protection money, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Double Standard Dandy

Numerous prior posts have highlighted the double standard between enforcement (or lack thereof) of the U.S. domestic bribery statute (18 USC 201) and the FCPA.  (See here for the double standard tag with approximately 40 posts).

A leading FCPA practitioner sent me the following lead paragraphs in reaction to this recent New York Times article about alleged corruption in connection with state attorney generals offices.

“Media reports this week exposed widespread practices in which U.S.-based issuers have allegedly retained paid lobbyists to wine, dine, and make huge campaign contributions to the chief prosecutors in numerous foreign countries in hopes of obtaining favorable prosecutorial decisions in those countries, often with apparent success.  The DOJ and SEC have immediately launched one of the largest investigations in history to determine whether these activities violated the FCPA, which forbids U.S. companies from giving or promising anything of value to a foreign official in order to gain an improper advantage.  If found guilty, these companies could face multi-million-dollar fines and any implicated executives could face years of incarceration.

Oh wait.  Never mind.  It turns out the chief prosecutors work only for domestic U.S. state governments rather than foreign governments, and thus any tainted decisions would betray U.S. citizens rather than non-citizens living in foreign locations.  Nothing to worry about here after all – just keep moving along, citizens.”

Well said.

Scrutiny Alerts

Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s FCPA scrutiny has been interesting to follow as it represents a rare instance of a company receiving a Wells Notice from the SEC.  In its annual report, the company disclosed:

“Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Formal Order of Private Investigation and Department of Justice Investigation : On September 8, 2010, we were notified by the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional office of a formal order of private investigation. We understand that the investigation arose from a “whistleblower’s” allegations made in December 2009 to the audit committee of our Board of Directors and to the SEC. In 2010, the audit committee completed an internal review of the allegations with the assistance of independent counsel and independent forensic accountants. This internal review into the whistleblower’s allegations and related accounting practices did not identify any errors in our financial statements. On January 27, 2012, we learned that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California/Department of Justice (collectively, DOJ) had begun an investigation regarding our compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The audit committee conducted an internal review of our compliance with the FCPA and its related policies and procedures with the assistance of independent counsel and independent forensic accountants. The audit committee has completed this comprehensive review, made findings consistent with our findings described below and suggested enhancements to our overall FCPA compliance program. In part as a result of the audit committee’s review, we have made and continue to make enhancements to our FCPA compliance program, including implementation of the audit committee’s recommendations.

As previously disclosed, we discovered, and as a part of our cooperation with these investigations informed the SEC and the DOJ of, instances in which special hiring consideration, gifts or other benefits (collectively, benefits) were provided to several individuals associated with Chinese state-owned companies or agencies. Based on the facts currently known, we believe the aggregate monetary value of the benefits in question to be less than $250,000, excluding employment compensation.

On March 13, 2014, we received a Wells Notice from the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office indicating that the staff has made a preliminary determination to recommend that the SEC file an enforcement action against us for violations of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA. The bribery allegations relate to benefits offered or provided to individuals associated with Chinese state-owned companies or agencies. The Wells Notice indicated that the recommendation could involve a civil injunctive action and could seek remedies that include disgorgement of profits, the retention of an independent compliance monitor to review our FCPA policies and procedures, an injunction, civil monetary penalties and prejudgment interest.

A Wells Notice is not a formal allegation or finding by the SEC of wrongdoing or violation of law. Rather, the purpose of a Wells Notice is to give the recipient an opportunity to make a “Wells submission” setting forth reasons why the proposed enforcement action should not be filed and/or bringing additional facts to the SEC’s attention before any decision is made by the SEC as to whether to commence a proceeding. On April 4, 2014 and May 29, 2014, we made Wells submissions to the staff of the Los Angeles Regional Office explaining why we believe we have not violated the FCPA and therefore enforcement action is not warranted.

We are continuing to cooperate with the SEC and the DOJ, but are unable to predict the outcome of their investigations or any action that the SEC may decide to file.”

Cobalt International

The other instance of FCPA scrutiny involving an SEC Wells Notice is Cobalt International.  Earlier this week, the company disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, the Company is currently subject to a formal order of investigation issued in 2011 by the SEC related to its operations in Angola. On August 4, 2014, the Company received a Wells Notice from the Staff of the SEC with respect to such investigation. On September 24, 2014, the Company responded to the Wells Notice in the form of a Wells Submission. The Company is unable to predict the outcome of the SEC’s investigation or any action that the SEC may decide to pursue.”

When the Dust Settles

It is always interesting to see what happens when the dust settles from an FCPA enforcement action (see here for the prior post). The recent Bio-Rad enforcement action concerned conduct in, among other places, Vietnam.

According to this source:

“The [Vietnam] Ministry of Health has called on police to investigate an American medical equipment manufacturer that has admitted to bribing Vietnamese officials. Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien filed a formal request on Wednesday with the Ministry of Public Security that asked investigators to determine whether anyone had accepted kickbacks from Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. On the same day, the ministry’s inspectors instructed government hospitals to review any purchases from from Bio-Rad since 2005 and submit a report on the issue by November 15.”

Quotable

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Yates v. United States, the case involving a fisherman who was criminally charged with violating the anti-shredding provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley (i.e. “altered, destroyed, mutilated, concealed, covered up, falsified, or made a false entry in a record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede or obstruct an investigation”) for disposing of some fish.

In this Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bill Shepherd, a partner in Holland & Knight LLP and lead counsel for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers which filed an amicus brief in the Yates case, states:

“[C]reativity in law enforcement should be confined to new strategies for undercover operations, not new, tortured interpretations of laws on the books. […]  Congress is often criticized for overregulating and overcriminalizing. But the Yates case is a dramatic example of executive branch overreaching. Just because a prosecutor can file a charge doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. Prosecutors everywhere struggle with the burden of teaching new prosecutors how to recognize the appropriate use of their authority. Professional groups like the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section work to help foster that dialogue. Success among colleagues in prosecutors’ offices is measured, as it should be, by the number of convictions and the length of sentences handed down. But the other part of success—more difficult to measure—is the courage to close unfounded investigations or dismiss cases because they are not supported by the evidence, or don’t match an American sense of justice. The ultimate measure of success is the ability to live, work and raise a family in a safe environment—secure in the knowledge that government will not abuse that power with which we entrust it. This must be our universal goal.”

For coverage of oral argument in the Yates case, see here from the New York Times.

Asset Recovery

Deputy Attorney General James Cole recently delivered this speech at the Third Annual Arab Forum on Asset Recovery.

“Corruption undermines and weakens that which is the basis of modern society – the rule of law.  Corrupt officials who put their personal enrichment before the benefit of their citizenry create unstable countries.  Corruption siphons precious resources away from those in need at a time when such resources could hardly be more scarce and when the world economy could hardly be more vulnerable.  The repercussions of corruption – the hospitals left unbuilt, the roads still unpaved, the medicine undelivered – undermine the integrity of democratic institutions, creating gaps in government structures that organized criminal groups exploit.  And as we have seen time and again, countries plagued with corruption become breeding grounds and havens for other criminals and terrorist groups who threaten global security.”

[…]

“To underscore the U.S.’s commitment to asset recovery, Attorney General Holder established a Kleptocracy Initiative in the Department of Justice.  The Kleptocracy Team includes dedicated prosecutors working to forfeit corruption proceeds and, whenever we can, return those proceeds to benefit the people harmed by the corruption.  The Kleptocracy prosecutors are soon to be paired with a dedicated Kleptocracy squad of FBI agents and analysts, and this squad will enhance the capacity of the United States to respond rapidly in investigating and locating corruption proceeds.

The Kleptocracy Initiative seeks to deliver on our responsibility to protect the integrity of the U.S. financial system and its institutions from the destructive influence of corruption proceeds and to deny kleptocrats safe haven to hide and enjoy their ill-gotten gains.”

Speaking of asset recovery, the DOJ announced that it filed a civil forfeiture complaint seeking the forfeiture of $106,488.31 in allegedly laundered funds traceable to a $2 million bribe payment made by a Canadian energy company to Chad’s former Ambassador to the United States and Canada and his wife.

According to the release:

“From 2004 to 2012, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, 49, served as Chad’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada.  According to the forfeiture complaint, Bechir agreed to use his position to influence the award of oil development rights in Chad in exchange for $2 million and other valuable interests from Griffiths Energy International Inc., a Canadian company.  In order to conceal the bribe, Bechir and his wife, Nouracham Niam, 44, allegedly entered into a series of agreements with Griffiths Energy that provided for the payment of a $2 million “consulting fee” if the company secured the oil rights in Chad.  After securing these oil rights in February 2011, Griffiths Energy allegedly transferred $2 million to an account located in Washington, D.C. held by a shell company created by Niam.  In 2013, Griffiths Energy pleaded guilty in Canadian court to bribing Bechir. The complaint further alleges that, after commingling the bribe payment with other funds and laundering these funds through U.S. bank accounts and real property, Bechir transferred $1,474,517 of the criminal proceeds traceable to the bribe payment to his account in South Africa, where he is now serving Chad’s Ambassador to South Africa.  The current action seeks forfeiture of $106,488.31, which is the current balance of Bechir’s accounts in South Africa.  Those funds have been seized pursuant to the complaint unsealed today.  The Department of Justice is also seeking additional assets from Bechir and Niam.”

See here for the prior post highlighting the Canadian enforcement action against Griffiths Energy and pondering whether there would be a U.S. enforcement action.

Protection Money
Is paying “protection money” to tribal leaders in Egypt an FCPA issue?  (See here from National Geographic).
“No US firm will speak publicly of the measures they take to avoid open appeasement of Bedouin claims, but in private conversations, employees of American and European oil giants have spoken of hiring tribesmen for non-existent or unnecessary jobs. Usually they’re listed as security guards or dump truck drivers ferrying sand and gravel, but they seldom turn up to except to collect their monthly salaries. This arrangement has afforded most energy firms a largely hassle-free hand to work in the vast, poorly policed expanses that flank the Nile river.”
Reading Stack
Professor Brandon Garrett’s – “Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations.”
*****
A good weekend to all.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes