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Marubeni Enforcement Action Specifics

A post last week mentioned the $88 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action (the 12th largest of all-time in terms of settlement amount) against Marubeni (a Japanese company).  In 2012, Marubeni resolved a $55 million FCPA enforcement action (see here for the prior post) involving Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct.

This post highlights specifics from the enforcement action in the original source documents – the criminal information and plea agreement.  [Previously, the DOJ released original source documents relevant to an FCPA enforcement action at the same time as announcing the enforcement action.  However, according to a knowledgeable source, the DOJ has a new policy of releasing original source documents only when those documents have been filed-stamped by the relevant court.  While an understandable policy, the end result will likely be that the majority of reporting of FCPA enforcement actions will be reporting exclusively from DOJ press releases, not original source documents.  Not on this website] 

The Marubeni enforcement action is a virtual carbon copy of the April 2013 FCPA enforcement action against various current and former employees of Alstom concerning the Tarahan power project in Indonesia.  Indeed, as highlighted in the previous post, Marubeni is the “Consortium Partner” in the prior enforcement action and those associated with Alstom previously charged (Lawrence Hoskins, Frederic Pierucci, William Pomponi and David Rothschild) are mentioned prominently in the Marubeni enforcement action.

Information

The information alleges that Marubeni and its subsidiaries, including Marubeni Power Systems Corporation (“MPSC”), partnered with Alstom (simply referred to in the Information as Power Company) and its subsidiaries in bidding and carrying out of the Tarahan Project in Indonesia, a $118 project to provide power-related services to the citizens of Indonesia that was bid and contracted through Indonesia’s state-owned and state-controlled electricity company, Perusahaan Listrik Negara (“PLN”). According to the information, Marubeni managed all work on the project, including auxiliary equipment and civil building and installation work.

According to the information, Marubeni and Alstom retained two consultants (the same consultants as in the prior 2013 enforcement action) and the “consultant’s primary purpose was not to provide legitimate consulting services to Marubeni and Alstom but was instead to pay bribes to Indonesian officials who had the ability to influence the award of the Tarahan Project contract.”  The Indonesian officials are the same as the officials in the prior enforcement action.

“Official 1 … a member of Parliament in Indonesia [who] had influence over the award of contracts by PLN, including on the Tarahan Project”

“Official 2 … a high-ranking official at PLN [who] had broad decision-making authority and influence over the award of contracts by PLN, including on the Tarahan Project”

“Official 3 … an official at PLN [who] was a high-ranking member of the evaluation committee for the Tarahan Project. Official 3 had broad decision-making authority and influence over the award of the Tarahan contract.”

According to the information, Marubeni, through its employees and agents made payments to a consultant’s bank account in Maryland, knowing that a portion of the payments to the consultant was intended for Indonesian officials in exchange for their influence and assistance in awarding the Tarahan Project to Marubeni and Alstom.  In addition, the information alleges that Marubeni, through its employees and agents, attended meetings in Connecticut in connection with the Tarahan Project.

There are no specifics in the information concerning the Marbueni employees such as rank, title or position of the employees (as noted in the information, Marubeni has approximately 24,000 employees in over 70 countries).

Based on the above allegations, the information charges Marubeni with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. As to jurisdiction, the information alleges that Marubeni, through its employees, together with others, while in Connecticut discussed in person, via telephone and via e-mail the need to obtain the Tarahan Project and making bribe payments to various alleged foreign officials in order to obtain the contract, and offered to pay, promised to pay, and authorized the payment of bribes to obtain the contract.  The information alleges approximately 60 separate overt acts in furtherance in the conspiracy and the vast majority of these allegations concerning the alleged co-conspirators associated with Alstom.  There are relatively few specific overt acts allegations concerning Marubeni employees other than the following.

In 2002 and 2004 employees of Marubeni traveled to Connecticut “to attend meetings … in connection with the Tarahan Project”

Between 2002 – 2004, e-mails were sent to Marubeni employees from co-conspirators or from Marubeni employees to co-conspirators in connection with the project and bribery scheme

Twice in 2005 and once in 2008 “Marubeni caused” wire transfers from a bank account in New York to a consultant’s bank account in Maryland in furtherance of the bribery scheme

The “most recent” allegation supporting Marubeni’s conspiracy charge allegedly occurred in November 2008.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, the information also alleges 7 substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations under the 78dd-3 prong of the statute.  The jurisdictional element of 78dd-3 is “while in the territory of the United States, corruptly to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce or to do any other act in furtherance …” of a bribery scheme.

Two of the 7 FCPA anti-bribery charges are Marubeni specific (the above mentioned 2005 and 2008 wire transfers).  The other 5 FCPA anti-bribery charges are based on the conduct of Alstom employees.

Plea Agreement

In the plea agreement, Marubeni admitted to the factual allegations in the information and agreed that it was responsible for the acts of its present and former employees described in the information.

As set forth in the plea agreement, the advisory sentencing guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $63.7 million to $127.4 million.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, Marubeni agreed to pay $88 million.  This is a relatively rare situation of an FCPA corporate defendant paying a criminal fine amount within the guidelines range.

The plea agreement states that the DOJ believes that the fine amount was the appropriate disposition based on:  “(1) the nature and seriousness of the offense; (2) the Defendant’s failure to voluntarily disclose the conduct; (3) the Defendants refusal to cooperate with the Department’s investigation when given the opportunity to do so; (4) the lack of an effective compliance and ethics program at the time of the offense; (5) the Defendant’s failure to properly remediate: and (6) the Defendant’s history of prior criminal misconduct.”

As is typical in corporate FCPA resolutions, Marubeni agreed to a host of compliance requirements and the plea agreement also contains a muzzle clause.

DOJ Release

In this release, Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman stated:

“Marubeni pleaded guilty to engaging in a seven-year scheme to pay – and conceal – bribes to a high-ranking member of Parliament and other foreign officials in Indonesia.  The company refused to play by the rules, then refused to cooperate with the government’s investigation.  Now Marubeni faces the consequences for its crooked business practices in Indonesia .”

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Gustafson (D. Conn.) stated:

“For several years, the Marubeni Corporation worked in concert with a Connecticut company, among others, to bribe Indonesian officials in order to secure a contract to provide power-related services in Indonesia.  Today’s guilty plea by Marubeni Corporation is an important reminder to the business community of the significant consequences of participating in schemes to bribe government officials, whether at home or abroad.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office Valerie Parlave stated:

“Companies that wish to do business in the United States or with U.S. companies must adhere to U.S. law, and that means bribery is unacceptable.  The FBI continues to work with our international law enforcement partners as demonstrated in this case to ensure that companies are held accountable for their criminal conduct.  I want to thank the agents, analysts and prosecutors who brought this case to today’s conclusion.”

Marubeni’s Release

In this release, Marubeni stated:

“[The enforcement action follows the successful completion by Marubeni of its obligations under a January 2012 Deferred Prosecution Agreement entered with the DOJ relating to the liquid natural gas project in Nigeria. That Agreement required Marubeni to retain a corporate compliance consultant for two years to review and enhance its anticorruption compliance program to ensure that it satisfies standards specified by the DOJ, and to report to the DOJ regarding the results of this review. This was completed in January 2014, and at the request of the DOJ the related proceeding was dismissed on February 26, 2014.

The Tarahan conduct pre-dates the execution of Marubeni’s 2012 Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ. Marubeni has undertaken extensive efforts to enhance its anti-corruption compliance program, and believes that its current program is robust and effective. Although the agreement reached with DOJ today does not require Marubeni to further engage a compliance consultant, Marubeni is taking this matter seriously and commits to continue to thoroughly implement and enhance its anti-corruption compliance program.”

Marc Weinstein (Hughes Hubbard & Reed) represented Marubeni.  Weinstein also represented Marubeni in connection with the 2012 FCPA enforcement action.

Of Note From The Diebold Enforcement Action

Yesterday’s post (here) went long and deep as to the Diebold enforcement action.  Today’s post continues the analysis by highlighting additional notable issues.

Prior China Investigation

It is merely one paragraph in the SEC’s complaint, but it may be perhaps the most notable issue in the Diebold enforcement action (an action based primarily on excessive travel and entertainment payments by subsidiaries – the bulk of which occurred in China).  Para. 28 of the SEC’s complaint states:

“Other executives at Diebold were on notice of potential corruption issues at Diebold China. In 2007, a regional government agency in China, the Chengdu Administration of Industry & Commerce (“CDAIC”), opened an investigation involving, among other issues, leisure trips and gifts Diebold China had provided to bank officials. Company executives in China and the U.S. learned of the investigation after a Diebold field office in Chengdu was raided by authorities. Executives A and B took the lead in responding to the investigation. Diebold was able to settle the matter with no corruption charges filed, by paying CDAIC an administrative penalty of 600,000 RMB (approximately $80,000) for business registration violations. Despite being on notice of potential corruption issues at Diebold China, Diebold failed to effectively investigate and remediate these problems.”

In short, the bulk of the conduct at issue in the $48 million Diebold enforcement action was previously investigated by a foreign law enforcement agency and was resolved without corruption charges.

Repeat Offender

As noted in yesterday’s post, in resolving the SEC enforcement action, Diebold agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations.

As noted in this prior post, in July 2010 Diebold previously agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting future FCPA books and records and internal controls violations in a “non-FCPA FCPA enforcement action.”

In other words, Diebold is a repeat FCPA offender (at least as to books and records and internal controls provisions).  As noted in yesterday’s post, this was the reason why the enforcement agencies imposed a compliance monitor on Diebold notwithstanding its voluntary disclosure and cooperation.

The Diebold action once again raises the issue of whether SEC permanent injunctions represent meaningless settlement language.   (See here and here for prior posts).

Rogue?

Notwithstanding the fact that Diebold is a repeat offender, a separate question ought to be asked – was the Diebold enforcement action the result of rogue employees?

According to its website, Diebold employs 16,000 employees with representation in more than 90 countries worldwide.  The enforcement action primarily focuses on the conduct of two employees – Executive A and Executive B.  The SEC’s complaint specifically states that these executives received FCPA training in 2007, yet still continued their alleged improper practices.  In addition, the SEC specifically states that the “executives took further steps to hide the leisure nature of [the problematic] trips including, on at least one occasion, providing false information to the company’s auditors in China.”

Is it fair for Diebold shareholders to pay $48 million to resolve an enforcement action (let alone many millions more in pre and post enforcement action professional fees and expenses) based on conduct allegedly engaged in primarily by .0001% of its employees, employees who were trained on the FCPA, and employees who took steps to conceal their activity from others in the company?

Typical Chronology

Diebold’s FCPA scrutiny followed a typical pattern as set forth below.

As noted in this prior post, in July 2010, the company voluntarily disclosed to the DOJ and SEC conduct it learned of “while conducting due diligence in connection with a potential acquisition in Russia.”

This original source of scrutiny caused the company to conduct an internal review of its “global FCPA compliance” which resulted, as noted in this prior post, in the company thereafter disclosing as follows.  “In the fourth quarter of 2010, the Company identified certain transactions within its Asia Pacific operation over the past several years which may also potentially implicate the FCPA.”

As noted in this prior post, in August 2013, the company disclosed as follows.

“The company has agreed in principle with the DOJ and the SEC to the terms of a proposed settlement of their inquiries, which terms remain subject to final approval by all parties. These proposed settlement terms include combined payments to the U.S. government of approximately $48.0 million in disgorgement, penalties and prejudgment interest, and the appointment of an independent compliance monitor for a minimum period of 18 months.”

In short, the time period from first instance of public disclosure to actual settlement was approximately 3.25 years.  The time period from disclosure of a settlement in principle to actual settlement was approximately 3 months.

Friday Roundup

A sign-off, no surprise, scrutiny alert, for the reading stack, spot-on, and the $10 million man.

Judge Leon Signs-Off On IBM Action

As highlighted in this prior post, in March 2011 the SEC announced an FCPA enforcement action against IBM concerning alleged conduct in South Korea and China.  The settlement terms contained a permanent injunction as to future FCPA violations and thus required judicial approval.  Similar to the Tyco FCPA enforcement action, the case sat on Judge Leon’s docket.  Last month, Judge Leon approved the Tyco settlement (see here) and yesterday Judge Leon approved the IBM settlement.

The common thread between the two enforcement actions would seem to be that both companies were repeat FCPA offenders.

Like Judge Leon’s final order in Tyco, the final order in IBM action states:

“[For a two year period IBM is required to submit annual reports] to the Commission and this Court describing its efforts to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), and to report to the Commission and this Court immediately upon learning it is reasonably likely that IBM has violated the FCPA in connection with either improper payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business or any fraudulent books and records entries …””

For additional coverage of yesterday’s hearing, see here from Bloomberg.  The article quotes Judge Leon as follows.  IBM “has learned its lesson and is moving in the right direction to ensure this never happens again.” If there’s another violation over the next two years, “it won’t be a happy day.”

However, as noted in this previous post, IBM recently disclosed additional FCPA scrutiny.

No Surprise

This recent post highlighted the 9th Circuit’s restitution ruling in the Green FCPA enforcement action and was titled “Green Restitution Order Stands … For Now.”  As noted in the prior post, the decision practically invited the Greens to petition for an en banc hearing.

No surprise, the Greens did just that earlier this week – see here for the petition.

Scrutiny Alert

This February 2012 post detailed how Wynn Resorts $135 million donation to the University of Macau became the subject of an SEC inquiry.

Earlier this month, Wynn disclosed in an SEC filing as follows:

“On February 13, 2012, Wynn Resorts, Limited (the “Company”) filed a Report on Form 8-K disclosing that it had received a letter from the Salt Lake Regional Office (the “Office”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) advising the Company that the Office had commenced an informal inquiry with respect to certain matters, including a donation by Wynn Macau, Limited, an affiliate of the Company, to the University of Macau Development Foundation. On July 2, 2013, the Company received a letter from the Office stating that the investigation had been completed with the Office not intending to recommend any enforcement action against the Company by the SEC.”

According to this report:

“Speaking to The Associated Press from his boat on the Spanish island of Ibiza … CEO Steve Wynn said he never had any doubt federal investigators would clear the company.  ‘We were so sanguine that we never paid any attention to it; we had no exposure. It was a nonevent except for the damn newspapers.'”

For the Reading Stack

The always informative Gibson Dunn Mid-Year FCPA Update and Mid-Year DPA and NPA Update (through July 8th, approximately 30% of all DPAs/NPAs have been used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions).

Sound insight from Robertson Park and Timothy Peterson in this Inside Counsel column:

“Without putting too fine a spin on the matter, the discussion of the potential consequences faced by a company with potential anti-bribery exposure was fundamentally U.S.-centric. The dispositive question was often whether or not the potential misconduct was likely to fall under the umbrella of FCPA enforcement. Would U.S. authorities be interested in pursuing this matter? Would they find out about this matter? There were not many other concerns that mattered. Whether the site of the potential misconduct was in the European, Asian, South American or African sector, the substantial likelihood was that home authorities would have little interest in the matter, and even if they did it was likely an interest that would often frustrate and impede efforts by the Department of Justice or the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the matter. Cooperative enforcement was unlikely. This has changed. […]  For companies that learn of a potential international corruption issue, the impact of this emerging global enforcement market means that the headache associated with scoping an internal investigation is now a migraine with diverse and complex symptoms. Companies investigating potential bribery have always faced the question of how, if at all, they plan to disclose any subsequent findings to government authorities. Now, initial assessments of investigative plans in anti-bribery matters must consider a broader array of potentially interested enforcement authorities. Companies must design their anti-bribery investigations at the outset to consider not only the FCPA enforcement regime in the U.S., but also a newly energized U.K. anti-bribery law, along with a growing list of ant-bribery measures in almost all of the important jurisdictions with business growth opportunities.”

Six ways to improve in-house compliance training from Ryan McConnell and Gérard Sonnier.

The reality of facilitation payments from Matt Kelly.

“… Facilitation payments are a fact of life in global business. Nobody likes them, and no compliance officer wants to pay a bribe disguised as a facilitation payment. But when the transaction truly fits the definition of a facilitation payment—money paid to a government official, to speed up some job duty he would normally perform anyway—there shouldn’t be any ethical or legal crisis in paying it. After all, we have facilitation payments domestically in the United States. If you want a passport from the State Department, you pay $165 in fees. If you want an expedited passport, you pay an extra $60 fee and get your passport in half the usual time. That’s a facilitation payment, pure and simple. Other countries have all sorts of facilitation payments as well, say, to get a visa processed quickly or to clear goods through customs rather than let them rot on the docks. Urgent needs happen in business, and facilitation payments get you through them. That’s life.”

The language of corruption from the BBC.

Spot-On

Regardless of what you think of former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, he is spot-on with his observation that the so-called Arthur Anderson effect (i.e. if a business organization is criminally charged it will go out of business) is “overrated.”  As noted in this Corporate Crime Reporter piece, in a new book titled “Protecting Capitalism Case by Case” Spitzer writes:

“Almost all entities have the capacity to regenerate — even if under a new name, with new ownership and new leadership — and forcing them to do so will have the deterrent effect we desire.”

“Most companies would have no trouble continuing in operation once charged. They might suffer reputational harm, perhaps lose contracts, have certain loans be declared to be in default, and lose some personnel and public support. But that would probably be the proper price to be paid in the context of the violations of the law they committed.”

As noted in previous posts, the Arthur Anderson effect was effectively debunked (see here) and even Denis McInerney (DOJ, Deputy Assistant Attorney General) recently acknowledged (see here) that there is a very small chance that a company would be put out of business as a result of actual DOJ criminal charges.

In his new book Spitzer also writes as follows concerning the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy.

“I hope that the new leadership at the Securities and Exchange Commission will mandate that an admission of guilt is a necessary part of future settlements in cases of this stature or magnitude. The law and justice require such an acknowledgement — or else nothing has been accomplished.”

Speaking of neither admit nor deny, part of the SEC’s talking points defense of this policy is that the SEC is not the only federal agency that makes use of such a settlement policy.

On this score, it is notable – as detailed in this Law360 article – that Bart Chilton, a top official at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, “said the commission should rethink its policy of allowing defendants to settle claims without admitting or denying the allegations.”  According to the article, Chilton stated:

“I understand there are certain circumstances where we might not want to require [admissions], but I think we at the CFTC should change our modus operandi.  The default position should be that people who violate the law should admit wrongdoing.”

$10 Million Man

Continuing with neither admit nor deny, one of the defenders of this settlement policy was Robert Khuzami while he was at the SEC as the Director of Enforcement.   As noted in this Kirkland & Ellis release, Khuzami joined the firm as a partner in the global Government, Regulatory and Internal Investigations Practice Group.  According to this New York Times article, Khuzami’s new position “pays more than $5 million per year” and is guaranteed for two years.  In joining Kirkland, the New York Times stated that Khuzami “is following quintessential Washington script: an influential government insider becoming a paid advocate for industries he once policed.”

Khuzami and former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer were the voice and face of the SEC and DOJ last November upon release of the FCPA Guidance.  As detailed in this prior post, Breuer is currently at Covington & Burling making approximately $4 million per year.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Ashland Oil – The “FCPA’s” First Repeat “Offender”

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]

In 1986 the SEC brought this civil injunctive action against Ashland Oil, Inc. (a Kentucky based oil refining company) and its Chairman and CEO Orin Atkins for engaging in conduct in violation of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

The complaint began by noting that in 1975, prior to the passage of the FCPA, the defendants consented to final judgments of permanent injunction enjoining them from using corporate funds “for unlawful political contributions or other similar unlawful purposes.”  As noted in “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” Ashland Oil’s payments to Albert Bernard Bongo, the President of Gabon, were among a group of payments that drew Congressional attention to the foreign corporate payments problem and motivated Congress to pass the FCPA in 1977.

The 1986 Ashland Oil enforcement action is thus notable as the first instance of an “FCPA” repeat “offender.”

As highlighted in more detail below, the enforcement action is also notable for the following reasons:  (i) the thing of value consisted of buying a “foreign official’s” interest in a largely worthless mine); (ii) the conduct at issue lead to an FCPA-related civil suit in which two terminated company employees were awarded $70 million in damages; and (iii) there was controversy both as to the DOJ’s and SEC’s handling of the conduct at issue.

In the 1986 action, the SEC alleged that Ashland Oil and Atkins “paid $25 million in principal plus approximately $4 million in interest, and by virtue of the acquisition of an interest in Midlands Chrome [a largely worthless Zimbabwe mine owned by the “foreign official” and his family], gave something of value to James Landon [a British national seconded (detailed) to the government of Oman who served as a special adviser to the Sultan of Oman on Omani intelligence and security matters] … for the purpose of inducing Landon to use his influence with the government of Oman … in order to assist Ashland in obtaining and retaining business with the government of Oman … namely certain business related to crude oil.”

According to the complaint, Atkins was told that Midlands Chrome “could be purchased from persons who could be sympathetic to Ashland’s desire to become a purchaser of crude oil from Oman.”  Even though a company lawyer advised that the transaction raised issues under the FCPA, the SEC alleged that the “board of directors of Ashland held a meeting at which Atkins presented for the Board’s approval the acquisition of Midland Chrome.”  According to the complaint, Atkins viewed the acquisition as a “high risk project” but one that had “potential of being more than offset by a potential crude oil contract …”.  According to the complaint, initial board meeting minutes show that Atkins said “the corporation was interested [in the Midlands Chrome acquisition] for the reason that it might thereby be enabled to obtain a contract to purchase crude oil from Oman” but that “this statement was deleted from the final version of the minutes at Atkins’ direction.”

Based on the above core conduct, in a detailed 35 page complaint, the SEC alleged three substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations.

Atkins resigned as chairman of Ashland in 1981 after an internal investigation into a number of questionable foreign payments.  According to media reports, when the 1986 matter was resolved Atkins issued a statement which read as follows.  “Although it would be my personal preference to litigate this matter, I have agreed to settle this action so that the company can put this lingering dispute behind it, and because to contest this matter would have involved disproportionate trouble and expense.”  For more on the life of Orin Atkins, see here and here.

In media reports, Richard Murphy, an SEC enforcement lawyer, said the Ashland case was significant because it demonstrated that the SEC will go beyond the traditional “cash cases” and scrutinize more complicated transactions to determine if they represent violations.

In 1995, Ashland Oil changed its name to Ashland Inc.

In an interesting side note, former Ashland employees Bill McKay and Harry Williams sued the company for breach of contract and wrongful discharge, asserting that Ashland’s pattern of corrupt practices amounted to a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law.   McKay alleged that he was terminated because he refused to take part in any bribery schemes and that he refused in subsequent investigations to hide Ashland’s conduct from officials at the IRS and SEC.  According to a 1989 ABA Journal report, “Williams had not been asked to take part in any foreign payments, but he’d become sympathetic to McKay’s efforts to change Ashland’s policy.”  According to the report,  Williams “made an anonymous phone call to the SEC and spoke freely about Ashland’s recent actions abroad.”  A jury returned a verdict of approximately $70 million.  According to the ABA report, McKay was awarded over $44.5 million, and the rest was apportioned to Williams.  According to the report, Ashland threatened to appeal and the parties settled for $25 million.

Set forth below, in pertinent part, is an interesting article published in the Washington Post on July 10, 1988. about the DOJ’s and SEC’s handling of the conduct at issue.

“Lawyers for two former executives who won a $ 69.5 million award from Ashland Oil Co. contend that their victory shows the Securities and Exchange Commission pulled its punches in handling charges of overseas bribery and other illegal conduct by Ashland.  The two former vice presidents had said in wrongful-dismissal lawsuits and in SEC testimony that Ashland paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials to get scarce crude oil and then tried to cover up the illegal conduct. They said they lost their jobs after refusing to participate in conspiracies, perjury and other crimes.  Last month, a U.S. District Court jury in Covington, Ky., awarded Bill E. McKay $ 44.6 million and Harry D. Williams $ 24.9 million after a 35-day trial. The jury said the liability should be shared by Ashland; its former chairman and chief executive, Orin E. Atkins; John R. Hall, who succeeded Atkins in 1981, and Richard W. Spears, senior vice president for human resources and law.”

“The SEC filed a much narrower civil lawsuit in July 1986 charging that Ashland and Atkins had bribed an official of Oman to get oil from the sultanate. The suit was filed in tandem with a consent decree, a final court judgment in which Ashland and Atkins neither admitted nor denied past violations while agreeing to face criminal penalties for future ones.”

“The jury and the SEC each had essentially the same evidence of possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of 1977. The gap between the jury’s verdict and the SEC action shows that the SEC dealt with the matter too lightly, according to John R. McCall and Kenneth M. Robinson, the lawyers for McKay and Williams.  ‘I can understand how counsel for McKay and Williams are proud of their achievement, and they certainly have the right to crow about it,’ said SEC enforcement chief Gary G. Lynch. ‘But any criticism of the commission’s investigation, or of the results that we achieved, is simply unwarranted.'”

“Punitive damages accounted for only $ 3 million of the awards to McKay and Williams. Compensatory damages were tripled — to $66.5 million — for conspiring to violate, and for violating, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. RICO makes it unlawful for any person associated with an enterprise affecting commerce to lead or to join in ‘conduct of [the] enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity.’  The jury found that the three individual defendants had all conducted or participated in ‘a pattern of racketeering activity’ principally through multiple violations of the FCPA antibribery section and of a law prohibiting travel for the purpose of violating the section.”

[…]

“The SEC’s 1986 lawsuit, which followed months of negotiations with Ashland’s law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, named only one person paid by the oil company, James T.W. (Tim) Landon of Oman, as a foreign government official under the FCPA’s antibribery provisions. The complaint also alleged only one bribe, described by Ashland as a $ 25 million investment in a Landon-controlled chromium mine in Rhodesia.  But the jury found that Ashland, ‘with corrupt intent to bribe,’  had made payments to three figures it said were foreign officials under the FCPA: Landon and Yehia Omar of Oman, and Hassan Y. Yassin of Saudi Arabia (who also has operated a consulting firm in McLean).  With the same corrupt intent, the jury said, Ashland had made payments to a fourth recipient, Sadiq Attia, ‘knowing or having reason to know that’ all or a portion of the money — $ 17 million — ‘would be used to bribe a government official of Abu Dhabi.'”

“The SEC complaint and consent decree did not mention Yehia Omar or cite any Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia payments.  Last December, SEC Chairman David S. Ruder told Senate Banking Committee Chairman William Proxmire (D-Wis.) that the Division of Enforcement ‘concluded that the evidence was … insufficient to support further charges of violations’ of the FCPA. In an interview after the jury verdict, Lynch said ‘there was not sufficient evidence that we felt comfortable we could prevail’ if charges were brought based on Ashland payments to Omar. ‘Even before we sat down to negotiate, we had decided privately to exclude Omar, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia from the consent decree.  ‘It was clear to us that the Landon transaction was the strongest, because we believed we could establish that Landon was a government official at the time the chrome transaction occurred.’ Lynch said. He called a multiple-count complaint unnecessary.  ‘We were suing for injunctive relief,’ and ‘we could get it with Landon,’ he said. ‘There was no need to push and take on a litigation risk in a case that was much less certain.’  He extended this argument to the omission of the Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia cases.”

“But lawyers McCall and Robinson disagreed. ‘The finest judicial scrutiny our American judicial system can provide has now determined that the earlier government efforts were incomplete,’ McCall said. It’s ‘ridiculous’ for the SEC to claim the evidence was insufficient to convince a jury that bribery far beyond that which it alleged hadn’t occurred, he said.”

“Lynch also defended the SEC’s decision not to ask a federal court to find Ashland and Atkins had violated a 1975 consent decree and to hold them in criminal contempt.  ‘We did have a concern about meeting the higher burden of proof in order to prove criminal contempt,’ Lynch said. […] One difficulty in going the criminal route was that ‘the major thrust’ of the 1975 decrees involved unlawful political contributions, and ‘these were foreign bribes,’ Lynch said.”

“But the lawyers for McKay and Williams dismissed this explanation. They pointed out that the 1975 consent decrees prohibited false or fictitious bookkeeping entries, and said the $ 25 million Oman item that the SEC called a bribe, as well as the Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia payments, all were recorded by Ashland as ordinary outlays.  ‘It was like shooting ducks in a barrel,’ Robinson said. ‘There was no answer that any Ashland official could give on the stand to explain the fraud that was in the documents that they wrote. And how the SEC could miss that is beyond description.’  ‘The SEC should have seen it. These were indictable offenses … I don’t see the evidence that the SEC even slapped Ashland’s wrist. They just closed the book by executing another consent decree — a promise to pay, which is all that it is.'”

“Arthur F. Mathews, who was an SEC deputy enforcement chief in 1969, said in an interview that ‘in the horse-trading for not litigating,’ Cravath, Swaine ‘got the staff to strike Yehia Omar …  If I had to guess, they did not include Yehia Omar in their action because they thought it was a toss-up whether you could prove it, and they gave it up in the bargain.'”

“McCall said the SEC staff may well have done all it could have, particularly in light of the Reagan administration’s apparent reluctance to enforce the FCPA’s antibribery provisions.’ The SEC commissioners, for example, voted 3 to 2 to reject the division’s initial recommendation for a lawsuit that named only Landon as the recipient of a bribe. Only after the division reargued its case did the commission reverse itself, allowing Lynch to file the lawsuit.  Lynch said the SEC disregarded a report by an outside counsel who concluded that the Oman transactions had not violated the FCPA or the 1975 consent decree. Williams and McKay had challenged the independence of the outsider, Pittsburgh attorney Charles J. Queenan. Queenan is a friend of Cravath, Swaine presiding partner and Ashland director Samuel C. Butler, who submitted the report to the SEC as the work of an independent counsel.  ‘We did not accept the conclusion that it was an ‘independent counsel’ report,” Lynch said. The SEC staff ‘did our own very thorough investigation of the matter,’ he said. ‘It is clear that if we had accepted the Queenan report’s findings, we would not have filed an action.”

[…]

“Sen. Proxmire, who monitors FCPA enforcement, also has raised questions about the Justice Department’s role in the Ashland case. The department had full access to the SEC’s files from the start of the SEC staff investigation in May 1983. Last October, after a Washington Post series on Ashland’s payments to overseas consultants, Proxmire asked the department if it had investigated the matter and if ‘it has concluded that violations of the FCPA have taken place.’ If the conclusion was that there’d been no violations, ‘I would like an explanation of the rationale underlying such a judgment,’ Proxmire said. ‘If the department has not investigated these allegations, I request that you do so and let me know the results.’  Assistant Attorney General John R. Bolton said on Jan. 20 that he would respond when he received a report from the fraud section of the Criminal Division.  On June 20, Proxmire, having heard nothing more for six months, sent Attorney General Edwin Meese III a news story on the jury verdict in Kentucky and asked ‘whether the Department of Justice will now initiate a criminal action.’  If not, Proxmire said he wanted to know why. A department spokesman said a response is being prepared.”

Do NPAs And DPAs Deter?

As highlighted below, the DOJ recently acknowledged, despite prior definitive statements by former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer to the contrary, that “measuring the impact of NPAs and DPAs in deterring the bribery of foreign public officials would be a difficult task, save providing certain anecdotal and other circumstantial evidence.”

As discussed in this previous post, in September 2012 then Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer passionately defended the DOJ’s use of NPAs and DPAs.  Among other things, Breuer boldly stated that NPAs and DPAs “have had a truly transformative effect on particular companies and, more generally, on corporate culture across the globe” and that the result of DOJ’s frequent use of such agreements “has been, unequivocally, far greater accountability for corporate wrongdoing – and a sea change in corporate compliance efforts.”  Breuer further stated as follows.

“One of the reasons why deferred prosecution agreements are such a powerful tool is that, in many ways, a DPA has the same punitive, deterrent, and rehabilitative effect as a guilty plea:  when a company enters into a DPA with the government, or an NPA for that matter, it almost always must acknowledge wrongdoing, agree to cooperate with the government’s investigation, pay a fine, agree to improve its compliance program, and agree to face prosecution if it fails to satisfy the terms of the agreement.”

Despite Breuer’s rhetoric, the question of whether NPAs and DPAs adequately deter future improper conduct has long been asked.

As noted in this previous post, in 2009, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report regarding DOJ’s use of NPAs and DPAs. The GAO Report was not FCPA specific, although it does mention the FCPA as being one area where NPAs and DPAs are frequently used.  The GAO Report stated as follows.

“DOJ cannot evaluate and demonstrate the extent to which DPAs and NPAs—in addition to other tools, such as prosecution—contribute to the department’s efforts to combat corporate crime because it has no measures to assess their effectiveness. Specifically, DOJ intends for these agreements to promote corporate reform; however, DOJ does not have performance measures in place to assess whether this goal has been met.”

The GAO Report concluded as follows.

 “[W]hile DOJ has stated that DPAs and NPAs are useful tools for combating and deterring corporate crime, without performance measures, it will be difficult for DOJ to demonstrate that these agreements are effective at helping the department achieve this goal.

As noted in this previous post, in the 2010 OECD Phase 3 Report of U.S. FCPA enforcement, the evaluators likewise noted that the “actual deterrent effect [of NPAs and DPAs have] not been quantified.”  In the Report, the evaluators sought information about the deterrent effect of DPAs and NPAs” and one of the recommendations in the Report was for the U.S. to “make public any information about the impact of NPAs and DPAs on deterring the bribery of foreign public officials.”

The DOJ recently responded to the OECD’s recommendation in its “Final Follow-Up To Phase 3 Report and Recommendations.”  The DOJ response, dated December 2012, states in full, as to the NPA / DPA issues as follows.

“Scholars have recognized that quantifying deterrence is extremely difficult. This is equally true for the deterrent effect of DPAs and NPAs. Thus, as discussed at the time this recommendation was made, measuring ‘the impact of NPAs and DPAs in deterring the bribery of foreign public officials’ would be a difficult task, save providing certain anecdotal and other circumstantial evidence.

One of the best sources of anecdotal evidence demonstrating that DPAs and NPAs have a deterrent effect comes from the companies themselves. The companies against which DPAs and NPAs have been brought have often undergone dramatic changes. For instance, prior to or following the entry of DPAs or NPAs, many companies have terminated personnel, including senior managers, established new codes of conduct and compliance policies and procedures, pledged not to use third-party agents, withdrawn from bids tainted by corruption, provided new and substantial resources to compliance and audit functions within their organizations, and instituted new training regimes. These companies, through their remediation efforts under DPAs and NPAs, have often fundamentally changed how they conduct business. In addition, just like with individuals on parole or probation, the monitor provisions or self-reporting requirements of DPAs and NPAs are designed to deter future misconduct and, at the same time, ensure that companies meet their obligations. In meetings with board members, chief executive officers, chief financial officers, general counsel, and chief compliance officers, DOJ and SEC have heard directly from these senior leaders about the impact DPAs and NPAs have had on their companies for the better.

Beyond the companies themselves, DOJ and SEC have heard anecdotal stories about the deterrent effect of NPAs and DPAs on other companies and how those resolutions raise awareness of anti-corruption laws. Often those stories come from other corporate leaders who have discussed how their own practices have changed or even whole industries that have changed their behavior for the better. For example, during the course of one investigation, it was revealed that a major multinational corporation’s DPA caused another Fortune 50 company to implement an FCPA compliance program. In addition, following DPAs in different cases, companies have come forward to make voluntary disclosures of similar conduct. Many of our DPAs and NPAs are publicized extensively and scrutinized closely by the business community, the legal profession, and the compliance community, among others. The ‘lessons learned’ from these DPAs and NPAs, for example, help raise awareness of compliance risks and failures. The existence of DPAs and NPAs also encourages companies to voluntarily disclose conduct, by providing meaningful rewards to those companies, which enables DOJ and SEC to ensure further specific and general deterrence.”

Of course, what the DOJ says above as to the deterrent value of NPAs or DPAs would equally apply to actual prosecutions.

But let’s test the following statement made by the DOJ  “One of the best sources of anecdotal evidence demonstrating that DPAs and NPAs have a deterrent effect comes from the companies themselves. The companies against which DPAs and NPAs have been brought have often undergone dramatic changes.”

In 2008, the DOJ announced (here) that Aibel Group Ltd. (Aibel Group) pleaded guilty to violating the antibribery provisions of the FCPA.  As noted in the DOJ release, “Aibel Group admitted that it was not in compliance with a deferred prosecution agreement it had entered into with the Justice Department in February 2007 regarding the same underlying conduct.”  The DOJ release further states as follows.  “This is the third time since July 2004 that entities affiliated with Aibel Group have pleaded guilty to violating the FCPA.”

As this previous Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post highlighted, Ingersoll-Rand, fresh off its exit of a DPA in 2011, soon disclosed that it found other potential violations of the FCPA.  In a 2011 filing, the company stated as follows.

“We have reported to the DOJ and SEC certain matters which raise potential issues under the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws, including matters which were reported during the past year. We have conducted, and continue to conduct, investigations and have had preliminary discussions with respect to these matters with the SEC and DOJ, which are ongoing.”

So the question remains, do NPAs and DPAs deter?

It turns out that not even the DOJ knows the answer.

*****

Interested in NPA and DPA issues?  On May 3rd, I will be speaking at this event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.  hosted by Corporate Crime Reporter.

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