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Friday Roundup

Scrutiny alerts, coming clean, coming off a monitor, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts

Hyperdynamics

This previous post, regarding the arrest and charging of Frederic Cilins for obstruction of justice in connection with an ongoing  investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea, highlighted that while Cillins has been associated with BSG Resources, the charging documents make clear that BSG is not the sole focus of the U.S. investigation.

Earlier this week, Houston-based Hyperdynamics Corporation issued this release.  It states:

“[On] September 2013 [the company] received a subpoena from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting that the Company produce documents relating to its business in Guinea.  In 2006, a Production Sharing Contract was signed by the Company and the government of Guinea granting rights to an oil and gas concession offshore Guinea.  The Company understands that the DOJ is investigating whether Hyperdynamics’ activities in obtaining and retaining the concession rights and its relationships with charitable organizations potentially violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or U.S. anti-money laundering statutes.  The Company has retained legal counsel to represent it in this matter and is cooperating fully with the government.  The Company is unable to predict when the investigation will be completed, what outcome may result and what costs the Company will incur in the course of the investigation.”

On the day of Hyperdynamics disclosure, the company’s stock fell approximately 15%.  As sure as the sun rises, a few days later, not one but two, plaintiffs firm issued releases (here and here) announcing an “investigation.”

Vinci

As noted in this article, “French prosecutors have opened a preliminary enquiry into allegations that a subsidiary of construction firm Vinci bribed officials in Russia […] to win the contract for a toll motorway linking Moscow to Saint Petersburg.”  Vinci has American Depository Receipts that are traded on a U.S. exchange.

Coming Clean

This previous post highlighted the employee amnesty program created by SNC-Lavalin (a Canada-based engineering and construction company
mired in a bribery and corruption scandal concerning projects in Bangladesh and certain countries in Africa).  The company recently announced as follows.

“A total of 32 employees made amnesty requests. While no new information of a material nature was revealed, the information the Company received did confirm its previous assessment of corruption risks.”

The release also highlights other compliance enhancements and policies and procedures the company has implemented.

Coming Off a Monitor

In August 2010, Alliance One International resolved an FCPA enforcement concerning conduct in Kyrgyzstan and Thailand by agreeing to pay approximately $9.5 million (see here for the prior post).  Even though Alliance One’s entire exposure was based, not on anything it did, but rather successor liability theories and even though the enforcement action was the product of a voluntary disclosure, the non-prosecution agreement required the company to engage a corporate monitor for a three-year period.

In this recent release Alliance One stated:

“On September 30, 2013, the Company fulfilled its obligations under its settlement agreements, including the successful and on-time completion of its compliance monitorship. On May 7, 2013, the Monitor filed his third and final of his required reports with the DOJ and the SEC. In the third report, the Monitor evaluated the long-term sustainability of the Company’s compliance program, in addition to risk-based themes and the implementation of recommendations from previous years.  The Monitor concluded the third report by certifying that the Company’s Compliance Program, including its policies and procedures, is reasonably designed and implemented to detect and prevent violations of anti-corruption laws within the Company. The final report also states that all recommendations of the Monitor have been fully implemented by the Company.  As per the schedule set forth in the aforementioned settlement agreements, the monitorship formally ended on time on September 30, 2013, and without any extensions of that date by the Monitor, the DOJ or the SEC.”

In the release, Alliance One President and CEO J. Pieter Sikkel stated:

“Over the past three years we have built a world-class compliance program supported by strengthened systems, policies, procedures and controls that address a variety of compliance areas.  While the completion of the monitorship is an important milestone, our strong commitment to operating ethically and compliantly will continue indefinitely.”

Joe Warin (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher) was the monitor.  See here for a previous post concerning an article Warin and his colleagues wrote titled ““Somebody’s Watching Me: FCPA Monitorships and How They Can Work Better.”

Reading Stack

Much has been written in connection with GlaxoSmithKline in China about the arrest and detention of Peter Humphrey and his wife based on accusations in the course of background checks performed by their Shanghai-based firm ChinaWhys.

In a similar instance, this recent article in Barron’s profiles the plight of Canadian stock analyst Kun Huang has been locked up in China for more than a year for exposing alleged improper conduct concerning Silvercorp Metals.  According to the article, “Canadian authorities have opened a bribery probe based on [Huang’s]  allegations.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Simply inexcusable, tell us who, an interesting case study, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Simply Inexcusable

The government holds those subject to the FCPA to high standards.  If the proverbial “right hand” in a company doesn’t know what the “left hand” is doing, the government is likely to call that an internal control failure.

Ought not the government be held to the same standard?

What follows is simply inexcusable.

In February 2012, Judge Lynn Hughes (S.D.Tex.) signed this final dismissal of the FCPA enforcement action against John O’Shea.  The motion followed Judge Hughes granting O’Shea’s motion for acquittal after the DOJ’s case in chief in the FCPA trial.  (See here for the prior post).  During the case, Judge Hughes stated, among other things, as follows.  “The problem here is that the principal witness against Mr. O’Shea . . . knows almost nothing. . . .;  The government should have been prepared before they brought the charges to the Grand Jury. . . . You shouldn’t indict people on stuff you can’t prove.’’

Following the acquittal and dismissal, O’Shea has attempted to resume a normal life without the specter of criminal charges and possible jail time occupying his mind.  It is understandable that O’Shea wants his reputation and “old” life back.  But removing the taint of being labeled a criminal law violator by the government has not come easy for O’Shea.

Case in point is the following story.

O’Shea was recently hired by a company and traveled to Canada for a business trip.  The trip was uneventful until O’Shea tried to enter Canada.  It turns out the relevant government databases were not updated to reflect the disposition of his case – something that happened 14 months ago!

O’Shea indicated that he spent the entire afternoon with officials of the Canadian government to persuade them that he should not be put on the next plane back to the U.S. with U.S. marshals.  O’Shea reports that the Canadian official was open-minded enough to visit internet sites suggested by O’Shea (including FCPA Professor) as proof that he was no longer a criminal defendant in the U.S.

After his business trip to Canada, O’Shea also had problems re-entering the U.S. from Canada and could not help but wonder whether someone would be waiting for him upon arrival in Houston.  O’Shea reports that thankfully his fears were not realized, but he can not help but wonder what would have happened if his business trip was to some country other than Canada.

In short, the government’s internal control failure was simply inexcusable.

Tell Us Who

In the aftermath of this week’s Ralph Lauren enforcement action (see here for the prior post) alleging payments to Argentine customs officials, the Argentine government wants to know who the customs officials are.

As noted in a Law360 article, “in a letter to U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Vilma Martinez, the head of Argentina’s tax agency, Ricardo Echegaray, said that it was necessary for the Argentine government to have names and more detailed information about the alleged bribery to aid in a newly launched criminal investigation into the matter.”  The article further stated as follows.  “While seeking the names of Argentine officials implicated in the scheme, Echegaray also put the blame on Ralph Lauren’s customs brokers, who are not government officials, but rather private professionals hired to deal with trade matters. Echegaray likened these brokers’ roles to those of a tax adviser or accountant which companies hire for assistance.”

The question asked by the Argentine official is obviously a legitimate question.

But query whether the DOJ and/or SEC even know who the officials are.

As noted in this previous post concerning the SEC’s briefing in the Jackson and Ruehlen case involving alleged payments to Nigerian customs officials, the SEC argued that the name, titles and exact positions of foreign officials allegedly bribed need not be known in order to state a claim under the FCPAs anti-bribery provisions.

As highlighted in this previous post, in ruling on Jackson and Ruehlen’s motion to dismiss, Judge Keith Ellison (S.D.Tex.) noted in a footnote as follows.

“[T]he Court must disagree with Judge Hughes’s oral statements in a recent criminal FCPA prosecution. [U.S. v. O’Shea] (“You can’t convict a man promising to pay unless you have a particular promise to a particular person for a particular benefit. If you call up the Basurtos and say, look, I’m going to send you 50 grand, bribe somebody, that does not meet the statute.”). This Court holds that asking a third-party to bribe a government official, in order to induce that official to act in one of the proscribed ways detailed in [the FCPA], would meet the statute. The government does not have to “connect the payment to a particular official.”
Case Study

This post earlier this week regarding Wal-Mart noted that savvy investors should have recognized the NY Times induced “FCPA dip” of the company’s stock as a buying opportunity because the market often overreacts to FCPA issues.

In this post earlier this week regarding Ralph Lauren Corp.’s (RLC) FCPA enforcement action, it was noted that the RLC enforcement action was a rare instance of an issuer not previously disclosing its FCPA scrutiny.  Thus, the first instance of public scrutiny appears to have been announcement of the enforcement action on Monday morning.  RLC’s stock dipped approximately 2% on the news and closed at $165.93.  The “FCPA dip” lasted only a day, as Tuesday the stock rebounded and then some and closed yesterday at $175.38.

Reading Stack

Miller & Chevalier’s seasonal FCPA alerts are always information reads.  The firm recently released its FCPA Spring Review 2013.

Is sex as a “thing of value”?   See here from Wendy Wysong (Clifford Chance) – with a particular focus on Asia.

Should you be looking for further citations that more FCPA enforcement is good for FCPA Inc., see this recent article in Lawyers Weekly, an Australian publication.  The article begins as follows.   “A crackdown on foreign bribery has created “a mountain of work” for lawyers, a Jones Day partner has said ahead of a major international anti-corruption conference.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Ralph Lauren Resolves FCPA Enforcement Action Via Double NPAs Based On Subsidiary Conduct In Argentina

Yesterday, the DOJ and SEC announced (here) and (here) a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against apparel company Ralph Lauren Corporation (“RLC”).  The conduct at issue focused on Argentina custom issues and the actions were resolved via a DOJ NPA (here) and an SEC NPA (here).

Although the DOJ frequently uses NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context, this is only the second instance the SEC has used an alternative resolution vehicle to resolve an FCPA enforcement action.  As noted in this previous post, in May 2011 the SEC used a DPA to resolve an FCPA enforcement action against Tenaris.  For more on the SEC’s use of alternative resolution vehicles, see prior posts here and here.

RLC agreed to pay $1.6 million to resolve its FCPA scrutiny – $882,000 pursuant to the DOJ NPA and $700,000 pursuant to the SEC NPA ($593,000 in disgorgement and $141,845 in prejudgment interest).

The gist of the enforcement action is as follows.

RLC has approximately 95 foreign subsidiaries.  One subsidiary, PRL S.R.L, an indirectly wholly-owned subsidiary of RLC headquartered and incorporated in Argentina, had a General Manager who conspired with a customs clearance agency to make improper payments “to assist in improperly obtaining paperwork necessary for goods to clear customs, to permit clearance of items without the necessary paperwork, to permit the clearance of prohibited items, and to avoid inspection.”

There is no allegation or suggestion that RLC was aware of, or participated in, the alleged conduct.  The resolution documents merely say that “in the five years that General Manager A, Agent 1, and others at PRL S.R.L carried out this scheme, RLC did not have an anti-corruption program and did not provide any anti-corruption training or oversight with respect to PRL S.R.L.”

The simplistic inference would seem to be that General Manager A would not have engaged in the improper conduct had RLC had an anti-corruption program and provided anti-corruption training.  However, this notion would seem to be undermined by reference to RLC’s worldwide FCPA compliance review which “identified no further violations.”

DOJ NPA

The NPA states that the DOJ “will not criminally prosecute RLC … related to violations of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA … arising from and related to improper payments in Argentina …”.

The NPA next states as follows.  “The DOJ enters into this Non-Prosecution Agreement based, in part, on the following factors:

(a) the Company’s timely, voluntary, and complete disclosure of the conduct;

(b) the Company’s extensive, thorough, and real-time cooperation with the Department, including conducting an internal investigation, voluntarily making employees available for interviews, making voluntary document disclosures, conducting a world-wide risk assessment, and making multiple presentations to the Department on the status and findings of the internal investigation and the risk assessment;

(c) the Company’s early and extensive remedial efforts already undertaken – including conducting extensive FCPA training for employees world-wide, enhancing the Company’s existing FCPA policy, implementing an enhanced gift policy as well as other enhanced compliance, control and anti-corruption policies and procedures, enhancing its due diligence protocol for third-party agents, terminating culpable employees and a third-party agent, instituting a whistleblower hotline, and hiring a designated corporate compliance attorney – and to be undertaken, including enhancements to its compliance program as described in [the compliance features of the NPA); and

(d) the Company’s agreement to provide annual, written reports to the Department on its progress and experience in monitoring and enhancing its compliance policies and procedures, as described in [the compliance features of the NPA).

In the NPA, which has a term of two years, RLC admitted, accepted and acknowledged responsibility for the conduct set forth in the statement of facts contained in the NPA, and further agreed to a “muzzle” clause in connection with the conduct at issue (see here for the prior post describing such a clause).

The conduct at issue focused on PRL S.R.L “an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of RLC headquartered and incorporated in Argentina.”  According to the NPA, “PRL S.R.L. marketed and sold RLC merchandise, including merchandise that was shipped from outside Argentina.”  According to RLC’s most recent annual report PRL S.R.L. is one RLC’s approximate 95 subsidiaries.

More specifically, the conduct at issue focused on “General Manager A” described as a “dual U.S. and Argentine citizen … hired by RLC to manage the business of PRL S.R.L. from 2003 until 2009” and “Agent 1” described as a “customs clearance agency that was retained by PRL S.R.L. to assist with customs clearance issues in Argentina.”

According to the NPA, from 2004 to 2009 “PRL S.R.L. and its employees, including General Manager A, together with Agent 1 and others, conspired to make unlawful payments to foreign officials to use the officials’ influence with foreign government agencies and instrumentalities in order to assist PRL S.R.L. in obtaining and retaining business for and with, and directing business to PRL S.R.L.”

According to the NPA, the improper payments were “to assist in improperly obtaining paperwork necessary for goods to clear customs, to permit clearance of items without the necessary paperwork, to permit the clearance of prohibited items, and to avoid inspection.” The NPA states that “these payments were not for routine government action.”

According to the NPA, the improper payments were “disguised” by “having Agent 1 include the payments in Agent 1’s invoice as ‘Loading and Delivery Expenses’ and ‘stamp tax/label tax.”  The NPA states that “General Manager A and others at PRL S.R.L. knew of the true purpose of these expenses and nonetheless approved reimbursement to Agent 1.”

The NPA next states as follows.

“In the five years that General Manager A, Agent 1, and others at PRL S.R.L carried out this scheme, RLC did not have an anti-corruption program and did not provide any anti-corruption training or oversight with respect to PRL S.R.L.”

The approximate three-page NPA concludes as follows.  “In total, General Manager A and PRL S.R.L. paid roughly $580,000 to Agent 1 for the purpose of paying bribes to customs officials in order to obtain improper customs clearance of merchandise.”

Pursuant to the NPA and based on the above statement of facts, RLC agreed to pay a penalty of $882,000.  There is no indication in the NPA as to how this figure was calculated or what it is based on.

SEC NPA

The SEC’s NPA is based on the core set of conduct set forth in the DOJ’s NPA.

The short 2.5 page document does however contain the following additional paragraph.

“In addition to paying bribes to Argentina customs officials, RLC Argentina’s general manager directly provided or authorized several gifts to be made to Argentine government officials to improperly secure the importation of RLC’s products into Argentina.  The gifts provided to three different government officials between approximately 2005 through approximately 2009 included perfume, dresses and handbags value at between $400 and$14,000 each.”

[As to this “statement of fact,” I noted in”Grading the FCPA Guidance” that one of the utilities of the FCPA Guidance issued in November 2012 would be to serve as a useful measuring stick for future FCPA enforcement activity.  As noted in this prior post, this is yet again another FCPA enforcement action based, in part, on such items as perfume, dresses and handbags – in the RLC action – allegedly paid by one employee at one of RLC’s approximate 95 subsidiaries.]

Under the heading “RLC’s Inadequate Internal Controls and Inaccurate Books and Records,” the NPA states as follows.

“As evidenced by the improper payments to Argentine customs officials and gifts to other government officials, the failure to ensure that proper and effective due diligence was conducted on the customs broker and Customs Broker A, and the failure of the review process for authorization or approval of reimbursement payments to Customs Broker A to detect a single improper payment, between 2005 and 2009, RLC failed to devise and maintain a system of internal controls at RLC Argentina sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that (i) transactions were executed in accordance with management’s general or specific authorization; (ii) transactions were recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles or any other criteria applicable to such statements; (iii) transactions were recorded as necessary to maintain accountability for assets; and (iv) that access to assets was permitted only in accordance with management’s general or specific authorization. RLC’s policies, procedures and training related to anticorruption and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) compliance in place at that time of the misconduct warranted further strengthening to ensure effective compliance with the related laws.

Between 2005 and 2009, certain RLC Argentina employees and agents paid bribes which were inaccurately recorded in RLC Argentina’s books, records and accounts, which were consolidated into the books and records of RLC.”

Under the heading “RLC’s Self Report,” the NPA states as follows.

“In or about February 201 0, RLC’ s Board of Directors adopted a new FCPA policy and shortly thereafter the policy was disseminated through RLC’s intranet site. In approximately Spring or Summer 2010 RLC Argentina employees reviewed the FCPA policy and raised concerns about the company’s customs broker in Argentina. As a result, RLC conducted an internal investigation of the allegations and discovered the improper payments to the customs officials and gifts to Argentine government officials. Within two weeks of uncovering the payments and gifts, RLC self-reported its preliminary findings to the both the SEC and the Department of Justice.”

Under the heading “Remedial Measures and Cooperation,” the NPA states as follows.

“Upon discovering the bribes, RLC took steps to end the misconduct, including terminating its customs broker. RLC also thoroughly reviewed its pre-existing compliance program and undertook steps to further update and enhance its compliance program, and successfully implemented those new enhancements. These steps included, in part, adoption of: (1) an amended anticorruption policy and translation of the policy into eight languages, (2) enhanced due diligence procedures for third parties, (3) an enhanced commissions policy, (4) an amended gift policy, and (5) in-person anticorruption training for certain employees. RLC also ceased retail operations in Argentina and is in the process of formally winding down all operations there.

RLC provided extensive, thorough, real-time cooperation with the staff of the Division and the Department of Justice, including: voluntary and complete production of documents and disclosure of information to the staff, including the facts described above; voluntarily providing accurate translations of documents; voluntarily making witnesses available for interviews; and conducting a risk assessment of certain other world-wide operations of the company. The worldwide review included its operations in Italy, Hong Kong and Japan, and identified no further violations. In fact, the revised compliance policies appear to be working, as the world-wide review identified one instance of a bribe solicitation being rejected by the company’s employees after adoption of the company’s revised FCPA policy in 2010.”

Without admitting or denying liability, RLC agreed to enter into the NPA.  At the same time, the NPA states as follows.  “This agreement should not … be deemed exoneration of RLC or to be construed as a finding by the Commission that no violations of the federal securities laws have occurred.”  At the same time, the NPA states that the “facts set forth are made pursuant to settlement negotiations and are not binding against RLC or its directors, officers or employees, or any other person or entity in any other legal proceeding.”

Like the DOJ NPA, the SEC NPA also contains a “muzzle” clause.

The SEC’s release (here) states as follows.

“The SEC has determined not to charge Ralph Lauren Corporation with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) due to the company’s prompt reporting of the violations on its own initiative, the completeness of the information it provided, and its extensive, thorough, and real-time cooperation with the SEC’s investigation. Ralph Lauren Corporation’s cooperation saved the agency substantial time and resources ordinarily consumed in investigations of comparable conduct.”

Of course, these are not distinguishing factors.

Many SEC FCPA enforcement actions are the result of corporate voluntary disclosures where companies are likewise commended on the information and cooperation provided.  In the Tenaris DPA action, the SEC (see here) said substantively the same thing.  In the recent Philips SEC enforcement action, the SEC (see here) said substantively the same thing.

The SEC release further states as follows.

“According to the NPA, Ralph Lauren Corporation’s cooperation included:

  • Reporting preliminary findings of its internal investigation to the staff within two weeks of discovering the illegal payments and gifts.
  • Voluntarily and expeditiously producing documents.
  • Providing English language translations of documents to the staff.
  • Summarizing witness interviews that the company’s investigators conducted overseas.
  • Making overseas witnesses available for staff interviews and bringing witnesses to the U.S

“The SEC took into account the significant remedial measures undertaken by Ralph Lauren Corporation, including a comprehensive new compliance program throughout its operations. Among Ralph Lauren Corporation’s remedial measures have been new compliance training, termination of employment and business arrangements with all individuals involved in the wrongdoing, and strengthening its internal controls and its procedures for third party due diligence. Ralph Lauren Corporation also conducted a risk assessment of its major operations worldwide to identify any other compliance problems. Ralph Lauren Corporation has ceased operations in Argentina.”

Thomas Hanusik (Crowell & Moring – and a former DOJ and SEC enforcement official) represented RLC.

*****

Should conduct at one of RLC’s approximate 95 foreign subsidiaries (which per the government’s own allegations appears to have been isolated in scope) have led to a world-wide risk assessment by RLC?  (See here for the prior post on the “Where Else” question).

Should conduct at one of RLC’s approximate 95 foreign subsidiaries (which per the government’s own allegations appears to have been isolated in scope) have lead to RLC having a reporting obligation to the DOJ and SEC during the two-year term of the NPA?  (See here for the prior post “A Government Mandated Transfer of Shareholder Wealth to FCPA Inc.?)

*****

It is tempting, based on the SEC’s statements that “Ralph Lauren Corporation has ceased operations in Argentina” and “is in the process of formally winding down all operations there” to make the causal inference that RLC did this because of the FCPA enforcement action and/or risk associated with the FCPA.

However, that would appear to be wrong conclusion.  As noted here and here, when RLC made the decision in August 2012 to suspend and wind-down its Argentine operations, the decision appeared to be based on import controls put on foreign companies and associated foreign currency controls intended to control one of highest rates of inflation in the world.  As noted in the above-linked CNN article, the economic measures caused tourism in Argentina to drop.  Indeed, RLC was one of several luxury brands – such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Escada, Calvin Klein Underwear, Cartier, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton – to have abandoned or are considering leaving Argentina.

*****

The RLC enforcement action is just the latest to involve customs and related issues in Argentina.

See here for the Ball Corp. enforcement action, here for the Helmerich & Payne enforcement action, here for the BJ Services enforcement action.

*****

The RLC enforcement action was a rare instance of an issuer not previously disclosing its FCPA scrutiny.  Subject to materiality thresholds (which are rarely triggered in cases of FCPA scrutiny), there is no disclosure obligation, yet most issuers choose to disclose FCPA scrutiny.  Thus, yesterday appeared to be the first instance of public disclosure of RLC’s scrutiny.  The company’s stock closed at $165.93, down 1.9%.

Friday Roundup

A prosecutorial common law defeat, the SEC repeats its prior positions, better but not good, document issues, and recent scrutiny news.

Prosecutorial Common Law Defeat

One of the best guest posts in FCPA Professor history was this 2011 post from Michael Levy in which he described the concept of prosecutorial common law.  Prosecutorial common law is all around us.  Take a look at the footnotes of the recent FCPA Guidance – most of the “authority” cited for “legal” propositions is DOJ or SEC settlements.

For obvious reasons, prosecutorial common law does not sit well with federal court judges.  For instance, in U.S. v. Bodmer, Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York, in rejecting the DOJ’s position that the FCPA’s criminal penalty provisions applied to a foreign national prior to the 1998 FCPA amendments, noted as follows – “the Government’s charging decision, standing alone, does not establish the applicability of the statute.”  Likewise as noted in this previous post about the Giffen enforcement action, Judge William Pauley of the Southern District of New York stated that prosecutorial common law “is not the kind or quality of precedent this Court need consider.”

Prosecutorial common law recently suffered a major defeat when the Second Circuit, in a non-FCPA case, rejected (see here for the opinion)  a DOJ theory of prosecution concerning off-label promotion of drugs that it has previously used to secure billions (yes that is a “b”) in recent settlements with pharmaceutical companies.

Commenting on this recent development, Levy stated as follows.  “It is amazing to me how consistently this pattern seems to repeat but, given the incentives on both sides, I don’t really see any structural solutions that would change it.”

For additional reading, see this client alert from Debevoise & Plimpton, this client alert from Arnold & Porter, and this client alert from Gibson Dunn.

SEC Responds to Magyar Telekom Execs Motion to Dismiss

Given the SEC’s positions in its recent response to Herbert Steffen’s motion to dismiss (see here for the prior post), it comes as little surprise that the SEC is taking the same positions in its response to the motion to dismiss filed by former Magyar Telecom executives Elek Straub, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai.

In its response brief (here), the SEC states, in summary form, as follows.

“The defendants move to dismiss the complaint, arguing that (1) the Court lacks personal jurisdiction; (2) the SEC’s claims are time-barred; (3) the complaint fails to allege facts supporting the SEC’s anti-bribery claims; and (4) the complaint fails to allege facts supporting the SEC’s lying to auditors claims. The Court should deny the motion on all four grounds.

First, the defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction because their conduct caused foreseeable consequences in the United States. The complaint alleges that the defendants orchestrated a bribery scheme in Macedonia; that they concealed their bribes through the use of sham contracts and falsified books and records; that they lied to Magyar’s auditors by signing false annual and quarterly certifications; and that their actions caused Magyar to file annual and quarterly reports with the SEC in the United States that misrepresented the company’s financial statements and included false Sarbanes-Oxley certifications.

Second, the complaint was timely filed within the statute of limitations set forth at 28 U.S.C. § 2462. That provision expressly states that the limitations period does not begin to run until the defendants are “found within the United States.” The defendants acknowledge in their brief that they have remained outside of the United States since their commission of this scheme. Thus, the statute of limitations period has not begun to run as to them. In any event, claims for equitable relief are not subject to the limitations period of Section 2462, which by its terms applies only to “penalties.”

Third, the complaint pleads all facts necessary to support every element of every claim against the defendants.  The defendants met the “interstate commerce” prong of Exchange Act Section 30A, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1, by sending, in furtherance of their bribery scheme, electronic mail messages that were routed through servers located in the United States. Because the use of interstate commerce is a jurisdictional element, the Exchange Act does not require that defendants know, let alone “corruptly” intend, that their messages would reach the United States. The complaint sufficiently identifies the foreign officials whom the defendants bribed; Section 30A does not require that the officials be expressly named. And the complaint sufficiently identifies the specific false statements made by each defendant to Magyar’s auditors and why those statements were material.”

Of particular note as to “foreign official,” the SEC makes the sweeping statement that “there is no requirement under the FCPA or in the case law interpreting it that the SEC’s complaint [needs to] identify bribed foreign officials by name.”  The SEC then states in a footnote as follows.  “Any such requirement would be completely at odds with the FCPA’s statutory scheme. […]  By its very structure, [the anti-bribery provisions were] drafted to prohibit corrupt transactions in which the precise identity of a government official might not be known even to the payor.”

As noted in this previous post, the SEC is asserting the same “foreign official” position in the Mark Jackson / James Ruehlen challenge.  Oral arguments are to take place today on that motion in Houston.

It should be noted that in the DOJ’s unsuccessful prosecution of John O’Shea, Judge Hughes stated as follows.  “[W]hile the Government does not have to trace a particular dollar to a particular pocket of a particular official, it has to connect the payment to a particular official, that the funds made under his authority to a foreign official, who can be identified in some reasonable way, that is, with no reasonable doubt.” Judge Hughes also stated as follows.  “You can’t convict a man promising to pay unless you have a particular promise to a particular person for a particular benefit. If you call up the [intermediary] and say, look, I’m going to send you 50 grand, bribe somebody, that does not meet the statute.”

Corruption Perception Index

Transparency International (“TI”) recently released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI”) (see here).  The CPI ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be and is a composite index drawing on corruption-related data collected by a variety of reputable institutions and reflecting the views of observers from around the world including experts living and working in the countries/territories evaluated.

The top three (very clean) countries in the CPI were Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. The bottom three (highly corrupt) countries were Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia.

The United States placed 19th on the list of 176 countries.  While this is better than last year’s 24th place finish, as noted in this prior post it’s a bit ironic that as the U.S. aggressively expands its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement theories, the U.S. remains far from the top of the CPI.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer recently spoke of the U.S. FCPA enforcement effort in religious terms (“we in the United States are in a unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption, because there is no country that enforces its anti-bribery laws more vigorously than we do”), yet CPI’s rankings should again cause pause as to our claimed moral superiority.

Document Issues

I am not one to usually highlight FCPA Inc. marketing material, but I thought this video clip from e-discovery firm H5 was instructive as to many of the document issues involved in an FCPA investigation.  The enforcement agencies have commented from time to time that FCPA Inc. has a tendency to sometimes over do it in this area, but be that as it may – data collection, data storage, data analysis, etc. are among the reasons why FCPA investigations often soar into the millions.

Recent Scrutiny News

Rolls-Royce

Reuters reports (here) that Rolls-Royce, the world’s second-largest maker of aircraft engines “said the [U.K. Serious Fraud Office] had asked it to conduct an internal inquiry into dealings involving intermediaries in China, Indonesia and other overseas markets.”  According to the report, “a source close to the investigation said the allegations relate to events in the “distant past” and Rolls-Royce had told the U.S. Department of Justice about the inquiry.”

As noted in this previous post, in June, Data Systems & Solutions, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rolls-Royce Holdings, resolved an FCPA enforcement action.

Barclays

Reuters also reports (here) that a previously disclosed DOJ and SEC “investigation into whether Barclays Plc paid bribes to win a banking license in Saudi Arabia has spread to other banks that operate in the region.”

Net 1

Earlier this week, Net 1 UEPS Technologies Inc. disclosed in an SEC filing (here) as follows.

“On November 30, 2012, we received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division (the “DOJ”) informing us that the DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have begun an investigation into whether Net 1 UEPS Technologies, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including their officers, directors, employees, and agents (collectively, “Net 1”) and other persons and entities possibly affiliated with Net 1 violated provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other U.S. federal criminal laws by engaging in a scheme to make corrupt payments to officials of the Government of South Africa in connection with securing a contract with the South African Social Security Agency to provide social welfare and benefits payments and also engaged in violations of the federal securities laws in connection with statements made by Net 1 in its SEC filings regarding this contract. On the same date, we received a letter from the Division of Enforcement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) advising us that it is also conducting an investigation concerning our company. The SEC letter states that the investigation is a non-public, fact-finding inquiry.”

In this additional release, the company states as follows.

“These investigations appear to be directed at matters which are similar to those that were the subject of articles which appeared in various South African newspapers after AllPay Consolidated Investment Holdings (Pty) Limited (“AllPay”) instituted legal proceeding in the South African courts to set aside the contract awarded to us in January 2012 by SASSA. AllPay was an unsuccessful bidder for the SASSA contract.”

News of the company’s FCPA scrutiny caused the company’s U.S. listed shares to plunge approximately 58%.  This of course caused several plaintiff law firms to announce investigations of their own.  See here, here, and here.  In the meantime, the company’s shares have risen 46%.

It’s an FCPA world.

*****

A good weekend to all.

FCPA-Palooza

I first began using the term FCPA Inc. in April 2010 (see here).

I then coupled FCPA Inc. with Business of Bribery in this February 2012 post to describe a presentation I gave at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law regarding a work in progress of the same title.

I am glad to see that the terms have caught on as yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran a series of FCPA related articles, an FCPA-Palooza of sorts, including a lead article titled “FCPA Inc.: The Business of Bribery” (see here).

The article is spot-on and contains the following quotes from industry participants.  “It’s one of the few sort of crown-jewel practices right now.” “When you get these situations and you have a young enforcement attorney…telling you to look under every rock, you do it.”   “If you get two of these [FCPA investigations] a year as a partner, you’re pretty much set.”

Assistant Attorney General Breuer is quoted in the article as follows. “We absolutely need companies through their firms to provide us with their investigations.”  The article states that “prosecutors test information they receive from the companies and conduct parallel investigations” with Breuer stating that “we’re not simply relying on what the companies give us.”  Many FCPA practitioners (including this former one) are likely to disagree with this statement.  In representing corporate clients in an FCPA inquiry, it is common for counsel to hand over to the enforcement agencies witness interview memos, key documents in chronological order, and investigative reports (if done).  While it is difficult to assess what the DOJ and/or SEC did after that, I never once got the sense that the enforcement agencies tested the information or conducted a parallel investigation.

The Wall Street Journal FCPA-Palooza also included an article (here) concerning compliance costs, an article (here) concerning prosecution of individuals, and an article (here) regarding the FCPA’s history and certain reasons for the increase in enforcement.

The WSJ compliance article notes that as “part of the corporate cost for stepped-up enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act over the last several years has been the creation of new compliance structures at companies that hope to avoid indictments and million-dollar fines under the U.S. antibribery law.”  Of course, not even the most robust, state-of-the-art FCPA compliance program will allow a company to avoid indictment as a matter of law.  Such programs merely best position companies for leniency as determined by the enforcement agencies behind closed doors in Washington D.C.  This needs to change and I have set forth the reasons for an FCPA compliance defense in my recent scholarship “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” (here).

The WSJ individual prosecutions article notes the absence of individual prosecutions in most corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the DOJ’s difficulty of extraditing foreign nationals charged with FCPA offenses, and the string of recent DOJ losses in individual enforcement actions when it is put to its burden of proof.  For more on this last issue, see my recent article “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses in Acceptable” (here).

The WSJ Law Blog also contributed to the FCPA feast with this post which asked whether corporate FCPA scrutiny and enforcement actions move markets.  In answering the question, the post states as follows.  “In general, we found a lot of shrugging on the part of investors.  The average change in stock price from the day before to the day after the disclosure of an FCPA investigation was a decrease of 1%.  […] It was far easier to study market reaction to FCPA settlements. Companies’ stock prices increased, on average, by 1.1% after enforcement actions were announced.”

The WSJ Law Blog also noted here that “FCPA enforcement shows no signs of cooling.”  I agree.  As noted in the FCPA 101 feature of my website (here) there are several practical, as well as provocative, reasons for why FCPA enforcement has increased.  Among the later is the industry itself.

At least more people are thinking and talking about it now after the Wall Street Journal’s FCPA-Palooza.

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