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The Supreme Court’s Recent Unanimous Decision In A Restitution Case Provides Yet Another Reason Not To Voluntarily Disclose

supremecourt

The scenario is relatively common. Whether in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act context or otherwise, an individual acts contrary to the law and when his or her conduct is discovered various business organizations impacted by the illegal activity conduct an internal investigation.

The question arises: if the individual engaged in the illegal activity is convicted, may the impacted business organizations recover from the individual internal investigation expenses under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA) and, if so, under what circumstances? In recent years, circuit courts have split on the relevant issues.

Last week though the Supreme Court provided clarity in Lagos v. U.S. In the unanimous decision authored by Justice Breyer, the court concluded that the words “investigation” and “proceedings” in the MVRA are limited to government investigations and criminal proceedings. After excerpting the case, this post highlights how business organizations can best position themselves for MVRA restitution in certain FCPA matters by not voluntarily disclosing.

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An FCPA Enforcement Action Involving A U.S. Government Aid Program (With A Few Ironies)

CAAEF

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

Yesterday’s post highlighted a number of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions in connection with U.S. government aid or assistance programs.

This post goes into more detail regarding the DOJ’s 2002 FCPA enforcement action against Richard Pitchford (the Vice President and Country Manager in Turkmenistan for the Central Asia American Enterprise Fund (CAAEF), an entity wholly funded by a $150 million appropriation from Congress pursuant to the Support for Eastern European Democracy Act of 1989 and the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Market Support Act of 1992).

One of the ironies with this enforcement action (there is another highlighted at the end of the post) is that prior to the enforcement action Pitchford was quoted as saying: “The potential in Central Asia is tremendous, especially in Turkmenistan because of its proximity to Turkey and the Persian Gulf. What’s missing is government political will to do the job. There’s no doubt this is a dictatorship and from top to bottom, it’s corrupt.” A short time later, Pitchford himself would be prosecuted for corruption.

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PDVSA Petition Seeking “Victim” Status Is An Uphill Climb

uphill

Last week, Bariven S.A. (a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA”) – the state-owned oil company of the Venezuela) made this filing in the DOJ’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecution against Enrique Rincon Fernandez, Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas, Moises Abraham Millan Escobar and related prosecution against others moving “the Court to recognize Bariven’s rights as a victim and enter an order of restitution requiring [the defendants] jointly and severally, to make restitution [to the tune of $600 million] to Bariven as a victim of the offenses to which these Defendants have plead guilty.”

If this general issue sounds familiar, congratulations you have a good memory.

As highlighted in prior posts here, here, and here, Instituto Constarricense de Electricidad (“ICE”) of Costa Rica tried the same thing in connection with the Alcatel-Lucent FCPA enforcement action and its petition received a chilly reception by both the trial court the 11th Circuit.

PDVSA’s petition likewise faces an uphill climb.

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Foreign Military Sales Lead To FCPA Enforcement Action

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

In 1989, the DOJ criminally charged Minnesota based military equipment and supplies company Venturian Corporation, along with its wholly-owned subsidiary NAPCO International, with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, substantive FCPA offenses (anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls), as well as various tax fraud offenses.

The conduct at issue was in connection with the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in which the U.S. government made loans to certain foreign governments to finance the purchase of defense items of U.S. origin.  The Defense Security Assistance Agency (DSAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, was responsible for directing, administering, and supervising FMS loans.  In connection with the FMS program, contractors and commercial suppliers were required to certify, among other things, that: (i) “commissions would be paid only to bona fide employees or agencies which neither exerted or proposed to exert improper influences to solicit or obtain the contact;” and (ii) “no rebates, gifts or gratutities contrary to U.S. law have been or would be given to officers, officials or employees of the purchaser …”.

The conduct at issue concerned the Republic of Niger, a foreign nation qualified to receive FMS loan assistance from the DSAA, specifically Tahirou Barke Doka (the First Counselor of the Embassy of Niger in Washington, D.C.) and Captain Ali Tiemogo (Chief of Maintenance for the air force component of the Niger Ministry of Defense).

According to the detailed 50-page information, Niger entered into a contract with Dornier GmbH (a West German aircraft maintenance company) to perform maintenance on Nigerien C-130’s.  However, according to the indictment, “the Government of Niger had insufficient funds to pay for Dornier’s services and Dornier sought to affiliate with a U.S. contractor so that the Government of Niger could qualify” for the FMS program.

Thereafter, NAPCO, acting in cooperation with Dornier, began negotiations with the Government of Niger for a contract to furnish replacement parts and to perform maintenance on two C-130 transport aircraft owned by the airforce of the Government of Niger.  Four contracts, in the approximate amount of $2.4 million, were entered into between NAPCO and the Government of Niger.

The information alleges that NAPCO conspired with others to violate the FCPA by making payments or authorizing payments of money to “officials of the Government of Niger, that is, Counselor Tahirou Barke Doka and Captain Ali Tiemogo” and “Fatouma Mailelel Boube and Amadou Mailele, both relatives of Tiemogo, while knowing that all or a portion of such money would be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to foreign officials, namely Barke and Tiemogo” for the purpose of “influencing the acts and decisions of Barke and Tiemogo in their official capacities, and inducing them to use their influence with the Ministry of Defense.”

The information further alleged that NAPCO “falsely represent[ed] to DSAA the identifies of NAPCO’s agents, misrepresenting the percentages of contract funds paid and to be paid to non-U.S. suppliers and filing misdated invoices.”

According to the information, the aggregate amount of bribes paid to Barke and Tiemogo was approximately $131,000.  In addition, the information alleges that Barke “traveled from Washington, D.C. to Niger for his wedding and subsequent honeymoon in Paris, Stockholm and London, using tickets charged to a NAPCO account.”

The information further alleges that NAPCO and others used various methods to conceal the conspiracy such as “preparing and using bogus commission agreements,” “creating a fictitious commission agent,” using the names of Mailele and Boube “in order to conceal the payment of bribes,” “falsely representing to DSAA that Mailele and Boube were NAPCO’s agents “when these persons were not its agents, had performed no services for NAPCO, and had acted solely as the intermediaries for Tiemogo and Barke for the purpose of concealing the bribe payments.

In addition to the conspiracy charge and a substantive FCPA charges, the information also alleges that NAPCO filed false and fraudulent U.S. tax returns which “falsely claimed certain deductions for the payment of agent commissions.”

NAPCO pleaded guilty to the above charges (see here for the plea agreement).  As noted in the plea agreement, the DOJ and the company settled on a fine amount in the “aggregate amount of $1 million in satisfaction of its criminal and civil fines, penalties, taxes and restitution.”  The amount consisted of the following:  $785,000 for the criminal charges set forth in the information, $140,000 in restitution “for full payment of its civil tax liability to the DSSA for appropriate crediting to the FMS account of Niger,” and $75,000 restitution to the IRS for full payment of all criminal and civil tax liabilities.

The plea agreement notes that the DOJ will not prosecute NAPCO for “Napco’s contracts with Egypt,” “alleged United States Customs violations arising from the sale of misidentified radios to the Government of Egypt and to other countries;” or “FCPA violations arising from the transactions evidenced in the documents Napco produced to the Yellow Grand Jury.”

The plea agreement further states:

“The Department of Justice will advise the Department of Defense, Defense Logistics Agency, which is the suspension and debarment authority in this matter, of the facts learned during the government’s investigation of Napco; Napco’ s cooperation during the investigation; and the importance of this prosecution in the government’s efforts towards eradicating fraud in the Foreign Military Sales program.”

The above settlement terms are set forth in this judgment.

According to original source media reports, the DSSA “uncovered the fraud when it checked the name of one of the agents with the government of Niger.”  Media reports quoted Theodore Greenberg (Deputy Chief DOJ Fraud Section) as follows:  “[money from the FMS program] is to be used for the military preparedness of certain governments; that, of course, is important to our national security.”  Media reports quoted Peter Clark (DOJ FCPA Unit) as follows:  “the object of the program is to be getting the biggest bank for the buck – not to pay illegal bribes.”

(See here for NAPCO’s current company website).

(The FMS program is still an active program of the Defense Department – see here).

In addition to the enforcement action against NAPCO / Venturian, the DOJ also brought an injunctive action against Dornier.  Of note, the DOJ described Dornier (a German company) as an “agent of NAPCO” and thus a “domestic concern” under the FCPA.  As to relevant jurisdiction allegations, the DOJ alleged that a Dornier employee Axel Kurth, had telephone conversations with NAPCO employees in Minnesota and that Kurth traveled in the U.S. “where he met with officers of NAPCO” to discuss the alleged improper payments.  Without admitting or denying the DOJ’s allegations, Dornier consented to a permanent injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations.

In addition, the DOJ criminally charged the Vice President of the Aerospace Division of NAPCO.  That individual exercised his constitutional right to a jury trial, put the DOJ to its burden of proof, and the results and ultimate outcomes will be explored in a future post.

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.

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A good weekend to all.

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