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SEC FCPA Enforcement – 2018 Year In Review

SEC

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement, it’s not just about the DOJ.

Granted, as a civil enforcement agency the SEC’s sticks are less sharp than the DOJ’s, but the SEC also claims a significant piece of the FCPA enforcement pie (query whether it should – but that is a subject for another day – for instance as discussed in “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” the SEC wanted no part in enforcing the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions).

This previous post highlighted various corporate enforcement statistics from 2018, this post focused more specifically on DOJ enforcement in 2018, and this post goes in-depth into various facts and figures relevant to SEC FCPA enforcement in 2018.

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Polycom Resolves A $36.6 Million Enforcement Action – SEC Believes That The FCPA Is A Strict Liability Statute And Just What Viable Criminal Charges Did The DOJ Decline?

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Earlier this week, Polycom (up until 2016 an issuer which was then acquired by a private equity firm and is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Plantronics) resolved a $36.6 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action ($16.3 million pursuant to an SEC administrative order and $20.3 million pursuant to a so-called DOJ declination with disgorgement letter).

The conduct at issue concerned a Chinese subsidiary which created “a separate, parallel sales management system outside of Polycom’s company-approved systems, which was orchestrated by Polycom’s Vice President of China” and whose employees used “non-Polycom e-mail addresses when discussing deals with Polycom’s distributor.” According to the SEC, “Polycom personnel outside China were unaware of the existence of this parallel system.”

Yet, in another example of the SEC believing that the FCPA is a strict liability statute, the SEC found that Polycom violated the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions. Moreover, without highlighting any additional substantive information the DOJ “declined prosecution … despite the bribery committed by employees of the Company’s subsidiaries in China, and these subsidiaries’ knowing and willful causing of false books and records at Polycom.” However, based on the information in the public domain (that is the SEC’s order) it remains an open question just what viable criminal charges the DOJ actually declined.

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No Shut Down For FCPA Enforcement

openforbusiness

The last week of December has traditionally been an active week for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement. However, with the partial government shutdown there was an open question what would happen with the end of 2018.

Yesterday, the SEC answered that question by announcing two enforcement actions: (i) a $2.5 million action against Brazil-based Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras S.A. (Eletrobras); and (ii) a $16 million action against Polycom.

This post highlights the Electrobras enforcement action and another post will highlight the Polycom enforcement action

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SEC Finds That Former Panasonic Executive Authorized Conduct Causing Company’s FCPA Violations, Another Former Executive Found To Engage In Improper Revenue Recognition Practices

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As highlighted in prior posts (here, here and here) in April 2018 the DOJ and SEC announced a $280 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Japan-based Panasonic Corp.  and a U.S. subsidiary Panasonic Avionics Corp. (PAC).

In the words of the government “between 2007 and 2013, PAC employees, including senior executives, engaged in a scheme to retain consultants for improper purposes other than for providing actual consulting services.”

Earlier this week, the SEC returned to the same core conduct to bring administrative actions (here and here) against Paul Margis (pictured – a former President and CEO of PAC) and Takeshi Uonaga (PAC’s former CFO). The Margis action finds that he authorized various conduct giving rise to the company’s FCPA liability, whereas the Uonaga matter is materially different in that it is a revenue recognition matter.

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Vantage Drilling Resolves Rather Unusual $5 Million FCPA Enforcement Action

vantagedrilling

Yesterday, the SEC announced this rather unusual Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Vantage Drilling.

What made it rather unusual is that the administrative action only found violations of the FCPA’s internal controls provisions concerning its unique relationship with a former outside director and shareholder that “created a risk that [the company] was providing or reimbursing funds that [the Director] intended to use to make improper payments to officials at Petrobras” in connection with obtaining a drilling services contract.

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