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Dubious As It Was, The Schering-Plough Enforcement Action Was Notable

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

This recent post discussed how from a compliance take-away standpoint the large, egregious, no reasonable minds could differ there was bribery, enforcement actions are the least important and least instructive.

Rather, the most instructive and thus important enforcement actions tend to be those that take the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a new direction, involve unique interpretations of law (not subjected to any judicial scrutiny of course) and thus pose new compliance challenges for business organizations. The SEC’s 2004 enforcement action against Schering-Plough, based on a bona-fide charitable contribution, certainly fits this mold.

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Customs Issues In Argentina Result In FCPA Enforcement Action Against BJ Services

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

In 2004, the SEC brought this administrative cease and desist order against BJ Services (a Houston-based oil field services, products, and equipment company). The conduct at issue focused on the company’s Argentina subsidiary and its relationships with customs officials. As stated in the SEC’s order, there was no indication that anyone employed by BJ Services approved many of the alleged improper payments and the SEC further acknowledged that the improper payments were made in violation of BJ Services’ existing policies prohibiting payments of the kind made to the customs official.

Other interesting aspects of the enforcement include the following: (i) certain of the improper payments were facilitated by the Argentina subsidiary issuing checks “in the name of a lower’level” employee who then “cashed the checks and provided the proceeds to the customs official”; (ii) the SEC seemed to acknowledge that certain of the payments were facilitation payments under the FCPA, but nevertheless improperly booked, and thus still actionable.

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BellSouth Gets Hung Up In Latin America

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

In 2002, the SEC announced the filing of a settled civil complaint against BellSouth Corporation charging the telecommunications company with violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

The conduct at issue focused on an indirect subsidiary in Venezuela (and BellSouth’s inability to “reconstruct the circumstances of purpose” of certain payments) and an indirect subsidiary in Nicaragua (which retained the wife of the chairman of a Nicaraguan legislative committee with oversight of telecommunications).

As frequently highlighted on these pages, the root cause of many FCPA enforcement actions are foreign trade barriers and restrictions and in this regard, as the complaint notes, Nicaraguan law prohibited foreign companies from acquiring a majority interest in Nicaraguan telecommunications companies.”

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FCPA And Then Some As Alere Resolves SEC Enforcement Action

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One instance of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act scrutiny that has attracted significant investor interest over the past few years (because it occurred in the context of an M&A transaction) involved Alere Inc.

As highlighted in this previous post, the company disclosed in August 2015 that it received an SEC subpoena inquiring about its foreign business practices. Thereafter, Alere announced that it would be acquired by Abbott in a $5.8 billion transaction.

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Next Up – Telia As DOJ And SEC Announce Contemplated $483 Million Net FCPA Enforcement Action

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This recent post asked: what will September bring and noted that with history as a guide likely notable FCPA enforcement actions.

This 2015 post highlighted the burgeoning Uzbekistan telecommunication investigations involving Dutch telecom company VimpleCom, Swedish telecom company TeliaSonera, and Russia-based Mobile TeleSystems.

As highlighted here, in February 2016 VimpelCom resolved a net $397.5 million FCPA enforcement action and as highlighted below yesterday the DOJ and SEC announced a contemplated $483 million net FCPA enforcement against against Telia (after accounting for various credits and deductions for contemplated Swedish and Dutch enforcement actions) – the 5th largest net FCPA settlement of all-time.

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