A happy holiday to all, scholars program, scrutiny alerts and updates, departing speech, spot-on and inexcusable. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
Readers often encourage me to “share” more about myself and background. I have obliged in part, by going off-topic once a year to share my Ironman triathlon results.
I will oblige once again, particularly since it is March Madness.
Happy Mike Koehler Day!
That’s right, on this day 21 years ago (gosh that is hard to believe) my hometown of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin retired my #21 basketball jersey and proclaimed it “Mike Koehler Day.” No facilitating payments were necessary. I ended my high school basketball career, and still remain, the third leading scorer in the history of Wisconsin high school basketball (#1 leading scorer in the history of the state that did not play for their dad)! A poorly timed illness ended my high school career without that “one shining moment” I dreamed of, and while I was academic all-conference at the University of South Dakota, my college basketball career was uneventful.
So there you have it, you now know something more about me.
Back to the task at hand.
Kudos to Trace International for launching a new scholars program. The Trace Scholars Program is aimed at developing exceptional leaders in the field of anti-corruption who are committed to advancing commercial transparency. The TRACE Scholar Program will fully fund, with tuition, lodging and travel, two international LLM students from developing countries to pursue studies related to strategies and tools for increasing transparency and reducing corruption. TRACE Scholars will spend an academic year at one of two universities (the University of Washington School of Law or the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law) followed by a paid summer internship at TRACE headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland.
Scrutiny Alerts and Updates
Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, SL Industries, SciClone Pharmaceuticals, TeliSonera and a clarification regarding Beny Steinmetz.
Och-Ziff Capital Management Group
Och-Ziff Capital Management Group stated in its recent annual report as follows:
“Beginning in 2011, and from time to time thereafter, we have received subpoenas from the SEC and requests for information from the U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) in connection with an investigation involving the FCPA and related laws. The investigation concerns an investment by a foreign sovereign wealth fund in some of our funds in 2007 and investments by some of our funds, both directly and indirectly, in a number of companies in Africa. At this time, we are unable to determine how the investigation will be resolved and what impact, if any, it will have. An adverse outcome could have a material effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.”
A day after the company’s annual report, the company’s stock closed down approximately 3.5% and you can rest assured plaintiffs firms will soon be announcing “investigations” and/or filing civil suits. For more see here from Bloomberg.
“During 2012, the Company conducted an investigation to determine whether certain employees of SL Xianghe Power Electronics Corporation, SL Shanghai Power Electronics Corporation and SL Shanghai International Trading Corporation, three of the Company’s indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries incorporated and operating exclusively in China, may have improperly provided gifts and entertainment to government officials (the “China Investigation”). The Company had retained outside counsel and forensic accountants to assist in the China Investigation. Based upon the China Investigation, the estimated amounts of such gifts and entertainment were not material to the Company’s financial statements. Such estimates did not take into account the costs to the Company of the China Investigation itself, or any other additional costs.
The China Investigation included determining whether there were any violations of laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). The Company’s outside counsel contacted the DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) voluntarily to disclose that the Company was conducting an internal investigation, and agreed to cooperate fully. Additionally, the Company hired outside consultants to provide assistance in implementing a mandatory FCPA compliance program for all of its employees which is now completed by such employees annually. Also, during the first and second quarters of 2013 the Company engaged outside consultants to perform FCPA compliance tests at its operations in China and Mexico, which, going forward, will be performed by the Company annually. On September 26, 2013, the DOJ notified the Company that it had closed its inquiry into this matter without filing criminal charges. The Company has not received an update from the SEC regarding the status of its inquiry. The Company cannot predict at this time whether any action may be taken by the SEC.”
“For the year ended December 31, 2013, we determined that a payment of $2.0 million to the government in penalties, fines and/or other remedies is probable. Accordingly, we have recorded $2.0 million of operating expense in our 2013 results of operations to reflect our estimate of a probable loss incurred related to potential penalties, fines and/or other remedies in the ongoing investigations with the SEC and DOJ.”
Once again highlighting that any actual enforcement action fines and penalties are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of a company’s overall financial exposure due to FCPA scrutiny, SciClone also disclosed:
“Additional increases in general and administrative expenses for the year ended December 31, 2013, included higher professional expenses of approximately $5.3 million related to legal matters associated with the ongoing government investigation and our ongoing improvements to our FCPA compliance efforts …”.
Various media have reported (see here from the Wall Street Journal for instance) that the DOJ and SEC have opened investigations of Swedish telecommunications company TeliaSonera. According to the reports:
“[The DOJ and SEC] have requested documents relating to the acquisition of an Uzbekistan wireless data license and spectrum frequencies in 2007. The deals were done with a Gibraltar-based holding company with alleged ties to Uzbekistan’s authoritarian regime. The U.S. DOJ and the SEC join several authorities investigating the transactions. The scrutiny was sparked after a Swedish television program in 2012 alleged TeliaSonera may have been involved in corruption when it bought its Uzbeki telecom license.”
Regarding Beny Steinmetz, the founder of BSG Resources, the 100 Reporters story that identified him as a “target” of a DOJ investigation has been amended as follows.
“After this story was published, the source informed 100Reporters that the source had mischaracterized the letter in question as a “target letter.” Later conversations and further reporting suggested that the letter had instead indicated that Steinmetz was a subject and not a target of the investigation.”
As highlighted in this February post concerning the announced departure of Mythili Raman as Acting Assistant Attorney, Raman carried forward much of the same rhetoric former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer frequently articulated concerning the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program. (See here for my article “Lanny Breuer and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement).
Like other DOJ FCPA officials before her, Raman frequently highlighted certain enforcement statistics, yet conveniently ignored the most telling enforcement statistic of all – the DOJ’s dismal record when actually put to its burden of proof in FCPA enforcement actions. In short, for a long time the DOJ’s FCPA Unit has had a distorted view of success.
During his last day as head of the Criminal Division, Raman delivered this speech before an FCPA audience and the critique remains the same. Among other things, Raman stated:
“[The DOJ’s] successful foreign bribery prosecutions speaks for itself …”
“These efforts and these successes are the product of the skill, hard work and determination of the talented prosecutors in our Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit, working in tandem with federal prosecutors across the country at many of the 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices.”
“We have been successful in our efforts to prosecute individuals in part because we are using all of the law enforcement techniques that are at our disposal.”
I’ve written a number of times that trade barriers and distortions are often the root causes of bribery and a reduction in bribery will not be achieved without a reduction in trade barriers and distortions. Few in the anti-bribery space seem to grasp this basic issue, perhaps because it is just easier to pound the pavement for more enforcement or blame everything on those evil corporations.
“There can be no trade facilitation when border officials solicit bribes and grant favorable treatment to those who pay such bribes. The demand side of corruption has generally been overlooked, and the implementation of TFA provides an excellent and even funded opportunity to address the problem. Thus, measures to ensure public integrity must be adopted along with the trade facilitation measures specified in TFA.”
Did you know that NCR Corp. has “paid FCPA penalties in 2014”?
Did you know that Avon has “paid FCPA penalties in 2014?”
Did you know that in 2013 the “U.S. government handed down .. just five FCPA enforcement actions”?
Of course you did not know this, because every one of the above statements are false.
Yet every one of the above statements is included in just one paragraph in this recent Inside Counsel article.
A good weekend to all – and good luck with your brackets.