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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.

SEC Responds To Steffen’s Motion To Dismiss

Overshadowed by FCPA guidance waiting and now the guidance, the foreign official challenge in the 11th Circuit, and the DOJ’s “Kool-Aid” stand in the Morgan Stanley so-called declination (see here for the prior post), one of the most significant FCPA stories of 2012 is that the SEC is being put to its burden of proof in an FCPA enforcement action.  Not once, not twice, but three times. (See this prior post for discussion of the three cases and links to previous posts).

As noted in the previous post, two of the challenges focus on the SEC’s alleged jurisdiction over foreign nationals.  With both the DOJ and SEC bringing more FCPA enforcement actions against foreign actors – for instance in 2011 90% of DOJ individual prosecutions were against foreign nationals and 100% of SEC individual prosecutions were against foreign nationals – the challenges are noteworthy.  Particularly so because Judge Leon, in the Africa Sting case, rejected the DOJ’s jurisdictional theory against U.K. national Pankesh Patel (see here for the prior post) in what was believed to be the first instance of judicial scrutiny concerning FCPA jurisdiction against foreign nationals.

Recently the SEC filed its opposition brief (here) to Herbert Steffen’s motion to dismiss.  Steffen is a former Siemens executives who was charged in December 2011 (see here for the prior post).

In summary, the SEC states as follows.

“Steffen’s motion contends (1) that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him and (2) that the SEC’s claims are time-barred under the five-year statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2462. The Court should deny the motion on both grounds.

Steffen is subject to personal jurisdiction in this Court because his conduct caused foreseeable consequences in the United States. The complaint alleges that Steffen played a central role in a long-running bribery scheme at Siemens Aktiengesellschaft (“Siemens”); that he coerced a reluctant lower-ranking official to authorize and cover up bribe payments; and that his actions caused Siemens to file annual and quarterly reports with the SEC in the United States that misrepresented the company’s financial statements and that included false Sarbanes-Oxley certifications. The exercise of personal jurisdiction over Steffen on these facts is consistent with a long line of Second Circuit case law and entirely reasonable. Because Section 27 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78aa, provides for nationwide service of process, the Court need not look to New York’s long-arm statute, the N.Y. C.P.L.R., as a basis for jurisdiction.

Nor are the SEC’s claims time-barred. The plain language of 28 U.S.C. § 2462 provides that the five-year limitations period runs only “if, within the same period, the offender . . . is found within the United States in order that proper service may be made thereon.” 28 U.S.C. § 2462. Steffen is a German national who, by his own admission, has lived outside the United States during the entire relevant period. And even if he had spent the last five years in this country, the bribery scheme Steffen was a part of did not conclude until February 6, 2007, when Siemens realized the scheme’s objective, a $217 million arbitration award against the Argentine government. The SEC filed its complaint less than five years later, on December 13, 2011. Finally, as a long line of decisions in the Southern District of New York have recognized, the SEC’s claims for equitable relief — in this case, an injunction and disgorgement — are not subject to Section 2462 at all.”

In addition to its “foreseeable consequences” assertion, the SEC brief also contains the following sentence as to its alleged jurisdiction.

“Steffen also discussed the bribery scheme over the telephone with defendant Sharef while Sharef was in the United States, and a portion of the payments that Steffen pressured Regendantz to make were deposited in a New York bank.”  [As noted in this previous post, Sharef has agreed in principle to a settlement with the SEC and Regendantz previously settled with the SEC].

In its brief, the SEC acknowledges that there is no case law interpreting its Section 2462 tolling position.

Friday Roundup

Motion to dismiss filed in the former Magyar Telekom execs case, a noticeable lack of FCPA charges, checking in on recent disclosures, quotable from the current SEC FCPA Unit Chief, quotable regarding FCPA Inc., what’s up with that investigation, I hear you travel alot, there’s an app for that, counter-points, and for the weekend reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Motion to Dismiss Filed in SEC Enforcement Action

This previous post highlighted how former Magyar Telekom executives Elek Straub, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai planned to challenge the SEC’s charges against them.  Earlier this week, the defendants filed this memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss.

In summary fashion, the memorandum states as follows.

“There are several bases for dismissing the complaint.

 First, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The complaint alleges conduct by foreign national defendants that occurred wholly outside, and with no nexus to, the United States. Nowhere does the complaint allege that defendants purposefully directed their conduct at the United States. Following constitutional due process principles, the defendants lack the requisite minimum contacts with the forum, and it would be inconsistent with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice to require them to defend this action in the United States. Indeed, the SEC has acknowledged that its jurisdictional position lacks precedent “on all fours factually” and “may be breaking new ground[.]”

“Second, the SEC’s claims are time-barred […]  There is no doubt that the complaint was filed outside the five-year period. Specifically, the complaint was filed on December 29, 2011, more than five years after all three defendants had left Magyar Telekom, and more than five years after the alleged conduct occurred. Consequently, the five-year period has expired.”

“Third, with regard to the remaining claims, the complaint fails to adequately state the claims alleged. More specifically, the complaint: (i) fails to adequately plead that the defendants corruptly made use of interstate commerce, as is required to state a claim for bribery and the claims stemming from the alleged bribery under the FCPA (books and records and internal controls violations, falsifying books and records, and lying to auditors); (ii) fails to adequately plead that the intended payment recipients were “foreign official[s]” under the FCPA; (iii) fails to allege sufficient facts supporting the aiding and abetting claims; and (iv) fails to meet the heightened pleading requirements under Rule 9, including allegations of individualized culpable conduct by each defendant. The complaint also merely parrots the statutory language and fails to allege that the defendants profited personally from any of the alleged conduct. For all these reasons, the complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.”

As to “foreign official” the motion states that the complaint’s reference to “officials” “government officials” and other vague allegations represent “mere legal conclusions that the recipients were “foreign officials” under the FCPA.  The motion states as follows.  “A legal conclusion couched as a ‘factual allegation’ is insufficient to establish the essential element that the intended recipient be a foreign official.  Repeated references to “government officials” without underlying facts presents nothing ‘more than labels and conclusions’ that constitute ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.””

Indeed, in my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (here) I noted the frequency in which enforcement agency FCPA pleadings “contain little more than uninformative, bare-bones statement of facts replete with legal conclusions.”  I said that the “most common and troubling use of bare-bones, uninformative, legal conclusory statements of facts or allegations is when the enforcement agencies describe the ‘foreign officials’ involved in the alleged conduct giving rising to the FCPA violation.”  In the article, I noted that because there is generally no threat that these bare-boned, uninformative facts or legal conclusions will ever be subject to meaningful judicial scrutiny, that the enforcement agencies get away with such practices.

At least until recently.

Noticeable Lack of FCPA Charges

Numerous FCPA enforcement actions have been based on allegations of payments to foreign customs personnel in connection with customs, license, permit type issues.

Thus, the lack of FCPA charges were noticeable in the DOJ’s recent criminal indictment of APEGO Inc., and various of is employees and agents.  As noted in this recent DOJ Release (N.D. of Georgia), charges were filed alleging conspiracy and twelve counts of importing notebooks and filler paper from China using false  documents.

The indictment (here) includes the following allegations.

“It was further part of the conspiracy that [certain individuals] paid bribes to Taiwanese customs officials on behalf of defendants APEGO and Gung to allow U.S.-bound lined paper products made by the Watanabe Group in China but lacking required country of origin labels, or mislabeled ‘Made in Taiwan,’ to enter Taiwan from China and clear Taiwanese customs.”

Elsewhere, the indictment alleges: (i) that in December 2006 various bribes were paid to Taiwanese customs officials which “allowed defendant APEGO to transship these products from Taiwan to the United States more quickly and less expensively by limiting the need to ‘rework’ the products and cartons (i.e. relable ‘Made in Taiwan’) in Taiwan”; (ii) that in March 2007 when customs officials at a certain Taiwan port no longer accepted bribes, the company arranged for its shipments to be processed through another port in a different part of the country where bribes were paid for the same purpose

Recent Disclosures

Owens-Illinois

Owens-Illinois, Inc. (an Ohio based company that describes itself as the world’s largest glass container manufacturer and preferred partner for many of the world’s leading food and beverage brands) recently disclosed as follows.

“The Company is conducting an internal investigation into conduct in certain of its overseas operations that may have violated the antibribery provisions of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, the Company’s own internal policies, and various local laws. In October 2012, the Company voluntarily disclosed these matters to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Company intends to cooperate with any investigation by the DOJ and the SEC. The Company is presently unable to predict the duration, scope or result of its internal investigation, of any investigations by the DOJ or the SEC or whether either agency will commence any legal action. The DOJ and the SEC have a broad range of civil and criminal sanctions under the FCPA and other laws and regulations including, but not limited to, injunctive relief, disgorgement, fines, penalties, and modifications to business practices. The Company also could be subject to investigation and sanctions outside the United States. While the Company is currently unable to quantify the impact of any potential sanctions or remedial measures, it does not expect such actions will have a material adverse effect on the Company’s liquidity, results of operations or financial condition.”

Given the recent FCPA scrutiny of the beverage industry (Diageo, Beam Inc., and Central European Distribution Company) one might wonder whether Owens-Illinois’s recent disclosure is connected to those developments.

Barclays

This previous post detailed how Barclays PLC’s relationship with Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund was under scrutiny by U.K. authorities.

The company recently disclosed (here) as follows.  “Subsequent to reporting the investigations of the Financial Services Authority and Serious Fraud Office in July and August 2012 respectively, Barclays has been informed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that they are undertaking an investigation into whether the Group’s relationships with third parties who assist Barclays to win or retain business are compliant with the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Barclays is investigating and fully co-operating with the DOJ and SEC.”

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, the focus is “on Barclay’s use of external brokers who facilitated meetings between bank officials and powerful Middle Eastern families.”  The article further notes that “Barclays recently started conducting an internal investigation, with the help of an outside law firm, to figure out whether it or its Middle Eastern introducers might have run afoul” of the FCPA.

Schlumberger

The company recently disclosed as follows.

“In 2007, Schlumberger received an inquiry from the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) related to the DOJ’s investigation of whether certain freight forwarding and customs clearance services of Panalpina, Inc., and other companies provided to oil and oilfield service companies, including Schlumberger, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In October 2012, Schlumberger was advised by the DOJ that it has closed its inquiry as it relates to Schlumberger.”

For more on the numerous Panalpina-related enforcement actions – what I’ve termed CustomsGate – see here.

The company’s recent disclosure would seem not to address the issues previously the focus of a front-page Wall Street Journal article in October 2010 concerning alleged conduct in Yemen.  (See here for the prior post).

Quotable

In this recent Reuters article, current SEC FCPA Unit Chief Kara Brockmeyer stated as follows.

“I would hate to think the companies view [FCPA] enforcement actions as the cost of doing business.  If we find that out, it will certainly increase the size of the penalty.”

One thing that is becoming increasingly clear in this new era of FCPA enforcement is that investors do appear to view FCPA scrutiny and enforcement actions as a cost of doing business and akin to a regulatory violation.

The Reuters article also stated that there has yet to be a repeat FCPA prosecution.  This is a false statement.  Companies that have resolved more than one FCPA enforcement action over time include: Tyco, ABB, Baker Hughes and General Electric.

Quotable

On his Corruption, Crime & Compliance site (here) Michael Volkov recently observed as follows.

“The FCPA Paparazzi has done a great disservice to the business community.  Call it a complete lack of credibility.  Legal marketing has become confused in this day and age – marketing has now been turned into the “Fear Factor,” meaning that lawyers need to scare potential clients into hiring them.  That is flat out wrong.   Each week, new client alerts, client warnings and other cries of impending disaster are transmitted through the Internet to businesses.  If I were a general counsel, I would have them on “auto delete.”  Talk about a waste of time and effort.”

What’s Up With That Investigation?

One of the many FCPA industry sweeps reportedly underway concerns Hollywood movie industry in China.  (See here for the prior post).  This recent post on the New York Times Media Decoder blog highlights the “powerful gatekeeper of China’s rapidly growing film world, the China Film Group chairman Han Sanping who was recently in the U.S. to receive a China Entertainment Visionary of the Year award, and asks what’s up with the investigation.

I Hear You Travel Alot

My frequent searches for FCPA content often turn up interesting content.  Such as this thread from top-law-schools.com which asks what type of attorneys get to travel the most?  One response was as follows.   “From what I hear, FCPA is the way to go for travel to other countries because you have lots of interviews of foreign employees.”

The FCPA is certainly the reason for the majority of stamps in my passport.

Counter-Points

Alexandra Wrage (President of Trace International) made some observations recently in her Corporate Counsel column (here) about FCPA enforcement in various Presidential administrations.  While interesting to think about, the actual stats have little substantive value.  Instances of FCPA scrutiny tend to last between 2-4 years (and thus straddle administrations) and various instances of FCPA scrutiny (for instance Pfizer) can last approximately 8 years.  Moreover, rather than “aggressively enforce the FCPA,” as the article notes, what the enforcement agencies more often than not actually do (as evidenced by statistics demonstrating which enforcement actions resulted from voluntary disclosures) is process corporate voluntary disclosures.

There’s An App for That

Law firm O’Melveny & Myers announced (here) the “launch of its FCPA app, the first multi-functional mobile application (app) created by a law firm.”  Richard Grime, partner and head of O’Melveny’s FCPA practice stated as follows.  “We understand the complexities our clients and colleagues face in achieving their business goals in the global marketplace, and thus, have created this mobile application as a fast, yet informative, way for them to remain current with the evolving statutes and provisions imposed by the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws.”

Weekend Reading

Sidley & Austin recently released its Anti-Corruption Quarterly (here).  Among other articles is one focused on the new “sheriff in town.”

The article states as follows.

“Investigating potential violations of the FCPA historically has been the purview of the SEC and the DOJ, but recently, Congress has entered the fray. Two House committees, the House Oversight and House Energy committees, recently instituted an independent FCPA investigation of Wal-Mart, after a New York Times article reported on an alleged massive bribery campaign at Wal-Mart’s Mexican affiliate. These House investigations mean that companies now have to consider the possibility of facing a congressional investigation—in addition to investigations by the SEC and the DOJ—when FCPA violations have occurred.”

The article further states as follows.

“Although congressional committees routinely investigate companies, the current congressional investigation into Wal-Mart is the first investigation in the FCPA context and it may signal the beginning of a trend: high-profile companies or companies that are drawn into political fights (often unwillingly) may find themselves the target of a congressional inquiry if their FCPA problems become public. Whatever effect the congressional investigation may have on Wal-Mart, the possibility of such an investigation is a factor that high-profile companies facing FCPA concerns should weigh.”

For more on Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny, see my recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement As Seen Through Wal-Mart’s Potential Exposure” (here).

Miller Chevalier also recently released its FCPA Autumn Review – see here.

Morrison Foerster also recently released its End of Summer Round-Up – see here.

This recent Jones Day publication concerning upcoming FCPA Guidance contains the following paragraph that should be read by those who simply label companies that have resolved FCPA enforcement actions or are the subject of FCPA scrutiny as bad or corrupt companies.

“It is the job of a prosecutor to make charging decisions and to decide in the first instance what does and does not violate the law. As prosecutors and enforcement attorneys assess the facts to make charging decisions, they are compelled to view the world, therefore, in binary terms: black and white, right and wrong. As defense counsel, settlement discussions with our counterparts in the DOJ and SEC frequently hinge on which side of the line the conduct sits. Particularly for those of us who served as prosecutors, we acknowledge in these discussions the difficult mission of the enforcement officials to draw and defend lines. The world of business, however, frequently operates in territory that is somewhat grey: a world in which business persons strive to grow the company ethically in situations where the application of the existing rules are not entirely clear. For instance, in the current era of FCPA enforcement, international businesses struggle with their responsibilities to monitor and control the conduct of third parties with whom they do business: distributors and sub-distributors, joint venture partners, dealers, and resellers. Even for companies that are firmly dedicated to compliance with the FCPA, is not always clear when a third party amounts to an agent whose improper conduct might someday be ascribed to the company and its employees. Good and ethical companies struggle, every day, with the concept of defining an agent of the company as opposed to an independent customer who engages in an arm’s-length transaction to purchase the company’s products.”

*****
A good weekend to all.

Strange Things Happen In Threes – Another Challenge In A SEC FCPA Enforcement Action Filed

It’s been said that strange things happen in threes.

Until very recently, the last time the SEC was challenged in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action was 2002 in the Eric Mattson and James Harris enforcement action.  As noted in this previous post, the SEC lost.

After a 10 year period enforcing the FCPA against cooperating corporate and individual defendants, this past summer Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen’s challenged the SEC in an FCPA enforcement action.  (See here for the briefing, oral arguments are set for Halloween).

This post last week noted that former Maygar Telekom executives Elek Straub, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai plan on challenging the SEC’s enforcement action against them.  Briefing is to be completed in mid-December and oral arguments are scheduled for mid-January 2013.

Strange things happen in threes.

Last week, Chris Matthews (Wall Street Journal – Corruption Currents) reported here that former Siemens executive Herbert Steffen has filed a motion to dismiss the SEC’s charges against him.

As noted in this previous post, Steffen is among a group of former Siemens executives charged by the SEC (and DOJ) in connection with the Argentina conduct at issue in the widespread Siemens enforcement action from 2008.

In his motion to dismiss (here) Steffen moves to dismiss the SEC complaint for lack personal jurisdiction and for the SEC’s failure to file the complaint within the applicable five-year statute of limitations.

The motion states as follows.

“Mr. Steffen, 74 years of age, is a German citizen residing in Germany. He is trained as an engineer, and spent his entire career at Siemens Aktiengesellschaft (“Siemens”) and its subsidiaries with postings in Germany, Brazil, and Argentina. He was never employed in the United States, and never travelled to the United States on business for Siemens during the entire period alleged in the complaint. The complaint alleges he had managerial positions in Siemens’ Argentina business from 1983 through 1989 and again in 1991.   There are no allegations of any improprieties during the period he had such responsibilities. He retired from Siemens nearly ten years ago and has not been employed since.  The complaint alleges that between 2000 and 2003, when Mr. Steffen was Group President of Siemens Transportation Systems in Germany, he was recruited to assist in efforts to recover a contract that the Argentine government planned to terminate.  It further alleges that in that capacity he engaged in conduct that the SEC contends violated or aided and abetted violations of Sections 13(b)(2), 13(b)(5) and 30A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  The last alleged act attributed to Mr. Steffen in the complaint is alleged to have occurred sometime in “the first half of 2003.”  The complaint does not allege that Mr. Steffen ever entered the United States. Nor does it allege that he initiated any contact with anyone in the United States. Although it alleges that he participated in “one or more telephone conversations with defendant Sharef” (another Siemens employee), it expressly alleges that Mr. Sharef “called him from the United States.”  Because the complaint fails to plead facts sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over Mr. Steffen, and because the SEC’s claims are barred because they were not filed within the applicable five-year statute of limitations, we respectfully move to dismiss all the claims against Mr. Steffen pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12.”

The statute of limitations portion of Steffen’s states, among other things, as follows.

“At the September 28, 2012 scheduling conference before this Court, the SEC expressed the view that the applicable statute of limitations was tolled indefinitely because Mr. Steffen is a foreign defendant who has not been in the United States and does not own property in the United States. The SEC’s rationale for this novel argument was language in a sixty-year-old statute that neither expressly mentions tolling the statute of limitations nor has been held by any court to support the interpretation offered by the SEC.  The interpretation advanced by the SEC is particularly nonsensical, given the relative ease with which service of process can be effected on foreign defendants residing abroad. Moreover, the proposed interpretation—which as a practical matter would extend indefinitely the statute of limitation as to those individuals with the least connection to the United States— disregards, with no indication from Congress, the strong judicial policy favoring statute of limitations. [… Because the SEC cannot overcome its lack of diligence in pursuing its claims within the five-year statute of limitations, its claims against Mr. Steffen should be dismissed.”

Steffen is represented by Skadden lawyers Erich Schwartz (here – former Assistant Director of the SEC Enforcement Division) and Amanda Grier (here).

As noted in Chris Matthew’s Corruption Currents post, “the SEC said in a court letter filed last Friday it had reached an agreement with Uriel Sharef, a former member of Siemens’ managing board, to settle the foreign bribery charges pending against him.”

On the same day the SEC enforcement action was brought in December 2011, the SEC announced settlement of the charges against Bernd Regendatz.  As to the other defendants charged by the SEC, the docket notes a default by Ulrich Bock and Stephan Singer and that Andrews Truppel was recently served.  The docket contains no information as to Carlos Sergi.

As noted in the December 2011 post, the DOJ also charged several former Siemens executives as well.  The docket does not contain any entries since December 2011.

Former Magyar Telekom Execs To Challenge SEC

In December 2011, the DOJ and SEC brought related FCPA enforcement actions against Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom alleging various bribery schemes in Macedonia and Montenegro.  (See here for the prior post).  Total fines and penalties were approximately $95 million ($59.6 million against Magyar Telekom via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, $4.4 million against Deutsche Telekom via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement, and $31.2 million against Magyar Telekom via a settled SEC civil complaint).

As indicated in the prior post, the sole jurisdictional allegations in the enforcement action (other than the companies made filings with the SEC) were two e-mails that passed through, were stored on, and transmitted to servers located in the U.S.  The prior post also highlighted that the alleged improper conduct occurred in 2005 and 2006.

The Magyar Telekom enforcement action was a rare instance that also involved charges against individuals.  As noted in the prior post, the SEC, in addition to charging the company, also brought civil charges against former Magyar Telekom executives: Elek Straub (former Chairman and CEO of Magyar Telekom) and Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai (two former senior executives in Magyar Telekom’s Strategy Department) based on the same alleged Macedonia and Montenegro bribery schemes.

The prior post provided the following summary of the individual charges.  In both schemes, the SEC alleged that the individuals authorized or caused the payments at issue with “knowledge, the firm belief, or under circumstances that made it substantially certain” that all or a portion of the money would be forwarded to foreign officials.  The complaint also alleged that the individuals caused the payments to be falsely recorded in Magyar Telekom’s books and records.  The complaint charged the defendants  with violating or aiding and abetting violations of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA; knowingly circumventing internal controls and falsifying books and records; and making false statements to the company’s auditor.

Litigation of jurisdictional issues (heck litigation of any issue) in corporate FCPA enforcement actions is nearly non-existent.  However, foreign nationals individually charged with FCPA offenses are more likely to contest aggressive jurisdictional theories.  Indeed, a notable development from 2011 was judicial rejection of the DOJ’s asserted jurisdiction in prosecution of a foreign national in the Africa Sting case.  (See here for the prior post regarding Africa Sting defendant Pankesh Patel).

Litigation of statute of limitations issues is also nearly non-existent in FCPA enforcement actions.  Dig into the details of most FCPA enforcement actions and one quickly discovers that the conduct at issue is old – in some cases very old. However, cooperation is the name of the game in corporate FCPA inquiries and asserting statute of limitations issues is not cooperating.  Thus, most companies the subject of FCPA scrutiny enter into tolling agreements with the enforcement agencies or otherwise waive statute of limitations defenses.  However, individuals charged with FCPA offenses tend to fight more including by asserting black letter legal defenses such as statute of limitations.

Which brings us back to the former Magyar Telekom executives.   As reported last week by Law360, lawyers for the defendants argued last week at an initial appearance in the U.S. District Court (S.D. of New York)  that the court lacks jurisdiction over the defendants.  William Sullivan (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman –  here, counsel for Balogh) is quoted as follows concerning the jurisdictional issues.  “The allegations that an email may have been caught in a U.S. server without the knowledge of the alleged sender is not enough.”

The Law360 article also suggests that the defendants are likely to raise statute of limitation defenses.

Straub is represented by Saul Pilchen of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP (see here).

Morvai is represented by Michael Koenig and Victoria Lane of Greenberg Traurig.

In an order issued last week, Judge Richard Sullivan set the following schedule for the defendants’ contemplated omnibus motion to dismiss.

  • Oct. 29, 2012 (Defendants to file their motion and accompanying brief)
  • Nov. 30, 2012 (SEC to file its opposition brief)
  • Dec. 14, 2012 (Defendants to file their reply brief)
  • Jan. 17, 2013 (Oral argument)

Given that the enforcement agencies have continued to push the envelope on jurisdictional and statute of limitations issues (coupled with the fact that the DOJ recently lost a jurisdictional challenge in the Africa Sting case), the judicial challenge by the former Magyar Telekom executives is a notable development.  It is also a needed development in that the expected challenge will facilitate judicial scrutiny of these issues

It will be a busy end of the year for the SEC’s FCPA unit.  As noted in this previous post (and links embedded therein), on October 31st oral arguments will take place in the S.D. of Texas on defendants’ motion to dismiss in the Jackson and Ruehlen SEC FCPA enforcement action.

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