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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Scrutiny alerts and updates, charged, it needs to stop, and my answer. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Plantronics/Polycom

In March 2018, Plantronics (an audio communications company) announced that it entered into a definitive agreement by which it would acquire Polycom in a cash and stock transaction valued at $2.0 billion. The transaction closed in early July and recently Plantronics disclosed:

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Friday Roundup

Contorted, interesting, deserving?, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

Contorted

One of the most contorted words in the FCPA vocabulary is “declination” (see here among other posts).

This K&L Gates report contains a useful summary of DOJ and SEC comments at a recent conference.  It states:

“Mr. Knox [DOJ Criminal Division Fraud Section Chief] stated that companies continue to request specific information regarding the Department’s declinations, but that it is the Department’s long-standing practice not to publish details of declinations without a company’s permission, which is rarely given.  According to Mr. Knox, however, over the last two years, the Department has declined to prosecute dozens of cases.  Notably, Mr. Knox stated that, aside from finding no evidence of criminal conduct, the Department may issue a declination when a case involves an isolated incident, the company had a strong compliance program, and the problem was remediated.”

Newsflash.

If the DOJ does not find evidence of criminal conduct and therefore does not bring a case, this is not a “declination,” it is what the law commands.

On the topic of voluntary disclosure, the K&L Gates report states:

“Mr. Cain [SEC FCPA Unit Deputy Chief] started by stating “there is no perfect compliance program;” therefore, companies will always have some “background issues” which need to be addressed, especially as business and risk profiles change.  Mr. Cain does not expect companies to disclose these “normative” problems; however, companies should disclose “significant problems.”  These “significant problems” are the types of issues which may end up being enforcement actions if the SEC learns of them through means other than self-disclosure.”

“Mr. Knox took the position that it would be “very reckless and foolish” for him “to try and draw a line between matters which should be self-disclosed and matters which shouldn’t.”  In making the decision of whether to self-disclose, he advised companies and counsel to apply “common sense” and ask whether this is “something that [the Department] would be interested in hearing about?”  According to Mr. Knox, if the answer to that question is “yes,” then the Department would “probably want [a company] to self-disclose it.”  Nonetheless, there are instances which are not worthy of self-disclosure because the conduct is “minor” and “isolated” or the allegation of wrongdoing is “much too vague.”  Mr. Knox advised companies to “be thoughtful” when making disclosure decisions and carefully document any decision not to disclose.”

If the above leaves you scratching your head, join the club.

Interesting

My article “Why You Should Be Alarmed by the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action” highlights how ADM and its shareholders were victims of a corrupt Ukrainian government in that the government refused to give ADM something even the DOJ and SEC acknowledged ADM was owed – VAT refunds.  Among other things, the article discusses how VAT refund refusals were well-known and frequently criticized prior to the ADM enforcement action in late 2013.

Fast forward to the present day and VAT refund refusals remain a problem in Ukraine.  Recently the International Monetary Fund issued this release concerning a potential aid package for Ukraine.  Among the conditions is that Ukraine  adopt “reforms to strengthen governance, enhance transparency, and improve the business climate” such as taking “measures to facilitate VAT refunds to businesses.”

Deserving?

Earlier this week, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) released this statement

“Kellogg Brown & Root LLC, Technip S.A. and JGC Corp. agree to pay the equivalent of US $17 million in financial penalties as part of Negotiated Resolution Agreements with the African Development Bank following admission of corrupt practices by affiliated companies in relation to the award of services contracts for liquefied natural gas production plants on Bonny Island, Nigeria, from 1995 until 2004.”

The Director of the AfDB’s Integrity and Anti-Corruption Department stated:

“This settlement demonstrates a strong commitment from the African Development Bank to ensure that development funds are used for their intended purpose.  At the same time, it is a clear signal to multinational companies that corrupt practices in Bank-financed projects will be aggressively investigated and severely sanctioned. These ground-breaking Negotiated Resolution Agreements substantially advance the Bank’s anti-corruption and governance agenda, a strategic priority of our institution.”

Pardon me for interrupting this feel good moment (i.e. a corporation paying money to a development bank), but why is AfDB deserving of any money from the companies?  As noted here, AfDB’s role in the Bonny Island project was relatively minor as numerous banks provided financing in connection with the project.  Moreover, as noted here, the AfDB “invested in the oil and gas sector through a USD 100 million loan to NLNG [Nigeria LNG Limited] to finance the expansion of a gas liquefaction plant located on Bonny Island.”

As alleged in the U.S. Bonny Island FCPA enforcement actions, the above-mentioned companies allegedly made corrupt payments to, among others, NLNG officials.  And for this, the specific companies paid $579 million (KBR, et al), $338 million Technip, and $219 million (JGC).

Why is the bank that loaned money to NLNG deserving of anything?  Is there any evidence to suggest that the $100 million given to NLNG was not used for its “intended purpose” of building the Bonny Island project?

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

SBM Offshore, Sweett Group, Citigroup, Cisco, and Societe Generale.

SBM Offshore

The Netherlands-based company (with ADRs traded in the U.S. that provides floating production solutions to the offshore energy industry) has been under FCPA scrutiny for approximately two years.  It recently issued this statement which states, in summary, as follows.

“SBM Offshore presents the findings of its internal investigation, which it started in the first quarter of 2012, as the investigators have completed their investigative activities. The investigation, which was carried out by independent external counsel and forensic accountants, focused on the use of agents over the period 2007 through 2011. In summary, the main findings are:

  • The Company paid approximately US$200 million in commissions to agents during that period of which the majority relate to three countries: US$18.8 million to Equatorial Guinea, US$22.7 million to Angola and US$139.1 million to Brazil;
  • In respect of Angola and Equatorial Guinea there is some evidence that payments may have been made directly or indirectly to government officials;
  • In respect of Brazil there were certain red flags but the investigation did not find any credible evidence that the Company or the Company’s agent made improper payments to government officials (including state company employees). Rather, the agent provided substantial and legitimate services in a market which is by far the largest for the Company;
  • The Company voluntarily reported its internal investigation to the Dutch Openbaar Ministerie and the US Department of Justice in April 2012. It is presently discussing the disclosure of its definitive findings with the Openbaar Ministerie, whilst simultaneously continuing its engagement with the US Department of Justice. New information could surface in the context of the review by these authorities or otherwise which has not come up in the internal investigation to date;
  • At this time, the Company is still not in a position to estimate the ultimate consequences, financial or otherwise, if any, of that review;
  • Since its appointment in the course of 2012 the Company’s new Management Board has taken extensive remedial measures in respect of people, procedures, compliance programs and organization in order to prevent any potential violations of applicable anti-corruption laws and regulations. Both it and the Company’s Supervisory Board remain committed to the Company conducting its business activities in an honest, ethical, respectful and professional manner.”

The SBM Offshore release contains a detailed description of the scope and methodology of its review, as well as remedial measures the company has undertaken.  For this reason, the full release is an instructive read.

Sweett Group

As noted in this prior post, in June 2013 Sweett Group Ltd. (a U.K. based construction company) was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article titled “Inside U.S. Firm’s Bribery Probe.” The focus of the article concerned the construction of a hospital in Morocco and allegations that the company would get the contract if money was paid to “an official inside the United Arab Emirates President’s personal foundation, which was funding the project.”

Earlier this week, the company issued this release which stated:

“[T]here have been further discussions with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the UK and initial discussions with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the USA.  The Group is cooperating with both bodies and no proceedings have so far been issued by either of them.  The Group has commissioned a further independent investigation which is being undertaken on its behalf by Mayer Brown LLP.  Whilst this investigation is at an early stage and is ongoing, to date still no conclusive evidence to support the original allegation has been found.  However, evidence has come to light that suggests that material instances of deception may have been perpetrated by a former employee or employees of the Group during the period 2009 – 2011.  These findings are being investigated further.”

Citigroup

When first discussing Citigroup’s “FCPA scrutiny” I noted the importance of understanding that the FCPA contains generic books and records and internal controls provisions that can be implicated in the absence of any FCPA anti-bribery issues. (See here for a prior post on this subject).  As highlighted in this recent New York Times Dealbook article, this appears to be what Citigroup’s scrutiny involves.  According to the article:

“Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation into a recent $400 million fraud involving Citigroup’s Mexican unit, according to people briefed on the matter …  The investigation, overseen by the FBI and prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, is focusing in part on whether holes in the bank’s internal controls contributed to the fraud in Mexico. The question for investigators is whether Citigroup — as other banks have been accused of doing in the context of money laundering — ignored warning signs.”

Cisco

BuzzFeed goes in-depth as to Cisco’s alleged conduct in Russia that has resulted in FCPA scrutiny for the company. The article states, in pertinent part:

“[T]he iconic American firm is facing a federal investigation for possible bribery violations on a massive scale in Russia. At the heart of the probe by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, sources tell BuzzFeed, are allegations that for years Cisco, after selling billions of dollars worth of routers, communications equipment, and networks to Russian companies and government entities, routed what may have amounted to tens of millions of dollars to offshore havens including Cyprus, Tortola, and Bermuda.”

“Two former Cisco insiders have described to BuzzFeed what they say was an elaborate kickback scheme that used intermediary companies and went on until 2011. And, they said, Cisco employees deliberately looked the other way.”

“No one is suggesting that Cisco bribed Russia’s top leaders. Instead, the investigation is centered on day-to-day kickbacks to officials who ran or helped run major state agencies or companies. Such kickbacks, according to the allegations, enabled the firm to dominate Russia’s market for IT infrastructure.”

“Last year, according to sources close to the investigation, a whistleblower came forward to the SEC, sketching out a vast otkat [kickback] scheme and providing documents as evidence.”

“The two former Cisco executives laid out for BuzzFeed how the alleged scheme worked:  In Cisco’s Russia operations, funds for kickbacks were built into the large discounts Cisco gave certain middleman distributors that were well-connected in Russia. The size of the discounts are head-turning, usually 35% to 40%, but sometimes as high as 68% percent off the list price.  And there was a catch: Instead of discounting equipment in the normal way, by lowering the price, parts of the discounts were often structured as rebates: Cisco sent money back to the middlemen after a sale. Some intermediaries were so close to the Russian companies and government agencies — Cisco’s end customers — that these intermediaries functioned as their agents. These middleman companies would direct the rebate money to be sent to bank accounts in offshore havens such as Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands, or Bermuda.”

According to the article, WilmerHale is conducting the internal investigation.

Societe Generale

Like other financial services company, Societe Generale has come under FCPA scrutiny for business dealings in Libya.  (See here for the prior post).  As noted in this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, in a U.K. lawsuit the Libyan Investment Authority has alleged that the company “paid a middleman $58 million in alleged bribes to secure almost $2 billion in business … during the final years of dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s rule.”

Reading Stack

The most recent issue of the always informative FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton contains a useful analysis of the DOJ’s recent opinion procedure release (see here for the prior post).  Among other things, the Update states:

“[W]hy did it take eight months for the DOJ to issue an Opinion which could have simply cited [a prior Opinion Release]? The delay does not appear to be related to the DOJ’s heavy workload or bureaucratic inertia, as “significant backup documentation” was provided and “several follow up discussions” took place during the eight months.”

*****

A good weekend to all.  On Wisconsin!

Bonny Island Bribery Club Statistics

Bonny Island.

It is located at the southern edge of the Niger delta of Nigeria. (see here).

It is the location featured in several corporate and individual FCPA enforcement actions – actions that have thus far resulted in approximately $1.3 billion in fines, penalties and disgorgement.

This number is sure to grow as one member of the joint venture at the center of bribery scheme – JGC of Japan – has yet to resolve its exposure although (as noted in this post from the FCPA Blog) it has confirmed that it is discussions with the DOJ.

In addition, the DOJ, in its indictments of Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan, is seeking forfeiture of $132 million.

Further, as noted in this prior post, Halliburton has disclosed that it faces exposure in the U.K. in connection with a Serious Fraud Office investigation of M.W. Kellogg Company (“MWKL”), a United Kingdom joint venture 55% owned by KBR. In its most recent 10-Q (here) Halliburton stated:

“MWKL is cooperating with the SFO’s investigation. Whether the SFO pursues civil or criminal claims, and the amount of any fines, restitution, confiscation of revenues or other penalties that could be assessed would depend on, among other factors, the SFO’s findings regarding the amount, timing, nature and scope of any improper payments or other activities, whether any such payments or other activities were authorized by or made with knowledge of MWKL, the amount of revenue involved, and the level of cooperation provided to the SFO during the investigations. MWKL has informed the SFO that it intends to self-report corporate liability for corruption-related offenses arising out of the Bonny Island project. MWKL has received confirmation that it has been admitted into the plea negotiation process under the Guidelines on Plea Discussions in Cases of Complex or Serious Fraud, which have been issued by the Attorney General for England and Wales.”

While the Bonny Island Bribery Club statistics are not yet final, this post provides a detailed breakdown of the current statistics.

Kellogg Brown & Root LLC / Halliburton Company / KBR Inc. (Feb. 2009)

Attorneys: Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP

DOJ

Entity: Kellogg Brown & Root LLC

Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation (4 Counts)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal Information and Plea Agreement

Benefit Received From Improper Payments: $235.5 Million

Sentencing Guidelines Range: $376.8 Million – $753.6 Million

Amount of Fine: $402 Million

Monitor: Yes – Three Years

SEC

Entity: Halliburton Company, KBR Inc.

Charges: FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violation (Halliburton Company), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation, Aiding and Abetting Halliburton’s FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violation, Knowingly Falsifying Books and Records and Knowingly Circumventing Internal Controls (KBR Inc.),

Disgorgement Amount: $177 Million

Technip S.A. (June 2010)

Attorneys: Patton Boggs LLP; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

DOJ

Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation (1 Count)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal Information and Deferred Prosecution Agreement (Term – 2 Years, 7 Months)

Value of Benefit Received From Improper Payments: $199 Million

Sentencing Guidelines Range: $318.4 Million – $636.8 Million

Amount of Fine: $240 Million (25% Below Minimum Guidelines Range)

Monitor: Yes – Two Years

SEC

Charges: Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation, FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violation

Disgorgement Amount: $98 Million

Snamprogetti Netherlands BV, ENI S.p.A (July 2010)

Attorneys: Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

DOJ

Entity: Snamprogetti Netherlands BV

Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Aiding and Abetting FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation (1 Count)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal Information and Deferred Prosecution Agreement (Term 2 Years)

Value of Benefit Received From Improper Payments: $214.3 Million

Sentencing Guidelines Range: $300 Million – $600 Million

Amount of Fine: $240 Million (20% Below Minimum Guidelines Range)

Monitor: No

SEC

Entity: Snamprogetti Netherlands BV, ENI S.p.A.

Charges: Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation, Knowingly Falsifying Books and Records and Knowingly Circumventing Internal Controls (Snamprogetti Netherlands BV), FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violation (ENI S.p.A.)

Disgorgement Amount: $125 Million

[Note in all three of the above corporate actions, the entity received a -2 reduction in the culpability score for cooperation. Snamprogetti’s total culpability score (and thus base fine multiplier) was below that of Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC, and Technip given that the company has fewer employees].

Albert Jackson Stanley (August 2008)

Attorney: Larry Veselka (Smyser, Kaplan & Veselka LLP)

DOJ

Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud (1 Count)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal Information and Plea Agreement

Plea Agreement Contemplates an $10.8 Million Restitution Order (the amount Stanley agreed the victim – his former employer – incurred as a monetary loss because of his conduct)

Plea Agreement Contemplates a Sentence of 84 months (subject to a downward departure for cooperation)

SEC

Charges: Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation, Knowingly Falsifying Books and Records and Knowingly Circumventing Internal Controls

Permanent Injunction

Jeffrey Tesler (March 2009)

Indictment Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violations (10 Counts)

Indictment Seeks Forfeiture $132 Million

Wojciech Chodan (March 2009)

Indictment Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violations (10 Counts)

Indictment Seeks Forfeiture $132 Million

More On Technip

A post last week (see here) contained a high-level overview of the Technip matter as described in the DOJ release.

Let’s take a closer look at the criminal information (see here) and the deferred prosecution agreement (see here).

Information

Not surprisingly, the Technip information largely mirrors the criminal information previously filed in February 2009 (see here) against the Kellogg Brown & Root entity also part of the joint venture engaged in the Bonny Island bribery scheme.

That is, the Technip information charges conspiracy to violate the FCPA and violations of the FCPA’s antibribery provisions and alleges that Technip was part of a joint venture (“JV”) in Nigeria to design, build and expand LNG facilities on Bonny Island. According to the information, JV profits, revenues, and expenses were equally shared among the four JV partners. The JV’s Steering Committee consisted of high-level executives from each of the four companies and the Steering Committee made major decisions on behalf of the JV, including whether to hire agents to assist the JV in winning contracts, who to hire as agents, and how much to pay the agents.

The information charges that the JV operated through three Portuguese special purpose corporations, including a corporation (#3), 25% owned by Technip, specifically used to enter into consulting agreements with JV agents.

The criminal conduct charged centers on two agents hired by the JV.

The first agent, Jeffrey Tesler was a citizen of the United Kingdom who used a Gibraltar-based company as a vehicle to enter into agent contracts and receive payments from the JV. The information charges that the JV paid the company over $130 million to bribe high-ranking Nigerian government officials. According to the information, Tesler was an agent of the JV and each of the JV companies.

The second agent was a global trading company headquartered in Tokyo (the “Japanese Agent”), which was hired by the JV to help it obtain business in Nigeria, including by paying bribes to Nigerian officials. The information charges that the JV paid the consulting company over $50 million to bribe Nigerian government officials. According to the information, the Japanese Agent was an agent of the JV and each of the JV companies.

According to the information, between 1995 and 2004, the JV was awarded four contracts (collectively valued at over $6 billion) to build the Bonny Island Project and alleges that Technip, Tesler, the Japanese Agent, Kellogg Brown & Root, and others, were engaged in a conspiracy to obtain and retain the contracts “through the promise and payment of tens of millions in bribes to officials of the Executive Branch of Nigeria, officials of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), officials of Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) and others.”

[According to the information, NNPC was a Nigerian government-owned company and an entity and instrumentality of the Government of Nigeria whose officers and employees were “foreign officials” under the FCPA. According to the information, NLNG was also an entity and instrumentality of the Government of Nigeria whose officers and employees were “foreign officials” under the FCPA, notwithstanding the fact that NLNG was 51% owned by multinational oil companies. Why? Presumably because, as the information alleges, “through the NLNG board members appointed by NNPC, among other means, the Nigerian government exercised control over NLNG, including but not limited to the abilty to block the award” of the relevant contracts.]

Among other means of the conspiracy, the information alleges that:

“Senior executives and employees of Technip and their co-conspirators caused wire transfers totaling approximately $132 million to be sent from [#3’s] bank account in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to bank accounts in New York, New York, to be further credited to bank accounts in Switzerland and Monaco controlled by Tesler for Tesler to use to bribe Nigerian government officials.”

“Senior executives and employees of Technip and their co-conspirators caused wire transfers totaling over $50 million to be sent from [#3’s] bank account in Amsterdam, The Netherlands to [Japanese Agent’s] bank account in Japan for [the Japanese Agent to use to bribe Nigerian government officials.”

Based on the same core conduct, the information also charges a substantive violation of the FCPA’s antibribery provisions and alleges that “Technip
caused […] corrupt U.S. dollar payments to be wire transferred
from [#3’s] bank account in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, via correspondent bank accounts in New York, New York, to bank accounts of [Tesler’s Gibraltar based company] in Switzerland for use in part to bribe Nigerian government officials.”

DPA

The DPA has a term of two years and seven months. A DPA is a less harsh resolution to an FCPA enforcement action because, while the criminal charges are technically filed, the charges are deferred or not prosecuted during the term of the DPA. If Technip abides by its obligations under the DPA, the criminal charges will be dismissed when the DPA’s term expires.

Pursuant to the DPA, Technip admitted, accepted, and acknowledged that it is responsible for the acts of its employees, subsidiaries, and agents as detailed in the above criminal information.

According to the DPA, the DOJ agreed to enter into the agreement with Technip based on the following factors: “(a) Technip cooperated with the DOJ’s investigation of Technip and others; (b) Technip undertook remedial measures, including the implementation of an enhanced compliance program, and agreed to undertake further remedial measures; (c) Technip agreed to continue to cooperate with the DOJ in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of Technip and its employees, agents, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, subsidiaries, and others relating to violations of the FCPA; and (d) the impact on Technip, including collateral consequences, of a guilty plea or criminal conviction. (emphasis added).

According to the DPA, the fine range under the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for Technip’s conduct is $318.4 million – $636.8 million. Technip agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $240 million or approximately 25% below the bottom of the fine range. The Technip enforcement action is thus another example of the DOJ allowing a corporation to settle significant bribery allegations for an amount below even the bottom range of fines available under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines.

Pursuant to the DPA, Technip agreed to engage a corporate compliance monitor for a two year period. The DPA specifically states that this individual will be a “French national.”

Representing Technip in the FCPA enforcement action was Robert Luskin from Patton Boggs LLP (see here) and John Savarese from Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz (see here).

As referenced above, the Technip allegations largely mirror the previous allegations against the Kellogg Brown & Root entity also part of the joint venture engaged in the Bonny Island bribery scheme.

How does the DOJ component of these two FCPA enforcement actions compare?

Technip settled pursuant to a DPA and paid a $240 million criminal penalty – an amount 25% below the bottom range allowed under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines.

Kellogg Brown & Root was required to plead guilty and paid a $402 million criminal penalty – an amount within the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range of $376.8 million – $753.6 million.

The disparate treatment of Technip and Kellogg Brown & Root – two entities involved in the same joint venture engaged in the same bribery scheme – is likely due to the fact that, per the government’s allegations, Kellogg Brown & Root appeared to have played a more active role in the bribery scheme. Specifically, Albert Jack Stanley, a former officer and director of various Kellogg Brown & Root entities, was directly involved in the bribery scheme as evidenced by his prior guilty plea (see here).

Technip Joins the Bonny Island Bribery Club

A French company bribes Nigerian foreign officials with the end result being $338 million paid into the United States treasury.

Welcome to the sometimes wacky world of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement. Except in this case, the end result is not so wacky because the French company, Technip (see here) was a U.S. issuer, and thus subject to the FCPA, because, between August 2001 and November 2007, it had American Depository Shares registered with and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In addition to being an Issuer subject to the FCPA, “Technip and other members of the joint venture [described below] routinely made use of the U.S. mails and of U.S. common carriers, and of other instrumentalities of U.S. interstate commerce” including improper payments “routed through banks in New York.”

The Technip FCPA enforcement action has been anticipated since February when the company (see here) foreshadowed the pending settlement.

Yesterday, the DOJ and SEC announced the settlement. It includes payment of a $240 criminal penalty pursuant to a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement and payment of $98 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest pursuant to a settled SEC civil complaint.

The below post summarizes the DOJ release (to my knowledge the DOJ deferred prosecution agreement and criminal information are not yet publicly available) and the SEC settled civil complaint.

DOJ

The DOJ release (here) states that Technip “has agreed to pay a $240 million criminal penalty to resolve charges related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for its participation in a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts […] to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, [contracts that] were valued at more than $6 billion.”

According to the release, “Technip, Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (KBR) (see here for the prior FCPA enforcement action), and two other companies were part of a four-company joint venture that was awarded four EPC contracts.”

The release further states that “Technip authorized the joint venture to hire two agents, Jeffrey Tesler (see here for the criminal indictment) and a Japanese trading company, to pay bribes to a range of Nigerian government officials, including top-level executive branch officials, to assist Technip and the joint venture in obtaining the EPC contracts. According to the release, “at crucial junctures preceding the award of EPC contracts, a senior executive of Technip, KBR’s former CEO, Albert “Jack” Stanley (see here and here for the prior FCPA enforcement action), and others met with successive holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the Nigerian government to ask the office holders to designate a representative with whom the joint venture should negotiate bribes to Nigerian government officials.” According to the release, “the joint venture paid approximately $132 million to a Gibraltar corporation controlled by Tesler and more than $50 million to the Japanese trading company during the course of the bribery scheme” and that “Technip intended for these payments to be used, in part, for bribes to Nigerian government officials.”

As has become the norm in corporate FCPA prosecutions, Technip will not be required to plead guilty to anything as the criminal charges (one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the FCPA), while filed, will be deferred pursuant to two-year deferred prosecution agreement.

In a press release (see here) Technip Chairman and CEO, Thierry Pilenko said:

“The final agreement with the US authorities, completely in line with the road map that we laid out in February, puts this legacy story behind us and enables us to focus on continuing to develop Technip’s business. We stand by Technip’s commitment to carrying out its business activities ethically and according to both the spirit and letter of the law worldwide. The Board of Directors of Technip and its management are strongly committed to the continued enhancement of our internal compliance policies and processes.”

Technip’s release further states:

“The DOJ investigation of Technip was resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement, in which the Department of Justice agreed not to pursue a prosecution of Technip in return for Technip’s agreement to undertake a variety of steps during the next two years, including maintaining and enhancing its compliance program and cooperating with the DOJ. Technip agreed to pay USD 240 million to the DOJ in eight equal installments of USD 30 million over the next two years. Technip will retain a French national, approved by the Department of Justice, to serve as an independent corporate monitor, who will be chiefly responsible for reviewing Technip’s compliance initiatives and recommending improvements.”

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division stated: “The resolutions announced today demonstrate once again the department’s commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute international bribery by U.S. and foreign corporations alike.”

SEC

In a settled civil complaint (see here) charging FCPA anti-bribery violations and FCPA books and records and internal violations, the SEC alleged that “between at least 1995 and 2004, senior executives at Technip, among others, devised and implemented a scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to assist in obtaining multiple contracts worth over $6 billion to build liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) production facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria.” According to the SEC, “to conceal the illicit payments, Technip and others, through the joint venture, entered into sham ‘consulting’ or ‘services’ agreements with intermediaries who would then funnel their purportedly legitimate fees to Nigerian officials.” Specifically, the SEC alleged that “Technip, through the joint venture, implemented this scheme by using a Gibraltar shell company controlled by a solicitor based in the United Kingdom (“the UK Agent” [Tesler]) and a Japanese trading company (“the Japanese Agent”) as conduits for the bribes” and that “as a result of the scheme, numerous books and records of Technip contained false information relating to, among other things, the UK Agent and the Japanese Agent, and the payments made to them.”

As to Technip’s internal controls violations, the SEC alleges as follows:

“Technip conducted due diligence on the UK Agent that was not adequate to detect, deter or prevent the UK Agent from paying bribes, and Technip conducted no due diligence on the Japanese Agent.”

“Although the executives of Technip who participated in the joint venture were aware of [the FCPA’s] prohibitions, Technip did not implement adequate controls to ensure compliance with the Act. For example, Technip did not adopt due diligence procedures as to agents that were adequate to detect, deter or prevent the payment of bribes by agents. The due diligence procedures adopted by Technip only required that potential agents respond to a written questionnaire, seeking minimal background information about the agent. No additional due diligence was required, such as an interview of the agent, or a background check, or obtaining information beyond that provided by the answers to the questionnaire. A senior executive of Technip admitted that the due diligence procedures adopted by Technip were a perfunctory exercise, conducted so that Technip would have some documentation in its files of purported due diligence. In fact, Technip executives knew that the purpose of the agreements with the UK Agent was to funnel bribes to Nigerian officials, and therefore certain answers by the UK Agent to the questionnaire were false.”

According to the SEC release (see here) “without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Technip has consented to the entry of a court order permanently enjoining it from” future FCPA violations “and ordering Technip to disgorge $98 million in ill-gotten profits derived from the scheme and prejudgment interest.”

Other members of the TSKJ joint venture that also potentially face FCPA exposure include Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. (see below information regarding Eni SpA), and JGC of Japan (see here).

In March 2010, Eni SpA of Italy disclosed (here) as follows:

“Snamprogetti SpA, the holding company of Snamprogetti Netherlands BV, was a wholly owned subsidiary of Eni until February 2006, when an agreement was entered into for the sale of Snamprogetti to Saipem SpA and Snamprogetti was merged into Saipem as of October 1, 2008. Eni holds a 43% participation in Saipem. In connection with the sale of Snamprogetti to Saipem, Eni agreed to indemnify Saipem for a variety of matters, including potential losses and charges resulting from the investigations into the TSKJ matter referred […}, even in relation to Snamprogetti subsidiaries.”

The disclosure further stated:

“As to Eni, the contacts with the US authorities have been intensified recently. Based on the ongoing status of the discussions, the Company has been able to estimate the cost of a global resolution of all potential claims arising from the investigation with the US authorities, similarly to Technip. As a result of this, a provision in the amount of €250 million has been accrued, also considering the contractual obligations assumed by Eni to indemnify Saipem as part of the divestment of Snamprogetti. Discussions with the US authorities are underway.”

Stay tuned for additional analysis of the Technip DPA, criminal information, and other issues raised by the Technip enforcement action.

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