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More On Alliance One and Universal

Earlier this month (see here) the DOJ and SEC announced FCPA enforcement actions against tobacco companies – Alliance One International, Inc. and Universal Corporation.

Both the DOJ (here) and the SEC (here) issued a consolidated press release – the first time (to my knowledge) the agencies have consolidated an enforcement action against two unrelated companies in such a fashion. Perhaps the reason was, as explained below, a significant part of the improper conduct at both companies involved the same entity – The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (“TTM”) – an alleged agency and instrumentality of the Thai government.

This is a long post, but then again, at nearly 300 pages, there was much in the DOJ and SEC resolution documents.

For instance, Alliance One’s entire exposure was based, not on anything it did, but rather successor liability theories.

Both the Alliance One and Universal enforcement actions were the product of voluntary disclosure. In fact, the Universal inquiry began when a former employee contacted the company’s internal compliance hotline. Query whether that individual today would do the same thing given Dodd-Frank’s whistlblower provisions – provisions which, if applicable, would make him / her a millionaire.

The Universal enforcement action is an FCPA first, in that it concerns conduct in Mozambique and Malawi.

There are also many remedial measures / compliance nuggets waiting to be digested from these enforcement actions.

The Alliance One enforcement action has already spawned a related individual enforcement action against Bobby Elkins (see here) and the Universal enforcement action may do the same as the DOJ’s Statement of Facts contains an alphabet soup of employees, including U.S. citizens, allegedly involved in the improper conduct.

This post describes the DOJ and SEC’s enforcement actions against Alliance One as well as the DOJ and SEC’s enforcement actions against Universal Corp.

Alliance One

The Alliance One enforcement action included a non-prosecution agreement between the DOJ and Alliance One, criminal pleas by Alliance One International AG and Alliance One Tobacco OSH, LLC, as well as an SEC enforcement action against Alliance One.

Edward Fuhr, Hunton & Williams LLP (see here), represented Alliance One entities. Colleen Mahoney, Skadden (see here), the former Deputy Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, represented Alliance One’s Board of Directors and Audit Committee.

DOJ

Pursuant to a non-prosecution agreement (see here), the DOJ agreed not to prosecute Alliance One related to:

1. “improper payments (or agreements to make improper payments) made by employees and agents of its subsidiary or predecessor corporations in the form of:

a. corrupt payments made to foreign officials in Kyrgyzstan including (i) bribes paid to officials of the Kyrgyz Tamekisi; (ii) bribes paid to Akims; and (iii) bribes paid to Kyrgyz tax officials, which payments were made for the purpose of obtaining and retaining business with Kyrgyzstan government entities; and

b. corrupt payments made to foreign officials in Thailand in the form of
kickbacks paid to officials of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, which payments were made for the purpose of obtaining and retaining business with Thailand government entities; and

2. The accounting and record-keeping practices associated with these improper
payments.”

Pursuant to the NPA, Alliance One “admitted, accepted, and acknowledged successor corporate responsibility for the conduct of its corporate predecessors” as set forth in a Statement of Facts attached to the NPA.

In summary fashion, the Statement of Facts are as follows:

Prior to 2005, Dimon, Inc. (“Dimon”) was a publicly traded leaf tobacco merchant subject to the FCPA. Dimon also had an obligation to ensure that its wholly owned subsidiaries, including Dimon International Kyrgyzstan, Inc. (“DIK”) and Dimon International AG (“DIAG”), maintained accurate books and records.

Prior to 2005, Standard Commercial Corp. (“Standard”) was a publicly traded leaf tobacco merchant subject to the FCPA. Standard also had an obligation to ensure that its wholly owned subsidiaries, including Standard Brazil Ltd., maintained accurate books and records.

In 2005, Dimon and Standard merged to form Alliance One.

Kyrgyzstan

Dimon maintained a wholly owned subsidiary, DIK, that was organized under Kyrgyzstan law. During the relevant time period, DIK purchased and processed tobacco grown in Kyrgyzstan and shipped processed tobacco to Dimon’s customers throughout the world.

According to the Statement of Facts, “DIK maintained its principal place of business in Osh, Kyrgyzstan and made regular reports of its business operations and financial accounts to officers of Dimon located at its headquarters in Danville, Virginia. DIK regularly sought approval for management decisions from Dimon managemeut and worked with and communicated with individuals acting as DIK’s agents in Danville, Virginia, and Farmville, North Carolina, who undertook certain acts within the territory of the United States such that DIK was a “person” within the meaning ofthe FCPA.

After the merger of Dimon and Standard in 2005, Alliance changed the name of DIK to Alliance One Tobacco Osh, LLC (“Osh”) which continued to operate in Kyrgyzstan as a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliance One.

According to the Statement of Facts, “Osh is the corporate successor to DIK, and is legally accountable for the criminal acts of its predecessor corporation.

Like the DOJ and SEC’s prior enforcement action against Bobby Elkins (see here and here), the Statement of Facts focus on improper payments to “Kyrgyz Official A,” “the Akims” and the “Kyrgyz Tax Inspection Police.”

Kyrgyz Official A served as the “General Director of the Tamekisi” “an agency and instrumentality of the [Kyrgyz] government [established] to manage and control the government-controlled shares of the tobacco processing facilities throughout Kyrgyzstan.” According to the Statement of Facts, the Tamekisi agreed to issue a license to Dimon to process and export tobacco and that from October 1996 through at least February 2004, DIK delivered approximately $2.6 million in cash payments to the official. According to the Statement of Facts, these payments were intended to “influence acts or decisions” of the official in his official capacity and to secure DIK’s “continued access to the tobacco processing facilities controlled by the Tamekisi.”

According to the Statement of Facts, an Akim is a head of Kyrgyz local government with “authority over the sale of tobacco by the growers” within a specific municipality or geographic area. The Statement of Facts indicate that beginning in 1996 “it became necessary for DIK to obtain permission from local Akims to purchase tobacco from the growers in each area” and “several of the Akims demanded payment of a “commission” from DIK “in order to secure the relevant Akim’s approval” for DIK to purchase tobacco from local growers. According to the Statement of Facts, from January 1996 to at least March 2004 DIK made cash payments “to the Akims of five different municipalities totaling approximately $283,762 in order to influence the acts and decisions of the Akims and to secure DIK’s continued ability to purchase tobacco from growers in the muncipalities controlled by the Akims.”

As to the Kyrgyz Tax Inspection Police, the Statement of Facts indicate that “during periodic audits” of DIK, the police assessed penalties and threatened to shut down DIK. According to the Statement of Facts, from March 2000 to March 2003 DIK “made approximately nine cash payments to officers of the Kyrgyz Tax Inspection Police totaling approximately $82,850 in order to influence the acts and decisions” of the police and to secure DIK’s “continued ability to conduct its business in Kyrgyzstan.”

According to the Statement of Facts, DIK maintained a company bank account in Kyrgyzstan, known as the “special account” to make the above described improper payments and when a DIK employee “needed to replenish money in the special account, he sent requests for funds by electronic mail or facsimile transmission to other employees and officers of Dimon or its affiliates in the U.S.” accompanied by a wire transfer request to Dimon’s Financial Accounting Department in Virginia.

According to the Statement of Facts, “the financial reporting on the special account from DIK and all other Dimon subsidiaries went directly to Dimon’s corporate headquarters in the U.S.” and in July 2002 “an internal audit report to Dimon headquarters stated that DIK management continued to be challenged by a ‘cash environment’ and cited corruption in Kyrgyzstan as a financial risk because of the potential control issue with cash payments.”

According to the Statement of Facts, between January 1996 and December 2004, “the Kyrgyzstan business operations of DIK generated profits of approximately $4.8 million for its parent corporation, Dimon.”

Thailand

Prior to 2005, Dimon maintained a wholly owned subsidiary, DIAG, which was organized under Swiss law and conducted business in the U.K., Brazil, Thailand, the U.S. and elsewhere. According to the Statement of Facts, “during the relevant time period, DIAG provided financial, accounting and management services to other Dimon subsidiaries that purchased tobacco grown in Brazil, and sold it to Dimon’s customers including the [TTM].” According to the Statement of Facts, DIAG, which maintained its principal place of business in the U.K., “made regular reports of its business operations and financial accounts to officers of Dimon located at its headquarters in Danville, Virginia” and DIAG “regularly sought approval for management decisions from Dimon management and worked with and communicated with individuals acting as DIAG’s agents” in Virginia and North Carolina “who undertook certain acts while in the territory of the United States such that DIAG was a “person” within the meaning ofthe FCPA.

Prior to 2005, Standard maintained a wholly owned subsidiary, Standard Brazil Ltd (“Standard Brazil”), which was organized under the laws of the Isle of Jersey, Channel Islands, and conducted business in Brazil, Thailand, and elsewhere. During the relevant period, Standard Brazil provided financial, accounting and management services to other Standard subsidiaries that purchased tobacco grown in Brazil, and sold it to Standard’s customers including the TTM. Standard Brazil regularly sought approval for management decisions from Standard management and worked with and communicated with individuals at Standard, acting as Standard Brazil’s agents in the United States and undertaking certain acts within the territory of the United States such that Standard Brazil was a “person” within the meaning of the FCPA.

The Statement of Facts concern improper payments to TTM (see here) “an agency and instrumentality” of the Thai government established to “manage and control the government-owned tobacco industry in Thailand.” According to the Statement of Facts, the TTM “supervised the cultivation of domestic tobacco crops, purchased imported tobacco and manufactured cigarettes and other tobacco products in Thailand.”

According to the Statement of Facts, the TTM was headed by a Managing Director (“Thai Official A”), appointed by the Finance Ministry, who reported through a Board of Directors directly to the Minister of Finance of Thailand and, as such, was a “foreign official” within the meaning of the FCPA. (See here for TTM’s current organizational chart).

According to the Statement of Facts, during the relevant time period, Dimon purchased tobacco from growers in Brazil and sold the Brazilian tobacco to the TTM through DIAG and Standard sold the Brazilian tobacco to the TTM through Standard Brazil. To help facilitate these sales, Dimon and Standard Brazil retained sales agents in Thailand and the companies paid sales commissions to the agents in varying amounts as a percentage of its tobacco sales to the TTM.

According to the Statement of Facts:

“Beginning in or around 2000 and continuing through at least in or around 2004, Dimon and Standard, through their agents, subsidiaries and affiliates, collaborated together and with a competing tobacco merchant, Company A, [presumably Universal Corp.] to apportion tobacco sales to the TTM among themselves and to coordinate their sales prices in order to ensure that each company would share in the Thai tobacco market. Beginning in or around 2000 and continuing through at least in or around 2004, Dimon, Standard and Company A agreed among themselves to pay bribes to officials of the TTM in exchange for their purchase of tobacco. The three companies agreed to pay ‘special expenses,’ calculated at an agreed rate per kilogram of tobacco sold to the TTM, that were paid as kickbacks to Thai Official A and other TTM officials to induce the TTM to purchase tobacco and to secure an improper advantage for Dimon, Standard and Company A.”

According to the Statement of Facts, between 2000 and 2004 “Dimon realized net profits of approximately $4.3 million from the sale of Brazilian tobacco to the TTM” and paid “special expenses totaling approximately $542,950 as kickbacks to Thai Official A and other TTM officials…” According the Statement of Facts, during the same time period, “Standard realized net profits of approximately $2.7 million from the sale of Brazilian tobacco to the TTM” and paid “special expenses totaling approximately $696,160 as kickbacks to Thai Official A and other TTM officials…”

According to the Statement of Facts, the companies and individuals involved “knew and intended that the corrupt special expenses paid to Thai Official A and other TTM officials” would “secure an improper advantage for Dimon and Standard by influencing the TTM’s decision to purchase Brazilian tobacco from Dimono and Standard.”

According to the Statement of Facts:

“After the merger of Dimon and Standard in 2005, Alliance One consolidated the assets, liabilities, and business affairs of Standard Brazil with DIAG and renamed the subsidiary corporation Alliance One International AG” (“Alliance One AG”). According to the Statement of Facts, as the successor corporation, Alliance One AG “is legally accountable for the criminal acts of both DIAG and Standard Brazil” and Alliance One AG “continued to operate in the U.K. and elsewhere as a wholly owned subsidiary” of Alliance One and accordingly is a “person” within the meaning of the FCPA.”

The Statement of Facts then lists several acts in furtherance of the improper payments that had a U.S. nexus such as e-mail messages and wire transfers to or from the U.S.

According to the DOJ, it agreed to enter into the NPA with Alliance One based, in part, on the following factors: “(a) Alliance’s timely, voluntary and complete disclosure of the conduct and events at issue; (b) Alliance’s thorough, real-time cooperation with the Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its voluntary production of documents; (c) the remedial compliance efforts undertaken and to be undertaken by Alliance; and (d) no further criminal conduct has occurred since the merger that created Alliance.”

During the three-year NPA, Alliance One shall, among other things, cooperate in any related DOJ or SEC investigation. Pursuant the NPA, Alliance One must also strenghen its internal controls and retain an independent corporate monitor.

The criminal informations against Alliance One AG (here) and Osh (here) concern the same core conduct described above.

The criminal information against Alliance One AG concerns Thailand conduct and charges: (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to knowingly falsify books, record and accounts of Dimon and Standard; (ii) substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations; and (iii) aiding and abetting FCPA books and records violations.

The Alliance One AG Plea Agreement (here) notes that the benefit received from the improper conduct was approximately $7 million. The company received a “culpability score” credit for “self-reporting, cooperation, acceptance of responsibility.” The fine range, per the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $4.2 – $8.4 million. The DOJ and Alliance One AG agreed that the appropriate sentence should be $5.25 million. The plea agreement notes that the plea was “the result of the voluntary disclosure made by [Alliance One AG] and its parent [Alliance One] to the Department beginning in May 2004, and the disclosure of evidence obtained as a result of the extensive investigation subsequently conducted by [Alliance One] into the operations of [Alliance One AG], its parent, affiliates, and subsidiaries.” The agreement states that “at the time of the initial disclosure, the conduct was unknown to the Department.”

The criminal information against Osh concerns Kyrgyzstan conduct and charges: (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to knowingly falsify books, record and accounts of Dimon; (ii) substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations; and (iii) aiding and abetting FCPA books and records violations.

The Osh Plea Agreement (here) notes that the benefit received from the improper conduct was approximately $4.8 million. The company received a “culpability score” credit for “self-reporting, cooperation, acceptance of responsibility.” The fine range, per the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $4.2 – $8.4 million. The DOJ and Osh agreed that the appropriate sentence should be $4.2 million. The plea agreement notes that the plea was “the result of the voluntary disclosure made by [Osh] and its parent [Alliance One] to the Department beginning in May 2004, and the disclosure of evidence obtained as a result of the extensive investigation subsequently conducted by [Alliance One] into the operations of [Osh], its parent, affiliates, and subsidiaries.” The agreement states that “at the time of the initial disclosure, the conduct was unknown to the Department.”

In the DOJ’s Consolidated Sentencing Memorandum (here), it notes that the “corporations have executed a tolling agreement that provides that the statute of limitations was tolled on May 24, 2004, the date on which the corporation first notified the Department that they were undertaking an internal investigation.”

As to the ultimate fine amounts, the DOJ states that it “and the defendant corporations have negotiated a fine that is at or above the minimum fine in the range.”

As to Osh’s $4.2 million fine, the DOJ states:

“The Department submits that a fine at the low end of the Guidelines range is
appropriate in this case given the company’s prompt and timely self-disclosure of the potentially corrupt payments as soon as they were discovered, the remedial measures taken and the nature and extent of the company’s cooperation throughout the
government’s investigation. The company retained outside counsel to conduct an extensive internal investigation and voluntarily produced thousands of pages of documents and memoranda of witness interviews. The company’s remedial measures, outlined below, included the termination of all employees found to have authorized or participated in the improper payments.”

As to Alliance One AG’s $5.25 million fine, the DOJ states:

“This fine is above the minimum of the range partly to account for the fact
that two subsidiaries (DIAG and Standard Brazil) participated in the commission of the offense, along with a third unrelated company, although they were subsidiaries of different parent corporations at the time. Further, because DIAG, Standard Brazil and Company A collaborated to fix prices and pay bribes to the Thai officials, the conduct was not limited to a few employees or confined to a single business unit.”

The Government’s Sentencing Memorandum concludes as follows:

“Alliance’s cooperation was both timely and thorough. During the course of the government’s investigation, Alliance and its outside counsel fully cooperated in good faith with the Department, and produced thousands of pages of documents and financial records. Alliance tenninated or sought resignations from all employees who were found to have knowledge of or participated in the improper payments. Alliance voluntarily produced memoranda of employee interviews conducted by counsel. Alliance and their counsel have been available to meet with Department attorneys to brief them on the progress and findings of their internal investigation. The agreed dispositions, described above, reflect the Department’s recognition of Alliance’s timely and thorough cooperation.”

“Alliance took remedial actions including enhancement of its corporate compliance program, replacement of responsible management, and discipline or termination of wrongdoers. Specifically, Alliance took the following remedial actions:

• The Special Account maintained in the name of employees was closed.

• On May 24, 2004, the Audit Committee directed management to deliver a “clear and proactive message” that:

o “Illegal acts will not be tolerated in Dimon;”

o “any potentially illegal act should be brought to the attention of the CLO prior to execution of the transaction;” and

o “any individual that believes that an illegal act may have occurred should contact the CLO immediately.”

• Management issued a directive to regional executives and all accounting personnel that any questionable expenses or payments and expenses without adequate
explanation or documentation must be reported to the Corporate Compliance Officer.

• The Audit Committee implemented a new policy requiring CFO or Controller pre-approval of any material payment in cash.

• Management issued a direction to employees that “[n]o payments to public officials or political parties are to be made in any form without the express advance approval of the Corporate Compliance Officer.”

• Compliance Officer required all personnel to re-take an online training course covering the FCPA provided by Integrity Interactive.

• Responsible personnel, including senior management in Europe and Kyrgyzstan were terminated or left company voluntarily. Other employees were reprimanded.

• Corporate Accounting required supporting information for all payments made in cash from any entity where such payments exceed $2500 annually, and issued a directive to minimize cash payments for anything other than incidental expenses.

• All cash accounts must be maintained in the company’s name.

• All cash transactions are required to be documented by receipts and signed by the recipient and they established a periodic review and approval process for all
non-incidental types of expenses paid in cash to ensure payments would comply with Company policy and the law.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 21, 2010.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (see here) alleges the same core Kyrgyzstan and Thailand conduct as the DOJ’s enforcement action.

As to books and records and internal controls, the SEC alleges that “Dimon’s Country Manager authorized, directed, and made” the improper payments in Kyrgyzstan through a DIK bank account held under his name (the above mentioned special account), that “Dimon’s Regional Financial Director authorized all fund transfers from a Dimon subsidiary’s bank account to the Special Account” and that “Dimon’s International Controller formalized the accounting methodology used to record the payments made from the Special Account for purposes of internal reporting by Dimon.”

In summary fashion, the SEC also alleged as follows:

“Despite their extensive international operations, Dimon and Standard lacked sufficient internal controls designed to prevent or detect violations of the FCPA. During the 2000-2004 period, Dimon and Standard each had a policy manual prohibiting bribery, but the training and guidance provided to their employees regarding compliance with the FCPA were not adequate or effective. Dimon and Standard each also failed to establish a program to monitor compliance with the FCPA by its employees, agents, and subsidiaries.”

As I’ve indicated in prior posts, before a company settles an FCPA enforcement action, it usually has to answer the enforcement agencies’ “where else” question – as in, if you engaged in improper conduct or had internal control problems in Kyrgyzstan and Thailand, where else did you engage in improper conduct or have internal control problems. To answer this broad question, the company is forced to conduct a world-wide review of its operations and that is why one sees, as in the SEC’s complaint against Alliance One, a laundry list of other alleged improper conduct.

In summary fashion, the SEC’s complaint also alleges as follows:

“By at least May 2005, Standard provided gifts, travel, and entertainment expenses to foreign government officials in the Asian Region, including China and Thailand.” “For example, in 2002 and 2003, contemporaneous documents show that Standard employees provided watches, cameras, laptop computers, and other gifts to Chinese and Thailand tobacco officials. Standard also paid for dinner and sightseeing expenses during non-business related travel to Alaska, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas for Chinese and Thailand government delegations.”

“In 2004, Standard made a $50,000 payment to a political candidate who was also Standard’s agent for tobacco sales in Thailand.” “The $50,000 payment was falsely recorded in Standard’s books as payment for consulting work.”

“In April 2003, Dimon’s subsidiary in Greece made a payment of $96,000 to a Greek tax official in exchange for the tax official’s agreement not to pursue certain irregularities discovered during an audit, thus significantly reducing Greece’s tax liability. Separately, the controller of Dimon’s subsidiary in Indonesia made a $44,000 cash payment to an Indonesian tax official in exchange for receiving a tax refund.”

The SEC complaint charges Alliance One with violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, books and records and internal control provisions.

The SEC release (here) notes that Alliance One, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, consented to entry of a permanent injunction enjoining future FCPA violations and agreed to pay a disgorgement penalty of $10 million.

In an Alliance One press release (see here) R. E. Harrison, the Company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, stated:

“Our Company is committed to the highest standards of conduct in all transactions in all jurisdictions where we do business throughout the world. In these cases, although occurring prior to our merger in May, 2005, the conduct by those predecessor companies did not meet our standards and we believe it to be in the best interest of the Company, our shareholders and our other stakeholders to put these issues behind us by means of these negotiated agreements. As indicated in our agreement with the DOJ, we have cooperated fully throughout the course of this investigation and believe that since our merger we have demonstrated our complete commitment to conducting our business in accordance with the highest standards of legal and ethical conduct.”

Universal

The Universal enforcement action included a non-prosecution agreement between the DOJ and Universal, a criminal plea by Universal Leaf Tabacos Ltda. (“Universal Brazil”), as well as an SEC enforcement action against Univeral.

Patrick Hanes, Williams Mullen (see here) represented Univeral.

DOJ

Pursuant to a non-prosecution agreement (see here) the DOJ agreed not to prosecute Univeral Corp. related to:

“the making of improper payments, by employees and agents of Universal and/or its subsidiaries to officials of the Government of Thailand in connection with Universal Brazil’s efforts to secure business, namely, to secure the improper sale of leaf tobacco to the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, from 2000 to 2004, and the accounting and record-keeping associated with these improper payments.”

Pursuant to the NPA, Universal Corp. “admitted, accepted, and acknowledged responsibility for the conduct of its subsidiaries” as set forth in a Statement of Facts attached to the NPA.

In summary fashion, the Statement of Facts are as follows:

Universal is a publicly traded company headquartered in Richmond, Virginia which, through its subsidiaries, is a worldwide purchaser and supplier of processed leaf tobacco. As an issuer, Universal was required to make and keep accurate books, records and accounts reflecting its transactions and disposition of assets of Universal and its subsidiaries including Universal Brazil.

Universal Brazil, a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal, was a Brazilian corporation, headquartered in Santa Cruz do Sul, Brazil. Universal Brazil was a “person” under the FCPA, and individuals and entities affiliated with and acting on behalf of Universal Brazil while in the territory of the United States, used and caused the use of the mails and means and instrumentalities of interstate commerce and performed other acts in furtherance of an offer, promise, authorization, or payment of money or anything of value to foreign government officials for the purpose of assisting in obtaining or retaining business.

The Statement of Facts refers to the same general kickback scheme involving TTM officials as alleged in the Alliance One enforcement action. The Statement of Facts indicate that “from in or around March 2000 to in or around July 2004, the TTM awarded Universal Brazil five orders for the sale of Brazilian leaf tobacco. To obtain these orders, between June and December 2004, Universal Brazil paid approximately $697,800 in kickbacks to representatives of the TTM through Agent X (a Thai national).”

The Statement of Facts then details the kickback scheme including the involvement of Employee A (a U.S. citizen who was the President of Universal Brazil); Employee B (a Brazilian citizen who was the Commercial Director for Universal Brazil); Employee C (a Brazilian citizen who was a Sales Manager for Universal Brazil); Employee D (a Zimbabwean citizen who was a Sales Director for Universal Brazil); Employee E (a Brazilian citizen who was the Finance Director for Universal Brazil); Employee F (a Brazilian citizen who was the Export Superintendent for Universal Brazil); Employee G (a Brazilian citizen who was a Sales Manager for Universal Brazil); Employee H (a Zimbabwean citizen who was the Sales Director for Universal Leaf Asia); Employee I (a Brazilian citizen who was an account manager in Brazil); Employee J (a U.S. citizen who was a Vice President of Universal Leaf Tobacco – a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal Corp. – who approved wiring instructions for payments to Agent X); Employee K (a U.S. citizen who was the Controller of Universal who approved wiring instructions for payment to Agent X); and Employee L (a U.S. citizen who was the Director of Financial Accounting for Universal Leaf Tobacco who approved wiring instructions for payments to Agent X).

Given the alleged involvement of others, including U.S. citizens, it will be interesting to see if additional DOJ or SEC enforcement actions against such individuals are forthcoming.

According to the Statement of Facts:

“The scheme ended in or about April 2005 when the TTM switched to an ‘electronic auction’ process to award orders. The electronic auction process increased the transparency of all of the bids received by the TTM, allowed for more open competition, and prevented Universal Brazil [and others] from including additional amounts in the price of their tobacco sales, thereby eliminating the ability of the companies to mask kickback payments used to secure sales orders.”

According to the Statement of Facts – “from in or around 2000 through in or around 2004, Employee E and others falsely characterized Universal Brazil’s kickback payments to TTM representatives in Universal Brazil’s books, records and accounts (which were incorporated into the books, records and acconts of Universal Corp. for purposes of preparing year-end financial statements) as “commission payments” to Agent X.”

As to Universal’s internal controls, the Statement of Facts indicates as follows:

“Universal Brazil’s employees, including Employees E and F, directed that
kickback payments be paid through LATCO, a wholly owned Universal subsidiary. The financial records of LATCO were maintained with insufficient oversight or review by Universal’s legal, finance, or compliance departments and were never audited by Universal during the period from 2000 to 2004. Universal Brazil’s Finance Department and executives and employees from either Universal Corp. or Universal Leaf Tobacco, including Employee J, Employee K, and Employee L approved or directed the transfer of the multiple ‘commission’ payments to Agent X even though: (a) some of the payments were described as ‘special expense’ payments; (b) there was no contractual basis for the payment of the additional commission amounts; (c) the payments were to accounts unassociated with the Agent; (d) the instructions that were provided when wiring the money indicated that Universal Corp. should not identify the agent or that the amounts were for ‘special expenses;’ and (e) the payments were above the standard five (5) percent commission typically paid by Universal Brazil to its agents.

The Statement of Facts also indicate that “Universal Brazil did not conduct sufficient due diligence prior to engaging Agent X.”

According to the DOJ, it agreed to enter into the NPA with Universal based, in part, on the following factors: “(a) Universal’s discovery of the violations through its own internal hotline process; (b) timely, voluntary, and complete disclosure of the facts; (c) Universal’s extensive, thorough, real-time cooperation with the Department and the SEC; and (d) the remedial efforts already undertaken and to be undertaken by Universal.”

During the approximate three-year NPA, Universal Corp. shall, among other things, cooperate in any related DOJ or SEC investigation. Pursuant the NPA, Universal Corp. must also strenghen its internal controls and retain an independent corporate monitor.

The criminal informations against Universal Brazil (see here) concerns the same core conduct described above.

The criminal information against Univeral Brazil charges: (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to knowingly falsify books, record and accounts of Universal; and (ii) substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations.

The Universal Brazil Plea Agreement (here) notes that the benefit received from the improper conduct was between $1 million – $2.5 million. The company received a “culpability score” credit for “self-reporting, cooperation, and acceptance of responsibility.” The fine range, per the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $$6.3 million – $12.6 million. The DOJ and Univeral Brazil agreed that the appropriate sentence should be $4.4 million. The plea agreement states that the fine amount (30% below the bottom of the sentencing guidelines range) “was appropriate” based on the following factors:

“Universal Corporation and Universal Brazil’s extensive cooperation
during the course of the investigation, including the provision of relevant documents and information; Universal Corporation and Universal Brazil’s substantial assistance with other related Department investigations regarding the bribery of foreign government officials; and Universal Corporation and Universal Brazil’s remedial efforts, including enhancing the companies’ compliance resources and compliance policies, procedures, and internal controls.”

The plea agreement further states that the investigation was “a result of the voluntary disclosure made by Universal Brazil and its parent corporation Universal Corporation, through their counsel, to the Department and the disclosure of evidence obtained as a result of the investigation subsequently conducted through their counsel and the extraordinary cooperation by Universal Brazil and its parent Universal Corporation throughout the Department’s investigation” and that “at the time of the initial disclosure, the conduct was unknown to the Department.”

The Agreed Sentencing Memorandum (here) sheds light on how the facts at issue were first uncovered. The memo states:

“The government’s investigation began with a self-disclosure by counsel for Universal in 2006. In 2006, a former Univeral Brazil employee with knowledge of the bribery scheme in Brazil reported the conduct to Universal through Universal’s website. Based on the tip provided by the former employee, Universal’s counsel and outside auditors investigated the matter, identified a series of suspicious payments, and reported this information to the Department. Thereafter, Universal and Univeral Brazil cooperated in the Department’s and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s joint investigation of this matter.”

In footnotes, the DOJ states as follows:

“The Department encourages companies to disclose evidence of potential FCPA violations promptly. The agreed disposition with Universal Brazil and its parent Universal partly reflect credit given for Universal’s timely self-disclosure, thorough investigation, and ongoing cooperation.”

“Pursuant to Universal’s internal compliance program, Universal maintained on its website an employee ‘hotline’ that allowed current and former employees to report improper conduct. It is because of this useful compliance initiative that the improper conduct came to light. The agreed upon disposition partly reflects credit given for Universal’s pre-existing compliance program.”

According to the sentencing memo, Universal Brazil realized net profits of approximately $2.3 million on four contracts secured through the $697,800 in kickbacks to TTM officials.

As to the $4.4 million fine amount, the DOJ stated “that a fine below the Guidelines range is appropriate in this case given the company’s prompt and timely self-disclosure of the potentially corrupt payments as soon as they were reported, the nature and extent of the company’s cooperation throughout the government’s investigation, and the remedial measures taken.”

The sentencing memo details timely disclosure and cooperation as follows:

“Universal and Univeral Brazil’s cooperation was both timely and thorough. The company retained outside counsel to conduct an extensive internal investigation. Universal, Universal Brazil, and their counsel were consistently available to meet with Department attorneys to brief them on the progress and findings of their internal investigation. During the course of the government’s investigation, Universal and Univeral Brazil and its outside counsel fully cooperated in good faith with the Department and produced thousands of pages of documents and financial records and made employees available for interviews. Further, Universal and Univeral Brazil terminated or reprimanded employees who were determined to have authorized and facilitated the improper payments.”

As to remedial measures, the sentencing memo states:

“The company’s remedial measures, outlined below, included the implementation of an enhanced compliance program. Further, Universal Brazil, pursuant to the plea agreement, and its parent, Universal, pursuant to an Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA), have agreed to further strengthen their internal controls, implement a rigorous compliance program and engage an independent corporate monitor (“monitor”) who will conduct a comprehensive review of the Universal and Univeral Brazil’s compliance standards and procedures and its internal controls. The monitor will prepare an initial report and two follow-up reports of his or her findings and make recornmendations for improvements in the companies’ compliance programs over the three-year term. Universal and Univeral Brazil took remedial actions including enhancement of the corporate compliance program, replacement of responsible management, and discipline of wrongdoers.

Specifically, Universal and Univeral Brazil took the following remedial
actions:

• Management established a Compliance Committee comprised of the Chief Financial Officer, the General Counsel, the Head of Internal Audit, the Treasurer, the Controller, and the Principle Sales Director. The Compliance Committee meets on a monthly basis to review and evaluate Universal’s compliance programs and training.

• Management established a Chief Compliance Officer who is responsible for the day-today operations of Universal’s compliance program and Chairs the Compliance Committee.

• Management issued a revised and updated Code of Conduct and translated the Code into fourteen (14) languages.

• Management required sales, finance, and executive-level personnel to attend a day long in-person training session devoted to FCPA and local anti-bribery laws.

• Management revised and enhanced its payment approval policy which now requires an ‘approving officer’ to review all supporting documentation for a payment and to understand the purpose of the payment prior to approval. The ‘approving officer’ must certify that he or she has reviewed the existing documentation and obtained an understanding of the legitimate business purpose of the payment. The policy also requires that employees investigate any questionable payments and determine that they
are legal, legitimate, and appropriate prior to approving the payment.

• Management revised and enhanced its due diligence process for agents. Initially, Universal suspended all commission payments to agents worldwide subject to legal department confirmation that each requested payment was adequately supported. Thereafter, Universal instituted a formal and standardized process for the assessment and approval of existing and proposed sales agents, which is coordinated by Universal’s Legal Department. As part of this policy, an officer of Universal, known as a ‘Relationship Officer,’ must complete a ‘Sales Agent Due Diligence Checklist’ for each prospective sales agent. This detailed checklist includes disclosure of relationships with foreign governments by owners, officers, directors and employees of the third-party agent or their family members, reference checks, and a list of potential red flags.

• Management conducted, and has pledged to continue to conduct, compliance and/or FCPA training at every global conference held for Universal employees.

• Management terminated and reprimanded certain employees involved in the improper
conduct.”

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (see here) alleges the same core Thailand conduct as the DOJ’s enforcement action.

Further to the “where else” issue discussed above, the SEC’s complaint also alleges conduct related to Mozambique and Malawi business.

In summary fashion, the SEC’s complaint alleges:

“From 2000 through 2007, Universal Corporation violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (the “FCPA”) by paying, through its subsidiaries, over $900,000 to govemment officials in Thailand and Mozambique to influence acts and decisions by those foreign officials to obtain or retain business for Universal. Those payments were directed by employees at multiple levels of the company, including management in its corporate offices and at its wholly-or majority-owned and controlled foreign subsidiaries. The Company had inadequate internal controls to prevent or detect any of these improper payments, and improperly recorded the payments in its books and records.”

“Between 2000 and 2004, Universal subsidiaries paid approximately $800,000 to bribe officials of the government-owned Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (“TTM”) in exchange for securing approximately $11.5 million in sales contracts for its subsidiaries in Brazil and Europe. From 2004 through 2007, Universal subsidiaries made a series ofpayments in excess of $165,000 to government officials in Mozambique, through corporate subsidiaries in Belgium and Africa. Among other things, the payments were made to secure an exclusive right to purchase tobacco from regional growers and to procure legislation beneficial to the Company’s business.”

“In addition, between 2002 and 2003, Universal, subsidiaries paid $850,000 to high ranking Malawian government officials. Those payments were authorized by, among others, two successive regional heads for Universal’s African operations. Universal did not accurately. record these payments in its books and records.”

As to the Mozambique payments, the complaint alleges:

(i) that two $10,000 payments were made to the “wife of an official in Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries” to obtain the official’s “assistance in revising legislation to impose a 20% export tax on unprocessed tobacco” – legislation that would have “benefited Universal over competitors because Universal was building a tobacco processing plant in the country;

(ii) that “Universal Leaf Africa directed that Universal’s Belgian subsidiary pay $50,000 to the brother of an official of in Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries” to “enable the Company’s Mozambican subsidiary to avoid incurring an export tax that it otherwise would have incurred for shipping unprocessed tobacco out of Mozambique;”

(iii) that “Univeral Leaf Africa made a series of payments totaling $86,830 from its own account and the account of the Mozambican subsidiary to secure a land concession given the subsidiary exclusive rights to purchase tobacco from growers on that land from the 2006 growing season.” According to the complaint Universal Leaf made “cash payments to a Governor in Mozambique; and gave gifts including supplies for a bathroom renovation, and personal travel on a Company jet.” and

(iv) that “Universal Leaf Africa forgave a debt and directed an additional series of payments from its own accounts and the account of the Mozambican subsidiary totaling $19,061” – according to the complaint the “debt forgiveness and payments were provided to Mozambican government officials and their family members in exchange for continued business favors.”

As to the Malawi payments, the complaint alleges as follows:

“Between approximately October 2002 and November 2003, Universal Leaf Africa made payments totaling $500,000 to one high-ranking Malawian government official; $250,000 to a second high-ranking government official; and $100,000 to a political opposition leader.”

As to Universal’s books and records and internal controls, the SEC alleges in summary fashion that Universal made payments under circumstances in which the Company lacked adequate internal controls to ensure that such payments were not being transmitted to government officials in order to obtain or retain business and that Universal’s books and records falsely characterized the payments.

The SEC complaint charges Universal with violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, books and records and internal control provisions.

The SEC release (here) notes that Universal, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, consented to entry of a permanent injunction enjoining future FCPA violations and agreed to pay a disgorgement penalty of approximately $4.6 million.

In a Universal press release (see here) George C. Freeman, III, Universal’s Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, states:

“Universal prides itself on conducting business with honesty and integrity. These past payments were – and are – contrary to the policies and standards of Universal and its subsidiaries. We have absolutely no tolerance for this type of activity. Our Audit Committee conducted a rigorous and thorough investigation, we voluntarily reported this matter to federal authorities, and we have fully cooperated with federal authorities at each step of the investigation. We have since taken steps to strengthen our culture of ethical and legal compliance, and our efforts are supported by our operations around the world. Our regional management is fully committed to our culture.”

Friday Roundup

The Bribery Act is not the only thing delayed in the U.K., where in the world is James Tillery, Thai authorities looking into Alliance One and Universal Corp bribe recipients, and corporate directors appear satisfied … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

BAE U.K. Plea Agreement Delayed

In a recent article in The Times (London), Alex Spence and David Robertson report that the BAE – SFO plea agreement “is unlikely to come before the courts for approval before November.”

In February (see here) the SFO announced that it “reached an agreement with BAE Systems that the company will plead guilty” to the offense of “failing to keep reasonably accurate accounting records in relation to its activities in Tanzania.” The SFO resolution was controversial given that BAE was viewed by many to have engaged in bribery around the world.

The Times reports “that the SFO fears that a judge may now refuse to approve the BAE settlement or increase the penalties imposed on the company.” The article indicates that “BAE, which has always denied bribery, is understood to be frustrated by the slow progress of the SFO case, but the delay is not thought to have had an impact on the company’s operations.”

James Tillery

In December 2008, James Tillery, a former executive of Willbros International Inc., and Paul Novak, a consultant to the company, were criminally charged “in connection with a conspiracy to pay more than $6 million in bribes to government officials in Nigeria and Ecuador …” (see here).

In November 2009, Novak pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA (see here).

Tillery has apparently been hanging out in Nigeria, but is now apparently in custody according to various Nigerian news outlets. According to the sources, “Tillery was believed to have been handed over by officials of Interpol to officials of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).”

Apparently this occurred “without the knowledge of Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, who is supposed to be notified before such action is taken. Under section 6 of the Extradition Act, a request for extradition is supposed to be sent to the AGF who is supposed to arraign such a deportee before a magistrate court and upon the declaration of the magistrate, the deportee is deported accordingly.”

Then it was reported that Tillery’s extradition “was stopped by immigration officials at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos because he did not have a travel document.”

Then Tillery’s Nigerian lawyer apparently stepped in and said that the attempted extradition was a “grave assault on the sovereignty of Nigeria” and a violation of Nigeria’s Extradition Act because Tillery renounced his U.S. citizenship and became a Nigerian by naturalization in 2009. Thus, the lawyer argued that the U.S. needed to follow legal steps in Tillery’s extradition.

Then it was reported that Justice Abang Okon of the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the Federal Government to halt its alleged plan to extradite Tillery from Nigeria to the U.S.

For more on Willbros Group and other individuals involved in related enforcement actions (see here and here).

Thai Authorities Investigating Alliance One / Universal Corp. Bribe Recipients

Earlier this month, the DOJ and SEC announced a joint FCPA enforcement action against tobacco companies Alliance One International Inc. and Universal Corporation. Certain of the allegations against both companies involved bribe payments to “Thai government officials to secure contracts with the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (TTM), a Thai government agency, for the sale of tobacco leaf.” (See here).

In this prior post, I noted that it is potentially embarrassing for a foreign country to have “one of its own” profiled in a U.S. FCPA enforcement action. With increasing frequency, the end result is that the alleged “foreign official” bribe recipient becomes the subject of an “in-country” investigation.

As noted in this Bangkok Post article:

“A local investigation is expected into US allegations that Thailand Tobacco Monopoly staff accepted US$1.93 million (62 million baht) in bribes to buy Brazilian tobacco. The Department of Special Investigation has asked the Finance Ministry to file a complaint against the TTM staff so it can look into the allegations. DSI director-general Tharit Pengdit told the Bangkok Post yesterday the Finance Ministry, which supervises the state-owned cigarette maker, should file a complaint with the DSI so it can look into the US claims. […] Sathit Limpongpan, permanent secretary for finance, said his ministry would work with the Justice Ministry to seek information from the US Justice Department and would conduct an initial investigation.”

Corporate Directors Are Satisfied

According to a recent legal survey by Corporate Board Member and FTI Consulting (see here), 90% of directors “are satisfied with their in-house legal department’s management” of FCPA issues.

A good weekend to all.

Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Tobacco, and Piranha Fishing

The SEC announced today (see here) an FCPA enforcement action involving “multiple payments of bribes to foreign officials in Kyrgyzstan and Thailand by senior executives and employees of Dimon, Inc. (“Dimon”) and Standard Commercial Corporation (“Standard”), predecessor companies of Alliance One International, Inc. (“Alliance One”), during the period from 1996 through 2004 in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act…”

In 2005, Dimon and Standard merged to form Alliance One (see here) and its stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Kyrgyzstan

According to the SEC complaint (see here), “from 1996 through 2004, Dimon International Kyrgyzstan (“DIK”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dimon, paid more than $3 million in bribes to Kyrgyzstan government officials in order to purchase Kyrgyz tobacco for resale to Dimon’s largest customers.”

The complaint alleges that “these payments were made to various government officials, including officials of the JSC GAK Kyrgyztamekisi (“Tamekisi”) [an entity established by the Kyrgyz government that had authority to issue and control licenses for the fermentation and export of tobacco] and local public official (“Akims”)” and “DIK also made improper payments to Kyrgyzstan tax officials.”

According to the compliant: (i) defendant Bobby Elkin Jr., Dimon’s country manager, “authorized, directed, and made these bribes in Kyrgyzstan through a DIK bank account under his name (the “Special Account);” (ii) defendant Baxter Myers, Dimon’s Regional Financial Director, “authorized all fund transfers from a Dimon subsidiary’s bank account to the Special Account;” and (iii) defendant Thomas Reynolds, Dimon’s International Controller, “formalized the accounting methodology used to record the payments made from the Special Account for purposes of internal reporting by Dimon.”

The complaint alleges that in September 1996 “the Kyrgyzstan government imposed a requirement that all exporters of fermented tobacco have an export license,” and that “Tamekisi acted as the issuing authorize and controlled the issuance of export licenses, thus effectively controlling all tobacco purchases in Kyrgyzstan.”

According to the complaint, Elkin “periodically delivered bags filled with $100 bills to a high-ranking Tamekisi official” and that from 1996 to 2004, Elkin, on behalf of Dimon, “paid more than $2.6 million to a high-ranking Tamekisi official…” The complaint also alleges that Elkin “also paid bribes to local government officials in Kyrgyzstan known as the Akims, who controlled the tobacco regions.” The complaint says that “DIK needed the support and consent from each local Akim in order to continue to purchase tobacco from local growers or agricultural collectives” and that “as governors, Akims had the power and influence to prevent the purchase of tobacco in the region, even if a company had an export license.” The complaint also states that “Akims could also send the police to block the entrance to buying stations or install a lock box to prevent the transfer of tobacco.” According to the complaint, “Elkin authorized and paid more than $260,000 to the Akims…”

Finally (at least as to Kyrgyzstan), the complaint details how DIK was “frequently subjected to audits by Kyrgyz tax officials” and that “during one audit, the tax officials determined that DIK failed to submit two reports to the tax office.” Accordingly, the complaint states that the tax officials imposed an approximate $172,000 fine against DIK and the “tax authorities also threatened to seize DIK’s bank accounts and tobacco inventory for tax violations.” However, according to the complaint, “the tax authorities later offered to reduce the tax penalties levied against DIK in exchange for a cash payment.” The complaint then alleges that Elkin “made a cash payment to the tax authorities” and that from 1996 through 2004 Elkin, on behalf of Dimon, “paid approximately $82,850 to Kyrgyz tax officials.”

According to the complaint, although the Special Account used to make the above-described payments “was funded by a Dimon subsidiary in the United Kingdom, the financial reporting on the Special Account by that subsidiary, and all other consolidated subsidiaries, went directly to Dimon’s corporate headquarters in the United States…”

Thailand

The complaint also alleges that “from 2000 to 2003, Dimon paid bribes of approximately $542,590 to government officials of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (“TPM”) in exchange for obtaining approximately $9.4 million in sales contracts.” According to the complaint, defendant Tommy Williams, Dimon’s Senior Vice President of Sales, “directed the sales of tobacco from Brazil and Malawi to the TTM through Dimon’s agent in Thailand” and that he “authorized the payment of bribes to TTM officials and characterized the payments as commissions paid to Dimon’s agent in Thailand.”

The complaint alleges that a “portion of Dimon’s selling price to the TTM” included “kickbacks paid as commissions through Dimon’s agent to certain members of the TTM in exchange for the sales contracts.” The complaint alleges that these bribes to the TTM were authorized “by Dimon’s U.S. and Brazilian personnel,” in particular Williams.

The complaint also alleges that “Williams also knew about a purported business trip to Brazil that actually was a sightseeing trip arranged by Dimon and others for TTM officials.” According to the complaint, the “sightseeing trip occurred in May 2000 and included, among other things, trekking in the Amazon jungle, piranha fishing, and visits to Argentina and various Brazilian waterfalls.” The complaint also alleges that in 2002 Williams arranged a trip for a TTM delegation to travel from Bangkok to Brazil “purportedly to look at tobacco blends and samples.” According to the complaint, “the return portion of the TTM delegation’s trip included a one-week stay in Madrid and Rome that was unrelated to the inspection and purchase of tobacco by the TTM.”

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Elkin, Myers, Reynolds, and Williams for violating the SEC’s antibribery provisions and for aiding and abetting violations of the FCPA’s internal controls and books and records provisions.

According to the SEC release, “without admitting or denying the allegations” in the complaint, Elkin, Myers, Reynolds, and Williams consented to the entry of final judgments permanently enjoining violations of the FCPA. Myers and Reynolds also agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $40,000 each.

The SEC release notes that the settlement with Elkin “takes into account his cooperation” with the SEC’s investigation and “acknowledges of the assistance” of the DOJ and the FBI.

*****

This is the second SEC FCPA enforcement action of the year which seems, according to the facts, to be based, in whole or in part, on extortion or something close to it. For a previous post on the NATCO enforcement action (see here). In addition, earlier this week I had a post “Facilitating Payments or Bribes” (see here). The Kyrgyzstan facts would seem relevant to that issue.

The FCPA, as part of the securities laws, has a statute of limitations of five years. The conduct at issue occured between 1996 and 2004. Perhaps there was a tolling agreement in place or perhaps this is another example where it is difficult to square black-letter law concepts with an FCPA enforcement action.

Dissecting Daimler

April Fool’s Day is a day traditionally full of practical jokes and pranks.

Thus, it is only fitting that on April 1st U.S. District Court Richard Leon will hold a hearing on the Daimler FCPA enforcement action during which he is expected to approve a DOJ – Daimler brokered deferred prosecution agreement and other various aspects of the settlement discussed below.

If so, one pillar which contributes to the “facade of FCPA enforcement” (more on that in a future post) – bribery, yet no bribery – will have a new poster-child in addition to the Siemens and BAE bribery, yet no bribery FCPA enforcement actions (see here for prior Siemens posts and here for prior BAE posts).

At least, Siemens and BAE pleaded guilty to something – even if that something was not an FCPA antibribery charge.

The Daimler enforcement action appears to take the “facade” one step further in that Daimler will not have to plead guilty to anything … zero … zilch.

Rather, Daimler will agree to a deferred prosecution agreement despite clear evidence (per the DOJ’s own allegations as set forth below) of FCPA antibribery violations.

One can legitimately ask, what did Innospec Inc. and Control Components, Inc. (two companies that recently pleaded guilty to FCPA antibribery violations) do that Daimler also didn’t do?

Sure, two insignificant entities in Daimler’s massive corporate hierarchy, Daimler Export and Trade Finance GmbH (“ETF”) and DaimlerChrysler Automotive Russia SAO (“DCAR”), are expected to plead guilty to FCPA antibribery charges. EFT is a finance arm far down on Daimler’s corporate hierarchy and DCAR sells spare parts for Daimler in Russia.

In other words, it sure looks and feels like two junior, indirect subsidiaries are being offered up as “sacrificial corporate lambs” to take the fall for the more significant, powerful parent.

The end result is that the DOJ can boast it secured two FCPA antibribery pleas while allowing Daimler to say that it never violated the FCPA’s antibribery provisions, thus allowing Daimler to escape debarment in Europe – a factor clearly at issue in this enforcement action as highlighted below.

Yet another instance of bribery, yet no bribery is not the only reason why the Daimler enforcement action contributes to the facade of FCPA enforcement.

In addition, wrapped into allegations which clearly establish all the elements of an FCPA antibribery violation, are numerous dubious and untested theories of FCPA liability.

Most notably, the entire criminal information against DaimlerChrysler China Ltd. (“DCCL”) is premised, as so many recent FCPA enforcement actions are, on employees of alleged Chinese state-owned entities (companies doing business all over the world and companies with publicly traded stock) being “foreign officials” under the FCPA. As in other FCPA enforcement actions, the allegations as to these entities are bare-bones, uninformative, and replete with legal conclusions as to why these entities are “instrumentalities” of a foreign government.

Because these dubious and untested theories of FCPA liability are embedded into the much larger bribery, yet no bribery charges against Daimler which are being resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement, these dubious and untested theories will once again escape judicial scrutiny.

Because of the general lack of substantive FCPA case law, the entire Daimler enforcement action (including theories of liability premised on the dubious and untested legal theories) will once again be viewed as de facto FCPA case law.

The Daimler bribery, yet no bribery enforcement action is wide in scope and allegations of improper conduct go all the way up to senior levels of the company. The “things of value” are numerous, the “foreign officials” include bona fide government officials (as well as the dubious “foreign officials” referenced above) and the amount of business allegedly obtained or retained through bribery and corruption is in the hundreds of millions.

The countries in which the payments were allegedly made are numerous (in fact, the label function at the bottom of this post only allows so many characters and I was unable to separately label each country in which the alleged improper payments occurred).

The alleged improper payments involved dozens and dozens of third parties, including several located in the U.S., which were allegedly utilized by Daimler and its affiliates to bribe foreign officials. Given Daimler’s use of numerous U.S. based entities, it will be interesting to see if any of these U.S. entities and/or entity employees will be prosecuted for their role in the respective bribery schemes.

The Daimler bribery, yet no bribery case involves involves ineffective internal controls, lack of effective third-party due diligence, and intentional misrecording of bribe payments on Daimler’s books and records (and those of its affiliates).

Yet in another interesting twist, Daimler also escapes criminal charges for knowingly failing to implement effective internal controls, even though the DOJ’s own allegations would seem to support such a charge. (Even Siemens plead guilty to both criminal books and records and internal controls charges).

This a long post.

However, the more that is known about the Daimler FCPA enforcement action and the more that is understood about the facade of FCPA enforcement, the greater the chance the facade of FCPA enforcement will be exposed and addressed.

It all starts with the person standing between the DOJ and Daimler and that is Judge Richard Leon and he would be doing a great public service by rejecting the proposed settlement and injecting the “rule of law” into the current facade of FCPA enforcement.

This post details the Daimler criminal information, the Daimler deferred prosecution agreement, the three separate criminal informations against Daimler subsidiaries, and the DOJ omnibus sentencing memorandum.

The Daimler AG Bribery, Yet No Bribery Allegations

According to the criminal information (see here) filed against Daimler AG (and the Statement of Facts in the below described deferred prosecution agreement), the company “engaged in a long-standing practice of paying bribes to ‘foreign officials’ as that term is defined in the FCPA … through a variety of mechanisms, including the use of corporate accounts [such as cash desks], offshore bank accounts, deceptive pricing arrangements, and third-party intermediaries.”

In summary fashion, the information charges that “between 1998 and January 2008, Daimler made hundreds of improper payments worth tens of millions of dollars to foreign officials in at least 22 countries – including China, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Latvia, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and others – to assist in securing contracts with government customers for the purchase of Daimler vehicles valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.”

According to the information, “in some cases, Daimler wired these improper payments to U.S. bank accounts or to the foreign bank accounts of U.S. shell companies in order to transmit the bribe.” The information alleges that “in at least one instance, a U.S. shell company was incorporated for the specific purpose of entering into a sham consulting agreement with Daimler in order to conceal improper payments routed through the shell company to foreign government officials.” According to the information “certain improper payments even continued as late as January 2008.” The information charges that “in all cases, Daimler improperly recorded these payments in its corporate books and records.”

Despite being a German company, the information charges that “as a result of Daimler’s filing of periodic reports with the SEC, and Daimler’s use of U.S. bank accounts and U.S. companies in transacting certain business with foreign governments and officials, the company is subject to the FCPA.”

According to the information, “Daimler’s longstanding violations of the FCPA resulted from a variety of factors, including: (1) an inadequate compliance structure; (2) a highly decentralized system of selling vehicles through a myriad of foreign sales forces, subsidiaries, and affiliates, with no central oversight; (3) a corporate culture that tolerated and/or encouraged bribery; and (4) the involvement of certain key executives, such as the then head of its overseas sales division (“DCOS”), the then head of internal audit, and the then CEO’s of several subsidiaries and affiliates.”

According to the information, “in total, the corrupt transactions with a territorial connection to the United States resulted in over $50,000,000 in pre-tax profits for Daimler.”

The information alleges improper conduct at the highest levels of the country. For instance, in 1999 during a Daimler “Board of Management meeting, Daimler’s then head of internal audit proposed that the company adopt an integrity code that included anti-bribery provisions …” However, the information charges that “participants in the meeting discussed that adopting such policies (and stopping the practice of making ‘useful payments’) would result in Daimler losing business in certain countries.” Even though the company did adopt “an integrity code with anti-bribery provisions” at the meeting, the information charges that Daimler, among other things, “failed to make sufficient efforts to enforce the code, train employees on compliance with the FCPA or other applicable anti-bribery statutes” or “otherwise attempt to ensure that the company was not continuing to make improper payments in order to obtain or retain government business overseas.”

Elsewhere, the information charges that “in or about 2000 or 2001” “Daimler’s internal audit department was aware that Daimler employees had made and could make bribe payments” and that the department drafted a document identifying 14 separate improper payment mechanisms. According to the information, the same document noted that “payment of ‘useful expenditures’ through these methods was subject to criminal prosecution in countries such as the United States.” However, the document also noted the “level of difficulty” law enforcement authories would have in “proving corruption carried out through the various methods.”

The Daimler information, as to conduct in Russia, China, and Croatia, contains the same substantive allegations as set forth in the separate criminal informations against DCAR, ETF, and DCCL (described more fully below).

Vietnam

As to Vietnam, the information charges that “Daimler employees working at Mercedes Benz Vietnam (“MBV”) made improper payments and provided gifts and other things of value to Vietnamese government officials in exchange for business from Vietnamese government owned and controlled customers.” According to the information, “these improper payments were routinely paid to government officials through broker commissions” and the payments were “improperly categorized as broker commissions, cost of goods sold, and/or gifts” in MBV’s books and records.

The information states that between “2000 and 2005, MBV was majority owned (70%) and controlled by Daimler through its subsidiary Daimler Benz Vietnam Investments Singapore Pte. Ltd., which Daimler wholly owned from June 30, 2003 through 2006.” The information further states that “although a Vietnamese government entity, Saigon Auto Corp., was a minority owner (30%) of MBV” and that “MBV was managed primarily by German Daimler employees.”

According to the information, the “foreign official” recipients of the improper payments included employees of Saigon Passenger Transport Company (“Saigon Bus”) (see here), an alleged “instrumentality” of the Vietnamese government and “Vietnamese government officials in the Ministry of Public Security.”

The information alleges that “MBV agreed to make the improper payments to the Saigon Bus official through” an account of Trading & Investment Houston, a U.S. based entity. The information also alleges that during negotiations of the Saigon Bus deal, “a Vietnamese government official with the government-owned Saigon High Tech Park suggested that MBV make a contribution [approximately $22 million over a five yeard period] to the high tech park as a condition of Daimler and MBV winning the business contract.”

The information also alleges that in connection with the 2004 Asia Europe Meeting (“ASEM 5”), “Vietnamese government officials sought to obtain 78 Mercedes Benz passenger cars in order to transport officials attending the conference.” According to the information, MBV “agreed to lend the vehicles to the Vietnamese government free of charge” and that in exchange “the Vietnamese government allowed MBV to import these 78 completely assembled passenger cars into Vietnam at a tariff rate of only 25%, when the standard tariff rate for completely assembled vehicles was 100%.” According to the information, following the conference, when MBV sold the vehicles, it was thus able to make a “much higher profit, approximately €1.65 million, because of the lower tariff costs.”

According to the information, “the making of [these] improper payments was known about and encouraged at the highest levels of the former MBV management.”

Turkmenistan

As to Turkmenistan, the information alleges that Daimler, and its Vienna based distributor (IPC) delivered to high-level Turkmen government officials various gifts, including “an armored Mercedes Benz S-class passenger car, valued at more than €300,000 for his birthday.” According to the information, “neither the Turkmen Government Official nor the Turkmen government paid for the vehicle” but that Daimler affiliate employees “agreed to provide this birthday gift to the Turkmen Government Official with the expectation that [Daimler] would receive large contracts for the purchase of vehicles by the Turkmenistan government in the coming year.”

Nigeria

As to Nigeria, the information focuses on the conduct of Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company (“Anammco”), “a joint venture between Daimler and the Nigerian government” that Daimler utilized to sell vehicles into Nigeria. According to the information, “Daimler owned 40% of Anammco and controlled Anammco, inter alia, through Anammco’s then managing director, who was a German expatriate and dual employee of both Daimler and Anammco.”

According to the information, “Daimler entered into a contract to sell vehicles to the Nigerian State House, which was also known as the Nigerian Presidential Complex, and was the office and residence of the Nigerian President (the ‘State House Contract’) and that pursuant to this contract, Daimler charged “the State House approximately 21% over the wholesale price for the vehicles, parts, and services.” According to the information, “in connection with these sales to the State House, Daimler made €1,427,242 in improper commission payments … with the understanding that these funds would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Nigerian officials to secure the State House Contract.”

The information also charges that Daimler made improper payments to high-level executive branch officials in Nigeria in connection with the State House Contract; that Anammco entered into contracts worth $4.6 million with Savannah Sugar Company Ltd. (an alleged instrumentality of the Nigerian government) to supply Daimler vehicles, spare parts, and tools on which approximately €554,396 in “consultant” payments were made; and that “Daimler entered into a contract with the Nigerian Police Force” in which Anammco requested that Daimler make payment to a member of the Nigerian Police Force in his German bank account.

The information also alleges that Daimler made various payments to Nigerian government officials in connection with selling “54 buses to the Nigerian Ministry of Industry” to provide transport for the World Youth Championship games held in Nigeria. The informatin further alleges that Anammco agreed to provide $500,000 in support of the “All-Africa Games” and that Anammco supplied numerous vehicles for the games, but that the Nigeria organizing committee for the games did not pay for the vehicles.

Finally, the information charges that Daimler’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Brazil utilized the services of an entity owned by a senior Nigerian diplomat in Brazil and his wife to help facilitate the sale of buses to a Nigerian state and that approximately $60,000 in commission payments were paid to the Nigerian diplomat.

Ivory Coast / West Africa

As to the Ivory Coast and West Africa, the information states that “from at least 1992 to 2007, Daimler sold passenger cars in the Ivory Coast and other West African countries through its majority owned (89%) and controlled subsidiary, Star Auto S.A. (“Star Auto”)” and that Star Auto made direct sales of Daimler passenger cars to various government customers in West Africa, including government ministries, the military, and government agencies, including for use by diplomats and heads of state.” In connection with these sales, Daimler employees “authorized and made improper payments to government officials at its customers in the Ivory Coast and elsewhere in West Afria…”

Among other conduct, the information alleges that commission payments were made to an entity that would pass on, in whole or in part, the payments to Ghanaian Army officials in connection with a contract to sell trucks to the Army of Ghana, and that Daimler, to assist in securing a contract to provide trucks to an Indonesian firm operating a logging project in Liberia, “gave a then senior executive branch official of Liberia a gift of an armored Mercedes passenger car worth approximately €267,000.”

Latvia

As to Latvia, the information charges that EvoBus GmbH (“EvoBus”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler and part of a Daimler business unit called Daimler Buses, paid approximately €1,800,000 in ‘commision’ payments to third parties with the understanding that such improper payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Latvian government officials to influnce the award of contracts to EvoBus.” According to the information, the contracts were awarded by the Riga City Council Traffic Department and EvoBus paid bribes to members of the Riga City Council. To make these “commission payments and to disguise their true nature and purpose” the information charges that “EvoBus entered into sham consulting contracts with, among others, two U.S. based entities: Oldenburgh Financial Corporation, incorporated in Delaware, and United Petrol Group LLP, incorporated in Oregon.”

Austria / Hungary

As to Austria and Hungary, the information charges that, to help facilitate the sale of 32 used buses to a state-owned regional public transport company in Hungary, EvoBus Austria GmbH agreed to pay a “commission of €333,370 to a U.S. based corporation called USCON Ltd. with the understanding that the payment would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Hungarian government officials.”

Turkey

As to Turkey, the information charges that Daimler’s Corporate Audit Department “discovered three binders located in a safe at MB Turk’s [a Daimler subsidiary in Turkey] offices in Istabul” that, along with other evidence, demonstrated that “MB Turk made approximately €6.05 million in payments to third parties in connection with vehicle export transactions that involved the sale of vehicles to non-Turkish government customers in North Korea, Latvia, Bulgaria, Libya, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other countries in deals with revenues of approximately €95 million.” According to the information, at least €3.88 million of the €6.05 million comprised of “improper payments and gifts […] paid to foreign government officials or to third parties with the understanding that the payments and gifts would be passed on, in whole or in part, to foreign government officials to assist in securing the sale of Daimler vehicles to government customers.”

Indonesia

As to Indonesia, the information charges that “Daimler’s local affiliates provides gifts, travel and entertainment to government officials associated with Perum Damri in order to secure business.” According to the information, Perum Damri (see here) is a “state-owned bus company” and an “instrumenality of the Indonesian government” thus making its employees “foreign officials” under the FCPA. The information alleges that between 1998 and 2005, “Daimler’s local affiliates spent approximately $41,000 on such gifts, including golf clubs, wedding gifts for the children of a senior offical at Perum Damri, golf outings for Perum Damri officials, and gifts that were raffled off to low-level employees on the occasion of Perum Damri’s anniversary. According to the information, Perum Damri purchased approximately $8.36 million worth of buses from Daimler’s Indonesian affiliates. The information also alleges that “Daimler’s local affiliates also made several large cash payments to tax officials in Indonesia for the purpose of reducing their tax obligations.”

Iraq

As to Iraq, the information charges, what has become, standard Iraqi Oil for Food Program allegations in that Daimler “agreed to pay a 10% commission to the government of Iraq in connection with sales of its vehicles under the [Oil for Food Program].” Yet in a twist, the information states certain sales between “Daimler and the Iraqi government were prepared, negotiated and finalized by employees at Daimler’s headquarters in Germany” and that “Daimler negotiated its [Oil for Food Contracts] directly with the government of Iraq.” (In many of the prior Oil for Food cases, the Iraqi government contracts were prepared, negotiated, and finalized primarily by third-party agents retained by the offending company). When third party agents were used by Daimler to make sales to the Iraqi government, the information charges that Daimler executives “understood that Daimler’s contract partners would pay illegal kickbacks to Iraqi ministries.”

After this laundry list of bribes in several differnt countries, the information then alleges that “prior to 2005, Daimler’s anti-bribery compliance program was inadequate.” Among other things, the information alleges that Daimler had “inadequate guidelines and controls concerning the disbursement of cash from cash desks;” inadequate controls over other corporate accounts; “inadequate controls over the opening and maintaining of bank accounts;” “inadequate controls over the selection, use, and making of payments to agents and intermediaries;” and “inadequate training of Daimler employees on FCPA or other anti-bribery compliance.”

Against this backdrop, one might assume that Daimler was charged with FCPA antibribery violations – which generally prohibit the payment of money or anything of value, to a foreign official, in order to obtain or retain business.

However, in this current facade era of FCPA enforcement, nothing can be taken for granted and the Daimler enforcement action is yet another instance of bribery, yet no bribery, as Daimler was merely charged with two counts: (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions; and (ii) knowingly falsifying books, records, and accounts – a criminal charge under 78m(b)(5).

Even more troubling, Daimler will not even by pleading guilty to these charges, because the charges are being resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”).

Daimler AG’s Deferred Prosecution Agreement

The DPA (see here) is a fairly standard FCPA DPA in that in return for the DOJ deferring prosecution of the criminal charges against Daimler, Daimler “admits, accepts, and acknowledges that is is responsible for the acts of its employees, subsidiaries, and agents” as set forth above. As is common, Daimler also agrees to a host of compliance undertakings, including hiring an independent monitor for a three year period (an issue discussed in this prior post).

The term of the DPA is an unusual two years and seven months after the guilty pleas of ETF and DCAR (most FCPA NPAs or DPAs are for whole year terms). Also unusual is that the DPA states that if the DOJ finds “in its sole discretion, that there exists a change in circustances sufficient to eliminate the need for the corporate compliance monitor … and that other provisions of [the DPA] have been satisfied, the Term of the Agreement may be terminated early.”

Like other NPAs and DPAs, the Daimler DPA essentially muzzles Daimler, its directors, its employees, and agents, from making “any public statement … contradicting the acceptance of responsibility by Daimler” for the facts set forth in the charging documents. In this way, DOJ is able to insulate itself from criticism from the only other party besides DOJ (i.e. Daimler) that actually knows the precise facts and issues relevant to the charged conduct. Specifically, if Daimler wants to issue a press release relevant to this case, it must first get DOJ’s approval.

The DPA also states: “with respect to Daimler’s present reliability and responsibility as a government contractor, the Department agrees to cooperate with Daimler, in a form and manner to be agreed, in bringing facts relating to the nature of the conduct underlying this Agreement and to Daimler’s cooperation and remediation to the attention of governmental and other debarment authorities, including Multinational Development Banks, as requested.”

Thus, as in the BAE and Siemens bribery, yet no bribery enforcement actions, debarment seems to have been a key factor in selecting the actual charges against Daimler – a fact confirmed by the DOJ’s sentencing memorandum described below.

Daimler Export and Trade Finance GmbH and the Croatian Firetrucks

DOJ also filed a two count criminal information against Daimler Export and Trade Finance GmbH (“ETF”) which is described as wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler Financial Services AG (“DFS”), which in turn is described as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler AG. According to the information, “ETF specialized in the structuring and arranging of customized financing solutions for exports by Daimler and external customers to countries without a local DFS company.” “In addition,” the information charges that “ETF participated in business ventures outside of Daimler’s core businesses of the manufacture and sale of passenger cars and vehicles.”

The charged conduct involves selling fire trucks to the Croatian Ministry of the Interior (“MOI”) as well as the conduct of IM Metal (“IMM”) an alleged “Croatian government controlled and partially owned former weapons manufacturer.” The information charges that “IMM was an ‘instrumentality’ of the Croatian government, and executives employed by IMM, or their designess were ‘foreign officials’ as those terms are used in the FCPA …” The charged conduct also involves Biotop Group, Inc. (“Biotop”), a Delaware corporation and Marketing Research and Consultants LLC (“MRC”), a Wyoming corporation.

Count one of the information charges conspiracy and alleges that “from in or about 2002, through in or about January 2008” ETF, and others were engaged in a conspiracy to “make improper payments to Croatian government officials to induce them to cause the Croatian government agencies and instrumentalities to purchase Daimler vehicles.”

Among other things, the information charges that:

prior to be awarded a €85 million fire truck contract, “ETF understood that improper payments to Croatian government officials would be required in order to secure the Fire Truck Contract from the Croatian MOI;”

“ETF made improper payments directly to Croatian government officials and to third parties with the understanding that the payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Croatian government officials to assist in the Fire Truck Contract;”

“between 2002 and January 2008, ETF made approximately €3.02 million in payments to IMM and/or its principles in connection with the contract to sell fire trucks to the Croatian MOI with the understanding that all or a portion of the funds were paid to IMM’s employees, themselves foreign government officials, and that another portion of the funds were paid to Croatian government officials outside IMM in exchange for assistance in securing for the ETF-led consortium the Fire Truck Contract;” and

“in total, between 2002 and January 2008, ETF made approximately €1,673,349 in improper payments to Biotop and MRC in connection with the Fire Truck Contract with the understanding that those payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Croatian government officials” and that “neither Biotop nor MRC performed legitimate services for ETF sufficient to warrant payments in those amounts.”

The information alleges that “ETF entered into a sham consulting contract with Biotop in order to conceal the nature of improper payments ETF made to Biotop, and with the understanding that these funds would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Croatian government officials to assist in securing the Fire Trucks Contract with the Croatian MOI.” As to MRC, the information alleges that “six days after MRC’s incorporation, ETF executed a written consulting contract with MRC in order to conceal the nature of improper payments being made to MRC, with the understanding that the payments to MRC would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Croatian government officials.”

Count two of the information charges an FCPA antibribery violation. Because ETF is a foreign entity, the applicable section of the statute is 78dd-3 which requries a U.S. nexus. The information charges “ETF entered into sham consulting contracts with shell companies incorporated in Delaware and Wyoming for the purpose of making improper payments to Croatian government officials, and made payments to those companies’ accounts outside the United States with the understanding that such payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Croatian government officials.”

Because the information charges that ETF’s payments to Biotop and MRC were to the companies’ accounts “outside the United States” it appears that the sole U.S. nexus DOJ is using to charge ETF with an FCPA antibribery is the act of entering into a contract with a U.S. company.

DaimlerChrysler China Ltd. and the Chinese “Foreign Officials”

DOJ also filed a two count criminal information against DaimlerChrysler China Ltd. (“DCCL”), a “Beijing-based, wholly-owned Daimler subsidiary and cost center that managed Daimler’s business relationships in [China], assisted Daimler in selecting and managing joint ventures in China, and helped manage Daimler’s expatriate employees in China.” According to the information, “although DCCL did not itself sell any vehicles directly into China, certain DCCL employees assisted with the sale of vehicles by various Daimler divisions in Germany to government customers in China.”

The charged conduct focuses solely on three Chinese state-owned entities the DOJ alleges are “instrumentalities” of the Chinese government.

First, the DOJ alleges that “The Bureau of Geophysical Prospecting (“BGP”) was a division of the China National Petroleum Corporation (“CNPC”), a Chinese state-owned oil company” and that “among other things, BGP was involved in searching for oil in various regions of China” and that “BGP was an ‘instrumentality’ of the Chinese government, and individuals employed by BGP were ‘foreign officials'” under the FCPA. According to its website (see here), BGP is a limited liability company and it has “forty overseas branches and offices have been established in Asia, America, Africa and the Middle East” (see here). According to its website (here), CNPC ” is China’s largest oil and gas producer and supplier, as well as one of the world’s major oilfield service providers and a globally reputed contractor in engineering construction” and it has “a presence in almost 70 countries.” CNPC’s corporate hierachy (here) looks similar to other commercial enterprises and one of CNPC’s largest holdings is PetroChina, an entity with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange as well as other exchanges (see here).

Second, the DOJ alleges that “Sinopec Corp. (“Sinopec”) was a Chinese state-owned energy company involved in, among other things, exploration and production of petroleum and natural gas, as well as the refining and sale of petroleum products” and that “Sinopec was an ‘instrumenality’ of the Chinese government, and individuals employed by Sinopec were ‘foreign officials'” under the FCPA. According to its website (here) Sinopec is “a listed company on domestic and international stock exchanges” and it has shares traded in Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York and London.

Third, the DOJ alleges that “Changqing Petroleum Exploration Bureau (“Changqing”) was a Chinese state-owned oil and natural gas extracting company” and that “Changqing was an ‘instrumentality’ of the Chinese government and individuals employed by Changqing were ‘foreign official'” under the FCPA. Changqing is an entity within CNPC’s extensive organization.

According to the information, “between 2000 and 2005, DCCL employees and/or Daimler employees through DCCL made at least €4,173,944 in improper payments in the form of ‘commissions,’ delegation travel, and gifts for the benefit of Chinese government officials and their designees, in connection with over €112,357,719 in sales” of vehicles to Chinese government customers. The information alleges that “these sales to Chinese government customers were made directly from Daimler’s [divisions] in Germany through various intermediaries with the assistance of DCCL employees in the commercial vehicles division.”

According to the information, “to make improper payments to Chinese government officials, Daimler and DCCL typically inflated the sales price of vehicles sold to Chinese government customers and then maintained the overpayments in debtor accounts on Daimler’s books and records, including one debtor account called the ‘special commissions’ account.” The information alleges that “DCCL employees, including its then head of sales and marketing disbursed payments” from the account and “at the time, no checks or policies were in place to ensure the legitimacy or appropriateness of such payments.”

According to the information, “DCCL and Daimler also employed agents to assist in securing” vehicles from Chinese government customers, but that “neither DCCL nor Daimler performed due diligence on these agents, and there were inadequate controls in place to ensure that payments made to these agents were not passed on to Chinese government officials and their designees.” The information states that “the agency agreements were often not in writing” and that “DCCL and Daimler lacked adequate oversight into the appropriateness or purpose of payments from debtor accounts that ultimately went to government officials in China and their designees.” The information charges that “finance and controls oversight was so lacking with respect to Daimler’s sale of commercial vehicles in China that DCCL’s Sales and Marketing Head was able to remove at least approximately €230,000 from a company debtor account without detection, and then direct those funds to the offshore bank account of his wife.”

Count one of the information charges conspiracy and alleges that DCCL, and others, were engaged in a conspiracy to “make improper payments to Chinese government officials to induce them to cause Chinese government agencies and instrumenalties to purchase Daimler vehicles.”

Among other things, the information charges that:

“in total, Daimler and DCCL made approximately €2,599,694 in improper payments to Chinese government officials associated with these entities to assist in obtaining sales worth approximately €71,562,882;”

“between 2001 and 2004, DCCL and Daimler at the direction of Chinese government officials made improper payments totaling at least €188,840 into U.S. bank accounts belonging to third parties to obtain contracts valued at €5,533,381 for the sale of vehicles to Chinese government customers “even though no part of the transaction involved the U.S., nor were the entities that nominally controlled the bank accounts parties to any of these transactions;” that “DCCL and Daimler did not perform any due diligence to discern who the recipients were” and the “corporate entities that received the payments from Daimler for the benefit of the Chinese government officials performed no legitimate services for DCCL or Daimler and did nothing to earn those payments;”

“between 1998 and 2005, DCCL and Daimler also provided at least €268,568 worth of delegation trips to employees of its government customers in China for the purpose of assisting in securing business from those customers;” according to the information “agents working as intermediaries between DCCL and Daimler, on the one hand, and its Chinese government customers, on the other hand, typically requested the delegation trips up front during the contract negotiation process on behalf of the customer involved” that “DCCL and Daimler then estimated the cost of the trip and increased the purchase price of vehicles accordingly” and that “some contracts characterized these trips as ‘factory inspection trips’ even though the trips were primarily visits to tourist locations.”

In furtherance of this conspiracy, the information identifies several agents used to make the improper payments including: M.F. Mechanical & Electrical; Shores International (a Texas corporation); Lily Energy Services, Inc. (a Texas corporation); King Jack, Inc. (a California corporation); and Chinese Agent A.

Additional payments charged in the information include: “€155,905 for the purpose of entertaining executives at” BGP and Sinopec; “payments totaling approximately €56,400 into accounts at multiple banks to an individual associated with an official at BGP in charge of operations in another country;” “a payment of approximately €14,800 to a relative of a Chinese government official associated with BGP in connection with the sale of commercial vehicles to BGP; “payments totaling approximately €30,000 in commissions for ‘market research’ to the Stuttgart bank account of the son of an official of BGP;” and “a payment of approximately €57,000 to the wife of a Chinese government official employed at Sinopec” disguised as a payment pursuant to a “phony consulting agreement with the wife of the Chinese government official.”

The information further charges a laundry list of “things of value” provided “to the son of a Chinese government official who made purchasing decisions for BGP in order to assist in securing business from BGP” including: interships at Daimler for his girlfriend; “letters from a former Daimler employee to German immigration officials to assist him and his girlfriend with their efforts to obtain student visas;” “€2,224 in expenses to attend a truck race;” “use of a Mercedes passenger car for a period of time;” and “employment at Daimler” for a five month period “with a monthly salary of €600.”

Count two of the information charges an FCPA antibribery violation. Because DCCL is a foreign entity, the applicable section of the statute is 78dd-3 which requires a U.S. nexus. As relevant to this issue, the information charges that “DCCL caused wire transfers to be sent from Daimler accounts in Germany to financial institutions in the United States.”

DaimlerChrysler Automotive Russia SAO and Russian Sales

DOJ also filed a two count criminal information against DaimlerChrysler Automotive Russia SAO (“DCAR”), a “Moscow-based, wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler” that “sold Daimler spare parts, assisted with the sale of vehicles from various Daimler divisions in Germany, including in particular its overseas sales division (“DCOS”), to government customers in [Russia], and also imported Daimler passenger and commercial vehicles into Russia for sale to customers and distributors.”

The charged conduct focuses on Daimler’s, DCAR’s and DCOS’s relationships with: “the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (“MVD”) a department and agency of the Russian government principally responsible for police, militia, immigration and other functions” including supervising the “Russian traffic police; “the Special Purpose Garage (“SPG”) an ‘instrumenality’ of the Russian government” whose employees were “foreign officials” under the FCPA; “Machinoimport a Russian government-owned and controlled purchasing agent for the City of Moscow,” an “instrumentality of the Russian government” whose employees were “foreign officials” under the FCPA; and “Dorinvest a Russian government-owned and controlled purchasing agent for the City of Moscow,” an “instrumentality of the Russian government” whose employees were “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

According to the information, “Daimler’s business in Russia was substantial.” The information states that “Daimler sold passenger cars and commercial vehicles directly from its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, to its Russian government clients with the assistance of DCAR and Daimler’s representative office in Moscow” and that “Daimler carried out such sales from DCOS and DCAR acting as an agent to assist with such direct sales.”

The information charges that “Daimler, through DCAR, made improper payments at the request of Russian government officials or their designess in order to secure business from Russian government customers.” According to the information, payments were “made with the knowledge and involvement of the former senior management of DCAR and DCOS.”

The information states that “DCAR and Daimler sometimes made improper payments to government officials in Russia to secure business by over-invoicing the customer and paying the excess amount back to the government officials, or to other designated third parties that provided no legitimate services to Daimler or DCAR, with the understanding that such payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Russian government officials.” The information further states that “when requested, Daimler employees wired and authorized the wiring of payments from Daimler’s bank accounts in Germany to, among other destinations, U.S. and Latvian bank accounts beneficially owned by shell companies with the understanding that the money, in whole or in part, was for the benefit of Russian government officials.”

Count one of the information charges conspiracy and that DCAR, and others, were engaged in a conspiracy to “make improper payments to Russian government officials to induce them to cause Russian government agencies and instrumentalties to purchase Daimler vehicles.”

Among other things, the information charges that:

“between 2000 and 2005” Daimler’s sale of vehicles to Russian government customers was approximately “€64,660,000” and that “in connection with these vehicle sales, DCAR and Daimler made over €3 million in improper payments to Russian government officials employed at their Russian governmental customers, their designess, or to third-party shell companies that provided no legitimate services to Daimler or DCAR with the understanding that the funds would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Russian government officials.”

According to the information, the payments were routed all over the world including: “to the Deutsche Bank acount in Stuttgart, Germany, of a Russian government official at the SPG;” to “Berwick Commercial LLC, a corporation registered in Delaware, with the understanding that the payment would be passed on, in whole or in part, to the SPG official;” “to Kongress Food Ltd., a corporation with an address in Dublin, Ireland, with the understanding that the payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to the SPG official;” “to Delight Commercial Ltd., a corporation with an address in the Seychelles, with the understanding that the payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to the SPG official;” “to Pyrmont Alliance Corp., a corporation with an address in the Bahamas, with the understanding that the payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to the SPG official;” “to Loretti LLP, a corporation with an address in the United Kingdom, with the understanding that the payment would be passed on, in whole or in part, to the SPG official;” “to a Bank of America account in San Diego, California, for Sittard Investments, a California corporation, to secure passenger car sales to the Moscow tarffic police;” “to a bank account in Latvia for Novitta Ltd., a Delaware corporation, in connection with passenger car sales to the MVD;” “to a bank account in Latvia for Tower Block Ventures, a U.K. corporation, for the benefit of a consultant to the MVD in connection with passenger car sales to the MVD;” “to a bank account in Latvia for Silvarado Ltd., a corporation that provided no legitimate services for Daimler or DCAR, in connection with passenger car sales to the MVD;” “to a bank account in Latvia for Capital Alliance Corp., a Florida corporation, in connection with passenger car sales to the MVD and to the Russian military;” “to Technoforex, a Delaware corporation, to secure the sale of one commercial vehicle to the SPG;” “to Contrex, a Cyprus corporation established for the benefit of the wife” of an official;” “to the Latvian bank account of Fidelity Finance Corporation, a Delaware corporation, in connection with the sale [of vehicles] to Gormost, a department within the city of Moscow responsible for bridges and tunnels, with the understanding that such payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Russian government officials in order to secure this sale;” “to Fidelity Finance Corporation’s Latvian bank account with the understanding that such payment would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Russian government officials;” “to the Latvian bank account of Forfun Co., a Delaware corporation, in connection with the sale [of vehicles] with the understanding that such payment would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Russian military officials;” “to the Swiss bank account of Northcote Holdings, a Costa Rican corporation, with the understanding that such payment would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Russian military officials;” and “to the bank account of Crofton Allianz, a Delaware corporation” “with the understanding that such payment would be passed on, in whole or in part, to a Russian government official.”

Count two of the information charges an FCPA antibribery violation. Because DCAR is a foreign entity, the applicable section of the statute is 78dd-3 which requires a U.S. nexus. As relevant to this issue, the information charges that “DCAR caused wire transfers to be sent from Daimler accounts in Germany to financial institutions in the United States and elsewhere, via international and interstate wires, in furtherance of corrupt payments to Russian government officials” and that “DCAR made payments to third party agents, including shell companies established in the United States, knowing that such payments would be passed on, in whole or in part, to Russian government officials on behalf of DCAR and Daimler.”

DOJ’s Sentencing Memorandum

In the sentencing memo (here) DOJ “respectfully requests that the Court” approve the disposition of the matter against Daimler and all of the above referenced entities and “accept the guilty pleas of DaimlerChrysler Automotive Russia SAO and Daimler Export and Trade Finance GmbH.” The memo notes, in a footnote, that “the court will not actually be sentencing Daimler AG and DaimlerChrysler China Ltd., as those entities have entered into deferred prosecution agreements.”

The DOJ provides this summary of the overall disposition of the matter:

“The Department and Daimler agree that the appropriate resolution of this matter consists of (1) a DPA with Daimler AG, the parent company; (2) a DPA with DCCL, the Chinese subsidiary; (3) guilty pleas pursuant to plea agreements with DCAR, the Russian subsidiary, and ETF, the Daimler Finance subsidiary; (4) overall payment of a $93.6 million criminal penalty, which is apportioned, based on a Guidelines analysis, among the subsidiaries and the parent company; (5) continued obligations to provide full, complete, and truthful cooperation to the Department and any other law enforcement agency, domestic or foreign; (6) implementation of rigorous compliance enhancements, including periodic testing of same, with a recognition that the Company has already implemented substantial changes due to the investigation; and (7) the imposition of a corporate compliance monitor who will, over a three-year term, conduct a review of the compliance code, the Company’s internal controls and related issues, and will prepare periodic reports on his reviews.”

DOJ specifically notes that its “analysis of collateral consequences included the consideration of the risk of debarment and exclusion from government contracts, and in particular European Union Directive 2004/18/EC, which provides that companies convicted of corruption offenses shall be mandatorily excluded from government contracts in all EU countries.”

As the Daimler, the BAE and Siemens enforcement actions all make clear, the simple way to avoid application of the European Union Directive is not to charge the company with a corruption offense, notwithstanding the existence of facts to support such a conviction.

This “let’s not call a spade a spade” silliness occurs notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. is a member of the OECD. As relevant, OECD guidance specifically states that “Member countries should be vigilant in ensuring that investigations and prosecutions of the bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions are not influenced by considerations of national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another State or the identity of the natural or legal persons involved, in compliance with Article 5 of the OECD Anti Bribery Convention.”

The DOJ’s sentencing guidelines calculations contains a bit of irony in that Daimler received a sentencing credit (a credit which reduces the overall fine amount) because the “organization fully cooperated in the investigation and clearly demonstated recognition and affirmative acceptance of responsiblity for its criminal conduct” despite the fact that elsewhere in the sentencing memo the DOJ notes that the entire investigation started in March 2004 when a “former Daimler employee filed a whistleblower complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration … allege[ing] that he was terminated for voicing concerns about Daimler’s practice of maintaining secret accounts, including accounts in its own books and records, for the purpose of bribing foreign government officials.”

In other words, even if an investigation is hatched by an internal whistleblower, a company may still be able to receive a sentencing credit for cooperating in the eventual investigation.

The sentencing range set forth in the DOJ memo is $116 – $232 million. Thus, the $93.6 million penalty is 20% below the bottom fine range of $116 million.

DOJ seeks to justify this reduction by stating that such a “reduction is appropriate given the nature and extent of Daimler’s cooperation in this matter, including sharing information with the Department regarding evidence obtained as a result of Daimler’s extensive investigation of corrupt payments around the world.”

The DOJ further states, “indeed, because Daimler did not voluntarily disclose its conduct prior to the filing of the whistleblower lawsuit, it only receives a two-point reduction in its culpability.” However, in a rather odd statement, DOJ then said that it “respectfully submits that such reduction is incongruent with the level of cooperation and assistance provided by the company in the Department’s investigation.” In other words, the DOJ seems to be saying something like “who cares what the guidelines say, we will do what we feel like.”

In conclusion, the DOJ notes that the disposition “promotes respect for the law, provides just punishment, and affords adequate deterrence to criminal conduct for Daimler and the marketplace generally.”

This would seem to be the biggest April Fools joke of all. How does another bribery, yet no bribery enforcement action “promote respect for the law?”

Finally, the DOJ states that Daimler’s cooperation in the investigation has been “excellent.” The DOJ notes that Daimler “conducted a worldwide internal investigation;” “regularly presented it findings” to the DOJ; “made certain witnesses available to the Department;” “voluntarily complied with requests for the production of documents from overseas;” and took disciplinary actions against over “60 company employees, with approximately 45 employees being terminated or separated under termination agreements.” “Finally, and perhaps most significantly,” in the words of the DOJ, “Daimler began to reform its anti-bribery compliance program while the investigation was still ongoing, without waiting until the finalization of a disposition with the Department.” The sentencing memo then sets forth a list of changes Daimler made to its compliance program. Such measures, no doubt, will now come to be viewed as “best practices.”

Indicting a “Foreign Official” – Part II

Yes, there is FCPA news other than the Africa Sting case.

In connection with the Green case (see here), an indictment was recently unsealed (see here) against Juthamas Siriwan and Jittisopa Siriwan.

According to the indictment, Juthamas “was the senior government officer of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)” and she is the “foreign official” the Greens were convicted of bribing. Jittisopa is the daughter of the “foreign official” and also alleged to be an “employee of Thailand Privilege Card Co. Ltd.” an entity controlled by TAT and an alleged “instrumentality of the Thai government.”

Incidentally, the Green’s sentencing (which was to occur today) in which the government is essentially seeking a life sentence for Mr. Green based on FCPA, as well as other convictions and factors, was postponed until March. For more on that issue, see here.

As noted in the first Indicting a “Foreign Official” post a month ago (see here), the FCPA only covers “bribe-payers, not “bribe-takers.”

Thus, like the prior indictment against the alleged Haiti “foreign officials” (Robert Antoine and Jean Rene Duperval), the charges against the Siriwans are not FCPA charges, but largely conspiracy to money launder and “transporting funds to promote unlawful activity.”

However, unlike Antoine and Duperval who are alleged to have U.S. bank accounts which were used in the connection with the bribery scheme, the Siriwan’s bank accounts were located in Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the Isle of Jersey.

There are however facts alleged in the Siriwan indictment which suggest a U.S. nexus. The indictment alleges that the Greens did on occasion “arrange for cash payments to be made directly to Juthamas Siriwan, including during her trips to Los Angeles, California.” The indictment further alleges that Juthamas Siriwan “sent and caused to be sent to co-conspirator Gerald Green a facsimile on TAT letterhead providing wire instructions for transferring funds.” Finally, the indictment also alleges that “co-conspirator Patricia Green received instructions to divide ‘commission’ payments owed to defendant Juthamas Siriwan into wire transfer to three separate accounts.” Although the indictment does not say, it is presumed that the facsimile and instructions were sent to the U.S.

The “transporting funds to promote unlawful activity” charges (two – eight) of the indictment rely on 18 USC 1956(a)(2)(A) which reads in pertinent part:

“(2) Whoever transports, transmits, or transfers, or attempts to transport, transmit, or transfer a monetary instrument or funds from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States or to a place in the United States from or through a place outside the United States

(A) with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity

shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved in the transportation, transmission, or transfer, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.”

The specified unlawful activity alleged in the indictment is “namely, bribery of a foreign official” in violation of the FCPA; “bribery of a public official of Thailand” in violation of Thai law; and the “misappropriation, theft, or embezzlement of public funds by or for the benefit of a public official” in violation of Thai law.

In November 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder stated (see here) that the U.S. was committed to recovering funds obtained by “foreign officials” through bribery and the indictment seeks forfeiture of approximately $1.7 million in the foreign bank accounts.

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