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Foreign Subsidiaries Of French Pharma Company Sanofi Allegedly Bribe Kazakh And Middle Eastern “Foreign Officials” – Uncle Sam Collects $25.2 Million

Uncle Sam3

If history is any guide, September is likely to be an active month for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement as the SEC’s fiscal year ends.

Sure enough, yesterday the SEC announced an enforcement action against Paris-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi. The conduct at issue focused on employees and agents of the company’s subsidiaries in Kazakstan and various Middle Eastern countries providing things of value to “foreign officials, including healthcare professionals, in order to improperly influence them and increase sales of Sanofi products.”

In doing so, the enforcement action once again raises the policy issue of the U.S. bringing an enforcement action against a foreign company (domiciled in a country also party to the OECD Convention) for its interaction with non-U.S. officials. (See here for a prior post).

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In Depth On The Tyco Enforcement Action

Earlier this week, the DOJ and SEC announced a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Tyco International Ltd. (“Tyco”) and a subsidiary company.  Total fines and penalties in the enforcement action were approximately $26.8 million (approximately $13.7 million in the DOJ enforcement action and approximately $13.1 million in the SEC enforcement action).

This post goes long and deep as to the DOJ’s and SEC’s allegations and resolution documents (approximately 85 pages in total).  Tomorrow’s post will discuss various items of note from the enforcement actions.

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against Tyco Valves & Controls Middle East Inc., (an indirect subsidiary of Tyco) resolved through a plea agreement (here) and a non-prosecution agreement (here) entered into between the DOJ and Tyco.

Criminal Information

The criminal information begins by identifying Tyco Valves & Controls Middle East Inc. (TVC ME) as a Delaware company headquartered in Dubai that “sells and markets valves and actuators manufactured by other entities throughout the Middle East for the oil, gas, petrochemical, commercial construction, water treatment,and desalination industries.”

According to the information, Tyco Flow Control Inc. (“TFC) was TVC ME’s direct parent company and TFC was a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of Tyco.  According to the information, “TVC ME’s financials were consolidated into the books and records of TFC for the purposes of preparing TFC’s year-end financial statements, and in turn, TFC’s financials were consolidated into the books and records of Tyco for the purposes of preparing Tyco’s year-end financial results.”

The information alleges a conspiracy as follows.

Between 2003 and 2006 TVC ME conspired with others to “obtain and retain business from foreign government customers, including Aramco, ENOC, Vopak, NIGC, and other customers by paying bribes to foreign officials employed by such customers.”

The information alleges: that Saudi Aramco (“Aramco”) was a Saudi Arabian oil and gas company that was wholly-owned, controlled, and managed by the government, and an “agency” and “instrumentality” of a foreign government; that Emirates National Oil Company (“ENOC”) was a state-owned entity in Dubai and an “agency” and “instrumentality” of a foreign government; that Vopak Horizon Fujairah (“Vopak”) was a subsidiary of ENOC based in the U.A.E. and an “agency” and “instrumentality” of a foreign government; and that the National Iranian Gas Company (“NIGC”) was a state-owned entity in Iran and an “agency” and “instrumentality” of a foreign government.

Under the heading “manner and means of the conspiracy” the information alleges in pertinent part as follows.

“TVC ME, together with others, decided to pay bribes to employees of end-customers in Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Iran, including to employees at Aramco, ENOC, Vopak, and NIGC, in order to obtain or retain business.  TVE ME, together with others, found ways to obtain cash in order to make the bribe payments.  TVE ME, together with others, made payments through Local Sponsor [a company in Saudi Arabia that acted as a distributor for TVC ME in Saudi Arabia].  Local Sponsor provided TVC ME with false documentation, such as fictitious invoices for consultancy costs, bills for fictitious commissions, or ‘unanticipated costs for equipment,’ to justify the payments to Local Sponsor that were intended to be used for bribes.  TVE ME, together with others, approved and made payments to Local Sponsor for the purpose of paying bribes.  TVC ME, together with others, paid bribes to employees of foreign government customers in order to remove TVC manufacturing plans from various Aramco ‘blacklists’ or ‘holds’; win specific bids; and/or obtain specific product approval.  TVC ME, together with others, improperly recorded the bribe payments in TVC ME’s books, records, and accounts, and instead falsely described the payments, including as consultancy costs, commissions, or equipment costs.  TVC ME earned approximately $1.153,500 in gross margin as a result of the bribe payments.”

Based on the above conduct, the information charges conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

Plea Agreement

The plea agreements sets forth a Sentencing Guidelines range of $2.1 million – $4.2 million.  In the plea agreement, the parties agreed that $2.1 million was “appropriate.”  Pursuant to the plea agreement, TVC ME agreed “to work with its parent company in fulfilling the obligations” described in Corporate Compliance Program attached to the plea agreement.

NPA

The DOJ also entered into an NPA with Tyco in which the DOJ agreed “not to criminally prosecute [Tyco] related to violations of the books and records provisions of the FCPA … arising from and related to the knowing and willful falsification of books, records, and accounts by a number of the Company’s subsidiaries and affiliates …”.

The NPA contains a Statement of Facts.

Under the heading, “details of the illegal conduct” the NPA states as follows.

“[From 1999 through 2009] certain Tyco subsidiaries falsified books, records, and accounts in connection with transactions involving customers of Tyco’s subsidiaries, including government customers, in order to secure business in various countries, including China, India, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Iran, Saudia Arabia, Libya, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritania, Congo, Niger, Madagascar, and Turkey.  During that time period, certain Tyco subsidiaries made payments, both directly and indirectly, to government officials and falsely described the payments to government officials in Tyco’s corporate books, records, and accounts as legitimate charges, including as ‘consulting fees,’ ‘commissions,’ ‘unanticipated costs for equipment,’ ‘technical consultation and marketing promotion expenses,’ ‘conveyance expenses,’ ‘cost of goods sold,’ ‘promotional expenses,’ and ‘sales development’ expenses.  As early as 2004, Tyco alerted the Securities and Exchange Commission to payments at certain of Tyco’s subsidiaries that could violate the FCPA.  In 2006, Tyco acknowledged that ‘prior to 2003 Tyco did not have a uniform, company-wide FCPA compliance program in place or a system of internal controls sufficient to detect and prevent FCPA misconduct at is globally dispersed business units’ and that ’employees at two Tyco subsidiaries in Brazil and South Korea did not receive adequate instruction regarding compliance with the FCPA, despite Tyco’s knowledge and awareness that illicit payments to government officials were a common practice in the Brazilian and South Korean construction and contracting industries.’  However, despite Tyco’s knowing of a high probability of the existence of improper payments and false books, records, and accounts, the improper payments and falsification of books, records, and accounts continued until 2009.”

As to Thailand, the Statement of Facts states a follows.

“[Between 2004 and 2005] ET Thailand [Earth Tech (Thailand) Ltd. – a Thai corporation that was approximately 49% indirectly owned by Tyco] made payments in the amount of approximately $292,286 to a consultant and recorded those amounts as fictitious disbursements related to the NBIA project [New Bangkok International Airport].  In connection with these improper payments, ET Thailand earned approximately $879,258 in gross profit.”

“[Between 2000 to 2006] ADT Thailand [ADT Sensormatic Thailand an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] recorded payments in the amount of approximately $78,000 to one of its subcontractors as payments for site surveys for a government traffic project in Laos, but the payments instead were channeled to other recipients in connection with ADT Thailand’s business in Laos.  During the same time period, ADT Thailand made payments to one of its consultants related to a contract for the installation of a CCTV system in the Thai Parliament House, and ADT Thailand and the consultant created invoices that stated that the payments were for ‘renovation work’ when no renovation work was actually performed.  During that same time period, ADT Thailand made three payments in connection with a design and traffic survey that ADT Thailand provided from the city of Pattaya, in Southern Thailand, but the payments were issued pursuant to falsified invoices without any evidence that work was ever performed.  In connection with these improper transactions, ADT Thailand earned approximately $473,262 in gross profit.”

As to China, the Statement of Facts state as follows.

“[Between 2003 and 2005] TTC Huzhou [Tyco Thermal Controls (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] authorized approximately 112 payments in the amount of $196,267 to designers at design institutes owned or controlled by the Chinese government, and falsely described the payments in company books, records, and accounts as ‘technical consultation’ or ‘marketing promotion’ expenses.  In 2005, in connection with a contract with China’s Ministry of Public Security, TTC Huzhou paid a commission to one of its sales agents that was used, in part, to pay the ‘site project team’ of a state-owned corporation, and that was improperly recorded in the company’s books and records.  In connection with these improper transactions, TTC Huzhou earned approximately $3,470,180 in gross profit.”

“TFCT Shanghai [Tyco Flow Control Trading (Shanghai) Ltd. an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] made approximately eleven payments in the amount of approximately $24,000 to employees of design institutes, engineering companies, subcontractors and distributors which were inaccurately described in its books and records.  In connection with these improper transaction, TFCT Shanghai earned approximately $59,412 in gross profit.”

“[Between 2005 and 2006] TFC HK  [Tyco Flow Control Hong Kong Limited] and Keystone [Beijing Valve Co. Ltd.] [both indirect wholly owned subsidiaries of Tyco] made payments in the amount of approximately $137,000 to agencies owned by approximately eight Keystone employees, who in turn gave cash or gifts to employees of design institutes or commercial customers, and then improperly recorded these payments.  [From 2005 to 2006] Keystone made payments to one of its sales agents in connection with sales to Sinopec, for which no legitimate services were actually provided, and then improperly recorded the payments as ‘commissions.’  In connection with these improper transactions, Keystone earned approximately $378,088 in gross profits.”

“[Between 2001 to 2002] THC China [Tyco Healthcare International Trading (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] gave publicly-employed healthcare professionals (HCPs) approximately $250,00o in meals, entertainment, domestic travel, gifts and sponsorships.  [Between 2004 to 2007] employees of THC China submitted expenses claims related to entertaining HCPs that were supported by fictitious receipts, including references to a non-existent company, in order to circumvent Tyco’s internal guidelines.  In connection with medical conferences involving HCPs, THC China employees submitted false itineraries and other documentation that did not properly identify trip expenses in order to circumvent internal controls and policies.  Approximately $353,800 in expenses was improperly recorded as a result of the false documentation relating to these improper expenditures.”

As to Slovakia, the Statement of Facts state as follows.

“[Between 2004 to 2006] Tatra [a Slovakian joint venture that was approximately 90 percent indirectly owned by Tyco] made payments in the amount of approximately $96,000 to one of its sales agents in exchange for the sale agent’s attempt to have Tatra products included in the specifications for tenders to a government customer, while at the same time the sales agent was getting paid by the government customer to draw up the technical specifications for the tenders.  Tatra improperly recorded the payments to the sales agent as ‘commissions’ in Tatra’s books and records.  In connection with these improper transactions, Tatra earned approximately $226,863 in gross profit.”

As to Indonesia, the Statement of Facts state as follows.

“[Between 2003 and 2005] Eurapipe [Tyco Eurapipe Indonesia Pt. an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] made approximately eleven payments in the amount of approximately $358,000 to a former employee of Banjarmasin provincial level public water company (PDAM) and two payments to the project manager for PDAM Banjarmasin in connection with the Banjarmasin Project.  During the same time period, Eurapipe made payments in the amount of approximately $23,000 to sales agents who then passed some or all of the payments on to employees of government entities in connection withe projects other than the Banjarmasin Project.  Eurapipe improperly recorded the payments as ‘commissions payable’ in Eurapipe’s books and records. In connection with these improper transactions, Eurapipe earned approximately $1,298,453 in gross profit.”

“[Between 2002 and 2005] PT Dulmision Indonesia [an Indonesia corporation 99% indirectly owned by Tyco] made payments to third parties, a portion of which went to employees of PLN [a state-owned electricity company in Indonesia], including approximately seven payments one of PT Dulmison’s sales agents, who in turn passed money on to the PLN employees.  PT Dulmison Indonesia improperly recorded the payments in PT Dulmison Indonesia’s books, records and accounts.  In addition, PT Dulmison Indonesia improperly recorded travel expenses in company books and records, including payments for non-business entertainment in connection with visits by PLN employees to TE Dulmision Thailand’s factory and paid hotel costs incurred as part of a social trip to Paris for PLN employees following a factory visit to Germany, as ‘cost of goods sold’ in PT Dulmison Indonesia’s and TE Dulmison Thailand’s records.  In connection with these improper transactions, PT Dulmision Indonesia and TE Dulmison Thailand earned approximately $109,259 in gross profit.”

As to Vietnam, the Statement of Facts state as follows.

“[Between 2001 and 2005] TE Dulmison Thailand [a Thai corporation approximately 66% indirectly owned by Tyco] made nine payments in the amount of approximately $68,426, either directly or through intermediaries, to employees of a public utility owned by the Government of Vietnam and recorded these payments in the books and records of the relevant subsidiaries as ‘cost of goods sold.'”

As to Mauritania, Congo, Niger and Madagascar, the Statement of Facts state as follows.

“[Between 2002 to 2007] Isogard [a branch of Tyco Fire & Integrated Solutions France (TFIS France0, an indrect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] made payments to a security officer employed by a government-owned mining company in Mauritania involved in the technical aspects of sales projects for the purpose of introducing Isogard to local buyers in Africa.  Isogard made the payments to the security officer’s personal bank account in France without any written contract or invoice and improperly recorded the payments in Isogard’s books and records.  Isogard paid sham ‘commissions’ to approximately twelve other intermediaries in Mauritania, Congo, Niger and Madagascar, half of which were to employees, or family members of employees, of Isogard customers.  In total, TFIS France made paments in the amount of approximately $363,839 since 2005.”

As to Saudi Arabia, in addition to the conduct at issue in TVC ME’s criminal information, the Statement of Facts state as follows.

“[Between 2004 through 2006] Saudi Distributor maintained a ‘control account’ from which a number of payments were made at THC Saudi Arabia’s [an operational entity within Tyco Healthcare AG, a indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] direction to Saudi hospitals and doctors, some of whom were publicly employed HCPs.  Several expenses from the control account were booked improperly as ‘promotional expenses’ and ‘sales development’ expenses.  In connection with these improper transactions, THC Saudi earned approximately $1,960,000 in gross profit.”

As to Turkey, the Statement of Facts state as follows.

“[Between 2001 and 2006] SigInt [a division of M/A-Com, an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] products were sold through a sales representative to government entities in Turkey.  The sales representatives sold the SigInt equipment in Turkey at an approximately twelve to forty percent mark-up over the price at which he purchased the equipment from M/A-Com and also received a commission on one of the sales.  The sales representative transferred part of his commission and part of his mark-up to a government official in Turkey to obtain orders.  In connection with these improper transactions, M/A-Com earned approximately $71,770 in gross proft.”

The Statement of Facts also states as follows.

“[Between 2004 and 2009] Erhard [a subsidiary of Tyco Waterworks Deutschland GmBH (TWW Germany), an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] made payments in the amount of approximately $2,371,094 to at least thirteen of its sales agents in China, Croatia, India, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates for the purpose of making payments to employees of government customers, and improperly booked the payments as ‘commissions.’  In connection with these improper transactions, TWW Germany earned approximately $4,684,966 in gross profits.”

In the NPA, Tyco admitted, accepted and acknowledged responsiblity for the above conduct and agreed not to make any public statement contradicting the above conduct.

The NPA has a term of three years and states as follows.

“The Department enters into this Non-Prosecution Agreement based, in part, on the following factors:  (a) the Company’s timely, voluntary, and complete disclosure of the conduct; (b) the Company’s global internal investigation concerning bribery and related misconduct; (c) the Company’s extensive remediation, including the implementation of an enhanced compliance program, the termination of employees responsible for the improper payments and falsification of books and records, severing contracts with the responsible third-party agents, the closing of subsidiaries due to compliance failures, and the agreement to undertake further compliance enhancements ….; and (d) the Company’s agreement to provide annual, written reports to the Department on its progress and experience in monitoring and enhancing its compliance policies and procedures …”.

Pursuant to the NPA, the company agreed to pay a penalty of $13.68 million (the $2.1 million TVC ME agreed to pay pursuant to the plea agreement is included in this figure).  Pursuant to the NPA, Tyco also agreed to a host of compliance undertakings and agreed to report to the DOJ (at no less than 12 month intervals) during the three year term of the NPA regarding “remediation and implementation of the compliance program and internal controls, policies, and procedures” required pursuant to the NPA.

In this DOJ release, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated as follows.  “Together with the SEC, we are leading a fight against corruption around the globe.”

SEC

In a related enforcement action, the SEC brought a civil complaint (here) against Tyco.

The introductory paragraph of the complaint states as follows.  “This matter concerns violations by Tyco of the books and records, internal controls, and anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.”

The complaint then states as follows.

“In April 2006, the Commission filed a settled accounting fraud, disclosure, and FCPA injunctive action against Tyco, pursuant to which the company consented to entry of a final judgment enjoining it from violations of the anti-fraud, periodic reporting, books and records, internal controls, proxy disclosure, and anti-bribery provisions of the federal securities laws and ordering it to pay $1 in disgorgement and a $50 million civil penalty. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered the settled Final Judgment against Tyco on May 1, 2006. At the time of settlement, Tyco had already committed to and commenced a review of its FCPA compliance and a global, comprehensive internal investigation of possible additional FCPA violations. As a result of that review and investigation, certain FCPA violations have come to light for which the misconduct occurred, or the benefit to Tyco continued, after the 2006 injunction. Those are the violations that are alleged in this Complaint.  […]  The FCPA misconduct reported by Tyco showed that Tyco’s books and records were misstated as a result of at least twelve different, post-injunction illicit payment schemes occurring at Tyco subsidiaries across the globe. The schemes frequently entailed illicit payments to foreign officials that were inaccurately recorded so as to conceal the nature of the payments. Those inaccurate entries were incorporated into Tyco’ s books and records.   Tyco also failed to devise and maintain internal controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that all transactions were properly recorded in the company’s books, records, and accounts. […] As reflected in this Complaint, numerous Tyco subsidiaries engaged in violative conduct, the conduct was carried out by several different methods, and the conduct occurred over a lengthy period of time and continued even after the 2006 injunction.  Through one of the illicit payment schemes, Tyco violated the FCPA anti-bribery provisions. Specifically, through the acts of its then-subsidiary and agent, TE M/A-Com, Inc. Tyco violated [the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions] by corruptly making illicit payments to foreign government officials to obtain or retain business.”

As to the SEC’s anti-bribery charge based on the conduct of TE M/A-Com, Inc. the complaint alleges that M/A Com retained a New York sales agent who made illicit payments in connection with a 2006 sale of microwave equipment to an instrumentality of the Turkish government.  The complaint alleges that “employees of M/A-Com were aware that the agent was paying foreign government customers to obtain orders” and cites an internal e-mail which states as follows – “hell, everyone knows you have to bribe somebody to do business in Turkey.”  The complaint then alleges as follows.  “Tyco exerted control over M/A-COM in part by utilizing dual roles for its officers. At the time of the September 2006 transaction, four high-level Tyco officers were also officers of M/A-COM, including one who was M/A-COM’s president. Additionally, one of those Tyco officers served as one of five members of M/A-COM’s board of directors. While there is no indication that any of these individuals knew of the illegal conduct described herein, through the corporate structure used to hold M/ A-COM and through the dual roles of these officers, Tyco controlled M/A-COM. As a result, M/A-COM was Tyco’s agent for purposes of the September 2006 transaction, and the transaction was squarely within the scope of M/ACOM’s agency.  The benefit obtained by Tyco as a result of the September 2006 deal was $44,513.”

The SEC’s complaint contains substantially similar allegations compared to the NPA Statement of Facts.  In addition, the SEC complaint alleges additional improper conduct in Malaysia, Egypt, and Poland.

As to Malaysia, the complaint alleges as follows.

“[Between 2000 to 2007] TFS Malaysia [an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco] used intermediaries to pay the employees of its customers when bidding on contracts.  Payments were made to approximately twenty-six employees of customers, and one of those payees was an employee of a government-controlled entity.  TFS Malaysia inaccurately described these expenses as ‘commissions’ and failed to maintain policies sufficient to prohibit such payments.  As a result, Tyco’s books and records were misstated.  Tyco’s benefit as a result of these illicit payments was $45,972.”

As to Egypt, the complaint alleges as follows.

“[Between 2004 to 2008] an Egyptian agent of TFIS UK [a indirect wholly owned subsidiary] wired approximately $282,022 to a former employee’s personal bank account with the understanding that the money would be used in connection with entertainment expenses for representatives of a company majority-owned by the Egyptian government.  A portion of the funds was used to pay for lodging, meals, transportation, spending money, and entertainment expenses for that company’s officials on two trips to the United Kingdom and two trips to the U.S.  TFIS UK made payments pursuant to inflated invoices submitted by the company’s Egyptian agent, who wired funds to the former employees to be used to entertain foreign officials.  TFIS U.K. books and records did not accurately reflect TFIS’s U.K.’s understanding that the funds would be used for entertainment of government officials, and TFIS UK did not maintain sufficient internal controls over its payments to agents.  As a result, Tyco’s books and records were misstated.  Tyco’s benefits as a result of these illicit payments was $1,589,374.”

As to Poland, the complaint alleges as follows.

“[Between 2005 to 2007] THC Polska [an indirect wholly owned subsidiary] used ‘service contracts’ to hire public healthcare professionals in Poland for various purposes, including conducting training sessions, performing clinical studies, and distributing marketing materials.  Approximately five such service contracts involved falsified records and approximately twenty-six other service contracts involved incomplete and inaccurate records, including some related expenses paid by THC Polska to family members of healthcare professionals.  As a result, Tyco’s books and records were misstated.  In connection with the transactions related to these inaccurate books and records, Tyco’s benefit was approximately $14,673.

As to the SEC’s internal controls charge, the complaint contains the following allegation.  “Tyco failed to devise and maintain … a system of internal controls and was therefore unable to detect the violations …  Numerous Tyco subsidiaries engaged in violative conduct, the conduct was carried out by several different methods, and the conduct occurred over a lengthy period of time, and it continued even after the 2006 injunction.”

The SEC complaint contains the following paragraph.

“As its global review and investigation progressed, Tyco voluntarily disclosed this conduct to the Commission and took significant, broad-spectrum remedial measures. Those remedial measures include: the initial FCPA review of every Tyco legal operating entity ultimately including 454 entities in 50 separate countries; active monitoring and evaluation of all of Tyco’s agents and other relevant third-party relationships; quarterly ethics and compliance training by over 4,000 middle-managers; FCPA-focused on-site reviews of higher risk entities; creation of a corporate Ombudsman’s office and numerous segment-specific compliance counsel positions; exit from several business operations in high-risk areas; and the termination of over 90 employees, including supervisors, because of FCPA compliance concerns.”

As noted in this SEC release, Tyco consented to a final judgment that orders the company to pay approximately $10.5 million in disgorgement and approximately $2.6 million in prejudgment interest.  Tyco also agreed to be permanently enjoined from violating the FCPA.

In this release, SEC Associate Director of Enforcement Scott Friestad stated as follows.  “Tyco’s subsidiaries operating in Asia and the Middle East saw illicit payment schemes as a typical way of doing business in some countries, and the company illictly reaped substantial financial benefits as a result.”

Martin Weinstin (Willkie Farr & Gallagher – here) represented the Tyco entities.

The FCPA Meets Insurance – Aon Resolves Enforcement Action

This post analyzes the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions against Aon Corporation (one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world) announced yesterday.  Total fines and penalties are approximately $16.3 million ($1.8 million via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement and $14.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

DOJ

The NPA (here) begins as follows.  The DOJ will not criminally prosecute Aon Corporation or its subsidiaries for any crimes “related to Aon’s knowing violation of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA .. arising from and related to the making of improper payments to government officials in Consta Rica in order to assist Aon in obtaining and retaining business” or “for the conduct related to improper payments and associated recordkeeping […] relating to Aon’s improper payments in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Egypt, Indonesia, Myanmar, Panama, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam that it discovered during its thorough investigation of its global operations.”

The NPA has a term of two years.  As is typical in FCPA NPAs or DPAs, Aon agreed “not to make any public statement” contradicting the below facts.

According to the NPA, the DOJ agreed to resolve the action via an NPA based, in part, on the following factors:

(a) Aon’s extraordinary cooperation with the DOJ and SEC;

(b) Aon’s timely and complete disclosure of facts relating to the above payments; [unlike many corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the Aon action does not appear to be the result of a voluntary disclosure; as stated in Aon’s most recent quarterly SEC filing, “following inquiries from regulators, the Company commenced an internal review of its compliance with certain U.S. and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”]

(c) the early and extensive remedial efforts undertaken by Aon, including the substantial improvements the company has made to its anti-corruption compliance procedures;

(d) the prior financial penalty of 5.25 million paid to the U.K. Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) [see here] by Aon Limited, a U.K. subsidiary of Aon, in 2009 concerning certain of the conduct at issue; and

(e) the FSA’s close and continuous supervisory oversight over Aon Limited.

The NPA’s Statement of Facts begin by detailing the business of reinsurance – that is insurance for insurance companies.  Specifically, the NPA states as follows.  “Reinsurance involves the transfer of all or part of the risk of paying claims under a policy from the insurance company that issued the policy to a reinsurance company.  A reinsurance broker arranges this transfer of risk, which takes place under a contract of reinsurance.  The insurance company is the reinsurance broker’s client and the broker acts on behalf of the insurance company.  The broker collects the premium due from the insurance company under the contract of reinsurance, and is typically paid for its services by retaining a portion of the premium for its own account.  The portion of premium retained by the broker is known as ‘brokerage.'”

The conduct at issue focuses on the Instituto Nacional De Deguros (“INS”), Costa Rica’s state-owned insurance company” (here) that “had a monopoly over the Costa Rican insurance industry.”  The NPA states as follows.  “INS was created by Act No. 12 of October 30, 1924, with the aim of meeting the protection needs of Costa Rican society.  All insurance agreements in Costa Rica, including the reinsurance contracts that Aon Limited [a subsidiary of Aon Corporation based in and organized under U.K. law that “reported financially through a series of intermediary entities into its U.S.-based issuer parent] assisted in obtaining to insure Costa Rican entities, were required to be issued through INS.  The head of INS was appointed by the President of Costa Rica.”

According to the NPA, a company Aon Limited acquired established a “Training and Education Fund” or “Brokerage Fund” for the benefit of INS “to sponsor training and education trips for INS officials.”  The NPA states that the “Brokerage Fund eventually became used for a wide variety of purported ‘training’ purposes, as well as to pay for client renewal trips to European insurers.”  The NPA also states that a second training account (the so-called 3% Fund) was funded by premiums to reinsurers and that “INS required that Aon Limited manage the fund, handle the paperwork, and provide reimbursement for the expenses incurred by INS officials.”

According to the NPA, “the supposed purpose of both the Brokerage Fund and the 3% Fund was to provide education and training for INS officials.”  However, the NPA states, “Aon Limited used a significant portion of the funds to reimburse for non-training related activity or for uses that could not be determined from Aon’s books and records.”

The NPA cites an e-mail from a former Aon Limited executive which stated as follows.  “INS started telling [another brokerage company] how [various reinsurers] were inviting their managers to seminars and were contributing positively to INS’s technological improvement with all expenses paid by the reinsurers.  The message was clear to both [the other brokerage company] and ourselves that unless we did the same we would see the gradual process of disintermediation and a continued erosion of our orders.”

The NPA then states as follows.  “Aon Limited disbursed nearly all of the $215,000 in the Brokerage Fund from 1997 until 2002, approximately $650,000 of the money in the 3% Fund from 1999 until 2002, and made a small number of additional disbursements from these funds between 2003 and 2005 to pay for the third-party services used by INS officials. These services often included travel related expenses, such as airfare and hotel accommodations, as well as conference fees, meals,  and other related expenses for INS officials and their relatives. It was common for INS to hire a
travel agency or tourism company to arrange for the particulars of the travel and educational conferences attended by its officials.  The majority of the money paid from the two funds was disbursed to a tourism company in Costa Rica. The director of INS’ reinsurance department, who played an active role in setting up the training funds, served on the board of directors of tourism company.  The director of INS’ reinsurance department himself took fourteen trips from 1996 to 2001 with expenses totaling approximately $44,000 that Aon Limited paid from the two funds. The funds also covered the official’s wife’s attendance on at least five of the trips.  On several occasions, Aon Limited reimbursed the official directly for expenses that were invoiced for his various trips, sometimes with cash payments.  The director of INS took six trips from 1998-2001 with expenses totaling approximately $20,000 that Aon Limited paid from the two funds. The director’s spouse accompanied him on four of these trips. The director of INS, the director of reinsurance at INS, their wives, and another INS official and her husband traveled to Europe in 1998 and charged their expenses of approximately $15,160 to the Brokerage Fund. While these trips had a small business-related component, a significant portion of the funds expended on the trips were used for the personal benefit of the officials and their wives.  A  substantial number of the trips taken by INS offcials were in connection with conferences and seminars in tourist destinations, including London, Paris, Monte Carlo, Zurich, Munich, Cologne, and Cairo. Many of the invoices and other records for these trips do not provide the business purpose of the expenditures, if any, or showed that the expenses were clearly not related to a legitimate business purpose. In addition, the subject matters of some of the better documented conferences and trainings, such as a literary conference and a Mexican information technology conference, had no logical connection to the insurance industry.  INS officials traveled to the United States for approximately twenty-five training events.  Aon Limited paid approximately $115,000 out of the funds in connection with these events in the United States.  In some instances, Aon Limited paid third parties at INS’s direction where the business purpose of the travel or expenses could not be discerned from the documentation, or where the purpose of the travel and expenses appeared to be improper, such as those pertaining to literary conferences, holiday expenses, and pure entertainment. Aon Limited paid large expenses for hotels, without any indication that the stays were business related. Aon Limited’s employees did not question the requests for payment or reimbursement from the funds.  While virtually all payments made in connection with the funds originated in London, Aon Limited made at least forty payments via, or that terminated in, the United States.  From 1995 to 2002, Aon Limited [and the company it acquired] earned profits of approximately $1.840,200 in connection with reinsurance brokerage business with INS.”

As to statute of limitation issues, Aon’s recent quarterly filing states as follows.  Aon “has agreed with the U.S. agencies to toll any applicable statute of limitations pending completion of the investigations.”

Under the heading “Books and Records/Internal Controls,” the NPA states as follows.  “The books and records of Aon Limited were consolidated into those of Aon Corporation. With respect to the Costa Rican training funds, although Aon Limited maintained accounting records for the payments that it made from both the Brokerage Fund and the 3% Fund, these records did not accurately and fairly reflect, in reasonable detail, the purpose for which the expenses were incurred. A significant portion of the records associated with payments made through tourist agencies gave the name of the tourist agency with only generic descriptions such as “various airfares and hotel.”  Additionally, to the extent that the accounting records did provide the location or purported educational seminar associated with travel expenses, in many instances they did not disclose or itemize the disproportionate amount of leisure and non-business related activities that were also included in the costs.  As a result, during the relevant time period, Aon failed to make and keep books, records and accounts which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflected the transactions and disposition of its assets and failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls with respect to foreign sales activities sufficient to ensure compliance with the FCPA.”

Pursuant to the NPA, “Aon admits, and accepts and acknowledges responsibility” for the above conduct; however, there is no suggestion or implication in the NPA that anyone at Aon Corporation  knew of, participated in, or authorized the conduct at issue.

See here for the DOJ’s release.

Pursuant to the NPA, Aon agreed to pay a monetary penalty in the amount of $1.76 million.  The NPA states as follows.  “This substantially reduced monetary penalty reflects the Department’s determination to credit meaningfully Aon for its extraordinary cooperation with the Department, including its thorough investigation of its global operations and complete disclosure of facts to the Department, and its early and extensive remediation.  In agreeing to this monetary penalty, the Department also took into account the penalty paid to the FSA relating to Aon Limited’s systems and controls in countries other than Costa Rica.”  Pursuant to the NPA, Aon also agreed to “continue to strengthen its compliance, bookkeeping, and internal controls standards and procedures” as set forth in “Corporate Compliance Program” appendix to the NPA.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (here) begins as follows.  “From as early as 1983 until as recent as 2007, subsidiaries of Aon Corporation in numerous countries made improper payments to various parties as a means of obtaining or retaining insurance business in those countries.  During this period, over $3.6 million in such payments were made, including some directly or indirectly to foreign government officials who could award business directly to Aon subsidiaries, who were in position to influence others who could award business to Aon subsidiaries, or who could otherwise provide favorable business treatment for the Company’s interest.  These payments were not accurately reflected in Aon’s books and records.  During this period, Aon failed to maintain an adequate internal control system reasonably designed to detect and prevent these payments.”

According to the SEC complaint, “the improper payments made by Aon’s subsidiaries fall into two general categories:  (i) training, travel and entertainment provided to employees of foreign-government owned clients and third parties and (ii) payments made to third-party facilitators.”

As to the first category of payments, the SEC complaint is largely focused on the same Costa Rica / INS payments described in the DOJ’s NPA.  Additional payments concern Egypt and the complaint alleges that from 1983 to 2009 Aon (or its predecessor) “served as insurance broker for an Egyptian government-owned company, the Egyptian Armament Authority (“EAA”), and its U.S. arm, the Egyptian Procurement Office (“EPO”).  According to the complaint, delegation trips for EAA and EPO officials to various U.S. destinations “had some business component” but also “included a disproportionate amount of leisure activities and lasted longer than the business component would justify.”  According to the SEC, the company’s “books and records did not fairly and accurately reflect the true nature of the payments made in connection with the delegation trips.”

As to the second category of payments, under the heading “Payments to Third-Party Facilitators” the complaint alleges as follows.  “Aon’s subsidiaries also made payments to third parties that were retained to assist in obtaining accounts in several countries.  In some instances, the subsidiaries made payments to the third parties without taking steps to assure that they would not be passed to foreign government officials.  The subsidiaries made some payments under circumstances in which the third parties appeared to have performed no legitimate services relating to the prospective accounts, thereby suggesting that they were simply conduits for improper payments to government officials in order to obtain or retain business for Aon.”

In Vietnam, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited served as a co-broker on an insurance policy for Vietnam Airlines, a Vietnamese government-owned entity, since 2003.”   According to the complaint, a third-party facilitator assisted in securing the account and “company record indicate that the third-party facilitator did not provide legitimate services, but instead transferred some of the money that Aon Limited paid under its consultancy agreement to unidentified individuals referred to as ‘related people.'”

In Indonesia, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited served as a broker on reinsurance contracts with BP Migas and Pertamina, two Indonesian state-owned entities in the oil and gas industry.”    The complaint alleges that “several former Aon Limited employees authorized improper payments to government officials in Indonesia to secure the Pertamina and BP Migas accounts for Aon Limited.”

In the United Arab Emirates, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited provided brokerage services to a privately-held insurance company” and that payments were made “to the general manager of the insurance company as inducements to secure and retain the account for Aon Limited.”

In Myanmar, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited retained an introducer in Myanmar to assist Aon Limited in connection with its account with Myanmar Airways and Myanmar Insurance, two government-owned entities.”  According to the complaint, “company records indicate that the introducer likely used a portion of his commission to improperly influence a government official on Aon Limited’s behalf in connection with the Myanmar account.”

In Bangladesh, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited made approximately $1.07 million in payments to secure its account with Biman Bangladesh Airways and Sudharan Bima Corporation, two government-owned entities.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC complaint alleges FCPA books and records and internal controls violations – but not FCPA anti-bribery violations – notwithstanding the fact that the DOJ’s NPA refers to “Aon’s knowing violation of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls.”

As stated in the SEC’s release (here), without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, Aon consented to entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from future FCPA books and records and internal controls violations and ordering the company to pay “disgorgement of $11,416,814 in profits together with prejudgement interest thereon of $3,128,206 for a total of $14,545,020.”

In a release (here) Aon stated as follows.  “Since beginning an internal review of these issues in 2007, Aon has put in place a comprehensive, global and robust anti-corruption program designed to prevent and detect improper conduct.”  Greg Case, Aon’s President and Chief Executive Officer stated as follows.  “Acting with integrity is Aon’s core value and we embody this in our commitment to the highest professional standards for our clients, markets and colleagues.  Aon has invested a significant amount of time and resources in anti-corruption compliance and transparency to greatly enhance our controls and processes.”

Kirkland & Ellis attorneys Laurence Urgenson (here) and Craig Primis (here) represented Aon.

FCPA Enforcement … It’s More Than Just Suitcases Full of Cash to Government Officials

When conducting FCPA training, one of the first things I like to do is immediately dispel the notion that the FCPA only applies to suitcase full of cash to a government official types of situations. While the FCPA does indeed apply to such egregious situations, the FCPA (and certainly DOJ/SEC’s interpretation of the statute) applies to a wide range of other – seemingly less culpable – conduct as well.

My future FCPA training slides will certainly include the recent Control Components Inc. (“CCI”) FCPA enforcement action as it clearly demonstrates the broadness of FCPA enforcement.

First, the big picture.

As described in a recent DOJ release (see here), CCI pleaded guilty to a three-count criminal information charging two counts of violating the FCPA and one count of violating the Travel Act in connection with a “decade-long scheme to secure contracts in approximately 36 countries by paying bribes to officials and employees of various foreign state-owned companies as well as foreign and domestic private companies.”

Pursuant to the plea agreement, CCI agreed to pay a criminal fine of $18.2 million, serve a three-year term of organizational probation and adopt a host of other measures common in FCPA settlements such as create, implement and maintain an anti-bribery compliance program and retain an independent compliance monitor.

The CCI enforcement action demonstrates the broadness of FCPA enforcement in at least two respects: (i) the “foreign official” element; and (ii) the “anything of value” element.

“Foreign Official”

As to the “foreign official” element, para 5 of the Indictment is the key paragraph. It states as follows:

“Defendant CCI’s state-owned customers included, but were not limited to, Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation (China), Guohua Electric Power (China), China Petroleum Materials and Equipment Corporation, PetroChina, Dongfang Electric Corporation (China), China National Offshore Oil Company, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, Petronas (Malaysia), and National Petroleum Construction Company (United Arab Emirates). Each of these state-owned entities was a department, agency, or instrumentality of a foreign government, within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-2(h)(2)(A). The officers and employees of these entities, including but not limited to the Vice-Presidents, Engineering Managers, General Managers, Procurement Managers, and Purchasing Officers, were “foreign officials” within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-2(h)(2)(A).

As I’ve stated before in this forum (see here) and likely will in the future until this legal issue is decided by a court, DOJ’s position that employees of state-owned companies, regardless of position, are “foreign officials” under the FCPA is an unchallenged and untested legal theory – and one I believe is ripe for challenge.

Even if DOJ’s position were to be upheld by a court, those subject to the FCPA could certainly benefit from some clarity as to what DOJ considers to be a state-owned entity. Instead, in the CCI Information (and countless others) all that is there is a mere conclusory statement that each of the relevant companies are “state-owned entities” (see para 5).

What attributes of, for instance, Guohua Electric Power, make it a state-owned entity? I’ve long been curious as to what extent of investigation or discovery DOJ undertakes before it concludes that a company is a state-owned entity? If anyone has insight into this issue, please do share.

Also interesting to note is that even though para 6 of the Information states that CCI, through its former officers and employees, made corrupt payments to officers and employees of “numerous state-owned” customers around the world for the purpose of assisting in obtaining or retaining business for CCI, the Information charges only two FCPA violations.

Count two concerns payments to secure a contract with China National Offshore Oil Company and Count three concerns payments to secure a contract with Korean Hydro and Nuclear Power.

Presumably DOJ did not have sufficient evidence to support other FCPA counts as to CCI’s alleged payments to the other “numerous state-owned” customers, including the others specifically listed in para. 5 of the Information.

So why would a company such as CCI plead guilty to violating the FCPA when the “foreign officials” it allegedly bribed are “foreign officials” only under DOJ’s untested and unchallenged legal theory?

That is a good question, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that companies are in the business of making money and not in the business of setting legal precedent. With a settlement comes certainty, whereas with litigation comes uncertainty.

“Anything of Value”

As to the “anything of value” element, the Information lists the following “things of value” given by CCI, directly or indirectly to “foreign officials” – “overseas holidays to places such as Disneyland and Las Vegas” (para 19); “extravagant vacations” with the following expenses “first-class airfare to destinations such as Hawaii, five-star hotel accommodations, charter boat trips, and similar luxuries” (para 20); “college tuition” [for] the children of at least two executives” at CCI’s state-owned customers (para 20); “lavish sales events” including CCI payment of “hotel costs, meals, green fees for golf, and travel expenses” (para 21); and “expensive gifts” (para 21).

What do all these things have in common? They are not “suitcases full of cash” yet still “things of value” under the FCPA.

This is not the first time FCPA followers have heard of CCI and it is likely not the last time either. As described in the DOJ release, two former CCI executives (Mario Covino and Richard Morlok) have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA (see here and here). In addition, six former CCI executives (Stuart Carson, Hong (Rose) Carson, Paul Cosgrove, David Edmonds, Flavio Ricotti, and Han Yong Kim) were criminally indicted in April 2009 on charges of, among other things, violating the FCPA (see here).

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