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DOJ Quietly Releases Another “Declination With Disgorgement” – This One $4 Million Regarding CDM Smith Inc.

cdmsmith

Those who were predicting that FCPA enforcement would wane in a Trump administration were encouraged to take a deep breath. (See here for the prior post). Among other things, it was noted that “if you believe that FCPA enforcement will decline in a Trump administration then you presumably must think that the DOJ and the SEC will start refusing to “process” corporate voluntary disclosures” (the single largest source of corporate FCPA enforcement actions).

Here is a fact to contemplate. The number of DOJ corporate FCPA enforcement actions in the first five months of the Trump administration (2 – both originating from corporate voluntary disclosures) equals the number of DOJ corporate FCPA enforcement actions in 2015 (2).

Yesterday, the DOJ once again quietly updated its FCPA Pilot Program “declinations” page to release this June 21st letter agreement addressed to Nathaniel Edmonds (Paul Hastings) counsel for CDM Smith Inc. (“CDM Smith”), a privately held engineering and construction firm incorporated and headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Bahn, Et Al – Not A Typical FCPA Enforcement Action

landmark72

Last week the DOJ announced Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and related charges, against four individuals for their roles in a scheme to pay $2.5 million in bribes to facilitate the $800 million sale of a commercial building in Vietnam (the so-called Landmark 72 pictured at left) to a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund.

It certainly was not a typical FCPA enforcement action.

In fact it was downright strange in that the bribery scheme was unsuccessful and the third party intended to facilitate the bribery scheme simply pocketed the money for himself.

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Danish Subsidiary Exposes Analogic To $14.9 Million Enforcement Action

analogic

Yesterday the DOJ and SEC announced (see here and here) a parallel Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against medical device manufacturer Analogic Corp. and BK Medical ApS (Analogic’s Danish subsidiary) in which the entities agreed to pay approximately $14.9 million.

The conduct at issue involved alleged improper payments by BK Medical, primarily in Russia through distributors, and the government alleged that BK Medical took various steps to conceal its conduct from Analogic.

The enforcement action involved a DOJ non-prosecution agreement with BK Medical in which the company agreed to pay a $3.4 million criminal penalty and an SEC administrative order against Analogic in which the company agreed to pay approximately $11.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest. In connection with the same administrative order, the SEC also announced that “Lars Frost, BK Medical’s former Chief Financial Officer, agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty to settle charges that he knowingly circumvented the internal controls in place at BK Medical and falsified its books and records.

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Louis Berger International And Two Former Employees Resolve Enforcement Action

LB

Last Friday, the DOJ announced the second corporate Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action of 2015.

It was against Louis Berger International Inc. (LBI, a New Jersey-based infrastructure and development company) and focused on the conduct of two former employees (one located in the Philippines, the other located in India) that allegedly occurred approximately 5 – 17 years ago in connection with projects in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Kuwait.

The former employees are described as:

  • Richard Hirsch was a high-level executive at the Company, located in the Philippines, who at times oversaw the Company’s overseas operations in, inter alia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • James McClung was a high-level executive at the Company, located in India, who at times oversaw the Company’s overseas operations in Vietnam and India.

According to the DOJ, LBI directly and indirectly made payments totaling approximately $3.9 million to foreign government officials in India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Vietnam and elsewhere. To resolve the enforcement action, LBI agreed to pay $17.1 million pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement and to engage a compliance monitor for a three year period.

Criminal Complaint

The criminal complaint charges LBI with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

According to the criminal compliant, the purpose of the conspiracy “was to make and conceal corrupt payments to foreign officials in India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Vietnam and elsewhere in order to obtain and retain contracts with government entities in those countries and, thus, to enrich the Company and the co-conspirators with the full economic benefits anticipated from such contracts.” In addition, the criminal complaint alleges that “terms like ‘commitment fee,’ ‘counterpart per diem,’ ‘marketing fee,’ and ‘field operation expenses’ [were used] as code words to conceal the true nature of the bribe payments” and that “cash disbursement forms and invoices [were utilized] which did not truthfully describe the services provided or the purpose of the payment.” Moreover, the complaint alleges that members of the conspiracy created “ostensibly legitimate but ultimately illicit accounts, or “slush funds,” for the payment of bribes through third parties.”

Deferred Prosecution Agreement

The criminal charges were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement.

The Statement of Facts in the DPA state, under the heading “Overview of the Bribery Scheme” as follows.

“From in or about 1998 until in or about 2010, the Company, through its employees and agents, engaged in a scheme to pay bribes to various foreign officials in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Kuwait to secure contracts with government agencies and instrumentalities in those countries on behalf of the Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates.  The Company, through its employees and agents, together with others, discussed making the bribe payments to the foreign officials and the ways in which they intended to conceal the corrupt payments.  For example, the Company, through its employees and agents, together with others, used terms like ‘commitment fee,’ ‘counterpart per diem,’ ‘marketing fee’ and ‘field operation expenses’ as code words to conceal the true nature of the bribe payments and utilized cash disbursement forms and invoices which did not truthfully describe the services provided or the purpose of the payment.

In order to effectuate the payments, the Company, through its employees and agents, utilized various methods.  In many instances, employees and agents of the Company submitted inflated and fictitious invoices to generate cash that was then used later for the payment of bribes through intermediaries.  The Company, through its employees and agents, would then wire certain funds from bank accounts of the Company in New Jersey to bank accounts in various other countries for the purpose of making payments to foreign officials.  In Vietnam, the Company, through its employees and agents, used the Foundation – which was in part a local labor pool – as a conduit for the payment of bribes to foreign government officials in Vietnam to conceal the bribe payments.

In total, the Company, through its employees and agents, together with others, made payments directly and indirectly to foreign officials, including in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Kuwait, totaling approximately $3,934,431.”

Under the heading “Corrupt Conduct in Indonesia,” the DPA states that “beginning in approximately 2005, the Company sought contracts with the Indonesian government as a subcontractor by interposing a one-man consulting company as the prime contractor in order to avoid directly paying bribes to foreign officials even though the Company was well aware that the prime contractor was paying bribes.”  According to the DPA, in 2008 “when the law firm handling the Company’s internal review directed scrutiny [at a citizen and national of Indonesia employed by the Company in Jakarta] Richard Hirsch and others attempted to discourage [the employee] from speaking with the Company’s review team.” According to the DPA, Hirsch also communicated with co-conspirators on his personal e-mail account to avoid detection by the company.

Under the heading “Corrupt Conduct in Vietnam,” the DPA states that “the Company began its operations in Vietnam during the early 1990s and secured numerous public contracts across the county.  In order to obtain and maintain these contracts, the Company through its employees and agents paid bribes to Vietnamese officials through the Foundation [a non-governmental organization which the Company engaged as a local sponsor, and which served as a key source for local labor and operational support in Vietnam.]  Sometimes the bribe money was disguised as ‘donations’ to the Foundation paid from the Company’s bank accounts in New Jersey to a bank account jointly held by the Company and the Foundation in Vietnam.  On other occasions the bribe money was masked by invoices from the Foundation that were paid from the Company’s New Jersey account to a joint account.”  The DPA further states that beginning in “approximately 2005, when James McClung assumed responsibility for the Company’s Vietnam operations, the Company through its employees and agents generated bribe money by paying vendors for services that had never actually been rendered; those vendors would then serve as conduits for the payment of bribe money to foreign officials.”

Under the heading “Corrupt Conduct in India,” the DPA states: “Along with several consortium partners, the Company won two water development projects in Goa and Guwhati.  The Company paid bribes to win both of those contracts.  The bribe money was disguised as payments to vendors for services that had never actually been rendered.  The Company through its employees and agents and its consortium partner kept track of the bribe payments by circulating a spreadsheet amongst themselves showing the proportionate share of each bribe that they had paid to the foreign officials overseeing their work on the Goa and Guwhati projects.”

Under the heading “Corrupt Conduct in Kuwait,” the DPA states: “In approximately 2005, the Company won a $66 million road construction project with the Kuwait Ministry of Public Works.  In order to secure that contract, the Company through its employees and agents and its joint venture partner made a series of corrupt payments [totaling approximately $71,000) to an official with the Ministry of Public Works.  Some of the payments were made upfront under the guise of ‘proposal’ costs.  Other payments were made through a purported contract for ‘business development’ with another firm.”

In the 3-year DPA, LBI admitted, accepted and acknowledged responsibility for the conduct as described above.

Under the heading “relevant considerations,” the DPA states:

“[The DOJ enters] into this Agreement based on the individual facts and circumstances presented by this case and by LBI … Among the factors considered were the following:  (a) after the government had made LBI … aware of a False Claim Act investigation, [the Company] conducted an internal investigation, discovered potential FCPA violations, and voluntarily self-reported to the [DOJ] the misconduct …; (b) [the Company’s] cooperation, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, collecting analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for [the DOJ] and providing updates to the [DOJ] as the conduct and results of the internal investigation; (c) [the Company] has engaged in extensive remediation, including terminating the employment of officers and employees responsible for the corrupt payments, enhancing its due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, and instituting heightened review of proposals and other transactional documents for all Company contracts; (d) [the Company’s] improvements to date to its compliance program and internal controls, as well as its commitment to continue to enhance its compliance program and internal controls, including ensuring that its compliance program satisfies the minimum elements [set forth in the DPA]; (e) the nature and scope of the offense conduct; and (f) [the Company’s] agreement to continue to cooperate [with the DOJ] in any ongoing investigation.”

The Sentencing Guidelines calculation in the DPA sets forth an advisory fine range of $17.1 million – $34.2 million. The DPA states that the ultimate $17.1 million fine “is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of this case, including the cooperation in this matter and the nature and scope of the offense conduct.”  As indicated in the DPA, $7.1 million of the fine amount is payable immediately with the remaining amount payable within 12 months.

Pursuant to the DPA, LBI is required to retain an independent compliance monitor for a three year period.

Typical of most corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the DPA contains a “muzzle clause” in which LBI agreed that it shall not directly or indirectly make any public statement contradicting the information set forth in the DPA.

As noted in the DOJ’s release, Hirsch (61, of Makaati, Philippines) and McClung (59, of Dubai, United Arab Emirates) each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA. The sentencing hearings for Hirsch and McClung are scheduled for Nov. 5, 2015.

Louis Berger issued this release which states:

“Louis Berger International, has agreed to a three-year deferred prosecution agreement and $17.1 million fine with the U.S. Department of Justice for self-reported improper business activities principally conducted overseas by former managers between 1998 and 2010. All of the managers associated with these improper business activities were separated from the company following the early findings of Louis Berger’s internal investigations.

“The DOJ has acknowledged the extensive global reforms undertaken at Louis Berger since 2010,” said Nicholas J. Masucci, Louis Berger chairman. “2010 was a pivotal year in our company’s history. It marked a clear departure from the past as we assumed new management, new processes and comprehensive system reforms that are the core of our global operations today. Today’s settlement is the critical final milestone in our reform, as it was important for us to take responsibility for the historic actions of former managers and close the chapter on the company’s pre-2010 era.”

Prior to Louis Berger’s 2010 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for improper billing on U.S. government overhead accounts, the company undertook a thorough review of past practices of former managers, including improper overseas business activities. The company self-discovered and self-reported potential Foreign Corrupt Practices Act infractions to the U.S. government starting in 2010 and has been working with the government to resolve these issues since that time. In total, the company self-identified and self-reported findings of misconduct in Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Kuwait between 1998 and 2010 totaling $3.9 million in bribes.

Since 2010, Louis Berger has undergone a massive $25+ million reform effort that resulted in new internal controls, new policies and procedures, and comprehensive systems investments, including a new global accounting system.

The company has actively supported the government in its investigation of the culpable individuals and their activities. In addition to separating these former managers from the company, the firm also has added new managers to key positions, including chief financial officer and controller, and regional management teams throughout Asia and the Middle East. Additionally, the company implemented a new corporate operational model to ensure greater centralized oversight and control of overseas business activities. Moreover, the company has reformed its ownership structure by implementing an Employee Stock Ownership Program.

The company established an independent compliance and ethics department under the oversight of an independent audit committee, introduced a global helpline through which employees can report potentially non-compliant activities, and implemented a global code of business conduct. Investments also have funded annual worldwide compliance, ethics and anti-corruption training for all employees.

Under the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, the company will work with a government-appointed monitor to test and report on its internal processes and controls as well as its compliance and ethics policies and training for three years.

“Transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of a sustainable business, and we are a much more efficient, responsible and transparent company today than we were five years ago,” said Masucci. “We will continue to monitor and improve our existing compliance system while delivering quality work to our clients with a level of integrity they expect.”

Brian Whisler (Baker & McKenzie) and Michael Himmel (Lowenstein Sandler) represented LBI.

Bio-Rad Laboratories Agrees To Pay $55 Million To Resolve FCPA Enforcement Action

Yesterday the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a coordinated FCPA enforcement action against Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. based on alleged conduct in Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The enforcement action involved a DOJ non-prosecution agreement and an SEC administrative order.  Bio-Rad agreed to pay approximately $55 million to resolve the alleged FCPA scrutiny ($14.35 million in the DOJ action; and $40.7 million in the SEC action).

This post summarizes both the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions based on a review of the original source documents.

DOJ Enforcement Action

The enforcement action focused on the conduct of Bio-Rad Laboratorii OOO (“Bio-Rad Russia”) and Bio-Rad SNC as well as the alleged knowledge of certain Bio-Rad managers concerning various Russian business practices.

According to the NPA, Bio-Rad Russia is:

“[A] wholly owned subsidiary of BIO-RAD located in Moscow, Russia. Bio-Rad Russia primarily sold BIO-RAD clinical diagnostic products, such as HIV testing kits. Approximately 90% of its clientele were government customers, most notably the Russian Ministry of Health. In order to obtain certain Russian government contracts, Bio-Rad Russia was required to participate in public tender processes.”

According to the NPA, Bio-Rad SNC is:

“[A]n indirectly wholly-owned subsidiary of Bio-Rad headquartered in Marnes-la-Coquette, France.  Bio-Rad SNC manufactured, sold, and distributed Bio-Rad products worldwide.”

According to the NPA, Agent 1 (described as an agent retained by Bio-Rad SNC with respect to sales in Russia) assisted Bio-Rad Russia in connection with certain governmental sales in Russia and established Intermediary Companies (described as Agent 1 affiliated companies in Panama, the United Kingdom, and Belize) which Bio-Rad SNC retained “purportedly to perform extensive services on its behalf in Russia.”  However, according to the NPA, Intermediary Companies “were located offshore and had no employees aside from Agent 1.”  Moreover, according to the NPA, “Intermediary Companies used a phony address on its invoices that belonged to a Russian government agency.”

According to the NPA, Manager 1 (described as a high-level manager of Bio-Rad’s Emerging Markets sales region, which included Rusia, from 2004 to 2010 and based in Bio-Rad’s corporate offices in California) “authorized Bio-Rad SNC’ agreements with the Intermediary Companies without conducting any due diligence on the Intermediary Companies.”

According to the NPA,

“Bio-Rad SNC paid the Intermediary Companies a commission of 15-30% purportedly in exchange for various services outlined in the agency contracts, including acquiring new business by creating and disseminating promotional materials to prospective  customers, installing Bio-Rad products and related equipment, training customers on the installation and use of Bio-Rad products, and delivering Bio-Rad products.

The Intermediary Companies, however, lacked the capabilities to perform these contractually defined services. In some instances, the Intermediary Companies submitted invoices suggesting that they performed distribution services in connection with certain contracts. The Intermediary Companies did not perform these services, and would have been significantly overpaid even had they performed such services.”

According to the NPA:

“Manager 1, Manager 2 [described as a high-level accounting manager of Bio-Rad’s Emerging Markets sales region, which included Russia, from around 2004 to 2010 and based in Bio-Rad’s corporate offices in California] and Manager 3 [described as a high-level manager of Bio-Rad Russia from 2007 to 2011 and based in Moscow] reviewed and approved commission payments to Intermediary Companies, despite knowing that Intermediary Companies and Agent 1 were not performing the services from which they were being paid.”

The NPA further states that Manager 1, Manager 2, and Manager 3 used the code word “bad debt” when communicating with each other to refer to the Intermediary Companies’ commission payments.  According to the NPA, Manager 2 “instructed lower-level Bio-Rad SNC finance employees to ‘talk with codes’ when communicating about the Intermediary Companies’ invoices and that Manager 3 requested that Intermediary Company invoices be paid in installments of less than $200,000 each so as to avoid additional approvals required by Bio-Rad policy for payment over $200,000.

According to the NPA,

“The payments to the Intermediary Companies were made by Bio-Rad SNC and falsely recorded as “commission payments” in its books. Moreover, Manager 1 and Manager 2, who falsely described the commission payments as “bad debt” in e-mails, knew that Bio-Rad SNC maintained the bogus contracts with the Intermediary Companies, as well as the numerous associated false invoices Bio-Rad SNC had paid, as part of its books and records. Bio-Rad SNC’s books, records, and financial accounts were consolidated into Bio-Rad’s books and records and reported by Bio-Rad in its financial statements. Thus, Manager 1 and Manager 2 knowingly caused BIO-RAD to falsify its books and records.”

The NPA further states:

“Bio-Rad maintained a set of corporate policies, but Bio-Rad’s international offices were given autonomy by the company to implement and maintain adequate controls. However, Manager 1 and Manager 2 failed to implement adequate controls for Bio-Rad’s Emerging Markets sales region, including controls related to its operations in Russia where those managers knew that the failure to implement these controls allowed Agent 1 and the Intermediary Companies to be paid significantly above-market commissions for little or no services that were supported by false contracts and invoices. For example, Manager 1 and Manager 2 did not put in place a system of controls to conduct due diligence on third party agents, such as the Intermediary Companies, to ensure documentation supporting payments to third parties, or to monitor such payments. Nor did the company implement adequate testing of the controls that should have been in place.

Manager 1 and Manager 2’s knowing failure to implement adequate internal accounting controls with respect to Russia was due, at least in part, to their desire to continue to obtain and retain contracts with the Russian government. Bio-Rad Russia won 100% of its government contracts when Agent 1 was involved and lost its first major Russian government  contract after terminating Agent 1 in or around 2010.”

According to the NPA:

“In addition to the knowing failure to implement an adequate system of internal accounting controls, prior to the discovery of the misconduct in Bio-Rad did not maintain an adequate compliance program. The company did not provide any FCPA training to its employees and, although Bio-Rad had a business ethics policy and code of conduct that prohibited bribery and was posted on the company’s intranet site, many employees of Bio-Rad and its subsidiaries were unaware of its existence. Moreover, the code was only available in English despite the fact that a significant number of employees working for Bio-Rad’ss overseas subsidiaries did not speak or understand English well enough to understand the code.”

“Bio-Rad also decentralized its compliance program such that its international offices were responsible for ensuring adequate compliance with its business ethics policy and code of conduct. However, Manager 1 and Manager 2 did not take steps to ensure such compliance in Emerging Markets, and Bio-Rad did not take sufficient steps to monitor its international offices. As a result, Bio-Rad’s international offices did not undertake appropriate risk-based due diligence in connection with the retention of agents and business partners and, further, did not have distribution and agency agreements with appropriate anti-corruption terms. Bio-Rad also did not undertake periodic risk assessments of its compliance program. Bio-Rad’s failure to maintain an adequate compliance program significantly contributed to the company’s inability to prevent the misconduct in Russia, as well as improper payments to government officials in Vietnam and Thailand.”

The NPA states as follows.

“The [DOJ] enters into this Non-Prosecution Agreement based on the individual facts and circumstances presented by this case and the Company. Among the facts considered were the following: (a) following discovery of potential FCPA violations during the course of an internal audit, the Company’s audit committee retained independent counsel to conduct an internal investigation and voluntarily disclosed to the [DOJ] the misconduct described in the Statement of Facts; (b) the Company has fully cooperated with the [DOJ’s] investigation, including conducting an extensive internal investigation in several countries, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, voluntarily producing documents from overseas, summarizing its findings, translating numerous documents, and providing timely reports on witness interviews for the [DOJ]; (c) the Company has engaged in significant remedial actions, including enhancing its anti-corruption policies globally, improving its internal controls and compliance functions, developing and implementing additional FCPA compliance procedures, including due diligence and contracting procedures for intermediaries, instituting heightened review of proposals and other transactional documents for all Company contracts, closing its Vietnam office after learning of improper payments by its Vietnam subsidiary, and conducting extensive anti-corruption training throughout the global organization; (d) the Company has committed to continue to enhance its compliance program and internal controls, including ensuring that its compliance program satisfies the minimum elements set forth in Attachment B to this Agreement; and (e) the Company has agreed to continue to cooperate with the [DOJ] in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of the Company and its officers, directors, employees, agents, and consultants relating to possible violations of the FCPA …”.

Pursuant to the NPA, which has a term of two years, Bio-Rad admitted, accepted and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its employees and agents as set forth in the Statement of Facts.  The NPA also contains a “muzzle clause” in which Bio-Rad expressly agree[d] that it shall not, through present or future attorneys, officers, directors, employees, agents or any other person authorized to speak for the Company make any public statement, in litigation or otherwise, contradicting the acceptance of responsibility by the Company …”.

In the NPA, Bio-Rad also agreed to undertake a host of compliance enhancements and report to the DOJ during the two-year term of the NPA “regarding mediation and implementation of the compliance program and internal controls, policies and procedures” described in the NPA.

In the DOJ release, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“Public companies that cook their books and hide improper payments foster corruption.  The department pursues corruption from all angles, including the falsification of records and failure to implement adequate internal controls.   The department also gives credit to companies, like Bio-Rad, who self-disclose, cooperate and remediate their violations of the FCPA.”

Special Agent in Charge David Johnson of the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office stated:

“The FBI remains committed to identifying and investigating violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This action demonstrates the benefits of self-disclosure, cooperation, and subsequent remediation by companies.”

The release further states:

“The department entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the company due, in large part, to Bio-Rad’s self-disclosure of the misconduct and full cooperation with the department’s investigation.  That cooperation included voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, voluntarily producing documents from overseas, and summarizing the findings of its internal investigation.  In addition, Bio-Rad has engaged in significant remedial actions, including enhancing its anti-corruption policies globally, improving its internal controls and compliance functions, developing and implementing additional due diligence and contracting procedures for intermediaries, and conducting extensive anti-corruption training throughout the organization.”

SEC Enforcement Action

The SEC’s order is based on the same core conduct alleged in the DOJ action as relevant to Russia business and also contains allegations concerning conduct in Vietnam and Thailand.

In summary fashion, the SEC’s order states:

“From approximately 2005 to 2010, subsidiaries of Bio-Rad made unlawful payments in Vietnam and Thailand to obtain or retain business. During the same period, Bio-Rad’s subsidiary paid certain Russian third parties, disregarding the high probability that at least some of the money would be used to make unlawful payments to government officials in Russia. With respect to Russia, one of Bio-Rad’s foreign subsidiaries paid three off-shore agents (the“Russian Agents”) for alleged services in connection with sales of its medical diagnostic and life science equipment to government agencies. These agents were not legitimate businesses, and despite receiving large commissions, they did not provide the contracted-for services. In paying these agents, Bio-Rad’s foreign subsidiary demonstrated a conscious disregard for the high probability that the Russian Agents were using at least a portion of the commissions to pay foreign officials to obtain profitable government contracts. The General Manager (“GM”) of Bio-Rad’s Emerging Markets sub-division and the Emerging Markets Controller, both employees of the parent company (collectively, “the Emerging Markets managers”) ignored red flags, which permitted the scheme to continue for years. In Vietnam and Thailand, Bio-Rad’s foreign subsidiaries used agents and distributors to funnel money to government officials. In total, Bio-Rad made $35.1 million in illicit profits from these improper payments.

In violation of Bio-Rad’s policies, Bio-Rad’s foreign subsidiaries did not record the payments in their own books in a manner that would accurately or fairly reflect the transactions. Instead they booked them as commissions, advertising, and training fees. These subsidiaries’ books were consolidated into the parent company’s books and records. During the relevant period, Bio-Rad also failed to devise and maintain adequate internal accounting controls.”

As to the Vietnam and Thailand conduct, the SEC’s order focuses on Bio-Rad Laboratories (Singapore) Pte. Limited (“Bio-Rad Singapore”) described as a wholly-owned subsidiary located in Singapore and Diamed South East Asia Ltd. (“Diamed Thailand”) described as  a 49%-owned subsidiary of Diamed AG (Switzerland) that was acquired by Bio-Rad in October 2007.  According to the order, local majority owners ran Diamed Thailand’s operations until 2011, when Bio-Rad bought out their interest in the company.

Under the heading “Facts in Vietnam,” the order states:

“From at least 2005 to the end of 2009, Bio-Rad maintained a sales representative office in Vietnam. A country manager supervised the Vietnam Office’s sales activities, and was authorized to approve contracts up to $100,000 and sales commissions up to $20,000. Vietnam’s country manager reported to Bio-Rad Singapore’s Southeast Asia regional sales manager (“RSM”), who in turn reported to the Asia Pacific GM.

From 2005 through 2009, the country manager of the Vietnam office authorized the payment of bribes to government officials to obtain their business. At the direction of the country manager, the sales representatives made cash payments to officials at government-owned hospitals and laboratories in exchange for their agreement to buy Bio-Rad’s products.

In 2006, the RSM first learned of this practice from a finance employee. She raised concerns about it to the Vietnam Office’s country manager, who informed her that paying bribes was a customary practice in Vietnam. On or about May 18, 2006, the Vietnamese country manager wrote in an email to the RSM and the Bio-Rad Singapore finance employee that paying third party fees “[wa]s outlawed in the Bio-Rad Business Ethics Policy,” but that Bio-Rad would lose 80% of its Vietnam sales without continuing the practice. In that same email, the country manager proposed a solution that entailed employing a middleman to pay the bribes to Vietnamese government officials as a means of insulating Bio-Rad from liability. Under the proposed scheme, Bio-Rad Singapore would sell Bio-Rad products to a Vietnamese distributor at a deep discount, which the distributor would then resell to government customers at full price, and pass through a portion of it as bribes.

The RSM and the Asia Pacific GM were aware of and allowed the payments to continue. Between 2005 and the end of 2009, the Vietnam office made improper payments of $2.2 million to agents or distributors, which was funneled to Vietnamese government officials. These bribes, recorded as “commissions,” “advertising fees,” and “training fees,” generated gross sales revenues of $23.7 million to Bio-Rad Singapore. The payment scheme did not involve the use of interstate commerce, and no United States national was involved in the misconduct.”

Under the heading “Facts in Thailand,” the order states:

“Bio-Rad acquired a 49% interest in Diamed Thailand as part of its acquisition of Diamed AG (Switzerland) in October 2007. Bio-Rad performed very little due diligence on Diamed Thailand prior to the acquisition.

Diamed Thailand’s local majority owners managed the subsidiary. Bio-Rad’s Asia Pacific GM was responsible for working and communicating with Diamed Thailand’s majority owners and distributors.

Prior to the October 2007 acquisition, Diamed Thailand had an established bribery scheme, whereby Diamed Thailand used a Thai agent to sell diagnostic products to government customers. The agent received an inflated 13% commission, of which it retained 4%, and paid 9% to Thai government officials in exchange for profitable business contracts.

The scheme continued even after Bio-Rad acquired Diamed Thailand. Diamed Thailand renewed the contract with the distributor in June 2008, but unbeknownst to Bio-Rad, the distributor was partially owned by one of Diamed Thailand’s local Thai owners.

Bio-Rad’s Asia Pacific GM learned of Diamed Thailand’s bribery scheme while attending a distributor’s conference in Bangkok in March 2008. At the conference, Diamed Thailand’s local manager informed him that some of Diamed Thailand’s customers received payments, which the Asia Pacific GM understood to mean kickbacks. The Asia Pacific GM instructed Bio-Rad Singapore’s controller to investigate the matter. The controller confirmed to the Asia Pacific GM that Diamed Thailand was bribing government officials through the distributor. Despite these findings, the Asia Pacific GM did not instruct Diamed Thailand to stop making the improper payments to the distributor.

From 2007 to early 2010, Diamed Thailand improperly paid a total of $708,608 to the distributor, generating gross sales revenues of $5.5 million to Diamed Thailand. These  payments were recorded as sales commissions. The payment scheme did not involve the use of interstate commerce, and no United States national was involved in the misconduct.”

The SEC’s order found that:

“Bio-Rad violated [the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions] because Bio-Rad’s Emerging Markets managers demonstrated a conscious disregard for the high probability that the Russian Agents were using at least a portion of Bio-Rad Russia’s sales commission payments to bribe Russian government officials in exchange for awarding the company profitable government contracts. These managers knew the Russian Agents operated as mere shell entities. They also knew that, among other things, the commissions were large, and that the Russian Agents did not have the resources to perform any of the contracted-for services set forth in their agreements. Nevertheless, the managers approved all of their agreements, and authorized $4.6 million in payments to the Russian Agents’ off-shore accounts even though many of the payment requests and invoices raised substantial questions as to their legitimacy. Finally, the same Emerging Markets managers communicated about the Russian Agents under cover of secrecy, which further calls in question their legitimacy. These red flags surfaced repeatedly over a five year period.”

The SEC’s order also found violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions based on the Russia, Vietnam, and Thailand conduct.  As to internal controls, the order states:

“[A]lthough [Bio-Rad] had an ethics policy prohibiting the payment of bribes and various policies and procedures requiring accurate books and records, its systems of internal controls proved insufficient to provide reasonable assurances that such payments would be detected and prevented.”

Under the heading, “Self-Disclosure, Cooperation and Remedial Efforts,” the order states:

“Bio-Rad made an initial voluntary self-disclosure of potential FCPA violations to the Commission staff and the Department of Justice in May 2010, and immediately thereafter Bio-Rad’s audit committee retained independent counsel to conduct an investigation of the alleged violations. The audit committee conducted a thorough internal investigation, and subsequently expanded it voluntarily to cover a large number of additional potentially high-risk countries. The investigation included over 100 in-person interviews, the collection of millions of documents, the production of tens of thousands of documents, and forensic auditing. Bio-Rad’s cooperation was extensive, including voluntarily producing documents from overseas, summarizing its findings, translating numerous key documents, producing witnesses from foreign jurisdictions, providing timely reports on witness interviews, and making employees available to the Commission staff to interview.

Bio-Rad also undertook significant and extensive remedial actions including: terminating problematic practices; terminating Bio-Rad employees who were involved in the misconduct; comprehensively re-evaluating and supplementing its anticorruption policies and procedures on a world-wide basis, including its relationship with intermediaries; enhancing its internal controls and compliance functions; developing and implementing FCPA compliance procedures, including the further development and implementation of policies and procedures such as the due diligence and contracting procedure for intermediaries and policies concerning hospitality, entertainment, travel, and other business courtesies; and conducting extensive anticorruption training throughout the organization world-wide.”

As noted in the SEC’s release:

“[Bio-Rad] agreed to pay $40.7 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest to the SEC … The company also must report its FCPA compliance efforts to the SEC for a period of two years.”

In the SEC release, Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, stated:

“Bio-Rad Laboratories failed to detect a bribery scheme and did not properly address red flags that such a scheme was underway. “This enforcement action, which reflects credit for Bio-Rad’s cooperation in our investigation, reiterates the importance of all companies ensuring they have the proper internal controls to prevent FCPA violations.”

Bio-Rad was represented by Douglas Greenburg (Latham & Watkins).

In this release, Norman Schwartz (Bio-Rad President and Chief Executive Officer) stated:

“The actions that we discovered were completely contrary to Bio-Rad’s culture and values and ethical standards for conducting business. We took strong, decisive action to end the problematic practices and prevent anything like this from happening in the future, including terminating involved employees and committing substantial resources to strengthening our compliance functions and financial controls. Bio-Rad prides itself on operating with the highest levels of integrity, and I am pleased that this settlement fully resolves the government’s FCPA investigation and puts this matter behind us.”

The release further states:

“Bio-Rad discovered the potential FCPA violations and self-reported them to the DOJ and SEC in May 2010. The Company subsequently conducted a thorough global investigation with the assistance of independent legal and forensic specialists, terminated involved employees and third party agents, and significantly enhanced its internal controls, procedures, training and compliance functions designed to prevent future violations. The settlement fully resolves all outstanding issues related to these investigations.”

On the day the FCPA enforcement action was announced Bio-Rad’s stock closed up .5%.

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