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Friday Roundup

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Save the date, scrutiny updates, coming attraction, job alert, and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Save the Date

An event notice for East Coast readers.

On Friday, March 6th, the Fordham Law Review is hosting a free symposium opened to the public titled “Fighting Corruption in American and Abroad.”

To learn more about the event click here.

Preet Bharara (U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York) will be delivering a keynote address and symposium panels will explore the following topics.

(i) What is Corruption?—How Should We Define It, and Why Is It Bad?

(ii) Landmark Domestic Bribery Prosecutions

(iii) Corruption Regulation in Practice via the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; and

(iv) The Political Economy of Global Corruption Regulation

I will be appearing on the third panel along with: Lanny Breuer (Partner, Covington & Burling LLP);  Jay Holtmeier (Partner, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP); and Lucinda Low (Partner, Steptoe & Johnson LLP).

I have previously written about FCPA enforcement during Mr. Breuer’s tenure as Assistant Chief of the DOJ Criminal Division, but my panel presentation will concern a different topic – my forthcoming article:  “The Uncomfortable Truths and Double Standards of Bribery Enforcement.”  The article explores how the U.S. crusade against bribery suffers from several uncomfortable truths, including a double standard regarding corporate interaction with “foreign officials” under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and corporate interaction with U.S. officials under the U.S. laws.

Scrutiny Updates

General Cable Corp.

The company initially disclosed FCPA scrutiny in September 2014 and recently disclosed:

“As we previously reported, we have been reviewing, with the assistance of external counsel, certain commission payments involving sales to customers of our subsidiary in Angola. The review has focused upon payment practices with respect to employees of public utility companies, use of agents in connection with such payment practices, and the manner in which the payments were reflected in our books and records. We have determined at this time that certain employees in our Portugal and Angola subsidiaries directly and indirectly made or directed payments at various times from 2002 through 2013 to officials of Angola government-owned public utilities that raise concerns under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and possibly under the laws of other jurisdictions.

On February 20, 2015, based on the analysis completed at that time with the assistance of our external counsel and forensic accountants, we concluded that we were able to reasonably estimate the amount of profit derived from sales made to the Angolan government-owned public utilities in connection with the payments described above, which we believe are likely to ultimately be disgorged. As a result, we have recorded an estimated charge in the amount of $24 million as an accrual as of December 31, 2014. The accrued amount reflects only an estimate of the Angola-related profits reasonably likely to be disgorged, and does not include provision for any fines, civil or criminal penalties, or other relief, any or all of which could be substantial.”

Cobalt

As highlighted in this prior post, the company recently prevailed over the SEC regarding the company’s FCPA scrutiny.  Set forth below is what Cobalt’s CEO (Joe Bryant) said during a recent investor conference call.

ANALYST: [J]ust one additional question for you. Back in January, you mentioned or had a press release that the SEC terminated its investigation; but the Department of Justice was still going forward with its parallel investigation into activities in Angola. Where does that stand now, Joe?

JOE BRYANT: Darn it […]. I was hoping to get through this conference without anybody bringing up any FCPA questions.

ANALYST: Sorry about that.

JOE BRYANT: No, I would — it’s pretty simple, really. Our focus in the past several years has obviously been with the SEC; and we brought the DOJ into the investigation early on to make sure that they could run a parallel investigation, if that was what they wanted. By the way, I will say that throughout this entire period, I can’t say enough about the working relationship we developed with the SEC and trying to make sure they understood what we did and they had everything we had in terms of the issue at question.

So we got the SEC out of the way. The DOJ is an independent agency, and it will run its process according to its measures. But I do think that we consider this issue largely behind us.”

Juniper Networks

The company disclosed FCPA scrutiny in August 2013 (albeit in short fashion – see here) and recently disclosed as follows.

“The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) are conducting investigations into possible violations by the Company of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The Company is cooperating with these agencies regarding these matters. The Company’s Audit Committee, with the assistance of independent advisors, has been investigating and conducting a thorough review of possible violations of the FCPA, and has made recommendations for remedial measures, including employee disciplinary actions in foreign jurisdictions, which the Company has implemented and continues to implement. The Company is unable to predict the duration, scope or outcome of the SEC and DOJ investigations, but believes that an adverse outcome is reasonably possible. However, the Company is not able to estimate a reasonable range of possible loss. The SEC and/or DOJ could take action against us or we could agree to settle. In such event, we could be required to pay substantial fines and sanctions and/or implement additional remedial measures; in addition, it may be determined that we violated the FCPA.”

Mondelez International

Kraft Foods long ago disclosed FCPA scrutiny resulting from its acquisition of Cadbury (see here).  Kraft, currently known as Mondelēz International, Inc., recently disclosed as follows.

“[A]fter we acquired Cadbury in February 2010 we began reviewing and adjusting, as needed, Cadbury’s operations in light of applicable standards as well as our policies and practices. We initially focused on such high priority areas as food safety, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and antitrust. Based upon Cadbury’s pre-acquisition policies and compliance programs and our post-acquisition reviews, our preliminary findings indicated that Cadbury’s overall state of compliance was sound. Nonetheless, through our reviews, we determined that in certain jurisdictions, including India, there appeared to be facts and circumstances warranting further investigation. We are continuing our investigations in certain jurisdictions, including in India, and we continue to cooperate with governmental authorities.

As we previously disclosed, on February 1, 2011, we received a subpoena from the SEC in connection with an investigation under the FCPA, primarily related to a facility in India that we acquired in the Cadbury acquisition. The subpoena primarily requests information regarding dealings with Indian governmental agencies and officials to obtain approvals related to the operation of that facility. We are continuing to cooperate with the U.S. and Indian governments in their investigations of these matters, including through ongoing meetings with the U.S. government to discuss potential conclusion of the U.S. government investigation.”

Coming Attraction

This recent post highlighted judicial rejection of a deferred prosecution between the DOJ and Fokker Services.

Fokker recently announced:

“After careful review of the Court’s decision, Fokker Services decided to file a Notice of Appeal. Fokker Services has noticed recent press articles which contain highly speculative assumptions and amounts, not based on facts. Fokker cannot run ahead of the outcome of its appeal and will make further announcement only if and when applicable.”

While the case is outside the FCPA context, this appeal will certainly be one to follow as DPAs (as well as NPAs) are a prominent feature of FCPA enforcement.

Job Alert

Avon Calling!  Avon Colombia S.A.S., a subsidiary of Avon Products, Inc., based in Medellin, Colombia, is looking for an attorney to join the Ethics & Compliance team.  The Compliance Counsel has day-to-day operational responsibility for managing the compliance program in the Andean Cluster (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela).  The program seeks to minimize risk exposure of corporate and regulatory law through company guidance and controls.  A primary activity of the Compliance Counsel is to provide operational advice and interpretation of company policies and procedures, including but not limited to the company’s anti-corruption policy.  As part of the program, the Compliance Counsel supports corporate, regional and local governance, monitoring, auditing, training and communication initiatives.  A primary goal for the Compliance Counsel is to enhance the culture of awareness and adherence to company policies.  Prospective candidates should apply via the Avon website.

Reading Stack

Third parties are not just a corruption risk in the global marketplace, but the domestic marketplace as well.  See here for the New York Daily News article about so-called “expediters” who assist developers navigate bureaucracy “to speed their projects to approval — getting permits faster, addressing violations and filling out key paperwork. It’s an arrangement critics have long slammed as corrupt.”

The most recent edition of the always information Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update is here.  Regarding the recent rejection of a DPA in the Fokker Services action (see here) the Update states:

“In the FCPA context and beyond, the Fokker Services decision is a reminder that increased judicial scrutiny of proposed settlement agreements with law enforcement agencies may be the “new normal.” Although the outcome of Fokker Services’ appeal remains to be seen, Judge Leon’s decision may entice prosecutors in future cases to seek harsher terms in DPAs out of concern for heightened judicial scrutiny of proposed DPAs, or instead shy away from DPAs entirely and attempt to achieve sufficient punishment and deterrence through Non-Prosecution Agreements (“NPAs”). In addition, Judge Leon’s concern that no individuals were charged in Fokker Services may further embolden prosecutors to demand individual accountability as part of proposed settlements or in the lead-up to such settlements.”

Some are still drinking the Kool-Aid regarding Morgan Stanley’s so-called declination.  (See here – “A robust compliance program spared Morgan Stanley from prosecution under the FCPA”).  Just goes to show that once a narrative is cast, nothing else seems to matter.

A recent Q&A in the Wall Street Journal’s Risk & Compliance Journal with Pascale Hélène Dubois (the World Bank’s chief suspension and debarment officer).

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

“Scurrilous and hypocritical,” scrutiny alerts and updates, a foreign official brain teaser, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

“Scurrilous and Hypocritical”

As I have highlighted for years (see approximately 25 separate posts under the subject matter heading double standard), there is a double standard concerning corporate interaction with “foreign officials” under the FCPA and corporate interaction with U.S. officials under other U.S. laws – specifically 18 U.S.C. 201.

Commenting on JPMorgan’s current FCPA scrutiny concerning its alleged hiring practices in China, former SEC Commissioner Arthur Levitt writes, in pertinent part, in this Wall Street Journal opinion piece as follows.

“[A]ccording to financial regulators now looking into the hiring practices of major U.S. banks and multinationals in China—some of which have employed members of influential Chinese families—anyone who once hired me [Levitt’s father was the New York state comptroller] might have been violating ethical and legal standards. Securities and Exchange Commission regulators now suggest that such hiring overseas is a form of untoward influence, akin to bribing foreign officials to win business.

The accusation is scurrilous and hypocritical. If you walk the halls of any institution in the U.S.—Congress, federal courthouses, large corporations, the White House, American embassies and even the offices of the SEC—you are likely to run into friends and family members of powerful and wealthy people.

[…]

Whether this is right or wrong, unfair or fair, is not the point. It is hypocritical of financial regulators to criticize—even penalize—practices abroad that are commonplace in Washington, New York and other seats of political and economic power.

Were the SEC to be completely consistent in its approach, it would have to come down hard on the same practices here in the U.S. And the agency would have a field day. Members of Congress and the executive branch regularly hire the children of major donors. Regulators would find scores of examples of men and women, occupying internships and entry-level positions in U.S. corporations, who were hired on the say-so of someone much higher up in the organization.

[…]

[I]f we were to deny multinational companies the ability to hire locally recommended talent, where do we draw the line? Are spouses of influential officials off-limits, but not their children? What about siblings? If not siblings, what about cousins, uncles, nephews? And then there is the issue of friends: How can a financial regulator know whether a friend of someone in power received a job offer in good faith or as a form of influence peddling?

I would hate to imagine what would happen if we applied the same kind of sliding scale to the many people who have received job offers by way of their familial relationships. If that happened, there aren’t many people in finance who would escape the accusation that their hiring was the byproduct of influence peddling.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

This Macau Business Daily report notes the timing of a $10 million pledge by Nasdaq-listed Melco Crown Entertainment for a cultural project in collaboration with the Tokyo University of the Arts.  As noted in the article, the company needs various government permissions to increase its presence in Japan.  As noted in this prior post, among others, casino operators including Wynn Resorts have been the subject of FCPA scrutiny based on similar charitable contributions.

This previous post highlighted how Transparency International urged the DOJ to investigate the conduct of Walters Power International  (an Oklahoma based company that supplies, develops, services and manages electrical generation power plants around the world) in connection with power plant projects in Pakistan.  This recent article in The News International reports that Walters Power has “been cleared of any misconduct by the US Department of Justice.”  The article notes:

“Following [TI’s] complaint, the US Department of Justice launched a lengthy inquiry against WPIL […]. On Oct 31, 2012, it informed WPIL’s […] lawyers in the US that the inquiry was being closed as no evidence of wrongdoing could be found against the companies. The clearance letter, a copy of which is available with The News, said: “Over the past several months, your client, Walters Power International Ltd., has responded to a number of inquires by the Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. You have also responded to inquiries on behalf of Pakistan Power Resources, LLC, and Walters Power International, LLC.  As you are aware, the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued an order on March 30, 2012, that declared the country’s rental power plant contracts void ab initio. Our review of that order and related pleadings has revealed no allegations of bribery in connection with those contracts. In addition, on July 24, 2012, Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau closed its case regarding Walters Power noting that “there remains no basis for further proceedings about the Company.”  Finally, Transparency International Pakistan, which publicly referred this matter to the US Department of Justice, has provided no evidence of bribery in connection with the RPP contracts in response to our request for further information.  Based upon our investigation and the information that has been made available to us to date, we presently do not intend to take any enforcement action and are closing our inquiry into this matter.  If, however, additional information or evidence should be made available to us in the future, we may reopen our inquiry.”

The article concludes as follows.

“Interestingly, WPIL […] sat on this letter issued by the US Department of Justice for over a year. When asked why this letter had not been made public for so long, a spokesman for WPIL said: “We cooperated unreservedly with the impartial and unimpeachable investigation of the US Department of Justice and are satisfied with the results. The findings of the US Department of Justice were shared with all shareholders and financial institutions but not made public for fear that this might be misconstrued as a rebuke by the now former chief justice of Pakistan.” He added that the Washington inquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either company, contrary to popular misconceptions within Pakistan.”

“Foreign Official” Brain Teaser

As noted in this recent Wall Street Journal article, China State Construction Engineering Corp. (the largest home builder in the world), “is making its first acquisition in the U.S. market through its American subsidiary, as the company continues its aggressive push into overseas markets. China Construction America, the U.S. subsidiary, … agreed to acquire Manhattan-based Plaza Construction for an undisclosed sum.”  As noted in the article, “Plaza Construction mainly provides construction management and consulting services in places including New York, Florida, California and Washington, D.C.”

Congress never intended for employees of state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (SOEs) to be “foreign officials” under the FCPA – see here for my “foreign official” declaration – but given the DOJ and SEC’s “foreign official” interpretations, post-acquisition are Plaza Construction employees now Chinese “foreign officials?”

Quotable

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim recently stated as follows:

“I’d like to make clear why fighting corruption is a critical priority for me personally, and for the entire World Bank Group:  Every dollar that a corrupt official or a corrupt business person puts in their pocket is a dollar stolen from a pregnant woman who needs health care; or from a girl or a boy who deserves an education; or from communities that need water, roads, and schools. Every dollar is critical if we are to reach our goals to end extreme poverty by 2030 and to boost shared prosperity.  Let’s not mince words: In the developing world, corruption is public enemy number one. We will never tolerate corruption, and I pledge to do all in our power to build upon our strong fight against it.”

Reading Stack

The most recent edition of the always-informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update is here.  As to the recent Weatherford settlement, the Update states as follows.

“The $152 million in fines and penalties paid by Weatherford make it the eighth largest FCPA settlement in history. Although the monetary resolution is objectively large, comparing it to the monetary resolution in another recent enforcement action points to the difficulty of ascertainting the logic of penalty determinations.

[…]

Beyond the lack of transparency in the calculations that led to the financial resolution – a recurring feature of settled FCPA matters – the Weatherford settlement, like other recent settlements, is a disposition in which facts are included in the allegations or information without an explanation as to why they are relevant, potentially creating even more confusion as to what is or is not acceptable from the enforcement agencies’ point of view.”

For the recent post titled “FCPA Settlements Have Come a Long Way In a Short Amount of Time,” see here.

As to the recent Corruption Perception Index scores recently released by Transparency International (see here for the prior post), the FCPA Update rightly notes as follows.

“[W]hile companies subject to the FCPA, the UKBA, or other transnational anti-bribery regimes should continue to pay heed to the CPI, those seeking most efficiently to assess compliance risks also need to assess such matters as: (1) sector risk; (2) business model risk (including the degree to which the firm relies on third parties and the nature of controls over their activities); and (3) the nature and scope of government interactions, not only in connection with winning sales from government customers but also in obtaining zoning and building permits, tax clearances, customs rulings, currency transaction permissions, investment and financing approvals, and a range of other daily decisions from government actors. Firms with business risks associated with non-compliance such as expiring patents, excess capacity, disproportionate sales-based compensation, and limited oversight over sales and supply chain personnel, may well have significant corruption risks even in nations ranked highly in the CPI.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

World Bank / U.N. Report Rightly Identifies A Problem, Yet Ends With Contradiction

The Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, a partnership between the World Bank Group and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, recently released this report titled “Left Out of the Bargain:  Settlements in Foreign Bribery Cases and Implications for Asset Recovery.”

The report addresses the “core issue of how the imposition of monetary sanctions through settlement compares to the requirements of the U.N. Convention Against Corruption on the recovery and return of the proceeds of corruption.”

This post highlights other topics, beyond the above core issue, addressed in the lengthy report.

For starters, the report is a useful resource in understanding how other nations prosecute and resolve bribery and corruption offenses as well as how settlements in one jurisdiction affect legal actions in other jurisdiction (that is double jeopardy issues).  Also informative was the section of the report detailing countries who “have taken enforcement actions against foreign companies or individuals who have bribed their public officials” In other words, carbon-copy prosecutions (see here for the prior post).

From my perspective, the most notable feature of the report was its call for greater transparency of bribery and corruption settlements.

As the report notes, “over the past decade, there has been significant progress in battling foreign bribery, with the clear trend of many cases being resolved through settlements rather than full trials.”

In the Executive Summary, under the heading “Additional Observations,” the report states:

“This study calls for greater transparency in settlements. The negotiation of settlements takes place between the authorities and implicated parties behind closed doors. One critical step would be to inform affected jurisdictions that a negotiation toward a settlement is taking place. The study shows that forms of settlements (such as Non-Prosecution Agreement, Deferred Prosecution Agreement, penalty notice, or a guilty plea) provide varying degrees of transparency. In some jurisdictions, the outcomes of settlements are publicly available, illustrating that greater transparency is possible. Most settlements are negotiated with little oversight by a judge and sometimes without any public hearing at the conclusion. The report emphasizes that once an agreement has been reached, it should not be shielded from public view. More transparency helps ensure fairness to all affected jurisdictions and parties.”

After noting that the “United States has resolved more foreign bribery cases by way of settlement than any other nation,” the report states that the U.S. has some “unique procedural features” in that non-prosecution agreements and deferred prosecution agreements are “unique even among the common law jurisdictions.”

The report notes that NPAs in the U.S. have no judicial involvement and then states that “in general, if a judge oversees the [settlement] process, the public will have more confidence in the outcome” and that “without the stamp of judicial approval, settlements may have less legitimacy.”

Elsewhere, the report notes that settlements, and the “abbreviated procedures [they contain] have also helped in no small measure to boost the enforcement of foreign bribery laws and regulations globally.”

Under the heading “reduced role of the courts,” the report states:

“The more cases are concluded by means of a settlement rather than proceeding to trial, the more the role of the courts is reduced.  In common law systems, in particular, the greater involvement of courts usually leads to greater clarification of what the law means.  But as greater use is made of settlements and guilty pleas, this clarifying role is diminished.  In a trial, issues are litigated with full arguments made on each side, permitting a judge to weigh the merits of the legal issues in light of the facts.  In common law jurisdictions, such case law plays a large role, and its effect on the development of law is considered desirable.  Moreover, in such systems, legal precedent is often binding on future cases.”

Despite the above spot-on statements on the issue of settlements, the report ends with a Conclusion section and the first conclusion is stated as follows.

“Over the past decade, enforcement actions against foreign bribery have increased.  This is a positive and welcome trend, especially since improvements in enforcement also improve the climate for asset recovery.  This progress in enforcement has largely been due to the effective use of settlements in a steadily increasing number of jurisdictions.”

From calling for greater transparency of settlements, to stating that settlements have less legitimacy, to criticizing the reduced role of the judiciary in settlements, to calling such a state of affairs “effective.”

That is quite the contradiction.

Friday Roundup

Beverage industry news, a long-running FCPA-related civil case settles, checking in on the World Bank, survey says, and on-point.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Beverage Industry News

Disclosure by Central European Distribution Corp.

As noted in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, Central European Distribution Corp. (here – one of the world’s largest vodka producers) recently made an FCPA disclosure.  In this filing, the company (a Delaware company headquartered in New Jersey) stated as follows.

“It has […] been determined that there has been a breach of the books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of the United States and potentially other breaches of the FCPA. It was determined that payments or gifts were made in a foreign jurisdiction in which the Company operates, and that there was a failure to maintain documentation in respect of certain of these payments or gifts adequate to establish whether there was a valid business purpose in making the payments or gifts. Furthermore, our management also identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting regarding the implementation of our policy on compliance with applicable laws as of December 31, 2011. Our conclusion that this deficiency is a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting is not based on misstatements in our historical consolidated financial statements or our consolidated financial statements as of and for the period ended December 31, 2011, but instead on the determination that we did not design or maintain sufficient policies, procedures, controls, communications or training to deter or prevent the risk of violations of law, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) of the United States.”

Beam Inc. Investigating Possible FCPA Violations

In other beverage industry news, the Times of India reports (here) that Beam Inc.  (here) “has initiated investigations into whistleblower allegations of financial misdemeanours at its India unit.”  According to the report, the investigation covers possible violations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

As noted in this previous post, in July 2011 the SEC brought an FCPA enforcement action against beverage company Diageo PLC.

Alba-Alcoa Civil Case Settles

Earlier this week, Alcoa announced (here) that it “entered into a settlement agreement with Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (“Alba”) resolving a civil lawsuit that had been pending … since 2008.  Without admitting any liability, Alcoa agreed to make a cash payment to Alba of $85 million payable in two installments.”

Alba was represented by Akin Gump which put out this release.   The release notes that “the settlement arises out of a claim brought by Alba under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against Alcoa, an Alcoa subsidiary and Canadian businessman Victor Dahdaleh alleging a “pattern of corrupt activities by the defendants and officials in Bahrain in order to obtain long-term contract and pricing advantages in the sale of raw materials.”  As noted in the release,  ‘the case was stayed for nearly four years while the U.S. Department of Justice pursued a criminal investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” and the settlement “represents the first time that a foreign-owned corporation has successfully sued a U.S. company in a federal court to recover losses suffered due to allegations of corrupt activity. “

As highlighted in this previous post, Alcoa’s agent (Dahdaleh) has been criminally charged in the U.K.

The DOJ and SEC’s investigation of Alcoa concerning the conduct at issue in the civil lawsuit is ongoing.

In its most recent quarterly filing, Alcoa stated as follows.

The DOJ’s and the SEC’s investigations are ongoing. Alcoa has been in dialogue with both the DOJ and the SEC and is exploring whether a settlement can be reached. Given the uncertainty regarding whether a settlement can be reached and what the terms of any such settlement would be, Alcoa is unable to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss with regard to any such settlement, However, Alcoa expects the amount of any such settlement would be material in a particular period to Alcoa’s results of operations. If a settlement cannot be reached, Alcoa will proceed to trial with the DOJ and the SEC and under those circumstances is unable to predict an outcome or to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss. There can be no assurance that the final outcome of the government’s investigations would not have a material adverse effect on Alcoa.”

World Bank

The World Bank’s fraud and corruption unit, the Integrity Vice Presidency (INT), recently released its annual report (see here for the full report). This release states as follows.  The INT “concluded another strong year in its preventive and investigative efforts, with 83 debarments of wrongdoing firms, new agreements with national law enforcement authorities to expand the impact of INT’s investigations, numerous referrals to law enforcement agencies, and robust preventive efforts to help ensure Bank-financed projects deliver results.”

Survey Says

This past July, FTI Consulting conducted an on-line survey of 571 executives in UK businesses in board-level, senior management and middle management positions.  As noted in this release, among the survey findings were the following.

  • 40% of UK businesses surveyed think the current economic climate is encouraging risk taking around compliance with the UK Bribery Act
  • 27% do not believe the government will prosecute offenders
  • 25% of board-level employees surveyed might breach Bribery Act regulations to win business
  • 63% of respondents believe the UK Bribery Act eventually will have a positive effect on prospects for UK business

Spot-On

In the aftermath of the Wall Street Journal’s FCPA Inc.: Business of Bribery series (see here), the WSJ published the following letter to the editor from Steve Travis of Mercer Island, WA.

“The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal to offer money or a gift to foreign government officials or employees to gain a business advantage. Yet in the U.S., every business worthy of its name has lobbyists whose sole job in Washington, D.C., is to do exactly that: give money or gifts to our elected officials or employees of our government in a position to steer contracts their way. Does anyone really think that things like flying government officials around on company private jets or putting them up in private homes on vacations don’t come with a quid pro quo? Who is naive enough to think that contributions to election campaigns don’t come with strings attached?”

Spot-on – see here for a prior post (as well as numerous previous posts embedded therein).

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

Oxford Publishing Resolves U.K. SFO / World Bank Actions

Last July, the U.K. publisher resolving an enforcement action concerning textbook and other sales in East Africa was Macmillian Publishing (see here for the prior post).  This July, it is Oxford Publishing Limited (OPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Oxford University Press (OUP).

Yesterday the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced (here) an enforcement action against OPL regarding “unlawful conduct related to subsidiaries incorporated in Tanzania and Kenya.”  The conduct at issue included “participating in public tenders for contracts to supply governments with text books and other educational materials for the school curricula.”

Pursuant to a civil recovery order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, OPL agreed to pay £1,895,435.

Under the heading “self referral” the SFO release states as follows.

“In 2011, OUP became aware of the possibility of irregular tendering practices involving its education business in East Africa.  OUP acted immediately to investigate the matter, instructing independent lawyers and forensic accountants to undertake a detailed investigation. As a result of the investigation, in November 2011 OUP voluntarily reported certain concerns in relation to contracts arising from a number of tenders which its Kenyan and Tanzanian subsidiaries … entered into between the years 2007 and 2010. […] The investigation was thorough – involving numerous interviews and an extensive review of documents and electronic data – and completed to the satisfaction of the SFO. The substantial product of those investigations was presented to the SFO […]  The product of that work led the SFO … to believe that [OPL subsidiaries] had offered and made payments, directly and through agents, intended to induce the recipients to award competitive tenders and/or publishing contracts for schoolbooks.”

The SFO release states that “a number of relevant features … led to the decision to pursue a civil recovery order in place of a criminal prosecution.”  Those factors include the following:  “OUP has conducted itself in a manner which fully meets the criteria set out in the SFO guidance on self reporting matters of overseas corruption” and “there is no evidence of Board level (or the equivalent) knowledge or connivance within OUP in relation to the business practices which led to the case being referred to the SFO.”  The SFO release also states as follows.  “The products supplied were of a good standard and provided at ‘open market’ values.  This means that the jurisdictions involved have not been victims as a result of overpaying for the goods or as a result being supplied goods which were unsuitable or not required.”

The SFO release further states as follows.

“Since the occurrence of the conduct that is the subject matter of the civil recovery order, OUP has introduced enhanced compliance procedures intended to significantly reduce the risk of recurrence of such conduct within OUP.  These procedures will be subject to review by a monitor who will report to the Director of the SFO within twelve months …”.

As noted in the SEC release, OUP also “unilaterally offered to contribute £2,000,000 to not-for-profit organisations for teacher training and other educational purposes in sub-Saharan Africa.  This was a reflection of the seriousness with which OUP views the course of events that were subject to the investigation and a wish to acknowledge that the conduct of [its subsidiaries] fell short of that expected within its wider organisation.”  As to this contribution, the SFO releases states that it “decided that the offer should not be included in the terms of the court order as the SFO considers it is not its function to become involved in voluntary payments of this kind.”

In the release, SFO Director David Green states as follows.  “This settlement demonstrates that there are, in appropriate cases, clear and sensible solutions available to those who self report issues of this kind to the authorities.  The use of Civil Recovery powers has been exercised in accordance with the Attorney General’s guidelines.  The company will be adopting new business practices to prevent a recurrence of these issues and these new procedures will be subject to an extensive and detailed review.”

Finally, the SFO release notes that it “has previously been subject to criticism in relation to the transparency of the processes and proceedings in civil recovery matters.”  Thus the SFO release links to a number of documents including this Claim Form which sets forth specific claim details.

Based on the same core conduct, the World Bank also announced yesterday (here) that “OUP has agreed to make a payment of US$500,000 to the World Bank.”  In addition, as part of a negotiated resolution, the World Bank “announced the debarment of two wholly-owned subsidiaries of OUP, namely: Oxford University Press East Africa Limited (OUPEA) and Oxford University Press Tanzania Limited (OUPT) – for a period of three years following OUP’s acknowledgment of misconduct by its two subsidiaries in relation to two Bank-financed education projects in East Africa.”

In a statement (here) OUP Chief Executive Nigel Portwood stated as follows.

“OUP is committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards, and we have been deeply concerned to discover evidence of wrongdoing in two of our African subsidiaries. We do not tolerate such behaviour. As soon as these matters came to light we acted immediately to investigate thoroughly and report to the relevant authorities. We have strengthened our management in the region and are taking appropriate disciplinary action in respect of those involved in this conduct.”

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