Judge Richard Leon called the collapse of the DOJ’s manufactured Africa Sting case in 2012 “the end of a long and sad chapter in the annals of white collar criminal enforcement.” (See here for the prior post).
As highlighted in my article, “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses is Acceptable?” bringing criminal charges and marshalling the full resources of law enforcement agencies against an individual alters the lives of real people and their families, sidetracks real careers, empties real bank accounts in mounting a defense, and causes often irreversible damage to real reputations.
The manufactured Africa Sting case also had a negative impact on companies that employed the individuals charged in the case. Previous posts here, here and here explored the various business effects of the Africa Sting case.
The Africa Sting case continues to have a negative impact on companies indirectly involved in the manufactured case. In 2011, BlastGard International Inc. acquired HighCom Security Inc. HighCom’s former CEO Yochanan Cohen was one of the individuals charged in the Africa Sting in January 2010. In a recent disclosure BlastGard stated as follows.
“On January 19, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) unsealed indictments of 22 individuals from both the law enforcement and defense supply industry, one of whom was HighCom’s then Chief Executive Officer, Yochanan Cohen, as an individual for allegedly violating [the FCPA]. (Note: On February 24, 2012, the United States District Court of Columbia, upon consideration of the government’s motion to dismiss, ordered the dismissal (with prejudice) of the indictment and superseding indictments against 22 defendants.) HighCom was not a party to this indictment. HighCom has always taken, and continues to take seriously, our obligation as an industry leader to foster a responsible and ethical culture, which includes adherence to laws and industry regulations in the United States and abroad. Following this indictment, Mr. Cohen stepped down from his daily responsibilities as CEO of HighCom. As a result of this indictment, although not a named party to the indictment, in March 2010, HighCom was placed under a policy of denial by the U.S. State Department. This resulted in a suspension of HighCom’s ability to export certain armor products under U.S. Government Regulations. This effectively ended HighCom’s export capacity and significantly impacted its operations and ability to deliver product to its customers and in particular fulfill its shipment obligations under the U.N. contract awarded in late 2009. HighCom was suspended by the US Dept. of Defense and added to its Excluded Party List. This severely restricted its ability to sell product in the US defense sector. To regain its export privileges under US State Department regulations, Mr .Cohen, as CEO and majority shareholder, was required to resign as an executive corporate officer and director and fully divest his equity interest in HighCom. On January 25, 2011, Mr. Cohen entered into a binding Letter of Intent to sell his equity interest to BlastGard International Inc. and closing occurred on March 4, 2011.”
“Concurrent with Mr. Cohen’s resignation both as a director and officer of HighCom and the sale of his equity interest to BlastGard, BlastGard filed with the US State Department to have the policy of denial lifted in order to regain HighCom’s ability to export certain armor products again. As of March 29, 2011 this order of denial had been lifted and HighCom’s export privileges have been reinstated. HighCom also successfully applied to the US Defense Dept to be removed from the Excluded Party List (“EPLS”). The successful reinstatement of HighCom’s export authority and its removal from the EPLS has dramatically improved HighCom’s ability to sell and market its products. BlastGard has also been reinstated as a vendor for potential bids under the United Nations and has already completed several small orders since its reinstatement. However, on February 6, 2012, the United Nations notified the Company that the UN Secretariat Review Committee met on January 27, 2012 to review the vendor registration status of HighCom Security, Inc. The Committee noted the indictment of HighCom’s former CEO on four counts. Based on those charges, and in accordance with the UN’s policy with regards to ethics and compliance issues, placed an immediate hold on the registration status of HighCom, pending the UN’s internal review. The Company requested that the UN reconsider their decision as HighCom is under new ownership and management and that since their decision the United States District Court of Columbia dismissed all charges against the former CEO. A final decision is still pending the UN’s internal review.”
“In March 2011, BlastGard’s management team officially assumed operational control of HighCom. Since this time we have accomplished a number of key compliance tasks and are currently in the process of finalizing manufacturing agreements with several key partners. As stated in the paragraph above, BlastGard has received official communication from the U.S. State Department that HighCom’s export authority has been reinstated. In addition to this, BlastGard has completed registration through both the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls as well as the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BSI”). The purpose of these registrations is to allow BlastGard control over the export management and compliance program moving forward. HighCom also completed their ISO certification which had been revoked under HighCom due to missed audits. BlastGard management has been able to complete an internal audit and management review, in addition to meeting with BSI for the external audit review and in March 2012 HighCom secured ISO certification. Communication with the United Nations is ongoing. On February 6, 2012, the Company was notified by letter that the United Nation’s Vendor Review Committee (“VRC”) had recommended to immediately place on hold the registration status of HighCom Security. This VRC decision to place on hold our registration status was based on integrity/ethical issues surrounding the former CEO’s actions. Soon after this decision was made, we were notified that on February 21, 2012 the government dismissed all the charges against the former CEO. The Company has been in communication with the United Nations Procurement Division regarding this matter and on March 15, 2012, the Company was informed that the VRC had met regarding our request for re-instatement and that its recommendation is currently under consideration. To date we have not been re-instated but we are in communication with the United Nations Procurement Division in an effort of securing re-instatement. BlastGard has also made significant personnel changes within HighCom and restructuring of operating locations and costs. Since the completion of our acquisition of HighCom, the Company has focused its employee time and capital resources primarily on the development of the business of HighCom. Our results of operations for 2012 demonstrate the benefits of these changes.”