Docket exploration in this Friday roundup.
SEC v. Jackson & Ruehlen
My first post concerning the SEC’s enforcement action against Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen asked – will the SEC be put to its burden of proof? I noted that the case would be most interesting to follow as the SEC is rarely put to its burden of proof in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions and I highlighted, at the time, how the last time that happened (in 2002) the SEC lost.
As time would demonstrate, Jackson and Ruehlen indeed did put the SEC to its burden of proof and in December 2012 Judge Keith Ellison (S.D. of Tex.) granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the SEC’s claims that sought monetary damages while denying the motion to dismiss as to claims seeking injunctive relief. (See here for the prior post). Even though Judge Ellison granted the motion as to SEC monetary damage claims, the dismissal was without prejudice meaning that the SEC was allowed to file an amended complaint. As noted in this prior post, that is indeed what happened next, and as noted here a second round of briefing began anew.
In the Defendant’s renewed motion to dismiss (filed Feb. 22nd) they argued that the SEC could not rely on the fraudulent concealment or continuing violations doctrine to extend the limitations period to cover certain claims that accrued before May 12, 2006. A week later the Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in SEC v. Gabelli (see here for the prior post) and soon thereafter on March 11th the Defendants filed a notice of supplemental authority with the court arguing that Gabelli “bolstered” their position.
On March 22nd, the same day the SEC’s opposition brief was due, the parties jointly notified the court “that in lieu of opposing the [motion to dismiss] the SEC intends to file a Second Amended Complaint.” The filing noted that the then proposed Second Amended Complaint “moots the relief sought in the [the motion to dismiss] because it clarifies that, among the violations alleged, the SEC seeks civil penalties … only to the extent such violations accrued on or before May 12, 2006.
Speaking of statute of limitations, a recent article highlights how the DOJ is “testing a novel argument” to extend statute of limitations in certain cases. The theory. We are at war … in Afghanistan … and regardless of whether the conduct at issue has anything to do with that war in Afghanistan, the 1948 Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act gives prosecutors unlimited time to go after alleged fraud during times of war.
Former Siemens Executive Sharef Settles 2011 SEC Enforcement Action
The SEC announced earlier this week (here) that Uriel Sharef, “a former officer and board member of Siemens” agreed to settle – as had long been expected – the SEC’s action against him. As noted in this previous post, Sharef, along with others was charged (both by the DOJ and SEC) in December 2011 in connection with an Argentine bribery scheme that was also the focus, in part, of the 2008 Siemens corporate enforcement action.
As noted in the SEC’s release, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Sharef consented to entry of a final judgment prohibiting future FCPA violations and he agreed to pay a $275,000 civil penalty – a penalty the SEC called “the second highest penalty assessed against an individual in an FCPA case.”
[In connection with the Innospec FCPA enforcement action, in August 2010, Ousama Naaman resolved an SEC enforcement action by agreeing to disgorge $810,076, pay prejudgment interest of $67,020 and pay a civil penalty of $438,038. See here for the prior post].
The burning question of course is whether the SEC would have prevailed against Sharef if he put the SEC to its burden of proof. As highlighted in this previous post, Sharef’s co-defendant, Herbert Steffen, did just that and in February Judge Shira Scheindlin dismissed the SEC’s complaint against Steffen finding that personal jurisdiction over Steffen exceeded the limits of due process.
The SEC’s allegations against Sharef mention the phone call Sharef placed in the U.S. to Steffen. As to this call, Judge Scheindlin stated as follows in the Steffen decision.
“Neither Sharef’s call to Steffen from the United States nor the fact that a portion of the bribery payments were deposited in a New York bank provide sufficient evidence of conduct directed towards the United States to establish minimum contacts. First, Steffen did not place the calls to Sharef. Further, Steffen did not direct that the funds be routed through a New York bank. […] His conduct was focused solely on ensuring the continuation of the Siemens contract in Argentina.”
The SEC complaint did however state the following additional as to Sharef.
“Sharef met in New York, NY [in January 2003] with payment intermediaries and agreed to pay $27 million in bribes to Argentine officials in connection with the [contract at issue].
Obstruction Charges Filed Against French Citizen in Connection With FCPA Investigation
The DOJ announced (here) earlier this week that “Frederic Cilins a French citizen, has been arrested and accused of attempting to obstruct an ongoing investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.”
The Criminal Complaint charges Cilins with one count of tampering with a witness, victim, or informant; one count of obstruction of a criminal investigation; and one count of destruction, alteration, and falsification of records in a federal investigation.
Under the heading “Overview of the Defendant’s Crimes” the complaint states, in pertinent part, as follows.
“Cilins … has made repeated efforts to obstruct an ongoing federal grand jury investigation … concerning potential money laundering violations and potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including such violations by a domestic concern as defined by the FCPA, relating to bribes to officials of a former government of the country of Guinea for the purpose of obtaining valuable mining concessions in Guinea. During monitored and recorded phone calls and face-to-face meetings with a cooperating witness “CW” [identified as the former wife of a now deceased high-ranking official in the Government of Guinea who is cooperating with the government “in the hopes of obtaining immunity for her own potential criminal conduct”] assisting in this investigation, Cilins, among other things, agreed to pay large sums of money to the cooperating witness to induce the cooperating witness to: (1) provide to Cilins, for destruction, documents Cilins knew had been requested from the cooperating witness by special agents of the FBI and which were to be produced before a federal grand jury; and (2) sign an affidavit containing numerous false statements regarding matters within the scope of the grand jury investigation. Cilins repeatedly told the cooperating witness that the documents needed to be destroyed ‘urgently’ and that Cilins needed to be present to personally witness the documents being burned.”
Various reports (see here for instance) have linked Cilins to Guernsey-based BSG Resources Ltd and the Criminal Complaint would seem to reference this company as a “particular business entity not based in the United States engaged in the mining industry” (the “Entity”). The Criminal Complaint sketches a bribery scheme and states, in pertinent part, as follows.
“CW was visited by several individuals including Cilins who identified themselves as representatives of the Entity. According to the CW, these individuals told the CW, on behalf of the Entity, that they wished to invest in mines in Guinea and asked the CW for help with the Guinean Official, who was then CW’s spouse. Cilins offered the CW $12 million, to be distributed to the CW and ministers or officials within the Government of Guinea who might be needed to secure the mining rights if all went well after their introduction to the Guinean Official.”
The Criminal Complaint further states that “some of the money paid to the CW by the Entity and its affiliates or agents was wired to a bank account in Florida controlled by the CW.”
It would appear from the Criminal Complaint that BSG Resources is not the sole focus of the U.S. investigation. Indeed, BSG Resources does not fit the description of a “domestic concern” as referenced in the Criminal Complaint which further states that “subjects of the grand jury investigation include one or more “domestic concerns” within the meaning of the FCPA …”.
Contrary to this assertion, obstruction charges were not first used in the FCPA enforcement against Hong Carson. Prior to Carson (in which the charge was ultimately dropped) obstruction charges have been used in several FCPA enforcement actions since the FCPA’s first-mega case in 1982 (see here for the prior post). Although not always successful prosecuted, the following FCPA defendants were nevertheless also charged with various obstruction charges: Gerald Green, David Kay and Douglas Murphy, Leo Winston Smith and John O’Shea
TJGEM, LLC Complaint
In another example of the noticeable trend of increasing “offensive” use of the FCPA, in late March, Missouri-based TJGEM, LLC filed this civil complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging a variety of claims, including RICO, against various Ghana officials and New Jersey-based Conti Construction Co. Inc. in connection with a sewer project. AllAfrica reports here as follows.
“TJGEM is claiming that [a Ghanian official] inflated the contract sum for the construction of the sewer system, which has now been awarded to Conti Construction, also an American company, by $10 million … According to [the complaint] because TJGEM’s representatives, who were negotiating with [the official] for the contract, were totally non-receptive and unresponsive to the [official’s] corrupt practices and solicitations, and refused to neither entertain nor accede to same, but instead, rejected said corrupt practices, the contract was taken away from them. [TJGEM] argues that the selection of a company whose price for the reconstruction of the sewer project was some $10,000,000 in excess of the price fixed by TJGEM, leads to a reasonable inference that the [official] inflated the price of the sewer project, in order to receive said $10,000,000 as a bribe and kickback in the award of the sewer project contract to his own use and benefit, and to the use and benefit of other Ghanaian public officials with whom he is acting in concert in the said criminal enterprise.”
A good weekend to all.