- FCPA Professor - http://fcpaprofessor.com -

More On Control Person (And Similar Theories of Liability)

Law.com / The National Law Journal (see here [1]) recently ran an interesting Q&A with the former Assistant Chief of the DOJ Fraud Section regarding the recent Nature’s Sunshine Products Inc. (“NSP”) enforcement action (see here [2] for my prior post). While the NSP enforcement action may well be the first FCPA enforcement action in which the SEC charged a corporate executive with an FCPA violation under a Section 20(a) “control person” theory of liability, the SEC has previously charged corporate executives under other indirect theories including aiding and abetting a company’s FCPA violations by invoking Section 20(e).

For instance, in 2007, the SEC charged Monty Fu (the founder and, at various times, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Syncor International Corporation) with aiding and abetting Syncor’s FCPA books and records and internal control violations.

The evidence against Fu?

As alleged in the SEC complaint (see here [3]), “…Fu had the authority to maintain compliance with existing internal controls, and to implement additional internal controls designed to comply with the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, YET FAILED TO DO SO.” (see para. 2, emphasis added).

In charging Fu both with direct violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions (albeit by alleging in the alternative that Fu knew or was reckless in not knowing that the problematic payments were improperly recorded on the company’s books and records) and with aiding and abetting Syncor’s violations, the SEC alleged that Fu “knowingly failed to implement a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that transactions were recorded in Syncor’s books and records” in accordance with the FCPA (see para 22). As a result, the SEC charged that Fu “knowingly provided substantial assistance to Syncor” in connection with its violations (see para’s 28 and 33).

Whether the SEC invokes section 20(a) or 20(e), the FCPA enforcement trend is clearly greater scrutiny of corporate executives and a greater SEC expectation that corporate executives play a meaningful role in ensuring enterprise-wide FCPA compliance.

In other words, if you are an executive of an issuer and you don’t know what the acronym FCPA stands for, you better get educated.