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SEC Chair White On The FCPA

September 23, 2016

Mary Jo White, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, testifies to the House Financial Services Committee about the effects of the Volcker Rule on employment in Washington on February 5, 2014.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTX189AM

Earlier this week SEC Chair Mary Jo White delivered this speech.

Her speech focused on “a few priority areas that illustrate the dimensions of the SEC’s international role” and a substantial portion of the speech focused on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act including how “vigorous enforcement of the FCPA is a high priority for both the SEC and DOJ.”

On individual actions, Chair White stated: “we prioritize charging individuals involved in bribery schemes where we have the necessary evidence and jurisdiction over the offender [and that] holding individuals accountable for their misconduct remains one of the most powerful deterrents in any enforcement area.”

Keep in mind however the following facts. In 2016 thus far, 70% of corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions have not involved any related individual charges and since 2008 approximately 80% of corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions have not involved any related individual charges.

The remainder of this post excerpts the FCPA portion of Chair White’s speech.

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The Significant Differences Among OECD Convention Countries On Legal Person Criminal Liability

September 22, 2016

Apples to Oranges

Fact # 8 in “Ten Seldom Discussed FCPA Facts That You Need to Know” concerns how it is an apples to oranges comparison to compare Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement to enforcement of similar foreign laws in the 41 other countries that are party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (“OECD Convention).

There are a couple reasons for this.

First, the U.S. is rare among OECD Convention countries in resolving alleged FCPA violations via non-prosecution agreements, deferred prosecution agreements, or administrative actions. The common thread in all three resolution vehicles is the absence or practical absence of any judicial scrutiny of FCPA enforcement theories. In contrast, in nearly every other OECD Convention country, law enforcement agencies must do something that may be considered old-fashioned by current U.S. standards and that is prove actual legal violations to someone other than itself. In doing so, these foreign law enforcement agencies have two choices (charge or do not charge) vs. the three choices in the U.S. (charge, do not charge, or use an alternative resolution vehicle).

Another reason, and the topic of this post, is the wide differences among OECD Convention countries when it comes to legal person liability for alleged bribery offenses. As demonstrated in this post, the U.S. appears to be unique among all other 41 OECD Convention countries when it comes to legal person criminal liability for alleged bribery offenses.

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A Blemish – Nu Skin Enterprises Resolves SEC FCPA Enforcement Action Based On Its Chinese Subsidiary’s “Charitable Donation”

September 21, 2016

NuSkin

A common theme in 2016 SEC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions has been foreign subsidiaries (often in China) engaging in conduct without the knowledge of the parent company, the subsidiary taking steps to conceal the conduct from the parent company, yet in what amounts to strict liability, the SEC holding the parent company liable for books and records and internal control violations.

The SEC returned to this theme yesterday in this administrative action against Nu Skin Enterprises Inc., a Utah based company in the business of manufacturing and marketing cosmetic and nutritional products primarily through direct selling, or multi-level marketing, channels.

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Andrew Weissmann On The FCPA – It Is “Very Easy For The People At The DOJ And SEC To Basically Impose A Tax For Doing Business” In Certain Countries

September 20, 2016

Weissmann2

One of more concerning aspects of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act landscape is the extent to which current FCPA enforcement officials have articulated seemingly contradictory positions prior to or after their stint at the DOJ or SEC. For instance, see prior posts here (“A Former Enforcement Official Is Likely to Say (Or Has Already Said) the Same Thing”) and here (“In the FCPA Space, Who Speaks for Whom?”).

FCPA Professor was the first to highlight the seeming irony when vocal FCPA enforcement critic and reform advocate Andrew Weissmann was selected to head the DOJ’s fraud section in January 2015 and how Weissmann should have stayed true to his former self when unveiling the DOJ’s “FCPA Pilot Program” in April 2016.

Weissmann’s prior positions on the FCPA are nicely captured in a 2010 panel event in which he speaks at great length regarding various aspects of the FCPA.

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Will There Be An SEC FCPA Trial?

September 19, 2016

Judicial Decision

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is nearing its 40th anniversary.

Yet, the SEC is believed to have never prevailed in an FCPA enforcement action when put to its ultimate burden of proof.

This post highlights recent developments in the SEC’s long-standing FCPA enforcement action against former Magyar Telekom executives Elek Straub, Andras Balogh, and Tamas Morvai. The case was brought in December 2011 and recently U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan seemed poised to deny competing motions for summary judgment stating during a recent oral argument “I do think we’re going to have a trial here.”

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