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Scrutiny Alerts And Updates

scrutiny alert

This post provides updates on long-standing FCPA scrutiny of the following companies: Fresenius, Noble Corp., Microsoft, Herbalife, Gartner, and TechnipFMC as well as an update from across the pond in the United Kingdom concerning GlaxoSmithKline and  individuals associated with Rolls Royce.

Fresenius

German healthcare firm Fresenius Medical Care AG (a company with shares traded on the NYSE) has been under FCPA scrutiny since 2012 (no that is not a typo). The company recently disclosed:

“Beginning in 2012, the Company received certain communications alleging conduct in countries outside the United States that might violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or other anti-bribery laws. The Company’s Supervisory Board, through its Audit and Corporate Governance Committee, conducted investigations with the assistance of independent counsel. In a continuing dialogue, the Company voluntarily advised the Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States Department of Justice (collectively and interchangeably the “government”) about these investigations. The government also conducted its own investigations, in which the Company cooperated. In the course of this dialogue, the Company identified and reported to the government, and took remedial actions including employee disciplinary actions with respect to, conduct that resulted in the government seeking monetary penalties and other remedies against the Company and disgorgement of related profits revolving principally around conduct in the Company’s products business in a limited number of countries outside the United States. The Company recorded charges of €200 M in 2017 and €77 M in 2018 encompassing estimates for the government’s claims for profit disgorgement, penalties, certain legal expenses, and other related costs or asset impairments believed likely to be necessary for full and final resolution, by litigation or settlement, of the claims and issues arising from the investigation. The increase recorded in 2018 took into consideration preliminary understandings with the government on the financial terms of a potential settlement. Following this increase, which takes into account incurred and anticipated legal expenses, impairments and other costs, the provision totals €224 M as of December 31, 2018. The Company has reached an agreement in principle with the government agencies encompassing the terms understood to be necessary for settlement. The Company believes that the previously-recorded charge appropriately accounts for the consequences of the resolution as related to its financial statements. The agreement in principle remains subject to memorialization in fully integrated documents and final approval by authorized officials of the government and the Company. The Company continues to implement enhancements to its anti-corruption compliance program, including internal controls related to compliance with international anti-bribery laws. The Company continues to be fully committed to compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other applicable anti-bribery laws.”

Noble Corp.

As highlighted in this previous post, in November 2015 Noble Corporation (a company that resolved an FCPA enforcement action in 2010 concerning conduct in Nigeria) disclosed:

“We have used a commercial agent in Brazil in connection with our Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (“Petrobras”) drilling contracts.  We understand that this agent has represented a number of different companies in Brazil over many years, including several offshore drilling contractors. This agent has pled guilty in Brazil in connection with the award of a drilling contract to a competitor and has implicated a Petrobras official as part of a wider investigation of Petrobras’ business practices.  We are not aware of any improper activity by Noble in connection with contracts that Noble has entered into with Petrobras, and we have not been contacted by any authorities regarding such contracts or the investigation into Petrobras’ business practices.”

Recently, Noble Corp. disclosed:

“We previously used a commercial agent in Brazil in connection with our Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (“Petrobras”) drilling contracts. This agent represented a number of different companies in Brazil over many years, including several offshore drilling contractors. In November 2015, this agent pled guilty in Brazil in connection with the award of a drilling contract to a competitor and implicated a Petrobras official as part of a wider investigation of Petrobras’ business practices. Following news reports relating to the agent’s involvement in the Brazil investigation in connection with his activities with other companies, we conducted a review, which was substantially completed in 2017, of our relationship with the agent and with Petrobras. We have been in contact and cooperated with the SEC, the Brazilian federal prosecutor’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) about this matter, and in December 2018, the SEC and the DOJ each advised us that they had closed their file on this matter. We have remained in contact with the Brazilian federal prosecutor’s office, who is aware of our internal review, and continue to cooperate with any questions or requests they may have. To our knowledge, neither the agent, nor the government authorities investigating the matter, has alleged that the agent or Noble acted improperly in connection with our contracts with Petrobras.”

Microsoft

The company has long been under FCPA scrutiny and this South African article states:

“Microsoft terminated longstanding partner agreements with JSE-listed technology services group EOH after an anonymous whistle-blower filed a complaint about alleged malfeasance involving a South African department of defence software procurement deal with the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

TechCentral has seen correspondence that corroborates this and spoken to well-placed sources who say the whistle-blower lodged the complaint with the SEC at the end of November 2018 under the US’s tough anti-graft legislation, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

Herbalife

As highlighted in this prior post, the company has been under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act scrutiny since January 2017 and recently disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, the SEC and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have been conducting an investigation into the Company’s compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in China, which is mainly focused on the Company’s China external affairs expenditures relating to its China business activities and the adequacy of and compliance with the Company’s internal controls relating to such expenditures. This investigation is proceeding, with the government continuing to request documents and other information relating to these matters. The Company is conducting its own review and has taken remedial and improvement measures based upon this review, including but not limited to replacement of a number of employees and enhancements of Company policies and procedures in China. The Company is continuing to cooperate and engage in discussions with the SEC and DOJ. Although a likely outcome could include a resolution or government action, the Company cannot predict the eventual scope, duration, or outcome of the government investigation at this time, including potential monetary payments, injunctions, or other relief, the results of which may be materially adverse to the Company, its financial condition, its results of operations, and its operations. At the present time, the Company is unable to reasonably estimate the amount of loss relating to this matter.”

Gartner

The research and advisory company recently disclosed:

“Our business and operations may be conducted in countries where corruption has historically penetrated the economy. It is our policy to comply, and to require our local partners, distributors, agents, and those with whom we do business to comply, with all applicable anti-corruption laws, such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and U.K. Bribery Act, and with applicable local laws of the foreign countries in which we operate. There can be no assurance that all of our employees, contractors and agents will comply with the Company’s policies that mandate compliance with these laws. Any failure to comply with these laws, even if inadvertent could be costly and disrupt our business, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition, liquidity and cash flows, as well as on our reputation. For example, during the second half of 2018 we cooperated fully with a South African government commission established to review a wide range of issues related to the country’s revenue service, including the procurement and fulfillment of consulting agreements we entered into with the revenue service through a sales agent from late 2014 through early 2017. With respect to Gartner, the commission recommended that the revenue service explore lawful options to invalidate the agreements, in whole or in part, and attempt to recover certain payments it made to us. In parallel with our cooperation in South Africa, we commenced an internal investigation regarding this matter and voluntarily disclosed to the SEC and Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in November 2018 that the commission was reviewing our procurement of these agreements. We intend to fully cooperate with any SEC or DOJ inquiries into this matter. At this time, we do not believe the ultimate outcome of these matters will have a material effect on our financial results, however, an unexpected adverse resolution of these matters could negatively impact our financial condition, results of operations, and liquidity.”

TechnipFMC

In 2010, French oil and gas company Technip resolved an approximate $340 million FCPA enforcement action concerning conduct at Bonny Island, Nigeria. (See here and here for prior posts). As highlighted in this prior post, in March 2016 the company (now known as TechnipFMC) disclosed that it was again under FCPA scrutiny.

Recently TechnipFMC disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, we are cooperating with the U.S., Brazilian, and French authorities in their investigations of potential violations of anticorruption laws relating to historical projects in Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, and Ghana, and Unaoil contracts. We have been informed that these authorities have been coordinating their investigations, which could result in a global resolution. These matters have progressed to a point where a probable estimate of the aggregate settlement amount with all authorities is $280 million for which we have taken a provision in the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2018. These matters involve negotiations with law enforcement authorities in three separate jurisdictions, and there is no certainty that a global settlement will be reached or that settlement will not exceed the provision.”

An early welcome to the FCPA repeat offender club.

Across the Pond

In the United Kingdom, the Serious Fraud Office recently announced “the closure of the Rolls-Royce and GlaxoSmithKline cases.” As stated in the release:

“The investigation into Rolls-Royce PLC resulted in a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the company and one of its subsidiaries in respect of bribery and corruption to win business in Indonesia, Thailand, India, Russia, Nigeria, China and Malaysia.  Following further investigation, a detailed review of the available evidence and an assessment of the public interest, there will be no prosecution of individuals associated with the company.

The GlaxoSmithKline PLC investigation focused on commercial practices by the company, its subsidiaries and associated persons.  Again, following a detailed review of the available evidence and an assessment of the public interest there will be no prosecution in this case.

Both cases were wide ranging and complex investigations. Lisa Osofsky, Director of the Serious Fraud Office said:

“After an extensive and careful examination I have concluded that there is either insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction or it is not in the public interest to bring a prosecution in these cases. In the Rolls-Royce case, the SFO investigation led to the company taking responsibility for corrupt conduct spanning three decades, seven jurisdictions and three businesses, for which it paid a fine of £497.25m. I am thankful for the work of colleagues and the assistance of domestic and international partners.”

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