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Alliance One Becomes A Repeat Offender Of The Books And Records And Internal Controls Provisions


As highlighted here, in 2010 tobacco company Alliance One International resolved an approximate $19.5 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action concerning conduct in Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, China, Greece, and Indonesia. In resolving the SEC matter Alliance One consented to the entry of final judgment permanently enjoining it from violating the FCPA including the books and records and internal controls provisions.

Last week, Alliance One (now known as Pyxus International, Inc.) became a repeat offender of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions in a so-called non-FCPA FCPA enforcement action (i.e. the books and records and internal controls violations did not involve foreign bribery).

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Friday Roundup

Scrutiny alerts, coming clean, coming off a monitor, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts


This previous post, regarding the arrest and charging of Frederic Cilins for obstruction of justice in connection with an ongoing  investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea, highlighted that while Cillins has been associated with BSG Resources, the charging documents make clear that BSG is not the sole focus of the U.S. investigation.

Earlier this week, Houston-based Hyperdynamics Corporation issued this release.  It states:

“[On] September 2013 [the company] received a subpoena from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting that the Company produce documents relating to its business in Guinea.  In 2006, a Production Sharing Contract was signed by the Company and the government of Guinea granting rights to an oil and gas concession offshore Guinea.  The Company understands that the DOJ is investigating whether Hyperdynamics’ activities in obtaining and retaining the concession rights and its relationships with charitable organizations potentially violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or U.S. anti-money laundering statutes.  The Company has retained legal counsel to represent it in this matter and is cooperating fully with the government.  The Company is unable to predict when the investigation will be completed, what outcome may result and what costs the Company will incur in the course of the investigation.”

On the day of Hyperdynamics disclosure, the company’s stock fell approximately 15%.  As sure as the sun rises, a few days later, not one but two, plaintiffs firm issued releases (here and here) announcing an “investigation.”


As noted in this article, “French prosecutors have opened a preliminary enquiry into allegations that a subsidiary of construction firm Vinci bribed officials in Russia […] to win the contract for a toll motorway linking Moscow to Saint Petersburg.”  Vinci has American Depository Receipts that are traded on a U.S. exchange.

Coming Clean

This previous post highlighted the employee amnesty program created by SNC-Lavalin (a Canada-based engineering and construction company
mired in a bribery and corruption scandal concerning projects in Bangladesh and certain countries in Africa).  The company recently announced as follows.

“A total of 32 employees made amnesty requests. While no new information of a material nature was revealed, the information the Company received did confirm its previous assessment of corruption risks.”

The release also highlights other compliance enhancements and policies and procedures the company has implemented.

Coming Off a Monitor

In August 2010, Alliance One International resolved an FCPA enforcement concerning conduct in Kyrgyzstan and Thailand by agreeing to pay approximately $9.5 million (see here for the prior post).  Even though Alliance One’s entire exposure was based, not on anything it did, but rather successor liability theories and even though the enforcement action was the product of a voluntary disclosure, the non-prosecution agreement required the company to engage a corporate monitor for a three-year period.

In this recent release Alliance One stated:

“On September 30, 2013, the Company fulfilled its obligations under its settlement agreements, including the successful and on-time completion of its compliance monitorship. On May 7, 2013, the Monitor filed his third and final of his required reports with the DOJ and the SEC. In the third report, the Monitor evaluated the long-term sustainability of the Company’s compliance program, in addition to risk-based themes and the implementation of recommendations from previous years.  The Monitor concluded the third report by certifying that the Company’s Compliance Program, including its policies and procedures, is reasonably designed and implemented to detect and prevent violations of anti-corruption laws within the Company. The final report also states that all recommendations of the Monitor have been fully implemented by the Company.  As per the schedule set forth in the aforementioned settlement agreements, the monitorship formally ended on time on September 30, 2013, and without any extensions of that date by the Monitor, the DOJ or the SEC.”

In the release, Alliance One President and CEO J. Pieter Sikkel stated:

“Over the past three years we have built a world-class compliance program supported by strengthened systems, policies, procedures and controls that address a variety of compliance areas.  While the completion of the monitorship is an important milestone, our strong commitment to operating ethically and compliantly will continue indefinitely.”

Joe Warin (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher) was the monitor.  See here for a previous post concerning an article Warin and his colleagues wrote titled ““Somebody’s Watching Me: FCPA Monitorships and How They Can Work Better.”

Reading Stack

Much has been written in connection with GlaxoSmithKline in China about the arrest and detention of Peter Humphrey and his wife based on accusations in the course of background checks performed by their Shanghai-based firm ChinaWhys.

In a similar instance, this recent article in Barron’s profiles the plight of Canadian stock analyst Kun Huang has been locked up in China for more than a year for exposing alleged improper conduct concerning Silvercorp Metals.  According to the article, “Canadian authorities have opened a bribery probe based on [Huang’s]  allegations.”


A good weekend to all.

FCPA Issues Can Reduce The Value Of A Merger

Getting transactional lawyers to take the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act seriously can sometimes be an uphill battle.

The recent and ongoing FCPA scrutiny of ABM Industries Inc. should help sell the story.

As noted in this prior post, in December 2011 ABM disclosed in its annual report as follows.  “During October 2011, the Company began an internal investigation into matters relating to compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Company’s internal policies in connection with services provided by a foreign entity affiliated with a Linc joint venture partner. Such services commenced prior to the Company’s acquisition of Linc. As a result of the investigation, the Company has caused Linc to terminate its association with the arrangement. In December 2011, the Company contacted the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to voluntarily disclose the results of its internal investigation to date. The Company cannot reasonably estimate the potential liability, if any, related to these matters. However, based on the facts currently known, the Company does not believe that these matters will have a material adverse effect on its business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.”

As suggested by the above disclosure, ABM’s FCPA scrutiny does not involve anything it did, rather it is based on a foreign entity affiliated with a joint venture partner of a company (The Linc Group LLC) ABM merged with December 2010.  As noted in this ABM release, ABM acquired The Linc Group, LLC (“TLG”) for $300 million in cash.

The merger agreement (here) contains a typical target company representation and warranty as follows.

“Section 3.25 Certain Practices. Neither the Company [The Linc Group LLC] nor any Subsidiary (including any of their officers, manager, directors or employees acting on behalf of the Company or any Subsidiary) nor, to the Knowledge of the Company, any other Person acting on behalf of the Company or any Subsidiary, has, directly or indirectly through another Person, made, offered or authorized the use of, or used, any corporate funds or provided anything of value (a) for unlawful payments, contributions, gifts, entertainment or other unlawful expenses relating to political activity, (b) to foreign or domestic government officials or employees in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 and any similar anti-corruption or anti-bribery laws applicable to the Company or any of the Subsidiaries in any jurisdiction other than the United States (collectively, the “FCPA”), or (c) for a bribe, rebate, payoff, influence payment, kickback or other similar payment in violation of any Applicable Law.”

Perhaps FCPA specific due diligence was conducted by ABM prior to closing and the due diligence did not detect the potential FCPA issue or perhaps FCPA specific due diligence was not conducted.

Regardless of the answer, ABM’s FCPA scrutiny, based entirely on the pre-merger conduct of The Linc Group or its affiliates, is reducing the value of the merger.

In its recent quarterly filing (here), ABM disclosed, for the six months ending April 30, 2012, $2.7 million of legal fees and other costs associated with the internal investigation.  Given that ABM’s investigation would appear to be in its infancy, and factoring in potential exposure through an actual enforcement action, it is not hard to imagine that 5% of the merger price could evaporate due to the FCPA issue.  And then of course, there is potential post-enforcement action costs.

For instance, in 2010 Alliance One International resolved an FCPA enforcement action by agreeing to pay $19.5 million in combined DOJ and SEC fines and penalties.  The entire enforcement action was based on the pre-merger conduct of acquired entities.  (See here for the prior post).  Pursuant to a non-prosecution agreement, Alliance One was required to engage a compliance monitor for three years.  In FY 11, the company disclosed $3.4 million in monitor costs.  Earlier this week, in an annual report, the company disclosed an additional $6.1 million in monitor costs.

In short, the FCPA matters, including for transactional attorneys, in the context of M&A.

For previous posts discussing similar merger issues, see here and here.

As readers may know, one of the FCPA reform proposals suggested is in the context of M&A transactions.  The original ABM post from December 2011 linked above, discussed the company’s disclosure in the context of George Terwilliger’s (here – an FCPA practitioner at White & Case and former Deputy Attorney General) period of repose proposal.  The proposal, as Terwilliger explains in this piece “is that US companies, with notice to US enforcement authorities, would have a defined period after an acquisition in which to perform a rigorous FCPA compliance review of the acquired entity. If FCPA compliance issues were uncovered, the acquiring company would remediate them, and disclose both the existence of the problem and its remediation to the government. The acquiring company would be immune from civil or criminal enforcement as to matters uncovered during the review period, which could be on the order of 90 to 120 days.”
As to M&A issues, readers may be interested in this recent publication from Transparency International U.K. titled “Anti-Bribery Due Diligence for Transactions.”  As explained in the publication, the “guidance is intended to provide a practical tool for companies on undertaking anti-bribery due diligence in the course of mergers, acquisitions and investment.”

Summer Reading For Representative Conyers

During last week’s FCPA hearing in the House, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) had a contentious Q&A exchange with Shana-Tara Regon (Director, White Collar Crime Policy, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers). See here for the previous post regarding the hearing.

Conyers asked – “give me some examples of overcriminalization of the FCPA.” He repeatedly interrupted Regon and asked “just give me some examples” “give me an instance of where one case was ever brought by the DOJ that would constitute overcriminalization.” Conyers stated, “only 140 cases have been brought in 10 years -that averages 14 cases a year – is that overcriminalization to you?” Regon stated that overcriminlization occurs when a statute provides no reasonable limits and that she is concerned more about prosecutions that may occur in the future more so than prosecutions that have already occurred.

There should be plenty of concern regarding prosecutions that have already occurred, but given the glare of the cameras, the stress of testifying, and the disruption of being interrupted, it would have been difficult for any witness to retrieve from their memory bank specific FCPA enforcement actions.

This post provides a summer reading list of FCPA enforcement actions, commentary and analysis, and legal scholarship for Representative Conyers so that he can best seek answers to the question he posed to Regon.

For starters, what does overcriminalization mean?

To be sure, it can mean different things to different people in different circumstances. In “The Overcriminalization Phenomenon(here) Eric Luna provides this definition – “the overcriminalization phenomenon consists of: (1) untenable offenses; (2) superfluous statutes; (3) doctrines that
overextend culpability; (4) crimes without jurisdictional authority; (5) grossly disproportionate punishments; and (6) excessive or pretextual enforcement of petty violations. In this piece, Jeffrey Parker (while observing that “definitions of “overcriminalization” are a bit fuzzy and debatable”) identifies the following as among the factors that may contribute to overcriminalization: “the vague, arcane, or trivial nature of such prohibitions, as undermining citizens ability to conform, and debasing the moral moment of the criminal sanction” and “the lack of adequate mens rea standards in criminal prohibitions.”

Not all overcriminalization factors are relevant to this “new era of FCPA enforcement” (see here), but in the minds of many, several factors are.

Enforcement Actions

In the 2011 Comverse Technologies enforcement action (see here), the company paid $2.8 million in combined fines and penalties (and no doubt millions more in connection with the investigative and resolution process) to resolve a matter in which the DOJ did not allege that the company even knew about the improper payments at issue. The action was resolved via a non-prosecution agreement meaning there was no judicial scrutiny of the DOJ’s enforcement theory.

In the 2010 Alliance One International enforcement action (see here), the company paid approximately $20 million in combined fines and penalties (and millions more in connection with the investigative and resolution process) to resolve a matter in which it did absolutely nothing wrong. Rather, the entire DOJ enforcement action was based on a successor liability theory. Again, the action was resolved via a non-prosecution agreement meaning there was no judicial scrutiny of the DOJ’s enforcement theory.

In the 2010 Noble Corporation enforcement action (see here), the company paid approximately $8 million in combined fines and penalties (and millions more in connection with the investigative and resolution process) to resolve a matter involving the import and export of goods into Nigeria. When Congress passed the FCPA, its intent as to so-called facilitating or grease payments was clear. Senate Report No. 95-114 (May 2, 1977) states, in pertinent part, as follows. “The statute does not […] cover so-called ‘grease’ payments such as payments for expediting shipments through customs …”. The relevant House Report (No. 95-640, September 28, 1977) similarly states as follows. “The language of the bill is deliberately cast in terms which differentiate between [corrupt payments] and facilitating payments, sometimes called ‘grease payments.’ […] For example, a gratuity paid to a customs official to speed the processing of a customs document would not be reached by this bill. Nor would it reach payments made to secure permits, licenses, or the expeditious performance of similar duties of an essentially ministerial or clerical nature which must of necessity be performed in any event. While payments made to assure or to speed the proper performance of a foreign official’s duties may be reprehensible in the United States, the committee recognizes that they are not necessarily so viewed elsewhere in the world and that it is not feasible for the United States to attempt unilaterally to eradicate all such payments.” The Noble enforcement action was resolved via a non-prosecution agreement meaning, again, there was no judicial scrutiny of the DOJ’s enforcement theory.

And then of course there is the issue of “foreign official” and the fact that most FCPA enforcement actions in this new era are based on alleged improper payments to employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (“SOEs”) on the theory that such business entities are “instrumentalities” of a foreign government and thus all employees, regardless of rank or position, are “foreign officials” under the FCPA. Yet, (1) During its multi-year investigation of foreign corporate payments, Congress was aware of the existence of SOEs and that some of the questionable payments uncovered or disclosed may have involved such entities. (2) In certain of the bills introduced in Congress to address foreign corporate payments, the definition of “foreign government” expressly included SOE entities. These bills were introduced in both the Senate and the House during both the 94th and 95th Congress. (3) Despite being aware of SOEs and despite exhibiting a capability for drafting a definition that expressly included SOEs in other bills, Congress chose not to include such definitions or concepts in what ultimately become the FCPA in 1977. See here for extensive reading on this issue.

Commentary and Analysis

In 2010, Forbes ran a feature article (here) titled “The Bribery Racket” – “How Federal Crackdown on Bribery Hurts Business And Enriches Insiders.” Lucinda Low, a respected FCPA practitioner, notes in the article that “the scope of things companies have to worry about is enlarging all the time as the government asserts violations in circumstances where it’s unclear if they would prevail in court” and that “you don’t have the checks and balances you would normally have if you had more litigation.” Commenting on the current era of FCPA enforcement, Joseph Covington (who headed the DOJ’s FCPA efforts in the 1980’s) said that the current era “is good business for law firms […] good business for accounting firms, it’s good business for consulting firms, the media–and Justice Department lawyers who create the marketplace and then get yourself a job.”

Here, Michael Levy (a former Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.) talks about what he calls prosecutorial common law. Levy states that “prosecutors don’t set out deliberately to interpret criminal statutes in ways that convict hundreds of people on the basis of a standard that not a single Supreme Court Justice finds supportable …”. Levy notes that “we have seen this before in connection with the interpretation of the honest services fraud and obstruction of justice statutes, and it is certainly happening today with the FCPA.”

In this publication, an author group including Philip Urofsky (former Assistant Chief of the DOJ Fraud Section responsible for FCPA enforcement) and Danforth Newcomb (a dean of the FCPA bar) noted that in several recent FCPA enforcement actions “the theories used to hold parents accountable for the acts of subsidiaries and vice versa appear to be unclear.” In other cases, the author group states that in many cases critical elements of the statute were not pleaded or were pled in a way “that is not consistent with established precedent and the language of the statute.”

In a September 10, 2010 interview with the Corporate Crime Reporter, Mark Mendelsohn (the former head of DOJ FCPA enforcement during this era of resurgence who departed the DOJ for private practice in 2010) stated that “some of the factors” the DOJ uses to resolve FCPA cases are transparent, but “there are other factors less easy to see from the outside.” Mendelsohn also noted, in connection with non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements (the common way FCPA enforcement actions are resolved) that the “danger” “is that it is tempting for the Department, or the SEC [to use these vehicles] to seek to resolve cases through DPAs or NPAs that don’t actually constitute violations of the law.”

In this Q&A exchange, Martin Weinstein (a former DOJ FCPA attorney who prosecuted the Lockheed case in the mid-1990’s and is now a prominent FCPA practitioner) stated as follows. “The last decade of FCPA enforcement has seen extraordinary evolution, and I think you have to say that when Congress passed the law in 1977, they did not envision the wide reach of enforcement today and the types of things that the government gets involved in, such as transactions, joint ventures, and successor liability.”

Legal Scholarship

In “Enthusiastic Enforcement, Informal Legislation: The Unruly Expansion of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” (here), Amy Westbrook (Washburn University School of Law) argues that the recent “transformation of the FCPA has been brought about by ad hoc enforcement actions, rather than legislation, judicial decision, or regulation” and that “in the absence of formal process or reasoned articulation, the actual scope of the law is unclear.”

In “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (here), I argue that “the FCPA often means what the enforcement agencies say it means” and that “even though the resolution vehicles typically used to resolve an FCPA enforcement action are not subject to judicial scrutiny and [thus] the vehicles do not necessarily reflect the triumph of the enforcement agencies’ theories, in the absence of substantive FCPA case law, these privately negotiated resolution vehicles have come to represent de facto FCPA case law” which breed “inefficient overcompliance by risk averse business actors fearful of enterprise – threatening liability because of the enforcement agencies’ untested and dubious theories.”

Judge (Again) Significantly Rejects DOJ’s Recommendation In Sentencing Bobby Elkins

If the above title sounds familiar, it is.

Last month, the title read “Judge (Again) Significantly Rejects DOJ’s Recommendations in Sentencing Nexus Defendants” (see here). As noted in the prior post, the DOJ sought a 14-17 year sentence for lead defendant Nam Nguyen, but the judge sentenced him to 16 months (plus 2 years of supervised release). Further, the DOJ sought multi-year sentences for two defendants, but the judge sentenced them to probation.

Last week, the DOJ sought another multi-year sentence and again the sentencing judge rejected the recommendation and sentenced the defendant to probation.

There is a clear trend developing.

The DOJ may be charging more individuals with FCPA violations, and those individuals may be pleading guilty (perhaps because of the “carrots” and “sticks” the DOJ possesses), but when it comes time to sentencing, judges are viewing these cases much differently than the DOJ.

In August, Bobby Jay Elkin Jr. pleaded guilty to a one count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to violate the FCPA. (See here for the prior post). Elkin was Country Manager for Dimon International Kyrgyzstan (DIK), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dimon Inc. (Dimon and Standard Commercial Corporation merged to form Alliance One International in 2005). According to the information, Elkin conspired and agreed with Dimon, DIK, and others to pay and authorize payment of bribes to “officials of state-owned enterprises and other public officials in Kyrgyzstan in order to secure business for” Dimon and DIK.

Although the sentencing memoranda were filed under seal, this report from the Roanoke Times indicates that the DOJ was seeking a 38 month sentence for Elkin.

Time out said Judge Jackson Kiser.

According to the Roanoke Times, Judge Kiser noted, that in making the improper payments, “Elkin faced a choice of either you do this or lose your job.”

Plus, Judge Kiser said, the CIA routinly bribes Afghan warlords, but the CIA’s conduct is not illegal. According to the Roanoke Time, Judge Kiser said that this parallel “sort of goes to the morality of the situation.”

It appears that these two factors, plus Elkin’s cooperation, motivated Judge Kiser to sentence Elkins to three year’s probation (plus a $5,000 fine).

Moreover, Judge Kiser “said he would waive the usual travel restrictions of probation to allow Elkin to return to Kyrgyzstan and resume his job” for a Turkish tobacco company.


In April, Elkin was also charged by the SEC (see here).

For more on the related Alliance One enforcement action (see here).

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