This post continues a spontaneous journey around South America by highlighting the many FCPA enforcement actions regarding conduct (in whole or in part) in Argentina.
[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]
In 2004, the SEC brought this administrative cease and desist order against BJ Services (a Houston-based oil field services, products, and equipment company). The conduct at issue focused on the company’s Argentina subsidiary and its relationships with customs officials. As stated in the SEC’s order, there was no indication that anyone employed by BJ Services approved many of the alleged improper payments and the SEC further acknowledged that the improper payments were made in violation of BJ Services’ existing policies prohibiting payments of the kind made to the customs official.
Other interesting aspects of the enforcement include the following: (i) certain of the improper payments were facilitated by the Argentina subsidiary issuing checks “in the name of a lower’level” employee who then “cashed the checks and provided the proceeds to the customs official”; (ii) the SEC seemed to acknowledge that certain of the payments were facilitation payments under the FCPA, but nevertheless improperly booked, and thus still actionable.
Yesterday, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Odebrecht S.A. (a Brazilian holding company) and Braskem S.A. (a Brazil-based petrochemical company in which Odebrecht owns 50.1% of the voting shares, 38.1% of the total share capital and which Odebrecht “effectively controlled” according to the DOJ). Braskem has American Depositary Receipts registered with the SEC and traded on the NYSE and thus the enforcement action also included an SEC component.
Perhaps because of the less than clear DOJ release (clear once one actually reads the original source documents), this action is being reported in various places as a $3.5 billion FCPA enforcement action. While that figure represents the overall global settlement amount (Brazil and Swiss law enforcement also brought related actions), yesterday’s action was most certainly not a $3.5 billion FCPA enforcement action. Not even close.
Five months ago, the SEC brought a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Ignacio Cueto Plaza (“Cueto”), the Chilean CEO of Santiago, Chile based LAN Airlines S.A. (“LAN”) for authorizing payments in 2006 and 2007 to a third party consultant in Argentina in connection with LAN’s attempts to settle disputes on wages and other work conditions between LAN Argentina S.A. (“LAN Argentina”), a subsidiary of LAN, and its employees.
In short, the end result of an old labor dispute between a Chilean airline and Argentine workers is approximately $22 million flowing into the U.S. Treasury because LAN has shares that are traded on a U.S. exchange.
Earlier this week, the DOJ announced (as part of a much larger enforcement action) a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act action against Olympus Latin American Inc. (OLA), a Miami-headquartered company that distributes medical imaging equipment in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America for Olympus Corporation (a Japanese company).
This post highlights the OLA enforcement action (the latest FCPA enforcement based on the theory that certain health care professionals are “foreign officials” under the FCPA) in which the DOJ charged the company in this criminal complaint with conspiring to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. The charges were resolved via this deferred prosecution agreement in which OLA agreed to pay $22.8 million.
According to the charging documents, from 2006 to 2011 OLA provided approximately $3 million in “hundreds of unlawful payments” to publicly employed healthcare professionals in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and Costa Rica to “induce the purchase of Olympus products, influence public tenders, or prevent public institutions from purchasing or converting to the technology of competitors.” According to the charging documents, OLA recognized approximately $7.5 million in profits as a result of the alleged unlawful payments.