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Exploring A Deferred Prosecution Agreement Courtesy Of Biomet

Since introduced to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act context in 2004, most corporate FCPA enforcement actions are resolved via non-prosecution agreements or deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs).

DPAs are essentially contracts, but beyond the fine amount, few of the contractual terms are explored.

This post uses recent events involving Biomet to explore other terms of a typical FCPA DPA.

As highlighted in this previous post, in March 2012 Biomet resolved an FCPA enforcement action involving alleged conduct in Brazil, Argentina, and China by agreeing to pay approximately $22.8 million ($17.3 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $5.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

The three-year DPA stated, as is typical in FCPA DPAs, as follows.

Deferred Prosecution:  In consideration of: (a) the past and future cooperation of Biomet […] ; (b) Biomet’s payment of a monetary penalty of $17,280,000; and (c) Biomet’s implementation and maintenance of remedial measures, the Department agrees that any prosecution of Biomet for the conduct set forth in the … Statement of Facts, and for the conduct that Biomet disclosed to the Department, prior to the signing of this Agreement, be and hereby is deferred for the Term of this Agreement. The Department further agrees that if Biomet fully complies with all of its obligations under this Agreement, the Department will not continue the criminal prosecution against Biomet […]  and, after the Term, this Agreement shall expire and the Department shall seek to move to dismiss, with prejudice, the Criminal Information filed against Biomet.”

Breach of Agreement:  If during the term of this Agreement, the Department determines, in its sole discretion, that Biomet has: (a) committed any felony under federal law subsequent to the signing of this Agreement; (b) at any time, provided deliberately false, incomplete or misleading information; or (c) otherwise breached the Agreement, Biomet shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which the Department has knowledge, including the charges in the Information […]

As relevant to the above terms of the Biomet DPA, on July 3rd, Biomet disclosed as follows.

“As previously disclosed, on March 26, 2012, Biomet entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, or DPA, with the Department of Justice, or DOJ, and a Consent to Final Judgment, or Consent, with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, regarding an investigation regarding possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Pursuant to the DPA, the DOJ agreed to defer prosecution of Biomet in connection with those matters, provided that Biomet satisfies its obligations under the DPA over the term of the DPA. The DPA has a three-year term but provides that it may be extended in the sole discretion of the DOJ for an additional year. Pursuant to the Consent, Biomet consented to the entry of a Final Judgment which, among other things, permanently enjoined Biomet from violating the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In October 2013, Biomet became aware of certain alleged improprieties regarding its operations in Brazil and Mexico. Biomet retained counsel and other experts to investigate both matters. Based on the results of the investigation, Biomet terminated, suspended or otherwise disciplined certain of the employees and executives involved in these matters, and took certain other remedial measures. Additionally, pursuant to the terms of the DPA, in April 2014, Biomet disclosed these matters to the independent compliance monitor and to the DOJ and SEC.

On July 2, 2014, the SEC issued a subpoena to Biomet requiring that Biomet produce certain documents relating to such matters. Moreover, pursuant to the DPA, the DOJ has sole discretion to determine whether conduct by Biomet constitutes a violation or breach of the DPA. If the DOJ determines that the conduct underlying these investigations constitutes a violation or breach of the DPA, the DOJ could, among other things, extend or revoke the DPA or prosecute Biomet and/or the involved employees and executives. Biomet continues to cooperate with the SEC and DOJ and expects that discussions with the SEC and the DOJ will continue.”

In short, Biomet’s recent disclosure creates the risk that the company may be in breach of the DPA giving the DOJ the ability, per the terms of the DPA, to continue or resurrect the prosecution of Biomet deferred under the DPA, as well as bring an enforcement action for any conduct occurring after the DPA.

As relevant to DPAs, the DOJ maintains that such agreements “have had a truly transformative effect on particular companies and, more generally, on corporate culture across the globe.”

Yet, Biomet’s recent disclosure puts it in a category of many other companies (such as Orthofix International, Willbros Group, Marubeni, Diebold, IBM, Tyco, Aibel Group, and Ingersoll-Rand) that have become the subject of additional scrutiny or enforcement after resolving FCPA enforcement actions through a DPA or agreeing to an SEC permanent injunction.  For more, see this prior post Do NPAs and DPAs Deter?

Yet, what Biomet’s recent disclosure demonstrates is that not even companies with the greatest incentive to comply with the FCPA – and subject to post-enforcement action compliance obligations – are able to ensure FCPA compliance across its business organization or eliminate FCPA scrutiny.  In short, FCPA compliance can not be guaranteed in a business organization, rather steps can be taken that only minimize the risk of non-compliance occurring.

This fundamental fact (and it is a fact that even the enforcement agencies have recognized)  is one of the policy reasons underlying an FCPA compliance defense.  (See here for the article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense”).

Whether Biomet may ultimately be in breach of its 2012 DPA is not the only contractual term that could implicated by recent events at Biomet.

In April 2014, Biomet and Zimmer Holdings announced “that their respective Boards of Directors have approved a definitive  agreement under which Zimmer will acquire Biomet in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $13.35 billion, including the assumption of net debt.” The transactions is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015.

As relevant to this pending merger, the DPA states as follows.

Sale or Merger:  Biomet agrees that in the event it sells, merges, or transfers all or substantially all of its business operations as they exist as of the date of this Agreement, whether such sale is structured as a stock or asset sale, merger, or transfer, it shall include in any contract for sale, merger, or transfer a provision binding the purchaser, or any successor in interest thereto, to the obligations described in this Agreement.”

A Reminder That The FCPA Has Long Tentacles

The FCPA has long tentacles as FCPA scrutiny and enforcement can impact a wide range of business activities.

Such as merger and acquisition activity.

Two recent developments serve as a reminder.

As noted here, Zimmer Holdings Inc. agreed to acquire Biomet Inc. in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $13.35 billion.

In March 2012 Biomet resolved a $22.8 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action  ($17.3 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement and $5.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).  The DPA had a three year term and, as is common, contained the following clause:

Sale or Merger:  Biomet agrees that in the event it sells, merges, or transfers all or substantially all of its business operations as they exist as of the date of this Agreement, whether such sale is structured as a stock or asset sale, merger, or transfer, it shall include in any contract for sale, merger, or transfer a provision binding the purchaser, or any successor in interest thereto, to the obligations described in this Agreement.”

The Zimmer – Biomet merger highlights how FCPA compliance obligations of a target company can be inherited by the acquiring company.

News of General Electric’s possible purchase of Alstom’s energy business highlights how FCPA scrutiny of a target company can be, depending on how the transaction is structured, inherited by the acquiring company.

Alstom has been under FCPA (and related) scrutiny for several years.  Among other things, former Alstom employees and business partners have resolved FCPA enforcement actions concerning the Tarahan power plant project in Indonesia (see here and here for prior posts).  Documents filed in connection with the individual enforcement actions suggest that the following Alstom projects are also under scrutiny: (i) “projects in Indonesia other than the Tarahan Project, including intended payments to government officials in connection with the Labuan Angin and the Maura Tawar projects;” (ii) “projects in India, including intended payments to government officials in connection with the Sipat, Barh I, and Barh II projects;” and (iii) the following projects in China – “Baima PRC Project,” “Qilu, Maoming, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Jin Men,Yueyang.”

In short, Alstom’s FCPA scrutiny is well known.  Thus, a potential GE – Alstom transaction would not seem to implicate many of the thorny due diligence issues discussed in certain FCPA Opinion Procedure Releases or certain hypotheticals discussed in the FCPA Guidance.

In any event, the FCPA Guidance states:

“Companies acquire a host of liabilities when they merge with or acquire another company, including those arising
out of contracts, torts, regulations, and statutes. As a general legal matter, when a company merges with or acquires another company, the successor company assumes the predecessor company’s liabilities Successor liability is an integral component of corporate law and, among other things, prevents companies from avoiding liability by reorganizing. Successor liability applies to all kinds of civil and criminal liabilities, and FCPA violations are no exception. Whether successor liability applies to a particular corporate transaction depends on the facts and the applicable state, federal, and foreign law.”

As referenced in the FCPA Guidance “whether successor liability applies to a particular corporate transaction depends on the facts and the applicable state, federal, and foreign law.”

Here it is important to recognize the following black-letter legal principles.

In a stock purchase agreement, the acquiring company will ordinarily inherit the target company’s pre-acquisition legal liability. In an asset purchase agreement, the acquiring company ordinarily (subject to certain limited exceptions) does not inherit pre-acquisition legal liability of the seller.

In this area, as in others, the free-for-all nature of FCPA enforcement is apparent.

In “The Federal Common Law of Successor Liability and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” forthcoming in the William & Mary Business Law Review, Taylor Phillips (Bass Berry) writes:

“Although successor liability is a key aspect of the government’s FCPA enforcement policy, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have not distinguished clearly between the contexts of mergers, stock purchases, and asset acquisitions. As demonstrated by this article, asset purchases should be recognized as an acquisition structure that minimizes the risk of FCPA liability. That is because the law that should be applicable to such transactions is not a relatively broad federal common law of successor liability. Instead, it is state common law, which traditionally concedes only very narrow exceptions to the general rule of successor nonliability. Furthermore, given the remedial foundations of most successor liability doctrines, it is not obvious that traditional state common law encompasses punitive — much less criminal — successor liability theories.”

Friday Roundup

Coming attractions, monitor talk, LatinNode related individual sentences, just who are those “gestores,” scholarship of note, and Supreme Court quotables.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Coming Attractions

This prior post contained FCPA practitioner Homer Moyer’s discussion of industry sweeps.  Industries that have been subjected to industry sweeps or are reportedly in the middle of industry sweeps include:  oil and gas, pharmaceutical / medical devices, and financial services.

Add Hollywood film studies to the list.

Reuters reports (here) that the SEC “has sent letters of inquiry to at least five movie studios in the past two months, including News Corp’s 20th Century Fox, Disney, and DreamWorks Animation” that “ask for information about potential inappropriate payments and how the companies dealt with certain government officials in China.”

The New York Times (here) also reported on the letters of inquiry and stated that the SEC “has begun an investigation into whether some of Hollywood’s biggest movie studios have made illegal payments to officials in China to gain the right to film and show movies there.”

In other disclosure news, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell), Turkey’s only New York Stock Exchange listed company, recently disclosed in an SEC filing (here) as follows.  “Some of [the countries the company operates in] also suffer from relatively high rates of fraud and corruption. For example, allegations have been made regarding improper payments relating to the operations of KCell, a mobile operator in Kazakhstan and 51% subsidiary of Fintur Holdings B.V., in which we hold a 41.45% stake, while TeliaSonera holds the remainder. The allegations were discussed by Turkcell’s Board of Directors, which requested an independent investigation of the allegations made. TeliaSonera initiated an independent investigation as agreed by the Fintur Board. The Turkcell Board has been informed that to date there has not been substantiated any such allegations and the Fintur Board informs us that it has completed its own investigation. Since no assurance can be given that there will not be further requests for investigation, we remain vigilant on this matter.”

In other disclosure news, in October 2006, the SEC informed the Bristol Myers Squibb Company that it had begun a formal inquiry into the activities of certain of the company’s German pharmaceutical subsidiaries and its employees and/or agents.  The company previously disclosed that “the SEC’s inquiry encompasses matters formerly under investigation by the German prosecutor in Munich, Germany, which have since been resolved,” that the inquiry concerns potential violations of the FCPA and that “the company is cooperating with the SEC.”  Yesterday, in a 10-Q filing, the company stated as follows.  “In March, 2012, the Company received a subpoena from the SEC. The subpoena, issued in connection with an investigation under the FCPA, primarily relates to sales and marketing practices in various countries. The Company is cooperating with the government in its investigation of these matters.”

According to my tally, over the past two months, approximately 15 companies have newly disclosed, or been linked to, FCPA scrutiny.  See here for the prior post “The Sun Rose, a Dog Barked, and a Company Disclosed FCPA Scrutiny.”  (And no, Wal-Mart is not included in this list, the company disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in December 2011).

Hercules Offshore disclosed better news in its 10-Q filing yesterday.  The company stated as follows.  “On April 4, 2011, the Company received a subpoena issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) requesting the delivery of certain documents to the SEC in connection with its investigation into possible violations of the securities laws, including possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in certain international jurisdictions where the Company conducts operations. The Company was also notified by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) on April 5, 2011, that certain of the Company’s activities were under review by the DOJ. On April 24, 2012, the Company received a letter from the DOJ notifying the Company that the DOJ has closed its inquiry into the Company regarding possible violations of the FCPA and does not intend to pursue enforcement action against the Company. The DOJ indicated that its decision to close the matter was based on, among other factors, the thorough investigation conducted by the Company’s special counsel and the Company’s compliance program. The Company, through the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, intends to continue to cooperate with the SEC in its investigation. At this time, it is not possible to predict the outcome of the SEC’s investigation, the expenses the Company will incur associated with this matter, or the impact on the price of the Company’s common stock or other securities as a result of this investigation.”

For the second straight day, I say kudos to the DOJ.  Yet, I also ask on consecutive days – would anything really change with an FCPA compliance defense?  As I note in “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” (here) the DOJ already recognizes a de facto FCPA compliance defense albeit in opaque, inconsistent and unpredictable ways. Thus, an FCPA compliance defense accomplishes, among other things, the policy goal of removing factors relevant to corporate criminal liability from the opaque, inconsistent, and unpredictable world of DOJ decision making towards a more transparent, consistent, and predictable model best accomplished through a compliance defense amendment to the FCPA.

Monitor Talk

As discussed in this prior post, in March Biomet resolved an FCPA enforcement action involving $22.8 million in combined fines and penalties ($17.3 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $5.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).  Pursuant to the DPA, Biomet agreed to engage an independent compliance monitor “for a period of not less than 18 months” and to provide periodic reports to the DOJ regarding remediation and implementation of the enhanced compliance measures as described in an attachment to the DPA.

As evidence that investor concern regarding FCPA issues does not end on enforcement action day, during a recent earnings conference call, an analyst asked Biomet CEO Jeff Binder the following question.

“I guess just with regard to the DOJ settlement that was announced for the FCPA potential violations, I’m just wondering — I guess you’re going to have an 18-month monitoring period. So I assume that would only apply to your international business? And then maybe even within the international business, would that only apply to certain regions where there have been problems found? And then what sort of a pricing — sorry, not pricing, but cost impact do you expect from that monitoring? Is it something material or not?”

Binder responded as follows.  “Yes. You’re correct that the monitorship will apply to our businesses outside the United States, but the monitors purview is broad outside the United States. The monitor has the ability to take a look at our businesses across the world. The monitor will do a risk assessment upfront. They’ll understand where our issues have been and they’ll take a look at our processes. They’ll develop that risk assessment. They’ll come up with a work plan that’s based on that risk assessment. And we’ll take it from there. We don’t expect that additional expenses for the monitor will be material to the business. DOJ and SEC require the candidates for the monitorship to submit budgets of the projected services for their work. And I’d just say that the amounts that were set forth in those budgets are not material, and we don’t anticipate significant internal expenses associated with the monitorship.”

LatiNode Individual Sentences

As noted in this DOJ release, in April 2009 LatiNode, a privately held Florida corporation, pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with improper payments in Honduras and Yemen and agreed to pay a $2 million criminal penalty.  Thereafter, several of its former executives – Jorge Granados, Manuel Caceres, Manuel Salvoch, and Juan Vasquez were criminally charged and pleaded guility.

Earlier this week Caceres (former vice president of business development at LatiNode) and Vasquez (a former senior commercial executive at LatiNode) were sentenced.  U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard (S.D. of Fl.) sentenced Caceres to 23 months followed by 1 year supervised release – the DOJ sought a 36 month sentence.  U.S. District Court Judge Patrricia Seitz (S.D. of Fl.) sentenced Vasquez to 3 years probation, community service, home detention and monitoring and ordered him to pay a $7,500 criminal fine – the DOJ originally sought a 36 month sentence and recently stated that it “would not oppose a sentence for Vasquez that was less than the sentence for Caceres and Salvoch [who is yet to be sentenced].”

As noted in this prior post, in September 2011, Granados was sentenced to 46 months in prison.

“Gestores”

The New York Times article suggested that many of the Wal-Mart Mexican payments at issue were routed through Mexican gestores.   Just who are those “gestores.”?  I found this article from CBS of interest.  The article states as follows.   “A visit to any government office is likely to bring the sighting of a well-dressed man carrying reams of documents who will glide past the long lines, shake hands with the official behind the counter and get ushered into a backroom, where his affairs presumably get a fast-track service. The suspicion is these go-betweens funnel a portion of the fees they charge clients to corrupt officials to smooth the issuance of permits, approvals and other government stamps.  In a country where laws on zoning rules, construction codes and building permits are vague or laxly enforced, the difference between opening a store quickly and having it held up for months may depend on using a gestor.”

Scholarship of Note

Pre-Wal-Mart, the FCPA conversation of the spring focused on charitable contributions in the context of the Wynn-Okada dispute.  See here, here and here for the prior posts.  Other posts have noted (see here) that, strange as it may sound, the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions are only implicated when something of value is provided, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the official in obtaining or retaining business.  The FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions are not implicated when the thing of value is provided to a foreign government itself.  Other prior posts (here and here) have discussed Dodd-Frank Act Section 1504’s Resource Extraction Disclosure Provisions.

Given my prior writings on these issues, I was pleased when Emory University School of Law student Francesca Pisano sent me the student comment “Anti-Corruption Law & Corporate Philanthropy: Rethinking the Regulations” (here) selected for publication in a forthcoming issue of the Emory Law Journal.

The abstract states as follows.

“When the 2010 earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, U.S. companies donated over $146.8 million to the relief effort. Despite this impressive display of global engagement, commentators suggested that the US anti-corruption laws had discouraged corporations from greater involvement. Even with the laws in force, however, reports of corruption in the relief effort soon surfaced, derailing Haiti’s recovery. Foreign aid that feeds corruption will never achieve sustainable growth, but development efforts will similarly fail if U.S. anti-corruption laws discourage corporate philanthropy.  This comment analyzes the application of two U.S. anti-corruption laws, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and the Dodd-Frank Section 1504, to international corporate charity. It shows how the FCPA’s ambiguous nature has the unfortunate effect of being both over- and under-inclusive, discouraging bona fide charity while at the same time failing to capture corrupt donations. The recently-enacted Dodd-Frank Section 1504 has great potential, but the SEC’s proposed rules have created a loophole to allow corruption to continue if hidden in corporate charity.  This comment proposes a modification to FCPA enforcement: creating a Safe Harbor Option. This will offer businesses the opportunity to “buy” a rebuttable presumption of legitimacy for their charitable donations by publically disclosing the payments, projects, and recipients of their philanthropy. Granting a presumption of legitimacy to disclosed donations will ameliorate many of the over-inclusive aspects of the FCPA. The increased disclosure will allow the public to monitor corporate charity and question suspicious gifts, ameliorating the under-inclusive aspects of FCPA enforcement. This comment also argues that Section 1504 should be defined expansively to prevent charity from being used to circumvent the congressional goals of increasing transparency and combating corruption. If properly defined, Section 1504 is an excellent example of regulation through disclosure and transparency, rather than prohibitions.”

Supreme Court Quotable

This recent post discussed non-FCPA caselaw that touched upon issues relevant to the recent “foreign official” challenges.  Last week, the Supreme Court issued its opinion (here) in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority concerning the scope of the Torture Victim Protection Act.  The Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Sotomayor held that the term “individual” in the TVPA encompasses only natural persons, and thus the law does not impose liability against corporatons.  In her opinion, Justice Sotomayor’s stated, among other things, as follows.

“Congress remains free, as always, to give the word [individual] a broader or different meaning. But before we will assume it has done so, there must be some indication Congress intended such a result.”

“We add only that Congress appeared well aware of the limited nature of the cause of action it estab­lished in the Act.”

“The text of the TVPA convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not. There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the Act, and it is not the province of this Branch to do otherwise.”

*****

I went to Walmart last night.  After completing my purchase and before exiting the store, I stopped, looked around, and thought, wow, what a week!

A good weekend to all.

Next Up – Biomet

First it was Johnson & Johnson (see here – $70 million in combined fines and penalties in April 2011).  Then it was Smith & Nephew (see here – $22 million in combined fines and penalties in February 2012).  Next up in the sweep of the medical device industry – based on the enforcement theory that certain foreign health care providers are “foreign officials” –  is Biomet.  Biomet (here) is an Indiana-based company that designs, manufactures and markets products used primarily by musculoskeletal medical specialists in both surgical and non‐surgical therapy.

Total fines and penalties in the Biomet enforcement action were approximately $22.8 million ($17.3 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $5.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against Biomet resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

In substance, the information begins as follows.  “Argentina has a public healthcare system wherein approximately half of hospitals are publicly owned and operated.  Health care providers (“HCPs”) who work in the public sector are government employees, providing health care services in their official capacities.  Therefore, such HCPs in Argentina are ‘foreign officials’ as that term is defined in the FCPA.”  “Brazil has a socialized public healthcare system that provides universal health care to all Brazilian citizens, and the majority of hospitals are publicly-controlled.  HCPs who work in the public sector are government employees, providing health care services in their official capacities.  Therefore, such HCPs in Brazil are ‘foreign officials’ as that term is defined in the FCPA.”  “China has a national healthcare system wherein most Chinese hospitals are publicly owned and operated.  HCPs who work at publicly-owned hospitals are government employees, providing health care services in their official capacities.”

The information charges one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, three substantive FCPA anti-bribery charges (one charge focused on conduct in Argentina, one charge focused on conduct in Brazil, and one charge focused on conduct in China) and one charge of violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

As to the conspiracy charge, the information alleges that between 2000 to 2009, Biomet and others conspired to “secure lucrative business with hospitals in the Argentine, Brazilian, and Chinese public health care systems by making and promising to make corrupt payments of money and things of value to publicly-employed HCPs.”

According to the information, it was part of the conspiracy that “Biomet, certain of its executives, employees, and subsidiaries” – (1) “agreed to pay publicly employed Argentine HCPs 15-20 percent commissions in exchange for the purchase of Biomet products” (2) “agreed to pay Brazilian HCPs 10-20 percent commissions through Brazilian Distributor [a Brazilian company that had exclusive distribution rights for Biomet reconstructive products in Brazil] in exchange for the purchase of Biomet products” and (3) “agreed to pay Chinese HCPs commissions through Chinese Distributor [a Chinese company that acted as a distributor of Biomet products in China], and paid for travel for Chinese HCPs, in exchange for the purchase of Biomet products.”

The information also alleges that it was further part of the conspiracy that at the end of Biomet’s fiscal year from 2000 to 2009 “Biomet, its executives, employees, and subsidiaries falsely recorded the payments on its books and records as ‘commissions,’ ‘royalties,’ ‘consulting fees,’ ‘other sales and marketing,’ and ‘scientific incentives,’ in order to conceal the true nature of the payments in the consolidated books and records of Biomet Argentina [a wholly-owned Argentine subsidiary of Biomet through which Biomet conducted business in Argentina], Biomet International [a wholly-owned Delaware subsidiary of Biomet through which Biomet sold products into Brazil], Scandimed [a wholly-owned Swedish subsidiary through which Biomet sold products into China and elsewhere], and Biomet China [a wholly-owned Chinese subsidiary through which Biomet sold products into China], which books and records were incorporated into the books and records of Biomet for purposes of preparing Biomet’s year-end financial statements, which were filed with the SEC …”.

The information alleges as follows.  “In total, from 2000 to 2008, Biomet, Biomet Argentina, Biomet International, Scandidmed, and Biomet China, and their related subsidiaries and employees, authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of at least $1.5 million, some or all of which was paid to publicly-employed HCPs to induce the purchase of Biomet products.”

As to Argentina, the information largely focuses on internal e-mails or memos which indicated that “royalties are paid to surgeons if requested” and that the payments “are disclosed in the accounting records as commissions.”  The information details a 2005 internal investigation into certain allegations of improper conduct, but alleges that thereafter problematic payments continued to be made.  For instance, a 2007 internal e-mail states as follows.  “Doctors receive a ‘consulting fee’ for every surgery.”  According to the information, in August 2008 “Biomet distributed new compliance guidelines that emphasized the FCPA and related issues, and the company’s managing director for Argentina sought advice from the company’s lawyers, causing Biomet to suspend payments to Argentine doctors.”

As to Brazil, the information largely focuses on internal e-mail or memos noting that the Brazilian Distributor was paying commissions to doctors and that the Brazlian Distributor admitted that it “paid doctors for buying Biomet products and described the payments as ‘scientific incentives.”

As to China, the information discusses various internal e-mails which reference: the China Distributor “paying a 10-15% ‘rebate’ to surgeons on the sale of Biomet artificial hips;” a Scandimed employee stating that, regarding commissions to surgeons, “Scandimed has no control over this … as we understand it, giving commissions or gifts of various kinds to surgeons is common in China;”the China Distributor stating that a “Doctor will become the most loyal customer of Biomet if we send him to Switzerland”;  and the China Distributor stating as follows – “Doctor is the department head of [public hospital] and that Doctor uses about 10 hips and knees a month and its on an uptrend, as he told us over dinner a week ago … Many key surgeons in Shanghai are buddies of his.  A kind word on Biomet from him goes a long way for us.  Dinner has been set for the evening of the 24th.  It will be nice.  But dinner aside, I’ve got to send him to Switzerland to visit his daughter.”  The information also references a distribution memo which states that “Chinese surgeons typically receive a commission on sales, which can range from 5% to 25% and that distributors are expected to hold banquets for surgeons and to sponsor meetings.”  Another internal e-mail discusses “consulting fees paid to doctors for conducting clinical trials” and a “proposal for a two week visit for Chinese doctors to the United Kingdom, with the second week being a ‘holiday’ paid for by Chinese Distributor.”  The information also alleges that in October 2007 “Biomet China sponsored the travel of 20 surgeons to Barcelona and Valencia for training, including a substantial portion of the trip being devoted to sightseeing and other entertainment at Biomet’s expense.”  According to the information, in 2005 “Director of Internal Audit [based in Warsaw, Indiana] instructed an auditor to classify improper payments being made to doctors in connection with certain clinical trials as ‘entertainment’ and in 2007, the product manager for Biomet China sent an e-mail to [an Associate Regional Manager based in Hong Kong] “discussing ways to evade efforts by the Chinese government to halt corruption in health care by requiring all international companies to declare actual cost for import to the government, noting, ‘obviously, China government doesn’t have ability to forbid the corruption from hospitals & surgeons …’ and proposing four methods for avoiding the regulation, including falsified invoices.

DPA

The DOJ’s charges against Biomet were resolved via a deferred  prosecution agreement.  Pursuant to the DPA, Biomet admitted, accepted and acknowledged “that it is responsible for the acts of its officers, employees and agent, and  wholly-owned subsidiaries” as set forth in the information.

The term of the DPA is three years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors: Biomet investigated and disclosed to the DOJ and SEC the misconduct, “a portion of which was voluntarily disclosed”; Biomet reported its findings to the DOJ and SEC; Biomet cooperated fully in the DOJ and SEC investigation; Biomet undertook remedial measures, including the implementation of an enhanced compliance program and agreed to undertake further remedial measures as set forth in the DPA; Biomet agreed to continue to cooperate with the DOJ, SEC, and foreign authorities in any related investigations; “Biomet has cooperated and agreed to continue to cooperate with the DOJ in the DOJ’s investigations of other companies and individuals in connection with business practices overseas in various markets;” and “were the DOJ to initiate proseuction of Biomet and obtain a conviction, instead of entering into the agreement to defer prosecution, Biomet would potentially be subject to exclusion from participation in federal health care programs pursuant to 42 USC 1320a-7(a).”

Pursuant to the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $21.6 – $43.2 million.  The DPA states as follows.  “Biomet agrees to pay a monetary penalty in the amount of $17.28 million, a 20 percent reduction off the bottom of the fine range.  Biomet and the DOJ agree that this fine is appropriate given Biomet’s extensive internal investigation, the nature and extent of Biomet’s cooperation in this matter, Biomet’s cooperation in the DOJ’s investigation of other companies … and Biomet’s extraordinary remediation.”    The guidelines calculation notes that Biomet received a credit for “substantial assistance in the prosecution of others.”

Pursuant to the DPA, Biomet agreed to engage an independent compliance monitor “for a period of not less than 18 months” and to provide periodic reports to the DOJ regarding remediation and implementation of the enhanced compliance measures as described in an attachment to the DPA.  As is customary in FCPA DPA’s, Biomet agreed that it shall not make any public statement contradicting its acceptance of responsibility.

See here for the DOJ’s release.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (here) against Biomet is based on the same core conduct as described above.  In summary it alleges “violations of the FCPA by Biomet and four of its subsidiaries to obtain sales for their medical device business” and that from “2000 through August 2008, Biomet and its four subsidiaries paid bribes to public doctors employed by public hospitals and agencies in Argentina, Brazil, and China.”

Among other things, the SEC’s complaint alleges that “executives and auditors at Biomet’s Indiana headquarters were aware of the Argentine payments to doctors as early as 2000.”    The SEC alleges as follows.  “Internal audit took no steps to determine why royalties were paid to doctors purchasing Biomet medical devices, or why the payments to the doctors were 15-20 percent of sales.  The internal auditors did not obtain any evidence of services provided for the payments.  In fact, the internal audit report concluded that there were adequate controls in place to properly account for royalties paid to surgeons without any supporting documentation.”  Elsewhere, the SEC alleges that “despite the bribery” [the] Latin America Auditor’s only recommendation was to change the journal entry from ‘commission expenses’ to ‘royalties.'”

The SEC complaint references the September 2007 letter “Commission staff” sent to Biomet “inquiring of payments made to public doctors” but that “while the inquiry was underway in certain countries, additional conduct was occurring at Biomet Argentina.”  For instance, the complaint alleges that in March 2008, “Managing Director of Biomet Argentina again reported the payments to surgeons to internal compliance personnel but no efforts were made by compliance to stop the practice.”

As to Biomet’s FCPA anti-bribery violations, the SEC complaint alleges that “Biomet employees who were U.S. nationals approved the payments to Argentine doctors and the arrangements with the Brazilian Distributor and Chinese Distributor that included payments to doctors.”

As to Biomet’s failure to maintain adequate internal controls, the complaint alleges as follows.  “Biomet failed to implement internal controls to detect or prevent bribery.  Biomet and four subsidiaries were involved in bribery that lasted for over a decade.  The conduct involved employees and managers of all levels involved in Biomet’s sales in Argentina, Brazil and China.  False documents were routinely created or accepted that concealed the improper payments.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC complaint charges violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal controls provisions.

As stated in the SEC’s release (here), without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Biomet consented to the entry of a court order requiring payment of approximately $4.4 million in disgorgement and approximately $1.1 million in prejudgment interest.

The SEC’s release states as follows.  “Biomet’s compliance and internal audit functions failed to stop the payments to doctors even after learning about the illegal pratices.”  Kara Brockmeyer (Head of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated as follows.  “A company’s compliance and internal audit should be the first line of defense against corruption, not part of the problem.”

In this release, Biomet’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Jeffrey R. Binder, stated: “Biomet has long been committed to upholding the highest standards of ethical and legal conduct both in the United States and abroad. Over the past several years, we have significantly enhanced our global compliance procedures and financial controls, and we fully intend to work with the independent monitor and the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission to bolster our FCPA compliance practices and procedures. Moving forward, we intend to continue to adhere to our enhanced global compliance procedures, and to promote the Company’s commitment to the highest ethical standards in all the markets that we serve.”

Laurence Urgenson (Kirkland & Ellis – here) and Asheesh Goel (Ropes & Gray – here) represented Biomet.

As to the origins of the FCPA inquiry, Biomet’s most recent quarterly filing stated as follows.  “On September 25, 2007, Biomet received a letter from the SEC informing the Company that it is conducting an informal investigation regarding possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the sale of medical devices in certain foreign countries by companies in the medical devices industry. […]  On November 9, 2007, the Company received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting any information provided to the SEC be provided to the Department of Justice on a voluntary basis.”

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