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Issues To Consider From The Herbalife Enforcement Action

Issues

This prior post went in-depth into the recent $123 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Herbalife and this post highlights additional issues to consider.

Timeline

As highlighted in this post, Herbalife disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in early 2017.  Thus, from start to finish, its scrutiny lasted more than 3.5 years. I’ve said it many times, and will continue saying it until the cows come home, if the DOJ/SEC wants their FCPA enforcement programs to be viewed as credible and effective they must resolve instances of FCPA scrutiny much quicker.

This is particularly true in the Herbalife matter given that the conduct focused on a single country as well as the following language from the enforcement agencies.

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Issues To Consider From The World Acceptance Corp. Enforcement Action

Issues

This prior post went in-depth into the SEC’s recent $21.7 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against World Acceptance Corp. (WAC) and this post highlights additional issues to consider.

Timeline

As highlighted in this post, WAC disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in mid-2017.  Thus, from start to finish, its scrutiny lasted more than three years. I’ve said it many times, and will continue saying it until the cows come home, if the SEC wants its FCPA enforcement program to be viewed as credible and effective it must resolve instances of FCPA scrutiny much quicker.

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Justice Thomas Provides A Disgorgement History Lesson And Asks An Important Question

justicethomas

Yesterday’s post highlighted the Supreme Court’s decision in Liu v. SEC in which the court held that for purposes of 15 USC 78u(d)(5) (concerning SEC actions in federal court) that “a disgorgement award that does not exceed a wrongdoer’s net profits and is awarded for victims is equitable relief permissible” under 78u(d)(5).

The decision was 8-1 as Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

As discussed below, in his dissent Justice Thomas provided a disgorgement history lesson and asked an important question with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act implications.

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Supreme Court Decides SEC Disgorgement Case

supremecourt

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued this opinion in Liu v. SEC.

At issue was 15 USC 78u(d)(5) which states in pertinent part that “in any action or proceeding brought or instituted by the Commission under any provision of the securities laws … any Federal court may grant .. any equitable relief that may be appropriate or necessary for the benefit of investors.” The specific question presented was whether the Securities and Exchange Commission may seek and obtain disgorgement from a court as ‘equitable relief’ for a securities law violation.

In addition to punishing securities law violations through civil proceedings in federal court, the SEC also uses administrative proceedings and 15 USC 77h-1(e) states that “in any cease-and-desist proceeding … the Commission may enter an order requiring accounting and disgorgement, including reasonable interest.” This provision was not before the Court in Liu and this is important to understand as approximately 90% – 100% of SEC FCPA enforcement actions against issuers in the modern era are administrative actions.

Thus, when the FCPA Blog states in this post that the decision in Liu will make “a significant change to how corporate FCPA settlements will be reached with” the SEC – this is not accurate as very few modern SEC enforcement actions against issuers result in federal court actions and the specific statute at issue in Liu.

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