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Where Should The Money Go?

It is a thorny question with no easy answer.  Where should the money go when a company resolves an FCPA enforcement action?  It was addressed last year in connection with the Alcatel-Lucent enforcement action.  (See here, and here for prior posts).  Two recent events raise the issue again.

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Earlier this month, it was announced (here) that the U.K. “Serious Fraud Office, the Government of Tanzania, BAE Systems and the Department for International Development (DFID) … signed a Memorandum of Understanding enabling the payment of £29.5 million [$47 million USD] plus accrued interest to be paid by BAE Systems for educational projects in Tanzania.”  As noted in the release, “textbooks will be purchased for all 16,000 primary schools in the country and as a result 8.3 million children will benefit” in subjects such as Kiswahli, English, Maths and Science.  The release further notes that funds will also be used to “provide all 175,000 primary school teachers with teachers’ guides, syllabi and syllabi guides to help improve their teaching skills” as well as the purchase of desks.  In the release, SFO Director Richard Alderman stated as follows.  “This agreement is a first for the SFO which piloted it through the UK legal system. It provides a satisfactory outcome for all concerned but most of all for the Tanzanian people and I am personally delighted that SFO staff were able to achieve this.”

In this release, BAE stated as follows.  “We are glad to finally be able to make the payment to the Government of Tanzania and bring this matter to a close. We are grateful to DFID for their work in agreeing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Tanzania.”  The BAE release states that the “payment follows the settlement agreed between BAE Systems and the SFO.”  For a prior post on the settlement, see here.

To be sure, BAE’s payment to Tanzania, and the role of the SFO in brokering the payment, feels good.  What is not to like about children receiving textbooks?

However, the feel good nature of this most recent BAE development should not mask the significant problems with the BAE enforcement action (on both sides of the Atlantic).  As noted in this prior post, even the U.K. judge who accepted the SFO-BAE plea agreement called it “loosely and hastily drafted” and said the fine he levied reflected that he couldn’t “sentence for an offense which the prosecution failed to charge.”

And let’s not forgot how this story began.  In 2004, the SFO began investigating whether BAE made bribe payments to secure Saudi fighter jet contracts. However, in late 2006, the SFO was forced to halt its investigation under pressure from the U.K. government, which cited national security concerns should the investigation go forward.  However, because BAE also allegedly made bribe payments in numerous other countries to secure business, the SFO, under a new Director, revived its  investigation of BAE, at least as to non-Saudi issues, including whether the  company paid bribes to secure contracts in various European and African countries. After settlement talks stalled – the conventional wisdom is that BAE was unwilling to plead guilty to bribery related offenses given the collateral effect of the mandatory European Union debarment provisions – the SFO pressed ahead with the case.  In late January 2010, the SFO issued a release (here) stating that Count Mensdorff, a former BAE agent, was criminally charged with “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc.” Then, in early February 2010, the SFO announced (here) its long-awaited resolution of the BAE matter. Despite allegations of wide-spread bribery on a global scale, and despite BAE’s agent being criminally indicted a few days earlier in connection with bribe payments in “certain Eastern and Central European countries” (presumably on evidence that such payments did indeed occur), the SFO resolution related solely to the company’s failure “to keep reasonable and accurate accounting records in relation to its activities in Tanzania.”  Most dramatic, and in a strange turn of events, the SFO announced that it had withdrawn the criminal charges filed days earlier against Count Mensdorff. The same release also noted that “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defense contracts.”  For more on “BAE – Inside the SFO”, see this prior post.

In any event, at least some children in Tanzania received some textbooks from BAE as a result.

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As previously highlighted on the FCPA Blog (here), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (“SERAP”) (a non-governmental civil society organization in Nigeria) recently wrote a letter (here) to SEC Enforcement Division Director Robert Khuzami (with a copy to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Deputy Chief, Fraud Section Charles Duross)  regarding “FCPA civil penalty and disgorgement proceeds that companies agree to pay to resolve US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations.”  As the letter notes, “currently such proceeds, once paid, are retained by the U.S. government.”

In summary, the SERAP letter requests “that the Enforcement Division establish a case-by-case policy or process that would enable foreign governmental entities that have been victims of corruptly-procured contracts to apply for, subject to appropriate anti-corruption safeguards, some or all of the civil penalty and disgorgement proceeds that would eventually be paid by companies alleged to have violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”  SERAP also suggests that “civil society groups in the home country, or U.S. non-profit organizations serving that country, be eligible within a short time-period to apply for such proceeds as well, or instead, for use for ‘public benefits projects’ in the affected foreign country, again subject to anti-corruption safeguards.”

The SERAP letter notes, among other things, as follows.  “… Many citizens in a country where such bribery has occurred might consider FCPA civil penalties and disgorgement payments imposed by the US, and then kept by the US, as in fact representing funds that rightfully ‘belong’ to the victim.”

Stating that “corruptly procured contracts ‘cost’ the victim at least 10 percent extra” the SERAP letter says that “this figure ought to be a presumed measure of possible funds available for third-party application in the context of a civil FCPA settlement, particularly since the Enforcement Division typically settles an investigation before extensive evidence of damages, as opposed to liability, is placed in the public realm.”

The specific SERAP proposal is as follows.  “…[A]fter, and ony after, public notice of an FCPA settlement agreement, the victim foreign government entity and any applicant NGO would have 60 days to file a request that the Enforcement Division pay some or all of the agreed payment proceeds to or for the benefit of the victim government entity or to a home country-based or US based NGO that would present a proposal [to] spend the proceeds for public purposes (e.g. on public health programs) in the country of the victim entity.  Thereafter, the Enforcement Division would have 60 days to act upon the request, favorably or not in its discretion; in this context the Enforcement Division should provide a brief statement of its reasons for its decisions.  In reaching its decisions the Enforcement Division would have the inherent authority to consult with Executive Branch agencies of the US government.

The SERAP letter raises some interesting issues regarding alleged victims of FCPA enforcement actions.  The SERAP letter also raises some interesting questions, including the following.

If the SEC would be required to relinquish a certain portion of money recovered in an FCPA enforcement action, what impact would this have on FCPA enforcement?  Would the SEC be less aggressive in bringing enforcement actions or perhaps more aggressive because more enforcement actions would be needed to sustain the current FCPA “revenue stream”?  For instance, 10% of SEC FCPA “revenue” in 2011 was approximately $15 million, in 2010 approximately $53 million.

The SERAP proposal appears to assume that all FCPA enforcement actions involve foreign government procurement.  This is not the case.  Approximately 50% of recent  FCPA enforcement actions (i.e. in the past five years) do not involve foreign government procurement, but rather issues relating to foreign taxes, customs duties, or foreign licenses, permits, certifications and the like.  Is the victim analysis the same in these FCPA enforcement actions compared to foreign government procurement enforcement actions?

Are individuals or organizations located in the country giving rise to the FCPA enforcement action really the most direct victims of the conduct at issue?  In the procurement context, what about a competitor who may have lost out on the foreign business because it was unwilling to make an improper payment?  With victim issues attracting new attention, should an FCPA private right of action receive new attention?

Last, but certainly not least, companies settling SEC FCPA enforcement actions are allowed to settle without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations.  Even the SEC itself has stated that this settlement device often leads to settlements that “do not necessarily reflect the triumph of one party’s position over the other.”  Given this dynamic, would SERAP’s proposal lead to undeserved “windfalls” for civil society organizations?  [In this prior post, I asked the same question as to Dodd-Frank Act whistleblowers.]

SEC Enforcement Of The FCPA – Year In Review

FCPA enforcement, it is not just about the DOJ. Granted, its sticks are less sharp than the DOJ’s, but the SEC also claims a significant piece of the FCPA enforcement pie (query whether it should – but that is a subject for another day).

Today’s post is a Year in Review of SEC FCPA Enforcement.  (See here for a similar post for 2010).  Stay tuned for a similar post on the DOJ’s Enforcement of the FCPA in 2011.

In 2011, the SEC collected approximately $148 million in 13 corporate FCPA enforcement actions.  By comparison, in 2010 the SEC brought in approximately $530 million in 19 corporate FCPA enforcement actions.   SEC FCPA enforcement in 2011 was both small (Ball Corp. – $300,000) and large (Johnson & Johnson – $48.6).

Five corporate FCPA enforcement actions from 2011 were SEC only (IBM, Ball Corp., Rockwell Automation, Diageo, and Watts Water Technologies).  Of the 13 corporate enforcement actions, only 5 (Armor Holdings, Johnson & Johnson, Tyson Foods, Maxwell Technologies, and Magyar Telekom / Deutsche Telekom) included FCPA anti-bribery charges.  In other words 8 SEC FCPA enforcement actions charged FCPA books and records and internal controls only yet in those enforcement actions the SEC collected approximately $51 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.  This is noteworthy because many question, and rightfully so, whether disgorgement is an appropriate remedy in cases that do not charge FCPA anti-bribery violations.  See here for a prior post.

Of the $148 million the SEC collected in 2011 corporate FCPA enforcement actions, approximately $80 million (54%) were in two enforcement actions (Johnson & Johnson and Magyar Telekom / Deutsche Telekom).  Of the $148 million, approximately $53 million (36%) were in enforcement actions against foreign issuers (Tenaris, Diageo, and Magyar Telekom / Deutsche Telekom).

The $148 million further breaks down as follows: $9.6 million  in civil penalties; $138.4  in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.  Thus 94% of SEC FCPA enforcement settlement amounts in 2011 consisted of disgorgement and prejudgment interest.  This figure last year was 96%.   If one tries to analyze why some SEC FCPA enforcement actions include a civil penalty, disgorgement and prejudgment interest (Watts Water Technologies, Diageo, Armor Holdings, Rockwell Automation, IBM), whereas other enforcement actions include only disgorgement and prejudgment interest (Comverse Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, Tenaris, Tyson Foods, Maxwell Technologies, Aon, Magyar Telekom / Deutsche Telekom), whereas other enforcement actions include only a civil penalty (Ball Corp.), good luck and please enlighten us all with your insight.

Other notable developments from corporate SEC FCPA enforcement in 2011 include use of the first alternative resolution vehicle (a DPA) against Tenaris (see here for the prior post) and four enforcement actions resolved via administrative proceedings (Ball Corp., Rockwell Automation, Diageo, and Watts Water Technologies).  As noted in this previous guest post, a provision in Dodd-Frank granted the SEC broad authority to impose civil monetary penalties in administrative proceedings.

Another significant development in 2011, albeit not FCPA specific, was the much needed scrutiny on the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy – a policy relevant to SEC FCPA enforcement actions.  See here for the prior post.   This will remain an issue to watch in 2012 as neither admit nor deny heads to the Second Circuit.

In recent years, the DOJ has been the subject of well deserved criticism for the lack of individual prosecutions in many corporate FCPA enforcement actions.  The same criticism can also be made of the SEC’s FCPA enforcement program. The SEC, at a minimum, has jurisdiction over the employees of companies settling an FCPA enforcement action and can, as demonstrated by certain FCPA enforcement actions, pursue civil FCPA anti-bribery charges, civil FCPA books and records and internal control charges, as well as other related civil charges.

However, in just 2 of the 13 (15%) corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions in 2011 did the SEC charge individuals (Lessen Chang (Watts Water Technologies) and Elek Straub, Andras Balogh, and Tamas Morvai (Magyar Telekom)) despite allegations in other enforcement actions that employees, including in certain cases senior management, were engaged in the improper conduct at issue.  Last year, the SEC charged individuals in only 3 of the 19 corporate enforcement actions (15%).

In 2011, the SEC did charge 1 individual (Paul Jennings – see here) in connection with the 2010 Innospec enforcement action as well as 7 individuals (Uriel Sharef, Herbert Steffen, Andres Truppel, Ulrich Bock, Stephan Signer, Carlos Sergi and Bernd Regendantz  – see here) in connection with the 2008 Siemens enforcement action.  It is interesting to note that all 12 of the individuals the SEC charged with FCPA violations in 2011 were foreign nationals (in a few cases, dual citizens of a foreign country and the U.S.).

Of the 13 corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions in 2011, 12 enforcement actions (92%) were the result of corporate voluntary disclosures or previous foreign law enforcement investigations.  The only exception is the Aon enforcement which, as noted in this prior post, “following inquiries from regulators, the Company commenced an internal review of its compliance with certain U.S. and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”  Stated in terms of the approximate $148 million the SEC collected in the 13 corporate FCPA enforcement actions in 2011, $133.5 million (90%) was the result of such disclosures.  As noted in last year’s SEC Year in Review post, in 2010, 97% of the SEC’s intake in FCPA enforcement actions was the result of voluntarily or otherwise publicly disclosed information and not the result of original investigation by either the SEC.

This remainder of this post provides an overview of corporate SEC FCPA enforcement in 2011.

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Magyar Telekom / Deutsche Telekom (Dec. 29th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges:  Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery and books and records and internal controls violations.

Settlement:  $31.2 million in disgorgement and pre-judgement interest.

Disclosure:  Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged:  Yes.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  Yes.

Aon Corp. (Dec. 20th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges:  Settled civil complaint charging FCPA books and records and internal controls violations.

Settlement: Approximately $14.5 million (disgorgement of $11,416,814 and prejudgment interest of $3,128,206).

Disclosure:  Aon’s SEC filings stated that  ”following inquiries from regulators, the Company commenced an internal review of its compliance with certain U.S. and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

Individuals Charged:  No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: Yes.

Watts Water Technologies (Oct. 13th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges:  None. Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement:  $3.8 million ($2.8 million in disgorgement, $820,000 in prejudgment interest and a $200,000 civil monetary penalty).

Disclosure:  Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged: Yes.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: No.

Diageo (July 27th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges:  None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement:  Approximately $16.4 million (approximately $11.3 million in disgorgement, approximately $1.2 million in prejudgement interest; and a $3 million civil penalty).

Disclosure:  Yes, voluntary disclosure and/or based on previous foreign law enforcement investigation.

Individuals Charged:  No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: No.

Armor Holdings (July 13th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges:  Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls violations.

Settlement:  Approximately $5.7 million (approximately $1.5 million in disgorgement; $458,000 in prejudgment interest; and a $3.7 million civil penalty)

Disclosure:  Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged: No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: Yes.

Comverse Technologies (April 7th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA books and records and internal control violations.

Settlement: Approximately $1.6 million (approximately $1.2 million in disgorgement and approximately $360,000 in prejudgment interest).

Disclosure: Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged: No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: Yes.

Johnson & Johnson (April 8th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery violations and FCPA books and records and internal controls violations.

Settlement: Approximately $48.6 million (approximately $38.2 million in disgorgement and $10.4 million in prejudgment interest).

Disclosure: Yes, voluntary disclosure (however the Iraq Oil for Food conduct was not voluntarily disclosed).

Related DOJ Enforcement Action. Yes.

Rockwell Automation (April 7th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges: None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement: Approximately $2.7 million (approximately $1.7 million in disgorgement; approximately $590,000 in prejudgment interest; and a $400,000 civil penalty).

Disclosure: Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged: No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: No.

Tenaris (May. 17th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges: None – resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement – term two years.

Settlement: $5.4 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.

Disclosure: Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged: No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: Yes.

Ball Corporation (March 24th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges:   None.  Administrative cease and desist proceeding finding FCPA books and records and internal controls violations.

Settlement: $300,000 penalty.

Disclosure: Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged: No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: No.

IBM Corporation (March 18th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA books and records and internal controls violations.

Settlement: $10 million ($5.3 million in disgorgement, $2.7 million in prejudgment interest, and a $2 million civil penalty).

Disclosure: Yes, the action is reportedly the result of a prior South Korean government investigation.

Individuals Charged: No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: No.

Tyson Foods (Feb. 10th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery violations and books and records and internal control violations.

Settlement: $1.2 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.

Disclosure: Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged: No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: Yes.

Maxwell Technologies (Jan. 31st)

See here for the prior post.

Charges: Settled civil complaint charging: FCPA anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls violations; and Section 13 disclosure violations.

Settlement: Approximately $6.3 million (approximately $5.6 million in disgorgement and $700,000 in prejudgment interest)

Disclosure: Yes, voluntary disclosure.

Individuals Charged: No.

Related DOJ Enforcement Action: Yes.

“No-Charged Bribery Disgorgement”

The most recent issue of Debevoise & Plimpton’s always stellar FCPA Update contains an interesting article titled “Do FCPA Remedies Follow FCPA Wrongs?  ‘Disgorgement’ in Internal Controls and Books and Records Case.”  See here. The article chronicles the “growing trend” in which the SEC “has obtained hefty FCPA-related settlements including company obligations to ‘disgorge’ various amounts” even though the corporate defendant is not charged with an FCPA anti-bribery violation.

Indeed, it is a growing trend. In my 2010 SEC FCPA Enforcement Year in Review post (here), I calculated that 96% of SEC FCPA enforcement settlement amounts in 2010 consisted of disgorgement and prejudgment interest (including in cases where the SEC does not charge an FCPA anti-bribery violation).

The Debevoise author group (which includes Paul Berger (here) a former Associate Director of the SEC Division of Enforcement) concludes that “settlements invoking disgorgement but charging no primary anti-bribery violations push the law’s boundaries, as disgorgement is predicated on the common-sense notion that an actual, jurisdictionally-cognizable bribe was paid to procure the revenue identified by the SEC in its complaint.” The authors note that such “no-charged bribery disgorgement settlements appear designed to inflict punishment rather than achieve the goals of equity.”

In pointed language, the author groups concludes as follows.  “Given the bedrock principle that a court’s equitable power to order such disgorgement goes only as far as the scope of the violation, it is difficult to determine how a court could lawfully allow disgorgement of profits for uncharged violations without the remedy crossing line into ‘punishment’ for the violations actually charged.  Although settling companies that willingly accept disgorgement as a remedy in such cases may have important strategic interests at stake – e.g., avoiding primary anti-bribery charges – even these companies (as well as the SEC) must consider that the federal courts may at some point step in and forbid such settlements as beyond ‘the bounds of fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy.’  Similarly, although stipulated  SEC civil cease and desist orders do not require judicial approval for their entry, the same result could occur if, and when, the agency seeks judicially to enforce the requirements of a jurisdictionally-flawed order in one of the ‘no charged bribery disgorgement’ cases.  At some point, in any event, Congress may well determine that the practice of seeking ‘disgorgements’  in cases in which there is no jurisdictionally-cognizable bribery charged by the SEC is an inappropriate use of the agency’s authority.  In light of these serious legal issues, the Commission itself may wish to re-examine its settlement practices in this arena.”

For additional reading on this topic, see my article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement”  (here) – specifically the section titled “Disgorge What?” (pages 981-984).

 

What Others Are Saying About The SEC’s First DPA

Non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements have been a staple of DOJ FCPA enforcement for years. 2010 saw 15 such resolution vehicles (4 NPAs) and (11 DPAs) (see here for the prior post) and these resolution vehicles are significantly different than a corporate entity being criminally charged or pleading guilty.

Last month, the SEC used a DPA for the first time in resolving the Tenaris FCPA enforcement action. See here for the prior post.

This post collects what others are saying about the SEC’s first DPA, including whether resolution via such a vehicle is all that different from traditional SEC resolution procedures.

In this publication, Shearman & Sterling noted as follows. “Prior to this settlement, the SEC had employed only two enforcement options: civil complaints seeking injunctive relief or administrative cease-and-desist orders. In both cases, even though the company could settle without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, the relevant adjudicator (either a judge or the Commission) necessarily made a formal finding that the company had indeed violated the law and that the injunction or order was necessary to prevent it from doing so again.” Shearman notes that “in the criminal context, DPAs and non-prosecution agreements, their slightly less formal cousins which do not involve filed charges, were first used in FCPA cases beginning in 2004” and further notes the benefits of a DPA compared to criminal charges. However, the Shearman publication states as follows. “It is not clear whether the benefits afforded by a civil DPA in a SEC enforcement action confer similar benefits. With due respect to the SEC, a civil enforcement adjudication is a much less fearsome matter than a criminal conviction. Further, although the issuance of an injunction or an order undoubtedly represents some finding of wrongdoing, since they are settled without the defendant company admitting or denying the relevant facts, they do not bar the company from contesting such facts in non-SEC proceedings. Further, they do not have the automatic collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. Thus, one must question what benefits a SEC DPA really affords.” As to the Tenaris DPA, Shearman states as follows. “Although the company was not required to pay a civil fine, the SEC has similarly forgone fines in some previous traditional settlements in the past, requiring the defendant company only to disgorge its illicit gains. Moreover, by tolling the statute of limitations, the company potentially extends its exposure and subjects itself to potential civil enforcement for a greater period of time than if it had settled the SEC matter in the traditional way. Finally, it is not clear that the company received any financial benefit from entering into a DPA as opposed to the usual consent judgment or administrative settlement. […] [T]he SEC appears to have exacted the full amount of disgorgement and interest in this matter.” The Shearman publication also contains an interesting discussion about the “concealed penalty” in the Tenaris DPA and states as follows. “The Tenaris DPA also reflects a disturbing development relating to the financial penalty, which may not be restricted to DPAs. Specifically, the SEC’s DPA with Tenaris provides that the company must “refrain from seeking or accepting a US federal or state tax credit or deduction for any monies paid pursuant to this Agreement.” Since the only monies paid related to disgorgement and prejudgment interest, this effectively precludes the company from recouping any taxes it might have paid on the profits it now has to disgorge, resulting in a hidden additional penalty.” Finally, Shearman touches upon an issue it has frequently raised in such FCPA alerts and that is the expansive jurisdictional theories frequently used by U.S. enforcement authorities to prosecute non-U.S. companies for FCPA offenses. As to Tenaris, the Shearman publication states as follows. “The Tenaris matter demonstrates the U.S. government’s continued aggressive approach to expanding the reach of the FCPA, no matter how attenuated or de minimis a non-U.S. company’s contact with the U.S. may be.”

In this publication, Gibson Dunn observes as follows. “One question raised by this case is where the SEC draws the line between use of a DPA and an NPA. Based on comments by the Commission staff in announcing the DPA, Tenaris was a DPA candidate because of its immediate disclosure and exceptional cooperation. However, it appears not to have been an NPA candidate because of the alleged underlying violation.” Gibson Dunn asks – “the key question now is how a defendant benefits from receiving an NPA or DPA from the SEC over a traditional settled enforcement action” and states as follows. “Turning to a DPA, the defendant agrees to what appear to be remedies very similar to those historically obtained by the SEC in a settled enforcement action, but potential defendants need to consider the risks and benefits of a DPA more carefully. Optically, for a company that does not go on to violate the agreement, a DPA can be favorably described as the SEC’s decision not to take an enforcement action against the defendant. This distinction is meaningful for a defendant’s public image and reputation. […] A second potential advantage of a DPA is avoidance of the collateral consequences. Some collateral consequences, such as disclosure obligations or disqualifications from participation in the securities industry, arise from the entry of an injunction, which a DPA avoids.” Gibson Dunn further states as follows. “On the other hand, the DPA’s model is untested. One reason parties settle SEC proceedings is to avoid the collateral estoppel effect of adverse findings of fact and conclusions of law in contested litigation which an adversary may use in a claim for damages or other relief. Generally, courts have concluded that they will not impose collateral estoppel based on factual recitations contained in settled SEC enforcement actions and that settled SEC complaints or administrative orders are not evidence. Because DPAs are new, there is less precedent on how courts will view similar factual recitations.” Finally, Gibson Dunn observes that “companies considering a DPA may wish to consider confirming that their insurance carriers will not construe a DPA as an admission that could adversely affect coverage for a company and/or its directors and officers.”

In this alert, Dewey & LeBoeuf stated as follows. “The Tenaris DPA is significant insofar as it shows the SEC’s willingness to cut a break to those companies that demonstrate “high levels of corporate accountability and cooperation” with SEC enforcement investigations. Tenaris was credited for “immediate self-reporting, thorough internal investigation, full cooperation with SEC staff, enhanced anti-corruption procedures, and enhanced training.” These great lengths allowed it to obtain a more lenient sanction than it may have otherwise received. As companies under investigation by the SEC tend to go to such lengths in order to settle rather than litigate SEC cases, it is likely that we will see more DPAs from the SEC in the future. This is especially true with respect to SEC cases involving allegations of FCPA violations, which are routinely settled rather than litigated.”

In this alert, Debevoise & Plimpton states as follows. “… [T]he nature and circumstances of the settlement call into question how beneficial the settlement overall, and particularly the SEC’s novel form of resolution, actually was for Tenaris. The company, even by the government’s account, did everything right after discovering potentially improper conduct: It immediately and voluntarily disclosed the conduct at issue, retained outside counsel to conduct a worldwide investigation, cooperated extensively and in “real time” with the SEC and DOJ, and implemented substantial remedial measures and compliance enhancements. Yet Tenaris still had to pay millions in disgorgement and fines, adopt wide-ranging compliance requirements (including certification by all directors and members of management regarding compliance with a revised code of conduct) on top of the extensive reforms and enhancements the company had already implemented, commit to notify the DOJ during the two-year term of the NPA of any conduct by any Tenaris employee that violates U.S. federal or state criminal law or any non-U.S. fraud or anticorruption law (or even any investigation of such conduct) that comes to the attention of the company’s senior management, and, perhaps most significantly, agree not to dispute detailed accounts of the company’s conduct that include express statements that the conduct was “illegal” and “improper.” For example, although the DPA includes a pro forma recitation that Tenaris was not “admitting or denying” the SEC’s allegations, Tenaris agreed not to dispute a statement of facts that describes the payments as “illegal payments to OAO officials” and identifies those OAO employees as “‘foreign officials’ within the meaning of [the FCPA].” The SEC’s resolution of the Tenaris investigation by means of a DPA reflects the adoption by the SEC of aggressive techniques and practices employed by the DOJ in criminal matters – a trend that may continue as the SEC increases the vigor of its FCPA enforcement efforts.”

In this alert, Foley & Lardner noted as follows. “The agreement also does not contain an injunction or an order of a court, which reduces the risk of collateral actions (securities class actions, shareholder breach of fiduciary duty actions). Undoubtedly, Tenaris’s full disclosure and cooperation played a major role in SEC’s deciding to use a deferred prosecution agreement for the first time.”

In this alert, Bryan Cave noted as follows. “It is telling that the SEC’s first use of a DPA occurred in an investigation involving alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). Such investigations, which typically require reviews of detailed financial records, e-mails and other documents in numerous jurisdictions, often in languages other than English, present substantial challenges to the SEC and other authorities. In these situations, what the SEC describes as “extraordinary cooperation” on the part of a corporation has particular value.”

In this alert, Dechert stated as follows. “It is noteworthy that the SEC chose to offer a DPA to Tenaris but an NPA to Carter’s. The SEC has offered no public explanation why it used different cooperation tools, and in fact the instructions in the SEC manual for the use of the two types of agreements are similar. The SEC press releases for both use similar language to describe the cooperation from the respective companies. One explanation for this different treatment may lie in the seriousness with which the SEC views FCPA violations. While NPAs are typically reserved for those viewed by the charging agency as witnesses with little or no criminal exposure, DPAs are often accompanied by a formal charging document, are filed with a court, and generally include a rigorous set of corrective measures that the cooperating company must undertake in order for the prosecution to remain deferred. Thus, the DPA is likely to remain a favored agreement in the FCPA context, where there will invariably be additional measures for the corporate defendant to undertake in the area of compliance and/or monitoring. Moreover, there are potentially additional adverse consequences if the DPA is violated, so it is a more rigorous enforcement tool.”

In this alert, Cahill Gordon & Reindel note as follows. “Significantly, the DPA does not require Tenaris to make an admission of wrongdoing, or admit to a statement of facts detailing the misconduct, as is common in agreements of this type in the criminal context. Such admissions can be used against a company by criminal authorities or by private plaintiffs, neither of whom are bound by the DPA.”

Bribery And The But-For World

Settlement amounts in FCPA enforcement actions have grown over the past decade. This much you already knew.

A significant contributing factor is the increased use of disgorgement in FCPA enforcement actions. For instance, as highlighted in this prior post, 96% of SEC FCPA enforcement settlement amounts in 2010 consisted of disgorgement and prejudgment interest.

The theory seems to be this, if Company A made an improper payment in violation of the FCPA to obtain Contract A, all of the Company A’s net profits associated with Contract A are subject to disgorgement.

In my opening remarks at the World Bribery and Corruption Compliance Forum in London in September 2010 (see here) I observed as follows.

“Another issue in need of deeper analysis is the commonly held enforcement view that the contract (and thus net profits of the contract) at issue was secured solely because of the alleged improper payments made by the corporate. This ignores the fact that most of the companies settling enforcement actions are otherwise viewed as industry leaders presumably because they offer the best product or service for the best price. With such companies, can it truly be said that the alleged improper payments were the sole reason the company secured the contract at issue, thus justifying the company being forced to disgorge all of its net profits associated with the contract? Does a but for analysis have a place in bribery laws – in other words should the enforcement agency have to prove that but for the improper payment, the company would not have secured the contract at issue?”

In a recent piece titled “Economic Analysis of Damages under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” (here) Dr. Patrick Conroy (here) and Dr. Graeme Hunter (here) – both of Nera Economic Consulting – spend some time in the “but-for” world.

The authors note that “to date there has been little consideration of the true benefit of the bribe” but “with fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars and increasing enforcement, it is necessary to clearly understand what effect a bribe had on profits and to carefully establish what the but-for profits would have been without the bribe.”

The authors note that “while a bribe may have led to very high gains, the but-for profits could have been high (and the gain from the bribe low) if the bribe would have little effect on the probability of winning the work or if alternative projects were similarly profitable.”

The authors state as follows. “If a company pays a bribe to secure a project, what is the gain to the company from the bribe? While one answer might be the profits earned by the project, we outline [in the article] a number of considerations based on the incremental probability of winning generated by the bribe and the opportunity cost of the project won that will lead to a more realistic, and sometimes lower, calculation of the true economic profits from the bribe.”

The authors conclude as follows. “International bribery has become a regulatory enforcement priority based on the FCPA in the US and the soon-to-be-implemented Anti-Bribery Act in the UK. Applying greater precision to the financial benefits of bribery is necessary given increasing enforcement.”

A thought-provoking read and time well spent in the “but-for” world.

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