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Vitol Resolves Net $90 Million FCPA Enforcement Action For Conduct In Brazil, Ecuador And Mexico

vitol

Last week the DOJ announced that Vitol Inc., the U.S. affiliate of the Vitol group of companies, which together form one of the largest energy trading companies in the world, agreed to resolve a net $90 million FCPA enforcement action for conduct in Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico.

As noted in the DOJ release (and as will be explored in a future post) “Vitol has also agreed to disgorge more than $12.7 million to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in a related matter and to pay the CFTC a penalty of $16 million related to trading activity not covered” by the DOJ enforcement action.

Under the heading “The Brazil Bribery Scheme” this criminal information alleges:

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Brazilian Company Bribes Brazilian Officials, U.S. Collects Net $155 Million In FCPA Enforcement Action

J&F

This recent post posed the question of whether “foreign” in the FCPA’s “foreign official” element means as it relates to the U.S. or as it relates to the specific company at issue. The post highlighted how in recent years the FCPA enforcement agencies have adopted the former interpretation in bringing FCPA enforcement actions against foreign companies for allegedly bribing their own “domestic” officials – but “foreign” as it relates to the U.S.

In yet another example, the DOJ and SEC announced yesterday (see here and here) that J&F Investimentos S.A. (J&F a private investment holding company based in Brazil that owns approximately 250 companies primarily involved in the meat and agriculture business) and a related entity resolved a net $155 million FCPA enforcement action for allegedly bribing Brazilian officials.

The enforcement action involved a: (i) DOJ component against J&F resolved through a plea agreement in which the company paid net $128.2 million; and (ii) an SEC component against J&F, a related entity, and two individuals in which the related entity paid approximately $26.8 million and the two individuals each paid a $550,000 civil penalty.

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A Foreign Official Head-Scratcher

scratchhead

The anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act define “foreign official” to mean in pertinent part: “any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof … or any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of any such government or department, agency, or instrumentality …”.

Having reviewed the FCPA’s entire legislative history, it is clear that Congress intended “foreign” to mean non-U.S. as Congress learned of payments to: the political campaign of the President of the Republic of Korea; a Saudi Arabian general; Italian political parties; Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka; Prince Bernhard (the Inspector General of the Dutch Armed Forces and the husband of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands); Oswaldo Lopez Arellano, the President of Honduras; and Albert Bernard Bongo, the President of Gabon.

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Even Though The Jurisdictional Basis For The Action Was “Limited,” Airbus Resolves $294 Million FCPA Enforcement Action In Connection With Broader Global Enforcement Action

airbus

The DOJ recently announced that Airbus (a France-based global provider of civilian and military aircraft) agreed to pay $3.9 billion to resolve foreign bribery, as well as Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, enforcement actions in the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom.

As the DOJ acknowledged, Airbus “is neither a U.S. issuer nor a domestic concern, and the territorial jurisdiction over the corrupt conduct is limited.” As the DOJ further acknowledged, both France and the United Kingdom have a “significantly stronger” jurisdictional basis for resolving related matters.

Nevertheless, a portion of the global settlement amount includes a $294 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action. This post summarizes the enforcement action in which the DOJ charged Airbus in this information with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

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South Korean Company Bribes Brazilian Officials Through Brazilian Agents, U.S. Collects $37.7 Million

SamsungHeavy

Last Friday, the Department of Justice announced that Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI – a South Korea-based engineering company that provides shipbuilding, offshore platform construction, and other construction and engineering services with a branch office in Houston) agreed to resolve a net $37.5 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action.

As highlighted below, the conduct at issue involved SHI’s relationship with Pride International (which is now part of Valaris plc) through which it sold a $636 million drillship to Petrobras.

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