In recent years – and notwithstanding encouraging windows of progress – economic difficulties, political shifts, and the pandemic’s lingering effects have undercut anti-corruption efforts in Latin America. The fourth annual Capacity to Combat Corruption Index (“CCC Index”), published in June 2022, reflects these recent challenges. Most countries in Latin America experienced declines in their assessed anti-corruption capabilities, with only a few demonstrating stability or improvement.
Presumably in connection with the visit by Vice President Kamala Harris to Guatemala, earlier this week U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “announced a series of steps that the Department of Justice is taking to address the threats posed by both corruption and by transnational human smuggling and trafficking networks” in Central America.
The main focus of the establishment of so-called “Joint Task Force Alpha” will be “to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.”
In addition, the DOJ release states: “Joint Task Force Alpha will also complement the Justice Department’s efforts to fight corruption. The Justice Department will increase its focus on investigations, prosecutions, and asset recoveries relating to corruption in Northern Triangle countries through its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement program, counternarcotics prosecutions, and Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.”
It is not every day that a former chief financial officer is criminally charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA.
On December 17, 2010 a criminal information (here) was filed under seal against Manuel Salvoch, the former CFO of LatiNode. On January 11, 2011 Salvoch was arrested, the case unsealed, and a plea agreement (here) was executed on January 12, 2011.
This is likely the first you have heard of the Salvoch enforcement action. The DOJ did not issue a press release and, to my knowledge, this enforcement action has never been reported.
Salvoch was charged in connection with payments to Hondutel (see here), according to the charging documents a state-owned telecommunications company in Honduras responsible for providing telecommunications services in Honduras. The Hondutel payments have also resulted in criminal charges against Jorge Granados (the founder and former CEO and Chairman of the Board of LatiNode) and Manuel Caceres (a former Vice President of Business Development) (see here).
The theory of prosecution in these cases is the same theory of prosecution being challenged in the Carson and Lindsey cases (see here and here) – that employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled enterprises are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.
This theory of prosecution was also the support for the March 2009 enforcement action against LatiNode (see here) a former privately held Florida telecommunications company that agreed to a pay a $2 million criminal penalty for violating the FCPA in connection with alleged Hondutel payments as well as payments to officials of Tele Yemen, the Yemeni government-owned telecommunications company. LatiNode was acquired by eLandia International Inc. (an issuer) in June 2007.
The conduct at issue in the Salvoch criminal information and plea agreement is similar to the conduct at issue in the Granados and Caceres indictment (see here for the prior post).
The Granados and Caceres case remains open (their trial is set for September 26, 2011) and in his plea agreement Salvoch agreed to “cooperate fully” with the DOJ including by “providing truthful and complete information and testimony” at any trial, or other Court proceeding. According to the docket, Salvoch is to be sentenced on March 23rd, but it is likely that his sentencing will be delayed until after the Granados and Caceres trial.
In 2006, Alcatel-Lucent, S.A. (“Alcatel”) was formed when an Alcatel S.A. subsidiary merged with Lucent Technologies, Inc. Prior to the merger, Alcatel was a worldwide provider of a wide variety of telecommunications equipment and services and other technology products. The company operated in more than 130 countries directly and through certain wholly owned and indirect subsidiaries including in Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia and Taiwan. From 1998 until late 2006, ADR shares of Alcatel were traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 2010, in what was the last FCPA enforcement action of the year, the left side of the hyphen – Alcatel and certain of its subsidiaries – settled an FCPA enforcement.
This post analyzes the Alcatel-Lucent enforcement action. The enforcement action (all 360 pages) is a FCPA feast. Principally based on the lack of due diligence of third-party agents, the enforcement action serves up the following: lots of alleged state-owned or state-controlled telecommunication entities; consultants hired after contracts were secured; a purported telecommunications consultant with only perfume experience; payments to legislators and political parties; things of value including excessive travel and entertainment expenses and crystal for the secretary; joint ventures; and payments from New York and Miami bank accounts.
The Alcatel-Lucent enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was approximately $137.4 million ($92 million criminal fine via DOJ plea agreements and a deferred prosecution agreement; $45.4 million in disgorgement via a SEC settled complaint).
The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information against Alcatel-Lucent, S.A. (“Alcatel”) resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement and a criminal information against Alcatel-Lucent France S.A. (“Alcatel CIT”), Alcatel-Lucent Trade International A.G. (“Alcatel Standard”), and Alcatel CentroAmerica, S.A. (“ACR”) resolved through plea agreements. See here for the DOJ release.
Alcatel-Lucent S.A. Criminal Information
The information (here) begins with a heading “Background Regarding Alcatel’s Business Practices and the State of Its Internal Controls.”
It states as follows. “Starting in the 1990s and continuing through at least last 2006, Alcatel pursued many of its business opportunities around the world through the use of third-party agents and consultants. This business model was shown to be prone to corruption, as consultants were repeatedly used as conduits for bribe payments to foreign officials (and business executives of private customers) to obtain or retain business in many countries.”
The information also highlights Alcatel’s “de-centralized business structure” which permitted different Alcatel employees around the world “to initially vet the the third-party consultants, and then rely on Executive 1 [a French citizen who served as Chief Executive Officer of Alcatel Standard in Basel, Switzerland] at Alcatel to perform due diligence on them.” According to the information, “this de-centralized structure and approval process permitted corruption to occur, as the local employees were more interested in obtaining business than ensuring that business was won ethically and legally.”
Further, the information alleges that “Executive 1 performed no due diligence of substance and remained, at best, deliberately ignorant of the true purpose behind the retention of and payment to many of the third-party consultants.” Specifically, the information alleges that “Executive 1 made no effort, or virtually no effort, to verify the information provided by the consultant in the Consultant Profile [a form the consultant was supposed to complete with information concerning its ownership, business activities, capabilities, banking arrangements, and professional references], apart from using Dun & Bradstreet reports to confirm the consultant’s existence and physical address.” According to the information, “if the paperwork was completed, regardless of any obvious issues (such as close relationships with foreign officials or a clear lack of skill, experience or telecommunications expertise), Executive 1 authorized hiring and paying the third-party consultant.”
As to payments to the consultants, the information alleges that “Alcatel Standard [a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alcatel located and incorporated in Switzerland and an entity “responsible for entering into most agreements with consultants worldwide on behalf of Alcatel and certain other entities] would contract with the third-party consultant and then Alcatel CIT [a wholly owned subsidiary of Alcatel located and incorporated in France] would pay the consultant” including through a bank account at ABN Amro Bank in New York.
The information alleges as follows. “Often senior executives at Alcatel CIT, Alcatel Standard, and ACR [a wholly owned subsidiary of Alcatel located and incorporated in Costa Rica], among others, knew bribes were being paid, or were aware of the high probability that many of these third-party consultants were paying bribes, to foreign officials to obtain or retain business. For example, in a significant number of instances, the consultant contracts were executed after Alcatel had already obtained the customer business, the consultant commissions were excessive, and lump sum payments were made to the consultants that did not appear to correspond to any one one contract.”
According to the information, “Alcatel CIT, Alcatel Standard, ACR, and certain employees of Alcatel CIT, Alcatel Standard, and ACR knew, or purposefully ignored” that much of the consultant documentation “did not accurately reflect the true nature and purpose of the agreements” and that “many of the invoices submitted by various third-party consultants falsely claimed that legitimate work had been completed, while the true purpose of the monies sought by the invoices was to funnel all or some of the money to foreign officials, directly and indirectly.”
The information alleges that “these transactions were designed to circumvent Alcatel’s internal controls system and were further undertaken knowing that they would not be accurately and fairly reflected in Alcatel CIT, Alcatel Standard, and ACR’s books and records, which were included in the consolidated financial statements that Alcatel filed with the SEC.”
The information then contains ten separate sections: conduct in Costa Rica; conduct in Honduras; conduct in Malaysia; conduct in Taiwan; conduct in Kenya; conduct in Nigeria; conduct in Bangladesh; conduct in Ecuador; conduct in Nicaragua; and other consultancy agreements entered into without proper due diligence.
The alleged conduct focuses on the actions of Christian Sapsizian and Edgar Valverde Acosta and consultancy agreements on behalf of Alcatel CIT with two Costa Rican consultants which were intended to make improper payments to Costa Rican government officials for telecommunications contracts. According to the indictment, Sapsizian (a French citizen) was a long-term employee of Alcatel and Alcatel CIT responsible for developing business in Latin America. Valverde (a Costa Rica citizen) served as the President of ACR and the Country Senior Officer of Costa Rica. See here for the prior enforcement actions against Sapsizian and Valverde.
According to the information, “both consultants had many personal contacts at ICE [Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad S.A. – a “wholly state-owned telecommunications authority in Costa Rica responsible for awarding and administering public tenders for telecommunications contracts].
According to the information, Sapsizian’s supervisor, the President of Area 1 who worked in Miami, approved more than $18 million in payments to the consultants notwithstanding that the President of Area 1, according to Sapsizian, “told him on several occasions that he knew he was ‘risking jail time’ as a result of his approval of these payments, which he understood would, at least in part, ultimately wind up in the hands of public officials.”
The information alleges that various Alcatel entities “conducted insufficient due diligence” on the consultants and that “neither Alcatel nor any of its subsidiaries took sufficient steps to ensure that the consultants were complying with the FCPA or other relevant anti-corruption laws.”
According to the information, the above described payments were ultimately used to provide money to various ICE officials, a Costa Rica executive branch official, and a Costa Rica legislator, that ultimately assisted Alcatel CIT obtain a $44 million contract, a $149.5 million contract, a $109.5 million contract.
The information also alleges that Sapsizian “approved the payment of approximately $25,000 in travel, hotel, and other expenses incurred by ICE officials during a primarily pleasure trip to Paris” – a trip that “was partially intended to reward these government officials for providing Alcatel with lucrative contracts …”.
Based on this conduct, the information alleges that “employees of Alcatel CIT, Alcatel Standard, and ACR knowingly circumvented Alcatel’s internal controls system and made inaccurate and false entries in the books and records of Alcatel CIT, Alcatel Standard, and ACR, whose financial results were included in the consolidated financial statements of Alcatel submitted to the SEC. As a result of the contracts won by Alcatel CIT in Costa Rica as a result of bribe payments, Alcatel earned approximately $23,661,000 in profits.”
The information charges that “employees of ACR, along with Sapsizian, pursued business opportunities on behalf of Alcatel in Honduras with Hondutel [Empresa Hondurena de Telecomunicaciones – an alleged wholly state-owned telecommunications authority in Honduras responsible for providing telecommunications services in Honduras including evaluating and awarding telecommunications contracts on behalf of the government of Honduras] and Conatel [Comision Nacional de Telecouniciaciones – an alleged Honduran government agency that regulated the telecommunications sector in Honduras that issued licenses and concessions for fixed-line and wireless telephony, data transmission and internet services].”
According to the information, Alcatel CIT and Alcatel Mexico made large commission payments to at least one consultant, knowing that all or some of the money paid to that consultant would be paid to a close relative of a Honduran government official, with the high probability that some or all of the money would be passed on to the Honduran government official, in exchange for favorable treatment of Alcatel, Alcatel CIT, and Alcatel Mexico.”
According to the information, the consultant was retained at the request of a high-ranking government official in the Honduran executive branch; however, the consultant was an exclusive distributor of “brand name perfumes” and had no contacts in, or prior experience with, the telecommunications industry in Honduras or anywhere else.
The information alleges that in retaining the consultant, “Alcatel Standard knowingly failed to conduct appropriate due dligence” and “did not follow up on numerous, obvious red flags.”
The information alleges that by utilizing the services of the consultant, Hondutel awarded Alcatel a $1 million contract and four additional contracts for a combined value of approximately $47 million.
The information also alleges that “Alcatel CIT and ACR employees arranged for several other Honduran government officials to take primarily pleasure trips to France, which were paid by Alcatel CIT or ACR directly.” In addition, the information charges that a “high-ranking executive at Hondutel” also “received gifts and improper payments from Alcatel CIT and ACR employees” including $2,000 for an educational trip for the official’s daughter and a trip to Paris (along with the official’s spouse) that mostly consisted of “touring activities via a chauffeur-driven vehicle.” Further, the information alleges that “Alcatel CIT also made payments to a Hondutel attorney who worked” on a contract secured by Alcatel including paying for a trip by the attorney and the attorney’s daughter to Paris.
Based on this conduct, the information alleges that “employees of Alcatel CIT, Alcatel Standard, and ACR knowingly circumvented Alcatel’s internal controls system and caused inaccurate and false entries in the books and records of Alcatel CIT, Alcatel Standard, and ACR, whose financial results were included in the consolidated financial statements of Alcatel submitted to the SEC.” According to the information, “as a result of the bribe payments, Alcatel earned approximately $870,000 in profits.”
The information alleges that “in at least 17 instances in or around 2004 to in or around 2006, Alcatel Malaysia [a joint venture in which Alcatel owned a majority share of and exercised control of] employees, with the consent and approval of Alcatel Malaysia’s management, such as Executive 2 [Alcatel Malaysia’s Country Senior Officer] and Executive 3 [Alcatel Malaysia’s Chief Financial Officer], made improper payments to Telekcom Malaysia [an alleged state-owned and controlled telecommunications provider in Malaysia responsible for awarding telecommunications contracts 43% owned by the Malaysian Ministry of Finance] employees in exchange for nonpublic information relating to ongoing public tenders.” According to the information, “the documents purchased generally consisted of internal assessments by Celcom’s [Telekom Malaysia’s wholly owned subsidiary] tender committee of non-public pricing information.” According to the information, “eight of the 17 improper payments to Telekom Malaysia employees were made in connection with a single public tender that Alcatel Malaysia ultimately won …”. The information alleges that the payments were falsely characterized as “document fees” or accurately as “purchase of tender documents.”
The information further alleges that Alcatel Standard entered into a consulting agreement for more than $500,000 with a Malaysian consultant even though “Alcatel typically paid its agents and consultants commission rates based on the total value of a contract rather than pay a fixed fee for services.” According to the information, “at the time the payments were made to Malaysian Consultant 1, Alcatel Malaysia and Alcatel Standard were aware of a significant risk that Malaysian Consultant 1 would pass on all or a part of these payments to foreign officials.”
The information further alleges that Alcatel Standard entered into another consulting agreement with another consultant by which Alcatel Standard agreed to pay the consultant $500,000 for a “strategic intelligence report on Celcom’s positioning in the celluar industry in relation to its competitors.” According to the information, despite paying the consultant “half a million dollars for this report … there is no evidence that Malaysian Consultant 2 did any actual work for Alcatel Malaysia or ever produced the report.” The information states that “Alcatel Standard and Alcatel Malaysia were aware of a significant risk that Malaysian Consultant 2 was serving merely as a conduit for bribe payments to foreign officials.”
The information further alleges, in summary fashion, as follows. “Alcatel Malaysia lacked internal controls, such as formal policies covering expenditure for gifts, travel, and entertainment for customers, leading to Alcatel Malaysia employees giving lavish gifts to Telekom Malaysia officials.”
Based on this conduct, the information alleges that “Alcatel Standard and Alcatel Malaysia knowingly circumvented Alcatel’s internal controls system and caused inaccurate and false entries in the books and records of Alcatel Standard and Alcatel Malaysia, whose financial results were included in the consolidated financial statements of Alcatel submitted to the SEC.” The information states that “although Alcatel won the $85 million Celcom contract, Alcatel did not generate any profits from it.”
According to the information, Alcatel pursued business in Taiwan through its indirect subsidiary Alcatel SEL, a company located and incorporated in Germany. The information states that Executive 4 [a German citizen who served on Alcatel SEL’s director of international business ans sales] hired two third-party consultants to assist Alcatel SEL and Taisel, a joint venture 60% owned by an Alcatel subsidiary in obtaiing an axle counting contracts from the TRA [the Taiwan Railway Administration – an alleged wholly state-owned authority in Taiwan responsible for managing, maintaining, and running passenger freight services on Taiwan’s railroad lines].” According to the information, “both consultants claimed to have close ties to certain legislators in the Taiwanese government who were understood to have influence in awarding the contract due to their particular responsibilities in the legislature.”
The information alleges that the “purpose behind Alcatel’s hiring of Taiwanese Consultant 1 was so that Alcatel SEL could make improper payments to three Taiwanese legislators who had influence in the award of the TRA axle counting contract.” According to the information, after Taisel has been awarded the contract, “Alcatel SEL paid Taiwanese Consultant 1 a commission of approximately $921,413 by wire transfer from Alcatel SEL’s ABN Amro bank account in New York” and that Taiwanese Consultant 1, in turn, “made improper payments to two Taiwanese legislators: Legislator 2 and Legislator 3 – both members of the Legislative Yuan, the unicameral legislative assembly of the Republic of China. Among other things, the information alleges: that the the consultant promised approximately $180,000 in campaign funds for Legislator 3’s 2004 election campaign and then paid Legislator 3 approximately $90,000 after Alcatel SEL won the bid; that Executive 4 and the consultant “spent approximately $8,000 on trips to Germany” that were “primarly for personal, entertainment purposes, with only nominal business justification;” that Alcatel SEL paid the consultant “approximately $3,000 to reimburse it for a set of crystal given to the secretary of the Taiwan Transportation and Communications Minister.”
The information also alleges that Executive 4 also hired another consultant because “Taiwanese Consultant 2’s owner was the brother of Legislator 4, who had influence with respect to TRA matters.” The information alleges that “to bribe Legislator 4, Alcatel SEL arranged for a bogus consulting agreement between Taisel and Taiwanese Consultant 2.”
The information alleges as follows. “Neither Taiwanese Consultant 1 nor Taiwanese Consultant 2 provided legitimate services to Alcatel or Alcatel SEL. Their only function was to pass on improper payments to three Taiwanese legislators on behalf of Alcatel SEL and Taisel. On or about December 30, 2003 Taisel’s bid was accepted by the TRA, which granted Taisel a supply contract worth approximately $19.2 million …”.
According to the information, “Alcatel SEL’s financial results were included in the consolidated financial statements of Alcatel submitted to the SEC” and “as a result of contracts won by Alcatel in Taiwan as a result of bribe payments, Alcatel earned approximately $4,342,600 in profits.”
The information describes a Kenyan joint venture (“Kenyan JV”) formed by a French telecommunications company (“French Telecom”) and a Kenyan company (“Kenyan Company”) to apply for a mobile telecommunications license that the Kenyan JV was awarded for approximately $55 million. Several companies, including Alcatel CIT, bid to provide approximately $87 million in infrastructure and services to the Kenyan JV. The information alleges that Alcatel CIT was informed by French Telecom that Alcatel CIT “would win the bid under one condition: an Alcatel entity had to make improper payments to an intermediary in the approximate amount of $20 million.”
The information then describes the intermediary and payments made to it and concludes with the following paragraph. “After entering into the various contracts, the intermediary provided monthly reports and economic intelligence on the telecommunications market in Africa, but never provided any information related to the 2nd GSM license or the Kenyan telecommunications market. In light of the huge amounts of the payments, the fact that the intermediary performed little legitimate work in connection with the 2nd GSM license, and the fact that Company Z [another company suggested by the intermediary] was an offshore holding of Kenyan Company, there is a high probability that all or a portion of the approximately $20 million in payments made by Alcatel CIT to the intermediary and the related entities was passed on to Kenyan Company, which in turn passed on the funds to Kenyan government officials who had played a role in awarding the original contract to French Telecom.”
The information states that between 1999 and 2007, Alcatel pursued business with various Nigerian customers and alleges as follows.
“Certain Alcatel subsidiaries made improper payments to government officials in Nigeria in the following contexts: (a) payments made to government officials for the purpose of reducing tax or other liabilities; (b) payments made to government officials to obtain security services from the Nigerian police; (c) a payment of approximately $75,000 to a former Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations for the purpose of arranging meetings between Alcatel representatives and Nigerian Senior Government Official 1, a high-ranking official in the Nigerian executive branch; (d) payments made to government officials for the purpose of securing recovery of a debt totaling approximately $36.5 million owed by the government of Nigeria to ITT Nigeria [an Alcatel entity]; and (e) a payment to a People’s Democractic Party official. These payments were not described accurately and fairly on Alcatel’s books and records.”
The information also alleges as follows. “Alcatel personnel also made improper payments via a consultant to a Senior Executive at Nigerian Telecommunications Company 1” and “Alcatel also made large improper payments to two other consultants which were owned at least in part by a relative of the Senior Executive at Nigerian Telecommunications Company 1.” “These payments were not described accurately and fairly on Alcatel’s books and records.” There is nothing in the information to suggest that Nigerian Telecommunications Company 1 was a state-owned or controlled enterprise and the information refers to payments to the Senior Executive as “commercial bribe payments.”
The information generally alleges that “Alcatel generated a significant portion of its revenue in Bangladesh from Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board, the state-controlled telecommunications services provider” and that Alcatel used an agent in Bangladesh but “Alcatel Standard did not conduct adequate due diligence” on the consultant. In addition, the information alleges that Alcatel Standard retained the agent in connection with a submarine cable project connecting fourteen countries – Alcatel’s portion of the contract was approximately $258 million. According to the information, Alcatel CIT paid the consultant approximately $626,492 in compensation for services provided in connection with the project and approximately $2,524,939 in connection with various upgrades to a predecessor of the project “aware of a significant risk that Bangladsh Consultant would pass on all or a part of these payments to foreign officials.”
According to the information, “Alcatel conducted business in Ecuador with three major telecommunicatios customers, all of which were state-owned: Andinatel, Pacifictel, and Empresa Municipl de Telecomunicaciones, Aqua Potable, Alcantarillados y Saneamiento. The information alleges that Alcatel retained a consultant in Ecuador (“a wealthy businessman”), but that the consultant and the entities he controlled “did little legitimate work for Alcatel.” The information alleges as follows. “Instead, it was anticipated that Ecuadorian Consultant would funnel a portion of the funds Alcatel paid him to officials of the Ecuadorian state-owned telecommunications companies in order to secure business and other benefits for Alcatel. Improper payments were anticipated to be made or offered in connection with at least nine contracts with government-owned telecommunication companies.”
According to the information, at least some of Alcatel’s payments to the consultant wre made to bank accounts in Miami.
In addition, the information alleges as follows. “Alcatel also paid for trips taken by officials of the three telecommunications companies that were principally for pleasure. For example, both the Vice-President and the Chairman of the Board of Pacifictel received improper all-expenses paid trips to France.”
According to the information, “Alcatel’s only customer in Nicaragua was Empresa Nicaraguense de Telecomunicaciones S.A. (“Enitel”) which was state-owned during the relevant time period.” The Ecuadorian consultant referenced above, also served as Alcatel’s consultant in Nicaragua. According to the information, “with the assistance of Ecuadorian Consultant, Alcatel CIT secured two contracts with Enitel” valued at approximately $1.6 million and $370,000. The information alleges that Alcatel CIT made payments totaling approximately $229,3822 to the Miami bank account of the consultant and that the consultant “likely used a portion of these payments to bribe certain key Enitel officials in order to influence Enitel to award the two contracts to Alcatel, to obtain confidential information about competing bids, and to secure favorable financial terms.” The information alleges that payments to the consultant were “identified in Alcatel’s books and records as consulting fees, and thus the description of those payments did not accurately and fairly reflect those transactions.”
The information further alleges that “Alcatel CIT also provided a trip to Paris and Madrid to two Enitel officials in late 2001 in order to encourage the execution of one of the two contracts” and that the “purpose of the trip was largley for pleasure, and it appears that Alcatel CIT covered all travel costs and a large portion of the expenses.”
The substantive portion of the information ends with a section titled “Other Consultancy Agreements Entered Into Without Proper Due Diligence.” The allegations concern consultants in Angola, the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Mali. The customers associated with the consultants were either allegedly state-owned or private companies.
Based on all of the above conduct, the information charges Alcatel with violations of the FCPA’s internal control provisions. The information alleges that Alcatel “knowingly: (a) failed to implement sufficient anti-bribery compliance policies and procedures; (b) failed to maintain a sufficient system for the selection and approval of consultants, which, in turn, permitted corrupt conduct to occur at certain subsidiaries; (c) entered into purported business consulting agreements with no apparent basis, and without performing any due diligence, sometimes after the cmpany had already won the relevant project; (d) failed to verify information provided by consultants, including failing to follow up in circumstances in which managers knew or were substantially certain illicit activity was taking place; (e) failed to prevent consultants from using multiple shell companies to receive commissions in excess of 10% knowing there was a substantial likelihood those consultants were acting as conduits for corrupt payments; (f) failed to conduct appropriate audits of payments to purported business consultants; (g) failed to prohibit lump sum payments being made to consultants that did not correspond to any contract; (h) failed to prohibit payments to consultants and public officials pursuant to an oral ‘gentlemen’s agreement’; (i) failed to appropriately investigate and respond to allegations of corrupt payments and discipline employees involved in making corrupt payments; (j) failed to establish a sufficiently empowered and competent Corporate Compliance Officer; (k) failed to exercise due diligence to prevent and detect criminal conduct; (l) failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the company’s compliance and ethics program was followed, including monitoring and internal audits to detect criminal conduct; (m) failed to evaluate regularly the effectiveness of the company’s compliance and ethics program; and (n) failed to provide appropriate incentives to perform in accordance with the compliance and ethics program.”
Based on the above conduct, the information also charges Alcatel with FCPA books and records violations for (a) drafting sham business consulting agreements to justify third party payments; (b) mis-characterizing bribes in the corporate books and records as consulting fees and other seemingly legitimate expenses; (c) justifying payments to purported business consultants based on false invoices; and (d) entering into purported business consulting agreements with no basis, sometimes after Alcatel had won the relevant project.
The DOJ’s charges against Alcatel were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement (see here).
Pursuant to the DPA, Alcatel admitted, accepted and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its officers, employees, agents, and those of Alcatel’s subsidiaries as described above.
The term of the DPA is three years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement “based on the individual facts and circumstances” of the case and Alcatel-Lucent. Among the factors stated are the following.
(a) following press reports concerning bribery by Alcatel, S.A., in Costa Rica, the company investigated and disclosed over the course of several years to the Department and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission the misconduct described above;
(b) Alcatel-Lucent conducted a global internal investigation concerning bribery and related misconduct;
(c) Alcatel-Lucent reported its findings to the Department and the SEC;
(d) after limited and inadequate cooperation for a substantial period of time, Alcatel-Lucent substantially improved its cooperation with the Department’s investigation of this matter, as well as the SEC’s investigation;
(e) Alcatel-Lucent undertook remedial measures, including the implementation of an enhanced compliance program, and agreed to undertake further remedial measures as contemplated by the DPA;
(f) on its own initiative and at a substantial financial cost, Alcatel-Lucent determined as matter of company policy to no longer use third party sales and marketing agents in conducting its worldwide business; and
(g) Alcatel-Lucent agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of Alcatel-Lucent and its employees, agents, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, and subsidiaries relating to violations of the FCPA.
As stated in the DPA, the fine range for the above describe conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $86.58 – $173.16 million. Pursuant to the DPA, Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $92 million – a rather rare instance of an FCPA criminal fine actually being within the Guidelines range and not below even the minimum range suggested by the Guidelines. Also relevant is that Alcatel’s culpability score was reduced only by -1, reflecting that Alcatel did not receive cooperation credit as many FCPA corporate defendants do receive.
The DPA states that above fine is appropriate given, among other things, “penalties related to the same conduct in Costa Rica [see here], and the extraordinary remedial step of terminating use of third-party sales and marketing agents.”
Pursuant to the DPA, Alcatel agreed to a host of compliance undertakings including the retention of an independent compliance monitor “who is a French national” for a three year term. Corporate Monitors used to be common in FCPA enforcement actions (circa 2005-2008), but required use of corporate monitors has become less common over the past few years.
As is standard in FCPA DPAs, Alcatel agreed not to make any public statement “contradicting the acceptance of responsibility by Alcatel-Lucent as set forth” in the DPA and Alcatel-Lucent further agreed to only issue a press release in connection with the DPA if the DOJ does not object to the release.
As to potential debarment issues, the DPA states as follows. “The Department agrees to bring to the attention of governmental and other debarment authorities the facts and circumstances relating to the nature of the conduct underlying this Agreement, including the nature and quality of Alcatel-Lucent’s cooperation and remediation. By agreeing to provide this information to debarment authorities, the Department is not agreeing to advocate on behalf of Alcatel-Lucent, but rather is providing facts to be evaluated independently by the debarment authorities.”
Alcatel-Lucent France S.A., Alcatel-Lucent Trade International A.G. and Alcatel CentroAmerica, S.A. Criminal Information
The criminal information against the above Alcatel subsidiaries is virtually identical to the above-described criminal information against Alcatel, albeit it is limited to Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia, and Taiwan conduct. Based on this conduct, the information charges the entities with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records and internal control provisions. According to the information, the purpose of the conspiracy was to “secure the assistance of officials of various governments, including those in Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia, and Taiwan, in obtaining and retaining lucrative telecommunications business through the offer, promise, and payment of bribes.”
Alcatel-Lucent France S.A., Alcatel-Lucent Trade International A.G. and Alcatel CentroAmerica, S.A. Plea Agreements
The above described charges were resolved via separate plea agreements with Alcatel-Lucent France (here), Alcatel-Lucent Trade International (here) and Alcatel CentroAmercia (here). Each plea agreement states that in light of the overall dispositions with the other Alcatel-Lucent entities and “the interrelationship among the charges and conduct underlying those dispositions” the agreed upon fine is $500,000.
The SEC’s civil complaint (here) alleges in summary fashion as follows.
“From December 2001 through June 2006, Alcatel, S.A., now called Alcatel-Lucent, S.A. (“Alcatel” or the “company”), through its subsidiaries and agents, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying more than $8 million in bribes to foreign government officials. Alcatel made these payments to influence acts and decisions by these foreign government officials to obtain or retain business, with the knowledge and approval of certain management level personnel of the relevant Alcatel subsidiaries. Alcatel lacked sufficient internal controls to prevent or detect such improper payments, and improperly recorded the payments in its books and records.”
“During this period, Alcatel’s agents and/or subsidiaries paid bribes to foreign government officials in several countries to obtain or retain business:
• From December 2001 to October 2004, Alcatel’s agents and/or subsidiaries paid at least $7 million in bribes to government officials of Costa Rica to obtain or retain three contracts to provide telephone services in Costa Rica totaling approximately $303 million.
• From December 2002 to June 2006, Alcatel’s agents and/or subsidiaries paid bribes to government officials of Honduras to obtain or retain five telecommunications contracts totaling approximately $48 million.
• From October 2003 to May 2004, Alcatel’s agents and/or subsidiaries paid bribes to government officials of Taiwan to obtain or retain a railway axle counting contract valued at approximately $27 million.
• From October 2004 to February 2006, Alcatel’s agents and/or subsidiaries paid bribes to government officials of Malaysia to obtain or retain a telecommunications contract valued at approximately $85 million.”
“All of these payments were undocumented or improperly recorded as consulting fees in the books of Alcatel’s subsidiaries, and then consolidated into Alcatel’s financial statements. A lax corporate control environment aided Alcatel’s improper conduct. Alcatel failed to detect or investigate numerous red flags suggesting that its business consultants were likely making illicit payments and gifts to government officials in these countries at the direction of certain Alcatel employees. The respective heads of several Alcatel subsidiaries and geographical regions, some of whom reported directly to Alcatel’s executive committee, authorized extremely high commission payments under circumstances in which they failed to determine whether such payments were, in part, to be funneled to government officials in violation of the FCPA. These high-level employees therefore knew, or were severely reckless in
not knowing, that Alcatel paid bribes to foreign government officials.”
The SEC complaint contains allegations about the same “Costa Rica Bribery Scheme,” “The Honduras Bribery Scheme,” “The Taiwan Bribery Scheme,” and “The Malaysia Bribery Scheme” referenced above. Typically, SEC complaints in FCPA matters are more broad than DOJ resolution documents, yet in this case the SEC complaint is more narrow than the DOJ resolution documents in that the SEC complaint does not contain any allegations as to conduct in Kenya, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Angola, the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Mali – as does the DOJ information.
Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Alcatel with FCPA anti-bribery and books and records and internal control violations and knowingly failing to implement a system of internal controls and knowingly falsifying books and records.
As to books and records the complaint alleges as follows.
“Specifically, A1catel failed to keep accurate books and records by (1) entering into consulting agreements retroactively; (2) establishing and using a system of intermediaries to obscure the source and destination of funds; (3) making payments pursuant to business consulting agreements that inaccurately described the services provided; (4) generating false invoices and other false documents to justify payments; (5) disbursing funds in cash with inaccurate documentation authorizing or supporting the withdrawals; (6) recording illicit payments as legitimate consulting fees; and (7) recording bribes as payment for legitimate services.”
As to internal controls, the complaint alleges as follows.
“Alcatel failed to implement adequate internal controls to comply with the
company’s NYSE listing, including the detection and prevention of violations of the FCPA. First, Alcatel and/or its subsidiaries falsified books and records, entered into agreements retroactively, and obscured the purpose for, and ultimate recipient of, illicit payments. Alcatel used business consultants and intermediaries to funnel bribes in at least four countries. Alcatel created and used false invoices and payment documentation under business consulting agreements that described services that were never intended to be rendered. Illicit payments were falsely recorded as expenses for consulting fees.”
“Second, Alcatel also routinely circumvented the internal controls the company had in place. Although the company in theory had a policy of “checks and balances” to authorize the retention of business consultants, which required several signatures to approve the retention of, and payment to, business consultants, Alcatel employees often violated that policy. In numerous instances, Alcatel officials responsible for reviewing due diligence reports on consultants failed to conduct any review of the documents or could not read the language in which the documents were written. Alcatel employees also entered into agreements retroactively and obscured the amounts paid to business consultants by splitting the payments among separate
agreements (to conceal the high commissions Alcatel paid). Finally, Alcatel Standard’s due diligence on business consultants was inadequate, and Alcatel CIT often paid business consultants without adequate proof of services rendered. Alcatel CIT failed to establish robust controls over cash disbursements, allowed manual payments without documentation, and Alcatel’s FCPA compliance function was understaffed and lacked independence. Alcatel also failed to conduct thorough anti-bribery and corruption training.”
Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Alcatel agreed to an injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations and agreed to pay disgorgement of $45.372 million.
In a relese (here), Robert Khuzami (Director of the SEC’s enforcement division) stated as follows. ““Alcatel and its subsidiaries failed to detect or investigate numerous red flags suggesting their employees were directing sham consultants to provide gifts and payments to foreign government officials to illegally win business. Alcatel’s bribery scheme was the product of a lax corporate control environment at the company.” Glenn Gordon (Associate Director of Enforcement in the SEC’s Miami office) added, “the serious sanctions Alcatel has agreed to, including paying back all net profits made on the contracts Alcatel illegally obtained, should serve as a reminder that we are committed to enforcing the FCPA and a level playing field for companies seeking to obtain or retain business in other countries.”
In a company press release (here), Steve Reynolds, Alcatel-Lucent General Counsel, stated as follow. “We take responsibility for and regret what happened and have implemented policies and procedures to prevent these violations from happening again. The violations largely occurred prior to the merger of Alcatel and Lucent Technologies and involved improper activities in several countries. These settlements resolve the company’s FCPA liability with the DOJ and SEC. We are pleased to have reached these settlements and look forward to putting these matters behind us. Alcatel-Lucent, created as a result of the merger of Alcatel and Lucent Technologies at the end of 2006, is a radically different company today: It has different management, including a new CEO, a new executive committee and a different Board of Directors; It has a zero-tolerance policy regarding bribery and corruption and has a system in place with strong processes and Internet-based and live training designed to prevent these types of situations in all aspects of our business; and as the first in its industry to do so, Alcatel-Lucent announced in 2008 that it would terminate the use of sales agents and consultants — the primary means by which certain former employees made the improper payments involved in the violations described in the DOJ and SEC settlement papers.”
Martin Weinstein (here) of Willkie Farr & Gallagher represented the Alcatel entities.
In April 2009, Latin Node, Inc. (“Latin Node”), a privately-held telecommunication services company headquartered in Miami, pleaded guilty to violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions in connection with improper payments made to “foreign officials” in Honduras and Yemen. (See here). The criminal information (here) details Latin Node’s efforts to obtain and retain business with Hondutel (the Honduran government-owned telecommunications company).
Yesterday, the DOJ announced (see here) the unsealing of a 19 count criminal indictment against Jorge Granados and Manuel Caceres.
According to the indictment (here), Granados “was the founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Latin Node” between 1999 and 2007. During this time period, Granados, a U.S. citizen, had authority to set company policy, contract with telecommunications companies, hire and fire employees, set sales prices, and approve sales practices in foreign countries.” Caceres was a senior executive of Latin Node from 2004 to 2007, holding such titles as Vice President of Business Development. The indictment alleges that Caceres, a citizen of Honduras and a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., was responsible for, among other things, developing Latin Node’s business in Honduras.
The indictment centers on an “interconnection agreement” between Latin Node and Hondutel “the wholly state-owned telecommunications authority in Honduras, established under Honduran law and headquartered in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.” According to the indictment, Hondutel’s operations “were overseen by another Honduran government entity, Comision Nacional de Telecomunicaciones.”
According to the indictment, “almost immediately after winning the interconnection agreement with Hondutel, Latin Node executives realized that Latin Node needed to obtain a reduction in the Termination Rates in order to be more competitive in the Honduran telecommunications market.” The indictment charges that “Latin Node executives also learned that Official 1 [a senior Hondutel executive with broad decision-making authority and influence over telecommunications contracts with private service providers] was considering whether to rescind Hondutel’s interconnection agreement with Latin Node.”
The indictment charges one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, twelve counts of FCPA anti-bribery violations, one count of money laundering conspiracy, and five counts of money laundering.
According to the indictment, the “purpose of the conspiracy was to obtain from Hondutel business advantages for Latin Node including, but not limited to, preferred telecommunications rates, retaining the interconnection agreement, and continued operation in Honduras despite late payments to Hondutel, by paying bribes to Honduran government officials, including to officers and employees of the Government of Honduras and of Hondutel …”.
Among other things, the indictment alleges that Granados and Caceres, and others, “would and did offer to pay, promise to pay, and authorize the payments of bribes, directly and indirectly to and for the benefit of Official 1, Official 2 [an attorney in the Hondutel legal department who worked directly for Official 1], and Official 3 [a Minister in the Honduran Government who was a member of Hondutel’s Board of Directors], in exchange for these Officials’ agreements to secure lower rates and other benefits for Latin Node under the interconnection agreement with Hondutel.” The indictment charges that Granados and Caceres, and others, “would and did wire and cause to be wired certain bribe payments from Latin Node’s bank accounts in Miami-Dade County, Florida, to the bank accounts designated by Official 1, Official 2 and Official 3.”
According to the DOJ release, “between September 2006 and June 2007, the defendants allegedly paid more than $500,000 in brobes to the officials, concealing many of the payments by laundering the money through Latin Node subsidiaries in Guatemala and to accounts in Honduras controlled by the Honduran government officials.”
As noted in the DOJ release, in early 2007, eLandia International Inc., (here) announced an agreement to acquire Latin Node.” “The indictment alleges that the defendants took additional measures to conceal the illicit payments during the acquisition due diligence process.”
The DOJ release further notes that the April 2009 resolution with Latin Node resulted from the “actions of eLandia in disclosing potential FCPA violations to the department after eLandia’s acquisition of Latin Node and discovery of the improper payments.”
Did the Latin Node enforcement action contribute to a coup? That is the question asked in this interesting piece by Gregory Paw (Pepper Hamilton).