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Berko Arrested On Recently Unsealed Criminal Charges Alleging The Same Core Conduct As The SEC’s Previously Resolved Enforcement Action

Berko

As highlighted in this prior post, in early 2020, the SEC announced the filing of a civil complaint charging Asante Berko (pictured – a former Executive Director of Goldman Sachs International) with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations and other charges for “orchestrating a bribery scheme to help a client [a Turkish energy company] win a government contract to build and operate an electrical power plant” in Ghana.

Berko publicly denied the SEC’s allegations and the SEC sought court approval to serve the summons and complaint via e-mail and through his U.S. counsel. Ultimately settlement negotiations commenced and in mid-2021 Berko agreed to resolve the matter. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Berko agreed to pay $329,163.92 (disgorgement of $275,000 along with prejudgment interest of $54,163.92). The final judgment also permanently restrained and enjoined Berko from violating, directly or indirectly, the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

Those who follow the FCPA, myself included, likely thought that was the end of the matter. Perhaps Berko himself thought that.

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SEC Chair Gensler Is Right … Details Matter

gensler

Recently, SEC Chair Gary Gensler delivered this speech.

Citing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who stated upon signing the first of the federal securities laws, “this law and its effective administration are steps in a program to restore some old-fashioned standards of rectitude,” Gensler discussed “effective administration” of SEC enforcement including accountability and process.

Regarding accountability, Gensler stated:

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The Gap In SEC Individual FCPA Enforcement Actions Now Exceeds Two Years

waiting

One reason to take FCPA enforcement agency rhetoric with a grain of salt is because it is warranted.

For instance, the FCPA enforcement agencies often talk about the importance of x and how they are committed to x, but in reality rarely do x.

Case in point is SEC individual FCPA enforcement actions.

For many years, SEC enforcement officials have talked about the importance of individual FCPA enforcement actions and set forth below are representative quotes from over the years.

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DOJ Announces 2020 Criminal Charges Against Individuals In Connection With Alleged Marshall Islands Bribery Scheme

Yan&Zhou

Last Friday, the DOJ announced that two Marshall Island nationals (Cary Yan and Gina Zhou – pictured) arrived in the U.S. after being extradited from Thailand based on 2020 criminal charges that the individuals violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (and other laws) in connection with an alleged scheme to bribe elected officials in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in exchange for passing certain legislation.

According to the indictment, Yan and Zhou acted as officers, directors, employees, and agents of a New York City based non-governmental organization (NGO) and, while in New York City and other locations in U.S. territory, to offer and pay bribes to government officials in the RMI to pass certain legislation  that would benefit the business interests of Yan, Zhou and their associates.

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Yet Another Individual Enforcement Action Involving Venezuela

Venez

As highlighted in this recent post, approximately 55% of individual enforcement actions on the DOJ’s FCPA website since 2018 concern non-FCPA offenses in connection with alleged foreign bribery schemes – most often money laundering offenses – and an astounding 37% or so of individual enforcement actions involve just one country: Venezuela.

Continuing this theme, the DOJ announced yesterday that a federal grand jury in Miami returned an indictment charging Rafael Rixon Rafael Moreno Oropeza (a Venezuelan national) for laundering the proceeds of substantially inflated procurement contracts obtained by making bribe payments to senior officials at Petropiar, a joint venture between Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company and an American oil company.

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