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The SFO Speaks

Today’s post is devoted to the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO), specificaly a recent speech by Richard Alderman (Director of the SFO) on the Bribery Act and a recent webcast delivered by Vivian Robinson QC (General Counsel for the SFO) on the Bribery Act.

Bribery Act 2010 – A New Beginning

Earlier this week, Alderman gave a speech “Bribery Act 2010 – A New Beginning” (see here).

[See here for my recent Q&A with Mr. Alderman on the Bribery Act and other topics].

Below are some excerpted highlights.

“Those corporates and individuals that ignore recent developments in this jurisdiction concerning bribery legislation and the enforcement of the law do so very much at their peril. The UK will soon have the toughest bribery legislation in the world and it will be vigorously enforced by the Serious Fraud Office. In the meanwhile, the work of the SFO in enforcing the current law has been widely praised. Indeed as a result of what we have been doing the OECD, Transparency International and TRACE International have put the UK very much in the lead after the US in enforcing anti-corruption legislation. I have been very pleased to see this. The UK is regarded as an active enforcer of bribery legislation. This is exactly where we need to be.”

“We want to encourage corporates that identify a problem to come and talk to us at an early stage. The incentive for them is that a self report could potentially lead to a civil resolution through a Civil Recovery Order. We have done this in two cases that are in the public domain and we currently have some other cases that are being dealt with in this way.” [Those two cases are Balfour Beatty Plc (here) and AMEC Plc (here)]

“The sentencing remarks by Lord Justice Thomas in the Innospec case [see here for a prior post] have been regarded as casting some doubt on this. In that case, Lord Justice Thomas stressed the importance of dealing with corruption and the need for very significant sentences when individuals and corporates are brought before the Criminal Courts. He also discussed civil recovery and said that the public would expect suitable cases of corruption to go to the Criminal Courts. I entirely accept this guidance. There will be cases where we shall decide, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Guidance for Corporate Prosecutions, which because of the nature and seriousness of what is alleged we must prosecute. For example, it is likely that cases involving systemic failings at Board level would be prosecuted. However, there maybe cases where we are unable to prosecute and we consider that a civil recovery order is appropriate. This is a civil remedy. We have given detailed guidance on these issues in the context of corporate prosecutions. There is also Attorney General’s guidance on the Use of Civil Recovery.”

“While I am talking about guidance from the courts, let me also refer briefly to the comments in the Innospec and Dougall cases concerning documents agreed by the SFO and the corporate when a case comes to a criminal court. The Judge took the view that the SFO had gone too far in these cases in recommending or commenting on the sentence that the Judge should impose. I accept these criticisms. Plea negotiations of this nature are new and there is a lot for us all to learn. We have had other cases where the Judge has been satisfied with the agreed documentation as a basis for sentence. This is what we shall need to aspire to in all of these cases.”

“Let me now turn to the subject of the Bribery Act because there are a number of issues here that I would like to talk you through. First of all, I very much welcome the Bribery Act. The SFO has been working with colleagues in Government on proposals for changes in the legislation for a number of years and I am delighted to see the Bribery Act. It is a very tough piece of legislation. It is tougher than the FCPA because it also deals with private sector bribery as well as bribery of public officials and it gives no exemption for small facilitation payments. So it is a tough piece of legislation.”

“The offence at the corporate level that you will need to know all about is the provision that makes it an offence for a corporate if it fails to prevent bribery. There is a defence to this if the corporate had adequate procedures to prevent bribery.”

“I have heard some people say that this offence is one of strict liability. I do not agree. No offence will have been committed if there were adequate procedures. I have also heard people say that the fact of bribery might mean that there were inadequate procedures by definition and so the defence can never be made out. Again, I do not agree. In the real world there may be occasional lapses despite adequate procedures rigorously enforced. The issue ultimately for the Judge and jury (and for the SFO in deciding on a prosecution) will be – were those procedures adequate?”

“I have mentioned the corporate offence but, of course, the Act goes wider that. There are offences of giving and receiving bribes and there is an offence of bribing a foreign public official. There is also an offence targeted at senior officers of a corporate who consent to, or connive at, bribery.”

“The Act also looks at issues of jurisdiction. For the first time non UK corporates will be brought within the jurisdiction of the SFO if they have some business presence in the UK. What this will mean is that a foreign corporate that is involved in corruption anywhere in the world will be within the SFO’s jurisdiction if it has a business presence here even if the corruption has no connection with that business presence. This is a very important provision for us. I believe that foreign corporates are waking up to the significance of this.”

“Let me comment on two particular issues arising from the Bribery Act because I know that they have caused a lot of concern to the corporate sector. These issues concern promotional expenditure and small facilitation payments. It may be helpful if I comment on both of those issues. In doing this I shall follow an important speech given by the UK’s Attorney General, The Rt Honourable Dominic Grieve QC MP, to the World Bribery Forum on 14 September. [See here for my coverage of these remarks]. This speech is available on the Attorney General’s website and is particularly important.”

“First of all promotional expenditure. There are some who have said that the effect of the Bribery Act is to outlaw all promotional expenditure. I do not agree. Sensible, proportionate expenditure is not unlawful under the Act. But, of course, once the expenditure starts to be on a more lavish scale and is intended to influence decision makers in awarding contracts, then we do get into the area of criminal offences. The Act seems to me to take a very sensible approach. And so the message from me is that sensible proportionate promotional expenditure remains perfectly lawful.”

“The other issue that causes difficulty concerns small facilitation payments. I appreciate the difficulties because of the realities of doing business in many parts of the world. I also bear in mind that the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act exempts these payments from criminal offences in certain circumstances.”

“There is a lot of focus on small facilitation payments these days. Just before Christmas the OECD published a paper talking about the corrosive impact that these payments have on societies and calling on Governments to take more vigorous action in order to penalise them. This is an important message to all of us.”

“Let us be clear. Small facilitation payments are bribes and they are unlawful under our current law. That will not change and they will be unlawful under the Bribery Act. Nevertheless, I have said in public that the chances of the SFO prosecuting a small (say $50) one off facilitation payment that is picked up and remedied by a corporate’s internal processes are remote. That does not mean though that corporates can decide that it is acceptable to have a number of so called one off payments provided that in total they do not exceed shall we say $20 million a year. That is certainly a view that has been put to me. I said that I strongly disagreed. I also said that I could not understand how payments amounting to $20 million a year could be regarded as small one off facilitation payments. They are a course of business that is approved by the corporate. The chances of a criminal investigation and prosecution, where that is company policy, would be high.”

“There are two other points I would like to make.”

“First, do not under-estimate the scale of the co-operation between the SFO and law enforcement authorities in other countries. This is very extensive particularly with my colleagues in the US Department of Justice but also with other countries such as Australia. It is something that means a lot to us. We discuss cases, intelligence leads, policies and risks. There is a lot of discussion that goes on behind the scenes.”

“Finally, there is an invitation from the SFO to approach us to discuss these issues, either directly or through professional advisers. We can discuss your company’s policies and we can discuss the issues that you are finding in practice. We find this very beneficial ourselves and I know that corporates do as well. We are very ready to have these discussions with you.”

Bribery Act – What Does it Mean?

In a 30 minute webcast (here) Robinson speaks on a variety of topics.

Among other things:

Robinson says that it is right to describe the Bribery Act as the most “draconian” anti-corruption measure in the world.

As to the adequate procedures defense, Robinson says that because of the defense “there is every reason to be optimistic that we won’t get as a result of the Act and this particular section a huge expanse in the number of prosecutions of corporates.”

As to self-reporting, Robinson says that the SFO will not sit back and wait for cases to come to it. He mentions that there is increased information sharing, greater cross-border cooperation, that the SFO’s investigations have dramatically increased, and that more information is coming from whistleblowers. He stated that “companies are at greater risk than ever before that SFO will discover matters on its own.” He stated that “self-reporting makes absolute sense [and that the SFO is] encouraging it as strongly as we possibly can.”

As to small to medium size companies, Robinson says that smaller organizations are not absolved from liability under the Bribery Act. but that the SFO “would not expect the same from a small or medium size company that we would expect from one of the larger ones.” He said that the SFO will take “into consideration the extent to which a small, medium size operation can put in place the same sort of procedures as a larger organiztion with much greater resources.” As to due diligence, Robinson says that small to medium size companies “should carry out as much due dilignce as they reasonably can, but what they reasonably can do in that way may not be as much as a large corporate can reasonably be expected to do.”


A good weekend to all.

A Conversation With Richard Alderman – Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office

While in London recently to chair the World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum (see here, here and here for previous posts), I was pleased to accept the invitation of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office to visit its offices and meet top-level SFO personnel to discuss Bribery Act and other anti-corruption issues and topics. As part of the invitation, Richard Alderman (here), the Director of the SFO, invited me to submit questions to him on any topic of my choosing.

I submitted approximately thirty detailed questions covering a broad range of topics, including the role and policies of the SFO, the Bribery Act, the BAE and Innospec cases, Bribery Inc., and other questions of general interest. Except for certain questions regarding the BAE case, which is still pending in the U.K. courts, Mr. Alderman provided answers to every question, including on topics I have been critical of the SFO in the past.

In his answers, Mr. Alderman, among other things:

(i) compares and contrasts the SFO’s role with the DOJ’s role in enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including the more active and independent role U.K. courts have in reviewing SFO charging decisions;

(ii) talks about voluntary disclosure, and the role of non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements;

(iii) discusses reputational harm, debarment, and reparations; and

(iv) talks specifically about the Bribery Act which is to be implemented in April 2011.

I thank Mr. Alderman and other SFO personnel for taking a keen interest in my work and commend the “active engagement” approach the SFO has taken in going about its work.

My complete “conversation” with Mr. Alderman can be downloaded here.

Innospec Related News

In March, Innospec (a global chemical company) settled bribery enforcement actions on both sides of the Atlantic (see here).

This post discusses recent Innospec news – the SEC enforcement action against an Innospec agent (an individual who previously plead guilty to a DOJ enforcement action – see here) and a former Business Director at the company; a civil suit filed by an Innospec competitor in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Virginia; and how Innospec continues to grow its cash coffers despite receiving a pass on $50 million in fines and penalties in the March enforcement action based on inability to pay.

SEC Enforcement Action Against Turner and Naaman

Last week, the SEC added to Ousama Naaman’s legal woes charging him (see here) with civil FCPA anti-bribery violations, knowingly circumventing or knowingly falsifying books and records, and aiding and abetting Innospec’s FCPA books and records and internal control violations. According to the SEC release (see here) Naaman, Innospec’s agent in Iraq, agreed to disgorge $810,076 plus prejudgment interest of $67,030 and pay a penalty of $438,038 that will be deemed satisfied by his criminal fine. The disgorgement amount represents commissions Naaman received from Innospec “for his role in funneling bribe payments.” To my knowledge, the approximate $877,000 the SEC will recover from Naaman is the largest SEC recovery against an individual FCPA defendant.

In the same complaint, the SEC also charged David Turner, the Business Director of Innospec’s TEL Group, with the same substantive charges as Naaman. According to the complaint, Turner (a U.K. citizen who left Innospec in June 2009) “actively participated” in Innospec’s bribery and kickback schemes in Iraq and “actively participated” in Innospec’s bribery scheme in Indonesia.

According to the complaint:

“Turner was aware of the kickback scheme in connection with the Oil for Food Program. At some point in late 2002 or early 2003 Innospec’s internal auditors questioned Turner about the nature of the commission payments that were made to Naaman under the U.N. Oil for Food Program. Turner made false statements to the auditors and concealed the fact that the commission payments to Naaman included kickbacks to the Iraqi government in return for Oil for Food contracts. Turner also made false statements when he signed annual-certifications that were provided to auditors up until 2008 where Turner falsely stated that he had complied with Innospec’s Code of Ethics incorporating the company’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act policy prohibiting kickbacks and bribery, and that he was unaware of any violations of the Code of Ethics by anyone at Innospec.”

Even after the Oil for Food Program was terminated in late 2003, the complaint alleges that “Turner, along with senior officials at Innospec, directed and approved” additional bribe payments to Iraqi officials. In addition, the complaint alleges that “Turner and other Innospec officials directed and authorized payments, through Naaman, to fund lavish trips for Iraqi officials.”

As to Indonesia, the complaint alleges that “Turner, along with senior officials at Innospec, authorized and directed the payment of bribes to Indonesian government officials from at least 2000 through 2005, in order to win contracts for Innospec for the sale of TEL to state owned oil and gas companies in Indonesia.” According to the complaint, Turner and other Innospec officials and employees used various “euphemisms” in e-mail communications and in discussions to refer to the bribery scheme.

According to the complaint, Turner “obtained $40,000 in bonuses that were tied to the success of the TEL sales, which were procured through bribery.”

According to the SEC release, Turner, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, consented to entry of a final judgment requiring him to disgorge $40,000. The release states that no civil penalty will be imposed on Turner “based on, among other things, Turner’s extensive and ongoing cooperation in the investigation.”

Competitor Sues Innospec

The FCPA does not have a private right of action (although as I explored in this post it would be interesting if a court were faced with this issue today).

However, a company that settles an FCPA enforcement action increasingly faces collateral litigation, most often shareholder derivative claims. If a plaintiff does craft a direct cause of action against the company, it is usually a RICO claim.

As noted in this Richmond Times-Dispatch story, NewMarket Corp.’s civil case against Innospec does not fit the above mold, rather it alleges that Innospec’s conduct, as set forth in the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions, violated the Robinson-Patman Act and the Virginia Antitrust Act as well as the Virginia Business Conspiracy Act.

The article quotes NewMarket’s principal financial officer as saying that the company learned of Innospec’s actions after reading the documents released in connection with the March enforcement action. Among other things, the DOJ and SEC alleged that Innospec’s bribe payments in Iraq ensured that a field test of a competitor’s fuel additive failed. NewMarket claims that the competitor was a subsidiary company Ethyl Petroleum Additives Inc. which now goes by the name Afton Chemical Corp.

Innospec Continues to Be In the Money

In this prior post I highlighted how Innospec was ordered to pay $60,071,613 in disgorgement in the SEC’s enforcement action, but because of Innospec’s “sworn Statement of Financial Condition” all but $11,200,000 of that disgorgement was waived.

In other words, Innospec got a pass on approximately $50 million in March.

I then noted that Innospec’s first quarter financial results were positive and that
“as of March 31, 2010, Innospec had $67.5 million in cash and cash equivalents, $22.5million more than its total debt of $45.0 million.”

Innospec recently reported its second quarter financial results and it continues to be in the money. As noted in this company release:

“As of June 30, 2010, Innospec had $77.0 million in cash and cash equivalents, $30.0 million more than its total debt of $47.0 million.”

The company’s President and Chief Executive Officer stated that “Innospec’s second quarter operating results were very strong, with impressive double-digit increases in sales and operating income across all three business segments.”

Innospec Agent Pleads Guilty

Approximately one year ago, a criminal indictment against Ousama Naaman was unsealed (see here). The indictment charged Naaman, a dual Canadian and Lebanese national, with violating the FCPA and conspiring to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud, while acting on behalf of a U.S. public chemical company and its subsidiary in connection with kickback payments to the Iraqi government under the United Nations Oil for Food Program. The indictment also charged Naaman with making payments on behalf of the company to Iraqi Ministry of Oil officials.

Since then, Naaman was extradited to the U.S. and the chemical company was identified as Innospec – which resolved its own FCPA enforcement action in March (see here).

As noted in this DOJ release, last Friday Naaman “pleaded guilty … to a two-count superseding information filed June 24, 2010, charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and falsify the books and records of a U.S. issuer; and one count of violating the FCPA.”

According to the release:

“From 2001 to 2003, acting on behalf of Innospec, Naaman offered and paid 10 percent kickbacks to the then Iraqi government in exchange for five contracts under the OFFP. Naaman negotiated the contracts, including a 10 percent increase in the price to cover the kickback, and routed the funds to Iraqi government accounts in the Middle East. Innospec inflated its prices in contracts approved by the OFFP to cover the cost of the kickbacks. Naaman also admitted that from 2004 to 2008, he paid and promised to pay more than $3 million in bribes, in the form of cash, as well as travel, gifts and entertainment, to officials of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and the Trade Bank of Iraq to secure sales of tetraethyl lead in Iraq, as well as to secure more favorable exchange rates on the contracts. Naaman provided Innospec with false invoices to support the payments, and those invoices were incorporated into the books and records of Innospec.”

For additional coverage of the Naaman plea, see here from Christopher Matthews at Main Justice.

In 1998, the FCPA’s antibribery provisions were amended to, among other things, broaden the jurisdictional reach of the statute to prohibit “any person” “while in the territory of the U.S.” from making improper payments through “use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce” or from doing “any other act in furtherance” of an improper payment. (see 15 USC 78dd-3(a)). “Any person” is generally defined to include any person other than a U.S. national or any business organization organized under the laws of a foreign nation. (see 15 USC 78dd-3(f)).

In other words … the FCPA … it isn’t just for Americans.

Ousama Naaman found out the hard way.

Other foreign nationals that have been the focus of FCPA enforcement actions include Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan (both U.K. citizens criminally indicted for their roles in the KBR / Halliburton bribery scheme)(see here) and Chrisitan Sapsizian (a French citizen who pleaded guilty to violating the FCPA for his role in a scheme to bribe Costa Rican foreign officials) (see here).

Innospec’s Positive Financial Results

In March, Innospec got hit on both sides of the Atlantic (see here) and agreed to pay $40.2 million in combined DOJ/SEC/SFO fines and penalties for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other laws.

However, it could have been worse.

The SEC release (see here) notes that Innospec, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, was ordered to pay $60,071,613 in disgorgement, but because of Innospec’s “sworn Statement of Financial Condition” all but $11,200,000 of that disgorgement was waived.

The release states that “[b]ased on its financial condition, Innospec offered to pay a reduced criminal fine of $14.1 million to the DOJ and a criminal fine of $12.7 million to the SFO. Innospec will pay $2.2 million to OFAC for unrelated conduct concerning allegations of violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.”

In other words, Innospec got a pass on approximately $50 million.

This occured on March 18th.

Last week, Innospec announced (see here) it financial results for the first quarter ended March 31th (i.e. approximately two weeks from March 18th).

The results?

“Total net sales for the quarter were $163.5 million, up 10% from $148.1 million in the corresponding period last year. Net income was $7.4 million, or $0.30 per diluted share, a 16% increase from $6.4 million, or $0.26 per diluted share, a year ago. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and impairment) for the quarter was $15.4 million, compared with $16.0 million a year ago.”

“As of March 31, 2010, Innospec had $67.5 million in cash and cash equivalents, $22.5million more than its total debt of $45.0 million.”

Innospec’s President and Chief Executive Officer stated, “we are very pleased with our first quarter operating results …”.

I am a lawyer by training, not a finance professional.

So forgive me, but I am scratching my head over this one.

March 18th – Innospec gets a pass on $50 million in an FCPA case because of its financial condition.

March 31st – Innospec reports positive financial results, including $67.5 in cash and cash equivalents.

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