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An Update From Australia – AWB Wheat Kickbacks To Iraq Result In Sentences

Today’s post is from Robert Wyld (Partner, Johnson Winter & Slattery – here).  Wyld is the Australia Expert for FCPA Professor.

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Nearly 13 years after wheat sales to Iraq started under the much maligned United Nations Oil-For-Food Program and 5 years after Australia’s corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) commenced civil penalty proceedings against various former AWB directors and officers, the Supreme Court of Victoria  handed down on August 9th and 10th sentences against the former AWB Managing Director, Andrew Lindberg and the former AWB CFO, Paul Ingolby (see judgments at ASIC v Lindberg [2012] VSC 332 and ASIC v Ingolby [2012] VSC 339 available at www.austlii.edu.au).

Court sentences

The Victorian Supreme Court accepted the agreed submissions on facts and penalty as presented to it by ASIC and each defendant although the sentence imposed on Mr Ingolby was reduced.

The Court made the following orders:

  • as against Mr Lindberg, declarations that he had contravened his duties as a director and officer contrary to s180(1) of the Corporations Act 2001, fined him $100,000 and disqualified him from managing the affairs of a corporation until 14 September 2014;
  • as against Mr Ingolby, declarations that he had contravened his duties as an officer contrary to s180(1) of the Corporations Act 2001, fined him $10,000 and disqualified him from managing the affairs of a corporation until 31 December 2012.

The Court made certain observations about the conduct of each of Mr Lindberg and Mr Ingolby. The Court found that the admitted conduct was akin to an admission of negligence in the performance of their duties. The contraventions against each did not involve deliberate wrongful acts, dishonesty or any moral turpitude. The Court was satisfied that each contravention was serious, thereby warranting the imposition of a fine.

The Lindberg Contraventions

The Lindberg contraventions covered 4 matters, in that Mr Lindberg failed:

  • to make inquiries as to whether the recovery of what was known as the “Tigris Debt” was in accordance with the prevailing UN resolutions or had been approved by the UN;
  • to inform the AWB Board that the Tigris Debt had been recovered by inflating certain wheat contract prices and the AWB agreement with Tigris Corporation (a Gibraltar company run by a Norman Davidson Kelly, a former BHP Billiton executive) incorrectly stated the payment as a “service fee” rather than a debt and the payment to AWB of a success commission;
  • to inform the AWB Board that “Project Rose” (the internal AWB review of allegations from the United States that AWB had paid kickbacks to Iraq to secure wheat contracts) was limited as 3 former employees likely to have knowledge of the kickback scheme had not been interviewed; and
  • to inform the AWB Board of the evidence he learned from the UN IIC Inquiry into the Oil-For-Food Program that a Jordanian transport company, Alia For Transportation & General Trade (Alia Transport) had been used as a front to channel funds to Iraq and all suppliers, including AWB, had paid such funds to Alia Transport and then to the Iraq Government.

None of the contraventions save for one involved anything surprising to those who had experienced the Cole Royal Commission into AWB’s wheat sales to Iraq. AWB and all its senior executives had consistently given evidence that they knew nothing wrong and they believed everything they did was approved by the UN and/or the Australian Government. Commissioner Cole did not accept this evidence and delivered a damning indictment on AWB’s corporate conduct[1].

Interestingly, in relation to the Tigris Debt, both ASIC and Mr Lindberg in their Agreed Facts annexed to the judgment, use as a starting point a proposition that the Iraq Grains Board (IGB) owed BHP Ltd (as BHP Billiton then was) a debt of approximately US$8m for a shipment of wheat (at [19] of the judgment). This is in direct contrast to the findings of Commissioner Cole who, having heard evidence from executives of both BHP and AWB (but not Mr Kelly who as a resident outside Australia declined to volunteer any evidence to the Commission), concluded that[2]:

  • AWB concluded a sale to the IGB of 20,000 tonnes of wheat;
  • BHP paid for that wheat against an AWB invoice; and
  • BHP entered into the transaction on the basis that, according to the evidence from John Prescott, its former CEO, it was a gift, ostensibly given to the Iraq Government because BHP was dead keen to secure preferential treatment if certain Iraq oilfields were opened up for exploration.

The evidence before Commissioner Cole was clear – the Australian Government had told AWB and BHP that any credit offer to sell wheat in return for payment, even deferred payment outside the UN sanction regime, was not permissible. Mr Prescott said this in his evidence[3]I did not believe or understand that the grant approved by me was a loan to Iraq. There was no obligation on Iraq to repay any amount to BHP.

In light of this evidence, ASIC’s starting point, accepted by the Court, appears very peculiar. It must be acknowledged that these events occurred long before Mr Lindberg became AWB’s Managing Director. By the time he was in charge at AWB, the “Tigris Debt”, once a gift had transmogrified into a debt and then a payment for services rendered, involving an undisclosed success fee. Some might think this gets very close to a secret commission involving the creation of false or misleading documents, while others may legitimately say no, particularly as the intent of the parties to the Tigris Debt is still hotly contested and before the Victorian Court. Perhaps it was sufficient for ASIC to start from a base upon which it could secure a successful result. After all, a regulator needs to win, even if by winning only half the story is told.

The Ingolby Contraventions

In contrast to Mr Lindberg, the Ingolby contraventions appeared more prosaic.

Mr Ingolby was subjected to one alleged contravention – that between December 2001 and September 2004, as AWB’s CFO, he failed to discharge his duties as an officer of the company, in that he:

  • co-authorised payments to Alia Transport for inland transport fees;
  • had information available to him that questioned the legitimacy of those fees and that they were ultimately being paid to the Iraq Government;
  • took no steps to ascertain the true position;
  • took no or no reasonable steps to inform the AWB Board of the information available to him,

in circumstances where he knew that the Oil-For-Food Program prohibited direct payments  to Iraq and payments from the escrow account controlled by the UN could only be made for the purposes of the Program.

The Court took into account the role actually played by Mr Ingolby within AWB and the nature of how AWB conducted its wheat sale business. In short, Ingolby admitted that he failed to “join the dots” and had he done so with the benefit of hindsight, he would have realised that AWB was acting in breach of the UN sanctions (which did not, at that time, give rise to any direct civil or criminal offence in Australia). The Court accepted, in particular, that Mr Ingolby:

  • acted with the degree of care and diligence consistent with his statutory obligations;
  • he was not involved in making the wheat contracts;
  • his areas of responsibility concerned areas outside the sales and marketing of wheat contracts; and
  • he had cooperated with ASIC.

The Court therefore reduced the proposed penalty from $40,000 to $10,000 and shortened the period of disqualification.

The question still remains what would have Mr Ingolby or any other AWB executive done had they “joined the dots” – continue a very lucrative commercial relationship with Iraq selling Australian wheat to the benefit of the company and Australian wheat farmers with bumper wheat crops, or investigating and reporting the conduct to the UN with the risk of losing out on future wheat sales – therein lies the moral barometer!

In one sense, Mr Ingolby was in the classic position of a corporation CFO – not directly involved in the sales relationship with the customer, but was sufficiently across the financing processes that he was “involved” in the transactions by co-authorising payments. It is this salutary lesson to CFO in any large corporation engaged in trade in “high risk” jurisdictions – know your customer and know your business. Whether you can rely on what others tell you will depend upon the circumstances, but the more complex and lucrative the commercial pressures are, the greater the personal risk if it all goes pear-shaped.

General observations

In both judgments, the Court made it clear that it treated the allegations and contraventions as serious, and worthy of a penalty that acted to provide sufficient general deterrence to others committing similar offences. The Court’s attitude to directors and officers who are found to have contravened their clear statutory duties is best described by Justice Robson[4]:

The obligation imposed by s 180(1) demands a standard of care and diligence in directors and other officers of the corporation in managing the affairs of the corporation…The obligation is important in ensuring that proper standards of care and diligence are maintained in our corporations…The punishment determined by the Court may appear harsh in light of a career of honest and loyal conduct particularly where the personal and family hardship experienced by the defendant (Lindberg) is taken into account. Nevertheless, there is a significant public importance in appropriate standards being expected of directors and other officers of corporations. These standards of conduct are not unduly high…The contraventions…involved a lack of care and diligence in the performance of his duties that a reasonable director or other person would exercise in his position.

The ASIC proceedings continue on against the remaining defendants although for how long the war of attrition will continue, is anyone’s guess!


 

[1] A copy of the 5 volume report can be found at www.oilforfoodinquiry.gov.au.

[2] Cole Report, Vol 3, page 163, para 27.84.

[3] Cole Report, Vol 3, page 162, para 27.79.

[4] Justice Robson delivered the 2 sentencing judgments, at [68] to [73] of ASIC v Lindberg and [56] to [61] of ASIC v Ingolby:

Friday Roundup

Add two more companies to the list, a reply to a retort, Avon developments, Total S.A. perhaps nears a top-5 settlement, the reason for those empty Olympic seats, another FCPA-inspired derivative action is dismissed, Sensata Technologies and more on the meaning of “declination,” one of my favorite reads and additional material for the weekend reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Recent Disclosures

As noted in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post “German healthcare firm Fresenius Medical Care AG has opened an internal investigation into potential violations” of the FCPA.  The company’s recent SEC filing (here) states as follows.

“The Company has received communications alleging certain conduct that may violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and other anti-bribery laws. In response to the allegations, the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee of the Company’s Supervisory Board is conducting an internal review with the assistance of counsel retained for such purpose. The Company has voluntarily advised the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice that allegations have been made and of the Company’s internal review. The Company is fully committed to FCPA compliance. It cannot predict the outcome of its review.”

In addition, as noted in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, “the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs, for possible violations” of the FCPA.   The Israel based company recently stated in an SEC filing (here) as follows.

“Teva received a subpoena dated July 9, 2012 from the SEC to produce documents with respect to compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (“FCPA”) in Latin America. Teva is cooperating with the government. Teva is also conducting a voluntary investigation into certain business practices which may have FCPA implications and has engaged independent counsel to assist in its investigation. These matters are in their early stages and no conclusion can be drawn at this time as to any likely outcomes.”

U.K. DPAs

In this previous post, I discussed my letter to the U.K. Ministry of Justice urging the MoJ to just say no to deferred prosecution agreements.  Over at thebriberyact.com (a site that has lead discussion of the issue) the authors disagree with me (see here).  That’s all fine and dandy and healthy to the discussion, but the substance of the retort is not persuasive.

The retort is  basically that the SFO “frequently has to fight its corner in court” and that “sometimes it loses” whereas in the U.S. “the accepted wisdom [is] that an FCPA investigation would result in a corporate settlement” and the “DOJ simply [does] not have to test its legal theories in court.”  In short, the authors state “statistically in the US corporates and their counsel often fold in the face of a DOJ investigation” but “in the UK this is not so.”

Contrary to the suggestion in the retort, I did not ignore the Bribery Act’s Section 7 offense – rather it is all the more reason to reject DPAs.

The retort closes as follows.  “Sadly, as it stands, the UK enforcement agencies do not have equality of arms when it comes to their enforcement toolkit.  Put another way the DOJ can end run UK enforcement agencies because it does have the potential to enter into DPA’s.  This reason alone is justification enough for putting in place a system which delivers a similar result to the US system.”

This confirms in my mind that the UK’s desire for DPAs has little to do with justice and deterring improper conduct, but more to do with enforcement statistics and posturing in an emerging “global arms race” when it comes to “prosecuting” corruption and bribery offenses.

Avon Developments

Avon was in the news quite a bit this week.

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported (here) that “federal prosecutors looking into possible bribery of foreign officials by Avon have asked to speak to Andrea Jung, the former chief executive and current full-time chairman.”

On Wednesday, the company filed its quarterly report and stated, among other things, as follows.  “We are in discussions with the SEC and DOJ regarding mutually resolving the government investigations. There can be no assurance that a settlement will be reached or, if a settlement is reached, the timing of any such settlement or that the terms of any such settlement would not have a material adverse effect on us.”  During the Q2 earnings call, company CEO Sheri McCoy stated as follows.   “We are in discussion with the SEC and DOJ regarding mutually resolving the government investigations.”

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported (here) that McCoy “frustrated with the pace of Avon’s internal probe, has pushed to bring in a second law firm for advice on the progress of the investigation.   The company has held discussions with law firm Allen & Overy LLP for that role.”  Arnold & Porter has been leading Avon’s investigation.  According to the article, Avon’s “probe has turned up millions of dollars of payments in Brazil and France made to consultants hired to assist with Avon’s tax bills in those countries.”

What to make of the above information?

It is unusual for the enforcement agencies to want to speak to a former CEO and current chairman in connection with an FCPA inquiry.  But then again, prosecutors have reportedly spoken to several other Avon executives in connection with the probe.  Given Avon’s disclosure that it has begun settlement discussions, this would suggest that the factual portion of the enforcement agencies investigation is over.

Avon’s FCPA scrutiny has perhaps been most notable for the amount of pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses – approximately $280 million.  Thus, yesterday’s report that the company is considering bringing in a second law firm nearly four years into the investigation is interesting and unusual.

Even though Avon has disclosed it is in settlement talks, an enforcement action in 2012 is not certain.  In many cases, companies have disclosed the existence of FCPA settlement discussions, but the actual enforcement action did not happen for 6-12 months (or longer).

Whenever the enforcement action occurs, and whatever the ultimate fine and penalty is, Avon’s greatest financial hit  has likely already occured – its pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.  For instance, assuming a settlement amount would match the $280 million, this would be the sixth largest FCPA settlement of all time, and none of the enforcement actions in the top 5 were outside the context of foreign “government” procurement.

Total Settlement Near?

For some time, there has been speculation that Total S.A. (you better sit down for this) would actually mount a defense and put the DOJ and SEC to its burden of proof in an enforcement action.  Information in a recent company press release suggests that this is unlikely to occur.  In this recent release, Total stated as follows.  “Total has been cooperating with the … SEC and DOJ in connection with an investigation concerning gas contracts awarded in Iran in the 1990’s.  Total, the SEC, and the DOJ have conducted discussions to resolve issues arising from the investigation.  In light of recent progess in these discussions, Total has provisioned 316 million euros [$389 million]  in its accounts in the second quarter of 2012.”

A $389 million settlement would be a top five FCPA settlement in terms of fine and penalty amounts.  For additional coverage, see here from Reuters.

Empty Olympic Seats

A reason, perhaps, for those empty Olympic seats?  According to a recent study (see here) by the Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics  “tighter than anticipated corporate entertainment and gift policies.”

Smith & Wesson Derivative Action Dismissed

Even against the backdrop of generally frivolous plaintiff derivative claims in the FCPA context, the action against Smith & Wesson (“S&W”) stood out.  After S&W employee Amaro Goncalves was criminally indicted in the manufactured Africa Sting case, certain investors filed a derivative claim in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts suing members of the board of S&W and company officers derivatively on behalf of the corporation for failing to have effective FCPA controls and oversight, thereby breaching their duty of care.

In dismissing the complaint (see here for the decision) Judge Michael Ponsor characterized the complaint as follows. “[I]n essence, that the company enjoyed an increase in international sales and then had an employee indicted for FCPA violations. This indictment, later dropped, supposedly evidenced a failure to implement proper controls.”

For another recent dismissal of an FCPA inspired derivative claim against Tidewater, see this prior post.  See also this recent post from Kevin LaCroix at The D&O Diary blog.

Sensata Technologies

In October 2010, Sensata Technologies disclosed in a quarterly report (here) as follows.

“An internal investigation has been conducted under the direction of the Audit Committee of the Company’s Board of Directors to determine whether any laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), may have been violated in connection with a certain business relationship entered into by one of the Company’s operating subsidiaries involving business in China. The Company believes the amount of payments and the business involved was immaterial. The Company discontinued the specific business relationship and its investigation has not identified any other suspect transactions. The Company has contacted the United States Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to begin the process of making a voluntary disclosure of the possible violations, the investigation, and the initial findings. The Company will cooperate fully with their review.”

In its most recent quarterly report (here), the company disclosed as follows.

“During 2012, the DOJ informed us that it has closed its inquiry into the matter but indicated that it could reopen its inquiry in the future in the event it were to receive additional information or evidence. We have not received an update from the SEC concerning the status of its inquiry.”

Did Sensata “win a declination” as the FCPA Blog suggested here?

Since August 2010 (see here for the prior post) I have proposed that when a company voluntarily discloses an FCPA internal investigation to the DOJ and the SEC, and when the DOJ and/or SEC decline enforcement, the DOJ and/or the SEC should publicly state, in a thorough and transparent manner, the facts the company disclosed to the agencies and why the agencies declined enforcement on those facts.

Perhaps then we would know if the DOJ concluded it could prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the necessary elements of an FCPA charge, yet decided not to pursue Sensata – which is my definition of declination as noted in this prior post.  Anything else, is what the law commands, not a declination.

Favorite Read

One of my favorite reads is always Shearman & Sterling’s “Recent Trends and Patterns in the Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”  See here for the most recent edition.

As to “foreign official,” the report states as follows. “[T]he government does not appear to have been deterred by the [foreign official] debate. In most of the cases brought in 2012, the relevant government officials were employed by “instrumentalities” such as state health insurance plans (Orthofix), a state-owned nuclear plant (Data Systems & Solutions), government hospitals (Biomet and Smith & Nephew), a state-owned real estate development company (Peterson) a state-owned oil company (Marubeni), and state-owned airlines (NORDAM).”

As to FCPA guidance, the report states as follows. “We understand that this guidance will be issued before October, when the US is scheduled to issue a written progress report on its implementation of the OECD Working Group on Bribery’s recommendations.”

A final kudos – Shearman & Sterling keeps its FCPA enforcement statistics the best way.  As it explains – “we count all actions against a corporate “family” as one action. Thus, if the DOJ charges a subsidiary and the SEC charges a parent issuer, that counts as one action.”  This is consistent with my “core” approach (see here), but unlike many others in the industry.

Weekend Reading Stack

An interesting and informative article (here) in Fortune about the Alba-Alcoa tussle and the role of Victor Dahdaleh.  For more on the underlying civil suit between Alba and Alcoa see this recent Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post.

SOX’s executive certification requirements were supposed to be a panacea for corporate fraud.  It has not happened.  See here from Alison Frankel (Reuters) and here from Michael Rapoport (Wall Street Journal).  As noted in this prior post concerning the Paul Jennings (former CFO and CEO of Innospec) enforcement action, SOX certification charges were among the charges the SEC filed against Jennings.  Then SEC FCPA Unit Chief Cheryl Scarboro stated, “we will vigorously hold accountable those who approve such bribery and who sign false SOX certifications and other documents to cover up the wrongdoing.”  Speaking of Jennings, as noted in this recent U.K. Serious Fraud Office, Jennings recently pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to corrupt Iraqi public officials and other agents of the Government of Iraq.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Potpourri

Retail Industry Sweep

This previous post discussed the Wal-Mart effect, how Wal-Mart is clearly not the only company subject to the FCPA that needs licenses, permits and the like when doing business in Mexico, and that it is likely that Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure has caused sleepless nights for many company executives doing business in Mexico and the general region.

Sure enough.

Aruna Viswanatha reports in this Reuters story that “retailers have been reviewing their international operations in light of a bribery scandal at Wal-Mart’s operations in Mexico that is the subject of investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.”  According to the story, “other retail companies have also since reported to U.S. agencies suspicions of their own potential violations, which in turn has the Justice Department and SEC considering a sweep of the entire industry.”  For more on industry sweeps, see this previous post.

Barclays Dealings With Sovereign-Wealth Funds Scrutinized

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday (here) that Barclays PLC’s “chief financial officer is under investigation by British authorities related to the bank’s 2008 fundraising activities with Middle Eastern investors.”  According to the story, the “probe is focused at least in part on how Barclays wooed Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund to pump billions of pounds into the bank as the financial crisis intensified.”  According to this Wall Street Journal article, Barclays previously disclosed “£240 million of payments made to Qatar Holding and Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan related to its £7.3 billion capital raise in 2008.”

Barclays has ADRs traded on the New York Stock Exchange and, according to the article, the SEC “is aware of the probe” and will be updated on its progress.  As the article notes, the SEC is currently conducting an expansive investigation of various financial institutions concerning relationships with sovereign-wealth funds.

Halliburton’s Latest Disclosure

Halliburton previously disclosed potential FCPA issues concerning the use of an Angolan vendor.  Last week in this quarterly report, the company provided an update on that investigation as well as new investigations concerning additional conduct in Angola as well as Iraq.  The disclosure states as follows.

“We are conducting internal investigations of certain areas of our operations in Angola and Iraq, focusing on compliance with certain company policies, including our Code of Business Conduct (COBC), and the FCPA and other applicable laws. In December 2010, we received an anonymous e-mail alleging that certain current and former personnel violated our COBC and the FCPA, principally through the use of an Angolan vendor. The e-mail also alleges conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and the failure to act on alleged violations of our COBC and the FCPA. We contacted the DOJ to advise them that we were initiating an internal investigation. Since the third quarter of 2011, we have been participating in meetings with the DOJ and the SEC to brief them on the status of our investigation and have been producing documents to them both voluntarily and as a result of SEC subpoenas to the company and certain of our current and former officers and employees. During the second quarter of 2012, in connection with a meeting with the DOJ and the SEC regarding the above investigation, we advised the DOJ and the SEC that we were initiating unrelated, internal investigations into payments made to a third-party agent relating to certain customs matters in Angola and to third-party agents relating to certain customs and visa matters in Iraq. We expect to continue to have discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding the Angola and Iraq matters described above and have indicated that we would further update them as our investigations progress. We have engaged outside counsel and independent forensic accountants to assist us with the investigations. We intend to continue to cooperate with the DOJ’s and the SEC’s inquiries and requests in these investigations. Because these investigations are ongoing, we cannot predict their outcome or the consequences thereof.”

In 2009, Halliburton and related entities settled DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions concerning Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct by agreeing to pay $579 million in combined fines and penalties.  See here and here.  Pursuant to the SEC settlement, Halliburton is permanently enjoined from violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

W.W. Grainger Updates Its Disclosure

This previous post discussed W.W. Grainger’s February disclosure concerning an investigation that sales employees of a China subsidiary may have provided prepaid gift cards to certain customers.  As noted by Chris Matthews in this recent Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, the company in a recent SEC filing stated as follows.

“The results of the investigation, which have been submitted to the DOJ and the SEC, did not substantiate initial information suggesting significant use of gift cards for improper purposes. The Company cannot predict at this time whether any regulatory action may be taken or any other potential consequences may result from this matter.”

The Corruption Currents post contains a quote from Grainger spokeswoman as follows.  “We conducted a very thorough investigation, and based on our findings we do not believe this is a material issue.  We have submitted our findings to the DOJ and the SEC and we are in conversations with them regarding the conclusion of this matter.”

Contrary to the Corruption Currents headline “W.W. Grainger’s FCPA Probe Finds No Wrongdoing” the disclosure is qualified by the term “significant” use of gift cards for improper purposes and the quote from the company representative is qualified by the term “material” issue.  Very few FCPA issues in multinational companies rise to the level of quantitative materiality – even if the SEC takes the view that all payments in violation of the FCPA are qualitatively material.

As noted in this previous post concerning Congressional interest in DOJ FCPA declination decisions, the DOJ has stated that it “has declined to prosecute corporate entities in several cases based on particular facts and circumstances presented in those matters” including the following:  “a single employee, and no other employee, was involved in the provision of improper payments; and the improper payments involved minimal funds compared to the overall business revenues.”

Friday Roundup

From the dockets, an FCPA compliance defense – yes or no, hiring a woman closely associated with a foreign official, and a focus on the FCPA’s “red-haired stepchild” – it’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

From the Dockets

Last month when Judge Lynn Hughes dismissed, at the close of the DOJ’s case, the FCPA charges against John Joseph O’Shea (see here for the prior post), it was only a partial victory as O’Shea still faced non-FCPA charges.  Complete victory is imminent as yesterday the DOJ filed a motion to dismiss (here) the remaining charges (conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction) against O’Shea.

In July 2011, Patrick Joseph (a former general director for telecommunications at Haiti Teleco and thus a “foreign official” according to the DOJ) was added to the extensive Haiti Teleco case.  (See here for the prior post).  Because the FCPA does not apply to bribe recipients, the DOJ charged Joseph with a non-FCPA offense: one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Earlier this week, Joseph pleaded guilty to the charges (see here).  Pursuant to the plea agreement, Joseph agreed to forfeit approximately $956,000.  It is clear from the plea agreement that Joseph was likely an early cooperator in the Haiti Teleco case as the plea agreement refers to a June 2009 proffer agreement with the DOJ.  Many of the other individual defendants in the Haiti Teleco case were charged in December 2009 (see here).  The plea agreement requires Joseph’s continued cooperation and later this month a trial is to begin as to other defendants in the wide-ranging Haiti Teleco case.

FCPA Compliance Defense – Yes or No?

That is the title of a free webcast on February 21st to be hosted by Bruce Carton’s Securities Docket (see here to sign up and for more information).  I will be discussing my  paper “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense”and will argue in favor of Congress creating an FCPA compliance defense.  On the other side of the issue, Howard Sklar (Senior Counsel, Recommind and a frequent commentator on FCPA issues at, among other places, his Open Air Blog) will argue that Congress should not include a compliance defense to violations of the FCPA.

Former Employee Alleges FCPA Issues at GE

As previously reported by Chris Matthews at Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents (see here) Khaled Asadi (a dual U.S. and Iraqi citizen) who was previously employed by G.E. Energy (USA) LLC (“GE Energy”) as its Country Executive for Iraq, located in Amman, Jordan, has filed a civil complaint (here) in the Southern District of Texas against G.E. Energy.   GE Energy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Electric Company (“GE”).

The complaint alleges that G.E. harassed, pressured Asadi to vacate his position, and ultimately terminated him after he informed his supervisor and G.E.’s Ombudsperson “regarding potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act committed by G.E. during negotiations for a lucractive, multi-year deal with the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity.”  The substance of Asadi’s complaint is that “on or about June of 2010 Mr. Asadi was alerted by a source in the Iraqi Government that GE had hired a woman closely associated with the Senior Deputy Minister of Electricty (Iraq) to curry favor with the Ministry while in negotiation for a Sole Source Joint Venture Contract with the Ministry of Electricity. (According to the complaint, the Joint Venture Agreement between GE and the Ministry of Electricity was signed in Baghdad on December 30, 2010 and that the exclusive materials and repairs provision is estimated to be valued at $250,000,000 for the seven year agreement.)

Hiring friends, family members, etc. of a “foreign official” at the request of the ‘foreign official” has been the basis, in part, for previous FCPA enforcement actions – particularly if the hired individual was not qualified for the position, did not engage in any meaningful work, or was paid an unreasonably high salary.  For instance, the 2011 FCPA enforcement action against Tyson Foods (see here for the prior post) involved, in part, allegations that a company subsidiary placed the wives of Mexican “foreign officials” on its payroll and provided them with “a salary and benefits, knowing that the wives did not actually perform any
services” for the company.

In the WSJ Corruption Currents article, a GE spokesman stated as follows.  “Mr. Asadi’s termination had absolutely nothing to do with any allegations he is making.  Regarding our contracts in Iraq, GE followed all requirements and his allegations are false.”

Travel Act Readings

A few informative Travel Act readings to pass along.

In this article from Thomson Reuters News & Insight, Mike Emmick (Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton) calls the Travel Act the “FCPA’s red-haired stepchild” and says that in conducting an internal investigation “there are some additional rocks to flip over” before celebrating findings of no payments to “foreign officials.”

In this article from Bloomberg Law Reports, John Rupp and David Fink (Covington & Burling) note that a “move by U.S. authorities to target commercial bribery robustly is a distinct possibility.”  The piece discusses the laws that could be used by U.S. authorities to prosecute foreign commercial bribery.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Closing Out The 70’s

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]

Previous posts (here and here) detailed FCPA enforcement actions from the 1970’s against:  (i) Page Airways, Inc. (and six officers and/or directors of the company); and (ii) Kenny International Corporation and Finbar Kenny (Chairman of the Board, President and majority shareholder of Kenny International).

The 1970’s also witnessed:  (i) a SEC civil complaint against Katy Industries, Inc. and its executives Wallace Carroll and Melvan Jones; and (ii) a DOJ civil complaint against Roy Carver and R. Eugene Holley; and (iii) a SEC civil complaint against International Systems & Controls Corporation and its executives J. Thomas Kenneally, Herman Frietsch, Raymond Hofker, Albert Angulo and Harlan Stein.

These enforcement actions are summarized below.

Katy Industries, Wallace Carroll and Melvan Jacobs

In August 1978, the SEC alleged in a civil complaint for permanent injunction that Katy Industries, Inc. (“Katy”), Wallace Carroll (Chairman of the Board and CEO of Katy) and Melvan Jacobs (Director and Member of Katy’s Executive Committee and also an attorney who acted as counsel to Katy as to the conduct at issue)  “have engaged, are engaged and are about to engage in acts and practices” which constitute violations of various securities law provisions including the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

According to the SEC complaint, Katy was interested in obtaining an oil exploration concession in Indonesia and retained a consultant who was a “close personal friend of a high level Indonesian government official.”  The complaint alleges that Katy representatives and the consultant met with the official and his representative and during the meeting “the official agreed to assist Katy in obtaining an oil production sharing contract.”  Katy agreed to compensate the consultant if it received the contract and the SEC alleged that Katy representatives were “told that the consultant would give a portion of such compensation to the official and the official’s representative.”  According to the SEC, Katy entered into various agreements with the consultant and the official’s representative and thereafter “Katy entered into a thirty year Production Sharing Contract with Pertamina, the Indonesian Government-owned oil and gas enterprise.”  The SEC alleged that “Katy, Carroll and Jacobs knew or had reason to know that the official and the official’s representative would directly or indirectly share in the payments to the consultant for the duration of the thirty year Contract.”  In addition, the SEC alleged that Katy’s books and records did not reflect the true nature and purpose of the payments and that a “substantial portion” of the money paid by Katy to the consultant and the official’s representative “was expected by Katy to be given by the recipient to the official.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Katy, Carroll and Jacobs consented to entry of final judgment of permanent injunction prohibiting future violations.  Katy also agreed to establish a Special Committee of its Board “to review the matters alleged in the complaint and to conduct such further investigation as it deems appropriate into these and other similar matters” and to file the Special Committee’s findings publicly with the SEC.

See here for original source documents.

Roy Carver and R. Eugene Holley

In April 1979, the DOJ alleged in a civil complaint for permanent injunction that Roy Carver (Chairman of the Board and President of Holcar Oil Corporation) and R. Eugene Holley (Vice President of Holcar Oil Corporation) “have engaged, are engaged and are about to engage in acts and practices which constitute violations” of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  The complaint alleges that on a trip to Doha, Qatar, Carver and Holley learned of “the possibility of engaging in the business of petroleum exploration in that country” if a “substantial payment of money were to be made to Ali Jaidah [an official of the government of Qatar – specifically the Director of Petroleum Affairs) for his official approval of a concession agreement.”

According to the complaint, the defendants agreed to proceed with the project by forming Holcar in the Cayman Islands “as a vehicle for the purpose of exploiting the concession.”  The complaint alleges that the defendants further agreed “that an appropriate payment would be paid to Ali Jaidah to secure the necessary approval of the Government of Qatar.”  During a subsequent meeting in Doha, the complaint alleges that Carver and Holley met with Ali Jaidah who requested a $1.5 million payment “into the account of his brother, Kasim Jaidah, at the Swiss Credit Bank of Geneva, Switzerland.”  The complaint alleges that the defendants made the payment “knowing or having reason to know that all or a portion of such funds would be transferred to Ali Jaidah.”  According to the complaint, thereafter, “as a result of the cooperation, influence and approval of Ali Jaidah, the government of Qatar entered into an oil drilling concession agreement with Holcar.”  In addition, the complaint alleges that the defendants were willing to make additional payments to a new Director of Petroleum Affairs (Abdullah Sallat) when Holcar’s original concession agreement was under threat of termination given the company’s financing difficulties.  However, the complaint asserts that “neither Director Sallat nor any other official of the government of Qatar has directly or indirectly received or solicited or been offered any payment in connection with renewal of Holcar’s oil concession.”  Based on the above conduct, the DOJ charged that defendants “violated and may continue to violate” the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

Both Carver and Holley consented to the entry of a final judgment of permanent injunction enjoining future FCPA violations.  See here for original source documents.

International Systems & Controls Corp., J. Thomas Kenneally, Herman Frietsch, Raymond Hofker, Albert Angulo and Harlan Stein

In July 1979, the SEC filed a complaint against International Systems & Controls Corporation (“ISC”) and J. Thomas Kenneally (a director of ISC and its fomer CEO and Chairman of the Board), Herman Frietsch (Senior Vice President), Raymond Hofker (former General Counsel), Albert Angulo (former Treasurer) and Harlan Stein (Chief Engineer).  The complaint alleged, among other things, that ISC “paid more than $23 million through one or more subsidiaries to certain foreign persons and entities in order to assist the company in securing certain contracts.”  The complaint alleged that “in furtherance of this scheme, ISC disguised such payments on its books and records as consulting fees, consulting services, agent’s fees and commissions.”  The complaint also alleged that “ISC violated the internal accounting controls provisions by failing to devise an adequate system of internal controls because it failed to require vouchers, expense statements, or similar documentation for the activities or services for which certain expenditures were made.”

According to various media reports, the payments at issue were made to government officials and members of ruling families in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Chile and Iraq in connection with contracts for engineering and construction projects.

The SEC’s complaint charged violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, as well as antifraud, proxy, and reporting violations.  In December 1979, ISC, Kenneally and Frietsch, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations,  consented to the entry of a final order enjoining future violations.   In addition, the final order directed ISC to, among other things, “appoint a special agent … who shall investigate and report on certain specific transactions.”  Furthermore,  Kenneally and Frietsch (for periods of four and two years respectively) agreed to be employed as an officer or director of an issuer only if that company “has a committee with duties and functions to those required of the ISC Audit Committee” as required by the consent degree.

See here for original source documents plus this packet of materials sent to me by a loyal reader.

*****

What are the take-away points from FCPA enforcement in the 1970’s?  Clearly, the enforcement agencies were getting their feet wet enforcing an infant statute and, in many of the enforcement actions, the agencies were confronted with conduct that actually pre-dated enactment of the FCPA in December 1977.  Thus, little can – or should be – taken away from the actual charging decisions in these early FCPA cases.

However, one meaningful take-away point is this.  While one can question how the enforcement agencies held company employees accountable (i.e. criminal v. civil charges), one can not question that the enforcement agencies did hold company employees accountable.  All five FCPA enforcement actions from the 1970’s involved company employees – a figure that stands in stark contrast to 2010 FCPA enforcement in which approximately 70% of corporate FCPA enforcement actions have not resulted (at least yet) in any DOJ charges against company employees.  See here for the prior post.

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