Rama sentenced but what is the back story, scrutiny alert, and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
Rama Sentenced, But What is the Back Story?
As noted here, last week James Rama, a former executive at defense contractor IAP Worldwide Services, was sentenced to four months in federal prison for his role in a bribery scheme involving a security systems project with the Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior.
In its sentencing memo, the DOJ requested that Rama be sentenced to one year. That the judge rejected the DOJ’s sentencing recommendation is not the story – judges frequently reject DOJ sentencing recommendations in individual FCPA cases.
Rather, according to a knowledgeable source who was unable to provide specifics, there is a more interesting back story in connection with the Rama prosecution. Indeed, as noted in this article:
“Mr. Rama said he was disappointed that after a long investigation the case wasn’t pursued to its “proper conclusion.” Defense counsel William Brennan said the elaborate system required for the bribery reached higher at IAP than the Justice Department prosecuted. “There are people…that should have been prosecuted in this case and for whatever reason they were not,” Mr. Brennan said about the bribery scheme Mr. Rama helped engineer on the ground in Kuwait. The Justice Department lawyers present didn’t respond to the allegations at the hearing. The government said in its settlement with IAP that a “variety of factors, including but not limited to IAP’s cooperation,” led to the non-prosecution agreement.”
Consistent with the above, Rama’s lawyers stated in this sentencing memo as follows.
“Mr. Rama was a minor, albeit integral, part of a much larger scheme concocted by more senior executives at IAP – none of whom will be prosecuted in this case. In addition, IAP has entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the government and agreed to pay a $7.1 million penalty to resolve the matter. It would appear that Mr. Rama is the only individual who will face criminal prosecution in this matter.” (Emphasis in original).
Consistent with there being an interesting backstory in the IAP / Rama prosecution, on the same day the DOJ filed its sentencing memo, the court docket indicates that the DOJ also filed a motion under seal, a motion that will likely never see the light of day.
Just remember as Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell recently stated, “greater transparency benefits everyone.” (See here for the prior post).
Approximately four years ago (see here for the prior post), Kraft Foods disclosed FCPA scrutiny resulting from its acquisition of Cadbury in connection with a manufacturing facility in India. Kraft, now known as Mondelēz International, Inc., was recently the focus of this Wall Street Journal article which states:
“[The SEC] preparing civil charges against snack-food maker Mondelez International Inc. in connection with a long-running investigation of payments its Cadbury unit made in India, said people familiar with the matter. […] The company concluded in an internal report by its lawyers in 2011 that Cadbury had used a consultant to funnel bribes to Indian officials in return for factory approvals and permits, which ultimately allowed Cadbury to claim a tax exemption valued at more than $90 million, according to the report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The report says Cadbury also paid fees to eight other consultants from May 2008 to October 2010 “for which the only reasonable explanation is that they have been used to mask payments to government officials.” […] Mondelez’s outside attorneys at Baker & McKenzie have told government investigators that they identified suspicious payments to consultants but couldn’t determine what ultimately became of the money, according to a person familiar with the matter. […] The most serious allegations centered on a tax break available to companies that began production in new plants in the Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh,where Cadbury’s Baddi plant is located, by March 31, 2010. Cadbury had planned to build a new standalone factory in Baddi, but instead it decided to add a second floor to its existing plant in 2008, with three new production lines for chocolate candies. The company gave the second floor its own entrance and claimed it as an independent unit on paper to qualify for the tax exemption, which would save the company more than $90 million over a decade, according to legal documents the company filed in India. But Cadbury’s lawyers determined in late 2009 that, in order to claim the exemption, the company needed to get separate licenses and approvals for the second-floor unit from Indian authorities, a process that typically takes more than six months, according to a timeline created as part of the internal investigation. With the sunset of the tax break just a few months off, Cadbury hired a consultant to “get all necessary approvals to start-up Unit 2 at Baddi…urgently,” the 2011 report said. Internal investigators concluded that the consultant’s fees—about $55,000—were passed on to Indian officials as bribes, according to their report. […] In March, an Indian tax commissioner fined Cadbury more than $90 million, rejecting the company’s argument that the addition of a second floor was the legal equivalent, for tax purposes, of a new plant. [A Mondelez spokesman] said the company is appealing the commissioner’s order. “We continue to believe that the decision to claim the excise-tax benefit is valid.”
An informative read from Morgan Lewis regarding the European Court of Justice opinion in Maximillian Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner, in which the court struck down a US-EU agreement that allowed companies to move personal electronic data between the European Union and the United States.
“This ruling, which is final and cannot be appealed, is likely to have far-reaching effects on how US corporations investigate allegations of wrongdoing by affiliates and subsidiaries based in Europe, including investigations of potential violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).”
Among those critical of the DOJ’s recently released Yates Memo is James Koukios (previously the Senior Deputy Chief of the Fraud Section in the DOJ Criminal Division and an Assistant Chief in the Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit). In this Corporate Crime Reporter interview, Koukios offers his perspectives on the Yates Memo and other issues relevant to FCPA enforcement.
A good weekend to all.