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Johnson & Johnson Enforcement Action Focuses on Health Care Providers As “Foreign Officials”

That was quite the 72-hour period for FCPA enforcement last week. On Wednesday, it was JGC Corporation of Japan ($218.8 million in criminal fines). On Thursday, it was Comverse Technologies ($2.8 million in combined DOJ and SEC fines, penalties, and disgorgement). On Friday, it was Johnson & Johnson ($70 million in combined DOJ and SEC fines, penalties and disgorgement – plus approximately $7.9 million in a related U.K. Serious Fraud Office civil recovery).

This post analyzes the Johnson & Johnson enforcement action. Separate posts regarding the Comverse and JGC Corp. enforcement actions will follow later this week.

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Johnson & Johnson (“J&J), a global pharmaceutical, consumer product, and medical device company, resolved enforcement actions focused on business conduct in Greece, Poland, Romania. The enforcement actions also resolved an investigation of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary companies in the United Nations Oil for Food Program in Iraq.

The J&J enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was $70 million ($21.4 million criminal fine via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement; $48.6 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest via a SEC settled complaint).

This post summarizes the DOJ, SEC and SFO enforcement actions.

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against DePuy Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of J&J and a global manufacturer and supplier of orthopedic medical devices) resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

The background section of the information begins as follows. “Greece has a national healthcare system wherein most Greek hospitals are publicly owned and operated. Health care providers who work at publicly-owned hospitals (“HCPs”) are government employees, providing health care services in their official capacities. Therefore, such HCPs in Greece are “foreign officials” as that term is defined in the FCPA.”

The conduct at issue focuses on Depuy International. In 1998, J&J acquired DePuy, including its subsidiary Deputy International (a U.K. company).

According to the information, between 1998 through 2006, DePuy and others conspired to “secure lucrative business with hospitals in the Greek public health care system by making and promising to make corrupt payments of money and things of value to publicly-employed Greek HCPs.”

The information alleges that “DePuy, its executives, employees, and subsidiaries agreed to sell products to Company X [an agent and distributor for DePuy and its subsidiaries in Greece until 2001 when it was acquired by DePuy and named DePuy Medec and later renamed DePuy Hellas] at a 35% discount, then paid 35% of sales by Company X to an off-shore account of Company Y [based in the Isle of Man and a consultant for DePuy International in Greece until 1999] in order to provide off-the-books funds to Agent A [a Greek national who was the beneficial owners of both Company X and Y] for the payment of cash incentives and other things of value to publicly-employed Greek HCPs to induce the purchase of DePuy products, while concealing the payments.”

The information further alleges that “DePuy, its executives, employees, and subsidiaries agreed to pay Agent A and Agent B [a Greek national who acted as a consultant to DePuy International and DePuy Hellas] a percentage of the value of sales of DePuy products in Greece in order to provide funds to Agent A and Agent B for the payment of cash incentives and other things of value to publicly-employed Greek HCPs to induce the purchase of DePuy products, while concealing the payments.”

The information further alleges that between 2002 and 2006 “approximately £500,000 was withdrawn by DePuy Hellas MD [a Greek National who was an employee of Company X until it was acquired by J&J when she became the Managing Director of DePuy Hellas] and others and used to cover payments owed to HCPs by the agents but not yet paid.”

The information charges as follows. “In total, from 1998 to 2006, defendant DePuy, DePuy International, and their related subsidiaries and employees, authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of approximately $16.4 million in cash incentives to publicly-employed Greek HCPs to induce the purchase of DePuy products. In order to conceal the payments, DePuy Hellas and DePuy International falsely recorded the payments in their books and records as “commissions.””

As to a U.S. nexus, the information describes the following: certain phone calls made to Executive B (a U.S. citizen and officer and senior executive of DePuy) in Indiana to discuss the Company X acquisition and due diligence on Greek Agent A; e-mails sent to Executive B in Indiana regarding Agent A or Greek business in general; e-mails Executive A (a British citizen who was an officer and senior executive in charge of DePuy at the time it was purchased by J&J and who retained that position until 1999 when he became a senior executive at J&J retaining control of DePuy and its related operating companies) sent or received in New Jersey regarding Agent A.

Based on the above allegations, the information charges: (i) a conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records provisions; and (ii) a substantive FCPA anti-bribery violation.

DPA

The DOJ’s charges against DePuy were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement (dated January 14, 2011) between the DOJ and J&J, its subsidiaries, and its operating companies “relating to illegal conduct committed by certain J&J operating companies and subsidiaries.” In addition to DePuy Inc., other operating companies named are Cilag AG International and Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V.

Pursuant to the DPA, J&J admitted, accepted and acknowledged “that it is responsible for the acts of its officers, employees, and agents, and wholly-owned subsidiaries and operating companies” as set forth in a Statement of Facts attached to the DPA.

The term of the DPA is three years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors.

(a) J&J voluntarily and timely disclosed the majority of the misconduct described in the Information and Statement of Facts [Note – the Iraq Oil for Food conduct was not voluntarily disclosed];

(b) J&J conducted a thorough internal investigation of that misconduct;

(c) J&J reported all of its findings to the Department;

(d) J&J cooperated fully with the Department’s investigation of this matter;

(e) J&J has undertaken substantial remedial measures as contemplated by [the DPA];

(f) J&J has agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department in any investigation of the conduct of J&J and its directors, officers, employees, agents, consultants, subsidiaries, contractors, and subcontractors relating to violations of the FCPA and related statutes;

(g) J&J has cooperated and agreed to continue to cooperate with the SEC and, at the direction of the Department, foreign authorities investigating the conduct of J&J and its directors, officers, employees, agents, consultants, subsidiaries, contractors, and subcontractors relating to corrupt payments;

(h) J&J has cooperated and agreed to continue to cooperate with the
Department in the Department’s investigations of other companies and individuals in connection with business practices overseas in various markets;

“(i) J&J has also agreed to resolve related cases being investigated by the SEC and the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office (the “SFO”); and

(j) Were the Department to initiate a prosecution of J&J or one of its operating companies and obtain a conviction, instead of entering into this Agreement to defer prosecution, J&J could be subject to exclusion from participation in federal health care programs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(a).

With respect to the corporate compliance reporting obligations imposed on J&J by the DPA, the agreement states as follows.

(i) J&J has already engaged in significant remediation of the misconduct described in the Statement of Facts and reviewed and improved its compliance program and implementation thereof;

(ii) J&J conducted an extensive, global review of all of its operations to determine if there were problems elsewhere and has reported on any areas of concerns to the Department and the SEC;

(iii) J&J has and will undertake enhanced compliance obligations
described in [the DPA];

(iv) J&J’s cooperation during this investigation and its substantial assistance in investigations of others has been extraordinary; and

(v) J&J had a pre-existing compliance and ethics program that was effective and the majority of problematic operations globally resulted from insufficient implementation of the J&J compliance and ethics program in acquired companies.”

As stated in the DPA, the fine range for the above described conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $28.5 million to $57 million. Pursuant to the DPA, J&J agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $21.4 million (25% below the minimum amount suggested by the guidelines). The DPA states as follows. “J&J and the Department agree that this fine is appropriate given J&J’s voluntary and thorough disclosure of the misconduct at issue, the nature and extent of J&J’s cooperation in this matter, penalties related to the same conduct in the United Kingdom and Greece, J&J’s cooperation in the Department’s investigation of other companies, and J&J’s extraordinary remediation.”

Pursuant to the DPA, J&J agreed to self-report to the DOJ “periodically, at no less than six-month intervals” during the term of the DPA “regarding remediation and implementation of the compliance measures” described in the DPA.

As is standard in FCPA DPAs, J&J agreed not to make any public statement “contradicting the acceptance of responsibility” by J&J as set forth in the DPA.

The Statement of Facts attached to the DPA include, in addition to the Greece conduct described above, conduct relating to Poland, Romania and in connection with the U.N. Oil for Food Program in Iraq.

Poland

As to Poland, the DPA states, in summary fashion as follows.

“Poland has a national healthcare system. Most Polish hospitals are owned and operated by the government and most Polish HCPs [health care providers] are government employees providing health care services in their official capacities. Therefore, most HCPs in Poland are “foreign officials” as defined by the FCPA.”

“Polish hospitals purchase their medical products through a tender process, whereby suppliers of medical products compete for business by submitting bids to tender committees. Each tender committee may be associated with one or more hospitals.”

“In general, the tender committees evaluate the competitive bids and select the winning supplier for each purchase. Because most Polish hospitals are government owned, the tender committees effectively determine, on behalf of the government, from whom the government will purchase medical products.”

“J&J Poland [a wholly owned subsidiary of J&J] made payments and provided things of value to publicly-employed Polish HCPs, in the form of “civil contracts,” travel sponsorships, and donations of cash and equipment, to corruptly influence the decisions of HCPs on tender committees to purchase medical products from J&J Poland.”

As to civil contracts, the DPA states as follows.

“J&J Poland engaged in professional services contracts with publicly-employed Polish HCPs, known as “civil contracts.” The contracts were purportedly for professional services including lecturing, leading workshops, and conducting clinical trials.”

“J&J Poland did not require that its sales representatives provide proof that the work, for which payment had been made, was actually ever performed.”

“From January 2000 until June 2006, J&J Poland awarded civil contracts to publicly-employed Polish HCPs to corruptly influence them, in their official capacities as members of tender committees, in order to induce those HCPs to select, or favorably influence the selection of, J&J Poland as the winning supplier in tender processes.”

As to travel, the DPA states as follows.

“J&J Poland sponsored some publicly-employed Polish HCPs to attend conferences in order to corruptly influence them, in their official capacities as members of tender committees, in order to induce the HCPs to select, or favorably influence the selection of, J&J Poland as the winning supplier in tender processes.”

As to “Total Improper Payments in Poland,” the DPA states as follows.

“In total, from in or around 2000 to in or around 2007, J&J Poland and its employees authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of approximately $775,000 in improper payments, including direct payments and travel, to publicly-employed Polish HCPs to induce the purchase of J&J products.”

Romania

As to Romania, the DPA states as follows.

“The national healthcare system in Romania is almost entirely state-run. The healthcare system is funded by the National Health Care Insurance Fund (“CNAS”), to which employers and employees make mandatory contributions. Most Romanian hospitals are owned and operated by the government and most HCPs in Romania are government employees. Therefore, most HCPs in Romania are “foreign officials” as defined by the FCPA.”

“From in or around 2005 through in or around 2008, J&J Romania [a wholly owned subsidary] employees made arrangements with J&J Romania distributors for the distributors, on behalf of J&J Romania, to provide cash payments and gifts to publicly-employed Romanian HCPs in exchange for prescribing certain pharmaceuticals manufactured by J&J subsidiaries and operating companies.”

As to “Total Improper Payments in Romania,” the DPA states as follows.

“In total, from in or around July 2005 to in or around mid-2008, J&J Romania and its employees authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of approximately $140,000 in incentives to publicly-employed Romanian HCPs to induce the purchase of pharmaceuticals manufactured by J&J subsidiaries and operating companies.”

Oil for Food Program

As to the U.N. Oil for Food Program, the DPA states as follows.

“Between in or around December 2000 and in or around March 2003, Janssen [a wholly-owned subsidiary of J&J headquarted in Belgium] and Cilag [a wholly-owned subsidiary of J&J headquartered in Switzerland] were awarded 18 contracts for the sale of pharmaceuticals to the Iraqi Ministry of Health State Company for Marketing Drugs and Medical Appliances (“Kimadia”) under the [Oil for Food Program], with a total contract value of approximately $9.9 million, which generated approximately $6.1 million in profits. Janssen and Cilag secured these contracts through the payment of approximately $857,387 in kickbacks to the government of Iraq.”

“The kickbacks were paid to the government of Iraq through JC-Lebanon Agent [a Lebanese citizen who was an agent for both Janssen and Cilag in Iraq]. The kickbacks were concealed from the United Nations by inflating Janssen and Cilag’s contract prices by 10%.”

The DPA concludes with a section titled “Books and Records” that states as follows.

“In order to conceal the payments to the Greek, Polish, and Romanian HCPs on the books and records of J&J and its subsidiaries, the payments were misrepresented as, among other things, “commissions,” “civil contracts,” “travel,” “donations,” and “discounts.””

“In order to conceal the kickback payments made to the Iraqi government through JC-Lebanon Agent for contracts under the OFFP on the books and records of Janssen and Cilag, the payments were misrepresented as “commissions.””

“At the end of J&J’s fiscal year from in or around 1998 to in or around 2007, the books and records of DePuy International, DePuy Hellas, J&J Poland, J&J Romania, Janssen, and Cilag, including those containing false characterizations of kickback and bribe payments given to the Iraqi government and Greek, Polish, and Romanian officials, were incorporated into the books and records of J&J for purposes of preparing J&J’s year-end financial statements, which were filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

The DOJ’s release (here) states as follows.

“Johnson & Johnson has admitted that its subsidiaries, employees and agents paid bribes to publicly-employed health care providers in Greece, Poland and Romania, and that kickbacks were paid on behalf of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary companies to the former government of Iraq under the United Nations Oil for Food program. Johnson & Johnson, however, has also cooperated extensively with the government and, as a result, has played an important role in identifying improper practices in the life sciences industry. As [the DPA] reflects, we are committed to holding corporations accountable for bribing foreign officials while, at the same time, giving meaningful credit to companies that self-report and cooperate with our investigations.” “The agreement recognizes J&J’s timely voluntary disclosure, and thorough and wide-reaching self-investigation of the underlying conduct; the extraordinary cooperation provided by the company to the department, the SEC and multiple foreign enforcement authorities, including significant assistance in the industry-wide investigation; and the extensive remedial efforts and compliance improvements undertaken by the company. In addition, J&J received a reduction in its criminal fine as a result of its cooperation in the ongoing investigation of other companies and individuals, as outlined in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. J&J’s fine was also reduced in light of its anticipated resolution in the United Kingdom. Due to J&J’s pre-existing compliance and ethics programs, extensive remediation, and improvement of its compliance systems and internal controls, as well as the enhanced compliance undertakings included in the agreement, J&J was not required to retain a corporate monitor, but it must report to the department on implementation of its remediation and enhanced compliance efforts every six months for the duration of the agreement.”

SEC

The SEC’s civil complaint (here) is based on the same core set of facts contained in the above DPA and alleges, in summary, as follows.

“This matter concerns violations of the Foreign Conupt Practices Act by J&J as a result of the acts of its subsidiaries to obtain business for J&J’s medical device and pharmaceutical segments.”

“Since at least 1998 and continuing to early 2006, J&J’s subsidiaries, employees and agents paid bribes to public doctors in Greece who selected J&J surgical implants for their patients. Further, J&J’s subsidiaries and agents paid bribes to doctors
and public hospital administrators in Poland who awarded tenders to J&J from 2000 to 2006. J&J’s subsidiaries and agents also paid bribes to public doctors in Romania to prescribe J&J pharmaceutical products from 2002 to 2007. Finally, J&J’s subsidiaries and agent paid kickbacks to Iraq in order to obtain contracts under the United Nations Oil for Food Program (“Program”) from 2000 to 2003.”

As to Greece, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“One of J&J’s product lines is surgical implants such as artificial knees, hips and other products that surgeons implant into patients. Surgical implants are a lucrative, but competitive business. In many countries, orthopedic surgeons control which implants they use.”

“In 1998, J&J acquired another medical device company, DePuy Inc., a NYSE company. A top DePuy executive then went on to become a top J&J executive in the United States in J&J’s medical device and diagnostics business (“Executive A”). At the time of the acquisition, DePuy was engaged in a widespread bribery scheme in Greece to sell its implants. Executive A and DPI executives knowingly continued that scheme. From 1998 to 2006, J&J earned $24,258,072 in profits on sales obtained through bribery.”

The SEC complaint alleges that “J&J’s internal audit group discovered the payments to Greek doctors in early 2006 after receiving a whistleblower complaint.” According to the complaint, “the issue of payments to surgeons had been previously raised in an anonymous 2003 letter to a different internal audit team concerning a related J&J subsidiary in Greece … however, that team concentrated their investigation on allegations about a possible conflict ofinterest by local management and J&J did not fully investigate the alleged payments to doctors.”

As to Poland, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“Employees of … a J&J subsidiary, bribed publicly-employed doctors and hospital administrators to obtain business. [Subsidiary] executives running three business lines oversaw the creation of sham contracts and travel documents and also the creation of slush funds as a means to funnel bribe payments to doctors and
administrators. From 2000 to 2006, J&J earned $4,348,000 in profit from its sales through the bribery.”

“The bribery appears to have stopped when Polish prosecutors began to investigate payments to doctors.”

As to travel issues, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“[Subsidiary] also paid for public doctors and hospital administrators to travel to medical conventions in Poland and abroad in order to influence tender committee decisions in their favor. Sponsored doctors were taken on trips in exchange for influencing the doctors’ decisions to purchase J&J’s medical products or to award hospital tenders to J&J. Some of the trips were to the United States for conferences. Some of the trips were to tourists areas in Europe, and some included spouses and family members to what amounted to vacations.”

As to Romania, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“Employees of … a J&J subsidiary, bribed publicly-employed doctors and pharmacists to prescribe J&J products that the company was actively promoting. The employees worked with [the subsidiary’s] local distributors to deliver cash to publicly-employed doctors who ordered J&J drugs for their patients. [The subsidiary] also provided travel to certain doctors who agreed to prescribe J&J products. From 2000 to 2007, J&J earned $3,515,500 in profit from its sales through the bribery.”

As to Iraq Oil for Food conduct, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“J&J participated in the Program through two of its subsidiaries, Cilag AG International and Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V. (collectively “Janssen-Cilag”). During the program, Janssen-Cilag sold pharmaceuticals to an arm of the Iraqi Ministry of Health known as Kimadia. Janssen-Cilag conducted business with Kimadia in Iraq through a Lebanese agent (the “Agent”). The Agent’s primary contact with the J&J companies was an area director at Janssen-Cilag’s office in Lebanon.”

“In total, secret kickback payments of approximately $857,387 were made in connection with nineteen Oil for Food contracts. The payments were made through the Agent to Iraqi controlled accounts in order to avoid detection by the U.N. The fee was effectively a bribe paid to the Iraqi regime, which were disguised on J&J’s books and records by mischaracterizing the bribes as legitimate commissions.”

“In order to generate funds to pay the bribes and to conceal those payments, Janssen-Cilag and its agent inflated the price of the contracts by at least ten percent before submitting them to the U.N. for approval. J&J’s total profits on the contracts were $6,106,255.”

Under the heading “Anti-Bribery Violations” the complaint alleges as follows.

“J&J, through its subsidiaries and agents, knowingly allowed its employees and third parties to pay Greek and Polish public doctors and public hospital administrators for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business.”

“Executive A, a U.S. resident and a senior executive at J&J, approved the arrangements with the Greek Agent in Greece. Executive A and DPI executives knew that the Greek Agent was bribing Greek doctors. In addition, Polish doctors were bribed to use J&J products in return for trips. Use of the mails and interstate commerce was also used to facilitate the bribery schemes in both Greece and Poland.”

Under the hearing “Failure to Maintain Its Books and Records” the complaint alleges as follows.

“J&J’s subsidiaries made numerous illicit payments for the purpose of obtaining contracts in Iraq, Romania, Greece, and Poland. J&J’s books and records did not reflect the true nature of those payments. For example, they did not record that a portion of its payments to the Greek and Iraqi agents constituted reimbursements for bribes, and they did not record the true terms of the civil contract payments to Polish doctors. Efforts were made to obscure the purpose of trips to the United States and abroad. Certain J&J subsidiaries created false contracts, invoices, and other documents to conceal the true business arrangement it had with its consultants and distributors to pay bribes. False travel documents were created, and petty cash was used to pay bribes. United Nations contracts were also falsified.”

Under the heading “Failure to Maintain Adequate Internal Controls,” the complaint alleges as follows.

“J&J failed to implement internal controls to detect or prevent bribery. The conduct was widespread in various markets, Greece, Poland, Romania, and Iraq. The conduct involved employees and managers of all levels. False documents were routinely created to conceal the bribery in each country.”

“Rather than cease the bribery that was happening at DePuy prior to J&J’s acquisition, J&J through its subsidiaries, employees and agents allowed the bribery to continue. They created sham businesses and entered into contracts that were merely
conduits to allow the bribery to flourish. They failed to conduct due diligence on the Greek Distributor. The Company also paid its consultant outside of Greece to avoid detection of bribery. The Company had two different J&J corporate entities make
payments to the Greek Agent to conceal the amount of money that was being funneled to
doctors as bribes.”

“[Polish subsidiary] entered into fake civil contracts with Polish doctors and J&J also created false travel arrangements in Poland and Romania to create slush funds.”

“Cilag and Janssen paid bribes to Iraq despite the fact that trade sanctions were in place against doing business in Iraq. Cilag and Janssen falsified their contracts with the United Nations to conceal the kickbacks being paid to Iraq.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC charged J&J with FCPA anti-bribery violations and FCPA books and records and internal control violations.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, J&J agreed to an injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations and agreed to pay $38,227,826 in disgorgement and $10,438,490 in prejudgment interest.

The SEC’s release (here) contains the following statement from Robert Kuzami (Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement): “The message in this and the SEC’s other FCPA cases is plain – any competitive advantage gained through corruption is a mirage. J&J chose profit margins over compliance with the law by acquiring a private company for the purpose of paying bribes, and using sham contracts, off-shore companies, and slush funds to cover its tracks.” In the release, Cheryl Scarboro (Chief of the SEC Enforcement Divisions FCPA Unit) stated as follows. “Bribes to public doctors can have a detrimental effect on the public health care systems that potentially pay more for products procured through greed and corruption.”

The SEC release states as follows.

“J&J voluntarily disclosed some of the violations by its employees and conducted a thorough internal investigation to determine the scope of the bribery and other violations, including proactive investigations in more than a dozen countries by both its internal auditors and outside counsel. J&J’s internal investigation and its ongoing compliance programs were essential in gathering facts regarding the full extent of J&J’s FCPA violations.”

SFO

On the same day as the above U.S. enforcement actions, the U.K. SFO announced (here) a Civil Recovery Order against DePuy International Limited “in which DePuy International Limited will pay £4.829 million [approximately $7.9 million], plus prosecution costs, in recognition of unlawful conduct relating to the sale of orthopaedic products in Greece between 1998 and 2006.”

According to the SFO release, the SFO “launched an investigation into the activities of DePuy International Limited in October 2007 following a referral from the DOJ.” Richard Alderman, Director of the SFO, stated as follows. “When Johnson & Johnson reported the DePuy corruption, the DOJ informed the SFO of issues within our jurisdiction. We worked with the DOJ to find a solution that served both the interests of justice and the company’s desire to put illegal activity behind it and move on. I believe the order approved […] will illustrate to other companies how the SFO works closely with organisations across the world in enforcing the highest ethical standards, but is willing to engage and listen to companies that come to us with problems and help them find solutions.”

The SFO release further states as follows. “On the facts of this case, criminal sanction of the Greek conduct has been achieved by the conclusion of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with DePuy International Limited’s parent company and the DOJ. The Director of the Serious Fraud Office has concluded that a prosecution was therefore prevented in this jurisdiction by the principles of double jeopardy. The underlying purpose of the rule against double jeopardy is to stop a defendant from being prosecuted twice for the same offence in different jurisdictions. The DOJ Deferred Prosecution Agreement has the legal character of a formally concluded prosecution and punishes the same conduct in Greece that had formed the basis of the Serious Fraud Office investigation. […] Consequently the Serious Fraud office is satisfied that the most appropriate sanction is a Civil Recovery Order, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.”

As highlighted in this prior post, in April 2010, former DePuy executive Robert Dougall pleaded guilty to conspiring with others “to make corrupt payments and/or give other inducements” to “medical professionals within the Greek state health care system” contrary to Section 1 of the UK Prevention of Corruption Act of 1906.

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Eric Dubelier (Reed Smith – see here – a former DOJ enforcement attorney) represented J&J.

J&J’s press release (here) notes as follows. “In 2007, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily disclosed to the DOJ and the SEC that subsidiaries outside the United States were believed to have made improper payments in connection with the sale of medical devices. In the course of comprehensive compliance efforts and reports into the Company, similar issues in additional markets and businesses were identified and brought to the attention of the agencies.” William Weldon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of J&J stated as follows. “More than four years ago, we went to the government to report improper payments and have taken full responsibility for these actions. We are deeply disappointed by the unacceptable conduct that led to these violations. We have undertaken significant changes since then to improve our compliance efforts, and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure this does not occur again. I know that these actions are not representative of Johnson & Johnson employees around the world who do what is honest and right every day, in the conduct of our business and in service to patients and customers worldwide. We will continue to demonstrate that Johnson & Johnson is a company that embraces responsible corporate behavior.”

General Electric Settles Iraqi Oil For Food Matter

Just when you think Iraqi Oil for Food Program FCPA-related enforcement actions have run their course, along comes another.

The SEC announced this morning (see here) that General Electric Company (GE) agreed to resolve an FCPA books and records and internal controls enforcement action based on allegations that “two GE subsidiaries – along with two other subsidiaries of public companies that have seen been acquired by GE – made illegal kickback payments in the form of cash, computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry or the Iraqi Oil Ministry in order to obtain valuable contracts under the U.N. Oil for Food Program.”

As noted in the SEC release, “the SEC has now taken 15 FCPA enforcement actions against companies involved in the Oil for Food-related kickback schemes with Iraq, recovering more than $204 million.”

The GE enforcement action, like other Iraqi Oil for Food enforcement actions with a few exceptions, does not allege FCPA anti-bribery violations presumably because the alleged payments were made directly to the Iraqi government or government ministries – not to specific “foreign officials” as prohibited by the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

The GE enforcement action is also an outlier of sorts in that it is merely a SEC enforcement action with no parallel DOJ enforcement action – a fact mentioned in GE’s press release detailed below.

For instance, the March 2010 enforcement action against Innospec (which was part Iraqi Oil For Food) involved a DOJ criminal information as to those allegations (see here); the September 2009 enforcement action against AGCO Corporation involved a DOJ criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement (see here); and the May 2009 enforcement action against Novo Nordisk A/S involved a DOJ criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement (see here).

So much for substantively similar conduct being resolved in a similar fashion.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations (detailed below), GE, GE Ionics Inc. and GE Healthcare Ltd. consented to a court order permanently enjoining future violations of the FCPA books and records and internal control provisions. GE agreed to pay $23.4 million to settle the matter – including approximately $18.4 million in disgorgement of profits on the alleged contracts at issue.

The SEC complaint (see here) alleges as follows:

“From approximately 2000 to 2003, two subsidiaries of the General Electric Company (“GE”) — Marquette-Hellige (“Marquette”) and OEC-Medical Systems (Europa) AG (“OEC-Medical”) — made approximately $2.04 million in kickback payments in the form of computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry under the Program. Prior to GE’s acquisition of their parent companies, two other current GE subsidiaries –Ionics Italba. S.r.L. (“Ionics Italba”), and Nycomed Imaging AS, currently GE Healthcare AS (”Nycomed”) – made approximately $1.55 million in cash kickback payments under the Program. Nycomed was a subsidiary of publicly-registered Amersham plc, which was acquired by GE after the conduct at issue in this Complaint and is currently known as GE Healthcare Ltd. Ionics Italba was a subsidiary of publicly-registered Ionics, Inc., which was acquired by GE after the conduct at issue in this Complaint and is currently known as GE Ionics, Inc.”

According to the complaint:

“Marquette, OEC-Medical, Ionics Italba, and Nycomed each authorized and paid kickbacks to Iraqi government ministries through agents in the form of ‘aftersales service fees’ (ASSF) on sales of products to Iraq. All four subsidiaries knew that such kickbacks were prohibited by the Oil for Food Program and U.S. and international trade sanctions on Iraq.”

According to the complaint, the above subsidaries, “only two of which were GE subsidiaries during the relevant time period,” “working through third-party agents, made ASSF kickback payments of approximately $3,584,842. The four subsidiaries earned profits of approximately $18,397,949 as a result oftheir illegal kickbacks.”

As to the acquired subsidiaries, the SEC simply alleges, without any elaboration, that GE acquired the liabilities of Amersham and Ionic, along with assets, in the acquisitions and that “GE Ionics, Inc. and GE Healthcare Ltd., both subsidiaries of GE, are the respective successors to the liability of Ionics and Amersham.”

Cheryl Scarboro, the Chief of the SEC’s newly formed FCPA Unit, stated as follows:

“GE failed to maintain adequate internal controls to detect and prevent these illicit payments by its two subsidiaries to win Oil for Food contracts, and it failed to properly record the true nature of the payments in its accounting records. Furthermore, corporate acquisitions do not provide GE immunity from FCPA enforcement of the other two subsidiaries involved.”

In a press release (see here) GE stated that the enforcement action “concludes the SEC’s investigation and related Department of Justice review of GE regarding the Oil-for-Food Program.” The release notes that the company “has received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Justice that the Department has closed its investigation and will take no action relating to these matters.”

As to the merits of the SEC’s allegations, the company stated as follows:

“In this case, the SEC has identified 18 contracts under the Oil-for-Food Program that it alleges were not accounted for or controlled properly. Fourteen of these transactions involve businesses that were not owned by GE at the time of the transactions. The SEC alleges that, in acquiring these companies, GE acquired their liabilities as well as their assets. The other four transactions relate to GE Healthcare units in Europe. These units declined to make cash payments to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, but they acquiesced when their agent offered instead to make in-kind payments of computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry, and then failed to reflect the transactions accurately in their books and records. This conduct did not meet our standards, and we believe that it is in the best interests of GE and its shareholders to resolve this matter now, without admitting or denying the allegations, and put the matter behind us.”

No matter how flimsy the SEC’s legal theory of liability, the agency continues to extract multi-million dollar FCPA settlements from the companies it oversees. These companies view settlement as easier and more cost efficient than engaging in a protracted legal dispute with a principal government regulator.

The end result, in such cases, is a continuation of the facade of FCPA enforcement.

It’s Been A While … DOJ Issues FCPA Opinion Procedure Release

Thousands of companies face FCPA risks every single day. Many of these companies have legitimate questions as to how its operations in foreign countries could implicate the FCPA. If only there was a procedure in place for companies subject to the FCPA to receive guidance from the DOJ as to its enforcement stance as to particular conduct!

Well … actually there is, but if you haven’t heard about it, don’t feel bad, because the Opinion Procedure Release provisions of the FCPA (15 USC 78dd-1(e)) are often overlooked.

After a year hiatus, (the last opinion was released on July 11, 2008), DOJ has penned Opinion Procedure Release 09-01 (see here).

Given the extent to which the health-care sector has come under FCPA scrutiny, it is not a surprise that the “Requestor” is a “domestic concern” “which designs and manufacturers a specific type of medical device.”

Big picture … the Requestor wants to provide a product sample to a foreign government so that government medical centers can evaluate the product to see if it would be eligible for the government subsidized medical device program. Requestor no doubt was nervous about this given that its competitors were already doing business with the foreign government (whereas Requestor was not) and given that the 100 product samples cost $19,000 each – amounting to a $1.9 million donation.

Based on a number of representations from Requestor, including that none of the product samples would go to government officials, the DOJ stated that it did not intend to take any enforcement action with respect to the proposed conduct because “the proposed provision of 100 medical devices and related items and services fall outside the scope of the FCPA in that the donated products will be provided to the foreign government, as opposed to individual government officials, for ultimate use by patient recipients selected in accordance with specific guidelines …”

Requestor, it would seem, got the certainty it was looking for and can proceed with the arrangement free of FCPA worries.

All of which begs the question … why isn’t the FCPA Opinion Procedure process used more frequently? Common answers often include (i) the opinion expresses only the DOJ’s opinion, but not the SEC’s (obviously relevant to issuers); (ii) the procedure takes too long and the proposed business conduct is time sensitive (note that in 09-01 the Requestor made two supplemental disclosures); and (iii) the Requestor may receive an answer it doesn’t like and thus needlessly raises its FCPA profile.

To read more about the detailed requirements of the FCPA Opinion Procedure process (see here).

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