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Friday Roundup

A sign-off, no surprise, scrutiny alert, for the reading stack, spot-on, and the $10 million man.

Judge Leon Signs-Off On IBM Action

As highlighted in this prior post, in March 2011 the SEC announced an FCPA enforcement action against IBM concerning alleged conduct in South Korea and China.  The settlement terms contained a permanent injunction as to future FCPA violations and thus required judicial approval.  Similar to the Tyco FCPA enforcement action, the case sat on Judge Leon’s docket.  Last month, Judge Leon approved the Tyco settlement (see here) and yesterday Judge Leon approved the IBM settlement.

The common thread between the two enforcement actions would seem to be that both companies were repeat FCPA offenders.

Like Judge Leon’s final order in Tyco, the final order in IBM action states:

“[For a two year period IBM is required to submit annual reports] to the Commission and this Court describing its efforts to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), and to report to the Commission and this Court immediately upon learning it is reasonably likely that IBM has violated the FCPA in connection with either improper payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business or any fraudulent books and records entries …””

For additional coverage of yesterday’s hearing, see here from Bloomberg.  The article quotes Judge Leon as follows.  IBM “has learned its lesson and is moving in the right direction to ensure this never happens again.” If there’s another violation over the next two years, “it won’t be a happy day.”

However, as noted in this previous post, IBM recently disclosed additional FCPA scrutiny.

No Surprise

This recent post highlighted the 9th Circuit’s restitution ruling in the Green FCPA enforcement action and was titled “Green Restitution Order Stands … For Now.”  As noted in the prior post, the decision practically invited the Greens to petition for an en banc hearing.

No surprise, the Greens did just that earlier this week – see here for the petition.

Scrutiny Alert

This February 2012 post detailed how Wynn Resorts $135 million donation to the University of Macau became the subject of an SEC inquiry.

Earlier this month, Wynn disclosed in an SEC filing as follows:

“On February 13, 2012, Wynn Resorts, Limited (the “Company”) filed a Report on Form 8-K disclosing that it had received a letter from the Salt Lake Regional Office (the “Office”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) advising the Company that the Office had commenced an informal inquiry with respect to certain matters, including a donation by Wynn Macau, Limited, an affiliate of the Company, to the University of Macau Development Foundation. On July 2, 2013, the Company received a letter from the Office stating that the investigation had been completed with the Office not intending to recommend any enforcement action against the Company by the SEC.”

According to this report:

“Speaking to The Associated Press from his boat on the Spanish island of Ibiza … CEO Steve Wynn said he never had any doubt federal investigators would clear the company.  ‘We were so sanguine that we never paid any attention to it; we had no exposure. It was a nonevent except for the damn newspapers.'”

For the Reading Stack

The always informative Gibson Dunn Mid-Year FCPA Update and Mid-Year DPA and NPA Update (through July 8th, approximately 30% of all DPAs/NPAs have been used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions).

Sound insight from Robertson Park and Timothy Peterson in this Inside Counsel column:

“Without putting too fine a spin on the matter, the discussion of the potential consequences faced by a company with potential anti-bribery exposure was fundamentally U.S.-centric. The dispositive question was often whether or not the potential misconduct was likely to fall under the umbrella of FCPA enforcement. Would U.S. authorities be interested in pursuing this matter? Would they find out about this matter? There were not many other concerns that mattered. Whether the site of the potential misconduct was in the European, Asian, South American or African sector, the substantial likelihood was that home authorities would have little interest in the matter, and even if they did it was likely an interest that would often frustrate and impede efforts by the Department of Justice or the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the matter. Cooperative enforcement was unlikely. This has changed. […]  For companies that learn of a potential international corruption issue, the impact of this emerging global enforcement market means that the headache associated with scoping an internal investigation is now a migraine with diverse and complex symptoms. Companies investigating potential bribery have always faced the question of how, if at all, they plan to disclose any subsequent findings to government authorities. Now, initial assessments of investigative plans in anti-bribery matters must consider a broader array of potentially interested enforcement authorities. Companies must design their anti-bribery investigations at the outset to consider not only the FCPA enforcement regime in the U.S., but also a newly energized U.K. anti-bribery law, along with a growing list of ant-bribery measures in almost all of the important jurisdictions with business growth opportunities.”

Six ways to improve in-house compliance training from Ryan McConnell and Gérard Sonnier.

The reality of facilitation payments from Matt Kelly.

“… Facilitation payments are a fact of life in global business. Nobody likes them, and no compliance officer wants to pay a bribe disguised as a facilitation payment. But when the transaction truly fits the definition of a facilitation payment—money paid to a government official, to speed up some job duty he would normally perform anyway—there shouldn’t be any ethical or legal crisis in paying it. After all, we have facilitation payments domestically in the United States. If you want a passport from the State Department, you pay $165 in fees. If you want an expedited passport, you pay an extra $60 fee and get your passport in half the usual time. That’s a facilitation payment, pure and simple. Other countries have all sorts of facilitation payments as well, say, to get a visa processed quickly or to clear goods through customs rather than let them rot on the docks. Urgent needs happen in business, and facilitation payments get you through them. That’s life.”

The language of corruption from the BBC.


Regardless of what you think of former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, he is spot-on with his observation that the so-called Arthur Anderson effect (i.e. if a business organization is criminally charged it will go out of business) is “overrated.”  As noted in this Corporate Crime Reporter piece, in a new book titled “Protecting Capitalism Case by Case” Spitzer writes:

“Almost all entities have the capacity to regenerate — even if under a new name, with new ownership and new leadership — and forcing them to do so will have the deterrent effect we desire.”

“Most companies would have no trouble continuing in operation once charged. They might suffer reputational harm, perhaps lose contracts, have certain loans be declared to be in default, and lose some personnel and public support. But that would probably be the proper price to be paid in the context of the violations of the law they committed.”

As noted in previous posts, the Arthur Anderson effect was effectively debunked (see here) and even Denis McInerney (DOJ, Deputy Assistant Attorney General) recently acknowledged (see here) that there is a very small chance that a company would be put out of business as a result of actual DOJ criminal charges.

In his new book Spitzer also writes as follows concerning the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy.

“I hope that the new leadership at the Securities and Exchange Commission will mandate that an admission of guilt is a necessary part of future settlements in cases of this stature or magnitude. The law and justice require such an acknowledgement — or else nothing has been accomplished.”

Speaking of neither admit nor deny, part of the SEC’s talking points defense of this policy is that the SEC is not the only federal agency that makes use of such a settlement policy.

On this score, it is notable – as detailed in this Law360 article – that Bart Chilton, a top official at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, “said the commission should rethink its policy of allowing defendants to settle claims without admitting or denying the allegations.”  According to the article, Chilton stated:

“I understand there are certain circumstances where we might not want to require [admissions], but I think we at the CFTC should change our modus operandi.  The default position should be that people who violate the law should admit wrongdoing.”

$10 Million Man

Continuing with neither admit nor deny, one of the defenders of this settlement policy was Robert Khuzami while he was at the SEC as the Director of Enforcement.   As noted in this Kirkland & Ellis release, Khuzami joined the firm as a partner in the global Government, Regulatory and Internal Investigations Practice Group.  According to this New York Times article, Khuzami’s new position “pays more than $5 million per year” and is guaranteed for two years.  In joining Kirkland, the New York Times stated that Khuzami “is following quintessential Washington script: an influential government insider becoming a paid advocate for industries he once policed.”

Khuzami and former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer were the voice and face of the SEC and DOJ last November upon release of the FCPA Guidance.  As detailed in this prior post, Breuer is currently at Covington & Burling making approximately $4 million per year.


A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

SEC tweaks its neither admit nor deny settlement policy, Tyco settlement approved, scrutiny alert, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

SEC Tweaks Neither Admit Nor Deny Settlement Policy

Numerous prior posts have focused on the SEC’s controversial neither admit nor deny settlement policy.  (See here for the subject matter tag).

Earlier this week, SEC Chairman Mary Jo White announced that the SEC would no longer maintain a blanket policy permitting defendants to settle SEC cases without admitting to wrongdoing.  (See here for Alison Frankel’s excellent write-up at Thomson Reuters News & Insight).  Frankel cites to an internal SEC email from Enforcement Division co-directors Andrew Ceresney and George Canellos as follows.

“While the no admit/deny language is a powerful tool, there may be situations where we determine that a different approach is appropriate. In particular, there may be certain cases where heightened accountability or acceptance of responsibility through the defendant’s admission of misconduct may be appropriate, even if it does not allow us to achieve a prompt resolution. We have been in discussions with Chair White and each of the other commissioners about the types of cases where requiring admissions could be in the public interest. These may include misconduct that harmed large numbers of investors or placed investors or the market at risk of potentially serious harm; where admissions might safeguard against risks posed by the defendant to the investing public, particularly when the defendant engaged in egregious intentional misconduct; or when the defendant engaged in unlawful obstruction of the commission’s investigative processes. In such cases, should we determine that admissions or other acknowledgement of misconduct are critical, we would require such admissions or acknowledgement, or, if the defendants refuse, litigate the case.”

Last month at a Corporate Crime Reporter sponsored conference Ceresney defended the neither admit nor deny settlement policy – see here.

Judge Leon Signs Off On Tyco Settlement

This previous post highlighted how Judge Richard Leon had been refusing to sign off on SEC FCPA settlements involving IBM and Tyco International.  The common thread between the two enforcement actions would seem to be that both companies are repeat FCPA offenders.  In  2000 IBM agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations and in 2006 Tyco agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations.

Earlier this week, Judge Leon approved a final judgment in the Tyco enforcement action that was filed in September 2012 (see here for the prior post).  The final judgement contains the following paragraph.

“[For a two year period Tyco is required to submit annual reports] to the Commission and this Court describing its efforts to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), and to report to the Commission and this Court immediately upon learning it is reasonably likely that Defendant has violated the FCP A in connection with either improper payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business or fraudulent books and records entries …””

Final judgment in the IBM enforcement action from March 2011 (see here for the prior post) remains pending.

Scrutiny Alert

The Economic Times of India reports (here) that “five top executives at the Indian unit” of Bunge (a U.S. agribusiness and food company) “have resigned amid an internal audit into possible financial irregularities.”  According to the report, Bunge (the parent company) “had objected to the manner in which its Indian subsidiary paid for the factory land in Kandla. Bunge was of the view that the transaction may not be compliant” with the FCPA.

Reading Stack

A profile (here) of “Calgary’s Top Corporate Corruption Lawyer” as well as background information on Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

As noted in this Bulletin from Blake, Cassels & Graydon, earlier this week “the amendments to the Corruption of Foreign Public  Officials Act received royal assent following passage by the  Parliament of Canada on Tuesday, June 18, 2013.”  (See this prior post highlighting various issues raised during debate of the amendments).


A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

$1.16 million in FCPA professional fees and expenses per working day, show me the numbers, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Wal-Mart’s FCPA Expenses

In this previous Friday roundup, I calculated Wal-Mart’s 2012 FCPA-related professional fees and expenses as being approximately $604,000 per working day.

Yesterday in a first-quarter earnings conference call (see here), Wal-Mart disclosed as follows.

“Our core corporate expenses [included] $73 million in expenses related to FCPA matters, which was above our forecasted range of $40 to $45 million. Approximately $44 million of the expenses represent costs incurred for the ongoing inquiries and investigations, while $29 million covers costs regarding the global compliance review, program enhancements and organizational changes.”

Doing the math, Wal-Mart’s first quarter FCPA-related professional fees and expenses equal approximately $1.16 million per working day.

I observed in this March 2011 article as follows.

“This new era of enforcement has resulted in wasteful overcompliance, companies viewing every foreign business partner with irrational suspicion, and companies deploying teams of lawyers and specialists around the world spending millions to uncover every potential questionable or unethical $100 corporate payment.  This new era of enforcement has proven lucrative to many segments of the legal, accounting, and compliance industries and the status quo would, from their perspective, seem desirable.”

The question again ought to be asked – does it really need to cost this much or has FCPA scrutiny turned into a boondoggle for many involved?  For more on this issue, see my article “Big, Bold, and Bizarre: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enters a New Era.”

Sticking with Wal-Mart, this Bloomberg article provides an update on certain of the civil cases pending against Wal-Mart based on the company’s FCPA scrutiny.

Show Me The Numbers

This previous Friday roundup highlighted comments by Senator Elizabeth Warren concerning the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy and how it creates conditions in which there is “not much incentive to follow the law.”  Senator Warren now wants to see research and analysis of the pro and cons of this policy and other related regulatory settlement devices.

In this letter to, among others, Attorney General Eric Holder and SEC Chairman Mary Jo White, Senator Warren writes, in pertinent part, as follows.

“There is no question that settlements, fines, consent orders, and cease and desist orders are important enforcement tools, and that trials are expensive, demand numerous resources, and are often less preferable than settlements.  But I believe strongly that if a regulator reveals itself to be unwilling to take large financial institutions all the way to trial — either because it is too timid or because its lacks resources — the regulator has a lot less leverage in settlement negotiations and will be forced to settle on terms that are much more favorable to the wrongdoer.  […]  Have you conducted any internal research or analysis on trade-offs to the public between settling an enforcement action without admission of guilty and going forward with litigation as necessary to obtain such admission, and if so, can you provide that analysis to my office.  I am interested in learning more about how your institution has evaluated the cost to the public of settling cases without requiring an admission of guilt rather than pursuing more aggressive actions.”

Senator Warren is obviously concerned that settlement policies and procedures facilitate the under-prosecution of alleged corporate wrongdoer.  This is a valid concern.  Yet so is the concern that such settlement policies and procedures also facilitate the over-prosecution of corporate conduct.  For more, see my article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement“, including reference to the SEC’s acknowledgment that settlement of an SEC enforcement action does “not necessarily reflect the triumph of one party’s position over the other.”


Michael Crites (Dinsmore & Shohl and the former U.S. Attorney for the S.D. of Ohio) stated as follows in a recent Law360 interview.

“The federal government passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977 after discovering that American companies were making millions of dollars in bribes to various foreign government officials. The law was heralded as solving the problem by prohibiting companies and individuals from offering or making payments to any foreign official with the purpose of inducing the recipient to use their official position by directing business to or continuing business with the briber. Over 35 years later, the basics of this law are still necessary to prevent and punish unethical bribes but businesses have discovered that the Department of Justice’s interpretation of the law is broader than anyone intended.”

“DOJ has increased dramatically the number of investigations and enforcement actions under the FCPA, creating what DOJ calls a new era of FCPA enforcement.  Unlike the activity in 1977, this heightened enforcement does not come from illegal bribes but the DOJ’s broad interpretation of the law which is now being applied to otherwise legitimate and ethical actions. The law is undeniably vague and few judicial decisions exist to provide additional guidance. Without these restraints, DOJ has embraced their power to apply the FCPA to unintended situations, resulting in a climate of fear for American businesses that conduct any business abroad.”

Reading Stack

More from the recent Corporate Crime Reporter sponsored conference.  This article concerns a panel on corporate monitors.  Participating in the panel were Dan Newcomb of Shearman & Sterling, George Stamboulidis of Baker Hostetler, Gil Soffer of Katten Muchin, Joseph Warin of Gibson Dunn, and John Buretta, chief of staff of the Criminal Division at the Department.

Judge Rejects A “Minimalist Conception” Of The Courts

Tomorrow at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Corporate Crime Reporter is sponsoring a conference (see here) focused on resolution policies and procedures in DOJ and SEC enforcement actions.  Top officials from the DOJ and SEC are participating and I am pleased to be on a panel focused on non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements.  Another topic to be discussed at the event is the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy.

This long-standing, yet controversial, policy is currently before the Second Circuit in SEC v. Citigroup (see prior posts here and here) and this policy also applies to many FCPA enforcement actions.

Thus, Judge Victor Marrero (S.D.N.Y.) was in a difficult position recently when deciding whether to approve the approximate $600 million neither admit nor deny settlement (in an non-FCPA action) between the SEC and a unit of SAC Capital Advisor.  (See here for the SEC action).  In an April 16th order, Judge Marrero granted approval of the final judgment “conditioned upon the disposition of the pending appeal” of the SEC v. Citigroup case.

Judge Marrero’s order is a must read for those interested in following the growing judicial chorus questioning a central feature of most SEC settlements.  For how this settlement features contributes to the “facade” of enforcement in the FCPA context, see my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement.”

Like Judge Rakoff before him, Judge Marrero stated that although courts are bound to give deference to an executive agency’s assessment of the public interest, “this does not mean that a court must necessarily rubber stamp all arguments made by such an agency.”

Judge Marrero stated, in pertinent part, as follows.

“In assessing the appropriateness of the ‘neither admit nor deny’ provisions in [the settlement], the Court must perform a very delicate balancing act, walking a tightrope between various competing interests. It must recognize complexities that characterize government law enforcement proceedings, the difficult policy calls, and the expertise possessed by the administrative agencies entrusted with the responsibility to protect the public interest. To this end, the Court must avoid undue meddling and second-guessing, and must accord government agency law enforcement and financial determinations such as those now before it the proper level of deference they are due. At the same time, the Court cannot conceive that Congress intended the judiciary’s function in passing upon these settlements as illusory, as a predetermined rubber stamp to any settlement put before it by an administrative agency, or even a prosecutor. Such a minimalist conception of the Courts would make a mockery out of Congressional intent in delegating approval authority to the courts in these matters and cramp judicial independence in this context.”

“The parties have stressed that the inclusion of ‘neither admit nor deny’ provisions in regulatory settlements of civil proceedings is a longstanding and commonplace practice routinely pursued not only by the SEC, but many other federal agencies.  They have pointed out that, historically, courts in this district and others across the country, recognizing the sound practical and policy reasons warranting such a provision, have regularly approved such agreements without questioning the inclusion of ‘neither admit nor deny’ provisions.  Additionally, they emphasize, as this Court has acknowledged above, that a decision by a body of the executive branch of the federal government, particularly agencies possessing special expertise, to end an administrative enforcement action represents a prerogative that lies outside the ambit of the function of the judiciary, embodied in controlling doctrine requiring that courts accord due deference to such policy judgments.  The court agrees with these salient arguments.”

“However, implicit in the parties’ arguments is the premise that because the Court must accord deference to an administrative agency’s special competence to commence and resolve administrative proceedings, and because traditionally courts have not questioned settlements of civil enforcement actions that contain ‘neither admit nor deny’ provisions, therefore no circumstances exist in which enhanced judicial scrutiny, or perhaps even rejection, of a proposed consent judgment containing such a provision would be appropriate.  In essence, the parties are telling the Court that assessing the appropriateness of the inclusion of these ‘neither admit nor deny’ provisions in this particular action is none of the Court’s business.  Whether veiled or explicit, such a hard-line overstates the judicial deference due to administrative policy determinations, suggesting a form of absolutism that is unwarranted by law or reasonable public policy.”

“If courts traditionally have not challenged the inclusion of ‘neither admit nor deny’ provisions in civil enforcement actions, perhaps this outcome was obtained because fitting circumstances have not previously arisen that would compellingly justify that level of judicial intervention. It should come as no surprise that judges called upon routinely to resolve cases of the domestic “cats and dogs” variety would take special note when the elephant is first dragged into the courtroom. Nor should it startle anyone if among the questions the court raises on such an occasion is whether the rules of law meant to adjudicate the issues presented by one type of case should be extended to atypical others, or be adjusted to properly reflect the true nature of the beast.”

“The Court recognizes there are circumstances, possibly even in the vast majority of cases, in which it is perfectly reasonable for parties to a regulatory proceeding to agree to such a provision. A government regulatory agency and a defendant may deem it mutually advisable and beneficial for public and private reasons, and on financial, practical, and public policy grounds to settle civil enforcement proceedings without an admission of wrongdoing. Among the obvious considerations are: the resources necessary to prosecute and defend the action fully; the level of vindication, penalty, and deterrence achieved; the risks of loss weighed against the best the party might stand to gain from proceeding further with the action; exposure to liability from other lawsuits, business disruptions and effects on good will.  For example, where the likely cost of litigation and the amount at stake are relatively comparable, parties may agree to such a provision to  avoid the undue expenses and risk associated with proving culpability at trial.  In addition, the Court must recognize that, for the SEC, requiring an admission of culpability would in most cases undermine any chance of compromise with corporate defendants who face additional exposure from private lawsuits.  In the run-of-the-mill case, these concerns are likely to produce a reasonably balanced outcome, reflecting a fair measure of proportionality, defensible for the parties and other pertinent interests.”

“However, instances can and do arise in which courts should properly raise the level scrutiny they accord to particular settlement agreements in particular situations. Earlier precedents may not have entailed the extreme disparity evident in recent cases between the size and speed of a settlement on the one hand, and the plausibility of an absence of wrongdoing on the other.”

“Perhaps we live in a different era. In this age when the notion labeled “too big to fail” (or jail, as the case may be) has gained currency throughout commercial markets, some cynics read the concept as code words meant as encouragement by an accommodating public –  a free pass to evade or ignore the rules, a wink and a nod as cover for grand fraud, a license to deceive unsuspecting customers. Perhaps, too, in these modern times, new financial, industrial, and legal patterns have merged that call for enhanced regulatory and, as appropriate, judicial oversight to counter these sinister attitudes. This prospect raises concerns about whether the regulatory and judicial practices which have governed to date fail to reflect what new realties demand to adequately protect the public interest. Anyone who even superficially follows accounts of current events entailing well-known scandals – instance  involving extensive fraud or excess in the financial markets, environmental disasters, and hazardous consumer products -is likely to be impressed by a quality many of these events share: massive scale whose effects go well beyond mere matters of degree.”

“A few other qualities about these events bear comment. In the world, and in the eyes of the public whose perceptions pass judgment on official actions, harmful conduct on the scale of the contemporary models ordinarily does not occur absent some form of wrongdoing; the damage the victims suffer cannot always be blamed on acts of God or the mischief of leprechauns. For the people directly injured and for others who share an interest in these matters implicating broad public concerns, the purposes of the justice system embodied in compensation, deterrence, and punishment cannot be adequately satisfied, and there cannot be proper closure when incidents causing extensive loss occur, if the individuals or entities responsible for the large-scale wrongful consequences are not properly held accountable. These impressions hold doubly true in situations, such as may apply in the case at hand, where strong evidence of wrongdoing exists, or where at least circumstantially, as embodied in the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, the events are unlikely to have happened without substantial misconduct.”

“In appropriate cases, the vast scope of the harmful actions referred to here, and the reach of their consequences, ought to be assessed in two ways. Quantitatively, they should be gauged by the staggering amounts of money, both profits and losses, that typically are involved in underlying wrongdoing that is alleged, with huge numbers of victims seriously injured worldwide, correspondingly matched by the perceived outsized rewards the offenders seek to derive from the illicit and damaging behavior. Qualitatively, the measure of these events should be taken by the sheer magnitude of the culpability the offending conduct presumptively would entail – the higher levels of daring, of risk-taking, of outright abuse that manifest tougher grades of arrogance and greed, as well as cavalier disdain for victims and the public good alike.”

“If true – a question that legislators, regulators, and other policy-makers, as well as judges when warranted, should closely examine within the respective domains – these new circumstances highlight the challenge of framing a fair, adequate, and reasonable response by all bodies of government entrusted by law with protecting the public interest against such outsized malfeasance. In this Court’s view, and perhaps as also perceived by other judges who recently have declined to grant uncritical approval to ‘neither admit nor deny’ provisions in proposed consent judgments for administrative enforcement actions, some of the uniquely harmful fact patterns emerging from modern financial and industrial market scandals should not be thrown into the mix with the run-of-the-mill cases. To do so would overlook the distinctive features of this new breed of cases that might require enhanced scrutiny, more careful review, and better tailored resolution.”

For additional coverage of Judge Marreo’s April 16th order, see here from Reuters.

Friday Roundup

Other items of note, add another to the list, a 6 day sentence, a notable name from the past and spot-on.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Other Items of Note

Yesterday’s post highlighted comments made by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez at the Dow Jones / Wall Street Journal Global Compliance Symposium.  Other items of note from the event concern the Africa Sting case and the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy.

Africa Sting

The jury foreman in the second Africa Sting trial (see here for the prior post) stated that there were “enough small comments through the course of [jury] deliberations [that lead the person] to believe that [the jury’s] underlying view was that the defendants had acted in good faith and the FBI/DOJ in bad faith.”

The Africa Sting cases ended (see here for the prior post) by Judge Richard Leon stating, in pertinent part, as follows.

“This appears to be the end of a long and sad chapter in the annals of white collar criminal enforcement.”

“I expressed on a number of occasions my concerns regarding the way this case had been investigated and was conducted especially vis-a-vis the handling of Mr. Bistrong.”

“I for one hope this very long, and I’m sure very expensive, ordeal will be a true learning experience for both the Department and the FBI as they regroup to investigate and prosecute FCPA cases against individuals in the future.”

Yet listening to the interview of Ronald Hosko (assistant director of the criminal investigative division of the FBI) at the Dow Jones event, one was left with the conclusion that nothing appeared to be learned.  Indeed, Hosko seemed to blame the government’s loss on Judge Leon’s evidentiary rulings and the defendants’ good lawyers.  Hosko was interviewed by Dow Jones reporter Christopher Matthews (who closely followed the Africa Sting cases) and Matthews specifically asked Hosko whether anything will change as a result of the case.  Hosko said “we will do it again – see you out there.”

Neither Admit Nor Deny

Former SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami had the opportunity at the Dow Jones event to articulate a sound rationale and purpose for the SEC’s long-standing neither admit nor deny settlement policy.  (See numerous prior posts here, here, here, and here – focusing mostly on Judge Jed Rakoff’s (S.D.N.Y.) disdain of the policy. ).

Instead, Khuzami’s remarks were unconvincing.

Khuzami acknowledged that direct accountability occurs when someone is forced to admit something “on the record,” but he stated that this incremental benefit (compared to a defendant in an SEC enforcement action resolving the case by way of penalties and other relief via a neither admit nor deny settlement) presents challenges that are not worth the additional costs that come from a system that demanded such accountability.

Khuzami noted that without the settlement policy, the “SEC would get few settlements, [settlements] would happen much later in the process, [and that enforcement actions] would tie up a great deal of resources, resources that could be used for the next fraud or victim.”  Against “all those benefits,” and the defendant writing a check and reforming itself, Khuzami did not believe that “it is worth the marginal increase in accountability” to require an explicit admission.

The problem with Khuzami’s defense is the failure to recognize that such a policy insulates SEC enforcement positions from judicial scrutiny.  Indeed, the SEC explicitly acknowledged in the Bank of America enforcement action (where Judge Rakoff first expressed concerns regarding the settlement policy) that SEC settlements “do not necessarily reflect the triumph of one party’s position over the other.”

The SEC is a law enforcement agency and enforcing a law and accusing people (legal or natural) of wrongdoing should not be easy and efficiency should not be the goal.  Justice, transparency, and accountability ought to be the goals and the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy frustrates these goals.

Add Another

Add another to the list of companies subject to FCPA scrutiny.  SBM Offshore (a Netherlands-based company with ADRs traded in the U.S. and a company that provides floating production solutions to the offshore energy industry) recently issued this press release titled “Update on Internal Investigation.”  It stated, in pertinent part, as follows.

“This investigation commenced in 2012 at the request of SBM Offshore into alleged payments involving sales intermediaries in certain African countries in the period 2007 through 2011, in order to determine whether these alleged payments violated anti-corruption laws. These alleged payments came to the attention of the management board after a review of SBM Offshore’s compliance procedures in late 2011. In the course of the investigation allegations were made of improper payments in countries outside Africa but to date no conclusive proof of such allegations has been established. The investigation is being carried out by outside legal counsel and forensic accountants, with the support of the chief Governance and Compliance officer and under the oversight of the audit committee. The investigation is expected to be completed in 2013.

As the investigation is not yet concluded, SBM Offshore cannot make any definitive statements regarding the findings of the investigation. The initial feedback received to date is that there are indications that substantial payments were made, mostly through intermediaries, which appear to have been intended for government officials. Also, SBM Offshore’s new Management Board, which was appointed in the course of 2012, has found it necessary and appropriate to increase awareness of proper compliance throughout the Group up to the highest management levels.

The Company voluntarily disclosed the investigation to the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (Openbaar Ministerie) and the United States Department of Justice in 2012. The Company will update the authorities on this initial feedback from the investigation shortly. At this stage it is not possible to state anything on the outcome of the investigations, including financial or otherwise.

6-Day Sentence

Bloomberg’s David Glovin has extensively followed the Kozeny, Bourke, etc. enforcement actions.

He reports here that Clayton Lewis (a former executive at hedge fund Omega Advisors, Inc.) was sentenced to time served by U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald.  As noted in Glovin’s article, Lewis pleaded guilty in 2004 to charges that he conspired with Viktor Kozeny to pay bribes as part of a 1998 scheme to buy the state oil company in Azerbaijan. Soon after his 2003 arrest, Lewis agreed to cooperate with the DOJ and he previously served six days in jail.

A Notable Name From The Past

Roderick Hills (Chairman of the SEC in the mid-1970’s) was a notable voice in the story of the FCPA.  (See here for my article of the same name).  It is ironic (given the SEC’s current FCPA unit) that the Commission never wanted any role whatsoever in enforcing the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  Indeed, Chairman Hill stated as follows during various Congressional hearings.

“The Commission does not oppose direct prohibitions against these payments, but we have previously stated that, as a matter of principle, we would prefer not to be involved even in the civil enforcement of such prohibitions. As a matter of long experience, it is our collective judgment that disclosure is a sufficient deterrent to the improper activities with which we are concerned.”

“[A]s a matter of longstanding tradition and practice, the [SEC] has been a disclosure agency. Causing questionable conduct to be revealed to the public has a deterrent effect. Consistent with our past tradition, we would rather not get into the business, however, we think get involved in prohibiting particular payments. It is a different thing entirely to try to prohibit something, to try to make a decision as to whether it is legal or illegal, or proper or improper. Under present law, if it is material, we cause its disclosure, and we need not get into the finer points of whether it is or is not legal.”

“[The SEC] would prefer not to be involved in civil enforcement of such prohibitions since they embody separate and distinct policies from those underlying the federal securities laws. The securities laws are designed primarily to insure disclosure to investors of all of the relevant facts concerning corporations which seek to raise their capital from the public at large. The [criminal payment provisions of proposed legislation], on the other hand, would impose substantive regulation on a particular aspect of corporate behavior.The Commission recognizes the congressional interest in enacting these prohibitions, but the enforcement of such provisions does not easily fit within the Commission’s mandate.”

Against this backdrop, I enjoyed reading recent comments by Hills on the FCPAmericas Blog (see here).  Hills recently stated as follows.

“My view at the time was that the problem of bribery that we had uncovered had been dealt with and I did not support the passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act. I was concerned then that broad criminalization of “questionable payments” to foreign officials would adversely affect the incentives for transparency that we had created. Nonetheless, the FCPA was passed and it has been properly amended to reduce the possibility that undue criminal actions will be brought.  It is important to remember that it was the ability of the SEC to cause disclosure that brought the scope of worldwide corporate bribery to light. What began in the 1970’s with the SEC enforcement efforts is now a worldwide crusade against the use of bribes to secure business. Today I accept that the FCPA has had, on balance, a positive effect on the reduction of bribery and that similar laws in other countries can have a similar effect. However, criminalization alone is not a useful policy. By itself it is an incentive to conceal. Without effective independent auditing, fair enforcement of FCPA type legislation is unlikely. Also, I believe that in the United States and elsewhere, prosecutorial discretion is essential if we are serious about reducing the corruption. Payments that are made in response to extortion demands or payments that are made by lower level corporate officials contrary to the policies of their employer should surely be treated differently than money crassly offered to buy corrupt official action. In short, as other countries are following the United States’ lead they need to understand that the criminalization of corporate bribery is not enough. If a country does not have effective means of causing broad transparency with effective auditing and independent oversight, FCPA type laws make it too easy to use improper payments as a political weapon.”


In a recent Q&A on Law360, Haywood Gilliam Jr. (Covington & Burling), stated as follows.

“Q: What aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?

A: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement stands out as an area in need of further reform. Over the past several years, FCPA enforcement has been characterized by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission advancing aggressive enforcement theories, but there have been limited opportunities for courts to scrutinize those theories. Most FCPA enforcement cases end in negotiated resolutions such as deferred prosecution or nonprosecution agreements. In that context, regulators often insist that the settling company or individual accept the government’s expansive theories as a condition of resolving the case.  For example, the DOJ has extracted penalties from non-U.S. based, non-U.S. traded companies not covered under the four corners of the statute by asserting broad theories such as aiding and abetting or conspiracy — even when the foreign entity has not taken any action in the U.S. As a practical matter, that could be a hard case to prove at trial — but the government almost never has to.  The result of this trend has been to enshrine the government’s aggressive enforcement positions as quasi-precedent: The law means what the DOJ and SEC say it means, and defendants (especially publicly traded companies) seldom have a realistic opportunity to push back in court, given the financial and practical costs of fighting a contested enforcement action. Relatively recently, district courts have begun to weigh in on these theories, which is a positive development, but there still is a dearth of FCPA case law as compared to other areas of criminal law.  This absence of settled law makes it challenging for companies to decide how to handle thorny FCPA compliance issues. For example, companies routinely face a difficult choice in deciding whether to self-report potential violations to the government, as opposed to thoroughly investigating and remediating the issues internally. While regulators insist that they will give “meaningful credit” to companies that self-report, the tangible benefits of doing so are far from clear. The recent FCPA resource guide issued by the DOJ and SEC says that the agencies place a “high premium” on self-reporting, but does not give concrete guidance as to how the government weighs self-reporting in deciding whether to charge a case, as opposed to offering a deferred prosecution or nonprosecution agreement, or declining the case outright. While the resource guide is a start, companies and their counsel would benefit from more specific guidance when they are weighing the potential, but uncertain, benefits of disclosure against the cost and distraction that can result from voluntarily handing the government a case that otherwise might not have come to its attention.”

Gilliam’s spot-on comments would make for good conversation with his firm’s new Vice-Chair, former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

In a recent Q&A on Law360, Mary Spearing (Baker Botts) stated as follows.

“Q: What aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?

A: It would be good for the practice if there was more litigation surrounding the scope and breadth of the statutes as applied and the government were put to the test. Currently, so much is being defined in settlements reached with the government. More frequent trials would render more judicial oversight of the government’s readings of the scope of the statutes’ reach.”


A good weekend to all.

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