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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Scrutiny alerts and updates, ripples, difficult business conditions, resource alerts, and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Wal-Mart

Bloomberg reports:

“Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is butting heads with the U.S. government over how to wrap up a long-running foreign corruption investigation. Officials have proposed that the world’s biggest retailer pay at least $600 million to resolve probes by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether it bribed government officials in markets from Mexico to India and China, according to three people familiar with the matter. The retailer has rebuffed the government’s request, two of them said.

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In Depth Into The Och-Ziff FCPA Enforcement Action

och ziff

Last week, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Och-Ziff Capital Management Group (and a related entity) for improper business practices in various African countries. The aggregate settlement amount was $412 million (a $213 million DOJ criminal penalty and a $199 million SEC resolution consisting of disgorgement and prejudgment interest), the 4th largest FCPA settlement amount of all-time.

As highlighted in this previous post, the SEC also found Daniel Och (CEO) and Joel Frank (CFO) culpable for certain of the improper conduct. As indicated in the post, this represents what is believed to be the first time in FCPA history that the SEC also found the current CEO and CFO of the issuer company liable, to some extent, for company FCPA violations. Moreover, the $2.2 million Och agreed to pay, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, is the largest settlement amount in FCPA history by an individual in an SEC action.

Whether the Och-Ziff enforcement action is the “first time a hedge fund has been held to account for violating the FCPA” (as the DOJ stated in its release) is a debatable point. (See here for the 2007 FCPA enforcement action on the DOJ’s FCPA website against hedge fund Omega Advisors).

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Friday Roundup

Roundup

Elevate, a double standard dandy, scrutiny alert, and quotable.

It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Elevate

Elevate your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act substantive knowledge and practical skills at the FCPA Institute – Nashville on May 2-3. As highlighted here, the FCPA Institute promotes active learning by participants through issue-spotting video exercises, skills exercises, small-group discussions, and the sharing of real-world practices and experiences.

FCPA Institute participants not only gain knowledge, practical skills and peer insight, but can also elect to have their knowledge assessed to earn a certificate of completion upon passing a written assessment tool. In this way, successful completion of the FCPA Institute represents a value-added credential for professional development. In addition, attorneys who complete the FCPA Institute are also eligible to receive Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) credits and prior FCPA Institute participants have also received continuing education units from the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics.

Law firm lawyers, in-house counsel, accounting and auditing professionals and others have already registered for the FCPA Institute – Nashville. To join this group, click here to register.

A Double Standard Dandy

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Friday Roundup

U.S. reportedly did not cooperate, Avon’s reaches a settlement “understanding” and other scrutiny alerts, the “financial SWAT team,” at the SEC, FCPA Inc. news, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

U.S. Reportedly Did Not Cooperate

The DOJ talks a lot about cooperation with foreign law enforcement partners with its comes to its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement program.  For instance, and as noted in this prior post, in June 2013 the DOJ’s Acting Assistant Attorney General stated:

“Through our increased work on prosecutions with our foreign counterparts and our participation in various multi-lateral fora like the OECD and United Nations, it is safe to say that we are cooperating with foreign law enforcement on foreign bribery cases more closely today than at any time in history.  This type of collaboration is absolutely critical if we are going to have a meaningful impact on corruption internationally.  As our economies become more interdependent, corruption itself is increasingly transnational.  What may be a domestic corruption concern for one country may very well be a foreign bribery concern for another.”

In 2012 and 2013 (see here and here) the DOJ brought related FCPA enforcement actions against BizJet and various former executives regarding, in part, conduct involving officials from Panama’s Aviation Authority.

Panama also investigated the conduct at issue, but according to this report in Panama-Guide.com (a website that provides English translations of original source news articles):

“Panama’s Superior Prosecutor for Organized Crime requested the judges responsible for the case to provisionally close a case involving allegations of the payments of bribes to officials of the Civil Aviation Authority by the US company BizJet, that received the contract to maintain the presidential aircraft between 2004 and 2009. The prosecutor sent his request in early March 2014, because law enforcement authorities in the United States failed to respond to a second request for judicial assistance in order to clarify key pieces of data (evidence) contained in the Panamanian investigation. The prosecutor sent their first request for assistance to the United States in May 2012 asking for collaboration, but the answer they sent in response to the Panamanian investigators was not enough (insufficient) for them to continue the investigation. They sent a second request for assistance in 2013, asking for the evidence that linked the Panamanians to the alleged bribes.  According to judicial sources, these elements would be important to the process. The director of the AAC, Rafael Barcenas, confirmed that the officials mentioned in investigation in the United States are still working for the entity, and while there is no legal decision his office will not take any action against them.”

Scrutiny Alerts

Avon

Yesterday, Avon disclosed as follows regarding the FCPA scrutiny it has been under since 2008.

“We have now reached an understanding with respect to terms of settlement with each of the DOJ and the staff of the SEC. Based on these understandings, the Company would, among other things: pay aggregate fines, disgorgement and prejudgment interest of $135 [million] with respect to alleged violations of the books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA, with $68 [million] payable to the DOJ and $67 [million] payable to the SEC; enter into a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) with the DOJ under which the DOJ would defer criminal prosecution of the Company for a period of three years in connection with alleged violations of the books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA; agree to have a compliance monitor which, with the approval of the government, can be replaced after 18 months by the Company’s agreement to undertake self monitoring and reporting obligations for an additional 18 months. If the Company remains in compliance with the DPA during its term, the charges against the Company would be dismissed with prejudice. In addition, as part of any settlement with the DOJ, a subsidiary of Avon operating in China would enter a guilty plea in connection with alleged violations of the books and records provision of the FCPA. The expected terms of settlement do not require any change to our historical financial statements. Final resolution of these matters is subject to preparation and negotiation of documentation satisfactory to all the parties, including approval by our board of directors and, in the case of the SEC, authorization by the Commission; court approval of the SEC settlement; and court approval of the DPA and acceptance of the expected guilty plea by an Avon subsidiary operating in China. We can provide no assurances that satisfactory final agreements will be reached, that authorization by the Commission or the court approvals will be obtained or that the court will accept the guilty plea or with respect to the timing or terms of any such agreements, authorization, and approvals and acceptance.”

A $135 million settlement will be the 11th largest in terms of fine / penalty amounts.

Some media outlets were quick to link disclosure of the future FCPA settlement to the approximate 10% slide in Avon’s stock price yesterday.  For instance, USA Today stated:

“Avon Products stock swooned more than 12% in mid-day trading after the company agreed to pay $135 million for long-standing federal changes that it paid bribes in China and other countries.”

However, Avon’s FCPA disclosure was in the same SEC filing in which the company disclosed, among other things, a 6% drop in total units sold during Q1, beauty sales were off 12%, and sales in North America fell 22%.

Johnson Controls

In its most recent quarterly filing, Johnson Controls first disclosed the following:

“In June 2013, the Company self-reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations related to its Building Efficiency marine business in China dating back to 2007. These allegations were isolated to the Company’s marine business in China which had annual sales ranging from $20 million to $50 million during this period. The Company, under the oversight of its Audit Committee and Board of Directors, proactively initiated an investigation into this matter with the assistance of external legal counsel and external forensic accountants. In connection with this investigation, the Company has made and continues to evaluate certain enhancements to its FCPA compliance program. The Company continues to fully cooperate with the SEC and the DOJ; however, at this time, the Company is unable to predict the ultimate resolution of this matter with these agencies.”

In 2007, Johnson Controls was a signatory to the York International FCPA enforcement action (see here and here) principally involving alleged conduct in connection with the Iraq Oil for Food Program.  According to the DOJ, “nearly all of the conduct described in the [York International Criminal] Information took place prior to York’s acquisition by Johnson Controls, Inc. on December 9, 2005.”

JPMorgan

In its most recent quarterly filing, JPMorgan disclosed as follows regarding its pending FCPA scrutiny:

“Referral Hiring Practices Investigations. Various regulators are investigating, among other things, the Firm’s compliance with the  Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other laws with respect to the  Firm’s hiring practices related to candidates referred by clients, potential clients and government officials, and its engagement of consultants in the Asia Pacific region. The Firm is cooperating with these investigations.”

Teva Pharamaceuticals

In August 2012, the company first disclosed its FCPA scrutiny and in its most recent SEC filing disclosed as follows.

“Beginning in 2012, Teva received subpoenas and informal document requests from the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to produce documents with respect to compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) in certain countries. Teva has provided and will continue to provide documents and other information to the SEC and the DOJ, and is cooperating with the government in their investigations of these matters. Teva is also conducting a voluntary worldwide investigation into certain business practices that may have FCPA implications and has engaged independent counsel to assist in its investigation. In the course of its investigation, which is continuing, Teva has identified issues in Russia, certain Eastern European countries, certain Latin American countries and other countries where it conducts business that could rise to the level of FCPA violations and/or violations of local law. In connection with its investigation of these issues, Teva has become aware that Teva affiliates in certain countries under investigation provided to local authorities inaccurate or altered information relating to marketing or promotional practices. Teva continues to bring these issues to the attention of the SEC and the DOJ. No conclusion can be drawn at this time as to any likely outcomes in these matters.”

Och-Ziff

Och-Ziff Capital Management disclosed as follows in its recent quarterly filing:

“Beginning in 2011, and from time to time thereafter, the Company has received subpoenas from the Securities and Exchange Commission and requests for information from the U.S. Department of Justice in connection with an investigation involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related laws. The investigation concerns an investment by a foreign sovereign wealth fund in some of the Och-Ziff funds in 2007 and investments by some of the funds, both directly and indirectly, in a number of companies in Africa. At this time, the Company is unable to determine how the investigation will be resolved and what impact, if any, it will have. An adverse outcome could have a material effect on the Company’s consolidated financial statements. “

“Financial SWAT Team”

It receives scant attention compared to FCPA enforcement, but another prong of the DOJ’s efforts to combat bribery and corruption is its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative under which prosecutors in the DOJ Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section work in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption. (See this 2009 post highlighting Attorney General Holder’s announcement of the program).

Earlier this week, speaking at Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery Attorney General Holder announced “the creation of a dedicated Kleptocracy squad within the FBI.”  He stated:

“This specialized unit will partner with our Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section to aggressively investigate and prosecute corruption cases – not only in Ukraine, but around the world. The squad of about a dozen personnel will consist of case agents and forensic analysts who are capable of unraveling the intricate money laundering transactions commonly employed by kleptocrats. Their sophisticated work will be supported by deputy marshals from the United States Marshals Service and analysts from FinCEN, which is our financial intelligence unit. And this new initiative will provide the United States with increased capacity to respond rapidly to political crises as they arise – so we can help prevent stolen assets from being dissipated or secreted away by deposed regimes.”

At the SEC

Further to the notion that SEC enforcement seems at times to be a numbers game, SEC Chair Mary Jo White testified as follows before the House Financial Services Committee.

“The Commission continues to pursue companies that bribe foreign officials to obtain or retain business, and over the last two-and-a-half years, we have obtained over $679 million in monetary relief from FCPA actions. For example, the SEC has brought FCPA actions charging a company with a bribe scheme involving business with Aluminum Bahrain; another company with various bribes and improper payments in the Middle East and Africa and violations of U.S. sanctions and export control laws involving Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Sudan; and a third company with bribe schemes involving business with the National Iranian Oil Company. The Commission is also focused on holding individuals accountable, with ongoing FCPA-related litigation against former executives of a number of corporations.”

Fact check.

Since 2008,  approximately 82% of corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions have not (at least yet) resulted in any SEC charges against company employees and the SEC has not brought an individual FCPA enforcement action since 2012.

Although White’s FCPA testimony focused on the numbers, elsewhere she was quick to point out that:

“Quantitative metrics alone, however, are not the proper yardstick of the measure of Enforcement’s effectiveness. Enforcement considers the quality, breadth, and effect of the actions pursued.”

Staying with the SEC, its tough to beat the following for lack of transparency.  Recently in an insider trading enforcement action, the SEC entered into a non-prosecution agreement with an “individual.”

FCPA Inc. News

Few FCPA Inc. participants are publicy-traded companies.  Thus, it is often difficult to take the pulse of FCPA Inc. other than anecdotal information.  However, one FCPA Inc. participant that is publicly traded is FTI Consulting.  In a recent earnings release, the company stated:

“The major driver of quarterly results was Forensic and Litigation Consulting with a record quarter, fueled by a number of front-page newspaper assignments from across the globe relating to high-stakes client events ranging from FCPA investigations to mortgage-backed security litigations. Similarly, our Technology business continued to perform very well, driven by ongoing FCPA and financial services investigations as well as increased cross-border M&A related ‘second request’ activity.”

As previously highlighted, as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Mythili Raman often carried forward much of the same rhetoric former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer frequently articulated concerning the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program.  Raman will now be joining Breuer at Covington & Burling.  The firm announced that “Mythili Raman … is joining Covington & Burling as a partner. Ms. Raman will practice in the firm’s litigation and white collar groups and be resident in the Washington office.”

As noted in this Covington biography:

“As Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division from 2013-2014, and before then, as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division from 2009-2013, Ms. Raman oversaw the work of more than 600 prosecutors and led the Justice Department’s national and international criminal law enforcement initiatives, including investigations of [among other things] violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

For additional coverage see here from the New York Times and here from the Wall Street Journal.

For the Reading Stack

ProPublica takes a look at various aspects of white-collar law enforcement, including the “Breu Crew” (a reference to former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer”) in “The Rise of Corporate Impunity.”  See here for my article “Lanny Breuer and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement.”

Three cheers for Northwestern Professors Juliet Sorensen and Karen Alter for resisting the “feel good” notion that the International Criminal Court ought to be prosecuting corruption.  Writing in “Let Nations, Not the World, Prosecute Corruption,” the authors state:

“It is easy to understand the attraction of adding the crime of corruption to the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. Like violent atrocities, embezzlement and blackmail may be perpetrated on innocents. Corruption can be an international crime, featuring offshore accounts, money laundering and bribery of foreign officials. Moreover, when political leaders are involved in mass corruption, their crimes can become too dangerous for local judges and prosecutors to tackle. […] But to add this crime to the court’s jurisdiction would be a mistake. It is limited for good reason to genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and in the future, the crime of aggression.  […]  Before we give the court a new and even harder crime to prosecute, we must make sure that it can succeed in its core mandate. What international criminal law does best is prosecute those most responsible, at the apex of the pyramid, when individual nations are unwilling or unable to do so.  Finally, we must recognize that already the International Criminal Court faces a crisis of political support. […]  The status quo is surely not a perfect one. But international intervention is not a panacea. The International Criminal Court needs to stay focused on the important task of prosecuting those most responsible for mass atrocities. Rather than put more resources into international criminal prosecution, the resources and energy of the international community should go towards bolstering national resources to investigate, prosecute, and deter public corruption.”

See here for “Anti-Corruption Compliance:  Meeting the Global Standard” recently published in Bloomberg BNA’s Corporate Law and Accountability Report by Arnold & Porter attorneys Keith Korenchuk, Samuel Witten and Daniel Bernstein:

“Designing an effective anti-corruption compliance program that meets the requirements of many different jurisdictions seems like a daunting task. Executives at global companies are likely to ask themselves: Do we need dozens of different compliance programs? Will we be subject to conflicting standards in the various countries where we do business? How can we ensure proper oversight of activity that occurs all over the globe? In addressing these questions, multinational companies should take note of the broad global consensus that has developed around what governments and international organizations expect of corporate anti corruption compliance programs. While there is no one-size-fits-all program—and a company must bear in mind applicable local laws—this global standard is welcome news. Here we review the commonly accepted best practices for an anti-corruption compliance program.”

From various Jones Day attorneys (here), “India’s New Corporate Social Responsibility Requirements – Beware of the Pitfalls”:

“In August 2013, the Indian parliament passed the Indian Companies Act, 2013 (the “New Act”), which has replaced the Companies Act of 1956. The New Act has made far-reaching changes affecting company formation, administration and governance, and it has increased shareholder control over board decisions. […]  One of the New Act’s most startling changes—which came into effect on April 1, 2014—has been to impose compulsory corporate social responsibility  obligations (“CSR”) upon Indian companies and foreign companies operating in India. These obligations mainly come in the form of mandatory amounts companies must contribute to remediating social problems. This is a wholly new requirement; although companies were permitted, within certain limits, to make charitable contributions in the past, the New Act is essentially a self-administered tax.  […] If the Indian company undertaking CSR is a subsidiary of a United States entity, or if its business activities “touch” the U.K., then the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) or the U.K. Bribery Act (“UKBA”), respectively, as well as other regulatory laws of these jurisdictions, may apply to the Indian company’s CSR payments. This may raise serious issues of compliance and liability.”

See here for “China Introduces New Health Care Sector Anti-Corruption Regulations” by Richard Grams and Allan Golder:

“As part of a concerted effort to tackle systemic commercial bribery in the country’s health care sector, China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission recently introduced separate new regulations aimed at hospitals and physicians, as well as the medical product companies that supply them.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

The U.S. Government Bears Some Responsibility

The U.S. government bears some responsibility when it comes to certain circumstances that result in FCPA scrutiny.  While some are likely to view this as a controversial statement or being a corporate apologist, this basic fact has always been relevant to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

As highlighted in this prior post, one of the more insightful things found in the FCPA’s extensive legislative history is an October 1975 article by Milton Gwirtzman published by the New York Times Magazine.  At this point in time, Congress was in the midst of its investigations into the so-called foreign corporate payments problem and Gwirtzman noted:

“If corporate bribery abroad has offended the post-Watergate morality, the companies implicated have nevertheless taken a greater share of the blame than they deserve.  […]  The responsibility for present practices must also be shared by our Government,  which not only encouraged investment in countries whose ethical standards differ  from ours, but also in many respects set the pattern for the graft under censure today.  […]  The rapid acceleration of American private investment in foreign lands, which began in the mid-nineteen-sixties, was seen by our foreign policy makers as a welcome opportunity.  If U.S. firms could build a nation’s infrastructure, supply its consumer goods and hire a portion of its workers, the greater the likelihood the nation would be bound to ours by the safest and strongest of ties, economic self-interest.  As a result, our Government wrote the foreign investment laws of several developing countries and urged our multinationals to make use of them.  New programs were established to insure foreign investment against the risks of war and expropriation.  Embassy personnel were ordered to scout out export possibilities for American firms, which were published in Commerce Business Daily, the Government’s daily list of business opportunities.”

Gwirtzman then stated as follows.  “For all these reasons, it would be unwise, as well as unfair, simply to write off bribery abroad to corporate lust.  It is a symbol of far deeper issues that really involve America’s role in the world.”

In 2004, the U.S. government lifted various sanctions against Libya after Moammar Kadafi agreed to abandon a nuclear weapons program.  The White House encouraged “Libya’s reintegration with the global market” and a White House statement read:  “U.S. companies will be able to buy or invest in Libyan oil and products. U.S. commercial banks and other financial service providers will be able to participate in and support these transactions.”

The front-page article earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal read “Probe Widens Into Dealings Between Finance Firms, Libya.”  The article states, in pertinent part:

“The Justice Department has joined a widening investigation of banks, private-equity firms and hedge funds that may have violated antibribery laws in their dealings with Libya’s government-run investment fund, people familiar with the matter said. The criminal investigation, which has intensified in recent months, is proceeding alongside a civil probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission that began in 2011 and initially honed in on Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The Justice Department’s involvement hasn’t been reported previously. In addition to Goldman Sachs, federal investigators are examining Credit Suisse Group AG , J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Société Générale SA, private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP and hedge-fund operator Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, these people said. Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the SEC declined to comment.  Authorities are examining investment deals made around the time of the financial crisis and afterward, these people said. In the years leading up to Libya’s 2011 revolution, Western firms—encouraged by the U.S. government—raced to attract investment money from the North African nation, which was benefiting from oil sales and recently had opened to foreign investment. Investigators are trying to determine whether the firms violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the people said.

[…]

The U.S. lifted sanctions against Libya in 2004 in return for the country’s dismantling of its nuclear-weapons program. By 2008, as the financial crisis set in, Western firms were jockeying for business there. That year, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Libya and met with Col. Gadhafi in part to improve the investment climate there for U.S. companies, she said at the time. The government advised companies on investing in Libya, and U.S. executives went there on a government-sponsored trade mission in 2010.”

Whether its leading trade missions, providing export financing or provide support through diplomatic channels, in certain instances the U.S. government encourages companies (for foreign policy and other strategic interests) to go to the edge of the cliff.  As the passage of time occasionally shows, when the footing on the cliff becomes a bit loose, and the market participants fall over the edge, other segments of the U.S. government then launch a criminal inquiry seeking to discover why.

As I told a Foreign Policy reporter earlier this week in connection with the recent news:

“There is an irony of course in the U.S. government encouraging companies to do business in certain countries because it serves U.S. interests.  Then when the company does business in that country and encounters business conditions that the U.S. government no doubt knew it was going to encounter, the company then becomes the subject of a U.S. law enforcement inquiry.”

As so it goes.

If not before, I predict I will write about this issue again in the next few years when the DOJ and SEC launch an FCPA inquiry of various companies doing business in Myanmar.  In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. government recently eased various restrictions relevant to doing business in that country and is actively encouraging companies to toe the cliff.

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