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A Conversation with Richard Alderman Regarding BAE

In October 2010, I published (here) a detailed Q&A with Richard Alderman (Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office).

Given that the BAE matter was still pending in the U.K. courts, Mr. Alderman declined to answer BAE related questions.

In February, I re-submitted my BAE questions (along with a few additional questions relating to the December 2010 U.K. resolution of the BAE matter – see here for the prior post) to Mr. Alderman.

Our Q&A can be found here.

Publication of Mr. Alderman’s BAE-specific responses are timely given recent developments regarding BAE.

WikiLeaks recently published (here) a cable detailing certain information regarding termination of the U.K. inquiry regarding BAE and its relationship with certain Saudi officials, including in connection with the al-Yamamah contract.

Even though the cable adds little to what is already in the public domain regarding this matter (see here for the April 2009 PBS Frontline documentary Black Money – including interviews with several of the individuals referenced in the cable), the WikiLeaks cable has generated significant interest and has prompted a senior MP, Sir Menzies Campbell, to call for a Commons investigation.

The U.K. Telegraph (here) quotes Campbell as follows:

“This leak tells us how strong a case was available. If the information in this document had been before Parliament and the British public, there is no way that the Labour government could have influenced the termination of the investigation. The particular issue which will cause a great deal of annoyance is the fact there was prima facie evidence that a government department had been subjected to fraud. If prosecution is no longer possible, it is open to the Commons’ business innovation and skills committee to conduct a full investigation.”

For additional coverage, see here from Sue Reisinger (Corporate Counsel) and here from Samuel Rubenfeld (Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents).

Returning to my Q&A with Mr. Alderman, the following topics, among others, are explored:

(i) how the U.K. law on double jeopardy significantly affected the SFO’s investigation of BAE and how the “current system [in the U.K.] for dealing with parallel criminal investigations conducted in a number of different countries does not work effectively and needs change;”

(ii) whether the U.K. government was faithful to its OECD obligations in its handling of the BAE matter;

(iii) criticism of the SFO-BAE plea agreement by the U.K. sentencing judge; and

(iv) “shortcomings” in the U.K. system and how Mr. Alderman would like a system that “is far more transparent […] that commands public confidence, together with a much stronger role for the judiciary.”

Significant China Law Development

The June 2010 OECD Working Group on Bribery Annual Report (here) notes that China’s “Ministry of Supervision informed the [OECD] Secretariat that China had begun considering how it would establish an offence of bribing a foreign public official, but was not yet at the stage of drafting legislation.”

As this recent Covington & Burling alert highlights: “on February 25, 2011, the legislature of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”), the National People’s Congress, passed a slate of 49 amendments to the Criminal Law, one of which is a provision that criminalizes paying bribes to non-PRC government officials and to officials of international public organizations (“the Amendment”).” The alert explain that “this Amendment represents the first instance in which PRC law has prohibited PRC nationals and PRC companies from paying bribes to non-PRC government officials.”

Eric Carlson (here), an attorney based in Covington’s Beijing office who specializes in anti-corruption compliance with a particular focus on China and other regions of Asia and one of the authors of the alert, answered the following questions.

Is this China’s version of the FCPA?

At one level, the Amendment’s aim appears to be similar to the FCPA’s — prevent citizens and companies based in the country from bribing government officials outside the country. This is China’s first foray into this area, however, and the provisions are not as detailed or developed as in certain other countries’ anti-bribery laws. The PRC Amendment is a rather high-level law, whereas the text of the FCPA includes considerably more detail, even if the interpretation of those details is being actively debated and litigated. The absence of clear definitions, exceptions, and affirmative defenses also would appear to require PRC prosecutors to exercise somewhat more discretion in interpreting and enforcing the law.

Is China really going to enforce this law against its own companies operating outside of China?

Unclear. China’s enforcement of its domestic bribery laws historically has been somewhat uneven and focused mainly on the demand side (i.e., prosecuting officials who take bribes). Recently, however, the government has shown an increasing willingness to target bribe-payers as well, as corruption remains a primary concern of the general population and thus a concern for the government and ruling Communist Party, which is at its core focused on social stability. It remains to be seen whether the Amendment will actually be enforced in a way that deters bribe-paying by PRC companies and citizens. (To be fair, a goodly number of countries have strict laws criminalizing bribery of foreign officials outside their countries but have done little to enforce these laws.)

How will this new law affect multinationals operating in China?

The impact will obviously depend on how a multinational structures its operations in China. The Amendment (like the underlying Criminal Law) applies to all PRC citizens, wherever located, all natural persons of any nationality within China, and all companies, enterprises, and institutions organized under PRC law, which generally includes, in addition to PRC domestic companies, Sino-foreign joint ventures, wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOEs), and representative offices. Under the Amendment, a joint venture between a PRC company and a non-PRC company organized under PRC law, or a WFOE, could be prosecuted for paying bribes to non-PRC government officials. (Paying bribes to Chinese government officials is of course already illegal under pre-existing law.)

For most multinationals whose China operations don’t do any business outside of China, the larger risk may be China’s existing criminal and commercial bribery laws. (Many multinationals operating in China are not aware of local commercial bribery laws, which prohibit both public- and private-sector bribery.)

*****

As suggested above, having a law on the books and enforcing a law can sometimes be two different things. However, based on numerous media reports (see here for instance) there would seem to be plenty of enforcement opportunities when China’s law comes into force.

Picking and Choosing?

The sentencing memos in the Ousama Naaman matter are interesting reads. Naaman’s memo (here), submitted by Abbe Lowell of McDermott Will & Emery (here), provides a glimpse into cooperation by an individual FCPA defendant.

The DOJ’s memo (here), while requesting a downward departure, details how Naaman’s cooperation was not great at all and how Naaman is seemingly contesting various facts and issues he agreed to in pleading guilty.

The DOJ seeks a recommended sentence of 90 months (7.5 years) which would result in 79 months of additional incarceration given that Naaman has already 11 months of time served.

As previously reported (here), Naaman’s sentencing has been delayed until April 18th.

One aspect of the DOJ’s sentencing memo I found interesting is where the DOJ warns the judge that a “minimal sentence could not only possible be construed as a violation of U.S. treaty obligations […] but could do much to undermine the efforts by the United States Departments of Commerce and State to educate U.S. businesses about the harm caused by and risk of engaging in transnational bribery.” (See pgs. 34-36).

The treaty reference is to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (see here) and the DOJ specifically cites Art. 3 Sec. 1 – “The bribery of a foreign public official shall be punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties. The range of penalties shall be comparable to that applicable to the bribery of the Party’s own public officials.”

Is the DOJ picking and choosing which articles of the OECD Convention it wants to abide by?

Article 5 of the same OECD Convention, under the heading “Enforcement,” states that investigation and prosecution of bribery offenses “shall not be influenced by considerations of national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another State or the identity of the natural or legal persons involved.”

Are we to believe that the Giffen prosecution (see here for prior posts) was not influenced by considerations on the “potential effect upon relations with another state.”?

Are we to believe that the BAE prosecution and the lack of FCPA charges (see here for the prior post) was not influenced by “considerations of national economic interest” or the “identity of the natural or legal persons involved.”

It would seem that every time the DOJ specifically states in a sentencing memo (i.e. Siemens, BAE, Daimler, etc.) that, in deciding how to resolve a case, it considered the collateral consequences – including the risk of debarment and exclusion from government contracts – that prosecution of the offense is being “influenced by considerations of national economic interest” or the “identity of the natural or legal persons involved.”

In an effort to avoid yet another rejection of its FCPA sentencing recommendation, the DOJ is now warning a judge that a “minimal sentence” could be “construed as a violation of U.S. treaty obligations.”

In doing so, is the DOJ picking and choosing which articles of the OECD Convention it will abide by?

The OECD Report – Initial Observations

Yesterday, the OECD released its much anticipated “Phase 3” report (here) on the U.S. implementation and enforcement of the “Convention of Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.” In other words, the OECD Report (“Report”) comments on U.S. enforcement of the FCPA, a statute which (at least in theory) is supposed to model the OECD Convention.

As noted in this OECD release:

“The Working Group commended the United States for its engagement with the private sector, substantial enforcement, and commitment from the highest levels of the U.S. Government. In addition to the recommendation on facilitation payments, it also made recommendations that include the following on ways to improve U.S. enforcement:

– Consolidating publicly available information on the application of the FCPA, including the affirmative defence for reasonable and bona fide expenses;

– To increase transparency, making public, where appropriate, more information on the use of Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) and Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) in specific cases; and

– Ensure that the overall limitation period applicable to the foreign bribery offence is sufficient to allow adequate investigation and prosecution.

The Working Group also highlighted good practices developed within the U.S. legal and policy framework that helped it achieve such a high level of enforcement, including the creation of specialised enforcement units dedicated to foreign bribery, and the use of plea agreements, DPAs and NPAs and the appointment of corporate monitors. These efforts have also encouraged the establishment of robust compliance programmes and measures among companies subject to U.S. anti-bribery law. The Working Group also welcomed the United States’ efforts to encourage close co-operation between the United States and foreign authorities.”

The Report is perhaps the single largest collection of FCPA related information and statistics ever in one document. This post will be the first of several posts in the coming days on the information and views contained in the Report.

This post highlights the “Executive Summary,” “Introduction” and “Recent Trends in Investigation and Prosecuting FCPA Violations” sections of Report. In addition, this post discusses specific sections of the Report dealing with the FCPA’s “obtain or retain business” and “foreign official” elements as well as the use of NPAs or DPAs to resolve FCPA matters.

Before turning to the Report’s Executive Summary, let me provide one of my own. [For ease of reading, my observations in this post are in italics].

There is no question that the U.S. is a world leader in enforcing its domestic foreign bribery statute (the FCPA) and the Report rightfully commends the U.S. for this. However, quantity does not always mean quality and U.S. enforcement of the FCPA is not without criticism and questions, including in the Report. One would hardly realize this if all one did was read this joint statement of the Departments of Justice, Commerce and State, and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued yesterday in connection with the Report’s release.

But the criticisms and questions are in the Report and the Report contains this contradiction: while loudly praising the U.S. for its “high level” of enforcement, the Report quitely criticizes and questions many of the policies and enforcement theories which yield the “high level” of enforcement. For instance, the Report notes that the FCPA’s language “does not specifically convey” that cases concerning “an operating license or permit to operate a business, or a reduction in tax or import duty” are in violation of the statute. Yet, many FCPA enforcement actions are based on this theory. Further, the Report notes that “due to an absence of explicit language in the definition of foreign official” it is an open question whether employees of so-called state-owned or state controlled enterprises are “foreign officials” under the FCPA. Yet, numerous FCPA enforcement actions are based on this theory. The Report notes that the increase in NPAs and DPAs “are one of the reasons for the impressive FCPA enforcement record in the U.S.” yet also notes that these agreements are subject to little or no judicial scrutiny.

Perhaps the message for other OECD member nations reading the Report is this – enforce your domestic bribery law in questionable ways, seemingly inconsistent with the intent of the legislature in passing the law, and figure out a way to resolve the enforcement actions without judicial scrutiny. If so, perhaps your nation will one day be praised in an OECD Report for its “high level” of enforcement activity.

The “Executive Summary” of the Report states, among things:

That, since Phase 2 (see here and here) “U.S. enforcement has increased steadily and resulted in increasingly significant prison sentences, monetary penalties and disgorgement. Increased enforcement was enabled by the good practices developed within the U.S. legal and policy framework, including the dedication of resources to specialised units in the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).”

[…]

“The U.S. has investigated and prosecuted cases involving various business sectors and various modes of bribing foreign public officials. In addition, it has been conducting proactive investigations, using information from a variety of sources and innovative methods like plea agreements (PAs), Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs), Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs), and the appointment of corporate monitors. Vigorous enforcement and record penalties, alongside increased private sector engagement, has encouraged the establishment of robust compliance programmes and measures, particularly in large companies, which are verified by the accounting and auditing profession and monitored by senior management. Less is known of the effect increased FCPA enforcement has had on small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which is an issue shared by all Parties to the Convention.”

“Ways in which implementation of the Convention could be made more effective have also been identified. For instance, the Working Group recommends that the U.S., in its periodic review of its policies and approach on facilitation payments, consider the views of the private sector and civil society… The evaluation also recommended the consolidation and summarisation of publicly available information on the application of the FCPA, including information regarding the affirmative defence for reasonable and bona fide expenses. This could be especially useful for SMEs. Similarly, given that the U.S. authorities are increasingly enforcing the FCPA by using DPAs and NPAs, the Working Group believes that transparency and public awareness of these measures could be enhanced if the U.S. made public, where appropriate, more detailed reasons on issues such as why a particular type of agreement is used, the choice of an agreement‘s terms and duration, and how a company has met the agreement‘s terms. The Working Group also recommends that the U.S. ensure that the overall limitation period applicable to the foreign bribery offence is sufficient to allow adequate investigation and prosecution.”

The Introduction to the Report, under the heading “Cases involving the bribery of foreign public officials,” states:

“The United States has investigated and prosecuted the most foreign bribery cases among the Parties to the Anti-Bribery Convention. From 1998 to 16 September 2010, 50 individuals and 28 companies have been criminally convicted of foreign bribery, while 69 individuals and companies have been held civilly liable for foreign bribery. In addition, 26 companies have been sanctioned (without being convicted) for foreign bribery under non-prosecution agreements (NPAs) and deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs). Sanctions have also been imposed for accounting misconduct and money laundering related to foreign bribery.”

“These cases have resulted in increasingly significant penalties. From 1998 to 2003, the maximum monetary sanctions levelled against a company in an FCPA case were USD 2.5 million. Since then, 23 companies have received monetary sanctions in excess of USD 10 million. In one case, monetary sanctions totalling USD 800 million were ordered against a single company. In 2010, an 87-month sentence was imposed against an individual in an FCPA case. Since 2004, over USD 1 billion in foreign bribery proceeds have been recovered through disgorgement actions. The SEC also obtains civil penalties in addition to DOJ criminal fines. In the first 9 months of 2010 alone, the SEC obtained over USD 404 million in disgorgement, interest and civil penalties from thirteen companies and eight individuals. Representatives of the private sector told the evaluators that these increasingly heavy sanctions combined with the increased number of prosecutions against companies and individuals have significantly raised the FCPA‘s profile. They are also felt to be the main reason why many companies have taken steps to improve their anti-bribery measures, internal controls, books and records, and compliance systems.”

[Note – the above referenced 87-month sentence of Charles Jumet is misleading. Elsewhere in the Report it states: “In a recent case, a defendant was sentenced to 87 months in prison for FCPA violations.” Fact check – Jumet pleaded guilty to two counts – conspiracy to violate the FCPA and making false statements to federal agents. The false statements portion of his sentence was 20 months. Thus, Jumet’s “FCPA” sentence was 60 months – not 87 months]

“These cases come to the authorities‘ attention through a myriad of means. A significant number (but not the majority) of investigations result from voluntary self-reporting by companies. Other sources include corporate securities filings; suspicious activity reports from financial institutions; the media, including keyword searches of the Internet; whistleblowers, employees, customers, competitors, and agents; qui tam and civil complaints; referral from other U.S. government agencies, including overseas embassies; international financial institutions such as the World Bank; reports through a “hotline” email address and website; and information from foreign states, including requests for mutual legal assistance (MLA). A recent case resulted from an undercover sting operation. Investigations also originate from research and traditional law enforcement operations to determine where corruption may exist. The U.S. utilizes statistics that it compiles and information obtained in prior and current FCPA cases to identify trends and patterns of behaviour that warrant investigation. The U.S. also conducts industry sweeps, which are targeted investigations focusing on a particular industry or market. The U.S. believes that the use of such proactive tools keeps its regulators ahead of trends and allows them to combat corruption in a timely fashion. The U.S. did not provide statistics on the sources of investigations, due to the need to protect investigative sources and methods, but confirms that no one source accounted for a majority.”

“These FCPA enforcement figures are expected to increase in the near future. Presently, the United States has more than 150 criminal and 80 civil ongoing FCPA investigations. [a footnote states “many are parallel criminal and civil investigations of the same alleged conduct”] The U.S. authorities recently announced new initiatives including investigations of specific industries (“targeted sweeps” or “industry-wide sweeps”) and an increased emphasis of prosecuting natural persons in addition to companies. These efforts will likely lead to more prosecutions and convictions.”

Under the heading “Recent trends in investigating and prosecuting FCPA violations,” the Report states, among other things, as follows:

“Allegations of FCPA violations come from a variety of sources. This part of the report canvasses a few of the most important sources. According to the DOJ, voluntary disclosures are the source of a significant proportion of investigations, although not the majority.”

[…]

“… companies consider it in their interest to be co-operative, and seem willing to settle more often than not when they have voluntarily disclosed. While some companies self-report violations of the FCPA, some companies do not. Representatives of companies in the extractive industry explained that it is very common for a company to uncover one discrete violation of the FCPA and voluntarily disclose it, following which the DOJ or SEC asks the company to look further to see if the conduct is pervasive and occurring in other places. In some cases, the conduct is pervasive and is fully investigated by the DOJ and SEC. In other cases, the conduct is limited in scope and no additional violations are uncovered. Some companies may find this very cumbersome and expensive, and try to settle the case without a full investigation. However, the DOJ and SEC advise that they require companies to complete their investigations before finalising settlement discussions.”

[…]

“Proactive investigative steps by the DOJ and SEC, such as industry-wide sweeps, can also produce information that leads to enforcement actions. In November 2009, an industry-wide investigation into the pharmaceutical industry was announced by Assistant Attorney General, Lanny Breuer. An investigation into the medical device industry has also been discussed publicly. The Oil-for-Food cases involved a sweep of companies that paid kickbacks to the Iraqi Government during the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme. The sweep was very effective and more than fifteen companies have been charged to date.”

“Such investigations may be commenced by sending “sweep letters” requesting co-operation from industry members on a voluntary basis. If a company chooses to not respond to such a letter, the DOJ and SEC consider whether a subpoena should be issued to compel the production of relevant documents and the testimony of individuals. Recently, the SEC announced that it will be conducting more industry-wide sweeps. Investigations of this kind enable the DOJ and SEC to develop specialised expertise identifying illegal conduct and conducting prosecutions involving various industries. In addition, due to the cross-connections between various members of the same industry, an investigation into one company can produce leads about other companies, including those in the supply-chain.”

“More traditional sources of allegations also continue to be useful, such as anonymous whistleblower reports. Such reports are often received from current and former employees, competitors, and others, and are analysed by the FBI to ensure their veracity. The DOJ provides a “hotline” to report anonymously directly to the FCPA Unit. The SEC also has a hotline and a detailed process for analysing tips, complaints and reports of FCPA violations.”

[…]

“[Mutual Legal Assistance] requests from foreign jurisdictions also provide a basis for allegations, although to a lesser extent than other sources.”

“United States embassy staff are also important sources of information about FCPA violations. The DOJ cited examples of full-blown investigations that were launched due to information provided by an embassy and referrals from State Department and Commercial Services branches. In one of these investigations, the embassy stayed involved throughout.”

As to Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions, the Report states:

“The U.S. authorities believe that in light of this new legislation, reporting violations of the FCPA is likely to increase.”

FCPA Elements

Among other elements, the Report discusses the “obtain or retain business” and “foreign official” elements of the FCPA.

“Obtain or Retain Business”

The Report states:

“One important aspect of the foreign bribery offence in the FCPA is different from the description of the offence in Article 1 of the Convention. Under the FCPA, the bribery of a foreign public official must be committed in order to assist the briber “in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person‘ (known as the “business nexus test‘). In Article 1 of the Convention, the corresponding formulation is: “in order to obtain or retain business or other improper advantage in the conduct of international business.”

“Thus, unlike Article 1 of the Convention, the FCPA language does not specifically convey that the case is covered where the purpose of the bribe is to obtain or retain other improper advantage in the conduct of international business, such as obtaining an operating license or permit to operate a business, or a reduction in tax or import duty. In other words, the FCPA language might be read to only address bribes for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business per se. Reference is made to “improper advantage” elsewhere in the FCPA, but in a different context – i.e., the offences in the FCPA inter alia cover the case where the purpose of a bribe to a foreign public official is to secure “any improper advantage…in order to assist such [person/issuer/domestic concern] in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person‘.”

“However, it has been the position of the United States Government throughout that the FCPA formulation is very broadly interpreted and covers in practice the kinds of advantages required to be covered by the Convention. The evaluation team notes that this position has been largely confirmed by jurisprudence, in the 2007 decision of the United States Court of Appeals in United States v. Kay.”

“In U.S. v. Kay, the Court of Appeals held that a payment to customs officials to reduce import duties on rice falls within the parameters of the “business nexus” test because when Congress enacted the FCPA it was concerned about: (1.) Bribery that leads to discrete business contract arrangements; and (2.) Payments that even indirectly assist in obtaining business or maintaining existing business operations in a foreign country. The Court of Appeals also stated that:

…bribes paid to foreign officials in consideration for unlawful evasion of customs duties and sales taxes could fall within the purview of the FCPA‘s proscription. We hasten to add, however, that this conduct does not automatically constitute a violation of the FCPA: It must be shown that the bribery was intended to produce an effect – here through tax savings – that would “assist in obtaining or retaining business”.”

“The decision of the Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Kay is therefore helpful, in that it clarifies that payments to, for instance, reduce import duty “could” satisfy the “business nexus test”. The United States has also successfully enforced the FCPA in cases involving similar advantages, such as payments to customs officials to import goods and materials (Helmerich & Payne; and Natures Sunshine), and payments to tax officials to reduce tax obligations, and to judicial officials for favourable treatment in pending litigation (Willbros Group). On the other hand, the clarification by the Court of Appeals leaves open the possibility that there might be cases where a bribe to a foreign public official to facilitate international business does not violate the FCPA, although it does meet the test of “other improper advantage in the conduct of international business” in Article 1 of the Convention.”

For more on U.S. v. Kay (see here and here).

The Report’s discussion of the “obtain or retain business” is noteworthy.

Why?

Because on the one hand, the Report praises the U.S.’s high level of FCPA enforcement, yet on the other hand, the Report candidly acknowledges that “the FCPA language might be read to only address bribes for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business per se.” Connecting the dots, the Report seems to suggest that the numerous FCPA enforcement actions premised on improper payments to secure foreign licenses, permits, etc. may not even be FCPA violations.

In my forthcoming article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” to be published soon in the Georgetown Journal of International Law, I highlight the increase in FCPA enforcement actions where the improper payments are alleged not to obtain or retain any particular business, but rather, involve customs duties and tax payments, or payments alleged to have assisted the payer in securing foreign government licenses, permits, and certifications.

I must also take issue with the sentence in the Report that suggests when the DOJ enters into a NPA (such as in Helmerich & Payne) or DPA that this is evidence of the U.S. “successfully enforcing the FCPA.” This is one of the many reasons why the “facade of FCPA enforcement” matters – because it fosters the absurd notion that privately negotiated settlements, subject to little or no judicial scrutiny, entered into in the context of the enforcement agencies possessing substantial “carrots” and “sticks” should serve as de facto case law or otherwise represent “successful” enforcement of the FCPA.

“Foreign Official”

As to the definition of “foreign official,” the Report states:

“Due to an absence of explicit language in the definition of “foreign official” in the FCPA, two questions arise concerning the scope of the definition: (1.) Whether, in compliance with the Convention, it covers a person holding a judicial office of a foreign country‘; and (2.) Whether it covers a person exercising a public function for a foreign country, including for a…public enterprise‘ (i.e. a state-owned or controlled enterprise).”

Readers know that this second question is a frequent topic on these pages and deservingly so. It is no small matter. As I highlight in this recent article in the Indiana Law Review (here), this dubious interpretation of the “foreign official” element was at the core of 66% of 2009 FCPA enforcement actions against business entities as well as numerous individuals. And that was just in 2009. Several pre-2009 enforcement actions as well were based on the theory that employees of state-owned or state-controlled enterprises are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

So again, on the one hand the Report praises the U.S.’s high level of FCPA enforcement, yet on the other hand, the Report openly questions the definition of “foreign official” that was used in a significant percentage of recent FCPA enforcement actions.

The Report then contains a discussion of the Nexus Technologies case and advances the DOJ’s curious assertion that resolution of this matter (see here) validates its interpretation that employees of so-called state-owned or state-controlled enterprises are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

The Report states:

“Since Phase 2, there have been positive legal developments regarding the second question on the bribery of employees of state-owned or controlled enterprises, in U.S. v. Nam Quoc Nguyen, et al. (E.D. Pa., September 4, 2008), in which the District Court recently held in favour of the United States Government in a case involving allegations that the defendants bribed employees of a foreign state-owned company. The defendants argued that the definition of “foreign official” in the FCPA does not include employees of state-owned enterprises, because in order for an organisation to be considered an “agency or instrumentality” of a foreign government, it must serve a “purely public purpose”. The United States Government, citing the legislative history of the FCPA, responded by arguing that “public purpose” is only one of the many factors in determining that an organisation is an “agency or instrumentality” of a foreign government, and that Congress expressly intended to include employees of state-owned enterprises in the definition of “foreign official”.”

As I highlighted in this prior post, in its briefing in the Nexus case the DOJ specifically urged the judge, on a number of occassions, not to consider the defendant’s substantive “foreign official” argument because they were premature. The following are snippets from the DOJ’s brief: (i) “the Court need not address any of these faulty arguments at this time:” (ii) “although styled as a motion to dismiss, Defendants’ submission is instead a premature request for a ruling on the sufficiency of the Government’s evidence before any of that evidence has been presented. These arguments, which are premature at best, will be moot after presentation of the Government’s case.” (iii) “because Defendants’ arguments turn entirely on issues of fact, they are premature.”

Continuing on this issue, the Report states:

“Although the Court ruled in favour of the United States, it did not issue a written opinion, and the defendants did not file an appeal. In addition, District Court opinions are not binding on higher courts or courts of other U.S. jurisdictions. The DOJ informed the evaluators that this means the Government interpretation could be disputed again. However, the DOJ believes the argument would fail again given the FCPA‘s legislative history, and because numerous cases have been brought by the DOJ and SEC in which the definition of “foreign official” has been broadly interpreted.” This last sentence has a footnote which states: “For instance Willbros Group involved the bribery of foreign judicial officials, Siemens AG involved payments to various persons from state-owned companies, and Diagnostic Products, involved payments to doctors of state-owned hospitals. The United States explains that in each of these cases, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11, a court had to determine whether all the elements of the offence have been proven including that the receiving individual was a foreign public official.”

On this issue, the Report concludes with this “commentary”

“The evaluators welcome positive legal developments concerning the application of the definition of ‘foreign official’ in the FCPA to members of the judiciary and employees of state-owned or controlled enterprises.”

In the “Recommendations” section, the Report notes that the “Working Group will follow up the issues below, as the case-law continues to develop, to examine: […] whether amendments are required to the FCPA to supplement or clarify the existing language defining the elements of the offense of foreign bribery with regard to […] (ii) the scope of the definition of a ‘foreign public official,’ in particular with respect to […] the directors, officers, and employees of state-controlled enterprises or instrumentalties.”

NPAs / DPAs

The Report states:

“Due to their increasing importance in law enforcement actions by the DOJ, the evaluators sought information about the deterrent effect of DPAs and NPAs. The evaluators were also conscious that the SEC intends to also begin using DPAs and NPAs to encourage companies and individuals to co-operate with SEC investigators.”

“It seems quite clear that the use of these agreements is one of the reasons for the impressive FCPA enforcement record in the U.S. However, their actual deterrent effect has not been quantified; although the DOJ hears anecdotally from companies that their use has made FCPA compliance high priority.”

The Report states:

“DPAs are technically subject to judicial review and approval, but most judges do not appear to scrutinise DPAs. Unlike a DPA, an NPA does not involve the court.”

“Although DPAs and NPAs have existed since 1993, their use has grown dramatically in recent years. Since 2004, the annual average number of DPAs and NPAs entered into by the DOJ has grown from less than 5 to over 20 and a high of 38 in 2007. In FCPA cases, DPAs and NPAs were not used until 2004. Since then, they have been used in 30 out of 39 concluded criminal enforcement actions against companies.”

“Explanations for this phenomenon vary. The dramatic increase occurred shortly after the prosecution and collapse of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen which led to thousands of jobs lost. Avoiding such collateral consequences of prosecution is generally cited as why DPAs and NPAs are used. In FCPA cases, factors such as the protection of employees and shareholders also play a role, according to U.S authorities. The U.S. authorities also believe that companies often prefer to resolve matters through DPAs and NPAs in lieu of going to court and undergoing a potentially lengthy process and resulting press scrutiny. As well, the DPAs and NPAs in FCPA cases generally cite factors such as the defendants‘ co-operation and self-reporting of the crime as the reasons for the agreement. These agreements are thus used as an incentive for voluntary disclosure and co-operation. The U.S. authorities also use DPAs and NPAs to resolve cases quickly. Finally, FCPA cases usually involve obtaining evidence from foreign countries, which can be time-consuming and unsuccessful. DPAs and NPAs can be used to secure a company‘s co-operation and obtain overseas evidence where the MLA process is cumbersome or unavailable.”

“In January 2010, the SEC announced that it would begin using co-operation agreements, DPAs and NPAs in FCPA cases. A co-operation agreement is similar to a plea agreement in criminal proceedings. An individual or company must provide substantial assistance to an SEC investigation and co-operate fully and truthfully. In return, the SEC Enforcement Division agrees to make certain recommendations to the Commission, such as the individual or company should receive credit for co-operating. DPAs and NPAs require the company or individual to co-operate fully and truthfully, and to agree to comply with prohibitions and/or undertakings. DPAs also require the company or individual to admit to or not contest certain alleged facts. NPAs are available only in “limited and appropriate circumstances”. All three types of agreements require the company or individual to agree to toll the statute of limitations. The SEC has not yet used one of these agreements, given that the policy to use them was adopted only recently.”

In the “commentary section” the Report states:

“The evaluators note that PAs, DPAs, NPAs and the appointment of corporate monitors are an innovative method for resolving cases, and has evolved into an important feature of the U.S. criminal justice system, which has helped to enable a high level of enforcement activity. These measures have been used extensively in FCPA cases, especially in recent years. Guidance exists on the use of these agreements. Some private sector representatives would like more guidance but the U.S authorities disagree.”

“A useful compromise may be for the DOJ and the SEC, where appropriate, to make public in each case in which a DPA or NPA is used, more detailed reasons on the choice of a particular type of agreement, and the choice of the agreement’s terms and duration; and the basis for imposing monitors. The DOJ already does so for PAs through sentencing memoranda. Greater transparency on these issues would add accountability and enhance public confidence in the DOJ’s and SEC’s enforcement of the FCPA. Making public this information would also raise awareness of how these agreements enhance foreign bribery enforcement efforts.”

As to “recommendations” the Report states:

“Regarding the use of NPAs and DPAs, the Working Group recommends that the United States:

a. Make public any information about the impact of NPAs and DPAs on deterring the bribery of foreign public officials [..]; and

b. Where appropriate, make public in each case in which a DPA or NPA is used, more detailed reasons on the choice of a particular type of agreement; the choice of the agreement‘s terms and duration; and the basis for imposing monitors […]”.

As noted in the OECD release:

“The United States will make an oral follow-up report on its actions to implement certain key recommendations of the Working Group after one year. The United States will further submit a written report to the Working Group within two years, which will be the basis of a publicly available evaluation by the Working Group of the United States’ implementation of the recommendations.”

Stay tuned for more.

Will Dodd-Frank’s Whistleblower Provisions Be Exported?

Meet Markus Funk (here). He is a former DOJ attorney and now a partner at Perkins Coie.

He recently wrote a piece (here) that caught my eye.

It’s about Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions.

You might ask, what isn’t these days!

Funk’s piece however is a bit different because it uses Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions to ask the question – will signatory nations of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (here) incorporate similar provisions into their domestic law to demonstrate commitment to combating bribery?

Interesting question – and more on this below.

First a quick summary of Funk’s piece.

In it, Funk states that “the passage of [Dodd-Frank] signals a significant acceleration of the U.S. government’s already intensified Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement efforts.” He states that by “unveiling” Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions “to the world” “the United States heralds a new phase in its increasingly global anti-bribery enforcement efforts.”

Funk then writes, “as U.S.-led political pressures to enhance national anti-bribery efforts continue to grow, the Dodd-Frank Act’s novel enforcement mechanisms have the potential to attract international imitators.” He further states: “with mounting global pressure (not the least of which originates from the United States) on signatory states to comply with the Anti-Bribery Convention’s requirements, currently under-performing countries will likely be looking for efficient and effective ways to demonstrate their earnest intent to live up to their commitments.” “Given this backdrop,” Funk writes, “the Dodd-Frank’s Act’s new whistleblower provisions may well stand out as an ideal template for others (who are not culturally or otherwise averse to such rewards) to emulate.”

As noted in a prior post (here) Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions are buried deep in the 2,000+ pages of the Dodd-Frank Act. The provisions apply to all securities law violations. It is an open question whether anyone in Congress had the FCPA on their mind when voting for Dodd-Frank, including its whistleblower provisions.

Yet, perhaps because the FCPA bar is such an active group of writers, Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions have come to be reported in some circles as the FCPA whistleblower provisions. After all, the FCPA is indeed part of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 so the generic whistleblower provisions are indeed FCPA relevant.

In any event, I wondered why Funk wrote that “the passage of [Dodd-Frank] signals a significant acceleration of the U.S. government’s already intensified Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement efforts” and why he wrote that Dodd-Frank’s generic whistleblower provisions “symbolize the government’s accelerating fight against foreign corruption.”

So I went to the source and posed Funk the following question.

“Why do you believe that a generic securities law provision in a 2,000+ page financial regulatory reform bill is going to prompt other countries to adopt bribery/corruption specific whistleblower provisions?”

Below is Funk’s response, posted with his express permission.

*****

‘My answer to your question comes in parts.

Let me start out with an observation directed towards your question’s basic premise. I do not see why the raw page-count of the Dodd-Frank Act should have any meaningful bearing on whether its whistle blower provisions are (1) generally known and understood, or (2) likely to generate domestic success or foreign imitators.

Pundits, the media, and legal observers have certainly succeeded in swiftly digging through the bill’s 2,000+ pages of text and zeroing in on the tip-generating provisions we are talking about. Their very public analysis, moreover, strips away from the whistleblower bounty provisions any obscurity they may at one point have enjoyed (and, as the widespread attention to the Act signals, most observers do not categorize the novel provisions as unexceptionally “generic”).

Evidence of the recently-enacted whistleblower provisions’ emergent renown is, indeed, plentiful. Do a simple Google search for “Dodd-Frank” and “whistleblower,” and watch the thousands of hits come pouring in. Most foreign-based white collar websites, whether run by governments or lawyers, moreover, contain extensive and nuanced analysis of the Act’s whistleblower provisions. Hardly the reception accorded to an enactment that got lost in the shuffle.

And the whistleblower provisions’ renown is not the only thing that has confounded critics’ expectations; within a few short months, the Act has begun to yield actual real-world results. As recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, the new whistleblower incentives have generated an average of one tip a day (though the quality of the tips, and the country of origin of the tipsters, is admittedly still unknown).

These newly-generated/motivated tipsters, as well as the steady drumbeat of domestic and international corporate clients expressing concern about, and wanting more information on, this particular aspect of the Dodd-Frank Act, at a minimum place significant doubt on the position that the Act’s whistleblower provisions are so deeply buried within the rest of the Act that their effectiveness is nil because nobody knows about them.

Having addressed your foundational criticism of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower provisions, we can now move on to a companion challenge facing our ramped-up transnational anti-bribery efforts (and, for that matter, facing transnational law enforcement efforts generally).

Skeptics of global anti-bribery efforts now point to the much-cited International Bar Association’s recent survey of 642 legal professionals in 95 jurisdictions for proof that even lawyers don’t know about the world’s leading anti-bribery conventions and instruments. The IBA survey revealed that roughly half of the world’s lawyers have never heard of the FCPA. Some 70 percent of those questioned, moreover, knew nothing about the U.K. Bribery Act, and 40 percent are entirely unfamiliar with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) and United Nations anti-corruption conventions. Four in 10 respondents in developed countries such as Denmark, Germany, Canada, and Japan likewise knew of none of these anti-bribery instruments; the result was bumped up to 7 in 10 for New Zealand and Hong Kong lawyers.

Observers hold these results up as conclusive, damning proof that few in the world’s legal community know, or much care, about these internationally celebrated/hyped anti-bribery enactments.

It would be pointless for me to argue against the existence of an unfortunate, long-standing dissonance between international diplomatic proclamations, on the one hand, and tangible results on the ground, on the other. Indeed, I have personally experienced this frustrating phenomenon while working in post-conflict countries for the U.S. State Department, and have also written a book on the International Criminal Court which takes aim at the international community’s “much talk, little action” habit.

But, in the present context, I remain unmoved by the IBA’s headline-grabbing findings. For one, these survey results smack of a high-minded variant of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” in which Leno probes the proverbial “man on the street’s” basic knowledge of topics such as history, politics, and world affairs. The hapless respondents are inevitably revealed to be, or at least portrayed as being, ignorant dolts.

Similarly, the IBA’s survey results stand for little more than the rather unremarkable proposition that the “average” attorney (the survey omits any indication of specialization or areas of the survey-takers’ expertise) is not particularly well-versed on the topic of international anti-bribery instruments. Wish it weren’t so, but does it really matter?

Surveys of similar type could undoubtedly be constructed to reveal lawyers worldwide as wholly unfamiliar with wide swaths of accumulated substantive legal knowledge (anyone interested in taking a pop quiz surveying the examinee’s understanding of patent, human rights, or regulatory law?).

Are the IBA survey takers’ low scores to be read as meaning that global anti-bribery efforts are under-appreciated by lawyers to such an extent that they are rendered irrelevant? Hardly. What actually matters, of course, is whether the key decision-makers active in the anti-bribery fight know about these provisions. They clearly do.

But even if these survey results are meaningful, the “so what?” question remains: do the low scores represent (1) a call to action, or (2) a call to throw in the towel? Even assuming purely for the purpose of argument that throwing in the towel is the more sensible course, this clearly is not what the U.S. Government has in mind. Quite to the contrary.

In one public pronouncement after another, high-ranking Department of Justice, State Department, and Administration officials reaffirm the U.S. Government’s commitment to remain fully engaged in – and, indeed, to significantly ramp up – the global fight against public corruption.

During his May 31, 2010, address to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, for example, Attorney General Eric Holder publicly announced the U.S. Government’s continued support for the Anti-Bribery Convention: “As Attorney General, I have made combating [global] corruption one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice.” Holder additionally announced the Government’s intent to strengthen global anti-bribery efforts through enhanced transnational collaboration and the sharing of “best practices.” Not coincidentally, in the month following the Attorney General’s speech, the U.S. House passed the Dodd-Frank Act’s conference report of the bill.

Whether through high-minded moral leadership, innovative new initiatives, or more pedestrian, self-interested incentives connected with financial-based trade, aid, and protection, the U.S. has a way of ensuring that its message is heard – heard loud and clear, actually – and acted on. And there is no need to even walk down the increasingly lonely road of American exceptionalism to make this point. Realpolitik will suffice.

Few would dispute that, despite some recent setbacks, the U.S. Government continues on as the dominant force in world affairs. When the U.S. takes action, foreign governments and global businesses take notice.

Well-publicized, enormous fines/disgorgements of corporate wrongdoers collected not only in the U.S., but increasingly also abroad, only further raise awareness, underscoring that the “old way” of doing business is coming to an abrupt end. Even on the enforcement side, good news for corporate criminals is hard to come by.

The proliferation of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) between the U.S. and other countries, moreover, make extradition and public trial a reality. As USDOJ Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer put it during a May 2010 speech: “We are actively working with our foreign counterparts in various areas to ensure that country borders won’t limit our ability to fight fraud . . . . As recently as February, new U.S.- E.U. agreements on mutual legal assistance and extradition went into effect. These agreements offer significant new tools that will streamline cross-border investigations and allow for even greater cooperation with our counterparts abroad.”

The world is clearly growing uncomfortably smaller for corporate criminals. Viewed from this perspective, we are currently experiencing a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

Available international numbers in fact lend support for the argument that mounting U.S. diplomatic pressure aimed at increasing global anti-corruption efforts is, to some extent at least, achieving its desired result. Transparency International (TI) recently released its “July Progress Report 2010: Enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials.” TI notes that, between 2009 and 2010, the number of signatory countries actively enforcing the Anti-Bribery Convention increased from four to seven (those countries representing some 30 percent of world exports). Furthermore, since the mid-2000s, the number of moderately enforcing countries doubled from 8 to 16.

Although these statistics demonstrate that most signatory countries still have considerable room for improvement towards living up to their anti-bribery commitments, the recent uptick in enforcement signals that domestic and international pressures have not gone unnoticed. The Dodd-Frank Act’s novel way of incentivizing individuals with knowledge to step forth and blow the whistle is readily-understood, and provides a simple way to increase OECD Anti-Bribery Convention compliance. Considering that the U.S. Government is giving every available signal that these pressures will, if anything, only increase, it is reasonable to expect global anti-corruption initiatives and cooperation to trend in the same direction.

To the extent that the innovative Dodd-Frank whistleblower bounty provisions continue to generate substantive tips, and that foreign whistleblowers are appropriately protected, there is no reason to think that other countries will not imitate the provisions in the same way as other effective U.S.-born legal provisions have found new second homes throughout the world.”

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