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Friday Roundup

Checking in on Wal-Mart, an enforcement action that flew under the radar from beginning to end, a guilty plea in the U.K., and is sex a thing of value?  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.


Various reports this week reported on the expansion of Wal-Mart’s FCPA probe.  As many readers know, this is hardly surprising as most FCPA inquiries result in the “where else” question as indicated in this prior guest post.  Even if the enforcement agencies do not actually ask the “where else” question, a company knows it will eventually be asked and will thus likely conduct a broader review of certain other FCPA high-risk jurisdictions not part of the original inquiry on its own initiative and to demonstrate to the enforcement agencies its committment to compliance and its cooperation.

This June 12th letter from Elijah Cummings (D-MD, Ranking Member, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) and Henry Waxman (D-CA, Ranking Member, House Committee on Energy and Commerce)  to Wal-Mart CEO Michael Dukes references that Wal-Mart’s review has expanded beyond Mexico to also include Brazil, China, South Africa and India.  Indeed, the letter references that Wal-Mart is “conducting a worldwide assessment of the company’s anti-corruption policies” something Wal-Mart indicated it was already doing.  In short, Wal-Mart’s FCPA inquiry is following a typical path.

In the letter, Cummings and Waxman again express disappointment as to Wal-Mart’s cooperation in their own Congressional probe.  For more on Cummings and Waxman’s interest in Wal-Mart, see this prior post (and links therein).

Meanwhile on the civil litigation front, a 12th lawsuit has been filed in the wake of April’s New York Times story.  As noted in this release from the New York City Comptroller, New York City Pension Funds filed a shareholder derivative action in the Delaware Chancery Court alleging “that  Wal-Mart’s officers and directors breached their fiduciary duty to the company  and its shareholders by failing to properly handle credible claims of the  bribery allegations and attempting to cover up details of the  scandal.”

Under the Radar

This post from March 2011 highlighted how criminal charges against Manual Salvoch flew under the radar in that the DOJ did not issue a press release announcing the charges and the enforcement action appeared to escape coverage elsewhere.  Salvoch is the former CFO of LatiNode and was charged in connection with payments to Hondutel (see here – according to the charging documents a state-owned telecommunications company in Honduras responsible for providing telecommunications services in Honduras). The Hondutel payments also resulted in criminal charges against Jorge Granados (the founder and former CEO and Chairman of the Board of LatiNode), Manuel Caceres (a former Vice President of Business Development) and Juan Vasquez (a former senior commercial executive).

This prior post highlights the sentences of Granados, Caceres and Vasquez.

Last week, Salvoch was sentenced by Judge Paul Huck (S.D. of Florida) t0 10 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release.  Just like the beginning, the end of the Salvoch enforcement action also flew under the radar.

The final sentencing scorecard in the LatiNode individual prosecutions is thus as follows.

Granados – 46 months

Caceres – 23 months

Vasequez – 3 years probation

Salvoch – 10 months.

U.K. Plea

Previous posts (here and here) discussed charges on both sides of the Atlantic against Paul Jennings, the former CEO of Innospec.  Earlier this week, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced (here) that Jennings pleaded guilty to the following charges:  “Two allegations of conspiracy to corrupt in that he gave or agreed to give corrupt payments to public officials and other agents of the Government of Indonesia (between 14 February 2002 and 31 December 2008) and Iraq (between 1 January 2003 and 31 January 2008) as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from that Government for the supply of its products including Tetraethyl Lead by Innospec.”

As noted in this previous post, in March 2010, Innospec resolved enforcement actions on both sides of the Atlantic based on the same core set of facts.

Thing of Value?

At its core, the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions require “anything of value” to a “foreign official” to “obtain or retain business.”

This recent Reuters story concerning an employee of Oracle’s business unit in Singapore has a “foreign official” (the former head of the city-state’s anti-narcotics agency) and the article describes that the thing of value was provided to the “foreign official” as “an inducement to help further the firm’s business interest.”

The thing of value?


Can sex be a thing of value under the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions?  I guess it depends, it’s a factual issue.

On that note, a good weekend to all.

The Latest Disclosures

A Friday focus on disclosures.  The SEC asks Oracle – what about that FCPA issue, the SEC takes an interest in Libya, and yet another voluntary disclosure.


As noted in this previous post, in September 2011 Joe Palazzolo and Samuel Rubenfeld broke the story in the Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Probes Oracle Dealings,” that “U.S. authorities are investigating whether Oracle Corp., one of the world’s largest software  companies by sales, violated federal antibribery laws in its dealings abroad  …”.  According to the report, “agents in the FBI’s Washington field office and  fraud prosecutors in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are handling a criminal investigation, which has been underway for at least a year.”   Palazzolo and Rubenfeld also report that the SEC is also investigating for possible civil violations.  According to the report, “the agencies are examining whether Oracle employees or agents acting on the company’s behalf made improper payments in Africa in order to land sales of database and applications software.”

Since then, Oracle’s SEC filings have been silent as to any FCPA inquiry.  The SEC wants to know why as demonstrated by this February Q&A between the SEC Division of Corporation Finance and Oracle filed by the company.

SEC: “We also note various news articles indicating that the company has been subject to investigations regarding possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations for more than a year. Please tell us how you considered the guidance in paragraphs 50-3 through 50-5 of ASC 450-20-50 in evaluating the need to disclose these pending matters.”

Oracle Response:  “We make a quarterly assessment of legal matters, including the matters referenced in the Staff’s inquiry above, to determine how those matters should be treated in the context of the accounting and disclosure requirements of paragraphs 50-3 through 50-5 of ASC 450-20-50. For those matters referenced above, we evaluated whether it was reasonably possible that a loss or a loss exceeding amounts already recognized may be incurred. We determined that the estimated ranges of additional losses for those matters referenced above, if any, either individually or in the aggregate, would not have a material effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows. Consequently, we believe our disclosures comply with the aforementioned guidance.”

ASC 450-20-50 you ask?  ASC 450 is the former FASB 5 standard regarding gain and loss contingencies (i.e. when a company should record, disclose or not disclose certain contingencies).


Two foreign oil companies with ADRs traded on U.S. exchanges recently disclosed SEC scrutiny concerning conduct in Libya.

In this recent SEC filing, French oil company Total S.A. stated as follows.

“In June 2011, the SEC issued to certain oil companies – including, among others, TOTAL – a formal request for information related to their operations in Libya.  TOTAL is cooperating with this non-public investigation.”

See here for a recent prior post concerning Total’s FCPA scrutiny in Iran.

In this recent SEC filing, Italian oil company Eni SpA stated as follows.

“On June 10, 2011 Eni received by the US SEC a formal judicial request of collection and presentation of documents (subpoena) related to Eni’ s activity in Libya from 2008 to 2011. The subpoena is related to an ongoing investigation without further clarifications nor specific alleged violations in connection to “certain illicit payments to Libyan officials” possibly violating the US Foreign Corruption Practice Act. At the end of December 2011, Eni received a request for the collection of further documentation aiming at integrating the subpoena previously received. Eni is fully collaborating with the US SEC.”

For more on the recent Libya disclosures, see here from Samuel Rubenfeld at Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents.

As highlighted in this prior post, in July 2010, Eni was a party in the DOJ/SEC’s Bonny Island Nigeria focused FCPA enforcement action which resulted in $365 million in combined fines and penalties.

Another Voluntary Disclosure

SL Industries (here – a New Jersey based designer, manufacturer and marketer of power electronics, motion control, power protection, and other related products) recently disclosed (here) as follows.

“The Company is conducting an investigation to determine whether certain employees of SL Xianghe Power Electronics Corporation, SL Shanghai Power Electronics Corporation and SL Shanghai International Trading Corporation, three of the Company’s indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries incorporated and operating exclusively in China, may have improperly provided gifts and entertainment to government officials. Based upon the initial investigation, which is ongoing, the preliminary estimate of the amounts of such gifts and entertainment does not appear to be material to the Company’s financial statements. There can be no assurance, however, that after further inquiry the actual amounts will not be in excess of what is currently estimated. Such estimate does not take into account the costs to the Company of the investigation or any other additional costs.  The Company’s investigation includes determining whether there were any violations of laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Consequently, on March 29, 2012, the Company’s outside counsel contacted the DOJ and the SEC voluntarily to disclose that the Company was conducting an internal investigation, and agreed to cooperate fully and update the DOJ and SEC periodically on further developments. The Company has retained outside counsel and forensic accountants to assist in its investigation of this matter. Because the investigation is ongoing, the Company cannot predict at this time whether any regulatory action may be taken or any other adverse consequences may result from this matter.”

According to my tally, the new disclosures discussed above means that in the last six weeks, seven companies have newly disclosed FCPA scrutiny.   See here for the prior post “The Sun Rose, a Dog Barked, and a Company Disclosed FCPA Scrutiny.”  If SEC filings are your ideal form of pleasure reading, you can hardly wait to see what next week holds.

A good weekend to all.

Oracle – Another World’s Most Ethical FCPA Violator?

It surprises most people to learn that a company with pre-existing FCPA compliance policies and procedures – and a company otherwise making good faith efforts to comply with the FCPA –  can still face legal liability when a non-executive employee or agent nevertheless acts contrary to the company’s pre-existing FCPA compliance and procedures.  

And rightfully so.  Yet because of respondeat superior principles, the company is exposed to FCPA liability.   Such pre-existing policies and procedures are relevant to charging decisions under the Principles of Prosecution as well as to the ultimate fine amount under the Sentencing Guidelines, but not relevant to liability as a matter of law.

It is even possible for a company to earn designation as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies”  yet still, during the same general time period, resolve an FCPA enforcement action.  Ethisphere’s “World’s Most Ethical Companies” designation (see here) “recognizes companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate those words into action.”  As stated by Ethisphere, the designation is “awarded to those companies that have leading ethics and compliance programs, particularly as compared to their industry peers.”  A company only earns the designation after a “methodology committee of leading attorneys, professors, government officials and organization leaders” assist Ethisphere in creating the scoring methodology and after Ethisphere conducts an “in-depth analysis” of the company.  Companies that have earned “World’s Most Ethical Company” designation during the same general time period as also resolving FCPA enforcement actions or being under FCPA scrutiny include the following:  General Electric, Statoil, Deere & Company, Hewlett-Packard, Rockwell Automation, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Sempra Energy.

Add Oracle Corporation, a recipient of  “World’s Most Ethical Company” designation more than once, to the list.

Yesterday, Joe Palazzolo and Samuel Rubenfeld broke the story in the Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Probes Oracle Dealings,” that “U.S. authorities are investigating whether Oracle Corp., one of the world’s largest software companies by sales, violated federal antibribery laws in its dealings abroad …”.  According to the report, “agents in the FBI’s Washington field office and fraud prosecutors in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are handling a criminal investigation, which has been underway for at least a year.”  Palazzolo and Rubenfeld also report that the SEC is also investigating for possible civil violations.  According to the report, “the agencies are examining whether Oracle employees or agents acting on the company’s behalf made improper payments in Africa in order to land sales of database and applications software.”

Time will tell whether the Oracle investigation will lead to an FCPA enforcement action and, if so, the nature and extent of the improper conduct.  If the investigation follows a pattern often seen in FCPA enforcement actions, the improper conduct will have been engaged in by non-executive employees or agents who acted contrary to the company’s FCPA policies and procedures and the company’s otherwise good faith efforts to comply with the FCPA.

While I have no unique insight or knowledge of Oracle’s FCPA compliance policies and procedures, one has got to assume it has been doing the right things to earn, on  more than one occasion, Ethisphere’s highest honor.  Oracle’s “Code of Ethics and Business Conduct” (here) contains a separate section on the FCPA in a Q&A format.  Granted words on paper do not establish much, but the Code also refers to Oracle’s “Anti-Corruption Policy” located on the company’s non-public Compliance and Ethics Program Web Site and indeed what a company’s public website contains as to FCPA compliance is usually just the tip of the iceberg.  Furthermore,  among other things, Oracle has an “Anti-Corruption Training Course” (here) for its partners available in ten languages.

If an FCPA enforcement action against Oracle is indeed forthcoming, such an enforcement action, like previous ones involving other “World’s Most Ethical Companies” highlight the need for an FCPA compliance defense.  As I have highlighted on previous occasions, in the mid-1980’s numerous FCPA reform bills included a specific defense under which a company would not be held liable for a violation of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions by its employees or agents, who were not an officer or director, if the company established procedures reasonably designed to prevent and detect FCPA violations by employees and agents.  Such a compliance defense passed the U.S. House, but was never made part of the FCPA’s 1988 amendments.  However, it is likely that an FCPA reform bill will soon be introduced and that it will contain a similar compliance defense.  As I highlighted in this previous post, many of the 38 signatory countries to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention have compliance-like defenses in their domestic “FCPA-like” legislation.

Nevertheless, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has, in the past, flatly rejected the need for a compliance defense.  Speaking last March at the Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium, he said,  “we can’t engage in some sort of formalistic solution from a script that says if you check the following six boxes you’re guaranteed this outcome.” 

More recently, during the June House FCPA Hearing, Greg Andres, testifying on behalf of the DOJ, stated that a potential FCPA compliance defense was “novel and risky” and that the “time is not right to consider it.” 

With another “World’s Most Ethical Company” facing FCPA exposure, the time is right to consider amending the FCPA to include a compliance defense.

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