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Friday Leftovers

Roundup2

Scrutiny update, a double standard, ripples, that’s interesting, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in a leftovers edition of the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Update

One of the longest-lasting instances of FCPA scrutiny concerns PBSJ Corporation (a global engineering and architectural firm) that first disclosed FCPA scrutiny in December 2009.  PBSJ was subsequently acquired by WS Atkins (a U.K. company) and WS Atkins disclosed in a recently regulatory filing as follows.

“There are ongoing discussions regarding the longstanding and previously reported Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission enquiries relating to potential Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations by the PBSJ Corporation prior to its acquisition by the Group. We anticipate resolution of this matter before the end of the current financial year.”

Double Standard?

Several FCPA enforcement actions or instances of FCPA scrutiny have been based on providing things of value such as meals, entertainment and consulting fees to foreign physicians.

Against this backdrop, the Wall Street Journal reports:

“As it fights to buy Botox maker Allergan Inc.,  Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. is investing cash and time wooing the doctors it would need on its side after a takeover. A centerpiece of the effort: Valeant said it met with a total of 45 influential cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists in September at events in Aspen, Colo., and Palm Beach, Fla. Valeant paid for the physicians’ airfares, two-night stays at luxury hotels and meals. The company also agreed to provide consulting fees that could amount to as much as $30,000, according to doctors who attended the meetings. Valeant, a smaller player than Allergan in cosmetic medicine, must win over doctors if it wrests control of the Botox maker, since it will rely on the physicians for business. Valeant said the pursuit seems to be paying off. Several doctors who attended the sessions, of what Valeant called its special advisory committee, said they were won over by the company’s plans for Allergan—including attracting patients to physicians’ offices and introducing new products.”

Ripples

My recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples” highlights that settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement in this new era.

One such ripple is offensive use of the FCPA to further advance a litigating position and that is just what Instituto Mexicano Del Seguro Social (“IMSS”) has done in this recent civil complaint against Orthofix International.

You may recall that in July 2012 Orthofix resolved a $7.4 million FCPA enforcement action based on allegations that its Mexican subsidiary paid bribes totaling approximately $317,000 to Mexican officials in order to obtain and retain sales contracts from IMSS. (See here for the prior post).

In the recent civil complaint, IMSS uses the core conduct at issue in the FCPA enforcement action and alleges various RICO claims, fraud claims, and other claims under Mexican law.

That’s Interesting

As has been widely reported (see here for instance), “President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission … to declare broadband Internet service a public utility, saying that it was essential to the economy …”.

That’s interesting because – as informed readers know – in the 11th Circuit’s “foreign official” decision the court concluded that an otherwise commercial enterprise can be a “instrumentality” of a government if the “entity controlled by the government … performs a function the controlling government treats as its own.”  Among the factors the court articulated for whether an entity performs a “function the controlling government treats as its own” was “whether the public and the government of that foreign country generally perceive the entity to be performing a governmental function.”

Reading Stack

Several law firm client alerts regarding the DOJ’s recent FCPA Opinion Procedure release concerning successor liability (see herehere, here).  In this alert, former DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Charles Duross leads with the headline “Is DOJ Evolving Away from the Halliburton Opinion Standard?” (a reference to this 2008 Opinion Procedure release).

From Foley & Larder and MZM Legal (India) – “Anti-Bribery and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Guide for U.S. Companies Doing Business in India.”

Recent interviews (here and here) with Richard Bistrong, a real-world FCPA violator and undercover cooperator.  See here for my previous Q&A with Bistrong.  As noted here, Bistrong recently spoke to my FCPA class at Southern Illinois University School of Law. Having the ability to hear from an individual who violated the law my students were studying, and being able to hear first-hand of real-world business conditions, was of tremendous value to the students and added an important dimension to the class.

Should the government reconsider its use of deferred prosecution agreements?  That is the question posed in this New York Times roundtable (in the context of recent bank prosecutions).

Finally for your viewing pleasure, an FCPA-related interview here of SciClone’s CEO (a company that has been under FCPA scrutiny since approximately August, 2010).

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Further trimmed, scrutiny alerts and updates, facts and figures, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Further Trimmed

When the SEC announced its enforcement action against James Ruehlen and Mark Jackson  (a current and former executive of Noble Corp.) in February 2012, I said that this would be an interesting case to follow because the SEC is rarely put to its burden of proof in FCPA enforcement actions – and when it has been put to its ultimate burden of proof – the SEC has never prevailed in an FCPA enforcement action.

Over the past two years, the SEC’s case has been repeatedly trimmed.  (See this recent post containing a summary).  In the latest cut, the SEC filed an unopposed motion for partial voluntary dismissal with prejudice on March 25th.  In pertinent part, the motion states as follows.

“To narrow this case and streamline the presentation of evidence to the jury, the SEC hereby moves for leave to voluntarily dismiss with prejudice all portions of its claims … predicated upon Noble Corporation’s violation of [the FCPA’s internal controls provisions”.

For additional specifics, see the filing.

As highlighted in this previous post, in 2010 the SEC charged Noble Corporation with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls provisions based on the same core conduct alleged in the Jackson/Ruehlen action. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Noble agreed to agreed to an injunction and payment of disgorgement and prejudgment interest of $5,576,998.

In short, the SEC’s enforcement action against Ruehlen and Jackson is a shell of its former self.   Interesting, isn’t it, what happens when the government is put to its burden of proof in FCPA enforcement actions.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Alstom

Bloomberg reports speculation that a future FCPA enforcement action against Alstom could top the charts in terms of overall fine and penalty amounts.  (See here for the current Top 10).

The article states:

“The Justice Department is building a bribery case against Alstom SA , the French maker of trains and power equipment, that is likely to result in one of the largest U.S. anticorruption enforcement actions, according to two people with knowledge of the probe. Alstom, which has a history checkered with corruption allegations, has hindered the U.S. investigation of possible bribery in Indonesia and now faces an expanded probe including power projects in China and India, according to court documents in a related case. Settlement talks haven’t begun, the company said.”

In response to the Bloomberg article, Alston released this statement.

“Robert Luskin of Patton Boggs, Alstom’s principal outside legal advisor in the USA, states that the Bloomberg article published on 27 March 2014, regarding the investigation of Alstom by the US Department of Justice, does not accurately reflect the current situation: “Alstom is cooperating closely, actively, and in good faith with the DOJ investigation. In the course of our regular consultations, the DOJ has not identified any on-going shortcomings with the scope, level, or sincerity of the company’s effort”.

“The discussions with the DOJ have not evolved to the point of negotiating a potential resolution of any claims. Any effort to estimate the size of any possible fine is sheer speculation, as would be any comparison with other cases that have recently been resolved. Alstom has agreed to focus its efforts on investigating a limited number of projects that we and the DOJ have identified in our discussions. We are working diligently with the DOJ to answer questions and produce documents associated with these specific projects so that we can address any possible improper conduct”.

VimpelCom

Netherlands-based and NASDAQ traded telecommunications company VimpelCom recently disclosed:

“[T]hat in addition to the previously disclosed investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Dutch public prosecutor office, the Company has been notified that it is also the focus of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice. This investigation also appears to be concerned with the Company’s operations in Uzbekistan. The Company intends to continue to fully cooperate with these investigations.”

On March 12, 2014, VimpelCom disclosed:

“The Company received from the staff of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission a letter stating that they are conducting an investigation related to VimpelCom and requesting documents. Also, on March 11, 2014, the Company’s headquarter in Amsterdam was visited by representatives of the Dutch authorities, including the Dutch public prosecutor office, who obtained documents and informed the Company that it was the focus of a criminal investigation in the Netherlands. The investigations appear to be concerned with the Company’s operations in Uzbekistan. The Company intends to fully cooperate with these investigations.”

Orthofix International

As noted in this Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance post, Orthofix International recently disclosed:

“We are investigating allegations involving potential improper payments with respect to our subsidiary in Brazil.

In August 2013, the Company’s internal legal department was notified of certain allegations involving potential improper payments with respect to our Brazilian subsidiary, Orthofix do Brasil. The Company engaged outside counsel to assist in the review of these matters, focusing on compliance with applicable anti-bribery laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”). This review remains ongoing.”

As noted in this previous post, in July 2012 Orthofix International resolved a DOJ/SEC FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct by a Mexican subsidiary.  In resolving that action, the company agreed to a three year deferred prosecution agreement.  As is typical in FCPA DPAs, in the Orthofix DPA the DOJ agreed not continue the criminal prosecution of Orthofix for the Mexican conduct so long as the company complied with all of its obligations under the DPA, including not committing any felony under U.S. federal law subsequent to the signing of the agreement.

See this prior post for a similar situation involving Willbros Group (i.e. while the company while under a DPA it was investigating potential additional improper conduct).  As noted here, Willbros was released from its DPA in April 2012, the original criminal charges were dismissed and no additional action was taken.

Besso Limited

Across the pond, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) recently issued this final notice to Besso Limited imposing a financial penalty of £315,000 for failing “to take reasonable care to establish and maintain effective systems and controls for countering the risks of bribery and corruption associated with making payments to parties who entered into commission sharing agreements with Besso or assisted Besso in winning and retaining business (“Third Parties”).”

Specifically, the FCA stated:

“The failings at Besso continued throughout the Relevant Period [2005-2011] and contributed to a weak control environment surrounding the making of payments to Third Parties. This gave rise to an unacceptable risk that payments made by Besso to Third Parties could be used for corrupt purposes, including paying bribes to persons connected with the insured or public officials. In particular Besso:  (1) had limited bribery and corruption policies and procedures in place between January 2005 and October 2009. It introduced written bribery and corruption policies and procedures in November 2009, but these were not adequate in their content or implementation; (2) failed to conduct an adequate risk assessment of Third Parties before entering into business relationships; (3) did not carry out adequate due diligence on Third Parties to evaluate the risks involved in doing business with them; (4) failed to establish and record an adequate commercial rationale to support payments to Third Parties; (5) failed to review its relationships with Third Parties, in sufficient detail and on a regular basis, to confirm that it was still appropriate to continue with the business relationship; (6) did not adequately monitor its staff to ensure that each time it engaged a Third Party an adequate commercial rationale had been recorded and that sufficient due diligence had been carried out; and (7) failed to maintain adequate records of the anti-bribery and corruption measures taken on its Third Party account files.”

The FCA has previously brought similar enforcement actions against Aon Limited (see here), Willis Limited (see here), and JLT Speciality Limited (see here).    For more on the U.K. FCA and its focus on adequate procedures to prevent bribery , see this guest post.

Facts and Figures

Trace International recently released its Global Enforcement Report (GER) 2013 – see here to download.  Given my own focus on FCPA enforcement statistics and the various counting methods used by others (see here for a recent post), I particularly like the Introduction of the GER in which Trace articulates a similar “core” approach that I use in keeping my enforcement statistics.  The GER states:

“[W]hen a company and its employees or representatives face multiple investigations or cases in one country involving substantially the same conduct, only one enforcement action is counted in the GER 2013.  An enforcement action in a country with multiple investigating authorities, such as the U.S., is also counted as one enforcement action in the GER 2013.”

The Conference Board recently released summary statistics regarding anti-bribery policies.  It found as follows.

39% of companies in the S&P Global 1200; 23% of companies in the S&P 500; and 14% of companies in the Russell 1000 reported having a policy specifically against bribery.

Given the results of other prior surveys which reported materially higher numbers, these results are very surprising.

Quotable

This recent Wall Street Journal article “Global Bribery Crackdown Gains Steam” notes as follows.

“Cash-strapped countries are seeing the financial appeal of passing antibribery laws because of the large settlements collected by the U.S., according to Nathaniel Edmonds, a former assistant chief at the U.S. Department of Justice’s FCPA division.  “Countries as a whole are recognizing that being on the anticorruption train is a very good train to be on,” said Mr. Edmonds, a partner at Paul Hastings law firm.”

The train analogy is similar to the horse comment former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorney William Jacobson made in 2010 in an American Lawyer article that “[t]he government sees a profitable program, and it’s going to ride that horse until it can’t ride it anymore.”  For additional comments related to the general topic, see this prior post.

Reading Stack

This recent Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance Journal post contains a Q&A with former DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Chuck Duross.  Contrary to the inference / suggestion in the post, Duross did not bring “tougher tactics” such as wires and sting operations to the FCPA Unit.  As detailed in prior posts here and here, undercover tactics and even sting operations had been used in FCPA enforcement actions prior to the Africa Sting case.

Speaking of the Africa Sting case, the Q&A mentions reasons for why the Africa Sting case was dropped.  Not mentioned, and perhaps relevant, is that the jury foreman of the second Africa Sting trial published this guest post on FCPA Professor after the DOJ failed in the second trial.  Two weeks later, the DOJ dismissed all charges against all Africa Sting defendants.

Further relevant to the Africa Sting case, the Wall Street Journal recently ran this article highlighting the role of Richard Bistrong, the “undercover cooperator” in the case.  Bistrong has recently launched an FCPA Blog – see here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

The sting may be over but it effects are not, Orthofix information unsealed, checking in on Wal-Mart, a pipeline report, a safe assumption, and the alternative reality.   It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Stung By The Sting

The manufactured Africa Sting case may be over, but it effects are still being felt.

Allied Defense Group (“ADG”) employed Mark Frederick Morales, one of the individuals charged in the case.  The company stated in its recent quarterly filing (here) as follows.

“In February and March, 2012, the DOJ dismissed charges against all individuals indicted in the FCPA sting operation, including the former employee of MECAR USA. Since this time, the Company’s FCPA counsel has had several discussions with the DOJ and SEC regarding the agencies’ respective inquiries. Based upon these discussions, it appears likely that resolution of these inquiries will involve a payment by the Company to at least one of these government agencies in connection with at least one transaction involving the former employee of Mecar USA. At this point, the amount of this payment is undeterminable.”

As noted in this previous post, in January 2010, ADG agreed to be acquired by Chemring Group PLC.

Another publicly traded company that employed an Africa Sting defendant, Amaro Goncalves, is Smith & Wesson.  The company disclosed in its most recent quarterly filing (here) as follows.

“On February 21, 2012, the DOJ filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice the indictments of the remaining defendants who are pending trial, including our former Vice President-Sales, International & U.S. Law Enforcement. On February 24, 2012, the district court granted the motion to dismiss. We cannot predict, however, when the investigation will be completed or its final outcome. There could be additional indictments of our company, our officers, or our employees. If the DOJ determines that we violated FCPA laws, we may face sanctions, including significant civil and criminal penalties. In addition, we could be prevented from bidding on domestic military and government contracts and could risk debarment by the U.S. Department of State. We also face increased legal expenses and could see an increase in the cost of doing international business. We could also see private civil litigation arising as a result of the outcome of the investigation. In addition, responding to the investigation may divert the time and attention of our management from normal business operations. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the publicity surrounding the investigation and the potential risks associated with the investigation could negatively impact the perception of our company by investors, customers, and others.”

Even though the individual Africa Sting cases are over, the case provided a point of entry into several companies and an entire industry and its effects are still being felt as demonstrated by the above disclosures.

Orthofix

This previous post discussed the July enforcement action against Orthofix International.  As noted in the post, the specifics of the DOJ’s allegations were not known as the information against Orthofix was filed under seal.  The information (here) was recently unsealed.  In summary fashion, the DOJ alleged as follows under the heading “corrupt conduct.”  “From [2003 through March 2010], with the knowledge of Orthofix Executive A [a citizen of Peru and legal permanent resident in the U.S. who was a senior manager of Orthofix Inc. (an indirectly wholly owned subsidiary) and responsible for sales operations in Latin America], Promeca [an entity incorporated and headquartered in Mexico and an indirectly wholly owned subsidiary of Orthofix International] and its employees paid approximately $300,000 to Mexican officials, in return for agreements with IMSS and its hospitals to purchase millions of dollars in Orthofix International products.”

IMSS is a social service agency of the Mexican government that provided public services to Mexican workers and their families and the Mexican Officials identified in the information are as follows.

Mexican Official 1 – a deputy administrator of Magdelena de las Salinas (a hospital in Mexico City that IMSS owned and controlled)

Mexican Official 2 – the purchasing director of Magdelena de las Salinas

Mexican Official 3  – the purchasing director of Lomas Verdes (a hospital in the State of Mexico that IMSS owned and controlled)

Mexican Official 4 – a sub-director of IMSS

According to the information, “Executive A knew of the payments and things of value [provided to the Mexican Officials] but failed to stop the scheme or report the scheme to Orthofix Interntional or Orthofix’s Inc.’s compliance department.”

Under the heading “Internal Controls” the information alleges, among other things, as follows.  “Orthofix International,which grew its direct distribution footprint in part by purchasing existing companies, often in high-risk markets, failed to engage in any serious form of corruption-related diligence before it purchased Promeca.  Although Orthofix International promulgated its own anti-corruption policy, that policy was neither translated into Spanish nor implemented at Promeca.  Orthofix International failed to provide any FCPA-related traning to many of its personnel, including Executive A.  Orthofix also failed to train Promeca personnel for years on the FCPA, to test regularly or audit particular transactions, or to ensure that subsidiary maintained controls sufficient to detect, deter or prevent illicit payments to government officials.”

The information charges one count of violating the FCPA’s internal control provisions.

Checking In On Wal-Mart

During the media feeding frenzy after the New York Times Wal-Mart article (see here for the prior post), I had the pleasure to appear on Eliot Spitzer’s Viewpoint program on Current TV.  At the end of the segment, after the substantive issues were discussed, Spitzer offered that he has several contacts in the FCPA bar and that, regardless of the substantive issues involved in Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny or the ultimate outcome, lots of lawyers were poised to make lots of money.

Spitzer of course was right.

During its second quarter earnings call (see here for the transcript) Wal-Mart executives stated as follows.   “Within core corporate, we incurred approximately $34 million in expenses related to third-party advisors reviewing matters involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and we expect these expenses to continue through the rest of the year.”  Later in the call, the following was said.  “We also expect to incur approximately $35 to $40 million in expenses for the review of matters relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act during each of the remaining quarters for this fiscal year.”

In other news, on the civil litigation front, as noted in this Reuters article “an Indiana union pension fund that owns shares in Wal-Mart Stores Inc has sued the company to gain access to thousands of internal documents related to allegations that a Wal-Mart subsidiary bribed Mexican government officials.”  According to the report, the lawsuit, filed in Delaware’s Chancery Court, alleges the “company had made a ‘woefully deficient’ production of documents following an earlier out-of-court demand and that hat documents were produced were ‘so heavily redacted,’ or blacked out, they were nearly worthless.”

Turning to Capital Hill, several prior posts have chronicled efforts by Representative Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman to conduct a shadow investigation of Wal-Mart in the aftermath of the New York Times article (see here for the previous post).  As indicated in this recent press release and this recent letter the lawmakers are growing impatient.  In pertinent part, the letter to Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke stated as follows.

“We are writing to give you a final opportunity to respond to our requests for information about allegations that your company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Although you have stated on multiple occasions that you intend to cooperate with our investigation, you have failed to provide the documents we requested, and you continue to deny us access to key witnesses. Your actions are preventing us from assessing the thoroughness of your internal investigation and from identifying potential remedial actions.

During the course of our investigation, we have learned that Wal-Mart’s concerns about potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are not limited to operations in Mexico, but are global in nature. Your outside counsel informed us that, before allegations of bribery in Mexico became public, Wal-Mart retained attorneys to conduct a broad review of the company’s anti-corruption policies. This review identified five “first tier” countries “where risk was the greatest.” Wal-Mart then conducted a worldwide assessment of the company’s anti-corruption policies, culminating in a series of recommendations and policy changes based on those findings.

In addition, we have obtained internal company documents, including internal audit reports, from other sources suggesting that Wal-Mart may have had compliance issues relating not only to bribery, but also to “questionable financial behavior” including tax evasion and money laundering in Mexico.”

Pipeline Report

Add NCR Corporation and Expro International to the list of companies under FCPA scrutiny.

NCR

Global technology company NCR Corp. recently disclosed here as follows.

“NCR has received anonymous allegations from a purported whistleblower regarding certain aspects of the Company’s business practices in China, the Middle East and Africa, including allegations which, if true, might constitute violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  NCR has certain concerns about the motivation of the purported whistleblower and the accuracy of the allegations it received, some of which appear to be untrue.  NCR takes all allegations of this sort seriously and promptly retained experienced outside counsel and began an internal investigation that is ongoing. NCR does not comment on ongoing internal investigations.  Certain of the allegations relate to NCR’s business in Syria. NCR has ceased operations in Syria, which were commercially insignificant, notified the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of potential apparent violations and is taking other measures consistent with OFAC guidelines.”
Based on the disclosure, an analyst downgraded NCR stock (see here) causing shares to drop approximately 10%.
Expro
As reported in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, Expro International (an oil field management company owned by a Goldman Sachs-backed private equity consortium) “is re-investigating claims that its employees paid bribes in Kazakhstan.”  The report states as follows.  “Expro International and the consortium, Umbrellastream, received allegations from an anonymous tipster in May that two of Expro’s former operations coordinators in Western Kazakhstan oversaw and approved bribes to customs officials there from 2006 until summer 2009, according to an email reviewed by Corruption Currents. The alleged bribes were paid to clear Expro’s equipment through customs to avoid costly delays, the tipster said.  The allegations have sparked an internal investigation by Expro’s lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP into the claims, according to another email. But it appears the investigation is not the first time Expro has scrutinized its operations in Kazakhstan.”
Add a few, but take one off.
As noted in this recent Friday roundup, Academi, Inc., formerly known as Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater recently resolved a non-FCPA case and the DPA specifically stated that the agreement “does not apply to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation independently under investigation by the DOJ.”  As noted in this previous post, Blackwater has been under investigation for FCPA violations in Iraq and as noted in this previous post, its FCPA scrutiny in Iraq inspired Representative Peter Welch to introduce H.R. 5366, the “Overseas Contractor Reform Act,” an impotent debarment bill that passed the House in September 2010 (see here).
However, as on-line news agency Main Justice reports here, reference to the FCPA investigation in the recent DPA appears to have been a drafting error.  Citing a July 19th letter to the company, Main Justice reports that the DOJ has closed its “foreign bribery inquiry” of the company.  Main Justice cites the following portion of the declination letter.  “[The DOJ has closed its inquiry] based on a number of factors, including but not limited to, the investigation undertaken by Academi and the steps taken by the company to enhance its anti-corruption compliance program.”
A Safe Assumption

This previous post regarding the recent Pfizer enforcement action raised the following question(s).

Does anyone truly believe that the only reason Chinese doctors prescribed Pfizer products was because under the “point programs” the physician would receive a tea set?  Does anyone truly believe that the only reason Czech doctors prescribed Pfizer products was because the company sponsored educational weekend took place at an Austrian ski resort?  Does anyone truly believe that the only reason Pakistani doctors offered Wyeth nutritional products to new mothers was because the company provided office equipment to the physicians?

The questions were asked in the context of disgorgement remedies, but can also be asked in the context of product safety.  One can safely assume that if the enforcement agencies had any evidence to suggest that the products at issue jeopardized public safety, the enforcement agencies would have alleged such facts, as they occasionally do in FCPA enforcement actions (see Innospec for instance).

The absence of such allegations make this recent article by Online Pharmacy Safety foolishly speculative.  The article states as follows.

“[The conduct at issue in the enforcement action] puts the safety of consumers at risk.   If large companies are able to bribe their way to getting more business, and anticipate government officials to turn a blind eye, the wrong products could be getting into the hands of consumers worldwide.  The Pfizer products approved by foreign governments and prescribed by doctors may not have been the best product available, which could endanger consumers. Doctors put selfishness at the expense of patients, and the company was putting profits ahead of its public safety.”

Alternative Reality

Harvey Silverglate (author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent) hit the ball out of the park with this recent Wall Street Jouranl op-ed.  Referring to the recent Gibson Guitar Lacey Act enforcement action and how the resolution documents muzzle the company (as is typical in FCPA NPAs and DPAs), Silverglate wrote as follows.

“Through these and myriad other techniques, federal investigator and prosecutors create an alternative reality that favors their own institutional interests, regardless of the truth or of justce.  All citizens and companies become subject to the Justice Department’s essentially unfettered power.  Remedying this problem cannot be left to the victims of this governmental extortion, because their risks are too high if they fight; nor will their lawyers likely blow the whistle, since the bar makes a tidy living by playing the game.  It is up to the rest of civil society to let the Justice Department emperor know that we see he is not wearing clothes.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Orthofix International Resolves Enforcement Action Based On The Conduct Of Its Mexican Subsidiary

Earlier this week, Orthofix International N.V. (“Orthofix”), a limited liability orthopedic medical device company formed under the law of Netherlands Antilles with administrative offices in Lewisville, Texas and common stock traded on Nasdaq, agreed to resolve DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions.  The conduct at issue focuses on Promeca S.A. de C.V., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Orthofix headquartered in Mexico City.  According to the SEC, “during the relevant time period, Promeca was subject to Orthofix’s control, including the implementation of internal controls at Promeca” and the “financial results of Promeca were a component of the consolidated financial statements included in Orthofix’s filings with the SEC.’

Total fines and penalties in the Orthofix enforcement action were approximately $7.4 million ($2.2 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $5.2 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information against Orthofix resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement.

The specifics of the DOJ’s case against Orthofix are not known at this time as the Eastern District of Texas, where a criminal information has been filed, has a standing order that criminal informations remain sealed until a plea is entered in open court.  Nevertheless, Orthofix did file the deferred prosecution agreement as an exhibit (see here) to its recent SEC filing.  The DPA indicates that the information concerns one count of violating the FCPA’s internal control provisions.

The term of the DPA is three years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors: “(a) following reports of bribery by [Promeca] employees … Orthofix made a timely and voluntary disclosure to the Department and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) about potential misconduct; (b) Orthofix conducted an investigation concerning bribery and related misconduct; (c) Orthofix reported its findings to the Department and the SEC; (d) the extent of the conduct; (e) Orthofix undertook remedial measures, including the implementation of an enhanced compliance program, and agreed to undertake further remedial measures, as may be necessary under [the DPA]; and (f) Orthofix agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of Orthofix’s current and former employees, agents, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, and subsidiaries relating to violations of the FCPA.”

Pursuant to the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $2.22 – $4.44 million.  The DPA states as follows.  “Orthofix and the DOJ agree that this fine is appropriate given the nature and extent of Orthofix’s cooperation in this matter and the remediation undertaken by Orthofix.”  Of note, the guidelines calculation indicate that “an individual within high-level personnel condoned or was willfully ignorant of the offense.”  Although a compliance monitor was not required pursuant to the DPA, Orthofix did agree that it will report to the DOJ annually during the term of the DPA regarding remediation and implementation of the compliance measures required under the DPA.

As is customary in FCPA DPA’s, Orthofix agreed not to make any public statement contradicting its acceptance of responsibility for the conduct at issue in the DPA.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (here) against Orthofix alleges, in summary fashion, as follows.

This matter involves violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA by Orthofix, an orthopedic medical device company. From 2003 to 2010, [Promeca], repeatedly paid bribes totaling approximately $317,000 to Mexican officials in order to obtain and retain sales contracts from Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (“IMSS”) [here], the Mexican government-owned healthcare and social services institution. Promeca employees referred to these payments as ‘chocolates.’  These improper payments, falsely recorded on the company’s books as cash advances to Promeca executives or training and promotions expenses, generated approximately $8.7 million in gross revenues for Orthofix and resulted in illicit net profits of about $4.9 million.”

According to the SEC, Promeca sold Orthofix’s products to government and private hospitals in Mexico and “approximately 60% of Promeca’s revenues came from IMSS, the Mexican government-0wned medical care and social services provider.”

Under the heading “bribery scheme” the complaint alleges as follows.

“From at least 2003 to 2007, … Promeca, regularly paid bribes to IMSS hospital employees in the form of cash and/or gifts, in order to secure sales contracts from IMSS hospitals.  The bribe amounts, referred to internally at Promeca as ‘chocolates,’ ranged from 5% to 10% of the collected sales for the hospital in question.  In order to obtain cash for the illicit payments, Promeca executives wrote checks to themselves, which they justified as cash advances.  They later submitted falsified receipts for imaginary expenses including meals and new car tires, which were accounted for in Promeca’s books and records. As the bribes increased, it became difficult for Promeca executives to invent new receipts to justify the advances. Eventually, the bribes became too large, forcing the Promeca executives to devise another justification methodology, and hence they began falsely accounting for the payments as promotional and training expenses. Because of the bribery scheme, Promeca’s training and promotional expenses were significantly over budget. In one instance, Orthofix launched an inquiry into these expenses, but did not control them.  In 2008, IMSS began purchasing medical products under a new national tender system, where a special IMSS committee, rather than the individual hospitals, selected the winning bidder who would cover IMSS nationally. Promeca then established a new system of bribery to ensure that it was awarded the business under the national tender system. To achieve this, Promeca made payments to three front companies, which were controlled by certain IMSS officials. Promeca won the national tenders for 2008 and 2009 and paid the front companies 5% and 3%, respectively, of the collected sales from those tenders. The front companies concealed these bribes by submitting false invoices, characterizing them as training and other promotional expenses that Promeca never received. Promeca falsely recorded the bribes on its books as payments for training courses, meetings and congresses, and promotional costs.  In addition, between 2003 and 2010, Promeca expended approximately $80,050 on gifts and travel packages, some of which were intended to corruptly influence IMSS employees in order to retain their business. The various gifts included vacation packages, televisions, laptops, appliances, and in one case, the lease of a Volkswagen Jetta. These payments were falsely accounted for in Promeca’s books and records as promotional and training expenses.  In all, the improper payments, totaling about $317,000, generated approximately $8.7 million in gross revenues and resulted in illicit net profits to Orthofix of about $4.9 million.”

Under the heading, “Orthofix’s Remedial Measures to Prevent Corrupt Payments” the complaint states as follows.

“Prior to the discovery of the bribery schemes, Orthofix did not have an effective FCPA compliance policy or FCPA-related training.  Although Orthofix disseminated some code of ethics and anti-bribery training to Promeca, the materials were only in English, and it was unlikely that Promeca employees understood them as most Promeca employees spoke minimal English. [For a recent FCPAmericas post on this issue, see here].  Additionally, even though Promeca’s training and promotional expenses, that included the improper payments, were often over budget, Orthofix did very little to investigate or diminish the excessive spending.  Upon discovery of the bribe payments through a Promeca executive, Orthofix immediately self-reported the matter to the Commission staff, and conducted an internal investigation.  Orthofix also implemented significant remedial measures. Specifically, it terminated the Promeca executives that orchestrated the bribery scheme, wound up Promeca’s operations, enhanced its overall FCPA compliance program with mandatory annual FCPA training for all employees and third-party agents, expanded internal audit functions, and implemented other internal control measures.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC complaint charges violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.  The SEC complaint states as follows.  “Orthofix’s subsidiary characterized their payments to IMSS as cash advances or training and promotional expenses even though those payments were used as bribes. Orthofix’s books and records did not reflect the true nature of those payments.  Orthofix failed to implement adequate internal controls to prevent the bribery or to ensure that transaction were properly recorded. Orthofix failed to implement an FCPA compliance and training program commensurate with the extent of its international operations and particularly its ownership of Promeca, a subsidiary that had substantial sales to government-owned enterprises. Further, even though Orthofix knew that Promeca’s training and promotional expenses were often over budget, it did nothing to act on the red flag.”

As stated in the SEC’s release (here), Orthofix consented to a final judgment ordering it to pay $4,983,644 in disgorgement and more than $242,000 in prejudgment interest.  As noted in the release, the final judgment would permanently enjoin the company from violating the books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA and Orthofix also agreed to certain undertakings, including monitoring its FCPA compliance program and reporting back to the SEC for a two-year period.

In the release, Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated as follows.  “Once bribery has been likened to a box of chocolates, you know a corruptive culture has permeated your business.  Orthofix’s lax oversight allowed its subsidiary to illicitly spend more than $300,000 to sweeten the deals with Mexican officials.”

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the Orthofix enforcement action is that neither the DOJ or SEC charged the company with FCPA anti-bribery violations despite allegations that, given the enforcement agencies’ theories, have typically resulted in such violations.

Peter Spivack (Hogan Lovells – here) represented Orthofix.

Friday Roundup

It has been a few weeks since my last Friday Roundup.

As a result this is a souped-up edition.

Is paying an FCPA fine merely a cost of business, are FCPA internal investigations getting just a bit out-of-hand, have you heard that a new cottage industry of FCPA experts has emerged, quit picking on Canada, will Julian Messent (or others) be prosecuted for FCPA violations, Assistant Attorney General Breuer on the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, Proclamation 7750 news, and a son who wants to keep the New York condo … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Is Paying an FCPA Fine Merely a Cost of Business?

One may wonder, and legitimately so, whether getting caught for violating the FCPA is simply a cost of doing business whereby the company pays a fine and then continues to do business, including with, in many cases, the U.S. government. See here for my post on Siemens – The Year After, here for my post on BAE’s recent $40 million contract with the FBI (note because of the facade of FCPA enforcement, BAE was not charged with violating the FCPA – see here).

Denis McInerney, Chief of the DOJ’s Fraud Section, rejected such an assertion during an October 21st speech before the American Bar Association.

According to Inside U.S. Trade, McInerney “sought to rebut charges that FCPA enforcement relies too heavily on settlement agreements and that it is therefore like a licensing regime under which ‘companies are allowed to bribe, but if caught they have to pay a fee.'” According to Inside U.S. Trade, McInerney said that in the past two years, DOJ has imposed fines of $59 million, $19 million, $365 million, $338 million, $400 million, $376 million, $579 million and $800 million and he “emphasized that the companies paying these penalties are subject to monitoring which can lead to criminal prosecution if new offenses occur.” According to Inside U.S. Trade, McInerney said “I guarantee you that these firms do not view these are mere licensing fees.”

Is This Getting a Bit Out of Hand?

Avon previously disclosed the existence of an internal investigation focused on potential FCPA issues (see here for the prior post).

Here is what the company said in its 10-Q filing (here) yesterday:

“As previously reported, we have engaged outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation and compliance reviews focused on compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and related U.S. and foreign laws in China and additional countries. The internal investigation, which is being conducted under the oversight of our Audit Committee, began in June 2008. As we reported in October 2008, we voluntarily contacted the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States Department of Justice to advise both agencies of our internal investigation. We are continuing to cooperate with both agencies and inquiries by them, including but not limited to, signing tolling agreements, translating and producing documents and assisting with interviews.

As previously reported in July 2009, in connection with the internal investigation, we commenced compliance reviews regarding the FCPA and related U.S. and foreign laws in additional countries in order to evaluate our compliance efforts. We are conducting these compliance reviews in a number of other countries selected to represent each of the Company’s four other international geographic segments. The internal investigation and compliance reviews are focused on reviewing certain expenses and books and records processes, including, but not limited to, travel, entertainment, gifts, and payments to third−party agents and others, in connection with our business dealings, directly or indirectly, with foreign governments and their employees. The internal investigation and compliance reviews of these matters are ongoing, and we continue to cooperate with both agencies with respect to these matters. At this point we are unable to predict the duration, scope, developments in, results of, or consequences of the internal investigation and compliance reviews.”

Here is what Avon had to say in the fling about its net global expenses:

“The increase in Net Global expenses for both the three and nine months ended September 30, 2010, was primarily attributable to significant professional and related fees associated with the FCPA investigation and compliance reviews described in Note 5 to the consolidated financial statements included herein of approximately $24 (up approximately $17 from the three months ended September 30, 2009) and approximately $72 (up approximately $49 from the nine months ended September 30, 2009), respectively. The increase in Net Global expenses for the nine months ended September 30, 2010 was also due to higher costs associated with global initiatives and costs associated with business acquisitions. Professional and related fees associated with the FCPA investigation and compliance reviews, while difficult to predict, are expected to continue during the course of this investigation.”

Those figures are not mere dollars, but millions of dollars. And, as noted in the disclosure, the expenses are expected to increase.

On a much smaller (yet still meaningful) scale, on August 31st, Orthofix disclosed (here) the existence of an internal investigation relating to FCPA issues focused on its Mexican subsidiaries, an entity that accounts “for approximately one percent of the Company’s consolidated net sales and consolidated total assets.”

Recently, Orthofix provided this update in an 8-K filing (here):

“Operating income in the third quarter of 2010 included the impact of $3.7 million in legal expenses associated with the DOJ investigation of the bone growth stimulation industry and the Company’s internal investigation into its compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in its subsidiary in Mexico.”

Newsweek Notices FCPA Inc.

Newsweek recently carried a short blurb (here) titled “Going After Graft.” Among other things, the piece states:

“With prosecutions likely to continue—the FBI has doubled the number of agents tasked to FCPA cases—business is responding in kind. Law firms are competing for top FCPA talent, banks financing international deals are insisting on anti-bribery stipulations in contracts, and a new cottage industry of experts has emerged, offering country-by-country advice on gifts and local laws. In the words of an FBI spokesperson, FCPA are ‘four letters you need to be aware of if you’re doing business in the international marketplace.'”

Quit Picking On Canada

What if, in the U.S., there was no fallback FCPA books and records and internal control charges, there was no voluntary disclosure culture, there were no “overzealous prosecutions,” and there were no prosecutions undertaken as “publicity stunts.”

According to Cyndee Todgham Cherniak (here), FCPA enforcement would likely resemble the sparse enforcement of Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

At least that is my take-away from her recent post (here) on the Trade Lawyers Blog.

For more on Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (see here and here).

Will Julian Messent (Or Others) Be Prosecuted For FCPA Violations?

Earlier this week, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced (here) that Julian Messent was sentenced to 21 months in prison “after admitting making or authorizing corrupt payments of almost US $2 million to Costan Rican officials in the state insurance company, Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) and the national electricity provider Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.”

Messent, a former director of London-based insurance business PWS International Ltd. (PWS), was the head of the Property (Americas) Divison at PWS in which role “he was responsible for securing and maintaining contracts for reinsurance in the Central and South America regions.”

According to the SFO release, “Messent authorized 41 corrupt payments” “to be paid to Costa Rican officials, their wives and associated companies, as inducements or rewards for assisting in the appointment or retention of PWS as broker of the lucrative reinsurance policy for INS.”

The SFO release also indicates that Messent was ordered to pay £100,000 in compensation to the Republic of Costa Rica. (In the U.S., FCPA fines flow solely into the U.S. Treasury).

Messent was charged under the U.K.’s Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 (see here).

According to this report in the Guardian, “the SFO decided not to prosecute PWS because the firm, which has been sold, had a substantial deficit in its pension fund.”

According to the Guardian, “the covert payments were routed through bank accounts in the names of the wives of the Costa Rican officials and through accounts in Panama and the US, and a travel agency in Florida.”

Under the 78dd-3 prong of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, persons other than an issuer or domestic concern (i.e. in this case foreign nationals) can be subject to the FCPA if the improper payments have a U.S. nexus.

Will FCPA prosecutions of Messent (and perhaps others) follow?

Breuer on the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative

As highlighted in this prior post, in November 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder called asset recovery from corrupt officials a “global imperative” and he announced a “redoubled commitment on behalf of the United States Department of Justice to recover” funds obtained by foreign officials through bribery.

In July 2010, Holder announced (here) the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative “aimed at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended – and proper – use: for the people of our nations.” Holder announced that the DOJ is “assembling a team of prosecutors who will focus exclusively on this work and build upon efforts already underway to deter corruption, hold offenders accountable, and protect public resources.”

In a recent keynote address at the Money Laundering Enforcement Conference (here), Assistant Attoney General Lanny Breuer had this to say about the initaitive:

“This Initiative represents a concrete step toward fulfilling that commitment. The Kleptocracy Initiative will involve three key sections in the Criminal Division: the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, which will lead it, and the Office of International Affairs and the Fraud Section, which will provide critical support. Once fully implemented, this Initiative will allow the Department to recover assets on behalf of countries victimized by high-level corruption, building on the Justice Department’s already robust enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Through the Kleptocracy Initiative, the Department will ensure that corrupt leaders cannot seek safe haven in the United States for their stolen wealth. And, if we uncover such wealth, the Justice Department will forfeit and return this stolen money to its rightful owners – the people and governments from whom it was taken.”

In his speech, Breuer also discussed (in a non-FCPA context) how the DOJ wants “companies that uncover illegal conduct to come forward voluntarily.”

Proclamation 7750 News

In 2004, President Bush signed Proclamation 7750 “To Suspend Entry As Immigrants or Nonimmigrants of Persons Engaged In or Benefiting From Corruption” (see here).

Proclamation 7750 basically says the U.S. can suspend entry into the country “of certain persons who have committed, participated in, or are beneficiaries of corruption in the performance of public functions where that corruption has serious adverse effects on international activity” subject to an exception where denying such entry would be “contrary to the interests” of the U.S.

Last year, the New York Times (here) ran an article quoting a former State Department official as saying the State Department(which is responsible for enforcing the proclamation) “seem[s] to lack the backbone to use this prohibition.”

Earlier this month, David Johnson (Assistant Secretary, Bureau International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State) stated at the Third Committee of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly (see here) as follows:

“The United States continues to broaden its efforts to deny entry into our own country of public officials who receive bribes as well as those who supply them. Corrupt officials are not welcome in the United States.”

Joe Palazzolo (Wall Street Journal – Corruption Currents) followed up with Johnson and noted in a recent article that the “State Department is stepping up its game” in seeking to enforce Proclamation 7750. As Palazzolo reports, it is not hard to “step up the game” when “for a long time, one part-official […] handled 7750 matters.”

Palazzolo reports that the State Department recently hired two new employees and is “processing paperwork for two additional hires, who will focus the majority of their time on 7750 issues.” The article quotes a State Department official as saying, “it is our hope and intention that the new hires will result in greater capacity.”

Son Fights to Keep New York Condo

This prior post discussed the DOJ’s civil forfeiture complaint filed in July against certain U.S. properties “that represent a portion of illegal bribes paid to the former president of Taiwan and his wife.”

Joe Palazzolo (Wall Street Journal – Corruption Currents) recently reported that “the son of former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has quietly hired legal counsel to prevent a Manhattan condominium, which prosecutors say was purchased with bribes, from falling into the hands of the government.”

According to Palazzolo, the son, Chen Chih-chung, has retained Jonathan Harris (see here) to defend against the forfeiture action and Harris is quoted as saying he will be filing a motion to dismiss “shortly.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

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