The SEC files an amended complaint, Judge Leon strikes again, a provocative press release, a focus on lobbying and for the reading stack. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
SEC Files Amended Complaint in Jackson / Ruehlen Matter
As highlighted in this prior post, this past December Judge Keith Ellison (S.D. Tex.) issued a lengthy 61 page decision (here) in SEC v. Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen. In short, Judge Ellison granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the SEC’s claims that seek monetary damages while denying the motion to dismiss as to claims seeking injunctive relief. Even though Judge Ellison granted the motion as to SEC monetary damage claims, the dismissal was without prejudice meaning that the SEC was allowed to file an amended complaint. As explained in the prior post, Judge Ellison’s decision was based on statute of limitations grounds (specifically that the SEC failed to plead any facts to support an inference that it acted diligently in bringing the complaint) as well as the SEC’s failure to adequately plead discretionary functions relevant to the FCPA’s facilitation payments exception.
Last week, the SEC filed its amended complaint (here). The most noticeable difference in the amended complaint, based on my brief review of the 58 page document, appears to be several allegations regarding Nigerian law, including the Customs & Excise Management Act.
Judge Leon Strikes Again
This prior post generally discussed Judge Richard Leon’s rejection of the SEC v. IBM FCPA settlement, a case that still lingers on the docket.
As noted in this Main Justice story and this Wall Street Journal story, Judge Leon has struck again. According to the reports, yesterday Judge Leon conducted a scheduled hearing in SEC – Tyco FCPA case in chambers, much to the dismay of media assembled in open court.
As noted in this prior post, in September 2012, the DOJ and SEC announced an FCPA enforcement against Tyco International Ltd. and a subsidiary company. Total fines and penalties in the enforcement action were approximately $26.8 million (approximately $13.7 million in the DOJ enforcement action and approximately $13.1 million in the SEC enforcement action). As noted in this SEC release, Tyco consented to a final judgment that orders the company to pay approximately $10.5 million in disgorgement and approximately $2.6 million in prejudgment interest. Tyco also agreed to be permanently enjoined from violating the FCPA.
Although both the IBM and Tyco enforcement actions involve the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement language, this would not seem to be the key thread between these two enforcement actions that is drawing the ire of Judge Leon. Rather as explained in this post summarizing the IBM enforcement action and this post highlighting various notable features of the Tyco action, both companies are repeat FCPA violators. In resolving the “original” FCPA enforcement actions – IBM in 2000 and Tyco in 2006 – both companies agreed to permanent injunctions prohibiting future FCPA violations.
This prior post titled “Meaningless Settlement Language” detailed Judge Jed Rakoff’s discussion of so-called “obey the law” injunctions in SEC v. Citigroup and this prior guest post discussed an Eleventh Circuit decision last year vacating a SEC “obey the law” injunction.
A Provocative Press Release
The law firm Bienert, Miller & Katzman (“BMK”) represented Paul Cosgrove (a former executive of Control Components Inc.) in the so-called Carson enforcement actions. The Carson action involved a notable “foreign official” challenge and as highlighted in previous posts here, here, and here, after Judge Selna issued a pro-defendant jury instruction, the DOJ soon thereafter offered the remaining defendants (Stuart Carson, Hong Carson, David Edmonds, and Cosgrove) plea agreements which the defendants accepted. As to those plea agreements, I ended each post by saying – the conclusions are yours to reach. In Fall 2012, the defendants were sentenced as follows: S. Carson (four months in prison), H. Carson (three years probation), Edmonds (four months in prison) and Cosgrove (15 months of home detention). See this prior post regarding Carson sentencing issues.
In a January 17th press release (here), BMK stated as follows.
“BMK and counsel for three other defendants … conducted a worldwide investigation and developed evidence suggesting the government’s evidence was incomplete, the court documents indicate. Ultimately, most companies bought CCI valves because they were the best in the world (not because of bribes); most of the supposed “public officials” denied receiving any bribes; and, in most cases, the alleged improper payments were never actually made, according to court records.
Further, through an aggressive litigation and motion strategy, counsel were able to obtain jury instructions that highlighted the government’s heavy burden of proof at trial. For example, the trial court agreed with defense counsel that the government was obligated to prove defendants’ knew they were dealing with “foreign officials,” something that would have been extremely difficult for the government to prove. The supposed bribery recipients worked for companies that appeared to operate like private companies in the United States, making it very unlikely that the defendants realized they were dealing with “government officials.”
BMK and other defense counsel raised several other issues that brought the government’s ability to obtain a conviction, or defend an appeal, into serious doubt. These motions called into question whether the alleged bribe recipients were even “public officials” as intended by the FCPA; whether the Travel Act even applied to the case; and, whether defendants were entitled to millions of pages of documents that had been withheld from them by CCI, their former employer. Each of these issues likely would have been decided for the first time on an appeal in this case.”
[Full disclosure – I was an engaged expert in the Carson cases, filed a “foreign official” declaration in connection with the motion to dismiss, and was disclosed as a testifying expert for the trial]
In my double-standard series (here), I have highlighted various aspects of lobbying here in the U.S. The beginning of the recent opinion in U.S. v. Ring (D.C. Circuit) is an interesting read. In pertinent part, it states as follows (internal citations omitted).
“Lobbying has been integral to the American political system since its very inception. […] As some have put it more cynically, lobbyists have besieged the U.S. government for as long as it has had lobbies.” […] By 2008, the year Ring was indicted, corporations, unions, and other organizations employed more than 14,000 registered Washington lobbyists and spent more than $3 billion lobbying Congress and federal agencies. […]
The interaction between lobbyists and public officials produces important benefits for our representative form of government. Lobbyists serve as a line of communication between citizens and their representatives, safeguard minority interests, and help ensure that elected officials have the information necessary to evaluate proposed legislation. Indeed, Senator Robert Byrd once suggested that Congress “could not adequately consider [its] workload without them.” […]
In order to more effectively communicate their clients’ policy goals, lobbyists often seek to cultivate personal relationships with public officials. This involves not only making campaign contributions, but sometimes also hosting events or providing gifts of value such as drinks, meals, and tickets to sporting events and concerts. Such practices have a long and storied history of use—and misuse. During the very First Congress, Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay complained that “New York merchants employed ‘treats, dinners, attentions’ to delay passage of a tariff bill.” […] Sixty years later, lobbyists working to pass a bill that would benefit munitions magnate Samuel Colt “stage[d] lavish entertainments for wavering senators.” […] Then, in the 1870s, congressmen came to rely on railroad lobbyists for free travel. […]. Indeed, one railroad tycoon complained that he was “averag[ing] six letters per day from Senators and Members of Congress asking for passes over the road.”
Some dandy articles/essays to pass along regarding the FCPA books and records provisions, victim issues and criminal procedure.
FCPA Books and Records Provisions
Michael Schachter (Willkie Farr & Gallagher and a former Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he focused on criminal prosecution of securities fraud and was a member of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force) recently authored an article concerning the FCPA’s books and records provisions. Titled “Defending an FCPA Books and Records Violation” and published in the New York Law Journal, the article begins as follows.
“In recent years, the books and records provisions of the [FCPA] have taken on new life, as both the [DOJ and SEC] have announced their intention to bring more charges, especially against individuals, for violation of this section of the FCPA. A review of recent enforcement actions reveals that the Justice Department and the SEC consider the books and records requirement violated whenever corrupt payments are made to a foreign official and recorded in a corporation’s books as anything other than a ‘bribe,’ including, but not limited to, such things as commissions, social payments, or after sales service fees. This article proposes that the books and records provision is, in fact, narrower than the Justice Department and the SEC interpretations suggest, and argues that both agencies may be using the provision to punish behavior falling outside the FCPA’s reach.”
Spot on. See prior posts here and here. See here for a word cloud of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.
Corporate Employer’s As Victims
The title of Professor Peter Henning’s recent White Collar Crime Watch post in the New York Times DealBook was “How Can Companies Sue Defendants in Insider Trading Cases?” The post concerned the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act and Professor Henning writes that it “has been interpreted to allow companies that incur costs in cooperating with the government to seek repayment of their expenses from defendants” and the “statute requires a court to order the reimbursement to victims of ‘other expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense.'”
The parallels to a company incurring expenses in connection with FCPA investigations based on employee conduct is obvious.
Yet, Professor Henning writes as follows.
“[T]he crucial word in the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act is “incurred,” and there isn’t a consensus among federal courts over what expenses are covered. Companies want it to include all costs related to any part of the case, including dealing with the S.E.C. even though it can only pursue a civil enforcement case. Defendants take a much narrower view, arguing that mandatory restitution covers only expenses arising as direct result of the criminal prosecution by the Justice Department.
Ham Sandwich Nation
Glenn Reynolds (University of Tennessee College of Law) recently published an essay titled “Ham Sandwich Nation: Due Process When Everything is a Crime” (see here to download). The essay does not mention the FCPA, yet it is very much applicable to the FCPA. In just the past year, approximately 25 individuals criminally indicted by the DOJ have put the DOJ to its burden of proof and ultimately prevailed. Ham Sandwich Nation would also seem applicable given the extensive use of NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context. The thesis of the essay is spot on. Reynolds write as follows.
“Though people suspected of a crime have extensive due process rights in dealing with the police, and people charged with a crime have even more extensive due process rights in courts, the actual decision whether or not to charge a person with a crime is almost completely unconstrained. Yet, because of overcharging and plea bargains, that decision is probably the single most important event in the chain of criminal procedure.”
Year In Review
The Year in Review version of Debevoise & Plimpton’s always informative and comprehensive FCPA Update is here. Among the many topics discussed in the FCPA Update is the notion that many FCPA enforcement actions are based on very old conduct and the following observation. “Targets of enforcement actions also run the risk that regulators – whether consciously or not – apply current expectations of appropriate compliance measures and effective internal controls mechanisms when evaluating the adequacy of procedures that existed at times when less rigorous standards may have commonly been considered acceptable.” For my similar previous observation, see this prior post.
A good weekend to all.