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Major Shipment – Customs Cases Bring In $236.5 Million

The pipeline that contains pending FCPA enforcement actions burst yesterday as the DOJ and SEC announced enforcement actions against 13 separate entities.

In enforcement actions that have long been anticipated, Panalpina entities, as well as several others, settled DOJ and SEC enforcement actions principally focused on customs and related payments in Nigeria, but also including alleged improper conduct in Angola, Brazil, Russia, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Congo, Libya, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

The combined DOJ/SEC settlement amounts total $236.5 million.

Your FCPA scorecard thus shows that since June 28th, the U.S. government has brought FCPA enforcement actions totaling approximately $1.1 billion. With numbers like these, aggressive FCPA enforcement based on, often times, dubious legal theories (more on that later) seems like the most profitable government program ever conceived.

Set forth below is a basic overview of the settlements. A more thorough review of the hundreds of pages of relevant documents will be forthcoming.

The DOJ resolution documents can be found here, the SEC resolution documents here.

Panalpina Entities

DOJ

Entities: Panalpina World Transport (Holding) Ltd. and Panalpina Inc.

Resolution Vehicles: Criminal information charging Panalpina World Transport(Holding) with conspiracy to violate and violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. Charges resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement. Criminal information charging Panalpina Inc. with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions and aiding and abetting certain customers in violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions. Charges resolved through a plea agreement.

Countries: Angola, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Russia, and Turkmenistan

Penalty: Combined $70.56 million

SEC

Entity: Panalpina, Inc.

Resolution Vehicle: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery violations, aiding and abetting FCPA anti-bribery violations, and FCPA books and records and internal controls violations.

Countries: Nigeria, Angola, Brazil, Russia, and Kazakhstan

Disgorgement: $11,329,369

Pride Entities

DOJ

Entities: Pride International Inc. and Pride Forasol S.A.S.

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal information charging Pride International with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records provisions; violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions; and violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions. Charges resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement. Criminal information charging Pride Forasol with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions; violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions; and aidng and abetting violations of the FCPA’s books and records provisions. Charges resolved through a plea agreement.

Countries: Venezuela, India and Mexico

Penalty: $32.625 million (combined)

SEC

Entity: Pride International Inc.

Resolution Vehicle: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery violations, FCPA books and records and internal controls violations.

Countries: Venezuela, India, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Congo, and Libya

Disgorgement and interest: $23,529,718

Tidewater Entities

DOJ

Entities: Tidewater Marine International Inc., Tidewater Inc.

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal information charging Tidewater Marine with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records provisions and violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions. Charges resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement with Tidewater that requires, among other things, Tidewater Marine to pay a $7.35 million criminal penalty.

Countries: Azerbaijan and Nigeria

Penalty: $7.35 million

SEC

Entity: Tidewater Inc.

Resolution Vehicle: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery violations, FCPA books and records and internal controls violations

Countries: Nigeria, Azerbaijan

Disgorgement: $8,104,362

Civil Penalty: $217,000

Transocean Entities

DOJ

Entities: Transocean Inc. and Transocean Ltd.

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal information charging Transocean Inc. with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records provision; violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions; and aiding and abetting the FCPA’s books and records provisions. Charges resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement with Transocean Ltd. that requires, among other things, Transocean Inc. to pay a $13.44 million criminal penalty.

Countries: Nigeria

Penalty: $13.44 million

SEC

Entity: Transocean Inc.

Resolution Vehicle: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery violations, FCPA books and records and internal controls violations

Countries: Nigeria

Disgorgement and interest: $7,265,080

GlobalSantaFe Corp.

SEC

Entity: GlobalSantaFe Corp.

Resolution Vehicle: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery provisions, FCPA books and records and internal controls violations

Countries: Nigeria, Gabon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea

Disgorgement: $3,758,165

Civil Penalty: $2.1 million

Noble Corporation

DOJ

Entity: Noble Corporation

Resolution Vehicle: Non-proseuction agreement in which Noble Corporation: (i) acknowledged that certain of its employees knew that payments would be passed on as bribes to Nigerian customs officials; and (ii) admitted that the company falsely recorded the bribe payments as legitimate business expenses.

Countries: Nigeria

Penalty: $2.59 million

SEC

Entity: Noble Corporation

Resolution Vehicle: Settled civil complaint charging FCPA anti-bribery violations, FCPA books and records and internal controls violations

Countries: Nigeria

Disgorgement and interest: $5,576,998

Royal Dutch Shell Entities

DOJ

Entities: Royal Dutch Shell plc and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd. (“SNEPCO”)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal information charging SNEPCO with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records provisions and with aiding and abetting the FCPA’s books and records provisions resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement with Royal Dutch Shell Plc requiring, among other things, SNEPCO to pay a $30 million criminal penalty

Countries: Nigeria

Penalty: $30 million

SEC

Entity: Royal Dutch Shell plc and Shell International Exploration and Production Inc (“SIEP”).

Resolution Vehicle: Administrative cease and desist order finding FCPA books and records and internal control violations by Royal Dutch Shell and FCPA anti-bribery violations by SIEP

Countries: Nigeria

Disgorgement: $18,149,459

*****

According to the SEC release (here), Cheryl Scarboro, Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit stated: “This investigation was the culmination of proactive work by the SEC and DOJ after detecting widespread corruption in the oil services industry. The FCPA Unit will continue to focus on industry-wide sweeps, and no industry is immune from investigation.”

The SEC release further states: [t]his is the first sweep of a particular industrial sector in order to crack down on public companies and third parties who are paying bribes abroad.”

Paying to Secure Receivables Is Now Bribery?

Attention to companies (and employees) operating around the world.

If you are party to a contract, and a mid-level employee at the entity receiving services under the contract holds up payment of money the company is legitimately entitled to receive, but the mid-level employee requests payment in order to release the funds, and you make the requested payment, you are violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

That at least seems to be the message the SEC is sending in the Joe Summers enforcement action made public yesterday (see here and here)>

How such payments to receive what one is owed under a contract satisfies the FCPA’s “obtain or retain business” element is sure to be a question asked in light of this enforcement action.

According to the SEC complaint, Summers “was nominally employed by Pride International Personal Ltd. – a wholly owned subsidiary of Pride International Inc.” and “was responsible for managing the operations of Pride Foramer de Venezuela S.A.” The SEC complaint alleges however that Summer “functioned” as an employee or agent of Pride in that “Summers reported to, and was controlled by, Houston-based Pride officers” and further states that “Summers was responsible for, among other things, ensuring that Pride conducted its Venezuelan operations in compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that adequate controls were in place to prevent illegal payments, and that the company’s books and records were accurate.”

According to the SEC complaint:

“Following widespread strikes and civil unrest in Venezuela in late 2002, Pride […] and other companies performing work for PDVSA (PDVSA is the Venezuela state-owned oil company) had difficulty collecting outstanding receivables from PDVSA. By early 2003, Pride […] had significant unpaid receivables for services that it had provided to PDVSA. In or around March or April 2003, Pride […] received information that a mid-level PDVSA accounts payable employee was holding up the payment of funds owed to Pride […] and wanted a payment of approximately $30,000 in order to release the funds due. In or around March or April 2003, Summers authorized a payment of approximately $30,000 to a third party, believing that all or a portion of the funds would be offered or given by the third party to an employee of PDVSA for purposes of securing an improper advantage in receiving payment from PDVSA. Shortly thereafter, in or around April 2003, Pride […] received overdue payments from PDVSA for work that Pride […] had performed.”

The above paragraph from the SEC complaint, while the most noteworthy, is not the only reason the SEC charged Summers with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, among other charges.

According to the SEC, Summers also authorized payments totaling approximately $120,000 through a vendor to a Miami bank account in the name of a Venezuela Intermediary who purported to represent a PDVSA official and who indicated he could assist Pride in obtaining an extension of a drilling contract.

Based on this core conduct, the SEC alleged that “Summers, by authorized or allowing his subordinates to execute the bribery scheme involving vendors, caused Pride […] to inaccurately record those payments as payments for goods and services received from the vendors.”

In addition to charging Summers with FCPA anti-bribery violations, the SEC also charged Summers with: (i) knowingly circumventing or knowingly failing to implement a system of internal accounting controls or knowingly falsifying books and records; (ii) aiding and abetting FCPA anti-bribery violations; and (iii) aiding and abetting violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

According to the SEC release, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Summers consented to entry of a permanent injunction and agreed to pay a $25,000 civil penalty.

According to the SEC’s complaint, “when subpoenaed to testify by the Commission’s staff during its investigation, Summers asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”

The enforcement action was prosecuted by the SEC’s Fort Worth, Texas branch office.

In December 2009, the SEC brought a related enforcement action against Bobby Benton (the former Vice President, Western Hemisphere Operations for Pride International, Inc.). See here.

For on Pride see here.

In its recent 10-Q filing, Pride had this to say regarding its FCPA exposure in connection with Venezuela and several other countries:

“We are engaged in discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding a potential negotiated resolution of these matters, which could be settled during 2010 and which, as described above, could involve a significant payment by us. We believe that it is likely that any settlement will include both criminal and civil sanctions. We have accrued $56.2 million in anticipation of a possible resolution with the DOJ and the SEC of potential liabilities under the FCPA.”

Friday Roundup

Some FCPA news to pass along on this Friday.

SFO Defends BAE Settlement

Richard Alderman, the Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) recently defended the SFO settlement with BAE (see here).

Among other things, Alderman argued that any suggestion BAE “got off lightly” ignores “London’s contribution in enabling the U.S. to impose a $400 million fine.”

Point taken.

Alderman then says that the DOJ “would not have achieved what they achieved without [the SFO] and [the SFO] would not have achieved what [the SFO] achieved without [the DOJ].”

Point not taken.

What actually did the DOJ and SFO achieve in the BAE matter? What is achieved when a company settles a case invovling allegations of worldwide bribery, per the allegations in the public documents, WITHOUT being held accountable bribery?

What is achieved when you charge BAE’s agent (presumably based on evidence that the following did occur) for “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc” and then a few days later withdraw the charges and state “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defence contracts.”

As to this issue, Alderman stated that “the public interet lay in drawing a line under the whole investigation.”

The article notes that “two campaigning groups said they would launch a legal challenge to Mr. Alderman’s decision, saying it failed to reflect the scale and scope of the bribery allegations relating to BAE’s network of hundreds of agents on four continents.” If anyone knows who these groups are, or the legal framework (including standing) under U.K. law to allow such a challenge, please do share.

For prior posts on BAE, includng the DOJ’s non-bribery, bribery allegations see here.

Alderman did also suggest that additional joints DOJ/SEC settlements are being negotiated.

The Pipes May Soon Burst

Ocassionaly, I have covered “cases” reportedly in the FCPA pipeline (see here). Set forth below is some “pre-news” about some coming attractions.

Given the above, it seems fitting to start with KBR, Inc.

KBR, Inc.

Here’s what Halliburton had to say earlier this week regarding its exposure via M.W. Kellogg / KBR for the SFO piece of the investigation into Bonney Island (Nigeria)(pgs. 35-36, 63-64). For a prior post see here.

Pride International Inc.

Earlier this week, Pride disclosed (here) that:

“it has accrued $56.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 in anticipation of a possible resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of potential liability under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. {…] The accrual in the fourth quarter 2009 represents the company’s best estimate of potential fines, penalties and disgorgement related to settlement of the matter with the DOJ and SEC. The monetary sanctions ultimately paid by the company to resolve these issues, whether imposed on the company or agreed to by settlement, may exceed the amount of the accrual.”

For prior posts about Pride see here.

Innospec, Inc.

Here is what Innospec had to say about its on-going FCPA matter:

“”We have made substantial progress, but not yet completed, negotiations of final settlements of the Oil for Food Program and FCPA investigations, in either the U.S. or United Kingdom. However, we have charged a further $21.9 million in the quarter, based on the status of ongoing discussions, to bring the total amount accrued to $40.2 million. The Company will make no further comments on the ongoing proceedings.”

Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent recently provided (here) details (see pg. 112) on its FCPA (and other) exposure concerning conduct in Costa Rica and other places. In pertinent part the company stated:

“As previously disclosed in its public filings, Alcatel-Lucent has engaged in settlement discussions with the DOJ and the SEC with regard to the ongoing FCPA investigations. These discussions have resulted in December 2009 in agreements in principle with the staffs of each of the agencies. There can be no assurances, however, that final agreements will be reached with the agencies or accepted in court. If finalized, the agreements would relate to alleged violations of the FCPA involving several countries, including Costa Rica, Taiwan, and Kenya. Under the agreement in principle with the SEC, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a consent decree under which Alcatel-Lucent would neither admit nor deny violations of the antibribery, internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA and would be enjoined from future violations of U.S. securities laws, pay U.S.
$45.4 million in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest and agree to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor to evaluate in accordance with the provisions of the consent decree (unless any specific provision therein is expressly determined by the French Ministry of Justice to violate French law)
the effectiveness of Alcatel-Lucent’s internal controls, record-keeping and financial reporting policies and procedures. Under the agreement in principle with the DOJ, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), charging Alcatel-Lucent with violations of the internal controls and
books and records provisions of the FCPA, and Alcatel-Lucent would pay a total criminal fine of U.S. $ 92 million—payable in four installments over the course of three years. In addition, three Alcatel-Lucent subsidiaries—Alcatel-Lucent France, Alcatel-Lucent Trade and Alcatel Centroamerica—would each plead guilty to
violations of the FCPA’s antibribery, books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. The agreement with the DOJ would also contain provisions relating to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor. If Alcatel-Lucent fully complies with the terms of the DPA, the DOJ would dismiss the charges upon
conclusion of the three-year term.”

For the trials and tribulations on both sides of this corporate hyphen see here and here.

Thirsty for more? OK, here is the last one.

Maxwell Technologies Inc.

Here is what the company’s CEO had to say about its $9.3 million accural for a potential FCPA settlement:

“Unfortunately, all this good news is tempered by the GAAP required $9.3 million accrual we recorded in Q4 for the potential settlement of FCPA violations in connection with the sale of high-voltage capacitor products in China by our Swiss subsidiary. As we reported previously, after we became aware of questionable payments made to an independent sales agent in China, we disclosed that discovery and initiated an internal review and we have been voluntarily sharing information with the SEC and the Justice Department.”

See also here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Some FCPA news to pass along on this Friday.

SFO Defends BAE Settlement

Richard Alderman, the Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) recently defended the SFO settlement with BAE (see here).

Among other things, Alderman argued that any suggestion BAE “got off lightly” ignores “London’s contribution in enabling the U.S. to impose a $400 million fine.”

Point taken.

Alderman then says that the DOJ “would not have achieved what they achieved without [the SFO] and [the SFO] would not have achieved what [the SFO] achieved without [the DOJ].”

Point not taken.

What actually did the DOJ and SFO achieve in the BAE matter? What is achieved when a company settles a case invovling allegations of worldwide bribery, per the allegations in the public documents, WITHOUT being held accountable bribery?

What is achieved when you charge BAE’s agent (presumably based on evidence that the following did occur) for “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc” and then a few days later withdraw the charges and state “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defence contracts.”

As to this issue, Alderman stated that “the public interet lay in drawing a line under the whole investigation.”

The article notes that “two campaigning groups said they would launch a legal challenge to Mr. Alderman’s decision, saying it failed to reflect the scale and scope of the bribery allegations relating to BAE’s network of hundreds of agents on four continents.” If anyone knows who these groups are, or the legal framework (including standing) under U.K. law to allow such a challenge, please do share.

For prior posts on BAE, includng the DOJ’s non-bribery, bribery allegations see here.

Alderman did also suggest that additional joints DOJ/SEC settlements are being negotiated.

The Pipes May Soon Burst

Ocassionaly, I have covered “cases” reportedly in the FCPA pipeline (see here). Set forth below is some “pre-news” about some coming attractions.

Given the above, it seems fitting to start with KBR, Inc.

KBR, Inc.

Here’s what Halliburton had to say earlier this week regarding its exposure via M.W. Kellogg / KBR for the SFO piece of the investigation into Bonney Island (Nigeria)(pgs. 35-36, 63-64). For a prior post see here.

Pride International Inc.

Earlier this week, Pride disclosed (here) that:

“it has accrued $56.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 in anticipation of a possible resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of potential liability under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. {…] The accrual in the fourth quarter 2009 represents the company’s best estimate of potential fines, penalties and disgorgement related to settlement of the matter with the DOJ and SEC. The monetary sanctions ultimately paid by the company to resolve these issues, whether imposed on the company or agreed to by settlement, may exceed the amount of the accrual.”

For prior posts about Pride see here.

Innospec, Inc.

Here is what Innospec had to say about its on-going FCPA matter:

“”We have made substantial progress, but not yet completed, negotiations of final settlements of the Oil for Food Program and FCPA investigations, in either the U.S. or United Kingdom. However, we have charged a further $21.9 million in the quarter, based on the status of ongoing discussions, to bring the total amount accrued to $40.2 million. The Company will make no further comments on the ongoing proceedings.”

Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent recently provided (here) details (see pg. 112) on its FCPA (and other) exposure concerning conduct in Costa Rica and other places. In pertinent part the company stated:

“As previously disclosed in its public filings, Alcatel-Lucent has engaged in settlement discussions with the DOJ and the SEC with regard to the ongoing FCPA investigations. These discussions have resulted in December 2009 in agreements in principle with the staffs of each of the agencies. There can be no assurances, however, that final agreements will be reached with the agencies or accepted in court. If finalized, the agreements would relate to alleged violations of the FCPA involving several countries, including Costa Rica, Taiwan, and Kenya. Under the agreement in principle with the SEC, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a consent decree under which Alcatel-Lucent would neither admit nor deny violations of the antibribery, internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA and would be enjoined from future violations of U.S. securities laws, pay U.S.
$45.4 million in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest and agree to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor to evaluate in accordance with the provisions of the consent decree (unless any specific provision therein is expressly determined by the French Ministry of Justice to violate French law)
the effectiveness of Alcatel-Lucent’s internal controls, record-keeping and financial reporting policies and procedures. Under the agreement in principle with the DOJ, Alcatel-Lucent would enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), charging Alcatel-Lucent with violations of the internal controls and
books and records provisions of the FCPA, and Alcatel-Lucent would pay a total criminal fine of U.S. $ 92 million—payable in four installments over the course of three years. In addition, three Alcatel-Lucent subsidiaries—Alcatel-Lucent France, Alcatel-Lucent Trade and Alcatel Centroamerica—would each plead guilty to
violations of the FCPA’s antibribery, books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. The agreement with the DOJ would also contain provisions relating to a three-year French anticorruption compliance monitor. If Alcatel-Lucent fully complies with the terms of the DPA, the DOJ would dismiss the charges upon
conclusion of the three-year term.”

For the trials and tribulations on both sides of this corporate hyphen see here and here.

Thirsty for more? OK, here is the last one.

Maxwell Technologies Inc.

Here is what the company’s CEO had to say about its $9.3 million accural for a potential FCPA settlement:

“Unfortunately, all this good news is tempered by the GAAP required $9.3 million accrual we recorded in Q4 for the potential settlement of FCPA violations in connection with the sale of high-voltage capacitor products in China by our Swiss subsidiary. As we reported previously, after we became aware of questionable payments made to an independent sales agent in China, we disclosed that discovery and initiated an internal review and we have been voluntarily sharing information with the SEC and the Justice Department.”

See also here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Lack of Pride (And That CITGO Sign Too)

If the SEC were to put titles on its complaints, the above may be fitting for the complaint released (see here) earlier this week against Bobby Benton (the former Vice President, Western Hemisphere Operations for Pride International, Inc.).

In its complaint (see here), the SEC alleges that “Benton was responsible for, among other things, ensuring that Pride conducted its Western Hemisphere operations in compliance with the FCPA, that adequate controls were in place to prevent illegal payments, and that the company’s books and records were accurate.”

Despite this position, the SEC alleges that: (i) “Benton authorized the payment of $10,000 to a third party, believing that all or a portion of the funds would be given by the third party to a Mexican customs official in return for favorable treatment by the official regarding certain customs deficiencies identified during a customs inspection of a Pride supply boat; (ii) “Benton learned that a customs agent engaged by Pride’s Mexican subsidiaries paid approximately $15,000 to a Mexican customs official to ensure that the export of a rig would not be delayed due to customs violations; and (iii) Benton concealed the bribe payments made by the manager of the Venezuelan branch of a French subsidiary of Pride from Pride’s internal and external auditors by “redact[ing] references to the Venezuelan payments in an action plan responding to an internal audit report.”

The SEC further alleges that “[d]espite his knowledge, and in one instance authorization, of the Venezuelan and Mexican bribes, Benton signed two false certifications in connection with audits and reviews of Pride’s financial statements denying any knowledge of bribery.” The financial results of the Mexican and Venezuelan entities were consolidated with Pride’s for purposes of financial reporting.

The “foreign officials” involved are Mexican customs officials / customs agents and an official of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Benton with violating the FCPA’s antibribery provisions, aiding and abetting FCPA violations, and aiding and abetting violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Most SEC FCPA enforcement actions (whether against a company or an individual) are settled on the same day the civil complaint is filed. Not so in this case and the SEC complaint notes that Benton asserted his 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination when subpoenaed to testify by the SEC. Will the SEC actually be put to its burden of proof in an FCPA case?

Pride International’s most recent disclosure on this issue is in its 10-Q filed on November 2, 2009 (see here – pgs. 17-18). As noted in the disclosure, what began as an inquiry into Latin America operations has spawned into a substantial worldwide review of the company’s operations.

*****

The Benton complaint mentions Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.

The DOJ/SEC’s interpretation of the “foreign official” element of an FCPA anti-bribery violation is well known by now – all employees of state-owned or state-controlled entities (SOEs), such as PDVSA, are “foreign officials” regardless of title or position.

Further, all employees of SOE wholly-owned subsidiaries are considered “foreign officials” under this interpretation. In fact, a business entity does not even need to be majority owned by a SOE for its employees to be considered “foreign officials” by DOJ/SEC (see the KBR/Halliburton enforcement action (see here paras 13-14) where officers and employees of Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) are deemed “foreign officials” despite the fact that NLNG is owned 51% by a consortium of private multinational oil companies (see here).

Applying DOJ/SEC’s untested and unchallenged interpretation to PDVSA can, well, let’s just say it can lead to some rather weird results.

Why?

One of PDVSA’s wholly-owned subsidiaries is Citgo Petroleum Corporation (“CITGO”) (see here).

Thus, under DOJ/SEC’s view, all CITGO employees are “foreign officials” under the FCPA regardless of title or position.

This despite the fact that CITGO is a Delaware corporation based in Houston.

In other words, CITGO is both subject to the FCPA and all of its employees (under the DOJ/SEC interpretation) are “foreign officials.” How’s that for a little mental gymnastics.

At the very least, this gives readers something to think about the next time they attend a ball game at Fenway Park (see here).

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