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“Rapid Multinational Expansion Through Mergers and Acquisitions” Leads to FCPA Enforcement Action Against Diageo

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is of course no laughing matter. Yet if an FCPA joke book is ever written there is surely to be an entry about the Indian and Korean military officials, a Thai lobbyist, and a Korean Customs official, who while on a purely recreational side-trip to Budapest, stopped in a bar, nibbled on some rice cakes, downed a Guinness and talked about product labeling, excise taxes, and transfer pricing.

Yesterday, the SEC announced (here) an FCPA books and records and internal controls enforcement action against Diageo PLC via an administrative cease and desist order. Diageo, headquartered in London, has American Depository Shares registered with the SEC and traded on the New York Stock Exchange and is thus an “issuer” under the FCPA.

In summary fashion, the Order (here) stated as follows.

“This matter concerns multiple violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Respondent Diageo, one of the world’s largest producers of premium alcoholic beverages. Over more than six years, Diageo, through its subsidiaries, paid over $2.7 million to various government officials in India, Thailand, and South Korea in separate efforts to obtain lucrative sales and tax benefits.”

“In India, from 2003 through mid-2009 Diageo made over $1.7 million in illicit payments to hundreds of Indian government officials responsible for purchasing or authorizing the sale of its beverages. Increased sales from these payments yielded more than $11 million in ill-gotten gains. In Thailand, from 2004 through mid-2008, Diageo paid approximately $12,000 per month – totaling nearly $600,000 – to retain the consulting services of a Thai government and political party official. This official lobbied extensively on Diageo’s behalf in connection with multi-million dollar pending tax and customs disputes, contributing to Diageo’s receipt of certain favorable dispositions by the Thai government. With respect to South Korea, in 2004, Diageo paid 100 million won (KRW) (over $86,000) to a customs official as a reward for his role in the government’s decision to grant Diageo significant tax rebates. Diageo also paid over $100,000 in travel and entertainment expenses for South Korean customs and other government officials involved in these tax negotiations. Separately, Diageo made hundreds of gift payments totaling over $230,000 to South Korean military officials in order to obtain and retain liquor business.”

“Diageo and its subsidiaries failed to account accurately for these illicit payments in their books and records. Exercising lax oversight, Diageo also failed to devise and maintain internal accounting controls sufficient to detect and prevent the payments.”

As set forth in the SEC’s order, “Diageo’s history of rapid multinational expansion through mergers and acquisitions contributed to defects in its FCPA compliance programs.” Indeed, the conduct at issue focused on Diageo India Pvt. Ltd. (“DI”) (a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary acquired as a result of a merger); Diageo Moet Hennessy Thailand (“DT”) (a joint venture Diageo acquired an indirect majority interest in as a result of a merger) and Diageo Korea Co. Ltd. (“DK”) (a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary acquired during an acquisition). According to the SEC, “at the times of these acquisitions, Diageo recognized that its new subsidiaries had weak compliance policies, procedures, and controls” but “nevertheless, Diageo failed to make sufficient improvements to these programs until mid-2008 in response to the discovery of illicit payments.”


As to India, the SEC stated as follows. “From at least 2003 through June 2009, DI paid an estimated $792,310 in improper cash payments through its third-party distributors to 900 or more employees of government liquor stores in and around New Delhi. DI also paid an estimated $186,299 (representing 23% of the payments) in “cash service fees” to the distributors as compensation for advancing the funds. DI made the payments to increase government sales orders of its products, and to secure favorable product placement and promotion within the stores.”

The SEC further stated as follows. “During the same six-year period (2003 – 2009), Diageo, through DI, also reimbursed an estimated $530,955, and made plans to reimburse an additional $79,364, in improper cash payments made by third-party sales promoters to government employees of the Indian military’s Canteen Stores Department (“CSD”). The payments, made with DI’s knowledge and authorization, were designed to: (i) foster the promotion of Diageo products in the CSD’s canteen stores (analogous to the U.S. military’s post exchanges); (ii) obtain initial listings and annual label registrations for Diageo brands, price revision approvals, and favorable factory inspection reports; (iii) secure the release of seized shipments of Diageo products; and (iv) promote good will through the distribution of Diwali and New Year’s holiday gifts to CSD employees.”

The SEC also stated as to India as follows. “Diageo failed to ensure that DI properly accounted for a number of additional, improper payments to government officials who controlled administrative functions vital to DI’s business. From at least 2003 through 2008, Diageo, through DI, reimbursed an estimated $98,310 in cash payments made by its third-party promoters and distributors to government officials in the North Region of India and in the State of Assam for the purpose of securing label registrations for Diageo products.” In addition, the SEC Order stated as follows. “… [F]rom at least 2003 through June 2009, Diageo, through DI, paid an estimated $78,622 in extra commissions to its distributors in the North Region to reimburse them for payments made to Excise officials to secure import permits and other administrative approvals.”


As to Thailand, the SEC Order stated as follows. “From April 2004 through July 2008, Diageo, through DT, retained the services of a Thai government and foreign political party official (the “Thai Official”) to lobby other Thai officials to adopt Diageo’s position in several multi-million dollar tax and customs disputes. For this retainer DT paid approximately $12,000 per month for 49 months, for a total of $599,322. DT compensated the Thai Official through 49 direct payments to a political consulting firm (the “Consulting Firm”) for which the Thai Official acted as a principal. Most, if not all, of the $599,322 paid to the Consulting Firm was for the Thai Official’s services and accrued to his benefit. The Thai Official served as a Thai government and/or political party official throughout the relevant period (April 2004 – July 2008) in which he received compensation from DT. At various times the Thai Official served as Deputy Secretary to the Prime Minister, Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, and Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The Thai Official also served on a committee of the ruling Thai Rak Thai political party, and as a member and/or advisor to several state-owned or state-controlled industrial and utility boards. DT’s senior management knew that the Thai Official was a government officer during its engagement of the Consulting Firm. The Thai Official was the brother of one of DT’s senior officers at that time. Several members of Diageo’s global and regional management attended meetings with the Thai Official and senior members of the Thai government. The Thai Official provided extensive lobbying services on behalf of Diageo and DT in connection with several important tax and customs disputes that were pending between Diageo and the Thai government. For example, with respect to excise taxes, the Thai Official coordinated and attended numerous meetings between senior Thai government officials and senior Diageo and DT management, including two meetings in April and May 2005 with Thailand’s then Prime Minister. In May 2005, shortly following the meetings arranged by the Thai Official, the Prime Minister made a radio address publicly endorsing Diageo’s position in favor of a “specific” approach (based on quantity) rather than an “ad valorem” approach (based on price) to calculating excise taxes. On Diageo’s behalf, the Thai Official also met repeatedly with senior commerce, finance, and customs authorities in charge of the transfer pricing and import tax disputes, as well as with members of the Thai parliament. The Thai Official’s services contributed to Diageo’s successful resolution of several components of these disputes. For example, during 2004 and 2005 Diageo and DT were actively engaged in a dispute with the Thai government over the appropriate transfer pricing formula applied to One Liter bottles of Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label Scotch whiskey. Based in part on the Thai Official’s lobbying efforts, the Thai government accepted important aspects of DT’s transfer pricing method and released over $7 million in bank guarantees that DT had been required to post while the tax dispute was pending.”

South Korea

As to Korea, the SEC Order stated as follows. “Diageo had significant tax and customs issues in South Korea. In April 2003, DK, under Diageo’s direction, requested from South Korea a more advantageous formula for calculating the transfer pricing, for tax purposes, of Windsor Scotch whiskey that DK was importing into South Korea. As part of those negotiations, DK also sought tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates based on a claim that DK had overpaid under the then existing transfer pricing formula. In April 2004, following a year of intense negotiations and lobbying by DK, the South Korean government granted DK a rebate of approximately $50 million. In July 2004, three months after DK received the tax rebates, a DK manager (the “Manager”) paid an apparent reward of 100 million KRW ($86,339) to a Korean Customs Service official (the “Customs Official”) who had played a key role in the transfer pricing negotiations. With the approval of DK’s then chief financial officer, the Manager generated 60 million KRW ($51,802) of the payment by means of a surreptitious cash kickback scheme. The Manager solicited an inflated invoice from DK’s third-party customs brokerage firm (the “Customs Broker”), which had provided DK with consulting services during the transfer pricing negotiations. As orchestrated, DK paid an inflated invoice amount to the Customs Broker, which then gave 60 million KRW ($51,802) in cash back to the Manager. The Manager funded the remaining 40 million KRW ($34,537) of the total reward amount from personal sources. The Manager then provided the Customs Official with 100 million KRW ($86,339) in the form of ten bank checks of approximately 10 million KRW ($8,634) each.”

The SEC Order further stated as follows. “During the course of the transfer pricing negotiations in 2003 and 2004, DK also paid $109,253 in travel and entertainment costs for Korean customs and other government officials. Some of these expenses were unapproved and constituted improper inducements of the South Korean officials. For example, in December 2003, the Customs Official and several official colleagues traveled to Scotland with DK employees. The purported reason for the trip was to inspect Diageo’s Windsor Scotch production facilities as part of the transfer pricing negotiations. During the course of this apparently legitimate trip, DK’s chief financial officer and the Manager took the South Korean officials on a purely recreational side-trip to Prague and Budapest.”

In addition, the SEC Order stated as follows regarding gifts to Korean military officers. “From at least 2002 through at least 2006, Diageo, through DK, routinely made hundreds of small payments to South Korean military officers for the purpose of obtaining or maintaining business and securing a competitive business advantage. The payments assumed two forms: (i) holiday and vacation gifts known as “rice cake” payments; and (ii) business development gifts, called “Mokjuksaupbi” payments. Rice cake payments were customary and traditional presents that Diageo, through DK, provided to scores of military officers – many of whom were responsible for procuring liquor – several times each year during holidays and vacations. From 2002 through 2006, DK made approximately 400 rice cake payments, totaling at least $64,184, in the form of cash or gift certificates ranging in value between $100 and $300 per recipient. In October 2004, a senior officer within Diageo’s global compliance department explicitly approved the practice of making rice cake payments after a DK employee explained that the company would face a competitive disadvantage if it refrained. Over the same four-year period, Diageo, through DK, also spent approximately $165,287 on hundreds of non-traditional, non-seasonal gifts and entertainment for the military. Of these so-called “Mokjuksaupbi” payments (a term that was broadly intended by DK to refer to “payments for relationships with customers”), approximately $106,051 were for the purpose of influencing specific purchasing decisions. For example, in 2003, DK personnel requested approval of approximately $2,600 to entertain army personnel “for their cooperation” in connection with the re-selection of Windsor Scotch.”

Based on the above conduct, the SEC found FCPA violations, but only FCPA books and records and internal control violations. The absence of FCPA anti-bribery violations against Diageo and the referenced entities would seem to be the result of a lack of a U.S. nexus as to the payments. Even though the FCPA was amended in 1998 to provide an alternative nationality jurisdiction test as to U.S. issuers and domestic concerns, the FCPA retains a territorial U.S. nexus jurisdictional test as to non-U.S. issuers such as Diageo that are nevertheless subject to the FCPA.

As to the FCPA violations, the SEC order states as follows. “Diageo’s books and records did not accurately reflect illicit payments that it made, through its subsidiaries, to Indian, Thai, and South Korean government and military officials. Instead, Diageo, through DI, DT, and DK, disguised the improper payments as legitimate vendor expenses or recorded them under misleading rubrics such as “factory expenses,” “telephone expenses,” “shareholder stake,” and “sales support.” In several instances, the illicit payments were not recorded at all.” The SEC Order further states as follows. “As evidenced by the extent and duration of the wrongful payments and their improper recordation, Diageo failed to devise and maintain sufficient internal accounting controls.”

The SEC Order mentions Diageo’s cooperation and “certain remedial measures undertaken by Diageo, including employee termination and significant enhancements to its compliance program.”

As is common in all SEC FCPA enforcement actions, Diageo settled the matter without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings. Per the SEC Order, Diageo shall pay disgorgement of $11,306,081, prejudgment interest of $2,067,739, and a civil monetary penalty of $3,000,000.

In a press release (here) Diageo stated as follows. “Diageo takes the SEC’s findings seriously and regrets this matter. Systems and controls have been enhanced in an effort to prevent the future occurrence of such issues and to reinforce, everywhere the Company operates, a culture of compliance and commitment to the principles embodied in Diageo’s Code of Business Conduct.”

Diageo’s most recent Annual Report (Sept. 2010) stated as follows.

“As previously reported, Diageo Korea and several of its current and former employees have been subject to investigations by Korean authorities regarding various regulatory and control matters. Convictions for improper payments to a Korean customs official have been handed down against two former Diageo Korea employees, and a former and two current Diageo Korea employees have been convicted on various counts of tax evasion. Diageo had previously voluntarily reported the allegations relating to the convictions for improper payments to the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC has commenced an investigation into these and other matters, and Diageo is in the process of responding to the regulators’ enquiries regarding activities in Korea, Thailand, India and elsewhere. Diageo’s own internal investigation in Korea, Thailand, India and elsewhere remains ongoing. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and related statutes and regulations provide for potential monetary penalties, criminal sanctions and may result in some cases in debarment from doing business with governmental entities in connection with FCPA violations.”

Questions Abound In IBM Enforcement Action

Last week, the SEC announced (here) a settled FCPA enforcement action against International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”).

This post summarizes the enforcement action and then addresses the many questions raised by the enforcement action.

Summary of Enforcement Action

According to the SEC complaint (here): “During the period from 1998 through 2009, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, employees of certain of [IBM’s] subsidiaries and a majority-owned joint venture provided cash payments, improper gifts, as well as improper travel and entertainment to government officials in South Korea and China.”

The conduct at issue focused on:

IBM-Korea, Inc. (“IBM-Korea”), a South Korean corporation “wholly-owned indirectly by IBM International Group B.V, which, in turn is wholly-owned by IBM;”

LG IBM PC Co. Ltd. (“LG-IBM”), a South Korean joint venture formed in 1996 by IBM-Korea (51% owner of the JV) and LG Electronics (“LG”) (49% owners of the JV); and

IBM (China) Investment Company Limited and IBM Global Services (China) Co. Ltd. (collectively “IBM-China”) – entities “owned by IBM China/Hong Kong Limited, a Hong Kong company that is ultimately owned by IBM.”

In summary fashion, the SEC alleged as follows.

“From 1998 to 2003, employees of [IBM-Korea] and [LG-IBM] made payments to various government officials in South Korea. The purpose of these payments was to secure the sale of IBM products through IBM-Korea and LG-IBM’s business partners. During the relevant period, these managers paid approximately KRW 216,832,500 (South Korean Won), or $207,000, in cash bribes to South Korean government officials, including providing improper·gifts and payments of travel and entertainment expenses.”

“From at least 2004 to early 2009, employees of [IBM-China] engaged in a widespread practice of providing overseas trips, entertainment, and improper gifts to Chinese government officials. The misconduct in China involved several key IBM-China employees and more than 100 IBM China employees overall.”

As to IBM, the parent-company issuer, the SEC alleged as follows.

“Despite its extensive international operations, IBM lacked sufficient internal
controls designed to prevent or detect these violations of the FCPA. During the period 1998 to 2009, IBM had corporate policies prohibiting bribery and procedures relating to compliance with the FCPA; however, deficient internal controls allowed employees of IBM’s subsidiaries and joint venture to use local business partners and travel agencies as conduits for bribes or other improper payments to South Korean and Chinese government officials over long periods of time.”

“During the period 1998 to 2009, IBM failed to make and keep books and records that accurately reflected the improper payments made in South Korea and China. Instead, these payments were recorded as legitimate business expenses.”

The body of the SEC’s complaint alleges various “things of value” provided to alleged South Korean “foreign officials” including shopping bags filled with thousands of dollars, cash-filled envelopes exchanged in parking lots and free personal computers, and travel and entertainment expenses.

According to the SEC, such “things of value” were: “in exchange for designating IBM-Korea a preferred supplier of mainframe computers to [an alleged government entity] and for placing orders with IBM-Korea at higher prices;” “in exchange for (1) maintaining IBM-Korea as the supplier of mainframe computers to [an alleged government entity]; and (2) for helping an IBM-Korea business partner win bids to supply mainframe computers and storage equipment to [an alleged government entity] worth more than [$21 million]; “in exchange for [an alleged “foreign official’s] assistance to IBM-Korea in obtaining a contract with [an alleged government entity] worth approximately [$13 million] for the installation of a mainframe computer in 2002;” “to entice [foreign official’s] to purchase IBM products:” “to win a contract to supply 657 (later increased to 825) personal computers valued at [approximately $1.4 million]; “in exchange for providing LG-IBM with certain confidential information regarding the product specifications on [an alleged government entity’s] request for procurement;” “to persuade employees of [an alleged government entity] to purchase IBM products;” and to entice alleged foreign officials “to purchase IBM products or to provide information to assist LG-IBM in the bidding process.”

The body of the SEC’s complaint as to China conduct alleges as follows.

“From at least 2004 to early 2009, IBM-China employees created slush funds at local travel agencies in China that were then used to pay for overseas and other travel expenses incurred by Chinese government officials. In addition, IBM-China employees created slush funds at its business partners to provide a cash payment and improper gifts, such as cameras and laptop computers, to Chinese government officials. IBM failed to record accurately these payments in its books and records.”

Specifically, the SEC alleged as follows:

“Between 2004 and 2009, IBM’s internal controls failed to detect at least 114
instances in which (1) IBM-China employees and its local travel agency worked together to create fake invoices to match approved [Delegation Trip Requests] DTRs; (2) trips were not connected to any DTRs; (3) trips involved unapproved sightseeing itineraries for Chinese government employees; (4) trips had little or no business content; (5) trips involved one or more deviations from the approved DTR; and (6) trips where per diem payments and gifts were provided to Chinese government officials.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC charged IBM with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions. As noted in the SEC release, IBM, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining the company from future FCPA violations. IBM agreed to pay $10 million (disgorgement of $5.3 million, $2.7 million in prejudgment interest, and a $2 million civil penalty).

Peter Barbur and Evan Chessler (Cravath, Swaine & Moore – here and here) represented IBM.

Questions Abound

For starters, this is not the first time IBM has been the focus of an FCPA enforcement action.

In December 2000 (see here), the SEC found, in a cease and desist proceeding, that IBM violated the FCPA books and records provisions in connection with a $250 million contract to integrate and modernize computer systems in Argentina. As part of the settlement, “IBM consented to the entry of an Order that requires IBM to cease and desist from committing or causing any future violation of [the FCPA’s books and records provisions].

Given that IBM was charged last week with FCPA books and records violations, IBM has clearly violated this 2000 court order.

In my recent “Facade of FCPA Enforcement” article (here), I highlight various pillars that contribute to the facade of FCPA enforcement.

Pillars include, unsupported legal conclusions serving as the foundation for an enforcement action, including as to “foreign official” and disgorgement issues; the tendency of factually similar cases being resolved materially different ways; and bribery, yet no bribery.

These pillars are present in the IBM enforcement action.

For starters, who were the “government officials in South Korea and China.” Were they traditional bona-fide government officials or employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled enterprises and thus “foreign officials” under the enforcement agencies’ interpretation – an interpretation currently the subject of judicial challenges?

As to the South Korean officials, the complaint merely alleges that the “foreign government officials involved worked for sixteen South Korean government entities.” These officials included the “Chief of Operations for the Electronic Operations Division” of an entity; an employee of the same entity; a “manager of the government-controlled entity”; the “Director of Planning” of another entity; employees of an entity; an employee of a “state-owned agency of the South Korean government;” a “Director of Information Technology” at another entity; employees of another entity; and “key decision makers at ten other” entities.

As to the Chinese officials, the complaint merely alleges that the individuals were associated with “government-owned or controlled customers in China for hardware, software, and other services.”

Based on the descriptions in the complaint, it seems as if the “foreign officials” were all employees of SOE entities. If so, two out of three corporate FCPA enforcement actions in 2011 (IBM and Maxwell Technologies – see here) involve SOE employees.

Why no FCPA anti-bribery charges against IBM or the relevant subsidiaries (accepting of course the SEC’s “foreign official” interpretation)?

According to the SEC, the conduct at issue took place between 1998 and 2009. Further, according to the SEC, “in connection with the conduct described herein, IBM, directly or indirectly, made use of the mails or the means or instrumentalities of interstate commerce in connection with the acts, transactions, practices and courses of business alleged in this Complaint.”

Why no DOJ involvement?

It is very common for the DOJ and SEC to announce FCPA enforcement actions on the same day. Thus, one can assume (perhaps future events will prove otherwise) that the DOJ elected to sit this one out.


The SEC’s complaint alleges vivid instances of bribery (not always seen in FCPA enforcement actions) in connection with multi-million dollar contracts.

Yet, no bribery – not even civil FCPA anti-bribery charges.

Is this another instance where the U.S. enforcement agencies look first at the corporate offender, its customers, and its products, and then craft a resolution that will hurt the least?

After all, one of IBM’s largest customer segments is the government (federal, state, etc.) see here.

Did this play any role in how the enforcement action was resolved?

The SEC charged IBM only with FCPA books and records and internal controls violations. Yet, as in several other cases, the SEC pursued a disgorgement remedy. As noted in my Facade article (pages 981-984) non-FCPA disgorgement case law clearly holds that disgorgement may not be used punitively. It is difficult to see how mis-recording of a payment (a payment the SEC does not allege violated the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions) can properly give rise to a disgorgement remedy. See also here from Philip Urofsky and Danforth Newcomb on this issue.

In a transparent legal system, similar facts are supposed to be resolved with similar charges. However, it is questionable whether this fundamental principle (one that inspires trust and confidence in a legal system) is followed in many FCPA enforcement actions.

The China-related charges against IBM regarding excessive travel and entertainment expenses are nearly identical to two previous FCPA enforcement actions – the December 2007 enforcement action against Lucent Technologies and the December 2009 enforcement action against UTStarcom, Inc.

Lucent was resolved via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement (here) and an SEC enforcement action charging only FCPA books and records violations (here).

UTStarcom was resolved via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement (here) and an SEC enforcement action charging FCPA anti-bribery as well as books and records and internal controls violations (here).

IBM, as detailed above, is presumably being resolved without any DOJ involvement and an SEC enforcement action charging only FCPA books and records violations.

Three cases – all involving in whole or in part allegations of providing excessive travel and entertainment expenses to Chinese “foreign officials” – resolved in three different ways.


And now, as one reader put it, the question all FCPA Professor blog readers (at least this particular reader) are dying to know.

Butler or Wisconsin?

I am a born and raised cheesehead and graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School.

However, my allegiance is to my employer – Butler University. Let’s face it, Butler is an awesome, feel-good story. Student-athletes in every sense of the word, home games at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, a coach who, a few years ago, left his job selling pharmaceuticals to become a volunteer coach (since promoted), and a small, cozy campus to top it off.

BU-TLE- R U a Bulldog – hell ya!

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