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Amec Foster Wheeler / John Wood Group Enforcement Actions – What Actually Was Accomplished?

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Previous posts here, herehere and here highlighted various aspects of the recent U.S. and U.K. enforcement actions against Amec Foster Wheeler / John Wood Group.

The enforcement actions included: (i) a net $17.7 million FCPA enforcement action concerning conduct in Brazil; (ii) a net $142 million U.K. enforcement action concerning conduct in Brazil, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and India; and (iii) a net approximately $17 million Brazil enforcement action concerning conduct in Brazil.

That is a lot of money going into government coffers, but the question needs to be asked: what actually was accomplished through these enforcement actions?

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In Resolving The Berko Enforcement Action, What About Liu?

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As highlighted in this prior post, in June 2020 the Supreme Court concluded in Liu v. SEC that “a disgorgement award that does not exceed a wrongdoer’s net profits and is awarded for victims is equitable relief permissible” under 15 USC  78u(d)(5) (a statutory provision which states in pertinent part that “in any action or proceeding brought or instituted by the Commission under any provision of the securities laws … any Federal court may grant .. any equitable relief that may be appropriate or necessary for the benefit of investors.”).

The previous post mentioned that because most SEC FCPA enforcement actions are resolved administratively – and thus subject to a different statutory provision – that Liu was technically not applicable to most SEC FCPA enforcement actions.

However, the recent FCPA settlement in SEC v. Berko (see here for the prior post) was the first SEC FCPA enforcement action filed in federal court since Liu and thus subject to the Supreme Court’s conclusion that “a disgorgement award that does not exceed a wrongdoer’s net profits and is awarded for victims is equitable relief permissible” under 15 USC  78u(d)(5).

However, as highlighted below, the SEC ignored Liu’s “and is awarded to victims” prong and encouraged the court to require Berko to nevertheless pay disgorgement which the court ordered – seemingly in violation of Liu.

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Contrary To The Narrative

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There are certain narratives in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act space – while theoretically possible – are rarely, if ever, found in actual FCPA enforcement actions.

For instance, all probably recognize that a bribe to foreign official to obtain a contract to build a bridge could – theoretically – result in the contract being awarded to a company that uses sub-standard steel causing the bridge to collapse and thus causing human injuries and/or death.

Likewise, all probably recognize that a bribe to a foreign physician (who the DOJ and SEC may consider a “foreign official”) to implant a defective medical device or to prescribe a worthless drug could – theoretically – result in patient health and safety issues.

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Potpourri

Potpourri

[To the best of my recollection, my first introduction to the word “potpourri” was in watching Jeopardy which I was very fond of as a teenager and young adult. Rest in peace Alex Trebek]

Lingo

Daniel Kahn (Acting Chief of the DOJ Fraud Section) was the guest on this recent episode of the Compliance Perspectives Podcast. During the podcast, Kahn talks about COVID’s impact on DOJ enforcement and certain recent enforcement actions such as Goldman Sachs and Beam.

In terms of the DOJ’s mid-2000 revision to its “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs” policy document, Kahn stated that it certainly is by no means a “game changer.” Call me old-fashioned, but I want to hear the DOJ Fraud Section Chief talk about the law and legal requirements not lingo. Yet, the podcast dishes up plenty of lingo (tone at the top, conduct at the top, tone of upper and middle management, empowering compliance, walking the walk, direct line to the board, dotted line to the board, etc.).

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Issues To Consider From The Sargeant Marine Enforcement Action

Issues

This prior post went in-depth into the recent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Sargeant Marine Inc. (SMI) and this post continues the analysis by highlighting additional issues to consider.

Why Disclose?

For approximately 15 years, the DOJ has been encouraging business organizations to voluntarily disclose FCPA violations. Yet, time and time again, the DOJ undermines its goal by how it resolves certain enforcement actions.

The SMI matter is the latest example that should cause a board member, audit committee member or others involved in the voluntary disclosure decision to pause.

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