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DOJ And SEC Officials Talk FCPA

In what has become a mid-November tradition, DOJ and SEC officials yesterday gave speeches at a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act conference [1].

Topics discussed included the following:  individual prosecutions, voluntary disclosure and cooperation, compliance programs, asset recovery, foreign law enforcement cooperation.  (For factual information concerning DOJ and SEC individuals prosecutions see this [2] prior post and as relevant to the issue of “success” – a topic touched upon in both speeches – you might want to read the article “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses is Acceptable? [3]“)

In many respects, yesterday’s DOJ and SEC speeches were very similar to previous speeches delivered by enforcement agency officials in September and October (see here [4], here [5]here [6] and here [7] for prior posts).

This post excerpts this [8] speech by Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell and this [9] speech by Andrew Ceresney, Direct of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.

DOJ

Caldwell began her remarks as follows.

“I want to focus my remarks on one of our most important enforcement priorities – our efforts to combat corruption around the world.

At the Criminal Division, we are stepping up our efforts in the battle against corruption, at home and abroad.  Through our Public Integrity Section, which prosecutes corruption cases involving U.S. federal, state, and local officials, we are attacking domestic corruption.

More relevant to this audience, we are also deeply committed to fighting corruption abroad.  Now, more than ever, we are bringing to justice individuals and corporations who use foreign bribery as a way to gain a business advantage.  In part, we are doing this using the tools and methods that have made our past enforcement efforts so successful – FCPA prosecutions and penalties.

But there have been some really big changes in the Justice Department’s FCPA work since I last worked there.  First, thanks to the expertise and knowledge we have acquired over the years, we are now able to investigate FCPA cases much more quickly.  We also are better equipped to prosecute individuals who are actually making corrupt payments, as well as intermediary entities hired to serve as conduits for bribes.

And now we also are prosecuting the bribe takers, using our money laundering and other laws.  And, importantly, we have begun stripping corrupt officials of the proceeds of their corruption involving both bribes and kleptocracy, using both criminal and civil authorities.

The Criminal Division’s FCPA enforcement program and our Kleptocracy Initiative are really two sides of the same anti-corruption coin.  We bring those who pay bribes to justice, no matter how rich and powerful they are.  But by itself, that is not enough.  We also attack corruption at its source – by prosecuting and seizing the assets of the corrupt officials who betray the trust of their people.

Another big change – one that has been building for years but now has really developed momentum – is that we increasingly find ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder with law enforcement and regulatory authorities in other countries.  Every day, more countries join in the battle against transnational bribery. And this includes not just our long-time partners, but countries in all corners of the globe.

Together with our foreign law enforcement and regulatory partners we are taking a truly global approach to rooting out international corruption.  And make no mistake, this international approach has dramatically advanced our efforts to uncover, punish and deter foreign corruption.

Increasingly, we and our counterparts share information about bribery schemes.   We report schemes to one another.  And, where appropriate, we discuss strategy and coordinate our use of investigative techniques, so that we can obtain the best possible results, especially in very high-impact cases.

These efforts are incredibly important. The World Bank estimates that more than $1 trillion is paid every year in bribes, which amounts to about 3 percent of the world economy.  That amount is stunningly wasteful.  No one benefits from corruption other than the corrupt officials.

But corruption is far more insidious and harmful than can be measured numerically.  We all know that when corruption takes hold, the fundamental notion of playing-by-the-rules gets pushed to the side, and individuals, businesses and governments instead begin to operate under a fundamentally unfair – and destabilizing – set of norms.  This undermines confidence in the markets and governments, and destroys the sense of fair play that is absolutely critical for the rule of law to prevail.

In emerging economies, corruption stifles economic development that would lift people out of poverty, improve infrastructure, and better people’s lives.  And the fruits of corruption can prop up autocratic and oppressive rulers even in wealthier countries.

Make no mistake, the effects of foreign corruption are not just felt overseas.  In today’s global economy, the negative effects of foreign corruption inevitably flow back to the United States.  For one, American companies are harmed by global corruption.  They are denied the ability to compete in a fair and transparent marketplace.  Instead of being rewarded for their efficiency, innovation, and honest business practices, U.S. companies suffer at the hands of corrupt governments and lose out to corrupt competitors.

International corruption also presents broader public safety concerns.  Indeed, criminal networks of all kinds, including narcotics traffickers, cyber criminals, terrorists, and human traffickers, often take advantage of countries whose commitment to the rule of law is weakened by corruption of its officials.  And, as we’ve seen in the more extreme cases, thoroughly corrupted regimes have created safe havens for criminals by giving them a secure base from which they can orchestrate their criminal activities.

You have no doubt heard my predecessors speak of the evils of corruption.  It is because of these evils that the fight against international bribery has been, and continues to be, a core priority of the Department of Justice.

Our commitment to the fight against foreign bribery is reflected in our robust enforcement record in this area, which includes charges against corporations and individuals alike from all over the world.  Since 2009, we have convicted more than 50 individuals in FCPA and FCPA-related cases, and resolved criminal cases against more than 50 companies with penalties and forfeiture of approximately $3 billion.  Twenty-five of the cases involving individuals have come since 2013 alone.  And those are just the cases that are now public.  These individuals run the gamut of actors involved in bribery schemes: corporate executives, middlemen, and corrupt officials.”

Caldwell next focused on asset recovery and international cooperation:

“As our enforcement actions demonstrate, we are focusing our attention on bribes of consequence – ones that fundamentally undermine confidence in the markets and governments.  And our record of success in these prosecutions has allowed us to show – rather than just tell – corporate executives that if they participate in a scheme to improperly influence a foreign official, they will personally risk the very real prospect of going to prison.

[…]

Stripping individuals of the proceeds of their conduct – and thus depriving them of the very profits that are driving the corrupt conduct in the first place – is one technique that we are using increasingly in our fight against foreign bribery.  And, we are not just pursuing these corrupt proceeds through criminal actions.

The FCPA Unit’s efforts to eradicate foreign corruption also are assisted by the work of our Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, through which prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and Office of International Affairs are pursuing ill gotten riches from corrupt officials using our civil authority. […] [W]e are ready, willing, and able to confiscate the riches of corrupt leaders who drain the resources of their countries for their own benefit.”

[O]ur efforts to hold bribe takers as well as bribe payors accountable for their criminal conduct are greatly aided by our foreign partners.  Transnational bribery is a global problem and an international solution truly is beginning to develop.  Every day, more countries reject the notion that bribery in international business is inevitable and acceptable.  Indeed, in just the last few years several countries have enacted new anti-corruption laws or enhanced existing laws.  Admittedly, the global trend against foreign corruption continues to face many challenges, but the tide has turned and I truly believe that it is now on our side.

This level of collaboration is the product of hard work and strategic coordination, which has allowed us to forge the international partnerships that are essential to fight global corruption.  For example, just a couple of weeks ago, about 200 judges, prosecutors, investigators, and regulators from more than 50 countries, multi-development banks, and international organizations around the world joined prosecutors, investigators, and regulators from the Criminal Division, SEC, and FBI in Washington, D.C., for a week long training course to exchange ideas and best practices on combating foreign corruption.

I had the opportunity to participate in this meeting and saw its value first-hand.  The meeting provided a critical opportunity for the people who fight global corruption in the trenches every day to meet face-to-face, discuss ongoing cases, identify new opportunities to collaborate, and improve intelligence sharing.

The results from this increased international collaboration speak for themselves.”

[…]

[T]hese coordinated global actions sent a powerful message – countries all over the world are now engaged in the fight against foreign bribery and together, we can and will hold to account individuals and companies who engage in corruption, regardless of where they operate or reside.

The increase in international collaboration is not only enhancing our own FCPA enforcement efforts but it is also resulting in anti-corruption enforcement actions by other countries.”

[…]

Continued international collaboration is absolutely critical if we are going to have a meaningful impact on corruption across the globe and we are committed to maintaining – and enhancing – our working relationships with our foreign partners.

By enhancing our coordination with our overseas counterparts, continually improving our already successful methods of investigating and prosecuting FCPA cases, and increasing our efforts to prosecute corrupt officials and recover their ill-gotten gains, we are now, more than ever, making a tangible difference in the fight against foreign bribery.”

Caldwell next shifted to voluntary disclosure and cooperation and stated:

“When I last worked at the department and even over the 10 years that I was in private practice, it seemed that many FCPA investigations were initiated by self-disclosures.  While we of course still welcome self-disclosure, today we are far from reliant on it.

[…]

And in a world of whistleblowers and international cooperation, I expect that will be the case more often than not going forward.  That said, we still encourage and reward self-disclosure and cooperation.

When you detect significant potential criminal conduct at your company, or a company that has retained you, I encourage you to disclose it to the Justice Department – and to do so in a timely manner.  As I am sure you all know, the department’s Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations provides that prosecutors should consider “the corporation’s timely and voluntary disclosure of wrongdoing and its willingness to cooperate in the investigation of its agents” in deciding how to proceed in a corporate investigation.

So, in addition to promptly disclosing the conduct to us, I also encourage you to conduct a thorough internal investigation and to share with us the facts you uncover in that investigation.  We do not expect you to boil the ocean in conducting your investigation but in order to receive full credit for cooperation, we do expect you to conduct a thorough, appropriately tailored investigation of the misconduct.

And we expect you to provide us useful facts in a timely manner.  And that includes, importantly, facts about the individuals responsible for the misconduct, no matter how high their rank may be.

[…]

The sooner you disclose the conduct to us, the more avenues we have to investigate culpable individuals.  And, the more open you are with us about the facts you learned about that conduct during your investigation, the more credit you will receive for cooperation.

But, if you delay notifying us about an executive’s conduct or attempt to whitewash the facts about an individual’s involvement, you risk receiving any credit for your “cooperation.”

This does not mean that we expect you to use law-enforcement style techniques to investigate your employees.  To the contrary, it simply means that when you do an internal investigation, and you choose to cooperate with us, you should understand that we will expect to hear not just what happened, but who did what, when, and where.

We also expect that a truly cooperating company will provide relevant documents in a timely fashion, even if those documents are located overseas.  We recognize that some countries’ laws pose real challenges to data access and transfer of information, but we also know that many do not.

The Criminal Division investigates and prosecutes a large volume of international cases and through these cases, we have developed an understanding of these laws.  We will not give full cooperation credit to companies that hide behind foreign data privacy laws instead of providing overseas documents when they can.  Foreign data privacy laws exist to protect individual privacy, not to shield companies that purport to be cooperating in criminal investigations.

Put simply, cooperation – and the quality and timeliness of that cooperation – matter.  This is a well-established principle that we have applied in criminal cases across the spectrum – from violent and organized crime cases to corporate fraud cases – for decades.

If a company works with us, it not only helps the Department, but it helps itself.

[…]

Fighting corruption is not a choice we have made. It is, increasingly, a global imperative.  Given the critical nature of this mission, we are bringing more resources to bear than ever before – and we will continue doing so.  We have achieved significant successes using our traditional FCPA enforcement tools.  We are building on those successes and continuing to evolve our enforcement efforts.  Especially with the power of so many countries now standing by our side, we are determined to use every lawful means available to hold the perpetrators of corruption to account.”

SEC

Ceresney began his remarks as follows.

“Pursuing such [FCPA] violations remains a critical part of our enforcement efforts, as international bribery has many nefarious impacts, including sapping investor confidence in the legitimacy of a company’s performance and undermining the accuracy of a company’s books and records. Our specialized FCPA unit as well as other parts of the Enforcement Division continue to do remarkable work in this space, bringing significant and impactful cases often in partnership with the DOJ and FBI. […] Looking ahead, I anticipate another productive year of FCPA enforcement, as we have a robust pipeline of investigations across the globe. I thought I would spend my time this morning discussing some areas we will be focusing on in the coming year and beyond, and then, if we have time, I can take some questions.”

Under the heading “Focus on Individuals,” Ceresney stated:

“Let me start with cases against individuals. It is a hot topic of the day, in the face of some significant enforcement actions against entities alone, to ask the question of whether enforcement actions against entities are as impactful as actions against individuals, and whether actions against entities actually deter misconduct.

I always have said that actions against individuals have the largest deterrent impact. Individual accountability is a powerful deterrent because people pay attention and alter their conduct when they personally face potential punishment. And so in the FCPA arena as well as all other areas of our enforcement efforts, we are very focused on attempting to bring cases against individuals.

That is not to say that cases against companies are unimportant — in fact, I think FCPA enforcement is perhaps one of the best examples of how actions against entities can have a tremendous deterrent effect. Our actions against entities have had a tremendous impact in the last 10 years on FCPA compliance. Companies have increased their compliance spending and focus exponentially — the attendance at this conference is but one example of that. And these actions continue to provide significant deterrence and send important messages about areas that companies should be focused on. Every action we bring is scrutinized closely and dissected for information on areas of risk. That is a great dynamic and one we should continue to foster. But individual accountability is critical to FCPA enforcement — and imposing personal consequences on bad actors, including through bars and monetary sanctions, will continue to be a high priority for us.

Now it is important to recognize that FCPA cases against individuals can present some unique challenges for us and we simply are unable to bring cases against individuals in connection with a number of our cases. For example, in many cases we face significant investigative hurdles, including difficulties in gathering specific testimony and documents from overseas that will be admissible at trial. This is one area where we have been working closely with our counterparts in other jurisdictions, to access foreign witnesses, bank statements, and company records. These efforts have been more and more successful as we form strong partnerships with other countries to combat corruption.

When the conduct involves foreign nationals — as it often does — another challenge can be establishing personal jurisdiction over the bad actor. We have had some favorable decisions in this area, but it still remains a challenge in certain cases. Statute of limitations issues also complicate these cases.

Despite these various challenges, we continue to vigorously pursue cases against individuals.”

Under the heading “Importance of FCPA Compliance Programs,” Ceresney stated:

“This is a message that I think has started to get through in the past 5 years. Nothing situates a company better to avoid FCPA issues than a robust FCPA compliance program.

The best companies have adopted strong programs that include compliance personnel, extensive policies and procedures, training, vendor reviews, due diligence on third-party agents, expense controls, escalation of red flags, and internal audits to review compliance. You can look to our Resource Guide on the FCPA that we jointly published with the DOJ, to see what some of the hallmarks of an effective compliance program are. I won’t mention them all because you should be familiar with many that relate to policies, procedures and training. But, I’ll highlight just a few others. Companies should perform risk assessments that take into account a host of factors listed in the guide and then place controls in these risk areas. Companies should have disciplinary measures in place to deter violations and compliance programs should be periodically tested and reviewed to ensure they are keeping pace with the business. Such programs, properly implemented, will also help companies avoid other problems at foreign subsidiaries, like self-dealing, embezzlement and financial fraud.

As part of our settlements, we have on occasion required the retention of a monitor to assist in administering such compliance programs. For those companies that have developed robust programs during the investigation, we have required self-reporting and certifications. But the overwhelming message that one has to take away from our actions is how important such programs are for ensuring compliance.

Of course, it is critical for such programs to be real programs. When I was in private practice, I saw companies that had great paper programs but did not implement them effectively. When the business would push back, they would remove requirements and make exceptions. The best companies would put the compliance program ahead of business interests and allow decisions to be made to ensure compliance with the law, no matter the business consequences. It is that sort of attitude that is the measure of whether such programs will be successful.

As I said, we have seen many companies improving and properly implementing their compliance programs, as the message from our cases over the years has penetrated the legal and compliance community. But there is still more work to be done, particularly for small-to-medium sized companies trying to enter foreign markets to grow their businesses. As those businesses seek to expand and globalize, their compliance functions must keep pace.

[…]

The bottom line is that no responsible company should operate overseas without a comprehensive compliance program to guard against FCPA risk.

One other aspect of compliance programs is the benefit that companies will derive from having them if a problem should arise. I can tell you that the SEC staff will look well on companies that have robust programs and that the existence of such programs will pay dividends should an FCPA issue arise despite the existence of such programs.”

Under the heading “Cooperation,” Ceresney stated:

“Related to the issue of the existence of FCPA compliance programs, I wanted to focus for a moment on self-reporting and cooperation. The existence of FCPA compliance programs place the company in the best position to detect FCPA misconduct. But the question is what a company does once it learns of such misconduct. There has been a lot of discussion recently about the advisability of self-reporting FCPA misconduct to the SEC. Let me be clear about my views — I think any company that does the calculus will realize that self-reporting is always in the company’s best interest. Let me explain why.

Self-reporting from individuals and entities has long been an important part of our enforcement program. Self-reporting and cooperation allows us to detect and investigate misconduct more quickly than we otherwise could, as companies are often in a position to short circuit our investigations by quickly providing important factual information about misconduct resulting from their own internal investigations.

In addition to the benefits we get from cooperation, however, parties are positioned to also help themselves by aggressively policing their own conduct and reporting misconduct to us. We recognize that it is important to provide benefits for cooperation to incentivize companies to cooperate. And we have been focused on making sure that people understand there will be such benefits. We continue to find ways to enhance our cooperation program to encourage issuers, regulated entities, and individuals to promptly report suspected misconduct. The Division has a wide spectrum of tools to facilitate and reward meaningful cooperation, from reduced charges and penalties, to non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements in instances of outstanding cooperation.

Last year, for example, we announced our first-ever non-prosecution agreement in an FCPA matter with a company that promptly reported violations and provided real-time, extensive cooperation in our investigation.

More commonly, we have reflected the cooperation in reduced penalties. Companies that cooperate can receive smaller penalties than they otherwise would face, and in some cases of extraordinary cooperation, pay significantly less.

[…]

The bottom line is that the benefits from cooperation are significant and tangible. When I was a defense lawyer, I would explain to clients that by the time you become aware of the misconduct, there are only two things that you can do to improve your plight — remediate the misconduct and cooperate in the investigation. That obviously remains my view today. And I will add this — if we find the violations on our own, and the company chose not to self-report, the consequences will surely be worse and the opportunity to earn significant credit for cooperation may well be lost.

[…]

The SEC’s whistleblower program has changed the calculus for companies considering whether to disclose misconduct to us, knowing that a whistleblower is likely to come forward. Companies that choose not to self-report are thus taking a huge gamble because if we learn of the misconduct through other means, the result will be far worse.”

Under the heading “Items of Value,” Ceresney stated:

“The statute precludes the payment or provision of “anything of value” to a foreign official in order to induce that official to take official action for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. Obviously, money or property is an item of value. Gifts to foreign officials also easily qualify as items of value.

But we also have successfully brought FCPA cases where other, less traditional, items of value have been given in order to obtain or retain business. For example, in three separate actions, Stryker, Eli Lilly and Schering-Plough, we brought bribery charges against pharmaceutical or medical technology companies that made contributions to charities that were headed by or affiliated with foreign government officials to induce them to direct business to the companies.

We also have charged companies for providing items of value to family members of foreign officials. In Tyson Foods, for example, we charged the company for providing no-show jobs to the spouses of foreign officials who were responsible for certifying the company’s products for export. More recently, in Weatherford, we charged the company for a variety of bribes to foreign officials and their families, including paying for the honeymoon of an official’s daughter and a religious trip by an official and his family that was improperly recorded as a donation.

As these examples make clear, bribes come in many shapes and sizes. So it is critical that we carefully scrutinize a wide range of unfair benefits to foreign officials when assessing compliance with the FCPA — whether it is cash, gifts, travel, entertainment, or employment of the family and friends of foreign officials. We should and will continue to pursue a broad interpretation of the FCPA that precludes bribery in all forms.”

In conclusion, Ceresney stated:

“[T]he Enforcement Division will continue to look for opportunities to enhance our impact with respect to FCPA enforcement. We have made significant progress over the last 10 years but there is still much more we can do. We will continue our efforts to level the playing field for companies doing business abroad and hold corrupt actors accountable when they fail to play by the rules.”