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Friday Roundup

Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index, monitor issues, scrutiny alert, Chinese SOEs, SEC press releases, hot, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Transparency International’s Latest Corruption Perceptions Index

Transparency International, a global civil society organization dedicated to the fight against corruption, released recently the 20th edition of its Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI”).  (See here [1] for TI’s release).  As stated by TI, the CPI “measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide” and 175 countries are ranked with Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland (topping the list – i.e. low levels of perceived corruption) and South Sudan, Afghanistan, Sudan, North Korea and Somalia (on the bottom of the list – i.e. high levels of perceived corruption).

TI’s CPI is a popular tool on which many business organizations rank perceived risk, but query whether the CPI is a reliable or meaningful measure of the specific risks specific business organizations face when competing in the global marketplace?

For starters, perceptions are just that, perceptions.  To be sure, there are countless honest and ethical people living in Somalia just as there are countless dishonest and unethical people living in Denmark.  Moreover, at its core, FCPA risk is the function of specific business actors (employees and agents) coming into contact with specific foreign officials, in the context of specific foreign business conditions.  These risk points are often industry specific and within a country are often region specific.  None of these factors, or very few, are captured by the CPI.

Thus, while I enjoy each time this year looking at the CPI map, I don’t think it is a very useful tool for business organizations when adopting policies and procedures designed to minimize FCPA risk.

Monitor Issues

An interesting blurb [2] here from Courthouse News Service.

“Siemens and a monitor charged with keeping watch over the German conglomerate’s compliance with a settlement agreement over federal corruption and bribery charges can fight to keep records of that agreement out of the hands of reporters, a federal judge ruled. (See 2014 WL 6817009). 100Reporters – a press outlet with a self-proclaimed mission to “cover corruption of all sorts” – sued the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act this past summer, seeking records of Siemens’ compliance with a 2008 settlement of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Siemens pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a precedent-setting $1.6 billion penalty to U.S. and EU authorities to settle charges that it routinely used bribes and slush funds to secure massive public works contracts around the world. Part of the settlement included four-year compliance monitoring by Dr. Theo Waigel, who was given broad access to Siemens’ confidential and commercially sensitive information and records to make annual reports to the Justice Department. The DOJ closed the compliance monitoring in 2012, determining that Siemens had “satisfied its obligations under the plea agreement.” After the Justice Department denied 100Reporters’ request for compliance monitoring documents – including the four annual reports from Waigel – and the group sued, Siemens and Waigel demanded to get involved, citing the right of intervention. For Siemens’ part, the company argued that the reports contained confidential and proprietary information not fit for public consumption. Waigel complained that his personal reputation – and the unfettered access of future compliance monitors – was on the line because he promised Siemens confidentiality while examining the company’s records and delivering his reports to the Justice Department.  Both Siemens and Waigel have a legal interest in fighting 100Reporters’ FOIA request, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras held in a 31-page ruling issued Wednesday. Specifically, Contreras dismissed 100Reporters’ claims that Siemens, Waigel and the DOJ are all fighting from the same legal position. “Requiring Siemens to monitor the DOJ’s litigation posture from the sidelines until Siemens disagrees with a decision by the agency is inefficient and impractical; indeed, Siemens likely would have limited, if any, insight into the DOJ’s strategy during the litigation, and once Siemens did learn of a hypothetical shift in the DOJ’s position, such as a decision to release a specific category of materials, it might be too late for Siemens to undue any damage done,” Contreras wrote. Furthermore, not allowing Siemens and Waigel to intervene now – and forcing them to wait months or years until the Justice Department has done its withholding analysis – would put them both in danger of missing federal filing deadlines, the judge said. The potential injury to Siemens if the documents are released is both “particularized and sufficiently imminent,” Contreras wrote. “It is not surprising, then, that 100Reporters cannot cite a single FOIA case in which a court denied on standing grounds the application of a prospective intervenor whose own confidential materials were the clear subject of the FOIA request,” he added. Contreras also rejected calls by 100Reporters to limit Siemens’ involvement solely to FOIA exemption 4, which bars release of confidential and commercially sensitive information. “A more functional and practical approach is required, and fatally, 100Reporters fails to offer any concrete or realistic consequences to this litigation from Siemens’s (or Waigel’s) intervention that might require the court to impose a limitation on the scope of the defenses that an intervenor may raise as this case, which still is in its infancy, proceeds to the merits,” Contreras wrote. The judge refused 100Reporters’ claims that allowing Siemens and Waigel to get involved would unnecessarily delay the proceedings, advising the group in a footnote “raise such concerns then,” if and when any delays occur.”

The California Lawyer goes in-depth in an article [3] titled “The Secret Life of a Corporate Monitor.”

“Without naming the subjects of his monitoring, Dan Ray talked generally about the highly secretive world of government-appointed corporate monitors, where progress reports are confidential, judges rarely get involved, and the DOJ alone determines whether corporations have complied with terms of the agreements. Monitors are not government employees or agents, and they do not contract with or receive payment from the government. Fees generally are negotiated between the corporation and the monitor.”

Through some basic internet research, it is not that difficult to figure out which companies Ray monitored.  (See here [4], here [5] and here [6]).

Scrutiny Alert

The Financial Times reports [7]:

“In a Florida court on Tuesday, a judge granted a request by US prosecutors to seize an ice cream cooler, a walk-in freezer, dozens of other pieces of catering equipment and three properties belonging to a woman called Mamadie Touré. It was just one of a ceaseless stream of such requests, through which the authorities seek forfeiture of what they say are ill-gotten assets. But this was no ordinary woman and no ordinary case. Ms Touré is the widow of Lansana Conté, a dictator who ruled the resource-rich but dirt poor west African state of Guinea for 24 years before his death in 2008. And US prosecutors’ interest in Ms Touré runs to much more than a few refrigerators and some Jacksonville real estate. Their court filing [8] in the forfeiture request spells out the details of a two-year US investigation into one of the most wide-ranging cases of alleged corruption in recent years.  Prosecutors alleged in that filing, lodged last week and seen by the Financial Times, that Ms Touré received bribes totalling $5.3m to help a mining company win iron-ore rights in Guinea. The rights in question were to exploit the northern half of a hillside called Simandou, considered the planet’s richest virgin deposit of iron ore. The company involved is not named in the filing. But references to documents published in a Guinean inquiry, to the timing of the award of the mining rights and to a separate criminal case make it obvious that the company is BSG Resources, the mining arm of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s family conglomerate.”

Chinese SOEs

An interesting article [9] recently in the Wall Street Journal.  According to the article:

“At the end of 2013, China had about 155,000 firms owned by central, provincial and local governments, according to the Ministry of Finance.  Beijing itself directly controls less than 120 of the biggest and most strategically significant industrial companies, which are responsible for building the world’s largest nuclear reactors and most extensive high speed rail network, buying up mining and agricultural resources overseas, and spreading Chinese goodwill with infrastructure projects across the developing world. […] Many smaller state-owned firms make goods with no obvious strategic significance, like spirits and toothpaste …”.

The article contains an interesting chart comparing six China SOEs with U.S. counterparts.  According to the chart, the six SOEs have approximately 2.6 million employees.

SEC Press Releases

Russell Ryan [10] (King & Spalding and former assistant director of enforcement at the SEC ) returns to the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page with this [11] dandy piece titled “Get the SEC Out of the PR Business.”  He begins:

“Press releases are par for the course when the Securities and Exchange Commission files a case in federal court that it must later prove to a judge or jury. But the agency is increasingly shunting cases into its own administrative proceedings, where it initiates the prosecution and ultimately decides guilt or innocence—along with the severity of any sanctions—subject to only limited review in court. Given the SEC’s peculiar quasi-judicial role in these cases, you might think the agency would refrain from gratuitously stoking prehearing publicity against the accused. Think again. The SEC now routinely issues press releases when it files charges in administrative cases it will eventually decide. This practice calls into question the agency’s ability to decide those cases fairly and impartially.”

[…]

“SEC releases also stray beyond a fair and accurate summary of agency action. Many confuse what happened by asserting—often in the headline or lead sentence—that the SEC “charged” the accused with wrongdoing. But at this initial stage only SEC staff employees, typically from the enforcement division, have “charged” any wrongdoing. Commissioners, at least in theory, have merely scheduled a hearing to determine whether the employees can prove their charges—a determination the commissioners are supposed to make after an administrative judge conducts the hearing and makes a preliminary decision. Not surprisingly, media reports often reinforce the misperception that SEC commissioners are prosecuting these cases rather than deciding them. One of the most troubling features of SEC prehearing press releases is the partiality they betray in favor of agency prosecutors over the accused. In virtually all cases, the SEC allows its prosecuting employees not only to ghostwrite the official press release but also to insert gratuitous quotations that embellish the formal accusations with more colorful words and phrases like “tricks,” “calculated fraud,” “reaping substantial profits,” and “choosing profits over compliance.” The accused is never extended similar courtesies. When the SEC initiates enforcement action administratively rather than in court, it should embrace its primary role as impartial decision maker. That means resisting the urge to stoke prehearing publicity and maintaining strict neutrality in both fact and appearance. By failing to do so, the SEC risks having administrative fines and other sanctions swept aside if a court someday concludes, quite reasonably, that agency press releases plausibly suggest prejudgment of cases or lack of impartiality. The agency may consider that scenario unlikely. But given its determination to prosecute more cases administratively, that may not be a risk worth taking.”

Hot

You probably already knew that FCPA and related practices are hot.  But just in case you need another reminder, see here [12].  The latest edition of “What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession” contains the following under the “hot” category.

“Anti-corruption. Larger U.S. firms continue to increase enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, leading to more prosecutions. The U.K., China, Brazil and Canada have all enacted anti-bribery laws in the past few years and are now increasing investigations.”

You can elevate your FCPA knowledge and practical experience by attending the FCPA Institute in Miami (Jan. 12-13, 2015). Join other firm lawyers, in-house counsel, auditing professionals and others already registered for the FCPA Institute – Miami by clicking here [13] to register.  CLE credit is available.

Reading Stack

The lastest edition of Debevoise & Plimpton’s always informative FCPA Report is here [14].

From Foley & Lardner attorney Aaron Murphy and Daniel Seltzer (Senior Director, Anticorruption for Accenture) “The End of Whac-A-Mole Compliance:  A Global Approach to Anti-Corruption Actions [15].”

*****

A good weekend to all.