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Issues To Consider From The Vitol Enforcement Action

Issues

This prior post highlighted the net $90 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Vitol for conduct in Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico. This prior post took a closer look at the net $28.8 million enforcement action brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission based on the same core conduct.

This post continues the analysis by additional issues to consider from the FCPA enforcement action.

Gaining Access to Confidential Information

Among the conduct at issue in the Vitol enforcement action was the allegation that Vitol and its co-conspirators made corrupt payments to various individuals at Petrobras “in exchange for receiving confidential Petrobras information, including: (i) ‘market intelligence,” which included internal Petrobras import and export forecasts and other confidential information intended to benefit Vitol in trading with Petrobras; and (ii) ‘last look’ information, including confidential bid information that Petrobras received from Vitol’s competitors, which Vitol used to determine the amount it would need to bid to win public tenders.

As highlighted in this prior post (as well as herehere, here, here and here), numerous other FCPA enforcement actions have included similar allegations.

Other Related Actions?

As highlighted in this article:

“[A]uthorities in the U.S. and Brazil are also investigating Vitol’s rivals, Glencore Plc  and Trafigura Group Ltd., on similar allegations. Brazilian prosecutors last week filed a civil lawsuit against Trafigura and several of its top executives, alleging it also paid bribes to Petrobras executives. Trafigura said it hired the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP to review the allegations. So far the firm’s investigators believe “any allegations that current management were involved in, or had knowledge of, alleged improper payments to Petrobras are unsupported by the evidence and untrue.”

Timeline

As highlighted here, Vitol’s scrutiny appears to have begun in late 2018. Thus, from start to finish, its scrutiny appears to have lasted approximately two years.

Statute of Limitations

Pardon me for being that guy, but the 2020 Vitol enforcement action was principally about conduct in Brazil and according to the DOJ this conduct allegedly occurred between 2005 and 2014 (that is 6-15 years prior to the enforcement action).

The statue of limitations for violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions is five years. But then again, statute of limitations matter little when a company agrees to toll or waive statute of limitations offenses to demonstrate its cooperation. There is no explicit reference to tolling or waiver in the Vitol resolution documents, nevertheless it is relatively common for companies under FCPA scrutiny to toll or waive to demonstrate cooperation.

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