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Many FCPA Enforcement Actions Involve Gaining Access To Confidential Information


In several Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions, the end result of things of value being offered or provided to alleged “foreign officials” is the company gaining access to confidential documents in the government’s possession.

Which ones?

This post summarizes the nearly twenty FCPA enforcement actions which fit the above description in whole or in part (in addition to this week’s FCPA enforcement action against Amec Foster Wheeler and related entities).


Among the conduct at issue in the 2020 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.

Sargeant Marine

As highlighted here, the 2020 enforcement action included allegations that the company and its co-conspirators agreed to pay bribes to PDVSA officials, through an Intermediary and PDVSA Official #1, in exchange for receiving non-public information from PDVSA and to obtain a competitive advantage in obtaining and retaining business with PDVSA.” According to the information, the code word “Chocolates” was used to refer to the confidential information that was obtained through the corrupt bribery scheme.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals 

As highlighted here, the 2020 enforcement action included findings that Alexion Turkey paid a consultant over $1.3 million, consisting of consulting fees and purported expense reimbursements and the consultant passed a portion of these funds on to Turkish government officials, in the form of cash, meals, or gifts, to secure favorable treatment for the company’s product. According to the SEC, as a result of these payments, Alexion Turkey not only secured approvals for patient prescriptions, but also received confidential information and advance feedback from government officials on regulatory submissions.

Ahsanis and Hunter

As highlighted here, the 2019 guilty plea by Cyrus Ahsani and Saman Ahsani (the former CEO and Chief Operations Officer of Monaco-based Unaoil) and Steven Hunter (a former business development manager at Unaoil) included allegations about bribes to obtain confidential information. Regarding Iraq, the DOJ generally alleged various schemes involving officials at state-owned oil and gas companies to obtain and retain business for Unaoil and its client companies including a monthly bribe to an Iraq official, bribes to ensure that the Iraqi government approved certain work for Unaoil client companies, and obtaining confidential bidding information. Regarding Libya, the DOJ alleged that Hunter agreed to bribe Libyan Official A (an employee of the National Oil Company) in exchange for Libyan Official A providing confidential bidding information related to Libya Project A (a gas refinery project in Libya).” According to the DOJ: “The conspirators, including Hunter, obtained confidential bidding and other information from within foreign government oil and gas instrumentalities, and used, disseminated, and discussed the contents of that information in order to win oil and gas projects or otherwise obtain improper advantages. The conspirators, including Hunter, solicited oil and gas company clients to use [Unaoil’s] intermediary services by describing their “proximity” to foreign officials, and their ability to obtain inside confidential bidding information.


As highlighted here, the 2018 enforcement action against Paul Margis (a former President and CEO of Panasonic Avionics Corp) included the following SEC findings. “During the course of the negotiations … and while seeking personal benefits from PAC, the Government Official was providing PAC commercial and proprietary information that helped PAC secure an improper advantage in obtaining and retaining business from the Government Airline. This included confidential information of the Government Airline and PAC’s competitors, tips on negotiating with the Government Airline, and advice on how to secure additional business from the Government Airline.”

United Technologies

As highlighted here, the 2018 enforcement action included findings that a division of the company “made unsupported payments to an agent, disregarding the high probability that at least some of the money would be used to make unlawful payments to a Chinese official to obtain confidential information to sell engines to a Chinese state-owned airline.”


As highlighted here, the 2018 individual enforcement action against Lawrence Parker included allegations that “Foreign Official A, on behalf of Setar [an alleged instrumentality of the Aruba government], requested price quotations on certain mobile phones and accessories from Parker and others. In addition, on occasion, Foreign Official A , without the knowledge of, or approval from his employer Setar, provided Parker and his co-conspirators with proprietary, confidential business information via email.”


As highlighted here, the 2018 enforcement action included allegations that company employees “engaged in a scheme to retain consultants for improper purposes other than for providing actual consulting services” including a consultant “to obtain confidential non-public business information about the airline, including information about its negotiations with PAC competitors.”

SBM Offshore

As highlighted here, the 2017 enforcement action included allegations that corporate entities “obtained confidential information from Petrobras officials [through the third party] in its efforts to obtain or retain business.”

Rolls Royce

As highlighted here, the 2017 enforcement action included allegations that a company subsidiary “made approximately $1.2 million in corrupt commission payments to Intermediary 2, knowing that Intermediary 2’s commission payments would be used to bribe foreign officials at Sonangol in order to obtain confidential information and win contracts for Rolls-Royce and [the subsidiary].”


As highlighted here, the 2016 enforcement action included allegations that a Brazilian physician “on Brazil Hospital #1’s tender committee, and who had received and would continue to receive improper benefits from [company entities] provided confidential tender information to [subsidiary] employees, specifically that an Olympus competitor would be filing a challenge to the tender specifications as biased towards Olympus. On that basis, [the subsidiary] prepared a response to the Olympus competitor’s expected objections and provided it to the physician to use in ensuring that the tender was awarded to Olympus.”


As highlighted here, the 2015 enforcement action including findings that a company subsidiary bribed a Qatari official and that “in return, Foreign Official provided PBS&J Int’l with access to confidential sealed-bid information and pricing information on the two government contracts that helped PBS&J Int’l tender bids that had a greater likelihood of being awarded, including a government contract for which the Foreign Official was the project manager.”


As highlighted here, the 2011 enforcement action included allegations that a company joint venture provided various things of value to South Korea officials in exchange for, among other things, providing “certain confidential information regarding the product specifications on [an alleged government entity’s] request for procurement.”


As highlighted here, the 2011 enforcement action including allegations that a company subsidiary made payments totaling approximately $230,000 to a consultant and that the consultant “likely used a portion of these payments to bribe certain key [Empresa Nicaraguense de Telecomunicaciones S.A. (“Enitel”] officials in order to influence Enitel to award the two contracts to Alcatel, to obtain confidential information about competing bids, and to secure favorable financial terms.”


As highlighted here, the 2011 enforcement action included allegations involving commission payments to an Uzbekistan agent to receive confidential bidding documents in connection with tenders conducted by alleged Uzbekistan state-owned or state-controlled companies.


As highlighted here, the 2002 individual enforcement action against Richard Pitchford included allegations that “Pitchford obtained confidential information from the bids of the British Company’s competitors for the CAAEF Turkmenistan project and delivered the information to the British Company through the Foreign Government official. The British Company used the confidential information to tailor its bid to include the extra $200,000, but still remain under the bids of its competitors.”

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