This post analyzes the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions against Magyar Telekom, Deutsche Telekom and certain former executives of Magyar generally discussed in this previous post.
Total fines and penalties were approximately $95 million ($59.6 million against Magyar Telekom via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, $4.4 million against Deutsche Telekom via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement, and $31.2 million against Magyar Telekom via a settled SEC civil complaint). The SEC action against former Magyar executives remains active.
Because Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom were “foreign issuers,” jurisdiction under the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions require “use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance” of a bribery scheme. The sole jurisdictional allegations in the enforcement action (other than the companies made filings with the SEC) are two e-mails that passed through, were stored on, and transmitted to servers located in the U.S.
It is also noteworthy that the companies faced FCPA exposure based on the conduct of a few Magyar executives who concealed their conduct from others. Indeed, the DOJ alleged that the existence and true purpose of the sham contracts used in the bribery scheme “were unknown to anyone within Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom other than [two executives]‘ and a relatively small number of additional participants.” Furthermore, the DOJ alleges that the executives, assisted by Greek intermediaries, circumvented Magyar Telekom’s internal controls by, among other things, backdating contracts and creating other fabricated documents.
The DOJ’s NPA with Deutsche Telekom states that the DOJ ”will not criminally prosecute Deutsche Telekom … for any crimes … related to the offering or making of improper payments by employees of Magyar Telekom to foreign officials, foreign political parties, and officials of foreign political parties in Macedonia and the accounting and record-keeping associated with these improper payments in violation” of the FCPA’s books and records provisions.” Yet one struggles to find any facts that would justify criminal charges against Deutsche Telekom. The DOJ has said in the past that it “does not prosecute corporations based on the acts of a single rogue employee.” Yet all one learns from reading the NPA is that a Deutsche Telekom executive was a board member of Magyar Telekom and one of its subsidiaries and that the executive had passive knowledge of the scheme and later learned of the Magyar Telekom executives circumvention of Magyar Telekom’s internal controls. In all other respects, Deutsche Telekom’s criminal and civil exposure appears to be based on a strict liability like theory in that Magyar Telekom’s financial results were incorporated into Deutsche Telekom’s for purposes of financial reporting.
The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against Magyar Telekom resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here) as well as a non-prosecution agreement (here) with Deutsche Telekom.
The information focuses on conduct in Macedonia and Montenegro.
As to Macedonia, the information alleges as follows. ”During 2005 and 2006, certain executives then employed by Magyar engaged in a course of conduct with consultants, intermediaries and other third parties, including contracting through sham contracts to pay an aggregate amount of €4.875 million to
the Cypriot Shell Company [a shell company controlled by Greek Intermediary #1 (an individual who assisted Magyar Telekom in its dealings with Macedonian government officials), Greek Intermediary #2 (an individual who assisted Magyar Telekom in its dealings with Macedonian government officials), and Greek Intermediary #3 (an individual who assisted Magyar Telekom in its dealings with Macedonian government officials) that executed contracts with, submitted paperwork to, and received payments from, Magyar Telekom and its subsidiaries]
and one of its affiliates, under circumstances in which they knew, or were aware of a high probability that circumstances existed in which, all or a portion of the proceeds of such payments would be offered, given, promised or paid, directly or indirectly to
Macedonian Government Official #1 [a high-ranking government official with responsibility related to telecommunications laws and regulations and a leader of Macedonian Political Party A],
Macedonian Government Official #2 [a high-ranking government official with responsibility for telecommunications laws and regulations and a leader of Macedonian Political Party B],
Macedonian Political Party A, and/or Macedonian Political Party B [collectively political parties in the Macedonian governing coalition each representing a traditional ethnic group in Macedonia]
with the intention of obtaining business and advantages for Magyar Telekom. In addition, Macedonian Political Party B was offered the opportunity to designate the beneficiary of a business venture in exchange for the party’s support of Magyar Telekom’s desired benefits.”
According to the information, in early 2005, the Macedonian Parliament enacted a law designed to liberalize the telecommunications market in a manner that would have been unfavorable to Magyar Telekom. Specifically the law authorized the telecommunications regulatory bodies in Macedonia to hold a public tender for a license to operate a third mobile telephone business that would directly compete in Macedonia against Magyar Telekom’s Macedonian subsidiary, MakTel, and imposed increased frequency fees and other regulatory burdens. According to the information, certain Magyar Telekom executives and the Greek Intermediaries met with Macedonian Official #1 and others to “inform them that a third mobile license was not acceptable.”
According to the information, certain Magyar Telekom executives approved and executed two secret agreements with Macedonian Official #1 to delay or preclude the issuance of a third mobile telephone license and to mitigate the other adverse effects of the new law, including not requiring MakTel to pay the full amount of the increased frequency fee. The information alleges, among other things, that an e-mail was sent to a Macedonian government official “at his U.S. based e-mail address” that “was passed through, stored on, and transmitted from servers located in the United States” and that a MakTel executive received an e-mail discussing the secret agreements in his “Hotmail email account, which passed through, was stored on, and transmitted to servers located in the United States.”
The information alleges that between 2005 and 2006 Magyar Telekom received the benefits promised in the agreements and that Magyar Telekom executives authorized MakTel and other Magyar Telekom subsidiaries to enter into a series of sham contracts and to pay an aggregate amount of € 4.875 million under those contracts to the Cypriot Shell Company and one of its affiliates, under circumstances in which the Magyar Telekom Executives knew, or were aware of a high probability that circumstances existed in which, all or a portion of the proceeds of such payments would be offered, given, promised, or paid, directly or indirectly to Macedonian government officials.
The information alleges that following the sham contracts “the Macedonian government delayed the introduction of a third mobile telephone competitor until 2007 and reduced the frequency fee tariffs imposed on Magyar Telekom’s Macedonian subsidiary, MakTel.”
According to the information, “the existence and true purpose of the agreements were unknown to anyone within Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom other than [the two executives] and a relatively small number of additional participants.” In fact, the information alleges that the two executives, assisted by Greek Intermediary #1, circumvented Magyar Telekom’s internal controls by, among other things, backdating contracts or creating other fabricated documents.
Nevertheless the information alleges as follows. “The payments made under these sham contracts were recorded on Magyar Telekom’s books and records in a manner that did not accurately reflect the true purposes of the contracts under which they were made, and the false books and records were consolidated into DT’s financial statements.”
Based on the above allegations as to Macedonia, the information charges FCPA anti-bribery violations and FCPA books and records violations.
The information states as follows. “In October 2004, the Government of Montenegro issued a tender to privatize its approximately 51% stake in the state-owned telecommunications company TCG [Telekom Crne Gore A.D.]. Magyar Telekom submitted a bid that sought to obtain a super-majority ownership stake, consisting of the government’s 51% share, plus enough additional minority shares from private investors to give Magyar Telekom ownership of at least two-thirds of TCG.” According to the information, in March 2005 Magyar Telekom succeeded in acquiring an approximately 73% stake in TCG, and after the Government of Montenegro facilitated Magyar Telekom’s acquisition of shares of TCG from minority shareholders, certain Magyar Telekom executives caused Magyar Telekom, TCG, and/or its affiliates to enter into four contracts that purported to relate to the TCG acquisition and/or Magyar Telekom’s operations in Montenegro, but under which no valuable performance was actually rendered. The information alleges that “payments under those contracts were not recorded accurately on Magyar Telekom’s or Magyar Telekom’s subsidiaries’ books and records.”
According to the information, “the payments under the four contracts … were recorded on Magyar Telekom’s books and records, or those of certain of Magyar Telekom’s subsidiaries, in a manner that did not accurately reflect the true purposes of the contracts under which they were made, and the false books and records were consolidated into Magyar Telekom’s and DT’s financial statements.”
Based on the above conduct as to Montenegro, the information charges FCPA books and records violations.
The DOJ’s charges against Magyar Telekom were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement. Pursuant to the DPA, Magyar Telekom admitted, accepted and acknowledged “that it is responsible for the acts of its officers, employees, agents, and those of Magyar Telekom’s subsidiaries as charged in the Information.”
The term of the DPA is two years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors.
(a) following reports by the company’s auditors, Magyar Telekom made a timely and voluntary disclosure to the DOJ and SEC about potential misconduct;
(b) over the course of several years, Magyar Telekom’s audit committee led a thorough global internal investigation concerning bribery and related misconduct;
(c) Magyar Telekom’s audit committee reported its findings to the DOJ and SEC;
(d) the pervasiveness of the scheme, the involvement of a number of now-former senior managers at Magyar Telekom and certain of its subsidiaries , and conduct by some of those employees designed to obstruct the audit committee’s investigation;
(e) Magyar Telekom undertook remedial measures, including the implementation of an enhanced compliance program, and agreed to undertake further remedial measures; and
(f) Magyar Telekom agreed to continue to cooperate with the DOJ in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of Magyar Telekom’s current and former employees, agents, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, and subsidiaries relating to violations of the FCPA.
As detailed in the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the charges at issue was $72.5 million – $145 million. Pursuant to the DPA, Magyar agreed to pay $59.6 million (18% below the minimum Guidelines range). According to the DPA, this amount was “appropriate given the nature and extent of Magyar Telekom’s cooperation in this matter and the remediation undertaken by Magyar Telekom.”
Pursuant to the DPA, Magyar Telekom represented that “it has implemented and will continue to implement a compliance and ethics program designed to prevent and detect violations of the FCPA” and related laws throughout its operations. The specific compliance provisions are set forth in an attachment to the DPA. In addition, Magyar Telekom agreed to “report to the DOJ annually during the term of the Agreement regarding remediation and implementation of the compliance measures” set forth in the attachment. As is common in FCPA DPA’s Magyar Telekom expressly agreed “that it shall not [directly or indirectly through others] make any public statement, in litigation or otherwise, contradicting the acceptance of responsibility by Magyar Telekom” of the above described facts.
The DOJ’s enforcement action also included a non-prosecution agreement against Deutsche Telekom. It states that the DOJ “will not criminally prosecute Deutsche Telekom … for any crimes … related to the offering or making of improper payments by employees of Magyar Telekom to foreign officials, foreign political parties, and officials of foreign political parties in Macedonia and the accounting and record-keeping associated with these improper payments in violation” of the FCPA’s books and records provisions.
The DOJ agreed to enter into the NPA based on the following factors: ”(a) DT’s timely, voluntary, and complete disclosure of the facts [described below]; (b) DT’s thorough cooperation with the DOJ and SEC; and (c) DT’s remedial efforts already undertaken and to be undertaken, including enhancements to its compliance program …”.
The NPA relates only to conduct in Macedonia and the NPA contain similar facts as described above. The NPA also states that a DT Executive was a board member of Magyar Telekom and a MakTel mobile subsidiary. According to the NPA, the “DT Executive supported” Magyar Telekom entering into an agreement described above and the DT executive was aware an executed agreement “was not kept in Magyar Telekom’s books and records.” As to the sham contracts with Greek Intermediaries used to circumvent Magyar Telekom’s internal controls and to avoid detection, the NPA states that the DT Executive “later learned of these contracts and the circumstances in which they were executed.”
Under the section heading “Impact on DT’s Books and Records,” the NPA states as follows. “Magyar Telekom recorded the payments under [the sham contracts] on its books and records in a manner that did not accurately reflect the true purpose of the contracts. The false entries in Magyar Telekom’s books and records were consolidated into the books and records of DT, which reported the results of Magyar Telekom’s operations in its consolidated financial statements.”
The NPA has a term of two years and, as is standard, DT agreed not to make any public statements contradicting the described facts. Under the NPA, DT agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $4.36 million.
See here for the DOJ’s release.
The SEC enforcement action involved a settled complaint against Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom as well as a separate complaint against former Magyar Telekom executives.
The SEC’s settled civil complaint (here) against the companies involves “multiple violations” of the FCPA by Magyar Telekom and “corresponding violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA by Magyar Telekom’s parent company Deutsche Telekom.” The complaint concerns the same Macedonia and Montenegro schemes identified in the DOJ enforcement action.
In summary fashion, the SEC complaint alleges as follows. “During the relevant time period, Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom lacked sufficient internal accounting controls to prevent and detect violations of the FCPA. As a result, the contracts described above [used in furtherance of the schemes] were not subjected to meaningful review, and substantially all of the amounts were paid without question, prior to the initiation of an internal investigation at the direction of the Audit Committee of Magyar Telekom. Magyar Telekom recorded the payments to third-parties under these contracts on its books and records in a manner that did not accurately reflect the true purpose of the contracts. The false entries in Magyar Telekom’s books and records were consolidated into the books and records of Deutsche Telekom, which reports the results of Magyar Telekom’s operations in its consolidated financial statements.”
Based on the above allegations, the SEC complaint charges FCPA anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls violations as to both the Macedonia and Montenegro conduct. As stated in the SEC’s release (here), without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, Magyar Telekom agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying approximately $31.2 million in disgorgement and pre-judgment interest; Deutsche Telekom settled the SEC’s charges, and as part of a non-prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice agreed to pay a penalty of $4.36 million.
The SEC’s complaint (here) against the former Magyar Telekom executives, Elek Straub (former Chairman and CEO of Magyar Telekom) and Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai (two former senior executives in Magyar Telekom’s Strategy Department), is also based on the same Macedonia and Montenegro schemes. In both schemes, the SEC alleged that the individuals authorized or caused the payments at issue with “knowledge, the firm belief, or under circumstances that made it substantially certain” that all or a portion of the money would be forwarded to foreign officials. The complaint also alleges that the individuals caused the payments to be falsely recorded in Magyar Telekom’s books and records.
In addition, the complaint alleges that the individuals “made false or misleading statements or omissions to Magyar Telekom’s auditors in connection with the preparation of the company’s financial statements.” Specifically, the SEC alleged that the individuals signed management representation letters or management sub-representation letters that contained false or misleading information. The complaint states as follows. “Had Magyar Telekom’s auditors known [the various facts falsified or concealed] they would not have accepted the management representation letters and other representations provided by Straub. Nor would the auditors have provided an unqualified audit opinion to accompany Magyar Telekom’s annual report.”
The SEC’s complaint against Straub, Balogh, and Morvai alleges that they violated or aided and abetted violations of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA; knowingly circumvented internal controls and falsified books and records; and made false statements to the company’s auditor. The SEC seeks disgorgement and penalties and the imposition of permanent injunctions.
Magyar Telekom’s release (here) (which per the DPA needed to be cleared by the DOJ) states as follows. “As previously disclosed, the Audit Committee of Magyar Telekom conducted an internal investigation regarding certain contracts relating to the activities of the Company and/or its affiliates in Montenegro and Macedonia that totaled more than EUR 31 million. In particular, the internal investigation examined whether the Company and/or its Montenegrin and Macedonian affiliates had made payments prohibited by U.S. laws or regulations, including the FCPA. The Company’s Audit Committee informed the DOJ and the SEC of the internal investigation. The DOJ and the SEC commenced investigations into the activities that were the subject of the internal investigation. The Company has previously disclosed the results of the internal investigation. As also previously disclosed, the Company’s Board of Directors approved an agreement in principle with the staff of the SEC to resolve the SEC’s investigation through a settlement.” The release further states as follows. “The final settlements recognize the DOJ’s and the SEC’s consideration of the Company’s self-reporting, thorough internal investigation, remediation and cooperation with the DOJ’s and the SEC’s investigations. The Company has undertaken several remedial measures to address the issues identified during the course of these investigations. These measures include steps designed to revise and enhance the Company’s internal controls, as well as the establishment of the Corporate Compliance Program. The Corporate Compliance Program promotes awareness of the Company’s compliance policies and procedures through training, the operation of a whistleblower hotline, and monitoring of, and communications with, employees and subsidiaries of the Company. The Company remains fully committed to responsible corporate behavior.”
Peter Clark (Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft – here - a former DOJ FCPA Unit chief) represented Magyar Telekom. Debevoise & Plimpton attorneys Mary Jo White (here – the former U.S. Attorney for the S.D. of N.Y.) and Jonathan Tuttle (here) represented Deutsche Telekom.