Archive for the ‘2011 Enforcement Actions’ Category

In Depth On The Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom Enforcement Action

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

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.

DOJ

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.

Criminal Information

The information focuses on conduct in Macedonia and Montenegro.

Macedonia

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.

Montenegro

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.

DPA

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.

SEC

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.

Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom Resolve $95 Million FCPA Enforcement Action – SEC Also Charges Former Magyar Executives

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Hold the phone on the 2011 FCPA enforcement statistics. 

Once again, the end of the year sees a telecom company resolving an FCPA enforcement action.  In 2007, it was Lucent Technologies (see here and here);  in 2009 it was UTStarcom (see here for the prior post); in 2010 it was Alcatel-Lucent (see here for the prior post); and in 2011 it is Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom.

Earlier today, the DOJ and SEC announced (see here and here) parallel FCPA enforcement actions against Magyar Telekom (a Hungarian telecommunications company) and Deutsche Telekom (a German telecommunications company that is the majority owner of Magyar).  Fines and penalties in the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions is approximately $95 million.

DOJ

The DOJ release states that the companies agreed to pay a combined $63.9 million criminal penalty to resolve an FCPA investigation into activities by Magyar Telekom and its subsidiaries in Macedonia and Montenegro. 

The DOJ filed a three-count information (see here) against Magyar Telekom charging it with one count of violating the FCPA’s  anti-bribery provision and  two counts of violating the FCPA’s  books and records provisions.  The DOJ release notes that at the time of the charged conduct, Magyar Telekom’s American Depository Receipts (ADRs) traded on the New York Stock Exchange. 

The DOJ’s release states as follows.  “Magyar Telekom’s scheme in Macedonia stemmed from potential legal changes being made to the telecommunications market in that country.    In early 2005, the Macedonian government tried to liberalize the Macedonian telecommunications market in a way that Magyar Telekom deemed detrimental to its Macedonian subsidiary, Makedonski Telekommunikacii AD Skopje (MakTel).   Throughout the late winter and spring of 2005, Magyar Telekom executives, with the help of Greek intermediaries, lobbied Macedonian government officials to prevent the implementation of the new telecommunications laws and regulations.  Magyar Telekom eventually entered into an agreement with certain high-ranking Macedonian government officials to resolve its concerns about the legal changes.   In the secret agreement, a so-called “protocol of cooperation,” Macedonian government officials agreed to delay the entrance of a third mobile license into the Macedonian telecommunications market, as well as other regulatory benefits.   Magyar Telekom executives signed two copies of the protocol of cooperation, each with high-ranking officials of the different ruling parties of Macedonia.   The Magyar Telekom executives then kept the only executed copies outside of Magyar Telekom’s company records.   According to court documents, in order to secure the benefits in the protocol of cooperation, the Magyar Telekom executives engaged in a course of conduct with consultants, intermediaries and other third parties, including through sham consultancy contracts with entities owned and controlled by a Greek intermediary, to pay €4.875 (approximately $6 million) under circumstances in which they knew, or were aware of a high probability that circumstances existed in which, all or part of such payment would be passed on to Macedonian officials.   The sham contracts were recorded as legitimate on MakTel’s books and records, which were consolidated into Magyar Telekom’s financials.   Deustche Telekom, which owned approximately 60 percent of Magyar Telekom, reported the results of Magyar Telekom’s operations in its consolidated financial statements.  Additionally, the criminal information charges Magyar Telekom with falsifying its books and records in regard to its activity in Montenegro.   According to the court filing, Magyar Telekom made improper payments in connection with its acquisition of a state-owned telecommunications company in Montenegro.   These payments were documented on Magyar Telekom’s books and records through the execution of four bogus contracts.   For example, two of the contracts were backdated and concealed the true counterparties, and no legitimate services were provided under the contracts even though the contracts were for €4.47 million.”

The criminal charges against Magyar Telekom were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement (see here).  Pursuant to the DPA, Magyar Telekom agreed to pay a $59.6 million penalty for its illegal activity, implement an enhanced compliance program and submit annual reports regarding its efforts in implementing the enhanced compliance measures and remediating past problems.

The DOJ also entered into a two-year non-prosecution agreement (see here)  with Deutsche Telekom for its failure to keep books and records that accurately detailed the activities of Magyar Telekom.   At the time of the conduct at issue, Deutsche Telekom’s ADRs traded on the NYSE.  The NPA requires Deutsche Telekom to pay a $4.36 million penalty and to enhance its compliance program.

The DOJ release states as follows.  “Both agreements acknowledge Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom’s voluntary disclosure of the FCPA violations to the department and the leadership of Magyar Telekom’s audit committee in pursuing a ‘thorough global internal investigation concerning bribery and related misconduct.’   In addition, the agreements highlight that the companies have already undertaken remedial measures and have committed to further remedial steps through the implementation of an enhanced compliance program.”

SEC

Based on the same core conduct, the SEC also charged (see here for the complaint) Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom.  Magyar Telekom is charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations as well as books and records and internal controls violations.   Deutsche Telekom is charged with FCPA books and records and internal controls violations.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom consented to the entry of final judgments.  Magyar Telekom agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying $31.2 million in disgorgement and pre-judgment interest.

The SEC also alleged in a separate complaint (see here) that the three former top executives at Magyar Telekom “orchestrated, approved, and executed”  the Macedonia and Montenegro bribery schemes.  Charged in the complaint are:  Elek Straub (former Chairman and CEO); Andras Balogh (former Director of Central Strategic Organization); and Tamas Morvai (former Director of Business Development and Acquisitions). 

The complaint alleges that the individuals violated or aided and abetted violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions; knowingly circumvented internal controls and falsified books and records; and made false statements to the company’s auditor.  Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated as follows.  “Magyar Telekom’s senior executives used sham contracts to funnel millions of dollars in corrupt payments to foreign officials who could help them keep competitors out and win business.  They purposely structured the sham contracts to circumvent internal review, and when questions were eventually raised about their use of ‘consulting’ contracts, they reconfigured them as ‘marketing’ contracts to avoid scrutiny and prolong their scheme.”  The SEC seeks disgorgement and penalties and the imposition of permanent injunctions against the individuals.

Stay tuned for additional analysis of the enforcement actions.

The FCPA Meets Insurance – Aon Resolves Enforcement Action

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

This post analyzes the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions against Aon Corporation (one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world) announced yesterday.  Total fines and penalties are approximately $16.3 million ($1.8 million via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement and $14.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

DOJ

The NPA (here) begins as follows.  The DOJ will not criminally prosecute Aon Corporation or its subsidiaries for any crimes “related to Aon’s knowing violation of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA .. arising from and related to the making of improper payments to government officials in Consta Rica in order to assist Aon in obtaining and retaining business” or “for the conduct related to improper payments and associated recordkeeping [...] relating to Aon’s improper payments in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Egypt, Indonesia, Myanmar, Panama, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam that it discovered during its thorough investigation of its global operations.”

The NPA has a term of two years.  As is typical in FCPA NPAs or DPAs, Aon agreed “not to make any public statement” contradicting the below facts.

According to the NPA, the DOJ agreed to resolve the action via an NPA based, in part, on the following factors:

(a) Aon’s extraordinary cooperation with the DOJ and SEC;

(b) Aon’s timely and complete disclosure of facts relating to the above payments; [unlike many corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the Aon action does not appear to be the result of a voluntary disclosure; as stated in Aon’s most recent quarterly SEC filing, “following inquiries from regulators, the Company commenced an internal review of its compliance with certain U.S. and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”]

(c) the early and extensive remedial efforts undertaken by Aon, including the substantial improvements the company has made to its anti-corruption compliance procedures;

(d) the prior financial penalty of 5.25 million paid to the U.K. Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) [see here] by Aon Limited, a U.K. subsidiary of Aon, in 2009 concerning certain of the conduct at issue; and

(e) the FSA’s close and continuous supervisory oversight over Aon Limited.

The NPA’s Statement of Facts begin by detailing the business of reinsurance – that is insurance for insurance companies.  Specifically, the NPA states as follows.  “Reinsurance involves the transfer of all or part of the risk of paying claims under a policy from the insurance company that issued the policy to a reinsurance company.  A reinsurance broker arranges this transfer of risk, which takes place under a contract of reinsurance.  The insurance company is the reinsurance broker’s client and the broker acts on behalf of the insurance company.  The broker collects the premium due from the insurance company under the contract of reinsurance, and is typically paid for its services by retaining a portion of the premium for its own account.  The portion of premium retained by the broker is known as ‘brokerage.’”

The conduct at issue focuses on the Instituto Nacional De Deguros (“INS”), Costa Rica’s state-owned insurance company” (here) that “had a monopoly over the Costa Rican insurance industry.”  The NPA states as follows.  “INS was created by Act No. 12 of October 30, 1924, with the aim of meeting the protection needs of Costa Rican society.  All insurance agreements in Costa Rica, including the reinsurance contracts that Aon Limited [a subsidiary of Aon Corporation based in and organized under U.K. law that "reported financially through a series of intermediary entities into its U.S.-based issuer parent] assisted in obtaining to insure Costa Rican entities, were required to be issued through INS.  The head of INS was appointed by the President of Costa Rica.”

According to the NPA, a company Aon Limited acquired established a “Training and Education Fund” or “Brokerage Fund” for the benefit of INS “to sponsor training and education trips for INS officials.”  The NPA states that the “Brokerage Fund eventually became used for a wide variety of purported ‘training’ purposes, as well as to pay for client renewal trips to European insurers.”  The NPA also states that a second training account (the so-called 3% Fund) was funded by premiums to reinsurers and that “INS required that Aon Limited manage the fund, handle the paperwork, and provide reimbursement for the expenses incurred by INS officials.”

According to the NPA, “the supposed purpose of both the Brokerage Fund and the 3% Fund was to provide education and training for INS officials.”  However, the NPA states, “Aon Limited used a significant portion of the funds to reimburse for non-training related activity or for uses that could not be determined from Aon’s books and records.”

The NPA cites an e-mail from a former Aon Limited executive which stated as follows.  “INS started telling [another brokerage company] how [various reinsurers] were inviting their managers to seminars and were contributing positively to INS’s technological improvement with all expenses paid by the reinsurers.  The message was clear to both [the other brokerage company] and ourselves that unless we did the same we would see the gradual process of disintermediation and a continued erosion of our orders.”

The NPA then states as follows.  “Aon Limited disbursed nearly all of the $215,000 in the Brokerage Fund from 1997 until 2002, approximately $650,000 of the money in the 3% Fund from 1999 until 2002, and made a small number of additional disbursements from these funds between 2003 and 2005 to pay for the third-party services used by INS officials. These services often included travel related expenses, such as airfare and hotel accommodations, as well as conference fees, meals,  and other related expenses for INS officials and their relatives. It was common for INS to hire a
travel agency or tourism company to arrange for the particulars of the travel and educational conferences attended by its officials.  The majority of the money paid from the two funds was disbursed to a tourism company in Costa Rica. The director of INS’ reinsurance department, who played an active role in setting up the training funds, served on the board of directors of tourism company.  The director of INS’ reinsurance department himself took fourteen trips from 1996 to 2001 with expenses totaling approximately $44,000 that Aon Limited paid from the two funds. The funds also covered the official’s wife’s attendance on at least five of the trips.  On several occasions, Aon Limited reimbursed the official directly for expenses that were invoiced for his various trips, sometimes with cash payments.  The director of INS took six trips from 1998-2001 with expenses totaling approximately $20,000 that Aon Limited paid from the two funds. The director’s spouse accompanied him on four of these trips. The director of INS, the director of reinsurance at INS, their wives, and another INS official and her husband traveled to Europe in 1998 and charged their expenses of approximately $15,160 to the Brokerage Fund. While these trips had a small business-related component, a significant portion of the funds expended on the trips were used for the personal benefit of the officials and their wives.  A  substantial number of the trips taken by INS offcials were in connection with conferences and seminars in tourist destinations, including London, Paris, Monte Carlo, Zurich, Munich, Cologne, and Cairo. Many of the invoices and other records for these trips do not provide the business purpose of the expenditures, if any, or showed that the expenses were clearly not related to a legitimate business purpose. In addition, the subject matters of some of the better documented conferences and trainings, such as a literary conference and a Mexican information technology conference, had no logical connection to the insurance industry.  INS officials traveled to the United States for approximately twenty-five training events.  Aon Limited paid approximately $115,000 out of the funds in connection with these events in the United States.  In some instances, Aon Limited paid third parties at INS’s direction where the business purpose of the travel or expenses could not be discerned from the documentation, or where the purpose of the travel and expenses appeared to be improper, such as those pertaining to literary conferences, holiday expenses, and pure entertainment. Aon Limited paid large expenses for hotels, without any indication that the stays were business related. Aon Limited’s employees did not question the requests for payment or reimbursement from the funds.  While virtually all payments made in connection with the funds originated in London, Aon Limited made at least forty payments via, or that terminated in, the United States.  From 1995 to 2002, Aon Limited [and the company it acquired] earned profits of approximately $1.840,200 in connection with reinsurance brokerage business with INS.”

As to statute of limitation issues, Aon’s recent quarterly filing states as follows.  Aon “has agreed with the U.S. agencies to toll any applicable statute of limitations pending completion of the investigations.”

Under the heading “Books and Records/Internal Controls,” the NPA states as follows.  “The books and records of Aon Limited were consolidated into those of Aon Corporation. With respect to the Costa Rican training funds, although Aon Limited maintained accounting records for the payments that it made from both the Brokerage Fund and the 3% Fund, these records did not accurately and fairly reflect, in reasonable detail, the purpose for which the expenses were incurred. A significant portion of the records associated with payments made through tourist agencies gave the name of the tourist agency with only generic descriptions such as “various airfares and hotel.”  Additionally, to the extent that the accounting records did provide the location or purported educational seminar associated with travel expenses, in many instances they did not disclose or itemize the disproportionate amount of leisure and non-business related activities that were also included in the costs.  As a result, during the relevant time period, Aon failed to make and keep books, records and accounts which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflected the transactions and disposition of its assets and failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls with respect to foreign sales activities sufficient to ensure compliance with the FCPA.”

Pursuant to the NPA, “Aon admits, and accepts and acknowledges responsibility” for the above conduct; however, there is no suggestion or implication in the NPA that anyone at Aon Corporation  knew of, participated in, or authorized the conduct at issue.

See here for the DOJ’s release.

Pursuant to the NPA, Aon agreed to pay a monetary penalty in the amount of $1.76 million.  The NPA states as follows.  “This substantially reduced monetary penalty reflects the Department’s determination to credit meaningfully Aon for its extraordinary cooperation with the Department, including its thorough investigation of its global operations and complete disclosure of facts to the Department, and its early and extensive remediation.  In agreeing to this monetary penalty, the Department also took into account the penalty paid to the FSA relating to Aon Limited’s systems and controls in countries other than Costa Rica.”  Pursuant to the NPA, Aon also agreed to “continue to strengthen its compliance, bookkeeping, and internal controls standards and procedures” as set forth in “Corporate Compliance Program” appendix to the NPA.

SEC

The SEC’s settled civil complaint (here) begins as follows.  “From as early as 1983 until as recent as 2007, subsidiaries of Aon Corporation in numerous countries made improper payments to various parties as a means of obtaining or retaining insurance business in those countries.  During this period, over $3.6 million in such payments were made, including some directly or indirectly to foreign government officials who could award business directly to Aon subsidiaries, who were in position to influence others who could award business to Aon subsidiaries, or who could otherwise provide favorable business treatment for the Company’s interest.  These payments were not accurately reflected in Aon’s books and records.  During this period, Aon failed to maintain an adequate internal control system reasonably designed to detect and prevent these payments.”

According to the SEC complaint, “the improper payments made by Aon’s subsidiaries fall into two general categories:  (i) training, travel and entertainment provided to employees of foreign-government owned clients and third parties and (ii) payments made to third-party facilitators.”

As to the first category of payments, the SEC complaint is largely focused on the same Costa Rica / INS payments described in the DOJ’s NPA.  Additional payments concern Egypt and the complaint alleges that from 1983 to 2009 Aon (or its predecessor) “served as insurance broker for an Egyptian government-owned company, the Egyptian Armament Authority (“EAA”), and its U.S. arm, the Egyptian Procurement Office (“EPO”).  According to the complaint, delegation trips for EAA and EPO officials to various U.S. destinations “had some business component” but also “included a disproportionate amount of leisure activities and lasted longer than the business component would justify.”  According to the SEC, the company’s “books and records did not fairly and accurately reflect the true nature of the payments made in connection with the delegation trips.”

As to the second category of payments, under the heading “Payments to Third-Party Facilitators” the complaint alleges as follows.  “Aon’s subsidiaries also made payments to third parties that were retained to assist in obtaining accounts in several countries.  In some instances, the subsidiaries made payments to the third parties without taking steps to assure that they would not be passed to foreign government officials.  The subsidiaries made some payments under circumstances in which the third parties appeared to have performed no legitimate services relating to the prospective accounts, thereby suggesting that they were simply conduits for improper payments to government officials in order to obtain or retain business for Aon.”

In Vietnam, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited served as a co-broker on an insurance policy for Vietnam Airlines, a Vietnamese government-owned entity, since 2003.”   According to the complaint, a third-party facilitator assisted in securing the account and “company record indicate that the third-party facilitator did not provide legitimate services, but instead transferred some of the money that Aon Limited paid under its consultancy agreement to unidentified individuals referred to as ‘related people.’”

In Indonesia, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited served as a broker on reinsurance contracts with BP Migas and Pertamina, two Indonesian state-owned entities in the oil and gas industry.”    The complaint alleges that “several former Aon Limited employees authorized improper payments to government officials in Indonesia to secure the Pertamina and BP Migas accounts for Aon Limited.”

In the United Arab Emirates, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited provided brokerage services to a privately-held insurance company” and that payments were made “to the general manager of the insurance company as inducements to secure and retain the account for Aon Limited.”

In Myanmar, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited retained an introducer in Myanmar to assist Aon Limited in connection with its account with Myanmar Airways and Myanmar Insurance, two government-owned entities.”  According to the complaint, “company records indicate that the introducer likely used a portion of his commission to improperly influence a government official on Aon Limited’s behalf in connection with the Myanmar account.”

In Bangladesh, the complaint alleges that “Aon Limited made approximately $1.07 million in payments to secure its account with Biman Bangladesh Airways and Sudharan Bima Corporation, two government-owned entities.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC complaint alleges FCPA books and records and internal controls violations – but not FCPA anti-bribery violations – notwithstanding the fact that the DOJ’s NPA refers to “Aon’s knowing violation of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls.”

As stated in the SEC’s release (here), without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, Aon consented to entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from future FCPA books and records and internal controls violations and ordering the company to pay “disgorgement of $11,416,814 in profits together with prejudgement interest thereon of $3,128,206 for a total of $14,545,020.”

In a release (here) Aon stated as follows.  “Since beginning an internal review of these issues in 2007, Aon has put in place a comprehensive, global and robust anti-corruption program designed to prevent and detect improper conduct.”  Greg Case, Aon’s President and Chief Executive Officer stated as follows.  “Acting with integrity is Aon’s core value and we embody this in our commitment to the highest professional standards for our clients, markets and colleagues.  Aon has invested a significant amount of time and resources in anti-corruption compliance and transparency to greatly enhance our controls and processes.”

Kirkland & Ellis attorneys Laurence Urgenson (here) and Craig Primis (here) represented Aon.

In Depth On The Siemens Argentina Enforcement Action

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Yesterday’s post (here) covered the DOJ indictment and SEC civil complaint against former Siemens’ executives and agents.  This post provides a more in-depth analysis of the allegations.  Every enforcement action needs a name, so let’s call this large case the Siemens Argentina Enforcement Action, recognizing that Siemens itself resolved its exposure for the conduct described below  in 2008 and is not a part of the current matter.

DOJ Indictment

As noted in the previous post, the DOJ indictment (here) charges the following individuals.  Uriel Sharef, Herbert Steffen, Andres Truppel, Ulrich Bock, Stephan Signer, Eberhard Reichert, Carlos Sergi and Miguel Czysch.

The below defendants are  described as “officers, directors, employees and agents” of an “issuer” (Siemens AG).

According to the indictment, Sharef (a dual citizen of Israel and Germany) was employed by Siemens from 1978 to December 31, 2007.  The indictment alleges that from 2000 until his departure from Siemens, Sharef was a member of Siemens AG’s Managing Board and Corporate Executive Committee (“CEC”), with oversight responsibilities for Siemens AG’s power operations group, including Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution (“Siemens PTD”), and Siemens AG’s operations in the Americas region, including Siemens Argentina.

According to the indictment, Steffen (a German citizen) was a long-time Siemens employee who left the company in 2003.  The indictment alleges that Steffen, at various times, was: group president of Siemens AG’s transportation systems operating division; group president of Siemens PTD; CEO of Siemens Argentina; and chairman of the Supervisory Board of Siemens Argentina.

According to the indictment, Truppel (a dual citizen of Germany and Argentina) was employed by Siemens until 2002 when he then became a consultant to Siemens until 2004.  The indictment alleges that until his “shift to consultant status” Truppel was CFO of Siemens Argentina.

According to the indictment, Bock (a German citizen) was a long-time employee of Siemens until 2001 when he then became a paid consultant to Siemens until 2007.  While a Siemens employee, Bock was commercial head of Siemens Business Services (“SBS” – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Siemens AG and a unit in Siemens information and communications operating group).

According to the indictment, Reichert (a German citizen) was a long-time Siemens employee until 2001.  He was the technical head of SBS’s Major Projects subdivision.

According to the indictment, Signer (a German citizen) was a long-time Siemens employee until 2011.  The indictment alleges that from 2000 to 2007, Signer worked for SBS as a commercial director in various capacities.

The below defendants are described as “agents” of Siemens AG who served as “intermediaries between Siemens and officials of the Government of Argentina” – the so-called “Intermediary Defendants.”

According to the indictment, Sergi (a citizen of Argentina) “was a prominent businessman in Latin America with extensive high-level government contacts in Argentina.”  The indictment states that Sergi was for a 15 year period ending in 2003 a member of the Supervisory Board of Siemens Argentina along with Sharef.

According to the indictment, Czysch (a German citizen and resident of Switzerland) was a business associate of Sergi.

For both set of defendants, the indictment invokes 78dd-1 of the FCPA.   The jurisdictional hook under 78dd-1 for non-U.S. “issuers” is “use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce” in furtherance of a bribery scheme.  As described below, the indictment alleges certain conduct in the U.S. as well as wire transfers of money through U.S. bank accounts in furtherance of the bribery scheme.

The indictment also refers to six unindicted co-conspirators (two individuals described an attorneys in Argentina and former senior officials in the Argentine Ministry of Justice; a former CEO of Siemens Argentina; a former deputy general counsel in the Legal Services office at Siemens AG headquarters; a business partner of Sergi; and a business partner of Czysch).

Under the heading “Overview of the Conspiracy” the indictment alleges as follows.  “In or about August 1994, the Government of Argentina issued a tender for bids to replace an existing system of manually created national identity booklets with state-of-the-art national identity cards” – the so-called DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad) project.  According to the indictment, the “total estimated value of the DNI project was approximately $1 billion.”    In 1998, the President of Argentina issued a decree awarding the DNI project to Siemens IT Services S.A. (“SITS”), a special-purpose subsidiary created by SBS for the purpose of bidding on the DNI project.  According to the indictment, from 1996 to 2009, the defendants and others “engaged in a conspiracy on behalf of Siemens to obtain the lucrative proceeds of the DNI project, and to foster future business, by means of bribery, fraud, and other forms of corruption.”

The indictment specifically alleges as follows.  “Members of the conspiracy won the DNI project for Siemens by bribing Argentine government officials.  They paid more bribes in the hope of reviving the project when, in or about 2001, the DNI project was stalled.  Ultimately [...] the DNI project was terminated altogether.  Even after this point, members of the conspiracy continued to pursue the profits that Siemens had expected to gain from the project.  They did so through additional bribes and corrupt conduct, including the pursuit of a fraudulent arbitration in Washington, D.C. against the Argentine government, demanding nearly $500 million while actively hiding the corruption from the tribunal.”

According to the indictment, “some of conspirators were employed by Siemens as executives, lawyers, and managers working on DNI project matters; others served as agents and conduits for the payment of bribes to Argentine government officials who were in a position to influence the direction of the DNI project.”  The indictment alleges as follows.  “Integral to the conspiracy, and to the concealment of the illegal objects of the conspiracy, was the conspirators’ use of at least 17 conduit entities (collectively, the ‘Conduit Entities’) controlled or otherwise affiliated with the Intermediary Defendants and with various Argentine government officials and candidates for office who were the recipients or intended recipients of bribe payments (the ‘Argentine Officials’).

The conduct alleged in the indictment starts with “initial bribe commitments and payments.”   The indictment alleges that various co-conspirators “committed Siemens to paying nearly $100 million in bribes to sitting officials of the Argentine government, members of the opposition party, and candidates for office who were likely to come to power during the performance of the project.”   According to the indictment, many of these payments were made pursuant to “black contracts, that is unwritten contracts” with third-parties who later sought reimbursement from Siemens.

Argentine officials described in the indictment are “Argentine Official A” (a senior official in the Office of the President and thereafter a candidate for office and member of the Argentine Congress), “Argentine Official B” (a senior official in the Ministry of Interior and thereafter a member of the Argentine Congress); and “Argentine Official C” (a senior official in the Ministry of Migration and the Office of Internal Security and thereafter a member of the Argentine Congress).  The indictment alleges that certain defendants “caused SBS to transfer two wires in the aggregate amount of approximately $7.4 million to a bank account in Manhattan, New York” in furtherance of the bribe scheme.

The indictment next alleges that in 1999 “with work on the DNI project underway, the Government of Argentina suspended the project, as the country faced a mounting economic crisis and a presidential election” and that a “new administration, which came to power [...] maintained the suspended status of the DNI project.”  The indictment alleges that Sharef and Steffen “led a campaign on Siemens’s part to restart the DNI project” and that “renegotiation of the contract governing the DNI project was a part of the campaign.”  The indictment charges that various defendants “lobbied Argentine government officials” and that Sharef met with a “Argentine Official D” (a senior official in the office of the Argentine President).  According to the indictment, “the meeting engendered optimism at Siemens that the President of Argentina would soon issue a decree authorizing the resumption of the DNI project” and that “continuing the payment of bribes was part of the conspirators’ effort to revive the DNI project.”

According to the indictment, the conspirators committed to pay additional bribes to Argentine Officials A, B, C, D, as well as “Argentine Official E” (a senior official in the Ministry of the Interior and thereafter a member of Congress), “Argentine Official F” (a senior official in the Ministry of the Interior and thereafter a candidate for office in the Argentine Congress), and “Argentine Official G” (a senior official in the Ministry of Interior).  According to the indictment, conspirators “agreed to funnel payments on all existing and new bribe obligations through the Intermediary Defendants” and “also agreed to conceal the bribe payments under a ‘white contract’ – that is, a contract that appeared legitimate on its face, but which did not reflect an actual transaction of business.”

The indictment next alleges that in 2001 “the anticipated decree authorizing the resumption of the DNI project still was not issued.”  According to the indictment, “the Argentine government was instead conducting an assessment of the merits of continuing the DNI project through a body” called the General Accounting Agency of the Nation (“SIGEN”) and that “in a further effort to prevent termination of the DNI project, members of the conspiracy determined to influence SIGEN’s assessment in Siemens’s favor by bribing a SIGEN board member (“Argentine Official H”).

According to the indictment, “despite Siemens’s efforts and bribe payments intended for various foreign officials, the Government of Argentina officially terminated the DNI project” in 2001.  Nevertheless, the indictment alleges that certain defendants and conspirators assembled a Crisis Management Team (“CMT”) continued a bribe scheme to “(i) ensure that Siemens recognized the economic benefits of the contract for the DNI project, notwithstanding its termination and the corrupt manner by which it had been procured, (ii) prevent public disclosure of the bribery associated with the DNI project, and (iii) ensure Siemens’s ability to secure future government contracts in Argentina and elsewhere in the region.”  According to the indictment “the conspirators sought to achieve these related goals by paying down outstanding bribe obligations to Argentine Officials through a complex series of transactions, paying down bribe obligations through a sham arbitration in Switzerland, and seeking to recoup the anticipated financial benefits of the DNI project through a fraudulent arbitration in Washington D.C.”

Specifically, the indictment charges that certain defendants met with Sergi and Czysch in Miami, Florida to “re-negotiate the amount of outstanding bribe commitments to the Argentine Officials.”  The indictment further alleges certain “wire transfer instructions for payment through a bank account in Manhattan, New York” and payments through a New York-based account.  The indictment further alleges that one of the Conduit Entities had Miami, Florida addresses.  The indictment further alleges that certain defendants also met in Manhattan, New York “to discuss the outstanding bribe obligations.”

Thereafter, the indictment alleges that Sergi (the prominent businessman in Latin America with extensive high-level government contracts in Argentina who served as an agent of Siemens AG) filed a formal claim against SBS in a Swiss arbitral tribunal in 2005 to recover under a sham contract used to make certain bribe payments.  The indictment states that “although the members of the conspiracy knew that none of the services described in the contract were performed and were not expected to be performed, and that the contract was a sham used to disguise illegal bribe obligations, none of the conspirators acknowledged as much before the Swiss tribunal.”   According to the indictment,  SBS settled the claim for approximately $8.8 million, but that the “settlement was actually a mechanism to disguise a partial payment of bribe obligations to the Argentine Officials.”  According to the indictment, certain of the settlement money passed through bank accounts in Manhattan, New York.

As to the Washington D.C. arbitration, the indictment alleges that certain of the defendants and co-conspirators “orchestrated the filing of a fraudulent arbitration claim in Washington D.C. in 2002 to cause the Argentine government to pay Siemens AG damages in an amount equivalent to incurred expenses and the total profits the company would have earned from the DNI project had it not been terminated.”  According to the indictment, “exposure of the bribery associated with the DNI project would have likely rendered the arbitration claim futile because the contract would have been procured through illegal corruption.”  The indictment alleges that certain defendants and co-conspirators “successfully kept evidence of bribery out of the arbitration in Washington D.C.” by filing witness statements containing “material misrepresentations and omissions relating to the DNI’s project origins, among other matters.”  According to the indictment, despite later claims by Argentina that the DNI project bidding was corrupted – claims Siemens denied, the arbitral tribunal sided with Siemens AG and on February 2007 it awarded Siemens AG approximately $218 million in loss of investment, plus interest.  However, the factual portion of the indictment ends with the following statement – in August 2009 “Siemens AG personnel who were not members of the conspiracy caused the company to waive its right to the award.”

Based on the above conduct, the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions; conspiracy to commit wire fraud; conspiracy to commit money laundering; and substantive wire fraud.

SEC Complaint

The SEC’s complaint (here) is based on the same core conduct alleged above.  Reichert and Czysch are not named as defendants in the SEC action, but the SEC complaint includes as a defendant Bernd Regendantz (the CFO of SBS who allegedly authorized certain bribe payments).  Each of the SEC defendants are charged with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions;  aiding and abetting Siemens’ FCPA violations – both anti-bribery violations and books and records and internal controls; and violating other securities laws by falsifying documents, including invoices and sham consulting contracts in furtherance of the bribery scheme.

According to the SEC, “over the course of the bribery scheme, Siemens paid an estimated total of over $100 million in bribes, approximately $31.3 million of which were made after [...] Siemens became subject to the U.S. securities laws.”

In addition, Regendantz is charged with violating Rule 13b2-2 by signing false internal certifications pursuant to SOX.  As to Regendatz, the SEC complaint alleges that he “had no prior dealings with the DNI contract” when he became CFO of SBS in 2002 and that he had resisted other defendants pressure to authorize additional bribe payments.  According to the complaint, “Regendantz sought guidance from Siemens’ Head of Compliance, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Executive Officer, and two members of the Managing Board.”  The complaint alleges that “in each instance, Regendantz explained that the payment demands lacked any legitimate commercial basis and that he was reluctant to authorize them.”  The complaint then states as follows.  “In each instance, Regendantz explained that the payment demands lacked any legitimate commercial basis and that he was reluctant to authorize them.  In each instance, Regendantz’s superiors gave every indication that they were familiar with the DNI Contract and with the nature of the payment demands.  And in each instance, his superiors told Regendantz that it was his responsibility to find a solution to the problem.  Regendantz understood these responses from his superiors to be an instruction that he authorize the bribe payments.”

The SEC’s release noted that Regendantz settled the SEC charges without admitting or denying the allegations and consented to entry of a final judgment that enjoins him from future violations.  The release states that Regendantz previously paid a $40,000 administrative fine ordered by the Munich prosecutor.

Former Siemens Executives and Agents Charged

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

In December 2008, Siemens resolved the largest ever (in terms of fines and penalties) FCPA enforcement action.  See here and here.   A portion of the improper conduct focused on Argentina and allegations that Siemens S.A. (Argentina), and those acting on its behalf, engaged in a bribery scheme in connection with an Argentine government contract to produce national identity cards.

Since the 2008 enforcement action, U.S. enforcement authorities have been under pressure to charge culpable individuals.  See here for a prior post and here for the transcript of the November 2010 Senate FCPA hearing during which former Senator Specter again called for individual accountability, an occurrence which prompted him to ask me several questions after the hearing about the “most egregious examples of individual conduct associated with the Siemens prosecution.”  See here for my responses.

Today, the DOJ announced that “eight former executives and agents of Siemens AG and its subsidiaries have been charged for allegedly engaging in a decade-long scheme to bribe senior Argentine government officials to secure, implement and enforce a $1 billion contract with the Argentine government to produce national identity cards.”

The defendants charged in the indictment (here) are:  Uriel Sharef (a former member of the central executive committee of Siemens AG); Herbert Steffen (a former chief executive officer of Siemens Argentina); Andres Truppel (a former chief financial officer of Siemens Argentina); Ulrich Bock, Stephan Signer and Eberhard Reichert (former senior executives of Siemens Business Services); and Carlos Sergi and Miguel Czysch (who allegedly served as intermediaries and agents of Siemens in the bribe scheme).  None of the individuals are U.S. citizens and during a press conference today Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer indicated that none of the defendants are in U.S. custody.

The indictment, filed in the Southern District of New York, charges the defendants and their co-conspirators with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and the wire fraud statute, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud.

In the DOJ release, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated as follows.  “Today’s indictment alleges a shocking level of deception and corruption.  The indictment charges Siemens executives, along with agents and conduits for the company, with committing to pay more than $100 million in bribes to high-level Argentine officials to win a $1 billion contract.  Business should be won or lost on the merits of a company’s products and services, not the amount of bribes paid to government officials.  This indictment reflects our committment to holding individuals, as well as companies, accountable for violations of the FCPA.”  During the press conference, Breuer stated that today’s action is the “first time a former Board member of a Fortune 50 company” has ever been charged with FCPA violations.  Breuer also stated that  ”Siemens was a remarkably cooperative and helpful party throughout our investigation.”

In a parallel civil enforcement action also announced today (here), the SEC charged seven former Siemens executives with violating the FCPA for their involvement in the same bribery scheme.  The following individuals are charged in the civil action:  Sharef, Bock, Signer, Steffen, Truppel, Sergi and Bernd Regendantz (a former chief financial officer of Siemens Business Services).  The civil complaint (here) alleges FCPA anti-bribery violations, aiding and abetting Siemens’ FCPA anti-bribery violations, as well as other charges.  Robert Khuzami (Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement) stated as follows.  “Business should flow to the company with the best product and the best price, not the best bribe.  Corruption erodes public trust and the transparency of our commercial markets, and undermines corporate governance.”  During today’s press conference, Khuzami called the action the “largest [SEC] action ever against individuals” in the FCPA’s history.

Additional analysis of the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions will follow.