Beverage industry news, a long-running FCPA-related civil case settles, checking in on the World Bank, survey says, and on-point. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
Beverage Industry News
Disclosure by Central European Distribution Corp.
As noted in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, Central European Distribution Corp. (here - one of the world’s largest vodka producers) recently made an FCPA disclosure. In this filing, the company (a Delaware company headquartered in New Jersey) stated as follows.
“It has [...] been determined that there has been a breach of the books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of the United States and potentially other breaches of the FCPA. It was determined that payments or gifts were made in a foreign jurisdiction in which the Company operates, and that there was a failure to maintain documentation in respect of certain of these payments or gifts adequate to establish whether there was a valid business purpose in making the payments or gifts. Furthermore, our management also identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting regarding the implementation of our policy on compliance with applicable laws as of December 31, 2011. Our conclusion that this deficiency is a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting is not based on misstatements in our historical consolidated financial statements or our consolidated financial statements as of and for the period ended December 31, 2011, but instead on the determination that we did not design or maintain sufficient policies, procedures, controls, communications or training to deter or prevent the risk of violations of law, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) of the United States.”
Beam Inc. Investigating Possible FCPA Violations
In other beverage industry news, the Times of India reports (here) that Beam Inc. (here) “has initiated investigations into whistleblower allegations of financial misdemeanours at its India unit.” According to the report, the investigation covers possible violations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
As noted in this previous post, in July 2011 the SEC brought an FCPA enforcement action against beverage company Diageo PLC.
Alba-Alcoa Civil Case Settles
Earlier this week, Alcoa announced (here) that it “entered into a settlement agreement with Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (“Alba”) resolving a civil lawsuit that had been pending … since 2008. Without admitting any liability, Alcoa agreed to make a cash payment to Alba of $85 million payable in two installments.”
Alba was represented by Akin Gump which put out this release. The release notes that “the settlement arises out of a claim brought by Alba under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against Alcoa, an Alcoa subsidiary and Canadian businessman Victor Dahdaleh alleging a “pattern of corrupt activities by the defendants and officials in Bahrain in order to obtain long-term contract and pricing advantages in the sale of raw materials.” As noted in the release, ‘the case was stayed for nearly four years while the U.S. Department of Justice pursued a criminal investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” and the settlement “represents the first time that a foreign-owned corporation has successfully sued a U.S. company in a federal court to recover losses suffered due to allegations of corrupt activity. “
As highlighted in this previous post, Alcoa’s agent (Dahdaleh) has been criminally charged in the U.K.
The DOJ and SEC’s investigation of Alcoa concerning the conduct at issue in the civil lawsuit is ongoing.
In its most recent quarterly filing, Alcoa stated as follows.
“The DOJ’s and the SEC’s investigations are ongoing. Alcoa has been in dialogue with both the DOJ and the SEC and is exploring whether a settlement can be reached. Given the uncertainty regarding whether a settlement can be reached and what the terms of any such settlement would be, Alcoa is unable to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss with regard to any such settlement, However, Alcoa expects the amount of any such settlement would be material in a particular period to Alcoa’s results of operations. If a settlement cannot be reached, Alcoa will proceed to trial with the DOJ and the SEC and under those circumstances is unable to predict an outcome or to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss. There can be no assurance that the final outcome of the government’s investigations would not have a material adverse effect on Alcoa.”
The World Bank’s fraud and corruption unit, the Integrity Vice Presidency (INT), recently released its annual report (see here for the full report). This release states as follows. The INT “concluded another strong year in its preventive and investigative efforts, with 83 debarments of wrongdoing firms, new agreements with national law enforcement authorities to expand the impact of INT’s investigations, numerous referrals to law enforcement agencies, and robust preventive efforts to help ensure Bank-financed projects deliver results.”
This past July, FTI Consulting conducted an on-line survey of 571 executives in UK businesses in board-level, senior management and middle management positions. As noted in this release, among the survey findings were the following.
- 40% of UK businesses surveyed think the current economic climate is encouraging risk taking around compliance with the UK Bribery Act
- 27% do not believe the government will prosecute offenders
- 25% of board-level employees surveyed might breach Bribery Act regulations to win business
- 63% of respondents believe the UK Bribery Act eventually will have a positive effect on prospects for UK business
In the aftermath of the Wall Street Journal’s FCPA Inc.: Business of Bribery series (see here), the WSJ published the following letter to the editor from Steve Travis of Mercer Island, WA.
“The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal to offer money or a gift to foreign government officials or employees to gain a business advantage. Yet in the U.S., every business worthy of its name has lobbyists whose sole job in Washington, D.C., is to do exactly that: give money or gifts to our elected officials or employees of our government in a position to steer contracts their way. Does anyone really think that things like flying government officials around on company private jets or putting them up in private homes on vacations don’t come with a quid pro quo? Who is naive enough to think that contributions to election campaigns don’t come with strings attached?”
Spot-on – see here for a prior post (as well as numerous previous posts embedded therein).
A good weekend to all.