Archive for the ‘Avery Dennison’ Category

Rockwell Automation Resolves SEC Action

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

[Note - because of my involvement in the below Rockwell matter while in private practice, this post is devoid of my customary commentary and analysis as to the enforcement action]

Yesterday, the SEC announced (here) a cease and desist proceeding and imposition of a cease and desist order as to Rockwell Automation, Inc.

As stated in the SEC’s order, the matter involved “violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Rockwell, through one of its former subsidiaries in China, Rockwell Automation Power Systems (Shanghai) Ltd. (“RAPS-China”), which was divested by Rockwell in January, 2007.”

In summary fashion, the SEC found as follows.

“From 2003 to 2006, certain employees of RAPS-China paid approximately $615,000 to Design Institutes, which were typically state-owned enterprises that provided design engineering and technical integration services that can influence contract awards by end-user state-owned customers. The payments were made through third-party intermediaries at the request of Design Institute employees and at the direction of RAPS-China’s Marketing and Sales Director. RAPS-China’s Marketing and Sales Director intended that these funds be paid directly to the Design Institute employees, with the expectation that they would influence the ultimate state-owned customers to purchase RAPS products. While the Design Institutes did provide some bona fide engineering and other services in connection with RAPS-China’s end-user contracts, RAPS-China could not substantiate the specific services rendered or the value of those services. Also during the same period, employees of RAPS-China paid approximately $450,000 to fund sightseeing and other non-business trips for employees of Design Institutes and other state-owned companies.”

“Rockwell realized approximately $1.7 million in net profits on sales contracts with end-user Chinese government-owned companies that were associated with payments to the Design Institutes.”

“Rockwell failed to accurately record the payments in its books and records, and failed to implement or maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to prevent and detect the payments.”

Under the heading, “Discovery, Self-Reporting and Remediation” the SEC order states as follows.

“Rockwell discovered the DI Payments and the third-party payment mechanism in 2006 through its normal financial review process. This process was part of Rockwell’s global corporate compliance/internal controls program, which had targeted China for enhanced FCPA training and scrutiny starting in 2004. Upon discovery of the issue, Rockwell hired counsel and investigated the DI Payments with the oversight of its Board of Directors. It voluntarily self-reported the DI Payments to the Commission and voluntarily provided the Commission Staff with all relevant facts found in the investigation, and otherwise cooperated with the Commission. As a result of the discovery of this matter, Rockwell undertook numerous remedial measures, including employee termination and disciplinary actions, enhancements to its internal controls and compliance program and conducted a broad, global review of its other operations.”

The SEC order further states as follows.

“In connection with the payments described above, Rockwell failed to make and keep accurate books, records and accounts as required by Section 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act.”

“Further, as evidenced by the DI Payments (as described above) and leisure travel payments, Rockwell failed to devise or maintain sufficient internal controls as required by Section 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act.”

As noted in the SEC order, Rockwell, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, agreed to “pay disgorgement of $1,771,000, prejudgment interest of $590,091and a civil money penalty of $400,000.”

The SEC order concludes by noting that “the Commission is not imposing a civil penalty in excess of $400,000 based upon [Rockwell's] cooperation” in the investigation.

See here for Rockwell’s press release.

David Simon (Foley & Lardner – here) and Greg Bruch (Willkie Farr & Gallagher – here) represented Rockwell.

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The Rockwell matter represents the second time in the past month (approximately) that the SEC has resolved an FCPA inquiry via the administrative cease and desist route. See here for the prior post regarding Ball Corporation.

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Other FCPA enforcement actions focused on alleged improper travel and entertainment benefits to employees of Chinese state-owned enterprises include: Lucent Technologies (see here) and UTStarcom Inc. (see here).

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Other FCPA enforcement actions focused (in whole or in part) on allegedly improper payments to employees of so-called Chinese “Design Institutes” include: ITT Corp. (see here); and Avery Dennison (see here).

Avery Dennison Settles FCPA Matter – Is There a Strict Liability Standard for FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violations?

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

The FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions, as written, generally state where an issuer “holds 50 per[cent] or less of the voting power with respect to a domestic or foreign firm” the books and records and internal control provisions “require only that the issuer proceed in good faith to use its influence, to the extent reasonable under the issuer’s circumstances, to cause such domestic or foreign firm to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls…” See 15 USC 78m(b)(6). The section further notes that “[s]uch circumstances include the relative degree of the issuer’s ownership of the domestic or foreign firm and the laws and practices governing the business operations of the country in which such firm is located. An issuer which demonstrates good faith efforts to use such influence shall be conclusively presumed to have complied with the requirements of [the books and records and internal control provisions].” Id.


As readers of this blog are perhaps keenly aware – the FCPA, as written, and the FCPA, as enforced, are sometimes two different things.

Such is the case with the SEC’s apparent position that issuers are liable (in a way that closely resembles strict liability) for any record keeping or internal control deficiency of any entity (no matter how remotely related to the issuer) in its corporate hierarchy. Although it is sometimes difficult to draw conclusions from negotiated settlement documents, the recent FCPA enforcement action against Avery Dennison Corporation would seem on-point. (See here for the SEC Cease- and-Desist Order, here for the SEC Litigation Release).

“Big picture,” and as noted in the Litigation Release, the SEC filed a settled civil complaint against Avery Dennison (a California-based manufacturer of self-adhesive materials, offices products, labels, and graphics imaging media) (“Avery”), charging Avery with violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions. The SEC also issued an administrative cease-and-desist order (“Order”) finding that Avery violated these same provisions.

The alleged violations principally involve Avery (China) Co. Ltd. (“Avery China”), an “indirect subsidiary” of Avery. I wish I knew how to post a flow-chart in this forum, because to connect Avery to Avery China, a flow-chart would indeed be useful. In any event, here is the narrative version as found in para 6 of the Order:

“Avery China is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Avery headquartered in Shanghai, China. It is incorporated under the laws of China and wholly-owned by Avery Dennison Hong Kong BV, which is in turn wholly owned by Avery Dennison Group Danmark ApS, which is in turn wholly owned by Avery Dennison Corporation. The Reflective Division is part of Avery China and is currently part of Avery’s Graphics Division. Avery China is overseen by Avery’s Asia Pacific Group, an unincorporated group based in Hong Kong within the Avery Dennison Hong Kong BV entity.”

As set forth in the Order, the SEC found that: “Avery China’s Reflective Division paid or authorized the payments of several kickbacks, sightseeing trips, and gifts to Chinese government officials” with “the purpose and effect of improperly influencing decisions by foreign officials to assist Avery China to obtain or retain business.” (See para. 2).

The SEC also found that “after Avery acquired a company in June 2007, employees of the acquired company continued their pre-acquisition practice of making illegal petty cash payments to customs or other officials in several foreign countries.” (See para. 3). These findings, which relate to payments to customs officials in Indonesia and Pakistan, and China, are interesting as well from the standpoint that the Order, at various times, refers to these payments as “certain potential [FCPA] violations” (para. 1), “illegal” (para. 3, 16 and 17), “possible improper payments” (para. 15), and “illicit” (para. 17).

The Order is silent as to Avery’s participation in, or knowledge of, any of this conduct.

Yet the SEC found that “Avery failed to accurately record these payments and gifts in the company’s books and records, and failed to implement or maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to detect and prevent such illegal payments or promises of illegal payments.” (See para. 4).

More specifically, the SEC found that:

“Avery’s books, records, and accounts did not properly reflect the illicit payments, sightseeing trips and gifts that Avery China made or provided to government officials, and the illicit payments to customs officials in several countries by employees of the acquired subsidiaries. As a result, Avery violated the [the books and records provisions]” (para. 19).

“Avery also failed to devise or maintain sufficient internal controls to provide reasonable assurance that Avery China and the acquired subsidiaries complied with the FCPA and that payments, gifts or sightseeing expenses they provided to foreign officials were accurately reflected on its books and records. As a result Avery violated [the internal control provisions]” (para 20).

Avery agreed to settle the matter by paying approximately $520,000 (disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty) and agreeing to cease and desist from future violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Notwithstanding 15 USC 78m(b)(6), this sure seems like a strict liability standard for multinational issuers. So long as this is the SEC’s position, the FCPA compliance message is clear – multinational issuers will be held responsible for the conduct of all entities within its corporate hierarchy (no matter how remote or indirect) which could potentially implicate the FCPA. For this reason, corporate leaders are wise to fully implement FCPA compliance policies and procedures and audit protocols throughout the entire corporate hierarchy.