Archive for the ‘Beverage Industry’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Motion to dismiss filed in the former Magyar Telekom execs case, a noticeable lack of FCPA charges, checking in on recent disclosures, quotable from the current SEC FCPA Unit Chief, quotable regarding FCPA Inc., what’s up with that investigation, I hear you travel alot, there’s an app for that, counter-points, and for the weekend reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Motion to Dismiss Filed in SEC Enforcement Action

This previous post highlighted how former Magyar Telekom executives Elek Straub, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai planned to challenge the SEC’s charges against them.  Earlier this week, the defendants filed this memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss.

In summary fashion, the memorandum states as follows.

“There are several bases for dismissing the complaint.

 First, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The complaint alleges conduct by foreign national defendants that occurred wholly outside, and with no nexus to, the United States. Nowhere does the complaint allege that defendants purposefully directed their conduct at the United States. Following constitutional due process principles, the defendants lack the requisite minimum contacts with the forum, and it would be inconsistent with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice to require them to defend this action in the United States. Indeed, the SEC has acknowledged that its jurisdictional position lacks precedent “on all fours factually” and “may be breaking new ground[.]“

“Second, the SEC’s claims are time-barred [...]  There is no doubt that the complaint was filed outside the five-year period. Specifically, the complaint was filed on December 29, 2011, more than five years after all three defendants had left Magyar Telekom, and more than five years after the alleged conduct occurred. Consequently, the five-year period has expired.”

“Third, with regard to the remaining claims, the complaint fails to adequately state the claims alleged. More specifically, the complaint: (i) fails to adequately plead that the defendants corruptly made use of interstate commerce, as is required to state a claim for bribery and the claims stemming from the alleged bribery under the FCPA (books and records and internal controls violations, falsifying books and records, and lying to auditors); (ii) fails to adequately plead that the intended payment recipients were “foreign official[s]” under the FCPA; (iii) fails to allege sufficient facts supporting the aiding and abetting claims; and (iv) fails to meet the heightened pleading requirements under Rule 9, including allegations of individualized culpable conduct by each defendant. The complaint also merely parrots the statutory language and fails to allege that the defendants profited personally from any of the alleged conduct. For all these reasons, the complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.”

As to “foreign official” the motion states that the complaint’s reference to “officials” “government officials” and other vague allegations represent “mere legal conclusions that the recipients were “foreign officials” under the FCPA.  The motion states as follows.  “A legal conclusion couched as a ‘factual allegation’ is insufficient to establish the essential element that the intended recipient be a foreign official.  Repeated references to “government officials” without underlying facts presents nothing ‘more than labels and conclusions’ that constitute ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.”"

Indeed, in my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (here) I noted the frequency in which enforcement agency FCPA pleadings “contain little more than uninformative, bare-bones statement of facts replete with legal conclusions.”  I said that the “most common and troubling use of bare-bones, uninformative, legal conclusory statements of facts or allegations is when the enforcement agencies describe the ‘foreign officials’ involved in the alleged conduct giving rising to the FCPA violation.”  In the article, I noted that because there is generally no threat that these bare-boned, uninformative facts or legal conclusions will ever be subject to meaningful judicial scrutiny, that the enforcement agencies get away with such practices.

At least until recently.

Noticeable Lack of FCPA Charges

Numerous FCPA enforcement actions have been based on allegations of payments to foreign customs personnel in connection with customs, license, permit type issues.

Thus, the lack of FCPA charges were noticeable in the DOJ’s recent criminal indictment of APEGO Inc., and various of is employees and agents.  As noted in this recent DOJ Release (N.D. of Georgia), charges were filed alleging conspiracy and twelve counts of importing notebooks and filler paper from China using false  documents.

The indictment (here) includes the following allegations.

“It was further part of the conspiracy that [certain individuals] paid bribes to Taiwanese customs officials on behalf of defendants APEGO and Gung to allow U.S.-bound lined paper products made by the Watanabe Group in China but lacking required country of origin labels, or mislabeled ‘Made in Taiwan,’ to enter Taiwan from China and clear Taiwanese customs.”

Elsewhere, the indictment alleges: (i) that in December 2006 various bribes were paid to Taiwanese customs officials which “allowed defendant APEGO to transship these products from Taiwan to the United States more quickly and less expensively by limiting the need to ‘rework’ the products and cartons (i.e. relable ‘Made in Taiwan’) in Taiwan”; (ii) that in March 2007 when customs officials at a certain Taiwan port no longer accepted bribes, the company arranged for its shipments to be processed through another port in a different part of the country where bribes were paid for the same purpose

Recent Disclosures

Owens-Illinois

Owens-Illinois, Inc. (an Ohio based company that describes itself as the world’s largest glass container manufacturer and preferred partner for many of the world’s leading food and beverage brands) recently disclosed as follows.

“The Company is conducting an internal investigation into conduct in certain of its overseas operations that may have violated the antibribery provisions of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, the Company’s own internal policies, and various local laws. In October 2012, the Company voluntarily disclosed these matters to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Company intends to cooperate with any investigation by the DOJ and the SEC. The Company is presently unable to predict the duration, scope or result of its internal investigation, of any investigations by the DOJ or the SEC or whether either agency will commence any legal action. The DOJ and the SEC have a broad range of civil and criminal sanctions under the FCPA and other laws and regulations including, but not limited to, injunctive relief, disgorgement, fines, penalties, and modifications to business practices. The Company also could be subject to investigation and sanctions outside the United States. While the Company is currently unable to quantify the impact of any potential sanctions or remedial measures, it does not expect such actions will have a material adverse effect on the Company’s liquidity, results of operations or financial condition.”

Given the recent FCPA scrutiny of the beverage industry (Diageo, Beam Inc., and Central European Distribution Company) one might wonder whether Owens-Illinois’s recent disclosure is connected to those developments.

Barclays

This previous post detailed how Barclays PLC’s relationship with Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund was under scrutiny by U.K. authorities.

The company recently disclosed (here) as follows.  “Subsequent to reporting the investigations of the Financial Services Authority and Serious Fraud Office in July and August 2012 respectively, Barclays has been informed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that they are undertaking an investigation into whether the Group’s relationships with third parties who assist Barclays to win or retain business are compliant with the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Barclays is investigating and fully co-operating with the DOJ and SEC.”

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, the focus is “on Barclay’s use of external brokers who facilitated meetings between bank officials and powerful Middle Eastern families.”  The article further notes that “Barclays recently started conducting an internal investigation, with the help of an outside law firm, to figure out whether it or its Middle Eastern introducers might have run afoul” of the FCPA.

Schlumberger

The company recently disclosed as follows.

“In 2007, Schlumberger received an inquiry from the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) related to the DOJ’s investigation of whether certain freight forwarding and customs clearance services of Panalpina, Inc., and other companies provided to oil and oilfield service companies, including Schlumberger, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In October 2012, Schlumberger was advised by the DOJ that it has closed its inquiry as it relates to Schlumberger.”

For more on the numerous Panalpina-related enforcement actions – what I’ve termed CustomsGate – see here.

The company’s recent disclosure would seem not to address the issues previously the focus of a front-page Wall Street Journal article in October 2010 concerning alleged conduct in Yemen.  (See here for the prior post).

Quotable

In this recent Reuters article, current SEC FCPA Unit Chief Kara Brockmeyer stated as follows.

“I would hate to think the companies view [FCPA] enforcement actions as the cost of doing business.  If we find that out, it will certainly increase the size of the penalty.”

One thing that is becoming increasingly clear in this new era of FCPA enforcement is that investors do appear to view FCPA scrutiny and enforcement actions as a cost of doing business and akin to a regulatory violation.

The Reuters article also stated that there has yet to be a repeat FCPA prosecution.  This is a false statement.  Companies that have resolved more than one FCPA enforcement action over time include: Tyco, ABB, Baker Hughes and General Electric.

Quotable

On his Corruption, Crime & Compliance site (here) Michael Volkov recently observed as follows.

“The FCPA Paparazzi has done a great disservice to the business community.  Call it a complete lack of credibility.  Legal marketing has become confused in this day and age – marketing has now been turned into the “Fear Factor,” meaning that lawyers need to scare potential clients into hiring them.  That is flat out wrong.   Each week, new client alerts, client warnings and other cries of impending disaster are transmitted through the Internet to businesses.  If I were a general counsel, I would have them on “auto delete.”  Talk about a waste of time and effort.”

What’s Up With That Investigation?

One of the many FCPA industry sweeps reportedly underway concerns Hollywood movie industry in China.  (See here for the prior post).  This recent post on the New York Times Media Decoder blog highlights the “powerful gatekeeper of China’s rapidly growing film world, the China Film Group chairman Han Sanping who was recently in the U.S. to receive a China Entertainment Visionary of the Year award, and asks what’s up with the investigation.

I Hear You Travel Alot

My frequent searches for FCPA content often turn up interesting content.  Such as this thread from top-law-schools.com which asks what type of attorneys get to travel the most?  One response was as follows.   ”From what I hear, FCPA is the way to go for travel to other countries because you have lots of interviews of foreign employees.”

The FCPA is certainly the reason for the majority of stamps in my passport.

Counter-Points

Alexandra Wrage (President of Trace International) made some observations recently in her Corporate Counsel column (here) about FCPA enforcement in various Presidential administrations.  While interesting to think about, the actual stats have little substantive value.  Instances of FCPA scrutiny tend to last between 2-4 years (and thus straddle administrations) and various instances of FCPA scrutiny (for instance Pfizer) can last approximately 8 years.  Moreover, rather than “aggressively enforce the FCPA,” as the article notes, what the enforcement agencies more often than not actually do (as evidenced by statistics demonstrating which enforcement actions resulted from voluntary disclosures) is process corporate voluntary disclosures.

There’s An App for That

Law firm O’Melveny & Myers announced (here) the “launch of its FCPA app, the first multi-functional mobile application (app) created by a law firm.”  Richard Grime, partner and head of O’Melveny’s FCPA practice stated as follows.  “We understand the complexities our clients and colleagues face in achieving their business goals in the global marketplace, and thus, have created this mobile application as a fast, yet informative, way for them to remain current with the evolving statutes and provisions imposed by the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws.”

Weekend Reading

Sidley & Austin recently released its Anti-Corruption Quarterly (here).  Among other articles is one focused on the new “sheriff in town.”

The article states as follows.

“Investigating potential violations of the FCPA historically has been the purview of the SEC and the DOJ, but recently, Congress has entered the fray. Two House committees, the House Oversight and House Energy committees, recently instituted an independent FCPA investigation of Wal-Mart, after a New York Times article reported on an alleged massive bribery campaign at Wal-Mart’s Mexican affiliate. These House investigations mean that companies now have to consider the possibility of facing a congressional investigation—in addition to investigations by the SEC and the DOJ—when FCPA violations have occurred.”

The article further states as follows.

“Although congressional committees routinely investigate companies, the current congressional investigation into Wal-Mart is the first investigation in the FCPA context and it may signal the beginning of a trend: high-profile companies or companies that are drawn into political fights (often unwillingly) may find themselves the target of a congressional inquiry if their FCPA problems become public. Whatever effect the congressional investigation may have on Wal-Mart, the possibility of such an investigation is a factor that high-profile companies facing FCPA concerns should weigh.”

For more on Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny, see my recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement As Seen Through Wal-Mart’s Potential Exposure” (here).

Miller Chevalier also recently released its FCPA Autumn Review – see here.

Morrison Foerster also recently released its End of Summer Round-Up – see here.

This recent Jones Day publication concerning upcoming FCPA Guidance contains the following paragraph that should be read by those who simply label companies that have resolved FCPA enforcement actions or are the subject of FCPA scrutiny as bad or corrupt companies.

“It is the job of a prosecutor to make charging decisions and to decide in the first instance what does and does not violate the law. As prosecutors and enforcement attorneys assess the facts to make charging decisions, they are compelled to view the world, therefore, in binary terms: black and white, right and wrong. As defense counsel, settlement discussions with our counterparts in the DOJ and SEC frequently hinge on which side of the line the conduct sits. Particularly for those of us who served as prosecutors, we acknowledge in these discussions the difficult mission of the enforcement officials to draw and defend lines. The world of business, however, frequently operates in territory that is somewhat grey: a world in which business persons strive to grow the company ethically in situations where the application of the existing rules are not entirely clear. For instance, in the current era of FCPA enforcement, international businesses struggle with their responsibilities to monitor and control the conduct of third parties with whom they do business: distributors and sub-distributors, joint venture partners, dealers, and resellers. Even for companies that are firmly dedicated to compliance with the FCPA, is not always clear when a third party amounts to an agent whose improper conduct might someday be ascribed to the company and its employees. Good and ethical companies struggle, every day, with the concept of defining an agent of the company as opposed to an independent customer who engages in an arm’s-length transaction to purchase the company’s products.”

*****
A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, October 12th, 2012

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.”

World Bank

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.”

Survey Says

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

Spot-On

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.

 

“Rapid Multinational Expansion Through Mergers and Acquisitions” Leads to FCPA Enforcement Action Against Diageo

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is of course no laughing matter. Yet if an FCPA joke book is ever written there is surely to be an entry about the Indian and Korean military officials, a Thai lobbyist, and a Korean Customs official, who while on a purely recreational side-trip to Budapest, stopped in a bar, nibbled on some rice cakes, downed a Guinness and talked about product labeling, excise taxes, and transfer pricing.

Yesterday, the SEC announced (here) an FCPA books and records and internal controls enforcement action against Diageo PLC via an administrative cease and desist order. Diageo, headquartered in London, has American Depository Shares registered with the SEC and traded on the New York Stock Exchange and is thus an “issuer” under the FCPA.

In summary fashion, the Order (here) stated as follows.

“This matter concerns multiple violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Respondent Diageo, one of the world’s largest producers of premium alcoholic beverages. Over more than six years, Diageo, through its subsidiaries, paid over $2.7 million to various government officials in India, Thailand, and South Korea in separate efforts to obtain lucrative sales and tax benefits.”

“In India, from 2003 through mid-2009 Diageo made over $1.7 million in illicit payments to hundreds of Indian government officials responsible for purchasing or authorizing the sale of its beverages. Increased sales from these payments yielded more than $11 million in ill-gotten gains. In Thailand, from 2004 through mid-2008, Diageo paid approximately $12,000 per month – totaling nearly $600,000 – to retain the consulting services of a Thai government and political party official. This official lobbied extensively on Diageo’s behalf in connection with multi-million dollar pending tax and customs disputes, contributing to Diageo’s receipt of certain favorable dispositions by the Thai government. With respect to South Korea, in 2004, Diageo paid 100 million won (KRW) (over $86,000) to a customs official as a reward for his role in the government’s decision to grant Diageo significant tax rebates. Diageo also paid over $100,000 in travel and entertainment expenses for South Korean customs and other government officials involved in these tax negotiations. Separately, Diageo made hundreds of gift payments totaling over $230,000 to South Korean military officials in order to obtain and retain liquor business.”

“Diageo and its subsidiaries failed to account accurately for these illicit payments in their books and records. Exercising lax oversight, Diageo also failed to devise and maintain internal accounting controls sufficient to detect and prevent the payments.”

As set forth in the SEC’s order, “Diageo’s history of rapid multinational expansion through mergers and acquisitions contributed to defects in its FCPA compliance programs.” Indeed, the conduct at issue focused on Diageo India Pvt. Ltd. (“DI”) (a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary acquired as a result of a merger); Diageo Moet Hennessy Thailand (“DT”) (a joint venture Diageo acquired an indirect majority interest in as a result of a merger) and Diageo Korea Co. Ltd. (“DK”) (a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary acquired during an acquisition). According to the SEC, “at the times of these acquisitions, Diageo recognized that its new subsidiaries had weak compliance policies, procedures, and controls” but “nevertheless, Diageo failed to make sufficient improvements to these programs until mid-2008 in response to the discovery of illicit payments.”

India

As to India, the SEC stated as follows. “From at least 2003 through June 2009, DI paid an estimated $792,310 in improper cash payments through its third-party distributors to 900 or more employees of government liquor stores in and around New Delhi. DI also paid an estimated $186,299 (representing 23% of the payments) in “cash service fees” to the distributors as compensation for advancing the funds. DI made the payments to increase government sales orders of its products, and to secure favorable product placement and promotion within the stores.”

The SEC further stated as follows. “During the same six-year period (2003 – 2009), Diageo, through DI, also reimbursed an estimated $530,955, and made plans to reimburse an additional $79,364, in improper cash payments made by third-party sales promoters to government employees of the Indian military’s Canteen Stores Department (“CSD”). The payments, made with DI’s knowledge and authorization, were designed to: (i) foster the promotion of Diageo products in the CSD’s canteen stores (analogous to the U.S. military’s post exchanges); (ii) obtain initial listings and annual label registrations for Diageo brands, price revision approvals, and favorable factory inspection reports; (iii) secure the release of seized shipments of Diageo products; and (iv) promote good will through the distribution of Diwali and New Year’s holiday gifts to CSD employees.”

The SEC also stated as to India as follows. “Diageo failed to ensure that DI properly accounted for a number of additional, improper payments to government officials who controlled administrative functions vital to DI’s business. From at least 2003 through 2008, Diageo, through DI, reimbursed an estimated $98,310 in cash payments made by its third-party promoters and distributors to government officials in the North Region of India and in the State of Assam for the purpose of securing label registrations for Diageo products.” In addition, the SEC Order stated as follows. “… [F]rom at least 2003 through June 2009, Diageo, through DI, paid an estimated $78,622 in extra commissions to its distributors in the North Region to reimburse them for payments made to Excise officials to secure import permits and other administrative approvals.”

Thailand

As to Thailand, the SEC Order stated as follows. “From April 2004 through July 2008, Diageo, through DT, retained the services of a Thai government and foreign political party official (the “Thai Official”) to lobby other Thai officials to adopt Diageo’s position in several multi-million dollar tax and customs disputes. For this retainer DT paid approximately $12,000 per month for 49 months, for a total of $599,322. DT compensated the Thai Official through 49 direct payments to a political consulting firm (the “Consulting Firm”) for which the Thai Official acted as a principal. Most, if not all, of the $599,322 paid to the Consulting Firm was for the Thai Official’s services and accrued to his benefit. The Thai Official served as a Thai government and/or political party official throughout the relevant period (April 2004 – July 2008) in which he received compensation from DT. At various times the Thai Official served as Deputy Secretary to the Prime Minister, Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, and Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The Thai Official also served on a committee of the ruling Thai Rak Thai political party, and as a member and/or advisor to several state-owned or state-controlled industrial and utility boards. DT’s senior management knew that the Thai Official was a government officer during its engagement of the Consulting Firm. The Thai Official was the brother of one of DT’s senior officers at that time. Several members of Diageo’s global and regional management attended meetings with the Thai Official and senior members of the Thai government. The Thai Official provided extensive lobbying services on behalf of Diageo and DT in connection with several important tax and customs disputes that were pending between Diageo and the Thai government. For example, with respect to excise taxes, the Thai Official coordinated and attended numerous meetings between senior Thai government officials and senior Diageo and DT management, including two meetings in April and May 2005 with Thailand’s then Prime Minister. In May 2005, shortly following the meetings arranged by the Thai Official, the Prime Minister made a radio address publicly endorsing Diageo’s position in favor of a “specific” approach (based on quantity) rather than an “ad valorem” approach (based on price) to calculating excise taxes. On Diageo’s behalf, the Thai Official also met repeatedly with senior commerce, finance, and customs authorities in charge of the transfer pricing and import tax disputes, as well as with members of the Thai parliament. The Thai Official’s services contributed to Diageo’s successful resolution of several components of these disputes. For example, during 2004 and 2005 Diageo and DT were actively engaged in a dispute with the Thai government over the appropriate transfer pricing formula applied to One Liter bottles of Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label Scotch whiskey. Based in part on the Thai Official’s lobbying efforts, the Thai government accepted important aspects of DT’s transfer pricing method and released over $7 million in bank guarantees that DT had been required to post while the tax dispute was pending.”

South Korea

As to Korea, the SEC Order stated as follows. “Diageo had significant tax and customs issues in South Korea. In April 2003, DK, under Diageo’s direction, requested from South Korea a more advantageous formula for calculating the transfer pricing, for tax purposes, of Windsor Scotch whiskey that DK was importing into South Korea. As part of those negotiations, DK also sought tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates based on a claim that DK had overpaid under the then existing transfer pricing formula. In April 2004, following a year of intense negotiations and lobbying by DK, the South Korean government granted DK a rebate of approximately $50 million. In July 2004, three months after DK received the tax rebates, a DK manager (the “Manager”) paid an apparent reward of 100 million KRW ($86,339) to a Korean Customs Service official (the “Customs Official”) who had played a key role in the transfer pricing negotiations. With the approval of DK’s then chief financial officer, the Manager generated 60 million KRW ($51,802) of the payment by means of a surreptitious cash kickback scheme. The Manager solicited an inflated invoice from DK’s third-party customs brokerage firm (the “Customs Broker”), which had provided DK with consulting services during the transfer pricing negotiations. As orchestrated, DK paid an inflated invoice amount to the Customs Broker, which then gave 60 million KRW ($51,802) in cash back to the Manager. The Manager funded the remaining 40 million KRW ($34,537) of the total reward amount from personal sources. The Manager then provided the Customs Official with 100 million KRW ($86,339) in the form of ten bank checks of approximately 10 million KRW ($8,634) each.”

The SEC Order further stated as follows. “During the course of the transfer pricing negotiations in 2003 and 2004, DK also paid $109,253 in travel and entertainment costs for Korean customs and other government officials. Some of these expenses were unapproved and constituted improper inducements of the South Korean officials. For example, in December 2003, the Customs Official and several official colleagues traveled to Scotland with DK employees. The purported reason for the trip was to inspect Diageo’s Windsor Scotch production facilities as part of the transfer pricing negotiations. During the course of this apparently legitimate trip, DK’s chief financial officer and the Manager took the South Korean officials on a purely recreational side-trip to Prague and Budapest.”

In addition, the SEC Order stated as follows regarding gifts to Korean military officers. “From at least 2002 through at least 2006, Diageo, through DK, routinely made hundreds of small payments to South Korean military officers for the purpose of obtaining or maintaining business and securing a competitive business advantage. The payments assumed two forms: (i) holiday and vacation gifts known as “rice cake” payments; and (ii) business development gifts, called “Mokjuksaupbi” payments. Rice cake payments were customary and traditional presents that Diageo, through DK, provided to scores of military officers – many of whom were responsible for procuring liquor – several times each year during holidays and vacations. From 2002 through 2006, DK made approximately 400 rice cake payments, totaling at least $64,184, in the form of cash or gift certificates ranging in value between $100 and $300 per recipient. In October 2004, a senior officer within Diageo’s global compliance department explicitly approved the practice of making rice cake payments after a DK employee explained that the company would face a competitive disadvantage if it refrained. Over the same four-year period, Diageo, through DK, also spent approximately $165,287 on hundreds of non-traditional, non-seasonal gifts and entertainment for the military. Of these so-called “Mokjuksaupbi” payments (a term that was broadly intended by DK to refer to “payments for relationships with customers”), approximately $106,051 were for the purpose of influencing specific purchasing decisions. For example, in 2003, DK personnel requested approval of approximately $2,600 to entertain army personnel “for their cooperation” in connection with the re-selection of Windsor Scotch.”

Based on the above conduct, the SEC found FCPA violations, but only FCPA books and records and internal control violations. The absence of FCPA anti-bribery violations against Diageo and the referenced entities would seem to be the result of a lack of a U.S. nexus as to the payments. Even though the FCPA was amended in 1998 to provide an alternative nationality jurisdiction test as to U.S. issuers and domestic concerns, the FCPA retains a territorial U.S. nexus jurisdictional test as to non-U.S. issuers such as Diageo that are nevertheless subject to the FCPA.

As to the FCPA violations, the SEC order states as follows. “Diageo’s books and records did not accurately reflect illicit payments that it made, through its subsidiaries, to Indian, Thai, and South Korean government and military officials. Instead, Diageo, through DI, DT, and DK, disguised the improper payments as legitimate vendor expenses or recorded them under misleading rubrics such as “factory expenses,” “telephone expenses,” “shareholder stake,” and “sales support.” In several instances, the illicit payments were not recorded at all.” The SEC Order further states as follows. “As evidenced by the extent and duration of the wrongful payments and their improper recordation, Diageo failed to devise and maintain sufficient internal accounting controls.”

The SEC Order mentions Diageo’s cooperation and “certain remedial measures undertaken by Diageo, including employee termination and significant enhancements to its compliance program.”

As is common in all SEC FCPA enforcement actions, Diageo settled the matter without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings. Per the SEC Order, Diageo shall pay disgorgement of $11,306,081, prejudgment interest of $2,067,739, and a civil monetary penalty of $3,000,000.

In a press release (here) Diageo stated as follows. “Diageo takes the SEC’s findings seriously and regrets this matter. Systems and controls have been enhanced in an effort to prevent the future occurrence of such issues and to reinforce, everywhere the Company operates, a culture of compliance and commitment to the principles embodied in Diageo’s Code of Business Conduct.”

Diageo’s most recent Annual Report (Sept. 2010) stated as follows.

“As previously reported, Diageo Korea and several of its current and former employees have been subject to investigations by Korean authorities regarding various regulatory and control matters. Convictions for improper payments to a Korean customs official have been handed down against two former Diageo Korea employees, and a former and two current Diageo Korea employees have been convicted on various counts of tax evasion. Diageo had previously voluntarily reported the allegations relating to the convictions for improper payments to the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC has commenced an investigation into these and other matters, and Diageo is in the process of responding to the regulators’ enquiries regarding activities in Korea, Thailand, India and elsewhere. Diageo’s own internal investigation in Korea, Thailand, India and elsewhere remains ongoing. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and related statutes and regulations provide for potential monetary penalties, criminal sanctions and may result in some cases in debarment from doing business with governmental entities in connection with FCPA violations.”