Archive for the ‘Charitable Contributions’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, December 27th, 2013

“Scurrilous and hypocritical,” scrutiny alerts and updates, a foreign official brain teaser, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

“Scurrilous and Hypocritical”

As I have highlighted for years (see approximately 25 separate posts under the subject matter heading double standard), there is a double standard concerning corporate interaction with “foreign officials” under the FCPA and corporate interaction with U.S. officials under other U.S. laws – specifically 18 U.S.C. 201.

Commenting on JPMorgan’s current FCPA scrutiny concerning its alleged hiring practices in China, former SEC Commissioner Arthur Levitt writes, in pertinent part, in this Wall Street Journal opinion piece as follows.

“[A]ccording to financial regulators now looking into the hiring practices of major U.S. banks and multinationals in China—some of which have employed members of influential Chinese families—anyone who once hired me [Levitt's father was the New York state comptroller] might have been violating ethical and legal standards. Securities and Exchange Commission regulators now suggest that such hiring overseas is a form of untoward influence, akin to bribing foreign officials to win business.

The accusation is scurrilous and hypocritical. If you walk the halls of any institution in the U.S.—Congress, federal courthouses, large corporations, the White House, American embassies and even the offices of the SEC—you are likely to run into friends and family members of powerful and wealthy people.

[...]

Whether this is right or wrong, unfair or fair, is not the point. It is hypocritical of financial regulators to criticize—even penalize—practices abroad that are commonplace in Washington, New York and other seats of political and economic power.

Were the SEC to be completely consistent in its approach, it would have to come down hard on the same practices here in the U.S. And the agency would have a field day. Members of Congress and the executive branch regularly hire the children of major donors. Regulators would find scores of examples of men and women, occupying internships and entry-level positions in U.S. corporations, who were hired on the say-so of someone much higher up in the organization.

[...]

[I]f we were to deny multinational companies the ability to hire locally recommended talent, where do we draw the line? Are spouses of influential officials off-limits, but not their children? What about siblings? If not siblings, what about cousins, uncles, nephews? And then there is the issue of friends: How can a financial regulator know whether a friend of someone in power received a job offer in good faith or as a form of influence peddling?

I would hate to imagine what would happen if we applied the same kind of sliding scale to the many people who have received job offers by way of their familial relationships. If that happened, there aren’t many people in finance who would escape the accusation that their hiring was the byproduct of influence peddling.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

This Macau Business Daily report notes the timing of a $10 million pledge by Nasdaq-listed Melco Crown Entertainment for a cultural project in collaboration with the Tokyo University of the Arts.  As noted in the article, the company needs various government permissions to increase its presence in Japan.  As noted in this prior post, among others, casino operators including Wynn Resorts have been the subject of FCPA scrutiny based on similar charitable contributions.

This previous post highlighted how Transparency International urged the DOJ to investigate the conduct of Walters Power International  (an Oklahoma based company that supplies, develops, services and manages electrical generation power plants around the world) in connection with power plant projects in Pakistan.  This recent article in The News International reports that Walters Power has “been cleared of any misconduct by the US Department of Justice.”  The article notes:

“Following [TI's] complaint, the US Department of Justice launched a lengthy inquiry against WPIL [...]. On Oct 31, 2012, it informed WPIL’s [...] lawyers in the US that the inquiry was being closed as no evidence of wrongdoing could be found against the companies. The clearance letter, a copy of which is available with The News, said: “Over the past several months, your client, Walters Power International Ltd., has responded to a number of inquires by the Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. You have also responded to inquiries on behalf of Pakistan Power Resources, LLC, and Walters Power International, LLC.  As you are aware, the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued an order on March 30, 2012, that declared the country’s rental power plant contracts void ab initio. Our review of that order and related pleadings has revealed no allegations of bribery in connection with those contracts. In addition, on July 24, 2012, Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau closed its case regarding Walters Power noting that “there remains no basis for further proceedings about the Company.”  Finally, Transparency International Pakistan, which publicly referred this matter to the US Department of Justice, has provided no evidence of bribery in connection with the RPP contracts in response to our request for further information.  Based upon our investigation and the information that has been made available to us to date, we presently do not intend to take any enforcement action and are closing our inquiry into this matter.  If, however, additional information or evidence should be made available to us in the future, we may reopen our inquiry.”

The article concludes as follows.

“Interestingly, WPIL [...] sat on this letter issued by the US Department of Justice for over a year. When asked why this letter had not been made public for so long, a spokesman for WPIL said: “We cooperated unreservedly with the impartial and unimpeachable investigation of the US Department of Justice and are satisfied with the results. The findings of the US Department of Justice were shared with all shareholders and financial institutions but not made public for fear that this might be misconstrued as a rebuke by the now former chief justice of Pakistan.” He added that the Washington inquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either company, contrary to popular misconceptions within Pakistan.”

“Foreign Official” Brain Teaser

As noted in this recent Wall Street Journal article, China State Construction Engineering Corp. (the largest home builder in the world), “is making its first acquisition in the U.S. market through its American subsidiary, as the company continues its aggressive push into overseas markets. China Construction America, the U.S. subsidiary, … agreed to acquire Manhattan-based Plaza Construction for an undisclosed sum.”  As noted in the article, “Plaza Construction mainly provides construction management and consulting services in places including New York, Florida, California and Washington, D.C.”

Congress never intended for employees of state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (SOEs) to be “foreign officials” under the FCPA – see here for my “foreign official” declaration – but given the DOJ and SEC’s “foreign official” interpretations, post-acquisition are Plaza Construction employees now Chinese “foreign officials?”

Quotable

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim recently stated as follows:

“I’d like to make clear why fighting corruption is a critical priority for me personally, and for the entire World Bank Group:  Every dollar that a corrupt official or a corrupt business person puts in their pocket is a dollar stolen from a pregnant woman who needs health care; or from a girl or a boy who deserves an education; or from communities that need water, roads, and schools. Every dollar is critical if we are to reach our goals to end extreme poverty by 2030 and to boost shared prosperity.  Let’s not mince words: In the developing world, corruption is public enemy number one. We will never tolerate corruption, and I pledge to do all in our power to build upon our strong fight against it.”

Reading Stack

The most recent edition of the always-informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update is here.  As to the recent Weatherford settlement, the Update states as follows.

“The $152 million in fines and penalties paid by Weatherford make it the eighth largest FCPA settlement in history. Although the monetary resolution is objectively large, comparing it to the monetary resolution in another recent enforcement action points to the difficulty of ascertainting the logic of penalty determinations.

[...]

Beyond the lack of transparency in the calculations that led to the financial resolution – a recurring feature of settled FCPA matters – the Weatherford settlement, like other recent settlements, is a disposition in which facts are included in the allegations or information without an explanation as to why they are relevant, potentially creating even more confusion as to what is or is not acceptable from the enforcement agencies’ point of view.”

For the recent post titled “FCPA Settlements Have Come a Long Way In a Short Amount of Time,” see here.

As to the recent Corruption Perception Index scores recently released by Transparency International (see here for the prior post), the FCPA Update rightly notes as follows.

“[W]hile companies subject to the FCPA, the UKBA, or other transnational anti-bribery regimes should continue to pay heed to the CPI, those seeking most efficiently to assess compliance risks also need to assess such matters as: (1) sector risk; (2) business model risk (including the degree to which the firm relies on third parties and the nature of controls over their activities); and (3) the nature and scope of government interactions, not only in connection with winning sales from government customers but also in obtaining zoning and building permits, tax clearances, customs rulings, currency transaction permissions, investment and financing approvals, and a range of other daily decisions from government actors. Firms with business risks associated with non-compliance such as expiring patents, excess capacity, disproportionate sales-based compensation, and limited oversight over sales and supply chain personnel, may well have significant corruption risks even in nations ranked highly in the CPI.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

Next Up – Stryker

Friday, October 25th, 2013

First it was Johnson & Johnson (see here – $70 million in combined fines and penalties in April 2011).  Then it was Smith & Nephew (see here - $22 million in combined fines and penalties in February 2012).  Then it was Biomet (see here – $22.8 million in combined fines and penalties in March 2012). Then it was Pfizer / Wyeth (see here  – $60 million in combined fines and penalties in August 2012).  Then it was Eli Lilly (see here – $29 million in combined fines and penalties in December 2012).

Next up, in the recent sweep of pharmaceutical / healthcare and medical device companies is Stryker Corporation.

Yesterday, the SEC announced that Stryker agreed to pay $13.2 million to resolve an SEC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action via an administrative cease and desist order in which the company neither admitted or denied the SEC’s allegations.

The conduct at issue focused on various Stryker subsidiaries.  There is no allegation in the SEC’s order concerning Stryker Corp. itself other than the following.

“The financial results of all of the Stryker subsidiaries discussed herein were consolidated into Stryker’s financial statements.  Stryker’s foreign subsidiaries were organized in a decentralized, country-based structure, wherein a manager of a particular country’s operations had primary responsibility for all business within a given country. During the relevant period, each of Stryker’s foreign subsidiaries operated pursuant to individual policies and directives implemented by country or regional management. Stryker had corporate policies addressing anti-corruption, but these policies were inadequate and insufficiently implemented on the regional and country level. Accordingly, Stryker failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that the company maintained accountability for its assets and that transactions were executed in accordance with management’s authorization.”

In summary fashion, the SEC order states:

“From approximately August 2003 to February 2008 (the “relevant period”), Stryker made approximately $2.2 million in unlawful payments to various government employees including public health care professionals (collectively, the “foreign officials”) in Mexico, Poland, Romania, Argentina, and Greece. Stryker incorrectly described these expenses in the company’s books and records as legitimate consulting and service contracts, travel expenses, charitable donations, or commissions, when in fact the payments were improperly made by Stryker to obtain or retain business. Stryker earned approximately $7.5 million in illicit profits as a result of these payments.  During the relevant period, Stryker incorrectly described unlawful payments to foreign officials in its accounting books and records in violation of [the FCPA's books and records provisions] and failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls in violation [of the FCPA's internal controls provisions.]“

Under the heading “Unlawful Payments In Mexico,” the order states:

Between March 2004 and January 2007, Stryker’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Mexico (“Stryker Mexico) made three payments totaling more than $76,000 to foreign officials employed by a Mexican governmental agency (the “Mexican Agency”) responsible for providing social security for government employees. Stryker made these payments to win bids to sell its medical products to certain public hospitals in Mexico. Stryker Mexico earned more than $2.1 million in profits as a result of these illicit payments.  These payments were made at the direction of Stryker Mexico employees, including country level management, and paid to the foreign officials through third party agents. For example, in January 2006, Stryker Mexico learned that the Mexican Agency was threatening to revoke a contract that Stryker Mexico had won to provide knee and hip products to certain public hospitals unless Stryker Mexico paid an employee of the Mexican Agency.  As a result of the demand by the employee of the Mexican Agency, Stryker Mexico directed its outside counsel in Mexico (the “Mexican Law Firm”) to make payment to the employee, on Stryker Mexico’s behalf, in order for Stryker to keep the winning bid.  At Stryker Mexico’s direction, the Mexican Law Firm paid the foreign official approximately $46,000 on behalf of Stryker Mexico and, as a result of this payment, the Mexican Agency did not revoke Stryker Mexico’s status as the winning bidder. The Mexican Law Firm then invoiced Stryker Mexico for $46,000 for purported legal services rendered, even though no such services were provided. Stryker Mexico recorded these improper payments as legitimate legal expenses in its books and records.  Stryker Mexico earned over $1.1 million in illicit profits on this contract alone. Stryker Mexico made two additional payments through intermediaries during the relevant period in much the same fashion, with the purpose of retaining or obtaining business from public hospitals. The additional payments were in excess of $34,000 and earned Stryker illicit profits of nearly $1 million.”

Under the heading “Improper Payments in Poland,” the order states:

“Between August 2003 and November 2006, Stryker’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Poland (“Stryker Poland”) made 32 improper payments to foreign officials in Poland for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business at public hospitals. In total, Stryker Poland made approximately $460,000 in unlawful payments resulting in more than $2.4 million of illicit profits. These improper payments were recorded in Stryker’s books and records as legitimate expenses, including reimbursement for business travel, consulting and service contract payments, and charitable donations.  For example, in May 2004, Stryker Poland paid for a foreign official then employed as the director of a public hospital in Poland, and her husband, to travel to New York City and Aruba. Although the official purpose of the trip was for the foreign official to attend a single-day tour of Stryker’s manufacturing and research facility in Mahwah, New Jersey, Stryker paid for the couple’s six-night stay at a hotel in New York City, attendance at two Broadway shows, and a five-day trip to Aruba before their return flight to Poland.  According to Stryker Poland’s records, expenses for the trip, including airfare, accommodations, and entertainment, totaled approximately $7,000, all of which Stryker Poland recorded as legitimate travel expenses.  Stryker Poland’s internal documents confirm a quid pro quo arrangement between Stryker Poland and the foreign official. For example, the form containing the schedule for the foreign official’s facility tour states that the purpose of the visit was to “strengthen [the public doctor’s] conviction that Stryker products are the best solution for her hospital,” and notes that “we won a big tender for [one product] (about $350,000) and in this year they are going to buy our products for $500,000.”  Stryker Poland also made additional improper travel payments, payments under purported consulting agreements totaling approximately $47,000, and gifts and donations of nearly $400,000, each of which was made to a state-employed healthcare professional for the purpose of Stryker Poland’s obtaining or retaining the business of public hospitals.”

Under the heading “Improper Payments in Romania,” the order states:

“From at least 2003 through July 2007, Stryker’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Romania (“Stryker Romania”) made 192 improper payments to foreign officials totaling approximately $500,000 in order to obtain or retain business with affiliated public hospitals.  Stryker Romania recorded these payments as legitimate sponsorships of foreign officials’ attendance, travel and lodging at conferences, and medical events, when in reality they were illicit payments made to obtain or retain business.  As a result of these payments, Stryker Romania earned more than $1.7 million in illicit profits.  For example, in April 2004, a Stryker Romania salesperson submitted a form to sponsor a foreign official’s lodging abroad to attend a conference. The form stated that a “business benefit[]” from the sponsorship was that, in return, Stryker Romania would receive a contract for the sale of a particular medical device. In addition, Stryker Romania internally discussed that the foreign official in question was “waiting to be confirmed as chief physician” at a public hospital, “thus becoming important” for an upcoming bid for a contract. Stryker Romania recorded the payment as a legitimate business travel expense even though its own internal documents demonstrated that the payment was made with the purpose of obtaining future business.”

Under the heading “Unlawful Payments in Argentina,” the order states:

“Between 2005 and 2008, Stryker’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Argentina (“Stryker Argentina”) made 392 commission payments, or “honoraria,” to physicians employed in the public healthcare system in order to obtain or retain business with affiliated public hospitals. Unlike traditional honorarium payments that are made in exchange for the provision of a service (such as making a speech), these honoraria were commissions that were calculated as a percentage of a total sale to a particular hospital and then paid to the public doctor associated with the sale. Stryker Argentina routinely made these payments by check to doctors at rates between 20% and 25% of the related sale. In total, Stryker Argentina made more than $966,500 in improper honoraria payments during the relevant period, causing Stryker Argentina to earn more than $1.04 million in profits from the public hospitals with which the doctors were associated. Stryker Argentina booked these payments as commission expenses in an account entitled “Honorarios Medicos,” when in fact they were unlawful payments made to compensate doctors for purchasing Stryker products.”

Under the heading “Unlawful Payments in Greece,” the order states:

“In 2007, Stryker’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Greece (“Stryker Greece”) made a sizeable and atypical donation of $197,055 to a public university (the “Greek University”) to fund a laboratory that was then being established by a foreign official who served as a prominent professor at the Greek University, and was the director of medical clinics at two public hospitals affiliated with the Greek University.  As a result of this donation, Stryker Greece earned a total of $183,000 in illicit profits.  The donation was made pursuant to a quid pro quo arrangement with the foreign official, pursuant to which Stryker Greece understood it would obtain and retain business from the public hospitals with which the foreign official was affiliated, in exchange for making the donation to the foreign official’s pet project. In an email from the country manager of Stryker Greece to the regional manager, the country manager emphasized that she believed the donation to the Greek University was necessary to secure future sales for Stryker Greece. The country manager wrote: “I think that anything below 30K will leave [the foreign official] disappointed. He did promise that he would direct his young assistants into using our trauma and sports medicine products. [The foreign official] is . . . difficult to get as a ‘friend’ and really tough to have as a disappointed customer.”  The regional manager asked,  “What do we get for the sponsorship – or is it just a gift?” The country manager confirmed the quid pro quo, stating, “For the sponsorship we get the Spine business and a promise for more products in his Department. . .”  At a later date, another country manager stated, “I am willing to support what [the foreign official] is asking for in order to secure the sales he is bringing in.” The regional manager then approved the request. Soon thereafter, the country manager said of his meeting with the foreign official: “Things went well (how couldn’t they—I offered him the amount he is asking for . . .). . . . My impression is that we will sta rt business again.”  Stryker Greece made the donation to the Greek University in three installments, each of which was improperly booked as a legitimate marketing expense in an account entitled “Donations and Grants.”

Based on the above allegations, the SEC found that Stryker violated the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

In the SEC release, Andrew Calamari (Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office) stated:

“Stryker’s misconduct involved hundreds of improper payments over a number of years during which the company’s internal controls were fatally flawed.  Companies that allow corruption to occur by failing to implement robust compliance programs will not be allowed to profit from their misconduct.”

As noted in the SEC’s release, the administrative order “requires Stryker to pay disgorgement of $7,502,635, prejudgment interest of $2,280,888, and a penalty of $3.5 million.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, Stryker agreed to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations and any future violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

The Stryker action is yet another example of the SEC obtaining a disgorgement remedy without finding or charging violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  (See here for a prior post on no-charged bribery disgorgement).

The SEC order also contains a separate section titled “Stryker’s Remedial Efforts” and states:

“In response to the Commission’s investigation, Stryker retained outside counsel to assist Stryker in conducting an internal investigation into Stryker’s compliance with the FCPA in the jurisdictions that were the subject of the staff’s inquiry, as well as in jurisdictions where issues arose through Stryker’s audit and hotline processes. Stryker voluntarily produced reports and other materials to the Commission staff summarizing the findings of its internal investigation. In total, Stryker produced over 800,000 pages of documents at Stryker’s expense, including courtesy translations of numerous key documents.  Since the time of the conduct detailed above, Stryker implemented a company wide anti-corruption compliance program, which includes: (a) enhanced corporate policies and standard operating procedures setting forth specific due diligence and documentation requirements for relationships with foreign officials, health care professionals, consultants, and distributors; (b) compliance monitoring and corporate auditing specifically tailored to anticorruption, including the hiring of a chief compliance officer and a sizeable full-time dedicated staff in both its internal audit and compliance functions to ensure FCPA compliance and the implementation of periodic self-assessments; (c) enhanced financial controls and governance; (d) expanded anti-corruption training to all Stryker employees; and (e) the maintenance of an Ethics Hotline which serves as a mechanism for employees to report any actual or suspected illegal or unethical behavior.  In addition to its internal anti-corruption enhancements, from 2007 through the present, Stryker engaged a third-party consultant to perform FCPA compliance assessments and compile written reports for Stryker’s operations in dozens of foreign jurisdictions across the world at least annually. Stryker voluntarily produced documents that permitted the Commission staff to assess how Stryker’s internal audit and compliance functions used the results of each of the assessments to implement additional enhancements to its infrastructure, to target jurisdictions for future assessments, and to create management action plans in collaboration with local management.  Based on the improvements described above, Stryker has demonstrated a commitment to designing and funding a meaningful compliance program in order to prevent and detect violations of the FCPA and other applicable anti-bribery laws.”

In this Wall Street Journal Risk and Compliance post, a Stryker spokesperson stated that the company “was advised that the Justice Department closed its investigation.”

Matthew Kipp (Skadden) represented Stryker.

Stryker’s November 2007 quarterly filing stated:

“In October 2007, the Company disclosed that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission has made an informal inquiry of the Company regarding possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the sale of medical devices in certain foreign countries.”

Thus, the time period from first instance of public disclosure of FCPA scrutiny to actual settlement was 6 years.

Yesterday Stryker’s stock was up approximately .07%.

*****

A few upcoming events that may be of interest to East Coast readers.

On Wednesday, October 30th, Brooklyn Law School will host a panel discussion of practitioners, in-house counsel, and professors titled “New Developments in FCPA Enforcement” (see here for more information).

On Saturday, Nov. 10th, I will be participating in a panel titled “Anti-Corruption Initiatives in the Arab World” as part of Harvard’s Arab Weekend.  (To learn more about the event and the other panelists, see here).

Friday Roundup

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Make your voice heard, scrutiny alerts, “foreign official” fun, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Make Your Voice Heard

Yesterday, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced a consultation on ”a draft Code of Practice setting out their approach to the use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs).”  According to the release, the U.K. is seeking “views on eight points covered in the draft Code, including the circumstances when a prosecutor should consider a DPA, the criteria to apply when making this decision, and on the disclosure approach envisaged.”

Make your voice heard, “comments are welcome from interested individuals and organisations” and “the consultation closes on Friday 20 September 2013.”  See here for my previous post urging the U.K. to reject DPAs.

Staying in the U.K. this report states as follows.  “The UK Serious Fraud Office is actively investigating two cases under the Bribery Act, said Kevin Davis, the SFO’s chief investigating officer. He also revealed that a further six cases which might lead to prosecutions were under investigation.”

Scrutiny Alerts

Medtronic

Let’s say law enforcement sets up a sobriety checkpoint on the highway.  A sober driver successfully passes through it.  Would we call this an instance of law enforcement “declining” to prosecute the driver for drunk driver?

Of course not, and the same logic should apply in the FCPA context as well.

In June 2008, Medtronic disclosed as follows.

“On September 25, 2007, the Company received a letter from the SEC requesting  information relating to any potential violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt  Practices Act in connection with the sale of medical devices in an unspecified  number of foreign countries, including Greece, Poland and Germany. The letter  notes that the Company is a significant participant in the medical device  industry, and seeks any information concerning certain types of payments made  directly or indirectly to government-employed doctors. A number of competitors  have publicly disclosed receiving similar letters. On November 16, 2007, the  Company received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting any  information provided to the SEC. The Company is cooperating with both requests.”

In June 2009, Medtronic disclosed as follows.

“On September 25, 2007, the Company received a letter from the SEC requesting  information relating to any potential violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt  Practices Act in connection with the sale of medical devices in an unspecified  number of foreign countries, including Greece, Poland and Germany. Turkey, Italy  and Malaysia have since been added to the inquiry. The letter notes that the  Company is a significant participant in the medical device industry, and seeks  any information concerning certain types of payments made directly or indirectly  to government-employed doctors. A number of competitors have publicly disclosed  receiving similar letters. On November 16, 2007, the Company received a letter  from the Department of Justice requesting any information provided to the SEC.  Since that time the SEC and Department of Justice have made additional requests  for information from the Company. The Company is cooperating with the requests.”

Earlier this week, Medtronic stated as follows.

“On September 25, 2007 and  November 16, 2007, the Company received letters from the U.S. Securities and  Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ),  respectively, requesting information relating to any potential violations of the  U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the sale of medical  devices in several non-U.S. countries. A number of competitors have publicly  disclosed receiving similar letters. Subsequently, the SEC and DOJ made  additional requests for information from the Company. In June 2013, the SEC and  the DOJ both informed the Company that they would be closing their  investigations without pursuing any enforcement action or charges against the Company.”

The headline on the FCPA Blog read “Medtronic Wins Double Declination.”  The headline on the Risk & Compliance Blog of the Wall Street Journal read “Medtronic Says SEC, DOJ Declined to Prosecute for FCPA Violations.”

I just don’t understand it at all.  (See here for more).

HLW International / Sweett Group

Architecture firm HLW International LLP and Sweett Group Ltd. (a U.K. based construction company) recently were the subject of a leading Wall Street Journal article titled “Inside U.S. Firm’s Bribery Probe” by Joe Palazzolo and Chris Matthews.  The focus of the article concerns the construction of a hospital in Morocco and the alleged promise by a Sweet executive that HLW would get the design contract if it agreed to pay 3.5% of the contract value to “an official inside the United Arab Emirates President’s personal foundation, which was funding the project.”

Charitable donations have been the focus of prior FCPA enforcement actions against Eli Lilly and Schering-Plough as well as the focus of Wynn Resort’s current FCPA scrutiny.

“Foreign Official” Fun

In the Carson “foreign official” challenge, Judge Selna concluded, in denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss (see here),  that “the question of
whether state-owned companies qualify as instrumentalities under the FCPA is a  question of fact.” Judge Selna stated that “several factors bear on the  question of whether a business entity constitutes a government instrumentality”  including the following.

  • The foreign state’s characterization of the  entity and its employees;
  • The foreign state’s degree of control over  the entity;
  • The purpose of the entity’s activities;
  • The  entity’s obligations and privileges under the foreign state’s law, including  whether the entity exercises exclusive or controlling power to administer its  designated functions;
  • The circumstances surrounding the entity’s  creation; and
  • The foreign state’s extent of ownership of the entity,  including the level of financial support by the state (e.g., subsidies,  special tax treatment, and loans).

According to Judge Selna, the above ”factors are not exclusive, and no single factor is dispositive.”

According to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal:

“Companies listed on China’s stock exchanges received 85.68 billion yuan ($13.83 billion) in government subsidies last year, up 23% from a year earlier, while corporate profits rose less than 1%, according to a Chinese data provider. The subsidies were equivalent to more than 4% of the companies’ total profits last year, up from around 3% between 2009 and 2011. The subsidies—largely from local authorities but also from the national government—took the form of cheap land, tax rebates, support for loan repayments and straight-up cash. There were a range of reasons, including research and development and support for government environment priorities.”

Reading Stack

The Seventh Edition of the FCPA Handbook from O’Melveny & Myers.

A focus on Southeast Asia in the always informative FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton.

A  mini-roundup of Canada’s recent amendments to its Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act here (Osler), here (Dentons), and here (Fasken Martineau).

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Additional individual defendant added to Alstom-related enforcement action, a mere $110,000 per working day, a focus on international philanthropy, scrutiny alerts, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Additional Alstom-Related Charges

This prior post highlighted the recently unsealed criminal charges against Frederic Pierucci (a current Alstom employee) and David Rothschild (a former Alstom employee) concerning alleged conduct in connection with the Tarahan coal-fired steam power plant project in Indonesia.  The post highlighted several other individuals generically referred to in the charging documents.

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced (here) that William Pomponi (a former executive of Alstom Power Inc., a Connecticut-based subsidiary of Alstom) was charged for his alleged participation in the same scheme.   Pomponi, previously identified as “Employee A,” is now described as “a Vice President of Regional Sales” at Alstom Power Inc. and “was one of the people responsible for approving the actions of, and authorizing payments to, Consultants A and B, knowing that a portion of the payments [to the consultants] was intended for Indonesian officials in exchange for their influence and assistance in awarding the Tarahan Project …”.

Like the original Pierucci indictment, all of the alleged overt acts in the superseding indictment against Pomponi allegedly occured between 2002 and 2004, although the information does allege wire transfers from Alstom Power Inc.’s bank account to the bank account of Consultant A until 2009.

Like Pierucci, Pomponi is also charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, four substantive counts of FCPA anti-bribery violations, money laundering conspiracy and four substantive counts of money laundering.

Kudos to the DOJ for including a link to the charging document in the release.  This used to be DOJ’s practice, but when its new site launched a few years ago, it stopped doing this.  Let’s hope this is a new practice!

Avon’s FCPA Expenses

Nearly five years ago – in June 2008 – Avon launched an internal investigation concerning FCPA compliance in China and other countries.  In many respects, the most notable aspect of Avon’s FCPA scrutiny has been its pre-enforcement action professional and expenses – approaching $350 million (see here for instance).

In its most recent quarterly filing, Avon stated as follows.  “Professional and related fees associated with the FCPA investigations and compliance reviews … amounted to approximately $7 during the three months ended March 31, 2013.”

Headlines read “Avon FCPA Costs Down to $7 Million for Q1″ and “Avon Slows Spending on Bribery Probe.”

Both accurate headlines, but it is amazing to note nevertheless that – five years into Avon’s FCPA scrutiny – the company is still spending approximately $110,000 per working day on its FCPA issues.  (See this prior post concerning Wal-Mart’s pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses and asking “does it really need to cost this much?”).

International Philanthropy

FCPA material pops up in a variety of places.  Such as this article in www.wealthmanagement.com concerning the perils of global giving.  With two FCPA enforcement actions (Schering-Plough and Eli Lilly) based, in whole or in part, on donations made to a Polish castle foundation and with Wynn Resorts under FCPA scrutiny for a donation to the University of Macau (see here), FCPA scrutiny based on international charitable giving is no mere hypothetical.

Scrutiny Alerts

Scrutiny alerts concerning IBM, ADM, Total, and ENRC.

IBM

This recent post highlighted a ProPublica report regarding the relationship between various tech companies including H-P, IBM and Oracle with a ”senior technology officer for Poland’s national police and, later, the nation’s Interior Ministry, [who] set the terms for hundreds of millions of dollars in technology contracts and decided which ones should be awarded without competitive bidding.”

In a recent quarterly filing, IBM disclosed as follows.

“In early 2012, IBM notified the SEC of an investigation by the Polish Central Anti-Corruption Bureau involving allegations of illegal activity by a former IBM Poland employee in connection with sales to the Polish government. IBM is cooperating with the SEC and Polish authorities in this matter. In April 2013, IBM learned that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is also investigating allegations related to the Poland matter, as well as allegations relating to transactions in Argentina, Bangladesh and Ukraine. The DOJ is also seeking information regarding the company’s global FCPA compliance program and its public sector business. The company is cooperating with the DOJ in this matter.”

In 2011, IBM resolved an FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct in South Korea and China.  (See here).  The settlement is still pending the approval of Judge Richard Leon (D.D.C.).  In 2000, IBM resolved an FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct in Argentina. (See here).

ADM

Archer Daniels Midland Company recently stated as follows in this release.

“ADM is in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a previously disclosed FCPA matter dating back to 2008 and earlier, and expects a resolution sometime this year. Based upon recent discussions, ADM believes it is appropriate to establish a provision of $25 million ($0.04 per share) to cover the potential assessments that may be imposed by these government agencies.”

Total

France-based Total recently stated as follows (here) concerning its long-running FCPA scrutiny concerning business conduct in Iran.

“In 2003, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) followed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a formal order directing an investigation in connection with the pursuit of business in Iran by certain oil companies including, among others, TOTAL.  The inquiry concerns an agreement concluded by the Company with consultants concerning gas fields in Iran and aims to verify whether certain payments made under this agreement would have benefited Iranian officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Company’s accounting obligations. The Company fully cooperates with these investigations.  Since 2010, the Company has been in discussions with U.S. authorities (DoJ and SEC) to consider, as it is often the case in these kinds of proceedings, an out-of-court settlement, which would terminate the investigation in exchange for TOTAL respecting a number of obligations, including the payment of a fine and civil compensation, without admission of guilt.  U.S. authorities have proposed draft agreements that could be accepted by TOTAL. Consequently, and although discussions have not yet been finalized, a provision of $398 million, unchanged since its booking as of June 30, 2012 and reflecting the best estimate of potential costs associated with the resolution of these proceedings, remains booked in the Group’s consolidated financial statements as of March 31, 2013.  In this same affair, TOTAL and its Chief Executive Officer, President of the Middle East at the time of the facts, have been placed under formal investigation, following a judicial inquiry initiated in France in 2006. At this point, the Company considers that the resolution of these cases is not expected to have a significant impact on the Group’s financial situation or consequences on its future planned operations.”

A $398 million FCPA enforcement action would be the third-highest of all-time.

ENRC

Last week the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced here as follows.

“The Director of the SFO has accepted [Eurasian Natural Resources Corp.] ENRC Plc. for criminal investigation.  The focus of the investigation will be allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption relating to the activities of the company or its subsidiaries in Kazakhstan and Africa.”

In a statement, the U.K. company,  stated as follows.

“The Board of Directors (the ‘Board’) of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation PLC (‘ENRC’ or, together with its subsidiaries, the ‘Group’) today notes that the SFO has moved to a formal investigation. ENRC confirms that it is assisting and cooperating fully with the SFO. ENRC is committed to a full and transparent investigation of its procedures and conduct.

ENRC has ADRs listed with the SEC and thus could also be subject to the FCPA.

This recent article in the Wall Street Journal states as follows.

“U.K.-listed Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. PLC said … allegations of wrongdoing over minerals sales conducted through a Russian network of agents were thoroughly investigated and dismissed” in 2007.

Reading Stack

Tom Fox (FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog) has penned a new book – “Best Practices Under the FCPA and Bribery Act: How to Create a First Class Compliance Program.”  I was pleased to contribute the foreword to the book and noted that Tom’s “use of real events as learning devices to demonstrate compliance best practices make [the] book an engaging and informative read.”

Inside the NY Times Wal-Mart investigation (here) from the perspective of the Mexican journalist who assisted in the investigative reporting.

Of Note From The Eli Lilly Enforcement Action

Monday, January 14th, 2013

This previous post went long and deep as to the Eli Lilly enforcement action from last month.  This post continues the analysis by highlighting additional notable issues.

If This Is The Standard, Then Every Issuer Is An FCPA Violater.

This previous post discussed how the SEC’s August 2012 FCPA enforcement action against Oracle diluted FCPA enforcement to a new level.

The SEC’s China allegations against Lilly further dilutes FCPA enforcement.  The focus of the allegations is that sales representatives at Lilly-China, between 3-6 years ago, submitted false expense reports for items such as wine, speciality foods, a jade bracelet, meals, visits to bath houses, card games, karaoke bars, door prizes, spa treatments and cigarettes.  Because the SEC charged only FCPA books and records and internal controls violations based on these allegations, the identity of the ultimate recipients was not relevant, although the SEC did allege that the ultimate recipients were ”government-employed physicians.”

If the SEC’s position is that an issuer violates the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions because some employees, anywhere within its world-wide organization, submit false expense reports for such nominal and inconsequential items, then every issuer has violated and will continue to violate the FCPA.

Once again, the SEC’s charging decisions prove hallow its recent Guidance related rhetoric.  (See here for the prior post).

What Is Really Being Accomplished?

Let me state for the record, lest there be any misunderstanding, that I support strong FCPA enforcement as to conduct Congress intended to capture in passing the FCPA, that adheres to fundamental legal principles, and that actually makes a difference in accomplishing the FCPA’s objective.  My criticisms and concerns of the DOJ and SEC’s FCPA enforcement has been across a wide spectrum, including that in egregious instances of corporate bribery, the DOJ has been too lenient.  See here for my article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” and here for my November 2010 Senate testimony.

To be sure, certain things were accomplished by the Lilly enforcement action.  $29.4 million was added to the U.S. treasury and FCPA Inc.’s pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses likely exceeded that amount.

Beyond this, it is an open question whether the Lilly enforcement action really accomplished anything.

For starters, let’s start with the SEC’s mission.  As stated on its website, the SEC’s mission is ”to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.”

How is this mission accomplished by the Poland and Russia allegations in the SEC’s complaint?

The Poland allegations concern approximately $39,000 in payments made by Lilly-Poland approximately 12 years ago to a legitimate and bona fide Polish charitable foundation, albeit one allegedly headed by the Director of a Government Health Fund.

The Russia allegations, the only allegations in the complaint that give rise to FCPA anti-bribery charges, concern the conduct of Lilly-Vostok and its use of various third parties in connection with government pharmaceutical business.  There is only one paragraph in the SEC’s complaint concerning specific knowledge of the alleged improper conduct and that paragraph (para. 28 of the complaint) cites a Lilly-Vostok e-mail from 18 years ago and another Lilly-Vostok e-mail from 13 years ago.

The same what is really being accomplished question could also be asked concerning a post-enforcement action requirement imposed on Lilly by the SEC.

The SEC devoted a paragraph of its complaint to “Lilly’s Remedial Measures” and stated as follows.

“Since the time of the conduct noted in this Complaint, Lilly has made improvements to its global anti-corruption compliance program, including: enhancing anticorruption due diligence requirements for relationships with third parties; implementing compliance monitoring and corporate auditing specifically tailored to anti-corruption; enhancing financial controls and governance; and expanding anti-corruption training throughout the organization.”

In other words, per the SEC, over the last approximate decade, Lilly has made extensive enhancements to its FCPA compliance program.  Against this backdrop, what is really being accomplished by the requirement that Lilly engage a compliance consultant for a 60 day period?

“Check The Box” Due Diligence?

One of the greater frustrations I experienced during my FCPA practice career was attending meetings with SEC FCPA enforcement attorneys and learning of the alternate world they lived in.  In their alternate world, companies – 7 to 10 years ago – were supposed to have current FCPA best practices throughout their organization and the absence of such current best practices was evidence of FCPA books and records and internal control violations.

I was reminded of this alternate world when reading the SEC’s release (here) in connection with the Lilly enforcement action.  In it, Kara Novaco Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Unit) stated as follows. “Eli Lilly and its subsidiaries possessed a ‘check the box’ mentality when it came to third-party due diligence.”

“Check the Box” due diligence?

The SEC’s allegations concerning due diligence (or lack thereof) focus on the conduct of Lilly-Vostok, a Russian subsidiary, between 1994 through 2005.  In other words, 7 to 18 years ago.   Even the SEC acknowledged that, as to the relevant third-parties, ”Lilly’s due diligence” consisted of “ordering a Dun and Bradstreet report and conducting a search using an internet service to scan publicly available information.”  Elsewhere, the SEC acknowledges that Lilly-Vostok “in conjunction with outside counsel” conducted due diligence on various third parties.

Effective due diligence?  Probably not – the SEC alleges that certain beneficial owners were not identified and that there was no documentation that certain third parties were capable of performing the engaged services.  Due diligence consistent with today’s best practices?  Probably not.

Yet to call such due diligence efforts – which took place 7 to 18 years ago – “check the box” is emblematic of the SEC’s alternate reality.

The Double Standard On Display

I have frequently written about the FCPA’s double standard.  (See here for all prior posts).  The double standard regards the seemingly obvious fact that there is little intellectual or moral consistency between enforcement of the FCPA and enforcement of the U.S. domestic bribery statute (18 USC 201).  The double standard is present when a U.S company’s interaction with a “foreign official” is subject to more scrutiny and different standards than its interaction with a U.S. official.

Prior double standard posts (here and here) have explored the frequency in which U.S. business gives to charitable donations favored by influential politicans.  No consequences or legal action is taken.

Yet when a U.S. company gives to charitable donation favored by foreign politicians - well that is stuff of bribery and corruption.  In addition to the Chudow (Poland) Castle Foundation allegations in the SEC’s Lilly complaint, is the following allegation concerning Russia.

“From 2005 through 2008, Lilly-Vostok made various proposals to government officials in Russia regarding how Lilly-Vostok could donate to or otherwise support various initiatives that were affiliated with public or private institutions headed by the government officials or otherwise important to the government officials. Examples included their personal participation or the participation of people from their institutions in clinical trials and international and regional conferences and the support of charities and educational events associated with the institutes. At times, these proposals to government officials were made in a communication that also included a request for assistance in getting a product reimbursed or purchased by the government. Generally, Lilly-Vostok personnel believed these proposals were proper because of their relevance to public health issues and many of the proposals were reviewed by counsel. Nonetheless, Lilly-Vostok did not have in place internal controls through which such proposals were vetted to ascertain whether Lilly-Vostok was offering something of value to a government official for a purpose of influencing or inducing him or her to assist Lilly-Vostok in obtaining or retaining business.”

No DOJ Involvement

As indicated in the prior Lilly post, the Lilly enforcement action was the latest in a series of FCPA enforcement actions begun in 2011 against pharmaceutical / health care-related companies.  All actions (Johnson & Johnson, Smith & Nephew, Biomet, and Pfizer) have been based on the same general set of allegations (things of value to various foreign health care providers for an alleged business purpose).  However, the Lilly enforcement action is the only enforcement action with no DOJ involvement.  In “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement,” I discuss how the lack of enforcement transparency contributes to the facade of enforcement when the same core set of facts are resolved with materially different results.

A Message For Internal Audit

I have long discussed (see here and here for prior posts and here for a recent interview) the importance of FCPA goggles for internal audit and finance professionals – meaning that internal audit and finance personnel should be specifically trained to approach their specific job functions not only in the traditional way, but also with “FCPA goggles” on.  I have noted that it is clear from recent FCPA enforcement actions that the SEC expects much more from non-legal personnel when it comes to FCPA compliance, including the ability to spot FCPA issues and display a high degree of (I’ll call it) intellectual curiosity as to certain issues.

The SEC’s complaint against Lilly contains an emphatic message to the internal audit community.  Paragraph 46 of the complaint states, in full, as follows.

“[D]espite an understanding that certain emerging markets were most vulnerable to FCPA violations, Lilly’s audit department, based out of Indianapolis, had no procedures specifically designed to assess the FCPA or bribery risks of sales and purchases.  Accordingly, transactions with off-shore entities or with government-affilated entities did not receive specialized or closer review for possible FCPA violations.  In assessing these transactions, the auditors relied upon the standard accounting controls which primarily assured the soundness of the paperwork.  There was little done to assess whether, despite the existence of facially acceptable paperwork, the surrounding circumstances or terms of a transaction suggested the possibility of an FCPA violation or bribery.”