Archive for the ‘Charles Paul Edward Jumet’ Category

Cobalt Experiences The Front Page Effect As Well

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Wal-Mart’s stock is not alone in experiencing a wild ride based on recent front page news coverage of FCPA issues.  Last week, Cobalt International (a Houston based oil exploration and production company) experienced a wild ride as well.

On Friday, April 13th, Cobalt’s shares closed at $28.38.

On Sunday, April 15th, the Financial Times (“FT”) published two articles: “Spotlight Falls on Cobalt’s Angola Partner” and “Angola Officials Held Hidden Oil Stakes” that spooked investors the following day.  Never mind that, as in Wal-Mart’s case, Cobalt disclosed FCPA scrutiny weeks earlier – see here for the prior post.  (Point taken that market reaction to Wal-Mart – the stock was down an additional 3% yesterday, down approximately 8% this week – is likely not just based on Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA scrutiny, but Wal-Mart’s response (or lack thereof) to the payments since 2005 and the impact this could have for senior leadership at the company).

The FT articles document how in 2008 Cobalt was looking to obtain rights to drill for oil in Angolan waters.  According to the FT, an Angolan government stipulation was that Cobalt would have partner with Nazaki Oil & Gaz, described by the FT as “an obscure local company.”  According to the articles, FT confirmed that “three of the most powerful figures in the Angolan regime have held interests in Nazaki.”  The FT stated that these individuals “interests in Cobalt’s local partner could raise questions about compliance with U.S. anti-corruption laws, which make it a crime to pay or offer anything of value to foreign officials to win business.”  For its part, Cobalt stated in the articles that its extensive and ongoing due diligence “has not found any credible support for the central allegation that Angolan government officials, and specifically the officials identified … have any ownership in Nazaki” and that the company “has at all times complied fully with both U.S. and Angolan laws.”

Nevertheless, in mid-day trading on Monday, April 16th, the company’s stock plunged approximately 11% and closed at $26.35, down approximately 7% from its previous close.

After watching its stock dive based on the FT article, Cobalt issued a release (here) strongly refuting “any allegations of wrong doing and once again stood behind its principles of full compliance with all laws in all jurisdictions in which it operates.”  According to Cobalt’s release, “prior to publication of [the FT] articles, Cobalt went on the record asking for any documentation that the Financial Times could offer which was at  odds with its position. The Financial Times declined Cobalt’s repeated requests for supporting documentation. In fact, in the course of these communications, Cobalt informed the Financial Times of certain egregious, demonstrably false allegations that it provided to Cobalt.”  As noted in the release, “Cobalt began its investigation into its Angola business relationships in 2007. Cobalt has based its decisions and actions on the results of these  extensive investigations and will continue to maintain rigorous due diligence in all of its worldwide activities. Cobalt remains confident that it has not violated any US or Angolan Law and will vigorously defend its reputation and legal rights in this matter.”

On Tuesday April 17th, as if on cue, a plaintiff shareholder firm announced (here) that it is investigating “potential claims on behalf of purchasers of the securities of Cobalt International Energy Inc. concerning whether the company and certain of its officers and directors have violated federal securities laws.”  Other shareholder firms have joined in as well – see here.

Also on Tuesday April 17th, Morgan Stanley, in a morning equity summary, said that the “market is overreacting to worries of alleged” Cobalt violations and that Cobalt “has no risk of losing” its interest in the Angola blocks.  The company’s shares climbed approximately 4% and closed at $27.44.  Since then the company’s stock has generally trended downward, yesterday it closed at $26.41.

What to make of Cobalt’s potential FCPA exposure?

Time will tell of course, but the DOJ has previously brought FCPA enforcement actions where the thing of value given to the “foreign official” was provided in the context of a business relationship with a company owned or controlled by a “foreign official” or family members.

For instance, in both the Charles Jumet and John Warwick (these individuals were employed by Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation) charging documents (here and here) the DOJ generally alleged as follows.

“Government Official A was the Administrator of Panama’s National Maritime Ports Authority (APN), the Panamanian governmental entity responsible for operating and maintaining the lighthouses and buoys in the waterways near the Panama Canal.” ”Government Official B” was at various times the Deputy Administrator or Administrator of APN.  “Government Official C was a very high-ranking executive official of the Republic of Panama.”

According to the charging documents, Government Official A owned a shell corporation, Soderville Corporation, which become a majority shareholder of Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation (PECC).  Government Official B’s relatives were corporate officers of Warmspell Holding Corporation, which became a shareholder of PECC.

The DOJ alleged a conspiracy “to pay money secretly to Panamanian government officials in return for awarding PECC contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterways.”  According to the DOJ, part of the conspiracy was that Government Official A and Government Official B received “corrupt payments” in the form of purported ‘dividends’ and that Government Official C received “bearer” shares from PECC as part of the conspiracy.

Doing business with a “foreign official” of course is not per se illegal under the FCPA and several FCPA Opinion Procedure Releases discuss the issue – see here, here and here for instance.

Yet one of the red flags when engaging foreign partners is when a company is told by the foreign government who to do business with.  In such a situation, a company needs to ask itself – why are we being told to do business with this company?  A company needs to do sufficient pre-engagement due diligence, as Cobalt claims it did in Angola, to understand who the owners are to be satisfied that it is not being told to do business with the particular entity simply as an indirect way of enriching foreign officials.

Additional Lighthouses and Buoys Sentence

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Last Friday, the DOJ announced (see here) that John Warwick was sentenced to approximately three years in federal prison “for his role in a conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian government officials to secure maritime contracts.” U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson also sentenced Warwick to two years of supervised release following his prison term and ordered Warwick to forfeit approximately $330,000 in proceeds from his crime.

In February, Warwick pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to Panamanian officials for the purpose of securing business for Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The business involved contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterways.

This is the same conduct at issue in the prior plea and sentencing of Charles Edward Jumet. (See here for additional posts on this matter). In April, Jumet was sentenced to approximately 7.25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to two charges – conspiracy to violate the FCPA and making false statements to federal agents. (See here). Even though Jumet’s charges were equal part FCPA and equal part making false statements to federal agents, his sentence was described as the “longest prison term imposed against an individual for violating the FCPA.”

Given that Warwick was charged and pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy as Jumet, it suggests that the FCPA component of Jumet’s sentence was between 3-4 years.

The Holder Memo and FCPA Enforcement

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder recently issued a memo (here) regarding “Department Policy on Charging and Sentencing.”

There is little that is new is this memo; in fact Holder states that the purpose of the memo is “to reaffirm the guidance” provided by Title 9 of the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, Chapter 27″ (see here) – a manual which has “guided federal prosecutors” for “nearly three decades.”

Nor is there anything FCPA specific in the memo.

Yet the memo, and the broad pronouncements Holder makes, call into question whether several recent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions contradict the guidance the Attorney General has reaffirmed.

In the memo, Holder states – “persons who commit similar crimes and have similar culpability should, to the extent possible, be treated similarly.”

Under the law, “persons” include both individuals and business entities, including corporations.

However, as explored in this post, a two-tiered justice system has seemingly developed in FCPA enforcement.

Certain corporations in certain industries, most often selling certain things to certain customers, can seemingly violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions with very little consequence. In fact, with increasingly frequency, such companies are not even charged with FCPA antibribery violations and/or may not even have to plead guilty to anything. See here for the recent Daimler, here for the recent BAE, and here for the Siemens “bribery, yet no bribery” enforcement actions.

On the other hand, the DOJ seeks long prison sentences for individuals such as Charles Paul Edward Jumet, who make payments that pale in comparison to the payments made by the above corporations. In doing so, the DOJ usually trots out its get tough language (i.e. “bribery isn’t just a cost of doing business overseas [... but] a serious crime that the U.S. government is intent on enforcing”).

The Holder memo also states “in accordance with long-standing principle, a federal prosecutor should ordinarly charge ‘the most serious offense that is consistent with the nature of the defendant’s conduct, and that is likely to result in a sustainable conviction.”

Again, reference is made to the Daimler, BAE, and Siemens enforcement actions.

In Daimler, the DOJ release (here) notes that Daimler “brazenly offered bribes in exchange for business around the world” and that Daimler “saw foreign bribery as a way of doing business.” Yet, Daimler was not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations. In fact, Daimler was not required to plead guilty to anything as it received a deferred prosecution agreement.

In BAE, the DOJ’s criminal information (here) alleges that “BAE provided substantial benefits to one KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) public official, who was in a position of influence regarding the KSA Fighter Deals (the “KSA Official”), and to the KSA Official’s associates.” The indictment alleges that BAE “provided these benefits through various payment mechanisms both in the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. and elsewhere.” Yet, BAE was not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations.

In Siemens, the DOJ release (here) states, among other things, that for “much of its operations across the globe, bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure for Siemens.” Yet, Siemens was not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations.

It is difficult to reconcile the charging decisions in these recent enforcement actions with the language of the Holder memo.

As to sentencing, the Holder memo states – “in a typical case” the appropriate sentence should be reflected by the “applicable guidelines range, and prosecutors should generally continue to advocate for a sentence within that range.”

Apparently, neither Siemens and Daimler were “typical” cases, because in both enforcement actions the DOJ advocated for a sentence significantly below the guidelines range.

In Siemens, the guidelines range (see here) was $1.35 billion – $2.7 billion. However, the ultimate DOJ fine was $448.5 million. Siemens did not voluntarily disclose the conduct at issue, nevertheless, the DOJ gave Siemens greater sentencing credit than allowed for under the guidelines because the guidelines calculation was “incongruent with the level of cooperation and assistance provided by the company in the Department’s investigation.” For more on Siemens’ fine, see here and here.

In Daimler, the guidelines range (see here) was $116 million – $232 million. However, the ultimate DOJ fine was approximately $94 million. Again, Daimler did not voluntarily disclose the conduct at issue, nevertheless, the DOJ gave Daimler greater sentencing credit allowed for under the guidelines. The DOJ stated, “indeed, because Daimler did not voluntarily disclose its conduct prior to the filing of the whistleblower lawsuit, it only receives a two-point reduction in its culpability.” However, the DOJ “respectfully submit[ed] that such reduction is incongruent with the level of cooperation and assistance provided by the company in the Department’s investigation.”

As demonstrated above, three of the DOJ’s most high-profile FCPA or “FCPA like” enforcement actions seemingly contradict many of the guiding principles in the Holder memo.

With Attorney General Holder now re-affirming these principles, it will be interesting to see if future FCPA enforcement actions comply more closely with these principles or if the future holds more facade enforcement actions.

*****

Speaking of Attorney General Holder, while most of us were enjoying the Memorial Day barbeque, he was delivering remarks at the OECD Conference in Paris. See here for a copy of his remarks.

Two-Tiered Justice?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Certain corporations (acting through employees and agents) in certain industries, most often selling certain things, to certain customers can seemingly violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions with very little consequence. In fact, with increasingly frequency, such companies are not even charged with FCPA antibribery violations and/or may not even have to plead guilty to anything. See here for the recent Daimler, here for the recent BAE, and here for the (somewhat) recent Siemens “bribery, yet no bribery” enforcement actions. Sure these companies coughed up hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases offered up a few subsidiaries to take the fall, but yet were allowed to escape the full legal consequences of their action despite DOJ and SEC allegations that these companies paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to obtain or retain hundreds of millions, and in some cases billions, of dollars of business. The deterrent message in these cases is so strong that the U.S. government continues to do business with these companies – see here for the recent $28 million dollar contract between the U.S. government and a BAE business unit – see here for a general overview of Siemens post-bribery scandal U.S. government contracts.

Charles Paul Edward Jumet of Fluvanna County, Virginia will probably not be getting U.S. government contracts in the near future.

In fact, he probably will not be doing much of anything (other than sitting around) in the near future.

Why?

Because yesterday he was sentenced to approximately 7.25 years in federal prison (see here for the DOJ release).

His crime?

Conspiring to violate the same law that Daimler, BAE, Siemens, its employees, and several other corporations, apparently are immune from violating … the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

Surely, Jumet’s conduct was more egregious than that of Daimler, BAE, Siemens, and others?

Well, not exactly.

Not to make light of his crime, but according to the DOJ, the total amount that Jumet and others paid to Panamanian government officials to receive a lighthouse and buoy contract was approximately $200,000 – an amount that pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of bribe payments in the above referenced enforcement actions.

Even though Jumet’s sentence is equal part FCPA and equal part making false statements to federal agents, it is not surprisingly being termed the “longest prison term imposed against an individual for violating the FCPA.”

The DOJ release contains the usual get tough language (i.e. “foreign corruption carries with it very serious penalties,” “bribery isn’t just a cost of doing business overseas [... but] a serious crime that the U.S. government is intent on enforcing.”

Serious penalties and intent on enforcing against whom is the question.

The issue is not whether the DOJ was too lenient in the Daimler, BAE, and Siemens case or whether the DOJ was too harsh in the Jumet case.

Rather, the issue is that there appears to be a two-tiered justice system when it comes to FCPA enforcement.

As noted in the DOJ’s release, Jumet’s co-defendant John Warwick, who also pleaded guilty, is scheduled to be sentenced by the same judge on May 14th. (See here for prior posts on this entire enforcement action).

Lighthouses and Buoys – Additional Plea

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The DOJ announced yesterday (here) that John Warwick pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal indictment charging him with conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian officials to obtain contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterways.

For additional posts about this case, including the prior guilty plea of Warwick’s co-conspirator Charles Jumet (see here). Warwick and Jumet are both associated with Virginia-based Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation (PECC).

The indictments against both individuals are substantively similar and involve a rather complex and convoluted way of getting the “thing of value” to the “foreign official.” According to the indictments, Warwick and Jumet designated certain corporate entities as shareholders of PECC and allowed the “foreign officials” to receive dividend payments and bearer shares from these entities.