Archive for the ‘Compliance Defense’ Category

The Success Of “Soft Enforcement” In The U.K.

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Success3As distinguished from “hard” enforcement of a law by enforcement agencies, “soft” enforcement generally refers to a law’s ability to facilitate self-policing and compliance to a greater degree than can be accomplished through “hard” enforcement alone.

Those subject to the law, whether a traffic law or otherwise, comply with the law’s prohibitions because they “could” be found to be in violation of the law, even though the prospect of “hard” detection and enforcement of the violation is low.

Indeed, one of the most notable statements from the FCPA’s legislative history was made by the Chairman of Lockheed who stated:

“So it is true that we knew about the practice of payments on some occasions to foreign officials. But so did everyone else who was at all knowledgeable about foreign sales. There were no U.S. rules or laws which banned the practice or made it illegal.  […] If Congress passes laws dealing with commissions and direct or indirect payments to foreign officials in other countries, Lockheed, of course, will fully comply with them.” (See Lockheed Bribery: Hearings Before the S. Comm on Banking, Hous., and Urban Affairs, 94th Cong. (1975).

In passing the FCPA, Congress anticipated that the “criminalization of foreign corporate bribery will to a significant extent act as a self-enforcing preventative mechanism.” (See S. Rep. No. 93-114, at 10 (1977). Likewise since the FCPA’s earliest days, the DOJ has recognized that the “most efficient means of implementing the FCPA is voluntary compliance by the American business community.” (See “Justice Outlines Priorities in Prosecuting Violations of For. Corrupt Practices Act,” The American Banker (Nov. 21, 1979).

In this regard, a former DOJ prosecutor responsible for investigating and prosecuting FCPA cases rightly observed that “this new era of more aggressive [FCPA] prosecution has, in turn, encouraged corporations to pay even greater attention to their internal compliance programs, matching the ‘hard’ enforcement with ‘soft’ enforcement.” (See Philip Urofsky, et al, “How Should We Measure the Effectiveness of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? Don’t Break What Isn’t Broken—The Fallacies of Reform,” 73 The Ohio Law Journal 1145 (2012).

Against this backdrop, the U.K. government recently released this ”Impact of the Bribery Act 2010 on SMEs” (as in small and medium size enterprises). In examining the findings of the report, it is important to be mindful that the report categorizes medium sized enterprises as having between 50 to 250 employees; small enterprises as having between 10 to 49 employees; and micro enterprises as having less than 10 employees.
According to the report:

Two-thirds (66%) of the SMEs surveyed had either heard of the Bribery Act 2010 or were aware of its corporate liability for failure to prevent bribery. Awareness was greater among SMEs exporting to regions that are less developed, including the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South and Central America (68%) compared to those companies only exporting to developed regions including Europe, North America and Australia (56%).

The proportion of SMEs that had heard of the Act by name increased with business size. Only 42% of micro sized companies had heard of the Act compared to 54% of small companies and 78% of medium sized companies. Furthermore, those exporting to higher risk regions, as defined by the Corruption Perception Index (including the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South and Central America), were more likely to have heard of the Bribery Act (58%) compared to those companies only exporting to regions at less risk including Europe, North America and Australia (41%)

In addition to whether SMEs had heard of the Bribery Act by name, SMEs were asked whether they were aware of the corporate failure to prevent bribery offence at section 7 of the Act (as described in the introduction). Just over half of all SMEs (53%) were aware of it. Awareness was linked with company size with only 39% of micro companies being aware, compared to 53% of small companies and 73% of medium sized companies.

SMEs were also asked if they had sought any professional advice about the Bribery Act or about bribery prevention. Around a quarter (24%) of SMEs who were aware of the Bribery Act or its corporate failure to prevent provisions had sought such advice, which was most commonly offered by legal professionals (54% of those seeking professional advice).

Around four in ten SMEs (42%) said that they had put bribery prevention procedures in place; defined as anything that they thought helped prevent bribery. Among SMEs that did have procedures in place, these procedures were most typically financial and commercial controls such as bookkeeping, auditing and approval of expenditure (94%) or a top level commitment that the company does not win business through bribery (88%). Just under half of those with procedures in place had written staff policy documents about bribery prevention which are signed by staff (48%) or raised awareness and provided training about the threats posed by bribery in the sector or areas in which the organisation operates (44%). Again, SMEs exporting to the less developed export regions (45%) and especially China (59%) were more likely to have bribery prevention procedures in place.

Those more likely to have bribery prevention procedures in place included: Medium sized companies (60%), compared to small companies (43%) and micro companies (29%).

To some, the above numbers represent a failure of the U.K. Bribery Act (such opinions have mostly been from Bribery Act Inc. participants who have used the report to market their compliance services).

However, the above number represent the success of “soft enforcement” of the Bribery Act in the U.K.

Consider these facts: the U.K. Bribery Act only went live in July 2011 and there has not yet been any enforcement of the FCPA-like provisions in the U.K. Bribery Act.

The relevant analogy would be how many U.S. small to medium size enterprises during the first five years of the FCPA’s existence had heard of the FCPA and developed and put in place preventative procedures?

Fast forward today and query, if one would survey SME managers, nearly 40 years after the FCPA was enacted against the backdrop of the current enforcement climate what the numbers would look like?

Would nearly 70% of U.S. SME managers be aware of the FCPA? Would nearly 40% of managers of micro companies (those with less than 10 employees) be aware of the FCPA? Would 60% of medium size companies, approximately 45% of small companies, and nearly 30% of micro companies have pro-active preventative procedures in place?

I highly doubt it.

Thus, what the recent U.K. report demonstrates is that even in the absence of any “hard” enforcement of the FCPA-like provisions of the U.K. Bribery Act, the U.K. Bribery Act – no doubt because of its adequate procedures defense – is having, even at this early stage, a positive impact of “soft enforcement.”

And kudos to the U.K. government for recognizing this.  The report rightly notes that the purpose of the adequate procedures defense is “to influence behaviour and encourage bribery prevention as part of corporate good governance.”

There are several commentators who are opposed to an FCPA compliance defense.  However, noticeably absent for the critiques is any discussion of how a compliance defense can have a positive impact on “soft enforcement” of the FCPA.

As highlighted in my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” and numerous posts thereafter (hereherehere and here), a compliance defense might very well lead to a minor reduction in “hard enforcement” of the FCPA,” but the expected increase in “soft enforcement” of the FCPA makes a compliance defense sound public policy.

The Difficulties Of Compliance

Monday, August 10th, 2015

DifficultIn the minds of some, compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or other similar laws is simple:  you just don’t bribe.

As highlighted in this prior post such a simplistic position is entirely off-target. Indeed what I find ironic about certain commentators who have articulated this position is that they devote their professional lives to selling compliance services and products.

Contrary to the simplistic rhetoric of some, a recent report regarding Siemens once again highlights the difficulties of compliance in a multinational business organization with tens of thousands of employees.

First, a bit of background.

In resolving the record-setting FCPA enforcement action against Siemens in 2008, the DOJ praised Siemens for its substantial compliance transformation.

Specifically in its sentencing memorandum, the DOJ acknowledged that Siemens had “already implemented substantial compliance changes” and a settlement term required the company to further implement “rigorous compliance enhancements.”

The “Remediation Efforts” section of the DOJ’s sentencing memorandum stated, in pertinent part, as follows:

“Siemens also overhauled and greatly expanded its compliance organization, which now totals more than 500 full time compliance personnel worldwide. Control and accountability for all compliance matters is vested in a Chief Compliance Officer, who, in turn, reports directly to the General Counsel and the Chief Executive Officer. Siemens has also reorganized its Audit Department, which is headed by a newly appointed Chief Audit Officer who reports directly to Siemens’ Audit Committee. To ensure that auditing personnel throughout the company are competent, the Chief Audit Officer required that every member of his 450 person staff reapply for their jobs. Siemens also has enacted a series of new anti-corruption compliance policies, including a new anti-corruption handbook, sophisticated web-based tools for due diligence and compliance matters, a confidential communications channel for employees to report irregular business practices, and a corporate disciplinary committee to impose appropriate disciplinary measures for substantiated misconduct. Siemens has organized a working group devoted to fully implementing the new compliance initiatives, which consists of employees from Siemens’ Corporate Finance and Corporate Compliance departments, and professionals from PricewaterhouseCoopers (“PwC”). This working group developed a step-by-step guide on the new compliance program and improved financial controls known as the “AntiCorruption Toolkit.” The Anti-Corruption Toolkit and its accompanying guide contain clear steps and timelier required of local management in the various Siemens entities to ensure full implementation of the global anti-corruption program and enhanced controls. Over 150 people, including 75 PwC professionals, provided support in implementing the AntiCorruption Toolkit at 162 Siemens entities, and dedicated support teams spent six weeks on the ground at 56 of those entities deemed to be “higher risk,” assisting management in those locations with all aspects of the implementation. The total external cost to Siemens for the PwC remediation efforts has exceeded $150 million.

Elsewhere, the DOJ sentencing memorandum stated:

“Siemens also significantly enhanced its review and approval procedures for business consultants, in light of the past problems. The new state-of-the-art system requires any employee who wishes to engage a business consultant to enter detailed information into an interactive computer system, which assesses the risk of the engagement and directs the request to the appropriate supervisors for review and approval. Siemens has also increased corporate-level control over company funds and has centralized and reduced the number of company bank accounts and outgoing payments to third parties.”

In summary, the DOJ recognized that “[t]he reorganization and remediation efforts of Siemens have been extraordinary and have set a high standard for multi-national companies to follow.”

Since the 2008 settlement, Siemens compliance reports as follows:

(1) approximately 600 employees work full time in a single compliance organization managed by a Chief Compliance Officer (of this number approximately eighty work at Siemen’s corporate headquarters with the rest deployed evenly around various sectors/divisions and regional companies); (2) 300,000 employees worldwide have received compliance training, including 100,000 employees who received face-to-face multi-hour courses; (3) all new compliance officers worldwide are required to take an intensive four-day course; (4) approximately 5,500 top managers worldwide have compliance metrics as an aspect of their compensation; and (5) approximately fifty-five high-risk entities and approximately 105 business units were required to implement over 100 compliance systems controls.

(See The Siemens Compliance System: Prevent, Detect, Respond and Continuous Improvement (2011).

In short, there are few companies in the world today that have devoted as many corporate resources towards compliance as Siemens over the past five years.

Despite the above improvements and investment in pro-active compliance that the DOJ labeled as setting “a high standard for multi-national companies to follow,” since 2008 Siemens been involved in numerous allegations of corruption.

This recent report from 100Reporters titled “Siemens Confidential: Reports of Wrongdoing Up, Penalties Down” suggests that since the 2008 FCPA settlement Siemens “received more than 3,000 new internal complaints of wrongdoing … including reports of corruption, bribery, fraud, anti-trust violations, embezzlement and conflict of interest.”  According to the article, the internal company statistics were disclosed by Siemens at industry conferences and obtained by 100Reporters.

To some, the above report and statistics are evidence that Siemens has an ineffective compliance program.

To others, the above report and statistics are evidence of the difficulties of ensuring compliance in a multinational company with tens of thousands employees doing business all over the world.

But remember, in the minds of some it is easy.  Just don’t bribe.

The DOJ’s Latest Public Relations Move – Compliance Counsel

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

shellThe legal standard by which a business organization can face criminal liability for the conduct (that of course must meet all the substantive elements of a crime) of employees or agents is based on a two-factor test: (i) the employee or agent acted within the scope of employment/agency; and (ii) the conduct, at least in part, benefited the organization.

Under this legal standard, the rank and title of the employee does not matter nor does it matter whether the employee or agent acted contrary to the organization’s pre-existing compliance policies and its good-faith efforts to comply with the law.

This U.S. principle stands in stark contrast to the standard of organizational criminal liability in other peer nations where an organization can only face criminal liability to the extent the conduct was engaged in by so-called “controlling minds” (such as board members or executive officers).

Moreover, as highlighted in my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” most peer nations have compliance-defense concept relevant to their FCPA-like laws.

The Department of Justice appears, with good reason, to be uncomfortable with respondeat superior corporate criminal liability principles including in the FCPA context where the conduct at issue is often engaged by employees in foreign subsidiary and/or foreign third parties.

However, rather than advocate for substantive changes to the above standard (a standard of course that provides the DOJ substantial leverage over business organizations) the DOJ engages in public relations campaigns to mask its discomfort and to make it appear that the DOJ is addressing the core issue.

First it was non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements.  In defending the DOJ’s frequent use of NPAs and DPAs, then DOJ Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated in 2012 (see here for the prior post):

“I personally feel that it’s my duty to consider whether individual employees with no responsibility for, or knowledge of, misconduct committed by others in the same company are going to lose their livelihood if we indict the corporation. In large multi-national companies, the jobs of tens of thousands of employees can be at stake. And, in some cases, the health of an industry or the markets are a real factor.  Those are the kinds of considerations in white collar crime cases that literally keep me up at night, and which must play a role in responsible enforcement.”

When the FCPA reform movement heated up in 2011 (a component of FCPA reform was to amend the FCPA to include a compliance defense to make the FCPA consistent with the FCPA-like laws of many other peer nations), the DOJ once again stepped in with a public relations move and announced that it would issue FCPA Guidance – guidance that for years prior the DOJ said was unnecessary. (To read more about the relevant chronology of events see the article “Grading the FCPA Guidance“).

Still under pressure to demonstrate fairness in its FCPA enforcement program, in 2012 the DOJ marketed Morgan Stanley’s so-called declination and many drank the DOJ’s kool-aid.  (To learn more see prior posts here and here).

The DOJ’s latest public relations move to hide its justified discomfort of respondeat superior criminal liability is the apparent appointment of “compliance counsel” at the DOJ.  As reported here:

“The [DOJ] is hiring a compliance counsel who will help prosecutors determine whether companies facing corruption allegations are victims of rogue employees or willfully blind. [...] The  new compliance counsel, who has been selected and is undergoing vetting, will help authorities put these claims to the test and aid authorities in deciding whether to prosecute, said Andrew Weissmann, chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section in an interview. “Even if we do proceed, what should the appropriate resolution be, in other words what is the appropriate fine, [is] a monitor needed?” The as-yet unidentified compliance counsel will help prosecutors “differentiate the companies that get it and are trying to implement a good compliance program from the people who have a near-paper program,” said Mr. Weissmann, who was named to head up the fraud section earlier this year. The compliance specialist will also assist the fraud unit in other investigations including healthcare and securities fraud. [...] The Justice Department’s compliance specialist will also give companies more specific guidance on what level of program is appropriate for the risk level of the business, Mr. Weissmann said. The compliance counsel will be “benchmarking with various companies in a variety of different industries to make sure we have realistic expectations….and tough-but-fair ones in various industries,” he said. “It doesn’t do anyone good to have people wasting their compliance dollars on areas that are low risk.”

As suggested by the above report, the DOJ’s new “compliance counsel” is presumably the brainchild of Andrew Weissman.

As first reported by FCPA Professor when Weissmann was appointed head of the DOJ fraud section in January 2015, Weissmann has been a vocal advocate of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act reform and more broadly reforming corporate criminal liability principles.

Yet, the DOJ’s new “compliance counsel” does not substantively address any of Weissmann’s prior concerns, and those of many others, regarding the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program.

Rather, it is another instance of DOJ smoke and mirrors.

Why?

Among other reasons, in opposing a compliance defense DOJ officials have long maintained – including while testifying at both the Senate’s 2010 hearing and the House’s 2011 hearing – that prosecutors already take into consideration whether the conduct at issue was engaged in by rogue actors and whether the company had pre-existing compliance policies and procedures. (To read more about the specific DOJ statements, see this article). Indeed, such factors are outlined in the DOJ’s Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations.  However, as highlighted in “Revisiting an FCPA Compliance Defense” the DOJ’s recognition of a “de facto compliance defense” is inadequate because it takes place in the opaque, inconsistent and unpredictable world of unreviewable DOJ decision making.

Thus, the DOJ’s new compliance position has no practical significance because decisions will still be made in an opaque manner behind closed doors in Washington, D.C.

Rather, the compliance counsel position is the DOJ’s latest public relations move. Indeed, a knowledgeable source informs me that that the position may not even be a full-time DOJ position, but rather a contract employee for a specified term.

This is not what FCPA enforcement needs.  Rather, the FCPA needs transparency, consistency and predictably that can only be accomplished through a change to the actual statute.  Moreover, an actual as a matter of law change to the FCPA will yield a host of public policy benefits as well as increase “soft enforcement” of the FCPA as highlighted herehere, here and here.

In short, the DOJ’s recent announcement of compliance counsel represents just the latest public relations move by the DOJ to hide its justified discomfort with respondeat superior corporate criminal liability principles and to make it appear that the DOJ is addressing the core issue.

*****

To read similar reactions to the DOJ’s announcement:

see here (“It’s a clever move because it avoids the Justice Department having to confront a formal compliance defense, which I think can be seen as giving bad incentives. And it gives them a chance to push back on the criticism that they don’t place enough weight on compliance efforts.”);

and here (“I just do not buy this explanation. DOJ prosecutors have a long and valuable expertise in this area. To suggest that they need some assistance is just a little too politically cute for me. [...]  In the absence of some demonstrated need, I think we can put this move into the category of cynical political moves designed to rebut corporate claims that DOJ prosecutors inadequately review and credit corporate compliance programs. [...]  If Mr. Weismann believes that having a compliance counsel available at DOJ is going to quiet advocates for a compliance defense, he is certainly demonstrating his political “immaturity.”)

*****

And yes of course FCPA Inc. is already marketing this development with the goal of attracting more compliance work.  (See here – “With DOJ’s recent hire of a compliance expert, there has never been a more important time for a company to assess its compliance program and identify enhancements that are necessary to appropriately address the evolving global corruption risks.”)

Friday Roundup

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Roundup2Exasperated, skittish, checking in, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Exasperated

This recent post highlighted Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell’s recent speech in which she stated – in reference to FCPA internal investigations – “we do not except companies to aimlessly boil the oil.”

This recent Law360 article notes that some attorneys are exasperated by Caldwell’s remarks.  The article states:

“[D]efense attorneys have balked at the idea that they’re spending too much time or money on investigations they’re conducting in large part for the government’s sake, saying they’re not willfully adding unnecessary work to an FCPA probe.

Many companies still feel like they’re being forced to walk the fine line between investigating problems thoroughly enough to satisfy the government without making it seem like they’re holding something back or impeding an investigation, according to Day Pitney LLP partner Bob Appleton.

“On the one hand they’re saying, ‘Be fast and don’t do an over-thorough job,’ but on the other hand, they’re saying, ‘If you only partially disclose you’ll get in trouble,’” said Appleton, a former assistant U.S. attorney.

And the costs of an investigation aren’t just limited to what a company self-reports, since the government will often then ask how the company can be sure the problem isn’t popping up anywhere else, according to Colleen P. Mahoney, partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

“One of the biggest challenges is the expense after it starts,” Mahoney said about FCPA investigations at a Practicing Law Institute event Friday.

At the PLI event, SEC enforcement chief Andrew Ceresney said it was up to a company to decide what law firm to retain and how deep to investigate a potential bribery matter.

“We’re not micromanaging your internal investigation,” he said.”

Numerous posts on FCPA Professor have highlighted the staggering amount of pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses (see also “FCPA Ripples“).

Speaking of which, Key Energy Services disclosed yesterday $18 million in expenses – for the first quarter of 2015 -”related to the previously disclosed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) investigations.”

I’ve had several conversations with FCPA practitioners about this issue.  For what it is worth, the common response is something along the following lines: FCPA practitioner agrees that pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses have spun out of control in many instances, but FCPA practitioner insists that his/her firm is not part of the problem.

Other practitioners are also pushing back as to other aspects of Caldwell’s recent speech – namely “what cooperation looks like”.  In this recent post on the FCPA Blog an anonymous contributor states:

 ”When client companies and I have opted to cooperate early on and open up all information and records to the DOJ investigative units, I have seen the FCPA investigative team to be less interested in whether facts or evidence show violations or point to evidence raising red flags, as to how the client (and lawyer also) is bowing and mewling in anguish and sorrow before the government.

Provided the client is willing to genuflect and cry out mea culpa and beg for mercy (all three are required) there can be a happy and acceptable outcome in correcting corporate deficiencies and reaching an early valid resolution.

Executives who have somewhat less capacity to grovel underfoot are punished with the promise of crippling expansions of the process including raids and countless subpoenas to uninvolved officers, employees, consultants and accountants.

My experience is that this is not based on early findings of probable cause, but rather a haughty outrage that there was insufficient willingness to self-immolate.”

Skittish

Much has been written about whether the FCPA and its enforcement deters foreign investment.  (See here for instance).

Companies obviously make foreign investment decisions based on a host of legal and non-legal risks and thus empirically separating and measuring the impact of FCPA enforcement on foreign investment decisions is difficult.  Moreover, despite the general rise in FCPA enforcement concerning conduct in certain high risk jurisdictions such as China, India, and Brazil, there continues to be vast amounts of foreign direct investment in those countries by companies subject to the FCPA prohibitions.

Any “evidence” that the FCPA and its enforcement deters foreign investment thus tends to be anecdotal.

Following up on this prior post regarding Cambodia, the Phnom Penh Post reports:

“Despite high-profile US companies like Coca-Cola announcing plans to expand their footprint in the Kingdom, foreign investment from the US remains low compared to regional heavyweights. Large US businesses appear reluctant in setting up in the Kingdom due to corruption concerns, an unpredictable regulatory environment, and a lack of economic attractiveness that allows US interests to thrive.

[...]

Corruption remains one of the major factors keeping US companies away. According to an American Chamber of Commerce survey for 2015, 82 per cent of American businesses in Cambodia were dissatisfied with corruption – the second highest in the region after Laos.”

Checking In

Way back in 2010, Steven Jacobs, the former President of Macau Operations for Las Vegas Sands Corp., filed a civil lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands (LVS) in which Jacobs alleged various improprieties at LVS including in the FCPA context.

As noted in this Bloomberg article, Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire founder and chairman of LVS, recently testified in open court about the case and stated, among other things, that “after four years of investigating, they [the DOJ and SEC]  haven’t found a shred of evidence yet.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

CSC / ServiceMesh

CSC is a Virginia-based IT company and in October 2013 it acquired acquire ServiceMesh, a cloud management company.  Various reports note that Eric Pulier, the former CEO of ServiceMesh, and head of the ServiceMesh division within CSC since ServiceMesh was acquired by that company, has left the company.

CSC sent the following statement to media about Pulier’s departure:

“On March 26, 2015 Eric Pulier was notified that his actions involving payments from the ACE Foundation—an organization founded by Mr. Pulier and not related to CSC—to former IT executives of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a CSC client, violated CSC’s code of conduct related to conflicts of interests and appearance of improprieties. Mr. Pulier was further notified that these violations were grounds for termination of his employment.”

PTC

In this release, PTC stated:

“We have, since making a voluntary disclosure to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, been cooperating to provide information to those agencies concerning expenditures by certain of our business partners in China and by our China business, including for travel and entertainment, that apparently benefitted employees of customers regarded as state owned enterprises in China. This matter involves issues regarding compliance with laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Negotiations with the SEC to reach a resolution of its investigation have begun but have not been concluded. We expect to begin negotiations with the Department of Justice to resolve its investigation in the near future. Resolution of this matter is likely to include fines and penalties. Given the uncertainty regarding whether settlements can be reached and, if reached, on what terms, we are not able to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss with regard to any such settlements and have not recorded any liability in connection with this matter. If settlements are reached, we believe that the associated financial liability could be material to our results of operations for the fiscal period in which the liability is recorded. Further, any settlement or other resolution of this matter could have collateral effects on our business in China, the United States and elsewhere.”

Braskem SA

Brazil-based Braskem recently disclosed in an SEC filing:

“In the context of anti-corruption allegations against certain individuals and entities in Brazil, including Petrobras, we were mentioned in allegations of improper payments made in order to receive favorable treatment in connection with certain contracts that we are party to with Petrobras. We have not received notice of any proceeding or investigation involving us that has been commenced in Brazil or the United States in connection with these allegations.

Although we have certain procedures in place, we have implemented additional procedures and controls to monitor our compliance with applicable anti-corruption laws and as a result of the recent allegations against us, have engaged Brazilian and U.S. legal counsel to conduct a voluntary internal investigation of this matter.  If any of these allegations prove to be true, or if we or any of our subsidiaries, or joint venture partners fails to comply with any of these laws, we could be subject to applicable civil or criminal penalties, which could adversely affect our overall performance.”

[…]

In early March 2015, declarations made by defendants in lawsuits filed against third parties were made public, in which Braskem and two of its former executive officers were cited in allegations of supposed improper payments between 2006 and 2012 to benefit the Company in raw-material supply agreements entered into with Petrobras. As of April 24, 2015, to the knowledge of the management, Braskem has not received any notification of the filing of any proceeding or investigation by Brazilian or U.S. authorities.

In light of such facts, the Company’s Management and Board of Directors approved in April the internal plan for investigation into the allegations (“Investigation”) to be carried out by law firms experienced in similar cases in the United States and in Brazil.  The law firms will work under the coordination of an ad hoc committee formed by members of its Board of Directors, specially created for this purpose.

In addition, the following measures have already been taken:

i)    Voluntary announcement about the Investigation and periodical updates sent to regulatory agencies of capital markets in Brazil (Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil – CVM) and the United States (Securities and Exchange Commission – SEC, and the Department of Justice – DOJ);

ii)    Publication of two Material Fact notices and one Notice to the Market to clarify the news reports and to keep shareholders and the market informed of actions taken by the Company;

iii)   Updating the Audit Board and external auditors about the progress of the Investigation and of the actions already taken.

Braskem and its subsidiaries are subject to a series of anticorruption and anti-bribery laws in the countries where they operate. To reduce the likelihood of infringement of such laws, a series of procedures and controls were implemented and are continuously being improved.

On the other hand, if any of the allegations proves to be true, the Company may be subject to material penalties envisaged in law. At this moment, the Company Management believes that it is not possible to estimate the duration or outcome of the Investigation and, consequently, whether it will have any impact on future financial statements.

The Management is committed to taking all the necessary measures to clarify the facts and will keep the market informed of any progress on this matter.”

United Technologies

Recently, the company disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, in December 2013 and January 2014, UTC made voluntary disclosures to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Division of Enforcement and the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office to report the status of its internal investigation regarding a non-employee sales representative retained by United Technologies International Operations, Inc. (UTIO) and IAE for the sale of Pratt & Whitney and IAE engines and aftermarket services, respectively, in China.  On April 7, 2014, the SEC notified UTC that it was conducting a formal investigation and issued a subpoena to UTC.  UTC continues to cooperate fully with the investigations and has responded to requests for documents and information.  The DOJ and SEC also continue to request information, and the SEC issued a second subpoena on March 9, 2015 seeking documents related to internal allegations of alleged violations of anti-bribery laws from UTC’s aerospace and commercial businesses, including but not limited to Otis businesses in China.  Because the investigations are ongoing, we cannot predict the outcome or the consequences thereof at this time.”

For the Reading Stack

The NY Times goes in depth regarding the U.S’s attempt to extradite Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian national criminally indicted in April 2014 along with others (see here for the prior post).  According to the article:

“An Austrian judge will issue a crucial ruling in the case on Thursday at an extradition hearing here, where Mr. Firtash’s lawyers will argue that his arrest — on charges of bribing officials in India to secure a titanium mining deal that never materialized — was really an effort by the United States to remove him from public life in Ukraine, where he controls major business interests and still holds considerable clout. The Justice Department has repeatedly declined to discuss the case because it is an active prosecution, but the United States attorney’s office in Chicago, which led the investigation, has flatly denied any political motivations.

[...]

Andras Knopp, a Hungarian businessman and longtime associate of Mr. Firtash’s who is also charged in the case, said that the United States authorities had made no effort to extradite him, or even to talk to him about the case, even though he was at the center of the Indian titanium deal …”.

*****

The most recent edition of the always informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update is here.  Among the topics discussed are developments in India including potential amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act providing for liability for a commercial organizations whose employees bribe but also creating a defense for a commercial organization commercial organization if it can prove it had “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery.

*****

This Bloomberg article (“The Dinner Proposal That Led United Into Corruption Probe”) begins:

“United Airlines Inc. was seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment for the airport in Newark when its chief executive dined with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s top Port Authority official in September 2011.

Jeffery Smisek, United’s chief executive officer, wanted funding for several projects, including an estimated $600 million extension of the PATH train from downtown Newark to the airport, as the airline worked through its merger with Continental Airlines.

Halfway through dinner at Novita, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Port Authority Chairman David Samson surprised the group with a request of his own. He complained that he and his wife had grown weary of the trip to their weekend home in Aiken, South Carolina, because the best flight out of Newark was to Charlotte, North Carolina, 150 miles away. Until 2009, Continental had run direct service from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, 100 miles closer.

In a tone described by one observer as “playful, but not joking,” Samson asked: Could United revive that route? An awkward silence fell over the table.

Though the United CEO didn’t agree to the request at the dinner, according to the accounts of some who attended, the airline ultimately added the money-losing route that became known as “the chairman’s flight.” Now federal prosecutors are looking into whether its genesis crossed the line from legitimate bargaining into illegal activity.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Wal-Mart’s Recent Disclosures

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Wal-MartLast week, Wal-Mart made several disclosures that touched upon its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act scrutiny and compliance enhancements.

This post highlights FCPA and related information in Wal-Mart’s Global Compliance Program Report  on FY 2015; its proxy statement; and its annual report.

Walmart’s Global Compliance Program Report on FY 2015

The report covers a number of topics including FCPA and related anti-corruption matters.

In its recent annual report, Wal-Mart disclosed spending approximately $220 million over the past three years in global compliance program and organizational enhancements.

This significant investment in FCPA compliance should be relevant as a matter of law in the future if a non-executive employee or agent acts contrary to Wal-Mart’s policies and procedures and in violation of the FCPA.  (See my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense“).

Compliance defense detractors say that such a defense will promote “check-a-box compliance” and a “race to the bottom.”

There is nothing “check-a-box” about spending approximately $220 million over the past threeyears on FCPA compliance enhancements nor can one credibly argue that if other companies follow Wal-Mart’s enhancements and approach that this is a “race to the bottom.”

The key policy issue is this.

Wal-Mart has engaged in FCPA compliance enhancements in reaction to its high-profile FCPA scrutiny.

Perhaps if there was a compliance defense more companies would be incentivized to engage in compliance enhancements pro-actively.

A compliance defense is thus not a “race to the bottom” it is a “race to the top”  (see here for the prior post) and it is surprising how compliance defense detractors are unable or incapable of grasping this point.

In the recent Global Compliance Program Report, under the heading “People,” the report states in pertinent part:

“Anti-corruption is a particular area of emphasis for our compliance program. During FY15, we continued to develop our internal anti-corruption resources. For example, we supplemented our anti-corruption leadership team by recruiting anti-corruption directors in the eCommerce businesses at Walmart.com.br (Brazil) and Yihaodian.com (China). Working with Walmart’s global anti-corruption team, these new directors conduct due diligence, develop and provide anti-corruption training, and oversee the implementation of anti-corruption policies and procedures.

Also in FY14, Walmart began to appoint teams of compliance monitors in each of our international retail markets. These monitors (known as Continuous Improvement Teams) regularly visit our stores, assess the effectiveness of our compliance controls at store level, train our managers and associates on proper compliance procedures, and assist the operators in correcting any issues identified. During FY15, the Continuous Improvement Team completed over 5,500 assessments at our retail locations, identified any deviations from our policies and processes, and collaborated with our store operators to correct over 90% of those issues by year end.

In FY15 we expanded this concept by beginning to carry out a multi-year plan to establish teams of compliance monitors focused on anti-corruption policies and our related financial controls. As with the existing Continuous Improvement Teams, these monitors are designed to constantly assess and improve our performance. We began the process of appointing these internal anti-corruption monitors in FY14 and the monitors conducted their first assessments in FY15.

In light of the progress in building our internal anti-corruption capabilities, in FY15 we transitioned to our internal staff a number of activities that external consultants had been handling. This increases the capabilities of our internal anti-corruption team, which is critical to the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of our anti-corruption program.”

Under the heading “Policies and Processes,” the report states in pertinent part:

“[I]n FY14 the company designed an enhanced global anti-corruption training and communication program to further define target audiences for anti-corruption messaging and to more effectively teach anti-corruption principles. This program came to life over the past year in several ways, including:

Developing simplified anti-corruption messaging for use in our stores in five key markets;

Providing anti-corruption training to our associates around the world in seven languages;

Delivering communications from business leaders in each international market regarding integrity and anti-corruption;

Enhancing the ways in which we track our anti-corruption training efforts; and

Expanding our anti-corruption training beyond our associates to include key third parties who do business with Walmart. In FY15, we provided anti-corruption training to third-party partners in 10 international markets.”

Under the heading “Systems and Analytics,” the report states in pertinent part:

“With many retail locations and associates throughout the world, we have a wealth of data available to help us anticipate and identify compliance risks. Efficiently collecting and utilizing those data can be a challenge. In FY14, the company launched an ambitious effort to develop and deploy a number of global systems to assist with this task. In FY15, the company spent more than $40 million USD carrying out this effort and made significant progress in installing and utilizing these technologies. This included technology to:

Conduct due diligence research on third parties that may interact with governmental entities on our behalf. The technology, for instance, collects information from the third parties about their businesses and key personnel; it then searches various databases to identify adverse news stories, litigation, government sanctions, and politically exposed persons relating to the third parties and their key personnel.

Centralize the oversight of our license and permit applications and renewals. In FY15, we extended a global license-management system into 11 of our international retail markets. The expanded management system organizes the licensing and permitting requirements in each market, simplifies the process for applying for licenses, and provides a single repository for documentation associated with our licensing obligations. Our associates now have critical licensing information at their fingertips, along with analytics to predict and prepare for our licensing needs.”

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In its recent proxy statement, Wal-Mart disclosed as follows.

“The Audit Committee held 15 meetings in fiscal 2015, seven of which related primarily to its ongoing FCPA-related investigation and compliance matters.”

[...]

“[E]ach member of the Audit Committee received an additional fee during fiscal 2015. Since 2011, the Audit Committee has been conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the [FCPA] and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with certain foreign subsidiaries, and whether prior allegations of such violations and/or misconduct were appropriately handled by Walmart. The Audit Committee and Walmart have engaged outside counsel from a number of law firms and other advisors who are assisting in the ongoing investigation of these matters. This investigation continues to result in a significant increase in the workload of the Audit Committee members, and during fiscal 2015, the Audit Committee conducted seven additional meetings primarily related to the investigation. Audit Committee members also received frequent updates regarding the investigation via conference calls and other means of communication with outside counsel and other advisors. In light of this continuing significant additional time commitment, in November 2014, the [ Compensation, Nominating and Governance Committee] and Board approved an additional fee of $37,500 payable to each Audit Committee member other than the Audit Committee Chair, and an additional fee of $50,000 payable to the Audit Committee Chair. These additional fees may be received in the form of cash, Shares (with the number of Shares determined based on the closing price of Shares on the NYSE on the payment date), deferred in stock units, or deferred into an interest-credited cash account.”

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In its recent annual report, Wal-Mart disclosed as follows.

“The Audit Committee (the “Audit Committee”) of the Board of Directors of the Company, which is composed solely of independent directors, is conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with foreign subsidiaries, including Wal-Mart de México, S.A.B. de C.V. (“Walmex”), and whether prior allegations of such violations and/or misconduct were appropriately handled by the Company. The Audit Committee and the Company have engaged outside counsel from a number of law firms and other advisors who are assisting in the on-going investigation of these matters.

The Company is also conducting a voluntary global review of its policies, practices and internal controls for FCPA compliance. The Company is engaged in strengthening its global anti-corruption compliance program through appropriate remedial anti-corruption measures. In November 2011, the Company voluntarily disclosed that investigative activity to the U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). Since the implementation of the global review and the enhanced anti-corruption compliance program, the Audit Committee and the Company have identified or been made aware of additional allegations regarding potential violations of the FCPA. When such allegations are reported or identified, the Audit Committee and the Company, together with their third party advisors, conduct inquiries and when warranted based on those inquiries, open investigations. Inquiries or investigations regarding allegations of potential FCPA violations have been commenced in a number of foreign markets where the Company operates, including, but not limited to, Brazil, China and India.

The Company has been informed by the DOJ and the SEC that it is also the subject of their respective investigations into possible violations of the FCPA. The Company is cooperating with the investigations by the DOJ and the SEC. A number of federal and local government agencies in Mexico have also initiated investigations of these matters. Walmex is cooperating with the Mexican governmental agencies conducting these investigations. Furthermore, lawsuits relating to the matters under investigation have been filed by several of the Company’s shareholders against it, certain of its current directors, certain of its former directors, certain of its current and former officers and certain of Walmex’s current and former officers.

The Company could be exposed to a variety of negative consequences as a result of the matters noted above. There could be one or more enforcement actions in respect of the matters that are the subject of some or all of the on-going government investigations, and such actions, if brought, may result in judgments, settlements, fines, penalties, injunctions, cease and desist orders, debarment or other relief, criminal convictions and/or penalties. The shareholder lawsuits may result in judgments against the Company and its current and former directors and officers named in those proceedings. The Company cannot predict at this time the outcome or impact of the government investigations, the shareholder lawsuits, or its own internal investigations and review. In addition, the Company has incurred and expects to continue to incur costs in responding to requests for information or subpoenas seeking documents, testimony and other information in connection with the government investigations, in defending the shareholder lawsuits, and in conducting the review and investigations. These costs will be expensed as incurred. For the fiscal years ended January 31, 2015, 2014 and 2013, the Company incurred the following third-party expenses in connection with the FCPA investigation and related matters:

WalMart Expenses

 

 

 

 

These matters may require the involvement of certain members of the Company’s senior management that could impinge on the time they have available to devote to other matters relating to the business. The Company expects that there will be on-going media and governmental interest, including additional news articles from media publications on these matters, which could impact the perception among certain audiences of the Company’s role as a corporate citizen.

The Company’s process of assessing and responding to the governmental investigations and the shareholder lawsuits continues. While the Company believes that it is probable that it will incur a loss from these matters, given the on-going nature and complexity of the review, inquiries and investigations, the Company cannot reasonably estimate any loss or range of loss that may arise from these matters. Although the Company does not presently believe that these matters will have a material adverse effect on its business, given the inherent uncertainties in such situations, the Company can provide no assurance that these matters will not be material to its business in the future.”