Archive for the ‘Compliance Defense’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, April 25th, 2014

FCPA scrutiny equals a raise, Qualcomm declines to cave, industry specific risks, survey says, gaps in the narrative, a pulse on FCPA Inc., quotable and not quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup

FCPA Scrutiny Equals A Raise

There are some things that happen in the FCPA space that cause one to scratch their head.

Such as a company being under FCPA scrutiny paying audit committee members more money because of the time devoted to the FCPA scrutiny.  In its recent proxy statement, Wal-Mart disclosed as follows.

“Since November 2011, the Audit Committee has been conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (the “FCPA”) and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with 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 has resulted in a significant increase in the workload of the Audit Committee members since the commencement of this investigation, and during fiscal 2014, the Audit Committee conducted 13 additional meetings related to the investigation and compliance matters, and Audit Committee members received frequent updates via conference calls and other means of communication with outside counsel and other advisors related to the investigation. As it had done in November 2012 in recognition of the significantly increased commitment of time required of the Audit Committee to conduct this investigation, in November 2013, the CNGC (Compensation, Nomination, and Governance Committee) and the Board approved an additional annual fee in the amount of $75,000 payable to each Audit Committee member other than the Audit Committee Chair for fiscal 2014, and an additional annual fee in the amount of $100,000 payable to the Audit Committee Chair for fiscal 2014. These amounts were prorated for directors who served on the Audit Committee during a portion of fiscal 2014. The CNGC determined the amounts of these additional fees based on (1) the CNGC’s and the Board’s review of the significant additional time and effort that had been required of the Audit Committee members during the previous Board term in connection with these matters, which were in addition to the time spent by the Audit Committee with respect to the Audit Committee’s other duties and its regularly scheduled meetings, and (2) the expectation that the Audit Committee members would continue to expend approximately the same amount of time and effort in discharging their responsibilities as Audit Committee members at least through the remainder of fiscal 2014.”

Qualcomm Declines to Cave

Rare are so-called Wells Notices in the FCPA context for the simple reason that few issuers actually publicly push back against the SEC.  Thus, the below disclosure by Qualcomm earlier this week stands out:

“Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Formal Order of Private Investigation and Department of Justice Investigation : On September 8, 2010, the Company was notified by the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional office of a formal order of private investigation. The Company understands that the investigation arose from a “whistleblower’s” allegations made in December 2009 to the audit committee of the Company’s Board of Directors and to the SEC. In 2010, the audit committee completed an internal review of the allegations with the assistance of independent counsel and independent forensic accountants. This internal review into the whistleblower’s allegations and related accounting practices did not identify any errors in the Company’s financial statements. On January 27, 2012, the Company learned that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California/Department of Justice (collectively, DOJ) had begun an investigation regarding the Company’s compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). As previously disclosed, the audit committee conducted an internal review of the Company’s compliance with the FCPA and its related policies and procedures with the assistance of independent counsel and independent forensic accountants. The audit committee has completed this comprehensive review, made findings consistent with the Company’s findings described below and suggested enhancements to the Company’s overall FCPA compliance program. In part as a result of the audit committee’s review, the Company has made and continues to make enhancements to its FCPA compliance program, including implementation of the audit committee’s recommendations.

As previously disclosed, the Company discovered, and as a part of its cooperation with these investigations informed the SEC and the DOJ of, instances in which special hiring consideration, gifts or other benefits (collectively, benefits) were provided to several individuals associated with Chinese state-owned companies or agencies. Based on the facts currently known, the Company believes the aggregate monetary value of the benefits in question to be less than $250,000, excluding employment compensation.

On March 13, 2014, the Company received a Wells Notice from the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office indicating that the staff has made a preliminary determination to recommend that the SEC file an enforcement action against the Company for violations of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA. The bribery allegations relate to benefits offered or provided to individuals associated with Chinese state-owned companies or agencies. The Wells Notice indicated that the recommendation could involve a civil injunctive action and could seek remedies that include disgorgement of profits, the retention of an independent compliance monitor to review the Company’s FCPA policies and procedures, an injunction, civil monetary penalties and prejudgment interest.

A Wells Notice is not a formal allegation or finding by the SEC of wrongdoing or violation of law. Rather, the purpose of a Wells Notice is to give the recipient an opportunity to make a “Wells submission” setting forth reasons why the proposed enforcement action should not be filed and/or bringing additional facts to the SEC’s attention before any decision is made by the SEC as to whether to commence a proceeding. On April 4, 2014, the Company made a Wells submission to the staff of the Los Angeles Regional Office explaining why the Company believes it has not violated the FCPA and therefore enforcement action is not warranted.

The Company is continuing to cooperate with the SEC and the DOJ, but is unable to predict the outcome of their investigations or any action that the SEC may decide to file.”

Needless to say, this instance of FCPA scrutiny will be interesting to follow.

Industry Specific Risk

The reasons why companies become the subject of FCPA scrutiny are often unique to the industry the company is in.  This is why FCPA compliance is best tailored to a company’s unique risk profile as informed by a risk assessment.

This recent Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance post from the Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium is informative in collecting industry insight.

“Technology. Melissa Lea, Chief Global Compliance Officer, SAP AG. Profit margins for distributors are flexible in tech as so much of the cost is related to labor. And that flexibility offers room for partners to try to pad expenses to pay bribes. “Any time you hear about flexibility it opens the door for corruption,” said Ms. Lea, who noted that authorities have recently cracked down on bribery in the technology sector, once thought to be amongst the cleanest industries.

Pharmaceuticals. Rady A. Johnson, Chief Compliance & Risk Officer, Pfizer Inc. Drug companies pay doctors for a variety of consulting services and often invite them to attend events to promote their products. But since it’s these same doctors that prescribe drugs, pharmaceutical companies need to ensure that fancy conferences and payments for services are not cover for bribes. “We can’t do our job without interacting with health care professionals,” Mr. Johnson said. But companies need to ensure those interactions are appropriate and well defined, he said. In 2012, Pfizer agreed to pay more than $60 million to settle investigations into improper payments made to doctors and foreign officials.

Banks. W.C. Turner Herbert, Director of Anti-Corruption, Bank of America Corp.  Lately in the banking sector, corruption concerns have centered on hiring the relatives of foreign officials in exchange for business. In the past few years, U.S. authorities have investigated a number of banks over allegations of the practice, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. “Its a new area of enforcement without much precedence,” Mr. Herbert said. While hiring well-connected people shouldn’t, by itself, be a red flag, compliance officers need to ensure the selection is done on “merit and the business objectives” of the job, he said. “What draws red flags is if he’s not qualified,” Mr. Herbert said.

Survey Says

In connection with the above-mentioned Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium, Dow Jones released this “Anti-Corruption Survey Results 2014.”  The survey was conducted on-line “among compliance professionals worldwide” and 383 responses “were completed among companies with anti-corruption programs.”  It is difficult to assess survey results without knowing the precise questions asked, but the Dow Jones survey does contain some interesting nuggets.

Such as “approximately 30% of companies spend $1 million or more on anti-corruption staff and policies.”

In “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense,” I suggest that the current FCPA enforcement environment does not adequately recognize a company’s good faith commitment to FCPA compliance and does not provide good corporate citizens a sufficient return on their compliance investments.

Compliance defense opponents (such as the DOJ) like to point out that such a defense will result in “paper compliance” and “check-a-box” exercises.  Such clichés, however, ignore the reality of the situation – this many companies are making substantial investments of time and money in pro-active compliance policies and procedures.

One irony of course is that several former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorneys who have criticized a compliance defense as resulting in “paper compliance” and “check-a-box” exercises now devote a substantial portion of their private practice advising companies on FCPA compliance.

Gaps in the Narrative

You know the narrative.

In 2002, an accounting partnership (Arthur Anderson) was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron.  Even though the Supreme Court ultimately tossed the conviction, Arthur Anderson essentially went out of business.  Because of this, in the minds of some, the DOJ can’t criminally charge business organizations with crimes and thus the DOJ has crafted alternative resolution vehicles such as non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements to avoid the perceived collateral consequences of a criminal indictment or conviction.

Never mind that the narrative is based on a false premise.  (See here for the guest post and article by Gabriel Markoff titled “Arthur Anderson and the Myth of the Corporate Death Penalty).

Nevertheless, the narrative persists and is accepted by some as gospel truth.

However, perhaps you have heard that in early April Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation (PG&E – a public company) was criminally charged with multiple violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.

The company’s stock is still trading (in fact it is up since the criminal charges were announced), it is still employing people, and it is still operating its business.

Recognizing the fallacy of the narrative is important for corporate leaders of businesses subject to DOJ scrutiny in the FCPA context or otherwise.  Defenses can be mounted and the DOJ can and should be put to its burden of proof more often.

A Pulse on FCPA Inc.

Law360 highlights “Four Practices Areas Generating Big Billable Hours.”  As to the FCPA the article notes:

“The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which mandates certain accounting transparency requirements and gives the U.S. government the power to pursue businesses that bribe foreign officials, is creating long workdays for attorneys throughout the world.  ”If Foreign Corrupt Practices Act were a stock, I wish I would have held it,” said William Devaney, co-chair of  Venable LLP’s FCPA and anti-corruption practice group. “We’ve seen huge growth in the practice area since 2004, and with the government’s current focus on FCPA, it’s safe to say anti-corruption enforcement will be around for a long time.”  After the FCPA was amended in 1998 to include additional anti-bribery provisions, the U.S. government began actively applying the FCPA to not only large companies but also their smaller counterparts.  As a result, Devaney says, a lot of midmarket and smaller companies are now coming into the FCPA compliance fold after acknowledging their obligations under the law, resulting in a surge in demand.
And according to Aaron G. Murphy, a partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, foreign countries passing legislation similar to the FCPA will create an explosion of fraud investigations that begin abroad but later will involve the U.S. Department of Justice.  Murphy said the FCPA stood as one of the lone anti-corruption laws in the world for 20 years, then in the mid-1990s, numerous foreign governments adopted similar rules to punish local and international corruption. ”No politician has ever been elected on a ‘get softer on corruption’ ticket,” Murphy said. “If anti-corruption laws get modified, they will probably get stronger, not weaker. So we likely won’t see, 20 years from now, attorneys reminiscing about when companies had to deal with corruption laws. This practice area is here to stay.”

That the FCPA practice is here to stay is all the more reason to elevate your FCPA knowledge and practical skills at the FCPA Institute.

The three other practice areas highlighted in the article were:  export controls and trade sanctions; civil false claims act; and patent litigation and patent trolls.

Quotable

The White House recently announced that President Obama named Kirkland & Ellis partner W. Neil Eggleston to be White House Counsel (see here).  FCPA Professor has highlighted in the past (see here and here) certain of Eggleston’s spot-on comments regarding the FCPA or related issues.

In this interview Eggleston stated: “I worry that [NPAs and DPAs] will become a substitute for a prosecutor deciding – this is not an appropriate case to bring – there is no reason to subject this corporation to corporate criminal liability. In the old days, they would have dropped the case. Now, they have the back up of seeking a deferred or non prosecution agreement, when in fact the case should not have been pursued at all. That’s what I’m worried about – an easy out.”

In another interview, Eggleston was asked “what is an important issue or case relevant to your practice area and why” and stated: “We are beginning to see the development of case law in the FCPA area, which I believe is good for the process. Most of these cases have been settled. When that occurs, defendants have little incentive to refuse to agree to novel Department of Justice theories of prosecution or jurisdiction, so long as the penalty is acceptable. The department then cites its prior settlement as precedent when settling later ones. But no court approved the earlier settlement, and the prior settlement should have no precedential value in favor of the DOJ in later settlements. As the DOJ increases its prosecution of individuals, we will see many more trials, which will give rise to courts, not the DOJ, interpreting the statute.”

Not Quotable

DOJ Deputy Attorney General James Cole was a keynote speaker earlier this week at the Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium.   According to the event agenda, the title was “What the Justice Department Has in Its Sights” and described as follows.

“From foreign bribery to insider trading, the U.S. Department of Justice has been at the forefront of rigorous enforcement that has forced companies to treat compliance seriously. We interview James Cole, deputy attorney general, about where the department is focusing its efforts now.”

I reached out to the DOJ Press Office for a transcript of Mr. Cole’s remarks and was told “we don’t have one.”

It is unfortunate that public officials speak about matters of public interest at private conferences that charge thousands of dollars to attend.

Reading Stack

The FCPA Guidance was sort of interesting to read, but as noted in my article “Grading the FCPA Guidance” it lacks any legal authority or effect.  A hat tip to the Tax Law Prof Blog for highlighting a recent U.S. Tax Court decision finding that IRS Guidance is “not binding precedent” nor “substantial authority” for a tax position.

The New York Times here goes in-depth on Dmitry Firtash, the Ukrainian businessman recently criminally charged in connection with an alleged bribery scheme involving Indian licenses (see here for the prior post).

An informative three-part series (here, here and here) by Tom Fox (FCPA Compliance & Ethics Blog) regarding gifts, travel and entertainment.

Miller & Chevalier’s FCPA Spring 2014 Review is here.

Assignment: Read Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson’s New Article

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Larry Thompson has experience with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act from a number of vantage points few can claim:  DOJ Deputy Attorney General, a lawyer in private practice, and a general counsel of a major multinational company.

For this reason, you should read Thompson’s new article -”In-Sourcing Corporate Responsibility for Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” 51 American Criminal Law Review 199 (Winter 2014).

In the article, you will find an informed and candid critique of many current aspects of FCPA enforcement.

Thompson laments the uncertainty of the FCPA and states:

“The uncertainty of precisely what the FCPA forbids and allows harbors frightening potential for prosecutorial abuse and over-criminalization – topics that have preoccupied me, both as a private attorney and as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, for many years.  This uncertainty in the FCPA is particularly troubling when one is dealing not just with individuals, who have control over all their own actions, but also with large corporations – artificial ‘persons’ consisting of hundreds, or thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of individuals for whom the corporation can be held accountable.”

Referencing FCPA congressional hearings in 2010 and 2011, Thompson observes:

“DOJ was unperturbed by the uncertainty surrounding FCPA enforcement.  Indeed, one could be forgiven for suspecting that at least some federal prosecutors favor that uncertainty.  But we must never forget that uncertainty in the law is the antitheses of the rule of law.  There is reason that the Latin word for ‘uncertainty’ is arbitrarius.  That some FCPA enforcement attorneys might relish and exploit the arbitrary enforcement of a federal criminal statute is not merely unseemly – it is illegitimate.”

In short, you can add Thompson’s observation to my own (see here) in countering commentator suggestions that the FCPA is anything other than clear.

On the topic of the 2012 FCPA Guidance, Thompson cites my article “Grading the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Guidance” and states:

“Its 130 pages appear impressive at first glance, but about two-thirds of that is routine recitation of background information:  the introduction and table of contents consume thirty-five pages, the reprinting of the statute itself accounts for another thirty pages, and a summary of previously issued (and by definition inadequate) guidance and discussion of other statutes fleshes out yet another twenty pages.”

On the general topic of guidance and commenting on NPAs and DPAs used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions, Thompson cites my Congressional testimony and observes:

 ”The FCPA guidance … offered by the Justice Department [in NPAs and DPAs] is less helpful because it may include coerced settlements that record instances where even DOJ itself was not sure that a violation of the FCPA actually occurred.”

Thompson’s observation in this regard is similar to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s observation as highlighted in this previous post.

The majority of Thompson’s article renews calls for an FCPA compliance defense.

I first highlighted Thompson’s call (along with several other former higher ranking DOJ officials) for a compliance defense in my article ”Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” and in this previous post I further highlighted Thompson’s call for compliance defense at an FCPA symposium.

In short, a hard-to-ignore reality of the current compliance defense debate – against the backdrop of DOJ’s strong institutional opposition to compliance defense concepts – is the chorus of former DOJ officials who support compliance defense concepts.

In his new article, Thompson writes:

“[W]e must create an incentive structure that drives corporations to establish internal compliance programs and to root out foreign corruption within their own organizations.  Only those businesses themselves have the resources to conduct the global investigations that the FCPA requires.  To accomplish this end, I believe that we need to do two things:  first, we must give businesses clear and predictable guidance on what sort of compliance programs they must establish; second, we must give them powerful incentives to engage in self-investigation and self-reporting of the bribery they uncover or suspect.  The incentives I suggest are two:  (1) businesses must be assured that a strong compliance program and prompt and full self-disclosure will ensure that the company itself will not be subject to criminal prosecution under the FCPA; and (2) such self-disclosure will also prevent the company from being debarred from doing business with the federal government or being denied government permits or licenses necessary for the company’s operations.”

Adopting a similar “baby carrot” / “real carrot” analogy I used in “Revisiting an FCPA Compliance Defense“, Thompson writes:

“I propose two carrots.  First, if a corporation establishes a comprehensive, fully funded, adequately staffed and trained FCPA compliance program, then the rogue employee who circumvents it and violates the FCPA – and is caught and turned over to authorities by his employer – should be deemed to be acting outside the realm of his corporate responsibilities and the self-reporting corporation should not be held criminally liable for his conduct.  This would be an instance of a blameless corporation. For this incentive to work, of course, the carrot must be large and appetizing – hence the absolute necessity for transparency and predictability in FCPA enforcement.  The second carrot is that a genuinely cooperative, self-reporting company with a proper compliance program must be assured that it will not be debarred from contracting with the United States government or receiving the government permits required to run its operations.”

In my “Revisiting an FCPA Compliance Defense” article and elsewhere (see prior posts here, here and here) I have articulated – like Thompson – reasons why the DOJ should be in support of – not opposed to – a compliance defense.  A compliance defense is not a race to the bottom – as government officials have suggested – it is a race to the top.  Like Thompson, I have argued that a compliance defense will better facilitate DOJ’s prosecution of culpable individuals and advance the objectives of the FCPA.

I agree with Thompson when he says that the DOJ and SEC have an “almost wooden attitude” when it comes to the FCPA. Reflecting on the enforcement agencies sense of confidence and the billions of dollars collected in enforcement actions, Thompson states:

“But this supposedly shining vision of FCPA enforcement prowess is a Potemkin village, because without corporations’ own internal policing and self-reporting, the FCPA can accomplish little.”

I sincerely hope that Thompson’s article can renew a substantive – not rhetorical – discussion of a compliance defense and how it can help advance the laudable purpose of the FCPA.  To learn more about my proposal, and how it differs slightly from Thompson’s, see here.

Can the DOJ and SEC soften its “wooden attitude”?  Is the DOJ and SEC capable of diverting attention from enforcement statistics, settlement amounts, and political statements filled with empty rhetoric?

As I wrote in my most recent post about a compliance defense, the FCPA has witnessed courageous moments before and a courageous moment is once again presented..

Rogue Employees Do Exist, Plus A Noticeable Juxtaposition

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

In the minds of some (see here and here) rogue employees are a myth – a convenient rationalizing for inadequate internal controls and compliance policies and procedures.

The irony of course is that even the DOJ acknowledges the existence and reality of rogue employees.  The U.S. Attorneys’ Manual (9-28.800) states that “no compliance program can ever prevent all criminal activity by a corporation’s employees …” and high-ranking DOJ officials have observed that “there will always be rogue employees who decide to take matters into their own hands.  They are a fact of life.”  As this recent Economist article rightly stated: “fraud by wayward employees, be they high or low, can never be eliminated.”

This post highlights the DOJ’s recent indictment of Asem Elgawhart, the logical relationship this case has to a pending FCPA enforcement action, and how the Elgawhart action further supports the notion that the DOJ’s so-called Morgan Stanley declination was nothing more than a conveniently timed public relations campaign.

Elgawhart Indictment

Elgawhart was employed by Bechtel and was assigned by Bechtel to be the General Manager of Power Generation Engineering and Services Company (PGESCo), a joint venture between Bechtel and Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (the alleged “state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt”).

According to the DOJ, Elgawhart “used his position and authority as the General Manager of a power generation company to solicit and obtain millions of dollars of kickbacks for his personal benefit from U.S. and foreign power companies that were attempting to secure lucrative contracts to perform power-related services.”

“In total,” the DOJ alleged, “Elgawhart received more than $5 million in kickbacks to help secure more than $2 billion in contracts for the kickback-paying companies, all of which he concealed from his employer, from bidding companies that did not pay kickbacks and from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.”

Based on these allegations, and as indicated in this DOJ release, Elgawhart was charged in a 8-count indictment with mail and wire fraud, money laundering and various tax offenses.

Bechtel was not criminally charged and there is a good and obvious reason why.  There was no basis to charge Bechtel with any criminal offense.

Indeed, the DOJ alleges that Elgawhart: “defrauded Bechtel,” ”concealed material facts from executives at Bechtel,” provided to executives at Bechtel annual Representation Letters containing representations that he “knew to be false,” “concealed and misrepresented material facts to counsel for Bechtel” during interviews, and caused certain evidence to be “deleted and destroyed.”

According to the DOJ, Elgawhart engaged in the above conduct against the following relevant background.

“Bechtel maintained a Code of Business Ethics that imposed on its employees certain standards and duties, including: (a) That employees not misrepresent themselves to anyone; (b) That employees not misuse proprietary, confidential or private information of Bechtel, its customers and suppliers; (c) That employees never give, solicit or accept a gift if that gift may create a payback obligation; and (d) That employees not have a financial interest in an actual or potential supplier, competitor, customer or any other organization that could cause a conflict of interest.

In addition, Bechtel maintained an Ethics and Compliance Policy requiring its employees to fully disclose through a conflict of interest revIew process any activity or transaction that might give rise to a conflict of interest.

During the course of his tenure at Bechtel, Elgawhart acknowledged Bechtel’s policies and agreed to comply with them. In or around 2001, in connection with his continued assignment as General Manager at PGESCo, Elgawhart signed a “Recital of International Employment Conditions” that required Elgawhart to comply with published Bechtel personnel policies and stated that Bechtel could discharge Elgawhart for violations of law, conduct that discredited Bechtel, theft and breach of Bechtel policy.”  [The DOJ also made similar allegations as relevant to PGESCO's internal controls].

Logical Relationship to Pending FCPA Enforcement Action

Although some have inaccurately described the Elgawhart case as a “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecution,” it is not.  Nevertheless, it is hard not to notice that at the bottom of the DOJ’s release there is reference to the DOJ’s “FCPA enforcement efforts.”

Indeed, there appears to be a logical relationship between the Elgawhart case and a pending FCPA enforcement action.  The Elgawhart indictment specifically alleges that the kickback scheme involved, among other companies, ”Power Company A” (a French company engaged in the business of providing power generation and transportation-related services around the world”) including “Power Company A’s subsidiary in Connecticut.”

This is the same exact description of Power Company A (widely known to be Alstom) in the April 2013 FCPA enforcement action against current and former Alstom executives, several of which were employed by Power Company A’s subsidiary in Connecticut.”  (See here for the prior post).

A Noticeable Juxtaposition

As discussed above, Bechtel was not criminally charged in connection with the Elgawhart indictment and there was a good and obvious reason why.  There was no basis to charge Bechtel with any criminal offense.

Similarly, there was no basis to charge Morgan Stanley with any criminal offense in connection with the April 2012 Garth Peterson enforcement action.

Like in the Elgawhart action, in the Peterson action the DOJ alleged as follows as highlighted in this previous post.

  • “Peterson and Chinese Official 1 had a close personal relationship before Peterson joined Morgan Stanley.”
  • A shell company used to facilitate the scheme was owned 47% by Chinese Official 1 and 53% by Peterson and a Canadian Attorney.
  • “Without the knowledge or consent of his superiors at Morgan Stanley, Peterson sought to compensate Chinese Official 1″
  • “Peterson concealed Chinese Official 1’s personal investment [in certain properties] from Morgan Stanley”
  • “Peterson used Morgan Stanley’s past, extensive due diligence [as to certain of the investment properties] to benefit his own interests and to act contrary to Morgan Stanley’s interests.”

Consistent with these allegations, in its press release the DOJ stated:  “Mr. Peterson admitted … that he actively sought to evade Morgan Stanley’s internal controls in an effort to enrich himself and a Chinese government official.”  Moreover, in sentencing Peterson the judge stated that ”it is likely that [Morgan Stanley] would be considered a victim” of Peterson’s conduct.  (See 859 F.Supp.2d 477).

Yet, you all the know the story-line in the Peterson case as it has become part of FCPA religion preached by the DOJ and carried forward at every available opportunity by obedient parishioners.  The DOJ declined to prosecute Morgan Stanley because of its pre-existing compliance policies and procedures!

Most everyone was drinking the Kool-Aid, perhaps because taking a sip from the communal cup was convenient in marketing FCPA compliance services and products.

So why the difference in the DOJ’s public statements regarding Peterson / Morgan Stanley and Elgawhart / Bechtel?

Well, the Peterson enforcement action occurred in April 2012 when FCPA reform (including a corporate compliance defense) was still a hot topic and the DOJ was facing pressure to demonstrate something fair about its FCPA enforcement events.

Indeed, as noted in this previous post which highlighted a Morgan Stanley – Davis Polk webinar (Davis Polk represented Morgan Stanley), Davis Polk stated that part of its advocacy to the DOJ and SEC was that the agencies needed to publicly send a message on compliance and that the Morgan Stanley – Peterson case provided an “ideal case to do so.”  Interestingly, the webinar was moderated by a Davis Polk attorney who called the Morgan Stanley declination “unprecedented and important” and that it was “important and new, it is news that sets precedent.”  This same attorney of course was the Assistant Attorney General (DOJ, Criminal Division) during most of the time period relevant to the enforcement action and is the same person who testified on behalf of the DOJ at the Nov. 2010 Senate FCPA hearing and the June 2011 House FCPA hearing and stated (see here and here for the transcripts of the hearings) that a compliance defense was not necessary because the DOJ already considers compliance efforts when making its enforcement decisions.

In short, the juxtaposition between the DOJ’s statements in connection Peterson / Morgan Stanley and Elgawhart / Bechtel further supports the notion that the DOJ’s so-called Morgan Stanley declination was nothing more than a conveniently timed public relations campaign.

Yet the Kool-Aid continues to be served and enjoyed by many.

It’s More Like Bronze Dust

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Recently at the FCPA Blog, Richard Cassin authored a post titled “Gold Dust for Compliance Officers” which began as follows.

“What’s the first thing  compliance officers need to do? We’d say it’s  convincing management and board members they need  an effective compliance program. That’s not easy.  It takes advocacy, and advocacy takes credibility.”

Spot-on.

However, I disagree that the sources “compliance officers can find support” in – the DOJ’s Principles of Prosecution of Business Organizations - are the gold dust they are portrayed to be.

Whether the analogy is gold dust – or real carrots vs. baby carrots as I used in my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” – the issue remains the same:  are the current incentives business organizations have to adopt best-in-class compliance policies and procedures sufficient, or can policy makers further incentivize corporate compliance with a real carrot – or gold dust if you prefer – through a compliance defense?

In my article, I argue, among other things, that an FCPA compliance defense will better incentivize more robust corporate compliance, reduce improper conduct, and thus best advance the FCPA’s objective of reducing bribery.

A previous FCPA Blog titled “We’re With You On This One, Prof Koehler” stated as follows regarding my article.

“Scholarship at its best can change things. It can cause judges to take a fresh look and lawmakers to  fix problems. We hope  Mike Koehler’s new scholarship will do just that.  [...] We agree with Prof Koehler on the need for the good faith defense. It would give companies the best incentive to work hard at compliance. And if there’s a downside to more compliance, we don’t see it.”

To demonstrate why a compliance defense is the best positive incentive to achieve greater FCPA compliance consider the following demonstration involving two persons:  (i) the general counsel or compliance officer of a company (“compliance officer”); and (2) the board of directors / CEO / or other person who controls the purse strings of the company (“executive”).

Scenario A

Compliance Officer:  Boss, I need more money and resources to devote to FCPA compliance.

Executive:  Why?

Compliance Officer:  Well, boss, if anything ever happens within our business organization, an effective FCPA compliance program can lessen the impact of our legal liability.

Executive:  What do you mean?

Compliance Officer:  Well, the money we spend on FCPA compliance will not eliminate our legal exposure, but the DOJ and SEC have said that the existence of an effective compliance program may perhaps lower our criminal or civil fine or penalty amount and perhaps even persuade an enforcement attorney to go lightly on us in case our compliance program is ever circumvented by an employee.

Scenario B

Compliance Officer:  Boss, I need more money and resources to devote to FCPA compliance.

Executive:  Why?

Compliance Officer:  Well, boss, an effective FCPA compliance program can reduce our legal exposure as a matter of law.

Executive:  What do you mean?

Compliance Officer:  Well, the money we spend on investing in FCPA best practices will be relevant as a matter of law.  In other words, if we make good faith efforts to comply with the FCPA when doing business in the international marketplace, we will not face any legal exposure when a non-executive employee or agent acts contrary to our compliance policies and/or circumvents our policies.

Under which scenario is the compliance officer most likely to receive the budget and resources needed for a best-in-class FCPA compliance program?

Every time I have run this scenario in class, the answer has been unanimous.  Scenario 2 will best allow the compliance officer to receive the budget and support needed to most effectively do his/her job.

I am under no illusion that an FCPA compliance defense will magically result in 100% best-in-class FCPA compliance in all business organizations.

However, I am confident in saying that if 50% of business organizations currently have best-in-class policies and procedures (and survey data seems to suggest that this figure is about right), an FCPA compliance defense will result in 50% + of business organizations adopting best-in-class policies and procedures.

And – as the FCPA Blog previously righly noted – “if there’s a downside to more compliance, we don’t see it.”

It is for this reason, why the DOJ and SEC should be in favor of an FCPA compliance defense.  However, as noted in this previous post, this will take courage.  An FCPA compliance defense may indeed result in less “hard” FCPA enforcement as certain business organizations will be able to avail itself of the compliance defense.

The cheerleaders of more FCPA enforcement (and there are many, including various civil society organizations) who frequently publish enforcement statistics may not be happy.  However, more FCPA enforcement is not necessarily an inherent good and ought not be the singular goal of the FCPA or other similar laws.  The goal ought to be constructing an enforcement regime that best promotes compliance, reduces improper conduct, and best advances the FCPA’s objective of reducing bribery.

The FCPA has witnessed courageous moments before and a courageous moment is once again presented.

Across The Pond

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

This post highlights recent developments from the United Kingdom.

Enforcement Action

In an enforcement action similar to the 2009 action against Aon Limited (see here) and the 2011 action against Willis Limited (see here), the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (a regulator of the financial services industry) recently announced that JLT Specialty Limited (JLTSL – a company that provides insurance broking and risk management services) was fined “over £1.8million for failing to have in place appropriate checks and controls to guard against the risk of bribery or corruption when making payments to overseas third parties.”

According to the FCA release:

“JLTSL was found to have failed to conduct proper due diligence before entering into a relationship with partners in other countries who helped JLTSL secure new business, known as overseas introducers. JLTSL also did not adequately assess the potential risk of new insurance business secured through its existing overseas introducers.

[...]

JLTSL’s failure to manage the risks created by overseas payments, which occurred between 19th February 2009 and 9th May 2012, breached the FCA’s principle on management and control. During this period, JLTSL received almost £20.7 million in gross commission from business provided by overseas introducers, and paid them over £11.7 million in return. Inadequate systems around these payments created an unacceptable risk that overseas introducers could use the payments made by JLTSL for corrupt purposes, including paying bribes to people connected with the insured clients and/or public officials.”

The FCA’s director of enforcement and financial crime stated:

“These failings are unacceptable given JLTSL actually had the checks in place to manage risk, but didn’t use them effectively, despite being warned by the FCA that they needed to up their game.  Businesses can be profitable but firms must ensure that they take the necessary steps to control the risks in that business.  Bribery and corruption from overseas payments is an issue we expect all firms to do everything they can to tackle. Firms cannot be complacent about their controls – when we take enforcement action we expect the industry to sit up and take notice.”

The FCA release notes that “JLTSL’s penalty was increased because of its failure to respond adequately either to the numerous warnings the FCA had given to the industry generally or to JLTSL specifically.”

Add Another to the Compliance Defense List

What is most striking about many of the opposition pieces written about FCPA reform is that while opponents of FCPA reform warn of a U.S. retreat on bribery and corruption issues should the FCPA be amended, opponents fail to address the fact that an amended FCPA, or revisions to FCPA enforcement policy, would actually align the FCPA with many FCPA-like laws or enforcement policies of peer nations.

For instance, and as discussed in my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense,” many countries have compliance-like defenses in their FCPA-like law.

Add the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown Dependency, to the list.  Its recent Bribery Act 2013, largely modeled on the U.K. Bribery Act, states:

“(1) A relevant commercial organisation (“C”) is guilty of an offence under this section if a person (“A”) associated with C bribes another person intending —

(a) to obtain or retain business for C; or

(b) to obtain or retain an advantage in the conduct of business for C.

(2) But it is a defence for C to prove that C had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent persons associated with C from undertaking such conduct.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

As noted in this previous post, Rolls-Royce Holdings has long been under scrutiny concerning its business conduct in China, Indonesia, and other markets.   The Wall Street Journal reports:

“U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office has opened a formal investigation into concerns that employees of the U.K.-based engineering group may have been involved in bribery and corruption. The maker of engines for aerospace, defense and marine customers said a year ago that it had handed over material to the SFO having previously initiated its own independent review into allegations of malpractice in overseas countries, including China and Indonesia. “We have been informed by the Serious Fraud Office that it has now commenced a formal investigation into these matters,” Rolls-Royce said. Rolls-Royce declined to provide further details on the progress of the investigation. An SFO official confirmed that “a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery at Rolls-Royce” is under way but declined to comment further.”

See here for the related U.K. Serious Fraud Office statement.

As noted in this previous post, in June, Data Systems & Solutions, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of  Rolls-Royce Holdings, resolved an FCPA enforcement action.

*****

Interesting snippets from a recent Financial Times article – “GSK China Probe Flags Up Wider Concerns” – concerning GSK in China.

“[A]cross the healthcare spectrum, from doctors to hospital officials to sales representatives for rival local companies, there is agreement that foreign pharmaceutical groups are not the main culprits of corruption in the Chinese healthcare industry. Local companies are far more profligate with so-called “commissions” to doctors because they are not subject to the kind of scrutiny that foreign companies face under global anti-bribery laws. A medical student in a leading Shanghai hospital says: “The supervising doctor in my department sees as many as 80 patients in a morning, and prescribes as much as Rmb100,000 worth of drugs. She definitely takes commissions from drug companies, but that only affects what she prescribes when there are two similar drugs.” That situation normally arises when both are local generic businesses, industry analysts say. “In China, foreign drug companies are the best boys, but the parents beat them first,” says one industry insider, echoing a sentiment heard frequently from Chinese doctors who say foreign drug companies pay for educational activities that no one else will pay for in China.  “Financial flows – both legal and illegal – tied to drug and device sales are funding perhaps 60-80 per cent of total hospital costs,” says George Baeder, an independent drug industry adviser. “Without this funding, the current system would collapse.” Many drug analysts see kickbacks as structural, and therefore hard to eradicate: central and provincial Chinese governments cannot afford to pay doctors a living wage, and many patients cannot afford to pay the true cost of care. Up to now, Beijing has turned a blind eye as pharma companies find ways to subsidise doctor salaries and underwrite their medical education.”

Speaking of GSK, as noted in this New York Times article, the company recently announced that it ”will no longer pay doctors to promote its products and will stop tying compensation of sales representatives to the number of prescriptions doctors write.”

Great Speech, But a Major Contradiction

Ben Morgan (SFO – Joint Head of Bribery and Corruption) recently delivered this speech titled “Striking Tigers As Well As Flies:  Non-Selective Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement.”

Morgan talked about “the widely accepted premise that the law should apply to everyone, equally, regardless of any external factors such as the identity of an alleged offender, their background, their status, who they know or, if they are a commercial organisation, their size, their share price, their line of business or their financial resources.”

Morgan stated as follows:

“So if we’re being asked to discuss the need to be non-selective in the way we enforce anti-corruption legislation – to treat all potential defendants equally regardless of the external factors I have mentioned – that implies, does it not, that we have a problem in the way we currently enforce anti-corruption law.  The implicit accusation we are answering in this session is “you don’t strike Tigers; you only strike flies”.  So let’s test that.

First, let’s look at why it might be tempting not to prosecute certain offenders.  Well, on the one hand, it might be for practical reasons.  Many of our countries have endured difficult financial times recently.  In times of austerity and ever decreasing resources, there might be a temptation to avoid prosecuting the really difficult, complex cases that are likely to consume resources.  Those kinds of cases where the evidence is scattered all over the globe, where there are lots of witnesses and perhaps where specialist skills are needed.  Far easier, surely, to deploy what resources one has into the easier targets, the “low hanging fruit”.

Another reason not to prosecute certain offenders might be for political reasons.  Does a situation appear to involve state officials of one’s own country, or of an important ally?  Does it concern an issue that those with power would prefer not to be investigated?  Or perhaps, in the corporate world, does it involve a company that is of real national significance – a major employer and tax payer?

These are the sorts of situations where it seems to me there is a risk that the Tigers might be treated differently to the Flies.  And while they are not to be underestimated, I hope that one thing we can all agree on here is that as a statement of principle, we cannot accept that for any reason the rule of law should be applied differently to some groups than others.”

Morgan’s points are spot-on of course.

However, the irony is that the U.K. government – in the minds of many – contradicted all of these points in its handling of BAE over the past several years. (See here).  (So too did the U.S. government – see here and here).