Archive for the ‘Comverse Technology’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, September 14th, 2012

A focus on asset recovery, a substantial upgrade to the DOJ’s FCPA website, might Comverse Technologies face a double prosecution, Cosgrove is sentenced to home confinement, and on-point.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Asset Recovery

The Arab Forum of Asset Recovery (here) took place earlier this week in Doha, Qatar.  President Obama delivered this recorded message.  Attorney General Eric Holder delivered this speech at the event and stated as follows.  “Corruption has long been recognized as a transnational problem that demands a coordinated, global response.  Time and again, we’ve seen its destructive, corrosive effects – hindering development, impeding advancement, and siphoning precious resources away from those in need at a time when they could hardly be more scarce – and when the world economy could hardly be more vulnerable.  We’ve come to understand its impact in eroding trust, favoring the interests of a dishonest few over the needs of the hardworking many, and even breeding contempt for the rule of law.”  In his speech, Holder provided some highlights of the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative as well as outlined a U.S. committment to additional resources including two additional Justice Department attorneys to work exclusively on asset recovery and mutual legal assistance issues.

During this speech Holder further stated as follows.  “As Attorney General, I’ve consistently worked to ensure that anticorruption remains a top priority for my colleagues at every level of the Justice Department.  From our robust enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – an important law under which we have secured more than 30 individual convictions and over 40 corporate resolutions, totaling more than $2.1 billion in penalties, over the last three years alone; to the anticorruption work of our prosecutors stationed both in the United States and overseas – I’m proud to report that we’ve made great strides in our fight against corruption, within – as well as beyond – our borders.”

DOJ FCPA Website

As previously reported by the on-line news site Main Justice (here), the DOJ recently upgraded its FCPA website.  Of particular note from a research perspective, the DOJ’s list of enforcement actions now appears to be complete – see here.  A link to the DOJ’s FCPA website, as well as numerous other resources, is included on the resources page of this website – here.

Comverse Technology

As noted in this previous post, in 2011 Comverse Technology resolved a DOJ and SEC enforcement action by agreeing to pay $2.8 million (a $1.2 million criminal fine via a DOJ non prosecution agreement; $1.6 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest via a SEC settled complaint).

The resolution documents contained the standard template clauses.

The two-year NPA (here) stated that for the term of the agreement, Comverse shall “commit no crimes whatsover” and that if the “Department in its sole discretion determines that Comverse has committed any crime after signing this Agreement” that Comverse “shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any violation of federal law of which the Department has knowledge  …”.

The SEC release (here) noted that Comverse consented to a “conduct-based injunction that prohibits Comverse from having books and records that do not accurately reflect, or from having internal controls that do not prevent or detect, any illegal payments made to obtain or retain business.”

Last week in an SEC filing (here) Comverse (CTI) disclosed as follows, after describing its 2011 resolution action and compliance obligations.

“CTI had implemented safeguards in an effort to eliminate improper practices by our employees, consultants, external sales agents and resellers. These safeguards, however, have proven to be ineffective in some instances. In response to the findings of the CTI Audit Committee’s internal investigation, CTI identified a material weakness in our anti-fraud program controls, including those relating to the FCPA, and as part of its remediation our safeguards were modified. However, these modified safeguards, the implementation of these remedial measures and any future improvements may prove to be less than effective, and our employees, consultants, external sales agents or distributors may engage in the future in conduct for which we might be held responsible. Violations of the FCPA and other laws of the United States and other countries may result in significant civil and/or criminal penalties and other sanctions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.”

One can look at Comverse’s recent disclosure in two ways.  That the company does not have a committment to FCPA compliance and has not taken its post-enforcement action compliance obligations seriously.  The other is that even a company under the threat of double prosecution (the first being for conduct at issue in the NPA, the second being the post-enforcement action conduct) can not, despite presumed good faith best efforts, guarantee FCPA compliance across its vast business organization and can not ensure that its numerous employees, consultants, external sales agents and resellers will not engage in problematic conduct.

Cosgrove Sentence

As noted in this previous post, in May Paul Cosgrove (one of the defendants in the so-called Carson case involving former employees of Control Components Inc.) pleaded guilty to a one-count superseding information charging him with making a “corrupt payment to a foreign government official in China in violation of the FCPA.”  As noted in the prior post and as detailed in the plea agreement, Cosgrove suffers from significant health issues.  The DOJ stated, in its sentencing memo (here) as follows.  “Absent defendant’s health condition, the government would recommend a term of incarceration of 15 months. However, to the extent the Court believes that defendant’s health condition warrants a non-incarceratory sentence, the government recommends that the term of home confinement be 15 months.”

As noted in this article from the Orange County Register, yesterday U.S. District Court Judge James Selna sentenced Cosgrove to 13 months home confinement.

On-Point

Russell Ryan (a former assistant director of the SEC’s division of enforcement and currently with King & Spalding – here) had a dandy op-ed (here) recently in the Wall Street Journal concerning the SEC seeking to punish, not just conduct, but an individual being  ”unrepentant” and “impenitent.”  Ryan’s piece reminded me of this prior post in which the DOJ criticized an FCPA corporate defendant for not cooperating “based on jurisdictional issues.”  Once again, do the enforcement agencies expect defendants to roll over and play dead?

*****

A good weekend to all.

Summer Reading For Representative Conyers

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

During last week’s FCPA hearing in the House, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) had a contentious Q&A exchange with Shana-Tara Regon (Director, White Collar Crime Policy, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers). See here for the previous post regarding the hearing.

Conyers asked – “give me some examples of overcriminalization of the FCPA.” He repeatedly interrupted Regon and asked “just give me some examples” “give me an instance of where one case was ever brought by the DOJ that would constitute overcriminalization.” Conyers stated, “only 140 cases have been brought in 10 years -that averages 14 cases a year – is that overcriminalization to you?” Regon stated that overcriminlization occurs when a statute provides no reasonable limits and that she is concerned more about prosecutions that may occur in the future more so than prosecutions that have already occurred.

There should be plenty of concern regarding prosecutions that have already occurred, but given the glare of the cameras, the stress of testifying, and the disruption of being interrupted, it would have been difficult for any witness to retrieve from their memory bank specific FCPA enforcement actions.

This post provides a summer reading list of FCPA enforcement actions, commentary and analysis, and legal scholarship for Representative Conyers so that he can best seek answers to the question he posed to Regon.

For starters, what does overcriminalization mean?

To be sure, it can mean different things to different people in different circumstances. In “The Overcriminalization Phenomenon(here) Eric Luna provides this definition – “the overcriminalization phenomenon consists of: (1) untenable offenses; (2) superfluous statutes; (3) doctrines that
overextend culpability; (4) crimes without jurisdictional authority; (5) grossly disproportionate punishments; and (6) excessive or pretextual enforcement of petty violations. In this piece, Jeffrey Parker (while observing that “definitions of “overcriminalization” are a bit fuzzy and debatable”) identifies the following as among the factors that may contribute to overcriminalization: “the vague, arcane, or trivial nature of such prohibitions, as undermining citizens ability to conform, and debasing the moral moment of the criminal sanction” and “the lack of adequate mens rea standards in criminal prohibitions.”

Not all overcriminalization factors are relevant to this “new era of FCPA enforcement” (see here), but in the minds of many, several factors are.

Enforcement Actions

In the 2011 Comverse Technologies enforcement action (see here), the company paid $2.8 million in combined fines and penalties (and no doubt millions more in connection with the investigative and resolution process) to resolve a matter in which the DOJ did not allege that the company even knew about the improper payments at issue. The action was resolved via a non-prosecution agreement meaning there was no judicial scrutiny of the DOJ’s enforcement theory.

In the 2010 Alliance One International enforcement action (see here), the company paid approximately $20 million in combined fines and penalties (and millions more in connection with the investigative and resolution process) to resolve a matter in which it did absolutely nothing wrong. Rather, the entire DOJ enforcement action was based on a successor liability theory. Again, the action was resolved via a non-prosecution agreement meaning there was no judicial scrutiny of the DOJ’s enforcement theory.

In the 2010 Noble Corporation enforcement action (see here), the company paid approximately $8 million in combined fines and penalties (and millions more in connection with the investigative and resolution process) to resolve a matter involving the import and export of goods into Nigeria. When Congress passed the FCPA, its intent as to so-called facilitating or grease payments was clear. Senate Report No. 95-114 (May 2, 1977) states, in pertinent part, as follows. “The statute does not […] cover so-called ‘grease’ payments such as payments for expediting shipments through customs …”. The relevant House Report (No. 95-640, September 28, 1977) similarly states as follows. “The language of the bill is deliberately cast in terms which differentiate between [corrupt payments] and facilitating payments, sometimes called ‘grease payments.’ […] For example, a gratuity paid to a customs official to speed the processing of a customs document would not be reached by this bill. Nor would it reach payments made to secure permits, licenses, or the expeditious performance of similar duties of an essentially ministerial or clerical nature which must of necessity be performed in any event. While payments made to assure or to speed the proper performance of a foreign official’s duties may be reprehensible in the United States, the committee recognizes that they are not necessarily so viewed elsewhere in the world and that it is not feasible for the United States to attempt unilaterally to eradicate all such payments.” The Noble enforcement action was resolved via a non-prosecution agreement meaning, again, there was no judicial scrutiny of the DOJ’s enforcement theory.

And then of course there is the issue of “foreign official” and the fact that most FCPA enforcement actions in this new era are based on alleged improper payments to employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (“SOEs”) on the theory that such business entities are “instrumentalities” of a foreign government and thus all employees, regardless of rank or position, are “foreign officials” under the FCPA. Yet, (1) During its multi-year investigation of foreign corporate payments, Congress was aware of the existence of SOEs and that some of the questionable payments uncovered or disclosed may have involved such entities. (2) In certain of the bills introduced in Congress to address foreign corporate payments, the definition of “foreign government” expressly included SOE entities. These bills were introduced in both the Senate and the House during both the 94th and 95th Congress. (3) Despite being aware of SOEs and despite exhibiting a capability for drafting a definition that expressly included SOEs in other bills, Congress chose not to include such definitions or concepts in what ultimately become the FCPA in 1977. See here for extensive reading on this issue.

Commentary and Analysis

In 2010, Forbes ran a feature article (here) titled “The Bribery Racket” – “How Federal Crackdown on Bribery Hurts Business And Enriches Insiders.” Lucinda Low, a respected FCPA practitioner, notes in the article that “the scope of things companies have to worry about is enlarging all the time as the government asserts violations in circumstances where it’s unclear if they would prevail in court” and that “you don’t have the checks and balances you would normally have if you had more litigation.” Commenting on the current era of FCPA enforcement, Joseph Covington (who headed the DOJ’s FCPA efforts in the 1980′s) said that the current era “is good business for law firms [...] good business for accounting firms, it’s good business for consulting firms, the media–and Justice Department lawyers who create the marketplace and then get yourself a job.”

Here, Michael Levy (a former Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.) talks about what he calls prosecutorial common law. Levy states that “prosecutors don’t set out deliberately to interpret criminal statutes in ways that convict hundreds of people on the basis of a standard that not a single Supreme Court Justice finds supportable …”. Levy notes that “we have seen this before in connection with the interpretation of the honest services fraud and obstruction of justice statutes, and it is certainly happening today with the FCPA.”

In this publication, an author group including Philip Urofsky (former Assistant Chief of the DOJ Fraud Section responsible for FCPA enforcement) and Danforth Newcomb (a dean of the FCPA bar) noted that in several recent FCPA enforcement actions “the theories used to hold parents accountable for the acts of subsidiaries and vice versa appear to be unclear.” In other cases, the author group states that in many cases critical elements of the statute were not pleaded or were pled in a way “that is not consistent with established precedent and the language of the statute.”

In a September 10, 2010 interview with the Corporate Crime Reporter, Mark Mendelsohn (the former head of DOJ FCPA enforcement during this era of resurgence who departed the DOJ for private practice in 2010) stated that “some of the factors” the DOJ uses to resolve FCPA cases are transparent, but “there are other factors less easy to see from the outside.” Mendelsohn also noted, in connection with non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements (the common way FCPA enforcement actions are resolved) that the “danger” “is that it is tempting for the Department, or the SEC [to use these vehicles] to seek to resolve cases through DPAs or NPAs that don’t actually constitute violations of the law.”

In this Q&A exchange, Martin Weinstein (a former DOJ FCPA attorney who prosecuted the Lockheed case in the mid-1990′s and is now a prominent FCPA practitioner) stated as follows. “The last decade of FCPA enforcement has seen extraordinary evolution, and I think you have to say that when Congress passed the law in 1977, they did not envision the wide reach of enforcement today and the types of things that the government gets involved in, such as transactions, joint ventures, and successor liability.”

Legal Scholarship

In “Enthusiastic Enforcement, Informal Legislation: The Unruly Expansion of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” (here), Amy Westbrook (Washburn University School of Law) argues that the recent “transformation of the FCPA has been brought about by ad hoc enforcement actions, rather than legislation, judicial decision, or regulation” and that “in the absence of formal process or reasoned articulation, the actual scope of the law is unclear.”

In “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (here), I argue that “the FCPA often means what the enforcement agencies say it means” and that “even though the resolution vehicles typically used to resolve an FCPA enforcement action are not subject to judicial scrutiny and [thus] the vehicles do not necessarily reflect the triumph of the enforcement agencies’ theories, in the absence of substantive FCPA case law, these privately negotiated resolution vehicles have come to represent de facto FCPA case law” which breed “inefficient overcompliance by risk averse business actors fearful of enterprise – threatening liability because of the enforcement agencies’ untested and dubious theories.”

"Foreign Official" Limbo – The Bar Has Been Lowered

Friday, April 15th, 2011

It’s Friday, so let’s get this started with some music.

The previous “limbo low” for an otherwise commercial enterprise to be deemed an “instrumentality” of a foreign government, and thus employees of the enterprise to be deemed “foreign officials” by the DOJ and SEC was 43%. See this prior post regarding the Alcatel-Lucent enforcement action and Telekom Malaysia Berhad – a commercial enterprise with a shareholder base of approximately 35,000 institutional and private/retail shareholders.

The limbo bar apparently has been lowered.

The recent Comverse enforcement (here) focused on “individuals connected to” “Hellenic Telecommunications Organization S.A. ["OTE"] – a telecommunications provider controlled and partially owned by the Greek Government” including “employees of OTE’s subsidiaries Cosmote, Cosmofon, and Cosmorom, in order to obtain purchase orders from those companies.”

According to the NPA, “the Greek Government was OTE’s largest single shareholder and maintained an interest in over one-third of OTE’s issued share capital.”

Although the NPA only referenced knowing violations of the FCPA’s books and records provisions (i.e. a “charge” that does not have a “foreign official” element) you can be sure that this enforcement action, notwithstanding the manner of resolution, was still very much about the “foreign officials” allegedly at issue. See, e.g., Miller & Chevalier FCPA Review Spring 2011 (here) (“Neither the SEC nor the DOJ identifies OTE as a government instrumentality, although the language used (identifying the Greek government as the largest single shareholder but not majority owner) suggests that they would have brought anti-bribery charges if there was evidence that CTI had knowledge of the payments or that Comverse Limited engaged in improper activity in the United States.”).

The conduct at issue in the Comverse enforcement took place between 2003-2006.

Just what type of entity was OTE during this time period?

OTE’s 2003 Annual Report (here) notes that the “Greek State” stake of total share capital was approximately 33.7%. The report notes that OTE’s shares have traded on the New York Stock Exchange since 1998. The report states as follows. “The Greek State may no longer control OTE in a way different from that of any other Societe Anonyme company or telecom services provider. The Greek State may – only as a shareholder – monitor the operation and administration of the corporate affairs. The Greek State is represented by the Minister of Finance who is entitled to intervene according to the Articles of Association and the legal procedures as any other shareholder can do.

OTE’s 2004 Annual Report (here) contains information similar to that noted above and states as follows. “The Greek State may no longer control OTE in a way different from that of any other Societe Anonyme and telecom services provider company. The Greek State may – only as a shareholder – monitor the operation and administration of the corporate affairs. The Greek State is represented by the Minister of Finance who is exercising its control through the established bodies as any other shareholder can do.”

OTE’s 2005 Annual Report (here) describes a shareholder structure as follows. International institutional shareholders 40%; Hellenic Republic 38.7%; Greek institutional shareholders 12.1%; Rest shareholders 9.2%.

OTE’s 2006 Annual Report (here)describes a shareholder structure as follows. International institutional shareholders 45%; Hellenic Republic 38.7%; Greek institutional shareholders 9.5%; Rest shareholders 6.8%.

According to OTE’s current website (here), it shares trade on the Athens Stock Exchange, the London Stock Exchange and OTE’s ADRs trade on the OTC (over the counter) market in the U.S. and OTE continues to report to the SEC.

According to OTE’s current website (here), its current shareholder base is as follows. Hellenic Republic: 20.0%; Deutsche Telekom: 30.0%; Greek Institutional Shareholders: 30.2%; International Institutional Shareholders: 9.7%; and Rest Shareholders: 10.1%.

Step aside 43%, the new limbo low is between 33% – 38%.

How long can it go?

*****

A good weekend to all.

Comverse Technology … Is It Really That Simple?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Question: “If you did not have the choice of deferred or non prosecution agreements, what would happen to the number of FCPA settlements every year.

Answer by Mark Mendelsohn, former FCPA chief DOJ: “If the Department only had the option of bringing a criminal charge or declining to bring a case, you would certainly bring fewer cases.”

Mark Mendelsohn on the Rise of FCPA Enforcement, 24 Corporate Crime Reporter 35, September 10, 2010.

“… [T]he S.E.C.’s practice of permitting defendants to neither admit nor deny the charges against them remains pervasive, presumably for no better reason than that it makes the settling of cases easier.”

U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) in SEC v. Vitesse Semiconducter Corp., March 21, 2010.

****

A U.S. company has a subsidiary A.

Subsidiary A has a subsidiary – subsidiary B.

Subsidiary B engaged an agent who made improper payments partially facilitated by subsidiary’s B’s inflated commission payments to him.

There is no allegation that Subsidiary A knew about the payments.

There is no allegation that the U.S. company knew about the payments.

But subsidiary B’s books, records and accounts are incorporated into the books, records and accounts of the U.S. company for purposes of financial reporting.

These are the essential facts from last week’s FCPA enforcement action against Comverse Technology Inc. – “a world leader in multimedia telecommunications applications”.

The enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was $2.8 million ($1.2 million criminal fine via a DOJ non prosecution agreement; $1.6 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest via a SEC settled complaint).

Is it really that simple?

Some have suggested that Comverse received “lenient” treatment (see here). Yet, it is questionable whether Comverse would have faced any criminal liability should the DOJ have been required to satisfy its high burden of proof in court.

Yet, FCPA enforcement actions like Comverse seem to be becoming norm.

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action was resolved via a non-prosecution agreement, meaning there was not, and will never, be judiciary scrutiny of the DOJ’s enforcement theory.

The NPA (here) begins as follows.

The DOJ “will not criminally prosecute Comverse Technology, Inc. (“CTI”), Comverse Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of CTI (“Comverse Inc.”), and the subsidiaries of Comverse Inc., including Comverse Ltd. (collectively referred to as Comverse) for any crimes … related to Comverse’s knowing violation of the books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act … arising from and related to Comverse’s failure accurately to record certain improper payments made by employees of Comverse Ltd. and certain subsidiaries of Comverse Ltd. and a third party agent from 2003 to 2006.”

According to the NPA, Comverse Inc. was wholly-owned subsidiary of CTI and Comverse Ltd., an Israeli company based in Tel Aviv, was a wholly owned subsidiary of Comverse Inc.

The NPA has a term of two years and Comverse admitted, accepted, and acknowledged responsibility for the below described conduct. As is typical in FCPA NPAs or DPAs, Comverse agreed “not to make any public statement contradicting” the information below.

The conduct at issue focuses on monthly retainer fees paid by Comverse Ltd. to Agent G (an Israeli citizen engaged by Comverse Ltd. as an independent consultant with a particular focus on Greece) and commissions paid to Agent G on purchase orders. According to the NPA, “Agent G would keep 15% of the total commission, and the remaining 85% was used to make improper payments.”

According to the NPA, “between 2003 and 2006, Comverse Ltd. made approximately $536,000 in cash payments to Corporation H [a Cyprus-based company created by Agent G at the direction of Comverse Ltd. employees to facilitate the payment of cash to representatives of certain Comverse Ltd. customers in exchange for securing purchase orders] with the intent that the money woudl be passed on to individuals connected to OTE, including employees of OTE’s subsidiaries Cosmote, Cosmofon, and Cosmorom, in order to obtain purchase orders from those companies for Comverse Ltd. products and services, resulting in approximately $1.25 million in adjusted operating income.”

OTE?

That would be the “Hellenic Telecommunications Organization S.A. – a telecommunications provider controlled and partially owned by the Greek Government.” According to the NPA, “the Greek Government was OTE’s largest single shareholder and maintained an interest in over one-third of OTE’s issued share capital.”

The DOJ agreed to resolve the enforcement action via a NPA “based, in part, on the following factors: (a) Comverse’s timely, voluntary, and complete disclosure of the facts” [described above]; (b) Comverse’s full cooperation with the Department and the [SEC]; and (c) the remedial efforts already undertaken and to be undertaken by Comverse.”

The DOJ release (here) states as follows. “The [NPA] recognizes the company’s thorough self-investigation and the results of its investigation, voluntary disclosure of the underlying conduct, and full cooperation with the department. CTI has also undertaken extensive remedial efforts and overhauled its overall compliance culture, including through the implementation of mandatory training programs focused on anti-corruption and the use of third-party agents and intermediaries, as well as more rigorous accounting controls for the approval of third-party payments. As a result of these mitigating factors, the department has agreed not to prosecute CTI or its subsidiaries for failing to maintain accurate books and records, provided that CTI satisfies its obligations under the agreement for a period of two years. Those obligations include ongoing cooperation, payment of the $1.2 million penalty, and the continued implementation of rigorous internal controls.”

SEC

The SEC’s civil complaint (here) is based on the same core conduct described above.

The complaint alleges, in summary fashion, as follows.

“Between 2003 and 2006, Comverse Technology, Inc. (“Comverse”) violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) when its Israeli operating subsidiary, Comverse Limited (“Comverse Limited”), engaged in a scheme to make improper payments to obtain or retain business.”

“In order to facilitate and conceal the payments, Comverse Limited employed a third-party agent (the “Agent”) to establish an offshore entity in Cyprus which, in turn, funneled the improper payments to Comverse Limited’s customers. Employees of Comverse Limited made payments to the Cyprus entity and, after taking 15% off the top of these payments, the Agent paid or facilitated the payment of the remaining 85% to Comverse Limited’s customers in the form of cash bribes.”

“Comverse Limited did not accurately record these improper payments in its books and records, which, in turn, caused them to be improperly classified in Comverse’s consolidated financial statements. Comverse failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that transactions at all levels of the organization were recorded properly.”

Specifically, the SEC alleged as follows.

“Between 2003 and 2006, Comverse Limited made improper payments to employees connected to OTE in order to obtain or retain business with OTE. The scheme originated in Comverse Limited’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) sales division and the improper payments were inaccurately recorded on Comverse Limited’s books and records, which, in turn, were consolidated with Comverse’s financial results.”

“Between 2003 and 2006, Comverse Limited, using [Corporation H], made improper payments totaling approximately $536,000 to individuals connected to OTE, including employees of OTE’s subsidiaries Cosmote, Cosmofon, and Cosmorom to obtain or retain OTE’s business. The improper payments resulted in $1.2 million of improper benefit to Comverse Limited, which flowed through to Comverse.”

As to internal controls, the SEC alleged as follows. “During the relevant time period, neither Comverse nor Comverse Limited had a process, formal or otherwise, for conducting due diligence of third-party agents or for the independent review of third-party agent contracts outside of the sales departments.” The SEC further alleged as follows. “At the time of the conduct, while Comverse did have an omnibus anti-corruption policy that prohibited improper payments to government-affiliated third parties and others, Comverse did not widely circulate this policy and provided no training on it to any employees.”

As to books and records, the SEC alleged as follows. “Comverse Limited falsified its books and records by characterizing and recording the bribes as legitimate sales commissions, thereby failing accurately to reflect the payments and their purpose. These improper expenses, in turn, were consolidated into Comverse’s financial records.”

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Comverse with FCPA books and records and internal control violations.

As noted in the SEC release (here) without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Comverse consented “to a conduct-based injunction that prohibits Comverse from having books and records that do not accurately reflect, or from having internal controls that do not prevent or detect, any illegal payments made to obtain or retain business.” In addition, Comverse consented to pay $1,249,614 in disgorgement and $358,887 in prejudgment interest.

Daniel Horwitz (Lankler and Carragher – see here) represented Comverse.

The company’s 8-K filing on April 7th stated as follows. ” As originally disclosed by the Company on March 16, 2009, the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors of the Company conducted its own internal investigation into such payments. The Audit Committee found that the conduct at issue did not involve the Company’s executive officers.”

The company’s 10-K filing on January 25, 2011 suggests that the company’s internal investigation was prompted by a whistleblower complaint and the filing details the company’s remedial actions in connection with the investigation. According to the filing “the Company recorded charges of $2.9 million associated with [the FCPA matter] during the fiscal year ended January 31, 2009.” The company has not yet disclosed what its fees and expenses were during the fiscal year ended January 31, 2010.

*****

Another interesting item from Comverse’s SEC filings. “For the fiscal year ended January 31, 2010, approximately one quarter of Verint’s [Comverse's majority-owned publicly traded subsidiary] business was generated from contracts with various governments around the world, including federal, state, and local government agencies.”