Archive for the ‘Congressional Activity’ Category

Over-Criminalization And FCPA Reform Return To Capital Hill

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Over-criminalization was a topic discussed at the June 2011 House FCPA hearing.  (See here for the prior post).

The topic (as well as FCPA reform) returned to Capital Hill earlier this month.

The House Committee on the Judiciary, Over-Criminalization Task Force, recently held a hearing titled “Defining the Problem and Scope of Over-Criminalization and Over-Federalization.”

In his written testimony, under the heading “Poor Legislative Draftsmanship,” Steven Benjamin (President, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) stated as follows.

“Consider, for example, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the risk it poses for legitimate businesses and the people who work for them. The purpose of the FCPA—to deter and redress bribery and corruption worldwide—is laudable, but its overly broad language has created an enforcement climate where the statute means whatever the government says it means. Despite its more than 30-year history, published judicial decisions interpreting the FCPA are sparse, because enforcement has largely focused on corporations unwilling to undertake the life-or-death risk inherent in the defense of a felony criminal case. Further evidence of this point came last fall when, after significant pressure, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a 120-page guide on the government’s interpretation of the FCPA.  While this guidance is certainly helpful to companies and individuals seeking to comply with the current enforcement regimes, the manual sets forth untested legal theories. Because the statutory language does not provide all of the answers to the questions that its broad language permits, the enforcers of the law are left to ‘fill in the blanks.’ And because the document is not legally binding, it affords no reliable protection from prosecution even if a regulated person or entity acts in accordance with the Government’s enforcement guidance. Such a state of affairs is not only bad for business and economic certainty, it is fundamentally unfair and in direct conflict with our constitutional principles of fair notice and due process.”

[For additional reading on the above dynamics, see my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” and my 2010 Senate FCPA testimony]

In his written testimony, under the heading “Recommendations for Reform”, George Terwilliger (Morgan Lewis and a former DOJ Deputy Attorney General) stated as follows.

“Congress should consider long-overdue reforms to the FCPA. Although this law is only one of several thousand imposing criminal penalties, it presents a significant impediment to businesses and uncertainty in FCPA enforcement standards represents a ready example of the adverse affect on businesses of poorly formed statutes. Specifically, because the FCPA is largely enforced exclusively by the Department of Justice and Securities Exchange Commission, beyond the scrutiny of judicial oversight, enforcement is dependent largely on prosecutorial discretion and internal agency guidance. In order to provide greater clarity to the FCPA, Congress should consider some of the following reforms.

Affirmative Defense for Adequate Procedures: Like the UK Bribery Act, the FCPA should include a presumption against criminal prosecution upon a showing by a defendant corporation that it has in place an effective compliance program, structured around specified standards. Such a reform would permit companies to concentrate resources into structuring effective compliance programs (which in turn would help assist in furthering the deterrent effect of the law), knowing that the efforts could help insure them against unforeseeable corruption risks, thus helping to spur investment in overseas operations and ventures.

Repose of Post-Acquisition Due Diligence: Congress should consider an amendment to the FCPA that would provide that if in a defined period after an acquisition closes, a company conducts a detailed compliance assessment of the acquired company’s operations, promptly discloses to the government and remediates any non-compliant conduct discovered, the acquiring company would be immune from penalty for FCPA violations occurring in the acquired entity’s operations during or prior to that period. Because the realities of pre-acquisition due diligence do not always allow full and complete access to the target company’s operations records, this would incentivize and allow an acquiring company the opportunity to uncover issues not identified during preacquisition due diligence and to quickly and fully integrate the acquired entity into its compliance program.

Additional Reforms: Additionally, in order to promote greater clarity, Congress should consider amendments to the FCPA that would clarify specific ambiguous terms that have been the subject of much spilled ink in the academia, the FCPA bar, and before this very Committee. Specifically, greater clarity should be provided to the meaning of “foreign official” and the degree of control required of foreign governments before a state-owned enterprise or other foreign entity is considered an “instrumentality” of a foreign government.

Greater clarity can also be provided to the meaning of “facilitation payment.” Due in part to the government’s expansive definition of liability, the facilitation payment exception to the FCPA exists in theory, but not in practice. Many companies that discover what appear to be benign facilitating payments can be left paralyzed with uncertainty as to whether the practice violates the law.”

[For additional reading on a compliance defense, see my article “Revisiting an FCPA Compliance Defense“]

Friday Roundup

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Motion to dismiss filed in the former Magyar Telekom execs case, a noticeable lack of FCPA charges, checking in on recent disclosures, quotable from the current SEC FCPA Unit Chief, quotable regarding FCPA Inc., what’s up with that investigation, I hear you travel alot, there’s an app for that, counter-points, and for the weekend reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Motion to Dismiss Filed in SEC Enforcement Action

This previous post highlighted how former Magyar Telekom executives Elek Straub, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai planned to challenge the SEC’s charges against them.  Earlier this week, the defendants filed this memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss.

In summary fashion, the memorandum states as follows.

“There are several bases for dismissing the complaint.

 First, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The complaint alleges conduct by foreign national defendants that occurred wholly outside, and with no nexus to, the United States. Nowhere does the complaint allege that defendants purposefully directed their conduct at the United States. Following constitutional due process principles, the defendants lack the requisite minimum contacts with the forum, and it would be inconsistent with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice to require them to defend this action in the United States. Indeed, the SEC has acknowledged that its jurisdictional position lacks precedent “on all fours factually” and “may be breaking new ground[.]“

“Second, the SEC’s claims are time-barred [...]  There is no doubt that the complaint was filed outside the five-year period. Specifically, the complaint was filed on December 29, 2011, more than five years after all three defendants had left Magyar Telekom, and more than five years after the alleged conduct occurred. Consequently, the five-year period has expired.”

“Third, with regard to the remaining claims, the complaint fails to adequately state the claims alleged. More specifically, the complaint: (i) fails to adequately plead that the defendants corruptly made use of interstate commerce, as is required to state a claim for bribery and the claims stemming from the alleged bribery under the FCPA (books and records and internal controls violations, falsifying books and records, and lying to auditors); (ii) fails to adequately plead that the intended payment recipients were “foreign official[s]” under the FCPA; (iii) fails to allege sufficient facts supporting the aiding and abetting claims; and (iv) fails to meet the heightened pleading requirements under Rule 9, including allegations of individualized culpable conduct by each defendant. The complaint also merely parrots the statutory language and fails to allege that the defendants profited personally from any of the alleged conduct. For all these reasons, the complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.”

As to “foreign official” the motion states that the complaint’s reference to “officials” “government officials” and other vague allegations represent “mere legal conclusions that the recipients were “foreign officials” under the FCPA.  The motion states as follows.  “A legal conclusion couched as a ‘factual allegation’ is insufficient to establish the essential element that the intended recipient be a foreign official.  Repeated references to “government officials” without underlying facts presents nothing ‘more than labels and conclusions’ that constitute ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.”"

Indeed, in my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (here) I noted the frequency in which enforcement agency FCPA pleadings “contain little more than uninformative, bare-bones statement of facts replete with legal conclusions.”  I said that the “most common and troubling use of bare-bones, uninformative, legal conclusory statements of facts or allegations is when the enforcement agencies describe the ‘foreign officials’ involved in the alleged conduct giving rising to the FCPA violation.”  In the article, I noted that because there is generally no threat that these bare-boned, uninformative facts or legal conclusions will ever be subject to meaningful judicial scrutiny, that the enforcement agencies get away with such practices.

At least until recently.

Noticeable Lack of FCPA Charges

Numerous FCPA enforcement actions have been based on allegations of payments to foreign customs personnel in connection with customs, license, permit type issues.

Thus, the lack of FCPA charges were noticeable in the DOJ’s recent criminal indictment of APEGO Inc., and various of is employees and agents.  As noted in this recent DOJ Release (N.D. of Georgia), charges were filed alleging conspiracy and twelve counts of importing notebooks and filler paper from China using false  documents.

The indictment (here) includes the following allegations.

“It was further part of the conspiracy that [certain individuals] paid bribes to Taiwanese customs officials on behalf of defendants APEGO and Gung to allow U.S.-bound lined paper products made by the Watanabe Group in China but lacking required country of origin labels, or mislabeled ‘Made in Taiwan,’ to enter Taiwan from China and clear Taiwanese customs.”

Elsewhere, the indictment alleges: (i) that in December 2006 various bribes were paid to Taiwanese customs officials which “allowed defendant APEGO to transship these products from Taiwan to the United States more quickly and less expensively by limiting the need to ‘rework’ the products and cartons (i.e. relable ‘Made in Taiwan’) in Taiwan”; (ii) that in March 2007 when customs officials at a certain Taiwan port no longer accepted bribes, the company arranged for its shipments to be processed through another port in a different part of the country where bribes were paid for the same purpose

Recent Disclosures


Owens-Illinois, Inc. (an Ohio based company that describes itself as the world’s largest glass container manufacturer and preferred partner for many of the world’s leading food and beverage brands) recently disclosed as follows.

“The Company is conducting an internal investigation into conduct in certain of its overseas operations that may have violated the antibribery provisions of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, the Company’s own internal policies, and various local laws. In October 2012, the Company voluntarily disclosed these matters to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Company intends to cooperate with any investigation by the DOJ and the SEC. The Company is presently unable to predict the duration, scope or result of its internal investigation, of any investigations by the DOJ or the SEC or whether either agency will commence any legal action. The DOJ and the SEC have a broad range of civil and criminal sanctions under the FCPA and other laws and regulations including, but not limited to, injunctive relief, disgorgement, fines, penalties, and modifications to business practices. The Company also could be subject to investigation and sanctions outside the United States. While the Company is currently unable to quantify the impact of any potential sanctions or remedial measures, it does not expect such actions will have a material adverse effect on the Company’s liquidity, results of operations or financial condition.”

Given the recent FCPA scrutiny of the beverage industry (Diageo, Beam Inc., and Central European Distribution Company) one might wonder whether Owens-Illinois’s recent disclosure is connected to those developments.


This previous post detailed how Barclays PLC’s relationship with Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund was under scrutiny by U.K. authorities.

The company recently disclosed (here) as follows.  “Subsequent to reporting the investigations of the Financial Services Authority and Serious Fraud Office in July and August 2012 respectively, Barclays has been informed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that they are undertaking an investigation into whether the Group’s relationships with third parties who assist Barclays to win or retain business are compliant with the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Barclays is investigating and fully co-operating with the DOJ and SEC.”

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, the focus is “on Barclay’s use of external brokers who facilitated meetings between bank officials and powerful Middle Eastern families.”  The article further notes that “Barclays recently started conducting an internal investigation, with the help of an outside law firm, to figure out whether it or its Middle Eastern introducers might have run afoul” of the FCPA.


The company recently disclosed as follows.

“In 2007, Schlumberger received an inquiry from the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) related to the DOJ’s investigation of whether certain freight forwarding and customs clearance services of Panalpina, Inc., and other companies provided to oil and oilfield service companies, including Schlumberger, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In October 2012, Schlumberger was advised by the DOJ that it has closed its inquiry as it relates to Schlumberger.”

For more on the numerous Panalpina-related enforcement actions – what I’ve termed CustomsGate – see here.

The company’s recent disclosure would seem not to address the issues previously the focus of a front-page Wall Street Journal article in October 2010 concerning alleged conduct in Yemen.  (See here for the prior post).


In this recent Reuters article, current SEC FCPA Unit Chief Kara Brockmeyer stated as follows.

“I would hate to think the companies view [FCPA] enforcement actions as the cost of doing business.  If we find that out, it will certainly increase the size of the penalty.”

One thing that is becoming increasingly clear in this new era of FCPA enforcement is that investors do appear to view FCPA scrutiny and enforcement actions as a cost of doing business and akin to a regulatory violation.

The Reuters article also stated that there has yet to be a repeat FCPA prosecution.  This is a false statement.  Companies that have resolved more than one FCPA enforcement action over time include: Tyco, ABB, Baker Hughes and General Electric.


On his Corruption, Crime & Compliance site (here) Michael Volkov recently observed as follows.

“The FCPA Paparazzi has done a great disservice to the business community.  Call it a complete lack of credibility.  Legal marketing has become confused in this day and age – marketing has now been turned into the “Fear Factor,” meaning that lawyers need to scare potential clients into hiring them.  That is flat out wrong.   Each week, new client alerts, client warnings and other cries of impending disaster are transmitted through the Internet to businesses.  If I were a general counsel, I would have them on “auto delete.”  Talk about a waste of time and effort.”

What’s Up With That Investigation?

One of the many FCPA industry sweeps reportedly underway concerns Hollywood movie industry in China.  (See here for the prior post).  This recent post on the New York Times Media Decoder blog highlights the “powerful gatekeeper of China’s rapidly growing film world, the China Film Group chairman Han Sanping who was recently in the U.S. to receive a China Entertainment Visionary of the Year award, and asks what’s up with the investigation.

I Hear You Travel Alot

My frequent searches for FCPA content often turn up interesting content.  Such as this thread from which asks what type of attorneys get to travel the most?  One response was as follows.   ”From what I hear, FCPA is the way to go for travel to other countries because you have lots of interviews of foreign employees.”

The FCPA is certainly the reason for the majority of stamps in my passport.


Alexandra Wrage (President of Trace International) made some observations recently in her Corporate Counsel column (here) about FCPA enforcement in various Presidential administrations.  While interesting to think about, the actual stats have little substantive value.  Instances of FCPA scrutiny tend to last between 2-4 years (and thus straddle administrations) and various instances of FCPA scrutiny (for instance Pfizer) can last approximately 8 years.  Moreover, rather than “aggressively enforce the FCPA,” as the article notes, what the enforcement agencies more often than not actually do (as evidenced by statistics demonstrating which enforcement actions resulted from voluntary disclosures) is process corporate voluntary disclosures.

There’s An App for That

Law firm O’Melveny & Myers announced (here) the “launch of its FCPA app, the first multi-functional mobile application (app) created by a law firm.”  Richard Grime, partner and head of O’Melveny’s FCPA practice stated as follows.  “We understand the complexities our clients and colleagues face in achieving their business goals in the global marketplace, and thus, have created this mobile application as a fast, yet informative, way for them to remain current with the evolving statutes and provisions imposed by the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws.”

Weekend Reading

Sidley & Austin recently released its Anti-Corruption Quarterly (here).  Among other articles is one focused on the new “sheriff in town.”

The article states as follows.

“Investigating potential violations of the FCPA historically has been the purview of the SEC and the DOJ, but recently, Congress has entered the fray. Two House committees, the House Oversight and House Energy committees, recently instituted an independent FCPA investigation of Wal-Mart, after a New York Times article reported on an alleged massive bribery campaign at Wal-Mart’s Mexican affiliate. These House investigations mean that companies now have to consider the possibility of facing a congressional investigation—in addition to investigations by the SEC and the DOJ—when FCPA violations have occurred.”

The article further states as follows.

“Although congressional committees routinely investigate companies, the current congressional investigation into Wal-Mart is the first investigation in the FCPA context and it may signal the beginning of a trend: high-profile companies or companies that are drawn into political fights (often unwillingly) may find themselves the target of a congressional inquiry if their FCPA problems become public. Whatever effect the congressional investigation may have on Wal-Mart, the possibility of such an investigation is a factor that high-profile companies facing FCPA concerns should weigh.”

For more on Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny, see my recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement As Seen Through Wal-Mart’s Potential Exposure” (here).

Miller Chevalier also recently released its FCPA Autumn Review – see here.

Morrison Foerster also recently released its End of Summer Round-Up – see here.

This recent Jones Day publication concerning upcoming FCPA Guidance contains the following paragraph that should be read by those who simply label companies that have resolved FCPA enforcement actions or are the subject of FCPA scrutiny as bad or corrupt companies.

“It is the job of a prosecutor to make charging decisions and to decide in the first instance what does and does not violate the law. As prosecutors and enforcement attorneys assess the facts to make charging decisions, they are compelled to view the world, therefore, in binary terms: black and white, right and wrong. As defense counsel, settlement discussions with our counterparts in the DOJ and SEC frequently hinge on which side of the line the conduct sits. Particularly for those of us who served as prosecutors, we acknowledge in these discussions the difficult mission of the enforcement officials to draw and defend lines. The world of business, however, frequently operates in territory that is somewhat grey: a world in which business persons strive to grow the company ethically in situations where the application of the existing rules are not entirely clear. For instance, in the current era of FCPA enforcement, international businesses struggle with their responsibilities to monitor and control the conduct of third parties with whom they do business: distributors and sub-distributors, joint venture partners, dealers, and resellers. Even for companies that are firmly dedicated to compliance with the FCPA, is not always clear when a third party amounts to an agent whose improper conduct might someday be ascribed to the company and its employees. Good and ethical companies struggle, every day, with the concept of defining an agent of the company as opposed to an independent customer who engages in an arm’s-length transaction to purchase the company’s products.”

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, August 24th, 2012

The sting may be over but it effects are not, Orthofix information unsealed, checking in on Wal-Mart, a pipeline report, a safe assumption, and the alternative reality.   It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Stung By The Sting

The manufactured Africa Sting case may be over, but it effects are still being felt.

Allied Defense Group (“ADG”) employed Mark Frederick Morales, one of the individuals charged in the case.  The company stated in its recent quarterly filing (here) as follows.

“In February and March, 2012, the DOJ dismissed charges against all individuals indicted in the FCPA sting operation, including the former employee of MECAR USA. Since this time, the Company’s FCPA counsel has had several discussions with the DOJ and SEC regarding the agencies’ respective inquiries. Based upon these discussions, it appears likely that resolution of these inquiries will involve a payment by the Company to at least one of these government agencies in connection with at least one transaction involving the former employee of Mecar USA. At this point, the amount of this payment is undeterminable.”

As noted in this previous post, in January 2010, ADG agreed to be acquired by Chemring Group PLC.

Another publicly traded company that employed an Africa Sting defendant, Amaro Goncalves, is Smith & Wesson.  The company disclosed in its most recent quarterly filing (here) as follows.

“On February 21, 2012, the DOJ filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice the indictments of the remaining defendants who are pending trial, including our former Vice President-Sales, International & U.S. Law Enforcement. On February 24, 2012, the district court granted the motion to dismiss. We cannot predict, however, when the investigation will be completed or its final outcome. There could be additional indictments of our company, our officers, or our employees. If the DOJ determines that we violated FCPA laws, we may face sanctions, including significant civil and criminal penalties. In addition, we could be prevented from bidding on domestic military and government contracts and could risk debarment by the U.S. Department of State. We also face increased legal expenses and could see an increase in the cost of doing international business. We could also see private civil litigation arising as a result of the outcome of the investigation. In addition, responding to the investigation may divert the time and attention of our management from normal business operations. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the publicity surrounding the investigation and the potential risks associated with the investigation could negatively impact the perception of our company by investors, customers, and others.”

Even though the individual Africa Sting cases are over, the case provided a point of entry into several companies and an entire industry and its effects are still being felt as demonstrated by the above disclosures.


This previous post discussed the July enforcement action against Orthofix International.  As noted in the post, the specifics of the DOJ’s allegations were not known as the information against Orthofix was filed under seal.  The information (here) was recently unsealed.  In summary fashion, the DOJ alleged as follows under the heading “corrupt conduct.”  “From [2003 through March 2010], with the knowledge of Orthofix Executive A [a citizen of Peru and legal permanent resident in the U.S. who was a senior manager of Orthofix Inc. (an indirectly wholly owned subsidiary) and responsible for sales operations in Latin America], Promeca [an entity incorporated and headquartered in Mexico and an indirectly wholly owned subsidiary of Orthofix International] and its employees paid approximately $300,000 to Mexican officials, in return for agreements with IMSS and its hospitals to purchase millions of dollars in Orthofix International products.”

IMSS is a social service agency of the Mexican government that provided public services to Mexican workers and their families and the Mexican Officials identified in the information are as follows.

Mexican Official 1 – a deputy administrator of Magdelena de las Salinas (a hospital in Mexico City that IMSS owned and controlled)

Mexican Official 2 – the purchasing director of Magdelena de las Salinas

Mexican Official 3  – the purchasing director of Lomas Verdes (a hospital in the State of Mexico that IMSS owned and controlled)

Mexican Official 4 – a sub-director of IMSS

According to the information, “Executive A knew of the payments and things of value [provided to the Mexican Officials] but failed to stop the scheme or report the scheme to Orthofix Interntional or Orthofix’s Inc.’s compliance department.”

Under the heading “Internal Controls” the information alleges, among other things, as follows.  “Orthofix International,which grew its direct distribution footprint in part by purchasing existing companies, often in high-risk markets, failed to engage in any serious form of corruption-related diligence before it purchased Promeca.  Although Orthofix International promulgated its own anti-corruption policy, that policy was neither translated into Spanish nor implemented at Promeca.  Orthofix International failed to provide any FCPA-related traning to many of its personnel, including Executive A.  Orthofix also failed to train Promeca personnel for years on the FCPA, to test regularly or audit particular transactions, or to ensure that subsidiary maintained controls sufficient to detect, deter or prevent illicit payments to government officials.”

The information charges one count of violating the FCPA’s internal control provisions.

Checking In On Wal-Mart

During the media feeding frenzy after the New York Times Wal-Mart article (see here for the prior post), I had the pleasure to appear on Eliot Spitzer’s Viewpoint program on Current TV.  At the end of the segment, after the substantive issues were discussed, Spitzer offered that he has several contacts in the FCPA bar and that, regardless of the substantive issues involved in Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny or the ultimate outcome, lots of lawyers were poised to make lots of money.

Spitzer of course was right.

During its second quarter earnings call (see here for the transcript) Wal-Mart executives stated as follows.   ”Within core corporate, we incurred approximately $34 million in expenses related to third-party advisors reviewing matters involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and we expect these expenses to continue through the rest of the year.”  Later in the call, the following was said.  “We also expect to incur approximately $35 to $40 million in expenses for the review of matters relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act during each of the remaining quarters for this fiscal year.”

In other news, on the civil litigation front, as noted in this Reuters article “an Indiana union pension fund that owns shares in Wal-Mart Stores Inc has sued the company to gain access to thousands of internal documents related to allegations that a Wal-Mart subsidiary bribed Mexican government officials.”  According to the report, the lawsuit, filed in Delaware’s Chancery Court, alleges the “company had made a ‘woefully deficient’ production of documents following an earlier out-of-court demand and that hat documents were produced were ‘so heavily redacted,’ or blacked out, they were nearly worthless.”

Turning to Capital Hill, several prior posts have chronicled efforts by Representative Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman to conduct a shadow investigation of Wal-Mart in the aftermath of the New York Times article (see here for the previous post).  As indicated in this recent press release and this recent letter the lawmakers are growing impatient.  In pertinent part, the letter to Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke stated as follows.

“We are writing to give you a final opportunity to respond to our requests for information about allegations that your company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Although you have stated on multiple occasions that you intend to cooperate with our investigation, you have failed to provide the documents we requested, and you continue to deny us access to key witnesses. Your actions are preventing us from assessing the thoroughness of your internal investigation and from identifying potential remedial actions.

During the course of our investigation, we have learned that Wal-Mart’s concerns about potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are not limited to operations in Mexico, but are global in nature. Your outside counsel informed us that, before allegations of bribery in Mexico became public, Wal-Mart retained attorneys to conduct a broad review of the company’s anti-corruption policies. This review identified five “first tier” countries “where risk was the greatest.” Wal-Mart then conducted a worldwide assessment of the company’s anti-corruption policies, culminating in a series of recommendations and policy changes based on those findings.

In addition, we have obtained internal company documents, including internal audit reports, from other sources suggesting that Wal-Mart may have had compliance issues relating not only to bribery, but also to “questionable financial behavior” including tax evasion and money laundering in Mexico.”

Pipeline Report

Add NCR Corporation and Expro International to the list of companies under FCPA scrutiny.


Global technology company NCR Corp. recently disclosed here as follows.

“NCR has received anonymous allegations from a purported whistleblower regarding certain aspects of the Company’s business practices in China, the Middle East and Africa, including allegations which, if true, might constitute violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  NCR has certain concerns about the motivation of the purported whistleblower and the accuracy of the allegations it received, some of which appear to be untrue.  NCR takes all allegations of this sort seriously and promptly retained experienced outside counsel and began an internal investigation that is ongoing. NCR does not comment on ongoing internal investigations.  Certain of the allegations relate to NCR’s business in Syria. NCR has ceased operations in Syria, which were commercially insignificant, notified the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of potential apparent violations and is taking other measures consistent with OFAC guidelines.”
Based on the disclosure, an analyst downgraded NCR stock (see here) causing shares to drop approximately 10%.
As reported in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, Expro International (an oil field management company owned by a Goldman Sachs-backed private equity consortium) “is re-investigating claims that its employees paid bribes in Kazakhstan.”  The report states as follows.  “Expro International and the consortium, Umbrellastream, received allegations from an anonymous tipster in May that two of Expro’s former operations coordinators in Western Kazakhstan oversaw and approved bribes to customs officials there from 2006 until summer 2009, according to an email reviewed by Corruption Currents. The alleged bribes were paid to clear Expro’s equipment through customs to avoid costly delays, the tipster said.  The allegations have sparked an internal investigation by Expro’s lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP into the claims, according to another email. But it appears the investigation is not the first time Expro has scrutinized its operations in Kazakhstan.”
Add a few, but take one off.
As noted in this recent Friday roundup, Academi, Inc., formerly known as Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater recently resolved a non-FCPA case and the DPA specifically stated that the agreement “does not apply to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation independently under investigation by the DOJ.”  As noted in this previous post, Blackwater has been under investigation for FCPA violations in Iraq and as noted in this previous post, its FCPA scrutiny in Iraq inspired Representative Peter Welch to introduce H.R. 5366, the “Overseas Contractor Reform Act,” an impotent debarment bill that passed the House in September 2010 (see here).
However, as on-line news agency Main Justice reports here, reference to the FCPA investigation in the recent DPA appears to have been a drafting error.  Citing a July 19th letter to the company, Main Justice reports that the DOJ has closed its “foreign bribery inquiry” of the company.  Main Justice cites the following portion of the declination letter.  “[The DOJ has closed its inquiry] based on a number of factors, including but not limited to, the investigation undertaken by Academi and the steps taken by the company to enhance its anti-corruption compliance program.”
A Safe Assumption

This previous post regarding the recent Pfizer enforcement action raised the following question(s).

Does anyone truly believe that the only reason Chinese doctors prescribed Pfizer products was because under the “point programs” the physician would receive a tea set?  Does anyone truly believe that the only reason Czech doctors prescribed Pfizer products was because the company sponsored educational weekend took place at an Austrian ski resort?  Does anyone truly believe that the only reason Pakistani doctors offered Wyeth nutritional products to new mothers was because the company provided office equipment to the physicians?

The questions were asked in the context of disgorgement remedies, but can also be asked in the context of product safety.  One can safely assume that if the enforcement agencies had any evidence to suggest that the products at issue jeopardized public safety, the enforcement agencies would have alleged such facts, as they occasionally do in FCPA enforcement actions (see Innospec for instance).

The absence of such allegations make this recent article by Online Pharmacy Safety foolishly speculative.  The article states as follows.

“[The conduct at issue in the enforcement action] puts the safety of consumers at risk.   If large companies are able to bribe their way to getting more business, and anticipate government officials to turn a blind eye, the wrong products could be getting into the hands of consumers worldwide.  The Pfizer products approved by foreign governments and prescribed by doctors may not have been the best product available, which could endanger consumers. Doctors put selfishness at the expense of patients, and the company was putting profits ahead of its public safety.”

Alternative Reality

Harvey Silverglate (author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent) hit the ball out of the park with this recent Wall Street Jouranl op-ed.  Referring to the recent Gibson Guitar Lacey Act enforcement action and how the resolution documents muzzle the company (as is typical in FCPA NPAs and DPAs), Silverglate wrote as follows.

“Through these and myriad other techniques, federal investigator and prosecutors create an alternative reality that favors their own institutional interests, regardless of the truth or of justce.  All citizens and companies become subject to the Justice Department’s essentially unfettered power.  Remedying this problem cannot be left to the victims of this governmental extortion, because their risks are too high if they fight; nor will their lawyers likely blow the whistle, since the bar makes a tidy living by playing the game.  It is up to the rest of civil society to let the Justice Department emperor know that we see he is not wearing clothes.”


A good weekend to all.

Politically-Speaking Is The FCPA Doomed In The Next Five To Seven Years?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Today’s post is from is Rajat Soni who recently started a new website FCPA World Monitor.  If you do not currently read FCPA World Monitor you should consider adding it to your list.  Soni has a nice style and an informed perspective on the issues.


Politically-Speaking is the FCPA Doomed in the Next Five to Seven Years?

One of the best aspects of studying and writing about the FCPA is the large amount of thoughtful scholarship examining the various twists and turns in the statute.  Given its open-ended use of terms like “foreign official”, “instrumentality” and “obtain or retain business” the FCPA has always been fertile ground for statutory stargazers and those seeking law review article topics.  Indeed, a ready source of information comes from the wide body of legal scholarship providing up to the minute assessments of cases and investigations with an eye toward predicting (or perhaps astrologically guessing) the future course of litigation.

A funny feature of the academic scholarship (and law firm newsletters) is that almost every article begins with a recitation of the history of the statute.  I suppose its great for the newly initiated and it can also be interesting when pondering specific issues.  But for regular commentators and practitioners, the introduction to the statute almost feels as well-known and predictable as the preamble of the Constitution.  To wit:  (i) the statute was born out of a corollary to the Watergate scandal, (ii) Congress was appalled that hundreds of companies were paying millions of dollars of bribes and doing so via off-the-books slush funds, (iii) Congress was concerned in particular about Lockheed Martin which was receiving corporate welfare assistance at the same time it was paying foreign bribes.

I’ve read various iterations of the phrase “Watergate inspired statute” lines in literally dozens of articles.  But then I stopped for a moment and thought about the historic and literally unprecedented times out of which the FCPA was born.   Watergate is so cliched and barren of meaning today that its hard to remember it was a real event.  Well maybe “full-blown constitutional crisis” is a better term.  It has no equal in historical precedent in the last forty years (sorry, Whitewater land deals don’t cut it.)   So I was playing a bit of a thought game as I perused the various political blogs lately.  Can you imagine the current Congress passing the FCPA? I laughed when I thought about it.  They can’t pass a budget, a debt ceiling extension or even routine funding bills.   There is absolutely, positively no way today’s Congress would ever pass the FCPA, given the strength of the business lobby (such as the Chamber of Commerce and ALEC, although the latter is focused on state legislatures), the current economic malaise, and the general inability to move any legislation.

Following Citizens United, the very targets of the FCPA, large multi-national corporations, can now donate unlimited funds.  Who do you think Charles and David Koch think should decide whether a bribe is paid: the free market or prosecutors?  I have a guess.  Before we get too far along, your politics can be whatever you want them to be.  I am not here to argue pro or against one party or the other. I am simply asking, is the statute really that safe looking at politics as it is today.   There are many people on both sides of the aisle who are troubled by the FCPA regime as it is today.  And Democrats can be as corporation-friendly as Republicans.

Today’s Republicans, which are more in line with Barry Goldwater, really love corporations and really hate perceived government overreach (particularly if it is aimed corporations). I  have a hard time seeing today’s politicians rejecting the common business position at the time the FCPA was being debated that businesses paying bribes were already victims because they are coerced into going along with the schemes.  I also think Republicans are more open to blaming the corrupt foreign countries and their toxic political and business environments, rather than the corporations themselves.  For example, who do you think Republicans would like to punish more for FCPA violations in China:  errant US companies or the Chinese?  Right now, the FCPA punishes the companies quite severely.

So when will the FCPA erode?  If you play political guessing games, you can still come up with the same 5 to 7 year timeline.  Let’s assume President Obama wins reelection (whether or not you support him).  In that case, Congress will most likely continue to tip to the GOP (even the Senate could fall in 2014).  Republicans will be motivated to continue holding Congress to keep a check on a Democratic White House.  This means Congressional committees will be run by the GOP. With GOP committees friendly to business interests, I would be utterly unsurprised to see FCPA reform become a key business issue. Indeed, if the reform is framed as eliminating the punishment of US companies abroad while also curtailing “business uncertainty” it will fit within a broader GOP narrative, especially as our inevitably anemic recovery continues to putter along.

If President Romney takes office in January 2013, and Congress holds in its current configuration, two things will happen.  First, President Romney will just shut down the vigorous FCPA enforcement regime in the DOJ and SEC.  Since so much of the FCPA’s teeth is simply the government’s enforcement posture, FCPA enforcement may simply die by neglect.  Marching orders will change drastically as President Romney certainly won’t tolerate the DOJ hauling CEOs to the dock.  Second, if the GOP holds the House, tips the Senate and gets the White House, the statute could be amended and have additional defenses added, narrowed definitions, and perhaps even smaller penalties. One final point, if Romney loses, then a GOP-led White House is almost assured for 2016. The race will be wide-open but the nation will be ready to flip the Oval Office to the party out of power, and Republicans will be highly motivated to take back the executive branch.  In which case, the same curtailment discussed here will occur in 2017 instead of 2013.

In conclusion, right now it is common and accepted wisdom to say that FCPA enforcement is vigorous and getting even more so.  But that’s part of the sales pitch for FCPA, Inc.  I’m not saying that there isn’t truth or hard numbers to back the claims.  Rather, law firms, forensic firms, discovery consultants and accountants do themselves no particular good to downplay the FCPA.  But remember that Watergate was a political earthquake in America. The GOP was literally at its weakest and most humbled point in the last seventy years.  It is in this environment that the statute took flight.   In that sense, the FCPA probably could not have been born at any other time, and certainly not today (like it’s transatlantic cousin the UK Bribery Act.)

Again, it doesn’t really matter if you are a Republican or Democrat or Independent.  More likely than not, in the near future, the FCPA is going to become one more political football tossed about between the parties.  That means its robust future is not as certain as it might seem today.

Friday Roundup

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Out with the tide, a former DOJ Fraud Section Chief speaks on voluntary disclosure, guidance issues, will candy fall from the pinata, schooled in the FCPA, a Section 1504 development, and “Minegolia.”

Tidewater Derivative Complaint Dismissed

As highlighted in this previous post, in November 2010 Tidewater Inc. was one of several companies to resolve a ”CustomsGate” case.  The conduct at issue focused on Azeri tax officials and Nigerian temporary import permits and the company resolved DOJ and SEC enforcement actions by agreeing to pay $15.7 million in fines and penalties.

As if on cue in this new era of FCPA enforcement, along came the private plaintiff firms representing shareholders who filed a derivative complaint alleging that officers and members of the Board of Directors of Tidewater breached their fiduciary duties “in that they: (1) knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that employees, representatives, agents and/or contractors were paying, had paid and/or had offered to pay bribes to Azerbaijani and Nigerian government officials to obtain favorable treatment for Tidewater; (2) caused Tidewater to pay bribes and to disguise the bribe payments as legitimate expenses in Tidewater’s books and financial disclosures; and (3) failed to maintain adequate internal controls to ensure compliance with the FCPA and Exchange Act.”

Earlier this week, the case was swept out with the tide as U.S. District Court Judge Jane Triche Milazzo dismissed the complaint – see here for the decision.  In short, Judge Milazzo found that “Plaintiff did not adequately plead demand futility.”  Judge Milazzo utilized various tests in reaching her decision such as director interest and independence and whether the board could impartially consider the merits of the demand without being influenced by improper considerations.

As to interest, Judge Milazzo stated as follows.

“This Court finds that the Complaint is completely devoid of any allegations of an interested director. There is no allegation that any director appeared on both sides of a transaction or expected to derive a personal financial benefit from it. Nowhere in the Complaint can it be found that any one of the directors, much the less a majority of them, benefitted from the bribes themselves, benefitted from failing to establish and maintain adequate internal controls, benefitted from enforcing policies and programs designed to prevent violations, benefitted from improperly recorded payment of bribes in Tidewater’s books and records or benefitted from inadequately training their employees, agents, representatives and/or contractors with respect to compliance with the FCPA.”

As to alleged director participation or knowledge , Judge Milazzo stated that the ”Complaint falls woefully short of pleading facts that are sufficient to show that there was any knowledge or conscious disregard on behalf of the directors.”

As to whether the directors exhibited bad faith sufficient to overcome business judgment rule presumptions, Judge Milazzo stated as follows.  “While Plaintiff’s allegations are sufficient to show that Tidewater was evidently violating both the FCPA and the Exchange Act, nowhere in the Complaint do Plaintiff’s allegations meet the specificity to show that the Individual Defendants were acting with the intent to violate these laws.  ‘[T]he mere fact that a violation occurred does not demonstrate that the board acted in bad faith.  Alleging that ‘upon information and belief’ the ‘Headquarters’ made the decision to avoid tax assessments in violation of the FCPA falls woefully short of the pleading requirements. Nowhere can this Court find who made this decision, how this decision was made or that there was an intent to violate any law. Moreover, the Court finds it significant that Tidewater’s directors voted and voluntarily initiated an FCPA investigation and advised the federal government of their violations before the government even suspected any violations.”

Tyrell on Voluntary Disclosure

You know the talking points.  The DOJ wants companies to voluntarily disclose, not ifs, ands or buts about it.  It’s interesting though how this becomes less of a black and white issues when individuals leave the DOJ.

In this recent Q&A in The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, Steven Tyrell (a former DOJ Fraud Section Chief and current partner at Weil Gotshal – here) was asked the following question – “what is the role of voluntary reporting in establishing a good relationship with the regulatory and enforcement authorities?”

He stated as follows.

In the first instance, if a company has a legal obligation to disclose – for example, government contractors are obliged to disclose fraud – then the analysis begins and ends there. Assuming there is no legal obligation that compels disclosure or no imminent threat of disclosure by an outside party, such as a newspaper, then I typically advise clients to take credible allegations of wrongdoing seriously, look into those allegations in a manner that is appropriate under the circumstances, and assess the nature and extent of the company’s exposure and the pros and cons of disclosure. Then, and only then, should a disclosure be made if it is in the best interest of the company – or, for a public company, if the securities laws require it. Of course, it often will not be in a company’s best interest to disclose if, for example, the allegations prove not to be credible or if it is unclear whether the conduct even amounts to a violation of law. Under those circumstances, a disclosure could unnecessarily embroil the company in a lengthy and costly government investigation and result in other repercussions such as triggering civil litigation and harm to a company’s reputation that could otherwise be avoided. It’s a challenging calculus. I can tell you from past experience that there are companies that have strong reputations for compliance with regulators and others that do not. However, the fact that a company doesn’t disclose a problem that ultimately comes to DOJ’s attention is not necessarily going to damage the company’s credibility with DOJ. Regulators recognize that not every allegation should be of interest to them – and, frankly, having counsel that knows when they’ll be interested and when they won’t is really important.”

Guidance Issues

As highlighted in this previous post, soon after Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer announced in November 2011 that FCPA guidance would be forthcoming in 2012, Senator Grassley sought guidance on the guidance and asked Attorney General Holder several follow-up questions for the record.  For a copy of Holder’s responses, see here.

In this previous post, among others, I commented that non-binding DOJ guidance is not the best way to accomplish real and meaningful FCPA reform.

Thus, I completely agree with former DOJ Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger and former DOJ attorney and Senate counsel Matthew Miner (both currently at White & Case, see here and here) when they state as follows in this article.

“The fact that the Justice Department recognizes the need for such guidance underscores the existence of blurry lines and fuzzy standards surrounding the FCPA. US businesses trying to compete successfully in the international commercial arena deserve better. Justice Department ‘guidance’ is neither enough, nor is it properly the role of prosecutors to be definitive interpreters of ambiguities in criminal laws. Congress writes the laws and, as the US Supreme Court has firmly established, has a responsibility to set clear standards for what is permissible and what is not. It should not stand aside in deference to the Justice Department’s plan to craft guidance, especially when that guidance will have no effect in court.”

Yara Fertilizer

It has been said before that anytime a foreign company is the subject of a corruption probe, the U.S. enforcement agencies are like children at a birthday party waiting for some candy to fall from the pinata.  Think what you will of the analogy.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported (here) that “Norwegian fertilizer producer Yara International ASA’s chief executive, Jorgen Ole Haslestad, apologized Friday to the company’s employees after an investigation uncovered millions of dollars in ‘unacceptable’ payments in India and Switzerland, as well as ‘unacceptable offers of payments’ in Libya.”  According to the article, the “unacceptable offers of payments” in Libya involve “a consultant related to the establishment of the company Libyan Norwegian Fertilizer Co., or Lifeco, in Libya, a joint venture with the Libyan National Oil Corp. and the Libyan Investment Authority.”

As noted on the company’s website here, Yara ”has a sponsored Level 1 ADR program for American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), which represent ownership in shares of foreign (non-US) companies that trade on US financial markets.”  Whether foreign companies, including those with Level 1 ADR’s can become subject to the FCPA, see this excellent piece “When Does an ADR Program Give U.S. Authorities FCPA Jurisdiction Over a Foreign Issuer?”

Time will tell if the candy falls.

Checking in on Wynn Resorts

Previous posts here, here and here focused on the Wynn-Okada dispute including Wynn’s $135 million charitable contribution to the University of Macau.  On that topic, this recent Wall Street Journal article focused on the “web of political ties” between a Macau company paid by Wynn and government officials.  Regarding Wynn’s FCPA compliance in expanding in Macau, company CEO Steve Wynn stated as follows.  “This whole business of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act—we were schooled in this.”

Final grade is pending.

Section 1504 Development

Several prior posts, see here for example, discussed Section 1504 of Dodd-Frank, the so-called Resource Extraction Disclosure Provisions and the long delay in SEC final rules.  As noted in this Corruption Current post by Samuel Rubenfeld, the SEC recently announced here that on August 22nd, “the Commission will consider whether to adopt rules regarding disclosure and reporting obligations with respect to payments to governments made by resource extraction issuers to implement the requirements of Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.


There has been only one FCPA enforcement concerning, at least in part, business conduct in Mongolia (see here for the 2009 UTStarcom action).  This is hardly surprising, as few companies subject to the FCPA have traditionally engaged in business in the country.  However, as noted in this recent Al Jazerra article, Mongolia or “Minegolia” as the country is sometimes called, “is undergoing a rapid transformation, due to its incredible resource wealth in minerals such as coal, copper, and gold.” At the same time, the article notes that “Transparency International placed Mongolia 120th out of 183 nations on its corruption perception index” and that “90 percent of Mongolians believe politicians are benefitting from ‘special arrangements’ with foreign enterprises over mining rights.”


A good weekend to all.