A Friday roundup of recent FCPA events.
An FCPA Sentencing Trend?
As noted in yesterday’s DOJ release (here), two former executives of Willbros International Inc. (a subsidiary of Houston-based Willbros Group Inc.) were sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to make improper payments to “foreign officials” in Nigeria and Ecuador.
Jason Edward Steph was sentenced to 15 months in prison and Jim Bob Brown was sentenced to 366 days in prison.
The DOJ’s sentencing recommendations appear to be sealed, but one can assume, given the “light” sentences, that perhaps the DOJ likely sought sentences greater than those issued by District Court Judge Simeon Lake.
If so, this would appear to continue a trend of judges sentencing FCPA defendants to prison sentences less than those recommended by DOJ.
For instance, in Frederic Bourke case, a case which involved a “massive bribery scheme” according to DOJ, Judge Shira Scheindin rejected the 10-year prison sentence proposed by DOJ and sentenced Bourke to 366 days in prison. (see here). In sentencing Bourke, Judge Scheindin is reported to have said “after years of supervising this case, it’s still not entirely clear to me whether Mr. Bourke is a victim or a crok or a little bit of both.”
With several FCPA sentencing dates on the horizon, this apparent trend will be an issue to watch.
See here for local media coverage regarding the sentences.
Kozeny’s Tan Not in Jeopardy
While Bourke (see here) prepares his appeal, Viktor Kozeny, the alleged master-mind of the scheme to bribe officials in Azerbaijan in connection with privatization of the state-owned oil company, will be staying put in The Bahamas as an appellate court again rejected DOJ’s extradition attempts.
As noted in the recent Bahamian Court of Appeals decision (here), Kozeny, a Czech national, has been living in The Bahamas since 1995 and has not departed the country since 1999.
The opinion notes that there is no dispute “that there was a conspiracy to corrupt the Azeri officials and that such officials were paid money, given gifts and provided shares in certain companies under the control of [Kozeny] without payment; and had certain medical procedures paid for them by [Kozeny].
Even so, the court concluded that while The Bahamas did indeed have a bribery/corruption statute, it applied only to bribes within The Bahamas or given to a Bahamian public officer. Thus, because Kozeny’s conduct would not violate Bahamian law, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s denial of the extradition request.
According to these reports, the decision may be appealed to London’s Privy Council pursuant to Bahamian legal procedure. Kozeny’s U.S. lawyer is quoted as saying “enough is enough” and U.S. prosecutors should finally accept the fact that Kozney, a non-U.S. citizen, could not violate the FCPA as it existed in 1998 – the year in which the bribe scheme perhaps ended – although, as noted in the opinion, the U.S. alleges that the bribe scheme continued into 1999.
Why is this relevant?
Because the FCPA was amended in 1998 to include, among other provisions, 78dd-3 which applies the antibribery provisions to “any person” (i.e. foreigners) “while in the territory of the U.S.” from making use of the mails or any other means or instrumentality of interstate commerce in furtherance of an improper payment.
The SFO Continues to “Step-It-Up”
Today, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (the functional equivalent of the DOJ) issued a release (here) indicating that a former BAE agent has been charged with “conspiracy to corrupt” for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments [...] to unknown officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc.”
For local media coverage of the charges (see here).
With a new Bribery Bill expected in the U.K. by years end, the SFO continues to “step-it-up” (see here for more on the SFO).
Disclosing FCPA Compliance
Public companies dislose FCPA issues all the time. Rarely though do the disclosures concern issues other than internal investigations and potential enforcement actions.
Accordingly, two recent SEC filings caught my eye.
China MediaExpress Holdings, Inc. (a Delaware company) recently disclosed (here) that it:
“[e]ntered into a securities purchase agreement with Starr Investments Cayman II, Inc. Under this agreement, Starr will, subject to various terms and conditions, purchase from the Company 1,000,000 shares of Series A Convertible Preferred Stock and warrants to purchase 1,545,455 shares of the Common Stock of the Company for an aggregate purchase price of US$30,000,000.”
One of the conditions was that the company “shall have adopted a program with respect to compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” and a post-closing covenant obligates the company to “implement a program regarding compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act not later than April 30, 2010.”
“On January 25, 2010, the Board of Directors by unanimous vote approved three management proposed modifications to the Company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics. The modifications as approved by the Board include: (i) adding a section that addressed compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and International Anti-Bribery and Fair Competition Act of 1998.”
Costa Rica Joins the Club
Last, but certainly not least, Costa Rica recently announced a first … the first time a foreign corporation has paid the government damages for corruption.
As noted here, telecom company Alcatel-Lucent recently disclosed a $10 million payment to settle a corruption case in Costa Rica in which it was accused of paying kicbacks to former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez (and others government officials) in return for a 2001 contract worth $149 million.
There has been FCPA/corruption issues on both sides “of the hyphen” as noted here in this recent Main Justice article.
And with that, have a nice weekend.