Archive for the ‘Declination Decisions’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Contorted, interesting, deserving?, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

Contorted

One of the most contorted words in the FCPA vocabulary is “declination” (see here among other posts).

This K&L Gates report contains a useful summary of DOJ and SEC comments at a recent conference.  It states:

“Mr. Knox [DOJ Criminal Division Fraud Section Chief] stated that companies continue to request specific information regarding the Department’s declinations, but that it is the Department’s long-standing practice not to publish details of declinations without a company’s permission, which is rarely given.  According to Mr. Knox, however, over the last two years, the Department has declined to prosecute dozens of cases.  Notably, Mr. Knox stated that, aside from finding no evidence of criminal conduct, the Department may issue a declination when a case involves an isolated incident, the company had a strong compliance program, and the problem was remediated.”

Newsflash.

If the DOJ does not find evidence of criminal conduct and therefore does not bring a case, this is not a “declination,” it is what the law commands.

On the topic of voluntary disclosure, the K&L Gates report states:

“Mr. Cain [SEC FCPA Unit Deputy Chief] started by stating “there is no perfect compliance program;” therefore, companies will always have some “background issues” which need to be addressed, especially as business and risk profiles change.  Mr. Cain does not expect companies to disclose these “normative” problems; however, companies should disclose “significant problems.”  These “significant problems” are the types of issues which may end up being enforcement actions if the SEC learns of them through means other than self-disclosure.”

“Mr. Knox took the position that it would be “very reckless and foolish” for him “to try and draw a line between matters which should be self-disclosed and matters which shouldn’t.”  In making the decision of whether to self-disclose, he advised companies and counsel to apply “common sense” and ask whether this is “something that [the Department] would be interested in hearing about?”  According to Mr. Knox, if the answer to that question is “yes,” then the Department would “probably want [a company] to self-disclose it.”  Nonetheless, there are instances which are not worthy of self-disclosure because the conduct is “minor” and “isolated” or the allegation of wrongdoing is “much too vague.”  Mr. Knox advised companies to “be thoughtful” when making disclosure decisions and carefully document any decision not to disclose.”

If the above leaves you scratching your head, join the club.

Interesting

My article “Why You Should Be Alarmed by the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action” highlights how ADM and its shareholders were victims of a corrupt Ukrainian government in that the government refused to give ADM something even the DOJ and SEC acknowledged ADM was owed – VAT refunds.  Among other things, the article discusses how VAT refund refusals were well-known and frequently criticized prior to the ADM enforcement action in late 2013.

Fast forward to the present day and VAT refund refusals remain a problem in Ukraine.  Recently the International Monetary Fund issued this release concerning a potential aid package for Ukraine.  Among the conditions is that Ukraine  adopt “reforms to strengthen governance, enhance transparency, and improve the business climate” such as taking “measures to facilitate VAT refunds to businesses.”

Deserving?

Earlier this week, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) released this statement

“Kellogg Brown & Root LLC, Technip S.A. and JGC Corp. agree to pay the equivalent of US $17 million in financial penalties as part of Negotiated Resolution Agreements with the African Development Bank following admission of corrupt practices by affiliated companies in relation to the award of services contracts for liquefied natural gas production plants on Bonny Island, Nigeria, from 1995 until 2004.”

The Director of the AfDB’s Integrity and Anti-Corruption Department stated:

“This settlement demonstrates a strong commitment from the African Development Bank to ensure that development funds are used for their intended purpose.  At the same time, it is a clear signal to multinational companies that corrupt practices in Bank-financed projects will be aggressively investigated and severely sanctioned. These ground-breaking Negotiated Resolution Agreements substantially advance the Bank’s anti-corruption and governance agenda, a strategic priority of our institution.”

Pardon me for interrupting this feel good moment (i.e. a corporation paying money to a development bank), but why is AfDB deserving of any money from the companies?  As noted here, AfDB’s role in the Bonny Island project was relatively minor as numerous banks provided financing in connection with the project.  Moreover, as noted here, the AfDB “invested in the oil and gas sector through a USD 100 million loan to NLNG [Nigeria LNG Limited] to finance the expansion of a gas liquefaction plant located on Bonny Island.”

As alleged in the U.S. Bonny Island FCPA enforcement actions, the above-mentioned companies allegedly made corrupt payments to, among others, NLNG officials.  And for this, the specific companies paid $579 million (KBR, et al), $338 million Technip, and $219 million (JGC).

Why is the bank that loaned money to NLNG deserving of anything?  Is there any evidence to suggest that the $100 million given to NLNG was not used for its “intended purpose” of building the Bonny Island project?

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

SBM Offshore, Sweett Group, Citigroup, Cisco, and Societe Generale.

SBM Offshore

The Netherlands-based company (with ADRs traded in the U.S. that provides floating production solutions to the offshore energy industry) has been under FCPA scrutiny for approximately two years.  It recently issued this statement which states, in summary, as follows.

“SBM Offshore presents the findings of its internal investigation, which it started in the first quarter of 2012, as the investigators have completed their investigative activities. The investigation, which was carried out by independent external counsel and forensic accountants, focused on the use of agents over the period 2007 through 2011. In summary, the main findings are:

  • The Company paid approximately US$200 million in commissions to agents during that period of which the majority relate to three countries: US$18.8 million to Equatorial Guinea, US$22.7 million to Angola and US$139.1 million to Brazil;
  • In respect of Angola and Equatorial Guinea there is some evidence that payments may have been made directly or indirectly to government officials;
  • In respect of Brazil there were certain red flags but the investigation did not find any credible evidence that the Company or the Company’s agent made improper payments to government officials (including state company employees). Rather, the agent provided substantial and legitimate services in a market which is by far the largest for the Company;
  • The Company voluntarily reported its internal investigation to the Dutch Openbaar Ministerie and the US Department of Justice in April 2012. It is presently discussing the disclosure of its definitive findings with the Openbaar Ministerie, whilst simultaneously continuing its engagement with the US Department of Justice. New information could surface in the context of the review by these authorities or otherwise which has not come up in the internal investigation to date;
  • At this time, the Company is still not in a position to estimate the ultimate consequences, financial or otherwise, if any, of that review;
  • Since its appointment in the course of 2012 the Company’s new Management Board has taken extensive remedial measures in respect of people, procedures, compliance programs and organization in order to prevent any potential violations of applicable anti-corruption laws and regulations. Both it and the Company’s Supervisory Board remain committed to the Company conducting its business activities in an honest, ethical, respectful and professional manner.”

The SBM Offshore release contains a detailed description of the scope and methodology of its review, as well as remedial measures the company has undertaken.  For this reason, the full release is an instructive read.

Sweett Group

As noted in this prior post, in June 2013 Sweett Group Ltd. (a U.K. based construction company) was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article titled “Inside U.S. Firm’s Bribery Probe.” The focus of the article concerned the construction of a hospital in Morocco and allegations that the company would get the contract if money was paid to “an official inside the United Arab Emirates President’s personal foundation, which was funding the project.”

Earlier this week, the company issued this release which stated:

“[T]here have been further discussions with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the UK and initial discussions with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the USA.  The Group is cooperating with both bodies and no proceedings have so far been issued by either of them.  The Group has commissioned a further independent investigation which is being undertaken on its behalf by Mayer Brown LLP.  Whilst this investigation is at an early stage and is ongoing, to date still no conclusive evidence to support the original allegation has been found.  However, evidence has come to light that suggests that material instances of deception may have been perpetrated by a former employee or employees of the Group during the period 2009 – 2011.  These findings are being investigated further.”

Citigroup

When first discussing Citigroup’s “FCPA scrutiny” I noted the importance of understanding that the FCPA contains generic books and records and internal controls provisions that can be implicated in the absence of any FCPA anti-bribery issues. (See here for a prior post on this subject).  As highlighted in this recent New York Times Dealbook article, this appears to be what Citigroup’s scrutiny involves.  According to the article:

“Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation into a recent $400 million fraud involving Citigroup’s Mexican unit, according to people briefed on the matter …  The investigation, overseen by the FBI and prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, is focusing in part on whether holes in the bank’s internal controls contributed to the fraud in Mexico. The question for investigators is whether Citigroup — as other banks have been accused of doing in the context of money laundering — ignored warning signs.”

Cisco

BuzzFeed goes in-depth as to Cisco’s alleged conduct in Russia that has resulted in FCPA scrutiny for the company. The article states, in pertinent part:

“[T]he iconic American firm is facing a federal investigation for possible bribery violations on a massive scale in Russia. At the heart of the probe by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, sources tell BuzzFeed, are allegations that for years Cisco, after selling billions of dollars worth of routers, communications equipment, and networks to Russian companies and government entities, routed what may have amounted to tens of millions of dollars to offshore havens including Cyprus, Tortola, and Bermuda.”

“Two former Cisco insiders have described to BuzzFeed what they say was an elaborate kickback scheme that used intermediary companies and went on until 2011. And, they said, Cisco employees deliberately looked the other way.”

“No one is suggesting that Cisco bribed Russia’s top leaders. Instead, the investigation is centered on day-to-day kickbacks to officials who ran or helped run major state agencies or companies. Such kickbacks, according to the allegations, enabled the firm to dominate Russia’s market for IT infrastructure.”

“Last year, according to sources close to the investigation, a whistleblower came forward to the SEC, sketching out a vast otkat [kickback] scheme and providing documents as evidence.”

“The two former Cisco executives laid out for BuzzFeed how the alleged scheme worked:  In Cisco’s Russia operations, funds for kickbacks were built into the large discounts Cisco gave certain middleman distributors that were well-connected in Russia. The size of the discounts are head-turning, usually 35% to 40%, but sometimes as high as 68% percent off the list price.  And there was a catch: Instead of discounting equipment in the normal way, by lowering the price, parts of the discounts were often structured as rebates: Cisco sent money back to the middlemen after a sale. Some intermediaries were so close to the Russian companies and government agencies — Cisco’s end customers — that these intermediaries functioned as their agents. These middleman companies would direct the rebate money to be sent to bank accounts in offshore havens such as Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands, or Bermuda.”

According to the article, WilmerHale is conducting the internal investigation.

Societe Generale

Like other financial services company, Societe Generale has come under FCPA scrutiny for business dealings in Libya.  (See here for the prior post).  As noted in this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, in a U.K. lawsuit the Libyan Investment Authority has alleged that the company “paid a middleman $58 million in alleged bribes to secure almost $2 billion in business … during the final years of dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s rule.”

Reading Stack

The most recent issue of the always informative FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton contains a useful analysis of the DOJ’s recent opinion procedure release (see here for the prior post).  Among other things, the Update states:

“[W]hy did it take eight months for the DOJ to issue an Opinion which could have simply cited [a prior Opinion Release]? The delay does not appear to be related to the DOJ’s heavy workload or bureaucratic inertia, as “significant backup documentation” was provided and “several follow up discussions” took place during the eight months.”

*****

A good weekend to all.  On Wisconsin!

Congress Remains Interested In FCPA Issues

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Foreign Corrupt Practices reform may not be the hot issue it was circa 2011 (political posturing by the DOJ in connection with the FCPA Guidance as well as certain headlines caused the issue to simmer), but Congress remains interested in FCPA issues.

For instance, in connection with a recent confirmation hearing for Leslie Caldwell to be the DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Caldwell several FCPA-related questions for the record.

Caldwell punted on every question (perhaps not surprising given that Caldwell is not currently at the DOJ), but the questions posed nevertheless highlight specific FCPA issues on the minds of certain members of Congress.

Set forth in full below are the FCPA-related questions by Senator Grassley and Caldwell’s responses.

*****

“I recently asked Attorney General Holder these questions and have not yet received response.  As the FCPA falls within the Criminal Division, would you please respond to the following questions.

What are the Department’s current enforcement priorities under the FCPA?

Answer:  I am not in the Department; therefore, I am not in a position to address this question.  If I am confirmed as the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, I assure you that I will be vigilant in pursuing cases under the FCPA.

What particular industries, markets or practices is the Department focusing on, and why?

Answer:  I am not in the Department; therefore, I am not in a position to address this question.  As noted above, if I am confirmed as the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, I assure you that I will be vigilant in pursuing cases under the FCPA.

What proportion of the Department’s enforcement activity during 2013 involved non-U.S. companies?

Answer:  I am not in the Department; therefore, I am not in a position to address this question.  If I am confirmed as the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, I assure you that I will be vigilant in pursuing cases against U.S. and non-U.S. companies that violate the FCPA.

Has the Department seen a recent increase in whistleblower claims of FCPA violations?  If so, to what would you attribute that?  How has the Department responded?

Answer:  I am not in the Department; therefore, I am not in a position to address these questions.

Although the Department does not publicize each particular instance in which it declines prosecution despite evidence of an FCPA violation, what characterized the Department’s declinations during 2013?  Did the number increase from 2012?  What factors were most important in leading the Department to decline prosecution?

Answer:  I am not in the Department; therefore, I am not in a position to address these questions.  While I have not been privy to the internal deliberations surrounding the Department’s declination decisions, if confirmed as the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, I assure you that declination decisions will be based on the law and the evidence presented.

In November 2012, the Department and SEC issued the FCPA ”Resource Guide,” which reflected guidance from your agencies regarding the interpretation and enforcement of the FCPA.  Does the Department anticipate updating, supplementing or amending the “Resource Guide” in the foreseeable future?

Answer:  I am not in the Department; therefore, I am not in a position to address this question.

In 2013, the Department issued only one Opinion Release concerning the FCPA.  Does the Department consider the “Resource Guide” a substitute for its opinion release program?

Answer:  I am not in the Department; therefore, I am not in a position to address this question.

Friday Roundup

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Cisco’s discreet blog post, McDonald’s receives the “princeling” treatment, Avon update, further to the free-for-all, more candy, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Cisco’s Discreet Disclosure

There is not much that slips through the cracks when it comes to the FCPA space.

However, this December 23, 2013 Cisco blog post by a Vice President for Compliance Services under the discreet heading “The Importance of Ethics in Global Business” has not otherwise been reported.  The post states, after noting that “for the sixth time in as many years, the Ethisphere Institute honored Cisco by naming us to its list of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies,” as follows:

“Recently, at the request of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Department of Justice, Cisco began an investigation into our business activities and discounting practices in Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States in response to a communication those agencies had received. We are cooperating with the agencies and will fully share the results of our investigation with them. Despite the extensive investigation that we have undertaken thus far, we have found no basis to believe that Cisco’s activities are in violation of any law, and indeed the information we were provided does not allege wrongdoing by any of Cisco’s executive management. While this investigation is ongoing, we do not expect the outcome to have any material adverse effect on our business or operations.”

For a prior post concerning companies that have resolved FCPA enforcement actions or have otherwise been under FCPA scrutiny while at the same general time earning “world’s most ethical” company status see here.

McDonald’s

The word of the last six months would seem to be “princeling.”  In “princeling” updates:

This Wall Street Journal article “Vietnam Gets Its First McDonald’s” states:

“McDonald’s chose Henry Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American investor and the son-in-law of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, as its main franchise partner in the country.”

This Quartz article “McDonald’s Partnered with a Vietnamese Princeling”  notes:

“Partnering up with a well-connected member of one of Vietnam’s most prominent political families has raised remarkably few eyebrows for McDonald’s—especially given the growing scandal in China over investment banks that have done much the same thing.”

Among other things, the article notes:

“Nguyen, who also heads Vietnam’s Pizza Hut franchise business, worked hard for a decade to convince McDonald’s he was the right person for the partnership, he told Reuters last year. A McDonald’s spokeswoman said then, “His marriage did not preclude him for participating in what was a very competitive selection process.”

As noted in this prior post “Regarding Princelings and Family Members” there is nothing inherently illegal about hiring family members of alleged “foreign officials” and various DOJ FCPA Opinion Procedure Releases have blessed such arrangements.  Even so, several FCPA enforcement actions have been based, at least in part, on the hiring of family members of alleged “foreign officials” – see here.
Speaking of princelings, this Bloomberg article asks “If JPMorgan Has to Shun China’s Princelings, Shouldn’t Harvard?”

Avon

Avon has been under FCPA scrutiny since 2008 and disclosed yesterday as follows.

“The Company recorded an aggregate accrual related to the previously disclosed government Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) investigations of $89 million, or $0.20 per diluted share, within operating profit, of which $12 million was recorded in the second quarter. Based on the status of the Company’s current settlement negotiations with the DOJ and the staff of the SEC, including the level of monetary penalties being discussed, an additional $77 million was recorded in the fourth quarter, and the Company estimates the aggregate amount of any potential settlements with the government could exceed this accrual by up to approximately $43 million. There can be no assurance that the Company’s efforts to reach settlements with the government will be successful or, if they are, what the timing or terms of such settlements will be.”
During yesterday’s earnings conference call, Avon’s CEO stated:
“As you saw in our press release this morning, we’ve continued our discussions with that SEC and DOJ and we’ve made significant progress. Based on the status of our recent discussions, we believe that a reasonable range for settlement with both agencies would be $89 million to $132 million. Our discussions with the government are ongoing and differences remain, but the team is working hard in an effort to bring these matters to a close.”

Free-For-All

In my recent article “Why You Should Be Alarmed by the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action,” I noted that with increasing frequency in this new era of FCPA enforcement, it appears that the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have
transformed FCPA enforcement into a free-for-all in which any conduct the enforcement agencies find objectionable is fair game to extract a multimillion-dollar settlement from a risk-averse corporation.  In this post regarding the recent Alcoa enforcement action I noted that it was hard to square the enforcement action (the fourth largest FCPA enforcement action of all-time in terms of a settlement amount) when the alleged consultant at the center of the alleged bribery scheme was criminally charged by another law enforcement agency, put the law enforcement agency to its burden of proof at trial, and the law enforcement agency dismissed
the case because there was no ”realistic prospect of conviction.”

Further to the free-for-all, Wiley Rein attorneys Gregory Williams, Ralph Caccia and Richard Smith write here as follows.

“[I]t is remarkable that such a large monetary sanction was imposed when the criminal charges brought by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office against the consultant central to the alleged bribery scheme were dismissed on the grounds that there was no “realistic prospect of conviction.” Perhaps most striking, however, is the theory of parent corporate liability that the settlement reflects. Although there is no allegation that an Alcoa official participated in, or knew of, the improper payments made by its subsidiaries, the government held the parent corporation liable for FCPA anti-bribery violations under purported “agency” principles. Alcoa serves as an important marker in what appears to be a steady progression toward a strict liability FCPA regime.

[...]

Such an enforcement approach appears to abrogate basic tenets of corporate liability. A parent company is not liable for the acts of its subsidiary except when the companies disregard corporate formalities (alter ego theory) or when the subsidiary acts as the agent of the parent for a specific purpose.  For the latter, the parent is required to control the particular activity in question. The government’s new agency theory of enforcement represents an aggressive expansion of corporate liability, with significant the implications for parent companies both in terms of the compliance and potentially liability.”

For additional reading, see this recent post (“Dig into certain corporate Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions and it would appear that legal liability seems to hop, skip, and jump around a multinational company.  This of course would be inconceivable in other areas, such as contract liability, tort liability, etc. absent an “alter ego” / “piercing the veil” analysis for the simple reason that is what the black letter law commands”).

More Candy

Previous posts here and here have dispensed FCPA candy (that is year in reviews).  You can be tardy for the party, but still be included in the fun and set forth below are three additional worthwhile reads.

BakerHostetler 2013 Year-End Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Update

“This [recent] decrease [in corporate FCPA enforcement actions] appears to be the result of proactive internal investigations and remediation by U.S. companies that recognize the importance of retaining external resources to investigate FCPA issues in light of the substantial fines levied by the government over recent years.”

That’s a nice way to spin it, but the better answer by far is to have a proper perspective on FCPA statistics and to realize that 35% of all corporate FCPA enforcement actions in recent years and 55% of the settlement amounts were the direct result of just three unique events.

WilmerHale Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Alert

Kudos for the following statement regarding so-called “declinations.”

“[W]hile these corporate disclosures are frequently referred to generically as “declinations,” that term seems to encompass not only genuine declinations where the government exercises discretion to decline prosecution of an otherwise chargeable offense, but also cases where the government decides not to prosecute because it has found insufficient evidence of FCPA violations or faces insurmountable legal hurdles in bringing a case.”

For more on so-called “declinations” see prior posts here, here and here.

Miller & Chevalier FCPA Winter Review 2014 

Once again, be warned – the divergent enforcement statistics are likely to make you dizzy at times and as to certain issues.  [Given the increase in FCPA Inc. statistical information and the growing interest in empirical FCPA-related research, I again highlight the need for an FCPA lingua franca (see here for the prior post), including adoption of the “core” approach to FCPA enforcement statistics (see here for the prior post), an approach endorsed by even the DOJ (see here), as well as commonly used by others outside the FCPA context (see here)]

For the Reading Stack

From the Washington Post, a look at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the rise and controversy of non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements.

In this recent NY Times Dealbook article, “S.E.C.’s Losing Streak in Court Puts Agency in Spotlight,” Professor Peter Henning (a former SEC enforcement official) begins as follows.

“Every litigator says that trials are messy affairs because no one can predict how they will play out.  After a string of recent unfavorable verdicts in fraud cases, the Securities and Exchange Commission may, too, be concerned with that trend. The S.E.C. is a bit like the New York Yankees, because every defeat is magnified, so we should be careful not to read too much into the anecdotal evidence as garnered by the results of a few recent trials.  Most cases filed by the agency are settled, garnering only modest publicity, so the effectiveness of its enforcement program is not tied solely to its wins in the courtroom.”

For more on the SEC’s recent losses, see here from Marc Fagel and Mary Kay Dunning (Gibson Dunn).

“One likely consequence [of the SEC's recent losses] may be an increase in the number of enforcement matters filed as administrative cease-and-desist proceedings rather than as federal district court actions.”

Spot-on observation, but again a sorry state of affairs in that a way for the SEC to avoid litigated losses when put to its burden of proof is to avoid the judicial system altogether.

A recent survey from AlixPartners conducted in November 2013.  (The survey group consisted of executives at companies based in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia that have annual revenues of $150 million or more).  “The survey also found that although some companies have expanded the scope of their reviews of their foreign subsidiaries, one-third said they have not done that. Less than half (43%) of respondents said they regularly conduct due diligence on third-party agents.”  (See here for the prior post “It’s More Like Bronze Dust.”).

Friday Roundup

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Make your voice heard, scrutiny alerts, “foreign official” fun, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Make Your Voice Heard

Yesterday, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced a consultation on ”a draft Code of Practice setting out their approach to the use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs).”  According to the release, the U.K. is seeking “views on eight points covered in the draft Code, including the circumstances when a prosecutor should consider a DPA, the criteria to apply when making this decision, and on the disclosure approach envisaged.”

Make your voice heard, “comments are welcome from interested individuals and organisations” and “the consultation closes on Friday 20 September 2013.”  See here for my previous post urging the U.K. to reject DPAs.

Staying in the U.K. this report states as follows.  “The UK Serious Fraud Office is actively investigating two cases under the Bribery Act, said Kevin Davis, the SFO’s chief investigating officer. He also revealed that a further six cases which might lead to prosecutions were under investigation.”

Scrutiny Alerts

Medtronic

Let’s say law enforcement sets up a sobriety checkpoint on the highway.  A sober driver successfully passes through it.  Would we call this an instance of law enforcement “declining” to prosecute the driver for drunk driver?

Of course not, and the same logic should apply in the FCPA context as well.

In June 2008, Medtronic disclosed as follows.

“On September 25, 2007, the Company received a letter from the SEC requesting  information relating to any potential violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt  Practices Act in connection with the sale of medical devices in an unspecified  number of foreign countries, including Greece, Poland and Germany. The letter  notes that the Company is a significant participant in the medical device  industry, and seeks any information concerning certain types of payments made  directly or indirectly to government-employed doctors. A number of competitors  have publicly disclosed receiving similar letters. On November 16, 2007, the  Company received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting any  information provided to the SEC. The Company is cooperating with both requests.”

In June 2009, Medtronic disclosed as follows.

“On September 25, 2007, the Company received a letter from the SEC requesting  information relating to any potential violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt  Practices Act in connection with the sale of medical devices in an unspecified  number of foreign countries, including Greece, Poland and Germany. Turkey, Italy  and Malaysia have since been added to the inquiry. The letter notes that the  Company is a significant participant in the medical device industry, and seeks  any information concerning certain types of payments made directly or indirectly  to government-employed doctors. A number of competitors have publicly disclosed  receiving similar letters. On November 16, 2007, the Company received a letter  from the Department of Justice requesting any information provided to the SEC.  Since that time the SEC and Department of Justice have made additional requests  for information from the Company. The Company is cooperating with the requests.”

Earlier this week, Medtronic stated as follows.

“On September 25, 2007 and  November 16, 2007, the Company received letters from the U.S. Securities and  Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ),  respectively, requesting information relating to any potential violations of the  U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the sale of medical  devices in several non-U.S. countries. A number of competitors have publicly  disclosed receiving similar letters. Subsequently, the SEC and DOJ made  additional requests for information from the Company. In June 2013, the SEC and  the DOJ both informed the Company that they would be closing their  investigations without pursuing any enforcement action or charges against the Company.”

The headline on the FCPA Blog read “Medtronic Wins Double Declination.”  The headline on the Risk & Compliance Blog of the Wall Street Journal read “Medtronic Says SEC, DOJ Declined to Prosecute for FCPA Violations.”

I just don’t understand it at all.  (See here for more).

HLW International / Sweett Group

Architecture firm HLW International LLP and Sweett Group Ltd. (a U.K. based construction company) recently were the subject of a leading Wall Street Journal article titled “Inside U.S. Firm’s Bribery Probe” by Joe Palazzolo and Chris Matthews.  The focus of the article concerns the construction of a hospital in Morocco and the alleged promise by a Sweet executive that HLW would get the design contract if it agreed to pay 3.5% of the contract value to “an official inside the United Arab Emirates President’s personal foundation, which was funding the project.”

Charitable donations have been the focus of prior FCPA enforcement actions against Eli Lilly and Schering-Plough as well as the focus of Wynn Resort’s current FCPA scrutiny.

“Foreign Official” Fun

In the Carson “foreign official” challenge, Judge Selna concluded, in denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss (see here),  that “the question of
whether state-owned companies qualify as instrumentalities under the FCPA is a  question of fact.” Judge Selna stated that “several factors bear on the  question of whether a business entity constitutes a government instrumentality”  including the following.

  • The foreign state’s characterization of the  entity and its employees;
  • The foreign state’s degree of control over  the entity;
  • The purpose of the entity’s activities;
  • The  entity’s obligations and privileges under the foreign state’s law, including  whether the entity exercises exclusive or controlling power to administer its  designated functions;
  • The circumstances surrounding the entity’s  creation; and
  • The foreign state’s extent of ownership of the entity,  including the level of financial support by the state (e.g., subsidies,  special tax treatment, and loans).

According to Judge Selna, the above ”factors are not exclusive, and no single factor is dispositive.”

According to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal:

“Companies listed on China’s stock exchanges received 85.68 billion yuan ($13.83 billion) in government subsidies last year, up 23% from a year earlier, while corporate profits rose less than 1%, according to a Chinese data provider. The subsidies were equivalent to more than 4% of the companies’ total profits last year, up from around 3% between 2009 and 2011. The subsidies—largely from local authorities but also from the national government—took the form of cheap land, tax rebates, support for loan repayments and straight-up cash. There were a range of reasons, including research and development and support for government environment priorities.”

Reading Stack

The Seventh Edition of the FCPA Handbook from O’Melveny & Myers.

A focus on Southeast Asia in the always informative FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton.

A  mini-roundup of Canada’s recent amendments to its Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act here (Osler), here (Dentons), and here (Fasken Martineau).

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Enforcement agency speeches, “foreign official” delay, and for reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Enforcement Agency Speeches

This prior post detailed comments by Mary Jo White prior to becoming SEC Chairman.

Last week, White spoke before the Investment Company Institute on the general topic of the SEC’s role in an increasingly global financial and regulatory system.  She stated as follows (see here) concerning the SEC’s enforcement of the FCPA.

“Of course, misrepresentations and other unlawful actions travel in both directions across borders, which is another reason why our partnership with our regulatory counterparts abroad is so important.  Among the most prominent concerns in this regard is bribery by U.S. companies overseas, which not only undermines international markets and governments but also simultaneously undermines the reporting and disclosure integrity of our own markets.  Thus, strong and fair enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials, has been and will continue to be a priority for us. Our first objective is to help companies avoid FCPA violations by educating them. And so our staff along with our colleagues at the Department of Justice recently published a comprehensive Guide to the FCPA to give clear guidance and clear up some myths.  Of course, the other side of education is deterrence.  Deterrence can mean strong enforcement actions with tough disgorgement and penalties.  But it can also mean the tangible benefits that come with cooperation – as demonstrated by the Non-Prosecution Agreement with Ralph Lauren Corporation we announced in April. In this particular case, the corporation’s Argentine subsidiary paid bribes to government and customs officials to improperly secure the importation of their products into the country.  The bribes occurred during a period when the U.S. parent company lacked meaningful anti-corruption compliance and control mechanisms over its foreign subsidiary.  The misconduct came to light as a result of the company’s efforts to improve internal controls and compliance.  And the company immediately reported the problem to the SEC and provided exceptional assistance to our investigation. Successful FCPA cases also increasingly require assistance from foreign law enforcement authorities.  That is why we recently partnered with the DOJ and FBI in conducting a foreign bribery training program that provided intensive training to 130 foreign investigators and prosecutors from 30 countries, many on which the SEC staff relies for mutual legal assistance in FCPA cases.”

Yesterday, Daniel Suleiman (DOJ Deputy Chief of Staff for the Criminal Division) spoke at the Minnesota Bar Association’s Annual International Business Law Institute.  (See here).  Suleiman offered “some views from the U.S. Department of Justice on the topic of anti-corruption enforcement” and “what the Justice Department is doing in the area of criminal enforcement to fight corruption at home and abroad.”  He stated, in pertinent part, as follows.

“I think of our anti-corruption efforts as falling into three principal buckets:  number one is criminal prosecution; number two is assisting foreign countries to build up their judicial, prosecutorial, and investigative institutions; and number three is the pursuit, through civil actions, of the proceeds of foreign official corruption.  I will discuss each of these buckets in turn.

First and foremost, the Criminal Division is a litigating operation.  We investigate and prosecute cases.  Our corruption prosecutions are of two kinds:  we prosecute corruption by domestic officials, and we prosecute foreign bribery offenses under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA.”

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“[W]e have an incredibly strong team of prosecutors who focus exclusively on enforcing the FCPA.  Depending upon how familiar you are with FCPA enforcement, you may know that the Criminal Division is the entity in the United States with primary responsibility for criminal enforcement of the Act.  It is Justice Department policy that no FCPA prosecution can be brought without authorization from the Criminal Division, which distinguishes FCPA prosecutions from most other kinds of federal criminal cases.  The Securities and Exchange Commission, which is a few blocks up the street from us, has primary responsibility for the Act’s civil enforcement.”

“Foreign bribery enforcement has for a long time been an important aspect of U.S. policy.  The FCPA was enacted roughly 35 years ago, around the same time that our Public Integrity Section was created to focus on public corruption prosecutions, and it was the first effort of any nation to specifically criminalize the act of bribing foreign officials.  The statute was enacted in the wake of the Watergate scandal, but it took more than 20 years for the Act to become a strong enforcement tool.  And, over the past several years, the Justice Department has substantially increased its enforcement of the Act.”

“One important aspect of our FCPA enforcement involves, of course, our corporate resolutions.  We have collected billions of dollars in criminal fines and penalties to resolve FCPA investigations against companies doing business abroad, including BizJet International Sales and Support Inc., a Lufthansa subsidiary; Alcatel-Lucent; Johnson & Johnson; and many others.”

“But another, critically important aspect of our enforcement regime involves holding individuals responsible for FCPA offenses.  There is no greater deterrent to corporate crime than the prospect of prison time.  As many have recognized, if people don’t go to prison, then enforcement can come to be seen as merely the cost of doing business.  In the past four years, the Criminal Division’s FCPA Unit has obtained over three dozen criminal convictions of individuals, including of people who have been sentenced to as many as 15 years in prison.”

“We are as active today in this area as we have ever been.  In the past month alone, we have announced charges against several key defendants in ongoing, active FCPA investigations.  In mid-April, in a case that we are prosecuting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, we secured the arrest of a defendant in connection with an alleged bribery scheme to secure mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.  In a separate case, which we are prosecuting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, we also secured the arrest last month of a defendant in connection with an alleged bribery scheme to secure power contracts in Indonesia.  And just two days ago, together with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, we announced charges against two broker-dealer employees and a senior Venezuelan banking official for engaging in a multi-million dollar bribery scheme.”

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“Finally, I want to tell you about a relatively new Justice Department initiative.  About three-and-a-half years ago, Attorney General Holder gave a speech in Qatar, at which he pledged to increase the United States’ commitment to recovering foreign corruption proceeds.  Since that time, the Criminal Division has led the charge in developing what we refer to as the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.”

“The initiative’s purpose is to identify the proceeds of foreign official corruption – in other words, the spoils – forfeit them through civil actions, and, to the extent possible, repatriate the forfeited funds for the benefit of the people harmed. In most criminal prosecutions, a court can order forfeiture, upon conviction, as part of the defendant’s sentence.  Often, however, it may be impractical or impossible to bring a criminal prosecution against a particular person – because that person is immune from prosecution, for example, beyond our jurisdiction, or otherwise unavailable.  In these circumstances, we have begun bringing civil forfeiture actions to recover the stolen property.”

“We have brought several Kleptocracy cases in the past couple of years, and forfeited millions of dollars in corrupt proceeds.  The most high-profile of our Kleptocracy cases to date involves two civil actions we have brought against approximately $70 million in assets allegedly belonging to a government minister in Equatorial Guinea who is also the son of that country’s president.  According to court papers, despite an official government salary of less than $100,000 per year, this minister amassed wealth of over $100 million.  Among the items we are seeking to forfeit are nearly $2 million worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia (including the white glove), a Gulfstream G-V jet worth $38.5 million, and a $30 million house in Malibu.  These are hard, and hard-fought, cases, but we believe strongly that foreign officials who amass wealth through corruption should not be permitted to use the United States as a haven for their ill-gotten gains.”

“Foreign Official” Delay

Oral argument in the “foreign official” challenge pending in the 11th Circuit – originally scheduled for later this month, has been postponed until the week of October 7th.

This is a historic appeal in that it will be the first instance in which a circuit court directly confronts the enforcement theory that employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled entities are “foreign officials” under the FCPA (see here for a prior post, including embedded links).

Scrutiny Alerts

For more on Barclay’s scrutiny, on both sides of the Atlantic, see this recent article in Middle East Monitor concerning the bank’s relationship with the Abu Dhabi government, including Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

Samuel Rubenfeld (Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance Journal) has the latest (here) regarding BSG Resources Ltd. a Guernsey-based company in the news after Frederic Cilins, a French citizen associated with the company, was recently arrested and accused of attempting to obstruct an ongoing investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.  (See here for the prior post).  As noted in the WSJ article, BSG recently released this detailed statement concerning its conduct in Guinea.

Reading Stack

Several articles of interest to pass along from last week’s Corporate Crime Reporter conferenceThis article details comments made by Denis McInerney (DOJ Criminal Division Deputy Assistant Attorney General) regarding non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements.  This article details comments made by McInerney concerning my suggested two-step reform plan (see here for the prior post) and also details McInerney’s response to my question concerning the definition of a declination.  Articles here and here concern corporate monitors.

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Over the years, Bloomberg’s David Glovin has written some excellent articles concerning Viktor Kozney, Frederic Bourke, et al.  With Bourke soon to report to prison, Glovin pens another great article here.

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This prior post discussed the NY Times recent “With Bags of Cash, CIA Seeks Influence in Afghanistan” story and how the story put our stark double standards in the headlines once again.  More recently, the NY Times reports (here) as follows. ”[Afghan President] Karzai said he had called a meeting [...] with the CIA’s Kabul station chief. “I told him because of all these rumors in the media, please do not cut all this money, because we really need it,” he said. “We want to continue this sort of assistance, and he promised that they are not going to cut this money.”  For more on the situation, including the views of others, see here from Alison Frankel’s On the Case column.

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See here from Josh Goodman (an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission) titled “The Anti-Corruption and Antitrust Connection.”

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A good weekend to all.