Back in law school, a professor was fond of the phrase ““if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck.”
Among other allegations, DOJ’s criminal information (here) against BAE alleges that BAE served as the “prime contractor to the U.K. government following the conclusion of a Formal Understanding between the U.K. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“KSA”)” in which BAE sold to the U.K. government, which then in turn sold to the Saudi government several Tornado and Hawk aircraft, “along with other military hardware, training and services.” The information refers to these frequent arrangements as the “KSA Fighter Deals.”
In connection these deals, the information alleges that “BAE provided substantial benefits to one KSA public official, who was in a position of influence regarding the KSA Fighter Deals (the “KSA Official”), and to the KSA Official’s associates.” The indictment alleges that BAE “provided these benefits through various payment mechanisms both in the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. and elsewhere.”
WALKS LIKE A DUCK!
This allegation is important from an FCPA perspective because the FCPA only applies to a company like BAE (a foreign company with no shares listed on a U.S. exchange) if conduct in furtherance of a bribery scheme has a U.S. nexus. See 78dd-3. [BAE does have a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary - a "domestic concern" under the FCPA - but the information states that this entity was not involved in the conduct alleged in the information].
In addition, the information contains additional allegations which clearly demonstrate that BAE’s bribery scheme had a U.S. nexus. For instance, the information alleges that BAE “provided support services to [the] KSA Official while in the territory of the U.S.” and that these benefits “included the purchase of travel and accommodations, security services, real estate, automobiles and personal items.” The information alleges that over $5 million in invoices for benefits provided to the KSA Official were submitted by just one BAE employee during a one year period.
QUACKS LIKE A DUCK!
The information also alleges that BAE “used intermediaries and shell entities to conceal payments to certain advisers who were assisting in the solicitation, promotion and otherwise endeavoring to secure the conclusion or maintenance of the KSA Fighter Deals.”
Specifically, the information alleges that “in connection with the KSA Fighter Deals, BAE agreed to transfer sums totaling more than £10,000,00 and more than $9,000,000 to a bank account in Switzerland controlled by an intermediary. BAE was aware that there was a high probability that the intermediary would transfer part of these payments to the KSA Official.”
Such “high probability” language is a direct quote from the FCPA’s so-called third party payment provisions which prohibit making improper payments to any person “while knowing that all or a portion” of the money will be given to a foreign official in order to obtain or retain business. The FCPA specifically provides that “[w]hen knowledge of the existence of a particular circumstance is required for an offense, such knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability of the existence of such circumstance, unless the person actually believes that such circumstance does not exist.”
In order words, the “high probability” language used in the BAE criminal information is no mere coincidence. In fact, that language (i.e. a company was aware that there was a high probability that the intermediary would transfer part of its payments to a foreign official) is frequently used by the DOJ in resolving FCPA antibribery actions.
For instance, in the InVision FCPA enforcement action, the “investigations by the DOJ and SEC revealed that InVision, through the conduct of certain employees, was aware of a high probability that its agents or distributors” in Thailand, China and the Philippines “had paid or offered to pay money to foreign officials or political parties in connection with transactions or proposed transactions for the sale by InVision of its airport security screening machines.” (See here). Specifically, the non-prosecution agreement (here) notes that: (i) InVision “was aware of a high probability that part of the source of funds” to an agent was to be used by the agent “to fund an offer to promise to make payments” to Thai officials; (ii) InVision authorized a payment to an agent “with awareness of a high probability” that the agent “intended to use part of that payment to influence” Chinese officials; and (iii) InVision sought authorization for a payment to an agent “with awareness of a high probability that” the agent “intended to use part of that payment to influence officials of the government of the Philippines” – all in an effort to obtain or retain business for InVision.
LOOKS LIKE A DUCK!
Yet, the DOJ’s criminal information merely charges one count of conspiracy and it lacks any FCPA antibribery charges. Moreover, the conspiracy charge relates only to “making certain false, inaccurate and incomplete statements to the U.S. government and failing to honor certain undertakings given to the U.S. government, thereby defrauding the United States” and “caus[ing] to be filed export license applications with [various U.S. government entities] that omitted a material fact” concerning fee and commission payments.” Among the false statements BAE is alleged to have made to the U.S. government is its commitment to not knowingly violate the FCPA.
This is the only mention of the FCPA in the information despite the above allegations concerning the KSA Fighter Deals – facts which clearly implicate the FCPA’s antibribery provisions.
In other words, NO DUCK!
For a prior post on BAE (see here).