Archive for the ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreements’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

The FCPA in the hallways, Super Bowl bribery, no FCPA charges, quotable, survey says, FCPA reform advocate nominated to the federal bench, interesting homework assignment, scrutiny alert, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

FCPA in the Hallways

Avon’s FCPA scrutiny brought the FCPA to main street.  News Corp.’s and Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny generated world-wide media coverage.  Will the FCPA next become the topic of discussion in middle school and high school hallways across America?

According to this TMZ report:

“A Canadian border official has been fired for allegedly accepting a $10,000 bribe in return for allowing members of Justin Bieber’s entourage with criminal records to enter Canada. Bieber’s camp reportedly gave a female officer at the Niagara Falls border thousands of dollars in backstage passes to get members of his posse into the country while he performed. Canada has a strict policy on not allowing people with certain types of criminal records to enter. It’s unclear when the alleged bribes went down … but Justin performed 2 shows in Toronto last year. The accusations surfaced after more of Bieber’s friends allegedly showed up at the border looking for the same special treatment — and the officers on duty blew the whistle. The Canada Border Services agency reportedly circulated an internal memo reminding officers not to take bribes … and to rat out anyone who does.”

In case you are wondering, there have been several FCPA enforcement actions in recent years concerning alleged payments to customs, immigration and other regulatory officials in connection with a business purpose broadly speaking.

Super Bowl Bribery?

Providing money or other things of value to a person or entity to influence the discretionary acts of that person or entity in connection with a business purpose is bribery … is it not?

Yet, according to this Wall Street Journal article, the above may determine which artist receives the coveted Super Bowl half-time performance slot.  According to the article, the NFL “has asked artists under consideration for the high-profile gig to pay to play” including whether the artists “would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig.”

According to the article, the NFL’s only goal is to “put on the best possible show.”

No FCPA Charges

It is sometimes perplexing why certain alleged conduct results in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges, whereas other alleged conduct – clearly implicating the FCPA – does not result in FCPA charges.

Case in point, the recent DOJ prosecution of Alisa Bivens, a U.S. citizen and former foreign program director of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG – a South Carolina company).  (See here for the DOJ release).  Bivens recently pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. in violation of 18 U.S.C. 317.  As noted in the DOJ release:

“Bivens admitted as part of her plea that she and her co-conspirators submitted fraudulent documents to the State Department to facilitate adoptions of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents from 2006 until 2009.  In support of U.S. visa applications for the Ethiopian children, Bivens and others submitted false documentation, including contracts of adoption signed by orphanages that could not properly give the children up for adoption because, for example, the child in question was never cared for or never resided at the orphanage.”

The DOJ release further states:

“In entering her guilty plea, Bivens also admitted that she and others paid bribes to two Ethiopian officials so that those officials would help with the fraudulent adoptions.   The first of these two foreign officials, an audiologist and teacher at a government school, accepted money and other valuables in exchange for providing non-public medical information and social history information for potential adoptees to the conspirators.   The second foreign official, the head of a regional ministry for women’s and children’s affairs, received money and all-expenses-paid travel in exchange for approving IAG’s applications for intercountry adoptions and for ignoring IAG’s failure to maintain a properly licensed adoption facility.”

Quotable

U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus recently delivered this speech to the APEC Network of Anti-Corruption Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies.  Ambassador Baucus stated:

“The Obama Administration takes a firm stand against American and foreign companies that engage in bribing foreign officials to obtain or retain business.  Other economies here do this as well. In the United States, one of the most effective tools we use to combat corruption is enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  We pursue corruption at many levels:

  • corporations, both big and small;
  • everyone from sales agents to CEOs;
  • U.S. and foreign companies;
  • citizens and foreign nationals; and
  • direct payers and intermediaries.

Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice has taken in $3.4 billion from criminal fines, penalties and forfeitures. And the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has seized another $1 billion of profits obtained by illegal or unethical acts over the last ten years.  As a result, more American companies have changed the way they do business.  Companies are now more willing to voluntarily disclose corrupt behavior and report on solicitations for bribes.”

The last sentence of course is debatable.

Even so, what is not debatable is the following from Ambassador Baucus – “we need to adopt international best practices of transparency and rule of law” in the fight against corruption.

U.S. officials preach this virtue abroad, yet the reality is we need to work on these virtues here at home as well.

As to the rule of law, and as noted in this speech by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker who was the keynote speaker at the International Bar Association’s annual conference:

“There is frank recognition that the combination of a weak rule of law and corruption is not only economically debilitating, but threatening the political health of both new and old democracies. I do not exclude the United States. We think of ourselves as exemplars of the rule of law. We are certainly world champions in the extent of legislation and regulation governing bribery, conflicts of interest, procurement procedures, campaign financing, protection of human rights and most of all, transparency. All of these are ingredients of what some think of as the rule of law. But we still face the sad fact that in the United States itself, only a quarter of Americans believe that corruption is not widespread in our country. My feeling is that the impression of serious corruption has increased further, a reflection largely of the concern that campaign financing has come to gravely distort the political process. Should we be satisfied that we live with a really effective rule of law, when the perceived need for heavy campaign spending has come to dominate our political process? We let those financing practices infringe in a very basic way upon the rule of law, with its sense of even-handedness and openness. Does it not breed behaviour that is accomplished by any reasonable definition of corruption?”

Survey Says

PwC’s 2014 State of Compliance Survey asked:  ”Please select your top 3 areas in terms of current perceived level of risk to your business.”  The most popular responses from survey participants were:

  • Industry-specific regulations – 31%
  • Privacy and confidentiality – 25%
  • Bribery/corruption – 22%

FCPA Reform Advocate Nominated to the Federal Bench

Earlier this week, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Haywood Stirling Gilliam, Jr. (Vice-Chair of Covington & Burling’s White Collar Defense and Investigations practice group) to serve on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

As noted in this previous post, in a 2013 Law360 Q&A Gilliam was asked “what aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?” and he stated:

“Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement stands out as an area in need of further reform. Over the past several years, FCPA enforcement has been characterized by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission advancing aggressive enforcement theories, but there have been limited opportunities for courts to scrutinize those theories. Most FCPA enforcement cases end in negotiated resolutions such as deferred prosecution or nonprosecution agreements. In that context, regulators often insist that the settling company or individual accept the government’s expansive theories as a condition of resolving the case.  For example, the DOJ has extracted penalties from non-U.S. based, non-U.S. traded companies not covered under the four corners of the statute by asserting broad theories such as aiding and abetting or conspiracy — even when the foreign entity has not taken any action in the U.S. As a practical matter, that could be a hard case to prove at trial — but the government almost never has to.  The result of this trend has been to enshrine the government’s aggressive enforcement positions as quasi-precedent: The law means what the DOJ and SEC say it means, and defendants (especially publicly traded companies) seldom have a realistic opportunity to push back in court, given the financial and practical costs of fighting a contested enforcement action. Relatively recently, district courts have begun to weigh in on these theories, which is a positive development, but there still is a dearth of FCPA case law as compared to other areas of criminal law.  This absence of settled law makes it challenging for companies to decide how to handle thorny FCPA compliance issues. For example, companies routinely face a difficult choice in deciding whether to self-report potential violations to the government, as opposed to thoroughly investigating and remediating the issues internally. While regulators insist that they will give “meaningful credit” to companies that self-report, the tangible benefits of doing so are far from clear. The recent FCPA resource guide issued by the DOJ and SEC says that the agencies place a “high premium” on self-reporting, but does not give concrete guidance as to how the government weighs self-reporting in deciding whether to charge a case, as opposed to offering a deferred prosecution or nonprosecution agreement, or declining the case outright. While the resource guide is a start, companies and their counsel would benefit from more specific guidance when they are weighing the potential, but uncertain, benefits of disclosure against the cost and distraction that can result from voluntarily handing the government a case that otherwise might not have come to its attention.”

Interesting Homework Assignment

Professors are supposed to give homework, not receive homework.

Yet, as highlighted in this Corporate Crime Reporter article, Professor Brandon Garrett (UVA) recently received a homework assignment from a federal court judge.

The assignment:  “to appear in [a] case as an amicus curiae for the limited purpose of providing the Court with advocacy on questions regarding the scope of the Court’s authority, if any, to consider the fairness and reasonableness of a deferred prosecution in deciding whether to accept or reject such an agreement.”

As noted in the Corporate Crime Reporter article, the DPA is between the DOJ and Saena Tech, a defense contractor and grew out of a domestic bribery investigation.

To say the least, I look forward to reviewing Professor Garrett’s homework and so should you.

Scrutiny Alerts

Och-Ziff

Bloomberg goes in-depth in this article “The Hedge Fund and the Despot” concerning Och-Ziff’s relationships in Zimbabwe and the company’s overall scrutiny.

Barclays

Previous posts (here) have detailed Barclay’s scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic regarding its business relationships with various Middle Eastern investors.

Reuters reports

“Britain’s fraud prosecutor could decide as soon as next month whether to charge former Barclays executives over undisclosed payments the bank made to Qatari investors in 2008.”

According to the article, “U.S. authorities are also investigating the same Barclays’ Qatari commercial agreements and whether third-party relationships breached anti-bribery rules.”

Reading Stack

From Bloomberg, an in-depth look at  the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and its relationships with various companies in the financial services industry which has resulted in FCPA scrutiny.

Informative article here titled “Land of Confusion:  Insurance Coverage for Pre-Suit FCPA Investigation Costs Under D&O Liability Policies.”

An interesting front-page read here from the Wall Street Journal regarding China’s anti-corruption crackdown.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, July 25th, 2014

The U.K. SFO flexes its pre-Bribery Act muscle in criminally charging an Alstom subsidiary, other scrutiny alerts and updates, nominate, double standard, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Alstom

As has been widely reported (see here and here for instance), the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced:

“Alstom Network UK Ltd, formerly called Alstom International Ltd, a UK subsidiary of Alstom, has been charged with three offences of corruption contrary to section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, as well as three offences of Conspiracy to Corrupt contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. The alleged offences are said to have taken place between 1 June 2000 and 30 November 2006 and concern large transport projects in India, Poland and Tunisia.”

According to the release, “the SFO investigation commenced as a result of information provided to the SFO by the Office of the Attorney General in Switzerland concerning the Alstom Group, in particular Alstom Network UK Ltd.”

I inquired with the SFO press office regarding any original source charging documents and was informed as follows.  ”Beyond our press release today, the nearest date for documents likely to be made available would be the charge sheet at the first court hearing – presently arranged for 9 September, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.”

As readers likely know, since April 2013 the DOJ has charged four individuals associated with Alstom Power Inc., a subsidiary of Alstom, in connection with an alleged bribery scheme involving the Tarahan coal-fired steam power plant project in Indonesia. (See more below for a recent guilty plea).

As was the case in the U.S. – U.K. enforcement action against BAE (see here for the prior post) there may have been and/or currently is turf war issues between the agencies as to which agency is going to prosecute alleged conduct occurring in various countries.

Speaking of the DOJ action against various individuals associated with Alstom Power, last week, the DOJ announced that William Pomponi, a former vice president of regional sales at Alstom Power, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with conspiracy to violate the FCPA in connection with the awarding of the Tarahan power project in Indonesia.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell stated:

“The Criminal Division of the Department of Justice will follow evidence of corruption wherever it leads, including into corporate boardrooms and corner offices.  As this case demonstrates, we will hold both companies and their executives responsible for criminal conduct.”

As noted in the DOJ release:

“Pomponi is the fourth defendant to plead guilty to charges stemming from this investigation.   Frederic Pierucci, the vice president of global boiler sales at Alstom, pleaded guilty on July 29, 2013, to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA; and, David Rothschild, a former vice president of regional sales at Alstom Power Inc., pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA on Nov. 2, 2012.  Marubeni Corporation, Alstom’s consortium partner on the Tarahan project, pleaded guilty on March 19, 2014, to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and seven counts of violating the FCPA, and was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $88 million.   FCPA and money laundering charges remain pending against Lawrence Hoskins, the former senior vice president for the Asia region for Alstom, and trial is scheduled for June 2, 2015.”

See here for the original post highlighting the enforcement action against the individuals associated with Alstom and here for the original post regarding the Marubeni enforcement action.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

SEC Enforcement Action Against Former Magyar Telekom Executives

From Law360:

“The SEC has slimmed down its FCPA case against three former Magyar Telekom PLC executives, dropping claims they bribed government officials in Montenegro, according to a new complaint …  The amended complaint alleged former Magyar CEO Elek Straub and two other former executives, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai, authorized bribe payments to government officials in the Republic of Macedonia in exchange for regulations designed to hurt a competitor. The SEC, in its initial complaint in December 2011, had also alleged the defendants engaged in a second bribery scheme in Montenegro.  The agency said in a July 14 court filing that it would “continue to pursue the same legal causes of action alleged in its original complaint,” but without the claims related to Montenegro.  The SEC previously advised the court and defense attorneys in January 2014 of its intention to narrow the suit.”

Interesting, isn’t it, what happens when the SEC is put to its burden of proof.

Kowalewski Pleads Guilty

The DOJ announced:

“Bernd Kowalewski, the former President and CEO of BizJet, pleaded guilty … to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and a substantive violation of the FCPA in connection with a scheme to pay bribes to officials in Mexico and Panama in exchange for those officials’ assistance in securing contracts for BizJet to perform aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services.”

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“The former CEO of BizJet, Bernd Kowalewski, has become the third and most senior Bizjet executive to plead guilty to bribing officials in Mexico and Panama to get contracts for aircraft services.  While Kowalewski and his fellow executives referred to the corrupt payments as ‘commissions’ and ‘incentives,’ they were bribes, plain and simple.  Though he was living abroad when the charges were unsealed, the reach of the law extends beyond U.S. borders, resulting in Kowalewski’s arrest in Amsterdam and his appearance in court today in the United States.  Today’s guilty plea is an example of our continued determination to hold corporate executives responsible for criminal wrongdoing whenever the evidence allows.”

U.S. Attorney Danny Williams (N.D. Okla.) stated:

“I commend the investigators and prosecutors who worked together across borders and jurisdictions to vigorously enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Partnership is a necessity in all investigations. By forging and strengthening international partnerships to combat bribery, the Department of Justice is advancing its efforts to prevent crime and to protect citizens.”

See here and here for posts regarding the 2012 DOJ enforcement action against BizJet and here and here for the 2013 DOJ enforcement action against Kowalewski and others associated with BizJet.

Cilins Sentenced

As noted in this prior post, in April 2013 the DOJ announced (here) that “Frederic Cilins a French citizen, has been 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.”  The Criminal Complaint charged Cilins with one count of tampering with a witness, victim, or informant; one count of obstruction of a criminal investigation; and one count of destruction, alteration, and falsification of records in a federal investigation.  Cilins was linked to Guernsey-based BSG Resources Ltd and in March 2014 the DOJ announced that Cilins pleaded guilty “to obstructing a federal criminal investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.”  (See this prior post).

Last week, the DOJ announced that Cilins was sentenced to 24 months in prison.  In the DOJ release, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:

“Frederic Cilins went to great lengths to thwart a Manhattan federal grand jury’s investigation into an alleged bribery scheme in the Republic of Guinea. In an effort to prevent the federal authorities from learning the truth, Cilins paid a witness for her silence and to destroy key documents. Today, Cilins learned that no one can manipulate justice.”

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said:

“Cilins offered to bribe a witness in an FCPA investigation to stop the witness from talking to the FBI. Today’s sentence holds Cilins accountable for his effort to undermine the integrity of our justice system, and sends a message that those who interfere with federal investigations will be prosecuted and sent to prison.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said:

“Cilins obstructed the efforts of the FBI during the course of this investigation. His guilty plea and sentence demonstrate our shared commitment with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to hold accountable those who seek to interfere with the administration of justice. This case should be a reminder to all those who try to circumvent the efforts of a law enforcement investigation: the original crime and the cover-up both lend themselves to prosecution.”

According to the release, Cilins was also ordered to pay a fine of $75,000 and to forfeit $20,000.

GSK

From Reuters:

“GlaxoSmithKline faces new allegations of corruption, this time in Syria, where the drugmaker and its distributor have been accused of paying bribes to secure business, according to a whistleblower’s email reviewed by Reuters. Britain’s biggest drugmaker said on Thursday it was investigating the latest claims dating back to 2010, which were laid out in the email received by the company on July 18. The allegations relate to its former consumer healthcare operations in Syria, which were closed down in 2012 due to the worsening civil war in the country.  [...]  GSK has been rocked by corruption allegations since last July, when Chinese authorities accused it of funneling up to 3 billion yuan ($480 million) to doctors and officials to encourage them to use its medicines. The former British boss of the drugmaker’s China business was accused in May of being behind those bribes.  Since then, smaller-scale bribery claims have surfaced in other countries and GSK is now investigating possible staff misconduct in Poland, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. Syria is the sixth country to be added to the list. The allegations there center on the company’s consumer business, including its popular painkiller Panadol and oral care products. Although rules governing the promotion of non-prescription products are not as strict as for prescription medicines, the email from a person familiar with GSK’s Syrian operations said alleged bribes in the form of cash, speakers’ fees, trips and free samples were in breach of corruption laws. The detailed 5,000-word document, addressed to Chief Executive Andrew Witty and Judy Lewent, chair of GSK’s audit committee, said incentives were paid to doctors, dentists, pharmacists and government officials to win tenders and to obtain improper business advantages.”

Separately, this Reuters article states that the U.K. SFO  ”is working with authorities in China in a first for such Anglo-Chinese cooperation as it carries out its own investigation into alleged corruption at GSK.”  The article quotes SFO Director David Green as follows:  ”Certainly, so far as I am aware it is the first time we have had cooperation with the Chinese on an SFO case.”

Separately, in the U.S. this Wall Street Journal article states:

“Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have been interviewing current and former GSK employees in connection with bribery allegations made against the drug maker in China, according to a person familiar with the matter, as fresh claims of corruption surfaced against Glaxo’s operations in Syria. The interviews have taken place in Washington, D.C., in the past few months and are part of a Justice Department investigation into GSK’s activities in China, the person added. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also is investigating the company’s business in China, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Key Energy Services

The company stated as follows in its Second Quarter 2014 Update and Earnings Release.

“Pre-tax expenses of approximately $5 million were incurred in connection with the previously disclosed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations.”

Nominate

If FCPA Professor adds value to your practice or business or otherwise enlightens your day and causes you to contemplate the issues in a more sophisticated way, please consider nominating FCPA Professor for the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 list (see here).

Double Standard

Beginning in 2009, I began writing about the “double standard” and how – despite the similarities between the FCPA and 18 USC 201 (the domestic bribery statute) – a U.S. company’s interaction with a “foreign official” is subject to more scrutiny and different standards than interaction with a U.S. official.  Since 2009, approximately 30 posts have appeared under the “double standard” subject matter tag.

Against this backdrop, I was happy to see another individual tackle the same general topic.  See here from the Global AntiCorruption Blog – “Is U.S. Campaign Finance Law More Permissive of Corruption Than the FCPA?”

Quotable

In this Corporate Crime Reporter interview, former U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride (E.D. Va.) says the following regarding the use of non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements:  “The Department now has the ability to reach more ambiguous conduct where it might be more difficult to prove a criminal conviction in court.”

Wait a minute!

If the conduct is ambiguous and the DOJ would have a difficult time to prove a criminal conviction in court, there should be no non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreement.  Period.  End of story. The rule of law commands such a result.

Reading Stack

Over at the FCPA Compliance & Ethics blog, Tom Fox recently published a three-part series on M&A issues and the FCPA.  See Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Sherman & Sterling’s mid-year FCPA Digest, including its “Trends and Patterns” is here.  Among the trends and patterns:

“Recent paper victories by the SEC could be perceived as setbacks in the Commission’s actions against
individual defendants; and

The SEC has continued its practice of pursuing its theory of strict liability against a parent corporation
for the acts of its corporate subsidiaries.”

Kudos to Sherman & Sterling for adopting the “core” approach to keeping FCPA statistics.  (See here for the prior post regarding my suggested “core” approach).  The Digest states:

“We count all actions against a corporate “family” as one action. Thus, if the DOJ  charges a subsidiary and the SEC charges a  parent issuer, that counts as one action. In  addition, we count as a “case” both filed  enforcement actions (pleas, deferred prosecution agreements, and complaints)  and other resolutions such as  non-prosecution agreements that include  enforcement-type aspects, such as financial  penalties, tolling of the statute of  limitations, and compliance requirements.”

The most recent edition of Miller & Chevalier’s FCPA Update is here.  Debevoise & Plimpton’s always informative FCPA Update is here and Mayer Brown’s FCPA mid-year update is here.

Warning, the enforcement statistics cited in certain of the above updates will cause confusion because they do not adopt the “core” approach.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Potpourri

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Inversions

Readers of business news know that a term du jour these days is “inversion.”  In other words and at the risk of oversimplification , the process by which, largely for tax reasons,  a U.S. company acquires a foreign company, obtains that foreign company’s “legal address,” yet maintains – in many cases –  its operational base in the U.S.

I’ve been asked a few times recently what impact, if any, “inverting” will have on a company’s FCPA exposure.  My answer has been very little, if any, impact.

Most of the companies that are “inverting” remain issuers under the FCPA.  Moreover, even if an “inverted” company is not an issuer, because most of these companies are keeping an operational base in the U.S. – even if a legal address elsewhere – it is likely that the DOJ would consider such companies to be “domestic concerns” under the FCPA.

The FCPA defines “domestic concern,” in pertinent part, as follows.

“any corporation, partnership, association, joint-stock company, business trust, unincorporated organization, or sole proprietorship which has its principal place of business in the United States, or which is organized under the laws of a State of the United States or a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States.”

In other words, place of incorporation and “legal address” is one way for an entity to be a domestic concern under the FCPA, but so too is having a principal place of business in the U.S.

For instance, in the Weatherford action, the DOJ stated:

“Prior to March 2009, Weatherford was incorporated in Bermuda and headquartered in Houston, Texas … As of March 2009, Weatherford was incorporated and headquartered in Switzerland, although it maintained a significant presence in Houston, Texas.”

In short, while inversions may have tax implications, it is difficult to see any meaningful implication under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

It Can Be Done

You know the narrative.

In 2002, an accounting partnership (Arthur Anderson) was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron.  Even though the Supreme Court ultimately tossed the conviction, Arthur Anderson essentially went out of business.  Because of this, in the minds of some, the DOJ can’t criminally charge business organizations with crimes and business organizations can’t mount legal and factual defenses to criminal charges.  Thus, the DOJ has crafted, and the business community has accepted,  alternative resolution vehicles such as non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements to avoid the perceived collateral consequences of a criminal indictment or conviction.

Never mind that the narrative is based on a false premise.  (See here for the guest post and article by Gabriel Markoff titled “Arthur Anderson and the Myth of the Corporate Death Penalty).

Nevertheless, the narrative persists and is accepted by some as gospel truth.

I have been publicly wondering since 2010 (see here) what the “shelf life” of the Arthur Anderson effect would be and how long the Arthur Anderson myth would be believed.

If there are still believers, witness yet another instance (PG&E from earlier this year was an example as well – see here) that companies (even publicly-traded companies) can mount legal and factual defenses to what the company views as aggressive and overzealous DOJ enforcement theories.

As widely reported, last week FedEx Corporation, FedEx Express, Inc., and FedEx Corporate Services, Inc.,  were criminally indicted “with conspiracies to traffic in controlled substances and misbranded prescription drugs for its role in distributing controlled substances and prescription drugs for illegal Internet pharmacies.”  (See here for the DOJ release).

In response, FedEx issued this statement which stated, in pertinent part, as follows.

“FedEx is innocent of the charges brought today by the Department of Justice. We will plead not guilty. We will defend against this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees.”

FedEx stock is still trading, (in fact it is up since the criminal charges were announced), it is still employing people, and it is still operating its business.  In fact, a FedEx truck just went down my residential street a few hours prior to writing this post.

While the FedEx example is outside the FCPA context, the message to corporate boards, audit committees, and other corporate leaders should be clear.

Yes, there are “carrots” and “sticks” which motivate risk-adverse business organizations to do things regardless of the law or facts in any particular matter.  However, fighting back against what the company perceives to be aggressive and overzealous DOJ theories is an acceptable and viable option in many cases despite speculative doomsday scenarios to the contrary.

If more companies would do what FedEx is doing in the FCPA context. and thereby expose certain DOJ and SEC theories of enforcement, I am confident of one thing.  This “new era” of FCPA enforcement would look different than it does today.  In this regard, and as highlighted in my recent article, the business community is, at least in part, responsible for the current aggressive FCPA enforcement climate. Indeed, as Homer Moyer, a dean of the FCPA bar, recently observed:

“One reality is the enforcement agencies’ [FCPA] views on issues and enforcement policies, positions on which they are rarely challenged in court. The other is what knowledgeable counsel believe the government could sustain in court, should their interpretations or positions be challenged. The two may not be the same. The operative rules of the game are the agencies’ views unless a company is prepared to go to court or to mount a serious challenge within the agencies.”

Kudos to FedEx, its board, counsel and corporate leaders for having the courage of conviction and not rolling over and playing dead in the face of DOJ scrutiny.  (Note, last year UPS resolved its alleged scrutiny for the same core conduct by agreeing to a non-prosecution agreement in which it paid $40 million).

In-House Counsel Opportunity at Avon

Avon Cosméticos, a subsidiary of Avon Products, Inc., based near Buenos Aires, Argentina, is looking for an attorney to join the Ethics & Compliance team.  The Compliance Counsel has day-to-day operational responsibility for managing the compliance program in the South Markets Group (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay).  The program seeks to minimize risk exposure of corporate and regulatory law through company guidance and controls.  A primary activity of the Compliance Counsel is to provide operational advice and interpretation of company policies and procedures, including but not limited to the company’s anti-corruption policy.  As part of the program, the Compliance Counsel supports corporate, regional and local governance, monitoring, auditing, training and communication initiatives.  A primary goal for the Compliance Counsel is to enhance the culture of awareness and adherence to company policies.  Prospective candidates should apply via the Avon website:  https://avon.zonajobs.com.ar/listadoAvisosBj/.

Friday Roundup

Friday, July 11th, 2014

The cheerleaders fume, quotable, scrutiny alert, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

The Cheerleaders Fume

In the SEC’s failed enforcement action against Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen, the SEC was forced to carry its burden of proof in the context of an adversarial proceeding.  This should be celebrated as evidence that the rule of law worked.

Yet, to the cheerleaders of more FCPA enforcement regardless of enforcement theories or quality of evidence, the end result of the SEC’s failed enforcement action is something to fume about.  (See here).

Four words come to mind.  Silly, just plain silly.

Quotable

From Robert Amsterdam (here)

“My law firm has counselled entrepreneurs who have seen their companies needlessly gutted by their own lawyers, who in an act of self-preservation turn themselves into appendages of the state to work against their own clients. Even worse, we’ve seen courts seize property for years with little regard for the personal impact on the owners, while others have spent the majority of margin on FCPA compliance costs, leaving little motivation to run their business.

This is all possible thanks to the culture being spread by the war on wealth — we have been so eager to hand over vast powers to regulators and rapidly diminish the rights of those who stand accused, trusting in the flawless execution of the fight against graft and fraud.

There is such a tremendous distrust of the wealthy that politically ambitious prosecutors seek out opportunities for advancement rather than enforcement of the law. The victims tend to be individuals — not the behemoth banks who knowingly traded on debt and credit default swaps, not the industrial giants with decades of experience in bribery, nor the corporate quasi-state bodies that leech off subsidies.

Means to an end

The fight against corruption is important and commendable, and the drive to achieve greater income equality bears an undeniable moral truth. But the way we go about achieving these goals must be intelligent. Rights and due process must continue to be strong throughout the administration of justice. Then expanding opportunities for all, rather than depriving them from some, will put our society back on track for success.”

Scrutiny Alert

GPT Special Project Management Ltd, a unit of Airbus, has been under scrutiny August 2012 (see here).  The Wall Street Journal reports here:

“Airbus Group NV said … that the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office has contacted some of its current and former employees, as well as U.K. defense ministry officials, in a long-running corruption probe into activities at one of its units. Airbus “understands that four former and current employees were recently interviewed, along with MOD [Ministry of Defence] officials, as part of a wide-ranging SFO investigation,” a spokesman said by email. The U.K.’s anticorruption regulator has for roughly two years investigated GPT Special Project Management Ltd., an Airbus unit that works with the U.K.’s defense ministry, regarding allegations relating to its business in Saudi Arabia.”

Reading Stack

See here for Gibson Dunn’s mid-year FCPA update.

“The Ruehlen and Jackson settlements, earned only after two years of hard-nosed litigation that brought the parties to the brink of trial, demonstrate that those who are willing to put the Government to its burden of proof can come out materially better for their efforts.”

See here for Gibson Dunn’s mid-year update on corporate NPAs and DPAs.

“As the debate continues over whether and how to punish companies for unlawful conduct, U.S. federal prosecutors continue to rely significantly on NPAs and DPAs.  [...]  During the first half of 2014, DOJ entered into 11 agreements to resolve a variety of alleged conduct spanning multiple DOJ divisions and sections.  The SEC entered into one agreement.  Of the 12 agreements total, 5 were NPAs and 7 were DPAs.  This figure is in line with the 12 agreements reached in the first half of 2013.  In past years, we observed the phenomenon of an uptick in NPAs and DPAs during the second half of the year, so we anticipate that this year’s tallies could match or exceed the 2013 figure of 27 agreements.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Exploring A Deferred Prosecution Agreement Courtesy Of Biomet

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Since introduced to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act context in 2004, most corporate FCPA enforcement actions are resolved via non-prosecution agreements or deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs).

DPAs are essentially contracts, but beyond the fine amount, few of the contractual terms are explored.

This post uses recent events involving Biomet to explore other terms of a typical FCPA DPA.

As highlighted in this previous post, in March 2012 Biomet resolved an FCPA enforcement action involving alleged conduct in Brazil, Argentina, and China by agreeing to pay approximately $22.8 million ($17.3 million via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement, and $5.5 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

The three-year DPA stated, as is typical in FCPA DPAs, as follows.

Deferred Prosecution:  In consideration of: (a) the past and future cooperation of Biomet [...] ; (b) Biomet’s payment of a monetary penalty of $17,280,000; and (c) Biomet’s implementation and maintenance of remedial measures, the Department agrees that any prosecution of Biomet for the conduct set forth in the … Statement of Facts, and for the conduct that Biomet disclosed to the Department, prior to the signing of this Agreement, be and hereby is deferred for the Term of this Agreement. The Department further agrees that if Biomet fully complies with all of its obligations under this Agreement, the Department will not continue the criminal prosecution against Biomet [...]  and, after the Term, this Agreement shall expire and the Department shall seek to move to dismiss, with prejudice, the Criminal Information filed against Biomet.”

Breach of Agreement:  If during the term of this Agreement, the Department determines, in its sole discretion, that Biomet has: (a) committed any felony under federal law subsequent to the signing of this Agreement; (b) at any time, provided deliberately false, incomplete or misleading information; or (c) otherwise breached the Agreement, Biomet shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which the Department has knowledge, including the charges in the Information [...]

As relevant to the above terms of the Biomet DPA, on July 3rd, Biomet disclosed as follows.

“As previously disclosed, on March 26, 2012, Biomet entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, or DPA, with the Department of Justice, or DOJ, and a Consent to Final Judgment, or Consent, with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, regarding an investigation regarding possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Pursuant to the DPA, the DOJ agreed to defer prosecution of Biomet in connection with those matters, provided that Biomet satisfies its obligations under the DPA over the term of the DPA. The DPA has a three-year term but provides that it may be extended in the sole discretion of the DOJ for an additional year. Pursuant to the Consent, Biomet consented to the entry of a Final Judgment which, among other things, permanently enjoined Biomet from violating the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In October 2013, Biomet became aware of certain alleged improprieties regarding its operations in Brazil and Mexico. Biomet retained counsel and other experts to investigate both matters. Based on the results of the investigation, Biomet terminated, suspended or otherwise disciplined certain of the employees and executives involved in these matters, and took certain other remedial measures. Additionally, pursuant to the terms of the DPA, in April 2014, Biomet disclosed these matters to the independent compliance monitor and to the DOJ and SEC.

On July 2, 2014, the SEC issued a subpoena to Biomet requiring that Biomet produce certain documents relating to such matters. Moreover, pursuant to the DPA, the DOJ has sole discretion to determine whether conduct by Biomet constitutes a violation or breach of the DPA. If the DOJ determines that the conduct underlying these investigations constitutes a violation or breach of the DPA, the DOJ could, among other things, extend or revoke the DPA or prosecute Biomet and/or the involved employees and executives. Biomet continues to cooperate with the SEC and DOJ and expects that discussions with the SEC and the DOJ will continue.”

In short, Biomet’s recent disclosure creates the risk that the company may be in breach of the DPA giving the DOJ the ability, per the terms of the DPA, to continue or resurrect the prosecution of Biomet deferred under the DPA, as well as bring an enforcement action for any conduct occurring after the DPA.

As relevant to DPAs, the DOJ maintains that such agreements “have had a truly transformative effect on particular companies and, more generally, on corporate culture across the globe.”

Yet, Biomet’s recent disclosure puts it in a category of many other companies (such as Orthofix International, Willbros Group, Marubeni, Diebold, IBM, Tyco, Aibel Group, and Ingersoll-Rand) that have become the subject of additional scrutiny or enforcement after resolving FCPA enforcement actions through a DPA or agreeing to an SEC permanent injunction.  For more, see this prior post Do NPAs and DPAs Deter?

Yet, what Biomet’s recent disclosure demonstrates is that not even companies with the greatest incentive to comply with the FCPA – and subject to post-enforcement action compliance obligations – are able to ensure FCPA compliance across its business organization or eliminate FCPA scrutiny.  In short, FCPA compliance can not be guaranteed in a business organization, rather steps can be taken that only minimize the risk of non-compliance occurring.

This fundamental fact (and it is a fact that even the enforcement agencies have recognized)  is one of the policy reasons underlying an FCPA compliance defense.  (See here for the article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense”).

Whether Biomet may ultimately be in breach of its 2012 DPA is not the only contractual term that could implicated by recent events at Biomet.

In April 2014, Biomet and Zimmer Holdings announced ”that their respective Boards of Directors have approved a definitive  agreement under which Zimmer will acquire Biomet in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $13.35 billion, including the assumption of net debt.” The transactions is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015.

As relevant to this pending merger, the DPA states as follows.

Sale or Merger:  Biomet agrees that in the event it sells, merges, or transfers all or substantially all of its business operations as they exist as of the date of this Agreement, whether such sale is structured as a stock or asset sale, merger, or transfer, it shall include in any contract for sale, merger, or transfer a provision binding the purchaser, or any successor in interest thereto, to the obligations described in this Agreement.”