Archive for the ‘DOJ’ Category

The DOJ’s Latest Public Relations Move – Compliance Counsel

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

shellThe legal standard by which a business organization can face criminal liability for the conduct (that of course must meet all the substantive elements of a crime) of employees or agents is based on a two-factor test: (i) the employee or agent acted within the scope of employment/agency; and (ii) the conduct, at least in part, benefited the organization.

Under this legal standard, the rank and title of the employee does not matter nor does it matter whether the employee or agent acted contrary to the organization’s pre-existing compliance policies and its good-faith efforts to comply with the law.

This U.S. principle stands in stark contrast to the standard of organizational criminal liability in other peer nations where an organization can only face criminal liability to the extent the conduct was engaged in by so-called “controlling minds” (such as board members or executive officers).

Moreover, as highlighted in my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” most peer nations have compliance-defense concept relevant to their FCPA-like laws.

The Department of Justice appears, with good reason, to be uncomfortable with respondeat superior corporate criminal liability principles including in the FCPA context where the conduct at issue is often engaged by employees in foreign subsidiary and/or foreign third parties.

However, rather than advocate for substantive changes to the above standard (a standard of course that provides the DOJ substantial leverage over business organizations) the DOJ engages in public relations campaigns to mask its discomfort and to make it appear that the DOJ is addressing the core issue.

First it was non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements.  In defending the DOJ’s frequent use of NPAs and DPAs, then DOJ Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated in 2012 (see here for the prior post):

“I personally feel that it’s my duty to consider whether individual employees with no responsibility for, or knowledge of, misconduct committed by others in the same company are going to lose their livelihood if we indict the corporation. In large multi-national companies, the jobs of tens of thousands of employees can be at stake. And, in some cases, the health of an industry or the markets are a real factor.  Those are the kinds of considerations in white collar crime cases that literally keep me up at night, and which must play a role in responsible enforcement.”

When the FCPA reform movement heated up in 2011 (a component of FCPA reform was to amend the FCPA to include a compliance defense to make the FCPA consistent with the FCPA-like laws of many other peer nations), the DOJ once again stepped in with a public relations move and announced that it would issue FCPA Guidance – guidance that for years prior the DOJ said was unnecessary. (To read more about the relevant chronology of events see the article “Grading the FCPA Guidance“).

Still under pressure to demonstrate fairness in its FCPA enforcement program, in 2012 the DOJ marketed Morgan Stanley’s so-called declination and many drank the DOJ’s kool-aid.  (To learn more see prior posts here and here).

The DOJ’s latest public relations move to hide its justified discomfort of respondeat superior criminal liability is the apparent appointment of “compliance counsel” at the DOJ.  As reported here:

“The [DOJ] is hiring a compliance counsel who will help prosecutors determine whether companies facing corruption allegations are victims of rogue employees or willfully blind. [...] The  new compliance counsel, who has been selected and is undergoing vetting, will help authorities put these claims to the test and aid authorities in deciding whether to prosecute, said Andrew Weissmann, chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section in an interview. “Even if we do proceed, what should the appropriate resolution be, in other words what is the appropriate fine, [is] a monitor needed?” The as-yet unidentified compliance counsel will help prosecutors “differentiate the companies that get it and are trying to implement a good compliance program from the people who have a near-paper program,” said Mr. Weissmann, who was named to head up the fraud section earlier this year. The compliance specialist will also assist the fraud unit in other investigations including healthcare and securities fraud. [...] The Justice Department’s compliance specialist will also give companies more specific guidance on what level of program is appropriate for the risk level of the business, Mr. Weissmann said. The compliance counsel will be “benchmarking with various companies in a variety of different industries to make sure we have realistic expectations….and tough-but-fair ones in various industries,” he said. “It doesn’t do anyone good to have people wasting their compliance dollars on areas that are low risk.”

As suggested by the above report, the DOJ’s new “compliance counsel” is presumably the brainchild of Andrew Weissman.

As first reported by FCPA Professor when Weissmann was appointed head of the DOJ fraud section in January 2015, Weissmann has been a vocal advocate of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act reform and more broadly reforming corporate criminal liability principles.

Yet, the DOJ’s new “compliance counsel” does not substantively address any of Weissmann’s prior concerns, and those of many others, regarding the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program.

Rather, it is another instance of DOJ smoke and mirrors.

Why?

Among other reasons, in opposing a compliance defense DOJ officials have long maintained – including while testifying at both the Senate’s 2010 hearing and the House’s 2011 hearing – that prosecutors already take into consideration whether the conduct at issue was engaged in by rogue actors and whether the company had pre-existing compliance policies and procedures. (To read more about the specific DOJ statements, see this article). Indeed, such factors are outlined in the DOJ’s Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations.  However, as highlighted in “Revisiting an FCPA Compliance Defense” the DOJ’s recognition of a “de facto compliance defense” is inadequate because it takes place in the opaque, inconsistent and unpredictable world of unreviewable DOJ decision making.

Thus, the DOJ’s new compliance position has no practical significance because decisions will still be made in an opaque manner behind closed doors in Washington, D.C.

Rather, the compliance counsel position is the DOJ’s latest public relations move. Indeed, a knowledgeable source informs me that that the position may not even be a full-time DOJ position, but rather a contract employee for a specified term.

This is not what FCPA enforcement needs.  Rather, the FCPA needs transparency, consistency and predictably that can only be accomplished through a change to the actual statute.  Moreover, an actual as a matter of law change to the FCPA will yield a host of public policy benefits as well as increase “soft enforcement” of the FCPA as highlighted herehere, here and here.

In short, the DOJ’s recent announcement of compliance counsel represents just the latest public relations move by the DOJ to hide its justified discomfort with respondeat superior corporate criminal liability principles and to make it appear that the DOJ is addressing the core issue.

*****

To read similar reactions to the DOJ’s announcement:

see here (“It’s a clever move because it avoids the Justice Department having to confront a formal compliance defense, which I think can be seen as giving bad incentives. And it gives them a chance to push back on the criticism that they don’t place enough weight on compliance efforts.”);

and here (“I just do not buy this explanation. DOJ prosecutors have a long and valuable expertise in this area. To suggest that they need some assistance is just a little too politically cute for me. [...]  In the absence of some demonstrated need, I think we can put this move into the category of cynical political moves designed to rebut corporate claims that DOJ prosecutors inadequately review and credit corporate compliance programs. [...]  If Mr. Weismann believes that having a compliance counsel available at DOJ is going to quiet advocates for a compliance defense, he is certainly demonstrating his political “immaturity.”)

*****

And yes of course FCPA Inc. is already marketing this development with the goal of attracting more compliance work.  (See here – “With DOJ’s recent hire of a compliance expert, there has never been a more important time for a company to assess its compliance program and identify enhancements that are necessary to appropriately address the evolving global corruption risks.”)

The DOJ’s Seeming Unwillingness To Accept Its Recent FCPA Trial Court Debacles

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Not HearingFailure is a basic element of the human condition.

Thus when a failure occurs, one is often judged by whether one takes ownership of the failure or whether one offers excuses for the failure.

Against the backdrop of yet another DOJ FCPA trial court debacle in the recent Sigelman matter (see here for the prior post), the DOJ seems to have adopted the later approach.

In this recent Bloomberg article titled “Plea Deals Are Easy, Juries Are Hard,” a DOJ spokesman states:

“FCPA cases, by their very nature, often require proof of criminal acts carried out in foreign countries. While obtaining foreign evidence—documents and witnesses—poses particular challenges in FCPA cases, the department remains committed to working with its domestic and foreign law enforcement partners to continue to bring successful prosecutions against the individuals who bribe foreign officials and the companies they work for.”

The inability to obtain foreign evidence to secure an individual FCPA criminal conviction seemingly has little to do with the DOJ’s recent trial court debacles.

For instance, the Sigleman matter originated in a corporate voluntary disclosure (in which a company gift wraps witness statements, relevant e-mails, etc. for the DOJ).  Moreover, during the Sigelman trial it was revealed that the alleged “foreign official” bribe recipient was openly in the United States (he even visited Disney World), but the DOJ made no effort to prevent his exit from the U.S. Moreover, as highlighted in this prior post, the trial court judge in the Sigelman matter blasted the DOJ and its oft-stated rhetoric about the purported difficulty of prosecuting FCPA cases.

The Sigelman matter was not the only recent DOJ FCPA trial court debacle in which the inability to obtain foreign evidence seemingly had little to do with the DOJ’s failure.

For instance, the Africa Sting enforcement action resulted from a multiple-year undercover investigation with a cooperator that had pleaded guilty to real-world FCPA offenses.  During the course of its investigation, the DOJ amassed, among other things, the following evidence according to its discovery filing.

“615 audio and video recordings of more than 150 meetings;”

“5,287 recorded telephone calls between the defendants and the cooperating witness … and between the defendants and undercover FBI agents;”

“nearly 3,000 pages of text messages from the telephone [the cooperator] used in connection with the undercover operation;”

“materials seized during the 13 search warrants executed in connection with the undercover investigation relating to the defendants” including a total of “approximately 242,000 pages of documents,” “electronic media, including desktop computers, laptop computers, USB drives, zip discs, memory cards and DVDs, among other items, seized during the searches,” and “photographs taken in connection with the search warrants and logs of those photographs, as well as search diagrams and seizure inventories.”

The reason the Africa Sting enforcement failed was not because of any difficulty in obtaining foreign evidence, but rather the quality of the evidence the DOJ obtained, the DOJ’s legal theories and – in the words of the jury foreperson – a belief among the jury that the “defendants had acted in good faith and the FBI/DOJ in bad faith.” Indeed, in the words of the presiding judge, part of the DOJ’s failure was attributable to conduct “that [has] no place in a federal courtroom.”

Similarly, the DOJ’s FCPA trial court debacle in the Lindsey Manufacturing enforcement action (in which the company and two executives were criminally charged) was not due to the inability to secure foreign evidence.  Indeed, the DOJ offered sufficient evidence to secure a trial court conviction, a conviction that was short lived though because of numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct.  In the words of the presiding judge the misconduct was “so varied and occur[ed] over so lengthy a period … that they add up to an unusual and extreme picture of a prosecution gone badly awry.”

Like the recent Sigelman action, the DOJ’s 2012 trial against John O’Shea also originated in a corporate voluntary disclosure with the DOJ also having the assistance of a cooperating witness.  However, that trial ended with the judge granting a defense motion of acquittal after the DOJ’s case.  In doing so, the trial court judge stated:  ”the problem here is that the principal witness against Mr. O’Shea … knows almost nothing.”

In short, the recent DOJ FCPA trial court debacles seemingly had little to do with the purported difficulties of obtaining foreign evidence, but rather were the result of aggressive legal theories, sloppy and unprofessional investigations, and jury resentment.

The notion that the DOJ is somehow disadvantaged in a criminal FCPA trial vis-a-vis the defense is outlandish.  The DOJ has the full information gathering resources of the government and among other things benefits from mutual legal assistance treaties, government to government cooperation, and often corporate voluntary disclosures and cooperating witnesses.

Rather, it is the individual defendant who is often disadvantaged as the defense does not have access or the same type of access to the above information and materials. Indeed, in most FCPA trials individuals are facing two adversaries – the DOJ and the cooperating company.

The concern that individual defendants would be disadvantaged in FCPA criminal trials was so prominent during the FCPA’s legislative history that Representative Bob Eckhardt (a leader on the FCPA in the House) insisted on the original FCPA containing the so-called Eckhardt Amendment.

As explained in this prior post, the Eckhardt Amendment basically stated that an individual could only be found liable for FCPA violations to the extent his corporate employer was also found liable.

After the DOJ lost an individual enforcement action against George McLean in the early 1980′s (the first time the DOJ was put to its burden of proof in an FCPA enforcement action) the DOJ convinced Congress to eliminate the Eckhardt Amendment in the 1988 amendments to the FCPA.

 

Silly DOJ Press Release Belies Government’s Failure in Joseph Sigelman FCPA Prosecution

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Laurel and HardyToday’s post is from Paul Calli and Chas Short of Calli Law LLC.

*****

As readers of FCPA Professor well know ( see herehere and here for prior posts), in mid-June, the FCPA prosecution of Joseph Sigelman came to an abrupt halt after DOJ’s star witness admitted to giving false testimony on the stand. The case ended in a plea to one conspiracy count and a sentence of probation.  DOJ nonetheless issued a press release crowing as though this were a prosecution victory.

Make no mistake: this is a loss for the government and a win for Mr. Sigelman.

Trial had gone badly for the government. The government’s star witness lied on the stand and admitted to it, prompting the trial judge to ask, “Did you have a hallucination?” The FBI agent (the only other witness who had testified) admitted that the alleged Colombian “foreign official” at the center of the government’s case was allowed to travel from the United States to Colombia without facing arrest. It was a debacle, as many of the government’s prior FCPA prosecutions have been.

DOJ nonetheless issued a press release trumpeting Mr. Sigelman’s plea and the pending related cases.  The press release, and the government’s decision to spin an embarrassing loss, is silly.

By contrast, Mr. Sigelman’s defense team issued their own press release, which actually discussed the events at trial, and is well worth reading.

The government’s approach is even sillier when its collapse at trial is compared to the pomposity in its initial press release (still on the DOJ’s website). When the complaint was unsealed back in early 2014, DOJ’s press release ‘warned,’ “[W]e are not going away.”

This type of overheated press release rhetoric is not new for DOJ, unfortunately. When the Government made arrests in its FCPA Gabon “sting” case, then-Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated, “[T]hese actions are a turning point.” And he quipped at a press conference, “This is one case where what happens in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas.” It turns out that the turning point was trial: that case ended in a complete victory for the accused individuals.

Government exaggeration is not limited to FCPA cases of course. Back in 2013, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan mockingly read a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York at a conference on white collar crime. Judge Sullivan commented that the press release “sounds like the theme from Mighty Mouse,” and said that the release “seems to be designed for tabloid consumption.” The press release in the government’s failed prosecution of Mr. Sigelman is part of a trend.

But it’s not just that the DOJ release is silly.

It is also offensive to the spirit of justice. The release is written as though all the things that went badly at trial for DOJ never happened. It fails to mention the lies of the cooperator whom the government had decided to embrace. In doing so, it is a clear demonstration that the DOJ press office does not exist to inform the public, but to serve as the propaganda arm of DOJ.

Moreover, consider this: if a publicly traded company issued a press release that contained a material omission, the company may be the subject of criminal prosecution. The release in the Sigelman prosecution unapologetically embraces selective disclosure and deliberate omissions. If we accept the premise that the DOJ ought to do justice (as opposed to simply trying to win), then the DOJ ought to have a duty to keep the public informed about all aspects of its enforcement program.

Just because DOJ alleges it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Reciting it again in a press release doesn’t mean it’s true. Finally, just because the DOJ secures a plea agreement does not necessarily represent a success.  Stated differently, if it smells like a loss, looks like a loss and everyone who followed the case knows it is a loss, it is still a loss.

So why has the DOJ struggled when put to its burden in individual enforcement actions while racking up numerous corporate enforcement actions?

It is one thing for the DOJ to process a corporate voluntary disclosure of an investigation conducted by mid-level associates at FCPA, Inc. As Judge Irenas commented to the DOJ at Mr. Sigelman’s sentencing, “You had PetroTiger through the investigation done by Sidley & Austin, basically dumped – dumped the case in your lap.”

It’s another thing entirely for the DOJ to actually prove up its case against an adversary.

The DOJ’s track record in FCPA cases when held to its burden of proof is poor.  Conversely, the defense’s track record is excellent.

The lesson to be drawn from Sigelman, despite the DOJ’s silly press release, is the reminder that trial is the great equalizer.

Assessing DOJ Transparency

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

FoggyRecently Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell gave this speech at an event hosted by New York University Law School’s Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement.

The focus of the speech, as stated by Caldwell, was “the Criminal Division’s efforts to increase transparency in its corporate prosecutions.”  It is an important topic as transparency is a fundamental tenet of the rule of law.

Caldwell’s speech was mostly forward-looking so time will tell how transparent the DOJ will be in the future including in the FCPA context.

This post assesses DOJ transparency as it relates to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement over the past several years and highlights that DOJ transparency is as foggy as the road in the picture.

When reading the below excerpts from Caldwell’s speech, you may want to keep the following points in mind.

Since 2010, the DOJ has used NPAs or DPAs to resolve approximately 85% of corporate FCPA enforcement actions. These resolution vehicles are negotiated behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. and thus are anything but transparent.

Caldwell states in her speech that “the factual statements filed with resolution documents typically include a detailed recitation of the misconduct, as publicly admitted by the company.”  However, you can judge for yourself whether the following FCPA NPAs contain “a detailed recitation of the misconduct”.

Ralph Lauren NPA (3 page statement of facts most of which identifies relevant parties);

NORDAM Group NPA (2.5 page statement of facts most of which identifies the relevant parties);

Lufthansa Technik NPA (no statement of facts relevant to the entity).

In any event, kudos to Caldwell for recognizing that “opaque” enforcement “carries little deterrent effect.”

The article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” highlights four pillars which contribute to the “facade” of FCPA enforcement.  One pillar highlighted was “same facts, different result.”  The article used what were substantively carbon-copy enforcement actions against Lucent Technologies and UTStarcom, which nevertheless led to materially different charges and penalties, to make the point that FCPA charging decisions are not based solely on the facts and law, but less transparent factors as well.

In any event, kudos to Caldwell for recognizing that “unreasoned” enforcement “carries little deterrent effect.”

Further to the point that FCPA charging decisions seem not to be based solely on the facts and law, but less transparent factors as well, consider the BAE enforcement action. Despite the DOJ alleging conduct that clearly implicated the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, BAE (a large U.S. defense contractor) was not charged with violating the FCPA.

Consider also the mysterious conclusion to James Giffen enforcement action. Giffen was criminally charged with making more than $78 million in unlawful payments to two senior officials of the Republic of Kazakhstan in connection with certain oil transactions in which various American oil companies acquired valuable rights in Kazakhstan.” However, Giffen’s defense was that his actions were made with the knowledge and support of the CIA, the National Security Council, the Department of State and the White House. In 2010, the enforcement action took a sudden and mysterious turn when Giffen agreed to plead guilty to a one-paragraph superseding indictment charging a misdemeanor tax violation.  Perhaps one day the reasoning behind the sudden turn of events will become transparent.

Consider also certain subtle statements in the FCPA Guidance relevant to transparency.

Footnote 379 of the Guidance states as follows.  “Historically, DOJ had, on occasion, agreed to DPAs with companies that were not filed with the court.  That is no longer the practice of DOJ.”

Page 75 of the Guidance suggests that the DOJ has used NPAs in individual FCPA-related cases (e.g., “If an individual complies with the terms of his or her NPA, namely, truthful and complete cooperation and continued law-abiding conduct, DOJ will not pursue criminal charges.” The Guidance also states that “in circumstances where an NPA is with a company for FCPA-related offenses, it is made available to the public through DOJ’s website.” (emphasis added).  This statement suggests that when an NPA is with an individual for FCPA-related offenses, the agreement is not made public.

Indeed, as highlighted in the prior post “Secret FCPA Enforcement” there have been whispers in the FCPA bar for years about secret FCPA enforcement.  As noted in the prior post, not once, not twice, but three times I sought clarification from the DOJ of the above Guidance statements.

In each instance there was no response. So much for that transparency thing.

Indeed, a key qualifier in Caldwell’s recent speech about transparency was the following statement:  ”we [the DOJ] usually publicly announce corporate resolutions and pleas, and make the documents available on our website”) (emphasis added).

Last, but not least before turning to actual excerpts from Caldwell’s speech, is the topic of so-called DOJ declinations.  As evidence of the DOJ’s purported transparency, Caldwell states that the FCPA Guidance “has a section on declinations and provides anonymized examples of real FCPA cases in which we declined to bring a prosecution.”

However, as highlighted in the article “Grading the FCPA Guidance“ the Guidance declination examples raise more questions than answers. For instance, in three of the examples, it is not even clear based on the information provided that the FCPA was violated.  Moreover, in all the declination examples in the Guidance, the factors motivating the declination decision—such as voluntary disclosure and cooperation, effective remedial measures, small improper payments—can often be found in many instances in which FCPA enforcement actions were brought.

At last to the excerpts in Caldwell’s speech.

“One of my priorities in the Criminal Division is to increase transparency regarding charging decisions in corporate prosecutions.  I know that many corporate counsel have concerns about what they perceive as a lack of transparency in how the department decides when to bring charges, or to seek some lesser resolution.

Greater transparency benefits everyone.  The Criminal Division stands to benefit from being more transparent in part because if companies know the benefits they are likely to receive from self-reporting or cooperating in the government’s investigation, we believe they will be more likely to come in and disclose wrongdoing and cooperate.  And on the flip side, companies can better evaluate the consequences they might face if they do not receive cooperation credit.  Transparency also helps to reduce any perceived disparity, in that companies can compare themselves, as best as possible, to other similarly-situated companies engaged in similar misconduct.

There are often limits to how much we can disclose about our investigations and prosecutions—particularly for investigations in which no charges were brought—but we are trying to be more clear about our expectations for corporate cooperation and the bases for our corporate pleas and resolutions.

One of the themes of today’s program is the shaping of corporate culture.  Shaping corporate culture through deterrence is an area where the Criminal Division plays an important role.  One important purpose of criminal prosecution of corporations is the deterrence of future would-be wrongdoers.  But to achieve deterrence, the Criminal Division must transparently communicate its expectations and the consequences of corporate misconduct.  An opaque or unreasoned enforcement action carries little deterrent effect.

We recognize the productive role we can play in influencing corporate conduct, and we take seriously the effects of our enforcement actions.  Wherever possible, we try to communicate clear guidance to the corporate community through our criminal resolutions, our interactions with companies and their counsel during an investigation or prosecution and other channels such as conferences like this one.

During my first year in leading the Criminal Division, we have tried to make as clear as possible what we expect from those companies that choose to cooperate.  Put simply, if a company wants cooperation credit, we expect that company to conduct a thorough internal investigation and to turn over evidence of wrongdoing to our prosecutors in a timely and complete way.  Perhaps most critically, we expect cooperating companies to identify culpable individuals—including senior executives if they were involved—and provide the facts about their wrongdoing.

As this sophisticated audience knows, there is no “off the rack” internal investigation that can be applied to every situation at every company.  Effective investigations must be tailored to the unique misconduct at issue and the circumstances of each company.  But, there are hallmarks of all good internal investigations.  Chief among them is the identification of wrongdoers.  Prosecuting individuals, including corporate executives, for their criminal wrongdoing is a top priority for the Criminal Division.  Corporations seeking cooperation credit should conduct their internal investigations with those principles in mind.

The mere voluntary disclosure of corporate misconduct—by itself—is not enough.  All too often, corporations expect cooperation credit for voluntarily disclosing and describing the corporate entities’ misconduct, and issuing a corporate mea culpa.  True cooperation, however, requires identifying the individuals actually responsible for the misconduct—be they executives or others—and the provision of all available facts relating to that misconduct.

Investigations must also be independent and designed to uncover the facts, not to spread company talking points or whitewash the truth.  We expect that the complete facts about the wrongdoing will be provided, and in a timely way.  As we work to be transparent, we expect transparency in return.  Transparency is a two-way street, and we expect companies that are claiming to cooperate to walk the walk.

The Criminal Division, meanwhile, will conduct its own investigation.  We will pressure test a company’s internal investigation with the facts we gather on our own, and we will consider the adequacy of an internal investigation when we evaluate a company’s claim of cooperation.

Let me be clear, however, the Criminal Division does not dictate how a company should conduct an investigation.  If a company decides to conduct an internal investigation and seek cooperation credit, that company must determine how best to conduct its own internal investigation.  Although we can provide guideposts, the manner in which an internal investigation is conducted is an internal corporate decision.

[...]

We recognize that information about the bases for our corporate guilty pleas and resolutions is an important reference point for companies that are evaluating whether to self-disclose a violation or cooperate.  Corporations may wish for a formula or definitive matrix that could be applied in this context.  But, while a rote formula might bring certainty and consistency, it would do so at the expense of the individualized justice that comes with thoughtful and nuanced prosecutorial decision-making.

For decades, the department has disclosed the factors that prosecutors must evaluate when considering corporate criminal charges and resolutions.  The corporate prosecution principles were originally adopted two decades ago—in the Holder Memo, issued when now Attorney General Holder was the Deputy Attorney General—and have been refined through the years into the current Filip Memo, otherwise known as the Principles of Prosecution of Business Organizations.

This audience is no doubt versed in the comprehensive considerations laid out in the nine Filip factors, which are publicly available on the Internet.  When applied to a particular case against a business organization, the factors could lead to charges, a deferred prosecution agreement or a non-prosecution agreement—known as DPAs and NPAs—or a declination.

Arriving at a corporate resolution requires a unique balancing of the Filip factors in each case.  But this balancing does not take place in a prosecutorial vacuum.  In virtually every instance, we invite company counsel to make a presentation regarding the application of the Filip factors in the case at hand before we make a charging decision.  Again, wherever possible, we encourage an open and transparent dialogue between the company and our prosecutors at every stage.

In each of our corporate resolutions—be it a guilty plea, NPA or DPA—we provide an explanation of the key factors that led to our decision.  The factual statements filed with resolution documents typically include a detailed recitation of the misconduct, as publicly admitted by the company.  The actual agreements outline the factors that were significant in determining the type of resolution, such as the corporation’s cooperation—if any—and remedial measures.  We usually publicly announce corporate resolutions and pleas, and make the documents available on our website.

In the future, you should expect that our resolutions will include even more detailed explanations of our considerations.  This is a priority of mine.  While these documents already provide significant insight into our thought processes, they will soon provide an even greater explanation of our analysis and conclusions.

In addition to their use as enforcement tools, our plea agreements, DPAs and NPAs provide a transparent explanation of the department’s expectations when it comes to compliance programs.  Companies seeking to measure their own compliance programs need look no further than many of the resolutions we have made publicly available.

DPAs and NPAs provide explicit roadmaps for companies to get back on track, sometimes under the watchful eye of a monitor or court.  There is perhaps no more transparent guidance to a specific corporation than the terms in a DPA or NPA, especially when we set forth remedial or compliance measures we expect.

These agreements have real teeth.  When companies subject to a NPA or DPA are required to cooperate and fail to do so, or where they engage in other criminal conduct during the term of the agreement, the Criminal Division will not hesitate to tear up a DPA or NPA and file criminal charges, where such action is appropriate and proportional to the breach.  The Criminal Division’s role is not just to set guideposts for companies that have engaged in significant misconduct, but to prosecute those corporations when they ignore those guideposts.  Just as with individuals, companies are expected to learn from their mistakes.  A company that is already subject to a DPA or NPA for violating the law should not expect the same leniency when it crosses the line again.

Over the course of my career, I have found that when it comes to affecting corporate conduct, nothing has a more powerful impact than concrete examples.  Such examples have traditionally stemmed from publicized corporate prosecutions, as it is more challenging to publicize investigations in which we decline to file charges.  The department has maintained a long-standing practice not to discuss non-public information on matters it has declined to prosecute, based in large part on concerns about the privacy rights and interests of uncharged parties.  There are serious privacy concerns inherent in publicly identifying an individual who was implicated in our criminal investigation if we eventually decide not to bring charges.  Indeed, internal department policy prohibits us from publicly identifying those individuals who have been investigated, but not charged.

Likewise, companies often strongly oppose publicity that they were under Justice Department scrutiny, even if we ultimately declined to prosecute.

The challenge we are currently working to address is how to publicize these cases while taking into consideration the legitimate concerns of the companies and individuals who were under investigation.  We are looking for ways to better inform the community about cases in which we decline to prosecute, as there is often as much to learn from a decision not to bring charges as a decision to prosecute.  We seek not just to prosecute, but to encourage and reward good corporate citizenship, and increasing transparency can play an important role in achieving that goal.

A significant example of our efforts in this regard is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Resource Guide published by the Criminal Division and the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The Guide has a section on declinations and provides anonymized examples of real FCPA cases in which we declined to bring a prosecution.  Although each potential case is based on its own unique circumstances and facts, the examples in the Guide provide useful insight into the circumstances of real-world declination decisions.

The Criminal Division’s FCPA website continues this effort at transparency by posting relevant enforcement actions and opinion letters.  The department responds to opinion requests concerning enforcement intent about prospective actions that might violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.  This procedure enables companies and individuals to request a determination in advance as to whether proposed conduct would constitute a violation of the FCPA.  These opinion letters are publicly available on our website.  While they are binding only on the party that makes the request, they provide significant guidance on the department’s approach to enforcing the FCPA.

Through these and other steps, the Criminal Division has prioritized increased transparency in our corporate investigations and prosecutions.  We strive to disclose more information, to the extent we can, while protecting ongoing investigations and privacy rights.  And we encourage companies to do the same—to self-disclose criminal violations and to cooperate with our investigations—or risk the consequences.”

Friday Roundup

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Roundup2In-depth, scrutiny alert, further Alstom-developments, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

In-Depth

In November 2014, Dutch-based SBM Offshore resolved an enforcement action in the Netherlands.  With a settlement amount of $240 million, the SBM Offshore enforcement action was one of the largest bribery-related enforcement actions of 2014 – regardless of country.

This recent article titled “The Cover-Up at Dutch Multinational SBM” in Vrij Nederland (a Dutch magazine) goes in-depth as to SBM’s scrutiny.  The article has largely escaped the attention of Western media and the FCPA-related blogosphere, but is worth the time to read.  The article begins as follows.

“The corruption scandal at Dutch multinational SBM Offshore, which in November reached a $240 million out-of-court settlement with the Dutch Public Prosecutor (OM), is much larger than thought, as testimony of a former employee now shows. The company has actively pursued a strategy of “containment” and has consistently misled the market. So why did the OM settle?”

Among other things, the article highlights the role of U.S. lawyers and law firms involved in the SBM representation.

Scrutiny Alert

In this recent article, the L.A. Times details, based on obtained documents, the expenditures involved in filming the movie Sahara. Among the expenditures, according to the article - ”local bribes” within the Kingdom of Morocco.  The article states:

“Courtesy payments,” “gratuities” and “local bribes” totaling $237,386 were passed out on locations in Morocco to expedite filming. A $40,688 payment to stop a river improvement project and $23,250 for “Political/Mayoral support” may have run afoul of U.S. law, experts say.

[...]

According to Account No. 3,600 of the “Sahara” budget, 16 “gratuity” or “courtesy” payments were made throughout Morocco. Six of the expenditures were “local bribes” in the amount of 65,000 dirham, or $7,559.

Experts in Hollywood accounting could not recall ever seeing a line item in a movie budget described as a bribe.

[...]

The final budget shows that “local bribes” were handed out in remote locations such as Ouirgane in the Atlas Mountains, Merzouga and Rissani. One payment was made to expedite the removal of palm trees from an old French fort called Ouled Zahra, said a person close to the production who requested anonymity.

Other items include $23,250 for “Political/Mayoral support” in Erfoud and $40,688 “to halt river improvement project” in Azemmour. The latter payment was made to delay construction of a government sewage system that would have interrupted filming.”

Further Alstom Developments

Yesterday, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced:

“Charges have been brought by the SFO against Alstom Network UK Ltd and an Alstom employee in phase three of its ongoing investigation.

Alstom Network UK Ltd, formerly called Alstom International Ltd, a UK subsidiary of Alstom, has been charged with a further two offences of corruption contrary to section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, as well as two offences of conspiracy to corrupt contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Michael John Anderson, 54, of Kenilworth in Warwickshire, who was working as a business development director for Alstom Transport SA in France, has been charged with the same offences.

The alleged offences are said to have taken place between 1 January 2006 and 18 October 2007 and concern the supply of trains to the Budapest Metro.

The first hearing in this case will take place at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 12 May 2015.”

Quotable

In this recent speech, DOJ Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“Through deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements – or DPAs and NPAs – in cases against companies, we are frequently able to accomplish as much as, and sometimes even more than, we could from even a criminal conviction.  We can require remedial measures and improved compliance policies and practices.  We also can require companies to cooperate in ongoing investigations, including investigations of responsible individuals.  To ensure compliance with the terms of the agreements and to help facilitate companies getting back on the right track, we can impose monitors and require periodic reporting to courts that oversee the agreements for their terms.

Some of these outcomes may resemble remedies that can be imposed by regulators. But these agreements have several features that cannot be achieved by regulatory or civil resolutions.

Criminal Division resolutions require that an entity admit to its misconduct.  Commerzbank, for example, admitted responsibility and agreed to a detailed statement of facts that was filed with the court.  Whereas some regulators permit “no admit, no deny” resolutions – for legitimate reasons of their own – we require that individuals and entities acknowledge their criminal culpability if they are entering into a NPA, DPA or pleading guilty.

Where we enter into DPAs, a criminal information is filed with the court and prosecution of the information is deferred for the time of the agreement.  Where a company fails to live up to the terms of its agreement, an information is already filed, and we can tear up the agreement and prosecute based on the admitted statement of facts.  That’s a powerful incentive to live up to the terms of the agreements.

When we suspect or find non-compliance with the terms of DPAs and NPAs, we have other tools at our disposal, too.  We can extend the term of the agreements and the term of any monitors, while we investigate allegations of a breach, including allegations of new criminal conduct.  Where a breach has occurred, we can impose an additional monetary penalty or additional compliance or remedial measures.  And let me be clear: the Criminal Division will not hesitate to tear up a DPA or NPA and file criminal charges, where such action is appropriate and proportional to the breach.

Obviously, not every breach of a DPA warrants the same penalty.  We are committed to pursuing an appropriate remedy in each case, and we will calibrate the penalty we pursue to fit the nature of the violation and the corporation’s history and culture.  And we will do so transparently, with an explanation of what factors led to the resolution in each case.

[...]

[C]riminal prosecution is the best manner in which to punish culpable individuals.  And the seriousness of potential or actual punishment for felony criminal convictions, including incarceration for individuals, and the stigma and reputational harm associated with criminal charges or convictions, serve as powerful deterrents.”

For the Reading Stack

This Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance post suggests that the ongoing corruption investigations in Brazil are becoming full-employment events for FCPA Inc.  According to the article:

“Multinationals with operations in Brazil are making frightened calls to their lawyers, as the country’s spreading corruption scandal reaches more companies.

[...]

Attorneys say companies with operations in Brazil are scrambling to assess whether they could get swept up in the probe. “They are very worried,” said Ruti Smithline, an anti-bribery specialist at Morrison & Foerster LLP. “The investigation is so widespread. If you have business in Brazil, the likelihood that this is going to touch you in some way is very high.”

Companies are racing to discover questionable activities before authorities in Brazil do. “They are asking: ‘Is our house clean? If authorities look at these relationships what are they going to find?’” Ms. Smithline said.”

The WSJ post asserts:

“[Brazil's  new anti-corruption law, the Clean Companies Act] holds companies to even higher standards and stricter liability than the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. For example, unlike the FCPA, under the Brazilian law a company can be prosecuted for corruption even if didn’t realize it was paying a bribe and had a great compliance program in place.”

This is a most off-target statement as Brazil law does not even provide for corporate criminal liability like the FCPA.  Moreover, business organizations are often the subject of FCPA enforcement actions even though the company had in place pre-existing compliance policies and procedures.

*****

Miller & Chevalier’s FCPA Spring Review 2015 is here.

*****

A good weekend to all.