Archive for the ‘Double Standard’ Category

Supreme Court – “Ingratiation And Access Are Not Corruption”

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Corruption ought to be corruption, plain and simple.

The same rules and principles governing corruption of a “foreign official” ought to apply to corruption of U.S. “officials.”

Yet, as I have highlighted for years on these pages there is a glaring double standard when it comes to alleged corruption of “foreign officials” and corruption of U.S. “officials.”  The U.S. government is eager to address the former, yet countenances in many cases the latter by advancing certain policy arguments.

Last week in McCutcheon v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court dived into the topic of corruption.

The specific issue before the court was whether the aggregate limits on campaign contributions found in 2 USC 441(a)(a)(1), which restricts how much money a donor may contribute in total to all political candidates or political committees, violates the First Amendment.

In a plurality opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Alito, the court held that such aggregate limits are invalid under the First Amendment and in doing so dismissed the argument that such limits served the objective of combating corruption.

The opinion recognized that “while preventing corruption or its appearance is a legitimate objective, Congress may target only a specific type of corruption ‘quid pro quo’ corruption.”  As to that type of corruption, the opinion adopted a narrow view and stated: ”government regulation may not target the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford.  Ingratiation and access are not corruption.”

As to the aggregate limits at issue, the opinion stated:

“[S]pending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s officials duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption.  Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner influence over or access to elected officials or political parties.”

“The line between quid pro quo corruption and general influence may seem vague at times, but the distinction must be respected in order to safeguard basis First Amendment rights.”

Next, the plurality opinion addressed contributions through various “third parties” such party committees, PACs or others and stated:

“[T]here is not the same risk of quid pro quo corruption or its appearance when money flows through independent actors to a candidate, as when a donor contributes to a candidate directly.  When an individual contributes to candidate, a party committee, or a PAC, the individuals must by law cede control over the funds. [...] As a consequence, the chain of attribution grows longer, and any credit must be shared among the various actors along the way.  For those reasons, the risk of quid pro quo corruption is generally applicable only to the narrow category of money gifts that are directed, in some manner, to a candidate or officerholder.”

It is difficult to square this logic with – for example – the third-party payment provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In closing, the plurality opinion notes that any risk of corruption is cured by disclosure requirements under federal law and that “[t]oday, given the Internet, disclosure offers much more robust protections against corruption.”  It is interesting to note – as highlighted in my article “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” – that disclosure vs. prohibition was the preferred method of addressing the so-called foreign corporate payments problem by the Ford Administration and various members of Congress.

A dissenting opinion authored by Justice Breyer and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan states that the notion ”that large aggregate contributions do not give rise to corruption – is plausible only because the plurality defines corruption too narrowly.”

The dissenting opinion speaks broadly of corruption.

“Corruption breaks the constitutionally necessary chain of communication between the people and their representatives.  It derails the essential speech-to-government-action tie.  Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.  Insofar as corruption cuts the link between political thought and political action, a free marketplace of political ideas loses its point.”

“Since the kinds of corruption that can destroy the link between public opinion and governmental action extend well beyond those the plurality describes, the plurality’s notion of corruption is flatly inconsistent with the [basic constitutional rationales].

In the end, the double standard between the meaning of corruption as it relates to “foreign officials” vs. U.S. “officials” matters as it undermines the legitimacy and moral authority on which the U.S. government acts.

Against the backdrop of the U.S. government bringing FCPA enforcement based on allegations that a company was seeking access to certain foreign officials or certain information or that company employees were seeking to ingratiate themselves with foreign officials through such items of value as a bottle of wine, flowers, karaoke bars or cigarettes … just remember, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court “ingratiation and access are not corruption.”

If The DOJ Was A Business Organization …

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

If the Department of Justice was a business organization and subject to the same legal principles its uses to prosecute business organizations, it would constantly be under scrutiny and the subject of numerous enforcement actions.

Why?

As highlighted in this recent report by the Project on Government Oversight (“POGO”) titled “Hundreds of Justice Department Attorneys Violated Professional Rules, Laws, or Ethical Standards:”

“An internal affairs office at the Justice Department has found that, over the last decade, hundreds of federal prosecutors and other Justice employees violated rules, laws, or ethical standards governing their work.”

[...]

“From fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2013, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) documented more than 650 infractions … In the majority of the matters – more than 400 – OPR categorized the violations as being at the more severe end of the scale:  recklessness or intentional misconduct, as distinct from error or poor judgment.”

As highlighted in the POGO report:

“[T]he Justice Department does not make public the names of attorneys who acted improperly ….  The result:  the Department, its lawyers, and the internal watchdog office itself are insulated from meaningful public scrutiny and accountability.”

Although not specifically discussed in the POGO report, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions have seen instances of prosecutorial misconduct.  For instance, as highlighted in this post, in the DOJ’s enforcement action against Lindsey Manufacturing and two of its executives, the judge in dismissing the case, stated that the instances of misconduct were “so varied, and occurr[ed] over so lengthy a period … that they add up to an unusual and extreme picture of a prosecution gone badly awry.”  In the failed Africa Sting case, the judge in dismissing the cases, stated that certain of the DOJ’s conduct had “no place in a federal courtroom.”  (See here).

The DOJ’s Principles of Prosecution of Business Organizations state, among the factors prosecutors should consider in deciding whether – and how – to charge a business organization as follows.

“Among the factors prosecutors should consider and weigh are whether the corporation appropriately disciplined wrongdoers, once those employees are identified by the corporation as culpable for the misconduct.”

Against this backdrop, the POGO report states that several “examples of misconduct” within the DOJ often result in lenient sanctions such as a 10, 14 or 30 day suspensions.

Obviously, the DOJ is not a business organization.

However, as a matter of principle should not the prosecutor / regulator and the prosecuted / regulated be held to the same general standards?

For instance, assume two organizations – A &B.

Organization A has tens of thousands of employees spread across the globe. Its employees are trained on the legal rules and requirements relevant to their jobs. Yet, despite the organization’s best training efforts and its committment to compliance and ethics, certain employees fail to conduct themselves according to the training and thus violate the law.  Organization A, as an entity will be held accountable, the organization will be forced – based on the isolated employee’s conduct – to conduct a thorough review of its entire operations, and will likely have a compliance monitor imposed on it.

Organization B, compared to Organization A, is substantially smaller and the vast majority of its employees are located in the United States.  Its employees are trained on the legal rules and requirements relevant to their jobs. Yet, despite the organization’s best training efforts and its committment to compliance and ethics, certain employees fail to conduct themselves according to the training and thus violate the law or relevant rules.  Organization B, as an entity will not be held accountable, the organization will not be forced – based on the isolated employee’s conduct – to conduct a thorough review of its entire operations, and will not have a compliance monitor imposed on it.

Organization A of course is a typical business organization doing business in the global marketplace.

Organization B of course is the DOJ.

Why should there be a difference?

As noted in the POGO report, “high-level DOJ officials have said in the past that given the context – tens of thousands of its attorneys working on tens of thousands of cases each year – the amount of misconduct is small.”  (See here).

Could not the same be said of a typical multinational business organization doing business in the global marketplace?

For previous posts touching upon the same topics as above, see “If the SEC Was An Issuer …” (nothing that if the SEC was an issuer, it would have some serious FCPA books and records and internal control issues to deal with as a result of a GAO report) and “Should There be A Difference.”

Friday Roundup

Friday, December 27th, 2013

“Scurrilous and hypocritical,” scrutiny alerts and updates, a foreign official brain teaser, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

“Scurrilous and Hypocritical”

As I have highlighted for years (see approximately 25 separate posts under the subject matter heading double standard), there is a double standard concerning corporate interaction with “foreign officials” under the FCPA and corporate interaction with U.S. officials under other U.S. laws – specifically 18 U.S.C. 201.

Commenting on JPMorgan’s current FCPA scrutiny concerning its alleged hiring practices in China, former SEC Commissioner Arthur Levitt writes, in pertinent part, in this Wall Street Journal opinion piece as follows.

“[A]ccording to financial regulators now looking into the hiring practices of major U.S. banks and multinationals in China—some of which have employed members of influential Chinese families—anyone who once hired me [Levitt's father was the New York state comptroller] might have been violating ethical and legal standards. Securities and Exchange Commission regulators now suggest that such hiring overseas is a form of untoward influence, akin to bribing foreign officials to win business.

The accusation is scurrilous and hypocritical. If you walk the halls of any institution in the U.S.—Congress, federal courthouses, large corporations, the White House, American embassies and even the offices of the SEC—you are likely to run into friends and family members of powerful and wealthy people.

[...]

Whether this is right or wrong, unfair or fair, is not the point. It is hypocritical of financial regulators to criticize—even penalize—practices abroad that are commonplace in Washington, New York and other seats of political and economic power.

Were the SEC to be completely consistent in its approach, it would have to come down hard on the same practices here in the U.S. And the agency would have a field day. Members of Congress and the executive branch regularly hire the children of major donors. Regulators would find scores of examples of men and women, occupying internships and entry-level positions in U.S. corporations, who were hired on the say-so of someone much higher up in the organization.

[...]

[I]f we were to deny multinational companies the ability to hire locally recommended talent, where do we draw the line? Are spouses of influential officials off-limits, but not their children? What about siblings? If not siblings, what about cousins, uncles, nephews? And then there is the issue of friends: How can a financial regulator know whether a friend of someone in power received a job offer in good faith or as a form of influence peddling?

I would hate to imagine what would happen if we applied the same kind of sliding scale to the many people who have received job offers by way of their familial relationships. If that happened, there aren’t many people in finance who would escape the accusation that their hiring was the byproduct of influence peddling.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

This Macau Business Daily report notes the timing of a $10 million pledge by Nasdaq-listed Melco Crown Entertainment for a cultural project in collaboration with the Tokyo University of the Arts.  As noted in the article, the company needs various government permissions to increase its presence in Japan.  As noted in this prior post, among others, casino operators including Wynn Resorts have been the subject of FCPA scrutiny based on similar charitable contributions.

This previous post highlighted how Transparency International urged the DOJ to investigate the conduct of Walters Power International  (an Oklahoma based company that supplies, develops, services and manages electrical generation power plants around the world) in connection with power plant projects in Pakistan.  This recent article in The News International reports that Walters Power has “been cleared of any misconduct by the US Department of Justice.”  The article notes:

“Following [TI's] complaint, the US Department of Justice launched a lengthy inquiry against WPIL [...]. On Oct 31, 2012, it informed WPIL’s [...] lawyers in the US that the inquiry was being closed as no evidence of wrongdoing could be found against the companies. The clearance letter, a copy of which is available with The News, said: “Over the past several months, your client, Walters Power International Ltd., has responded to a number of inquires by the Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. You have also responded to inquiries on behalf of Pakistan Power Resources, LLC, and Walters Power International, LLC.  As you are aware, the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued an order on March 30, 2012, that declared the country’s rental power plant contracts void ab initio. Our review of that order and related pleadings has revealed no allegations of bribery in connection with those contracts. In addition, on July 24, 2012, Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau closed its case regarding Walters Power noting that “there remains no basis for further proceedings about the Company.”  Finally, Transparency International Pakistan, which publicly referred this matter to the US Department of Justice, has provided no evidence of bribery in connection with the RPP contracts in response to our request for further information.  Based upon our investigation and the information that has been made available to us to date, we presently do not intend to take any enforcement action and are closing our inquiry into this matter.  If, however, additional information or evidence should be made available to us in the future, we may reopen our inquiry.”

The article concludes as follows.

“Interestingly, WPIL [...] sat on this letter issued by the US Department of Justice for over a year. When asked why this letter had not been made public for so long, a spokesman for WPIL said: “We cooperated unreservedly with the impartial and unimpeachable investigation of the US Department of Justice and are satisfied with the results. The findings of the US Department of Justice were shared with all shareholders and financial institutions but not made public for fear that this might be misconstrued as a rebuke by the now former chief justice of Pakistan.” He added that the Washington inquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either company, contrary to popular misconceptions within Pakistan.”

“Foreign Official” Brain Teaser

As noted in this recent Wall Street Journal article, China State Construction Engineering Corp. (the largest home builder in the world), “is making its first acquisition in the U.S. market through its American subsidiary, as the company continues its aggressive push into overseas markets. China Construction America, the U.S. subsidiary, … agreed to acquire Manhattan-based Plaza Construction for an undisclosed sum.”  As noted in the article, “Plaza Construction mainly provides construction management and consulting services in places including New York, Florida, California and Washington, D.C.”

Congress never intended for employees of state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (SOEs) to be “foreign officials” under the FCPA – see here for my “foreign official” declaration – but given the DOJ and SEC’s “foreign official” interpretations, post-acquisition are Plaza Construction employees now Chinese “foreign officials?”

Quotable

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim recently stated as follows:

“I’d like to make clear why fighting corruption is a critical priority for me personally, and for the entire World Bank Group:  Every dollar that a corrupt official or a corrupt business person puts in their pocket is a dollar stolen from a pregnant woman who needs health care; or from a girl or a boy who deserves an education; or from communities that need water, roads, and schools. Every dollar is critical if we are to reach our goals to end extreme poverty by 2030 and to boost shared prosperity.  Let’s not mince words: In the developing world, corruption is public enemy number one. We will never tolerate corruption, and I pledge to do all in our power to build upon our strong fight against it.”

Reading Stack

The most recent edition of the always-informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update is here.  As to the recent Weatherford settlement, the Update states as follows.

“The $152 million in fines and penalties paid by Weatherford make it the eighth largest FCPA settlement in history. Although the monetary resolution is objectively large, comparing it to the monetary resolution in another recent enforcement action points to the difficulty of ascertainting the logic of penalty determinations.

[...]

Beyond the lack of transparency in the calculations that led to the financial resolution – a recurring feature of settled FCPA matters – the Weatherford settlement, like other recent settlements, is a disposition in which facts are included in the allegations or information without an explanation as to why they are relevant, potentially creating even more confusion as to what is or is not acceptable from the enforcement agencies’ point of view.”

For the recent post titled “FCPA Settlements Have Come a Long Way In a Short Amount of Time,” see here.

As to the recent Corruption Perception Index scores recently released by Transparency International (see here for the prior post), the FCPA Update rightly notes as follows.

“[W]hile companies subject to the FCPA, the UKBA, or other transnational anti-bribery regimes should continue to pay heed to the CPI, those seeking most efficiently to assess compliance risks also need to assess such matters as: (1) sector risk; (2) business model risk (including the degree to which the firm relies on third parties and the nature of controls over their activities); and (3) the nature and scope of government interactions, not only in connection with winning sales from government customers but also in obtaining zoning and building permits, tax clearances, customs rulings, currency transaction permissions, investment and financing approvals, and a range of other daily decisions from government actors. Firms with business risks associated with non-compliance such as expiring patents, excess capacity, disproportionate sales-based compensation, and limited oversight over sales and supply chain personnel, may well have significant corruption risks even in nations ranked highly in the CPI.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

Friday Roundup

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Ask yourself, the true measure of success is, statute of limitations decision of note, and more on JPMorgan.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Ask Yourself

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If the answer to any of these questions is yes, please consider a donation – a voluntary yearly subscription - to FCPA Professor.  Yearly subscriptions to other legal publications or sources of information can serve as an appropriate guide for a donation amount.

See here to donate.

The True Measure of Success Is …

As numerous sources have reported (for instance see here from Reuters and here from the Telegraph), the U.K. Serious Fraud Office’s prosecution of Victor Dahdaleh for allegedly paying millions in bribes to former managers of Aluminium Bahrain has collapsed.

The SFO provided the following statement to the court.

“At the commencement of this trial, the Serious Fraud Office was of the view that there was a realistic prospect of conviction in this case and that furthermore, the evidence in this case was strong.  Two things, in particular, have happened which have led to the prospect of conviction deteriorating in this case.  The first of those is that Bruce Hall, a conspirator and significant witness for the SFO significantly changed his evidence from that contained in his witness statement. Secondly, we have the unwillingness of two witnesses to face cross-examination. That impacts both on the fairness of the trial as well as the prospects of conviction.  Since last Thursday, yet further contact has taken place with Akin Gump, the lawyers for Aluminium Bahrain, or “Alba”, to secure the attendance of these two American witnesses, Mark MacDougall and Randy Teslik who are both partners in that firm. As you will see from the correspondence, they have attempted to place limits on the extent to which they can be cross-examined.  The Serious Fraud Office does not believe it would be appropriate to attempt to persuade the court to agree to such limits nor, given your comments last week, that they should appear via video-link.  The Defence have raised issues questioning Akins Gump’s role in the provision of assistance to the Serious Fraud Office both as to what their motives may have been in the dissemination of material and assistance as to witnesses who could provide relevant information, this in the context, as accepted by the defence, of the Serious Fraud Office acting in good faith. The attendance of the two American witnesses would have allowed this aspect of the case to be ventilated before the jury. Their refusal to attend creates a situation where it is clear that the trial process cannot remedy the position and we accept unfairness now exists for the Defence.  In seeking to secure the attendance of these two witnesses – who have previously attended court on every other occasion when their attendance has been required – the Serious Fraud Office has taken every available step, including a direct telephone conversation between the Director of the Serious Fraud Office and the chair of Akin Gump.  Not every unfairness necessarily leads to trials being discontinued, particularly where there is other evidence and taking into account the public interest in pursuing serious crime. After careful consideration of all of the circumstances of the case the Serious Fraud Office has concluded that there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction in this case and accordingly we offer no evidence.”

For an additional SFO statement, see here.

While I have no unique insight into the facts and circumstances relevant to the Dahdaleh case and the SFO’s decision to abandon it, this much I know.

Success in enforcing a law, whether in the corporate context or individual context, is best measured – not by instances in which an enforcement agency in position of various “carrots” and “sticks” is able to procure a settlement – but by instances in which an enforcement agency is actually put to its burden of proof in an adversarial proceeding.

Statute of Limitations Decision of Note

Speaking of that measure of success, earlier this week the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the DOJ’s statute of limitations theory in U.S. v. Grimm.

The case – outside the FCPA context – involved employees of General Electric Company who allegedly engaged in a multi-year scheme to fix below-market rates on interest paid by GE to municipalities.  The defendants were tried and convicted of violating the general federal conspiracy statute (18 USC 371).  The defendants appealed their convictions on the ground that the indictment was barred by the statute of limitations.  The trial court held that the statute of limitations continued to run during the period when GE paid the (depressed) interest to municipalities, and that the interest payments could constitute overt acts.

On appeal, the defendants argued that such interest payments cannot serve as overt acts because the routine payments were scheduled to continue for years (if not decades) after the contract was awarded and after all concerted conduct had ended.

The Second Circuit concluded that those payments do not constitute overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy.  In so holding, the court rejected the DOJ’s position that a conspiracy continues so long as a stream of anticipated payments contains an element of profit.  The court stated, “but that proves too much” – “a conspiracy to corrupt the rent payable on a 99-year ground lease would, under the government’s theory, prolong the overt acts until long after any conspirator or co-conspirator was left to profit, or to plot.”

Not that statute of limitations have much practical impact on corporate FCPA enforcement actions given the “carrots” and “sticks” relevant to resolving an action, but if they did, it is easy to see relevance to the FCPA context as certain alleged bribe payments could be made to secure a contract – such as a production sharing agreement or similar – that has a revenue stream of serial payments over a number of years.

More on JPMorgan

The NY Times returned (here) to the JPMorgan story it first reported in August (see here and here for prior posts) regarding the company’s hiring practices in China.  The article states:

“Federal authorities have obtained confidential documents that shed new light on JPMorgan Chase’s decision to hire the children of China’s ruling elite, securing emails that show how the bank linked one prominent hire to “existing and potential business opportunities” from a Chinese government-run company.  The documents, which also include spreadsheets that list the bank’s “track record” for converting hires into business deals, offer the most detailed account yet of JPMorgan’s “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, which has been at the center of a federal bribery investigation for months. The spreadsheets and emails — recently submitted by JPMorgan to authorities — illuminate how the bank created the program to prevent questionable hiring practices but ultimately viewed it as a gateway to doing business with state-owned companies in China, which commonly issue stock with the help of Wall Street banks.

[...]

“There is no indication that executives at JPMorgan’s headquarters in New York were aware of the hiring practices described in the documents. And authorities might ultimately conclude that the bank’s hiring, while aggressive, did not cross a legal line.”

Once again (see here and here for prior posts), the latest JPMorgan article spawned much commentary touching upon double standard issues.  For multimedia content, see here from the Daily Ticker.

In this Huffington Post column, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich states:

“But let’s get real. How different is bribing China’s “princelings,” as they’re called there, from Wall Street’s ongoing program of hiring departing U.S. Treasury officials, presumably in order to grease the wheels of official Washington?

[...]

Or, for that matter, how different is what JP Morgan did in China from Wall Street’s habit of hiring the children of powerful American politicians?

[...]

And how much worse is JP Morgan’s putative offense in China than the torrent of money JP Morgan and every other major Wall Street bank is pouring into the campaign coffers of American politicians — making the Street one of the major backers of Democrats as well as Republicans?”

Reich concludes by asking:

“The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is important, and JP Morgan should be nailed for bribing Chinese officials. But, if you’ll pardon me for asking, why isn’t there a Domestic Corrupt Practices Act?”

Well, Mr. Reich, there is a domestic corrupt practices act – it is called 18 U.S.C. 201, but as I’ve highlighted for years there is a double standard (see the 25 separate posts under the subject matter heading double standard).

But why should corporate interaction with a “foreign official” be subject to greater scrutiny and different standards of enforcement than corporate interaction with a U.S. official? After all, 18 U.S.C. 201 has elements very similar to the FCPA.  Why do we reflexively label a “foreign official” who receives “things of value” from private business interests as corrupt, yet generally turn a blind eye when it happens here at home?

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, November 8th, 2013

That’s just so fringe, where now?, the pulse of FCPA Inc., scrutiny alerts and updates, for the reading stack, and save the date.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

That’s Just So Fringe

Many in the anti-corruption space have latched onto developments in other countries and carried forward the torch of reform.  Just goggle Anna Hazare’s hunger strike in India or discover the wealth of material written about marches and demonstrations in Brazil prior to Brazil’s bribery laws being amended.

Recently there was a march in Washington D.C., protesting, in part, government corruption.  (See here).  Why has there not been similar coverage in the anti-corruption space?  Where are those who otherwise carried forward the torch of reform?  Apparently the reaction is – when it happens here in the U.S. – well, that’s just so fringe.

Where Now?

As DOJ Deputy Assistant Attorney, John Burretta “oversaw the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, among others, including the Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit.”  He also “supervised the preparation of the DOJ and SEC’s Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, issued in November 2012.”

Like most other DOJ policy leaders and FCPA enforcement attorneys with supervisory powers during this new era of FCPA enforcement, Burretta is now in the private sector as he recently joined Cravath as a partner.  (See here).  According to his Cravath bio, “his practice focuses on investigations and white collar criminal defense, including advising and representing clients in matters related to the FCPA” among other things.

The Pulse of FCPA Inc.

Few FCPA Inc. participants are publicy-traded companies.  Thus, it is often difficult to take the pulse of FCPA Inc. other than anecdotal information.

However, one FCPA Inc. participant that is publicly traded is FTI Consulting.  The company recently disclosed that revenues for the quarter in its relevant business segment increased nearly 2% compared to the prior year “due to higher services revenues primarily for investigations involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and interest rate setting process concerning the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) …”.

It’s only one company, but with few FCPA Inc. datapoints publicly available, it is a relevant datapoint.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Weatherford

Weatherford International recently disclosed as follows concerning its long-running FCPA scrutiny:

“During the quarter ended June 30, 2013, negotiations related to the oil-for-food and FCPA matters progressed to a point where we recognized a liability for a loss contingency that we believe is probable and for which a reasonable estimate can be made.  The Company estimates that the amount of this loss is $153 million and recognized a loss contingency equal to such amount in the quarter ended June 30, 2013.  Since our last 10-Q filing, substantial progress in the negotiations was made, and these negotiations have recently concluded. These negotiations have resulted in agreements with representatives of the DOJ and the SEC enforcement staff relating to terms and total payments to be made to government agencies relating to the oil-for-food and FCPA matters subject in each case to final review and approval by the DOJ and SEC Commission as well as judicial approval.  The agreements would require total payments to government agencies equal to the $153 million loss contingency that the Company recognized in the quarter ended June 30, 2013.  The agreements would also include (1) an agreement under which criminal prosecution for the Company would be deferred for three years and a plea agreement would impose a criminal conviction on one of the Company’s subsidiaries; (2) a requirement to retain, for a period of at least 18 months, an independent monitor responsible to assess the Company’s compliance with the terms of the agreement so as to address and reduce the risk of recurrence of alleged misconduct, after which the Company would continue to evaluate its own compliance program and make periodic reports to the DOJ and SEC; and (3) a requirement to maintain agreed compliance monitoring and reporting systems.  If final settlement terms differ from the agreements we have reached with DOJ and SEC representatives or if necessary approvals are not ultimately obtained, we could become subject to injunctive relief, disgorgement, fines, penalties, sanctions or imposed modifications to business practices that could adversely affect our results of operations.”

A $153 million FCPA settlement amount would be 8th largest of all time based on the current top ten settlement list.

Layne Christensen Co.

Layne Christensen Co. recently disclosed as follows concerning its long-running FCPA scrutiny:

“The Company is engaged in discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding a potential negotiated resolution of these matters. The Company believes that it is likely that any settlement will include both the payment of a monetary fine and the disgorgement of any improper benefits. In May 2013, the staff of the SEC orally advised the Company that they calculated the estimated benefits to the Company from allegedly improper payments, plus interest thereon, to be approximately $4.8 million, which amount was accrued by the Company as of April 30, 2013. Based on the results of the Company’s internal investigation, an analysis of the resolution of recent and similar FCPA resolutions, the Company currently estimates a potential settlement range for resolving these matters (including the amount of a monetary penalty and the disgorgement of any improper benefits plus and interest) of $10.4 million to $16.0 million. The Company has increased its reserve for the settlement of these matters from $4.8 million to $10.4 million, representing the low end of this range.  At this time, we can provide no assurances as to whether the Company will be able to settle for an amount equal to its current reserve or within its estimated settlement range or whether the SEC or DOJ will accept voluntary settlement terms that would be acceptable to the Company. Furthermore, the Company cannot currently assess the potential liability that might be incurred if a settlement is not reached and the government was to litigate the matter. As such, based on the information available at this time, any additional liability related to this matter is not reasonably estimable. The Company will continue to evaluate the amount of its liability pending final resolution of the investigation, and any related settlement discussions with the government; the amount of the actual liability for any fines, penalties, disgorgement or interest that may be recorded in connection with a final settlement could be significantly higher than the liability accrued to date.  Other than the indication of the estimated disgorgement amount noted above, the Company has not received any proposed settlement offers from the SEC or DOJ and there can be no assurance that its discussions with the DOJ and SEC will result in a final settlement of any or all of these issues or, if a settlement is reached, the timing of any such settlement or that the terms of any such settlement would not have a material adverse effect on the Company.”

ADM

ADM recently disclosed as follows concerning its long-running FCPA scrutiny.

“The Company has completed its internal review and is engaged in discussions with the DOJ and SEC to resolve this matter. In connection with this review, government agencies could impose civil penalties or criminal fines and/or order that the Company disgorge any profits derived from any contracts involving inappropriate payments. Included in selling, general, and administrative expenses for the nine months ended September 30, 2013 were charges for the Company’s current estimate of potential disgorgement, penalties, and fines that may be paid by the Company in connection with this matter of $54 million. As of September 30, 2013, the estimated loss provision liability of $54 million is included in accrued expenses and other payables in the Company’s consolidated balance sheet. These events have not had, and are not expected to have, a material impact on the Company’s business or financial condition.”

GSK

In my first GSK post over the summer, I posed the question – based on GSK disclosures and public statements – whether GSK is the victim of rogue employee conduct?

According to this U.K. Independent article:

“GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug company at the heart of a bribery investigation in China, is likely to avoid a company-wide charge for  allegedly funneling up to £300m in kickbacks to doctors and government officials.  Instead, police are likely to charge some of its Chinese executives, according to reports citing legal and industry sources.  Such an outcome would see Chinese police drop  claims made in September that corruption was co-ordinated at a company level.  [...] The [Chinese] police investigation into GSK is likely to be concluded around the end of November or in December, said a person with direct knowledge of the probe. The sources noted it was difficult to predict what Chinese authorities would ultimately do. But the most likely legal scenario was that they would charge Chinese GSK executives, said the person with direct knowledge of the investigation and two other sources familiar with the matter. The sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case. Indeed, the Ministry of Public Security had tried to find evidence tying GSK   as a legal entity to the alleged wrongdoing, but it was unlikely authorities would be able to prove its involvement at a corporate level, said the person with direct knowledge of the investigation.” (emphasis added).

Bio-Rad Labs

Bio-Rad recently disclosed that it recorded “an accrued expense of $20 million in connection with the Company’s initial efforts to resolve the previously disclosed investigation of the Company in connection with the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

For The Reading Stack

The always informative Miller & Chevalier quarterly update is out.  (See here for the Autumn 2012 FCPA Review).

From an article titled “The ‘Mens Rea’ Component Within the Issue of the Over-Federalization of Crime” by John Baker and William Haun in Engage, a Federalist Society publication.

“Designed to prohibit bribery of foreign officials for any business advantage, the [FCPA's] breadth allows the federal government to hold businesses liable for actions by rogue agents.  As former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Jones Day partner James Dunlop note, this “adds unnecessary uncertainty and opens businesses to massive, largely unavoidable, liability, with few offsetting benefits.”  The statute’s broad language can transgress the intent of Congress.  In discussing the example of Wal-Mart, Professor Mike Koehler has shown that Congress had no desire to apply the Act against “grease payments” to clerical employees, but that the backroom nature of FCPA enforcement gives that congressional limitation uncertain relevance. The reluctance of corporations to go to trial minimizes judicial review of the FCPA’s use. As a result, the FCPA investigations have developed a “prosecutorial common law,” allowing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to impose burdensome compliance costs without having to prove in court that criminal activity has actually occurred or is likely to occur.  Companies spend millions to “comply” with requirements possessing an unknown reach.  In remarks on the FCPA, former U.S. Attorney General Mukasey observed that, given how few FCPA cases actually see a court room, “there is a whole body of law being developed” in prosecutor’s offices through negotiated FCPA settlements with major companies. Even if the settlements are reasonable, as General Mukasey noted, they do not provide any clarity or consistency necessary to “demystify” an ordinary person’s responsibilities under the law.  He noted that DOJ and the business community reached an understanding on some aspects of the FCPA.  Such agreements, however, should not serve as the functional equivalent of legislation.  It is the obligation of Congress to establish clear mens rea requirements for the FCPA and other statutes, not the executive via piecemeal prosecution.”

What’s one takeaway point from the recent Diebold enforcement actions?  According to Richard Smith (Norton Rose Fulbright) in this recent Law360 article:

“The Diebold settlements underscore the need for companies to fully evaluate whether voluntary disclosure is in the company’s best interest. Although U.S. authorities may be willing to reward companies for self-disclosing FCPA issues — indeed, the DOJ specifically stated in the DPA that it credited Diebold for making such a disclosure — the positive credit received is not always clear. The ultimate financial and operational burden on a company may, in any given instance, outweigh credit received.  Based on previous enforcement action settlements, some companies may have assumed that voluntary disclosure assists the company in avoiding the imposition of a compliance monitor. In light of the Diebold settlements, however, companies assessing the option of self-disclosure must consider the real possibility that doing so may not shield them from the increased costs and scrutiny associated with the retention of independent compliance monitors.”

Save The Date

On December 4th in Washington, D.C., George Washington University Law School is hosting a full-day symposium titled “The International Fight Against Corruption: Are the OECD and UN Conventions Achieving their Objectives?”  To learn more about the event, see here.