Archive for the ‘Enforcement Agency Policy’ Category

Little New Information In Assistant AG Caldwell’s FCPA Speech

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

caldwellYesterday, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell delivered this speech before a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act audience.

To those well-versed on prior DOJ FCPA policy speeches, there was little new in Caldwell’s speech (and you can assess this for yourself by visiting this subject matter tag which highlights every DOJ FCPA policy speech in the public domain over the last several years).

The only “new” item in Caldwell’s speech was her announcement that the DOJ is ”preparing to add 10 new prosecutors to the Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit, increasing its size by 50 percent.” But here again, for years the DOJ and/or FBI have been trumpeting the ever increasing persons in their respective FCPA units.

Prior to excerpting, Caldwell’s speech, a few observations about the voluntary disclosure and “secret” FCPA enforcement aspects of Caldwell’s speech.

Voluntary Disclosure

Caldwell stated yesterday:

“[The DOJ] is not reliant on corporate self-reporting in the FCPA or any other context—indeed, the majority of our FCPA cases are investigated and prosecuted without a voluntary disclosure …”.

As noted in this December 2014, the DOJ previously said that it does not track voluntary disclosure statistics. However, as noted in the post, FCPA Professor does based on information in the DOJ’s own resolution documents.  The statistics (current as of the date in the post) were as follows.

  • Since 2011, there have been 31 core corporate DOJ FCPA enforcement actions.  17 of the enforcement actions (55%) have been based on voluntary disclosures per the DOJ’s own resolution documents.  This 55% figure actually under-represents the impact of voluntary disclosures on the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program because several other FCPA enforcement actions (for instance against Smith & Nephew and Biomet) are generally viewed as “fruits” of a prior voluntary disclosure (Johnson & Johnson). Moreover, the Bilfinger enforcement action was the direct result of the prior Willbros enforcement action (an enforcement action based on a voluntary disclosure).

“Secret” FCPA Enforcment

For years, there have been whispers in the FCPA space about “secret” FCPA enforcement actions.  As noted in this prior post, the 2012 FCPA Guidance seemed to confirm such whispers as the Guidance stated:

  • “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.”
  • The Guidance also suggested that the DOJ has used non-prosecution agreements in individual FCPA-related case (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.

In yesterday’s speech, Caldwell stated:

“We usually publicly announce corporate resolutions and pleas, and make the documents available on our website.” (emphasis added).

This statement only deepens the mystery surrounding apparent “secret” FCPA enforcement and the irony is that Caldwell’s statement was made in the same speech in which she stated “greater transparency benefits everyone.”

The remainder of this post excerpts Caldwell’s speech.

“I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today about the Justice Department’s (DOJ) increasing attention to the investigation and prosecution of international corruption under the FCPA.

In 1977, when Congress enacted the FCPA, it called the “payment of bribes to influence the acts or decisions of foreign officials…unethical [and] counter to the moral experience and values of the American public.”  In the investigations leading to the act’s passage, Congress uncovered more than $300 million—or nearly $1.2 billion in 2015 dollars—in bribes paid by American companies to foreign officials.

Unfortunately, in the intervening 38 years, corruption has not disappeared.  In fact, as globalization increases, there is some evidence that corruption has as well.  The FCPA has, however, helped bring to justice some of the largest-scale perpetrators of economic corruption, and in 2014, companies paid more than $1.5 billion in corporate FCPA penalties to DOJ alone.  And that does not include payments made to other U.S. and foreign entities.  Clearly, our work to uphold the “moral experience and values of the American public” remains unfinished.

As you may know, that work is led by a team of federal prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  They are joined in this fight against international corruption by their colleagues in the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section—known as AFMLS—which pursues prosecutions against institutions and individuals engaged in money laundering, Bank Secrecy Act violations and sanctions violations.

AFMLS attorneys also seek the forfeiture of proceeds of high-level foreign corruption through the relatively new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.  The two units complement each other in their efforts to hold both bribe payers and bribe takers accountable for their criminal conduct.

I would like to talk with you today about our ongoing efforts to enhance the Criminal Division’s ability to root out and prosecute corruption, and also to provide increased transparency about the division’s decision-making.

During this past year, we increased our FCPA resources, including by adding three new fully-operational squads to the FBI’s International Corruption Unit that are focusing on FCPA and Kleptocracy matters.  We are also preparing to add 10 new prosecutors to the Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit, increasing its size by 50 percent.  These new squads and prosecutors will make a substantial difference to our ability to bring high-impact cases and greatly enhance the department’s ability to root out significant economic corruption.

In addition to increased resources directed to FCPA cases, one of my priorities in the Criminal Division has been to increase transparency regarding charging decisions in corporate prosecutions.

Greater transparency benefits everyone.  The Criminal Division stands to benefit from being more transparent because it will lead to more illegal activity being uncovered and prosecuted.  This is in part because if companies know the consideration 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 early, disclose wrongdoing and cooperate.

On the flip side, companies can also better evaluate the consequences they might face if they do not merit that consideration.  In both ways, transparency helps achieve the deterrent purpose of the FCPA because comparatively opaque or unreasoned enforcement action can make it more difficult for companies to make their own rational decisions about how to react when they learn of a bribe.

Transparency also helps to reduce any perceived disparity, in that companies can compare themselves 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 are brought—but we are trying to be more clear about our expectations in corporate investigations and the bases for our corporate pleas and resolutions.

Let me provide some examples to illustrate this point.

Just a few months ago, the former co-CEO of PetroTiger pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA.  He joined his fellow co-CEO and the company’s former general counsel in being convicted of bribery and fraud charges after a DOJ investigation that revealed a scheme to secure a $39 million oil-services contract for PetroTiger through bribery of Colombian officials.  This was serious misconduct that went to the very top of the company, and in a typical case, criminal charges for the company may well also have been appropriate.

We learned about this misconduct through voluntary disclosure by PetroTiger, however.  And after that self-disclosure, the company fully cooperated with the department’s investigation of the misconduct and of the individuals responsible for it.  As you likely know, the department ultimately declined to prosecute the company, or to seek any NPA (non-prosecution agreement) or DPA (deferred prosecution agreement) with it, even though we clearly could have done so.

By contrast, in December of last year—about a month after I last addressed this conference—Alstom S.A., the French power company, pleaded guilty to violating the FCPA.  In fact, Alstom was sentenced just last week.  Alstom admitted to its criminal conduct and agreed to pay a penalty of more than $772 million, the largest foreign bribery resolution with the Justice Department ever.  In addition, Alstom’s Swiss subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.  Two U.S.-based subsidiaries also admitted to conspiring to violate the FCPA and entered into deferred prosecution agreements.  The investigation resulted in criminal charges against five individuals, including four corporate executives, in connection with the bribery scheme.  To date, four of those individuals have pleaded guilty.

Given the significant scope of the misconduct in that case—including the involvement of corporate executives—it is fair to say that the factors we look at in these cases weighed in favor of some kind of criminal disposition.  And it would also be fair to point out that what was missing in those factors was any strong argument, of the type that PetroTiger was able to make, for prosecutorial consideration for Alstom’s own efforts to mitigate the misconduct.  Rather, unlike PetroTiger, Alstom did not voluntarily disclose the misconduct and refused to cooperate with our investigation until years later, after we had already charged company executives.

When we talk about this kind of credit for mitigation in FCPA corruption cases, we cannot talk simply about “cooperation.”  Cooperation is only one element of mitigation.  In our view, a company that wishes to be eligible for the maximum mitigation credit in an FCPA case must do three things: (1) voluntarily self-disclose, (2) fully cooperate and (3) timely and appropriately remediate.

When a company voluntarily self-discloses, fully cooperates and remediates, it is eligible for a full range of consideration with respect to both charging and penalty determinations.

Of course, in some cases the scope or seriousness of the criminal activity or the company’s history will mandate a criminal resolution, but in those cases it will be even more important for the company to present the strongest possible mitigation.  And companies that fail to self-disclose but nonetheless cooperate and remediate will receive some credit.  But that credit for cooperation and remediation will be measurably less than it would have been had the company also self-reported.

Let me walk through now in more detail the elements of those three factors.

First, as I have said before, companies for the most part have no obligation to self-disclose criminal wrongdoing to the Justice Department.  That has not changed.  And we are not reliant on corporate self-reporting in the FCPA or any other context—indeed, the majority of our FCPA cases are investigated and prosecuted without a voluntary disclosure and sometimes, as in the Alstom case, without corporate cooperation.

As time passes and the world continues to shrink, we have more and more sources of information about FCPA violations, ranging from whistleblowers, to foreign law enforcement, to competitors, to current and former employees, the foreign media, and others.   So if you discover an FCPA violation that you opt not to self-report, you are taking a very real risk that we will one day find out, or that we already know, and you will not be eligible for the full range of potential mitigation credit.

That said, we recognize that companies often are reluctant to self-report FCPA violations, especially when they believe that we may not otherwise learn of the misconduct.  And we also recognize that FCPA investigations present challenges for us that make them different in some important ways from other types of white collar crime.

By their nature, overseas bribery schemes can be especially difficult to detect, investigate and prosecute.  Individuals who violate the FCPA and relevant evidence often are located overseas—sometimes in jurisdictions with which we have limited relationships.  FCPA violations often involve one or more third parties, such as resellers or agents, also located overseas.  Money often moves through multiple offshore accounts, usually in the names of shell corporations.  The transactions almost always are concealed in some fashion from the company’s books and records.  And the company often is much better-positioned than the Justice Department to get to the bottom of things in an efficient and timely fashion.

For these reasons, voluntary self-disclosure in the FCPA context does have particular value to the department.   Because of that, we want to encourage self-disclosure by making clear that, when combined with cooperation and remediation, voluntary disclosure does provide a tangible benefit.

What do I mean by voluntary self-disclosure?  I mean that within a reasonably prompt time after becoming aware of an FCPA violation, the company discloses the relevant facts known to it, including all relevant facts about the individuals involved in the conduct.

To qualify, this disclosure must occur before an investigation—including a regulatory investigation by an agency such as the SEC—is underway or imminent.  And disclosures that the company is already required to make by law, agreement or contract do not qualify.

Second, in line with the focus on individual accountability for corporate criminal conduct announced earlier this year by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, companies seeking credit must affirmatively work to identify and discover relevant information about the individuals involved through independent, thorough investigations.

Companies cannot just disclose facts relating to general corporate misconduct and withhold facts about the individuals involved.  And internal investigations cannot end with a conclusion of corporate liability, while stopping short of identifying those who committed the underlying conduct.

In addition to identifying the individuals involved, full cooperation includes providing timely updates on the status of the internal investigation, making officers and employees available for interviews—to the extent that is within the company’s control—and proactive document production, especially for evidence located in foreign countries.

Some have expressed concern that we now expect companies to conduct more extensive—and expensive—investigations to obtain credit for cooperating.  That is not the case.  As I have said before, we are not asking companies to boil the ocean.

As always, we continue to expect investigations to be thorough and tailored to scope of the wrongdoing, and to identify the wrongdoing and the wrongdoers.  We expect cooperating companies to make their best effort to uncover the facts with the goal of identifying the individuals involved.  To the extent companies and their counsel are unclear about what this means, we remain willing to maintain an open dialogue about our interests and our concerns, which should help save companies from aimless and expensive investigations.

A company that does not have access to all the facts, despite its best efforts to do a thorough and timely investigation, will not be at a disadvantage.  Our presumption is that the corporate entity will have access to the evidence, but if there are instances where you do not, or you are legally prohibited from handing it over, then, again, you need to explain that to us.  And know that we will test the accuracy of your assertions.

We, of course, recognize that we sometimes can obtain evidence that a company cannot.  We often can obtain from third parties evidence that is not available to the company.  Also, we know that a company may not be able to interview former employees who refuse to cooperate in a company investigation.  Those same employees may provide information to us, whether voluntarily or through compulsory process.  Likewise, there are times when, for strategic reasons, we may ask that the company stand down from pursuing a particular line of inquiry.  In these circumstances, the company of course will not be penalized for failing to identify facts subsequently discovered by government investigators.

Finally, remediation includes the company’s overall compliance program as well as its disciplinary efforts related to the specific wrongdoing at issue.  For example, we will consider whether and how the company has disciplined the employees involved in the misconduct.  We will also examine the company’s culture of compliance including an awareness among employees that any criminal conduct, including the conduct underlying the investigation, will not be tolerated.

A well-designed and fully-implemented compliance program is key.  Such a program should have sufficient resources relative to the company’s size to effectively train employees on their legal obligations and to uncover misconduct in its earliest stages.  Compliance personnel should be sufficiently independent so that they are free to report misconduct even when committed by high-ranking officials.

Because this area is nuanced, the Fraud Section has recently retained an experienced compliance counsel to help assess these programs.  She has many years of experience in the private sector assisting global companies in different industries build and strengthen compliance controls.  We look forward to her insights on issues such as whether the compliance program truly is thoughtfully designed and sufficiently resourced to address the company’s compliance risks and whether proposed remedial measures are realistic and sufficient.  She also will be interacting with the compliance community to seek input about ways we can work together to advance our mutual interest in strong corporate compliance programs.

Let me reiterate: there is no requirement that a company self-disclose, fully cooperate or remediate FCPA offenses, and failure to do those things, or to do them to the standards I have described here, in and of itself, does not mean that charges will be filed against a company any more than it would with respect to an individual.  But when it comes to serious, readily-provable offenses, companies seeking a more lenient disposition on the basis that they took steps to mitigate the offense after it was discovered are on notice of what the Criminal Division looks for when we consider these mitigating factors.

Just as we expect transparency from companies seeking prosecutorial consideration for mitigating an FCPA offense, we are doing our best to act in kind.  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.

In each of our corporate resolutions—be it a guilty plea, NPA or DPA—we aim to provide a detailed explanation of the key factors that led to our decision.  These include a detailed recitation of the misconduct, as publicly admitted by the company and 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.

We know that the overwhelming majority of companies try to do the right thing the overwhelming majority of the time.  And we applaud the efforts of corporate counsel and executives alike in establishing and enforcing FCPA compliance programs to prevent violations.  I think we can all agree that the FCPA’s ultimate goal – like that of the other criminal statutes we enforce on a daily basis – is not the prosecution and punishment of individuals and companies engaged in bribery as a business practice but rather an end to corruption before it begins.  I would much prefer to report lower figures in terms of FCPA prosecutions and penalties in future years if it meant less corruption were occurring.

By increasing the size of our FCPA force and by incentivizing early reporting and thorough compliance programs through increased transparency, we are making progress towards that goal.  With the help of companies and their counsel, we can get there sooner.  To that end, we look forward to continuing the dialogue of which this conference is a part.”

Change Ahead At The DOJ?

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

ChangeIn prior years, November has witnessed FCPA policy announcements from the DOJ.

For instance, as highlighted here, in November 2012 the DOJ (and SEC) released the FCPA Guidance. As highlighted here, in November 2010, then Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer announced “we are in a new era of FCPA enforcement and we are here to stay.”

According to this Washington Post article, the DOJ may soon release information in ”an effort to increase the incentive for companies to be forthcoming about wrongdoing by their officials and give the business community clearer guidance on penalties under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

Given the frequency in which media reporting on FCPA issues is wrong, incomplete, or out of context, the prudent course (which will be adopted here) is not to react to the media reporting, but to reserve judgment until the DOJ actually releases information.

At present however, the Washington Post reports:

“[C]oncerns within the Justice Department that the prospective change is too lenient on firms that have violated the law have led senior officials in the criminal division to delay its issuance, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

“It’s not a bad thing to provide companies with more transparency” on department policy, but the draft policy “lets them off the hook too easily,” said one person familiar with the matter.

The proposed policy strongly recommends that prosecutors should decline to bring charges against a company that voluntarily discloses violations of the FCPA and cooperates with the government in its investigation — including by furnishing information on employees who may have violated the law.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Under review is the extent to which companies should be excused even for egregious misconduct because they have voluntarily disclosed it, cooperated with the investigation and taken remedial steps.

[...]

The proposal contemplates that the decision not to prosecute could be accompanied by a fine in the form of forfeiture of company profits. But in general the goal is to enhance the incentive for companies to cooperate by providing more certainty that doing so would not result in a stiff penalty or a criminal charge. Also, there would be no statement of facts that lays out the company’s misbehavior as there is now with many resolutions of FCPA investigations.

[...]

The department in general is seeking to boost its ability to battle foreign bribery. Earlier this year, the FBI announced that, in partnership with the Justice Department’s fraud section, it established three international corruption squads, in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington.

And to complement that move, the fraud section will soon add 10 prosecutors to the FCPA unit — increasing the number of line attorneys by more than half.

Nonetheless, there are companies that now weigh the odds of getting caught if they do not come forward with knowledge of a crime. They think “why not just wait to see whether law enforcement — whether here in the U.S. or overseas — discovers the wrongdoing?” said Andrew Weissmann, chief of the fraud section, in a speech in May. “Why not stay mum and see if it gets discovered and then, if necessary, cooperate to mitigate the damage?”

[...]

But some skeptics within the department argue that while giving companies clearer guidance is a good thing, the practical effect of the proposed policy change would be that a greater number of cases that should be pursued would be dropped.

The number of “declinations” — decisions not to prosecute — would rise. “It means that self-reporting and cooperation would be a ticket out of criminal liability for a company, even if the reported misconduct is serious and substantial,” said a second individual familiar with the draft policy.

On the flip side, the individual said, if a company does not self-disclose and a violation is discovered, it is much more likely to get charged. “It’s almost like an amnesty program,” he said. “But if you don’t take advantage of the self-reporting, it ups the stakes for companies who choose to keep quiet.”

Enforcement Officials Speak On Compliance And Individual Accountability

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

SoapboxThis post summarizes two recent speeches by DOJ/SEC enforcement officials that touched upon topics relevant to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement.

In the first speech, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, speaking at a financial industry event, focused her comments on compliance and the DOJ’s new compliance attorney position.

In the second speech, SEC Chair Mary Jo White talked about SEC enforcement strategies.

Caldwell’s Speech

As indicated above, Caldwell focused her comments on compliance and the DOJ’s new compliance attorney position.  For prior posts on these topics, see here and here including why the DOJ should be in favor of a compliance defense.  See also “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense.”

Caldwell stated in pertinent part:

Internal Compliance Officers Perform a Critical Function

[Compliance officers] are often the first line of defense against [legal violations]  Prosecutors cannot be everywhere, and by the time the Criminal Division gets involved, it’s usually too late to stop criminal activity.  Well before a grand jury subpoena is served or a witness is interviewed, compliance officers like you can and do step in and stop issues from becoming problems down the road.

As much as full-throated compliance programs are essential to preventing fraud and corruption, the quality and effectiveness of a compliance program is also an important factor that prosecutors consider in determining whether to bring charges against a business entity that has engaged in some form of criminal conduct.

In this after the fact review, the department looks closely at whether compliance programs are simply “paper programs,” or whether the institution and its culture actually support compliance.  We look at pre-existing programs, as well as what remedial measures a company took after discovering misconduct – including efforts to implement or improve a compliance program.

Criminal Division’s Compliance Counsel

Over the past twenty years or so, the very notion of “compliance” has been evolving rapidly.  Most companies, and maybe especially in the financial sector, have placed more and more emphasis on building strong compliance structures.  Programs have become more sophisticated and more industry and company-specific.

Companies increasingly have tailored compliance programs that make sense not just for their industries but also for their business lines, their risk factors, their geographic regions and the nature of their work force, to name a few.

Unfortunately, a surprising number of companies still lack rigorous compliance programs.  And even more companies have what appear to be good structures on paper, but fail in practice to devote adequate resources and management attention to compliance.

Still other companies fail to consider obvious risks, even in important parts of their businesses.  [...]

To be sure, it’s important for institutions to be mindful of regulatory priorities and guidance in devising and carrying out a tailored, risk-based compliance program.  But a narrow, cramped view of compliance – that it requires only adherence to specific regulations – ultimately will inure to the company’s detriment.  [...]

I believe that the Criminal Division has gotten much better at evaluating compliance programs over the years.  We understand that there is no “one size fits all” compliance program.  We understand that there are vast differences in the quality and effectiveness of programs, even among similar companies.   We have gotten better at suggesting tailored reforms to compliance programs when we resolve a corporate matter.

But we are prosecutors, not compliance professionals.  So, as you may be aware from press coverage, the Criminal Division has hired a compliance counsel to work in the Fraud Section.  While it’s too early to talk about specifics – her first day in the office is tomorrow – I can tell you generally what we’re thinking about.

We want to get the benefit of the expertise of someone with significant high-level compliance experience across a variety of industries, which this person has.  Our goal is to have someone who can provide what I’ll call a “reality check.”

First, the compliance counsel will help us assess a company’s program, as well as test the validity of its claims about its program, such as whether the compliance program truly is thoughtfully designed and sufficiently resourced to address the company’s compliance risks, or essentially window dressing.

Second, she will help guide Fraud Section prosecutors when they are seeking remedial compliance measures as part of a resolution with a company, whether by prosecution or otherwise.  We don’t want to impose unrealistic, unnecessary or unduly burdensome requirements on companies.  At the same time, we want to make sure that appropriate compliance enhancements are included when they are needed.

We understand that no compliance program is foolproof.  We also appreciate that the challenges of implementing an effective compliance program are compounded by the ever-increasing cross-border nature of business and of criminal activity.

Many [companies] operate all over the world.  They are creating products and delivering services not only here in the United States but overseas and are operating across many different legal regimes and cultures.

For this reason, we have chosen a compliance counsel who has the experience and expertise to examine a compliance program on a more global and a more granular level.

I want to correct one impression that has been expressed elsewhere.  Some have suggested that our retention of a compliance counsel is an indication that the department is moving toward recognizing or instituting a “compliance defense.”  That is not the case.

Rather, the Criminal Division will continue to review companies’ compliance programs as one of the many factors to be considered when deciding whether to criminally charge a company or how to resolve criminal charges.  Our hiring of a compliance counsel should be an indication to companies about just how seriously we take compliance.

Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program

You’re likely wondering what metrics this compliance counsel will use to assess a particular program.  And I’ll talk about that in a moment, but first I want to put your mind at ease about something.

The vast majority of compliance violations do not result in criminal prosecution.  Rather, the Criminal Division pursues charges when the offending conduct is intentional and particularly egregious or pervasive.

We’re not interested in prosecuting mistakes or accidents, or bad business judgments.  And we are not looking to prosecute compliance professionals.  To the contrary, we view you as the good guys and as our allies.  And we want to make sure that when we review a pre-existing compliance program, or suggest remedial measures, that we get it right.

So, what will the compliance counsel do?  She will help us evaluate each compliance program on a case-by-case basis – just as the department always has – but with a more expert eye, and she will work with our prosecutors to assess:

  • Does the institution ensure that its directors and senior managers provide strong, explicit and visible support for its corporate compliance policies?
  • Do the people who are responsible for compliance have stature within the company?  Do compliance teams get adequate funding and access to necessary resources?  Of course, we won’t expect that a smaller company has the same compliance resources as a Fortune-50 company.
  • Are the institution’s compliance policies clear and in writing?  Are they easily understood by employees?  Are the policies translated into languages spoken by the company’s employees?
  • Does the institution ensure that its compliance policies are effectively communicated to all employees?  Are its written policies easy for employees to find?  Do employees have repeated training, which should include direction regarding what to do or with whom to consult when issues arise?
  • Does the institution review its policies and practices to keep them up to date with evolving risks and circumstances?  This is especially important if a U.S.-based entity acquires or merges with another business, especially a foreign one.
  • Are there mechanisms to enforce compliance policies?  Those include both incentivizing good compliance and disciplining violations.  Is discipline even handed?  The department does not look favorably on situations in which low-level employees who may have engaged in misconduct are terminated, but the more senior people who either directed or deliberately turned a blind eye to the conduct suffer no consequences.  Such action sends the wrong message – to other employees, to the market and to the government – about the institution’s commitment to compliance.
  • Does the institution sensitize third parties like vendors, agents or consultants to the company’s expectation that its partners are also serious about compliance?  This means more than including boilerplate language in a contract.  It means taking action – including termination of a business relationship – if a partner demonstrates a lack of respect for laws and policies.  And that attitude toward partner compliance must exist regardless of geographic location.

[...]

These are just some of the elements of a strong compliance program.  When the Criminal Division evaluates a company’s compliance policy during an investigation, we look not only at how the policy reads on paper, but also at the messages conveyed to employees, including through in-person meetings, emails, telephone calls and compensation.  We look at whether, as a whole, a company tolerated compliance failures year after year because the alternative would have meant a reduction in revenues or profits.”

White’s Speech

Regarding individual prosecutions, White stated:

“Any discussion of strong enforcement tools must include a discussion of our priority of pursuing individuals.  Personal accountability, of course, is a basic tenet of law enforcement.  And individual accountability, particularly at the most senior levels, is a core part of our enforcement program because firms can only act through their people and it is people to whom we are trying to send our strong message of deterrence.  While some cases, because of the available evidence or charges, are appropriate to bring only against companies, we must always look to identify and charge those people who are responsible for their company’s wrongdoing.  In Fiscal Year 2015, about two-thirds of our substantive actions included charges against individuals.

Redress for wrongdoing can never be seen merely as a cost of doing business made good by cutting a corporate check.  When people fear for their own reputations, careers, or pocketbooks, they are more likely to stay in line.  So when investigating misconduct, our staff first looks at the individual conduct and works out to the entity, rather than starting with the entity as a whole and working in.

And when we do bring charges against individuals, we consider, in addition to tough charges and penalties, our remedies to prevent future wrongs as well.  One of our most potent tools is an order imposing a bar on an individual – a bar from, for example, working in the securities industry or serving on the board of a public company.  Such an order can reduce the likelihood that the defendant can defraud and victimize the public again.”

As detailed in this post, approximately 80% of corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions since 2008 have not resulted in any related enforcement action against a company employee.

Friday Roundup

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Roundup2More on the Yates Memo, scrutiny alerts, survey says, and FCPA reform.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

More on the Yates Memo

Once again a private company has marketed a public official to drive attendance to its paid event.

Earlier this week, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell delivered this speech reiterating various aspects of the “Yates Memo.” Caldwell stated:

“[O]ur focus on individuals stems from the reality that corporations act through human beings, and that justice usually requires identifying those responsible for criminal conduct and holding them personally accountable.  Prosecuting the corporate entity, and imposing a fine and other impersonal conditions, simply is not enough – in most instances – to fully punish and, more importantly, deter corporate misconduct.”

Regarding the cooperation credit aspects of the “Yates Memo,” Caldwell stated:

“We recognize, however, that a company cannot provide what it does not have.  And we understand that some investigations – despite their thoroughness – will not bear fruit.  Where a company truly is unable to identify the culpable individuals following an appropriately tailored and thorough investigation, but provides the government with the relevant facts and otherwise assists us in obtaining evidence, the company will be eligible for cooperation credit.  We will make efforts to credit, not penalize, diligent investigations.  On the flip side, we will carefully scrutinize and test a company’s claims that it could not identify or uncover evidence regarding the culpable individuals, particularly if we are able to do so ourselves.

As I have said before, it is not our intent to outsource our investigation of corporate wrongdoing to companies and their outside advisors.  As in the past, we will not sit idle, waiting for a company to conduct or complete its investigation.  Regardless of a company’s cooperation, federal agents and prosecutors will conduct thorough investigations.  If, through this process, we are able to identify the culpable individuals when the company itself did not do so, as well as evidence that would support the charging and prosecution of those individuals, we will assess whether that evidence truly was unavailable to the company.

We, of course, recognize that we sometimes can obtain evidence that a company cannot.  We often can obtain from third parties evidence that is not available to the company.  Also, we know that a company may not be able to interview former employees who refuse to cooperate in a company investigation.  Those same employees may provide information to us, whether voluntarily or through compulsory process.  Likewise, there are times when, for strategic reasons, we may ask that the company stand down from pursing a particular line of inquiry.  If so, the company will not be penalized for failing to identify facts subsequently discovered by government investigators.”

Caldwell also answered questions after the speech.  It appears that this Q&A was recorded and the same private company put the Q&A behind its paywall.

It’s just plain wrong that a private company is selling the words of public officials. It ought to stop.

Scrutiny Alerts

Transocean

As highlighted here, in 2010 as part of the CustomsGate enforcement actions, Transocean resolved a $20.7 million FCPA enforcement action (involving a DOJ and SEC component) concerning alleged conduct in Nigeria.

Bloomberg reports:

“Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore rig contractor, is being linked for the first time to the corruption probe of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the state-owned energy giant at the center of Brazil’s biggest corporate scandal. A former executive at Brazil’s state-run oil company has testified to receiving what he says were payments made by someone claiming to be a Transocean agent in exchange for a rig-operation contract from Petrobras.”

SNC-Lavalin

This CBCNews report goes in-depth regarding new allegations in a civil suit concerning SNC-Lavalin. According to the article:

“Top executives for years endorsed bribes and lavish gifts — including a yacht and even prostitutes — to win contracts from Libya’s Gadhafi regime.”

To cement ties, [the complaint] alleges specific SNC executives signed off on or approved numerous favours to help Gadhafi, including:

  • providing SNC staff and hiring university professor as tutors;
  • helping to obtain a Canadian visa;
  • considering appointing Saadi Gadhafi an SNC vice-president;
  • officially sponsoring his Italian Serie A professional soccer team.

One of the largest expenses included the purchase of a Palmer Johnson yacht worth $38 million for Saadi Gadhafi ”organized and validated by CFO Laramée and approved by the then CEO Lamarre.” Saadi Gadhafi visited Canada in 2008, and SNC Lavalin picked up the bill — more than $2 million.”

Survey Says

KPMG recently conducted a worldwide online survey of corporate risk leaders to find out the strengths and weaknesses of their companies’ programs to combat bribery and corruption.  According to the survey responses:

“There is a sharp increase in the proportion of respondents who say they are highly challenged by the issue of Anti-Bribery Compliance (ABC) compared with a survey KPMG conducted four years earlier.

As companies continue to globalize, management of third parties poses the greatest challenge in executing ABC programs.

Despite the difficulty of monitoring their business dealings with third parties, more than one third of the respondents do not formally identify high-risk third parties. More than half of those respondents with right to-audit clauses over third parties have not exercised the right.

ABC considerations are accorded too low a priority by companies preparing to acquire, or merge with, other corporations across borders.

Respondents complain they lack the resources to manage ABC risk.

A top-down risk assessment would help companies set priorities, but executives admit that an ABC risk assessment is one of their companies’ top challenges.

Data analytics is an increasingly important and cost-effective tool to assess ABC controls. Yet only a quarter of respondents use data analysis to identify violations and, of those that do so, less than half continuously monitor data to spot potential violations.”

FCPA Reform

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released this document outlining its policy priorities. Included in the lengthy document was the following:  ”work to reform the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by supporting changes to enforcement practices.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

And The Apple Goes To …

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

applepicFall.  The colors are changing and the apples are crisp.

Fitting of the season, the FCPA Professor apple award goes to Matthew Fishbein (Debevoise & Plimpton).

Since the release of the Yates Memo, I’ve commented more than once that those who think the Yates Memo represented something new are misinformed.

Fishbein (who previously served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York as Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Criminal Division, among other DOJ positions) surely is not among this category.

Indeed, three weeks prior to release of the Yates Memo, Fishbein wrote this article and picks an orchard.

“[T]he lack of individual prosecutions [in most DOJ corporate enforcement actions] is the inevitable consequence of making a potential criminal case out of every news story where something bad occurs. While the needs and interests of companies often lead them to enter into settlements even where there is little evidence that a crime actually was committed, individuals are more likely to test the government’s case – especially if that case rests on questionable footing. This article discusses the context in which corporations cooperate with the government and suggests that the DOJ’s increased emphasis on cooperation against individuals may undermine corporate defense counsel’s ability to obtain or recommend their client’s cooperation in the many marginal cases where evidence of criminal conduct is lacking.

A number of recent statements by top DOJ officials suggest that their explanation for the lack of individual prosecutions is that companies are largely to blame. The DOJ has suggested that by dragging their feet instead of actively cooperating – for example, by hiding behind over-expansive interpretations of foreign data privacy laws or allowing culpable employees to leave the country – companies effectively have put up roadblocks to the prosecution of individuals.

While there may be some examples of companies holding back in their cooperation, a corporation’s conduct during the course of a government investigation is rarely the reason that individuals are not prosecuted. Rather, individuals are not prosecuted for the conduct companies admit because, in many marginal cases, there is insufficient evidence that a crime actually occurred. Why would a company enter into a criminal settlement where the underlying conduct does not give rise to a crime? The answer is simple: companies frequently determine that a “bad” settlement may be a better resolution than a drawn out, litigated victory. And as prosecutors have grown to appreciate the great leverage they hold over corporate entities, they have exercised this leverage in the pursuit of increasingly marginal cases. They do so, in part, because the risk is minimal (the prosecutor’s case is unlikely to be challenged in court) and the reward is great (the corporations pay enormous penalties).

Prosecutors have considerably less leverage over individuals, who, facing the possibility of incarceration and financial devastation in the event of a criminal conviction, are more likely to test the government’s case and put the government at risk of a high-profile loss. Given the extreme public pressure to bring charges against individuals in connection with the financial crisis, it stands to reason that if prosecutors could prove cases against corporate executives, they would bring those cases in a heartbeat. Indeed, Attorney General Holder recently acknowledged that the lack of individual prosecutions in the wake of the financial crisis was “not for lack of trying.”

Faced with a largely unsuccessful record in the pursuit of individual prosecutions after the financial crisis, it appears that, going forward, the DOJ is going to try even harder. According to a senior DOJ official, “[t]he prosecution of individuals – including corporate executives – for white-collar crimes is at the very top of the Criminal Division’s priority list.” Consistent with this goal, a number of DOJ officials have explained that “true cooperation” with a government investigation requires that the corporation identify culpable individuals and provide the government with evidence that implicates them. Without such evidence of individual culpability, corporations will not receive full cooperation credit, even if they do all of the things that traditionally have been viewed as the hallmarks of robust cooperation such as volunteering information not otherwise known to the government, providing documents and witnesses outside the government’s subpoena power, and making productions and disclosures in a timely manner.

[...]

The DOJ’s corporate cooperation policy is in some ways a double-edged sword. In cases where there is clear-cut evidence of wrongdoing, the DOJ’s policy on cooperation makes good sense and should be relatively straightforward in its application: in order to obtain full cooperation credit, it makes sense that companies should have to identify and disclose the information relevant to individual misconduct. This requirement is consistent with the government’s policy on providing cooperation credit for individuals who substantially assist in the prosecution of others. However, the policy presents a real dilemma for companies responding to the marginal, gray-area cases described above, where the company may for business reasons want to reach a settlement even where it has strong defenses, but the absence of evidence of individual culpability may preclude it from receiving the benefits of “full cooperation.”

In these kinds of cases, defense counsel is left facing a host of difficult questions. If a company should make “securing evidence of individual culpability the focus of [its] investigative efforts,” what is it to do when that evidence does not exist? If a company targets its internal investigation toward developing cases against individuals, should individuals be provided with counsel at the outset? If true cooperation “requires identifying the individuals actually responsible for the misconduct,” can a company “truly cooperate” when there are no such responsible individuals? If, in order to receive “full cooperation credit,” a company should emphasize its efforts to obtain evidence of individual culpability, can it still receive “full credit” when those efforts are fruitless? And if securing evidence of individual culpability is a “primary focus” when the government weighs the Filip Factors, will a company be subject to harsher charging decisions or settlement terms simply because no such evidence exists?

Taken together, these questions suggest that a policy designed to incentivize cooperation may have the perverse effect of deterring it: if a company knows that it cannot receive full cooperation credit, it may decide that it is not worth the effort to try; and if individuals know that companies are incentivized to obtain evidence against them, they may be far less willing to cooperate during internal investigations.

Moreover, under the DOJ’s cooperation policy, companies seeking to resolve criminal investigations in marginal cases may actually be penalized when their individual employees did not engage in criminal conduct. In such cases, defense counsel may consider challenging prosecutors to identify what aspect of their investigation was lacking or what evidence of individual culpability should have been uncovered. DOJ officials have said that the government will conduct its own investigations to “pressure test” a company’s internal investigation. If the government’s test reveals no flaws in the company’s investigation, will the government still not provide full cooperation credit?

The DOJ’s policy on cooperation is unlikely to solve the problem that it was likely designed to address, i.e., the lack of individual prosecutions. Although there may be an increase in individual prosecutions in cases of clear wrongdoing, the DOJ’s policy is unlikely to have an impact on the marginal cases, where companies often settle in spite of the evidence – not because of it.

While the needs and interests of companies in reaching settlements have allowed the government to obtain larger and larger settlements in cases where the facts and law likely would not permit them to succeed with a jury, the government must live with the fact that no amount of company cooperation will turn facts that do not provide a basis for individual prosecutions into facts that do. The government either has to accept this – and continue along the path of corporate settlements without individual prosecutions – or stop pursuing investigations and accepting settlements where there are no individuals who have actually committed crimes.”

[The FCPA Apple Award recognizes informed, candid, and fresh thought-leadership on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or related topics. There is no prize, medal or plaque awarded to the FCPA Professor Apple Award recipient. Just recognition by a leading FCPA website visited by a diverse group of readers around the world. There is no nomination procedure for the Apple Award. If you are writing something informed, candid and fresh about the FCPA or related topics, chances are high that I will find your work during my daily searches for FCPA content.]