Archive for the ‘Executive Enforcement Action’ Category

An FCPA Enforcement Action With Many Interesting Wrinkles

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding "old" FCPA enforcement actions]

The 1998 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Saybolt Inc., Saybolt North America Inc. and related individuals had many interesting wrinkles:  a unique origin; a rare FCPA trial; a fugitive still living openly in his native land; and case law in a related civil claim.

As to the unique origin, Saybolt Inc. was a U.S. company whose primary business was conducting quantitative and qualitative testing of bulk commodities, such as oil, gasoline, and other petrochemicals, as well as grains, vegetable oils and other commodities.  The Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division (“EPA-CID”) was investigating the company for allegedly submitting false statements to the EPA about the oxygen content of reformulated gasoline blended in accordance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.  The investigation was initiated by reports of data falsification at Saybolt’s Massachusetts facility.

During the course of the investigation EPA-CID interviewed Steven Dunlop (the general manager for Latin American operations for Saybolt) who provided the following information.

During a trip to Panama in 1994, Dunlop was advised of new business opportunities that were being offered to Saybolt Panama through the Panamanian Ministry of Commerce and Industries.  Specifically, the DOJ’s criminal complaint alleged that Hugo Tovar (the General Director of the Hydrocarbon Directorate, a division of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries) and Audo Escudero (the Sub-Director of the Hydrocarbon Directorate), offered to Saybolt Panama an opportunity to: (1) receive a substantial reduction in Saybolt Panama’s tax payments to the government of Panama; (2) obtain lucrative new contracts from the government of Panama; and (3) secure a more permanent facility for Saybolt Panama’s operations on highly coveted land near the Panama Canal.  According to the criminal complaint, this parcel of land was coveted because Saybolt Panama “only had a tenuous legal claim on its existing facility” and as a result its operations were continually at risk.

The complaint details various communications between Dunlop and David Mead (the President and CEO of Saybolt) in which Dunlop informed Mead of a $50,000 “fee” that would be needed to accomplish the above opportunities.

The complaint details a 1995 board of directors meeting at Saybolt during which discussion concerned the “$50,000 payoff demanded by the Panamanian officials with whom Saybolt was negotiating.  According to the complaint, present at this meeting were Board members Frerik Pluimers and Philippe Schreiber as well as Mead and Saybolt’s Chief Financial Officer Robert Petoia.  According to the complaint, Dunlop received instructions from Mead that he was to “take the necessary steps to ensure that the $50,000 was paid to the Panamanian officials in order to secure the deal” and that Schreiber was to be his primary contact on all issues concerning the Panamanian transaction.

According to the complaint, “in the minutes leading up to the time he was scheduled to leave his house for the airport” to travel to Panama,” Dunlop had a telephone conversation with Schreiber who advised him “that the action [he] was about to take would constitute a violation of the FCPA.”

According to the complaint, while in Panama Dunlop “learned that the Saybolt funds needed to make” the payment had not yet been received and that Dunlop then tried to contact Mead.  According to the complaint, Mead sent Dunlop an e-mail which stated: “Per telecon undersigned and capo grande Holanda the back-up software can be supplied from the Netherlands.  As previously agreed, you to detail directly to NL attn FP.” According to the complaint, “capo grande Holanda” was a reference to Pluimers (the President of the Dutch holding company that controlled Saybolt, Inc.” and the “back-up software” was a reference to the $50,000 payment.”

The complaint alleged that the funds never arrived in Panama and that Dunlop was receiving pressure from the Panamanian officials “to make the $50,000 payment prior to the upcoming Christmas holidays.”  According to the complaint, Mead told Dunlop on a telephone call to make the $50,000 payment using funds that were in the operating account of Saybolt Panama.

According to the complaint, the $50,000 in cash was obtained by laundering a check through a local construction company and that a “sack full of currency” was handed over to Escudero at a bar in Panama City by the individual who was serving as Saybolt Panama’s liaison with Escudero.  Further, according to the complaint, “shortly after this payment was made, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries and other necessary government agencies acted favorably on Saybolt’s proposal.”

In April 1998, the DOJ filed this indictment against Mead (a citizen of the U.K. and resident of the U.S. and Pluimers (a national and resident of the Netherlands) based on the above conduct.  The indictment charged Mead and Pluimers with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and the Travel Act, two substantive violations of the FCPA, and two substantive violations of the Travel Act.

According to the indictment, the purposes and objectives of the conspiracy were:

  • To obtain contracts for Saybolt de Panama and its affiliates to perform import control and inventory inspections for the Ministry of Hydrocarbons, and the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, both departments of the Government of the Republic of Panama;
  • To obtain and to expedite tax benefits for Saybolt de Panama and its affiliates from the Government of the Republic of Panama, including exemptions from import taxes on materials and equipment and reductions in annual profit taxes;
  • To obtain from an agency of the Government of the Republic of Panama a secure and commercially attractive operating location for an inspection facility in Panama; and
  • To “lock out” Saybolt’s competitors by retaining possession and control of Saybolt de Panama’s existing location in Panama.

In September 1998, the DOJ filed this superseding indictment substantially similar to the first and including the same charges.

Mead moved to strike the indictment of allegations that he violated the FCPA and for dismissal of the indictment for failure to state an offense under the Travel Act, and for a Bill of Particulars.   In a one page order, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Thompson denied the motions. Dunlop was given full immunity as was the American attorney present at the board meeting and involved in several conversations with Pluimers, Mead, and Dunlop concerning the alleged payments.

Mead argued that the FCPA only prohibited payments to assist a domestic concern in obtaining and retaining business” and he used Saybolt’s rather complex corporate structure to argue that the business sought to be obtained or retained was for a different Saybolt entity, not a domestic concern.  In his motion, Mead stated “because the government ignores the corporate legal structure and does violence to the FCPA by attempting to end-run congressional policy, the Court must justifiably refuse.”  Elsewhere, the motion stated:

“Whether the government labels foreign corporations as ‘agents of a domestic concern’ or members of an ‘unincorporated organization,’ the government still may not manipulate the Act’s broad language to end-run this congressional policy (of deliberately excluding both foreign subsidiaries and non-subsidiary foreign corporations from FCPA liability).”

The motion also argued that the indictment was devoid of any allegation that Mead acted “willfully” (i.e. with the specific intent to violate the law) because he followed the legal advice of counsel in making the alleged payments.

In response, the DOJ stated that the indictment “describes in detail how Mead – himself a U.S. resident, and also the President of one U.S. corporation (Saybolt Inc.), Executive Vice-President of a second U.S. corporation (Saybolt North America Inc.), and Chief Executive Officer of an unincorporated association (Saybolt Western Hemisphere) – and others decided to send a Saybolt Inc. employee to Panama City, Panama, to oversee the payment of a $50,000 bride, which they believed would be provided to high level government officials, in exchange for favorable treatment of Saybolt’s business interests in Panama.  The Indictment charges that Mead gave the order to go forward with the bribe and it details the contents of the e-mail message that Mead sent from his office in New Jersey to the Saybolt employee in Panama City.”

At trial, Mead argued that the Government failed to meet its burden of proof and that he acted in good faith belief that the payment to the Panamanian officials was lawful.  The relevant jury instructions stated as follows.

“If the evidence shows you that the defendant actually believed that the transaction was legal, he cannot be convicted.  Nor can he be convicted for being stupid or negligent or mistaken.  More is required than that.  But a defendant’s knowledge of a fact may be inferred from “willful blindness” to the knowledge or information indicating there was a high probability that there was something forbidden or illegal about the contemplated transaction and payment.  It is the jury’s function to determine whether or not the defendant deliberately closed his eyes to the inferences and the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence here.”

According to this docket sheet, Mead’s trial occurred in October 1998 and he was found guilty of all charges.  According to the docket, Mead was sentenced to four months imprisonment, to be followed by four months of home confinement, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  According to the docket, he was also ordered to pay a $20,000 criminal fine. After sentencing, US Attorney Donald Stern of Boston, stated: ”This sentence puts American executives on notice there will be a price to pay, far more than the monetary cost of the birbe, when they buy off foreign officials.”  For additional reading on Mead’s case, see this transcript of an in-depth CNN story about Mead that aired in 1999.

What about Pluimers?

As indicated by this docket sheet, there has been no substantive activity in the case since 1999 and Pluimers remains a fugitive – albeit living openly in his native Netherlands.  According to this 2011 New York Times article citing a Wikileaks cable, “Pluimers simply has too much influence with high-ranking Dutch officials to be handed over to U.S. authorities.”

What about Saybolt?

In August 1998, the DOJ the filed two separate criminal informations against Saybolt Inc. and its parent corporation Saybolt North American Inc. The first information charged Saybolt with conspiracy and wire fraud related to the company’s “two year conspiracy to submit false statements to the EPA about results of lab analyses. The second information charged Saybolt and Saybolt North America with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive charge of violating the FCPA.

As noted in this plea agreement, Saybolt agreed to plead guilty to all charges in the informations and agreed to pay a total fine of $4.9 million allocated as follows:  $3.4 million for the data falsification violations and $1.5 million for the FCPA violation. Saybolt also agreed to a five year term of probation.

The conduct at issue in the Saybolt and related enforcement actions also spawned a related civil malpractice action alleging erroneous legal advice by counsel regarding the above-described payments to Panamanian officials.  In Stichting v. Schreiber, 327 F.3d 173 (2d Cir. 2003), the Second Circuit analyzed whether a company, in pleading guilty to FCPA anti-bribery violations, acknowledged acting with intent thus undermining its claims that the erroneous legal advice was the basis for its legal exposure.

The court stated:

“Knowledge by a defendant that it is violating the FCPA – that it is committing all the elements of an FCPA violation – is not itself an element of the FCPA crime.  Federal statutes in which the defendant’s knowledge that he or she is violating the statute is an element of the violation are rare; the FCPA is plainly not such a statute.”

The court also stated concerning “corruptly” in the FCPA:

“It signifies, in addition to the element of ‘general intent’ present in most criminal statutes, a bad or wrongful purpose and an intent to influence a foreign official to misuse his official position.  But there is nothing in that word or anything else in the FCPA that indicates that the government must establish that the defendant in fact knew that his conduct violated the FCPA to be guilty of such a violation.”

Alleged Bribes For Buses, However A Bumpy Road For The DOJ

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding "old" FCPA enforcement actions]

This post highlights related Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions brought by the DOJ in the early 1990s concerning an alleged scheme to sell buses to the Saskatchewan, Canada Transportation Company (STC), an alleged instrumentality of the Canadian government.

The enforcement action was a bumpy road for the DOJ.  Among other things, both the trial court and appellate court rebuked the DOJ’s position that the alleged “foreign officials” could be charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and both decisions contain an extensive review of the FCPA’s legislative history.  As to the alleged bribe payors, two defendants put the DOJ to its burden of proof at trial and were acquitted.

*****

In March 1990, the DOJ charged George Morton in this criminal information with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. Morton is described as a Canadian national agent who represented Texas-based Eagle Bus Manufacturing Inc. (a subsidiary of issuer Greyhound Lines, Inc.) in connection with the sale of buses in Canada.  According to the information, Morton conspired with others in paying $50,000 to alleged Canadian “foreign officials” to obtain or retain business for Eagle Bus in violation of the FCPA.

The foreign officials were Darrell Lowry and Donald Castle, both Canadian nationals, and the Vice-President and President, respectively, of Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC), an alleged instrumentality of the government of the Province of Saskatchewan.

The information specifically alleged that Morton requested “that Eagle pay money, in the sum of approximately two percent of the purchase price of 11 buses to be purchased by STC from Eagle, to officials of STC in order to ensure that Eagle received a contract for the sale of the buses.”  The information also alleged that Morton and others “offered, promised and agreed to pay, and authorized the payment of money to officials of the government of the Province of Saskatchewan in order for Eagle to obtain and retain a contract to sell buses to STC.”

According to the information, Morton and his conspirators used “various methods to conceal the conspiracy in order to insure the continuing existence and success of the conspiracy, including but not limited to: preparing and using false invoices and other documentation; and arranging to have an STC check drawn payable to a corporation owned and controlled by Morton and converting the proceeds into Canadian currency.”

The information alleges, as to overt acts among other things, that Morton traveled from Canada to Texas “to discuss the payment of money to officials of STC in order to obtain and retain a contract to sell the 11 buses.”

In this plea agreement, Morton pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the DOJ.

This “Factual Resume” in the Morton case suggests that the purchase price of the buses was approximately $2.77 million.  It further suggests that Lowry told Morton “that a payment of Canadian $50,000 would be necessary in order for Eagle to ensure that the bus contract would be approved by STC’s Board of Directors” and that “Morton, whose compensation from Eagle was dependent upon the transaction being completed, agreed to attempt to obtain Eagle’s agreement to make the requested payment.” The Factual Resume further suggested that, while in Texas, “Morton met with Eagle’s President, John Blondek, and with Vernon Tull, a Vice-President of Eagle” and that “at the meeting, it was agreed that the requested payment would be made.”

A few days after Morton pleaded guilty, the DOJ filed this criminal indictment against Blondek and Tull (the Eagle executives) and Castle and Lowry (the alleged “foreign officials”).

The allegations were based on the same core conduct alleged in the Morton information and the indictment charged all defendants with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  Original source media reports suggest that videotaped evidence existed in which Tull told an official at Greyhound (who helped the FBI arrange the videotaped exchange) that Lowry was accepting the money for “political purposes.”

Castle and Lowry moved to dismiss the charge against them on the basis that “as Canadian officials, they cannot be convicted of the offense charged against them.”  In this June 1990 Memorandum Opinion and Order (741 F.Supp. 116), the trial court granted the motion.  The issues, as framed by the court, were as follows.

“[It is undisputed] that Defendants Castle and Lowry could not be charged with violating the FCPA itself, since the Act does not criminalize the receipt of a bribe by a foreign official.  The issue here is whether the government may prosecute Castle and Lowry under the general conspiracy statute, 18 USC 371, for conspiring to violate the FCPA.  Put more simply, the question is whether foreign officials, whom the government concedes it cannot prosecute under the FCPA itself, may be prosecuted under the general conspiracy statute for conspiring to violate the Act.”

By analogizing to a prior Supreme Court [Gebardi v. U.S.] which addressed a similar issue, the court stated:

“Congress intended in both the FCPA [and the statute at issue in Gebardi] to deter and punish certain activities which necessarily involved the agreement of at least two people, but Congress chose in both statute to punish only one party to the agreement.  In Gebardi the Supreme Court refused to disregard Congress’ intention to exempt one party by allowing the Executive to prosecute that party under the general conspiracy statute for precisely the same conduct.  Congress made the same choice in drafting the FCPA, and by the same analysis, this Court may not allow the Executive to override the Congressional intent not to prosecute foreign officials for their participation in the prohibited acts.”

The court next reviewed the FCPA’s legislative history and concluded that “Congress had absolutely no intention of prosecuting the foreign officials involved, but was concerned solely with regulating the conduct of U.S. entities and citizens.”

In rejecting the DOJ’s position, the court stated, among other things as follows.

“… Congress knew it had the power to reach foreign officials in many cases, and yet declined to exercise that power.  Congress’s awareness of the extent of its own power reveals the fallacy in the government’s position that only those classes of persons deemed by Congress to need protection are exempted from prosecution under the conspiracy statute.  The question is not whether Congress could have included foreign officials within the Act’s proscriptions, but rather whether Congress intended to do so, or more specifically, whether Congress intended the general conspiracy statute, passed many years before the FCPA, to reach foreign officials.”  (emphasis in original).

The court then stated:

“The drafters of the statute knew that they could, consistently with international law, reach foreign officials in certain circumstances. But they were equally well aware of, and actively considered, the “inherent jurisdictional, enforcement, and diplomatic difficulties” raised by the application of the bill to non-citizens of the United States. See H.R.Conf.Rep. No. 831, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 14, reprinted in 1977 U.S. Cong. & Admin.News 4121, 4126. In the conference report, the conferees indicated that the bill would reach as far as possible, and listed all the persons or entities who could be prosecuted. The list includes virtually every person or entity involved, including foreign nationals who participated in the payment of the bribe when the U.S. courts had jurisdiction over them. Id. But foreign officials were not included.

It is important to remember that Congress intended that these persons would be covered by the Act itself, without resort to the conspiracy statute. Yet the very individuals whose participation was required in every case—the foreign officials accepting the bribe—were excluded from prosecution for the substantive offense. Given that Congress included virtually every possible person connected to the payments except foreign officials, it is only logical to conclude that Congress affirmatively chose to exempt this small class of persons from prosecution.

Most likely Congress made this choice because U.S. businesses were perceived to be the aggressors, and the efforts expended in resolving the diplomatic, jurisdictional, and enforcement difficulties that would arise upon the prosecution of foreign officials was not worth the minimal deterrent value of such prosecutions. Further minimizing the deterrent value of a U.S. prosecution was the fact that many foreign nations already prohibited the receipt of a bribe by an official. See S.Rep. No. 114 at 4, 1977 U.S. Cong. & Admin.News at 4104 (testimony of Treasury Secretary Blumenthal that in many nations such payments are illegal). In fact, whenever a nation permitted such payments, Congress allowed them as well.

Based upon the language of the statute and the legislative history, this Court finds in the FCPA what the Supreme Court in Gebardi found in the Mann Act: an affirmative legislative policy to leave unpunished a well-defined group of persons who were necessary parties to the acts constituting a violation of the substantive law. The Government has presented no reason why the prosecution of Defendants Castle and Lowry should go forward in the face of the congressional intent not to prosecute foreign officials. If anything, the facts of this case support Congress’ decision to forego such prosecutions since foreign nations could and should prosecute their own officials for accepting bribes. Under the revised statutes of Canada the receipt of bribes by officials is a crime, with a prison term not to exceed five years, see Criminal Code, R.S.C. c. C–46, s. 121 (pp. 81–84) (1985), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been actively investigating the case, apparently even before any arrests by U.S. officials. Defendant Castle’s and Lowry’s Supplemental Memorandum In Support of Motion to Dismiss, filed May 14, 1990, at 10. In fact, the Canadian police have informed Defendant Castle’s counsel that charges will likely be brought against Defendants Castle and Lowry in Canada. Id. at 10 & nn. 3–4. Thus, prosecution and punishment will be accomplished by the government which most directly suffered the abuses allegedly perpetrated by its own officials, and there is no need to contravene Congress’ desire to avoid such prosecutions by the United States.

As in Gebardi, it would be absurd to take away with the earlier and more general conspiracy statute the exemption from prosecution granted to foreign officials by the later and more specific FCPA. Following the Supreme Court’s admonition in an analogous criminal case that “[a]ll laws are to be given a sensible construction; and a literal application of a statute, which would lead to absurd consequences, should be avoided whenever a reasonable application can be given to it, consistent with the legislative purpose,” [...] the Court declines to extend the reach of the FCPA through the application of the conspiracy statute.”

Accordingly, Defendants Castle and Lowry may not be prosecuted for conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the indictment against them is Dismissed.”

It is also interesting to note that the trial court observed as follows regarding the FCPA’s legislative history.

“The legislative history repeatedly cited the negative effects the revelations of such bribes had wrought upon friendly foreign governments and officials.  [...]  Yet the drafters acknowledged, and the final law reflects this, that some payments that would be unethical or even illegal within the United States might not be perceived similarly in foreign countries, and those payments should not be criminalized.”

The DOJ appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the conspiracy charge against Castle and Lowry. In this March 1991 5th Circuit opinion (925 F.2d 831) the court stated:

“We hold that foreign officials may not be prosecuted under 18 USC 371 for conspiring to violate the FCPA.  The scope of our holding, as well as the rationale that undergirds it, is fully set out in [the trial court opinion] which we adopt and attach as an appendix hereto.”

In this July 1991 superseding indictment, the DOJ charged Blondek and Tull with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, Blondek with two substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations and Tull with three substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations.  In addition, the superseding indictment charged Blondek, Tull, Castle and Lowry with violating 18 USC 1952 (interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises – also known as the Travel Act).

In October 1991, the DOJ filed this Civil Complaint for Permanent Injunction against Eagle Bus based on the same core conduct. Without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, in this Consent and Undertaking Eagle Bus agreed to a Final Judgment of Permanent Injunction enjoining the company from future FCPA violations.  Of note, the Consent and Undertaking states:

“[Eagle Bus] has cooperated completely with the Department of Justice in a criminal investigation arising from the circumstances described in the complaint [...] and will continue to cooperate.  The DOJ has agreed that, in the event neither Eagle Bus, nor its parent corporation Greyhound Lines shall violate the FCPA during the period of the following three years, the DOJ will not object to the defendant’s subsequent motion to dissolve the permanent injunction.”

This February 1992 DOJ Motion for Downward Departure in Morton’s case states as follows.

“Morton cooperated with the United States in the investigation and indictment of defendants John Blondek, Donald Castle, Darrell Lowry and Vernon Tull.  Blondek and Tull were tried and acquitted of all charges on October 12, 1991.  Castle and Lowry have not been been apprehended and remain fugitives.  Morton rendered substantial assistance to the United States in the preparation and prosecution of the case against Blondek and Tull.  [...]  Morton also appeared as a witness for the Crown in criminal proceedings in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, against Castle and Lowry.  The United States is informed that Morton was of substantial assistance in that case.  In the Canadian case, Castle was acquitted of all charges, while Lowry was convicted of all charges.  Lowery has been sentenced to approximately 16 months incarceration.”

Morton was sentenced to three years probation.

According to docket entries, in April 1996, the DOJ moved to dismiss the charges against Castle and Lowry.

Other than a single sentence in the above mentioned DOJ motion for a downward departure in the Morton case, I was unable to find any public reporting or reference to the Blondek and Tull trial in which they were acquitted of all charges.  There is no reference to the trial on the DOJ’s FCPA website and efforts to learn more about the trial from former DOJ enforcement attorneys or those representing Eagle Bus were either not fruitful or unsuccessful.

FCPA trials are rare.  Thus if anyone has any information about the Blondek and Tull trial, please contact me at fcpaprofessor@gmail.com.

*****

One final note about the “buses for bribery” enforcement action.  In an original source media article, George McLeod, the provincial cabinet minister responsible for STC, said “he has seen no information that Saskatchewan paid an inflated price for the luxury buses.”  He is quoted as follows.  ”I don’t think the product is on trial.  As far as I’m aware, we received an excellent product for the price.”

Bribery Of A Foreign Official On U.S. Soil

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding "old" FCPA enforcement actions]

The core enforcement action described below highlights a rare instance of FCPA violations being charged along with violations of the U.S. domestic bribery statute.  The enforcement action is also a rare instance of the United States being the location where the foreign official was allegedly bribed.

Control Systems Specialist / Darrold Crites

In this 1998 criminal information, the DOJ alleged that Control Systems Specialist, Inc. (“Control Systems” a company engaged in the purchase, repair, and resale of surplus military equipment) and its President Darrold Crites made improper payments to a Brazilian Air Force Lt. Colonel (“Col. Z”) stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Based in Ohio.  The information describes Col. Z  as follows.

“Col. Z was the Foreign Liaison Officer for the Air Force of the Republic of Brazil … and was authorized to make purchases of military equipment on behalf of the Brazilian Aeronautical Commission (“BAC”), the purchasing agent of the Brazilian Air Force.  The BAC was an “instrumentality” of the Government of Brazil.”

The DOJ alleged that Crites met with a civilian employee of the United States Air Force who worked at Wright Patterson Air Force Base as the Command Country Manager (“Country Manager”) for Brazil and was responsible for representing the United States Air Force in dealings with Col. Z.

According to the DOJ, “Country Manager agreed to provide Crites with surplus part numbers, model numbers, and U.S. military sources of surplus parts in exchange for the promise of payments of money, using information he would obtain through his position as a civilian employee of the United States Air Force.”

In turn, the DOJ alleged that “Crites would thereafter purchase the surplus equipment identified by the Country Manager, recondition it, and resell the same to the BAC.”  According to the DOJ, Col. Z would approve the BAC’s purchase from Control Systems in exchange for payments of money.  Specifically, the DOJ alleged that Crites paid Col. Z “a series of bribes, disguised as ‘consultant fees,’ for each bid accepted by Col. Z on behalf of the BAC.”

The DOJ also alleged that Crites formed a separate company (“Company Y”) with the assistance of an Ohio businessman (“Businessman X”) to pay bribes to Col. Z “in exchange for his approval of Company Y’s bids to sell surplus U.S. military equipment to the BAC.”

According to the DOJ, Crites and Businessman X, as officers of Company Y “arranged not less than forty-four purchases of surplus U.S. military equipment for repair and resale to the BAC.”  The DOJ alleged as follows.

“Some of the surplus equipment was obtained by the BAC through the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and then provided to Control Systems for repair.  Other equipment was purchased directly by Control Systems or Company Y, repaired, and then sold to the BAC.  In all cases, after each purchase was effected, Col. Z was paid for his approval of the transactions.”

According to the DOJ, Crites, Control Systems and others “paid a total of $99,000 to the Country Manager and a total of $257,139 to Col. Z.”

Based on the above allegations, the DOJ charged Control Systems and Crites with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and a substantive violation of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provision.  Based on the allegations involving the Country Manager, the DOJ also charged Control Systems and Crites with violating 18 USC 201, the domestic bribery statute.

Pursuant to this plea agreement, Crites pleaded guilty to the three charges described above.  In the plea agreement, Crites agreed to cooperate with the DOJ.  According to the statement of facts in the plea agreement, “Crites and Control Systems received approximately $672,298 as a result of the contracts received from the government of Brazil.”  According to a docket entry, Crites was sentenced to three years probation (with the first six months of probation to be spent in home confinement with electronic monitoring with work release privileges) and 150 hours of community service.

Pursuant to this plea agreement, Control Systems also pleaded guilty to the three charges described above.  According to a docket entry, Control Systems was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine and was sentenced to one year probation.

International Materials Solutions Corp. / Thomas Qualey

Based on the same core allegations in the Control Systems / Crites enforcement action, in 1999 the DOJ also alleged in this criminal information that International Materials Solutions Corporation (“IMS” – like Control Systems an Ohio company that engaged in the purchase, repair, and resale of surplus military equipment) and Thomas Qualey (the President of IMS) conspired to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and violated the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  According to the information, IMS and Qualey paid a total of $67,563 to Col. Z to induce the approval by Col. Z of a bid by IMS for the acquisition and repair of ten fork lift trucks.

Pursuant to this plea agreement, Qualey pleaded guilty to the two charges described above.  According to the Statement of Facts in the plea agreement, Qualey and IMS “received approximately $392,250 as a result of the contracts received from the Government of Brazil.”  According to this judgment, Qualey was sentenced to three years probation ((with the first four months of probation to be spent in home confinement with electronic monitoring with work release privileges) and 150 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

Pursuant to this plea agreement, IMS pleaded guilty to the two charges described above.  According to this judgment, IMS was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine plus and was sentenced to one year probation.

See this prior post for another FCPA enforcement in connection with the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program.

Further To The Clustering Phenomenon

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced that two additional individual defendants have been added to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (and related) enforcement action against individuals associated with broker dealer Direct Access Partners.  (See here for the original May 2013 enforcement action against Jose Hurtado and Tomas Clarke and here for an additional individual, Ernesto Lujan, being added to the enforcement action in June 2013).

Like in the previous enforcement actions, the additional defendants (Benito Chinea and Joseph DeMeneses, the Chief Executive Officer and a managing partner, respectively of Direct Access Partners) were criminally charged in connection with alleged improper payments to Maria Gonzalez (V.P. of Finance / Executive Manager of Finance and Funds Administration at Bandes, an alleged Venezuelan state-owned banking entity that acted as the financial agent of the state to finance economic development projects).

As noted in the DOJ’s release, Chinea and DeMeneses were each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and the Travel Act, five counts of violating the FCPA, and five counts of violating of the Travel Act. Chinea and DeMeneses were also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering. DeMeneses was further charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.  (See here for the SEC’s announcement of a related enforcement action against Chinea and DeMeneses.  Like the SEC’s prior enforcement actions against the other individuals, Chinea and DeMeneses are charged with various securities law violations, but not FCPA offenses as the individuals – while associated with a broker dealer –  are not associated with an issuer).

As noted in the DOJ’s release, in August 2013 Lujan, Hurtado and Clarke each pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA, to violate the Travel Act and to commit money laundering, as well as substantive counts of these offenses.

The DOJ’s enforcement action against Chinea and DeMeneses is further to the curious clustering phenomenon clearly observable in FCPA enforcement.

As highlighted in this previous post (with statistics calculated through the end of 2013), 53% of the individuals charged by the DOJ with FCPA criminal offenses since 2008 have been in just four cases and 75% of the individuals charged by the DOJ since 2008 have been in just nine cases.

Of further note (and again with statistics calculated through the end of 2013), of the 89 individuals charged by the DOJ with FCPA criminal offenses since 2008, 61 of the individuals (69%) were employees or otherwise affiliated with private business entities (for instance – Haiti Teleco related enforcement actions, Control Components Inc. Latin Node, Nexus Technologies, BizJet, not to mention failed prosecutions against various Africa Sting defendants and individuals associated with Lindsey Manufacturing).

This is a striking statistic given that 48 of the 60 corporate DOJ FCPA enforcement actions since 2008 (80%) (again using statistics calculated through the end of 2013) were against publicly traded corporations.  In short, a private entity DOJ FCPA enforcement is approximately three times more likely to have a related DOJ FCPA criminal prosecution of an individual than a public entity DOJ FCPA enforcement action.

Thus far in 2014, the trends have been further magnified.  In addition to this week’s action:

  • 5 individuals associated with private company Group DF were charged with FCPA offenses (see here); and
  • 3 individuals associated with private company PetroTiger Ltd. were charged with FCPA offenses (see here)

DOJ Announces FCPA Enforcement Action Against Former CEO’s and General Counsel Of PetroTiger

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Yesterday the DOJ announced FCPA and related charges against former executives of PetroTiger Ltd., a British Virgin Islands oil and gas company with operations in Colombia and offices in New Jersey, “for their alleged participation in a scheme to pay bribes to foreign government officials in violation of the FCPA, to defraud PetroTiger, and to launder proceeds of those crimes.”

The individuals charged were former co-CEOs of PetroTiger Joseph Sigelman and Knut Hammarskjold and former general counsel Gregory Weisman.

According to the DOJ release, Sigelman and Hammarskjold “were charged by sealed complaints filed in the District of New Jersey on Nov. 8, 2013″ and “Hammarskjold was arrested Nov. 20, 2013, at Newark Liberty International Airport” and “Sigelman was arrested on Jan. 3, 2014, in the Philippines and appeared [yesterday] in Guam before a U.S. Magistrate Judge” and “will have an initial appearance in New Jersey federal court on a date to be determined.”  According to the release, Weisman “pleaded guilty on Nov. 8, 2013, to a criminal information charging one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud.”

Sigelman

This criminal complaint, charges Sigelman with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions as well as three substantive FCPA charges.  The FCPA charges are based on allegations that Sigelman and others made at least four transfers of money in the approximate amount of $333,500 to an account in Colombia of a “foreign government official in Colombia.”

Elsewhere, the complaint identifies the foreign official as “an official at Ecopetrol [who] had influence over the approval and award of contracts by Ecopetrol, including the Mansarovar Contract.”  Ecopetrol is alleged to be “the state-owned and state-controlled petroleum company in Colombia” and the complaint states as follows.

“Ecopetrol was created by national law, and it was required by law that Colombia conserve, at a minimum, eighty percent of the shares in circulation, with voting rights. During the relevant time period, Colombia controlled 89.9% of Ecopetrol’s outstanding capital stock, and held the right to elect the majority of the members of the company’s board of directors. Ecopetrol’s board of directors included the Minister of Mines and Energy, the Minister of Finance, and the Director of the National Planning Agency of Colombia. Ecopetrol was responsible for approving contracts to drill or perform services on oil fields in Colombia, including the Mansarovar Contract.”

The complaint also refers to the official’s wife and states that “the Official’s Wife purportedly provided finance and management related consulting services for PetroTiger [when] in reality, the Official’s Wife served as a conduit for bribe payments to the Official.”

Under the heading “Bribery Scheme,” the complaint alleges that Sigelman and other PetroTiger executives [Hammarskjold and Weisman] ”attempted to secure the Mansarovar Contract” and ”because Ecopetrol had ultimate authority for approving projects and contracts to perform oil-related services in Colombia, Sigelman [and the other executives] were required to obtain approval from Ecopetrol for the Mansarovar Contract.”

According to the complaint, Sigelman and others “in order to secure Ecopetrol’s approval for the Mansarovar Contract,” “paid bribes to the Official, who had the ability to influence the approval process.”

The complaint states that Sigelman and others “attempted to conceal the bribes by funneling the payments through the Official’s Wife and by falsely claiming in documents that the payments were for finance and management consulting services that the Official’s Wife purportedly performed for PetroTiger.”  The complaint further states that “when transfers to the bank account in the name of the Official’s Wife failed as a result of incorrect account information,” Sigelman and others “transferred the money directly to a bank account in the name of the Official.”

According to the complaint, PetroTiger was successful in “obtaining Ecopetrol’s approval, and secured the Mansarovar Contract” which was valued “at approximately $39.6 million, and has resulted in a gross profit to date, of approximately $3.5 million.”

The Sigelman complaint also charges one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  These charges are based, in pertinent part, on allegations that an owner of a company ”being acquired by Sigelman and others” transferred approximately $262,000 “as part of an illegal kickback scheme” to Sigelman’s bank account and that Sigelman then “divided up the money and transferred portions of the money” to other PetroTiger executives.  According to the complaint, Sigelman and the others “did not disclose to their investing partners that they were receiving a kickback in exchange for the additional money that the investing partners would be paying in connection with the acquisition of the Target Company.  As a result, the investing partners were deprived of money and property and the honest services of” Sigelman and others.  According to the complaint, this “Target Company” was “an oil services company with operations in Colombia” that PetroTiger acquired in 2009 for approximately $53 million.

Hammarskjold

This criminal complaint also charges Hammarskjold with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions as well as three substantive FCPA charges based on the same conduct alleged in the Sigelman complaint.

The Hammarskjold complaint also charges one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud based on the same kickback scheme alleged in the Sigelman complaint.

Weisman

This criminal information alleges the same bribery scheme and kickback scheme as the Sigelman and Hammarskjold complaints.  However, the information only charges one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud.

The Weisman information further states as follows.

“On or about September 28, 2010, at board meeting of PetroTiger, Executive A [Sigelman] stated that he and others were dealing with non-transparent commercial practices in Colombia.  On or about September 28, 2010, at the board meeting … in response to a question about whether Executive A was upholding PetroTiger’s Code of Business Principles, which included a prohibition on bribery, Executive A stated that he was.”

The Weisman information also contains a forfeiture allegation seeking forfeiture of approximately $52,000 (the amount of the alleged kickback Weisman received).

In the DOJ’s release, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman stated:

“We have said – repeatedly and emphatically – that foreign corruption, whether committed by companies or by the individuals entrusted to run those companies, will not be tolerated.   And, our track record in vigorously enforcing the FCPA has shown that message to be undeniably true.  The charges unsealed today against two former CEOs of PetroTiger and the guilty plea announced today of the former General Counsel reaffirm our clear message that we will prosecute corruption and fraud wherever we find it.   Bribery distorts what should be a level playing field and deprives corporations and governments of funds that should instead be used to strengthen those institutions.   Today’s announcement should be a reminder to CEOs and other executives who seek to corrupt the system at the expense of honest businesses:   we are not going away.”

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman of the District of New Jersey stated:

“Bribery of public officials, whether at home or abroad, corrupts business opportunity and undermines trust in government.  The under-the-table deals alleged in today’s charges are not an acceptable way of doing business.”

Special Agent in Charge Aaron Ford of the FBI’s Newark Division stated:

“The FBI is committed to pursuing those who disrupt the level playing field to which companies in the U.S. and around the world are entitled.  We will continue to investigate these matters by working with law enforcement agencies, both foreign and domestic, to ensure that both corporations and executives who bribe foreign officials for lucrative contracts are punished.”

The DOJ’s release further states:

“The department has worked closely with and has received significant assistance from its law enforcement counterparts in the Republic of Colombia and greatly appreciates their assistance in this matter.   The department also thanks the Republic of the Philippines, including the Bureau of Immigration, for its assistance in this matter.   Significant assistance was also provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.”