Archive for the ‘Facilitating Payments’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Another acknowledgment of the logic, whistleblower statistics, a guilty plea, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Another Acknowledgment of the Logic

Previous posts here and here have highlighted recent speeches by top SEC officials in which they acknowledge the underlying logic supporting a compliance defense.  Deputy Attorney General James Cole did the same in this recent speech before a bank compliance officer crowd.

“At the Department of Justice, we know that compliance officers within financial institutions, and the lawyers, bankers, and others who work with them, are the first line of defense against abuse within these institutions.  Compliance officers are critical to protecting both a bank’s reputation and its bottom line.  They’re essential when it comes to preventing criminal activity – and if that effort is not entirely successful, detecting and reporting such conduct.  It is not an exaggeration to say that compliance is fundamental to protecting the security of our financial institutions and is essential to the integrity of our entire financial system. Despite, and in some ways because of, this crucial role, I know that working in compliance is often difficult.  Compliance is seldom thought of as a ‘money-maker’ for any bank, and it may be challenging to get sufficient resources and authority to do the job well.  To some, compliance may not seem to fit within the culture of a fast-moving, cutting-edge institution.  And at times, certain business units or managers may seem downright hostile toward the compliance function. We at the Department of Justice understand this reality.  And we appreciate that, despite these challenges, you and your colleagues are fully committed to helping protect the integrity of your institutions and our financial system.”

[...]

The notion that compliance must be firmly embedded in a corporation’s culture has been raised before, including at this conference, by many government officials.  You’ve heard a great deal about the importance of ‘tone at the top.’  Indeed, companies regularly argue during negotiations that they have taken various steps to set the right tone at the highest levels of their institutions.  But based on what we have seen, we cannot help but feel that the message is not getting through often enough or clearly enough. Despite years of admonitions by government officials that compliance must be an important part of a corporation’s culture, we continue to see significant violations of law at banks, inadequate compliance programs, and missed opportunities to prevent and detect crimes.”

In “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense,” I argue, among other things, that a compliance defense will better incentivize corporate compliance and reduce improper conduct.  Compliance is a cost center within business organizations and expenditure of finite resources on FCPA compliance is an investment best sold if it can reduce legal exposure, not merely lessen the impact of legal exposure.

In short, an FCPA compliance defense will best allow compliance professionals in the FCPA context to – in the words of Cole – “get sufficient resources and authority to do the job well.”

Will the DOJ and SEC ever be capable of realizing that a compliance defense is a race to the top, not a race to the bottom?  (See here for the prior post).  Will the DOJ and SEC ever have the courage to realize that a compliance defense can best help the enforcement agencies accomplish its laudable goals? (See here for the prior post).

Whistleblower Statistics

The Dodd-Frank Act enacted in July 2010 contained whistleblower provisions applicable to all securities law violations including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  In this prior post from July 2010, I predicted that the new whistleblower provisions would have a negligible impact on FCPA enforcement.  As noted in this prior post, my prediction was an outlier (so it seemed) compared to the flurry of law firm client alerts that predicted that the whistleblower provisions would have a significant impact on FCPA enforcement.  So anxious was FCPA Inc. for a marketing opportunity to sell its compliance services, some even called the generic whistleblower provision the FCPA’s “new” whistleblower provisions.

So far, there have not been any whistleblower awards in connection with FCPA enforcement actions.  Given that enforcement actions (from point of first disclosure to resolution) typically take between 2-4 years, it still may be too early to effectively analyze the impact of the whistleblower provisions on FCPA enforcement.

Whatever your view, I previously noted that the best part of the new whistleblower provisions were that its impact on FCPA enforcement can be monitored and analyzed because the SEC is required to submit annual reports to Congress.  Recently, the SEC released (here) its annual report for FY2013.

Of the 3,238 whisteblower tips received by the SEC in FY2013, 4.6% (149) related to the FCPA.  As noted in this similar post from last year, of the 3,001 whisteblower tips received by the SEC in FY2012, 3.8% (115) related to the FCPA.  In FY2011 (a partial reporting year)  3.9% of the 334 tips received by the SEC related to the FCPA.

Yes, there will be in the future a whistleblower award made in the context of an FCPA enforcement action.  Yes, there will be much ink spilled on this occasion and wild predictions about this “new trend.”  Yet, I stand by my prediction – now 3.5 years old, that Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions will have a negligible impact on FCPA enforcement.

“Foreign Official” Pleads Guilty

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced that Maria Gonzalez, the alleged “foreign official” at the center of the FCPA enforcement actions against individuals associated with broker-dealer Direct Access Partners LLC, pleaded guilty to “conspiring to violate the Travel Act and to commit money laundering, as well as substantive counts of these offenses.”  Gonzalez (V.P. of Finance / Executive Manager of Finance and Funds Administration at Bandes – an alleged state-run economic development bank in Venezuela) is to be sentenced on August 15, 2014.

As noted in the DOJ’s release:

“Previously, three former employees of the Broker-Dealer – Ernesto Lujan, Jose Alejandro Hurtado, and Tomas Alberto Clarke Bethancourt – each pleaded guilty in New York federal court to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), to violate the Travel Act and to commit money laundering, as well as substantive counts of these offenses, relating, among other things, to the scheme involving bribe payments to Gonzalez.  Sentencing for Lujan and Clarke is scheduled for Feb. 11, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.  Hurtado is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. on March 6, 2014.”

Reading Stack

An interesting read from a Vietnam media source regarding the notion that – just like in tango – it takes two in a bribery scheme and that many instances of bribery are the result of harassment by foreign officials and extortion-like demands.  When passing the FCPA in 1977, Congress fully recognized and understood this reality and that is why it did not seek to capture facilitation payments in the FCPA.  (See here for more reading).

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Scrutiny alerts and updates, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts And Updates

Avon

Yesterday, Avon’s stock dropped approximately 22% to $17.50.  The company disclosed a drop in third quarter sales and weaker than expected earnings.  Avon also disclosed, in pertinent part, the following regarding its long-running FCPA scrutiny:

“As previously reported in our Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ending June 30, 2013, we made an offer of settlement to the DOJ and the SEC in June 2013 that, among other terms, would have included payment of monetary penalties of approximately $12. Although our offer was rejected by the DOJ and the staff of the SEC, we accrued the amount of our offer in the second quarter of 2013.

In September 2013, the staff of the SEC proposed terms of potential settlement that included monetary penalties of a magnitude significantly greater than our earlier offer. We disagree with the SEC staff’s assumptions and the methodology used in its calculations and believe that monetary penalties at the level proposed by the SEC staff are not warranted. We anticipate that the DOJ also will propose terms of potential settlement, although they have not yet done so and we are unable to predict the timing or terms of any such proposal. If the DOJ’s offer is comparable to the SEC’s offer and if the Company were to enter into settlements with the SEC and the DOJ at such levels, we believe that the Company’s earnings, cash flows, liquidity, financial condition and ongoing business would be materially adversely impacted.

Although we are working to resolve the government investigations through settlement, our discussions are at early stages and at this point we do not know if those efforts will be successful and, if they are, what the timing or terms of any such settlements would be. We expect any such settlements will include civil and/or criminal fines and penalties, and may also include non-monetary remedies, such as oversight requirements and additional remediation and compliance requirements. We may be required to incur significant future costs to comply with the non-monetary terms of any settlements with the SEC and the DOJ. If we are able to reach settlements with the SEC and the DOJ, the Company believes that such settlements are likely to include monetary penalties that would be material to its earnings and cash flows in the relevant fiscal period and could, depending on the amounts of the settlements, materially adversely impact the Company’s liquidity, financial condition and ongoing business.

There can be no assurance that our efforts to reach settlements with the government will be successful.  If we do not reach settlements with the SEC and/or the DOJ, we cannot predict the outcome of any subsequent litigation with the government but such litigation could have a material adverse effect on our earnings, cash flow, liquidity, financial condition and ongoing business.>We have not recorded an additional accrual beyond the amount recorded in the second quarter of 2013 because at this time, in light of the early stages of our discussions of possible settlement terms with the government, the magnitude of the difference between our offer and the amount proposed by the SEC and the absence of a proposal from the DOJ, and our inability to predict whether we will be able to reach settlements with the government, we cannot reasonably estimate the amount of additional loss above the amount accrued to date.

Until these matters are resolved, either through settlement or litigation, we expect to continue to incur costs, primarily professional fees and expenses, which may be significant, in connection with the government investigations. Furthermore, under certain circumstances, we may also be required to advance and/or reimburse significant professional fees and expenses to certain current and former Company employees in connection with these matters.”

In certain respects, Avon’s disclosure was similar to its August disclosure (see here for the prior post) in which it stated “we made an offer of settlement to the DOJ and the SEC that, among other terms, included payment of monetary penalties of approximately $12 [million]. The DOJ and the SEC have rejected the terms of our offer.”

The fact that there is a negotiation and back and forth between the SEC and a company concerning an FCPA settlement number is not unusual, what is a bit unusual is that this back and forth is being aired in public via the company’s SEC filings.

Embraer

Previous posts here and here have profiled Embraer’s FCPA scrutiny.  In an article titled “Plane Maker Embraer Faces Bribery Inquiries,” the Wall Street Journal reports:

“U.S. and Brazilian authorities are investigating whether aircraft maker Embraer SA bribed officials in the Dominican Republic in return for a $90 million contracts to furnish the country’s armed forces with attack planes.”

According to the article, U.S. authorities say they have “evidence – including bank records and e-mails – that they believe shows that Embraer executives had approved a $3.4 million bribe to a Dominican official with influence over military procurement.”

Mead Johnson

Mead Johnson Nutrition Company recently disclosed as follows.

“The company has initiated an internal investigation of, and is voluntarily complying with a Securities and Exchange Commission request for documents relating to, certain business activities of the company’s local subsidiary in China. The company’s investigation is focused on certain expenditures that were made by the subsidiary in connection with the promotion of the company’s products or may have otherwise been made and that may not have complied with company policies and applicable U.S. and/or local laws. The company has retained outside legal counsel to conduct the investigation, which is being overseen by a committee of independent members of the company’s board of directors. At this time, the company is unable to predict the scope, timing or outcome of this ongoing matter or any regulatory or legal actions that may be commenced related to this matter.”

National Geographic

The on-line publication Vocativ recently published an article “Tut-Tut: Did National Geographic Bribe Egypt’s Famed Indiana Jones?”  The article begins as follows.

“This is not your typical story about international bribery. For one thing, it involves mummies. It also involves one of America’s most beloved institutions: National Geographic.  Vocativ has learned that the Justice Department has opened a criminal bribery investigation into the prestigious nonprofit. At issue: Nat Geo’s tangled relationship with Dr. Zahi Hawass, a world-famous Indiana Jones–type figure who for years served as the official gatekeeper to Egypt’s glittering antiquities.  Beginning in 2001 and continuing for a decade, National Geographic paid the archaeologist between $80,000 and $200,000 a year for his expertise. The payments came at a time when the popularity of mummies and pharaohs was helping transform the 125-year-old explorer society into a juggernaut with multiple glossies, a publishing house and a television channel. But they also came as Hawass was still employed by the Egyptian government to oversee the country’s priceless relics.”

According to the article, Hawass also worked with National Geographic competitor, the Discovery Channel.

Although National Geographic is a non-profit entity, the FCPA’s definition of “domestic concern” is “any corporation, partnership, association, joint-stock company, business trust, unincorporated organization, or sole proprietorship …”.

Teva Pharmaceuticals

As noted in this previous post, in August the company disclosed that it “received a subpoena … from the SEC to produce documents
with respect to compliance with the FCPA in Latin America.”  Earlier this week, Teva disclosed as follows.

“Beginning in 2012, Teva received subpoenas and informal document requests from the SEC and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to produce documents with respect to compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) in certain countries. Teva has provided and will continue to provide documents and other information to the SEC and the DOJ, and is cooperating with the government in their investigations of these matters. Teva is also conducting a voluntary investigation into certain business practices that may have FCPA implications and has engaged independent counsel to assist in its investigation. In the course of its investigation, which is continuing, Teva has identified in Russia, certain Eastern European countries, and certain Latin American countries issues that could potentially rise to the level of FCPA violations and/or violations of local law. Teva has brought these issues to the attention of the SEC and the DOJ. No conclusion can be drawn at this time as to any likely outcomes in these matters.”

JPMorgan

As highlighted in this previous post, in August JPMorgan’s hiring practices in China came under scrutiny.

The company recently disclosed:

“The Firm has received subpoenas and requests for documents from the SEC’s Division of Enforcement regarding, among other things, hiring practices relating to candidates referred by clients, potential clients and government officials, the Firm’s employment of certain former employees in Hong Kong, its business relationships with certain related clients in the Asia Pacific region and its engagement of consultants in the Asia Pacific region. The Firm has also received a request for documents from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the same referral hiring practices. The Firm is cooperating with these investigations. Separate inquiries on these or similar topics have been made by other authorities, including authorities in other jurisdictions, and the Firm is responding to those inquiries.”

Quotable

From Attorney General Eric Holder at the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery in Morocco.

“As we’ve all seen – and as President Obama has said – “[t]he struggle against corruption is one of the great struggles of our time.”  Fortunately [...] corruption is no longer widely seen as an accepted cost of doing business.  It is no longer tolerated as an unavoidable aspect of government.  On the contrary – it is now generally understood that the consequences of corruption are devastating – eroding trust in public and private institutions, undermining confidence in the fairness of free and open markets, siphoning precious resources at a time when they could hardly be more scarce, and all too often breeding contempt for the rule of law.

[...]

This is why, as Attorney General, I’ve consistently worked to ensure that anticorruption remains a top priority for my colleagues at every level of the United States Department of Justice – within as well as beyond our borders.”

A recent article in Corporate Counsel titled “The Perils of Keeping FCPA Infractions Under Wraps” states:

“Charles Duross, the deputy chief of the U.S. Justice Department’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit, delivered an ominous message Monday to in-house lawyers at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Annual Meeting in Los Angeles: Failure to report potential bribery is more perilous than ever.  Duross, who is based in Washington, D.C., said DOJ is handling a “pretty steady stream of cases,” with every major U.S. attorney’s office investigating alleged violations of the FCPA, which prohibits bribery of foreign officials.  “The risk of getting caught . . . is greater today than any point previously,” Duross said. “I think that’s kind of a no-brainer.”  Duross said he isn’t naïve about the calculus companies have to perform when deciding whether to report a potential FCPA infraction to the U.S. government. But if a company makes the disclosure on its own, he noted, the Justice Department stands ready to help.  DOJ can make deferred-prosecution or non-prosecution agreements with businesses—or even decline to pursue any action against them, he said. “It’s a tough one” for companies, Duross said. “No doubt about it.” Self-reporting can be overrated, according to New York-based Morrison & Foerster partner Carl Loewenson Jr., a co-chairman of the firm’s securities litigation, enforcement, and white-collar defense group who also spoke at the ACC event. Making the disclosures is great for business at the DOJ, as well as law firms and accounting offices, he said. But companies that report almost always get some type of a public charge, he noted. “I think that these days there are too many cases in which too many companies are being too reflexive about self-reporting” to the government, Loewenson said. “In some cases, not in all, you can solve these problems yourself.”

Reading Stack

Several spot-on observations in the most recent issue of the always informative FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton concerning the recent Diebold enforcement action (see here and here for prior posts).

“Although there are significant aggravating factors that might explain imposing $48 million in penalties and disgorgement on a company that voluntarily disclosed what are, unfortunately, common improprieties in China, combined with wholly unrelated commercial bribery in Russia, the size of the financial resolution – apart from the substantial burdens of the monitorship – raises questions about future enforcement of the FCPA, as well as the incentives for companies to self-report.

The first noteworthy aspect of this resolution is the enforcement agencies’ decision to use the books and records and internal controls provisions as a vehicle for obtaining monetary relief penalizing purely commercial bribery (40% of the improper payments at issue). While not entirely novel or outside the theoretical reach of those provisions, were the enforcement agencies routinely to investigate issuers in connection with commercial bribery abroad, the “risk-based” calculus of almost all corporate compliance programs would potentially need to be rebalanced.

Second, the total financial aspect of the resolution was 16 times the total value of alleged improper payments. In describing the improper payments, the enforcement agencies aggregated a number of often small payments over five years. When considered alongside the Ralph Lauren enforcement action from earlier this year, the Diebold enforcement action, and in particular its imposition of a monitor, long-considered one of the most burdensome aspects of FCPA settlements, could call into question one common view of the statements relating to gifts and corrupt intent in the November 2012 DOJ/SEC joint Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: namely, that FCPA covered companies should not “sweat the small stuff.”

[...]

“[T]he Diebold enforcement actions revive the pre-guidance confusion about the government’s enforcement priorities and raise significant questions about the value of voluntary disclosure. The confusion, arising from repeated charges related to relatively small expenditures, including, even, $500 for four pairs of shoes provided as gifts to Chinese officials, was part of  the background of frustration with the government’s enforcement of the FCPA that led to publication of the joint DOJ/ SEC Resource Guide.  It has been commonly thought that the Resource Guide’s distinctions between “expensive gifts” and “token[s] of esteem or gratitude” signified at least an implicit recognition by U.S. enforcement agencies that compliance resources would be better allocated to topics other than gifts valued at a few hundred dollars, let alone gifts that individually do not exceed $100 in value. But the Diebold case will raise new questions about the government’s enforcement priorities, questions that will only be amplified by the imposition of a monitor, potentially one of the most disruptive, burdensome, and costly components of FCPA settlement tools, and one that had been in declining use for several years.”

An observant article from The Lawyer titled “Round Table on Cross-Border Disputes – Bandwagons Roll.”  It states:

“Co-operation [between foreign law enforcement regulators] is good.’”  [...]  More co-operation between regulators when they are trying to address the same issues is welcome.”  However, co-operation – while praised for attempting to provide consistency – has its drawbacks.  “They all want to impose sanctions for the same conduct.” [...]   “It’s common now for a company to finish a US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or UK Bribery Act investigation  that has taken three years and generated huge fees, to turn around and see a long line of regulators from, say, China or India with their own legal and  political concerns.”

It does not necessarily justify the behavior, but the following article at least puts the behavior in the proper context and highlights why Congress specifically included a facilitation payments exception in the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

“Seventy-five percent of businesses in Vietnam pay bribes to  government agencies on their own volition in order to avoid being stuck in red tape, a World Bank specialist says.  At an anti-corruption conference held in Hanoi Thursday, Soren Davidsen said that sixty-three percent of firms questioned in a survey said they paid the “unofficial fees” to speed up procedures.”

A useful compliance resource here from the U.S. – China Business Council titled “Best Practices for Managing Compliance in China.”

*****

A good weekend to all,

What’s On Your Mind?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The dog days of summer.  A time for reflection, a time to think.

I posed the question “what’s on your mind” to the following FCPA practitioners and below are their responses.

Philip Rohlik (Debevoise & Plimpton – Hong Kong)

“While I have been working on Asian related FCPA matters for more than seven years, I moved to the region two years ago.  Living here and interacting with local employees in situations other than investigations has given me a different perspective of the cost and difficulties associated with compliance.

Facilitating payments and transnational legal regimes that seek to bar them are on my mind.  While it is correct and easy to say that ethical multinational corporations should not give in to the petty extortion that characterizes facilitation payments, the issue is not so simple when looked at from the reality of an employee in a high-risk jurisdiction — the kind of employee who recently asked me for advice on “how do I make the police go away?” when they visit the second or third week of every month (about the time their last month’s paycheck runs out).  It is easy for a compliance officer or lawyer who encounters random government officials on his or her way to or from the airport to make full use of the ICC’s Resist handbook.  Local (and, let’s face it, not that well paid) employees who must deal with specific officials on a regular basis are in a different situation especially if they have no desire to test the limits of “imminent physical harm.”

When laws impose vicarious or respondeat superior liability, situations to which the law applies should not be determined from the abstract perspective of a corporation but from the realities faced by the company’s employees.  Is the fight against corruption really furthered by having zero tolerance policies for facilitation payments at the corporate level, but local employees very rationally believing that such grand pronouncements leave them in a situation that will either (i) make their life very difficult or (ii) force them to circumvent internal controls in order to make the payment (thereby creating a potential mechanism for more nefarious payments)?  In this respect, the U.S. law that exempts facilitating payments from the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA may be less anachronistic than it is often made out to be.

Also often on my mind is third party due diligence.  Right now, one of our concerns is attending to our clients’ needs for right-sizing third party due diligence. Businesses are concerned that the continued lack of clarity from regulators as to the required steps results in excessive cost and a misallocation of compliance resources.  While some third parties deserve thorough diligence, how much diligence is due other third-parties?  Is a basic questionnaire and (the often-not-inexpensive) outsourcing of a public records check sufficient?  What if such checks are almost always inconclusive in countries with limited public records?  Do they just become inefficient box ticking?  We are actively working with both clients as well as due diligence firms providing cloud-based and world-wide investigative services to help get these costs under control.  Among the solutions we are working on are greater use of in-house information.  If there are adequate internal controls on the evaluation of in-house experience with a third party, we believe that the greater use of on-hand information to evaluate third parties can be a real cost-saver.  Doing so would free up resources for other compliance tasks as well as improve the client’s bottom line.”

John Rupp (Covington & Burling – London)

“As we continue to struggle on behalf of clients with demands for bribes, large and small, by government officials in a depressing number of countries, I have become ever more convinced that a new approach to the campaign against bribery – in particular, by western countries – is needed.  The approach that western countries have taken thus far to the bribery of foreign government officials is to punish the bribe giver.  The premise appears to be that international companies, including those subject to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Bribery Act 2010, rather like bribing foreign government officials, seeing it as a convenient way to win business without having to compete fairly with other companies operating in the same space.

A completely different picture emerges, of course, when one spends a good part of each working day developing strategies to enable clients to operate in countries where official corruption is endemic.  The international company employee who wakes up in the morning, steadies himself or herself in the mirror and then looks forward to winning business through bribery is an exceedingly rare bird in my experience.  Overwhelming, the reflected image of the vast majority of employees of international companies grappling with bribery demands is of consternation – how does one continue to operate in Country X when everyone on the government payroll in the country is demanding a bribe for everything?

A fully developed, and maximally effective, anti-bribery program by a western country would involve, I believe, much more attention than has been paid in the past to assisting international companies when they are confronting demands for bribes by foreign government officials.  The US State and Commerce Departments, UK and German Foreign Ministries, World Bank – and many others – should put much more emphasis in the future than they have in the past on assisting companies fend off official demands for bribes.  In many, many cases, they have the resources – and the leverage – to do so.

I’m not suggesting that western countries consider repealing statutes punishing the bribery of foreign government officials.  What I am suggesting is that they balance that approach with an equally concerted effort to deal with the demand side of the bribery equation.

Thomas Fox (Solo Practitioner, Founder and Editor of the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog)

“The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating JPMorgan Chase regarding its hiring practices in China. It appears that JP Morgan Chase hired children of Chinese government officials or heads of state owned enterprises. While such hirings do not violate the FCPA per se, they do raise red flags. The FCPA Professor was quoted in the New York Times, “While the hire of a son or daughter itself is not illegal, red flags would be raised if the person hired was not qualified for the position, or, for example, if a firm never received business before and then lo and behold, the hire brought in business.” Such a hire may be a FCPA noteworthy event if the timing of the alleged hiring is closely connected to important business victories and awards of government business.

While the questions of corrupt intent will be paramount I think that this episode emphasizes the continuing key concept of the three most important things in any FCPA compliance program; that being: Document, Document, Document. If your compliance program does not document its successes there is simply no evidence that it has succeeded. In addition to providing to your company support to put forward to the DOJ, it is the only manner in which to gauge the overall effectiveness of your compliance program. To negate corrupt intent, JP Morgan Chase will have to dis-link any hiring with the obtaining of business. It will be the documentary efforts of the company in answering this query that may well decide the question of whether the SEC will consider the matter a FCPA violation or not.”

Friday Roundup

Friday, July 26th, 2013

A sign-off, no surprise, scrutiny alert, for the reading stack, spot-on, and the $10 million man.

Judge Leon Signs-Off On IBM Action

As highlighted in this prior post, in March 2011 the SEC announced an FCPA enforcement action against IBM concerning alleged conduct in South Korea and China.  The settlement terms contained a permanent injunction as to future FCPA violations and thus required judicial approval.  Similar to the Tyco FCPA enforcement action, the case sat on Judge Leon’s docket.  Last month, Judge Leon approved the Tyco settlement (see here) and yesterday Judge Leon approved the IBM settlement.

The common thread between the two enforcement actions would seem to be that both companies were repeat FCPA offenders.

Like Judge Leon’s final order in Tyco, the final order in IBM action states:

“[For a two year period IBM is required to submit annual reports] to the Commission and this Court describing its efforts to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), and to report to the Commission and this Court immediately upon learning it is reasonably likely that IBM has violated the FCPA in connection with either improper payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business or any fraudulent books and records entries …””

For additional coverage of yesterday’s hearing, see here from Bloomberg.  The article quotes Judge Leon as follows.  IBM “has learned its lesson and is moving in the right direction to ensure this never happens again.” If there’s another violation over the next two years, “it won’t be a happy day.”

However, as noted in this previous post, IBM recently disclosed additional FCPA scrutiny.

No Surprise

This recent post highlighted the 9th Circuit’s restitution ruling in the Green FCPA enforcement action and was titled “Green Restitution Order Stands … For Now.”  As noted in the prior post, the decision practically invited the Greens to petition for an en banc hearing.

No surprise, the Greens did just that earlier this week - see here for the petition.

Scrutiny Alert

This February 2012 post detailed how Wynn Resorts $135 million donation to the University of Macau became the subject of an SEC inquiry.

Earlier this month, Wynn disclosed in an SEC filing as follows:

“On February 13, 2012, Wynn Resorts, Limited (the “Company”) filed a Report on Form 8-K disclosing that it had received a letter from the Salt Lake Regional Office (the “Office”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) advising the Company that the Office had commenced an informal inquiry with respect to certain matters, including a donation by Wynn Macau, Limited, an affiliate of the Company, to the University of Macau Development Foundation. On July 2, 2013, the Company received a letter from the Office stating that the investigation had been completed with the Office not intending to recommend any enforcement action against the Company by the SEC.”

According to this report:

“Speaking to The Associated Press from his boat on the Spanish island of Ibiza … CEO Steve Wynn said he never had any doubt federal investigators would clear the company.  ‘We were so sanguine that we never paid any attention to it; we had no exposure. It was a nonevent except for the damn newspapers.’”

For the Reading Stack

The always informative Gibson Dunn Mid-Year FCPA Update and Mid-Year DPA and NPA Update (through July 8th, approximately 30% of all DPAs/NPAs have been used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions).

Sound insight from Robertson Park and Timothy Peterson in this Inside Counsel column:

“Without putting too fine a spin on the matter, the discussion of the potential consequences faced by a company with potential anti-bribery exposure was fundamentally U.S.-centric. The dispositive question was often whether or not the potential misconduct was likely to fall under the umbrella of FCPA enforcement. Would U.S. authorities be interested in pursuing this matter? Would they find out about this matter? There were not many other concerns that mattered. Whether the site of the potential misconduct was in the European, Asian, South American or African sector, the substantial likelihood was that home authorities would have little interest in the matter, and even if they did it was likely an interest that would often frustrate and impede efforts by the Department of Justice or the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the matter. Cooperative enforcement was unlikely. This has changed. [...]  For companies that learn of a potential international corruption issue, the impact of this emerging global enforcement market means that the headache associated with scoping an internal investigation is now a migraine with diverse and complex symptoms. Companies investigating potential bribery have always faced the question of how, if at all, they plan to disclose any subsequent findings to government authorities. Now, initial assessments of investigative plans in anti-bribery matters must consider a broader array of potentially interested enforcement authorities. Companies must design their anti-bribery investigations at the outset to consider not only the FCPA enforcement regime in the U.S., but also a newly energized U.K. anti-bribery law, along with a growing list of ant-bribery measures in almost all of the important jurisdictions with business growth opportunities.”

Six ways to improve in-house compliance training from Ryan McConnell and Gérard Sonnier.

The reality of facilitation payments from Matt Kelly.

“… Facilitation payments are a fact of life in global business. Nobody likes them, and no compliance officer wants to pay a bribe disguised as a facilitation payment. But when the transaction truly fits the definition of a facilitation payment—money paid to a government official, to speed up some job duty he would normally perform anyway—there shouldn’t be any ethical or legal crisis in paying it. After all, we have facilitation payments domestically in the United States. If you want a passport from the State Department, you pay $165 in fees. If you want an expedited passport, you pay an extra $60 fee and get your passport in half the usual time. That’s a facilitation payment, pure and simple. Other countries have all sorts of facilitation payments as well, say, to get a visa processed quickly or to clear goods through customs rather than let them rot on the docks. Urgent needs happen in business, and facilitation payments get you through them. That’s life.”

The language of corruption from the BBC.

Spot-On

Regardless of what you think of former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, he is spot-on with his observation that the so-called Arthur Anderson effect (i.e. if a business organization is criminally charged it will go out of business) is “overrated.”  As noted in this Corporate Crime Reporter piece, in a new book titled “Protecting Capitalism Case by Case” Spitzer writes:

“Almost all entities have the capacity to regenerate — even if under a new name, with new ownership and new leadership — and forcing them to do so will have the deterrent effect we desire.”

“Most companies would have no trouble continuing in operation once charged. They might suffer reputational harm, perhaps lose contracts, have certain loans be declared to be in default, and lose some personnel and public support. But that would probably be the proper price to be paid in the context of the violations of the law they committed.”

As noted in previous posts, the Arthur Anderson effect was effectively debunked (see here) and even Denis McInerney (DOJ, Deputy Assistant Attorney General) recently acknowledged (see here) that there is a very small chance that a company would be put out of business as a result of actual DOJ criminal charges.

In his new book Spitzer also writes as follows concerning the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy.

“I hope that the new leadership at the Securities and Exchange Commission will mandate that an admission of guilt is a necessary part of future settlements in cases of this stature or magnitude. The law and justice require such an acknowledgement — or else nothing has been accomplished.”

Speaking of neither admit nor deny, part of the SEC’s talking points defense of this policy is that the SEC is not the only federal agency that makes use of such a settlement policy.

On this score, it is notable – as detailed in this Law360 article – that Bart Chilton, a top official at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, “said the commission should rethink its policy of allowing defendants to settle claims without admitting or denying the allegations.”  According to the article, Chilton stated:

“I understand there are certain circumstances where we might not want to require [admissions], but I think we at the CFTC should change our modus operandi.  The default position should be that people who violate the law should admit wrongdoing.”

$10 Million Man

Continuing with neither admit nor deny, one of the defenders of this settlement policy was Robert Khuzami while he was at the SEC as the Director of Enforcement.   As noted in this Kirkland & Ellis release, Khuzami joined the firm as a partner in the global Government, Regulatory and Internal Investigations Practice Group.  According to this New York Times article, Khuzami’s new position “pays more than $5 million per year” and is guaranteed for two years.  In joining Kirkland, the New York Times stated that Khuzami “is following quintessential Washington script: an influential government insider becoming a paid advocate for industries he once policed.”

Khuzami and former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer were the voice and face of the SEC and DOJ last November upon release of the FCPA Guidance.  As detailed in this prior post, Breuer is currently at Covington & Burling making approximately $4 million per year.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, February 15th, 2013

From the SEC Chairman, Congress is capable, adding to the list, scrutiny alerts, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

From the SEC Chairman

SEC Chairman Elisse Walter stated as follows earlier this week (see here) in opening a Foreign Bribery and Corruption Training Conference for law enforcement officials from around the world.

“[W]e have found that corrupt practices by a registered company are generally indicators of larger problems within the business – problems with the potential to harm that business’s shareholder-owners.  Bribery and other corrupt practices may result in accounting fraud and falsified disclosures where shareholders are not getting an accurate picture of a company’s finances in their regulatory filings.  Bribery means losing control of – or deliberately falsifying – books and records.  Often, key executives or board members are kept in the dark, limiting their ability to make informed decisions about the company’s business. Obviously, engaging in corrupt practices means weakening or circumventing internal control mechanisms, leaving a company less able to detect and end not just corruption but other questionable practices. A company that has lost its moral compass is in grave danger of losing its competitive roadmap, as well – while shareholders are kept in the dark.”

Congress Is Capable

Well, at least as to certain issues.

Such as introducing and passing laws that expressly describe state-owned entities (“SOEs”).  In reading my historical account of the FCPA’s legislative history, “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” or my “foreign official” declaration here, you will learn that despite being aware of SOEs, despite exhibiting a capability for drafting a definition that expressly included SOEs in other bills, and despite being provided a more precise way to describe SOEs, Congress chose not to include such definitions or concepts in S. 305, the bill that ultimately became the FCPA in December 1977.

This prior post highlighted Congress’s capability in capturing SOEs in Dodd-Frank Section 1504 and along comes another example which demonstrates that Congress is capable of legislating as to SOEs.  Recently, H.R.491 - the Global Online Freedom Act of 2013 was introduced in the House.  The purpose of the bill is “To prevent United States businesses from cooperating with repressive governments in transforming the Internet into a tool of censorship and surveillance, to fulfill the responsibility of the United States Government to promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to restore public confidence in the integrity of United States businesses, and for other purposes.”

The bill defines “foreign official” as follows.

The term ‘foreign official’ means– (A) any officer or employee of a foreign government or of any department; and (B) any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of, or acting under color of law with the knowledge of, any such government or such department, agency, state-owned enterprise, or instrumentality.” (emphasis added).

It is a basic premise of statutory construction that Congress is presumed not to use redundant or superfluous language.  Granted, H.R.491 is not yet law, but let’s assume it becomes law as introduced.   If instrumentality includes SOEs (as the enforcement agencies maintain), then Congress will violate this legislative maxim by using redundant or superfluous language in H.R. 491.

Adding To The List

The Heritage Foundation recently published (here) a speech by Peter Hansen titled “Unleashing the U.S. Investor in Africa: A Critique of U.S. Policy Toward the Continent.”  Hansen critiqued U.S. government thinking about African development, including Ambassador statements that it is important to raise incentives for overly “cautious” U.S. companies to invest in Africa.  Hansen stated that this “mistaken assumption” assumed that ”mainstream U.S. companies will be motivated more by the prospect of higher rewards than by the diminishment of risks.”  He noted that this view is not just wrong, but counterproductive and stated as follows.

“The problem with Africa is not a lack of attractive prospects, but rather Africa’s risk profile. With few exceptions, sensible U.S. direct investors (that is, those who run projects, not just take portfolio positions) have steered clear of Africa for the simple reason that Africa’s risks often exceed their risk tolerance. The African market has been left largely to non-Americans, to the unsophisticated seekers of El Dorado, and to a legion of “chancers” who seek sweetheart deals with no money down. The resulting tales of woe coming out of Africa, due largely to poor investment planning or thwarted get-rich-quick schemes, serve wrongly to tarnish Africa’s reputation.  By exclusively raising incentives and failing to reduce risks, Ambassador Carson’s approach simply encourages those already prone to failure, without inspiring broad-spectrum investment by serious U.S. companies. Such bedrock U.S. firms do not need higher incentives. Africa already presents high-return opportunities. What serious U.S. firms need instead is for Africa’s risks to be reduced. Rewards that cannot be obtained are, after all, just mirages. The easiest way for the U.S. government to reduce risks for U.S. investors in Africa is to provide them with legal protection.  The basic legal tools for protecting U.S. investors are double tax treaties (DTTs), often called double tax agreements (DTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs).”

Query whether an FCPA compliance defense should be added to this list?  See here to download my article “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

This previous post highlighted the scrutiny Brookfield Asset Management (a Toronto based global asset management company with shares traded on the NYSE) was facing in Brazil concerning allegations that its subsidiary paid bribes to win construction permits.  As the Wall Street Journal recently reported (here), Sao Paulo, Brazil prosecutors filed civil charges against the company’s Brazilian subsidiary, two of its top executives and a former employee.  The prosecutor is quoted in the WSJ as saying that “Brookfield has created a high system of bribery in order to obtain approval for its projects quickly and with irregularities.”  A spokesman for the company stated as follows.  “These are unproven allegations made by a former employee.  We don’t believe Brookfield did anything wrong and we are cooperating with authorities.”

This previous post highlighted scrutiny of EADS subsidiary, GPT Special Management Systems in the U.K.  The Financial Times recently reported here that the FBI is also probing corruption allegations against GPT ”relating to a contract in Saudi Arabia.”  The article states as follows.  “The FBI has interviewed a witness and taken possession of documents in connection with allegations that GPT bribed Saudi military officials with luxury cars and made £11.5m of unexplained payments – some via the US – to bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.”

This recent Reuters article reports that Italian police arrested the head of defense group Finmeccanica SpA (Giuseppe Orsi) on a warrant alleging that he paid bribes to win an Indian contract.  According to the report, Prosecutors accuse Orsi of paying bribes to intermediaries to secure the sale of 12 helicopters in a 560 million euro ($749 million) deal when he was head of the group’s AgustaWestland unit.  Finmeccanica, which is approximately 30% owned by the Italian government, has ADRs registered with the SEC and AgustaWestland does extensive business in the U.S. (see here), including with the U.S. government.  According to this Wall Street Journal article, Italian prosecutors are also “investigating [Finmeccanica] on suspicion that it engaged in corrupt activities to win various types of contracts in Latin America, Asia, and at home.”

This recent Bloomberg article reports that “Eni SpA Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni is being investigated for alleged corruption in an Italian probe of contracts obtained by its oil services company, Saipem SpA, in Algeria.”  Eni has ADRs registered with the SEC.  In 2010, Eni resolved (see here) an SEC FCPA enforcement action concerning Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct.  In resolving the action, Eni consented to the entry of a court order permanently enjoining it from violating the FCPA’s books and record and internal controls provisions.

NCR Corporation stated in a recent release here, in pertinent part, as follows concerning its FCPA scrutiny.

“Update regarding OFAC and FCPA Investigations

The Company and the Special Committee of the  Company’s Board of Directors have each completed their respective internal investigations regarding the anonymous allegations received from a purported whistleblower regarding certain aspects of the Company’s business practices in China, the Middle East and Africa. The principal allegations relate to the Company’s compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and federal regulations that prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in certain activities in Syria.

[...]

The Company has made a presentation to the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission(“SEC”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) providing the facts known to the Company related to the whistleblower’s FCPA allegations, and advising the government that many of these allegations were unsubstantiated.  The Company’s investigations of the whistleblower’s FCPA allegations identified a few opportunities to strengthen the Company’s comprehensive FCPA compliance program, and      remediation measures were proposed and are being implemented.  As previously disclosed, the Company is responding to a subpoena of the SEC and requests of the DOJ for documents and information related to the FCPA, including matters related to the whistleblower’s FCPA allegations.”

Investigating the purported whistleblower’s allegations has been a costly exercise for NCR.  In a recent earnings conference call, company CFO Bob Fishman stated that the “overall cost” has been approximately $4.8 million.

Reading Stack

See here for the New York Times DealBook writeup of oral arguments in SEC v. Citigroup - an appeal which focuses of Judge Jed Rakoff’s concerns about common SEC settlements terms, including neither admith nor deny.

FCPA enforcement statistics are over-hyped for compliance assessments says Ryan McConnell (Morgan Lewis) in this Corporate Counsel article.  In this Corporate Counsel article, McConnell and his co-author compare 2012 to 2011 numbers in terms of facilitation payments data found in corporate policies.

The three types of employees one encounters when conducting FCPA training – here from Alexandra Wrage (President, Trace International).

If for no other reason, because of the picture associated with this recent post on thebriberyact.com.

*****

A good weekend to all.