Strange definitions, asset recovery, through the revolving door, and proof. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
The Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission sure do have some strange definitions.
For instance, in this Global Investigations Review Q&A, Marshall Miller (Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General) states:
“[W]ith respect to declinations, if we have good reason to investigate potential criminal conduct then we’re going to follow that investigation to its end. At times, we do decline to prosecute, and we do so in an appropriate and expeditious way. One of the things we’ve been talking about is how to ensure that those under investigation understand why and when we decline to prosecute. But primarily these are cases where there were significant indicia of wrongdoing, but the wrongdoing doesn’t add up to a federal criminal case and [these] are not examples of the Justice Department just charging into corporations where there’s no wrongdoing in the first place.”
When the wrongdoing under investigation “doesn’t add up to a federal criminal case” that is not a declination, it is what the law commands.
Over at the SEC, yesterday the agency touted its FY 2014 enforcement actions (see here). Andrew Ceresney (Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement) stated: “I am proud of our excellent record of success and look forward to another year filled with high-impact enforcement actions.”
Included in the SEC’s release is the following:
“Combatting Foreign Corrupt Practices and Obtaining Highest-Ever Penalties Against Individuals
With the exception of Weatherford all of the corporate enforcement actions were resolved through the SEC’s own administrative process wherein it needs to convince only itself of the strength of its case. In addition, see here for the article “Why You Should Be Alarmed by the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action” and see here for the post “HP Enforcement Action-Where to Begin.”
As to that “excellent record of success,” in the former Siemens executives action, see here for the previous guest post by a former Assistant Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division (“Sometimes you see something in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case that’s so inexplicable you wish someone would throw the red challenge flag and have the play reviewed under the hood or up in the booth. Unfortunately, in the largely-overlooked wind-down phase of the SEC’s FCPA case against several former Siemens executives, the last of the defendants defaulted, so nobody was around to throw the challenge flag – and as a result the SEC seems to have gotten away with a doozy of a blown call.”).
Relevant to the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative under which prosecutors in the DOJ Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section work in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption, the DOJ recently announced:
“[A] settlement of its civil forfeiture cases against assets in the United States owned by the Second Vice President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue that he purchased with the proceeds of corruption.”
“Through relentless embezzlement and extortion, Vice President Nguema Obiang shamelessly looted his government and shook down businesses in his country to support his lavish lifestyle, while many of his fellow citizens lived in extreme poverty,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “After raking in millions in bribes and kickbacks, Nguema Obiang embarked on a corruption-fueled spending spree in the United States. This settlement forces Nguema Obiang to relinquish assets worth an estimated $30 million, and prevents Nguema Obiang from hiding other stolen money in the United States, fulfilling the goals of our Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative: to deny safe haven to the proceeds of large-scale foreign official corruption and recover those funds for the people harmed by the abuse of office.”
“While this settlement is certainly gratifying for the many investigators and prosecutors who worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition, it is undoubtedly even more rewarding for the people of Equatorial Guinea, knowing that at least some of the money plundered from their country’s coffers is being returned to them,” said Acting ICE Director Winkowski. “ICE remains steadfast in its resolve to combat foreign corruption when the spoils of these crimes come to our shores and we are committed to seeking justice and compensation for the often impoverished victims.”
According to court documents, Nguema Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, received an official government salary of less than $100,000 but used his position and influence as a government minister to amass more than $300 million worth of assets through corruption and money laundering, in violation of both Equatoguinean and U.S. law. Through intermediaries and corporate entities, Nguema Obiang acquired numerous assets in the United States that he is agreeing to relinquish in a combination of forfeiture and divestment to a charity for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea.
Under the terms of the settlement, Nguema Obiang must sell a $30 million mansion located in Malibu, California, a Ferrari automobile and various items of Michael Jackson memorabilia purchased with the proceeds of corruption. Of those proceeds, $20 million will be given to a charitable organization to be used for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea. Another $10.3 million will be forfeited to the United States and will be used for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea to the extent permitted by law.
Under the agreement, Nguema Obiang must also disclose and remove other assets he owns in the United States. Nguema Obiang must also make a $1 million payment to the United States, representing the value of Michael Jackson memorabilia already removed from the United States for disbursement to the charitable organization. The agreement also provides that if certain of Nguema Obiang’s other assets, including a Gulfstream Jet, are ever brought into the United States, they are subject to seizure and forfeiture.”
Related to the above action, the Wall Street Journal recently published this article titled “When U.S. Targets Foreign Leaders for Corruption, Recovering Loot Is a Challenge.” The article notes:
“The [Obiang] settlement shows the ups and downs of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, announced in 2010. So far, the agency has collected about $600 million out of the $1.2 billion pursued from 15 cases against current or former officials and businessmen in at least 14 different countries, according to a review of the cases by the Journal. Most of the cases involve alleged bribery, extortion or embezzlement. Justice Department officials said additional cases haven’t been made public yet because their court filings are sealed.
“I am pleased to be able to end this long and costly ordeal,” Mr. Obiang wrote in a statement on his Facebook page. “I agreed to settle this case despite the fact that the U.S. federal courts had consistently found that the Department of Justice lacked probable cause to seize my property.” Lawyers for Mr. Obiang have said the disputed property was bought with money earned legally through timber concessions and companies he owns. The Justice Department faced daunting obstacles in its fight against Mr. Obiang that are common in corruption cases against foreign leaders. To win in court, the government must prove that assets in the U.S. were bought with proceeds of illegal activity in the country where the alleged corruption occurred. The money trail is even harder to follow when the target has a large number of overseas shell companies and accounts, as Mr. Obiang did, according to court filings in the civil case. “These accounts are suspicious,” U.S. District Judge George Wu said in a ruling last year. But he threw out most of the Justice Department’s case, concluding there “is no evidence that the defendant assets were purchased with those funds.” In December, the Justice Department filed a new civil suit against Mr. Obiang. Before the settlement was reached, the two sides were sparring over whether a statute of limitations had lapsed.”
McInerney to Davis Polk
As Chief of the DOJ’s Fraud Section and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Denis McInerney was involved in setting DOJ FCPA policy during this declared new era of enforcement and frequently advanced those policy positions on the FCPA conference circuit. McInerney recently left the DOJ and Davis Polk recently announced:
“McInerney … is returning to the firm as a partner in its Litigation Department and member of its white collar criminal defense and investigations practice. As Chief of the Fraud Section (from 2010 to 2013) and then Deputy Assistant Attorney General overseeing the Fraud, Appellate and Capital Case Sections of the Criminal Division (from 2013 to 2014), Mr. McInerney was responsible for supervising approximately 100 prosecutors in the Fraud Section, which has responsibility for all Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations conducted by DOJ, as well as a wide range of other complex white collar criminal investigations and prosecutions throughout the country, including corporate, securities, financial, health care and procurement fraud cases.
Among other matters, Mr. McInerney played a leadership role in DOJ’s investigations into the alleged manipulation of LIBOR and the foreign exchange market by various financial institutions around the world, and the preparation of A Resource Guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which was published by DOJ and the SEC in 2012. Mr. McInerney’s tenure leading the Fraud Section was marked by a substantial increase in the number of defendants charged and convicted on an annual basis, as well as the number of trials conducted by Fraud Section prosecutors each year.
“We are delighted to welcome Denis back. His integrity, judgment and experience, both as a high-level DOJ official overseeing some of the nation’s most important white collar cases and as a skilled defense attorney representing institutions and individuals in their most sensitive investigations and trials, will be a great asset to our world-class litigation and white collar criminal defense teams,” said Thomas J. Reid, Davis Polk’s Managing Partner. “Denis rejoins an extraordinary and growing team of former government officials in our New York and Washington offices, including litigators who have held senior positions with DOJ, the SEC, the White House and the CIA.”
Mr. McInerney said, “I’m very grateful that I was given the opportunity to return to the Department for these last four plus years to help lead a terrific group of prosecutors at Main Justice in Washington. At the same time, I’m very glad to be home, not only with my family in New York, but with Davis Polk, a firm that is all about excellence, where I was fortunate to have practiced for 18 years. Returning to Davis Polk will give me the opportunity to work on some of the most important and interesting enforcement and regulatory matters in the country with an expanded and extremely talented litigation group.”
Need further proof that it is indeed an FCPA world. See here.
A good weekend to all.