Archive for the ‘FCPA Inc.’ Category

Time Out Regarding Certain Goodyear Commentary

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

TIme OutPardon me for being that guy, but in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act space someone needs to put on the stripes because the information gatekeepers of much FCPA content tend to be non-lawyer journalists writing stories by cobbling together the views of experts who use the opportunity to comment as free marketing for FCPA compliance and investigative services.

And let’s call a spade a spade, FCPA practitioners often have a self-interest in more FCPA investigations, more voluntary disclosures, more enforcement actions and more post-enforcement action compliance obligations.

Much to my surprise, the recent SEC administrative action against Goodyear (see here for the prior post) has generated an unusual amount of commentary.  Indeed, in the days that followed I was contacted by numerous media outlets but my consistent response was along the following lines: ”There is nothing noteworthy or special about the Goodyear FCPA enforcement action.  The media and law firm coverage of this otherwise ordinary settlement is just the latest example of FCPA Inc. using enforcement actions as opportunities to market FCPA compliance services.”

So in the spirit of March Madness, I call a time out regarding certain Goodyear commentary.

A Law360 article titled “Attorneys React to SEC’s FCPA Action Against Goodyear” contained a roundup of sorts of attorney comments.

One practitioner stated:

“Today’s settlement demonstrates that the SEC and the DOJ are continuing to investigate and bring high-profile FCPA cases against large U.S. companies with multinational operations.”

Whoops, wrong talking point as the Goodyear enforcement action was SEC only with no DOJ component.

Another practitioner stated:

“In recent years … the SEC adopted an increasingly broad view of parent-subsidiary liability, now charging parent corporations with anti-bribery violations based on the acts of their subsidiaries without pleading any direct involvement by the parent in those violations. Goodyear is the latest example of this trend.”

Whoops, again the wrong talking point as Goodyear: (i) was not “charged” with anything (the enforcement action was an SEC cease and desist proceeding); and (ii) the SEC merely “found” violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions – not the anti-bribery provisions.

Another frequent observation from commentators was that the Goodyear action evidences how the SEC is “pursuing” commercial bribery cases given that the SEC enforcement action made generic references to alleged payments to private customers in connection with tire sales.

Let’s go to the monitor for this one.  The Goodyear enforcement action, like most corporate FCPA enforcement actions, was based on a voluntary disclosure.”  Can the word “pursue” really be used to describe enforcement actions that originate from voluntary disclosures?  Or would it be more accurate to say that the SEC “processed” the company’s voluntary disclosure?

Another frequent observation from commentators was how Goodyear “staved off criminal prosecution and fines” through its voluntary disclosure and cooperation.

Time out on this one, and not just a 30-second time out, but a full one.

There is no allegation or suggestion in the SEC enforcement action that Goodyear was involved in or had knowledge of the alleged improper conduct at its subsidiaries.  A parent company like Goodyear is a separate and distinct entity from its foreign subsidiaries and is not automatically liable for foreign subsidiary conduct – including potential anti-bribery violations – absent knowledge, approval, or participation in the bribery scheme.  In other words, criminal legal liability does not ordinary hop, skip and jump around a multinational corporation absent an alter ego analysis or control / participation in the underlying conduct.

On the other hand, the SEC takes the position that because foreign subsidiary books and records are consolidated with the parent company’s for purposes of financial reporting that subsidiary books and records issues are parent company issues.  As to internal controls, the SEC takes the seemingly simplistic position that because certain alleged payments were made by foreign subsidiaries, the parent company issuer must not have had effective internal controls.

In other words, based on the SEC’s allegations – or lack thereof – what criminal prosecution did Goodyear stave off?

And then there were the comments seeking to invoke fear – a common FCPA Inc. marketing device.  One practitioner stated:

“[The Goodyear action] could presage an uptick in enforcement activity in Africa, which has attracted increased global investment and, in certain countries, posted impressive recent economic growth. Despite these advancements, several African countries remain high on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. As such, the [enforcement action] provides a clear reminder of the need to conduct appropriate pre- and post-acquisition due diligence on businesses operating in regions and industries that pose a high corruption risk.”

Another frequent comment, sure to induce March “madness” in informed readers, was the comparison to the settlement amount in Goodyear compared to say, Avon or Alcoa.

This article asserted as follows. ”For Goodyear … coming clean seems to have paid off—at least compared to the penalty imposed on Avon Products Inc. in December.”

For starters, the Avon enforcement action – like the Goodyear enforcement action – was the result of a voluntary disclosure.

Second, and most importantly, FCPA settlement amounts are largely a function of the net financial benefit obtained through the alleged improper payments.  Thus comparing one settlement to another is of little value.

A full time-out is also needed to comment on this Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance Journal which carried the headline “Lawyers Point to Goodyear As a Model In Its Handling of Bribery Probe.”  Based on the views of two FCPA practitioners, the article asserts that the Goodyear enforcement action provides a ”model for companies to emulate when they discover misconduct in their own firms.”

I beg to differ.

The conduct at issue in the SEC’s enforcement action was very limited in scope (compared to Goodyear’s overall business operations) and the company learned of the alleged improper conduct through an effective internal control  - a report through the company’s confidential ethics hotline.

Given these circumstances, a perfectly acceptable, legitimate and legal response would have been for Goodyear to thoroughly investigate the issues, promptly implement remedial measures, and effectively revise and enhance compliance policies and procedures – all internally and without disclosing to the enforcement agencies.

Indeed, as recently noted in this Global Investigations Review article, James Koukios (Senior Deputy Chief of DOJ’s Fraud Section) recently stated: “We understand that sometimes companies choose not to self-report, and it is not always the wrong thing to do. I think a lot of it depends on how serious the issue is and whether it is an issue that can be investigated, addressed, remediated internally, and is more of a one-off versus systemic problem.”

Likewise, as former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorney Billy Jacobson notes in this recent WSJ Risk & Compliance Journal article “more and more companies are making the decision not to disclose instead they remediate controls, get rid of culpable individuals and clean up compliance internally.”

In short, Goodyear’s decision to voluntarily disclose was not necessarily a model for other companies to emulate.  Indeed a credible argument can be made that Goodyear’s decision was a poor decision that caused needless expenditure of shareholder money. Although, to my knowledge Goodyear did not disclose it pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses, in a typical FCPA enforcement action, such professional fees and expenses exceed (often by ratios of 3, 5, or more) the enforcement action settlement amount – which in the case of Goodyear was $16 million.

Moreover, as a condition of settlement, Goodyear was required to report to the SEC, “at no less than 12 month intervals during a three year term” on the status of its remediation and implementation of compliance measures.”  As highlighted in this prior post, this is little more than a government required transfer of shareholder wealth to FCPA Inc.

In The FCPA Space, Who Speaks For Whom?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

VentroI launched this website in 2009 and have writing on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related topics on a near daily basis. Everything I have written or said about the FCPA (whether on this website, my more formal articles or my Congressional testimony) has represented my genuine beliefs and you can hold me accountable for them.

Yet when it comes to many others writing and speaking in the FCPA space, the question arises – who speaks for whom?  Are others expressing genuine beliefs and willing to be held accountable for what they say and write.

Numerous prior posts have exposed the flip-flopping of former DOJ/SEC enforcement officials on various FCPA topics (see here for instance) and the reverse of the situation was first highlighted on these pages when an FCPA enforcement critic and reform advocate – Andrew Weissman – was recently selected as the DOJ’s new fraud section chief.

Others – including those on Capitol Hill – soon picked up on the issue.  As highlighted in this recent post Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch’s was specifically asked by a Senator as follows.

Q: As you know, the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is charged with investigating and enforcing the criminal provisions of the FCPA. Recently, Andrew Weissmann was selected to be the Chief of the Fraud Section. Mr. Weissmann is a former prosecutor and FBI general counsel. In private practice, however, Mr. Weissmann has been an outspoken critic of DOJ’s FCPA program. Specifically, in a report36 Mr. Weissmann drafted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, he has recommended that: (1) a compliance defense to the FCPA should be added; (2) a company’s liability should be limited for the prior actions of a company it has acquired; (3) a “willfulness” element should be added for corporate criminal liability; (4) a company’s liability should be limited for the actions of a subsidiary; and (5) the definition of “foreign official” under the FCPA should be changed. Do you agree with any, some, or all of Weissmann’s proposals for reforming the FCPA?

RESPONSE: It is my understanding that Mr. Weissmann made these comments while in private practice and in connection with his representation of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (“Chamber”). It is also my understanding that, in the intervening time period, the Department has met with the Chamber, as well as other stakeholders, to engage in a healthy and productive dialogue regarding the Department’s interpretation and application of the FCPA. If confirmed as Attorney General, I would continue to foster dialogue with the Chamber and other stakeholders regarding our FCPA program.

That was a nice dodge by Ms. Lynch.

Yet it conveniently ignored – as highlighted in the previous post – that Weissmann, in his personal capacity, has long challenged traditional notions of corporate criminal liability and argued that when the DOJ “seeks to charge a corporation as a defendant, the government should bear the burden of establishing as an additional element that the corporation failed to have reasonably effective policies and procedures to prevent the conduct.  See “Rethinking Corporate Criminal Liability,” 82 IND. L.J. 411, 414 (2007).

Some will say that when a lawyer in private practice writes a law review article that he/she is advancing their clients interests.

Sure, a lawyer is advancing their client’s interest in writing a legal brief or making an argument before a court.

But a law review article?  What about a law firm client alert? What about when a lawyer appears on an FCPA panel at a conference and spontaneously responds to fellow panelist comments or audience questions?

Are we to discount everything the lawyer says about the FCPA because they are lawyer?  If so, is there any genuine or legitimate beliefs being articulated about the FCPA that people are willing to be held accountable for?

This recent Bloomberg article about Weissmann and his new DOJ position states:

“A person familiar with Weissmann’s thinking said he viewed most of his [FCPA] congressional testimony as giving his personal views rather than doing work for a client. In the instances where he didn’t disclose his Chamber connection, Weissmann agreed to testify after congressional officials reached out to him proactively, said the person, who asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.”

The irony of this general topic is that when DOJ/SEC FCPA enforcement attorneys speak on FCPA topics their comments are preceded by the standard disclaimer – something to the effect of – the views I express today are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the DOJ/SEC.

Hardly. The enforcement attorney is often carrying forward the talking points of the DOJ/SEC (a dynamic that is apparent when one compares various speeches, etc.).

So the question remains – in the FCPA space, who speak for whom?

All I know is that everything I have written or said about the FCPA has represented my genuine beliefs and you can hold me accountable for them.

Friday Roundup

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Roundup2Quotable, on offense, scrutiny alert, to FCPA Inc., and resource alert.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Quotable

This article in The Recorder reports on a recent public event in which Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell spoke.  According to the article:

“Caldwell also said the Criminal Division would cut down on its use of deferred prosecution agreements, which she said had become the ‘default’ means to resolve corporate cases. ‘Deferred prosecution agreements were a bit overused.’ Instead, Caldwell told the audience to expect more declinations from the government, which would let companies, individual targets and the public know when an investigation is being closed without charges.”

Glad to see that Caldwell agrees that DPAs have become a default means to resolve cases and overused –  central themes of my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” and my 2010 Senate FCPA testimony.

On Offense

This prior post highlighted Canada’s 2013 enforcement action against Griffiths Energy International Inc. (“GEI”) under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (“CFPOA”) for allegedly bribing Chad’s Ambassador to Canada, Mahamoud Adam Bechir and his wife Ms. Nouracham Niam.

According to this recent article in the Calgary Sun Bechir and Niam are going on offense.  The article notes:

“The former Chadian ambassador to Canada and his wife have launched a $150-million lawsuit claiming “false” bribery allegations against them have sullied their reputation. Mahamoud Adam Bechir and his spouse, Nouracham Niam, are suing law firm Gowlings Lafleur Henderson LLP, partner Kristine Robidoux and the current corporate owner of Griffiths Energy International (GEI) Inc. In a statement of claim filed in Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench the couple say claims by Griffiths it paid a $2-million bribe to the wife’s company were untrue.”

Scrutiny Alert

Staying north of the border, as noted in this report,

“MagIndustries Corp., a China-backed Canadian potash company, said it has formed a special committee to look into allegations some of its officers and employees have breached the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. Canadian police visited the company’s head office in Toronto with a search warrant on Jan. 22 in connection with the allegation, MagIndustries said Thursday in a statement. “No charges have been laid in connection with this investigation and MagIndustries has no knowledge of any such breach and will be cooperating fully with the authorities,” the company said. MagIndustries, controlled by Evergreen Resources Holdings Ltd. according to data compiled by Bloomberg, is developing the Mengo potash mine in Republic of Congo.”

To FCPA Inc.

It happens so often it is difficult to keep track of, but I try my best.

In the latest example of a DOJ FCPA enforcement attorney departing for FCPA Inc. Ropes & Gray announced that “Ryan Rohlfsen, senior trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section” who was as “part of an elite group of federal prosecutors responsible for the global enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)” has joined the firm as a partner.

Resource Alert

My former law firm, Foley & Lardner, recently announced “Foley Global Risk Solutions.”  As stated in the release:

“Foley & Lardner LLP announced today the launch of Foley Global Risk Solutions – a new cost-effective service offering designed to help companies operating overseas comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Foley GRS is an innovative, web-based service offering that provides businesses with a fully integrated FCPA compliance solution. The product, which relies on cutting-edge technology, will be offered for a fixed annual subscription fee. [...] Foley GRS is the first-of-its-kind integrated legal services solution using a technology-based platform that delivers a comprehensive, closed-loop program that includes risk assessments, current and periodically updated policies and procedures, training for employees, regular communications, and most importantly, access to legal advice and counseling on FCPA issues that arise during the course of business operations.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

 

Friday Roundup

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Roundup2Scrutiny alerts, compliance defense, be a scholar, industry news, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts

The Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BNY Mellon) recently disclosed:

“In January 2011, the Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC Staff”) informed several financial institutions, including BNY Mellon, that it had commenced an inquiry into certain of their business practices and relationships with sovereign wealth fund clients.  BNY Mellon has fully cooperated with the SEC Staff’s investigation.  In the third quarter of 2014, the SEC Staff issued Wells notices to certain current and former employees of BNY Mellon, informing them that the SEC Staff has made a preliminary determination to recommend enforcement action against them for alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the provision of a limited number of internships to relatives of sovereign wealth fund officials.  BNY Mellon received a similar Wells notice in the fourth quarter of 2014.  Although it is not possible to predict the ultimate resolution or financial liability with respect to this matter, BNY Mellon is currently of the opinion that the outcome of this matter will not have a material effect on BNY Mellon’s business, financial condition or results of operations.”

A Wells Notice is not common in the FCPA context.  As highlighted earlier this week regarding Cobalt, just because the SEC issues a Wells Notice does not mean there will be an enforcement action.

Compliance Defense

Singapore, a country hardly viewed as a slouch on law and order issues, is in the process of reviewing its Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).  As noted in this Norton Rose Fulbright update, among the areas for potential reform is corporate liability and a compliance defense.  As noted in the update:

Corporate Liability

Prosecutions in Singapore for bribery-related offences have primarily focused on individuals. While Singapore law allows corporations to be prosecuted, and international obligations under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention require corporations to be legally liable for corrupt practices, the reality is that it is evidentially difficult to prove that a corporation had the requisite intent and carried out the relevant corrupt conduct. This is usually proven by showing the individual who committed the crime can be regarded as the “embodiment of the company” or its “directing mind and will” – not an easy task in an era of large multinational corporations with complex decision-making trees.

Any reform to the PCA may do well to take a leaf out of the pages of Singapore’s own anti-money laundering law – the Corruption, Drug-Trafficking and Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA). The CDSA renders money-laundering by a corporation a criminal offence that can be proven through the state of mind as well as the conduct of any “director, employee or agent” who was acting within the scope of his or her actual or apparent authority. In other words, the evidential threshold is significantly lowered and the outdated “directing mind and will” test is done away with.

Compliance Defense

If the threshold for proving corporate liability is lowered, some balance can be restored by introducing a compliance defence. A corporation that is found liable for bribes paid by its “director, employee or agent” can be absolved of legal liability if it can show that it took reasonable steps to prevent such corrupt practices from taking place. Such a compliance defence provides a legal impetus for companies to adopt prudent business practices and foster ethical corporate cultures through the implementation of anti-corruption compliance programs.

This notion of a compliance defence finds support in the form of the “adequate procedures” defence enshrined in the recent UK Bribery Act 2010, and has been the subject of a movement in the US to introduce a similar affirmative defence in the context of the reform of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Be a Scholar

Trace International has announced that “applications for the 2015-2016 TRACE Scholar Program at the University of Washington School of Law are being accepted now until February 28, 2015.”  Click here and here to learn more.

Industry News

King & Spalding recently announced that Jason Jones (the Assistant Chief of the DOJ’s FCPA Unit) is returning to the firm.

As stated in the release:  ”As a supervisor in the Justice Department’s FCPA unit, Jones oversaw investigations and prosecutions of corporations and their employees for making improper payments to foreign officials in business transactions. He is well versed in the Justice Department’s increasing enforcement in this area.”

In the release, Christopher Wray, leader of King & Spalding’s Special Matters and Government Investigations practice, states: “We are pleased to welcome Jason back to the firm. Jason is well-known by many lawyers in the firm – and highly respected. His FCPA oversight experience at a national level and his strong trial skills provide added bench strength to the broad range of defense work we offer our clients. Jason is a natural fit for our team.“

*****

Debevoise & Plimpton recently announced that “David A. O’Neil, former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Fraud Section at the Department of Justice, has joined the firm as a partner in Washington, D.C.”  As noted in the release, O’Neil “has experience across a broad range of high-profile matters, including the most significant FCPA prosecutions …”.

In this recent Corporate Crime Reporter interview, O’Neil talks about the shift of the corporate crime universe from New York City to Washington, D.C. and states:

“I have witnessed in my time in the Department a significant growth in the work that Main Justice is doing. It is not that the Southern District [of New York] is doing less. It’s that Main Justice is doing more. There are a number of reasons for that. Some are the result of the U.S. Attorney’s Manual, which requires that the Fraud Section have a role in every Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) case. Much of it is FCPA driven.”

“When I started out, I actually worked some FCPA cases in private practice. But at that time, it was more of a niche practice. It was not the same kind of focus that it is now.”

“Today, in some ways, white collar practice is synonymous with FCPA practice. As a result, in every FCPA case, Main Justice’s Fraud Section is going to be an active player.”

Asked whether “the FCPA pipeline is still loaded,” O’Neil states:

“The FCPA is going to continue to be an active area. I don’t think we are anywhere near the end of the pipeline. In fact, you see the Department devoting greater resources, including through the creation of a dedicated FCPA unit at the FBI. My prediction would be that FCPA cases continue at their current pace or increase.”

For the Reading Stack

Reagan Demas (Baker & McKenzie) “Biting the Hands That Feed:  Corporate Charity and the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

A Texas-sized double standard?  See here from the Texas Tribune in an article that begins as follows.  ”It is illegal to bribe a public official in Texas, of course. But you might be surprised with what you can get away with if that public official is a state lawmaker.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Roundup2Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index, monitor issues, scrutiny alert, Chinese SOEs, SEC press releases, hot, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Transparency International’s Latest Corruption Perceptions Index

Transparency International, a global civil society organization dedicated to the fight against corruption, released recently the 20th edition of its Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI”).  (See here for TI’s release).  As stated by TI, the CPI “measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide” and 175 countries are ranked with Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland (topping the list – i.e. low levels of perceived corruption) and South Sudan, Afghanistan, Sudan, North Korea and Somalia (on the bottom of the list – i.e. high levels of perceived corruption).

TI’s CPI is a popular tool on which many business organizations rank perceived risk, but query whether the CPI is a reliable or meaningful measure of the specific risks specific business organizations face when competing in the global marketplace?

For starters, perceptions are just that, perceptions.  To be sure, there are countless honest and ethical people living in Somalia just as there are countless dishonest and unethical people living in Denmark.  Moreover, at its core, FCPA risk is the function of specific business actors (employees and agents) coming into contact with specific foreign officials, in the context of specific foreign business conditions.  These risk points are often industry specific and within a country are often region specific.  None of these factors, or very few, are captured by the CPI.

Thus, while I enjoy each time this year looking at the CPI map, I don’t think it is a very useful tool for business organizations when adopting policies and procedures designed to minimize FCPA risk.

Monitor Issues

An interesting blurb here from Courthouse News Service.

“Siemens and a monitor charged with keeping watch over the German conglomerate’s compliance with a settlement agreement over federal corruption and bribery charges can fight to keep records of that agreement out of the hands of reporters, a federal judge ruled. (See 2014 WL 6817009). 100Reporters – a press outlet with a self-proclaimed mission to “cover corruption of all sorts” – sued the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act this past summer, seeking records of Siemens’ compliance with a 2008 settlement of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Siemens pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a precedent-setting $1.6 billion penalty to U.S. and EU authorities to settle charges that it routinely used bribes and slush funds to secure massive public works contracts around the world. Part of the settlement included four-year compliance monitoring by Dr. Theo Waigel, who was given broad access to Siemens’ confidential and commercially sensitive information and records to make annual reports to the Justice Department. The DOJ closed the compliance monitoring in 2012, determining that Siemens had “satisfied its obligations under the plea agreement.” After the Justice Department denied 100Reporters’ request for compliance monitoring documents – including the four annual reports from Waigel – and the group sued, Siemens and Waigel demanded to get involved, citing the right of intervention. For Siemens’ part, the company argued that the reports contained confidential and proprietary information not fit for public consumption. Waigel complained that his personal reputation – and the unfettered access of future compliance monitors – was on the line because he promised Siemens confidentiality while examining the company’s records and delivering his reports to the Justice Department.  Both Siemens and Waigel have a legal interest in fighting 100Reporters’ FOIA request, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras held in a 31-page ruling issued Wednesday. Specifically, Contreras dismissed 100Reporters’ claims that Siemens, Waigel and the DOJ are all fighting from the same legal position. ”Requiring Siemens to monitor the DOJ’s litigation posture from the sidelines until Siemens disagrees with a decision by the agency is inefficient and impractical; indeed, Siemens likely would have limited, if any, insight into the DOJ’s strategy during the litigation, and once Siemens did learn of a hypothetical shift in the DOJ’s position, such as a decision to release a specific category of materials, it might be too late for Siemens to undue any damage done,” Contreras wrote. Furthermore, not allowing Siemens and Waigel to intervene now – and forcing them to wait months or years until the Justice Department has done its withholding analysis – would put them both in danger of missing federal filing deadlines, the judge said. The potential injury to Siemens if the documents are released is both “particularized and sufficiently imminent,” Contreras wrote. ”It is not surprising, then, that 100Reporters cannot cite a single FOIA case in which a court denied on standing grounds the application of a prospective intervenor whose own confidential materials were the clear subject of the FOIA request,” he added. Contreras also rejected calls by 100Reporters to limit Siemens’ involvement solely to FOIA exemption 4, which bars release of confidential and commercially sensitive information. ”A more functional and practical approach is required, and fatally, 100Reporters fails to offer any concrete or realistic consequences to this litigation from Siemens’s (or Waigel’s) intervention that might require the court to impose a limitation on the scope of the defenses that an intervenor may raise as this case, which still is in its infancy, proceeds to the merits,” Contreras wrote. The judge refused 100Reporters’ claims that allowing Siemens and Waigel to get involved would unnecessarily delay the proceedings, advising the group in a footnote “raise such concerns then,” if and when any delays occur.”

The California Lawyer goes in-depth in an article titled “The Secret Life of a Corporate Monitor.”

“Without naming the subjects of his monitoring, Dan Ray talked generally about the highly secretive world of government-appointed corporate monitors, where progress reports are confidential, judges rarely get involved, and the DOJ alone determines whether corporations have complied with terms of the agreements. Monitors are not government employees or agents, and they do not contract with or receive payment from the government. Fees generally are negotiated between the corporation and the monitor.”

Through some basic internet research, it is not that difficult to figure out which companies Ray monitored.  (See here, here and here).

Scrutiny Alert

The Financial Times reports:

“In a Florida court on Tuesday, a judge granted a request by US prosecutors to seize an ice cream cooler, a walk-in freezer, dozens of other pieces of catering equipment and three properties belonging to a woman called Mamadie Touré. It was just one of a ceaseless stream of such requests, through which the authorities seek forfeiture of what they say are ill-gotten assets. But this was no ordinary woman and no ordinary case. Ms Touré is the widow of Lansana Conté, a dictator who ruled the resource-rich but dirt poor west African state of Guinea for 24 years before his death in 2008. And US prosecutors’ interest in Ms Touré runs to much more than a few refrigerators and some Jacksonville real estate. Their court filing in the forfeiture request spells out the details of a two-year US investigation into one of the most wide-ranging cases of alleged corruption in recent years.  Prosecutors alleged in that filing, lodged last week and seen by the Financial Times, that Ms Touré received bribes totalling $5.3m to help a mining company win iron-ore rights in Guinea. The rights in question were to exploit the northern half of a hillside called Simandou, considered the planet’s richest virgin deposit of iron ore. The company involved is not named in the filing. But references to documents published in a Guinean inquiry, to the timing of the award of the mining rights and to a separate criminal case make it obvious that the company is BSG Resources, the mining arm of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s family conglomerate.”

Chinese SOEs

An interesting article recently in the Wall Street Journal.  According to the article:

“At the end of 2013, China had about 155,000 firms owned by central, provincial and local governments, according to the Ministry of Finance.  Beijing itself directly controls less than 120 of the biggest and most strategically significant industrial companies, which are responsible for building the world’s largest nuclear reactors and most extensive high speed rail network, buying up mining and agricultural resources overseas, and spreading Chinese goodwill with infrastructure projects across the developing world. [...] Many smaller state-owned firms make goods with no obvious strategic significance, like spirits and toothpaste …”.

The article contains an interesting chart comparing six China SOEs with U.S. counterparts.  According to the chart, the six SOEs have approximately 2.6 million employees.

SEC Press Releases

Russell Ryan (King & Spalding and former assistant director of enforcement at the SEC ) returns to the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page with this dandy piece titled “Get the SEC Out of the PR Business.”  He begins:

“Press releases are par for the course when the Securities and Exchange Commission files a case in federal court that it must later prove to a judge or jury. But the agency is increasingly shunting cases into its own administrative proceedings, where it initiates the prosecution and ultimately decides guilt or innocence—along with the severity of any sanctions—subject to only limited review in court. Given the SEC’s peculiar quasi-judicial role in these cases, you might think the agency would refrain from gratuitously stoking prehearing publicity against the accused. Think again. The SEC now routinely issues press releases when it files charges in administrative cases it will eventually decide. This practice calls into question the agency’s ability to decide those cases fairly and impartially.”

[...]

“SEC releases also stray beyond a fair and accurate summary of agency action. Many confuse what happened by asserting—often in the headline or lead sentence—that the SEC “charged” the accused with wrongdoing. But at this initial stage only SEC staff employees, typically from the enforcement division, have “charged” any wrongdoing. Commissioners, at least in theory, have merely scheduled a hearing to determine whether the employees can prove their charges—a determination the commissioners are supposed to make after an administrative judge conducts the hearing and makes a preliminary decision. Not surprisingly, media reports often reinforce the misperception that SEC commissioners are prosecuting these cases rather than deciding them. One of the most troubling features of SEC prehearing press releases is the partiality they betray in favor of agency prosecutors over the accused. In virtually all cases, the SEC allows its prosecuting employees not only to ghostwrite the official press release but also to insert gratuitous quotations that embellish the formal accusations with more colorful words and phrases like “tricks,” “calculated fraud,” “reaping substantial profits,” and “choosing profits over compliance.” The accused is never extended similar courtesies. When the SEC initiates enforcement action administratively rather than in court, it should embrace its primary role as impartial decision maker. That means resisting the urge to stoke prehearing publicity and maintaining strict neutrality in both fact and appearance. By failing to do so, the SEC risks having administrative fines and other sanctions swept aside if a court someday concludes, quite reasonably, that agency press releases plausibly suggest prejudgment of cases or lack of impartiality. The agency may consider that scenario unlikely. But given its determination to prosecute more cases administratively, that may not be a risk worth taking.”

Hot

You probably already knew that FCPA and related practices are hot.  But just in case you need another reminder, see here.  The latest edition of “What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession” contains the following under the “hot” category.

“Anti-corruption. Larger U.S. firms continue to increase enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, leading to more prosecutions. The U.K., China, Brazil and Canada have all enacted anti-bribery laws in the past few years and are now increasing investigations.”

You can elevate your FCPA knowledge and practical experience by attending the FCPA Institute in Miami (Jan. 12-13, 2015). Join other firm lawyers, in-house counsel, auditing professionals and others already registered for the FCPA Institute – Miami by clicking here to register.  CLE credit is available.

Reading Stack

The lastest edition of Debevoise & Plimpton’s always informative FCPA Report is here.

From Foley & Lardner attorney Aaron Murphy and Daniel Seltzer (Senior Director, Anticorruption for Accenture) “The End of Whac-A-Mole Compliance:  A Global Approach to Anti-Corruption Actions.”

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A good weekend to all.