Archive for the ‘FCPA Inc.’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Roundup2Making a difference, to FCPA Inc., and scrutiny alert.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Making a Difference

In running this website, I sometimes feel like the captain of a small ship on a wide vast ocean.  My metrics tell me that many people are reading, but is the content on FCPA Professor making a difference?  Many people have told me that it is and I could cite several examples such as the most recent one.

On April 2nd, FCPA Professor published this post about the recent decision from the W.D. of Ark. in the Wal-Mart FCPA-related derivative actions.  The post highlighted two errors in the court’s decision.

“In a footnote, Judge Hickey’s order states: “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits United States companies from bribing foreign officials to secure improper business advantage.”

This is an inaccurate statement of law.

Rather, the FCPA contains an “obtain or retain business” element that must be proved.  Indeed, the DOJ’s position that the FCPA captures payments to “secure an improper business advantage” wholly apart from the “obtain or retain business” element has been specifically rejected by courts. (See here for the prior post).

The inaccurate statement of law in the order is perhaps not surprising given that the Judge referred to the FCPA as the “Federal Corrupt Practices Act.”

I am happy to see that a day later, on April 3rd, the court issued an amended order to “reflect the correction of minor typographical errors.”

The above referenced footnote (and its substance) no longer appear in the decision and reference to the “Federal” Corrupt Practices Act has been removed.

 To FCPA Inc.

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

Earlier this week, Morrison & Foerster announced:

James Koukios, who served in the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), most recently as Senior Deputy Chief, has joined the firm’s Washington, D.C. office as a partner in the Securities Litigation, Enforcement & White-Collar Criminal Defense Practice Group.

Mr. Koukios is the second high-ranking DOJ prosecutor to join MoFo in the past year, following the 2014 arrival of former Fraud Section Deputy Chief Charles Duross, who served as head of the DOJ’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Unit. In his most recent position, Mr. Koukios oversaw the FCPA, Health Care Fraud, and Securities and Financial Fraud Units. With the addition of Mr. Koukios, who previously served as an Assistant Chief in the FCPA Unit and tried two of the most significant FCPA cases in the past decade, MoFo is the only law firm in the world with two former FCPA Unit managers.

[...]

During his tenure at DOJ, Mr. Koukios worked with domestic and foreign law enforcement authorities around the globe. He tried nearly two dozen jury cases, serving as a lead trial attorney in two landmark FCPA-enforcement trials: Esquenazi and Duperval.”

Not to dissect the MoFo press release too much, but the Duperval case was not an “FCPA-enforcement” trial. Rather, it was a non-FCPA case against the alleged “foreign official” in the Esquenazi case and directly related to the Esquenazi case.

Scrutiny Alert

The Wall Street reports on a bribery probe separate and distinct from the ongoing Petrobras probe.  According to the article:

“Prosecutors said 74 companies and 24 individuals are under investigation. None have been named publicly and no charges have been filed. But a leading investigator on the case said companies under investigation include Ford Motor Brazil, a unit of Ford Motor Co.; JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, the Brazilian unit of the Spanish bank Banco Santander SA; and Brazil’s second largest private-sector bank, Bradesco SA.

[...]

Brazil’s tax system is among the most onerous and complex in the world. Penalties can be steep. That has fostered an environment where corruption can flourish, experts say.

“Taxes in Brazil are so high and complicated that it is easy for companies to get in trouble with the taxman,” the leading investigator told The Wall Street Journal. The investigator said frequent tax disputes created opportunities for ill-intentioned public servants to profit by helping firms circumvent red tape.”

Speaking of the Petrobras inquiry, the Wall Street Journal goes in-depth here.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Roundup2Looking for talent – got talent, FBI announcement, Bourke related, to FCPA Inc., and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

Looking for FCPA Talent?  Got Talent

If your firm or organization is looking for either a summer associate or full-time lawyer with a solid foundation in the FCPA, FCPA enforcement, and FCPA compliance, please e-mail me at fcpaprofessor@gmail.com. I teach one of the only FCPA specific law school classes in the country (see here) and my Southern Illinois University law students who excelled in the class have, I am confident in saying, more practical skills and knowledge on FCPA topics than other law students.

I can recommend several students and I encourage you to give them an opportunity.

FBI Announcement

The FBI recently announced the establishment of international corruption squads.  In pertinent part, the release states:

“The FCPA … makes it illegal for U.S. companies, U.S. persons, and foreign corporations with certain U.S. ties to bribe foreign officials to obtain or retain business overseas. And we take these crimes very seriously—foreign bribery has the ability to impact U.S. financial markets, economic growth, and national security. It also breaks down the international free market system by promoting anti-competitive behavior and, ultimately, makes consumers pay more.

We’re seeing that foreign bribery incidents are increasingly tied to a type of government corruption known as kleptocracy, which is when foreign officials steal from their own government treasuries at the expense of their citizens. And that’s basically what these foreign officials are doing when they accept bribes in their official capability for personal gain, sometimes using the U.S. banking system to hide and/or launder their criminal proceeds.

The FBI—in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Fraud Section—recently announced another weapon in the battle against foreign bribery and kleptocracy-related criminal activity: the establishment of three dedicated international corruption squads, based in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Special Agent George McEachern, who heads up our International Corruption Unit at FBI Headquarters, explains that the squads were created to address the national and international implications of corruption. “The FCPA allows us to target the supply side of corruption—the entities giving the bribes,” he said. “Kleptocracy cases allow us to address the demand side—the corrupt officials and their illicit financial assets. By placing both threats under one squad, we anticipate that an investigation into one of these criminal activities could potentially generate an investigation into the other.”

Corruption cases in general are tough to investigate because much of the actual criminal activity is hidden from view. But international corruption cases are even tougher because the criminal activity usually takes place outside of the U.S. However, members of these three squads—agents, analysts, and other professional staff—have a great deal of experience investigating white-collar crimes and, in particular, following the money trail in these crimes. And they’ll have at their disposal a number of investigative tools the Bureau uses so successfully in other areas—like financial analysis, court-authorized wiretaps, undercover operations, informants, and sources.

Partnerships with our overseas law enforcement counterparts—facilitated by our network of legal attaché offices situated strategically around the world—are an important part of our investigative arsenal. The FBI also takes part in a number of international working groups, including the Foreign Bribery Task Force, to share information with our partners and help strengthen investigative efforts everywhere. And we coordinate with DOJ’s Fraud Section—which criminally prosecutes FCPA violators—and the Securities and Exchange Commission—which uses civil actions to go after U.S. companies engaging in foreign bribery.

Our new squads will help keep the Bureau at the forefront of U.S. and global law enforcement efforts to battle international corruption and kleptocracy.”

Bourke Related

This October 2013 post highlighted a Democracy Now program that attempted to re-script the Frederic Bourke FCPA enforcement action.

Democracy Now returns to the story in this recent interview with former U.S. Senator George Mitchell.  Mitchell, like Bourke, invested in the Azeri project at issue, but unlike Bourke was not prosecuted.

Set forth below is the Q&A:

Democracy Now: Do you believe [Bourke] is a whistleblower, and do you believe that he should be exonerated.

Mitchell: Well, I believe that he should not have been convicted in the trial, in which conviction did occur. I think it was a very unfortunate circumstance, and as you describe it, regrettable from Rick Bourke’s standpoint.

Democracy Now: Do you believe he should now be exonerated, to be able to clear his name fully?

Mitchell: Well, yes, but I’m not sure what process would occur. He was tried, convicted. The conviction was upheld on appeal. But, as I said, I repeat, I do not believe he should have been convicted in the first place.

As noted in the prior post, while each is entitled to his/her own opinion about the Bourke case, the fact is – the case received more judicial scrutiny than arguably any other FCPA enforcement action.

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., Sidley Austin recently announced that James Cole (former DOJ Deputy Attorney General) “ has joined the firm in Washington, D.C. as a partner in its White Collar: Government Litigation & Investigations practice.”  As stated in the release, ““[Cole's] experience at the highest levels of law enforcement will enable him to counsel our clients facing the most difficult and complex challenges.”  Cole’s law firm bio states that he will focus “his practice on the full range of federal enforcement and internal investigation matters, with a particular emphasis on cross-border and multi-jurisdictional matters.”

While at the DOJ, Cole frequently articulated DOJ FCPA positions and enforcement policies.  (See here for example).

For the Reading Stack

From Professor Peter Henning in his New York Times Dealbook column – “Lawmakers Focus on How the SEC Does Its Job.”

From Miller & Chevalier attorneys – “DOJ is Losing the Battle to Prosecute Foreign Executives.”  An informative article regarding the DOJ’s struggles to prosecute foreign nationals for a variety of offenses (antitrust, FCPA, etc.).

An informative article here in the New York Law Journal by Marcus Asner and Daniel Ostrow  titled “A New Focus On Victims’ Rights in FCPA Restitution Cases.”

An interesting read here from the Wall Street Journal regarding China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp (Cotfco), a state-owned enterprise.

“In a few short years, Cofco has spent a couple billion dollars quietly buying up Australian cane fields, French vineyards and soybean pastures in Brazil, helping it become one of the world’s largest food companies. Now, Cofco is exploring deals in the world’s biggest exporter of agricultural commodities: the U.S.”

Weekend assignment:  are Cofco employees Chinese “foreign officials” under the 11th Circuit’s Esquenazi decision?

*****

A good weekend to all and “On Wisconsin.”

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.