Archive for the ‘FCPA Sentences’ Category

In Sentencing Sigelman, Judge Irenas Blasts The DOJ

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Judge IrenasForeign Corrupt Practices Act sentencing transcripts often make for interesting reads.

After all, sentencing is a judicial function and the transcripts provide a rare glimpse of someone other than the enforcement agencies weighing in on issues relevant to FCPA enforcement.

In sentencing Joseph Sigelman to probation after the DOJ effectively pulled its case early in the trial after its star witness admitted to making false statements on the stand (see here and here for prior posts), Judge Irenas dished up a few zingers.

See here for the sentencing transcript.

For starters, Judge Irenas chided the DOJ for acting inconsistent with the plea agreement it negotiated a day before sentencing in which the DOJ stated that the parties agreed that Sigelman’s sentence should be “a range from a non-custodial term of probation up to 12 months and one day of incarceration.”  Judge Irenas wondered why then the DOJ’s sentencing brief asserted that anything less than a year sentence would be unreasonable.  At one point, Judge Irenas stated “I feel like I am being played.” At pg. 25 of the transcript, Judge Irenas says “probation is appropriate. By def—you agreed to that. You can’t back off that. And your brief really does back off that.”

Of further note, at pgs. 22-23 of the transcript as highlighted below, Judge Irenas  blasted oft-stated DOJ rhetoric about the purported difficulty of prosecuting FCPA cases.  (Note: Mr. Stokes is DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Patrick Stokes and Duran is David Duran the alleged Colombian “foreign official” allegedly bribed).

MR. STOKES: In a complex white-collar case, certainly in a FCPA case, where there are numerous difficulties to obtaining evidence overseas, there are often opinions—we are often—the government is in a position of obtaining evidence from overseas, from years past, obtaining witnesses from overseas, and because of the complex and difficult nature of building these cases, we think that—

THE COURT: Well, I mean, that’s a general statement. The fact of the matter is, Duran was over in this country, in fact, wanted to stay here, if he could have arranged it. And he was, in a sense, in your control. I mean, he was

cooperating with you. Wasn’t cooperating with the defense.

MR. STOKES: Your Honor—

THE COURT: So I don’t know what difficulty you’re exactly talking about. You had PetroTiger through the investigation done by Sidley & Austin, basically dumped—dumped the case in your lap.

MR. STOKES: So—

THE COURT: You know, I mean, so you could talk generally how difficult this is. There may have been certain legal issues, but—what was difficult? What was the particular difficulty here? You had—

MR. STOKES: Sure.

THE COURT: —two co-conspirators pled guilty early on cooperating, alleged co-conspirators. You had Duran, here right in the country talking to you. It was not as if, you know, he was hiding somewhere in the jungle of Colombia to avoid—he actually wanted to be here. And then you had Sidley & Austin, turned over thousands and thousands of—I think it was 4,000 pages. I can’t remember the number, but it was some very large number of documents, and had done—you know, and Sidley does this kind of work in other context. I mean, they know what they’re doing, and they—you know, and they did all this investigation.

You know, you tell me as a general matter, it’s hard to prove Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I guess as a generic form of—

MR. STOKES: Absolutely, Your Honor.

THE COURT: —that’s difficult. But in this case, what was the difficulty?

MR. STOKES: And, Your Honor, there’s ample Third Circuit case law, Supreme Court case law, and otherwise on the point of general deterrence. And the point I’m making is simply a general point, that the white — complex white-collar financial crimes are difficult to prove, FCPA cases are difficult to prove, and so, therefore, we believe that a sentence of incarceration is — sends an important message in –

THE COURT: Well, I guess they haven’t been in my court because I tried several. I tried a nine and-a-half-month criminal white-collar case, in which I gave the longest tax fraud sentence ever given, twice what Al Capone got, for someone who was engaged in a tax fraud trial. I’ve done three or four –

MR. STOKES: And we certainly support that.

THE COURT: I’ve done three or four big white-collar cases, all resulted in convictions and all resulted in substantial sentences.

MR. STOKES: Absolutely.

THE COURT: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

MR. STOKES: So, Your Honor, the point we’re making is again –

THE COURT: You chose not to complete the trial, not me.

MR. STOKES: Of course. Of course, Your Honor. And the point we’re making is that Mr. Sigelman has admitted the crime –

THE COURT: In some form, you’re going to have to explain why, but maybe not here.

DOJ Prosecution Of Sigelman Ends With No Jail Time

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

SigelmanAs highlighted in this previous post, the DOJ’s prosecution of Joseph Sigelman came to an abrupt halt early in the trial after the DOJ’s star witness admitted to giving false testimony on the stand.

As further evidence of the DOJ’s failures, earlier today federal court judge Joseph Irenas (D.N.J.) refused to sentence Sigelman to any jail time after Sigelman agreed to a plea agreement involving substantially reduced charges.

Sigelman’s defense team (Sigelman was represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhardt & Sullivan LLP, William Burck led the defense team with his partners, William Price and Juan Morillo) issued a release which states in full as follows.

“Today Judge Joseph Irenas, Federal District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey, gave Joseph Sigelman probation and no jail time.  This followed on the heels of DOJ’s sudden decision to drop five and a half of six charges against Mr. Sigelman including the most serious charges.  The Government’s decision appears driven in large part by an admission last Thursday by the Government’s star witness, Gregory Weisman, that he made false statements to the jury during his testimony.  It also follows the admission by the only other witness presented thus far, an FBI Agent assigned to the investigation, that the Colombian citizen at the center of the prosecution’s case was allowed to leave the United States to his native Colombia without facing arrest or any charges from the Government.  Indeed, he was permitted to go to Disney World while Mr. Sigelman faced indictment.

Mr. Sigelman’s plea speaks for itself. He recognizes that he failed as a manager to provide stringent oversight of some of his colleagues and employees at PetroTiger. He takes full responsibility for his perosnal failures, including to ensure that all employees at PetroTiger always acted with the highest integrity. Mr. Sigelman has expressed deep regret for not instituting more quickly and forcefully a compliance regime.  Such a regime would have prevented any payments that were not appropriate in the then-two-year old PetroTiger, a company he co-founded that grew organically and through rapid acquisitions of existing companies.

In sentencing Mr. Sigelman, Judge Irenas chastised the Government for asserting that a one-year prison term was the only correct sentence.  He rejected the Government’s position as contrary to the plea agreement negotiated between the Government and Mr. Sigelman’s lawyers — and most importantly contrary to the interests of justice.  Judge Irenas further noted that Mr. Sigelman has employed thousands of people and will continue to do a great deal of good in society, and that Mr. Sigelman is less likely to commit an offense in the future than any other defendant he has seen in his more than two decades on the bench.  Mr. Sigelman is now free to continue his career as an entrepreneur.

Mr. Burck said: “Joe has been through hell.  He accepts full responsibility for his role in all of this.  But the government made the right call in agreeing to a very generous plea deal.  It gives certainty to Joe and his family, and saves the Government from a potentially embarrassing loss at trial.  We thank Judge Irenas for the extraordinary thought and care he brought to every aspect of this case, and ultimately his mercy in sentencing Joe to no jail time, which is the most just result.”

Mr. Price added:  “We are delighted with the result of this deal and believe that all parties can now move on with their respective endeavors.  Mr. Sigelman’s case highlights the unique challenges that building a start-up company in a foreign land can pose even above the normal chaos of a fast-growing company.  We are deeply grateful to Judge Irenas and the devoted members of the jury who dedicated their time, energy and attention to this case.”

Friday Roundup

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Roundup2Is this appropriate, sentenced, scrutiny alerts and updates, quotable, a future foreign official teaser?, Brazil update, and for the reading stack.

It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Is This Appropriate?

If this truly is an event, “Drinks With an FBI Agent – Inside Stories From the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” is it appropriate?

Sentenced

Chinea and DeMeneses Sentences

The DOJ announced

“Benito Chinea and Joseph DeMeneses, the former chief executive officer and former managing director of a broker-dealer Direct Access Partner “were sentenced to prison … for their roles in a scheme to pay bribes to a senior official in Venezuela’s state economic development bank, Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela (Bandes), in return for trading business that generated more than $60 million in commissions.”

Chinea and DeMeneses were each sentenced to four years in prison.  They were also ordered to pay $3,636,432 and $2,670,612 in forfeiture, respectively, which amounts represent their earnings from the bribery scheme.  On Dec. 17, 2014, both defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Travel Act.”

In the release, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“These Wall Street executives orchestrated a massive bribery scheme with a corrupt official in Venezuela to illegally secure tens of millions of dollars in business for their firm. The convictions and prison sentences of the CEO and Managing Director of a sophisticated Wall Street broker-dealer demonstrate that the Department of Justice will hold individuals accountable for violations of the FCPA and will pursue executives no matter where they are on the corporate ladder.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York stated:

“Benito Chinea and Joseph DeMeneses paid bribes to an officer of a state-run development bank in exchange for lucrative business she steered to their firm. Chinea and DeMeneses profited for a time from the corrupt arrangement, but that profit has turned into prison and now they must forfeit their millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains as well as their liberty.”

Elgawhary Sentence

This previous post highlighted the DOJ enforcement action against Asem Elgawhary, a former principal vice president of Bechtel Corporation and general manager of a joint venture operated by Bechtel and an Egyptian utility company, for allegedly accepting $5.2 million in kickbacks to manipulate the competitive bidding process for state-run power contracts in Egypt.

The DOJ recently announced that Elgawhary was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison.

When the Alstom enforcement action was announced in December 2014 (see here and here for prior posts), Elgawhary was described as an Egyptian “foreign official.”

So what was Elgawhary?

A former principal vice president of Bechtel Corporation and general manager of a joint venture operated by Bechtel and an Egyptian utility company or a Egyptian “foreign official?”

Can the DOJ have it both ways?

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Anheuser-Busch InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev recently disclosed in its annual report:

“We have been informed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice that they are conducting investigations into our affiliates in India, including a non-consolidated Indian joint venture that we previously owned, ABInBev India Private Limited, and whether certain relationships of agents and employees were compliant with the FCPA. We are investigating the conduct in question and are cooperating with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Bilfinger

As highlighted in this previous post, in December 2013 German-based Bilfinger paid approximately $32 million to resolve an FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct in Nigeria.  The enforcement action was resolved via a three-year deferred prosecution agreement.

As noted in the previous post, Bilfinger’s CEO described the conduct at issue as “events from the distant past.”

From the not-so distant past, Bilfinger recently announced:

“Bilfinger received internal information last year indicating that there may have been violations of the Group’s compliance regulations in connection with orders for the supply of monitor walls for security control centres in several large municipalities in Brazil. The company immediately launched a comprehensive investigation. The allegation relates to suspected bribery payments from employees of a Bilfinger company in Brazil to public officials and employees of state companies.”

See here for a follow-up announcement from the company.

As a foreign company, Bilfinger is only subject to the FCPA’s anti-bribery violations to the extent the payment scheme involves a U.S. nexus (as was alleged in the prior Bilfinger FCPA enforcement action).

IBM

Canadian media reports:

“Seven people, including Revenue Quebec employees and officials with computer companies IBM and EBR, were [recently] arrested … in connection with an alleged corruption scheme aimed at obtaining a government IT contract worth $24 million.Two Revenue Quebec employees, Hamid Iatmanene and Jamal El Khaiat, stand accused of providing privileged information about an upcoming government contract to a consortium made up of IBM and Quebec company Informatique EBR Inc.”

As highlighted here, in 2000 IBM resolved an FCPA enforcement action.

As highlighted here, in 2011 IBM resolved another FCPA enforcement action.  This enforcement action was filed in federal court (back in the day when the SEC actually filed FCPA enforcement actions in federal court vs. its preferred in-house method now) and Judge Richard Leon was concerned about the settlement process.  As highlighted here, Judge Leon approved the settlement, but his July 2013 final order states, among other things:

“[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 …””

According to media reports, Judge Leon stated: “if there’s another violation over the next two years, it won’t be a happy day.”

Quotable

In this Law360 article, Richard Grime (former Assistant Director of Enforcement at the SEC and current partner at Gibson Dunn) states regarding recent alleged FCPA violations.

“It’s not that you couldn’t intellectually [conceive of] the violation. It’s that the government is sort of probing every area where there is an interaction with government officials and then working backwards from there to see if there is a violation, as opposed to starting out with the statute … and what it prohibits.”

Given that most SEC FCPA enforcement actions are the result of voluntary disclosures, it is a curious statement.  Perhaps its companies, at the urging of FCPA Inc., that are probing every area where there is an interaction with government officials and then working backwards?

*****

As reported here:

“Greek authorities [recently] indicted 64 people to stand trial over years-old allegations of bribery involving Siemens AG, the German engineering giant … A probe of corporate dealings from 1992 to 2006 allegedly found that Greece had lost about 70 million euros in the sale of equipment from Siemens to Greek telephone operator Hellenic Telecommunications also known as OTE, which was still owned by the state at the beginning of that period … A panel of judges decided that those indicted, including both Greek and German nationals, should stand trial for bribery or money laundering. The list of suspects includes former Siemens and OTE officials.”

As noted here, Joe Kaeser (President and CEO of Siemens) reportedly stated:

“I really believe the country (Greece) can move to the future, rather than trying to find the solutions in the past.” He added that his company had a “dark history,” mentioning compliance issues. But he said it was not a “black and white story” when asked whether the indictments had been politically motivated by the current friction between the German and Greek governments. ”Looking at the past doesn’t help the future because the past is the past.”

If the U.S. brings FCPA enforcement actions based on conduct that in some instances is 10 – 15 years old, it is not surprising that Greece is doing the same.  Yet is this right?

As the U.S. Supreme Court recently stated in Gabelli:

“Statute of limitations are intended to ‘promote justice by preventing surprises through the revival of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has been lost, memories have faded, and witnesses have disappeared.  They provide ‘security and stability to human affairs.  [They] are ‘vital to the welfare of society [and] ‘even wrongdoers are entitled to assume that their sins may be forgotten.’ […] It ‘would be utterly repugnant to the genius of our laws if actions for penalties could ‘be brought at any distance of time.’”

****

Since day one, I called Morgan-Stanley’s so-called declination politically motivated.  (See here and here).

I am glad to see that FCPA commentator Michael Volkov recently joined the club.  Writing on the Garth Peterson / Morgan Stanley so-called declination, Volkov states:  ”my intelligence on the case indicated that … [the] DOJ apparently wanted to demonstrate for political reasons that it could recognize a company’s compliance program to decline a case against a company.

A Future Foreign Official Teaser?

As recently reported by the Wall Street,

“China’s leadership is preparing to radically consolidate the country’s bloated state-owned sector, telling thousands of enterprises they need to rely less on state life support and get ready to list on public markets. [...] Communist Party leaders plan to release broad guidelines in the next months for restructuring the country’s more than 100,000 state-owned enterprises, according to government officials and advisers with knowledge of the deliberations. [...]  Strategically important industries such as energy, resources and telecommunications are marked for consolidation, the officials and advisers say. The merged entities would then be reorganized as asset-investment firms, with a mandate to make sure they run more like commercial operations than arms of the government. Upper management will be under orders to maximize returns and prepare many of the companies for eventual listing on stock markets, these people say.”

In U.S. v. Esquenazi, the 11th Circuit concluded that  an “instrumentality” under the FCPA is an “entity controlled by the government of a foreign country that performs a function the controlling government treats as its own.” The Court recognized that what “constitutes control and what constitutes a function the government treats as its own are fact-bound questions” and, without seeking to list all “factors that might prove relevant,” the court did list “some factors that may be relevant” in deciding issues of control and function.

As to control, the 11th Circuit listed the following factors:

“[whether] the foreign government’s formal designation of that entity; whether the government has a majority interest in the entity; the government’s ability to hire and fire the entity’s principals; the extent to which the entity’s profits, if any, go directly into the governmental fisc, and, by the same token, the extent to which the government funds the entity if it fails to break even; and the length of time these indicia have existed.”

As to function, the 11th Circuit listed the following factors:

“whether the entity has a monopoly over the function it exists to carry out; whether the government subsidizes the costs associated with the entity providing services; whether the entity provides services to the public at large in the foreign country; and whether the public and the government of that foreign country generally perceive the entity to be performing a governmental function.”

Have fun applying this test should China’s proposed changes go forward.

Brazil Update

My own cents regarding Brazil’s recent implementation of regulations regarding certain features of its Clean Companies Act (a law which provides for only civil and administrative liability of corporate entities for alleged acts of bribery) is that the regulations are a yawner for any company that is already acting consistent with FCPA best practices.

Yet, if you feel the urge to read up on Brazil’s recent regulations, comprehensive coverage can be found here from Debevoise & Plimpton and here from FCPAmericas.

For the Reading Stack

A thoughtful article here from Alexandra Wrage (President of Trace) regarding the “cult of the imperfect.”  It states:

“Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt is credited with saving thousands of lives in Britain during the worst days of World War II after developing Chain Home, a low-frequency radar system able to detect aircraft from about 90 miles away. He openly encouraged what he called the “cult of the imperfect” among his team. He knew that Britain didn’t need the best possible radar system in five years; the country needed a viable radar system urgently. Immediately. Watson-Watt, who was knighted shortly after the Battle of Britain, is said to have instructed his team to strive for the third-best option, because “the second-best comes too late . . . the best never comes.

[...]

Perfect due diligence risk assessments never come. And even second-best may come too late. Just get started. You’ll see more protections and benefits from good (for now) than perfect (some day, maybe . . .).”

Sound advice that I agree with and completely consistent with Congressional intent in enacting the FCPA’s internal controls provisions and even prior enforcement agency guidance.

Problem is, the DOJ and SEC wear rose-colored glasses, including as to conduct years ago, and if a company is acting consistent with FCPA best practices 99% of the time, that means 1% of the time they are not.

*****

A good weekend to all. On Wisconsin!

A Comprehensive FCPA Resource

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

The question was recently asked: ”will there ever be a classic treatise on the FCPA?”New Era

According to Webster’s, a treatise is a book, article, etc., that discusses a subject carefully and thoroughly.

With that definition in mind, I invite you to consider my new book “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a New Era.”  Inside you will find:

  • A thorough telling of the story of the FCPA told largely through original voices of actual participants who shaped the pioneering law;
  • Foundational knowledge (such as DOJ and SEC policy and resolution vehicles and the realities of the global marketplace) that best enhance understanding and comprehension of specific FCPA topics;
  • A comprehensive analysis of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and for each element, exception or affirmative defense discussion of all legal sources of authority (including all relevant substantive FCPA judicial decisions) as well as non-legal sources of information (including discussion of over 70 FCPA enforcement actions);
  • Discussion of other legal issues also relevant to FCPA enforcement;
  • A comprehensive analysis of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions including legal authority as well as non-legal sources of information;
  • Analysis of the typical origins of FCPA scrutiny and enforcement;
  • Discussion of FCPA settlement amounts, how they are calculated, and analysis of legal and policy issues relevant to settlement amounts;
  • Discussion of FCPA sentencing issues, how sentences are calculated, and an analysis of legal and policy issues relevant to sentencing decisions;
  • An extended discussion and analysis of an often overlooked topics, “FCPA Ripples,” and how settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement;
  • An exploration of practical and provocative reasons for the general increase in FCPA enforcement during this new era including a discussion of FCPA Inc. and the business of bribery;
  • Identification and discussion of FCPA compliance best practices and benchmarking metrics; and
  • An in-depth discussion and analysis of FCPA reform designed to ensure that the FCPA is best achieving the original goals of the law and that FCPA enforcement is transparent and consistent with rule of law principles.

Whether the above topics highlighted and explored in “The FCPA in a New Era” make it a classic treatise, well, I invite you to come to your own conclusion.  At the very least, you will have to agree that the cover of the book is more inviting than a typical treatise.

While I am certainly not going to ascribe labels to my own work, I am pleased to share what others have said about “The FCPA In a New Era.”

Michael Mukasey, former U.S. Attorney General

“Professor Koehler has brought to this volume the clear-eyed perspective that has made his FCPA Professor website the most authoritative source for those seeking to understand and apply the FCPA. This is a uniquely useful book, laying out systematically the history and rationale of the FCPA, as well as its evolution into a structure governed as much by lore as by law. It will be valuable both to those who counsel international corporations, whether in connection with immediate crises or long-term strategies; and to those who contemplate what the FCPA has become, and how it can be improved.”

Professor Daniel Chow, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

“This is the single most comprehensive academic treatment of the Foreign Corrupt Practices available. Professor Koehler’s book will become the authoritative standard for the field. The book not only treats the history of the FCPA, but analyzes the statute’s elements in detail, discusses current cases, and makes proposals for reforms where the current law is deficient. The book is written in a clear, accessible style and I will use it often as a resource for my own scholarly work.”

 Richard Alderman, former Director of the UK Serious Fraud Office

“An excellent and thought-provoking book by a great expert. Backed up by rigorous analysis of cases, Professor Koehler constantly challenges those involved in anti-corruption work by asking the question ‘why?’ He puts forward many constructive and well-argued suggestions for improvements that need to be considered. I have learned a lot from Professor Koehler over the years and I can thoroughly recommend this book.”

Thomas Fox, FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog and FCPA Practitioner

“The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a New Era” should become one of the standard texts for any FCPA compliance practitioner, law student studying the FCPA or anyone else interested in anti-bribery and anti-corruption. It should be on your FCPA library bookshelf.”

Barry Vitou, thebriberyact.com and Compliance Practitioner

“If you only read one book on the US FCPA, read this one. [...] Mike Koehler’s new book is probably the best book we’ve read about the FCPA. [...] For those wanting a pair of ‘FCPA goggles’ no book is, in our opinion, better.”

To order a hard copy of the book, see here and here; to order an e-copy of the book, see here and here.

For media coverage of the book including Q&A’s, see here from Corporate Counsel, here from Global Investigations Review, and here from Corporate Counsel Weekly.

*****

Looking for even more information and analysis of the FCPA and FCPA enforcement?

I invite you to all also consider the following year in review articles.  Granted the below articles are not found between two covers, but you will find approximately 500 pages of FCPA statistics, trends and analysis over time.

For 2013, see here.

For 2012, see here.

For 2011, see here.

For 2010, see here.

For 2009, see here.

An FCPA Enforcement Action With Many Interesting Wrinkles

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about Pluimers?

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

What about Saybolt?

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

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

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

The court stated:

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

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

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