Archive for the ‘Foreign Official’ Category

Analyzing The SEC’s Recent FCPA Pharma Speech

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Pharm SpeechIn November 2009, then DOJ Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer delivered this Foreign Corrupt Practices Act speech at a pharmaceutical industry conference.  In the speech, Breuer warned the audience as follows.

“[C]onsider the possible range of “foreign officials” who are covered by the FCPA: Some are obvious, like health ministry and customs officials of other countries. But some others may not be, such as the doctors, pharmacists, lab technicians and other health professionals who are employed by state-owned facilities. Indeed, it is entirely possible, under certain circumstances and in certain countries, that nearly every aspect of the approval, manufacture, import, export, pricing, sale and marketing of a drug product in a foreign country will involve a “foreign official” within the meaning of the FCPA.”

In the speech, Breuer also talked about “the importance [of] rigorous FCPA compliance polic[ies] that are faithfully enforced” and reminded the audience as follows.

“[A]ny pharmaceutical company that discovers an FCPA violation should seriously consider voluntarily disclosing the violation and cooperating with the Department’s investigation. If you voluntarily disclose an FCPA violation, you will receive meaningful credit for that disclosure. And if you cooperate with the Department’s investigation, you will receive a meaningful benefit for that cooperation—without any request or requirement that you disclose privileged material. Finally, if you remediate the problem and take steps to ensure that it does not recur, you will benefit from that as well.”

Over five years and ten FCPA enforcement actions against pharma/healthcare companies later, Andrew Ceresney (Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division) delivered a nearly identical speech earlier this week.

The below post excerpts Ceresney’s speech.

When reviewing the speech, you may want to keep the following in mind.

As highlighted in this prior post, the enforcement theory that physicians, lab personnel, etc. are “foreign officials” under the FCPA was first used in 2002 and has since been used in 17 corporate enforcement actions.

Even even though Ceresney’s speech contains several citations, it is telling that the following assertion lacks any citation “doctors, pharmacists, and administrators from public hospitals in foreign countries … are often are classified as foreign officials for purposes of the FCPA.”

There is no citation for this assertion because it is one of the most dubious enforcement theories of this new era of FCPA enforcement and an enforcement theory that finds no support in the FCPA’s extensive legislative history.  (See here for “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act“).

Of further note, despite extracting hundreds of millions of dollars from risk averse corporations based on this “foreign official” theory, the DOJ and SEC have never used this enforcement theory to charge any individual.

Another issue to consider.

As highlighted in this recent post, despite the continued foreign scrutiny of the pharma and healthcare industry, the corporate dollars continue to flow to U.S. physicians and other healthcare workers.  It is one of the more glaring double standards when it comes to FCPA enforcement and enforcement of U.S. domestic bribery laws.

With that necessary information, to Ceresney began his speech as follows.

“Pursuing FCPA violations is a critical part of our enforcement efforts.  International bribery has many nefarious impacts, including sapping investor confidence in the legitimacy of a company’s performance, undermining the accuracy of a company’s books and records and the fairness of the competitive marketplace.  Our specialized FCPA unit as well as other parts of the Enforcement Division continue to do remarkable work in this space, bringing significant and impactful cases, often in partnership with our criminal partners.

Now, our FCPA focus obviously covers many industries.  For example, we have conducted a recent sweep in the financial services industry that will yield a number of important cases.  But the pharma industry is one on which we have been particularly focused in recent years.  A few factors combine to make it a high-risk industry for FCPA violations.  Pharmaceutical representatives have regular contact with doctors, pharmacists, and administrators from public hospitals in foreign countries.  Those people often are classified as foreign officials for purposes of the FCPA, and they often decide what products public hospitals or pharmacies will purchase.  This influence over the awarding of contracts is true for virtually every country around the globe.

There have been three types of misconduct that we have seen arise most often in our pharma FCPA cases.  One is “Pay-to-Prescribe”; another is bribes to get drugs on the approved list or formulary; and the third is bribes disguised as charitable contributions.  Let me discuss each of these in turn.

In “Pay-to-Prescribe” cases, we see public official doctors and public hospitals being paid bribes in exchange for prescribing certain medication, or other products such as medical devices.  Some of our cases involve simple cash payments to doctors and other medical officials. But we have also seen some more innovative schemes created for the purposes of rewarding prescribing physicians.  For example, in our 2012 action against Pfizer, subsidiaries in different countries found a variety of illicit ways to compensate doctors. In China, employees invited “high-prescribing doctors” in the Chinese government to club-like meetings that included extensive recreational and entertainment activities to reward doctors’ past product sales or prescriptions.  Pfizer China also created various “point programs” under which government doctors could accumulate points based on the number of Pfizer prescriptions they wrote.  The points were redeemed for gifts ranging from medical books to cell phones, tea sets, and reading glasses. In Croatia, Pfizer employees created a “bonus program” for Croatian doctors who were employed in senior positions in Croatian government health care institutions.  Once a doctor agreed to use Pfizer products, a percentage of the value purchased by a doctor’s institution would be funneled back to the doctor in the form of cash, international travel, or free products.  Each of these schemes violated the FCPA by routing money to foreign officials in exchange for business.

Let me turn to a second form of bribery, which is aimed at getting products on a formulary.  Of course, getting your company’s drugs on formularies is important to success in this industry.  But the FCPA requires that you do this without paying bribes, and we have taken action where companies have crossed that line.  We brought a case against Eli Lilly that included such violations.  There, the company’s subsidiary in Poland made payments totaling $39,000 to a small foundation started by the head of a regional government health authority.  That official, in exchange, placed Lilly drugs on the government reimbursement list.  That action involved a variety of other FCPA violations and Eli Lilly paid $29 million to settle the matter.

The Eli Lilly case brings me to my third point, which concerns bribes disguised as charitable contributions.  As you might know, the FCPA prohibits giving “anything of value” to a foreign official to induce an official action to obtain or retain business, and we take an expansive view of the phrase “anything of value.”  The phrase clearly captures more than just cash bribes, and Eli Lilly is not the only matter where we have brought an action arising out of charitable contributions.

For example, in Stryker, we charged a medical technology company after subsidiaries in five different countries paid bribes in order to obtain or retain business. Stryker’s subsidiary in Greece made a purported donation of nearly $200,000 to a public university to fund a laboratory that was the pet project of a public hospital doctor.  In return, the doctor agreed to provide business to Stryker.  Stryker agreed to pay $13.2 million to settle these and other charges.

Similarly, in Schering-Plough, we brought charges against the company arising out of $76,000 paid by its Polish subsidiary to a charitable foundation.  The head of that foundation was also the director of a governmental body that funded the purchase of pharmaceutical products and that influenced the purchase of those products by other entities, such as hospitals.  In settling our action, Schering-Plough consented to paying a $500,000 penalty.

The lesson is that bribes come in many shapes and sizes, and those made under the guise of charitable giving are of particular risk in the pharmaceutical industry.  So it is critical that we carefully scrutinize a wide range of unfair benefits to foreign officials when assessing compliance with the FCPA – whether it is cash, gifts, travel, entertainment, or charitable contributions.  We will continue to pursue a broad interpretation of the FCPA that addresses bribery in all forms.”

Under the heading “Compliance Program,” Ceresney stated:

“The best way for a company to avoid some of the violations that I have just described is a robust FCPA compliance program.   I can’t emphasize enough the importance of such programs.  This is a message that I think has started to get through in the past 5 years.

The best companies have adopted strong FCPA compliance programs that include compliance personnel, extensive policies and procedures, training, vendor reviews, due diligence on third-party agents, expense controls, escalation of red flags, and internal audits to review compliance.  I encourage you to look to our Resource Guide on the FCPA that we jointly published with the DOJ, to see what some of the hallmarks of an effective compliance program are.  I’ll highlight just a couple.

First, companies should perform risk assessments that take into account a host of factors listed in the guide and then place controls in these risk areas.  The pharmaceutical industry operates in virtually every country, including many high risk countries prone to corruption.  The industry also comes into contact with customs officials and may need perishable medicines and other goods cleared through customs quickly.  They may also come into contact with officials involved in licensing and inspections.  These are just a few examples of risk factors that a risk assessment should be focused on in this particular sector.

A healthy compliance program should also include third-party agent due diligence.  In addition to using third-party agents, many pharmaceutical companies use distributors.  This creates the risk that the distributor will use their margin or spread to create a slush fund of cash that will be used to pay bribes to foreign officials.  Because of this added layer of cash flow, companies frequently improperly account for bribes as legitimate expenses.  To properly combat against these abuses, a compliance program must thoroughly vet its third-party agents to include an understanding of the business rationale for contracting with the agent.  Appropriate expense controls must also be in place to ensure that payments to third-parties are legitimate business expenses and not being used to funnel bribes to foreign officials.”

Under the heading, “Self-Reporting and Cooperation,” Ceresney stated:

“The existence of FCPA compliance programs place companies in the best position to detect FCPA misconduct and allow the opportunity to self-report and cooperate.  There has been a lot of discussion recently about the advisability of self-reporting FCPA misconduct to the SEC.  Let me be clear about my views – I think any company that does the calculus will realize that self-reporting is always in the company’s best interest.  Let me explain why.

Self-reporting from individuals and entities has long been an important part of our enforcement program.  Self-reporting and cooperation allows us to detect and investigate misconduct more quickly than we otherwise could, as companies are often in a position to short circuit our investigations by quickly providing important factual information about misconduct resulting from their own internal investigations.

In addition to the benefits we get from cooperation, however, parties are positioned to also help themselves by aggressively policing their own conduct and reporting misconduct to us.  We recognize that it is important to provide benefits for cooperation to incentivize companies to cooperate.  And we have been focused on making sure that people understand there will be such benefits.  We continue to find ways to enhance our cooperation program to encourage issuers, regulated entities, and individuals to promptly report suspected misconduct.  The Division has a wide spectrum of tools to facilitate and reward meaningful cooperation, from reduced charges and penalties, to non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements in instances of outstanding cooperation. For example, we announced our first-ever non-prosecution agreement in an FCPA matter with a company that promptly reported violations and provided real-time, extensive cooperation in our investigation. And just six weeks ago, we entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with another company that self-reported misconduct.

More commonly, we have reflected the cooperation in reduced penalties.  Companies that cooperate can receive smaller penalties than they otherwise would face, and in some cases of extraordinary cooperation, pay significantly less.  One recent FCPA matter in this sector illustrates the considerable benefits that can flow from coming forward and cooperating.  Our joint SEC-DOJ FCPA settlement with Bio-Rad Laboratories for $55 million reflected a substantial reduction in penalties due to the company’s considerable cooperation in our investigation. In addition to self-reporting potential violations, the company provided translations of numerous key documents, produced witnesses from foreign jurisdictions, and undertook extensive remedial actions.  There, the DOJ imposed a criminal fine of only $14 million, which was equivalent to about 40% of the disgorgement amount – a large reduction from the typical ratio of 100% of the disgorgement amount.

In fact, we have recently announced FCPA matters featuring penalties in the range of 10 percent of the disgorgement amount, an even larger discount than the case I just mentioned. And in the Goodyear case we announced last week, we imposed no penalty.  In those cases, the companies received credit for doing things like self-reporting; taking speedy remedial steps; voluntarily making foreign witnesses available for interviews; and sharing real-time investigative findings, timelines, internal summaries, English language translations, and full forensic images with our staff.

The bottom line is that the benefits from cooperation are significant and tangible.  When I was a defense lawyer, I would explain to clients that by the time you become aware of the misconduct, there are only two things that you can do to improve your plight – remediate the misconduct and cooperate in the investigation.  That obviously remains my view today.  And I will add this – when we find the violations on our own, and the company chose not to self-report, the consequences are worse and the opportunity to earn significant credit for cooperation often is lost.

This risk of suffering adverse consequences from a failure to self-report is particularly acute in light of the continued success and expansion of our whistleblower program.  The SEC’s whistleblower program has changed the calculus for companies considering whether to disclose misconduct to us, knowing that a whistleblower is likely to come forward.  Companies that choose not to self-report are thus taking a huge gamble because if we learn of the misconduct through other means, including through a whistleblower, the result will be far worse.”

If Only The Supreme Court Had Accepted Cert In The “Foreign Official” Challenge

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

If OnlyAs highlighted here, here and here, last Fall the Supreme Court had the opportunity to correct the 11th Circuit’s flawed interpretation of the important “foreign official” element of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions in U.S. v. Esquenazi.

As highlighted here, the Supreme Court declined the opportunity to hear the case.

If only the Supreme Court had accepted cert the likely outcome would have been similar to last week’s Supreme Court decision in Yates v. U.S. in which the court reversed the 11th Circuit’s flawed statutory interpretation of Sarbanes Oxley in the (in)famous are “fish” a “tangible object” case.

The issues addressed by the Supreme Court in Yates were very similar to the issues the Court was asked to address in Esquenazi.

Indeed, the 11th Circuit’s flawed interpretation in Esquenazi was even more egregious because, as highlighted in my amicus brief, (i) competing versions of the FCPA Congress considered yet rejected, specifically included state-owned or state-controlled enterprise (SOE) concepts; and (ii) laws passed both before the FCPA and after the FCPA contain the term “instrumentality” as well as SOE concepts.

Despite the compelling arguments made for cert in Esquenazi, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act community was left pondering what if (and because of how the DOJ and SEC have chosen to enforce the FCPA will likely be asking what if for some time).

The what if was likely answered by the Court in Yates and the below post highlights excerpts from the majority opinion written by Justice Ginsburg.

“Mindful that in Sarbanes-Oxley, Congress trained its attention on corporate and accounting deception and cover-ups, we conclude that a matching construction of §1519 is in order: A tangible object captured by §1519, we hold, must be one used to record or preserve information.”

[...]

“On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit found the text of §1519“plain.” Because “tangible object” was “undefined” in the statute, the Court of Appeals gave the term its “ordinary or natural meaning,” i.e., its dictionary definition, “[h]aving or possessing physical form.”

[...]

In the Government’s view, §1519 extends beyond the principal evil motivating its passage. The words of §1519,the Government argues, support reading the provision as a general ban on the spoliation of evidence, covering all physical items that might be relevant to any matter under federal investigation.

Yates urges a contextual reading of §1519, tying “tangible object” to the surrounding words, the placement of the provision within the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and related provisions enacted at the same time, in particular §1520 and §1512(c)(1). Section 1519, he maintains, targets not all manner of evidence, but records,documents, and tangible objects used to preserve them, e.g., computers, servers, and other media on which information is stored.

We agree with Yates and reject the Government’s unrestrained reading. “Tangible object” in §1519, we conclude, is better read to cover only objects one can use to record or preserve information, not all objects in the physical world.

[...]

The ordinary meaning of an “object” that is “tangible,”as stated in dictionary definitions, is “a discrete . . . thing,” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1555 (2002), that “possess[es] physical form,” Black’s Law Dictionary 1683 (10th ed. 2014). From this premise, the Government concludes that “tangible object,” as that term appears in §1519, covers the waterfront, including fish from the sea.

Whether a statutory term is unambiguous, however,does not turn solely on dictionary definitions of its component words. Rather, “[t]he plainness or ambiguity of statutory language is determined [not only] by reference to the language itself, [but as well by] the specific context in which that language is used, and the broader context of the statute as a whole.” Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U. S. 337, 341 (1997). See also Deal v. United States, 508 U. S. 129, 132 (1993) (it is a “fundamental principle of statutory construction (and, indeed, of language itself) that the meaning of a word cannot be determined in isolation, but must be drawn from the context in which it is used”). Ordinarily, a word’s usage accords with its dictionary definition. In law as in life, however, the same words, placed in different contexts, sometimes mean different things.

[...]

In short, although dictionary definitions of the words “tangible” and “object” bear consideration, they are not dispositive of the meaning of “tangible object” in §1519.

[...]

The legislative history reveals that §1512(c)(1) was drafted and proposed after §1519. See 148 Cong. Rec. 12518, 13088–13089 (2002). The Government argues, and Yates does not dispute, that §1512(c)(1)’s reference to “other object” includes any and every physical object. But if §1519’s reference to “tangible object” already included all physical objects, as the Government and the dissent contend, then Congress had no reason to enact §1512(c)(1): Virtually any act that would violate §1512(c)(1) no doubt would violate §1519 as well, for §1519 applies to “the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States . . . or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter,” not just to “an official proceeding.”5

The Government acknowledges that, under its reading,§1519 and §1512(c)(1) “significantly overlap.” Brief for United States. Nowhere does the Government explain what independent function §1512(c)(1) would serve if the Government is right about the sweeping scope of §1519. We resist a reading of §1519 that would render superfluous an entire provision passed in proximity as part of the same Act.6 See Marx v. General Revenue Corp., 568 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 14) (“[T]he canon against surplusage is strongest when an interpretation would render superfluous another part of the same statutory scheme.”).

[...]

Had Congress intended “tangible object” in §1519 to be interpreted so generically as to capture physical objects as dissimilar as documents and fish, Congress would have had no reason to refer specifically to “record”or “document.” The Government’s unbounded reading of“tangible object” would render those words misleading surplusage.

Having used traditional tools of statutory interpretation to examine markers of congressional intent within the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and §1519 itself, we are persuaded that an aggressive interpretation of “tangible object” must be rejected. It is highly improbable that Congress would have buried a general spoliation statute covering objects of any and every kind in a provision targeting fraud in financial record-keeping.

[...]

Finally, if our recourse to traditional tools of statutory construction leaves any doubt about the meaning of “tangible object,” as that term is used in §1519, we would invoke the rule that “ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes should be resolved in favor of lenity.” Cleveland v. United States, 531 U. S. 12, 25 (2000) (quoting Rewis v. United States, 401 U. S. 808, 812 (1971)).That interpretative principle is relevant here, where the Government urges a reading of §1519 that exposes individuals to 20-year prison sentences for tampering with any physical object that might have evidentiary value in any federal investigation into any offense, no matter whether the investigation is pending or merely contemplated, or whether the offense subject to investigation is criminal or civil. See Liparota v. United States, 471 U. S. 419, 427 (1985) (“Application of the rule of lenity ensures that criminal statutes will provide fair warning concerning conduct rendered illegal and strikes the appropriate balance between the legislature, the prosecutor, and the court in defining criminal liability.”). In determining the meaning of “tangible object” in §1519, “it is appropriate, before we choose the harsher alternative, to require that Congress should have spoken in language that is clear and definite.” See Cleveland, 531 U. S., at 25 (quoting United States v. Universal C. I. T. Credit Corp., 344 U. S. 218, 222 (1952)). See also Jones v. United States, 529 U. S. 848, 858–859 (2000) (rule of lenity “reinforces” the conclusion that arson of an owner-occupied residence is not subject to federal prosecution under 18 U. S. C. §844(i) because such a residence does not qualify as property “used in” commerce or commerce-affecting activity).

For the reasons stated, we resist reading §1519 expansively to create a coverall spoliation of evidence statute, advisable as such a measure might be. Leaving that important decision to Congress, we hold that a “tangible object” within §1519’s compass is one used to record or preserve information. The judgment of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is therefore reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.”

Is The Current “Foreign Official” Enforcement Theory Unconstitutional?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

UnconstitutionalAs readers no doubt know, in May 2014 the 11th Circuit issued a decision of first impression for an appellate court on the issue of whether employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled entities are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

This prior post contains numerous links to other posts regarding the decision.

In short, in U.S. v. Esquenazi, the 11th Circuit concluded as follows.

“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. Certainly, what constitutes control and what constitutes a function the government treats as its own are fact-bound questions. It would be unwise and likely impossible to exhaustively answer them in the abstract. [...] [W]e do not purport to list all of the factors that might prove relevant to deciding whether an entity is an instrumentality of a foreign government. For today, we provide a list of some factors that may be relevant to deciding the issue.

To decide if the government ‘controls’ an entity, courts and juries should look to 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.

[...]

We then turn to the second element relevant to deciding if an entity is an instrumentality of a foreign government under the FCPA — deciding if the entity performs a function the government treats as its own. Courts and juries should examine 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.”

As evident from the 11th Circuit’s ruling, a key element of a U.S. federal law will often be dependent on foreign law or foreign government circumstances or characterization of an alleged SOE.

Indeed, as noted in this prior post, the meaning of foreign official thus can have 193 meanings (by most measures, the number of countries in the world).  As noted in the prior post, a significant irony of the 11th Circuit’s resort to foreign characterization and treatment of a seemingly commercial enterprise is that the DOJ itself has rejected this approach in issuing opinions under the FCPA Opinion Procedure program. (See Release 94-01).

The 11th Circuit itself recognized that its control and function test could raise constitutional vagueness concerns.  As stated by the court, it can be a “difficult task – involving divining subjective intentions of a foreign sovereign, parsing history, and interpreting significant amounts of foreign law – to decide what functions a foreign government considers core and traditional.”  Moreover, the 11th Circuit recognized ”there may be entities near the definitional line for ‘instrumentality’ that may raise a vagueness concern.”

The above is relevant background in discussing a recent article – outside the FCPA context – but with clear FCPA implications given the above background.

In “The Dynamic Incorporation of Foreign Law and the Constitutional Regulation of Federal Lawmaking,” Paul Larkin argues that “the prospect that the United States would grant a foreign government the legal authority to govern the people of this nation is absurd.”  Stated differently, Larkin notes:

“Congress’s decision to authorize foreign government and foreign officials to define the content of a domestic law raises legal issues residing at the core of any analysis of how the federal government may govern [...]“

According to Larkin, such circumstances are unconstitutional “because it vests domestic federal lawmaking in foreign governments and their officials.”

Larkin then discusses several “problems posed by vesting absolute lawmaking power to define federal criminal law in the hands of foreign officials who may be used to governing in a foreign system for people who may live in a culture with vastly different legal and social expectations.”

Among the problems are the following:

“It is wholly unrealistic to assume that Americans know foreign law.  Foreign codes may not always reflect American law or morals, so there is no justification for presuming that domestic residents will know foreign laws by heart.”

“Finding foreign law may also be difficult.  Foreign nations may not make all of their laws public, whether in printed code accessible in a domestic library or via the Internet.”

“Other nations may grant their departments similar rulemaking power [to U.S. agencies] but their agencies may not publish regulations in their version of the Federal Register or Code of Federal Regulations (assuming that they have one at all).”

“A foreign law must be identifiable as a ‘law.’  Yet, foreign nations may define their ‘law’ to embrace edicts with no parallel or counterpart in our legal system.”

Larkin’s article raises interesting parallel issues concerning the current “foreign official” enforcement theory.

Moreover, the issues raised in Larkin’s article are not merely hypothetical in the FCPA context.  As noted in this prior post, several of the issues Larkin identified were disputed in the SEC’s failed case against Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen regarding Nigerian law relevant to temporary importation permits.

11th Circuit Discusses “Routine Governmental Action” Prong Of The FCPA’s Facilitation Payments Exception

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

11th Cir.This February 2013 post highlighted the criminal appeal of Jean Rene Duperval, the alleged “foreign official” at the center of the various Haiti Teleco enforcement actions, including U.S. v. Esquenazi, the recent 11th Circuit decision concerning the “foreign official” element.

In connection with the Haiti Teleco cases, Duperval was found guilty by a jury on various money laundering charges. As highlighted in the prior post, Duperval appealed his conviction to the 11th Circuit and among the issues appealed were:

  • whether the evidence was “insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Haiti Teleco was a government instrumentality and that Duperval was a foreign official as required to prove that a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act generated proceeds of a specified unlawful activity – a necessary predicate for the convictions on the money laundering conspiracy and substantive money laundering charges.”
  • various due process challenges concerning the declaration of the Haitian Prime Minister; and
  • whether the “trial court erred in not charging the jury in accordance with Duperval’s proffered theory of defense instruction” as to whether the FCPA’s facilitation payments exception applied.

Earlier this week, the 11th Circuit issues this opinion.  The opinion begins as follows.

“This appeal of criminal convictions involving money laundering and foreign bribery presents issues of exposure of jurors to publicity; the sufficiency of the evidence that a telephone company was an “instrumentality” of a foreign government, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(h)(2)(A); whether the administration of a multimillion dollar contract is “routine governmental action,” id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A); whether the government interfered with a witness when it obtained a clarifying declaration from that witness; and four issues about the application of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Jean Rene Duperval appeals both his convictions of two counts of conspiring to commit money laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h), and 19 counts of concealment of money laundering, id. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), and his sentence of imprisonment of 108 months followed by three years of supervised release. Duperval worked as the Director of International Affairs at Telecommunications D’Haiti, a company owned by the government of Haiti. Duperval participated in two schemes in which international companies gave him bribes in exchange for favors from Teleco. Duperval’s arguments fail. We affirm.”

As relevant to “foreign official,” the 11th Circuit’s discussion of this issue in Duperval mirrors the 11th Circuit’s conclusion in U.S. v. Esquenazi.  In short, in Duperval the court stated: “[i]n Esquenazi and this appeal, the government introduced almost identical evidence about Teleco. [...] As in Esquenazi, the jury could have reasonably found that Teleco was an instrumentality of Haiti.”

As relevant to the “routine government action” portion of the facilitation payments exception, the 11th Circuit stated:

“Duperval admitted that he received money from Cinergy and Terra, but he asserted that the money was for doing a good job in the administration of the contracts. Duperval’s counsel requested a jury instruction based on an exception to the Act for routine governmental action, id. § 78dd-2(b), but the district court denied this request.”

[...]

“Duperval argues that the district court erred when it refused his proffered jury instruction. Duperval requested that the district court instruct the jury on the exception to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for routine governmental action, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(b). Duperval argues that he was entitled to an instruction on this defense because he introduced evidence that he was paid only for administering the contracts within their terms. But we conclude that the district court did not err when it refused Duperval’s instruction.

A defendant has the right to have the jury instructed on a theory of defense only if “the proposed instruction presents a valid defense and [if] there has been some evidence adduced at trial relevant to that defense.” United States v. Ruiz, 59 F.3d 1151, 1154 (11th Cir. 1995). When we review the refusal to give an instruction for abuse of discretion, we ask whether “the requested instruction is correct, not adequately covered by the charge given, and involves a point so important that failure to give the instruction seriously impaired the party’s ability to present an effective case.” Svete, 556 F.3d at 1161 (internal quotation marks omitted). But we need not engage in this inquiry if the defendant failed to introduce evidence relevant to the jury instruction.

The Act allows “any facilitating or expediting payment to a foreign official . . . the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action.” 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(b). Routine governmental action includes actions such as “obtaining permits . . . to do business[;] . . . processing governmental papers, such as visas and work orders; providing police protection, mail pick-up and delivery, or scheduling inspections[; and] . . . providing phone service, power and water supply, loading and unloading cargo, or protecting perishable products.” Id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A). Other actions are routine governmental action only if they are “actions of a similar nature” to those listed in the statute. Id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A)(v). But routine governmental action “does not include . . . any action taken by a foreign official involved in the decision-making process to encourage a decision to award new business to or continue business with a particular party.” Id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(B).

Duperval argues that he performed a routine governmental action when he administered the contracts, but he misunderstands this exception to the Act. As the Fifth Circuit explained, “[a] brief review of the types of routine governmental actions enumerated by Congress shows how limited Congress wanted to make the . . . exception[].” United States v. Kay, 359 F.3d 738, 750 (5th Cir. 2004). These actions are “largely non-discretionary, ministerial activities performed by mid- or low-level foreign functionaries,” id. at 751, and the payments allowed under this exception are “grease payments” to expedite the receipt of routine services, id. at 747. The administration of a multi-million dollar telecommunication contract is not an “action[] of a similar nature” to the actions enumerated in the Act. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A)(v). Duperval was not a low-level employee who provided a routine service; he was a high ranking official who administered international contracts. And, when Terra and Cinergy paid Duperval, their “grease payment” was not to expedite the receipt of a routine service. Duperval was not “providing phone service” as the Act uses that term, id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(A)(iv). “[P]hone service” appears along with “providing . . . power and water supply, loading and unloading cargo, or protecting perishable products.” Id. The text of the statute refers to the government providing a service to a person or business, not to the government administering contracts with companies that provide telephone service.

Duperval’s interpretation also is in tension with the section of the Act that describes what is not routine governmental action, id. § 78dd-2(h)(4)(B). A party cannot pay a decision-maker to continue a contract with the government, id., but under Duperval’s interpretation, a party could circumvent this limitation by “rewarding” the decision-maker for doing a good job in administering the current contract. This interpretation, which would provide an end-run around the provisions of the Act, finds no support in the text of the Act. Duperval presented evidence that he administered multi-million dollar contracts. He failed to prove that he performed a routine governmental action. Without any evidence to support his defense, Duperval was not entitled to his requested jury instruction.”

The 11th Circuit’s conclusion as to “routine governmental action,” was hardly surprising given the facts at issue in Duperval and Duperval’s argument.

Nevertheless, the 11th Circuit’s discussion of facilitation payments in Duperval is believed to be the first time an appellate court has squarely  addressed this prong of the FCPA (as the Fifth Circuit’s discussion of facilitation payments in Kay was dicta).

Friday Roundup

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Roundup2Hollywood film studios, more FBI agents, asset recovery, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Hollywood Film Studios

A recent Wall Street Journal article went in-depth regarding the FCPA scrutiny of Hollywood film studios doing business in China. According to the article, Sony received a subpoena from the SEC in June 2013 regarding possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  The article states:

“The SEC’s questions to Sony dealt primarily with potential bribery related to the release of “Resident Evil: Afterlife” in China in 2010, according to email communication between Sony’s in-house and outside legal counsel. A Sony-led investigation that followed the SEC subpoena examined the company’s distribution efforts more broadly, the emails show. The subpoena indicates an escalation of an inquiry that began in 2012 when the SEC requested that every major studio voluntarily provide information about their movie-distribution practices in China, a request that was publicly reported at the time. However the SEC’s specific concerns weren’t disclosed nor was it previously known that the agency had stepped up its probe with a subpoena. Sony documents show that the SEC refers to its probe as “In the Matter of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp,” indicating that the rival Hollywood studio behind “The Hunger Games” has been asked questions as well.”

Many FCPA enforcement actions have, as a root cause, a foreign trade barrier or distortion.  This appears to be true in the case of the Hollywood film studios.  As stated in the article, the companies ran into “China’s quota and censorship systems to secure distribution for their films in that country.”  According to the article:

“Hollywood studios are barred from distributing films on their own in China, but instead work with the state-owned China Film Group to secure one of the 34 highly coveted spots offered each year for imported movies. [Third party distribution firms] help studios navigate the bureaucracy.”

More FBI Agents

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s foreign corruption program will more than triple the number of agents focused on overseas bribery this year to more than 30 from around 10, according to bureau officials. The agents will focus on both sides of corruption, hunting down executives that pay off foreign officials, while also helping other nations recoup funds stolen by corrupt leaders. The FBI usually can’t directly arrest corrupt foreign leaders, but at the request of foreign law enforcement the bureau can help locate funds stolen by kleptocrats. [...]  “With the growing global economy and the growing nature of international commerce with globalization of more companies and economies, it’s creating more opportunities for the potential of FCPA and corruption,” said Joseph Campbell, assistant director of the bureau’s criminal division, in an interview. The newly assigned agents will work out of field offices in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Boston, with backup from forensic analysts and other specialists in headquarters, which is also located in the capital. Currently, the bureau’s foreign anti-corruption field agents are managed out of a field office in Washington, D.C. and split their time while pursuing other white collar crimes, bureau officials said.”

Asset Recovery

As part of its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the DOJ recently announced the filing of a “civil forfeiture complaint seeking the forfeiture of nine properties worth approximately $1,528,000 that were allegedly purchased with funds traceable to a $2 million bribe paid by a Honduran information-technology company to the former Executive Director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security.”

According to the DOJ:

“From 2010 to 2014, Dr. Mario Roberto Zelaya Rojas, 46, of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, served as the Executive Director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security (HISS), a Honduran Government agency that provides social security services, including workers’ compensation, retirement, maternity, and death benefits.  According to allegations in the forfeiture complaint, Zelaya solicited and accepted $2.08 million in bribes from Compania De Servicios Multiples, S. de R. L. (COSEM) in exchange for prioritizing and expediting payments owed to COSEM under a $19 million contract with HISS.  Zelaya also allegedly instructed COSEM to make bribe payments to two members of the Board of Directors of HISS charged with overseeing the COSEM contract.  To conceal the illicit payments, COSEM allegedly sent the bribes through its affiliate company, CA Technologies.  As further alleged in the complaint, the bribe proceeds were then laundered into the United States and used by Zelaya and his brother, Carlos Alberto Zelaya Rojas, to acquire real estate in the New Orleans area.  Certain properties were titled in the name of companies nominally controlled by Zelaya’s brother in an effort to conceal the illicit source of the funds as well as the beneficial owner.  The current action seeks forfeiture of nine properties acquired with the proceeds of Zelaya’s alleged bribery scheme.”

In the DOJ’s release, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“Our action today highlights how the Criminal Division’s Kleptocracy Initiative, with our network of law enforcement partners around the globe, will trace and recover the ill-gotten gains of corrupt officials.  Criminals should make no mistake:  the United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of your crimes.  If you hide or invest your stolen money here, we will use all the legal tools we have to find it and seize it.”

Quotable

In this Global Investigations Review article, Timothy Dickinson (Paul Hastings and a veteran of the FCPA bar) states:

“Ten years ago, I would have been happy to bet anyone a doughnut that I could accurately define what a foreign official is. Now, with various court definitions and a lack of clarity from the DoJ, I fear I might actually lose my doughnut.”

In this piece about the SEC’s internal controls enforcement theories, Michael Shepard (Hogan Lovells) states:

“Beneath the surface of these developments [the increased use of the internal controls provisions] is a disconnect about what the internal controls provisions actually require. The government — and especially the SEC — has settled on an interpretation of the internal controls provision that is at odds with the understanding of many in-house finance professionals about what internal controls are intended to address. Ask corporate finance professionals about internal controls at their companies and you will likely get an answer about processes designed to protect the company’s assets at a level that would materially impact the company’s financial statements. Ask your friendly neighborhood SEC investigator about internal controls and you will instead get inquiries about the exponentially smaller level of amounts of money that would be enough to influence a low-paid public official in a poor third-world country. Not only is the SEC looking at controls on a more microscopic level, but its predilection to pursue internal controls charges sometimes seems based on an interpretation of the FCPA that borders on strict liability. Circumstantial evidence of a bribery violation — such as evidence that some money may have left the company without proper authorization or accounting records — translates for the SEC into proof that the company’s controls were inadequate. Statutory elements of reasonableness and scienter get short shrift in a world in which the SEC aggressively pushes internal controls charges, and the vast majority of companies remain predisposed to settle.”

Reading Stack

Paul Barrett at Bloomberg BusinessWeek goes in-depth about the FCPA charges pending against Joseph Sigelman in an article titled “Does This Man Look Like a Felon to You?”

From the New Yorker, “Can Corruption Be Erradicated?”

“[C]orruption has always permeated so many fields of human endeavor that it may be not a corruption of anything—but, rather, a regrettable feature of our natural condition. Accountable government is an ideal, to be sure. It may also be an aberration.”

[O]ur conceptual vocabulary for understanding [corruption], let alone combatting it, remains conspicuously meagre. The very term “corruption” is so inclusive as to be almost meaningless, encompassing bribery, nepotism, bid-rigging, embezzlement, extortion, vote-buying, price-fixing, protection rackets, and a hundred other varieties of fraud.”

From Bloomberg BNA “As FCPA Complexity Increase, Corporate Interest in Self-Disclosure Wanes.”

*****

A good weekend to all.