Archive for the ‘Foreign Official’ Category

Issues To Consider From The SciClone Enforcement Action

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

IssuesThis recent post highlighted the SEC’s $12.8 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against SciClone Pharmaceuticals.

The action was based on the marketing and promotional activities of a subsidiary that provided various things of value to healthcare professionals employed by state-owned hospitals in China including weekend trips, foreign language classes, “golf in the morning and beer drinking in the evening,” and travel to the Grand Canyon and Disneyland.

This post continues the analysis of the enforcement action by highlighting various issues to consider.

Time Line

In August 2010, SciClone disclosed that the SEC had issued the company a subpoena inquiring about its business practices in China.

If the SEC wants the public to have confidence in its SEC enforcement program, it must resolve instances of FCPA scrutiny much quicker. 5.5 years is simply inexcusable.

For instance, SciClone previously disclosed that in “July 2015, SciClone reached an agreement in principle with the staff of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a proposed settlement” and its disclosure specified the exact amount in last week’s settlement.

Should it really take 7 months to finalize an agreement in principle to settle?

Nearing 20

According to my figures, SciClone is the 18th corporate FCPA enforcement action based on the enforcement theory that employees of certain foreign health care systems are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

This enforcement theory has never been subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny and, perhaps most telling as to its validity and legitimacy, is that none of the corporate enforcement actions based on this theory have resulted in related charges against an individual.

Initial Disclosure of Settlement Amount

In March 2014, SciClone disclosed, in connection with its FCPA scrutiny, “that a payment of $2.0 million to the government in penalties, fines and/or other remedies is probable.”

As highlighted above, the final settlement was $12.8 million.

Anything of Value

The enforcement action contains the following list of things of value.

  • “weekend trips, vacations, gifts, expensive meals, foreign language classes, and entertainment”
  • attendance at “the annual Qingdao Beer Festival consisting of golf in the morning and beer-drinking in the evening”
  • “vacations to Anji, China”
  • “paying for family vacations and regular family dinners”
  • “$8,600 in lavish gifts”
  • non-business “travel to Las Vegas and Los Angeles with tours of the Grand Canyon or Disneyland.”
  • “sightseeing and [travel to] tourist locations such as Mt. Fuji.”
  • “a weekend stay on the island of Hainan, a resort destination”

Chinese Travel Companies

Purported travel companies, as well as the fapiao’, are well-known compliance risks in China. On these issues, the SEC’s order states:

“Local Chinese travel companies were routinely hired to provide services (such as arranging transportation, accommodations, and meals for HCPs) in connection with what were ostensibly legitimate conferences, seminars, and other events. In addition to a lack of due diligence for these third party vendors … there was a lack of controls over the events to ensure they had an appropriate business purpose and that the events actually occurred. Many events did not include a legitimate educational purpose or the educational activities were minimal in comparison to the sightseeing or recreational activities.”

[...]

As part of its remedial efforts, SciClone conducted a detailed, comprehensive internal review of promotion expenses of employees … This review found high exception rates indicating violations of corporate policy that ranged from fake fapiao, inconsistent amounts or dates with fapiao, excessive gift or meal amounts, unverified events, doctored honoraria agreements, and duplicative meetings.”

Professional Fees and Expenses

Even though SciClone, in its March 2015 annual report, disclosed for the FY ended December 31, 2013 “$5.3 million related to legal matters associated with the ongoing government investigation and our ongoing improvements to our FCPA compliance efforts,” the company’s other disclosures over its long period of FCPA scrutiny lack specifics regarding pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.

Nevertheless, it is a safe assumption that the aggregate of such fees and expenses exceeded the $12.8 million settlement amount. Add to this SciClone’s post-enforcement action reporting obligations and the biggest “winner” of SciClone’s FCPA journey would appear to be the law firm representing SciClone.

Other Ripples

FCPA Professor has followed SciClone’s FCPA scrutiny since day one in August 2010 (see here).

As chronicled on FCPA Professor, the biggest storyline was how SciClone’s disclosure of the SEC subpoena triggered a nearly 40% drop in the company stock price, resulting in an absolute feeding frenzy of plaintiff lawyers filing FCPA-related civil claims. (See here and here).

Indeed, SciClone’s FCPA scrutiny is prominently featured in the article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples“ which highlights 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 in this new era.

Nevertheless, savvy investors know that FCPA-induced dips often present buying opportunities and SciClone’s stock closed last Friday (the first day of trading after announcement of the FCPA enforcement action) up 8% and substantially higher compared to its August 2010 close (recognizing of course that a number of factors can influence a company’s stock price over the course of nearly 6 years).

For Your Viewing Pleasure

In this 2014 video, SciClone’s CEO talks about the company’s FCPA scrutiny and, more generally, compliance.

Like A Kid In The Candy Store

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Kid in Candy StoreLike every year around this time, I feel like a kid in a candy store given the number of FCPA year in reviews hitting my inbox.  This post highlights various FCPA or related publications that caught my eye.

Reading the below publications is recommended and should find their way to your reading stack.

However, be warned.  The divergent enforcement statistics contained in them (a result of various creative counting methods) are likely to make you dizzy at times and as to certain issues. There will be more on this issue in the near future.

Shearman & Sterling

The firm’s Recent Trends and Patterns in FCPA Enforcement is among the best year-after-year.

Content that caught my eye:

“It is … noteworthy that the DOJ’s and SEC’s prioritization of individual prosecutions comes as enforcement agencies continue to struggle while pursuing FCPA charges against individual defendants. Setbacks in United States v. Sigelman and United States v. Firtash may cause the Department to rethink its strategy. Indeed, while the DOJ has had some success extracting plea agreements, when put to its burden of proof the DOJ (and the SEC for that matter) has experienced difficulty in securing convictions and judgments. Given these struggles, it is possible that future individual defendants may be emboldened to test their chances against the government in court, potentially requiring the DOJ to devote even more resources to trying these individuals. While the DOJ and SEC have made it a clear priority to prosecute individuals for violations of the FCPA, the risk-reward calculations that prosecutors must consider before bringing charges could be altered going forward.”

[For more on this general topic, see “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses is Acceptable?“]

[...]

“[Regarding so-called declinations] we note however, in the cases of Eli Lilly, Goodyear, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Hyperdynamics, and Bristol-Myers, the DOJ’s declination decision might also be explained by a possible lack of jurisdiction. Specifically, in each of the cases above, where all of the illicit conduct was committed by subsidiaries of the parent company, the DOJ may have concluded it was too difficult to prove that the subsidiaries’ conduct should be imputed on the corporate parent—bearing in mind that the DOJ has a higher burden of proof to sustain criminal FCPA charges against a company.”

[...]

“The DOJ’s 2015 prosecution of Daren Condrey in United States v. Condrey raises some questions as to whether government prosecutors are remaining faithful to the government instrumentality test set out in the Eleventh Circuit’s 2014 decision in United States v. Esquenazi.”

[For more on this topic, see this prior post]

[...]

“[Regarding the 2015 BNY Mellon "internship" enforcement action] [T]he government’s approach is bad policy. For better or worse, some of the most educated and most qualified potential hires in many countries are the children of government officials—individuals who benefited from their parents’ privileges and had the opportunity to attend prestigious schools, learn foreign languages, etc. If the government infers an intent to apply corrupt influence from the potential hire’s relationship to government officials, it is likely to chill hiring of such individuals, resulting in a completely unnecessary disadvantage to U.S. and other companies covered by the FCPA.”

Debevoise & Plimpton

The firm’s FCPA Update is the best monthly read there is and the most recent edition states:

“Even adding in amounts agreed or ordered to be recovered from individuals in FCPA cases, last year was by any objective measure one of more muted FCPA enforcement. Various theories can be advanced to explain these figures.

One, and probably the most plausible, is that, in a system of FCPA enforcement against companies that almost never ends in a trial, corporate resolutions require companies’ consent. It was only a matter of time for there to be a dry spell of large corporate resolutions. Thus, there were no large settlements last year because of the mundane fact that none of the larger cases in the pipeline was ready to be settled. Because of potential negotiation delays of various kinds in cases in the pipeline, it is conceivable if not likely there will be large settlements in 2016, which may dampen urges to downplay enforcement risk.

Still, a theory warranting consideration is that more companies subject to the FCPA are “getting it,” the possibility being that after a decade of vigorous enforcement the number of big cases that could be brought is markedly decreased. That the number of FCPA-related investigations reported by public companies declined by about 20 percent, year over year, arguably supports this theory.

But negating this theory is the large number of new foreign corruption matters reported daily in the media, and the kinds of political upheaval and developments in technology, social media culture, whistle-blowing, and transparency movements that drive anti-bribery enforcement. Given the broad jurisdictional reach of the FCPA (particularly as construed by the DOJ and SEC), a large percentage of the new cases reported in the media could well subject companies and individuals alike to future FCPA enforcement risks. These risks are magnified by a growing level of cross-border cooperation among anti-bribery enforcement agencies.

And as the Obama Administration heads into its final year, with a new Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division now settled into their roles, the likelihood of increased enforcement seems relatively high.”

Gibson Dunn

The firm’s Year-End FCPA Update is also a quality read year after year.

Gibson Dunn also released (here) its always informative “Year-End Update on Corporate Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs).”

It begins as follows.

“2015 was a blockbuster year in corporate non-prosecution agreements (“NPA”) and deferred prosecution agreements (“DPA”), by sheer numbers alone.  Skyrocketing to 100 [87 NPAs and 13 DPAs], in 2015 the number of agreements more than doubled the numbers in every prior year since 2000 , when Gibson Dunn first began tracking NPA and DPA data.”

Davis Polk

The firm’s Trends in Anti-Corruption Enforcement is here. A visual FCPA Resolution Tracker is here.

Jenner Block

The firm’s Business Guide to Anti-Corruption Laws 2016 is here.

Hogan Lovells

The firm’s Global Bribery and Corruption Review is here.

Arnold & Porter

The firms Global Anti-Corruption Insights is here.

The “Foreign Officials” Of 2015

Friday, January 8th, 2016

foreign official2A “foreign official.”

Without one, there can be no FCPA anti-bribery violation (civil or criminal).  Who were the alleged “foreign officials” of 2015?

This post highlights the alleged “foreign officials” from 2015 corporate DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions.

There were 11 core corporate enforcement actions in 2015.

Of the 11 enforcement actions 6 (55%) explicitly involved, in whole or in part, employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled entities (“SOEs). These entities ranged from health care providers, to sovereign wealth funds, to a real estate development firm, a sugar factory, a cement company, a diamond mine, and an oil and gas company.

By way of comparison, in 2014 60% of corporate enforcement actions involved, in whole or in part, employees of alleged SOEs (see here). In 2013, 55% of corporate enforcement actions involved, in whole or in part, employees of alleged SOEs (see here). In 2012, 42% of corporate enforcement actions involved, in whole or in part, employees of alleged SOEs (see here at pages 348-353).  In 2011, 81% of corporate enforcement actions involved, in whole or in part, employees of alleged SOEs (see here at pages 29-41).  In 2010, 60% of corporate FCPA enforcement actions involved, in whole or in part, employees of alleged SOEs (see here at pages 108-119).  In 2009, 66% of corporate FCPA enforcement actions involved, in whole or in part, employees of alleged SOEs (see here at pages 410-44).

In 2014, in an issue of first impression for an appellate court, the 11th Circuit set forth a control and function test for whether an alleged SOE can be “instrumentality” under the FCPA such that its employees are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.  As highlighted here and more extensively in my Supreme Court amicus brief supporting the cert petition, there were many flaws in the 11th Circuit’s reasoning.  The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.  As to whether Congress intended employees of SOEs to be “foreign officials” under the FCPA, see here for my “foreign official” declaration.

The remainder of this post describes (as per DOJ/SEC allegations) the “foreign officials” of 2015.  As is apparent from the descriptions below, in certain instances the enforcement agencies describe the “foreign official” with reasonable specificity; in other instances with virtually no specificity.

[Note:  certain of the enforcement actions below technically only involved FCPA books and records and internal control charges or findings.  As most readers know, actual charges in many FCPA enforcement actions hinge on voluntary disclosure, cooperation, collateral consequences, and other non-legal issues.  Thus, even if an FCPA enforcement action is resolved without FCPA anti-bribery charges, most such actions remain very much about the "foreign officials" involved - a fact evident when reading the actual enforcement action].

PBSJ

SEC

Employees of Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company (“Qatari Diar”). Qatari Diar was established by the Qatari government to coordinate the country’s real estate development.

Goodyear

SEC

Employees of Kenyan government-owned or affiliated entities including including the Kenya Ports Authority, the Armed Forces Canteen Organization, the Nzoia Sugar Company, the Kenyan Air Force, the Ministry of Roads, the Ministry of State for Defense, the East African Portland Cement Co., and Telkom Kenya Ltd.

Employees of government-owned or affiliated entities in Angola, including the Catoca Diamond Mine, UNICARGAS, Engevia Construction and Public Works, the Electric Company of Luanda, National Service of Alfadega, and Sonangol.

IAP Worldwide

DOJ

Individual(s) at the Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior

BHP Billiton

SEC

Government officials and employees of state-owned enterprises to attend the Olympics at the company’s expense. The majority of these invitations were extended to government officials from countries in Africa and Asia that had well-known histories of corruption.

FLIR Systems

SEC

Individuals with the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Interior. Individuals from the Egyptian Ministry of Defense

Louis Berger

DOJ

Various foreign officials in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Kuwait.

Hyperdynamics

SEC

Payments by company subsidiaries in the Republic of Guinea for purported public relations and lobbying expenses, even though the company lacked sufficient supporting documentation to determine whether the services were actually provided and to identify the ultimate recipient of the funds.

Hitachi

SEC

Various payments to Chancellor House Holdings (Pty) Ltd. (“Chancellor”), a local South African company that was a front for the African National Congress (“ANC”), South Africa’s ruling political party

BNY Mellon

SEC

The company provided “valuable student internships to family members of foreign government officials affiliated with a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund.”

Mead-Johnson

SEC

Certain health care professionals at state-owned hospitals in China

Bristol-Myers Squibb

SEC

Various health care providers at state-owned and state-controlled hospitals in China

In The TPP, The U.S. Government Acknowledges The Commercial Aspects Of SOEs

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

acknowledgeThe U.S. government’s position on state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (SOEs) is amusing to say the least.

Is it too much to expect a uniform, consistent, and principled position from the U.S. government?

For instance, in the “foreign official” challenges (Carson, O’Shea, and Esquenazi / Rodriguez) the DOJ pledged allegiance to the OECD Convention and argued that the OECD Convention compelled a meaning of “foreign official” that included employees of SOEs.

As highlighted in my Supreme Court amicus brief filed in connection with the Esquenazi / Rodriguez cert petition, there were a number of problems with the DOJ’s position. Separately, the DOJ’s position was selective because it ignored OECD Convention commentary 15 which states:

“An official of a public enterprise shall be deemed to perform a public function unless the enterprise operates on a normal commercial basis in the relevant market, i.e., on a basis which is substantially equivalent to that of a private enterprise, without preferential subsidies or other privileges.” (emphasis added).

The recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement has an entire chapter (Chapter 17) devoted to SOEs which rightly recognizes the commercial nature of most SOEs.

The chapter defines SOEs as follows.

state-owned enterprise means an enterprise:

(a) that is principally engaged in commercial activities; and

(b) in which a Party:

(i) directly owns more than 50 percent of the share capital;

(ii) controls, through ownership interests, the exercise of more than 50 percent of the voting rights; or

(iii) holds the power to appoint a majority of members of the board of directors or any other equivalent management body.

commercial activities means activities which an enterprise undertakes with an orientation toward profit-making and which result in the production of a good or supply of a service that will be sold to a consumer in the relevant market in quantities and at prices determined by the enterprise.

This chapter summary notes:

“[This] chapter provides broad coverage of SOEs that are principally engaged in commercial activity.”

[...]

“The SOE chapter includes commitments by TPP Parties to ensure that their SOEs make commercial purchases and sales on the basis of commercial considerations, except when doing so would be inconsistent with any mandate under which an SOE is operating that would require it to provide public services.”

[...]

“Whereas in 2000, there was only one SOE in the Fortune Global 50 list of the largest companies in the world, now there are close to a dozen.”

[...]

“SOEs exist in all TPP countries, are used for different purposes, and are regulated and managed in widely varying ways. Some SOEs provide public services, but other times, extensive government participation in economies through SOEs can distort competition to the detriment of private American firms and their workers. This can occur through SOEs that receive advantages from governments, such as preferential financing, including through State-owned banks; provision of goods or services from the government or from other SOEs at preferential prices or free of charge; direct subsidies and debt forgiveness, or other preferences. These preferences can tilt the playing field in favor of SOEs and against U.S. workers and businesses. Even where enforcement against SOEs in foreign markets has been pursued for anti-competitive behavior or other unlawful behavior, commercial SOEs have avoided prosecution by claiming sovereign immunity.”

“Concerns about the role of SOEs have grown in recent years because SOEs that had previously operated almost exclusively within their own territories are increasingly engaged in international trade of goods and services or acting as investors in foreign markets.”

The TPP And Corruption

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

TPPTrade barriers and distortions are often the root causes of bribery.

This has long been recognized, including by Congress in the mid-1970′s when it was considering various legislative approaches to the s0-called foreign corporate payments problem.

As highlighted in “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” in November 1975 Senate Resolution 265 passed 93-0 and called for executive branch agencies to pursue remedies to the corporate payments problem within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

At the same time, Congress realized that multilateral trade agreement were “largely hortatory in nature and do not include reliable enforcement machinery or sanctions for violators” and that the then-existing trade discussions already included “a large number of complex and difficult negotiating objectives” and that it was not in the U.S. interest “to add yet another major problem” into the trade discussions.

Nevertheless, trade barriers and distortions remain a frequent root cause of bribery.

A long-awaited developed occurred in the trade space last week as the Obama administration released the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. As highlighted here:

“The TPP would arguably be the largest free trade agreement in history when considering the economies of the 12 Pacific Rim member countries, covering approximately 40% of the global economy. The agreement must now be individually approved by each of the 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.”

The TPP is massive document and its potential to reduce trade barriers and distortions is country specific and indeed industry specific.

If the TPP does indeed reduce trade barriers and distortions, then it can help reduce the root causes of bribery and the reason is fairly straight-forward.

  • Trade barriers and distortions create bureaucracy.
  • Bureaucracy creates points of contact with foreign officials.
  • Points of contact with foreign officials create discretion.
  • Discretion creates the opportunity for a foreign official to misuse their position by making bribe demands.

While the potential of the TPP to reduce trade barriers and distortions is found deep within the country and industry specific information in the document, the TPP does contain an “aspirational” chapter (Chapter 26) devoted specifically to anti-corruption.

As highlighted in this U.S. government summary:

“The chapter ensures that U.S. exporters, service suppliers, investors, and other interested stakeholders in TPP have ready access to information about the laws, regulations, and other rules affecting trade or investment in TPP markets; guarantees due process rights; commits TPP Parties to have and enforce anti-bribery laws; and promotes rules against conflicts of interest in government. The chapter guarantees the full rights of governments to regulate for public health, environmental quality, and other public-policy goals.”

“The [chapter] requires TPP Parties to ensure that, to the extent possible, their laws, regulations, and administrative rulings related to any matters covered by the TPP Agreement are publicly available and that regulations are subject to notice and comment.”

Similar to the OECD Convention, the summary document highlights the following “aspirational” portion of the TPP.

“Each TPP Party commits to adopt or maintain laws that criminalize the offering of an undue advantage to a public official (or the solicitation of such an advantage by a public official), as well as other acts of corruption in matters affecting international trade or investment. Parties also commit to effectively enforce their anticorruption laws and regulations.”

One final note regarding the TPP anti-corruption chapter.

Unlike the FCPA’s definition of “foreign official” which is silent as to state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (SOEs) – as highlighted here competing bills introduced in Congress, but rejected by Congress, did contain explicit reference to SOEs – the TPP has no problem in explicitly capturing SOEs in its definition of “foreign public official” which includes “any person exercising a public function for a foreign country, at any level of government, including for a public agency or public enterprise.”