Archive for the ‘Foreign Official’ Category

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.

The “Foreign Officials” Of 2014

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

foreign official2A “foreign official.”

Without one, there can be no FCPA anti-bribery violation (civil or criminal).  Who were the alleged “foreign officials” of 2014?

This post, describes the alleged “foreign officials” from 2014 corporate DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions.

There were 10 core corporate enforcement actions in 2014.  Of the 10 enforcement actions, 6 (60%) involved, in whole or in part, employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled entities (“SOEs”).  These entities ranged from power and electric companies, hospitals and labs, an oil and gas company, and an aluminium smelter.

By way of comparison, 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 2014.  As is apparent from the specific 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.  As most readers know, actual charges in most 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, the actions remain very much about the "foreign officials" involved.]

Alstom Entities

DOJ

Individuals associated with Indonesia’s alleged state-owned and state-controlled electricity company, Perusahaan Listrik Negara (“PLN”).  The alleged “foreign officials” are described as follows.

“Official 1 … a member of Parliament in Indonesia [who] had influence over the award of contracts by PLN, including on the Tarahan Project”

“Official 2 … a high-ranking official at PLN [who] had broad decision-making authority and influence over the award of contracts by PLN, including on the Tarahan Project”

“Official 3 … an official at PLN [who] was a high-ranking member of the evaluation committee for the Tarahan Project. Official 3 had broad decision-making authority and influence over the award of the Tarahan contract.”

Individuals associated with Saudi Electric Company (“SEC”), Saudi Arabia’s alleged state-owned and state-controlled electricity company.

Individuals assocaited with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company, the alleged state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt. Individuals associated with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company, the alleged state-owned and state-controlled electricity transmission company. Asem Elgawhart (an employee of Bechtel Corporation a U.S. company) who was assigned by Bechtel to be the General Manager of Power Generation Engineering and Services Company (PGESCo), a joint venture between Bechtel and the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company.

Individuals associated with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, the alleged state-owned and state-controlled power company.

Individuals associated with Taipei’s Department of Rapid Transit System.

Avon Entities

DOJ

Government officials in China including officials from the Guandong Food and Drug Administration.

SEC

Same as above.

Various Chinese government officials, including government officials responsible for awarding a test license, and subsequently a direct sales business license, that would allow a company to utilize direct door-to-door selling in China. Certain of the Chinese “foreign officials” are alleged to be individuals associated with the Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Dallas Airmotive

DOJ

Official 1 (a Sub-Officer in the Brazilian Air Force – BAF), Official 2 (a Sergeant in the BAF), Official 3 (a Captain for the Governor of the Brazilian state of Roraima).

Officials of the Peruvian Air Force and the office of the Governor of the Argentinean State of San Juan.

Bio-Rad

DOJ

Individuals associated with government customers in Russia, including the Russian Ministry of Health

SEC

Same as above.

Officials at government-owned hospitals and laboratories in Vietnam.

Government officials in Thailand.

Bruker

SEC

Individuals employed by state owned entities (“SOEs”) in China.

Layne Christensen

SEC

Tax officials in Mali, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Customs officials in Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Police, border patrol, immigration officials, and labor inspectors in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Smith & Wesson

SEC

Pakistani police officials.

Indonesian police officials.

Attempts to make improper payments to Turkish police and Turkish military officials, as well as foreign officials in Nepal and Bangladesh.

HP Entities

DOJ

Individuals associated with the Russian Office of the Prosecutor General of Russia (“GPO” or “GP”).  As alleged, the Russian government used a state-owned entity organized under the Department of Affairs of the President of the Russian Federation, to manage the GPO project tender and execution. “Russian Official A,” a director of a Russian government agency who assumed responsibility for the GPO Project as well as “Individual A,” an associate of Russian Official A.

A Polish Official (the Director of Information and Communications Technology within the Polish National Police Agency (“KGP”) which was part of the Polish Ministry of the Interior and Administration.

Individuals associated with Pemex, Mexico’s alleged state-owned petroleum company.  Official A is described as Pemex’s Chief Operating Officer and Official B is described as Pemex’s Chief Information Officer.

SEC

Same as above.

Marubeni

DOJ

Individuals associated with Indonesia’s alleged state-owned and state-controlled electricity company, Perusahaan Listrik Negara (“PLN”).  The alleged “foreign officials” are described as follows.

“Official 1 … a member of Parliament in Indonesia [who] had influence over the award of contracts by PLN, including on the Tarahan Project”

“Official 2 … a high-ranking official at PLN [who] had broad decision-making authority and influence over the award of contracts by PLN, including on the Tarahan Project”

“Official 3 … an official at PLN [who] was a high-ranking member of the evaluation committee for the Tarahan Project. Official 3 had broad decision-making authority and influence over the award of the Tarahan contract.”

Alcoa

DOJ

Individuals associated with Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (Alba), an aluminium smelter operating in Bahrain.  Alba is described as follows.

“The state holding company of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Mumtalakat, which was controlled by the Ministry of Finance, held 77% of the shares of Alba.  The Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), which was majority-owned and controlled by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, held a 20 percent minority stake in Alba, and three percent of Alba’s shares were held by a German investment group.  The majority of profits earned by Alba belonged to the Mumtalakat, through part of the profit was permitted to be used by Alba for its operations.  The Ministry of Finance had to approve any change in Alba’s capital structure and had to be consulted on any major capital projects or contracts material to Alba’s operations.  Members of the Royal Family of Bahrain and representatives of the government sat on the Board of Directors of Alba, controlled its board, and had primary authority in selecting its chief executive and chief financial officer.”

The alleged “foreign officials” are described as follows.

“Official A was a member of Bahrain’s Royal Family and served as a member of the board of directors of Alba from 1982 to 1997.  From 1988 to 1990, Official A was also a member of Alba’s tender committee, which was responsible in part for awarding major contracts to Alba’s suppliers, such as Alcoa entities supplying alumina to Alba.”

“Official B served on Alba’s board from at least 1986 to 2000 as a representative of SABIC.  From 1988 to 1990, Official B also served on Alba’s tender committee with Official A.”

“Official C was a senior member of Bahrain’s Royal Family, a senior government official of Bahrain from at least 1995 to 2005, and served as a high-ranking officer of Alba from 1995 to 2005.  As a high-ranking officer of Alba, Official C was extremely influential over the assignment of contracts to Alba’s suppliers.  Official C relied on Consultant A to assist him in opening international bank accounts using various aliases or shell entities for the purpose of receiving corrupt funds from kickbacks from Alba’s suppliers.”

“Official D was a senior member of Bahrain’s Royal Family and a senior government official of Bahrain for many decades.  Official C was a close associate of Official D.  Official D’s office was required to be consulted before Alba could commit to a long term alumina supply contract with Alcoa.”

SEC

Same as above.

Issues To Consider From The Alstom Action

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

IssuesThis recent post dived deep into the Alstom FCPA enforcement action.

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

 

A Real Head-Scratcher

Alstom entities engaged in conduct in violation of the FCPA.  This is clear from the DOJ’s allegations and consistent with DOJ enforcement theories.  Yet, if the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program is to be viewed as legitimate and credible, the charged conduct must fit (for lack of a better term) the crime.

The charges against Alstom S.A. are a real head-scratcher.

The conventional wisdom for why the Alstom action involved only a DOJ (and not SEC) component is that Alstom ceased being an issuer in 2004 (in other words 10 years prior to the enforcement action).

Yet, the actual criminal charges Alstom pleaded guilty to – violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions –  were based on Alstom’s status as an issuer (as only issuers are subject to these substantive provisions).

In other words, Alstom pleaded guilty to substantive legal provisions in 2014 that last applied to the company in 2004.

This free-for-all, anything goes, as long as the enforcement agencies collect the money nature of FCPA enforcement undermines the legitimacy and credibility of FCPA enforcement.

Enforcement Action Origins

What were the origins of the Alstom enforcement action?

It appears to be a 2011 Swiss enforcement action that began in October 2007.  (See here, here and here).

Indeed, in briefing in an individual enforcement action (Lawrence Hoskins) connected to the Alstom Indonesia conduct, the DOJ stated:

“When the Government began investigating this case, it sought evidence from various countries including Switzerland [...].  The Government obtained orders pursuant to 18 USC 3292, tolling the statute of limitations in this case for the shorter of three years or the time it took to receive the evidence sought.  The first request, to Switzerland, was transmitted on September 22, 2010, and the tolling order reflects tolling beginning on that date.  Switzerland provided responses to the request on December 23, 2013.”

In the Swiss action, “Alstom Network Schweiz AG … was fined CHF2.5 million for negligence in implementing proper controls to prevent bribery by company officials in Latvia, Tunisia and Malaysia, and it was ordered to pay an additional CHF36 million for profits connected to the negligence.”

The foreign law enforcement origins of the Alstom action are typical of other enforcement actions in the Top Ten List of FCPA settlements (Siemens and the Bonny Island, Nigeria enforcement actions – KBR/Halliburton, Snamprogetti/ENI, Technip, and JGC Corp).

No Monitor

On one level, it seems odd that the Alstom enforcement action did not involve a corporate monitor as a condition of settlement. After all, the $772 million enforcement action was the largest DOJ FCPA enforcement action of all-time and per the DOJ “Alstom’s corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents. It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences.”

However, the resolution documents note “that Alstom is already subject to monitoring requirements pursuant to a February 2012 World Bank Resolution.” (See here).  As stated in the DOJ resolution documents: “in the event that the Integrity Compliance Office [of the World Bank] does not certify that the Company has satisfied the monitoring requirements contained in the World Bank Resolution, the Company shall be required to retain an Independent Compliance Monitor.”

Moreover, the vast majority of the alleged improper conduct in the DOJ enforcement action resided in business units that will soon be part of General Electric in 2015.  Thus, to impose a monitor on Alstom would, in effect, have been to impose a monitor on General Electric.

Third Party Red Flags

Most FCPA enforcement actions result from the conduct of third parties and ineffective corporate controls over third parties.

In this regard, the following paragraph from the Alstom enforcement is a dandy regarding third party red flags.

“A number of consultants that Alstom hired raised a number of “red flags” under Alstom’s own internal policies.  Certain consultants proposed for retention had no expertise or experience in the industry sector in which Alstom was attempting to secure or execute the project.  Other consultants were located in a country different than the project country.  At other times, the consultants asked to be paid in a currency or in a bank account located in a country different than where the consultant and the project were located.  In multiple instances, more than one consultant was retained on the same project, ostensibly to perform the very same services.  Despite, these “red flags,” the consultants were nevertheless retained without meaningful scrutiny.”

FCPA enforcement actions of course are no laughing matter, but the following specific allegations sort of make one chuckle.

“Alstom did not perform any due diligence on the consultant even though the consultant had no knowledge about, or experience in, the power industry.  Rather, the information alleges, the consultant “sold furniture and leather products, and exported chemical products and spare parts.”

“An Alstom entity formally retained a consultant on a [rapid transit] project even thought the consultant did not have the requisite expertise in the transport sector.  According to the information, the consultant’s expertise was as a “wholesaler of cigarettes, wines and pianos.”

More Information Needed As to Lack of Cooperation

Repeatedly in the resolution documents, the DOJ states that Alstom did not “cooperate.”

“The Defendant initially failed to cooperate with the Department’s investigation, responding only to the Department’s subpoenas to the Defendant’s subsidiaries.  Approximately one year into the investigation, the Defendant provided limited cooperation, but still did not fully cooperate with the Department’s investigation.”

“The Company and its parent initially failed to cooperate with the Department’s investigation, responding only to the Department’s subpoena.  Approximately one year into the investigation, the Company and its parent provided limited cooperation, but still did not fully cooperate with the Department’s investigation.”

Likewise, at the DOJ press conference, Assistant Attorney General Caldwell stated:

“The guilty pleas and resolutions announced today also highlight what can happen when corporations refuse to disclose wrongdoing and refuse to cooperate with the department’s efforts to identify and prosecute culpable individuals.”

[...]

“Alstom did not voluntarily disclose the misconduct to law enforcement authorities, and Alstom refused to cooperate in a meaningful way during the first several years of the investigation.”

If the DOJ wants its cooperation message to be fully absorbed by the corporate community, the DOJ should have been more specific about Alstom’s lack of “cooperation.”

Moreover, if “responding only to the DOJ’s subpoena” is considered lack of cooperation by the DOJ, this is troubling.  (See here for the prior post “Does DOJ Expect FCPA Counsel to Role Over and Play Dead?”).

A “Foreign Official” Stretch?

It was a relatively minor allegation in the context of the overall Alstom enforcement action, but one which caught my eye because of its extraordinarily broad implication.

As highlighted in this previous post, Asem Elgawhart was employed by Bechtel Corporation (a U.S. company) and was assigned by Bechtel to be the General Manager of Power Generation Engineering and Services Company (PGESCo), a joint venture between Bechtel and Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (the alleged “state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt”). According to the DOJ, Elgawhart “used his position and authority as the General Manager of a power generation company to solicit and obtain millions of dollars of kickbacks for his personal benefit from U.S. and foreign power companies that were attempting to secure lucrative contracts to perform power-related services.” “In total,” the DOJ alleged, “Elgawhart received more than $5 million in kickbacks to help secure more than $2 billion in contracts for the kickback-paying companies, all of which he concealed from his employer, from bidding companies that did not pay kickbacks and from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.” Based on these allegations, and as indicated in this DOJ release, Elgawhart was charged in a 8-count indictment with mail and wire fraud, money laundering and various tax offenses.

In the Alstom enforcement action, PGESCo and Elgawhart are described as follows:

As to Egypt, the information concerns bidding on various projects with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (“EEHC”), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt.  According to the information, “EEHC was not itself responsible for conducting the bidding [on projects], and instead relied on Power Generation Engineering & Services Co. (“PGESCo”), which was controlled by an acted on behalf of EEHC.”

PGESCo was controlled by and acted on behalf of EEHC. PGESCo worked “for or on behalf of’ EEHC, within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-l (f)( 1) [the FCPA's "foreign official" definition].

According to the DOJ, Alstom used a consultant whose primary purpose “was not to provide legitimate consulting services to Alstom and its subsidiaries but was instead to make payments to Egyptian officials, including Asem Elgawhary who oversaw the bidding process.”

In short, in the Alstom action the DOJ alleged that Elgawhary, a Bechtel Corporation employee, was an Egyptian “foreign official.” This is an extraordinarily broad “foreign official” interpretation with implications for any person (privately employed) working on foreign projects with participation by a foreign government department, agency or instrumentality.

Rhetoric Undermined

As highlighted in this post, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell recently defended the DOJ’s frequent use of NPAs and DPAs by stating that the DOJ is able to achieve through such negotiated settlements reforms, compliance controls, and all sorts of behavioral change compared to what it could achieve without use of NPAs and DPAs.

As highlighted in the prior post, the notion that the DOJ is powerless to effect corporate change through old-fashion law enforcement (that is enforcing the FCPA without use of NPAs and DPAs) is plainly false.

Indeed, the Alstom and Alstom Network Schweiz AG plea agreements contain substantively the same corporate compliance program and reporting obligations as the Alstom Power and Alstom Grid DPAs.

False Certification

A likely overlooked allegation in the Alstom enforcement action concerns bidding on various grid projects with alleged state-owned and state-controlled entities in Egypt. According to the charging documents, certain of these projects were “funded, at least in part, by the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”)” and “an Alstom entity “repeatedly submitted false certifications to USAID in connection with these projects, and did not disclose that consultants were being used, that commissions were being paid, or that unlawful payments were being made.”

These allegations are similar to DOJ allegations in the BAE enforcement action (an enforcement action that alleged conduct that could have served as the basis for FCPA violations, but resulted in no actual FCPA charges).  As noted in this previous post, in the BAE action, the DOJ “filed a criminal charge against BAE Systems charging that the multinational defense contractor conspired to impede the lawful functions of the Departments of Defense and State, made false statements to the Departments of Defense and Justice about establishing an effective anti-corruption compliance program to ensure conformance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and paid hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed commission payments in violation of U.S. export control laws.”

How to Count FCPA Enforcement Actions

It is a basic issue:  how to count FCPA enforcement actions.

I use the “core” approach to counting FCPA enforcement actions (see here), an approach endorsed by the DOJ, but many in FCPA Inc. use various different creative counting methods that significantly distort FCPA enforcement statistics (see here).

Pursuant to the “core” approach, the Alstom action was one core enforcement action even though it involved the following components all based, in whole or in part, on the same core conduct.

  • Alstom S.A.
  • Alstom Network Schweiz AG
  • Alstom Power Inc.
  • Alstom Grid Inc.
  • Individual enforcement actions against Frederic Pierucci, David Rothschild, William Pomponi, and Lawrence Hoskins.

Counting the above as 8 FCPA enforcement actions instead of 1 core action highly distorts FCPA enforcement statistics and impacts the denominator of just about any FCPA enforcement statistic imaginable.

With several 2014 FCPA Year in Reviews to be published in January, one needs to be cognizant of these creative counting methods.