Archive for the ‘Goldman Sachs’ Category

The U.S. Government Bears Some Responsibility

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

The U.S. government bears some responsibility when it comes to certain circumstances that result in FCPA scrutiny.  While some are likely to view this as a controversial statement or being a corporate apologist, this basic fact has always been relevant to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

As highlighted in this prior post, one of the more insightful things found in the FCPA’s extensive legislative history is an October 1975 article by Milton Gwirtzman published by the New York Times Magazine.  At this point in time, Congress was in the midst of its investigations into the so-called foreign corporate payments problem and Gwirtzman noted:

“If corporate bribery abroad has offended the post-Watergate morality, the companies implicated have nevertheless taken a greater share of the blame than they deserve.  [...]  The responsibility for present practices must also be shared by our Government,  which not only encouraged investment in countries whose ethical standards differ  from ours, but also in many respects set the pattern for the graft under censure today.  [...]  The rapid acceleration of American private investment in foreign lands, which began in the mid-nineteen-sixties, was seen by our foreign policy makers as a welcome opportunity.  If U.S. firms could build a nation’s infrastructure, supply its consumer goods and hire a portion of its workers, the greater the likelihood the nation would be bound to ours by the safest and strongest of ties, economic self-interest.  As a result, our Government wrote the foreign investment laws of several developing countries and urged our multinationals to make use of them.  New programs were established to insure foreign investment against the risks of war and expropriation.  Embassy personnel were ordered to scout out export possibilities for American firms, which were published in Commerce Business Daily, the Government’s daily list of business opportunities.”

Gwirtzman then stated as follows.  “For all these reasons, it would be unwise, as well as unfair, simply to write off bribery abroad to corporate lust.  It is a symbol of far deeper issues that really involve America’s role in the world.”

In 2004, the U.S. government lifted various sanctions against Libya after Moammar Kadafi agreed to abandon a nuclear weapons program.  The White House encouraged “Libya’s reintegration with the global market” and a White House statement read:  “U.S. companies will be able to buy or invest in Libyan oil and products. U.S. commercial banks and other financial service providers will be able to participate in and support these transactions.”

The front-page article earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal read “Probe Widens Into Dealings Between Finance Firms, Libya.”  The article states, in pertinent part:

“The Justice Department has joined a widening investigation of banks, private-equity firms and hedge funds that may have violated antibribery laws in their dealings with Libya’s government-run investment fund, people familiar with the matter said. The criminal investigation, which has intensified in recent months, is proceeding alongside a civil probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission that began in 2011 and initially honed in on Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The Justice Department’s involvement hasn’t been reported previously. In addition to Goldman Sachs, federal investigators are examining Credit Suisse Group AG , J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Société Générale SA, private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP and hedge-fund operator Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, these people said. Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the SEC declined to comment.  Authorities are examining investment deals made around the time of the financial crisis and afterward, these people said. In the years leading up to Libya’s 2011 revolution, Western firms—encouraged by the U.S. government—raced to attract investment money from the North African nation, which was benefiting from oil sales and recently had opened to foreign investment. Investigators are trying to determine whether the firms violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the people said.

[…]

The U.S. lifted sanctions against Libya in 2004 in return for the country’s dismantling of its nuclear-weapons program. By 2008, as the financial crisis set in, Western firms were jockeying for business there. That year, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Libya and met with Col. Gadhafi in part to improve the investment climate there for U.S. companies, she said at the time. The government advised companies on investing in Libya, and U.S. executives went there on a government-sponsored trade mission in 2010.”

Whether its leading trade missions, providing export financing or provide support through diplomatic channels, in certain instances the U.S. government encourages companies (for foreign policy and other strategic interests) to go to the edge of the cliff.  As the passage of time occasionally shows, when the footing on the cliff becomes a bit loose, and the market participants fall over the edge, other segments of the U.S. government then launch a criminal inquiry seeking to discover why.

As I told a Foreign Policy reporter earlier this week in connection with the recent news:

“There is an irony of course in the U.S. government encouraging companies to do business in certain countries because it serves U.S. interests.  Then when the company does business in that country and encounters business conditions that the U.S. government no doubt knew it was going to encounter, the company then becomes the subject of a U.S. law enforcement inquiry.”

As so it goes.

If not before, I predict I will write about this issue again in the next few years when the DOJ and SEC launch an FCPA inquiry of various companies doing business in Myanmar.  In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. government recently eased various restrictions relevant to doing business in that country and is actively encouraging companies to toe the cliff.

Friday Roundup

Friday, January 31st, 2014

What others are saying, more candy, seriously out-of-whack, not first hand, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

What Others Are Saying

Last week, I published this article “Why You Should Be Alarmed By The ADM FCPA Enforcement Action.”  I’ve received a higher than norm amount of feedback – all positive - about the article via e-mail and social media.  Below is what others are saying about the article.

“For many reasons this is a terrific article.  [You are] very brave to write this necessary and timely analysis.”

“Just wanted to say thank you for keeping me updated on your FCPA-related work.  It looks like your 2010 Facade article is still holding up pretty well, despite the DOJ’s “Guidance” from last year.  It will be interesting to see how long the agencies can continue with their relatively unconstrained enforcement practices.”

Thanks for sharing Mike. And don’t change: you are as good as ever!

“Excellent article, Mike!  Readable even by those of us who are not lawyers.  The conclusion about why ADM chose settlement is undoubtedly true of many others who are charged, but leads to a question of the [conduct] of those who are charged to extract “easy takings” rather than have to justify themselves to the SEC or DOJ.  On whose behalf are they acting?”

Also a thank you for the many positive and encouraging comments I’ve received since publishing two posts (here and here) concerning the recent departure of the DOJ’s FCPA Unit Chief.

In other news on that front, White & Case recently announced here that Kathleen Hamann will join the firm as a partner “from the DOJ where she was an anticorruption policy counsel and trial lawyer assigned to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Team in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.”  The head of White & Case’s Global White Collar Practice stated: “Kathleen’s experience at the DOJ gives her a strong understanding of the complexities of the FCPA and the federal government’s anticorruption policies.  Kathleen is a wonderful addition to our global white collar team, and will further strengthen our ability to represent and defend clients around the world in all phases of investigations, and criminal and civil enforcement proceedings.”

More Candy

This previous post “Like a Kid In A Candy Store” highlighted the abundant offerings of FCPA year in reviews this time of year.

There is more candy to digest.

See here for the slick Global Bribery and Corruption Review 2013 from Hogan Lovells.

See here for Mayer Brown’s FCPA Update:  Year-End 2013.

But again, be warned - the divergent enforcement statistics are likely to make you dizzy at times and as to certain issues.  [Given the increase in FCPA Inc. statistical information and the growing interest in empirical FCPA-related research, I again highlight the need for an FCPA lingua franca (see here for the prior post), including adoption of the “core” approach to FCPA enforcement statistics (see here for the prior post), an approach endorsed by even the DOJ (see here), as well as commonly used by others outside the FCPA context (see here)]

Seriously Out-Of-Whack

One could have either of the following positions.

DOJ enforcement of criminal laws is more about leverage against public companies and risk aversion by corporate leaders rather than facts and law.  Therefore, even if a company settles various enforcement actions for approximately $20 billion in a year, it is not surprising that a company’s profits and stock price are up and that the company’s CEO is therefore given a substantial raise.

DOJ enforcement of criminal laws is about facts and law and if a company settles various enforcement actions for approximately $20 billion in a year, it is just not right that the company’s CEO is given a substantial raise.

Regardless of your position (I know where I fall), you would have to agree that things are seriously out-of-whack these days.

See here and here for articles regarding the compensation of James Dimon (CEO of JPMorgan).  As highlighted in the Wall Street Journal article.

“J.P. Morgan Chase’s board delivered a strong endorsement of Chief Executive James Dimon, boosting his pay 74% for a year in which the nation’s largest bank agreed to more than $20 billion in legal payouts …”  [...] The raise reflects the view among the board that most shareholders believe Mr. Dimon is doing a good job protecting the bank’s earnings power and driving the stock price higher despite the high-profile legal settlements, according to people familiar with the board’s conversations. [...] Many large shareholders seem comfortable with the bank’s leadership, too. The company’s stock price rose 33% during 2013, outpacing the 30% increase in the S&P 500 stock index. If not for its billions in legal expenses, J.P. Morgan likely would have earned record profits.  [...]   Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who personally owns an undisclosed number of shares in J.P. Morgan, described Mr. Dimon as a “bargain.” “If I owned J.P. Morgan Chase, he would be running it, and he would be making more money than the directors are paying him,” said Mr. Buffett, who has publicly defended the bank executive before.”

“Not First Hand”

JPMorgan of course is under FCPA scrutiny for its alleged hiring practices in China.  (See here among other posts).

In this video interview, Goldman Sach’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein talks about hiring issues at his company.  As noted in the related article, “asked whether he had seen any hiring that looked like a bribe, Mr. Blankfein paused for a moment” and said “not first hand.”

Reading Stack

From BalkanInsight, an in-depth piece regarding the Magyar Telecom enforcement action (see here for the prior post).

From the Economist regarding Brazil’s new FCPA-like law.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Scrutiny alerts and updates, sunshine, year in review roundups, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

H-P

The company has been under FCPA scrutiny since at least 2010 and recently disclosed, in pertinent part, as follows.

“The U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC have been conducting an investigation into the Russia GPO deal and potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). These U.S. enforcement agencies, as well as the Polish Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, are also conducting investigations into potential FCPA violations by an employee of Hewlett-Packard Polska Sp. z o.o., an indirect subsidiary of HP, in connection with certain public-sector transactions in Poland. In addition, the same U.S. enforcement agencies are conducting investigations into certain other public-sector transactions in Russia, Poland, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Mexico, among other countries.  HP is cooperating with these investigating agencies. In addition, HP is in advanced discussions with the U.S. enforcement agencies to resolve their investigations.”

JPMorgan

The New York Times returned – yet again (see here and here for prior NY Times article) – to JPMorgan’s hiring practices in China.  The article states:

“For Wall Street banks enduring slowdowns in the wake of the financial crisis, China was the last great gold rush. As its economy boomed, China’s state-owned enterprises were using banks to raise billions of dollars in stock and debt offerings — yet JPMorgan was falling further behind in capturing that business.  The solution, the executives decided over email, was to embrace the strategy that seemed to work so well for rivals: hire the children of China’s ruling elite.

[...]

In the months and years that followed, emails and other confidential documents show, JPMorgan escalated what it called its “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, adding scores of well-connected employees and tracking how those hires translated into business deals with the Chinese government. The previously unreported emails and documents — copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times — offer a view into JPMorgan’s motivations for ramping up the hiring program, suggesting that competitive pressures drove many of the bank’s decisions that are now under federal investigation.

The references to other banks in the emails also paint for the first time a broad picture of questionable hiring practices by other Wall Street banks doing business in China — some of them hiring the same employees with family connections. Since opening a bribery investigation into JPMorgan this spring, the authorities have expanded the inquiry to include hiring at other big banks. Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have previously been identified as coming under scrutiny. A sixth bank, UBS, is also facing scrutiny, according to interviews with current and former Wall Street employees.

[...]

The investigation has also had a chilling effect on JPMorgan’s deal-making in China, interviews show. The bank, seeking to build good will with federal authorities, has considered forgoing certain deals in China and abandoned one assignment altogether.”

Once again, the latest NY Times article sparked much commentary.  See here, here and here.

Former Siemens Executives

The Buenos Aires Herald reports:

“Seventeen people, including former managers of the Siemens company, were … accused of paying off officials in order to help win a contract to produce the national identity cards …”.  The decision was made by Federal Judge Ariel Lijo, who decided to indict them for having allegedly committed bribery.”

Regarding the defendants, the article states:

“Twelve people working for Siemens were included in the indictment: Uriel Jonathan Sharef, Ulrich Albert Otto Fritz Bock, Eberhard George Reichert, Luis Rodolfo Schirado, Andrés Ricardo Truppel, Ernst Michael Brechtel, Bernd Regendatz, Ralph Matthias Kleinhempel and José Alberto Ares. Sharef, for instance, was a member of Siemens’ managing board. He also was the first former board member of a Fortune Global 50 company to be indicted under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as happened in 2011.  Judge Lijo also charged Carlos Francisco Soriano, Miguel Ángel Czysch and José Antonio David as “middlemen” between the company and Menem’s administration to arrange the payment for benefitting the company in the bid. The magistrate also accused Antonio Justo Solsona, Guillermo Andrés Romero, Orlando Salvestrini, Luis Guillermo Cudmani and Federico Rossi Beguy, who allegedly worked for the company competing in the bid against Siemens IT Services and who presumably agreed not to challenge the government’s decision.”

Allegations regarding the Argentine identity card project were included in the 2008 FCPA enforcement action against Siemens (see here) and also served as the basis for 2011 criminal and civil charges against several former Siemens executives, including those recently charged in Argentina (see here for the prior post summarizing the action).

As noted in this previous post, the U.S. charges against the former Siemens executives were brought after the DOJ faced scrutiny (including at the Senate’s 2010 FCPA hearing) for not bringing any individual enforcement action in connection with a bribery scheme “unprecedented in scale and geographic reach” in which there existed at Siemens a “corporate culture in which bribery was tolerated and even rewarded at the highest levels of the company.”

The U.S. criminal charges against former Siemens executives sits on the docket and a recent docket search indicates that there has not been any activity in the case in over two years.

Sunshine

Mark Cuban, who recently prevailed against the SEC in a long-running insider trading enforcement action, says in this Wall Street Journal article that he is “now considering a new venture publicizing SEC transcripts.”  Says Cuban, “I’m going to get as many as I can, and I’ll put it out there.” “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

The article further states:

“Mr. Cuban says he isn’t against the SEC as a whole but thinks that the lawyers who work there should be held responsible for their actions. “There’s such a revolving door, and it was run by attorneys with an attorney’s mind-set looking for their next job,” he says. “It’s a résumé builder.” Mr. Cuban says individual lawyers aren’t held accountable because the public is familiar only with the name of the SEC’s chair, Mary Jo White.  “No wonder they say or do whatever they damn well please,” he says. “I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to start calling them out by name.’  George Canellos, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, sent a response to Mr. Cuban’s statements through an SEC spokesperson: “Mr. Cuban’s comments are without merit and uncalled for. Our lawyers acted in the finest traditions of government counsel and entirely appropriately in strongly advocating the position of the government in this matter.”

On a related note, did you know that the FCPA Professor Scribd page contains approximately 250 hard to find FCPA documents, pleadings, briefs, etc.

Year In Review Roundups

From the Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance Journal page – a “Q&A with Asheesh Goel, Ropes & Gray, on The Year in FCPA

From Trace Blog – “FCPA Corporate Settlements by the Numbers

From Michael Volkov (Corruption, Crime & Compliance) – “The FCPA Person of the Year – The Prosecutor” and “FCPA Predictions for the New Year – 2014

From Thomas Fox (FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog) – “My Favorite Blog Posts from 2013

Reading Stack

Thomas Fox (FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog) and Jon Rydberg (Orchid Advisor) are out with a new book here titled “Anti-Bribery Leadership: Practical FCPA and U.K Bribery Act Compliance Concepts for the Corporate Board Member, C-Suite Executive and General Counsel.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Leftovers

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Scrutiny alerts, corruption in China, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday leftover version of the roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts

Caribbean News Now reports here as follows.

“A complaint has been filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the United States under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in relation to a contract purporting to grant oil exploration rights over some eight million acres of Saint Lucia’s maritime territory.  The 46-page complaint, which Caribbean News Now has seen, names Saint Lucia’s prime minister, Dr Kenny Anthony, and RSM Production Company (RSM), a Texas company, along with its president Jack J. Grynberg. Caribbean News Now has also seen a written notification confirming receipt of the document by the DOJ.

[...]

Specifically, the complaint notes that, in or about February 2000, Anthony, as then minister of finance, planning and sustainable development, signed a contract with RSM that purported to grant the company an “Exploration License” in respect of territorial maritime resources belonging to Saint Lucia amounting to 8,726,263 acres.  However, under Saint Lucia’s Minerals Vesting Act, all minerals in, on or under any land in Saint Lucia are vested in and controlled by the Crown and only the governor general may grant a licence to prospect for and/or mine such minerals.  Further, although the contract provides that RSM shall pay a royalty to “the Government” (as required by section 5 of the Minerals Vesting Act), it goes on to state that the liability of RSM in this respect shall be discharged by paying such royalty to the minister and not the government.”

Reuters reports here as follows.

“The U.S. Justice Department is probing Morgan Stanley for its hiring practices in China as part of an industry-wide investigation by the government into whether banks’ employment of politically connected Chinese breached U.S. bribery laws, according to people familiar with the matter.  As part of the industry sweep, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sent letters to Morgan Stanley and other banks, including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, seeking information about their hiring practices, according to several people familiar with the matter.  The SEC has asked the financial services firms to provide information about their hiring of the relatives of government officials in China …”.

This is not a surprising development following the New York Times August story regarding JPMorgan (see here for the prior post).

Corruption in China

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China recently held a roundtable on “Corruption in China Today: Consequences for Governance, Human Rights, and Commercial Rule of Law.”  As stated on the Commission’s website:

“Corruption takes many forms in China, from corrupt officials at all levels using their public office for private gain and seizing land for development to corrupt state-owned enterprises gaming the system to their advantage. Corruption also continues to be among the root causes of rights abuses against Chinese citizens. Senior leaders acknowledge that corruption threatens the legitimacy of the Communist Party and contributes to citizen dissatisfaction, and President Xi Jinping has stated that fighting corruption is a high priority. But Chinese authorities continue to crack down on independent and citizen-led efforts to combat corruption. Panelists will discuss corruption among Chinese high-level officials and recent anti-corruption efforts, and explore corruption’s role in human rights violations. Panelists also will examine corruption linked to state-owned and other enterprises and explore the implications for commercial rule of law.”

Among the panelists were Professor Daniel Chow (Ohio State) (see here for his statement).  In 2012,  I was pleased to play a role, along with   Professor Chow and the staff of the Ohio State Law Journal, in organizing “The FCPA at Thirty-Five and Its Impact on Global Business,” a full-day symposium at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  (See here).

Quotable

On his Corruption, Crime & Compliance site, Michael Volkov states:

“The idea of legal ‘marketing’ has been diluted in the last few years.  As businesses become smarter consumers of legal services, in-house counsel and Chief Compliance Officers are much better at deciphering legal mumbo jumbo.  Perhaps the best example of legal marketing as an oxymoron, was the roll-out of the UK Bribery Act.  Legal marketing was premised on one idea –fear and fear alone.  Client alert after client alert warned companies about the impending doom, the effective date of the UK Bribery Act.  Not to pat myself on the back (assuming my arm is long enough), but I wrote that the UK Bribery Act was a real non-event in the world anti-corruption compliance and that it was unlikely to have any real impact.  To this day, those words still ring true.  After writing the ‘truth’ about the UK Bribery Act, I received a call from the firm’s London partners and was chastised for undermining their entire ‘marketing’ program.  (In stark contrast, many clients wrote me and thanked me for my ‘honesty.’”

Spot-on.

Nearly three years ago, I wrote:

“The U.K. Bribery Act … has been the subject of much discussion and much over-hype in my opinion.  It has been called the FCPA ‘on steroids’ (here) and if one subscribes to the industry marketing material, you might be left with the impression that the end of the world is near.  [...]   In sum, I don’t see how companies already subject to the FCPA and already thinking about compliance in a pro-active manner, have much to worry about when it comes to the U.K. Bribery Act because of the adequate procedures defense.  I will be surprised if U.K. enforcement of the Bribery Act reaches the level of U.S. enforcement of the FCPA …”.

See here for my post the day the U.K. Bribery Act went live in July 2011.

See here for my post “Marketing The FCPA … The FCPA Risks Of … Well, Just About Everything.”

For the Reading Stack

The most recent issue of the always-informative FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton is here.  Among other things, the issue summarizes recent remarks of DOJ and SEC officials regarding the FCPA and FCPA enforcement.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Hits and misses, does it really need to cost this much, the Wal-Mart effect, survey says, Senate hearing quotable, while they’re at it, checking in on Hollywood and Goldman too, spot on, and some refreshing words.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Hits and Misses

I read pretty much everything churned out by FCPA Inc., including the flood of recent client alerts concerning the Straub and Steffen decisions.  (See here and here for previous posts summarizing the decisions).  Many of these alerts are good and informative (for instance, see here from Debevoise & Plimpton).  However, some of these alerts are just plain wrong.

The headline of one alert was “District Court Decision Limits the Extraterritorial Reach of the FCPA.”  The headline of another alert was “Court Sets Limits on Extraterritorial FCPA Reach; Dismisses Case Against Foreign Siemens Executive.”

Neither the Straub nor Steffen decisions concerned extraterritorial application of the FCPA.  In fact, there is no extraterritorial reach of the FCPA as to foreign actors.  Yes, the FCPA was amended in 1998 to provide for alternative “nationality” jurisdiction (i.e. extraterritorial jurisdiction) over U.S. persons (both legal and natural), however, 78dd-1(g) and 78dd-2(i) are strictly limited to U.S. persons.

Rather, the Straub decision concerned the scope of territorial jurisdiction under 78dd-1(a), specifically the meaning of “use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce …”.

The Steffen decision did not even reach this issue as the judge found the initial threshold issue of personal jurisdiction lacking.

Wal-Mart’s FCPA Scrutiny Expenses Mount

During the media feeding frenzy after the New York Times April 2012 Wal-Mart article (see here for the prior post), I had the pleasure to appear on Eliot Spitzer’s Viewpoint program on Current TV.  At the end of the segment, after the substantive issues were discussed, Spitzer offered that he has several contacts in the FCPA bar and that, regardless of the substantive issues involved in Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny or the ultimate outcome, lots of lawyers were poised to make lots of money.

Spitzer of course was right.

Wal-Mart recently stated (here) that it has incurred “$157 million of professional fees and expenses related to the ongoing” FCPA matter during its last fiscal year and that it expect to incur an additional ”$40 to $45 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2014.”  During Wal-Mart’s recent earnings conference call, a company executive stated as follows.  “On FCPA, we continue  to work closely with anticorruption compliance experts to review and to assess  our programs and help us implement concrete steps for each particular market. In  the various markets, these experts have spent tens of thousands of hours on  anti-corruption support and training. We remain committed to follow all laws and  regulations in the markets where we operate.”

The $157 million Wal-Mart spent in the last FY equates to approximately $604,000 in professional fees and expenses per working day.

I observed in this March 2011 articles as follows.

“This new era of enforcement has resulted in wasteful overcompliance, companies viewing every foreign business partner with irrational suspicion, and companies deploying teams of lawyers and specialists around the world spending millions to uncover every potential questionable or unethical $100 corporate payment.  This new era of enforcement has proven lucrative to many segments of the legal, accounting, and compliance industries and the status quo would, from their perspective, seem desirable.”

The question again ought to be asked – does it really need to cost this much or has FCPA scrutiny turned into a boondoggle for many involved?  For more on this issue, see my article “Big, Bold, and Bizarre: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enters a New Era.”

While minor compared to Wal-Mart’s FCPA professional fees and expenses, Beam Inc. recently disclosed here that in 2012 the company spent approximately $4.2 million for “legal, forensic accounting, and other fees related to our internal investigation into Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance in our India operations.”

Wal-Mart Effect

Switching gears, but sticking with Wal-Mart related issues, this May 2012 post highlighted a potential “Wal-Mart effect.”  In short, the point was that Wal-Mart is clearly not the only company subject to the FCPA that needs licenses, permits and the like when doing business in Mexico.  I predicted that Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure would cause sleepless nights for many company executives doing business in Mexico and the general region.  The post then discussed statements made during a Kimco Realty Corporation earnings call in May 2012 concerning its properties in Mexico.

Earlier this week, Kimco Realty stated in an SEC filing as follows.

“On January 28, 2013, the Company received a subpoena from the Enforcement Division of the SEC in connection with an investigation, In the Matter of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (FW-3678), that the SEC Staff is currently conducting with respect to possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Company is responding to the subpoena and intends to cooperate fully with the SEC in this matter. The Company has also been notified that the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is conducting a parallel investigation, and the Company expects that it will cooperate with the DOJ investigation. At this point, we are unable to predict the duration, scope or result of the SEC or DOJ investigation.”

Survey Says

The annual Litigation Trends and Survey report by Fulbright & Jaworski is always a good read.  This year’s report (see here to download) surveyed 392 “senior corporate counsel” (275 in the U.S., 100 in the U.K. and 17 in other jurisdictions) on a wide-range of litigation and related matters.  The following were FCPA or related survey results.

“Companies that have retained outside counsel to assist with a corruption or bribery investigation in the past 12 months (including, but not limited to, FCPA in U.S. and equivalent in U.K.”

  • 9% of U.S. respondents answered “yes”; 18% of U.K. respondents answered “yes.”  As noted, “U.S. figures [2010-2012] have remained relatively stable.”

“Companies that have engaged in due diligence for bribery or corruption (including FCPA matters) relating to a merger, acquisition or other business transactions with a foreign country in the past 12 months.”

  • 18% of U.S. respondents answered “yes”; 26% of U.K. respondents answered “yes.”  As noted, “more companies this year have engaged outside counsel in due diligence for corruption or bribery investigations due to business transactions with entities based in a foreign country.”

As to the due diligence figures, in the abstract these figures do not mean much, unless one knows how many responding companies actually engaged in foreign acquisitions or other business combinations.

The last survey result in the report perhaps speaks best to the over-hyped nature of the U.K. Bribery Act.

“Has your company changed the way it operates due to the emergence of anti-bribery legislation outside the U.S., such as U.K. Bribery Act 2010?”

  • 78% of U.S. respondents answered “no” and 63% of U.K. respondents answered “no.”

Senate Hearing Quotable

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had some quotable moments (here) during a recent Senate Banking hearing.  The hearing concerned financial regulation, not the FCPA.  Nevertheless, some of the issues have some overlap to FCPA enforcement - including how settlement policies in regulatory enforcement actions create conditions in which there is “not much incentive to follow the law” and how “too big to fail” perhaps means “too big for trial.”

Disclosure Issues

This recent Wall Street Journal CFO Journal post notes as follows.

“Securities and Exchange Commissioner Troy Paredes called for a complete review of the information companies disclose to investors, amid concerns that investors suffer from “disclosure overload” that could hamper their ability to gauge the importance of the data.  “What we need is a top-to-bottom review of our disclosure regime,” Mr. Paredes said at the Practising Law Institute’s annual “SEC Speaks” conference in Washington, D.C. on Friday.”

While they’re at it, the SEC should take a look at its absurd position that all payments in violation of the FCPA, no matter how small the payment and no matter how large the company, are “qualitatively material.”  For instance, as noted in this previous post concerning comments made by enforcement officials at a conference I chaired, an SEC official suggested that the concept of materiality itself has two “sub-concepts”: (i) quantitative materiality (something that impacts a company’s financial statements) and (ii) qualitative materiality.  While conceding that very few improper payments are “quantitatively material” and while recognizing that “qualitative materiality” is a “complicated gray area,” the SEC officials nevertheless said that all bribes can be considered qualitatively material because they may “automatically trigger a books and records violation.”  For formal SEC guidance on this issue, see here.

Checking In

Hollywood Industry Sweep

From the New York Times regarding the on-going scrutiny of Hollywood movie studios in China.

“Last March, word reached several studios of a confidential inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commissionand the Justice Department into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by people or companies involved in the China film trade. Since then, executives and their advisers have been waiting for some public sign of the scope or focus of the government’s interest.  So far, there has been none. But official silence has not kept the investigation from casting a chill over dealings between Hollywood and China.”

Goldman

From the Wall Street Journal regarding the on-going scrutiny of Goldman’s dealings with Libya’s sovereign wealth fund.

“Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund said it is cooperating with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in its ongoing investigation into Goldman Sachs Group Inc. over the securities firm’s dealings with the fund when Col. Moammar Gadhafi was in power.  [...]  People close to the Libyan investment fund said officials have authorized some former fund executives to give testimony to the SEC. The officials also agreed to provide documents and other data to U.S. regulators about the fund’s ties to Goldman, these people said.”

Spot On

Two recent Q&A’s on Law360 caught my eye.  The question was “what is an important issue or case relevant to your practice area and why.”

Neil Eggleston (Kirkland & Ellis) stated as follows.

“We are beginning to see the development of case law in the FCPA area, which I believe is good for the process. Most of these cases have been settled. When that occurs, defendants have little incentive to refuse to agree to novel Department of Justice theories of prosecution or jurisdiction, so long as the penalty is acceptable. The department then cites its prior settlement as precedent when settling later ones. But no court approved the earlier settlement, and the prior settlement should have no precedential value in favor of the DOJ in later settlements. As the DOJ increases its prosecution of individuals, we will see many more trials, which will give rise to courts, not the DOJ, interpreting the statute.”

For more on these issues, see my article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” and this previous guest post on ”prosecutorial common law.”

Richard Marmaro (Skadden) answered the same question as follows.

“An issue of importance in the white collar area is the issue of prosecutorial misconduct, and appropriate remedies for prosecutors who intentionally conceal evidence, intimidate witnesses, or otherwise compromise or impact a defendant’s right to a fair trial. I have seen firsthand in several of my cases shocking misconduct, which has gone undisciplined by the U.S. Department of Justice. I have been fortunate enough to expose this misconduct, and have had cases dismissed as a result. Indeed, over the last decade, there have been several dismissals nationwide at trial or reversals on appeal based on willful misconduct by government lawyers. Despite these judicial findings, however, the Justice Department’s record of disciplining misbehaving prosecutors is shockingly inadequate. I don’t know of any prosecutor that has been terminated based on a judicial finding of intentional misconduct. In addition, I believe that only two prosecutors have received any discipline at all (both in the Stevens case). In my view, the failure to sanction prosecutors who have been found by judges to have committed misconduct sends the wrong signal to defendants, the public and the vast majority of prosecutors who do their jobs honestly every day.”

For more, see this previous post titled ”Should There Be A Difference?”

Refreshing Words

Every now and then it is refreshing to read some common sense words about FCPA compliance and risk assessment.  Such as this recent post from the Trace blog.

“Remember, perfection is neither possible nor necessary.  When devising a compliance plan, it’s important to remind oneself of the big picture.  A company need not break the bank to have a compliance program that follows accepted best practices.  As discussed below, there are various ways that good compliance can be affordable.  And companies are not responsible for developing full-proof compliance programs; they only need to develop programs proportionate to the risk they face, with the understanding that no program will completely eliminate all risk from the equation.  Unlike in other areas of business, when it comes to compliance, being in the middle of the pack is okay.”

*****

A good weekend to all.