Archive for the ‘Goldman Sachs’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, September 26th, 2014

An invite, ripples, the odd dynamic, and scrutiny alerts and updates.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

You Are Invited

King & Spalding is pleased to host Professor Mike Koehler for an informal lunch discussion of his recently published book The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a New Era. The conversation and related question-and-answer session will be of interest to anyone seeking a candid and comprehensive discussion of legal and policy issues present in this new era of FCPA enforcement.

The event takes place on Thursday, October 2nd at noon at King & Spalding’s office (1700 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Washington, D.C.). There is no charge for this event, but pre-registration is required. If you would like to attend, please send your name and contact information to Sylvia Gates at sgates@kslaw.com.  For additional information, see here.

Ripples

My recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples” 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.

Regarding those ripples, Canada’s Globe and Mail reports:

“Hewlett-Packard Co., one of the leading technology suppliers to the Canadian government, is facing a possible 10-year ban on selling products and services to Ottawa in the wake of a high-profile U.S. bribery conviction. The recent criminal conviction, involving bribes paid to Russian government officials, marks the first major test of strict new Canadian integrity rules quietly introduced in March by Public Works and Government Services. Under the new regime, companies face an automatic ban on future government contracts if they or any of their affiliates are convicted of a list of various crimes, such as bribery, even if those crimes occurred outside Canada. “The department is reviewing the recent U.S. court decision regarding HP Russia and is examining the impact of this court decision on our current and future business with HP Canada,” confirmed Alyson Queen, communications director for Public Works Minister Diane Finley. The department will conduct its review “as quickly as possible,” Ms. Queen insisted, adding that the government is “committed to doing business with suppliers who respect the law and act with integrity, including affiliates of suppliers.”

The main point of “Foreign Corrupt Practices Ripples” was described above.  However, the article also states:

“This Article accepts the fact that FCPA scrutiny and enforcement results in many other ripples in this new era. Yet, throughout this Article many questions are posed regarding the legitimacy of certain ripples. Moreover, while it is beyond the focus of this Article, it must nevertheless be highlighted that because of the many ripples of FCPA enforcement, it is important that FCPA enforcement be subjected to meaningful judicial scrutiny and that enforcement actions represent legitimate instances of provable FCPA violations, not merely settlements entered into for reasons of risk aversion. This would seem like an obvious statement. However, the reality is that the majority of corporate FCPA enforcement actions in this new era are based on aggressive and controversial enforcement theories, yet resolved via non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements (NPAs / DPAs) not subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny by risk-averse business organizations mindful of the adverse consequences of putting the enforcement agencies to its burden of proof in an adversarial proceeding.”

Perhaps Canadian authorities should review this prior post “HP Enforcement Action – Where to Begin.”  The post begins:

“Where to begin? That is the question when analyzing last week’s $108 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against HP and related entities.  (See here). Should the title of this post have been “The FCPA’s Free-For-All Continues”? Should the title have been “HP = Hocus Pocus” (as in look what the enforcement agencies pulled out their hats this time)? Should the title have been “Warning In-House and Compliance Professionals:  This Post Will Induce Mental Anguish”? Unable to arrive at the best specific title for this post, I simply picked the generic “Where to Begin?” In short, if the HP enforcement action does not leave you troubled as to various aspects of FCPA enforcement you: (i) may not be well-versed in actual FCPA legal authority; (ii) don’t care about the rule of law; or (iii) somehow derive satisfaction from government required transfers of shareholder money to the U.S. treasury regardless of theory. Least there be any misunderstanding, let me begin this post by stating that the enforcement actions against HP Poland, HP Russia and HP Mexico allege bad conduct by certain individuals –  a “small fraction of HP’s global workforce” to use the exact words of the DOJ. As to that “small fraction,” those individuals should be held accountable for their actions by relevant law enforcement authorities. However, as to the actual defendants charged in the enforcement actions – HP Russia, HP Poland and HP Mexico in the DOJ actions – and HP in the SEC administrative proceeding – there are actual legal elements that must be met and there is also prior enforcement agency guidance that ought to be followed.  The entire credibility and legitimacy of the DOJ and SEC’s FCPA enforcement programs depend on these two basics points.”

The Odd Dynamic

I have consistently stated (see here for the most recent iteration) that, based on recent judicial decisions, an odd dynamic exists between application of Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provisions and Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower bounty provisions. As noted in the recent post concerning the Second Circuit’s decision in Liu Meng-Lin v. Siemens, courts have held that the former provisions lack extraterritorial effect while acknowledging that a foreign national could receive a bounty under the whistleblower provisions.

The odd dynamic is front-and-center in the SEC’s recent announcement of “an expected award of more than $30 million to a whistleblower who provided key original information that led to a successful SEC enforcement action.”  According to the release,  ”the award will be the largest made by the SEC’s whistleblower program to date and the fourth award to a whistleblower living in a foreign country, demonstrating the program’s international reach.”

In the release, Sean McKessy, Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower states:

“This award of more than $30 million shows the international breadth of our whistleblower program as we effectively utilize valuable tips from anyone, anywhere to bring wrongdoers to justice.  Whistleblowers from all over the world should feel similarly incentivized to come forward with credible information about potential violations of the U.S. securities laws.”

Regarding the odd dynamic, the SEC’s order states:

“We believe an award payment is appropriate here notwithstanding the existence of certain extraterritorial aspects of Claimant’s application. See generally Morrison v. Nat’l Austl. Bank Ltd., 561 U.S. 247, 266 (2010) (discussing analytical framework for determining whether an application of a statutory provision that involves certain foreign aspects is an extraterritorial or domestic application of the provision; explaining that it is a domestic application of the provision if the particular aspect that is the “focus of congressional concern” has a sufficient U.S. territorial nexus); European Community v. RJR Nabisco, Inc., F.3d , 2014 WL 1613878, *10 (2d Cir. Apr. 23, 2014) (applying Morrison framework and finding that “[i]f domestic conduct satisfies every essential element to prove a violation of a United States statute that does not apply extraterritorially, that statute is violated even if some further conduct contributing to the violation occurred outside the United States.”). In our view, there is a sufficient U.S.  territorial nexus whenever a claimant’s information leads to the successful enforcement of a covered action brought in the United States, concerning violations of the U.S. securities laws, by the Commission, the U.S. regulatory agency with enforcement authority for such violations.  When these key territorial connections exist, it makes no difference whether, for example, the claimant was a foreign national, the claimant resides overseas, the information was submitted from overseas, or the misconduct comprising the U.S. securities law violation occurred entirely overseas. We believe this approach best effectuates the clear Congressional purpose underlying the award program, which was to further the effective enforcement of the U.S. securities laws by encouraging individuals with knowledge of violations of these U.S. laws to voluntarily provide that information to the Commission. See S. Rep. No. 111-176 at 110 (2010) (“to motivate those with inside knowledge to come forward and assist the Government to identify and prosecute persons who have violated the securities laws ….”). Finally, although we recognize that the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that there was an insufficient territorial nexus for the anti-retaliation protections of Section 21F(h) to apply to a foreign whistleblower who experienced employment retaliation overseas after making certain reports about his foreign employer, Liu v. Siemens, F.3d , 2014 WL 3953672 (2d Cir. Aug. 14, 2014), we do not findthat decision controlling here; the whistleblower award provisions have a different Congressional focus than the anti-retaliation provisions, which are generally focused on preventing retaliatory employment actions and protecting the employment relationship.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

BHP Billiton

In its most recent annual report the company stated:

“As previously disclosed, BHP Billiton received requests for information in August 2009 from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Following that request, the Group commenced an internal investigation and disclosed to relevant authorities evidence that it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anticorruption laws involving interactions with government officials. The issues relate primarily to matters in connection with previously terminated exploration and development efforts, as well as hospitality provided as part of the Company’s sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Group is currently discussing a potential resolution of the matter. As has been publicly reported, the Australian Federal Police has indicated that it has commenced an investigation and the Group continues to fully cooperate with the relevant authorities. In light of the continuing nature of the investigations, it is not appropriate at this stage for BHP Billiton to predict outcomes.”

General Cable Corp.

General Cable Corporation (a Kentucky-based company involved in the development, design, manufacture, marketing and distribution of copper, aluminum and fiber optic wire and cable products and systems for the energy, industrial, specialty, construction and communications markets) recently disclosed:

“We have been reviewing, with the assistance of external counsel, certain commission payments involving sales to customers of our subsidiary in Angola. The review has focused upon payment practices with respect to employees of public utility companies, use of agents in connection with such payment practices, and the manner in which the payments were reflected on our books and records. We have determined at this time that certain employees in our Portugal and Angola subsidiaries directly and indirectly made payments at various times from 2002 through 2013 to officials of Angola government owned public utilities that raise concerns under the FCPA and possibly under the laws of other jurisdictions. We also have been reviewing, with the assistance of external counsel, our use and payment of agents in connection with our Thailand and India operations, which may have implications under the FCPA. We have voluntarily disclosed these matters to the SEC and the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and have provided them with additional information at their request. The SEC and DOJ inquiries into these matters are ongoing. We continue to cooperate with the DOJ and the SEC with respect to these matters. We are implementing a screening process relating to sales agents that we use outside of the United States, including, among other things, a review of the agreements under which they were retained and a risk-based assessment of such agents to determine the scope of due diligence measures to be performed by a third-party investigative firm. However, this screening process may not be effective in preventing future payments or other activities that may raise concerns under the FCPA or other laws. At this time, we are unable to predict the nature of any action that may be taken by the DOJ or SEC or any remedies these agencies may pursue as a result of such actions. Any determination that our operations or activities are not in compliance with existing laws or regulations could result in the imposition of substantial fines, civil and criminal penalties, and equitable remedies, including disgorgement and injunctive relief. Because our review regarding commission payment practices and our use and payment of agents described above is ongoing, we are unable to predict its duration, scope, results, or consequences. Dispositions of these types of matters can result in modifications to business practices and compliance programs, and in some cases the appointment of a monitor to review future business and practices with the objective of effecting compliance with the FCPA and other applicable laws.”

In the first trading day after the disclosure, the company’s stock dropped 6.4% to 17.74.

Embraer-Related

As highlighted in this previous post, Brazil based Embraer (one of  the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial jets with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange) has been under FCPA scrutiny since 2010.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Brazilian authorities have filed a criminal action against eight Embraer employees accusing them of bribing officials in the Dominican Republic in return for a $92 million contract to provide the country’s armed forces with attack planes.”

According to the article:

“[The DOJ and SEC] are also investigating the company’s dealings in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere and have provided their Brazilian counterparts with evidence, according to a request last year for legal assistance from Brazilian prosecutors.

[...]

Brazilian prosecutors filed the 31-page complaint in a criminal court in Rio de Janeiro in August, the first step in a criminal prosecution. A spokesman for the Brazilian prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the case.

The complaint alleges that Embraer sales executives agreed to pay a $3.5 million bribe to a retired Dominican Air Force colonel, who then leaned on legislators to approve the deal and a financing agreement between the Dominican Republic and the National Economic and Social Development Bank. The sale was completed and the aircraft were delivered.

The retired colonel, Carlos Piccini Nunez, was serving as the Dominican Republic’s director of special projects for the armed forces in 2008, around the time of the contract negotiations. The contract provided the Dominican Republic with eight Embraer Super Tucanos, turboprop attack support aircraft that have been a darling of air forces in developing countries for their low maintenance and affordability.

[...]

The criminal complaint alleges that an Embraer vice president for sales, Eduardo Munhos de Campos, promised to pay the bribe, and that he was assisted in arranging the payments by Orlando Jose Ferreira Neto, another vice president; Embraer regional directors Acir Luiz de Almeida Padilha Jr., Luiz Eduardo Zorzenon Fumagalli and Ricardo Marcelo Bester ; and managers Albert Phillip Close, Luiz Alberto Lage da Fonseca and Eduardo Augusto Fernandes Fagundes.”

Goldman Sachs

The company was recently the focus of this Wall Street Journal article which began:

“A yearslong probe of Goldman Sachs Group’s ties to Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund is focusing on an internship and other perks allegedly offered by the Wall Street bank to win business from the Gadhafi regime, according to people familiar with the matter. The Securities and Exchange Commission is reviewing the New York-based bank’s decision in June 2008 to hire as an intern the brother of Mustafa Zarti, then deputy chief of the Libyan Investment Authority, the people said. The move came after Goldman entered into more than $1 billion worth of trades with the authority, and just as the firm’s relationship with the Libyan fund had begun to sour. The investigators are also reviewing why the brother, Haitem Zarti, was allowed to remain at the firm for almost a year, long after most Wall Street internships last, the people added.”

AgustaWestland / Finmeccanica Related

The Wall Street Journal goes in-depth into the Italian trial of Giuseppe Orsi, former CEO of AgustaWestland – a unit of Finmeccanica Spa, concerning bribery allegations in India. As highlighted in this previous post, Finmeccanica, which is approximately 30% owned by the Italian government, has ADRs registered with the SEC and AgustaWestland does extensive business in the U.S. (see here), including with the U.S. government.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Is trust “reasonable,” Sigelman formally indicted, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Is Trust “Reasonable”

This prior post asked:

Would FCPA compliance be better achieved if companies had fewer formal internal controls and instead devoted greater effort to fostering trust within a business organization?  Would such an approach even satisfy an issuer’s obligations under the FCPA’s internal controls provisions which require that issuers devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that transactions are properly authorized, recorded, and accounted for by the issuer?

The questions are posed once again after reading this New York Times article titled “Berkshire’s Radical Strategy: Trust.”  In the article, Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (arguably one of the most well-respected companies in America) “ruminates on the state of corporate governance, offering a counternarrative to the distrustful culture of most businesses: instead of filling your ranks with lawyers and compliance people, he argued, hire people that you actually trust and let them do their job.”

As highlighted in the article:

“Here’s a little-known fact: Berkshire Hathaway, the fifth-largest company in the United States, with some $162.5 billion in revenue and 300,000 employees worldwide, has no general counsel that oversees the holding company’s dozens of units. There is no human resources department, either.

If that sounds like a corporate utopia, that’s probably because it is. To some people in this day and age — given the daily onslaught of headlines about scandal and fraud in corporate America — that also may sound almost like corporate negligence.”

Sigelman Formally Indicted

In January 2014, the DOJ announced FCPA and related charges against former executives of PetroTiger Ltd., a British Virgin Islands oil and gas company with operations in Colombia and offices in New Jersey, “for their alleged participation in a scheme to pay bribes to foreign government officials in violation of the FCPA, to defraud PetroTiger, and to launder proceeds of those crimes.”  The individuals charged were former co-CEOs of PetroTiger Joseph Sigelman and Knut Hammarskjold and former general counsel Gregory Weisman.  (See this prior post for additional details).

In this criminal complaint, Sigelman was charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions as well as three substantive FCPA charges.  The FCPA charges were based on allegations that Sigelman and others made at least four transfers of money in the approximate amount of $333,500 to an account in Colombia of a “foreign government official in Colombia.”

In this release, the DOJ announced today that Sigelman was formally criminally indicted for the same conduct.  The release states that Sigelman “charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and substantive FCPA and money laundering violations.”

The DOJ release further states:  ”The case was brought to the attention of the department through a voluntary disclosure by PetroTiger, which cooperated with the department’s investigation.”

As previously noted, both Hammarskjold and Weisman have pleaded guilty.

Scrutiny Alerts

Key Energy Services

Key Energy Services disclosed in its recent SEC filing:

“The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has advised us that it is investigating possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act involving business activities of Key’s operations in Russia. We take any such allegations very seriously and are conducting an investigation into the allegations. We are fully cooperating with and sharing the results of our investigation with the Commission. While the outcome of our investigation is currently not determinable, we do not expect that it will have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations, or cash flows.”

Quanta Services

Quanta Services (an engineering, procurement and construction services company) disclosed in its recent SEC filing:

“On March 10, 2014, the SEC notified Quanta of an inquiry into certain aspects of Quanta’s activities in certain foreign jurisdictions, including South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. The SEC also requested that Quanta take necessary steps to preserve and retain categories of relevant documents, including those pertaining to Quanta’s U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance program. The SEC has not alleged any violations of law by Quanta or its employees. Quanta has complied with the preservation request and is cooperating with the SEC.”

PTC Inc.

PTC Inc. (formerly known as Parametric Technology) first disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in August 2011 and recently disclosed in this  SEC filing:

China Investigation
We have been cooperating to provide information to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice concerning payments and expenses by certain of our business partners in China and/or by employees of our Chinese subsidiary that raise questions concerning compliance with laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Our internal review is ongoing and now includes periods earlier than those previously examined. We continue to respond to requests for information from these agencies, including a subpoena issued to the company by the SEC. We cannot predict when or how this matter may be resolved. Resolution of this matter could include fines and penalties; however we are unable to estimate an amount that could be associated with any resolution and, accordingly, we have not recorded a liability for this matter. If resolution of this matter includes substantial fines or penalties, this could materially impact our results for the period in which the associated liability is recorded or such amounts are paid. Further, any settlement or other resolution of this matter could have collateral effects on our business in China, the United States and elsewhere.”
Fresenius Medical Care
Germany-based Fresenius Medical Care first disclosed FCPA scrutiny in August 2012 and stated as follows in its recent SEC filing:
“[The previously disclosed internal] review has identified conduct that raises concerns under the FCPA or other anti-bribery laws that may result in monetary penalties or other sanctions.  In addition, the Company’s ability to conduct business in certain jurisdictions could be negatively impacted.  The Company has recorded a non-material accrual for an identified matter.  Given the current status of the internal review, the Company cannot reasonably estimate the range of possible loss that may result from additional identified matters or from the final outcome of the continuing internal review.”
Financial Services Industry

In case you had not heard that numerous financial services companies were under FCPA scrutiny for alleged hiring practices, the Wall Street Journal reports:

“U.S. regulators have expanded their investigation into large banks’ hiring practices in Asia, seeking more information from at least five U.S. and European firms, according to people close to the probe.  The Securities and Exchange Commission in early March sent letters to a group of companies including Credit Suisse Group AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG seeking more information about their hiring in Asia, according to people.  [...]  The SEC late last year issued a round of letter to at least six banks, seeking information on their hiring practices, such as whether the firms had special programs dedicated to relatives of influential officials, according to people close to the inquiry.  The second round of requests reflects a deepening of the probe.  The agency is seeking more data on the banks’ recruiting in Asia, including lists of employees hired as a result of referrals from foreign officials and clients, added the people familiar with the investigation.”

As to the above, Goldman disclosed in its most recent SEC filing:

“Regulatory Investigations and Reviews and Related Litigation.

[The company] and certain of its affiliates are subject to a number of other investigations and reviews by, and in some cases have received subpoenas and requests for documents and information from, various governmental and regulatory bodies and self-regulatory organizations and litigation relating to various matters relating to the firm’s businesses and operations, including:

compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including with respect to the firm’s hiring practices …”

Reading Stack

No surprise that an individual who paid $174 million to post bail has hired an A-list legal team in defense of DOJ allegations that he violated, among other laws, the FCPA.  (See here for a recent New York Times article regarding Dmitry Firtash).

Sound advice from former DOJ FCPA Unit Chief Chuck Duross in this MoFo Tech article concerning FCPA risk and the technology industry:

“[T]echnology companies are also at risk from the distribution model that’s often used in the industry. Many companies sell their products to channel partners, which add some value to the product or service—such as other hardware, software, an installation, or a service plan—and then resell it at a higher price. That’s an entirely appropriate business model. But as with any third party, companies need to appreciate the potential risk if, for example, the distributor is simply reselling at a higher price without adding any legitimate value and using that profit as a slush fund to funnel bribes to government officials. It may seem to the company that it is not violating the FCPA. It has simply sold its product to another company. But if a company’s employees are aware that the distributor is paying (or just offering) bribes to government officials to help sell the product, the company and its employees could be criminally liable as conspirators and aiders and abettors.

What should tech companies be doing to avoid these issues?

One thing is to know the third parties they’re doing business with. It is also fundamental to understand the business reason for working with third parties. One of the first questions asked during a DOJ or SEC investigation will often be, “What was the business purpose behind working with X?” Having a clear answer will earn credibility with regulators and underscore the company’s commitment to compliance. Also, making sure employees—and third parties—understand company policies, are properly trained, execute FCPA certifications, and are subject to appropriate ongoing reviews can prevent violations and mitigate (or avoid altogether) penalties if a problem does occur. That is just good business. Corruption tends to occur at companies with loose control environments. While I was at DOJ, we routinely saw loose control environments leading to embezzlement, self-dealing, fraud, and even antitrust violations. When a company doesn’t know where its money is going, that’s bad business and negatively impacts shareholder value. When companies invest in a compliance program, they are investing in the health of the business.”

This Kyiv Post article notes:

“Some of Ukraine’s underpaid cadre of civil servants might get bonuses from international finance institutions to reduce the temptation of taking bribes. According to Ukrainian Tax Service chief Ihor Bilous, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is exploring the idea of setting up a fund that would provide officials with additional pay. ‘Last week I had a meeting with EBRD representatives and they proposed to create a fund to pay money for people who serve the state in high positions,’ Bilous told the Kyiv Post. This idea was successfully implemented in Georgia, he adds, “we need to change the system, state salaries are very low and this situation creates some kind of temptation.”

*****

A good weekend to all, and to all mothers, Happy Mother’s Day!

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.