Archive for the ‘Halliburton’ Category

Nice Pay Day, But What Did You Accomplish?

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

When I published “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” in 2010 (see here) the trend of FCPA-inspired tag-a-long private civil suits was in its early stages.  Thus, the section of my article – why the facade of FCPA enforcement matters – did not include discussion of such suits.

Now that the trend is clear, add FCPA-inspired private civil suits to the list of reasons why the facade of FCPA enforcement matters.

The game is very predictable.  In the days and weeks following an FCPA enforcement action, or even a company disclosing or otherwise being the subject of FCPA scrutiny, the suits and/or “investigations” by plaintiffs firm will start to mount

In this prior post, I asked whether FCPA-inspired civil suits have a purpose or a parasitic.  I stated that when a company’s FCPA violations are found to be condoned or encouraged by the board or executive officers, such plaintiff causes of action would seem to be warranted.  But these situations are rare in FCPA enforcement actions.  This prior post detailed June 2011 Congressional testimony on behalf of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform that touched upon FCPA-civil litigation and I generally agree with the criticisms made of this “piggyback-litigation phenomenon.”

Several prior posts (here and here) profile how such derivative claims seldom, if ever, get past the motion to dismiss stage.  Yet, several companies make the business judgment to  settle such claims for what amounts to nuisance value for the company, but which represents a handsome pay day for plaintiff’s counsel for doing and accomplishing next to nothing.

Two recent Foreicgn Corrupt Practices Act related civil settlements prove this point.

In July, Halliburton announced here that a Texas state court issued an order preliminarily approving the proposed settlement of a derivative claim concerning a variety of misconduct, including Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct giving rise to the previous FCPA enforcement action against Halliburton and its related entities.

Pursuant to the proposed settlement, within 90 days of a final settlement date, Halliburton’s board agreed to implement various corporate governance and internal control revisions.  The items most related to FCPA compliance should not be hard to accomplish because pursuant to the 2009 FCPA DOJ/SEC settlement, Halliburton already was under an existing obligation, including through engagement of a compliance monitor, to implement a host of FCPA related compliance enhancements.

Yet pursuant to the proposed settlement agreement, for its innovative work (that is my term), Plaintiffs’ counsel in the derivative action will seek approval of its fees and expenses not to exceed $7 million and Halliburton will not oppose such fees and will pay them through its insurance carriers.

Likewise, Johnson & Johnson recently announced (here) a proposed settlement of a derivative claim concerning a variety of misconduct, including the conduct giving rise to its 2011 FCPA enforcement action.  As detailed in this prior post, pursuant to the settlement via a DPA, the company is already subject to enhanced compliance obligations related to the FCPA.  The prior post noted that such enhanced compliance obligations were unusual and surprising given the DOJ’s conclusion that J&J already generally had “effective” policies and procedures.  In the words of the DOJ “J&J had a pre-existing compliance and ethics program that was effective and the majority of problematic operations globally resulted from insufficient implementation of the J&J compliance and ethics program in acquired companies.”

Yet, along comes the Plaintiffs’ firms with a derivative action and pursuant to the settlement, J&J has agreed to reimburse Plaintiffs’ counsel in an amount not exceeding $10 million and to pay approximately $450,000 in its expenses.

Like many things in this new era of FCPA enforcement, FCPA-civil related suits have, in many cases, spiraled out of control.  Yet with many, including now Plaintiffs firms, with a vested financial interest in seeing the status quo prevail, it is doubtful any meaningful change is on the horizon.

Yet the question can be asked, do FCPA civil-related suits accomplish anything?  Do such suits serve a purpose or are they parasitic?  Is this another reason why the “facade” of FCPA enforcement matters.

Potpourri

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Retail Industry Sweep

This previous post discussed the Wal-Mart effect, how Wal-Mart is clearly not the only company subject to the FCPA that needs licenses, permits and the like when doing business in Mexico, and that it is likely that Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure has caused sleepless nights for many company executives doing business in Mexico and the general region.

Sure enough.

Aruna Viswanatha reports in this Reuters story that “retailers have been reviewing their international operations in light of a bribery scandal at Wal-Mart’s operations in Mexico that is the subject of investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.”  According to the story, “other retail companies have also since reported to U.S. agencies suspicions of their own potential violations, which in turn has the Justice Department and SEC considering a sweep of the entire industry.”  For more on industry sweeps, see this previous post.

Barclays Dealings With Sovereign-Wealth Funds Scrutinized

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday (here) that Barclays PLC’s “chief financial officer is under investigation by British authorities related to the bank’s 2008 fundraising activities with Middle Eastern investors.”  According to the story, the “probe is focused at least in part on how Barclays wooed Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund to pump billions of pounds into the bank as the financial crisis intensified.”  According to this Wall Street Journal article, Barclays previously disclosed “£240 million of payments made to Qatar Holding and Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan related to its £7.3 billion capital raise in 2008.”

Barclays has ADRs traded on the New York Stock Exchange and, according to the article, the SEC “is aware of the probe” and will be updated on its progress.  As the article notes, the SEC is currently conducting an expansive investigation of various financial institutions concerning relationships with sovereign-wealth funds.

Halliburton’s Latest Disclosure

Halliburton previously disclosed potential FCPA issues concerning the use of an Angolan vendor.  Last week in this quarterly report, the company provided an update on that investigation as well as new investigations concerning additional conduct in Angola as well as Iraq.  The disclosure states as follows.

“We are conducting internal investigations of certain areas of our operations in Angola and Iraq, focusing on compliance with certain company policies, including our Code of Business Conduct (COBC), and the FCPA and other applicable laws. In December 2010, we received an anonymous e-mail alleging that certain current and former personnel violated our COBC and the FCPA, principally through the use of an Angolan vendor. The e-mail also alleges conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and the failure to act on alleged violations of our COBC and the FCPA. We contacted the DOJ to advise them that we were initiating an internal investigation. Since the third quarter of 2011, we have been participating in meetings with the DOJ and the SEC to brief them on the status of our investigation and have been producing documents to them both voluntarily and as a result of SEC subpoenas to the company and certain of our current and former officers and employees. During the second quarter of 2012, in connection with a meeting with the DOJ and the SEC regarding the above investigation, we advised the DOJ and the SEC that we were initiating unrelated, internal investigations into payments made to a third-party agent relating to certain customs matters in Angola and to third-party agents relating to certain customs and visa matters in Iraq. We expect to continue to have discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding the Angola and Iraq matters described above and have indicated that we would further update them as our investigations progress. We have engaged outside counsel and independent forensic accountants to assist us with the investigations. We intend to continue to cooperate with the DOJ’s and the SEC’s inquiries and requests in these investigations. Because these investigations are ongoing, we cannot predict their outcome or the consequences thereof.”

In 2009, Halliburton and related entities settled DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions concerning Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct by agreeing to pay $579 million in combined fines and penalties.  See here and here.  Pursuant to the SEC settlement, Halliburton is permanently enjoined from violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

W.W. Grainger Updates Its Disclosure

This previous post discussed W.W. Grainger’s February disclosure concerning an investigation that sales employees of a China subsidiary may have provided prepaid gift cards to certain customers.  As noted by Chris Matthews in this recent Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, the company in a recent SEC filing stated as follows.

“The results of the investigation, which have been submitted to the DOJ and the SEC, did not substantiate initial information suggesting significant use of gift cards for improper purposes. The Company cannot predict at this time whether any regulatory action may be taken or any other potential consequences may result from this matter.”

The Corruption Currents post contains a quote from Grainger spokeswoman as follows.  “We conducted a very thorough investigation, and based on our findings we do not believe this is a material issue.  We have submitted our findings to the DOJ and the SEC and we are in conversations with them regarding the conclusion of this matter.”

Contrary to the Corruption Currents headline “W.W. Grainger’s FCPA Probe Finds No Wrongdoing” the disclosure is qualified by the term “significant” use of gift cards for improper purposes and the quote from the company representative is qualified by the term “material” issue.  Very few FCPA issues in multinational companies rise to the level of quantitative materiality – even if the SEC takes the view that all payments in violation of the FCPA are qualitatively material.

As noted in this previous post concerning Congressional interest in DOJ FCPA declination decisions, the DOJ has stated that it “has declined to prosecute corporate entities in several cases based on particular facts and circumstances presented in those matters” including the following:  “a single employee, and no other employee, was involved in the provision of improper payments; and the improper payments involved minimal funds compared to the overall business revenues.”

Friday Roundup

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Dear Attorney General Holder, U.K. developments not involving News Corp., and Halliburton updates its disclosure … it’s all here in the Friday roundup.

*****

Senators Klobuchar and Coons Write to Attorney General Holder On FCPA Guidance

As noted in this previous post, in November 2011, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) asked Attorney General Holder for detailed information about the DOJ’s promised upcoming FCPA guidance.

Earlier this week, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) sent Attorney General Holder this letter regarding the DOJ’s forthcoming FCPA guidance.  From my perspective, the most notable paragraph of the letter was as follows.  “[I]t has become apparent that too many companies are devoting a disproportionate amount of resources to FCPA compliance and internal investigations.  To be clear, it is both necessary and desirable that companies pay adequate attention to compliance efforts, and in certain cases, adequate anti-corruption initiatives may require a significant corporate committment.  Over-compliance, however, can have a negative effect on product development, export promotion, and workforce expansion.”

I agree and devoted an entire section of “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (see here pages 997-1009) to why the facade of FCPA enforcement matters including the breeding of overcompliance and time-consuming internal investigations.  See also here pages 8-9 of my Senate FCPA testimony.

In addition, Senator Klobuchar and Coons encouraged the DOJ “to seek out the participation of U.S. corporate stakeholders when formulating its guidance.”  The Senators stated as follows.  “Engagement with the stakeholder community ought to occur prior to the release of guidance.  In the alternative, guidance should be issued in draft form and finalized after a comment period of sufficient length.”

U.K. Developments

Some recent U.K. developments that do not involve News Corp.

In this release, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced that Bruce Hall was charged with corruption offenses based on his alleged receipt of bribes while an employee of Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (“Alba”).  The charges against Hall relate to previous SFO charges against Victor Dahdaleh, an agent for Alcoa, who allegedly made bribe payments to Alba – see here for the prior post.  In recent years, the DOJ has likewise brought non-FCPA charges against bribe recipients.  See here for instance.

In this release, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced charges against a fourth person in connection with the Innospec enforcement action.  (See here for more on the corporate enforcement action).  Miltos Papachristos, a former Regional Sales Director for the Asia Pacific Region for Innospec, was charged with ”conspiracy to corrupt in that he gave or agreed to give corrupt payments to public officials and other agents of the Government of Indonesia as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from the Government of Indonesia for the supply of Innospec Ltd products including Tetraethyl Lead.”  For more on the other three individuals charged – see here.

Halliburton Updates Disclosure

Yesterday’s post (here) touched upon FCPA disclosures and how it seems like every week there is new disclosure to report.

Halliburton’s disclosure yesterday was not new, but it stated as follows.  “We are conducting an internal investigation of certain areas of our operations in Angola, focusing on compliance with certain company policies, including our Code of Business Conduct (COBC), and the FCPA and other applicable laws. In December 2010, we received an anonymous e-mail alleging that certain current and former personnel violated our COBC and the FCPA, principally through the use of an Angolan vendor. The e-mail also alleges conflicts of interest, self-dealing and the failure to act on alleged violations of our COBC and the FCPA. We contacted the DOJ to advise them that we were initiating an internal investigation with the assistance of outside counsel and independent forensic accountants. During the third quarter of 2011, we met with the DOJ and the SEC to brief them on the status of our investigation and provided them documents. We are currently responding to a subpoena from the SEC regarding this matter and are producing all relevant documents. We understand that one of our employees has also received a subpoena from the SEC regarding this matter. We expect to continue to have discussions with the DOJ and the SEC, and we intend to continue to cooperate with their inquiries and requests as they investigate this matter. Because these investigations are at an early stage, we cannot predict their outcome or the consequences thereof.”

In 2009, Halliburton (and related entities) resolved a $579 million DOJ/SEC FCPA enforcement action concerning conduct at Bonny Island, Nigeria.  (See here).

*****

A good weekend to all.

SFO Flexing It Muscle Even Without the Bribery Act

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In previous statements (see here for instance) U.K. officials have said that it would be wrong to assume that the U.K. was ignoring bribery issues prior to passage of the Bribery Act.

Case(s) in point – the recent enforcement actions announced by the Serious Fraud Office against MK Kellogg Ltd. and Mabey & Johnson directors.

MK Kellogg Ltd.

Yesterday, the SFO announced (here) that M.W. Kellogg Limited (“MKWL”) has been ordered to pay “just over £7 million [approximately $11.2 million] in recognition of sums it is due to receive which were generated through the criminal activity of third parties.”

This SFO enforcement action has been expected for some time, as noted in this previous post from October 2009.

MKWL was the entity that originally formed the TSKJ consortium the focus of the Bonny Island bribery scandal. See this post for current enforcement statistics as to KBR/Halliburton, Technip, and Snamprogetti / ENI.

MKWL is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of KBR and as noted in this previous post as well as KBR’s release (here) Halliburton has indemnification obligations to KBR in connection with the SFO enforcement action of “55% of such penalties, which is KBR’s beneficial ownership interest in MWKL.”

According to the SFO release, “the SFO recognized that MKWL took no part in the criminal activity that generated the funds” but that the “funds due to MKWL are share dividends payable from profits and revenues generated by contracts obtained through bribery and corruption undertaken by MWKL’s parent company and others.” The SFO release notes that “MWKL was used by the parent company and was not a willing participant in the corruption.”

As noted in the SFO release, the court order against MKWL was pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. What is the Proceeds of Crime Act? See this piece from John Rupp (Covington & Burling).

Richard Alderman, the Director of the SFO, stated in the release: “our goal is to prevent bribery and corruption or remove any of the benefits generated by such activities – this case demonstrates the range of tools we are prepared to use.”

Mabey & Johnson Directors

In July 2009, the SFO brought an enforcement action against Mabey & Johnson Ltd. (a U.K. company that designs and manufacturers steel bridges). The conduct at issue involved allegations (that the company voluntarily disclosed) that it sought to influence decision-makers in public contracts in Jamaica and Ghana between 1993 and 2001. The prosecution also involved breaches of United Nations sanctions in connection with the Iraq Oil for Food program.

It was the first ever prosecution against a U.K. company for overseas corruption. See here and here for the prior post.

On February 10th, the SFO announced (here) that “two former directors … of Mabey & Johnson Ltd. [Charles Forsyth and David Mabey] have been found guilty of inflating the contract price for the supply of steel bridges in order to provide kickbacks to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.”

According to the release, at the time of the offense, Forsyth was the Managing Director of Mabey & Johnson and Mabey was the Sales Director. The release notes that Richard Gledhill, a Sales Manager for contracts in Iraq, previously pleaded guilty. According to the release, all individuals are to be sentenced on February 23rd.

The U.S. has prosecuted numerous companies in connection with Iraqi Oil-For-Food fraud. See here for such allegations in the ABB matter, here for such allegations in the Innospec matter, here for such allegations in the General Electric matter.

However, these prosecutions have generally been corporate only prosecutions with few related enforcement actions against individuals.

In just its single Mabey & Johnson prosecution, the SFO would appear to have prosecuted more individuals than the U.S. has in its approximately 15 Iraqi Oil for Food corporate enforcement actions combined.

Bonny Island Bribery Developments

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

As reported elsewhere earlier this week (see here among other places), JGC Corporation of Japan (here) is close to resolving an FCPA enforcement action. JGC is the fourth joint venture partner along with KBR, Technip and Snamprogetti in the TSKJ consortium (a consortium originally formed by M.W. Kellogg) involved in the Bonny Island, Nigeria project.

In a disclosure earlier this week (here) the company stated:

“JGC and DOJ have been engaged in discussions about a potential resolution of the investigation relating to JGC. It was confirmed at the meeting of JGC’s board of directors held on January 31, 2011 that the Board has approved a potential resolution of the investigation. Based on this approval, JGC recognized a provision for the cost estimated for such a resolution, which will be appropriated as a financial loss in the 3rd Quarter Financial Result. The amount of such loss is 17.8 billion Japanese yen [approximately $218 million]“.

The expected JGC settlement would thus fall in the Top Ten FCPA enforcement actions of all time (see here for the FCPA Blog’s current list) and would bump the total amount of corporate fines and penalties U.S. authorities have collected in Bonny Island bribery cases to approximately $1.52 billion.

See here for my current Bonny Island bribery statistics.

How will JGC’s expected settlement affect KBR (a company, along with its current or former affiliated entities, that has already paid $579 million in U.S. fines and penalties in connection with Bonny Island)?

In early January, KBR announced (here) that it “completed the acquisition of the 44.94 percent share interest in M.W. Kellogg Limited (MWKL) previously held by JGC Corporation. With the completion of the transaction, MWKL, which was previously an affiliate of both companies since 1992, is again a wholly-owned KBR subsidiary.”

During a January 13th earnings call, Sue Carter (KBR – Senior VP and CFO) stated as follows:

“Also in regards to MWKL, included in the transaction is an estimate of JGC’s share of the ongoing [Serious Fraud Office] investigation. Any potential liabilities at this point are only estimated. Therefore any financial impact pending an actual outcome in the investigation will be trued up positive or negative.”

During the Q&A, William Utt (KBR – Chairman, President and CEO) was asked “can you tell us what kind of risks are structured in the MWKL deal? I mean, you have indemnification clauses for FCPA from Halliburton on your original stake. Do you have a similar clause with JGC?” He responded as follows: “Well I think the indemnification from Halliburton goes towards any financial penalties associated with the SFO investigation and as Sue commented, we’ve already factored that into the purchase price with JGC subject to a true-up.”

As Halliburton disclosed in its Oct. 22, 2010 10-Q filing, its indemnification obligations to KBR in connection with the SFO investigation “is limited to 55% of such penalties, which is KBR’s beneficial ownership interest in MWKL.”