Archive for the ‘Harris Corporation’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, September 7th, 2012

A focus on entertainment and calling out FCPA / Bribery Act Inc. and a recent disclosure from a company that is part of FCPA history.  It’s all here in the (slimmer than normal) Friday roundup.

Recent Comments From The Director of the U.K. SFO

The briberyact.com previously mentioned here recent comments made by David Green (Director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office) in a Daily Mail article (here) that “mainstream corporate entertaining” is of little concern to the SFO.  Green states in the article as follows.  “We are not  interested in that sort of case. We are interested in hearing that a large company has mysteriously come second in bidding for a big contract. The sort of  bribery we would be investigating would not be tickets to Wimbledon or bottles of champagne. We are not the ‘serious champagne office.’”

The same can not always be said of the DOJ or SEC.  Although such seemingly minor corporate entertainment expenditures have never been the sole focus of an enforcement action, several enforcement actions have included such allegations. For instance, the UTStarcom enforcement action (see here for the prior post) contained allegations about a $600 bottle of wine.  The Data Systems and Solutions enforcement action (see here for the prior post) contained allegations regarding a Cartier watch.  The IBM enforcement action (see here for the prior post) contained allegations about a camera.  The RAE Systems enforcement actions (see here for the prior post) contained allegations about kitchen appliances, business suits, and high-priced liquor.  Numerous other examples abound.  One must assume that the enforcement agencies included such allegations in the resolution documents for a reason, not just to fill up paper.

Alexandra Wrage (President of Trace International) noted the U.K. / U.S.  irony in this recent piece for Corporate Counsel.   ”[W]hereas the U.S. law permits these expenditures [facilitation payments and reasonable entertainment expenses], within reason, and then enforces when companies overstep, the U.K. prohibits them, but assures the public that they won’t be prosecuted.”

Green’s comments to the Daily Mail were also notable for his calling out of FCPA (or as the case may be Bribery Act) Inc.  The Daily Mail article notes as follows.  “[Green] criticised American law firms that had taken  advantage of the uncertainty. ‘It is in their interest to focus attention on the  Bribery Act. They put up talking heads and arrange conferences. It is a huge  industry.’”  Green’s comments are similar to those noted in this prior post by Kenneth Clark (the U.K.’s anti-corruption champion) who stated, in the House of Commons, leading up to the Bribery Act as follows.   “I hope to put out very clear guidance [regarding the Bribery Act] to save [businesses] from the fears that are sometimes aroused by the compliance industry, the consultants and lawyers who will, of course, try to persuade companies that millions of pounds must be spent on new systems that, in my opinion, no honest firm will require to comply with the Act.”

Harris Corp.

As previously noted in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, Harris Corporation disclosed as follows in its recent annual report.

“[I]n April 4, 2011, we completed the acquisition of Carefx and thereby also acquired its subsidiaries, including in China (“Carefx China”). The consolidated revenue of the Carefx China operations for fiscal 2012 was approximately $1.4 million, or less than 0.1% of our consolidated revenue. In connection with our integration activities and the subsequent audit of the financials of the Carefx China operations, we became aware that certain entertainment, travel and other expenses in connection with the Carefx China operations may have been incurred or recorded improperly. In response, with the concurrence of our Audit Committee, we initiated an internal investigation, with the assistance of outside legal counsel, to determine whether violations of the FCPA potentially occurred. In the course of our investigation, we learned that certain employees of the Carefx China operations had provided pre-paid gift cards and other gifts and payments to certain customers and potential customers. Although our investigation is not complete, we have already taken remedial actions related to the Carefx China operations, including changes to internal control procedures, termination of the gift-giving practice, additional compliance training and termination of the employment of certain individuals. The preliminary results of the investigation have been disclosed to our Audit Committee, Board of Directors and auditors, and we have also contacted the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC to voluntarily disclose that we are conducting the investigation and to advise that it is our intent to fully cooperate with any investigation that they may conduct with respect to this matter. We cannot predict at this time any regulatory action that may be taken with respect to this matter or any other potential consequences that may result. However, based on the information available to date, we do not believe that this matter will have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.”

As noted in this previous post, Harris Corp. is part of FCPA history.  It is believed to be the first, and to this day only, publicly traded company to have put the DOJ to its burden of proof at trial.  As noted in the post, Harris Corp. prevailed in the enforcement action (1990-1991).  I noted in the previous post as follows.  If non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements existed in 1990, would Harris have resolved the enforcement action via such a resolution vehicle? Likely yes. Yet Harris and the individual defendants all prevailed at trial.

If the conduct Harris recently disclosed gives rise to an enforcement action, will Harris likewise this time around put the DOJ to its burden of proof?  Even if it has valid legal and factual defenses, not a chance.  NPAs and DPAs exist today and resolving FCPA inquiries is often more about cost-beneft / risk-reward, than law and facts.

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A good weekend to all.

Customer Reward Programs

Friday, May 20th, 2011

At this moment, it is likely that some company operating in China has a customer rewards program whereby customers are awarded points based on the level of purchases.

At this moment, it is likely that some person employed by an entity with some level of state-ownership or control just received an iPad or camera because the individual redeemed points under the program based on the purchase the individual previously authorized.

The SEC is concerned about the customer rewards program and whether it complies with the FCPA and the company is spending hundreds of dollars an hour investigating the program so that it can present its conclusions to the SEC and the DOJ.

Your first response upon reading the above paragraph might be – are you serious or is this paragraph from the Onion (see here), a satire news organization that parodies just about everything.

Nothing make believe about the first paragraph, it is derived from RAE Systems May 12th proxy statement filed with the SEC.

In the filing (here), RAE Systems stated as follows.

“In the course of telephonic discussions between April 15 and 19, 2011, outside counsel for [RAE] was asked by the SEC whether RAE China had adopted a sales program whereby customers are awarded points based on the level of their purchases of RAE products and are then eligible to redeem those points at year-end for gifts such as iPads or cameras, and whether such a program complies with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). We do not believe that any RAE China personnel have been engaging in such a practice. We are conducting a review in response to the SEC’s inquiry, and intend to provide our conclusions to the SEC and Department of Justice.”

In December 2010, RAE Systems resolved a DOJ/SEC enforcement action concerning the acts of its subsidiaries’ joint venture partners in China. See here for the prior post. RAE Systems agreed to pay approximately $2.95million in fines and disgorgement and agreed to a three-year DOJ non-prosecution agreement (here).

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The clock is now ticking to see who will publish (presumably) the first client alert or host the first webinar on “The FCPA Compliance Risks of Customer Rewards Programs.”

In the meantime, there is likely a “foreign official” somewhere with his eye on the six piece stoneware gourmet mixing bowl set (here) available for 2000 points under Coke’s rewards program.

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Interested in reading more about the Harris Corporation enforcement action? As highlighted earlier this week (see here) the recent Lindsey Manufacturing case was not the first instance of a company putting the DOJ to its burden of proof in an FCPA trial. Harris Corporation (and certain of its executives) did just that and prevailed in an FCPA trial. As described in the post, U.S. District Judge Charles A. Legge (N.D. Cal.) directed a verdict of acquittal after the DOJ’s case.

Michael H. Huneke (Hughes Hubbard & Reed – see here) was kind to send the Defendants’ motion for acquittal, the DOJ’s response, and the transcript of oral arguments and Judge Legge’s ruling.

If old FCPA enforcement actions are your thing – here you go! If others have interesting FCPA enforcement documents from … say 1978 – 1995 – send them my way.

A good weekend to all.

One Win, One Loss

Monday, May 16th, 2011

The conviction last week of Lindsey Manufacturing Inc. (see here for the prior post) was indeed the first instance of a company being tried and convicted on FCPA violations – as noted in the DOJ’s release (here).

However, contrary to numerous media reports, it was not the first instance of a company putting the DOJ to its burden of proof in an FCPA trial.

That first occurred in 1990-1991 when Harris Corporation (and certain of its executives) prevailed in an FCPA trial.

Thus, the DOJ’s record in corporate FCPA trials is one win, one loss.

This post summarizes the Harris Corporation enforcement action and includes information gleaned from original source newspaper accounts.

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In 1990, Harris Corporation (“Harris”), John D. Iacobucci, and Ronald L. Schultz were charged in a criminal indictment (here) filed in U.S. District Court – Northern District of California.

As alleged in the indictment, Harris was a Delaware publicly-traded corporation headquartered in Melbourne, Florida and through its Digital Telephone Systems (“DTS”) division it manufactured telephone switching systems. Iacobucci was the Vice President and General Manager of DTS and Schultz was, at various times, Director of Human Relations and Facilities at DTS, Director of Administration at DTS and responsible for Contracts Administration.

Robert O’Hara (an unindicted co-conspirator – more on O’Hara below) was the President and sole stock-holder of Polo Associations Corporation, Inc. – a Delaware corporation created by O’Hara “to engage in the business of advising telecommunications companies of ways to obtain business in Latin American countries, particularly Colombia.”

The conduct at issue involved “The Empress Nacional de Telecomunicaciones or Telecom” an alleged “instrumentality of the Government of Colombia responsible for the operation of telex services, maritime communications, and long distance and international telephone and telegraph services within the country of Colombia.” According to the indictment, “Telecom was an instrumentality of the Government of Colombia within the meaning of the FCPA.” However, as detailed below, none of the improper payments at issue were alleged to have been paid to Telecom officials.

The indictment charged that Harris, Iacobucci, Schultz and O’Hara conspired to violate the FCPA by paying and authorizing the payment of money to O’Hara “while knowing that a portion of such money” would be offered or given, directly or indirectly, to “foreign officials, that is, officials of the Government of Colombia” in order to influence the officials to award government telecommunications contracts to Harris in violation of the FCPA. The indictment further charged a conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

According to the indictment, part of the conspiracy was that Harris retained O’Hara “as a consultant based upon the representation of O’Hara that he had connections with officials of the Government of Colombia that he would use to assist” Harris in obtaining telecommunications contracts. According to the indictment, Harris agreed to pay O’Hara a 10% commission of the value of any telecommunications contracts entered into between Harris and Telecom.

The indictment does not allege that any payments went to officials of Telecom, but rather that payments went to a “member of the Camara de Representates (CDR), the national legislative of Colombia;” a local Colombian company “that was owned in part by a foreign official, that is, a member of the CDR;” and “various officials of the Government of Colombia.”

The indictment alleged specific meetings and documents that set into motion the bribery scheme.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, the indictment also charged substantive FCPA anti-bribery and FCPA books and records offenses.

Original source newspaper reports from the time detail as follows.

Theodore S. Greenberg, deputy chief of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division, stated upon issuance of the indictment – “The department continues to view violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as serious matters and will pursue them accordingly.”

A statement from John Hartley, Chairman and Chief Executive of Harris, stated as follows. “We believe that these charges are based upon a distorted view of the facts, and they represent a radical departure from existing enforcement policies. We have cooperated fully with the Justice Department in its investigation of the allegations, providing clear evidence refuting the charges.”

At the time of the indictment, Harris Corp. was ranked 57th among Department of Defense contractors in terms of total dollar volume of contracts awarded.

Harris, Iacobucci, and Schultz put the DOJ to its burden of proof and the criminal trial began on March 4, 1991. The San Francisco Examiner stated that “the trial is significant because the Justice Department prosecutes only a few such foreign bribery cases a year.”

The same article contained the following background on the case. “The government’s case is based on the testimony of a whistle-blower who handed over company documents to the FBI and a consultant who has pleaded guilty to helping Harris Corp. falsify its records. [...] The defendants insist that they authorized only legitimate consulting payments to secure Colombia’s business and claim that the government’s case rests on trumped-up charges by a disgruntled employee. [...] At a pretrial hearing, U.S. District Judge Charles A. Legge rejected a request by defense attorneys to exclude dozens of Harris Corp. documents from the trial. They claim that [the whistleblower] stole the documents on behalf of the FBI. [...] A key prosecution witness is Robert O’Hara, a consultant who is based in New York. He pleaded guilty in August to a charge of aiding Harris Corp. with falsifying its financial records.”

On March 19, 1991, Judge Legge, “after hearing the prosecution’s case … granted a verdict of acquittal … the defense was not called upon to present its case.” The San Francisco Chronicle stated as follows. “Shortly after the government rested its case, U.S. District Judge Charles Legge of San Francisco ruled from the bench that ‘no reasonable jury’ could convict the company nor its executives on any of the five bribery-related counts for which they were indicted. Citing insufficient evidence, Legge said the government had failed to show any intent by the defendants to enter into a criminal conspiracy. Legge also said it was the first time in his six years on the federal bench that he had dismissed a criminal case at mid-trial for lack of evidence.” The Chronicle called the dismissal a “stunning defeat for the Justice Department” after a 12-member jury heard two weeks of testimony by prosecution witnesses.

The Chronicle further stated as follows. “The acquittal also reinforced the Justice Department’s poor track record of prosecutions in overseas bribery cases. Federal prosecutors have won only two dozen convictions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 since the law was adopted more than a decade ago.”

Hartley (the above referenced Chairman and Chief Executive of Harris) stated as follows. “We’re very pleased that our Digital Telephone Systems Division and its employees have been vindicated, but we believe the charges should never have been brought in the first place. The Justice Department’s case was based upon a distorted view of the facts and represented a radical departure from existing enforcement policies. As a result, American taxpayers have been burdened with unnecessary litigation costs, and Harris has incurred more than $3 million in legal fees, spent many hundreds of hours of our people’s time, and suffered a substantial disruption of the corporation’s business to prove an absence of wrongdoing that should have been apparent from the beginning. The case has also placed a heavy strain on our two employees named in the indictment.”

Michael Fayad, a lawyer for Harris, stated as follows. “[Judge Legge] decided to dismiss the case for all of the same reasons we had pointed out to the Department of Justice early on, prior to indictment … that there was no bribe, no contract, no agreement to pay a bribe, no corrupt intent.”

Charles Bryer, Schultz’s lawyer, stated as follows. “The case was paper-thin, built on a con man’s story and a disgruntled employee’s vengeance. We were conned to pay some money that we thought was going to be used for a legitimate purpose.”

According to newspaper accounts, DOJ prosecutor Scott MacKay said the government brought the case in good faith – “We’re disappointed with the judge’s ruling. We feel that we presented a good case, but we accept the judge’s ruling.”

Today, Harris Corporation is alive and well. See here for its webpage.

As to O’Hara, as suggested above, he pleaded guilty to related charges in the Eastern District of N.Y. before the Harris et. al trial. However, after the California directed verdict of acquittal, but before his sentencing, O’Hara sought to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court judge denied his motion and concluded that the acquittal of O’Hara’s alleged co-conspirators was not a “fair and just reason” sufficient to allow O’Hara to withdraw his guilty plea. O’Hara appealed and the Second Circuit affirmed (See 960 F.2d 11).

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If non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements existed in 1990, would Harris have resolved the enforcement action via such a resolution vehicle? Likely yes. Yet Harris and the individual defendants all prevailed at trial.

Was there anything wrong with this prior era when NPAs and DPAs were not an option in an FCPA enforcement action? I submit no and believe that abolishing NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context should be subject to serious debate and discussion. For more on this issue (see here).