Archive for the ‘IBM’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Roundup2Is this appropriate, sentenced, scrutiny alerts and updates, quotable, a future foreign official teaser?, Brazil update, and for the reading stack.

It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Is This Appropriate?

If this truly is an event, “Drinks With an FBI Agent – Inside Stories From the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” is it appropriate?

Sentenced

Chinea and DeMeneses Sentences

The DOJ announced

“Benito Chinea and Joseph DeMeneses, the former chief executive officer and former managing director of a broker-dealer Direct Access Partner “were sentenced to prison … for their roles in a scheme to pay bribes to a senior official in Venezuela’s state economic development bank, Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela (Bandes), in return for trading business that generated more than $60 million in commissions.”

Chinea and DeMeneses were each sentenced to four years in prison.  They were also ordered to pay $3,636,432 and $2,670,612 in forfeiture, respectively, which amounts represent their earnings from the bribery scheme.  On Dec. 17, 2014, both defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Travel Act.”

In the release, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“These Wall Street executives orchestrated a massive bribery scheme with a corrupt official in Venezuela to illegally secure tens of millions of dollars in business for their firm. The convictions and prison sentences of the CEO and Managing Director of a sophisticated Wall Street broker-dealer demonstrate that the Department of Justice will hold individuals accountable for violations of the FCPA and will pursue executives no matter where they are on the corporate ladder.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York stated:

“Benito Chinea and Joseph DeMeneses paid bribes to an officer of a state-run development bank in exchange for lucrative business she steered to their firm. Chinea and DeMeneses profited for a time from the corrupt arrangement, but that profit has turned into prison and now they must forfeit their millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains as well as their liberty.”

Elgawhary Sentence

This previous post highlighted the DOJ enforcement action against Asem Elgawhary, a former principal vice president of Bechtel Corporation and general manager of a joint venture operated by Bechtel and an Egyptian utility company, for allegedly accepting $5.2 million in kickbacks to manipulate the competitive bidding process for state-run power contracts in Egypt.

The DOJ recently announced that Elgawhary was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison.

When the Alstom enforcement action was announced in December 2014 (see here and here for prior posts), Elgawhary was described as an Egyptian “foreign official.”

So what was Elgawhary?

A former principal vice president of Bechtel Corporation and general manager of a joint venture operated by Bechtel and an Egyptian utility company or a Egyptian “foreign official?”

Can the DOJ have it both ways?

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Anheuser-Busch InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev recently disclosed in its annual report:

“We have been informed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice that they are conducting investigations into our affiliates in India, including a non-consolidated Indian joint venture that we previously owned, ABInBev India Private Limited, and whether certain relationships of agents and employees were compliant with the FCPA. We are investigating the conduct in question and are cooperating with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Bilfinger

As highlighted in this previous post, in December 2013 German-based Bilfinger paid approximately $32 million to resolve an FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct in Nigeria.  The enforcement action was resolved via a three-year deferred prosecution agreement.

As noted in the previous post, Bilfinger’s CEO described the conduct at issue as “events from the distant past.”

From the not-so distant past, Bilfinger recently announced:

“Bilfinger received internal information last year indicating that there may have been violations of the Group’s compliance regulations in connection with orders for the supply of monitor walls for security control centres in several large municipalities in Brazil. The company immediately launched a comprehensive investigation. The allegation relates to suspected bribery payments from employees of a Bilfinger company in Brazil to public officials and employees of state companies.”

See here for a follow-up announcement from the company.

As a foreign company, Bilfinger is only subject to the FCPA’s anti-bribery violations to the extent the payment scheme involves a U.S. nexus (as was alleged in the prior Bilfinger FCPA enforcement action).

IBM

Canadian media reports:

“Seven people, including Revenue Quebec employees and officials with computer companies IBM and EBR, were [recently] arrested … in connection with an alleged corruption scheme aimed at obtaining a government IT contract worth $24 million.Two Revenue Quebec employees, Hamid Iatmanene and Jamal El Khaiat, stand accused of providing privileged information about an upcoming government contract to a consortium made up of IBM and Quebec company Informatique EBR Inc.”

As highlighted here, in 2000 IBM resolved an FCPA enforcement action.

As highlighted here, in 2011 IBM resolved another FCPA enforcement action.  This enforcement action was filed in federal court (back in the day when the SEC actually filed FCPA enforcement actions in federal court vs. its preferred in-house method now) and Judge Richard Leon was concerned about the settlement process.  As highlighted here, Judge Leon approved the settlement, but his July 2013 final order states, among other things:

“[For a two year period IBM is required to submit annual reports] to the Commission and this Court describing its efforts to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), and to report to the Commission and this Court immediately upon learning it is reasonably likely that IBM has violated the FCPA in connection with either improper payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business or any fraudulent books and records entries …””

According to media reports, Judge Leon stated: “if there’s another violation over the next two years, it won’t be a happy day.”

Quotable

In this Law360 article, Richard Grime (former Assistant Director of Enforcement at the SEC and current partner at Gibson Dunn) states regarding recent alleged FCPA violations.

“It’s not that you couldn’t intellectually [conceive of] the violation. It’s that the government is sort of probing every area where there is an interaction with government officials and then working backwards from there to see if there is a violation, as opposed to starting out with the statute … and what it prohibits.”

Given that most SEC FCPA enforcement actions are the result of voluntary disclosures, it is a curious statement.  Perhaps its companies, at the urging of FCPA Inc., that are probing every area where there is an interaction with government officials and then working backwards?

*****

As reported here:

“Greek authorities [recently] indicted 64 people to stand trial over years-old allegations of bribery involving Siemens AG, the German engineering giant … A probe of corporate dealings from 1992 to 2006 allegedly found that Greece had lost about 70 million euros in the sale of equipment from Siemens to Greek telephone operator Hellenic Telecommunications also known as OTE, which was still owned by the state at the beginning of that period … A panel of judges decided that those indicted, including both Greek and German nationals, should stand trial for bribery or money laundering. The list of suspects includes former Siemens and OTE officials.”

As noted here, Joe Kaeser (President and CEO of Siemens) reportedly stated:

“I really believe the country (Greece) can move to the future, rather than trying to find the solutions in the past.” He added that his company had a “dark history,” mentioning compliance issues. But he said it was not a “black and white story” when asked whether the indictments had been politically motivated by the current friction between the German and Greek governments. ”Looking at the past doesn’t help the future because the past is the past.”

If the U.S. brings FCPA enforcement actions based on conduct that in some instances is 10 – 15 years old, it is not surprising that Greece is doing the same.  Yet is this right?

As the U.S. Supreme Court recently stated in Gabelli:

“Statute of limitations are intended to ‘promote justice by preventing surprises through the revival of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has been lost, memories have faded, and witnesses have disappeared.  They provide ‘security and stability to human affairs.  [They] are ‘vital to the welfare of society [and] ‘even wrongdoers are entitled to assume that their sins may be forgotten.’ […] It ‘would be utterly repugnant to the genius of our laws if actions for penalties could ‘be brought at any distance of time.’”

****

Since day one, I called Morgan-Stanley’s so-called declination politically motivated.  (See here and here).

I am glad to see that FCPA commentator Michael Volkov recently joined the club.  Writing on the Garth Peterson / Morgan Stanley so-called declination, Volkov states:  ”my intelligence on the case indicated that … [the] DOJ apparently wanted to demonstrate for political reasons that it could recognize a company’s compliance program to decline a case against a company.

A Future Foreign Official Teaser?

As recently reported by the Wall Street,

“China’s leadership is preparing to radically consolidate the country’s bloated state-owned sector, telling thousands of enterprises they need to rely less on state life support and get ready to list on public markets. [...] Communist Party leaders plan to release broad guidelines in the next months for restructuring the country’s more than 100,000 state-owned enterprises, according to government officials and advisers with knowledge of the deliberations. [...]  Strategically important industries such as energy, resources and telecommunications are marked for consolidation, the officials and advisers say. The merged entities would then be reorganized as asset-investment firms, with a mandate to make sure they run more like commercial operations than arms of the government. Upper management will be under orders to maximize returns and prepare many of the companies for eventual listing on stock markets, these people say.”

In U.S. v. Esquenazi, the 11th Circuit concluded that  an “instrumentality” under the FCPA is an “entity controlled by the government of a foreign country that performs a function the controlling government treats as its own.” The Court recognized that what “constitutes control and what constitutes a function the government treats as its own are fact-bound questions” and, without seeking to list all “factors that might prove relevant,” the court did list “some factors that may be relevant” in deciding issues of control and function.

As to control, the 11th Circuit listed the following factors:

“[whether] the foreign government’s formal designation of that entity; whether the government has a majority interest in the entity; the government’s ability to hire and fire the entity’s principals; the extent to which the entity’s profits, if any, go directly into the governmental fisc, and, by the same token, the extent to which the government funds the entity if it fails to break even; and the length of time these indicia have existed.”

As to function, the 11th Circuit listed the following factors:

“whether the entity has a monopoly over the function it exists to carry out; whether the government subsidizes the costs associated with the entity providing services; whether the entity provides services to the public at large in the foreign country; and whether the public and the government of that foreign country generally perceive the entity to be performing a governmental function.”

Have fun applying this test should China’s proposed changes go forward.

Brazil Update

My own cents regarding Brazil’s recent implementation of regulations regarding certain features of its Clean Companies Act (a law which provides for only civil and administrative liability of corporate entities for alleged acts of bribery) is that the regulations are a yawner for any company that is already acting consistent with FCPA best practices.

Yet, if you feel the urge to read up on Brazil’s recent regulations, comprehensive coverage can be found here from Debevoise & Plimpton and here from FCPAmericas.

For the Reading Stack

A thoughtful article here from Alexandra Wrage (President of Trace) regarding the “cult of the imperfect.”  It states:

“Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt is credited with saving thousands of lives in Britain during the worst days of World War II after developing Chain Home, a low-frequency radar system able to detect aircraft from about 90 miles away. He openly encouraged what he called the “cult of the imperfect” among his team. He knew that Britain didn’t need the best possible radar system in five years; the country needed a viable radar system urgently. Immediately. Watson-Watt, who was knighted shortly after the Battle of Britain, is said to have instructed his team to strive for the third-best option, because “the second-best comes too late . . . the best never comes.

[...]

Perfect due diligence risk assessments never come. And even second-best may come too late. Just get started. You’ll see more protections and benefits from good (for now) than perfect (some day, maybe . . .).”

Sound advice that I agree with and completely consistent with Congressional intent in enacting the FCPA’s internal controls provisions and even prior enforcement agency guidance.

Problem is, the DOJ and SEC wear rose-colored glasses, including as to conduct years ago, and if a company is acting consistent with FCPA best practices 99% of the time, that means 1% of the time they are not.

*****

A good weekend to all. On Wisconsin!

Friday Roundup

Friday, July 26th, 2013

A sign-off, no surprise, scrutiny alert, for the reading stack, spot-on, and the $10 million man.

Judge Leon Signs-Off On IBM Action

As highlighted in this prior post, in March 2011 the SEC announced an FCPA enforcement action against IBM concerning alleged conduct in South Korea and China.  The settlement terms contained a permanent injunction as to future FCPA violations and thus required judicial approval.  Similar to the Tyco FCPA enforcement action, the case sat on Judge Leon’s docket.  Last month, Judge Leon approved the Tyco settlement (see here) and yesterday Judge Leon approved the IBM settlement.

The common thread between the two enforcement actions would seem to be that both companies were repeat FCPA offenders.

Like Judge Leon’s final order in Tyco, the final order in IBM action states:

“[For a two year period IBM is required to submit annual reports] to the Commission and this Court describing its efforts to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), and to report to the Commission and this Court immediately upon learning it is reasonably likely that IBM has violated the FCPA in connection with either improper payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business or any fraudulent books and records entries …””

For additional coverage of yesterday’s hearing, see here from Bloomberg.  The article quotes Judge Leon as follows.  IBM “has learned its lesson and is moving in the right direction to ensure this never happens again.” If there’s another violation over the next two years, “it won’t be a happy day.”

However, as noted in this previous post, IBM recently disclosed additional FCPA scrutiny.

No Surprise

This recent post highlighted the 9th Circuit’s restitution ruling in the Green FCPA enforcement action and was titled “Green Restitution Order Stands … For Now.”  As noted in the prior post, the decision practically invited the Greens to petition for an en banc hearing.

No surprise, the Greens did just that earlier this week - see here for the petition.

Scrutiny Alert

This February 2012 post detailed how Wynn Resorts $135 million donation to the University of Macau became the subject of an SEC inquiry.

Earlier this month, Wynn disclosed in an SEC filing as follows:

“On February 13, 2012, Wynn Resorts, Limited (the “Company”) filed a Report on Form 8-K disclosing that it had received a letter from the Salt Lake Regional Office (the “Office”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) advising the Company that the Office had commenced an informal inquiry with respect to certain matters, including a donation by Wynn Macau, Limited, an affiliate of the Company, to the University of Macau Development Foundation. On July 2, 2013, the Company received a letter from the Office stating that the investigation had been completed with the Office not intending to recommend any enforcement action against the Company by the SEC.”

According to this report:

“Speaking to The Associated Press from his boat on the Spanish island of Ibiza … CEO Steve Wynn said he never had any doubt federal investigators would clear the company.  ‘We were so sanguine that we never paid any attention to it; we had no exposure. It was a nonevent except for the damn newspapers.’”

For the Reading Stack

The always informative Gibson Dunn Mid-Year FCPA Update and Mid-Year DPA and NPA Update (through July 8th, approximately 30% of all DPAs/NPAs have been used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions).

Sound insight from Robertson Park and Timothy Peterson in this Inside Counsel column:

“Without putting too fine a spin on the matter, the discussion of the potential consequences faced by a company with potential anti-bribery exposure was fundamentally U.S.-centric. The dispositive question was often whether or not the potential misconduct was likely to fall under the umbrella of FCPA enforcement. Would U.S. authorities be interested in pursuing this matter? Would they find out about this matter? There were not many other concerns that mattered. Whether the site of the potential misconduct was in the European, Asian, South American or African sector, the substantial likelihood was that home authorities would have little interest in the matter, and even if they did it was likely an interest that would often frustrate and impede efforts by the Department of Justice or the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the matter. Cooperative enforcement was unlikely. This has changed. [...]  For companies that learn of a potential international corruption issue, the impact of this emerging global enforcement market means that the headache associated with scoping an internal investigation is now a migraine with diverse and complex symptoms. Companies investigating potential bribery have always faced the question of how, if at all, they plan to disclose any subsequent findings to government authorities. Now, initial assessments of investigative plans in anti-bribery matters must consider a broader array of potentially interested enforcement authorities. Companies must design their anti-bribery investigations at the outset to consider not only the FCPA enforcement regime in the U.S., but also a newly energized U.K. anti-bribery law, along with a growing list of ant-bribery measures in almost all of the important jurisdictions with business growth opportunities.”

Six ways to improve in-house compliance training from Ryan McConnell and Gérard Sonnier.

The reality of facilitation payments from Matt Kelly.

“… Facilitation payments are a fact of life in global business. Nobody likes them, and no compliance officer wants to pay a bribe disguised as a facilitation payment. But when the transaction truly fits the definition of a facilitation payment—money paid to a government official, to speed up some job duty he would normally perform anyway—there shouldn’t be any ethical or legal crisis in paying it. After all, we have facilitation payments domestically in the United States. If you want a passport from the State Department, you pay $165 in fees. If you want an expedited passport, you pay an extra $60 fee and get your passport in half the usual time. That’s a facilitation payment, pure and simple. Other countries have all sorts of facilitation payments as well, say, to get a visa processed quickly or to clear goods through customs rather than let them rot on the docks. Urgent needs happen in business, and facilitation payments get you through them. That’s life.”

The language of corruption from the BBC.

Spot-On

Regardless of what you think of former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, he is spot-on with his observation that the so-called Arthur Anderson effect (i.e. if a business organization is criminally charged it will go out of business) is “overrated.”  As noted in this Corporate Crime Reporter piece, in a new book titled “Protecting Capitalism Case by Case” Spitzer writes:

“Almost all entities have the capacity to regenerate — even if under a new name, with new ownership and new leadership — and forcing them to do so will have the deterrent effect we desire.”

“Most companies would have no trouble continuing in operation once charged. They might suffer reputational harm, perhaps lose contracts, have certain loans be declared to be in default, and lose some personnel and public support. But that would probably be the proper price to be paid in the context of the violations of the law they committed.”

As noted in previous posts, the Arthur Anderson effect was effectively debunked (see here) and even Denis McInerney (DOJ, Deputy Assistant Attorney General) recently acknowledged (see here) that there is a very small chance that a company would be put out of business as a result of actual DOJ criminal charges.

In his new book Spitzer also writes as follows concerning the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy.

“I hope that the new leadership at the Securities and Exchange Commission will mandate that an admission of guilt is a necessary part of future settlements in cases of this stature or magnitude. The law and justice require such an acknowledgement — or else nothing has been accomplished.”

Speaking of neither admit nor deny, part of the SEC’s talking points defense of this policy is that the SEC is not the only federal agency that makes use of such a settlement policy.

On this score, it is notable – as detailed in this Law360 article – that Bart Chilton, a top official at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, “said the commission should rethink its policy of allowing defendants to settle claims without admitting or denying the allegations.”  According to the article, Chilton stated:

“I understand there are certain circumstances where we might not want to require [admissions], but I think we at the CFTC should change our modus operandi.  The default position should be that people who violate the law should admit wrongdoing.”

$10 Million Man

Continuing with neither admit nor deny, one of the defenders of this settlement policy was Robert Khuzami while he was at the SEC as the Director of Enforcement.   As noted in this Kirkland & Ellis release, Khuzami joined the firm as a partner in the global Government, Regulatory and Internal Investigations Practice Group.  According to this New York Times article, Khuzami’s new position “pays more than $5 million per year” and is guaranteed for two years.  In joining Kirkland, the New York Times stated that Khuzami “is following quintessential Washington script: an influential government insider becoming a paid advocate for industries he once policed.”

Khuzami and former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer were the voice and face of the SEC and DOJ last November upon release of the FCPA Guidance.  As detailed in this prior post, Breuer is currently at Covington & Burling making approximately $4 million per year.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Additional individual defendant added to Alstom-related enforcement action, a mere $110,000 per working day, a focus on international philanthropy, scrutiny alerts, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Additional Alstom-Related Charges

This prior post highlighted the recently unsealed criminal charges against Frederic Pierucci (a current Alstom employee) and David Rothschild (a former Alstom employee) concerning alleged conduct in connection with the Tarahan coal-fired steam power plant project in Indonesia.  The post highlighted several other individuals generically referred to in the charging documents.

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced (here) that William Pomponi (a former executive of Alstom Power Inc., a Connecticut-based subsidiary of Alstom) was charged for his alleged participation in the same scheme.   Pomponi, previously identified as “Employee A,” is now described as “a Vice President of Regional Sales” at Alstom Power Inc. and “was one of the people responsible for approving the actions of, and authorizing payments to, Consultants A and B, knowing that a portion of the payments [to the consultants] was intended for Indonesian officials in exchange for their influence and assistance in awarding the Tarahan Project …”.

Like the original Pierucci indictment, all of the alleged overt acts in the superseding indictment against Pomponi allegedly occured between 2002 and 2004, although the information does allege wire transfers from Alstom Power Inc.’s bank account to the bank account of Consultant A until 2009.

Like Pierucci, Pomponi is also charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, four substantive counts of FCPA anti-bribery violations, money laundering conspiracy and four substantive counts of money laundering.

Kudos to the DOJ for including a link to the charging document in the release.  This used to be DOJ’s practice, but when its new site launched a few years ago, it stopped doing this.  Let’s hope this is a new practice!

Avon’s FCPA Expenses

Nearly five years ago – in June 2008 – Avon launched an internal investigation concerning FCPA compliance in China and other countries.  In many respects, the most notable aspect of Avon’s FCPA scrutiny has been its pre-enforcement action professional and expenses – approaching $350 million (see here for instance).

In its most recent quarterly filing, Avon stated as follows.  “Professional and related fees associated with the FCPA investigations and compliance reviews … amounted to approximately $7 during the three months ended March 31, 2013.”

Headlines read “Avon FCPA Costs Down to $7 Million for Q1″ and “Avon Slows Spending on Bribery Probe.”

Both accurate headlines, but it is amazing to note nevertheless that – five years into Avon’s FCPA scrutiny – the company is still spending approximately $110,000 per working day on its FCPA issues.  (See this prior post concerning Wal-Mart’s pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses and asking “does it really need to cost this much?”).

International Philanthropy

FCPA material pops up in a variety of places.  Such as this article in www.wealthmanagement.com concerning the perils of global giving.  With two FCPA enforcement actions (Schering-Plough and Eli Lilly) based, in whole or in part, on donations made to a Polish castle foundation and with Wynn Resorts under FCPA scrutiny for a donation to the University of Macau (see here), FCPA scrutiny based on international charitable giving is no mere hypothetical.

Scrutiny Alerts

Scrutiny alerts concerning IBM, ADM, Total, and ENRC.

IBM

This recent post highlighted a ProPublica report regarding the relationship between various tech companies including H-P, IBM and Oracle with a ”senior technology officer for Poland’s national police and, later, the nation’s Interior Ministry, [who] set the terms for hundreds of millions of dollars in technology contracts and decided which ones should be awarded without competitive bidding.”

In a recent quarterly filing, IBM disclosed as follows.

“In early 2012, IBM notified the SEC of an investigation by the Polish Central Anti-Corruption Bureau involving allegations of illegal activity by a former IBM Poland employee in connection with sales to the Polish government. IBM is cooperating with the SEC and Polish authorities in this matter. In April 2013, IBM learned that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is also investigating allegations related to the Poland matter, as well as allegations relating to transactions in Argentina, Bangladesh and Ukraine. The DOJ is also seeking information regarding the company’s global FCPA compliance program and its public sector business. The company is cooperating with the DOJ in this matter.”

In 2011, IBM resolved an FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct in South Korea and China.  (See here).  The settlement is still pending the approval of Judge Richard Leon (D.D.C.).  In 2000, IBM resolved an FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct in Argentina. (See here).

ADM

Archer Daniels Midland Company recently stated as follows in this release.

“ADM is in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a previously disclosed FCPA matter dating back to 2008 and earlier, and expects a resolution sometime this year. Based upon recent discussions, ADM believes it is appropriate to establish a provision of $25 million ($0.04 per share) to cover the potential assessments that may be imposed by these government agencies.”

Total

France-based Total recently stated as follows (here) concerning its long-running FCPA scrutiny concerning business conduct in Iran.

“In 2003, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) followed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a formal order directing an investigation in connection with the pursuit of business in Iran by certain oil companies including, among others, TOTAL.  The inquiry concerns an agreement concluded by the Company with consultants concerning gas fields in Iran and aims to verify whether certain payments made under this agreement would have benefited Iranian officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Company’s accounting obligations. The Company fully cooperates with these investigations.  Since 2010, the Company has been in discussions with U.S. authorities (DoJ and SEC) to consider, as it is often the case in these kinds of proceedings, an out-of-court settlement, which would terminate the investigation in exchange for TOTAL respecting a number of obligations, including the payment of a fine and civil compensation, without admission of guilt.  U.S. authorities have proposed draft agreements that could be accepted by TOTAL. Consequently, and although discussions have not yet been finalized, a provision of $398 million, unchanged since its booking as of June 30, 2012 and reflecting the best estimate of potential costs associated with the resolution of these proceedings, remains booked in the Group’s consolidated financial statements as of March 31, 2013.  In this same affair, TOTAL and its Chief Executive Officer, President of the Middle East at the time of the facts, have been placed under formal investigation, following a judicial inquiry initiated in France in 2006. At this point, the Company considers that the resolution of these cases is not expected to have a significant impact on the Group’s financial situation or consequences on its future planned operations.”

A $398 million FCPA enforcement action would be the third-highest of all-time.

ENRC

Last week the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced here as follows.

“The Director of the SFO has accepted [Eurasian Natural Resources Corp.] ENRC Plc. for criminal investigation.  The focus of the investigation will be allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption relating to the activities of the company or its subsidiaries in Kazakhstan and Africa.”

In a statement, the U.K. company,  stated as follows.

“The Board of Directors (the ‘Board’) of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation PLC (‘ENRC’ or, together with its subsidiaries, the ‘Group’) today notes that the SFO has moved to a formal investigation. ENRC confirms that it is assisting and cooperating fully with the SFO. ENRC is committed to a full and transparent investigation of its procedures and conduct.

ENRC has ADRs listed with the SEC and thus could also be subject to the FCPA.

This recent article in the Wall Street Journal states as follows.

“U.K.-listed Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. PLC said … allegations of wrongdoing over minerals sales conducted through a Russian network of agents were thoroughly investigated and dismissed” in 2007.

Reading Stack

Tom Fox (FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog) has penned a new book – “Best Practices Under the FCPA and Bribery Act: How to Create a First Class Compliance Program.”  I was pleased to contribute the foreword to the book and noted that Tom’s “use of real events as learning devices to demonstrate compliance best practices make [the] book an engaging and informative read.”

Inside the NY Times Wal-Mart investigation (here) from the perspective of the Mexican journalist who assisted in the investigative reporting.

Scrutiny Alerts And Updates

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

This post revisits themes originally explored in this prior post “The Sun Rose, A Dog Barked and a Company Disclosed FCPA Scrutiny” and this prior post “Recent Disclosures Raise Many Questions.”

Why, in this era of increased FCPA compliance, does there seem to be more, not less, FCPA inquiries?  Does effective compliance reduce FCPA scrutiny or does effective compliance uncover more potential FCPA issues?  If every company hired FCPA counsel to do a thorough review of its world-wide operations would – given the current enforcement theories - 50% of companies find technical FCPA violations?  75%? 95%?  If the answer is any one of these numbers (and my guess is that 95% is probably the best answer), is that evidence of how corrupt business has become, evidence of how unhinged FCPA enforcement theories have become, or evidence of something else?

In other words, what does it say about enforcement of a law if, at any given time, the majority of corporations are on the wrong end of how that law is being enforced? 

After all, according to the FCPA Blog’s most recent corporate disclosure list (here) approximately 90 companies are currently under investigation for FCPA violations.  As the FCPA Blog rightly notes “nearly all entries are based on disclosures in SEC filings. That means non-issuers (non-public companies) aren’t included. And perhaps not all issuers have made a disclosure about a pending FCPA investigation, in which case the company may not appear on this list.”

This post highlights FCPA scrutiny and developments concerning the following companies:  UBS, Panasonic, Image Sensing Systems, H-P, Oracle, IBM, InBev, Wal-Mart, and  Net1,

*****

UBS

It reads like a law school issue-spotting exam.

A Kuwaiti sheik (and also a former Minister of Interior) alleges that a company subject to the FCPA offered a $20 million commission to derail a bid by a company for various telecommunication assets so that the subject company could get a lead role in finding a different buyer.  The sheik alleges that he then used his influence, on the subject company’s behalf, placed a series of telephone calls, and the bid was derailed.  The sheik then assisted the subject company in landing a lead advisory role on the sale to a different buyer giving the subject company a $22.5 million fee.  The subject company then offers the sheik a job paying over $600,000 a year.

So reads this recent article in the Wall Street Journal concerning a Kuwaiti sheik and UBS and the sheik’s efforts to obtain the fee he says he is owed.

Panasonic

According to this recent Wall Street Journal article, “U.S. authorities are investigating whether [Panasonic Avionics Corp. ("PAC")  a U.S.-based subsidiary of Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corp. that makes in-flight entertainment and communications systems for airlines] paid bribes abroad to land business.”  According to the article, PAC’s legal department has instructed certain executives and employees to preserve documents “concerning any benefits or gifts provided, or the payment of anything of value, by Panasonic or PAC to any airline employee or government officials.”

Image Sensing Systems

Image Sensing Systems Inc. (a Minnesota based provider of above ground detection and information management solutions for markets including security, police and parking) disclosed in this recent release as follows.

“The Company has learned that Polish authorities are conducting an investigation into alleged violations of Polish law by two employees of ISS Poland, who have been charged with criminal violations of certain laws related to a project in the City of Lodz, Poland. Neither the Company nor any of its subsidiaries has been charged with any offense. A committee of the Company’s independent directors, with the assistance of independent counsel and accounting advisors, is conducting an investigation into these matters focusing on possible violations of Company policy, internal controls, and laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the U.K. Anti-Bribery Act and Polish law. This investigation is ongoing, and the Company is voluntarily disclosing this matter to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.  ‘We take these matters very seriously, and are cooperating fully. Image Sensing Systems aims to conduct its business lawfully and ethically.  We have taken remedial actions, including ending the employment of the two Polish employees.  We are also assessing and implementing enhancements to our internal policies, procedures and controls.  The Company’s known costs related to the investigation to date were immaterial in 2012 and approximately $1.5 million through March 22, 2013. While we are working diligently towards a timely conclusion, we are presently unable to determine the likely outcome or range of loss, if any, or predict with certainty the timeline for resolution of these matters.’”

H-P, IBM and Oracle

This recent ProPublic report highlights the relationship between various tech companies including H-P, IBM and Oracle with a ”senior technology officer for Poland’s national police and, later, the nation’s Interior Ministry, [who] set the terms for hundreds of millions of dollars in technology contracts and decided which ones should be awarded without competitive bidding.

According to the article, Polish prosecutor say that the individual “received more than a $1 million in cash and brand-name gifts in exchange for steering government contracts to the three American companies, as well as to a Polish company called Netline.  According to prosecutors, the gifts included a BMW motorcycle, a Nissan SUV, a Harmon Kardon home theater, a Sony 50 inch television, 12 HP laptops, several iPads and a refrigerator.”

The article further states as follows.

“IBM and Hewlett-Packard said in statements  that they were cooperating with Polish authorities. Hewlett-Packard noted that “no current HP employees are suspects in this case,” while IBM pointed out that “press reports” on the case referred to a “former IBM employee.”  The company said in its statement that it “believes in the highest ethical standards for its employees and is committed to the principles of business ethics and lawful conduct.”  Oracle, whose possible entanglement in the investigation had not been publicly known before today, would not comment for this article”

IBM and Oracle have both recently been the subjects of FCPA enforcement actions (see here and here) and as noted in this post H-P has been under FCPA scrutiny since approximately April 2010.

AB InBev

InBev, a leading global brewer based in Belgium with ADRs traded on the N.Y. Stock Exchange, recently disclosed in its annual report as follows.

“We have been informed by the SEC that it is conducting an investigation into our affiliates in India, including our nonconsolidated Indian joint venture, InBev Indian Int’l Private Ltd, and whether certain relationships of agents and employees were compliant with the FCPA. We are investigating the conduct in question and cooperating with the SEC.”

As noted in this Bloomberg article, AB InBev’s market share in India is about 2 percent and operations are run by an Indian subsidiary, Crown Beers India, and a joint venture with RKJ Group for local production, in which AB InBev holds a minority stake.

Other beverage industry companies also currently the subject of FCPA scrutiny include Owens Illinois (see here for prior post), Beam Inc. (see here for the prior post) and Central European Distribution Corp. (see here for the prior post).

An industry sweep?  (See here from the Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents).

Wal-Mart

In its recent 10-K filing, Wal-Mart stated, in pertinent part, regarding its FCPA scrutiny as follows.

“Our process of assessing and responding to the governmental investigations and the shareholder lawsuits continues. While we believe that it is probable that we will incur a loss from these matters, given the on-going nature and complexity of the review, inquiries and investigations, we cannot reasonably estimate any loss or range of loss that may arise from these matters. Although we do not presently believe that these matters will have a material adverse effect on our business, given the inherent uncertainties in such situations, we can provide no assurance that these matters will not be material to our business in the future.”

[...]

“These matters may require the involvement of certain members of the Company’s senior management that could impinge on the time they have available to devote to other matters relating to the business. The Company expects that there will be on-going media and governmental interest, including additional news articles from media publications on these matters, which could impact the perception among certain audiences of the Company’s role as a corporate citizen.”

Related to Wal-Mart’s overall FCPA scrutiny, this recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that Wal-Mart’s “compliance crackdown” is one of the reasons for the company’s stalled growth in India.  Another reason discussed is “India’s labyrinthine process for developing commercial real estate and operating stores”

Net1

As noted in this previous post, in December 2012, Net1 UEPS (a South African telecommunications company with shares traded on a U.S. exchange) disclosed that it received letters from the DOJ and SEC informing the company that the agencies had begun an investigation into whether Net 1 violated the FCPA by engaging in a scheme to make corrupt payments to officials of the Government of South Africa in connection with securing a contract with the South African Social Security Agency to provide social welfare and benefits payments.

The company recently announced as follows.

“[A] full bench of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal (“Appeal Court”) unanimously ruled that the tender process followed by the South African Social Security Agency (“SASSA”) in awarding a contract to Net1’s wholly owned subsidiary Cash Paymaster Services (Proprietary) Limited (“CPS”) was valid and legal.”

Friday Roundup

Friday, February 1st, 2013

The SEC files an amended complaint, Judge Leon strikes again, a provocative press release, a focus on lobbying and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

SEC Files Amended Complaint in Jackson / Ruehlen Matter

As highlighted in this prior post, this past December Judge Keith Ellison (S.D. Tex.) issued a lengthy 61 page decision (here) in SEC v. Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen.  In short, Judge Ellison granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the SEC’s claims that seek monetary damages while denying the motion to dismiss as to claims seeking injunctive relief.  Even though Judge Ellison granted the motion as to SEC monetary damage claims, the dismissal was without prejudice meaning that the SEC was allowed to file an amended complaint.  As explained in the prior post, Judge Ellison’s decision was based on statute of limitations grounds (specifically that the SEC failed to plead any facts to support an inference that it acted diligently in bringing the complaint) as well as the SEC’s failure to adequately plead discretionary functions relevant to the FCPA’s facilitation payments exception.

Last week, the SEC filed its amended complaint (here).  The most noticeable difference in the amended complaint, based on my brief review of the 58 page document, appears to be several allegations regarding Nigerian law, including the Customs & Excise Management Act.

Judge Leon Strikes Again

This prior post generally discussed Judge Richard Leon’s rejection of the SEC v. IBM FCPA settlement, a case that still lingers on the docket.

As noted in this Main Justice story and this Wall Street Journal story, Judge Leon has struck again.  According to the reports, yesterday Judge Leon conducted a scheduled hearing in SEC – Tyco FCPA case in chambers, much to the dismay of media assembled in open court.

As noted in this prior post, in September 2012, the DOJ and SEC announced an FCPA enforcement against Tyco International Ltd. and a subsidiary company.  Total fines and penalties in the enforcement action were approximately $26.8 million (approximately $13.7 million in the DOJ enforcement action and approximately $13.1 million in the SEC enforcement action).  As noted in this SEC release, Tyco consented to a final judgment that orders the company to pay approximately $10.5 million in disgorgement and approximately $2.6 million in prejudgment interest.  Tyco also agreed to be permanently enjoined from violating the FCPA.

Although both the IBM and Tyco enforcement actions involve the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement language, this would not seem to be the key thread between these two enforcement actions that is drawing the ire of Judge Leon.  Rather as explained in this post summarizing the IBM enforcement action and this post highlighting various notable features of the Tyco action, both companies are repeat FCPA violators.  In resolving the “original” FCPA enforcement actions – IBM in 2000 and Tyco in 2006 – both companies agreed to permanent injunctions prohibiting future FCPA violations.

This prior post titled “Meaningless Settlement Language” detailed Judge Jed Rakoff’s discussion of so-called ”obey the law” injunctions in SEC v. Citigroup and this prior guest post discussed an Eleventh Circuit decision last year vacating a SEC “obey the law” injunction.

A Provocative Press Release

The law firm Bienert, Miller & Katzman (“BMK”) represented Paul Cosgrove (a former executive of Control Components Inc.) in the so-called Carson enforcement actions.  The Carson action involved a notable “foreign official” challenge and as highlighted in previous posts here, here, and here, after Judge Selna issued a pro-defendant jury instruction, the DOJ soon thereafter offered the remaining defendants (Stuart Carson, Hong Carson, David Edmonds, and Cosgrove) plea agreements which the defendants accepted.  As to those plea agreements, I ended each post by saying – the conclusions are yours to reach.  In Fall 2012, the defendants were sentenced as follows:  S. Carson (four months in prison), H. Carson (three years probation), Edmonds (four months in prison) and Cosgrove (15 months of home detention).  See this prior post regarding Carson sentencing issues.

In a January 17th press release (here), BMK stated as follows.

“BMK and counsel for three other defendants … conducted a worldwide investigation and developed evidence suggesting the government’s evidence was incomplete, the court documents indicate.  Ultimately,  most companies bought CCI valves because they were the best in the world (not because of bribes); most of the supposed “public officials” denied receiving any bribes; and, in most cases, the alleged improper payments were never actually made, according to court records.

Further, through an aggressive litigation and motion strategy, counsel were able to obtain jury instructions that highlighted the government’s heavy burden of proof at trial.  For example, the trial court agreed with defense counsel that the government was obligated to prove defendants’ knew they were dealing with “foreign officials,” something that would have been extremely difficult for the government to prove.  The supposed bribery recipients worked for companies that appeared to operate like private companies in the United States, making it very unlikely that the defendants realized they were dealing with “government officials.”

BMK and other defense counsel  raised several other issues that brought the government’s ability to obtain a conviction, or defend an appeal, into serious doubt.  These motions called into question whether the alleged bribe recipients were even “public officials” as intended by the FCPA; whether the Travel Act even applied to the case; and, whether defendants were entitled to millions of pages of documents that had been withheld from them by CCI, their former employer.  Each of these issues likely would have been decided for the first time on an appeal in this case.”

[Full disclosure - I was an engaged expert in the Carson cases, filed a "foreign official" declaration in connection with the motion to dismiss, and was disclosed as a testifying expert for the trial]

Lobbying

In my double-standard series (here), I have highlighted various aspects of lobbying here in the U.S.  The beginning of the recent opinion in U.S. v. Ring (D.C. Circuit) is an interesting read.  In pertinent part, it states as follows (internal citations omitted).

“Lobbying has been integral to the American political system since its very inception.  […] As some have put it more cynically, lobbyists have besieged the U.S. government for as long as it has had lobbies.” […]  By 2008, the year Ring was indicted, corporations, unions, and other organizations employed more than 14,000 registered Washington lobbyists and spent more than $3 billion lobbying Congress and federal agencies. […] 

The interaction between lobbyists and public officials produces important benefits for our representative form of government. Lobbyists serve as a line of communication between citizens and their representatives, safeguard minority interests, and help ensure that elected officials have the information necessary to evaluate proposed legislation. Indeed, Senator Robert Byrd once suggested that Congress “could not adequately consider [its] workload without them.” […]

In order to more effectively communicate their clients’ policy goals, lobbyists often seek to cultivate personal relationships with public officials. This involves not only making campaign contributions, but sometimes also hosting events or providing gifts of value such as drinks, meals, and tickets to sporting events and concerts. Such practices have a long and storied history of use—and misuse. During the very First Congress, Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay complained that “New York merchants employed ‘treats, dinners, attentions’ to delay passage of a tariff bill.” […] Sixty years later, lobbyists working to pass a bill that would benefit munitions magnate Samuel Colt “stage[d] lavish entertainments for wavering senators.” […] Then, in the 1870s, congressmen came to rely on railroad lobbyists for free travel. [...]. Indeed, one railroad tycoon complained that he was “averag[ing] six letters per day from Senators and Members of Congress asking for passes over the road.”

Reading Stack

Some dandy articles/essays to pass along regarding the FCPA books and records provisions, victim issues and criminal procedure.

FCPA Books and Records Provisions

Michael Schachter (Willkie Farr & Gallagher and a former Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he focused on criminal prosecution of securities fraud and was a member of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force) recently authored an article concerning the FCPA’s books and records provisions.  Titled “Defending an FCPA Books and Records Violation” and published in the New York Law Journal, the article begins as follows.

“In recent years, the books and records provisions of the [FCPA] have taken on new life, as both the [DOJ and SEC] have announced their intention to bring more charges, especially against individuals, for violation of this section of the FCPA.  A review of recent enforcement actions reveals that the Justice Department and the SEC consider the books and records requirement violated whenever corrupt payments are made to a foreign official and recorded in a corporation’s books as anything other than a ‘bribe,’ including, but not limited to, such things as commissions, social payments, or after sales service fees.  This article proposes that the books and records provision is, in fact, narrower than the Justice Department and the SEC interpretations suggest, and argues that both agencies may be using the provision to punish behavior falling outside the FCPA’s reach.”

Spot on.  See prior posts here and here.  See here for a word cloud of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Corporate Employer’s As Victims

The title of Professor Peter Henning’s recent White Collar Crime Watch post in the New York Times DealBook was “How Can Companies Sue Defendants in Insider Trading Cases?”  The post concerned the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act and Professor Henning writes that it ”has been interpreted to allow companies that incur costs in cooperating with the government to seek repayment of their expenses from defendants” and the “statute requires a court to order the reimbursement to victims of ‘other expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense.’”

The parallels to a company incurring expenses in connection with FCPA investigations based on employee conduct is obvious.

Yet, Professor Henning writes as follows.

“[T]he crucial word in the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act is “incurred,” and there isn’t a consensus among federal courts over what expenses are covered.  Companies want it to include all costs related to any part of the case, including dealing with the S.E.C. even though it can only pursue a civil enforcement case. Defendants take a much narrower view, arguing that mandatory restitution covers only expenses arising as direct result of the criminal prosecution by the Justice Department.

Ham Sandwich Nation

Glenn Reynolds (University of Tennessee College of Law) recently published an essay titled “Ham Sandwich Nation: Due Process When Everything is a Crime” (see here to download).  The essay does not mention the FCPA, yet it is very much applicable to the FCPA.  In just the past year, approximately 25 individuals criminally indicted by the DOJ have put the DOJ to its burden of proof and ultimately prevailed.  Ham Sandwich Nation would also seem applicable given the extensive use of NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context.  The thesis of the essay is spot on.  Reynolds write as follows.

“Though people suspected of a crime have extensive due process rights in dealing with the police, and people charged with a crime have even more extensive due process rights in courts, the actual decision whether or not to charge a person with a crime is almost completely unconstrained.  Yet, because of overcharging and plea bargains, that decision is probably the single most important event in the chain of criminal procedure.”

Year In Review

The Year in Review version of Debevoise & Plimpton’s always informative and comprehensive FCPA Update is here.   Among the many topics discussed in the FCPA Update is the notion that many FCPA enforcement actions are based on very old conduct and the following observation.  “Targets of enforcement actions also run the risk that regulators – whether consciously or not – apply current expectations of appropriate compliance measures and effective internal controls mechanisms when evaluating the adequacy of procedures that existed at times when less rigorous standards may have commonly been considered acceptable.”  For my similar previous observation, see this prior post.

*****

A good weekend to all.