Archive for the ‘Internal Controls’ Category

Issues To Consider From The Goodyear Enforcement Action

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

IssuesThis recent post highlighted the SEC FCPA enforcement action against Goodyear.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting various issues to consider associated with the enforcement action.

 

Invoking a Standard That Does Not Even Exist Under the FCPA

To anyone who values the rule of law, it is troubling when an FCPA enforcement agency invokes a standard of liability that does not even exist under the FCPA.

As previously highlighted in this article, “Why You Should Be Alarmed By the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action,” the enforcement agencies’ invocation of a ‘‘failure to prevent or detect’’ internal controls standard is alarming because such a standard does not even exist in the FCPA and is inconsistent with actual legal authority. Just as important, such a standard is inconsistent with enforcement agency guidance relevant to the internal-controls provisions.

Nevertheless, and notwithstanding such legal authority and enforcement agency guidance, the SEC again referenced the “prevent and detect” standard twice in the Goodyear enforcement action.

The internal-controls provisions are specifically qualified through concepts of reasonableness and good faith. This statutory standard is consistent with congressional intent in enacting the provisions. Relevant legislative history states: ”

“While management should observe every reasonable prudence in satisfying the objectives called for [in the books-and-records and internal-controls provisions], . . . management must necessarily estimate and evaluate the cost/benefit relationships to the steps to be taken in fulfillment of its responsibilities . . . . The size of the business, diversity of operations, degree of centralization of financial and operating management, amount of contact by top management with day-to-day operations, and numerous other circumstances are factors which management must consider in establishing and maintaining an internal accounting controls system.”

As highlighted here, the only judicial decision to directly address the substance of the internal-controls provisions states, in pertinent part, as follows:

“The definition of accounting controls does comprehend reasonable, but not absolute, assurances that the objectives expressed in it will be accomplished by the system. The concept of ‘‘reasonable assurances’’ contained in [the internal control provisions] recognizes that the costs of internal controls should not exceed the benefits expected to be derived. It does not appear that either the SEC or Congress, which adopted the SEC’s recommendations, intended that the statute should require that each affected issuer install a fail-safe accounting control system at all costs. It appears that Congress was fully cognizant of the cost-effective considerations which confront companies as they consider the institution of accounting controls and of the subjective elements which may lead reasonable individuals to arrive at different conclusions. Congress has demanded only that judgment be exercised in applying the standard of reasonableness.”

In addition, various courts have held—in the context of civil derivative actions in which shareholders seek to hold company directors liable for breach of fiduciary duties due to the company’s alleged FCPA violations— that just because improper conduct allegedly occurred somewhere within a corporate hierarchy does not mean that internal controls must have been deficient.

The ‘‘failure to prevent and detect’ standard is also alarming when measured against the enforcement agencies’ own guidance concerning the internal controls provisions.  As highlighted here, the SEC’s most extensive guidance on the internal controls provisions states, in pertinent part, as follows:

“The accounting provisions’ principal objective is to reaching knowing or reckless conduct.”

“Inherent in this concept [of reasonableness] is a toleration of deviations from the absolute. One measure of the reasonableness of a system relates to whether the expected benefits from improving it would be significantly greater than the anticipated costs of doing so. Thousands of dollars ordinarily should not be spent conserving hundreds. Further, not every procedure which may be individually cost-justifiable need be implemented; the Act allows a range of reasonable judgments.”

“The test of a company’s internal control system is not whether occasional failings can occur. Those will happen in the most ideally managed company. But, an adequate system of internal controls means that, when such breaches do arise, they will be isolated rather than systemic, and they will be subject to a reasonable likelihood of being uncovered in a timely manner and then remedied promptly. Barring, of course, the participation or complicity of senior company officials in the deed, when discovery and correction expeditiously follow, no failing in the company’s internal accounting system would have existed. To the contrary, routine discovery and correction would evidence its effectiveness.”

A Government Required Transfer of Shareholder Wealth to FCPA Inc.?

According to Goodyear’s initial disclosure of the matter, the voluntary disclosure resulted from an anonymous source reporting through a confidential ethics hotline. In short, an effective internal control.

According to the SEC, Goodyear “promptly halted the improper payments” and voluntarily reported the matter to the SEC (and DOJ).  Goodyear also provided significant cooperation with the SEC’s investigation and undertook significant remedial efforts and disciplinary actions.  Goodyear also implemented “improvements to its compliance program, both specific to its operations in sub-Saharan Africa, and globally.”  In short, an effective internal control and remediation.

Nevertheless, as a condition of settlement, Goodyear is required to report to the SEC, “at no less than 12 month intervals during a three year term” on the status of its remediation and implementation of compliance measures.”  The SEC’s Order contains further specifics about initial reviews, written reports, and follow-up reviews and reports.

Let’s call a spade a spade folks.  This amounts to little more than a government required transfer of shareholder wealth to FCPA Inc.  (See here for the prior post of the same title).

Top 5

While the Goodyear enforcement action was clearly not a top ten enforcement action in terms of overall settlement amount, it was the 4th largest SEC only FCPA enforcement action of all-time behind (Eli Lilly, General Electric and Diageo).

No-Charged Bribery Disgorgement

As in prior years, in the Goodyear enforcement action the SEC continued its practice of ordering disgorgement even though the offending company was not charged with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

As highlighted in this previous post, so-called no-charged bribery disgorgement is troubling.

Among others, Paul Berger (here) a former Associate Director of the SEC Division of Enforcement) has stated that “settlements invoking disgorgement but charging no primary anti-bribery violations push the law’s boundaries, as disgorgement is predicated on the common-sense notion that an actual, jurisdictionally-cognizable bribe was paid to procure the revenue identified by the SEC in its complaint.” Berger noted that such “no-charged bribery disgorgement settlements appear designed to inflict punishment rather than achieve the goals of equity.”

Not The First FCPA Enforcement Action Against a Goodyear Entity

As highlighted in this prior post, in 1989 the DOJ charged Goodyear International Corp., a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., with FCPA anti-bribery violations for alleged improper payments to Iraqi officials.  Goodyear International pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $250,000 fine.

A Future Enforcement Action Against a Tire Industry Company?

It will be interesting to see if anything comes from the following sentence in the SEC’s Order. The SEC is “not imposing a civil penalty based upon [Goodyear's] cooperation in a Commission investigation and related enforcement action.”

Friday Roundup

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Roundup2Hollywood film studios, more FBI agents, asset recovery, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Hollywood Film Studios

A recent Wall Street Journal article went in-depth regarding the FCPA scrutiny of Hollywood film studios doing business in China. According to the article, Sony received a subpoena from the SEC in June 2013 regarding possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  The article states:

“The SEC’s questions to Sony dealt primarily with potential bribery related to the release of “Resident Evil: Afterlife” in China in 2010, according to email communication between Sony’s in-house and outside legal counsel. A Sony-led investigation that followed the SEC subpoena examined the company’s distribution efforts more broadly, the emails show. The subpoena indicates an escalation of an inquiry that began in 2012 when the SEC requested that every major studio voluntarily provide information about their movie-distribution practices in China, a request that was publicly reported at the time. However the SEC’s specific concerns weren’t disclosed nor was it previously known that the agency had stepped up its probe with a subpoena. Sony documents show that the SEC refers to its probe as “In the Matter of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp,” indicating that the rival Hollywood studio behind “The Hunger Games” has been asked questions as well.”

Many FCPA enforcement actions have, as a root cause, a foreign trade barrier or distortion.  This appears to be true in the case of the Hollywood film studios.  As stated in the article, the companies ran into “China’s quota and censorship systems to secure distribution for their films in that country.”  According to the article:

“Hollywood studios are barred from distributing films on their own in China, but instead work with the state-owned China Film Group to secure one of the 34 highly coveted spots offered each year for imported movies. [Third party distribution firms] help studios navigate the bureaucracy.”

More FBI Agents

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s foreign corruption program will more than triple the number of agents focused on overseas bribery this year to more than 30 from around 10, according to bureau officials. The agents will focus on both sides of corruption, hunting down executives that pay off foreign officials, while also helping other nations recoup funds stolen by corrupt leaders. The FBI usually can’t directly arrest corrupt foreign leaders, but at the request of foreign law enforcement the bureau can help locate funds stolen by kleptocrats. [...]  “With the growing global economy and the growing nature of international commerce with globalization of more companies and economies, it’s creating more opportunities for the potential of FCPA and corruption,” said Joseph Campbell, assistant director of the bureau’s criminal division, in an interview. The newly assigned agents will work out of field offices in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Boston, with backup from forensic analysts and other specialists in headquarters, which is also located in the capital. Currently, the bureau’s foreign anti-corruption field agents are managed out of a field office in Washington, D.C. and split their time while pursuing other white collar crimes, bureau officials said.”

Asset Recovery

As part of its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the DOJ recently announced the filing of a “civil forfeiture complaint seeking the forfeiture of nine properties worth approximately $1,528,000 that were allegedly purchased with funds traceable to a $2 million bribe paid by a Honduran information-technology company to the former Executive Director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security.”

According to the DOJ:

“From 2010 to 2014, Dr. Mario Roberto Zelaya Rojas, 46, of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, served as the Executive Director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security (HISS), a Honduran Government agency that provides social security services, including workers’ compensation, retirement, maternity, and death benefits.  According to allegations in the forfeiture complaint, Zelaya solicited and accepted $2.08 million in bribes from Compania De Servicios Multiples, S. de R. L. (COSEM) in exchange for prioritizing and expediting payments owed to COSEM under a $19 million contract with HISS.  Zelaya also allegedly instructed COSEM to make bribe payments to two members of the Board of Directors of HISS charged with overseeing the COSEM contract.  To conceal the illicit payments, COSEM allegedly sent the bribes through its affiliate company, CA Technologies.  As further alleged in the complaint, the bribe proceeds were then laundered into the United States and used by Zelaya and his brother, Carlos Alberto Zelaya Rojas, to acquire real estate in the New Orleans area.  Certain properties were titled in the name of companies nominally controlled by Zelaya’s brother in an effort to conceal the illicit source of the funds as well as the beneficial owner.  The current action seeks forfeiture of nine properties acquired with the proceeds of Zelaya’s alleged bribery scheme.”

In the DOJ’s release, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“Our action today highlights how the Criminal Division’s Kleptocracy Initiative, with our network of law enforcement partners around the globe, will trace and recover the ill-gotten gains of corrupt officials.  Criminals should make no mistake:  the United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of your crimes.  If you hide or invest your stolen money here, we will use all the legal tools we have to find it and seize it.”

Quotable

In this Global Investigations Review article, Timothy Dickinson (Paul Hastings and a veteran of the FCPA bar) states:

“Ten years ago, I would have been happy to bet anyone a doughnut that I could accurately define what a foreign official is. Now, with various court definitions and a lack of clarity from the DoJ, I fear I might actually lose my doughnut.”

In this piece about the SEC’s internal controls enforcement theories, Michael Shepard (Hogan Lovells) states:

“Beneath the surface of these developments [the increased use of the internal controls provisions] is a disconnect about what the internal controls provisions actually require. The government — and especially the SEC — has settled on an interpretation of the internal controls provision that is at odds with the understanding of many in-house finance professionals about what internal controls are intended to address. Ask corporate finance professionals about internal controls at their companies and you will likely get an answer about processes designed to protect the company’s assets at a level that would materially impact the company’s financial statements. Ask your friendly neighborhood SEC investigator about internal controls and you will instead get inquiries about the exponentially smaller level of amounts of money that would be enough to influence a low-paid public official in a poor third-world country. Not only is the SEC looking at controls on a more microscopic level, but its predilection to pursue internal controls charges sometimes seems based on an interpretation of the FCPA that borders on strict liability. Circumstantial evidence of a bribery violation — such as evidence that some money may have left the company without proper authorization or accounting records — translates for the SEC into proof that the company’s controls were inadequate. Statutory elements of reasonableness and scienter get short shrift in a world in which the SEC aggressively pushes internal controls charges, and the vast majority of companies remain predisposed to settle.”

Reading Stack

Paul Barrett at Bloomberg BusinessWeek goes in-depth about the FCPA charges pending against Joseph Sigelman in an article titled “Does This Man Look Like a Felon to You?”

From the New Yorker, “Can Corruption Be Erradicated?”

“[C]orruption has always permeated so many fields of human endeavor that it may be not a corruption of anything—but, rather, a regrettable feature of our natural condition. Accountable government is an ideal, to be sure. It may also be an aberration.”

[O]ur conceptual vocabulary for understanding [corruption], let alone combatting it, remains conspicuously meagre. The very term “corruption” is so inclusive as to be almost meaningless, encompassing bribery, nepotism, bid-rigging, embezzlement, extortion, vote-buying, price-fixing, protection rackets, and a hundred other varieties of fraud.”

From Bloomberg BNA “As FCPA Complexity Increase, Corporate Interest in Self-Disclosure Wanes.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Issues To Consider From The Alstom Action

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

IssuesThis recent post dived deep into the Alstom FCPA enforcement action.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting various issues to consider associated with the enforcement action.

 

A Real Head-Scratcher

Alstom entities engaged in conduct in violation of the FCPA.  This is clear from the DOJ’s allegations and consistent with DOJ enforcement theories.  Yet, if the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program is to be viewed as legitimate and credible, the charged conduct must fit (for lack of a better term) the crime.

The charges against Alstom S.A. are a real head-scratcher.

The conventional wisdom for why the Alstom action involved only a DOJ (and not SEC) component is that Alstom ceased being an issuer in 2004 (in other words 10 years prior to the enforcement action).

Yet, the actual criminal charges Alstom pleaded guilty to – violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions –  were based on Alstom’s status as an issuer (as only issuers are subject to these substantive provisions).

In other words, Alstom pleaded guilty to substantive legal provisions in 2014 that last applied to the company in 2004.

This free-for-all, anything goes, as long as the enforcement agencies collect the money nature of FCPA enforcement undermines the legitimacy and credibility of FCPA enforcement.

Enforcement Action Origins

What were the origins of the Alstom enforcement action?

It appears to be a 2011 Swiss enforcement action that began in October 2007.  (See here, here and here).

Indeed, in briefing in an individual enforcement action (Lawrence Hoskins) connected to the Alstom Indonesia conduct, the DOJ stated:

“When the Government began investigating this case, it sought evidence from various countries including Switzerland [...].  The Government obtained orders pursuant to 18 USC 3292, tolling the statute of limitations in this case for the shorter of three years or the time it took to receive the evidence sought.  The first request, to Switzerland, was transmitted on September 22, 2010, and the tolling order reflects tolling beginning on that date.  Switzerland provided responses to the request on December 23, 2013.”

In the Swiss action, “Alstom Network Schweiz AG … was fined CHF2.5 million for negligence in implementing proper controls to prevent bribery by company officials in Latvia, Tunisia and Malaysia, and it was ordered to pay an additional CHF36 million for profits connected to the negligence.”

The foreign law enforcement origins of the Alstom action are typical of other enforcement actions in the Top Ten List of FCPA settlements (Siemens and the Bonny Island, Nigeria enforcement actions – KBR/Halliburton, Snamprogetti/ENI, Technip, and JGC Corp).

No Monitor

On one level, it seems odd that the Alstom enforcement action did not involve a corporate monitor as a condition of settlement. After all, the $772 million enforcement action was the largest DOJ FCPA enforcement action of all-time and per the DOJ “Alstom’s corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents. It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences.”

However, the resolution documents note “that Alstom is already subject to monitoring requirements pursuant to a February 2012 World Bank Resolution.” (See here).  As stated in the DOJ resolution documents: “in the event that the Integrity Compliance Office [of the World Bank] does not certify that the Company has satisfied the monitoring requirements contained in the World Bank Resolution, the Company shall be required to retain an Independent Compliance Monitor.”

Moreover, the vast majority of the alleged improper conduct in the DOJ enforcement action resided in business units that will soon be part of General Electric in 2015.  Thus, to impose a monitor on Alstom would, in effect, have been to impose a monitor on General Electric.

Third Party Red Flags

Most FCPA enforcement actions result from the conduct of third parties and ineffective corporate controls over third parties.

In this regard, the following paragraph from the Alstom enforcement is a dandy regarding third party red flags.

“A number of consultants that Alstom hired raised a number of “red flags” under Alstom’s own internal policies.  Certain consultants proposed for retention had no expertise or experience in the industry sector in which Alstom was attempting to secure or execute the project.  Other consultants were located in a country different than the project country.  At other times, the consultants asked to be paid in a currency or in a bank account located in a country different than where the consultant and the project were located.  In multiple instances, more than one consultant was retained on the same project, ostensibly to perform the very same services.  Despite, these “red flags,” the consultants were nevertheless retained without meaningful scrutiny.”

FCPA enforcement actions of course are no laughing matter, but the following specific allegations sort of make one chuckle.

“Alstom did not perform any due diligence on the consultant even though the consultant had no knowledge about, or experience in, the power industry.  Rather, the information alleges, the consultant “sold furniture and leather products, and exported chemical products and spare parts.”

“An Alstom entity formally retained a consultant on a [rapid transit] project even thought the consultant did not have the requisite expertise in the transport sector.  According to the information, the consultant’s expertise was as a “wholesaler of cigarettes, wines and pianos.”

More Information Needed As to Lack of Cooperation

Repeatedly in the resolution documents, the DOJ states that Alstom did not “cooperate.”

“The Defendant initially failed to cooperate with the Department’s investigation, responding only to the Department’s subpoenas to the Defendant’s subsidiaries.  Approximately one year into the investigation, the Defendant provided limited cooperation, but still did not fully cooperate with the Department’s investigation.”

“The Company and its parent initially failed to cooperate with the Department’s investigation, responding only to the Department’s subpoena.  Approximately one year into the investigation, the Company and its parent provided limited cooperation, but still did not fully cooperate with the Department’s investigation.”

Likewise, at the DOJ press conference, Assistant Attorney General Caldwell stated:

“The guilty pleas and resolutions announced today also highlight what can happen when corporations refuse to disclose wrongdoing and refuse to cooperate with the department’s efforts to identify and prosecute culpable individuals.”

[...]

“Alstom did not voluntarily disclose the misconduct to law enforcement authorities, and Alstom refused to cooperate in a meaningful way during the first several years of the investigation.”

If the DOJ wants its cooperation message to be fully absorbed by the corporate community, the DOJ should have been more specific about Alstom’s lack of “cooperation.”

Moreover, if “responding only to the DOJ’s subpoena” is considered lack of cooperation by the DOJ, this is troubling.  (See here for the prior post “Does DOJ Expect FCPA Counsel to Role Over and Play Dead?”).

A “Foreign Official” Stretch?

It was a relatively minor allegation in the context of the overall Alstom enforcement action, but one which caught my eye because of its extraordinarily broad implication.

As highlighted in this previous post, Asem Elgawhart was employed by Bechtel Corporation (a U.S. company) and was assigned by Bechtel to be the General Manager of Power Generation Engineering and Services Company (PGESCo), a joint venture between Bechtel and Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (the alleged “state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt”). According to the DOJ, Elgawhart “used his position and authority as the General Manager of a power generation company to solicit and obtain millions of dollars of kickbacks for his personal benefit from U.S. and foreign power companies that were attempting to secure lucrative contracts to perform power-related services.” “In total,” the DOJ alleged, “Elgawhart received more than $5 million in kickbacks to help secure more than $2 billion in contracts for the kickback-paying companies, all of which he concealed from his employer, from bidding companies that did not pay kickbacks and from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.” Based on these allegations, and as indicated in this DOJ release, Elgawhart was charged in a 8-count indictment with mail and wire fraud, money laundering and various tax offenses.

In the Alstom enforcement action, PGESCo and Elgawhart are described as follows:

As to Egypt, the information concerns bidding on various projects with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (“EEHC”), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt.  According to the information, “EEHC was not itself responsible for conducting the bidding [on projects], and instead relied on Power Generation Engineering & Services Co. (“PGESCo”), which was controlled by an acted on behalf of EEHC.”

PGESCo was controlled by and acted on behalf of EEHC. PGESCo worked “for or on behalf of’ EEHC, within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-l (f)( 1) [the FCPA's "foreign official" definition].

According to the DOJ, Alstom used a consultant whose primary purpose “was not to provide legitimate consulting services to Alstom and its subsidiaries but was instead to make payments to Egyptian officials, including Asem Elgawhary who oversaw the bidding process.”

In short, in the Alstom action the DOJ alleged that Elgawhary, a Bechtel Corporation employee, was an Egyptian “foreign official.” This is an extraordinarily broad “foreign official” interpretation with implications for any person (privately employed) working on foreign projects with participation by a foreign government department, agency or instrumentality.

Rhetoric Undermined

As highlighted in this post, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell recently defended the DOJ’s frequent use of NPAs and DPAs by stating that the DOJ is able to achieve through such negotiated settlements reforms, compliance controls, and all sorts of behavioral change compared to what it could achieve without use of NPAs and DPAs.

As highlighted in the prior post, the notion that the DOJ is powerless to effect corporate change through old-fashion law enforcement (that is enforcing the FCPA without use of NPAs and DPAs) is plainly false.

Indeed, the Alstom and Alstom Network Schweiz AG plea agreements contain substantively the same corporate compliance program and reporting obligations as the Alstom Power and Alstom Grid DPAs.

False Certification

A likely overlooked allegation in the Alstom enforcement action concerns bidding on various grid projects with alleged state-owned and state-controlled entities in Egypt. According to the charging documents, certain of these projects were “funded, at least in part, by the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”)” and “an Alstom entity “repeatedly submitted false certifications to USAID in connection with these projects, and did not disclose that consultants were being used, that commissions were being paid, or that unlawful payments were being made.”

These allegations are similar to DOJ allegations in the BAE enforcement action (an enforcement action that alleged conduct that could have served as the basis for FCPA violations, but resulted in no actual FCPA charges).  As noted in this previous post, in the BAE action, the DOJ “filed a criminal charge against BAE Systems charging that the multinational defense contractor conspired to impede the lawful functions of the Departments of Defense and State, made false statements to the Departments of Defense and Justice about establishing an effective anti-corruption compliance program to ensure conformance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and paid hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed commission payments in violation of U.S. export control laws.”

How to Count FCPA Enforcement Actions

It is a basic issue:  how to count FCPA enforcement actions.

I use the “core” approach to counting FCPA enforcement actions (see here), an approach endorsed by the DOJ, but many in FCPA Inc. use various different creative counting methods that significantly distort FCPA enforcement statistics (see here).

Pursuant to the “core” approach, the Alstom action was one core enforcement action even though it involved the following components all based, in whole or in part, on the same core conduct.

  • Alstom S.A.
  • Alstom Network Schweiz AG
  • Alstom Power Inc.
  • Alstom Grid Inc.
  • Individual enforcement actions against Frederic Pierucci, David Rothschild, William Pomponi, and Lawrence Hoskins.

Counting the above as 8 FCPA enforcement actions instead of 1 core action highly distorts FCPA enforcement statistics and impacts the denominator of just about any FCPA enforcement statistic imaginable.

With several 2014 FCPA Year in Reviews to be published in January, one needs to be cognizant of these creative counting methods.

All About The Alstom Enforcement Action

Monday, December 29th, 2014

AlstomAs mentioned in this previous post, last week the DOJ announced a $772 million FCPA enforcement action against Alstom and related entities.

While the Alstom enforcement action is the largest DOJ FCPA enforcement action of all-time, it is the second largest overall FCPA enforcement action of all-time behind the 2008 Siemens enforcement action ($450 million DOJ component and a $350 million SEC component).  To see the current FCPA top-ten settlement list, click here.

The Alstom resolution documents total approximately 400 pages and this post summarizes these documents.

At its core, the Alstom enforcement action involved alleged conduct in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Bahamas, and Taiwan. All of this conduct is alleged in the Alstom S.A. information as the basis for the company’s FCPA books and records and internal controls violations between 1998 and 2004.  The charges were resolved through a plea agreement.  (A future post will explore, among other issues, the irony of Alstom pleading guilty in 2014 to substantive legal provisions that last applied to the company in 2004 when it ceased to be an “issuer.”).  From there the conduct was apportioned to the following Alstom-related entities in related enforcement actions.

  • Alstom Network Schweiz AG (conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions based on the Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahamas conduct and resolved through a plea agreement);
  • Alstom Power Inc. (conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions based on the Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt conduct and resolved through a DPA);
  • Alstom Grid Inc. (conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions based on the Egypt conduct and resolved through a DPA)

Alstom S.A. Information

According to the information, during the relevant time period, Alstom employed approximately 110,000 employees in over 70 countries.  The information contains specific allegations as to 9 individuals associated with Alstom and 9 consultants associated with Alstom.  As highlighted below, at its core, the Alstom enforcement action involved inadequate controls concerning the engagement, monitoring and supervision of the consultants.

The information alleges that “Alstom had direct and indirect subsidiaries in various countries around the world through which it bid on projects to secure contracts to perform power-related, grid-related, and transportation-related services, including for state-owned entities.”  According to the information, “Alstom’s subsidiaries worked exclusively on behalf of Alstom and for its benefit” and that Alstom “maintained a department called International Network that supported its subsidiaries’ efforts to secure contracts around the world.”  In addition, the information alleges that “within Alstom’s power sector, the company also maintained a department called Global Power Sales (“GPS”), which performed functions similar to International Network, in that GPS assisted Alstom entities or businesses in their efforts to secure contracts.”

The information contains a section titled “Overview of the Unlawful Scheme” that has two substantive sections “False Books and Records” and “Internal Accounting Controls.”

Under the heading “False Books and Records,” the information states.

“Alstom, acting through executives, employees, and others, disguised on its books and records millions of dollars in payments and other things of value given to foreign officials in exchange for those officials’ assistance in securing projects, keeping projects, and otherwise gaining other improper advantages in various countries around the world for Alstom and its subsidiaries.

In a number of instances, Alstom hired consultants to conceal and disguise improper payments to foreign officials. Alstom paid the consultants purportedly for performing legitimate services in connection with bidding on and executing various projects.  In reality, the Alstom personnel knew that the consultants were not performing legitimate services and that all or a portion of the payments were to be used to bribe foreign officials.  Alstom executives and employees falsely recorded these payments in its books and records as “commissions” or “consultancy fees.”

Alstom also created, and caused to be created, false records to further conceal these improper payments.  Alstom created consultancy agreements that provided for legitimate services to be rendered by the consultant, and included a provision prohibiting unlawful payments, even though the Alstom executives and employees involved knew that at times the consultants were using all or a portion of their consultancy fees to bribe foreign officials.  Moreover certain Alstom employees instructed the consultants to submit false invoices and other back-up documentation reflecting purported legitimate services rendered that those employees knew were not actually performed, so that Alstom could justify the payments to the consultants.

In other instances, Alstom paid bribes directly to foreign officials by providing gifts and petty cash, by hiring their family members, and in one instance by paying over two million dollars to a charity associated with a foreign official, all in exchange for those officials’ assistance in obtaining or retaining business in connection with projects for Alstom and its subsidiaries.  As with the consultant payments, Alstom knowingly and falsely recorded these payments in its books and records as consultant expenses, as “donations,” or other purportedly legitimate expenses.

Alstom employees, some of whom were located in Connecticut, knowingly falsified Alstom’s books and records in order to conceal the bribe payments that they knew were illegal and were contrary to Alstom’s written policy.  Alstom also submitted false certifications to USAID and other regulatory entities, falsely asserting that Alstom was not using consultants on particular projects when, in fact, consultants were being used, and asserting that no unlawful payments were being made in connection with projects when, in fact, they were.  Various other acts, including e-mail communications, passed through Connecticut.”

Under the heading “Internal Accounting Controls,” the information states:

 ”Although Alstom had policies in place prohibiting unlawful payments to foreign officials, including through consultants, Alstom knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls to ensure compliance with those policies.

Alstom knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls to ensure meaningful due diligence for the retention of third-party consultants. A number of consultants that Alstom hired raised a number of “red flags” under Alstom’s own internal policies.  Certain consultants proposed for retention had no expertise or experience in the industry sector in which Alstom was attempting to secure or execute the project.  Other consultants were located in a country different than the project country.  At other times, the consultants asked to be paid in a currency or in a bank account located in a country different than where the consultant and the project were located.  In multiple instances, more than one consultant was retained on the same project, ostensibly to perform the very same services.  Despite, these “red flags,” the consultants were nevertheless retained without meaningful scrutiny.  To the contrary, those submitting consultants for possible retention at times did not make explicit the true reason for the consultants’ retention, as well as other relevant facts.  And certain executives who had the ability to ensure appropriate controls surrounding the due diligence process themselves know, or knowingly failed to take action that would have allowed them to discover, that the purpose of hiring the consultant was to conceal payments to foreign officials in connection with securing projects and other favorable treatment in various countries around the world for Alstom and its subsidiaries.

Alstom also knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls for the approval of consultancy agreements.  During the relevant time period, Alstom’s consultancy agreements provided that payments to the consultants would only be made on a pro rata basis tied to project milestones or as Alstom was paid by the customer.  In certain instances, Alstom employees changed the amount and terms of payment for the consultants, in violation of the company’s own internal policies, so that Alstom could pay the consultants more money and make the payment sooner in order to generate cash available to bribe the foreign officials.  The Alstom executives and employees responsible for approving consultancy agreements did not adequately scrutinize these changes, and in certain instances were copied on e-mails in which the true purpose for the change was discussed.  During the relevant time period, Alstom also maintained an unwritten policy to discourage, where possible, consultancy agreements that would subject Alstom to the jurisdiction of the United States. To effectuate this policy, Alstom typically used consultants who were not based in the United States, and intentionally paid consultants in bank accounts outside of the United States and in currencies other than U.S. dollars.  The Alstom executives and employees responsible for approving consultancy agreements attempted to enforce this unwritten policy even when it meant that the consultant had to open an offshore bank account solely for the purpose of receiving payments from Alstom.

Alstom also knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls for payments to consultants. In multiple instances, Alstom paid the consultants without adequate, or timely, documentation of the services they purported to perform.  At times, consultants sought help from Alstom to create false documentation necessary for payment approval.  In other instances, the consultants created false “proofs of service” long after the purported services were rendered.  In certain cases … a consultant sought assistance from an Alstom employee responsible for approving payment because, as the consultant explained to the Alstom employee, he did not want to include on his invoices the fact that his services included making unlawful payments.  During the relevant time period, Alstom did not engage in auditing or testing of consultant invoices or payments.  In many instances, requests for payments to consultants were approved without adequate review by Alstom knowing that the payments were being used, at least in part, to bribe foreign officials to obtain or retain business in connection with projects in various countries around the world for Alstom and its subsidiaries.”

Next, the information contains the following summary allegation.

“Alstom paid approximately $75 million in consultancy fees knowing that this money would be used, in whole or in part, to bribe or provide something of value to foreign officials to secure approximately $4 billion in projects in multiple countries, with a gain to Alstom of approximately $296 million.”

The information next contains specific allegations regarding Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Bahamas, and Taiwan.

Indonesia

As to Indonesia, the information concerns various power projects in Indonesia through Indonesia’s state-owned and state-controlled electricity company, Perusahann Listrik Negara (“PLN”).  One such project was the Tarahan Project, a project to provide power-related services to the citizens of Indonesia at approximately $118 million and another such project was the Muara Tawar Block 5 Project, a project to expand the existing Muara Tawar power plant and provide additional power-related services to the citizens of Indonesia at approximately $260 million.  According to the information, Alstom subsidiaries bid on but were not awarded contracts related to other expansions of the Muara Tawar power plant.  In summary fashion, the information alleges as follows.

“In connection with these projects, Alstom disguised on its books and records millions of dollars and other things of value provided to Indonesian officials in exchange for those officials’ assistance in securing the power projects for Alstom and its subsidiaries.  Alstom also knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls to ensure that no unlawful payments were being made through consultants to foreign officials in connection with these projects.”

The Indonesia allegations in the Alstom information are substantively similar to the allegations in the prior FCPA enforcement action against various individuals associated with Alstom Power.  (See here for the prior post and summary).

Saudi Arabia

As to Saudi Arabia, the information concerns bids for power projects with Saudi Electric Company (“SEC”), Saudi Arabia’s state-owned and state-controlled electricity company, and its predecessor entities.  According to the information, in connection with one project:

“Alstom disguised on its books and records tens of millions of dollars in payments and other things of value provided to Saudi officials to obtain or retain business in connection with the projects.  Alstom knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls to ensure that no unlawful payments were being made to these officials.  The arrangements for these consulting agreements originated with [a separate international power company with which Alstom operated as a joint venture in 1999 and acquired in 2000]. Subsequently, Alstom honored, continued, and in certain instances renewed these consulting agreements without adequate diligence on what services were ostensibly being provided by these consultants, whether the consultants were capable of providing such services, whether the agreed upon consultancy fees were commensurate with such legitimate services, and despite the lack of documentation regarding what legitimate services were provided.”

In one instance, the information alleges that a consultant “was the brother of a high-level official at the SEC who had the ability to influence the award” of a project, “which certain Alstom employees knew.”  According to the information, this consultant was paid “approximately $5 million, with no documentation of any legitimate services having been performed [by the Consultant] commensurate with a $5 million fee and with no documentation of any technical or other expertise to justify such a fee.”  In another instance, the information alleges that another consultant “was a close relative of another high-level official at SEC who had the ability to influence the aware” of a project” which certain Alstom employees knew.”  According to the information, this consultant was paid at least $4 million under similar circumstances to those referenced above.

The information states as follows.

“In addition to paying consultants as a means of bribing key decision makers at the SEC, Alstom and its subsidiaries paid $2.2 million to a U.S.-based Islamic education foundation associated with [an SEC official believed to have 70% of the decision-making responsibility for SEC matters].  The payments were made in three installments, and internal records at Alstom reflect that these payments were included as expenses related [to the projects] rather than as a separate and independent charitable contribution.”

Egypt

As to Egypt, the information concerns bidding on various projects with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (“EEHC”), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Egypt.  According to the information, “EEHC was not itself responsible for conducting the bidding [on projects], and instead relied on Power Generation Engineering & Services Co. (“PGESCo”), which was controlled by an acted on behalf of EEHC.”  According to the information, in connection with various projects, “Alstom disguised on its books and records millions of dollars and other things of value provided to Egyptian officials to obtain or retain business in connection with power projects for Alstom and its subsidiaries.  Alstom also knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls to ensure that no unlawful payments were being made to these officials.  According to the information, Alstom used a consultant whose primary purpose “was not to provide legitimate consulting services to Alstom and its subsidiaries but was instead to make payments to Egyptian officials, including Asem Elgawhary who oversaw the bidding process.”  (See here for the prior post regarding the Elgawhary enforcement action).

The information also contains allegations concerning bidding on various grid projects with EEHC and the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (“EETC”), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity transmission company in Egypt.  According to the information, certain of these projects were “funded, at least in part, by the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”).  According to the information:

“In connection with [these projects], Alstom disguised on its books and records payments and other things of value it provided to Egyptian officials in exchange for those officials’ assistance in securing and executing the transmission and distribution projects for Alstom and its subsidiaries.  Alstom also knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls to ensure that no unlawful payments were being made to these officials.”

According to the information, an Alstom entity “repeatedly submitted false certifications to USAID in connection with these projects, and did not disclose that consultants were being used, that commissions were being paid, or that unlawful payments were being made.”

According to the information, “in addition to falsifying records in connection with the retention of consultants and their commission payments,” Alstom employees also “paid for entertainment and travel for [a high-level official] and other key decision-makers at EETC and EEHC, and provided those officials with envelopes of cash and other gifts during such travel.”

Bahamas

As to the Bahamas, the information concerns power projects with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (“BEC”), the state-owned and state-controlled power company.  According to the information, “Alstom disguised in its books and records payments to Bahamian officials to obtain or retain business in connection with power projects for Alstom and its subsidiaries.  Alstom also knowingly failed to implement and maintain adequate controls to ensure that no unlawful payments were being made to these officials.

According to the information, Alstom retained a consultant “who, as certain Alstom employees knew, was a close personal friend” of a board member of BEC and that the primary purpose of the consultant was not to provide legitimate consulting services but instead to pay bribes to the official who had the ability to influence the award of the power contracts.  According to the information, Alstom did not perform any due diligence on the consultant even though the consultant had no knowledge about, or experience in, the power industry.  Rather, the information alleges, the consultant “sold furniture and leather products, and exported chemical products and spare parts.”

Taiwan

As to Taiwan, the information alleges that between 2001 and 2008, Alstom and its subsidiaries “began bidding on transport-related projects with various entities responsible for the construction and operation of the metro-rail system in Taipei, Taiwan, including Taipei’s Department of Rapid Transit System, known as “DORTS.”  According to the information, an Alstom entity formally retained a consultant on a DORTS project even thought the consultant did not have the requisite expertise in the transport sector.  According to the information, the consultant’s expertise was as a “wholesaler of cigarettes, wines and pianos.”

According to the information, “Alstom’s system of internal controls was inadequate as they related to the Taiwan projects.  Despite numerous red flags, Alstom personnel knowingly failed to conduct further diligence to ensure that payments to its consultants in Taiwan could not be used to make improper payments to Taiwanese officials after the projects were secured.”

Based on the above allegations, Alstom was charged with one count of violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions from 1998 to 2004 and one count of violating the FCPA’s internal controls provisions from 1998 to 2004.

Alstom S.A. Plea Agreement

In the plea agreement, Alstom admitted that it was an “issuer” during the relevant time period and admitted, agreed, and stipulated that the factual allegations set forth in the information were true and correct.

In the plea agreement, the parties agreed that the gross pecuniary gain resulting from the offense was $296 million.  The plea agreement sets forth an advisory sentencing guidelines range of $532.8 million to $1.065 billion.

Under the heading “failure to self-report,” the plea agreement states:

“The Defendant failed to voluntarily disclose the conduct even though it was aware of related misconduct at Alstom Power, Inc., a U.S. subsidiary, which entered into a resolution for corrupt conduct in connection with a power project in Italy several years prior to the Department reaching out to Alstom regarding its investigation.”

Under the heading “cooperation,” the plea agreement states:

“The Defendant initially failed to cooperate with the Department’s investigation, responding only to the Department’s subpoenas to the Defendant’s subsidiaries.  Approximately one year into the investigation, the Defendant provided limited cooperation, but still did not fully cooperate with the Department’s investigation.  The Defendant’s initial failure to cooperate impeded the Department’s investigation of individuals involved in the bribery scheme.  At a later stage in the investigation, the Defendant began providing thorough cooperation, including assisting in the Department’s investigation and prosecution of individuals and other companies that had partnered with the Defendant on certain projects.  The Defendant’s thorough cooperation did not occur until after the Department had publicly charged multiple Alstom executives and employees.”

Under the heading, “compliance and remediation,” the plea agreement states:

“The Defendant lacked an effective compliance and ethics program at the time of the offense.  Since that time, the Defendant has undertaken substantial efforts to enhance its compliance program and to remediate the prior inadequacies, including complying with undertakings contained in resolutions with the World Bank (including an ongoing monitorship) and the government of Switzerland, substantially increasing its compliance staff, improving its alert procedures, increasing training and auditing/testing, and cease the use of external success fee-based consultants.”

In the plea agreement, Alstom agreed to a so-called “muzzle clause” in which it agreed not, directly or indirectly through others, to make any public statement contradicting the acceptance of responsibility set forth in the plea agreement.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, Alstom agreed to a corporate compliance program with elements typically part of other FCPA settlements.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, Alstom agreed to report to the DOJ, at no less than 12 month intervals, for a three-year term, regarding remediation and implementation of the compliance program and internal controls, policies, and procedures.  The plea agreement references that Alstom is already subject to monitoring requirements pursuant to a February 2012 World Bank Resolution but states that “in the event that the Integrity Compliance Office [of the World Bank] does not certify that the Company has satisfied the monitoring requirements contained in the World Bank Resolution, the Company shall be required to retain an Independent Compliance Monitor.”

Alstom Network Schweiz AG Information

The information against Alstom Network Schweiz AG (formerly known as Alstom Prom AG), a subsidiary of Alstom headquartered in Switzerland and responsible for overseeing compliance as it related to Alstom’s consultancy agreements for many of Alstom’s power sector subsidiaries, is based upon the same Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahamas conduct alleged in the Alstom information.

The Alstom entity is charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions under the dd-3 prong of the statute. According to the information, the “purpose of the conspiracy was to make corrupt payments to foreign officials in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Bahamas in order to obtain and retain business related to power projects in those countries for and on behalf of Alstom and its subsidiaries.”

Alstom Network Schweiz AG Plea Agreement

In the plea agreement, the Alstom entity admitted, agreed, and stipulated that the factual allegations set forth in the information were true and correct.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, “the parties agree[d] that any monetary penalty in this case will be paid pursuant to the plea agreement between the DOJ and Alstom, S.A., the parent company of the Defendant, relating to the same conduct …”.

In the plea agreement, the Alstom entity agreed to a so-called “muzzle clause” in which it agreed not, directly or indirectly through others, to make any public statement contradicting the acceptance of responsibility set forth in the plea agreement.

The plea agreement contains the same corporate compliance program, reporting obligations, and monitor conditions as described in the Alstom plea agreement above.

Alstom Power Inc. Information

The information against Alstom Power Inc., a subsidiary of Alstom headquartered in Connecticut in the business of providing power generation-related services around the world, is based upon the same Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt conduct alleged in the Alstom information.

Alstom Power is charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions under the dd-2 prong of the statute. According to the information, the “purpose of the conspiracy was to make corrupt payments to foreign officials in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt in order to obtain and retain business related to power projects in those countries for and on behalf of Alstom Power and its subsidiaries.”

Alstom Power Inc. DPA

In the DPA, Alstom Power admitted, accepted, and acknowledged that it was responsible for the conduct charged in the information.

The DPA has a term of three years and under the heading “relevant considerations” states as follows.

“The [DOJ] enters into this Agreement based on the individual facts and circumstances presented by this case and the Company.  Among the factors considered were the following:  (a) the company failed to voluntarily disclosed the conduct even though it had previously entered into a resolution for corrupt conduct in connection with a power project in Italy several years prior to the [DOJ] reaching out to Alstom regarding their investigation; (b) the Company and its parent initially failed to cooperate with the Department’s investigation, responding only to the Department’s subpoena.  Approximately one year into the investigation, the Company and its parent provided limited cooperation, but still did not fully cooperate with the Department’s investigation. The Company’s and its parent’s initial failure to cooperate impeded the Department’s investigation of individuals involved in the bribery scheme.  At a later stage in the investigation, the Company and its parent began providing thorough cooperation, including assisting in the Department’s investigation and prosecution of individuals and other companies that had partnered with the Company and its parent on certain projects.  The Company’s and its parent’s thorough cooperation did not occur until after the Department had publicly charged multiple current and former Alstom executives and employees; (c) the Company and its parent have undertaken substantial efforts to enhance its compliance program as part of the significant compliance and remediation improvements to Alstom S.A’s program, and has committed to continue to enhance their compliance program and internal controls, ensuring that its program satisfies the minimum elements set forth [in the DPA]; (d) General Electric Company, which intends to acquire the Company, has represented that it will implement its compliance program and internal controls at the Company within a reasonable time after the acquisition closes; and (e) the Company has agreed to continue to cooperate with the [DOJ] in any ongoing investigation …”.

In the DPA, the DOJ and the Company agreed that no monetary penalty will be paid by the Company because Alstom S.A., the parent company of the Company, has agreed to pay a fine of $772,290,000 related to the same underlying conduct.

In the DPA, Alstom Power agreed to a so-called “muzzle clause” in which it agreed not, directly or indirectly through others, to make any public statement contradicting the acceptance of responsibility set forth in the plea agreement.

The DPA contains the same corporate compliance program, reporting obligations, and monitor conditions as described in the Alstom plea agreement above.

Alstom Grid Inc. Information

The information against Alstom Grid, Inc. (formerly known as Alstom T&D, Inc.), a subsidiary of Alstom headquartered in New Jersey in the business of providing power grid-related services around the world, is based upon the same Egypt conduct alleged in the Alstom information.

Alstom Grid is charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions under the dd-2 prong of the statute. According to the information, the “purpose of the conspiracy was to make corrupt payments to foreign officials in Egypt in order to obtain and retain business related to power grid projects for and on behalf of Alstom Grid and Alstom and its subsidiaries.”

Alstom Grid Inc. DPA

In the DPA, Alstom Grid admitted, accepted, and acknowledged that it was responsible for the conduct charged in the information.

The DPA has a term of three years and contains the same relevant considerations described in the Alstom Power DPA above.

In the DPA, the DOJ and the Company agreed that no monetary penalty will be paid by the Company because Alstom S.A., the parent company of the Company, has agreed to pay a fine of $772,290,000 related to the same underlying conduct.

In the DPA, Alstom Power agreed to a so-called “muzzle clause” in which it agreed not, directly or indirectly through others, to make any public statement contradicting the acceptance of responsibility set forth in the plea agreement.

The DPA contains the same corporate compliance program, reporting obligations, and monitor conditions as described in the Alstom plea agreement above.

In this DOJ release, Deputy Attorney General James Cole stated:

“Alstom’s corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents. It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences. And it is both my expectation – and my intention – that the comprehensive resolution we are announcing today will send an unmistakable message to other companies around the world: that this Department of Justice will be relentless in rooting out and punishing corruption to the fullest extent of the law, no matter how sweeping its scale or how daunting its prosecution.”

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“This case is emblematic of how the Department of Justice will investigate and prosecute FCPA cases – and other corporate crimes. We encourage companies to maintain robust compliance programs, to voluntarily disclose and eradicate misconduct when it is detected, and to cooperate in the government’s investigation. But we will not wait for companies to act responsibly. With cooperation or without it, the department will identify criminal activity at corporations and investigate the conduct ourselves, using all of our resources, employing every law enforcement tool, and considering all possible actions, including charges against both corporations and individuals.”

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gustafson of the District of Connecticut stated:

“Today’s historic resolution is an important reminder that our moral and legal mandate to stamp out corruption does not stop at any border, whether city, state or national. A significant part of this illicit work was unfortunately carried out from Alstom Power’s offices in Windsor, Connecticut. I am hopeful that this resolution, and in particular the deferred prosecution agreement with Alstom Power, will provide the company an opportunity to reshape its culture and restore its place as a respected corporate citizen.”

FBI Executive Assistant Director Robert Anderson Jr. stated:

“This investigation spanned years and crossed continents, as agents from the FBI Washington and New Haven field offices conducted interviews and collected evidence in every corner of the globe. The record dollar amount of the fine is a clear deterrent to companies who would engage in foreign bribery, but an even better deterrent is that we are sending executives who commit these crimes to prison.”

As noted in the DOJ release:

“To date, the department has announced charges against five individuals, including four corporate executives of Alstom and its subsidiaries, for alleged corrupt conduct involving Alstom. Frederic Pierucci, Alstom’s former vice president of global boiler sales, pleaded guilty on July 29, 2013, to conspiring to violate the FCPA and a charge of violating the FCPA for his role in the Indonesia bribery scheme. David Rothschild, Alstom Power’s former vice president of regional sales, pleaded guilty on Nov. 2, 2012, to conspiracy to violate the FCPA. William Pomponi, Alstom Power’s former vice president of regional sales, pleaded guilty on July 17, 2014, to conspiracy to violate the FCPA. Lawrence Hoskins, Alstom’s former senior vice president for the Asia region, was charged in a second superseding indictment on July 30, 2013, and is pending trial in the District of Connecticut in June 2015. The charges against Hoskins are merely allegations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The high-ranking member of Indonesian Parliament was also convicted in Indonesia of accepting bribes from Alstom, and is currently serving a three-year term of imprisonment.

In connection with a corrupt scheme in Egypt, Asem Elgawhary, the general manager of an entity working on behalf of the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company, a state-owned electricity company, pleaded guilty on Dec. 4, 2014, in federal court in the District of Maryland to mail fraud, conspiring to launder money, and tax fraud for accepting kickbacks from Alstom and other companies. In his plea agreement, Elgawhary agreed to serve 42 months in prison and forfeit approximately $5.2 million in proceeds.”

In addition to the above DOJ press release, the DOJ also held a press conference, a rare event in connection with an FCPA enforcement action.  In this speech, Cole stated:

“We are here to announce a historic law enforcement action that marks the end of a decade-long transnational bribery scheme – a scheme that was both concocted and concealed by Alstom, a multinational French company, and its subsidiaries in Switzerland, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Today, those companies admit that, from at least 2000 to 2011, they bribed government officials and falsified accounting records in connection with lucrative power and transportation projects for state-owned entities across the globe.  They used bribes to secure contracts in Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Bahamas.  Altogether, Alstom paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to win $4 billion in projects – and to secure approximately $300 million in profit for themselves.

Such rampant and flagrant wrongdoing demands an appropriately strong law enforcement response.  Today, I can announce that the Justice Department has filed a two-count criminal information in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, charging Alstom with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, by falsifying its books and records and failing to implement adequate internal controls.  Alstom has agreed to plead guilty to these charges, to admit its criminal conduct, and to pay a criminal penalty of more than $772 million.  If approved by the court next year, this will be the largest foreign bribery penalty in the history of the United States Department of Justice.

In addition, I can announce that Alstom’s Swiss subsidiary is pleading guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA.  And the company’s two American subsidiaries have entered into deferred prosecution agreements and admitted that they conspired to violate the FCPA.

Alstom’s corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents.  It was breathtaking in its breadth, its brazenness, and its worldwide consequences.  And it is both my expectation – and my intention – that the comprehensive resolution we are announcing today will send an unmistakable message to other companies around the world: that this Department of Justice will be relentless in rooting out and punishing corruption to the fullest extent of the law, no matter how sweeping its scale or how daunting its prosecution.  Let me be very clear: corruption has no place in the global marketplace.  And today’s resolution signals that the United States will continue to play a leading role in its eradication.

The investigation and prosecution of Alstom and its subsidiaries have been exceedingly complex – and they have required the utmost skill and tenacity on the part of a wide consortium of law enforcement officials throughout the country and across the globe.  I want to thank the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Office of International Affairs; the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey; the FBI’s Washington Field Office and its Resident Agency in Meriden, Connecticut; the Corruption Eradication Commission in Indonesia; the Office of the Attorney General in Switzerland; the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom; as well as authorities in Germany, Italy, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, and Taiwan, for their tireless efforts to advance this matter.  The remarkable cross-border collaboration that these agencies made possible has led directly to today’s historic resolution.  And this outcome demonstrates our unwavering commitment to ending corporate bribery and international corruption.  Our hope is that this announcement will serve as an inspiration – and a model – for future efforts.”

In this speech at the press conference, Caldwell stated:

“Today represents a significant milestone in the global fight against corruption.  It demonstrates the Department of Justice’s strong commitment to fighting foreign bribery and ensuring that both companies and individuals are held accountable when they violate the FCPA.  The guilty pleas and resolutions announced today also highlight what can happen when corporations refuse to disclose wrongdoing and refuse to cooperate with the department’s efforts to identify and prosecute culpable individuals.

Let me first explain how the scheme worked.  To conceal that it was the source of payments to government officials, Alstom funneled the bribes through third-party consultants who did little more than serve as conduits for corruption.  Alstom then dummied up its books and records to cover up the scheme.

Alstom’s corruption spanned the globe, and was its way of winning business.  For example, in Indonesia, Alstom and certain of its subsidiaries used consultants to bribe government officials – including high-ranking members of the Indonesian Parliament and the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company – to win several contracts to provide power-related services.  According to internal documents, when certain officials expressed displeasure that a particular consultant had provided only “pocket money,” Alstom retained a second consultant to ensure that the officials were satisfied.

In Saudi Arabia, Alstom retained at least six consultants, including two close family members of high-ranking government officials, to bribe officials at a state-owned and state-controlled electricity company to win two projects valued at approximately $3 billion.  As evidence that Alstom employees recognized that their conduct was criminal, internal company documents refer to the consultants only by code name.

Alstom similarly used consultants to bribe officials in Egypt and the Bahamas, and again Alstom employees clearly knew that the conduct violated the law.  In connection with a project in Egypt, a member of Alstom’s finance department sent an email questioning an invoice for consultant services and, in response, was advised that her inquiry could have “several people put in jail” and was further instructed to delete all prior emails regarding the consultant.

If approved by the court, Alstom’s criminal penalty of $772 million represents the largest penalty ever assessed by department in a FCPA case.  Through Alstom’s parent-level guilty plea and record-breaking criminal penalty, Alstom is paying a historic price for its criminal conduct — and for its efforts to insulate culpable corporate employees and other corporate entities.  Alstom did not voluntarily disclose the misconduct to law enforcement authorities, and Alstom refused to cooperate in a meaningful way during the first several years of the investigation.  Indeed, it was only after the department publicly charged several Alstom executives – three years after the investigation began – that the company finally cooperated.

One important message of this case is this:  While we hope that companies that find themselves in these situations will cooperate with the Department of Justice, we do not wait for or depend on that cooperation. When Alstom refused to cooperate with the investigation, we persisted with our own investigation.  We built cases against the various corporate entities and against culpable individuals.  To date, the department publicly has charged four Alstom corporate executives in connection with the corrupt scheme in Indonesia, which also chose not to cooperate, and another company’s executive in connection with the scheme in Egypt.  Four of these individuals already have pleaded guilty.  In addition, Marubeni Corporation, a Japanese trading company that partnered with Alstom in Indonesia, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and substantive violations of the FCPA, and paid an $88 million criminal penalty.

Another important message from this case is that the U.S. increasingly is not alone in the fight against transnational corruption.  Earlier this year, Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission, the KPK, assisted the department in its investigation.  And, in turn, the department shared with the KPK information that federal investigators had obtained, which the KPK used in its prosecution of a former member of the Indonesian Parliament for accepting bribes from Alstom-funded consultants.  This past spring, that Indonesian official was found guilty and sentenced to three years in an Indonesian prison.  Our partnership with Indonesian law enforcement authorities in this case means that both the bribe payors and bribe takers have been prosecuted.  And our investigation is not over yet.

This case is emblematic of how the Department of Justice will investigate and prosecute FCPA cases – and other corporate crimes.  We encourage companies to maintain robust compliance programs, to voluntarily disclose and eradicate misconduct when it is detected, and to cooperate in the government’s investigation.  But we will not wait for companies to act responsibly.  With cooperation or without it, the department will identify criminal activity at corporations and investigate the conduct ourselves, using all of our resources, employing every law enforcement tool, and considering all possible actions, including charges against both corporations and individuals.”

See here for an additional DOJ statement at the press conference.

In this Alstom release, Alstom CEO Patrick Kron stated:

“There were a number of problems in the past and we deeply regret that. However, this resolution with the DOJ allows Alstom to put this issue behind us and to continue our efforts to ensure that business is conducted in a responsible way, consistent with the highest ethical standards.”

The release further states:

“Alstom has made significant progress in the area of compliance over the last several years. The conduct referred to in the agreement mainly arose from the use of external success fee based Sales Consultants hired by Alstom to support its commercial teams. In order to ensure that Alstom strives for the best compliance procedures, Alstom has discontinued the hiring of such Sales Consultants. Further, pursuant to a negotiated resolution agreement with the World Bank, Alstom committed in Feb 2012 to continue to improve its internal compliance programme, including by retaining a monitor to oversee its efforts in this regard. To date, the work of the Monitor has confirmed that Alstom has put in place a Corporate Compliance Programme that reflects the principles embedded in the WBG’s Integrity Compliance Guidelines.”

[...]

“The DOJ has also stipulated that no part of the fine can be passed on to General Electric as part of the projected sale of Alstom’s energy businesses.”

Robert Luskin and Jay Darden of Squire Patton Boggs represented the Alstom entities.

Issues To Consider From The Avon Enforcement Action

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

IssuesThis recent post dived deep into the Avon FCPA enforcement action.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting various issues to consider associated with the enforcement action.

 

The Gray Cloud of FCPA Scrutiny Lasted A Long Time And Was Very Expensive

Avon disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in China in October 2008.  In other words, it was 6 years and 2 months from the time of disclosure to the actual enforcement action.  While FCPA scrutiny typically lasts between 2-4 years, Avon’s FCPA scrutiny was extraordinarily long.  (For additional reading see this prior post “The Gray Cloud of FCPA Scrutiny Simply Lasts Too Long”).

Avon’s FCPA scrutiny was also very expensive.  For years, the whisper in the FCPA community was how expensive  - and dragged out – FCPA’s internal investigation and pre-enforcement professional fees and expenses were.  Not all companies disclose pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses, but Avon did and those figures were approximately $500 million (see here).

Avon’s FCPA scrutiny thus supported the claim in my article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples“ that settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement in this new era.  Indeed, the broader effects of Avon’s FCPA scrutiny (including pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses and an impact on bond ratings) is discussed in the article.

Given the above-mentioned whispers, one of the most interesting portions of the DOJ’s DPA was the following.

“The Department also considered that the Company, taking into account its own business interests, expended considerable resources on a company wide review of and enhancements to its compliance program and internal controls.  While the Company’s efforts in this regard were taken without Department request or guidance, and at times caused unintended delays in the progress of the Department’s narrower investigations, the Department recognizes that the Company’s efforts resulted in important compliance and internal controls improvements.”

Root Cause

It has been highlighted numerous times on these pages (see here for instance).

The root cause of many FCPA enforcement actions are foreign trade barriers and distortions.  The narrative is rather simple.

  • Trade barriers and distortions create bureaucracy.
  • Bureaucracy creates points of contact with foreign officials.
  • Points of contact with foreign officials create discretion.
  • Discretion creates the opportunity for a foreign official to misuse their position by making bribe demands.

The following is not meant to excuse Avon’s conduct, only to put it in the proper perspective.

The root cause of Avon’s FCPA scrutiny was that China had significant trade barriers and distortions applicable to direct selling of products.  As highlighted in the resolution documents, “under China’s newly promulgated direct selling regulations, to conduct direct sales, a company was required to obtain a national direct selling license and approvals from each province and municipality in which it sought to conduct direct sales.”

As I have long argued, the way to reduce bribery is not just to bring more corporate enforcement actions.  It is to address the root causes of bribery by seeking a reduction in trade barriers and distortions.

Two Enforcement Actions In One

The Avon enforcement action was really two distinct enforcement actions in terms of conduct.

On one level, Avon’s indirect China subsidiary intentionally disguised certain payments of things of value (individually small, but in the aggregate large) from Avon during the general time period in which they were occurring.

Yet, the second prong of the enforcement action, more problematic from a corporate governance standpoint, is that once Avon learned of the improper conduct in 2005/2006, Avon failed to take steps to stop and remedy the situation.

Much like the developing story around Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny, Avon appears to be more of a corporate governance sandwich with the FCPA as a mere condiment.  Based on the conduct alleged by the DOJ and SEC, Avon (the parent company) appeared to fail to take ownership of the issues at its indirect China subsidiary on a real-time basis.  (For additional details on this aspect of the enforcement action see this prior post).

If “only” the alleged improper payments by Avon China had taken place, it stands to reason that the settlement amount would have been much lower.

Surprisingly Limited

Based on Avon’s pre-enforcement action disclosures, many were expecting that the Avon FCPA enforcement would be broader than just China.  After all, Avon disclosed that it was conducting an internal review in a “number of countries selected to represent each of the Company’s international geographic segments” and according to its website the company does business in over 100 countries.

That the Avon enforcement action was limited to China highlights an issue that can be highlighted in most FCPA enforcement actions.  While it is easy in hindsight to fault a company for internal control failures as to the specific payments alleged, that the company conducted an internal review in many other countries and found nothing (at least nothing serious enough to be alleged in an FCPA enforcement action) does suggests that the company’s overall internal controls were reasonable and adequate.