Archive for the ‘Internal Controls’ Category

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.

Avon Resolves Long-Standing FCPA Scrutiny By Agreeing To $135 Million Settlement

Friday, December 19th, 2014

AvonEarlier this week, the DOJ and SEC announced resolution of Avon’s long-standing FCPA scrutiny in China.  The conduct at issue took place between 2004 and 2008 and Avon disclosed the conduct to the enforcement agencies in 2008.

In short, the DOJ and SEC alleged that Avon’s indirect subsidiary (Avon China) provided approximately $8 million in things of value, including gifts, cash, and non-business travel, meals and entertainment, which it gave to Chinese officials in order to obtain and retain business benefits for Avon China.  Avon resolved FCPA books and records and internal controls charges related to this conduct.

Consistent with Avon’s prior disclosure, the aggregate settlement amount was $135 million.  While not a top-ten Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action, the settlement is the third-largest ever against a U.S. company.

The enforcement action included:

  • a DOJ component (a criminal information against Avon China resolved via a plea agreement and a criminal information against Avon Products resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement with an aggregate fine amount of $67.6 million); and
  • an SEC component (a civil complaint against Avon Products which it agreed to resolve without admitting or denying the allegations through payment of $67.4 million).

This post summarizes the approximately 175 pages of resolution documents.  Because all of the resolution documents have substantial overlap, the core allegations are highlighted in connection with the Avon China criminal information, yet repeated in the other resolution documents as well.

DOJ

Avon China Information

Avon Products (China) Co. Ltd. (“Avon China”) is described as an indirect subsidiary of Avon incorporated in China.  According to the information, Avon China and its affiliates manufactured and sold beauty and healthcare products through direct sales, as well as through “beauty boutiques” that were independently owned and operated.  The information states that in addition to independent sales representatives, Avon China had between 1,000 and 2,000 employees.  According to the information, Avon China’s books, records and accounts were consolidated into Avon’s books and records and reported by Avon in its financial statements.

Under the heading “The Chinese Regulatory Regime for Direct Selling” the information states:

“In or around 1998, the Chinese government outlawed direct selling in China for all companies.  In or around 2001, as a condition of its entry into the World Trade Organization, China agreed to lift its ban on direct selling.  In or around 2005, in order to test its planned regulations for direct selling, the Chinese government decided to issue one company a temporary license to conduct direct sales (the ‘test license.’). In or around March 2005, the Chinese government awarded the test license to Avon China, the defendant.  In or around late 2005, China lifted its ban on direct selling and allowed companies to apply for licenses to conduct direct sales.  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.  In order to obtain a license, a company was required to satisfy a number of conditions, including, in pertinent part, having a ‘good business reputation’ and a record that demonstrated no material violations of Chinese law for the preceding five years.  In or around February 2006, Avon China, the defendant, obtained its national direct selling license.  Between in or around February 2006 and in or around July 2006, Avon China, the defendant, obtained all of its provincial and municipal approvals to conduct direct selling.”

According to the information, Avon China created and maintained a Corporate Affairs Group whose duties included maintaining “guanxi (good relationships) with government officials and lobbying those officials on behalf of Avon China.”

Under the heading, “Overview of the Scheme to Falsify Books and Records,” the information states that from 2004 to 2008, Avon China, and Avon, acting through certain executives and employees, together with others, conspired to falsify Avon China’s and, thereby ultimately, Avon’s books and records in order to disguise the things of value Avon China executives and employees provided to government officials in China.

Specifically, the information alleges that from 2004 to 2008 Avon China “acting through certain executives and employees, disguised on its books and records over $8 million in things of value, including gifts, cash, and non-business travel, meals and entertainment, which it gave to Chinese officials in order to obtain and retain business benefits for Avon China.

The information alleges that:

Avon China “falsely and misleadingly described the nature and purpose of certain transactions on Avon China’s books and records, in part, because they believed that Chinese government officials did not want a paper trail reflecting their acceptance of money, gifts, travel, entertainment and other things of value from Avon China executives and employees.  The executives and employees also knew that, contrary to how the expenses were being described in Avon China’s books and records, the expenses were not incurred for legitimate business purposes.”

According to the information:

“Avon executives and employees, including high-level executives, attorneys, and internal auditors, learned that executives and employees of Avon China, the defendant, had in the past routinely provided things of value to Chinese government officials and failed to properly document it.  Instead of ensuring the practice was halted, disciplining the culpable individuals, and implementing appropriate controls at Avon and Avon China to address the problem, the Avon executives and employees, in conjunction with Avon China executives and employees, took steps to conceal the significant concerns raised about the accuracy of Avon China’s books and records and its practice of giving things of value to government officials.  These Avon and Avon China executives and employees, knowing that Avon China’s books and records would continue to be inaccurate if steps were not taken to correct Avon China’s executives and employees’ conduct, failed to take steps to correct such actions, despite knowing that Avon China’s books and records were consolidated into Avon’s books and records.”

The information then alleges various categories of payments.

Under the heading “gifts for government officials,” the information details designer wallets, bags, or watches “to obtain benefits from government officials, such as obtaining and retaining the direct selling license and requisite provincial and local approvals, avoiding fines, avoiding negative media reports, obtaining favorable judicial treatment, and obtaining government approval to sell nutritional supplements and healthcare apparel products, via direct selling, that did not meet or had yet to meet government standards.  According to the information, Avon China executives and employees, at various times, falsely or misleadingly described the gifts, including describing them as employee travel and entertainment, samples or public relations business entertainment.” Specific gifts mentioned include a $890 gift or entertainment expense, a $960 gift purchased from Louis Vuitton, a $800 Gucci Bag, and a $460 gift from Louis Vuitton.

Regarding avoiding negative media reports, the information alleges that a leading government-owned newspaper intended to run a story about Avon China improperly recruiting sales associates and that this article could cause Avon China to lose its direct selling license.  According to the information, “in order to convince the newspaper not to run the article … an Avon China employee caused Avon China to pay approximately $77,500 to become a “sponsor” of the paper at the request of a government official at the paper who was in charge of determining whether the potential article would run and who may have received a commission on monies received from sponsors.”

Under the heading “meals and entertainment,” the information alleges that Avon China “routinely entertained government officials in order to obtain the same business benefits highlighted above.  According to the information, executives and employees of Avon China, “intentionally concealed these improper meal and entertainment expenses in Avon China’s books and records by (1) intentionally omitting reference to the participation of government officials in order to conceal their participation, using descriptions like business entertainment, public relation entertainment, or no description at all; or (2) revealing the participation of government officials but intentionally describing the event inaccurately by omitting the identity or number of officials, the cost of the event, or the true purpose of the event.”

Under the heading “travel for government officials,” the information alleges that executives and employees of Avon China caused Avon China to “pay for travel expenses for government officials, and sometimes their families” in order to obtain the same improper business benefits highlighted above.  According to the information, “to conceal the true nature of these expenses, these executives and employees intentionally omitted from or concealed in Avon China’s records the name of the government officials, the fact that the travelers were government officials or relatives of government officials, and, at times, the number of travelers.”  The information also alleges that executives and employees of Avon China “intentionally falsified in Avon China’s books and records the purpose of the travel, which often was for personal, not legitimate business, purposes.  For example, the information alleges that certain personal trips for government officials (and occasionally their spouses and children) were described as “study trips” or “site visits” when the officials were instead sightseeing or taking a beach vacation.”  Specifically, the information alleges, among other trips, that Avon China paid for six officials from the Guandong Food and Drug Administration to travel to Avon’s headquarters in New York City and its research and development facility in upstate New York for a “site visit/study visit.” According to the information, the “officials never visited Avon’s headquarters, only spent one morning at Avon’s research and development facility, and spent the rest of the 18-day trip sightseeing and being entertained by an Avon China employee in New York, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Philadelphia, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.

Under the heading “cash for government officials,” the information alleges that “executives and employees of Avon China, gave cash to government officials in order to obtain benefits for Avon China and falsified Avon China’s records to conceal the true recipient of and purpose for the money.”  According to the information, “these employees accomplished this by submitting for reimbursement meal or entertainment receipts given to them by government officials and falsely claiming that the receipts reflected employee business expenses.  In truth, the employees had no such expenses, and the receipts were used to obtain cash to make payments to government officials.  The information also alleges other instances in which executives and employees of Avon China “gave cash to government officials in order to obtain business benefits for Avon China and falsely reported the payments as fine payments.”  In other instances, the information alleges that Avon China executives and employees “made payments to organizations designated by government officials.”

The information also contains a separate section regarding payments to Consulting Company A that was retained by Avon China “purportedly” to provide various services to Avon China.  The information alleges that these services “were memorialized in a scant two-page contract” and that Avon China “did not conduct any due diligence of Consulting Company A, nor did they require Consulting Company A to comply with Avon’s Code of Conduct (in particular, the provisions related to payments to government officials), even though Consulting Company A was retained specifically to interact with government officials on behalf of Avon China.”  The information alleges that executives and employees of Avon China caused Avon China to pay Consulting Company A additional monies for purportedly legitimate, though ambiguously described, services even though an Avon China executive knew Consulting Company A’s invoices were often false, and no Avon China executives or employees knew of any legitimate services being provided by Consulting Company A.

Based on the above conduct, Avon China was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

The information also contains a separate section titled “Discovery of the Falsification and Cover-Up.”  In pertinent part, the information alleges:

  • In 2005, a senior audit manager in Avon’s internal audit group reported to Avon’s Compliance Committee, that executives and employees of Avon China were not maintaining proper records of entertainment for government officials and that an Avon China executive had explained that the practice was intentional because information regarding that entertainment was “quite sensitive.”
  • In 2005, Avon’s internal auditors audited the Corporate Affairs Group’s travel and entertainment and discretionary expenses and issued a draft report.
  • The Draft Audit Report, which was reviewed by various Avon executives and Avon attorneys, contained conclusions regarding the Corporate Affairs Group’s expenses including: (1) high value gifts and meals were offered to government officials on an ongoing basis; (2) the majority of the expenses related to gifts, meals, sponsorships, and travel of substantial monetary value for Chinese government officials to maintain relationships with the officials; (3) a third party consultant was paid a substantial sum of money to interact with the government but was not contractually required to follow the FCPA, was not actively monitored by Avon China, and was paid for vague and unknown services; and (4) the payments, and the lack of accurate, detailed records, may violate the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws.
  • The management team of Avon China “insisted that the internal audit team remove the discussion of providing things of value to government officials and potential FCPA violations from the Draft Audit Report.
  • Certain Avon executives agreed with executives of Avon China to delete the discussion of the Corporate Affairs Group’s conduct from the Draft Audit Report.  An Avon Executive then directed the internal audit team to either (1) retrieve every copy of the Draft Audit Report and destroy them or (2) instruct the individuals who possessed copies of the Draft Audit Report to destroy them.
  • Avon executives did not instruct any executives or employees of Avon China to stop the conduct identified in the Draft Audit Report, put in place controls to prevent the conduct or ensure the accuracy of Avon China’s books and records.
  • In 2006, Avon’s internal auditors again reviewed the Corporate Affairs Group’s travel and entertainment and discretionary expenses and found that Corporate Affairs Group executive and employees were continuing their practice of giving things of value to government officials.  Notwithstanding learning that the conduct was continuing and that the books and records of Avon China were still being falsified, no Avon or Avon China executives or employees took steps to stop or prevent the conduct from recurring, and Avon China executives and employees continued operating in the same improper manner.
  • In 2007, an Avon executive reported to the Avon Compliance Committee that the matter reported in 2005 regarding potential FCPA violations by executives and employees of Avon China had been closed as “unsubstantiated” even though the executive and others knew of Avon China’s previous – and continuing – practice of giving things of value to government officials and the ongoing failure of Avon China’s books and records to reflect accurately and fairly the nature and purpose of the transactions.
  • From 2004 to 2008, Avon China executives signed false management representation letters to Avon China’s external auditor stating that Avon China’s books and records were fair and accurate.

Avon China Plea Agreement

According to the plea agreement, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines fine range was $73.9 million to $147.9 million.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, Avon China agreed to pay a criminal fine in the amount of $67.6 million.

In the plea agreement, Avon China waived all defenses based on the statute of limitations.

Avon Products Information

The information is based on the same core conduct alleged in the Avon China information.

Under the heading “Avon’s Internal Controls,” the information alleges, in pertinent part, as follows.

“Although Avon … and certain of its subsidiaries had policies in place relating to the review and approval of employee expenses, it lacked adequate controls to ensure compliance with those policies and thus, in practice, employee expenses were not adequately vetted to ensure that they were reasonable, bona fide, or properly documented.

Avon … lacked sufficient controls to ensure the integrity of its internal audit process, particularly with regard to its review of allegations of and testing for improper payments made to foreign government officials.  Avon’s internal audit group also failed to devote adequate funding, staffing, and resources to Avon China.

Avon … did not have adequate internal accounting and financial controls designed to detect and prevent, among other things, corruption-related violations, including FCPA violations.  In particular, after senior Avon executives … learned of specific corruption issues in China related to the provision of cash, meals, gifts, travel, and entertainment to government officials, Avon failed to take the necessary steps to implement appropriate controls to address such issues and prevent such risks in the future.

Avon … had an inadequate compliance program.  In fact, Avon did not have a dedicated compliance officer or compliance personnel.  Avon’s compliance program was particularly weak with regard to risks associated with foreign bribery.  For example, even though Avon operated in over 100 countries, including many countries with high corruption risks, Avon did not have a specific anti-corruption policy, nor did it provide any stand alone FCPA-related training.  Moreover, although Avon had a code of conduct that covered all of its employees and its subsidiaries’ employees, which, among other things, prohibited paying bribes, many employees of Avon and its subsidiaries were unaware of its existence.

Avon .. did not conduct corruption-related due diligence on appropriate third parties or have effective controls for the meaningful approval of third parties.  Avon also did not require adequate documentation supporting the retention of payments to third parties.

Avon … did not undertake periodic risk assessments of its compliance program and lacked proper oversight of gifts, travel, and entertainment expenditures.  Avon’s failure to maintain an adequate compliance program significantly contributed to the company’s failure to prevent the misconduct in China.”

Based on the core conduct and the specific allegations detailed above, Avon was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions as well as one count of violating the FCPA’s internal controls provisions for knowingly failing to implement a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurance of various aspects of its business as required by the provisions.

Avon Products DPA

Pursuant to the three year DPA, Avon admitted, accepted and acknowledged that it was responsible for the conduct alleged in the information.

Under the heading “Relevant Considerations,” the factors the DOJ considered in resolving the action were:

“(a) the Company’s cooperation, which included conducting an extensive internal investigation in China and other relevant countries; voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews; collecting, analyzing, translating, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Department; (b) the Company’s voluntary disclosure of its employees’ and its subsidiary’s employees’ misconduct to the Department, which came relatively soon after the Company received a whistleblower letter alleging misconduct but years after certain senior executives of the Company had learned of and sought to hide the misconduct in China; (c) the Company’s extensive remediation, including terminating the employment of individuals responsible for the misconduct, enhancing its compliance program and internal controls, and significantly increasing the resources available for compliance and internal audit; (d) the Company’s commitment to continue to enhance its compliance program and internal controls, including ensuring that its compliance program satisfies the minimum elements [set forth in the DPA]; and (e) the Company’s agreement to continue to cooperate with the Department …”

The DPA also states:

“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.”

Based on the conduct at issue, the DPA sets forth an advisory Sentencing Guidelines range of $84.6 million to $169.1 million.  The DPA sets forth a criminal fine amount of $67.6 million and the above-mentioned Avon China criminal fine was deducted from this amount.

Pursuant to the DPA, Avon agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor for an 18 month term and agreed to various periodic reporting obligations to the DOJ.

The DPA contains a standard “muzzle clause” in which it (or those associated with it) agreed not to make any public statements contradicting its acceptance of responsibility under the DPA.

In this release, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“Companies that cook their books to hide improper payments will face criminal penalties, as Avon China’s guilty plea demonstrates. Public companies that discover bribes paid to foreign officials, fail to stop them, and cover them up do so at their own peril.”

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

“For years in China it was ‘Avon calling,’ as Avon bestowed millions of dollars in gifts and other things on Chinese government officials in return for business benefits. Avon China was in the door-to-door influence-peddling business, and for years its corporate parent, rather than putting an end to the practice, conspired to cover it up.  Avon has now agreed to adopt rigorous internal controls and to the appointment of a monitor to ensure that reforms are instituted and maintained.”

Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office stated:

“When corporations knowingly engage in bribery in order to obtain and retain contracts, it disrupts the level playing field to which all businesses are entitled. Companies who attempt to advance their businesses through foreign bribery should be on notice.  The FBI, with our law enforcement partners, is continuing to push this unacceptable practice out of the business playbook by investigating companies who ignore the law.”

SEC

Based on the same core conduct alleged in the DOJ actions, in this civil complaint the SEC charged Avon with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.  In summary, the SEC’s complaint states:

“This matter concerns violations by A von Products, Inc. (“A von”) of the corporate record keeping and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws. [...] . From 2004 through the third quarter of 2008, Avon’s books and records failed to accurately and fairly reflect payments by Avon Products (China) Co., Ltd. (“Avon Products China”) to Chinese government officials. Avon Products China provided cash and things of value, including gifts, travel, and entertainment, to various Chinese government officials, including government officials responsible for awarding a test license, and subsequently a direct sales business license, that would allow a company to utilize direct door-to-door selling in China. Avon Products China  was, in fact, awarded a test license and, then, the first official direct selling business license in China. Avon Products China also adopted an internal “no penalty policy” and provided cash and things of value to Chinese government officials to avoid fines and other penalties in order to maintain an ostensibly pristine corporate image. Avon Products China also paid a third-party consultant for purportedly legitimate interactions with government officials, even though Avon Products China management knew the consultant’s invoices were often false and could not point to legitimate services provided by the consultant. At times , payments were made to suppress negative news in state-owned media and to obtain competitor information. In addition, Avon Products China provided cash to government officials on behalf of other Avon subsidiaries in China. Avon Products China falsified its books and records so as to conceal the cash and things of value provided to government officials.  Near the end of 2005, an Avon internal audit team reported potential issues concerning things of value provided to Chinese government officials. Nevertheless, remedial measures sufficient to address the issues were not implemented at Avon Products China. Similar issues related to Avon Products China were raised at the end of 2006. Again, responsive remedial measures were not implemented. The books and records at A von Products China were consolidated into the books and records of Avon. Avon thus violated [the books and records provisions] by failing to make and keep books, records , and accounts, which, in reasonable detail , accurately and fairly reflected the transactions and disposition of assets of the issuer. By failing to ensure that it maintained adequate internal controls sufficient to record the nature and purpose of payments, or to prevent improper payments, to government  officials, Avon failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that its transactions and the disposition of its assets were recorded correctly, accurately, and in accordance with authorization of management. Avon thereby violated [the internal controls provisions]. Finally, in May 2008, Avon began a review of its compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), the U.S . legislation that, among other things, prohibits payments to foreign government officials to obtain or retain business. As a result of its review, the company instituted extensive, related reforms.”

In certain respects, the SEC’s complaint contains additional details regarding certain of the alleged conduct such as:

  • Certain of the Chinese “foreign officials” are alleged to be individuals associated with the Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (“AIC”).
  • Regarding the Draft Audit Report, “Avon’s Legal Department took the position that conclusions about potential FCPA violations fell within the purview of Legal, and not Internal Audit.”
  • Regarding Avon’s initial investigation of the matter, Avon engaged a “major law firm” but “in mid-December 2005, sent the law firm a short e-mail stating that the company had ”moved on” from the issues and asking for an estimate of the fees incurred.”
  • “In May 2008 , the Avon Products China Corporate Affairs executive who had been terminated wrote to Avon’ s Chief Executive Officer alleging improper payments to Chinese government officials over several years in the form of meals, entertainment, travel, sponsorship of cultural events, gifts of art, and cash. The letter was forwarded to A von’s Legal Department and, in tum, to the audit committee of Avon’s board of directors. The audit committee commenced an internal investigation into the allegations and, in October 2008, Avon informed the Commission and the Department of Justice.”
  • As to various things of value: (i) “The majority of these payments were for meals and entertainment expenses under $200 per occurrence, without indication as to who attended the meal/entertainment or the business purpose of the expense.” (ii) a “Pearl River cruise for 200 State and Regional AIC officials during a conference of officials with responsibility for the oversight of Avon Products China’s direct selling business license.”; (iii) “corporate boxes at the China Open tennis tournament, given to AIC and other government officials in 2004 and 2005 “to thank them for their support.” During these years, Avon Products China was a corporate sponsor of the tournament and received the tickets as part of that sponsorship . Avon Products China also provided government officials with gifts that included Louis Vuitton merchandise, Gucci bags, and Tiffany pens.” (iv) “$23,000 for travel and expenses for government journalists to attend the ceremony at which Avon Products China launched its direct selling test;” (v) “Avon Products China’s employees also made payments to government officials for conferences, and related meals, gifts, and entertainment, in 150 instances aggregating $143,000. Records for these expenses do not indicate who attended the conferences, or the business purpose of the expenses. Approximately $15,000 of this amount was for expenses related to government journalists’ attendance at an Avon Products China media event.”

As noted in this SEC release:

“Avon, which neither admitted nor denied the allegations, agreed to pay disgorgement of $52,850,000 in benefits resulting from the alleged misconduct plus prejudgment interest of $14,515,013.13 for a total of more than $67.36 million.  In the parallel criminal matter, Avon entities agreed to pay $67,648,000 in penalties.  Avon also is required to retain an independent compliance monitor to review its FCPA compliance program for a period of 18 months, followed by an 18-month period of self-reporting on its compliance efforts.  Avon would be permanently enjoined from violating the books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws.  In reaching the proposed settlement, which is subject to court approval, the SEC considered Avon’s cooperation and significant remedial measures.”

In the release, Scott Friestad (Associate Director in the SEC’s Enforcement Division) stated:

“Avon’s subsidiary in China paid millions of dollars to government officials to obtain a direct selling license and gain an edge over their competitors, and the company reaped substantial financial benefits as a result. Avon missed an opportunity to correct potential FCPA problems at its subsidiary, resulting in years of additional misconduct that could have been avoided.”

In this release, Sheri McCoy (CEO of Avon Products, Inc.) stated: ”We are pleased to have reached agreements with the DOJ and the SEC.”

Avon was represented by Evan Chesler and Benjamin Gruenstein of Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Are We Carelessly Inviting Corrupt Behavior?

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Today’s post is from Dr. Roger Miles.  Dr. Miles (PhD, Risk) is Behavioral Risk Lead at Thomson Reuters and he develops human factor analyses for Conduct Risk governance and compliance solutions.  His academic research focus is the “what actually happens” gap between designed systems and enacted human behavior.

*****

Are We Carelessly Inviting Corrupt Behavior?

By Dr Roger Miles

As regulators wrestle to assert new controls over corruption (and of course various other abuses), we’re reminded that the wider history of regulation resembles a trail littered with the carcasses of well-intended initiatives that failed.  Regulatory controls tend to fail because the people who design them often ignore how real people respond in practice, often contrarily, to having a control imposed on them.

A function of effective risk leadership in senior management – including compliance officers – should therefore be to pause to consider human aspects of control failures.  Where are the human-factor hazards brewing?  Do we know enough about these to keep ahead of them and head off problems early?

One way to overtake this hazard is to familiarize oneself with “dark side” research among people who game the rules (my special research interest as it happens).  This insight will rapidly rid us of the faulty assumption that rulebooks (whether in the context of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or otherwise) describe, or prescribe, what actually happens in organizations.  The reality of what actually happens is always something different, usually that the rulebook doesn’t foresee.  Once we make a habit of questioning the gap between what the rulebook says should be happening, and our observations of how people behave in reality, we become better both at spotting the early signs of “creative compliance” and at preventing all kinds of troublesome behavior.  A few examples make the point:

What Groups Do…

Formal demands (including the top-down introduction of rules and sanctions) often provoke ‘informal groups’ of work colleagues to respond in unorthodox local ways that create conditions for the control to fail later on.  The alert manager will watch for signs that ‘game-playing’ is becoming accepted as normal behavior, such as meaningless box-ticking (in response to quality control questionnaires); and filtering of inconvenient incident reports.  Also be alert for the many ways of massaging statistical reports, such as cherry-picking only the most favorable test results, re-basing of a reporting index, or redefining the thing that we’re reporting on.  Informal groups also like to ridicule anyone who dissents from their view of “how we do things here” – even (perhaps especially) when this contradicts what the rules require.  For the FCPA compliance leader, therefore, the first question should always be “who’s really in charge in this organization?”

What Individuals Do…

At a personal level, gaming responses include ‘presenteeism’ (physically turning up for work but leaving your motivation at the front door) and seeking to shift onto others any blame for failures.  Watch for early warning signs such as a person disengaging from routine involvement in work activities, disowning their own presence in management processes, or ignoring the legitimate authority of others.  Consistent with informal groups’ “how we do things”, individual rule-gamers will be active at making alternative sense of how rules apply (or don’t apply) locally to them.  They will be adept at coping, workarounds, and writing creative reports.  Alternatively they may retreat into fatalism, rationalizing that “it’s OK not to care because either nothing will change if I do, or I’ll only be labelled a trouble maker”.

In the Organization’s Structure

Sometimes we inadvertently design an organization to encourage rule-gaming responses.  To prevent this effect we need to become more skilled at spotting these preconditions for bad behavior, and design them out.  The preconditions include:

  • Lack of any coherent challenge from outsiders (advocacy groups, regulators, government)
  • A regulator who depends on regulatees for information (“enforced self-regulation”)
  • No apparent penalties for delay in responding to a question
  • Risk-taking uncoupled from consequence, with short-term rewards
  • Little required interaction with shareholders or other funding sources
  • The full Board meets only rarely; executive committees hand-picked by the Chairman
  • Power concentrated narrowly with CEO, Chairman, or Head of Sales
  • Penalties for non-compliance reported as a “normal friction cost of business”
  • An except reporting (whistleblowing) procedure exists but gets no explicit support from managers – it may          even be the  target of jokes

There is a large and expanding research field examining the gaps between control systems as designed and “what actually happens” when real people are told to use the controls.  A new approach to regulatory design intended to deal with this in the FCPA context and otherwise, behavioral regulation, is still in its infancy.  We should watch for developments.

Stung By The Sting – Smith & Wesson Resolves FCPA Scrutiny That Originated With The Africa Sting

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

In January 2010 when highlighting the manufactured Africa Sting enforcement action, I predicted that the public company employing one of the defendants was likely going to be the subject of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act scrutiny not only based on the alleged conduct in the Africa Sting case, but also other conduct as well because the indicted individual was the “Vice President−Sales, International & U.S. Law Enforcement” for the company.  That company, it soon was learned, was Smith & Wesson and indeed in July 2010 Smith & Wesson disclosed its FCPA scrutiny (see here).

In an instructive example of a dynamic I highlight in my recent article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples” (that is every instance of FCPA scrutiny has a point of entry – in other words, a set of facts that give rise to the scrutiny in the first place – and this point of entry is often the beginning of a long and expensive journey for the company under scrutiny as the company – to answer the frequently asked “where else” question and to demonstrate its cooperation – will conduct a world-wide review of its operations), yesterday the SEC announced this administrative FCPA enforcement action against Smith & Wesson.

The conduct has nothing to do with the manufactured (and failed) Africa Sting case, but does involve Smith & Wesson’s former Vice President of International Sales and another individual referred to as the Regional Director of International Sales.  The SEC states in summary fashion as follows.

“This matter concerns violations of the anti-bribery,books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Smith & Wesson. The violations took place from 2007 through early 2010, when a senior employee and other employees and representatives of Smith & Wesson made, authorized, and offered to make improper payments  and/or to provide gifts to foreign officials in an attempt to win contracts to sell firearm products to foreign military and law enforcement departments. During this period, Smith & Wesson’s international business was in its developing stages and accounted for approximately 10% of the company’s revenues. Smith & Wesson’s employees and representatives engaged in a systemic pattern of making, authorizing and offering bribes while seeking to expand the company’s overseas business.

The bribe payments were inaccurately recorded in Smith & Wesson’s books and records as legitimate sales commissions or other business expenses. Despite its push to make sales in new and high risk markets overseas, Smith & Wesson failed to establish an appropriate compliance program or devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls, which allowed the repeated improper offers and payments to continue undetected for years.”

According to the SEC:

“Smith & Wesson does not have any international subsidiaries and conducts its international business directly and through brokering agents. Much of Smith & Wesson’s international business involves the sale of firearms to foreign law enforcement and  military departments.  [...] From 2007 through early 2010, as Smith & Wesson sought to break into international markets and increase sales, certain of the company’s employees and representatives engaged in a pervasive practice of making, authorizing and offering improper payments to foreign government officials as a means of obtaining or retaining international business. Although only one of the contracts was fulfilled before the unlawful activity was identified, company employees made or authorized the making of improper payments in connection with multiple ongoing or contemplated international sales.”

The SEC’s order contains factual allegations regarding the following countries: Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Nepal and Bangladesh.

As to Pakistan, the SEC order states:

“In 2008, for example, Smith & Wesson retained a third-party agent in Pakistan to assist the company in obtaining a deal to sell firearms to a Pakistani police department. Even after the agent notified the company that he would be providing guns valued in excess of $11,000 to Pakistani police officials in order to obtain the deal, and that he would be making additional cash payments to the officials, the company authorized the agent to proceed with the deal. Smith & Wesson’s Vice President of International Sales and its Regional Director of International Sales authorized the sale of the guns to the agent to be used as improper gifts and authorized payment of the commissions to the agent, while knowing or consciously disregarding the fact that the agent would be providing the guns and part of his commissions to Pakistani officials as an inducement for them to award the tender to the company. Smith & Wesson ultimately sold 548 pistols to the Pakistani police for $210,980 and profited from the corrupt deal in the amount of $107,852.”

As to Indonesia, the SEC order states:

“In 2009, Smith & Wesson attempted to win a contract to sell firearms to a Indonesian police department by making improper payments to its third party agent in Indonesia, who indicated that part of the payment would be provided to the Indonesian police officials under the guise of legitimate firearm lab testing costs. On several occasions, Smith & Wesson’s third-party agent indicated that the Indonesian police expected Smith & Wesson to pay them additional amounts above the actual cost of testing the guns as an inducement to enter the contract. The agent later notified Smith & Wesson’s Regional Director of International Sales that the price of “testing” the guns had risen further. Smith & Wesson’s Vice President of International Sales and its Regional Director of International Sales authorized and made the inflated payment, but a deal was never consummated.”

As to Turkey, Nepal and Bangladesh, the SEC order states:

Similarly, Smith &Wesson made improper payments in 2009 to its third party agent in Turkey, who indicated that part of the payments would be provided to Turkish officials in an attempt to secure two deals in Turkey for sale of handcuffs to Turkish police and firearms to the Turkish military. Neither of these interactions resulted in the shipment of products, as Smith & Wesson was unsuccessful bidding for the first deal, while the latter deal was ultimately canceled. Similarly, Smith & Wesson authorized improper payments to third party agents who indicated that parts of these payments would be provided to foreign officials in Nepal and Bangladesh in unsuccessful attempts to secure sales contracts in those countries. Although these contemplated deals in Nepal and Bangladesh were never consummated in each case, the company had obtained or attempted to obtain the contract by using third party agents as a conduit for improper payments to government officials.”

The SEC’s order then states:

“Despite making it a high priority to grow sales in new and high risk markets overseas, the company failed to design and implement a system of internal controls or an appropriate FCPA compliance program reasonably designed to address the increased risks of its new business model. The company did not perform any anti-corruption risk assessment and conducted virtually no due diligence of its third-party agents regardless of the perceived level of corruption in the country in which Smith & Wesson was seeking to do business. Smith & Wesson  failed to devise adequate policies and procedures for commission payments, the use of samples for test and evaluation, gifts, and commission advances. The Vice President of International Sales had almost complete authority to conduct the company’s international business, including the sole ability to approve most commissions. Smith & Wesson’s FCPA policies and procedures, and its FCPA-related training and supervision also were inadequate. As a result of these compliance and internal controls failures, Smith & Wesson’s Vice President of International Sales and the Regional Director of International Sales were able to cause the company to pay and/or authorize improper payments in numerous countries around the globe for a period of several years.”

Under the headline “Remedial Measures,” the SEC order states:

“Smith & Wesson took prompt action to remediate its immediate FCPA issues, including: conducting an internal investigation, terminating its entire international sales staff; terminating pending international sales transactions; and re-evaluating the markets in which it sought international sales. In addition, Smith & Wesson implemented a series of significant measures to improve its internal controls and compliance processes, including: implementing new internal audit procedures to identify FCPA issues; creating more robust controls on payments, gifts, and other transactions in connection with international business activity; enhancing its FCPA compliance policies and procedures; and creating a Business Ethics and Compliance Committee.”

Based on the above findings, the SEC found that Smith & Wesson violated the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, books and records provisions and internal controls provisions.  As to the later, the SEC order states:

“Smith & Wesson failed to devise and maintain sufficient internal controls with respect to its international sales operations. While the company had a basic corporate policy prohibiting the payment of bribes, it failed to implement a reasonable system of controls to effectuate that policy. For example, Smith & Wesson failed to devise adequate policies and procedures with regard to commission payments, the use of samples for test and evaluation, gifts, and commission advances. Further, Smith & Wesson’s FCPA policies and procedures, and its FCPA-related training and supervision were inadequate.”

As highlighted in the SEC’s order, Smith & Wesson agreed to “report to the Commission staff on the status of [its] remediation and implementation of compliance measures at six-month to twelve-month intervals during a two-year term.” In addition, Smith & Wesson agreed to conduct an initial review – and two follow-up reviews – “setting forth a complete description of its remediation efforts to date, its proposals reasonably designed to improve the policies and procedures of Respondent for ensuring compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anticorruption laws, and the parameters of the subsequent reviews.”

In the SEC order, Smith & Wesson was ordered to cease and desist from future FCPA violations and agreed to pay $2,034,892 …  including $107,852 in disgorgement, $21,040 in prejudgment interest, and a civil monetary penalty of $1,906,000.”  In resolving its FCPA scrutiny, Smith & Wesson did not admit nor deny the SEC’s findings.

In this SEC release, Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated:

“This is a wake-up call for small and medium-size businesses that want to enter into high-risk markets and expand their international sales. When a company makes the strategic decision to sell its products overseas, it must ensure that the right internal controls are in place and operating.”

In this release, Smith & Wesson President and CEO James Debney stated:

“We are pleased to have concluded this matter with the SECand believe that the settlement we have agreed upon is in the best interests of Smith & Wesson and its shareholders.  Today’s announcement brings to conclusion a legacy issue for our company that commenced more than four years ago, and we are pleased to now finally put this matter behind us.”

John Pappalardo (Greenberg Traurig) represented Smith & Wesson.

Smith & Wesson’s stock price was down approximately .7% on the day of the SEC’s announcement of the enforcement action.