Archive for the ‘James Ruehlen’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Some reading material to keep you occupied and engaged over the three-day holiday weekend.

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This recent Wall Street Journal article is about China’s recent antitrust crackdown, but the same could perhaps be said about China’s recent corruption crackdown against foreign multinationals doing business in China.

“The fact that regulators are going after allegedly dubious practices by multinationals isn’t what bothers trade officials at Western embassies in Beijing, even if they suspect that the probes sometimes have the effect of strengthening Chinese state-owned competitors.

What concerns them the most is the heavy-handed way that investigations are being pursued—and highly charged media coverage that makes for a troubling atmosphere for Western companies.

Foreign executives have learned two early lessons from the antitrust probes. First, the law provides little refuge. The message that the National Development and Reform Commission, the government agency that sets pricing rules, delivers in private to multinationals at the outset of a price-fixing investigation is not to bring in their foreign lawyers, according to numerous accounts by foreign executives, diplomats and lawyers themselves.

The second lesson is connected to the first: Resistance is futile. There’s scant need for lawyers when companies face a choice of either bowing to demands for quick remedies or becoming involved in a protracted wrangle with regulators in what is still a state-dominated economy. In almost every antitrust case launched so far, foreign companies have capitulated without a fight.

Voluntary price cuts of up to 20% are the norm, accompanied by board-level expressions of remorse and promises to do better.

And these cuts are offered at the very outset of investigations—and, sometimes, to get ahead of them. Chrysler described its abrupt decision to slash car-part prices as a “proactive response” to the price-fixing probe as it got under way. These price-fixing investigations have been accompanied by heated nationalistic rhetoric in the state media with antiforeign overtones. Taking down multinationals a peg plays well among the large sections of the public that view them as arrogant.”

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The always informative Debevoise & Plimption FCPA Update is particularly stellar this month.  It contains articles about the recent Wal-Mart – investor dispute in the Delaware Supreme Court as well as the recent settlement in SEC v. Jackson & Ruehlen.

Wal-Mart Delaware Action

The Wal-Mart Delaware action remains in my mind much to do about little at least as to the monumental corporate governance issues some had hoped for.

Nevertheless, the FCPA Update makes several valid points about the decision.

“In the wake of Wal-Mart, stockholders in future cases are likely to raise questions about the ways in which investigations have been conducted to see whether those questions also provide a “colorable basis” for seeking a broad range of investigative records. Companies that conduct investigations, therefore, will want to structure the investigation from the outset in a way that limits the ability of shareholders to assert that it was done improperly or otherwise may give rise to any legitimate shareholder concern. This, in turn, will place a premium on early decisions about who should conduct the review, who should supervise the review and the scope of the inquiry. Those decisions, which are generally made before any review has been conducted and based upon limited information, are sure to get close scrutiny from stockholders and should be undertaken with the utmost deliberation and care.”

SEC v. Jackson & Ruehlen

This previous post highlighted the recent settlement in SEC v. Jackson & Ruehlen and noted that the SEC, a law enforcement agency with merely a civil burden of proof, was never able to carry its burden and this was among other reasons why the SEC’s case against Jackson and Ruehlen failed – and yes – this is the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the settlement.

The FCPA Update states:

“In the realm of FCPA enforcement, where the vast majority of cases are settled before the filing and litigation of formal  charges, it is often hard to compare the outcomes of early and eve-of-trial or post-trial settlements in any meaningful way. The Noble case, however, provides  a rare opportunity to engage in such a comparison, not only because it was litigated by the SEC farther than almost any other FCPA case has been, but also because it involved both pre-and post-litigation settlements for individual defendants based on charges arising out of the same series of events.

In February 2012, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) charged three executives of Noble Corporation with violating various provisions of the FCPA and related laws in the course of their interactions with public officials in Nigeria’s energy sector. One of these defendants, Thomas O’Rourke, promptly settled with the SEC, accepting permanent injunctions against future violations as to every count on which he was charged, and agreeing to pay a $35,000 civil penalty.

The remaining individual defendants, Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen, decided to litigate. On July 2, 2014 – less than a week before trial was to start and after more than two years of litigation – the SEC settled with these two defendants. Although Jackson and Ruehlen agreed to be enjoined from future violations of the books and records provision of the FCPA, the settlements in their matters were notable in that the vast majority of the charges in the initial complaint, including the bribery charges, were conspicuously absent from the settlements, and no monetary penalties were imposed.

Although the Noble case offers just one data point, the outcomes for the three defendants raise important questions about both the difficulties of litigating these types of cases for the SEC and the potential advantages of declining pre-trial settlement for would-be defendants. In addition, the SEC’s litigation strategy in these cases highlights some possible problems with the expansive interpretation of the FCPA that the SEC and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have advanced in recent FCPA cases. These problems, highlighted in the District Court’s refusal to accept the SEC’s interpretation on certain key issues, such as the scope of the facilitation payments exception, as well as the concrete impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Gabelli decision (133 S. Ct. 1216 (2013)) in gutting large portions of the SEC’s claims for penalty relief, will doubtless affect future litigation, as well as the “market” for SEC (and in certain respects, DOJ) settlements for years to come. But at the same time, the SEC’s losses on these key issues, which drove the favorable settlements with Jackson and Ruehlen, could well incentivize the SEC to dig deeper, and earlier, for the evidence needed to sustain its burdens in FCPA matters.”

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The Economist states – in a general article not specific to the FCPA – that “the [U.S.] legal system has become an extortion racket.” According to the article,

“[J]ustice should not be based on extortion behind closed doors. The increasing criminalisation of corporate behaviour in America is bad for the rule of law and for capitalism.  [...] Perhaps the most destructive part of it all is the secrecy and opacity. The public never finds out the full facts of the case, nor discovers which specific people—with souls and bodies—were to blame. Since the cases never go to court, precedent is not established, so it is unclear what exactly is illegal. That enables future shakedowns, but hurts the rule of law and imposes enormous costs.”

In the FCPA context, see here for my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement.

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A series of informative posts here, here, here and here from Thomas Fox (FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog) regarding risk assessment.

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A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, July 11th, 2014

The cheerleaders fume, quotable, scrutiny alert, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

The Cheerleaders Fume

In the SEC’s failed enforcement action against Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen, the SEC was forced to carry its burden of proof in the context of an adversarial proceeding.  This should be celebrated as evidence that the rule of law worked.

Yet, to the cheerleaders of more FCPA enforcement regardless of enforcement theories or quality of evidence, the end result of the SEC’s failed enforcement action is something to fume about.  (See here).

Four words come to mind.  Silly, just plain silly.

Quotable

From Robert Amsterdam (here)

“My law firm has counselled entrepreneurs who have seen their companies needlessly gutted by their own lawyers, who in an act of self-preservation turn themselves into appendages of the state to work against their own clients. Even worse, we’ve seen courts seize property for years with little regard for the personal impact on the owners, while others have spent the majority of margin on FCPA compliance costs, leaving little motivation to run their business.

This is all possible thanks to the culture being spread by the war on wealth — we have been so eager to hand over vast powers to regulators and rapidly diminish the rights of those who stand accused, trusting in the flawless execution of the fight against graft and fraud.

There is such a tremendous distrust of the wealthy that politically ambitious prosecutors seek out opportunities for advancement rather than enforcement of the law. The victims tend to be individuals — not the behemoth banks who knowingly traded on debt and credit default swaps, not the industrial giants with decades of experience in bribery, nor the corporate quasi-state bodies that leech off subsidies.

Means to an end

The fight against corruption is important and commendable, and the drive to achieve greater income equality bears an undeniable moral truth. But the way we go about achieving these goals must be intelligent. Rights and due process must continue to be strong throughout the administration of justice. Then expanding opportunities for all, rather than depriving them from some, will put our society back on track for success.”

Scrutiny Alert

GPT Special Project Management Ltd, a unit of Airbus, has been under scrutiny August 2012 (see here).  The Wall Street Journal reports here:

“Airbus Group NV said … that the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office has contacted some of its current and former employees, as well as U.K. defense ministry officials, in a long-running corruption probe into activities at one of its units. Airbus “understands that four former and current employees were recently interviewed, along with MOD [Ministry of Defence] officials, as part of a wide-ranging SFO investigation,” a spokesman said by email. The U.K.’s anticorruption regulator has for roughly two years investigated GPT Special Project Management Ltd., an Airbus unit that works with the U.K.’s defense ministry, regarding allegations relating to its business in Saudi Arabia.”

Reading Stack

See here for Gibson Dunn’s mid-year FCPA update.

“The Ruehlen and Jackson settlements, earned only after two years of hard-nosed litigation that brought the parties to the brink of trial, demonstrate that those who are willing to put the Government to its burden of proof can come out materially better for their efforts.”

See here for Gibson Dunn’s mid-year update on corporate NPAs and DPAs.

“As the debate continues over whether and how to punish companies for unlawful conduct, U.S. federal prosecutors continue to rely significantly on NPAs and DPAs.  [...]  During the first half of 2014, DOJ entered into 11 agreements to resolve a variety of alleged conduct spanning multiple DOJ divisions and sections.  The SEC entered into one agreement.  Of the 12 agreements total, 5 were NPAs and 7 were DPAs.  This figure is in line with the 12 agreements reached in the first half of 2013.  In past years, we observed the phenomenon of an uptick in NPAs and DPAs during the second half of the year, so we anticipate that this year’s tallies could match or exceed the 2013 figure of 27 agreements.”

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A good weekend to all.

Selective Prosecution?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

The term selective prosecution is a legal term of art with rather exacting factors.  This post is not about the legal term of art selective prosecution, but rather selective prosecution as a practical matter, in order words, in layman terms.

As highlighted in the below chart, there have been eight corporate Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions based largely on alleged improper payments to Nigerian officials in connection with Nigeria’s Temporary Import Process (TIP) for oil and gas rigs.

Company Settlement Amount Related Individual Actions 
Panalpina $81.9 million
$70.6 (DOJ)
$11.3 (SEC)
 
No
Pride Int’l $56.2 million
$32.6 (DOJ)
$23.5 (SEC)
 
No
Royal Dutch Shell $48.1 million
$30 (DOJ)
$18.1 (SEC)
 
No
Transocean $20.7 million
$13.4 (DOJ)
$7.2 (SEC)
 
No
Parker Drilling $15.9 million
$11.8 (DOJ)
$4.1 (SEC)
 
No
Tidewater $15.7 million
$7.4 (DOJ)
$8.3 (SEC)
 
No
Noble Corp. $8.2 million
$2.6 (DOJ)
$5.6 (SEC)
 
Yes
GlobalSantaFe $5.9 million
$5.9 (SEC)
No

As indicated in the above chart, the enforcement agencies collected approximately $253 million in the enforcement actions.  (Note certain of the enforcement actions also alleged other improper payments to Nigerian customs officials and, because of the “where else” question, certain of the enforcement actions also alleged improper payments in other countries as well).

To extent settlement amounts serve as a reasonable proxy for the severity of an FCPA enforcement action, the above chart highlights that among the TIP-related enforcement actions, the enforcement action against Noble Corp. was comparatively minor.  This conclusion is further bolstered by the fact that among the TIP-related enforcement actions to involve a DOJ component, the Noble enforcement action was the only action to be resolved via a non-prosecution agreement.

Nevertheless, as highlighted by the above chart, the Noble enforcement action was the only TIP-related enforcement action to result in any related charges against individuals.  In February 2012, the SEC charged Mark Jackson (Noble’s former CEO) and James Ruehlen (a current Noble executive) in a wide-ranging enforcement action charging violations of, among other things, the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal controls provisions.

This contemporaneous post flagged the SEC action as one to follow since the SEC has never been put to its burden of proof in an FCPA enforcement action.  The post further noted that the FCPA’s facilitation payments exception was likely to be at issue and even highlighted the unusual nature of the DOJ’s NPA against Noble Corp. which, not once but twice, stated that the alleged payments at issue “would not constitute facilitation payments for routine government actions within the meaning of the FCPA.”

In an ironic twist, after the enforcement agencies collected more than $200 million in the TIP-related enforcement actions against risk averse corporate defendants, Jackson and Ruehlen did indeed put the SEC to its burden of proof and the court ruled that the SEC “must bear the burden of negating the facilitating payments exception” and that the “exception is best understood as a threshold requirement to pleading that a defendant acted ‘corruptly.’”  (See here for the prior post).

The SEC, a law enforcement agency with merely a civil burden of proof, was never able to carry this burden and this was among other reasons why the SEC’s case against Jackson and Ruehlen failed – and yes – this is the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from last week’s settlement (see here).

The above facts and circumstances from the many TIP-related enforcement actions should cause any reasonable observer to ask why Jackson and Ruehlen were singled out for prosecution by the SEC?

As will be explored in a future post that goes more in-depth into the SEC’s failed prosecution of Jackson and Ruehlen, the SEC’s case against the individuals  was all the more curious given that Noble actually booked the TIP-related payments as facilitating payments (the SEC of course disagreed with this position) and given that – per the SEC’s own briefing in the matter – its charges were based on little more than a series of supposed inferences supported by little more than circumstantial evidence.

“Friday” Roundup

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

On the brink of trial, statistics of note, the over-hyped U.K. Bribery Act turns 3, say what?, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in a special Thursday edition of the Friday roundup.

On The Brink of Trial

This February 2012 post highlighting the SEC’s enforcement action against Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen (a former and current executive of Noble Corp. respectively) asked – “will the SEC be put to its burden of proof.”  Among other things, the post noted that the SEC has never prevailed in an FCPA enforcement action when put to its burden of proof.

With the passage of time, the SEC’s case against the defendants was consistently trimmed as the SEC attempted to meet its burden (see this post as well as here).  Among other things, a portion of the SEC’s claims were dismissed or abandoned on statute of limitations grounds and the trial court judge ruled, in an issue of first impression, that the SEC has the burden of negating the FCPA’s facilitation payments exception.

On the brink of the SEC’s first-ever FCPA trial (trial was scheduled to begin next week), the parties have agreed to settle.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Jackson consented to a final judgment permanently restraining and enjoining him from violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions.  Jackson was represented by, among others, David Krakoff (Buckley Sandler).  In a release, Krakoff stated:

“We are very pleased with today’s settlement.  It resolves allegations that have hung over Mr. Jackson for many years without any admission of liability, without any payment of money and without any restriction on Mr. Jackson’s future employment opportunities.  Mr. Jackson can now move forward with his life and career.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Ruehlen consented to a final judgment permanently restraining and enjoining him from aiding and abetting FCPA books and records violations.  Ruehlen was represented by, among others, Joseph Warin and Nicola Hanna (Gibson Dunn).  In a release, Warin stated:

“We are very pleased with yesterday’s settlement.  Mr. Ruehlen is an exemplary and dedicated employee who first brought the allegations to light and fully cooperated with the SEC’s investigation.  While we were looking forward to presenting our case to a jury, the settlement of one record-keeping claim – without any admission of liability or wrongdoing, monetary penalty, or restriction on Mr. Ruehlen’s employment – satisfactorily ends the matter and allows Jim to focus his energies on his work for Noble.”

In neither consent is Jackson or Ruehlen required to pay any civil fine.

Score this one as you see fit, but my take is that this case represents yet another SEC failure in an FCPA enforcement action when put to its burden of proof.  As the Second Circuit recently recognized, SEC neither admit nor deny settlements are not about the truth, but pragmatism.

Statistics of Note

EY recently released its 13th annual Global Fraud survey (the results were based on interviews with more than 2,700 executives across 59 countries).  Statistics of note include the following.

“Despite the aggressive enforcement environment, our research suggests that the percentage of companies that have anti-bribery/anticorruption (ABAC) policies has increased by only 1% over the past two years, and a persistent minority has yet to take even the basic steps toward an effective compliance program.  One in five businesses still does not have an ABAC policy.  Less than 50% of respondents have attended ABAC training.  There has been a reduction in the level of reporting on compliance issues to boards.”

“The survey results show that executives in different roles have a differing view of the level of risk.  27% of chief compliance officers (CCOs) believe bribery and corrupt practices happen widely in their country versus 38% of all respondents — so they appear to have a more optimistic view than their colleagues.  18% of sales and marketing executives believe it is common practice to use bribery to win contracts in their sector versus 12% of all respondents — so they appear to have a more pessimistic view than their colleagues.”

“Additionally, the survey results suggest that compliance efforts may not always be targeting the right risks in the most effective way.  Less than a third of businesses are always or very frequently conducting anti-corruption due diligence as part of their mergers and acquisitions process.  45% of organizations are not mitigating risks by introducing a whistleblower hotline.  ABAC training is less likely to occur in jurisdictions where there is a higher perceived risk of bribery. Sales and marketing executives are the least likely of all our respondents to be included in risk assessments — despite being exposed to and aware of significant risks.  ABAC training, for example, is more likely to be attended by executives in mature markets, where corruption is perceived to be lower, than in higher-risk emerging markets. Of the survey population, 58% of respondents in developed markets had received ABAC training, compared with just 40% in emerging markets.”

Consistent with the observation in this recent post, these survey results again ought to prompt questions whether the current approach to enforcement – as well as enforcement policy – are effective.

Bribery Act Turns 3

The U.K. Bribery Act, a massively over-hyped law when it was being proposed and went live, has turned three.  On the day it went live, I offered the following two cents.

“As with any new law, there is likely to be a learning phase for both the enforcement agencies and those subject to the law. That was certainly the case in the U.S. in the years following passage of the FCPA in 1977. Thus, it very well may be the case that there are no enforcement actions for some time (recognizing that it often takes a few years from beginning of an inquiry to resolution of an action). Thus the greatest immediate impact of the Bribery Act is sure to be the compliance ethic it inspires. I expect that the enforcement actions that may develop over time to focus on egregious instances of corporate conduct on which no reasonable minds would disagree. I do not get the sense, based on public comments of the Ministry of Justice and the Serious Fraud Office, that the envelope will be pushed too far in the early years of the Bribery Act.”

Indeed, there has yet to be an “FCPA-like” Bribery Act enforcement action.  This troubles Transparency International – see here.

Say What?

Speaking of the Bribery Act, this is from “The Lawyer” regarding corruption allegations at FIFA and the ability of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office to bring an enforcement action against FIFA sponsors.

“Section 7 [of the U.K. Bribery Act] is entitled “Failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery”. Its reach is as global as the World Cup. The fact that Fifa is a Zurich-based NGO does not mean it’s offside. Similarly for the sponsors so long as some aspect of their business is carried out in the UK. A single sale of an Adidas football boot via a Visa credit card is sufficient for David Green [Director of the SFO] to apply to the courts for search warrants in order to unleash dawn raids on their UK HQs.”

Regarding the italicized portion … say what?

For the Reading Stack

See here for the always informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update.  Regarding the Second Circuit’s recent decision in SEC v. Citigroup, the Update states:

“For companies subject to the SEC’s authority to enforce the FCPA, the Second Circuit’s decision in the Citi matter provides some comfort that a corporate resolution requiring judicial approval, once achieved, should be subject to appropriate deference when it comes before a district court for review. At the same time, however, the decision also reinforces the understanding that resolutions achieved by settlement, even if approved by a court, do not constitute legal precedent.”

An interesting read here from the BBC regarding “contemporary business culture” in China.

“Chinese workplaces are just as political as those anywhere else in the world, some would argue more so because the value placed on outward harmony in Chinese culture drives the rivalry underground. [...]  The politics in a multinational’s China operation can be especially insidious when there’s a thin layer of western management attempting to operate according to principles which have limited purchase in the Chinese business culture beneath.”

Aboard the “bribery express” – from Eurasianet.

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A Happy Independence Day to U.S. readers and a good weekend to all.

Ipse Dixit

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

This post last week highlighted the recent activity in SEC v. Mark Jackson & James Ruehlen (a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action scheduled for trial this summer).  As noted in the post, among other things, the SEC is seeking to exclude various defense expert witnesses on a variety of issues including internal controls issues.

If you read the SEC’s motions (see here – condensed into one document) you will see that a primary basis for exclusion is the SEC’s argument that the experts are merely offering their own naked ipse dixit.

I must confess – arcane latin phrases not being in my strike zone – I had to look up the meaning of ipse dixit.

Ipse Dixit – Latin for He himself said it – an unsupported statement that rests solely on the authority of the individual who makes it.

The term ipse dixit appears approximately 30 times in the SEC’s motions – and related to it – is the SEC’s argument that the experts’ internal controls opinions should be excluded because the experts fail to define certain terms and/or there is no discernible methodology underlying their opinions.

For instance, in seeking to exclude Alan Bell (CPA – regarding, among other things, internal controls) the SEC states:

“Bell could not define what constitutes a “circumvention” of an internal control.”

“Bell concedes that there are no written standards to evaluate what constitutes, in his view, a “circumvention” of an internal control.”

“Bell’s opinions are not the product of a reliable methodology applied to the facts of this case. In fact, Bell employed no methodology at all; instead, his opinions are “based on [his] 40 years of experience.”

In seeking to exclude Gary Goolsby (CPA – regarding, among other things, internal controls issues) the SEC states:

“There is also no discernible methodology underlying his opinion on Jackson’s purported reliance [on Noble's internal controls], other than Goolsby’s own naked ipse dixit. Goolsby’s methodology reduces to the proposition that “I know what I’m looking at.” Yet, in deposition, he could not explain what his opinion means, as a practical matter, with reference to the conduct at issue in this case. Goolsby’s testimony thus confirms what is apparent from his report – his factual findings are based on nothing more than his subjective say-so.”

In seeking to exclude Lowell Brown (regarding various FCPA compliance issues) the SEC states:

“There is no discernible analysis or methodology underlying Brown’s opinion as to Jackson’s purported reliance, other than Brown’s own naked ipse dixit – a manifestly improper basis for expert testimony.”

In seeking to exclude Professor Ronald Gilson (regarding, among other things, internal controls issues) the SEC states:

“There is no genuine methodology here, other than Gilson’s own ipse dixit based on his subjective interpretation of the evidence

In the final analysis, Gilson is an advocate for the defense who proffers nothing but his ipse dixit in the place of rigorous analytical connection between his deficient methodology (reading deposition transcripts and exhibits) and his expert conclusion (the inference that if Ruehlen told others at Noble what he was doing, he lacked the corrupt intent to violate the FCPA, as opposed to simply colluding to bribe foreign officials).”

The irony of course is that while attacking the defendants’ experts for their own ipse dixit, many of the SEC’s FCPA internal controls enforcement theories are nothing more than ipse dixit.

For instance, as noted in this prior post, the SEC alleged that Oracle violated the FCPA’s internal control provisions. The only allegations against Oracle itself is that it failed to audit distributor margins against end user prices and that it failed to audit third party payments made by distributors.  The SEC did not allege any red flags to suggest why Oracle should have done this.  Thus, how did Oracle violate the FCPA’s internal controls provisions?  What was the methodology the SEC used?

Ipse dixit.

Indeed, in a pointed critique of the SEC’s Oracle enforcement theory, the former Assistant Chief of the DOJ’s FCPA unit stated:

“Oracle is the latest example of the SEC’s expansive enforcement of the FCPA’s internal controls provision, and it potentially paints a bleak picture—one in which the provision is essentially enforced as a strict liability statute that means whatever the SEC says it means (after the fact).”  (See here for the prior post).

In many SEC FCPA enforcement actions, the SEC merely makes conclusory statements for why the company allegedly violated the FCPA’s internal controls provisions.  For instance, in the Philips enforcement action (see here for the prior post) the SEC states:

“Philips failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that transactions were properly recorded by Philips in its books and records. Philips also failed to implement an FCPA compliance and training program commensurate with the extent of its international operations. Accordingly, Philips violated [the internal control provisions].”

Source?  Methodology?

Ipse dixit.

As noted in my recent article “Why You Should Be Alarmed by the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action” one reason, among others, why you should be alarmed by the action is because of the “failure to prevent” standard invoked by the SEC for why ADM violated the FCPA’s internal controls provisions.  As noted in the article, this standard  does not even exist in the FCPA and is inconsistent with actual legal authority.  (See here for the previous post regarding SEC v. World-Wide Coin – the only judicial decision to directly address the FCPA’s internal controls provisions).

Moreover, as noted in the article, the “failure to prevent standard” is inconsistent with SEC guidance relevant to the internal-controls provisions.  (See also this prior post).  The SEC’s most extensive guidance on the internal controls provisions states, in pertinent part, as follows:

“The Act does not mandate any particular kind of internal controls system. The test is whether a system, taken as a whole, reasonably meets the statute’s specified objectives. ‘‘Reasonableness,’’ a familiar legal concept, depends on an evaluation of all the facts and circumstances.

Private sector decisions implementing these statutory objectives are business decisions. And, reasonable business decisions should be afforded deference. This means that the issuer need not always select the best or the most effective control measure. However, the one selected must be reasonable under all the circumstances.

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

The test of a company’s internal control system is not whether occasional failings can occur. Those will happen in the most ideally managed company. But, an adequate system of internal controls means that, when such breaches do arise, they will be isolated rather than systemic, and they will be subject to a reasonable likelihood of being uncovered in a timely manner and then remedied promptly.”

What is the source for the “failure to prevent” standard in ADM?  What is the methodology?

Ipse dixit.

In short, while attacking the defendants’ experts for their lack of defined methodology regarding internal controls issues, the SEC itself has long recognized that the FCPA’s internal controls lack a defined methodology.

As noted in this post, in a 2013 speech SEC Chair Mary Jo White reminded us why trials are important.  Among other things, White stated that “trials allow for more thoughtful and nuanced interpretations of the law in a way that settlements and summary judgments cannot.”

The SEC’s enforcement action against Jackson and Ruehlen represents an extremely rare instance in which the SEC is being forced to articulate its FCPA positions in the context of an adversary proceeding.

The SEC’s motions seeking to exclude defendants’ experts – while primarily based on ipse dixit – reminds us that a large portion of the SEC’s (and DOJ’s) FCPA enforcement program is nothing more than ipse dixit – and subjective say so.