Archive for the ‘Jurisdiction’ Category

In Depth On The ADM Enforcement Action

Monday, December 30th, 2013

On December 20th, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) that Archer Daniels Midland Company (“ADM”) agreed to resolve a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act based on the conduct of an indirect subsidiary in Ukraine and a joint venture partner in Venezuela.  The enforcement action had been expected for some time (as noted in this prior post, in November the company disclosed that it had agreed in principle to the settlement).

[Although announced on December 20th, original source documents relevant to the enforcement action did not become publicly available until December 24th and the documents are still not on the DOJ's FCPA website].

The enforcement action involved a DOJ criminal information against Alfred C. Toepfer International Ukraine Ltd. resolved via a plea agreement, a non-prosecution agreement involving ADM, and a SEC settled civil complaint against ADM.

ADM entities agreed to pay approximately $54 million to resolve alleged FCPA scrutiny ($17.7 million in criminal fines to resolve the DOJ enforcement action and $36.5 million to resolve the SEC enforcement action).

This post summarizes both the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions.

DOJ

Alfred C. Toepfer International Ukraine Ltd. (ACTI Ukraine)

The criminal information begins as follows.

“At certain times between in or around 2002 and in or around 2008, the Ukrainian government did not have the money to pay value-added tax (“VAT”) refunds that it owed to companies that sold Ukrainian goods outside of Ukraine.” (emphasis added).

Thereafter, the information alleges, in pertinent part, as follows.

“In order to obtain VAT refunds from the Ukrainian government, ACTI-Ukraine [an indirect 80%-owned subsidiary of ADM], with the help of its affiliate, Alfred C. Toepfer International GmbH (ACTI Hamburg) [an indirect 80%-owned subsidiary of ADM], paid third-party vendors to pass on nearly all of that money as bribes to government officials.”

“In order to disguise the bribes, ACTI Ukraine and ACTI Hamburg devised several schemes involving the use of Vendor 1 [a U.K. export company that used both truck and rail services for the export of goods from Ukraine] and Vendor 2 [a Ukrainian insurance company that provided insurance policies for commodities].  In some instances, ACTI Ukraine and ACTI Hamburg paid Vendor 1, a vendor that provided export-related services for ACTI Ukraine, to pass on nearly all the money they paid it as bribes to Ukrainian government officials in exchange for those officials’ assistance in obtaining VAT refunds for and on behalf of ACTI Ukraine.  In addition, ACTI Ukraine purchased unnecessary insurance policies from Vendor 2 so that Vendor 2 could use nearly all of that money to pay bribes to Ukranian government officials in exchange for those officials’ assistance in obtaining VAT refunds for and on behalf of ACTI Ukraine.”

“In total, ACTI Ukraine, ACTI Hamburg, and their executives, employees, and agents paid roughly $22 million to Vendor 1 and Vendor 2 to pass on nearly all of that money to Ukrainian government officials to obtain over $100 million in VAT refunds.  These VAT refunds gave ACTI Ukraine a business advantage resulting in a benefit to ACTI Ukraine and ACTI Hamburg of roughly $41 million.”

“In furtherance of the bribery scheme, employees from ACTI Ukraine and its co-conspirators, while in the territory of the United States, and specifically in the Central District of Illinois, communicated in-person, via telephone, and via electronic mail with employees of ACTI Ukraine’s and ACTI Hamburg’s parent company, Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), which owned an 80% share of the ACTI entities, about the accounting treatment of VAT refunds in Ukraine.  During those communications, the ACTI employees mischaracterized the bribe payments as “charitable donations” and “depreciation.”

Based on the above allegations, the DOJ charged ACTI Ukraine with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions under 78dd-3.  This prong of the FCPA has the following jurisdictional element.

“while in the territory of the United States, corruptly to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce or to do any other act in furtherance” of a bribery scheme.

There is no allegation in the criminal information that anyone associated with ACTI Ukraine “while in the territory of the U.S.” made use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce.”

Rather, the information alleges, as to overt acts, as follows.

“[In July 2002 - 11 years prior to the enforcement action] executives from ACTI Hamburg [not the defendant ACTI Ukraine] traveled to ADM’s headquarters in Decatur, Illinois for business meetings.  In one of those meetings, these ACTI executives met with executives from ADM’s tax department and discussed ACTI Ukraine’s ability to recover VAT refunds and the way in which ACTI Ukraine was accounting for the write-down of those refunds.  During this discussion, the ACTI Hamburg executives stated that the way in which ACTI Ukraine was recovering its VAT refunds was by making charitable donations.  ACTI Ukraine was not making such donations in conjunction with VAT recovery.  In fact, ACTI Ukraine was writing down its VAT receivable based upon anticipated payments to Vendor 1.”

The other overt acts alleged in the information all concern e-mail traffic, none of which fits the jurisdictional element of “while in the territory of the U.S.”

The above charge against ACTI Ukraine was resolved via a plea agreement in which the company admitted, agreed, and stipulated that the factual allegations in the information are true and correct and accurately reflects the company’s “criminal conduct.”

As set forth in the plea agreement, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines calculation for the conduct at issue was between $27.3 million and $54.6 million and ACTI Ukraine agreed to a $17,711,613 criminal fine.  The plea agreement states as follows.

“The parties have agreed that a fine of $17,771,613 reflects an approximately thirty-percent reduction off the bottom of the fine range as well as a deduction of $1,338,387 commensurate with the fine imposed by German authorities on ACTI Hamburg.”

The plea agreement further states that this fine amount is the “appropriate disposition based on the following factors”:

“(a) Defendant’s timely, voluntary, and thorough disclosure of the conduct; (b) the Defendant’s extensive cooperation with the Department; and (c) the Defendant’s early, extensive, and unsolicited remedial efforts already undertaken and those still to be undertaken.”

As is common in corporate FCPA enforcement actions, the plea agreement contains a “muzzle clause” prohibiting ACTI Ukraine or anyone on its behalf from making public statements “contradicting the acceptance of responsiblity” of ACTI Ukraine

ADM

The NPA between the DOJ and ADM concerns the above Ukraine conduct as well as alleged conduct in Venezuela.  Only the Venezuela conduct is highlighted below.

The Statement of Facts attached to the NPA states as follows regarding “conduct relating to Venezuela.”

“From at least in or around 2004 to in or around 2009, when customers in Venezuela purchased commodities through ADM Venezuela [a joint venture between ADM Latin America (ADM Latin - a wholly owned subsidiary of ADM) and several individuals in Venezuela], the customers paid for the commodities via payment to ADM Latin.  During this time period, a number of customers overpaid ADM Latin for the commodities by including a brokerage commission in the cost of the commodities.  At the instruction of ADM Venezuela, including Executive A [a high-level executive at ADM Venezuela] and ADM’s Latin’s customers, rather than repaying these excess amounts to the customer directly, ADM Latin made payments to third-party bank account outside of Venezuela, which, in many instances, were used to funnel payments to accounts owned by employees or principles of the customer.  In addition, ADM Venezuela personnel prepared invoices to ADM Latin’s customers that violated Venezuelan laws and regulations regarding foreign currency exchanges.”

The NPA states that in approximately 1998, “ADM identified the customer “commission” practice as a business risk and recognized that customers may attempt to engage in such transactions with ADM Latin through the prospective joint venture, and instituted a policy that prohibited the repayment of excess funds to any account other than that originally used by the customer to make the payment.  However, although this policy was made known to Executive A and some ADM Venezuela employees, it was initially not formalized and from in or around 1999 until in or around 2004 the same practices continued.  The customers submitted excess payments to ADM Latin, claiming that the overpayment was attributable to deferred credit expenses (“DCE”).”

The NPA further states as follows.

“In or around 2004, ADM conducted an audit of ADM Venezuela due to an issue pertaining to Executive A and uncovered the payments to third-party bank accounts being made through DCE.  Although ADM took some remedial measures, including terminating the employment of the credit employee who had signed off on the refunds, conducting limited training on compliance for its joint venture partners, and instituting a written policy prohibiting refund payments of DCE to bank account different than the accounts from which the money came, the policy was narrowly drawn only to cover DCE payments.  ADM did not train ADM Latin employees and did not take adequate steps to monitor ADM Latin and ADM Venezuela to prevent such payments in forms other than DCE.  From in or around 2004 to in or around 2009, various customers, with the help of ADM Venezuela, including Executive A, began classifying these additional expenses as “commissions” or “commissions K,” rather than DCE, which were processed by the accounting department at ADM Latin, rather than the credit department.  Therefore, when the customers instructed that the excess “commissions” be paid to third-party entities at third-party bank accounts, ADM Latin authorized and made the payments.”

The NPA further states that “in or around 2008, Executive A, and others at ADM Venezuela negotiated the sale of soybean oil from ADM Latin to Industrias Diana [an oil company headquartered in Venezuela that was wholly owned by Petroleos de Venezuela, Venezuela's state-owned and controlled national oil company].”  According to the NPA, in connection with this sale, “Broker 1 [a third-party agent that purportedly performed brokerage services for customers of ADM Latin, including Industrias Diana, in connection with the purchase of commodities] submitted an invoice to ADM Latin for the $1,735,157 commission amount, which ADM Latin paid to Broker 1′s bank account.  Broker 1 then transferred this amount, in large part, to an account in the name of an employee of Industrias Diana.”

The NPA states as follows.

“On a number of other occasions, ADM Latin made payments to Broker 1′s bank account in connection with the purchase of commodities by other customers.  Broker 1 then transferred those amounts, in large part, to bank accounts outside of Venezuela in the name of the principals of those customers.  In total, ADM Latin transferred roughly $5 million to Broker 1.”

According to the NPA, certain of Broker 1′s transfers were to “accounts owned and controlled by Executive A, as well as numerous transfers to a company in which Executive A had ownership interests.”

The NPA states that the DOJ will “not criminally prosecute ADM … for any crimes … related to violations of the internal controls provisions of the FCPA arising from or related to improper payments by the Company’s subsidiaries, affiliates or joint ventures in Ukraine and Venezuela … and any other conduct relating to internal controls, books and records, or improper payments disclosed by the Company to the Department prior to the date on which this Agreement is signed.”

The NPA has a term of three years and ADM “agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $9,450,000 provided, however, that any criminal penalties that might be imposed by the Court on ACTI Ukraine in connection with its guilty plea and plea agreement … will be deducted from the $9,450,000 penalty agreed to under this Agreement.”

Pursuant to the NPA, ADM agreed to “report to the Department periodically regarding remediation and implementation of the compliance program and internal controls, policies, and procedures, as described in Attachment C” to the NPA.

In the DOJ release, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman stated:

“As today’s guilty plea shows, paying bribes to reap business benefits corrupts markets and undermines the rule of law.  ADM’s subsidiaries sought to gain a tax benefit by bribing government officials, and then attempted to deliberately conceal their conduct by funneling payments through local vendors.  ADM, in turn, failed to implement sufficient policies and procedures to prevent the bribe payments, although ultimately ADM disclosed the conduct, cooperated with the government, and instituted extensive remedial efforts.  Today’s corporate guilty plea demonstrates that combating bribery is and will remain a mainstay of the Criminal Division’s mission.  We are committed to working closely with our foreign and domestic law enforcement partners to fight global corruption.”

The release further states:

“The agreements acknowledge ADM’s timely, voluntary and thorough disclosure of the conduct; ADM’s extensive cooperation with the department, including conducting a world-wide risk assessment and corresponding global internal investigation, making numerous presentations to the department on the status and findings of the internal investigation, voluntarily making current and former employees available for interviews, and compiling relevant documents by category for the department; and ADM’s early and extensive remedial efforts.”

SEC

The SEC’s complaint (here) is based on the same Ukraine allegations set forth in the above DOJ action.

In summary fashion, the complaint alleges:

“This matter involves violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by ADM. At certain times between 2002 and 2008, Alfred C. Toepfer, International G.m.b.H. (“ACTI Hamburg”) and its affiliate, Alfred C. Toepfer, International (Ukraine) Ltd. (“ACTI Ukraine”) paid approximately $22 million to two third-party vendors so that they could pass on nearly all of that money as bribes to Ukrainian government officials to obtain over $100 million in accumulated value added tax (“VAT”) refunds. These payments were recorded by ACTI Hamburg and ACTI Ukraine in their books and records as insurance premiums and other business expenses. ADM indirectly owns a majority of ACTI Hamburg and ACTI Ukraine through its 80% interest in Alfred C. Toepfer International B.V. (“ACTI”), and in 2002, ADM began consolidating ACTI’s financial results into its financial statements.

In order to disguise the purpose of these improper payments, ACTI Hamburg and ACTI Ukraine made certain payments for export-related services and insurance premiums to third parties, but, in fact, nearly all of these payments were intended to be passed on through these third parties as bribes to Ukrainian government officials in exchange for obtaining VAT refunds for and on behalf of ACTI Ukraine.

ACTI’s conduct went unchecked by ADM, and ACTI continued to make these improper payments for several years. ADM’s anti-bribery compliance controls in existence at the time were insufficient in that they did not deter and detect these payments. ACTI Hamburg and ACTI Ukraine created inaccurately described reserves in their books and records, manipulated commodities contracts that were kept open for an extended period of time, structured payments to avoid detection, and created fictitious insurance contracts to hide from ADM and others the payments to third-parties to secure VAT refunds in Ukraine.

Due to the consolidation of ACTI’s financial results, which included these inaccurately characterized payments, into ADM’s books and records, ADM violated [the FCPA's books and records provisions]. ADM violated [the FCPA's internal controls provisions] by failing to maintain an adequate system of internal controls to detect and prevent the illicit payments.”

Under the heading “ADM’s Violations,” the complaint states:

“ACTI Hamburg and ACTI Ukraine characterized their improper payments to the Shipping Company and the Insurance Company as insurance premiums and other business expenses even though nearly all of those payments were intended to be used for payment to Ukrainian government officials. Due to the consolidation of ACTI’s financial results into ADM’s, ADM’s financial records also failed to reflect the true nature of the payments.

Between 2002 and 2008, ADM’s anti-corruption policies and procedures relating to ACTI were decentralized and did not prevent improper payments by ACTI to third-party vendors in the Ukraine or ensure that these transactions were properly recorded by ACTI. In this respect, ADM failed to implement sufficient anti-bribery compliance policies and procedures, including oversight of third-party vendor transactions, to prevent these payments at ACTI Hamburg and ACTI Ukraine.

Through its various schemes, ACTI Ukraine and ACTI Hamburg paid roughly $22 million in improper payments to obtain more than $100 million in VAT refunds earlier than they otherwise would have. Getting these VAT refunds earlier—before the Ukraine endured a brief period of hyperinflation—gave ACTI Ukraine a business advantage resulting in a benefit to ADM of roughly $33 million.”

Under the heading “ADM’s Discovery and Subsequent Remedial Measures,” the complaint states:

“In mid-2008, after becoming aware of these insurance expenses, ADM controllers questioned ACTI executives regarding these expenses, particularly the basis for the accounting treatment of these expenses. An ACTI Ukraine employee disclosed to its outside auditors that the insurance payments were, in fact, made to secure VAT refunds. After ADM controllers received this information, ADM’s legal and compliance departments took action, which led to an immediate investigation in which ADM ultimately uncovered ACTI’s various schemes to secure VAT refunds.

Following discovery of these payments, ADM immediately retained outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation. As a result of the investigation, using its authority as majority shareholder through the ACTI supervisory board, ADM terminated certain ACTI executives. ADM then voluntarily conducted a world-wide risk assessment and corresponding global internal investigation, made numerous presentations to the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission, made current and former employees available for interviews, produced documents without subpoena, and implemented early and extensive remedial measures.”

As noted in the SEC’s release, ADM agreed to pay approximately $36.5 million to resolve the action (disgorgement of $33,342,012 plus prejudgment interest of $3,125,354), consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from future violations of the FCPA books and records and internal control provisions, and to report on its FCPA compliance efforts for a three year period.  The release states:

“The SEC took into account ADM’s cooperation and significant remedial measures, including self-reporting the matter, implementing a comprehensive new compliance program throughout its operations, and terminating employees involved in the misconduct.”

In the release, Gerald Hodgkins (Associated Director in the SEC’s enforcement division) stated:

“ADM’s lackluster anti-bribery controls enabled its subsidiaries to get preferential refund treatment by paying off foreign government officials.  Companies with worldwide operations must ensure their compliance is vigilant across the globe and their transactions are recorded truthfully.”

William Bachman and Jon Fetterolf (Williams Connolly) represented ADM.

Robin Bergen (Clearly Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton) represented ATCI Ukraine.

In this press release, ADM’s Chairman and CEO stated:

“In 2008, soon after we became aware of some questionable transactions by a non-U.S. subsidiary, we engaged an outside law firm and an accounting firm to undertake a comprehensive internal investigation.  In early 2009, we voluntarily disclosed the matter to appropriate U.S. and foreign government agencies and undertook a comprehensive anti-corruption global risk analysis and compliance assessment. We have also implemented internal-control enhancements, and taken disciplinary action, including termination, with a number of employees. The conduct that led to this settlement was regrettable, but I believe we handled our response in the right way, and that the steps we took, including self-reporting, underscore our commitment to conducting business ethically and responsibly.”

Of Note From The Bilfinger Enforcement Action

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

This previous post went long and deep as to the Bilfinger enforcement action.  This post continues the analysis by highlighting additional notable issues.

Comprehensive “Core” Enforcement Action

The Bilfinger enforcement action of course was not a new action (although it is likely to be counted as such in FCPA Inc. statistics).

Rather, the enforcement action is directly related to several other previous enforcement actions and thus part of one “core” enforcement action.  As alluded to in the previous post, the core conduct at issue in the Bilfinger enforcement action – involving the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS) project in Nigeria – has also been the focus, in whole or in part, in the following enforcement actions: Willbros Group (2008), James Tillery and Paul Novak (2008), Jason Steph (2007), and Jim Brown (2006).

This makes the ”core” EGGS FCPA enforcement action stand out in terms of its comprehensive nature in that the action targeted two joint venture participants (Bilfinger and Willbros), Willbros employees (Tillery, Brown and Steph) and Willbros’s consultant (Novak).  Another FCPA enforcement action involving conduct in connection with the Bonny Island, Nigeria project was similarly broad in its scope (see here), but few FCPA enforcement actions are.

The question remains, why did it take approximately 5.5 years from the 2008 Willbros enforcement action for the Bilfinger enforcement action to occur?  After all, Bilfinger was mentioned in the Willbros enforcement action as “a German construction company, a subsidiary or affiliate of a multinational construction services company based in Mannheim, Germany.”

Repeat – FCPA Settlements Have Come a Long Way in a Short Amount of Time

This recent post highlighted how FCPA settlement amounts have come a long way in a short amount of time and posed the question – have FCPA settlement amounts increased … just because?

Consider that the Bilfinger and 2008 Willbros enforcement action involved the same EGGS project.

The DOJ’s DPA in Willbros does not set forth a detailed advisory Sentencing Guidelines calculation as is the norm in most current FCPA DPAs, including the Bilfinger DPA, but the DOJ settlement amount in Willbros was $22 million.  This $22 million settlement amount was in connection with not only the EGGS project, but also DOJ allegations that ”certain Willbros employees based in South America agreed to make approximately $300,000 in corrupt payments to Ecuadoran government officials of the state-owned oil company PetroEcuador and its subsidiary, PetroComercial, to assist in obtaining the Santo Domingo project, which involved the rehabilitation of approximately sixteen kilometers of a gas pipeline in Ecuador, running from Santo Domingo to El Beaterio.”

The DOJ settlement amount in Bilfinger was $32 million and this action involved only the EGGS project.

Misc.

As a foreign company, the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions apply to Bilfinger only to the extent a “means or instrumentality of interstate commerce” is used in connection with a bribery scheme.  Of note, in the Bilfinger information, the “means and instrumentality” used to support one substantive FCPA anti-bribery charge was a “flight from Houston, TX, to Boston, MA to discuss promised bribe payments.”

As a foreign non-issuer company, the most logical section of the FCPA anti-bribery provisions that Bilfinger would be subject to is dd-3 - “prohibited trade practices by persons other than issuers or domestic concerns.”

Yet, the DOJ information charges Bilfinger under dd-1 applicable to issuers and dd-2 applicable to domestic concerns.

For more on this aspect of the Bilfinger enforcement action, see here.

Second Circuit Concludes That Presumption Against Extraterritoriality Applies To Criminal Liability Under The Securities Law

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Previous posts (here and here) have discussed extraterritorial jurisdiction issues in non-FCPA cases.

One post discussed the Supreme Court’s opinion in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum concerning the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) and its impact on FCPA enforcement.  The decision held that the “the presumption against exterritoriality applies to claims under the ATS, and that nothing in the statute rebuts that presumption.”

The presumption issue of course is not directly relevant to FCPA enforcement actions because the FCPA is explicit as to its jurisdictional scope  and provides as follows depending on the category of person (legal or natural) subject to the law’s anti-bribery provisions.

As to U.S. persons (legal or natural) the FCPA provides for two types of jurisdictional.  The original statutory standard was (and is still part of the law) “use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance” of a bribery scheme.  However, in 1998 Congress amended the FCPA to also provide for so-called nationality jurisdiction as to U.S. persons.  15 USC 78dd-1(g) and 78dd-2(i) specifically states, in pertinent part, as follows:  “It shall also be unlawful for [any issuer organized under the laws of the United States or for any United States person] to corruptly do any act outside the United States in furtherance [of a bribery scheme] irrespective of whether such [U.S. person] makes uses of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce in furtherance [of the bribery scheme].  In short, as to U.S. persons, in 1998 Congress explicitly amended the FCPA to provide for extraterritorial jurisdiction.

As to foreign issuers subject to 78dd-1 of the FCPA (i.e. foreign companies with shares registered on U.S. exchanges or otherwise required to file periodic reports with the SEC), the 1998 amendment found in 78dd-1(g) does not apply to such companies.    For such foreign issuers, the FCPA explicitly provides only territorial jurisdiction.

As to persons other than U.S. persons (legal or natural) or foreign issuers, the FCPA was also amended in 1998 to create an entire new category of “person” subject to the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  See 78dd-3.  This category applies to non-U.S. actors and non-foreign issuers such as foreign private companies and foreign nationals.   This FCPA prong has explicit jurisdictional provisions.  78dd-3(a) states, in pertinent part, that it shall be unlawful for “any person” other than an issuer or domestic concern (that is a U.S. “person”) ”while in the territory of the United States, corruptly to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce or to do any other act in furtherance [of a bribery scheme."  Here again, the FCPA explicitly provides only territorial jurisdiction.

As noted in the prior post, just because the presumption against extraterritoriality is not directly applicable to the FCPA, it does not follow that the presumption will not have an impact on FCPA enforcement.  To the contrary, the logic and rationale of many justices in Kiobel has direct bearing on certain aspects of FCPA enforcement, and indeed can be viewed as Supreme Court disapproval of certain aspects of FCPA enforcement.  (For further specifics, including what I call the DOJ's frequent assertion of de facto extraterritorial jurisdiction over foreign actors, see the prior post).

The above is all relevant to setting the background for an important recent decision from the influential Second Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Alberto Vilar and Gary Tanaka.  In this case, concerning criminal liability under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act, the court extended the Supreme Court's holding in Morrison v. National Australia Bank (130 S.Ct. 2869) (a civil case concerning Section 10(b)) and concluded that Section 10(b) does not apply to extraterritorial conduct, "regardless of whether liability is sought criminally or civilly."

The finding had little actual effect in the specific case, given that the court found that the defendants engaged in territorial acts.  However, Vilar's impact is broad, including in the FCPA context should a foreign actor in an FCPA enforcement choose to put the DOJ to its burden of proof.  [As noted in this prior post, the only time this has happened in the criminal FCPA context is when Africa Sting defendant Pankesh Patel prevailed].

In reaching its conclusion, the Second Circuit gutted the DOJ’s arguments.  The court noted as follows.

“[T]he government is incorrect when it asserts that ‘the presumption against extraterritoriality for civil statutes … simply does not apply in the criminal context.’”

“The government contends, relying on [a 1922 Supreme Court case - U.S. v. Bowman], that the presumption against extraterritoriality has no place in our reading of criminal statutes.  To the contrary, no plausible interpretation of Bowman supports this broad proposition; fairly read, Bowman stands for quite the opposite.”

“[T]he government provides little reason, beyond its misplaced reliance on Bowman, for why the presumption against extraterritoriality should not apply to criminal statutes.”

“The presumption against extraterritoriality is a method of interpreting a statute, which has the same meaning in every case.  The presumption against extraterritoriality is not a rule to be applied to the specific facts of a case.  A statute either applies extraterritorially or it does not, and once it is determined that a statute does not apply extraterritorially, the only question we must answer in the individual case is whether the relevant conduct occurred in the territory of a foreign sovereign.”

[For more on the Second Circuit's decision, see here from Alison Frankel at Reuters]

To repeat, the presumption against extraterritoriality is not needed in the FCPA context, because the statute is explicit as to its jurisdiction depending on the actor.

As to foreign actors, the FCPA does not apply extraterritorially, and in the words of the Second Circuit, “the only question” becomes “whether the relevant conduct occurred in the territory of a foreign sovereign.”

As to this question, the concurring opinion of Justice Alito, joined by Justice Thomas, in Kiobel is instructive in that it stated  that when the ATS “claims touch and concern the territory of the United States, they must do so with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritoriality.”

Applying this to the FCPA context, can it truly be said that most FCPA enforcement actions against foreign actors touch and concern the territory of the U.S. with “sufficient force”?

Request For Interlocutory Appeal Denied In Former Magyar Telekom Executive Case

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

This previous post highlighted the February 2013 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan (S.D.N.Y.) in SEC v. Elek Straub, Andras Balogh and Tamas Morvai.  Judge Sullivan denied the defendants’ (former executives of Magyar Telekom) pre-trial motion to dismiss and his ruling principally focused on general personal jurisdiction issues, the FCPA’s specific jurisdictional element and statute of limitation issues.

As noted in this previous post, defendants soon thereafter moved to certify Judge Sullivan’s order for interlocutory appeal to the Second Circuit.  In pertinent part, the motion stated:

“The defendants respectfully submit that there is substantial ground for difference of opinion regarding the following three questions that lie at the  heart of the Order:  (i) whether the Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendants; (ii) whether the SEC’s actions is barred by the applicable statute of limitations; and (iii) whether the SEC has adequately pled the use of an instrumentality of interstate commerce.”

Earlier this week, Judge Sullivan denied the defendants’ request for interlocutory appeal.

Judge Sullivan began by setting forth the legal standard for an interlocutory appeal:

“Litigants are generally required to wait for a final judgment before they may appeal. However, a district court may certify an immediate appeal of an interlocutory order if the court finds that the order (1) ‘involves a controlling question of law’ (2) ‘as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion’ and (3) ‘that an immediate appeal from the order  may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.’ [...]  District court judges have broad  discretion to deny certification even where the statutory criteria are met. [...]  [An] interlocutory appeal is ‘a rare exception where, in the discretion of the district judge, it ‘may avoid protracted litigation.’  Consequently, ‘federal practice strongly disfavors discretionary interlocutory appeals [as they] prolong judicial proceedings, add delay and expense to litigants, burden appellate courts, and present issues for decisions on uncertain and incomplete records, tending to weaken the precedential value of judicial opinions.’”

As to the three issues presented, Judge Sullivan concluded that the applicable legal standards were not met.

Judge Sullivan also distinguished his opinion from a similar decision (here) in the S.D.N.Y. by Judge Shira Scheindlin granting Herbert Steffen’s motion to dismiss the SEC’s FCPA complaint based on general jurisdiction grounds.

Judge Sullivan stated as follows.

“Defendants also make much of the fact that, just weeks after the Court’s Order, Judge Scheindlin granted a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over a defendant allegedly engaged in covering up a bribery scheme.  However, the Court does not find any tension between the decision in [Steffen]  and its Order. In [Steffen] Judge Scheindlin acknowledged that ‘there is ample (and growing) support in case law for the exercise of jurisdiction over individuals who played a role in falsifying or manipulating financial statements relied upon by U.S. investors in order to cover up illegal actions directed entirely at a foreign jurisdiction.’   In finding personal jurisdiction to be lacking, Judge Scheindlin did not buck this trend, but rather found the facts before her to be distinguishable from these other cases. As Judge Scheindlin explained, the defendants in the Straub case ‘orchestrated a bribery scheme aimed at the Macedonian government, and as part of the bribery scheme signed off on misleading management representations to the company’s auditors and signed false SEC filings. By contrast, in [Steffen] ‘the SEC did not allege that the defendant directed, ordered or even had awareness of the cover ups that occurred at [the company] much less that he had any involvement in the falsification of SEC filings in furtherance of those cover ups. Nor is it alleged that his position as Group President of [the company] would have made him aware of, let alone involved in falsification of these filings.’  Thus, the situation presented in [Steffen], where the defendant had taken no action with any connection to the United States, is unlike this case and the others cited in the Order. Accordingly, the [Steffen] decision does not provide any reason to find that there is a difference of opinion as to whether personal jurisdiction exists in this case, let alone create ‘substantial doubt’ that the Court’s Order is correct. Moreover, Defendants do not identify any other authority that is inconsistent with the Order.”

Notable RICO Decision And Development

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Several FCPA enforcement actions have been brought against foreign companies based on sparse U.S. jurisdiction allegations (a required legal element for an anti-bribery violation against a foreign company).

For instance, the recent Total enforcement action (the third largest in FCPA history in terms of fine and penalty amount) was based on a 1995 wire transfer of $500,000 (representing less than 1% of the alleged bribe payments at issue) from a New York based account.

The JGC Corp. enforcement action was based on the jurisdictional theory that certain alleged bribe payments flowed through U.S. bank accounts and that co-conspirators faxed or e-mailed information into the U.S. in furtherance of the bribery scheme.

The Magyar Telekom enforcement action was based on allegations that a company executive sent two e-mails to a foreign official from his U.S. based e-mail address that passed through, was stored on, and transmitted from servers located in the U.S. and that certain electronic communications made in furtherance of the alleged bribery scheme and the concealment of payments, including drafts of certain agreements and copies of certain contracts with intermediaries, were transmitted by company employees and others through U.S. interstate commerce or stored on computer servers located in the U.S.

The Bridgestone enforcement action was based on allegations that employees sent and received e-mail and fax communications to/from the U.S. in connection with the bribery scheme.

The Tenaris enforcement action was based on allegations that a payment to an agent in connection with the alleged bribery scheme was wired through an intermediary bank located in New York.

The above enforcement actions and the jurisdictional allegations they were based on makes the recent civil RICO decision in PEMEX v. SK Engineering & Construction & Siemens all the more interesting.  As set forth in Judge Louis Stanton’s (S.D.N.Y.) opinion, PEMEX alleged that the defendants violated RICO and common law fraud by bribing PEMEX officials to approve overrun and expenses payments to CONPROCA, a Mexican corporation completing an oil refinery rehabilitation project in Mexico.

According to the complaint, CONPROCA would receive payment from PEMEX’s Project Funding Master Trust (the “Master Trust”), organized under Delaware law, and managed by its then-trustee Bank of New York.  According to the complaint, The Master Trust paid each invoiced amount from its New York account to CONPROCA’s account at Citibank in New York.

The complaint further alleged that CONPROCA financed the project at issue ”through the issuance of bonds registered with the SEC, and through institutional credit, a substantial amount of which were issued by U.S. financial institutions and guaranteed by the Export Import Bank of the United States.”

The DOJ would surely take the position that the above U.S. jurisdictional allegations would be sufficient to bring a criminal FCPA enforcement action against a foreign company for bribing foreign officials.

Not so in a civil RICO action subjected to judicial scrutiny.

In ruling on the defendants’ motion to dismiss based on the argument that the RICO claims were extraterritorial, Judge Stanton first noted that because RICO is silent as to any extraterritorial application, the RICO statutes do not apply extraterritorially.  Judge Stanton then observed that “when foreign actors were the primary operators, victims, and structure of a RICO claim” courts have properly concluded that the claims were extraterritoritial.

Judge Stanton then held that PEMEX’S RICO claims were extraterritorial because “they allege a foreign conspiracy against a foreign victim conducted by foreign defendants participating in foreign enterprises.”

As to those U.S. jurisdictional allegations, Judge Stanton stated:

“They fail to shift the weight of the fraudulent scheme away from Mexico. Seen simply, as a result of the claimed conspiracy PEMEX, the Mexican Plaintiff for whom the work was done in Mexico, paid fraudulent overcharges to CONPROCA, the Mexican corporation which did the work.  PEMEX officials in Mexico granted the challenged approvals to pay CONPROCA. The American trustee merely transferred the payments through two banks in New York.  The defendants’ bribery of PEMEX officials, and CONPROCA’s underbidding and submitting false claims under Mexican public works contracts, all occurred in Mexico. Thus, ‘it is implausible to accept that the thrust of the pattern of racketeering activity was directed at’ the United States.  The RICO claims are accordingly dismissed.”

Judge Stanton’s “thrust” reference is similar to the “sufficient force” language in Justice Alito and Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in the Kiobel case concerning the extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute.  (See here for the prior post on Kiobel including additional information concerning FCPA jurisdictional issues as to foreign companies).

In addition to the above, another interesting RICO development concerns a lawsuit recently brought by Otto Reich (a former U.S. diplomat and Ambassador to Venezuela) against individuals he accuses of bribing senior Venezuelan officials in exchange for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”  According to the lawsuit, the individuals are U.S. residents and associated with U.S.-based companies Derwick Associates USA LLC and Derwick Associates Corporation.

In pertinent part, Reich alleges as follows.

“Derwick Associates’ ‘business model’ is simple. From the United States Defendants offer multi-million dollar kickbacks to public officials in Venezuela in exchange for the award of energy-sector construction contracts. Once the contracts are secured for Derwick Associates (and the money ultimately transferred into bank accounts in New York) Defendants skim millions off the top, which they deposit in U.S. banks. Defendants then subcontract out the actual work to be performed on site to other U.S.-based companies, including one based in Missouri. Defendants run their illegal scheme from their homes and offices in New York and through their U.S.-based companies. The scheme has been a huge financial boon to Defendants … all of whom enjoy lifestyles of extreme wealth in the United States.”

It is likely that this civil RICO suit, like others before it, will spawn a DOJ FCPA investigation …  if it hasn’t already.