Archive for the ‘Jurisdiction’ Category

Checking In With Richard Alderman

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Richard Alderman is the former Director of the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”).  Since leaving the SFO in April 2012, Alderman has remained active in anti-corruption projects.

In this Q&A, Alderman discusses certain of these projects and offers insight on the following issues:  the current international enforcement climate including multi-jurisdictional issues; voluntary disclosure; DPAs; and a compliance defense.

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In April 2012, you left the SFO.  What have you been doing since?

I have been working with some international institutions and NGOs dealing with anti-corruption on the front line. This is what I wanted to do because I had met a number of individuals who inspired me. Recent examples are the Convention on Business Integrity in Nigeria and an initiative by the Egyptian Junior Business Association aimed at the vibrant SME sector in Egypt. I have also had the privilege of meeting individuals involved in the radical transformation of the procurement practices of Moscow City Council.

How do you see the current international corruption enforcement scene?

We have moved on from where we were a few years ago when there were only a few states that took action in these cases. Examples of issues now are-

  • How do we deal with the interests of the different states that want to enforce the law?
  • What will be the impact of more enforcement by demand states (including demand states that are also supply states)?
  • When will law enforcement agencies uncover and prosecute corrupt companies that have no intention of complying with global rules?
  • How do we get the proceeds of settlements back to the demand states?
  • Can a system of incentives be devised to reward companies with top quality anti-corruption systems?

In current enforcement era, multiple sovereigns may have jurisdiction over the same alleged conduct.  What issues do you see regarding multi-jurisdictional enforcement?

This is becoming a key issue. I prepared a detailed report for the UNCAC conference in Panama in November 2013 that covered these and other issues.

Companies are undoubtedly at risk here. If we look at violations first, different states can prosecute for the same violation. The company’s only protection is the principle of double jeopardy but this is interpreted in different ways in different states. For example it is not an issue for the US because the US does not recognise foreign convictions and acquittals for this purpose.

This will become a particular issue when one of the enforcing states is the demand state. Why should such a state be prevented from taking action in its own courts because of a resolution elsewhere? We can expect national sovereignty issues.

Companies can also seek to exclude a state with a wide concept of double jeopardy by reaching a settlement with another state and then pleading double jeopardy in the first state. I have seen this.

The issue also arises with asset forfeiture. I do not understand how multiple states can confiscate the same asset or profit. Once the money has been paid to law enforcement somewhere then any further disgorgement is actually a criminal fine.

What about global settlements?

I am very much in favour of these. I know from my own experience that they are very difficult to bring about. The international mechanisms in Article 47 of UNCAC and Article 4(3) of the OECD Convention should be used to discuss how the different enforcing states should work together and how a global settlement should be structured. Neither mechanism has yet been used for this purpose but they are available. Enforcing states will be nervous but these mechanisms will be vital as more and more states start to enforce the law.

Do the recent Libor settlements have any implications for global settlements in corruption cases?

These settlements have been very remarkable. A UK prosecutor cannot however enter into such an agreement if there are criminal pleas in the UK. This is because the senior judge in the Innospec case said that it was wrong for the SFO to discuss the penalty to be paid by the company even if the penalty was subject to the overall approval of the court.

One consequence of the new UK DPA system is that the UK enforcing authority can enter into these discussions if what is being discussed is a DPA rather than a traditional prosecution. It will be up to the judge to decide if this is the right way forward.

The result is that UK prosecuting authorities will not be able to participate in global settlements in the future unless there is a DPA approved by the court. I see this as an issue that will be increasingly important in the UK.

Do you still favour corporate self-reporting of conduct that could implicate bribery and corruption laws?

Yes. I remain a keen supporter of self-reporting. This has however become more difficult for companies. There are two main reasons. These are-

  • No enforcing state has set out its policy on when it will refer the self-report to another state.  A company considering a self-report therefore has to think about the other states that may see the report (and whether employees are at risk). We need a proper understanding of what enforcing states should do. This needs to be publicly available and agreed by the UN and the OECD.
  • Even if the report is not passed to another state, that other state is likely to see media reports of the resolution and the admissions made by the company and decide to start its own action. There is an increasing risk of these follow up cases.

Should companies carry out their own investigations when alerted to alleged instances of improper conduct?

My experience is that major global companies take these allegations very seriously and want to see what happened. There is an issue about whether the company should self-report immediately or whether it should carry out some preliminary work to satisfy itself that there is something in the allegation. The expectations of enforcing authorities can vary here. My view has always been that the company should be satisfied first that there is something that requires detailed investigation.

I am in favour of companies carrying out their own investigations with agreement from the enforcing state about scope, milestones and regular updates. I know that some enforcing states will also want to carry out their own independent investigation. I understand the reasons for this but it means that the authority is spending its scarce resource on a case where the company is willing to cooperate and not on the more difficult cases where the company has no intention of self-reporting and cooperating. As I see it there is too little action by enforcing authorities in finding such companies and dealing with them.

Recently the U.K. adopted DPAs.  How do you feel about DPAs and what are the issues as you see them?  What issues do you see regarding DPAs?

I have always been in favour of DPAs as one tool available to prosecutors. My experience was that the UK was in a poor position in global cases with international resolutions with the traditional criminal justice tools. I saw two main advantages of DPAs. These are-

  • They can form part of a system of incentives to encourage companies to self-report and cooperate and to improve compliance.
  • They enable prosecutors to discuss global resolutions without contravening the Innospec case.

I know that the FCPA Professor has expressed considerable public opposition to DPAs. I agree that they need to be transparent and that the judges have to be fully involved. I also agree that we still need to see the traditional full prosecution with debarment in suitable cases. This could be where the company is systemically corrupt and has no intention of abandoning corruption. I want to see more of these cases being pursued by enforcing states.

The full prosecution should be part of the toolkit of the prosecutor. There should be other tools for other types of case. It is notable that the only states that have made a sustained attack on corporate corruption over the years have either not used traditional prosecution or have used it sparingly and have also used alternatives. This is significant although it seems to me to be insufficiently appreciated.

Should corporate compliance be a defence to a bribery or corruption offense or merely mitigate the potential fine and penalty amount?

I remain in favour of the compliance defence. The Bribery Act offence is an excellent model in this area. I have seen how much impact this had on companies and the scale of the improvement made in their anti-corruption work. There are a number of other states that have compliance as a defence.

There is however an issue that is going to be increasingly relevant in those states that have compliance as a defence. The public wants to see the offence produce results in terms of criminal convictions. So far there do not appear to be any in the states with a compliance defence. There will be a question about whether compliance as a defence is right or whether the US approach with compliance as mitigation is to be preferred because of the results achieved. We can expect a lot more on this. It may be one of the issues to be considered in the recently announced UK review of the effectiveness of the enforcing institutions.

You have talked publicly about sanctions and incentives for companies as it relates to bribery and corruption offenses.  Can you elaborate on this issue?

Alternatives to traditional prosecution together with self-reporting and cooperation are important incentives in the area of violations. There is though a wider issue that is not sufficiently recognised and discussed. This is whether there should be more general incentives to companies that have brought about an excellent standard of anti-corruption compliance.

There was a Recommendation by the OECD in 2009 encouraging states to look at public procurement, licenses, aid funding and export credits as a way of recognising companies with the highest standards of anti-corruption. There has been little progress on this although a few states have introduced some initiatives.

I am very much in favour of this. For example the citizens of a state will benefit if a company that meets very high standards is successful in a public procurement exercise and companies with a poor anti-corruption approach are not. If those companies with a poor record decide that they have to reform then that is a benefit to everyone.

I see this as one of the key issues in anti-corruption that will become increasingly prominent in the coming years. It has great potential to make a difference.

Is The DOJ Picking on Non-U.S. Companies and Individuals?

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Today’s post is from David Simon (Foley & Lardner).

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The debate over whether the United States should impose its values on the rest of the world through enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) is over.

Almost everyone now rejects the cultural relativist argument—that there are different business cultures in different parts of the world, and that the United States should respect those differences and refrain from imposing our standards of doing business on U.S. companies operating abroad.  Rather, the rise of anti-corruption legislation, the proliferation of OECD standards, and increased enforcement—not only by the United States, but by many countries enforcing their own anticorruption laws—all show an emerging consensus that corruption of this nature is objectively bad.  The United States should be commended for leading the way on this.

Yet the recent enforcement activity of the Department of Justice[i] (“DOJ”) raises questions as to whether it is enforcing the FCPA in a manner consistent with the statute’s purpose (and the overarching purpose of domestic criminal law).  According to Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Cole, whose remarks are available here, that purpose is U.S.-centric:

“In enacting the FCPA … Congress recognized that foreign bribery had tarnished the image of U.S. businesses, impaired public confidence in the financial integrity of U.S. companies, and had hampered the functioning of markets, resulting in market inefficiencies, market instability, sub-standard products and services, and an unfair playing field.”

True enough, but it is hard to dispute that the focus of FCPA enforcement has to some extent shifted away from U.S. businesses and citizens.  As noted on FCPA Professor, eight of the top ten corporate FCPA settlements have involved non-U.S. businesses.

Likewise, the number of individual FCPA prosecutions against non-U.S. citizens has been increasing.  In recent years, individual criminal prosecutions have been brought against citizens of the Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia, Switzerland, Venezuela, and Sri Lanka—and some involve very tenuous connections to the United States.

For example, as previously highlighted on this blog, in December 2011 the DOJ charged, among others, former Siemens executive and German national Stephan Signer under the FCPA based on conduct concerning the Argentine prong of the 2008 Siemens enforcement action.  The jurisdictional allegation against Signer was that he caused Siemens to transfer two wires to bank accounts in the United States in furtherance of a scheme to bribe Argentine government officials.[ii]

I do not argue that the FCPA does not permit the DOJ to charge non-U.S. citizens or companies.  Indeed, the 1998 amendments make it clear that Congress intended to give the DOJ that power, providing it with jurisdiction over several categories of non-U.S. entities and individuals.  It should be noted, however, that the DOJ has adopted a markedly broad interpretation of the FCPA’s territorial jurisdiction provisions, resulting in increasingly attenuated connections between the United States and individual defendants like Mr. Signer.  These connections may include merely “placing a telephone call or sending an e-mail, text message, or fax from, to, or through the United States.”[iii]  The legal significance of these increasingly tenuous jurisdictional justifications, previously referred to on FCPA Professor as “de facto extraterritorial jurisdiction,” remains a contentious, and related, issue.

The question I raise here is not whether the DOJ’s policy of enforcement is legal, but whether such a focus (or, at least, the perception of such a focus) on non-U.S. persons and companies is prudent and appropriate.  In describing the principles underlying the jurisdiction to prescribe, the American Law Institute (“ALI”) notes that the United States has “generally refrained from exercising jurisdiction where it would be unreasonable to do so.”[iv]  But “[a]ttempts by some states—notably the United States, to apply their law on the basis of very broad conceptions of territoriality or nationality [has bred] resentment and brought forth conflicting assertions of the rules of international law.”[v]  Indeed.

The concerns I have about this are not confined to FCPA enforcement.  The same trend is apparent in other areas of the law, such as economic sanctions and export controls.  The pattern of enforcement being concentrated against non-U.S. companies is shown just as sharply under those laws, with the recent economic sanctions against such firms as ING Bank ($619 million against Netherlands financial institution), Royal Bank of Scotland ($100 million against UK financial institution), and Credit Suisse ($536 million against Swiss financial institution).  With the U.S. Government reportedly considering the first $10 billion penalty for violations of U.S. economic sanctions laws against BNP Paribas (a French financial institution), French President Francois Hollande reportedly has personally lobbied against what is perceived as an unfair singling out of an EU financial institution for payment of such a large fine.  To the French Government, at least, the inequity of the U.S. Government assessing a fine that surpasses the entire yearly profits of one of the largest French financial institutions is plain.

The pattern of enforcement described above, should it be allowed to continue, sends a message to the rest of the world that the DOJ is mostly interested in big dollar settlements and soft foreign targets.  Is this the message we wish to send to our foreign allies in the fight against corruption?

Although the DOJ’s application of the FCPA (and other laws governing international business conduct)  to prosecute increasing numbers of foreign persons may be legal, and technically “reasonable” at international law, that does not necessarily make it appropriate or advisable.  Rather, these attempts to apply a broad conception of territoriality in pursuit of greater numbers of prosecutions and larger settlements may be more damaging than DOJ perceives.  This has the potential to undermine the U.S. position that anti-corruption is a global issue, and counteracts the progress the U.S. has made in altering its image from that of an overreaching imperialist power to a competent and moderate leader in the creation and enforcement of global anti-corruption norms.

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This article in today’s New York Times DealBook discusses many of the same issues highlighted in the above post.


[i] I focus here principally on the DOJ, not the SEC.  The DOJ, of course, is a law enforcement agency charged with enforcing criminal laws.  The SEC is a regulatory agency, and the companies and individuals subject to its jurisdiction essentially opt in by taking advantage of the U.S.’s financial markets.

[ii] Indictment at 40, United States v. Uriel Sharef, et. al., 11CR-1-56 (S.D.N.Y 2011), available at http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa/cases/sharef-uriel/2011-12-12-siemens-ndictment.pdf.

[iii] See U.S. Dep’t of Justice & U.S. Sec. Exch. Comm’n, A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 11 (Nov. 14, 2012), available at http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa/guide.pdf.

[iv] Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, § 403 cmt. a. (1986).

[v] Id. at Chapter One: Jurisdiction to Prescribe, Subchapter A.: Principles of Jurisdiction to Prescribe, Introductory Note.

Supreme Court Notable

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Sometimes it takes the Supreme Court to remind us … well … what the law is!

Dig into certain corporate Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions and it would appear that legal liability seems to hop, skip, and jump around a multinational company.  This of course would be inconceivable in other areas, such as contract liability, tort liability, etc. absent an “alter ego” / “piercing the veil” analysis for the simple reason that is what the black letter law commands.

Yet, as often highlighted on these pages, black letter legal principles (whether statute of limitations, jurisdiction, etc.) are seemingly ignored in certain instances of corporate FCPA enforcement because the name of the game is primarily cooperation and risk aversion.  (See here for the prior post, “Does DOJ Expect FCPA Counsel to Roll Over and Play Dead?”).

With increasing frequency, the DOJ and SEC have advanced broad “agency” theories in which the acts of a subsidiary are attributed to a parent corporation absent any allegations to support an “alter ego” or “veil piercing” exception.

One of the more forceful critics of this trending DOJ and SEC approach has been Philip Urofsky (a former high-ranking DOJ FCPA enforcement attorney) see prior posts here and here.   As Urofsky recently – and rightfully – noted:

“[just because a corporate FCPA enforcement action is resolved] ”through an NPA rather than a DPA (or a guilty plea) does not excuse this approach—when the DOJ announces it will not prosecute but requires the company to admit to facts establishing a criminal violation of the law, it is stating, as a fact, that the company  committed a crime. In such case, it is obligated to demonstrate, through the  pleadings, in whatever form they are presented, that it could, in fact, prove each and every element of the offense.”

The above is all necessary background to the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week in a non-FCPA case in which the court slammed the “agency” theory seemingly serving as the basis for several recent corporate FCPA enforcement actions.

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Daimler A.G. v. Bauman,  an opinion authored by Justice Ginsburg, concerned “the authority of a court in the United States to entertain a claim brought by foreign plaintiffs against a foreign defendant based on events occurring entirely outside the United States.”

The complaint “alleged that during Argentina’s 1976-1983 ‘Dirty War,’ Daimler’s Argentinian subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz Argentina (MB Argentina) collaborated with state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill certain MB Argentina workers, among them, plaintiffs or persons closely related to plaintiffs.”  Damages for the alleged human rights violations were sought from Daimler and U.S. jurisdiction “over the lawsuit was predicated on the California contacts of Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (MBUSA), a subsidiary of Daimler incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in New Jersey.”

“The question presented,” as described by Justice Ginsburg, was “whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment precludes the District Court from exercising jurisdiction over Daimler in this case, given the absence of any California connection to the atrocities, perpetrators, or victims described in the complaint.”

As noted by the court, the plaintiffs were seeking to hold “Daimler vicariously liable for MB Argentina’s alleged malfeasance” and it was noted that “MB Argentina was a subsidiary wholly owned by Daimler’s predecessor in interest.”

In response to Daimler’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiffs argued ”that jurisdiction over Daimler could be founded on the California contacts of MBUSA, a distinct corporate entity that, according to plaintiffs, should be treated as Daimler’s agent for jurisdictional purposes.”

The district court granted Daimler’s motion to dismiss and declined, in relevant part, to “attribute MBUSA’s California contacts to Daimler on an agency theory, concluding that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that MBUSA acted as Daimler’s agent.”  The Supreme Court opinion states:

“The Ninth Circuit at first affirmed the District Court’s judgment.  Addressing solely the question of agency, the Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs had not shown the existence of an agency relationship of the kind that might warrant attribution of MBUSA’s contacts to Daimler.”

However, the Ninth Circuit granted plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing, the panel withdrew its initial opinion, and replaced it with one which concluded that the agency test was satisfied.  Daimler petitioned for rehearing, but the Ninth Circuit denied Daimler’s petition.

The Supreme Court’s decision is heavy on jurisdiction issues – including much discussion of general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction.

Turning to the agency issues, the opinion states “while plaintiffs ultimately persuaded the Ninth Circuit to impute MBUSA’s California contacts to Daimler on an agency theory, at no point, have they maintained that MBUSA is an alter ego of Daimler.”

Next, the opinion states (internal citations omitted) as follows.

“In sustaining the exercise of general jurisdiction over Daimler, the Ninth Circuit relied on an agency theory, determining that MBUSA acted as Daimler’s agent for jurisdictional purposes and then attributing MBUSA’s California contacts to Daimler. The Ninth Circuit’s agency analysis derived from Circuit precedent considering principally whether the subsidiary “performs services that are sufficiently important to the foreign corporation that if it did not have a representative to perform them, the substantially similar services.”

“This Court has not yet addressed whether a foreign corporation may be subjected to a court’s general jurisdiction based on the contacts of its in-state subsidiary. Daimler argues, and several Courts of Appeals have held, that a subsidiary’s jurisdictional contacts can be imputed to its parent only when the former is so dominated by the latter as to be its alter ego. The Ninth Circuit adopted a less rigorous test based on what it described as an “agency” relationship. Agencies, we note, come in many sizes and shapes: “One may be an agent for some business purposes and not others so that the fact that one may be an agent for one purpose does not make him or her an agent for every purpose.”  A subsidiary, for example, might be its parent’s agent for claims arising in the place where the subsidiary operates, yet not its agent regarding claims arising elsewhere. The Court of Appeals did not advert to that prospect. But we need not pass judgment on invocation of an agency theory in the context of general jurisdiction, for in no event can the appeals court’s analysis be sustained.”

“The Ninth Circuit’s agency finding rested primarily on its observation that MBUSA’s services were “important” to Daimler, as gauged by Daimler’s hypothetical readiness to perform those services itself if MBUSA did not exist.  Formulated this way, the inquiry into importance stacks the deck, for it will always yield a pro-jurisdiction answer: “Anything a corporation does through an independent contractor, subsidiary, or distributor is presumably something that the corporation would do ‘by other means’ if the independent contractor, subsidiary, or distributor did not exist.” The Ninth Circuit’s agency theory thus appears to subject foreign corporations to general jurisdiction whenever they have an in-state subsidiary or affiliate, an outcome that would sweep beyond even the “sprawling view of general jurisdiction” we rejected in Goodyear.”

[...]

It was therefore error for the Ninth Circuit to conclude that Daimler, even with MBUSA’s contacts attributed to it, was at home in California, and hence subject to suit there on claims by foreign plaintiffs having nothing to do with anything that occurred or had its principal impact in California.”

Applying this Supreme Court’s conclusion to the FCPA context, the notion that because a subsidiary’s services are important to a parent corporation - and thus the subsidiary is an agent of the parent corporation for purposes of imputing liability – stacks the deck, for it will always yield a pro-agency answer.

The Supreme Court’s decision is Daimler is also notable for another reason.

As highlighted in this April 2013 post concerning the Supreme Court’s notable Kiobel decision (a non-FCPA case, but a case in which the logic and rationale of many justices has direct bearing on certain aspects of FCPA enforcement, and indeed can be viewed as Supreme Court disapproval of certain aspects of FCPA enforcement), the Supreme Court was concerned about the “delicate foreign policy consequences” of expansive U.S. jurisdiction over foreign actors.

Continuing with this concern, in the Daimler case, the court stated:

“Finally, the transnational context of this dispute bears attention. The Court of Appeals emphasized, as supportive of the exercise of general jurisdiction, plaintiffs’ assertion of claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA).  Recent decisions of this Court, however, have rendered plaintiffs’ ATS and TVPA claims infirm.

The Ninth Circuit, moreover, paid little heed to the risks to international comity its expansive view of general jurisdiction posed. Other nations do not share the uninhibited approach to personal jurisdiction advanced by the Court of Appeals in this case.

[…]

The Solicitor General informs us, in this regard, that “foreign governments’ objections to some domestic courts’ expansive views of general jurisdiction have in the past impeded negotiations of international agreements on the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments.”  […] See also U. S. Brief 2 (expressing concern that unpredictable applications of general jurisdiction based on activities of U. S.-based subsidiaries could discourage foreign investors); Brief for Respondents 35 (acknowledging that “doing business” basis for general jurisdiction has led to “international friction”). Considerations of international rapport thus reinforce our determination that subjecting Daimler to the general jurisdiction of courts in California would not accord with the “fair play and substantial justice” due process demands.”

It is nothing short of remarkable that the U.S. government urged restraint of expansive jurisdictional theories in Daimler because such “unpredictable applications” of expansive jurisdiction “could discourage foreign investors” and result in other foreign policy difficulties, yet at the same time the U.S. government advances unpredictable, creative, and dubious jurisdictional theories against foreign actors in FCPA enforcement actions.

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.