Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

“Corporate Bribery Is Not The Simple, Safe Issue It Seems At First Blush”

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

I tend to read the news with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act goggles on.  It’s an occupational hazard that sometimes is annoying, but often rewarding.

Although the FCPA was not mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal article “Can Moguls Untangle Nigeria’s Power Lines?,” the article is interesting from so many angles relevant to the issues discussed on this website and highlights that FCPA issues are multi-faceted legal and policy issues involving multiple actors and are often not as simple as some seem to suggest.

Indeed, the article reminded me of one of my favorite statements from the FCPA’s legislative history by Theodore Sorensen:

“Corporate bribery abroad is not the simple, safe issue it seems at first blush. [...]  [T]here will be countless situations in which a fair-minded investigator or judge will be hard-put to determine whether a particular payment or practice is a legitimate and permissible business activity or a means of improper influence [...]  Reasonable [persons] and even angels will differ on the answers to these and similar questions. At the very least such distinctions should make us less sweeping in our judgments and less confident of our solutions.”

(See here for the “Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”)

Prior to discussing the article, I want to make crystal clear that the recent Wall Street Journal article does not accuse any companies or individuals of any wrongdoing, nor am I. Rather, I am merely using the general issues discussed in the article to highlight various issues relevant to the FCPA and related issues.

The article highlights how Nigeria’s electrical system is dismal and in disrepair.  According to the article, ”the result:  Nigeria produces less than half as much electricity as North Dakota for 249 times more people.  Blackouts strike 320 days a year.”  If the electrical system is modernized, the article notes, “airlines will be able to land after sunset” and “schoolchildren will do their homework after dark.”

Let’s assume for purpose of this post, that in connection with the modernization of Nigeria’s electrical system, Company A involved in the project (a company that is otherwise viewed as selling the best product for the best price) makes an improper payment to a Nigerian “foreign official” to motivate the “foreign official” to select the company’s product for the modernization. This conduct leads to an FCPA enforcement action against Company A and those who claim all FCPA enforcement actions must involve a “victim” will say that the Nigerian people have been victimized, their human rights violated, and some will even request that the FCPA settlement amount be diverted to the Nigerian “victims.”

Without in any way countenancing the above hypothetical payments, I struggle to find any “victims” from a modernized Nigerian electrical system.

Some will say, but wait, because of the improper payment, inferior product will be incorporated into Nigeria’s electrical system (the lines will crumble, electrical fires will ensure, people will be injured).  At least so goes the conventional rhetoric surrounding bribery issues.  Yet recall that Company A is otherwise viewed as selling the best product for the best price and its goods are used the world over because they are the best.

Some will still say, but wait, because of the improper payment, the Nigerian government ended up paying more for the electrical upgrade then it would have paid but for the hypothetical improper payment.  But what if the Nigerian government selected Company A’s product because it was actually cheaper because, by selecting Company A, the Nigerian government availed itself of low interest loans from the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. which titled the balance in favor of Company A?

Again, without in any way countenancing the above hypothetical payments, I struggle to find any “victims” when a foreign government pays a lower price for a better product and indeed is incentivized to choose the product by the U.S. government.

What about the role of the U.S. government?

Is the U.S. government not seeking to influence an act or decision of a foreign official to favor a U.S. company through low interest loans?  After all, the Export-Import Bank low interest loans in Nigeria are in furtherance of President Obama’s $7 billion “Power Africa” initiative.  (See here).

As noted in this prior post, the U.S. government bears some responsibility when it comes to certain circumstances that result in FCPA scrutiny.  Indeed, several FCPA enforcement actions (see herehere and here for instance) have involved conduct in connection with U.S. government financing programs.  There is an irony of course in the U.S. government encouraging companies to do business in certain countries because it serves U.S. interests.  Then when the company does business in that country and encounters business conditions that the U.S. government no doubt knew it was going to encounter, the company then becomes the subject of a U.S. law enforcement inquiry.

Reading the recent Wall Street Journal article about transforming Nigeria’s electrical system with FCPA goggles on was rewarding in that it reminded me of the multi-faceted legal and policy issues involving multiple actors that are often relevant to the issues discussed on this website.

As Theodore Sorensen said ”corporate bribery abroad is not the simple, safe issue it seems at first blush.”

Friday Roundup

Friday, April 11th, 2014

It’s a complex world, you ask – I answer, scrutiny alerts and updates, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

It’s a Complex World

The world in which we live in is seldom simple and straight-forward.  This includes the so-called “fight” against corruption and bribery.  Regarding China’s “crackdown” on bribery, the BBC China Blog reports:

“Much has been written about China’s ongoing crackdown on corruption, but now one of the world’s biggest banks has put a price on it.  According to a report published by Bank of America Merrill Lynch this week, the Chinese government’s anti-graft campaign could cost the economy more than $100bn this year alone. [...]  Many of the micro effects of Xi Jingping’s anti-corruption drive have already been well documented of course; a slowdown in the restaurant trade for example, and a big dip in sales of luxury goods.  Over the past year or so, in Shanghai’s posh malls and boutique designer shops – once at the centre of the happy merry-go-round of official largesse and gift giving – you’ve almost been able to hear the sound of the weeping and gnashing of teeth. But the BofAML report suggests that the campaign is also having a significant and troubling macroeconomic effect.  Since early last year, it says, government bank deposits have been soaring, up almost 30% year on year. Even honest officials, the report suggests, are now so terrified of starting new projects, for fear of being seen as corrupt, that they’re simply keeping public funds in the bank.  [...] The report’s authors admit their calculations are a “back-of-the-envelope estimate of fiscal contraction”, but even if they are only half right it is an extraordinary amount of money and it highlights some of the challenges facing China’s anti-corruption crusader-in-chief, President Xi Jinping.”

Some-what related to the above topic, as noted in this Washington Times article:

“A key player in Nigeria’s emergence as Africa’s largest economy says U.S. companies are ceding investment opportunities to China and the Obama administration should do more to reverse the trend.  “The Obama administration has to focus more on Nigeria, said Prince Adetokunbo Sijuwade, whose family holds royal status in a vital corner of southern Nigeria and is invested heavily in transportation and oil infrastructures. “We feel that we can learn from the U.S. in terms of expertise. [...]  Prince Sijuwade speculated that several factors may have deterred U.S. investors in recent years, from concerns about government corruption to security. But he argued that allegations of widespread corruption in Nigeria are “overstated.”“Corruption is all over the world,” he said, noting potential U.S. investors’ fears of violating the Justice Department’s anti-corruption laws as an inhibiting factor on Nigerian investment.”

You Ask – I Answer

This op-ed poses the question “what’s driving pharma’s international bribery scandals?”

You ask – I answer.

A dubious and untested enforcement theory + extreme risk aversion because of potential exclusion from government sponsored healthcare programs + other typical reasons for why other companies face FCPA scrutiny, such as employees and third parties acting contrary to a company’s good-faith compliance policies and procedures = several FCPA enforcement actions against pharma and healthcare related companies.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week:

“GlaxoSmithKline PLC is investigating allegations of bribery by employees in the Middle East, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, opening a new front for the company as it manages a separate corruption probe in China.  A person familiar with Glaxo’s Mideast operations emailed the U.K. drug company late last year and earlier this year to report what the person said were corrupt practices in Iraq, including continuing issues and alleged misconduct dating from last year and 2012. The emails cite behavior similar to Glaxo’s alleged misconduct in China, including alleged bribery of physicians. [...]  In an email, the person said Glaxo hired 16 government-employed physicians and pharmacists in Iraq as paid sales representatives for the company while they continued to work for the government. A government-employed Iraqi emergency-room physician has prescribed Glaxo products, even when they weren’t in the hospital’s pharmacy and a competitor’s brand was in stock, an email from the person said. Glaxo has been hiring government-employed Iraqi doctors as medical representatives and paying their expenses to attend international conferences, the person alleged in the emails. Glaxo pays other doctors high fees to give lectures in exchange for promoting and prescribing its drugs, the allegations continued. After Glaxo won a contract with the Iraqi Ministry of Health in 2012 to supply the company’s Rotarix vaccine, Glaxo paid for a workshop in Lebanon for Iraqi Ministry of Health officials, the email said. That included paying for a doctor’s family to travel to Lebanon “so it would be a family vacation for him at the hotel.”

As noted in the article, GSK has been under FCPA scrutiny since 2011 and GSK’s scrutiny China was the frequent focus of media attention last summer (see here for the prior post).

Quotable

Russel Ryan (King & Spalding and former high-ranking SEC enforcement attorney) hits a home run with this recent Wall Street Journal editorial titled:  ”When Regulators Think They Are Prosecutors.”  It states, in pertinent part:

“[A]dministrative agencies like the SEC were never intended to become arms of law enforcement. They were created to regulate, not prosecute. [...]  There are good constitutional reasons why agencies like the SEC were not born with this power to prosecute and punish. Prosecuting private citizens and companies is serious business. It’s a core executive branch function historically entrusted to the attorney general, a “principal Officer” subject to unfettered presidential control under Article II of the Constitution. [...]   [I]f policy makers insist on transforming the commission and similar agencies into quasi-criminal prosecutors with ever-increasing power to seek harsh punitive sanctions, those agencies should be brought under the stewardship of the attorney general or given cabinet rank with leaders who are removable at the president’s pleasure. Even that wouldn’t cure a second level of constitutional infirmity. Based mostly on precedent established before the SEC had any power to punish, courts have exempted SEC prosecutions from many bedrock due-process protections taken for granted in criminal cases. The presumption of innocence, for example, is largely meaningless because the SEC can win by a mere “preponderance of the evidence” rather than proof beyond reasonable doubt. The right to remain silent is equally hollow because courts let the SEC treat silence as evidence of guilt. For SEC defendants who can’t afford a good lawyer, tough luck, because there’s no right to have counsel appointed at government expense as there would be in a criminal prosecution. And even when the SEC loses after trial, double jeopardy doesn’t prevent it from trying to reverse the verdict or force a retrial, as it would a criminal prosecutor.  Dodd-Frank made things even worse by expanding the SEC’s ability to impose draconian financial penalties in administrative proceedings that have lax evidentiary rules, no jury trial, and limited judicial oversight.Basic constitutional safeguards should protect American citizens and businesses whenever a law-enforcement agency seeks to punish them for alleged wrongdoing, even in nominally civil proceedings. It’s time to incorporate those safeguards into an increasingly penal administrative prosecution system that is quickly sliding down a slick and constitutionally hazardous slope.”

For Ryan’s previous guest post on similar issues, see here.

Reading Stack

Certain of the conduct at issue in this week’s FCPA enforcement action against HP and related entities concerned alleged conduct in Poland.  This article from a Polish news service looks at what happens “when the dust settles.”

An insightful post on the Trace Blog from a former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorney who oversaw several monitors titled “Five Questions That can Keep Your Monitor From Running Away.”  Perhaps the best question though is: are monitors truly needed in many FCPA resolutions?  (See here and here for prior posts).

For your viewing enjoyment here, recently indicted Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash (see here) has released a video which insists he is an innocent party caught at the center of a “battlefield for the two biggest global players of Russia and the USA”.

*****

A good weekend to all.

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.

German Company Resolves FCPA Enforcement Action Based On Conduct From “The Distant Past”

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Approximately 8 years ago, a German company owned 80% of a German entity doing business in Nigeria.  The German entity doing business in Nigeria entered into a joint venture consortium agreement with subsidiaries of a Panamanian company.  The Panamanian company had principal places of business in the U.S. and had shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  The joint venture consortium allegedly made bribe payments to Nigerian officials.

The end result?

Why of course, $32 million dollars to the U.S. Treasury.

Yesterday, the DOJ announced (here) that “Bilfinger SE, an international engineering and services company based in Mannheim, Germany, has agreed to pay a $32 million penalty to resolve charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing [Nigerian] government … to obtain and retain contracts related to the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS) project, which was valued at approximately $387 million.”

As noted in the DOJ’s release, the EGGS has been the focus, in whole or in part, in several prior enforcement actions against Willbros Group, Jim Brown, Jason Steph, James Tillery and Paul Novak.

The enforcement action involved a DOJ criminal information resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement.

Information

The information alleges that Bilfinger conspired with others “to obtain and retain contracts related to the EGGS project through the promise and payment of over $6 million in bribes to officials of [the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation - NNPC], [National Petroleum Investment Management Services - a subsidiary of NNPC], the [dominant political party in Nigeria], an official in the executive branch of the Government of Nigeria, and others (collectively – the Nigerian Officials).”

According to the information, in 2003 Bilfinger ”agreed to create a joint venture with [Willbros West Africa, Inc. (WWA) and Willbros Nigeria Ltd. (WNL) - both subsidiaries of Willbros International Inc., a Panamanian corporation with principal places of business in the U.S. and with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange] to bid on the EGGS contract and its optional scopes of work.”  In late 2003, [Bilfinger Berger Gas and Oil Services Nigeria Ltd. "BBGOS" - a German company based in Nigeria that was owned 80% by Bilfinger] and WWA/WNL executed a “Consortium Agreement” which formalized Bilfinger’s agreement to create a joint venture in connection with the EGGS project.”

According to the information, “Bilfinger and its coconspirators agreed that the EGGS Consortium would inflate the price of its bids for the EGGS project by 3% so it could cover the cost of paying bribes to Nigerian officials for their assistance in obtaining and retaining the EGGS project and its optional scopes of work.

The information alleges, among other things, that when other conspirators ”encountered difficulty obtaining money to make [their] share of the promised bribe payments to Nigerian officials,” Bilfinger agreed to those loan the other conspirators $1 million “with the understanding that the $1 million would be used to pay some of the promised bribe payments to Nigerian officials …”.

The information contains the following relevant jurisdictional allegations.

  • “[In 2004] WWA opened a bank account in the U.S. on behalf of the EGGS Consortium, in which payments for work conducted by the EGGS Consortium would be deposited and out of which payments would be made to BBGOS or WWA when authorized by both BBGOS and WWA.”
  • “[In 2005], Bilfinger Employee 1 [a German citizen] telephoned Bilfinger Employee 3 [a German citizen], who was in the United States, and asked Bilfinger Employee 3 to meet with Tillery in Boston, MA, to find out what payments had been promised to officials and whether [a relevant contract] was at risk because those payments had not yet been made.”
  • [In 2005], Bilfinger Employee 3 flew from Houston, TX, to Boston, MA, to meet with Tillery and inquire about the outstanding corrupt payments and the [relevant contract].”

Based on the above allegations, the information charges conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and two substantive FCPA anti-bribery charges.  The two substantive charges are based on (1) a 2005 “flight from Houston, TX to Boston, MA to discuss promised bribe payments,” and (2) a 2005 “wire transfer of $2,804,496 from Houston, TX to Frankfurt, Germany in connection with the EGGS contract.”

DPA

The charges against Bilfinger were resolved via a DPA in which the company admitted, accepted, and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its officers, directors, employees, and agents as charged in the information.

The DPA has a term of three years and under the heading “relevant considerations” it states:

“The Department enters into this Agreement based on the individual facts and circumstances presented by this case and the Company.  Among the facts considered were the following:  (a) the Company’s cooperation with the Department, albeit at a late date, including interviewing relevant employees and disclosing the facts learned during those interviews to the Department, facilitating the Department’s interviews of foreign employees; (b) the Company’s remediation efforts, including terminating the employment of certain employees responsible for the corrupt payments and disciplining others, and enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls; (c) the Company’s committment to continue to enhance its compliance program and internal accounting controls …; and (d) the Company’s agreement to continue to cooperate with the Department in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of the Company and its officers, directors, employees, agents, and consultants relating to violations of the FCPA …”.

Pursuant to the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $28 million to $56 million.  The DPA states that the monetary penalty of $32 million “is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of this case, including the Company’s cooperation and remediation in this matter.”

Pursuant to the DPA, Bilfinger agreed to review its existing internal controls, policies and procedures regarding compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws.   The specifics are detailed in Attachment C to the DPA.  The DPA also requires Bilfinger to engage a corporate compliance monitor for ”a period of not less than 18 months from the date the monitor is selected.”  The specifics, including the Monitor’s reporting obligations to the DOJ, are detailed in Attachment D to the DPA.

As is common in FCPA corporate enforcement actions, the DPA contains a “muzzle clause” prohibiting Bilfinger or anyone on its behalf from “contradicting the acceptance of responsibility by the company” as set forth in the DPA.

Sidley Austin attorneys Thomas Green and Jeffrey Green represented Bilfinger.

In this press release (which the company had to consult with the DOJ before releasing) Bilfinger CEO stated:

“We are pleased that we have now been able to put these events from the distant past behind us. In recent years, Bilfinger has consistently expanded its compliance instruments and today has a modern and efficient system.”

Parker Drilling Resolves FCPA Enforcement Action Involving Conduct In Nigeria

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

It’s been quite a week on the FCPA enforcement front.

On Monday, the DOJ announced (here) criminal obstruction of justice charges against “Frederic Cilins a French citizen [for] attempting to obstruct an ongoing investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.”

Yesterday, it was reported (here) that former Siemens executive Uriel Sharef had, as expected, settled the SEC enforcement action against him by agreeing, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, to pay a $275,000 penalty.  (See here for the prior post discussing the DOJ’s and SEC’s December 2011 charges against Sharef and others).

Yesterday, the DOJ announced (here) that criminal charges “have been unsealed against one current and one former executive of the U.S. subsidiary of a French power and transportation company for their alleged participation in a scheme to pay bribes to foreign government officials.”  The individuals are:

Frederic Pierucci (“a current company executive who previously held the position of vice president of global sales for the Connecticut-based U.S. subsidiary) “who was charged in an indictment unsealed in the District of Connecticut with conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to launder money, as well as substantive charges of violating the FCPA and money laundering.”  According to the DOJ, Pierucci, a French national, was arrested Sunday night at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

David Rothschild (“a former vice president of sales for the Connecticut-based U.S. subsidiary”) who pleaded guilty on Nov. 2, 2012, to a criminal information charging one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.  The charges against Rothschild and his guilty plea were recently unsealed.

Future posts will explore in more detail each of the above developments.

Today’s post is about yesterday’s other FCPA development - the announcement of the long-expected enforcement action against Parker Drilling (a Houston-based oil drilling services company) for conduct in Nigeria.

As indicated in this DOJ release, the Parker Drilling action “stemmed from the DOJ’s Panalpina-related investigations.”

As detailed in this prior post, in November 2010, the DOJ and SEC announced coordinated FCPA enforcement actions against Swiss-based freight forwarder Panalpina and six oil and gas companies that utilized its services in connection with business in Nigeria.  The November 2010 enforcement action resulted in approximately $237 million in combined DOJ/SEC settlement amounts.  (For additional reading on these actions, please visit the CustomsGate tab under the search feature of this site or see here where all the prior actions are linked).  As noted in this prior statistical post, Panalpina-related enforcement actions are one, of just a few unique events, that have given rise to the majority of FCPA enforcements since 2007, and Panalpina-related enforcement actions significantly contributed to the “spike” in FCPA enforcement actions in 2010.

Total fines and penalties in the Parker Drilling enforcement action were approximately $15.9 million (approximately $11.8 million in the DOJ enforcement action and approximately $4.1 million in the SEC enforcement action).

This post summarizes the DOJ’s and SEC’s allegations and resolution documents.

DOJ

The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against Parker Drilling resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here)

Criminal Information

Parker Drilling operated oil-drilling rigs in Nigeria owned by Parker Drilling (Nigeria Limited), a Nigerian entity and wholly-owned subsidiary of Parker Drilling Offshore International, Inc., (a Cayman Islands corporation wholly-owned by Parker Drilling).  According to the information, “Parker Drilling ceased drilling operations in Nigeria in 2006″ and the conduct at issues focused on two issues or events that occurred between 8 to 12 years ago.

First, the information, like the prior Panalpina-related enforcement actions, alleged conduct in connection with obtaining temporary importation permits (TIPs) in Nigeria for oil-drilling rigs.  The information alleges that in 2001, Parker Drilling retained Panalpina to “obtain TIPs and TIP extensions on Parker Drilling’s behalf.  According to the information, between 2001 and 2002:

“Panalpina obtained new TIPs for Parker Drilling’s rigs by submitting false paperwork on Parker Drilling’s behalf to avoid the time, cost, and risk associated with exporting the rigs and re-importing them into Nigerian waters (a process that Panalpina referred to as the ‘paper process’ or ‘recycling.’).  Panalpina created and caused to be presented to Nigerian officials documents that reflected that the rigs had been physically exported and re-imported.  In reality, the drilling rigs never left Nigerian waters.”

Second, and more significant in terms of the conduct alleged in the information, the DOJ alleges conduct in relation to the Nigerian ”Panel of Inquiry for the Investigation of All Cases of Temporary Import Permits Issued Between 1984 to Year 2000″ (the “TI Panel”).  According to the information, the TI Panel was “presidentially appointed, operated under the auspices of the Nigerian President’s Office, and possessed the power to issue subpoenas and levy fines” in connection with certain duties and tariffs that the Nigerian Customs Service (“NCS”) collected or failed to collect between 1984 and 2000.

As to the TI Panel, the information alleges that beginning in 2002 the TI Panel began reviewing Parker Drilling.  According to the information, thereafter Parker Drilling engaged Nigeria Outside Counsel (a Nigerian citizen based in Nigeria who advised Parker Drilling on customs and other matters in Nigeria) and a Nigeria Agent (a Nigerian and British citizen based in the U.K. to assist Parker Drilling in connection with customs matters in Nigeria) who represented Parker Drilling before the TI Panel.

The information alleges that in 2004 “the TI Panel concluded that Parker Drilling had violated [Nigerian law] with respect to several of its TIPS” and that the “TI Panel assessed a fine of $3.8 million against Parker Drilling.”  The information then outlines a “bribery scheme,” that resulted in the TI Panel reducing Parking Drilling’s fine ”to just $750,000.”

In connection with this ”bribery scheme,” the information alleges conduct as to Employee A (a U.S. citizen based in Nigeria who, during the relevant time period, was the General Manager of Parker Drilling’s operations in Nigeria); Employee B (a U.S. citizen based in Nigeria who also was a General Manager of Parker Drilling’s Operations in Nigeria); Executive A (a U.S. citizen based in Houston who performed financial and compliance functions for Parker Drilling between 2002 through 2005); Executive B (a U.S. citizen based in Houston who performed a legal function for Parker Drilling); U.S. Outside Counsel (a U.S. citizen and partner in a U.S. law firm who served as Parker Drilling’s outside counsel who provided legal and business advice to Parker Drilling on customs and other issues in Nigeria).

Specifically, the information alleges that U.S Outside Counsel suggested that Parker Drilling retain the Nigeria Agent to resolve its Nigerian customs issues even though Nigeria Agent’s “resume, which U.S. Outside Counsel provided to Parker Drilling, did not reflect any past experience in Nigeria or handling customs issues.”  According to the information, Parker Drilling “conducted no additional due diligence into Nigeria Agent’s qualifications.”

The information alleges that “with one exception, Parking Drilling paid Nigeria agent indirectly through the U.S.-based law firm” and that “Executives A and B paid and caused to be paid all of Nigeria Agent’s expenses without receiving any invoices particularly describing the expenditures’ purposes.”   According to the information, many of expenses related to food, entertainment, social events and the like and the information alleges various meetings the Nigeria Agent had with various Nigerian foreign officials.

The information further alleges that Parker Drilling’s treasurer informed Executive B “that the lack of invoices could raise an issue in Parker Drilling’s ongoing Sarbanes Oxley audit.”  Thereafter, the information alleges, the Nigeria Agent sent an invoice and that Executive B “accepted the invoice and retained it in Parker Drilling’s files, knowing that the invoice did not accurately reflect the true purpose of Parker’s Drillings” prior payments to the Nigeria Agent.

The information then states as follows.  “All told, Parker Drilling transferred and caused to be transferred to Nigeria Agent approximately $1.25 million to address Parker Drilling’s TI Panel issues” and that “Nigeria Agent succeeded in reducing Parker Drilling’s TI Panel Fines.”

Based on the above conduct, the information charges one count of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  Although the above Panalpina-related allegations are incorporated by reference into the paragraphs charging the FCPA violation, the information specifically identifies only the TI Panel conduct and states as follows.  “Parker Drilling made and cause to be made from the United States … a series of payments totaling approximately $1.25 million to Nigeria Agent, knowing that all or a portion of those payments would be given or used to procure goods and services that were to be given to a foreign government official in return for the diminution of a lawfully assessed fine.”

Deferred Prosecution Agreement

The above charge against Parker Drilling was resolved via a DPA in which Parker Drilling admitted, accepted, and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its officers, directors, employees and agents as charged in the information.

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

“The Department enters into this Agreement based on the individual facts and circumstances presented by this case and the Company.  Among the facts considered were the following:  (a) the Company’s cooperation, including conducting an extensive internal investigation and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Department; (b) the Company has engaged in extensive remediation, including ending its business relationships with officers, employees or agents primarily responsible for the corrupt payments, enhancing its due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, increasing training and testing requirements, and instituting heightened review of proposals and other transactional documents for all the Company’s contracts; (c) the Company has retained a full-time Chief Compliance Officer and Counsel who reports to the Chief Executive Officer and Audit Committee, as well as staff to assist the Chief Compliance Officer and Counsel; (d) the Company has already significantly enhanced and is committed to continue to enhance its compliance program and internal controls, including ensuring that its compliance program satisfies the minimum elements set forth [elsewhere in the DPA]; (e) the Company has implemented a compliance-awareness improvement initiative and program that includes issuance of periodic anti-bribery compliance alerts; (f) the Company has already implemented many of the elements described [elsewhere in the DPA]; and (g) the Company has agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department in any ongoing investigation …”.

Pursuant to the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $14.7 million to $29.4 million.  The DPA then states as follows.

“The Company agrees to pay a monetary penalty in the amount of $11,760,000, an approximately 20% reduction off the bottom of the fine range [...].  The Company and the Department agree that this fine is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of this case, including the Company’s cooperation, extensive remediation, committment to continue to enhance its compliance program, and culpability relative to other companies examined in this investigation.”

During the period of the DPA, Parker Drilling will have annual reporting obligations to the DOJ concerning its remediation and implementation of various compliance measures.  As is typical in FCPA DPAs, Parker Drilling also agreed to a ”muzzle clause” (see this prior post for more information).

SEC

In a related enforcement action based on the same core conduct, the SEC brought a civil complaint (here) against Parking Drilling.

The introductory paragraph of the complaint states as follows.

“This matter involves violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Defendant Parker Drilling Company.  In 2004, through its outside counsel, Parker Drilling retained a Nigerian agent to assist the company with customs disputes related to the importation of its drilling rigs into Nigeria. During the course of the agent’s work, two Parker Drilling executives knowingly paid the agent large sums of money through its outside counsel for, among other things, the “entertainment” of Nigerian foreign officials in an effort to obtain their influence in resolving the customs disputes.”

The SEC complaint also contains a paragraph with the same general Panalpina-related allegations as alleged in the DOJ’s criminal information.

Under the heading “Remedial Efforts” the complaint states as follows.

“Parker Drilling demonstrated significant cooperation and conducted an extensive internal investigation. Since the time of the conduct noted in this Complaint, Parker Drilling has made significant enhancements to its global anti-corruption compliance program, including: retaining a full-time Chief Compliance Officer and Counsel who reports to the Chief Executive Officer and Audit Committee and full-time staff to assist him; enhancing anti-corruption due diligence requirements for relationships with third parties; increasing compliance monitoring and corporate auditing specifically tailored to anti-corruption; implementing a compliance awareness initiative that includes issuance of periodic anti-bribery compliance alerts; enhancing financial controls and governance; and expanding anti-corruption training throughout the organization.”

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged an FCPA anti-bribery violation and an FCPA books and records and internal controls violation.  Other than restating the language of the books and records and internal controls provisions, the SEC complaint does not contain any specific allegations concerning these charges.

As noted in this SEC release, Parker Drilling agreed to pay disgorgement of 3,050,00 plus pre-judgment interest of $1,040,818, and consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from future FCPA violations.

Mitchell Ettinger, Saul Pilchen and Stephanie Cherny (Skadden, Arps) represented Parker Drilling.

Parker Drilling in this release stated as follows.

“After an extensive investigation, with which we fully cooperated, we are pleased to have reached agreement with the DOJ and the SEC, and we will continue to maintain a vigorous FCPA compliance program, to emphasize the importance of compliance and ethical business conduct, and to enhance our compliance efforts.”

Parker Drilling had previously disclosed that the DOJ and SEC’s investigations concerned “certain of our operations relating to countries in which we currently operate or formerly operated, including Kazakhstan and Nigeria.”