Archive for the ‘Private Right of Action’ Category

A Wide-Ranging Interview

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The FCPA Report is an online publication that contains articles on a variety of FCPA topics to assist lawyers in relevant practice areas, in-house counsel,  and risk and compliance managers stay ahead of the curve.  It launched this June and features thematic sourced and researched by primarily lawyers, as well as contributed articles by experts in the field, interviews with leading figures, and reports on important developments. It is available to subscribers and trial subscribers at www.fcpareport.com.

I was pleased to do a telephone interview with the FCPA Report in mid-August.  Today’s post sends you to the wide-ranging Q&A previously published, in two parts, in the FCPA Report and linked to here with permission.

Topics covered in the Q&A include the following:  statute of limitations, judicial scrutiny, the duration of FCPA scrutiny, voluntary disclosure, Wal-Mart’s FCPA scrutiny, facilitation payments, obtain or retain business, foreign official, corporate fines, victims issues, a private right of action, FCPA Inc. and the revolving door, the three buckets of FCPA financial exposure and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act reform.

Where Should The Money Go?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

It is a thorny question with no easy answer.  Where should the money go when a company resolves an FCPA enforcement action?  It was addressed last year in connection with the Alcatel-Lucent enforcement action.  (See here, and here for prior posts).  Two recent events raise the issue again.

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Earlier this month, it was announced (here) that the U.K. “Serious Fraud Office, the Government of Tanzania, BAE Systems and the Department for International Development (DFID) … signed a Memorandum of Understanding enabling the payment of £29.5 million [$47 million USD] plus accrued interest to be paid by BAE Systems for educational projects in Tanzania.”  As noted in the release, “textbooks will be purchased for all 16,000 primary schools in the country and as a result 8.3 million children will benefit” in subjects such as Kiswahli, English, Maths and Science.  The release further notes that funds will also be used to ”provide all 175,000 primary school teachers with teachers’ guides, syllabi and syllabi guides to help improve their teaching skills” as well as the purchase of desks.  In the release, SFO Director Richard Alderman stated as follows.  “This agreement is a first for the SFO which piloted it through the UK legal system. It provides a satisfactory outcome for all concerned but most of all for the Tanzanian people and I am personally delighted that SFO staff were able to achieve this.”

In this release, BAE stated as follows.  “We are glad to finally be able to make the payment to the Government of Tanzania and bring this matter to a close. We are grateful to DFID for their work in agreeing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Tanzania.”  The BAE release states that the “payment follows the settlement agreed between BAE Systems and the SFO.”  For a prior post on the settlement, see here.

To be sure, BAE’s payment to Tanzania, and the role of the SFO in brokering the payment, feels good.  What is not to like about children receiving textbooks?

However, the feel good nature of this most recent BAE development should not mask the significant problems with the BAE enforcement action (on both sides of the Atlantic).  As noted in this prior post, even the U.K. judge who accepted the SFO-BAE plea agreement called it “loosely and hastily drafted” and said the fine he levied reflected that he couldn’t “sentence for an offense which the prosecution failed to charge.”

And let’s not forgot how this story began.  In 2004, the SFO began investigating whether BAE made bribe payments to secure Saudi fighter jet contracts. However, in late 2006, the SFO was forced to halt its investigation under pressure from the U.K. government, which cited national security concerns should the investigation go forward.  However, because BAE also allegedly made bribe payments in numerous other countries to secure business, the SFO, under a new Director, revived its  investigation of BAE, at least as to non-Saudi issues, including whether the  company paid bribes to secure contracts in various European and African countries. After settlement talks stalled – the conventional wisdom is that BAE was unwilling to plead guilty to bribery related offenses given the collateral effect of the mandatory European Union debarment provisions – the SFO pressed ahead with the case.  In late January 2010, the SFO issued a release (here) stating that Count Mensdorff, a former BAE agent, was criminally charged with “conspiracy to corrupt” and for “conspiring with others to give or agree to give corrupt payments […] to officials and other agents of certain Eastern and Central European governments, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured, contracts from those governments for the supply of goods to them, namely SAAB/Gripen fighter jets, by BAE Systems Plc.” Then, in early February 2010, the SFO announced (here) its long-awaited resolution of the BAE matter. Despite allegations of wide-spread bribery on a global scale, and despite BAE’s agent being criminally indicted a few days earlier in connection with bribe payments in “certain Eastern and Central European countries” (presumably on evidence that such payments did indeed occur), the SFO resolution related solely to the company’s failure “to keep reasonable and accurate accounting records in relation to its activities in Tanzania.”  Most dramatic, and in a strange turn of events, the SFO announced that it had withdrawn the criminal charges filed days earlier against Count Mensdorff. The same release also noted that “[t]his decision brings to an end the SFO’s investigations into BAE’s defense contracts.”  For more on “BAE – Inside the SFO”, see this prior post.

In any event, at least some children in Tanzania received some textbooks from BAE as a result.

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As previously highlighted on the FCPA Blog (here), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (“SERAP”) (a non-governmental civil society organization in Nigeria) recently wrote a letter (here) to SEC Enforcement Division Director Robert Khuzami (with a copy to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Deputy Chief, Fraud Section Charles Duross)  regarding “FCPA civil penalty and disgorgement proceeds that companies agree to pay to resolve US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations.”  As the letter notes, “currently such proceeds, once paid, are retained by the U.S. government.”

In summary, the SERAP letter requests “that the Enforcement Division establish a case-by-case policy or process that would enable foreign governmental entities that have been victims of corruptly-procured contracts to apply for, subject to appropriate anti-corruption safeguards, some or all of the civil penalty and disgorgement proceeds that would eventually be paid by companies alleged to have violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”  SERAP also suggests that “civil society groups in the home country, or U.S. non-profit organizations serving that country, be eligible within a short time-period to apply for such proceeds as well, or instead, for use for ‘public benefits projects’ in the affected foreign country, again subject to anti-corruption safeguards.”

The SERAP letter notes, among other things, as follows.  “… Many citizens in a country where such bribery has occurred might consider FCPA civil penalties and disgorgement payments imposed by the US, and then kept by the US, as in fact representing funds that rightfully ‘belong’ to the victim.”

Stating that “corruptly procured contracts ‘cost’ the victim at least 10 percent extra” the SERAP letter says that “this figure ought to be a presumed measure of possible funds available for third-party application in the context of a civil FCPA settlement, particularly since the Enforcement Division typically settles an investigation before extensive evidence of damages, as opposed to liability, is placed in the public realm.”

The specific SERAP proposal is as follows.  “…[A]fter, and ony after, public notice of an FCPA settlement agreement, the victim foreign government entity and any applicant NGO would have 60 days to file a request that the Enforcement Division pay some or all of the agreed payment proceeds to or for the benefit of the victim government entity or to a home country-based or US based NGO that would present a proposal [to] spend the proceeds for public purposes (e.g. on public health programs) in the country of the victim entity.  Thereafter, the Enforcement Division would have 60 days to act upon the request, favorably or not in its discretion; in this context the Enforcement Division should provide a brief statement of its reasons for its decisions.  In reaching its decisions the Enforcement Division would have the inherent authority to consult with Executive Branch agencies of the US government.

The SERAP letter raises some interesting issues regarding alleged victims of FCPA enforcement actions.  The SERAP letter also raises some interesting questions, including the following.

If the SEC would be required to relinquish a certain portion of money recovered in an FCPA enforcement action, what impact would this have on FCPA enforcement?  Would the SEC be less aggressive in bringing enforcement actions or perhaps more aggressive because more enforcement actions would be needed to sustain the current FCPA ”revenue stream”?  For instance, 10% of SEC FCPA “revenue” in 2011 was approximately $15 million, in 2010 approximately $53 million.

The SERAP proposal appears to assume that all FCPA enforcement actions involve foreign government procurement.  This is not the case.  Approximately 50% of recent  FCPA enforcement actions (i.e. in the past five years) do not involve foreign government procurement, but rather issues relating to foreign taxes, customs duties, or foreign licenses, permits, certifications and the like.  Is the victim analysis the same in these FCPA enforcement actions compared to foreign government procurement enforcement actions?

Are individuals or organizations located in the country giving rise to the FCPA enforcement action really the most direct victims of the conduct at issue?  In the procurement context, what about a competitor who may have lost out on the foreign business because it was unwilling to make an improper payment?  With victim issues attracting new attention, should an FCPA private right of action receive new attention?

Last, but certainly not least, companies settling SEC FCPA enforcement actions are allowed to settle without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations.  Even the SEC itself has stated that this settlement device often leads to settlements that ”do not necessarily reflect the triumph of one party’s position over the other.”  Given this dynamic, would SERAP’s proposal lead to undeserved “windfalls” for civil society organizations?  [In this prior post, I asked the same question as to Dodd-Frank Act whistleblowers.]

FCPA Reform Bill Introduced (But Not That One)

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Those that have been following the FCPA reform debate over the past year have been anxiously awaiting introduction of an actual bill in Congress.  Yesterday, Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced a reform bill, but not that one.

The bill Perlmutter introduced (see here) is H.R. 3531, the “Foreign Business Bribery Prohibition Act of 2011.”  As noted in this previous post, this development has been anticipated for some time and H.R. 3531 is substantively similar to H.R. 2152 that Perlmutter previously introduced in April 2009. See here and here for prior posts.

As drafted, H.R. 3531 would “authorize certain private rights of action under the [FCPA] for violations by foreign concerns that damage domestic business.”  However, the bill would have limited application as it seeks to amend only the 78dd-3 prong of the FCPA.  This prong of the FCPA is applicable to conduct by “persons other than issuers or domestic concerns” and has the most narrow jurisdictional scope – particularly after Judge Richard Leon’s ruling in the Africa Sting case (see here for the prior post).

H.R. 3531 provides as follows.  Any “foreign concern” (defined to mean a person other than an “issuer” or a “domestic concern” under the FCPA) that violates the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions “shall be liable” to any “issuer” or “domestic concern” or “other United States person” that is “damaged by the violation” of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions “for damages caused to such issuer, domestic concern, or other person by the violation.”

As to “proof of damages,” H.R. 3531 states that a plaintiff must allege and prove that “the defendant foreign concern violated” the anti-bribery provisions and that the violations “prevented the plaintiff from obtaining or retaining business for or with any person” and “assisted the foreign concern in obtaining or retaining such business.”

As to “measure of damages,” H.R. 3531 allows the “higher of the two following amounts” (1) “the total amount of the contract or agreement that the defendant gained in obtaining or retaining business by means of the violation” or (2) “the total amount of the contract or agreement that the plaintiff failed to gain because of the defendant’s obtaining or retaining business by means of the violation.”  H.R. 3531 also allows from “treble damages” “togther with a reasonable attorney’s fee and costs.”

Because a “foreign concern” (as defined in H.R. 3531) can only violate the FCPA “while in the territory of the U.S.”, Perlmutter’s bill will have limited application.  Moreover, even though the premable of the bill states that its purpose is to authorize certain private rights of action for violations by foreign concerns “that damage domestic businesses”  given that any “issuer” can be a plaintiff, the bill would also authorize numerous foreign companies with shares traded on a U.S. Exchange to bring a private cause of action against a “foreign concern.”

H.R. 3531 has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on the Judiciary.

A Discussion On The News Corp Scandal

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Every now and then it is nice to have a light writing day. Today is such a day, but that does not mean today’s post is lacking in substance. I am pleased to send you here – an extensive discussion of the FCPA (and other) implications of the News Corporation scandal on Legal Talk Network and Lawyer2Lawyer. Joining me on the program, moderated by Bob Ambrogi, was Jane Kirtley, the Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota (see here).

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In other News Corp. FCPA related news, Gateway News reported here that Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) joined the growing list on Capital Hill calling for DOJ and SEC FCPA investigations of News Corp. Readers may recall that Representative Perlmutter previously introduced a bill seeking to amend the FCPA to provide a limited private right of action. See here and here for the prior posts. According to Gateway News, Representative Perlmutter plans to soon re-introduce his private right of action bill.

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A good weekend to all.

Innospec Related News

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

In March, Innospec (a global chemical company) settled bribery enforcement actions on both sides of the Atlantic (see here).

This post discusses recent Innospec news – the SEC enforcement action against an Innospec agent (an individual who previously plead guilty to a DOJ enforcement action – see here) and a former Business Director at the company; a civil suit filed by an Innospec competitor in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Virginia; and how Innospec continues to grow its cash coffers despite receiving a pass on $50 million in fines and penalties in the March enforcement action based on inability to pay.

SEC Enforcement Action Against Turner and Naaman

Last week, the SEC added to Ousama Naaman’s legal woes charging him (see here) with civil FCPA anti-bribery violations, knowingly circumventing or knowingly falsifying books and records, and aiding and abetting Innospec’s FCPA books and records and internal control violations. According to the SEC release (see here) Naaman, Innospec’s agent in Iraq, agreed to disgorge $810,076 plus prejudgment interest of $67,030 and pay a penalty of $438,038 that will be deemed satisfied by his criminal fine. The disgorgement amount represents commissions Naaman received from Innospec “for his role in funneling bribe payments.” To my knowledge, the approximate $877,000 the SEC will recover from Naaman is the largest SEC recovery against an individual FCPA defendant.

In the same complaint, the SEC also charged David Turner, the Business Director of Innospec’s TEL Group, with the same substantive charges as Naaman. According to the complaint, Turner (a U.K. citizen who left Innospec in June 2009) “actively participated” in Innospec’s bribery and kickback schemes in Iraq and “actively participated” in Innospec’s bribery scheme in Indonesia.

According to the complaint:

“Turner was aware of the kickback scheme in connection with the Oil for Food Program. At some point in late 2002 or early 2003 Innospec’s internal auditors questioned Turner about the nature of the commission payments that were made to Naaman under the U.N. Oil for Food Program. Turner made false statements to the auditors and concealed the fact that the commission payments to Naaman included kickbacks to the Iraqi government in return for Oil for Food contracts. Turner also made false statements when he signed annual-certifications that were provided to auditors up until 2008 where Turner falsely stated that he had complied with Innospec’s Code of Ethics incorporating the company’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act policy prohibiting kickbacks and bribery, and that he was unaware of any violations of the Code of Ethics by anyone at Innospec.”

Even after the Oil for Food Program was terminated in late 2003, the complaint alleges that “Turner, along with senior officials at Innospec, directed and approved” additional bribe payments to Iraqi officials. In addition, the complaint alleges that “Turner and other Innospec officials directed and authorized payments, through Naaman, to fund lavish trips for Iraqi officials.”

As to Indonesia, the complaint alleges that “Turner, along with senior officials at Innospec, authorized and directed the payment of bribes to Indonesian government officials from at least 2000 through 2005, in order to win contracts for Innospec for the sale of TEL to state owned oil and gas companies in Indonesia.” According to the complaint, Turner and other Innospec officials and employees used various “euphemisms” in e-mail communications and in discussions to refer to the bribery scheme.

According to the complaint, Turner “obtained $40,000 in bonuses that were tied to the success of the TEL sales, which were procured through bribery.”

According to the SEC release, Turner, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, consented to entry of a final judgment requiring him to disgorge $40,000. The release states that no civil penalty will be imposed on Turner “based on, among other things, Turner’s extensive and ongoing cooperation in the investigation.”

Competitor Sues Innospec

The FCPA does not have a private right of action (although as I explored in this post it would be interesting if a court were faced with this issue today).

However, a company that settles an FCPA enforcement action increasingly faces collateral litigation, most often shareholder derivative claims. If a plaintiff does craft a direct cause of action against the company, it is usually a RICO claim.

As noted in this Richmond Times-Dispatch story, NewMarket Corp.’s civil case against Innospec does not fit the above mold, rather it alleges that Innospec’s conduct, as set forth in the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions, violated the Robinson-Patman Act and the Virginia Antitrust Act as well as the Virginia Business Conspiracy Act.

The article quotes NewMarket’s principal financial officer as saying that the company learned of Innospec’s actions after reading the documents released in connection with the March enforcement action. Among other things, the DOJ and SEC alleged that Innospec’s bribe payments in Iraq ensured that a field test of a competitor’s fuel additive failed. NewMarket claims that the competitor was a subsidiary company Ethyl Petroleum Additives Inc. which now goes by the name Afton Chemical Corp.

Innospec Continues to Be In the Money

In this prior post I highlighted how Innospec was ordered to pay $60,071,613 in disgorgement in the SEC’s enforcement action, but because of Innospec’s “sworn Statement of Financial Condition” all but $11,200,000 of that disgorgement was waived.

In other words, Innospec got a pass on approximately $50 million in March.

I then noted that Innospec’s first quarter financial results were positive and that
“as of March 31, 2010, Innospec had $67.5 million in cash and cash equivalents, $22.5million more than its total debt of $45.0 million.”

Innospec recently reported its second quarter financial results and it continues to be in the money. As noted in this company release:

“As of June 30, 2010, Innospec had $77.0 million in cash and cash equivalents, $30.0 million more than its total debt of $47.0 million.”

The company’s President and Chief Executive Officer stated that “Innospec’s second quarter operating results were very strong, with impressive double-digit increases in sales and operating income across all three business segments.”