Archive for the ‘Qatar’ Category

Potpourri

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Retail Industry Sweep

This previous post discussed the Wal-Mart effect, how Wal-Mart is clearly not the only company subject to the FCPA that needs licenses, permits and the like when doing business in Mexico, and that it is likely that Wal-Mart’s potential FCPA exposure has caused sleepless nights for many company executives doing business in Mexico and the general region.

Sure enough.

Aruna Viswanatha reports in this Reuters story that “retailers have been reviewing their international operations in light of a bribery scandal at Wal-Mart’s operations in Mexico that is the subject of investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.”  According to the story, “other retail companies have also since reported to U.S. agencies suspicions of their own potential violations, which in turn has the Justice Department and SEC considering a sweep of the entire industry.”  For more on industry sweeps, see this previous post.

Barclays Dealings With Sovereign-Wealth Funds Scrutinized

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday (here) that Barclays PLC’s “chief financial officer is under investigation by British authorities related to the bank’s 2008 fundraising activities with Middle Eastern investors.”  According to the story, the “probe is focused at least in part on how Barclays wooed Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund to pump billions of pounds into the bank as the financial crisis intensified.”  According to this Wall Street Journal article, Barclays previously disclosed “£240 million of payments made to Qatar Holding and Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan related to its £7.3 billion capital raise in 2008.”

Barclays has ADRs traded on the New York Stock Exchange and, according to the article, the SEC “is aware of the probe” and will be updated on its progress.  As the article notes, the SEC is currently conducting an expansive investigation of various financial institutions concerning relationships with sovereign-wealth funds.

Halliburton’s Latest Disclosure

Halliburton previously disclosed potential FCPA issues concerning the use of an Angolan vendor.  Last week in this quarterly report, the company provided an update on that investigation as well as new investigations concerning additional conduct in Angola as well as Iraq.  The disclosure states as follows.

“We are conducting internal investigations of certain areas of our operations in Angola and Iraq, focusing on compliance with certain company policies, including our Code of Business Conduct (COBC), and the FCPA and other applicable laws. In December 2010, we received an anonymous e-mail alleging that certain current and former personnel violated our COBC and the FCPA, principally through the use of an Angolan vendor. The e-mail also alleges conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and the failure to act on alleged violations of our COBC and the FCPA. We contacted the DOJ to advise them that we were initiating an internal investigation. Since the third quarter of 2011, we have been participating in meetings with the DOJ and the SEC to brief them on the status of our investigation and have been producing documents to them both voluntarily and as a result of SEC subpoenas to the company and certain of our current and former officers and employees. During the second quarter of 2012, in connection with a meeting with the DOJ and the SEC regarding the above investigation, we advised the DOJ and the SEC that we were initiating unrelated, internal investigations into payments made to a third-party agent relating to certain customs matters in Angola and to third-party agents relating to certain customs and visa matters in Iraq. We expect to continue to have discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding the Angola and Iraq matters described above and have indicated that we would further update them as our investigations progress. We have engaged outside counsel and independent forensic accountants to assist us with the investigations. We intend to continue to cooperate with the DOJ’s and the SEC’s inquiries and requests in these investigations. Because these investigations are ongoing, we cannot predict their outcome or the consequences thereof.”

In 2009, Halliburton and related entities settled DOJ and SEC FCPA enforcement actions concerning Bonny Island, Nigeria conduct by agreeing to pay $579 million in combined fines and penalties.  See here and here.  Pursuant to the SEC settlement, Halliburton is permanently enjoined from violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

W.W. Grainger Updates Its Disclosure

This previous post discussed W.W. Grainger’s February disclosure concerning an investigation that sales employees of a China subsidiary may have provided prepaid gift cards to certain customers.  As noted by Chris Matthews in this recent Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents post, the company in a recent SEC filing stated as follows.

“The results of the investigation, which have been submitted to the DOJ and the SEC, did not substantiate initial information suggesting significant use of gift cards for improper purposes. The Company cannot predict at this time whether any regulatory action may be taken or any other potential consequences may result from this matter.”

The Corruption Currents post contains a quote from Grainger spokeswoman as follows.  “We conducted a very thorough investigation, and based on our findings we do not believe this is a material issue.  We have submitted our findings to the DOJ and the SEC and we are in conversations with them regarding the conclusion of this matter.”

Contrary to the Corruption Currents headline “W.W. Grainger’s FCPA Probe Finds No Wrongdoing” the disclosure is qualified by the term “significant” use of gift cards for improper purposes and the quote from the company representative is qualified by the term “material” issue.  Very few FCPA issues in multinational companies rise to the level of quantitative materiality – even if the SEC takes the view that all payments in violation of the FCPA are qualitatively material.

As noted in this previous post concerning Congressional interest in DOJ FCPA declination decisions, the DOJ has stated that it “has declined to prosecute corporate entities in several cases based on particular facts and circumstances presented in those matters” including the following:  “a single employee, and no other employee, was involved in the provision of improper payments; and the improper payments involved minimal funds compared to the overall business revenues.”

Closing Out The 70′s

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding "old" FCPA enforcement actions]

Previous posts (here and here) detailed FCPA enforcement actions from the 1970′s against:  (i) Page Airways, Inc. (and six officers and/or directors of the company); and (ii) Kenny International Corporation and Finbar Kenny (Chairman of the Board, President and majority shareholder of Kenny International).

The 1970′s also witnessed:  (i) a SEC civil complaint against Katy Industries, Inc. and its executives Wallace Carroll and Melvan Jones; and (ii) a DOJ civil complaint against Roy Carver and R. Eugene Holley; and (iii) a SEC civil complaint against International Systems & Controls Corporation and its executives J. Thomas Kenneally, Herman Frietsch, Raymond Hofker, Albert Angulo and Harlan Stein.

These enforcement actions are summarized below.

Katy Industries, Wallace Carroll and Melvan Jacobs

In August 1978, the SEC alleged in a civil complaint for permanent injunction that Katy Industries, Inc. (“Katy”), Wallace Carroll (Chairman of the Board and CEO of Katy) and Melvan Jacobs (Director and Member of Katy’s Executive Committee and also an attorney who acted as counsel to Katy as to the conduct at issue)  ”have engaged, are engaged and are about to engage in acts and practices” which constitute violations of various securities law provisions including the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

According to the SEC complaint, Katy was interested in obtaining an oil exploration concession in Indonesia and retained a consultant who was a “close personal friend of a high level Indonesian government official.”  The complaint alleges that Katy representatives and the consultant met with the official and his representative and during the meeting “the official agreed to assist Katy in obtaining an oil production sharing contract.”  Katy agreed to compensate the consultant if it received the contract and the SEC alleged that Katy representatives were “told that the consultant would give a portion of such compensation to the official and the official’s representative.”  According to the SEC, Katy entered into various agreements with the consultant and the official’s representative and thereafter “Katy entered into a thirty year Production Sharing Contract with Pertamina, the Indonesian Government-owned oil and gas enterprise.”  The SEC alleged that “Katy, Carroll and Jacobs knew or had reason to know that the official and the official’s representative would directly or indirectly share in the payments to the consultant for the duration of the thirty year Contract.”  In addition, the SEC alleged that Katy’s books and records did not reflect the true nature and purpose of the payments and that a “substantial portion” of the money paid by Katy to the consultant and the official’s representative “was expected by Katy to be given by the recipient to the official.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Katy, Carroll and Jacobs consented to entry of final judgment of permanent injunction prohibiting future violations.  Katy also agreed to establish a Special Committee of its Board “to review the matters alleged in the complaint and to conduct such further investigation as it deems appropriate into these and other similar matters” and to file the Special Committee’s findings publicly with the SEC.

See here for original source documents.

Roy Carver and R. Eugene Holley

In April 1979, the DOJ alleged in a civil complaint for permanent injunction that Roy Carver (Chairman of the Board and President of Holcar Oil Corporation) and R. Eugene Holley (Vice President of Holcar Oil Corporation) ”have engaged, are engaged and are about to engage in acts and practices which constitute violations” of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  The complaint alleges that on a trip to Doha, Qatar, Carver and Holley learned of “the possibility of engaging in the business of petroleum exploration in that country” if a “substantial payment of money were to be made to Ali Jaidah [an official of the government of Qatar – specifically the Director of Petroleum Affairs) for his official approval of a concession agreement.”

According to the complaint, the defendants agreed to proceed with the project by forming Holcar in the Cayman Islands “as a vehicle for the purpose of exploiting the concession.”  The complaint alleges that the defendants further agreed “that an appropriate payment would be paid to Ali Jaidah to secure the necessary approval of the Government of Qatar.”  During a subsequent meeting in Doha, the complaint alleges that Carver and Holley met with Ali Jaidah who requested a $1.5 million payment “into the account of his brother, Kasim Jaidah, at the Swiss Credit Bank of Geneva, Switzerland.”  The complaint alleges that the defendants made the payment “knowing or having reason to know that all or a portion of such funds would be transferred to Ali Jaidah.”  According to the complaint, thereafter, “as a result of the cooperation, influence and approval of Ali Jaidah, the government of Qatar entered into an oil drilling concession agreement with Holcar.”  In addition, the complaint alleges that the defendants were willing to make additional payments to a new Director of Petroleum Affairs (Abdullah Sallat) when Holcar’s original concession agreement was under threat of termination given the company’s financing difficulties.  However, the complaint asserts that “neither Director Sallat nor any other official of the government of Qatar has directly or indirectly received or solicited or been offered any payment in connection with renewal of Holcar’s oil concession.”  Based on the above conduct, the DOJ charged that defendants “violated and may continue to violate” the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

Both Carver and Holley consented to the entry of a final judgment of permanent injunction enjoining future FCPA violations.  See here for original source documents.

International Systems & Controls Corp., J. Thomas Kenneally, Herman Frietsch, Raymond Hofker, Albert Angulo and Harlan Stein

In July 1979, the SEC filed a complaint against International Systems & Controls Corporation (“ISC”) and J. Thomas Kenneally (a director of ISC and its fomer CEO and Chairman of the Board), Herman Frietsch (Senior Vice President), Raymond Hofker (former General Counsel), Albert Angulo (former Treasurer) and Harlan Stein (Chief Engineer).  The complaint alleged, among other things, that ISC ”paid more than $23 million through one or more subsidiaries to certain foreign persons and entities in order to assist the company in securing certain contracts.”  The complaint alleged that “in furtherance of this scheme, ISC disguised such payments on its books and records as consulting fees, consulting services, agent’s fees and commissions.”  The complaint also alleged that “ISC violated the internal accounting controls provisions by failing to devise an adequate system of internal controls because it failed to require vouchers, expense statements, or similar documentation for the activities or services for which certain expenditures were made.”

According to various media reports, the payments at issue were made to government officials and members of ruling families in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Chile and Iraq in connection with contracts for engineering and construction projects.

The SEC’s complaint charged violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, as well as antifraud, proxy, and reporting violations.  In December 1979, ISC, Kenneally and Frietsch, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations,  consented to the entry of a final order enjoining future violations.   In addition, the final order directed ISC to, among other things, ”appoint a special agent … who shall investigate and report on certain specific transactions.”  Furthermore,  Kenneally and Frietsch (for periods of four and two years respectively) agreed to be employed as an officer or director of an issuer only if that company “has a committee with duties and functions to those required of the ISC Audit Committee” as required by the consent degree.

See here for original source documents plus this packet of materials sent to me by a loyal reader.

*****

What are the take-away points from FCPA enforcement in the 1970′s?  Clearly, the enforcement agencies were getting their feet wet enforcing an infant statute and, in many of the enforcement actions, the agencies were confronted with conduct that actually pre-dated enactment of the FCPA in December 1977.  Thus, little can – or should be - taken away from the actual charging decisions in these early FCPA cases.

However, one meaningful take-away point is this.  While one can question how the enforcement agencies held company employees accountable (i.e. criminal v. civil charges), one can not question that the enforcement agencies did hold company employees accountable.  All five FCPA enforcement actions from the 1970′s involved company employees – a figure that stands in stark contrast to 2010 FCPA enforcement in which approximately 70% of corporate FCPA enforcement actions have not resulted (at least yet) in any DOJ charges against company employees.  See here for the prior post.

Carson "Foreign Official" Challenge Fully Briefed

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Yesterday various defendants in the U.S. v. Carson case pending in the Central District of California filed a reply brief (see here).

The brief begins as follows.

“In 1977, Congress could have enacted a general anti-bribery statute that made it a crime to pay a commercial bribe to any foreign national, but it did not. Rather, the FCPA criminalizes improper payments only to a “foreign official.” Thus, making an improper payment to a “foreign official” violates the FCPA; making that same payment to someone who is not a “foreign official” does not. This is undisputed.”

“The Government argues that “[s]tate-owned business enterprises [‘SOEs’] may, in appropriate circumstances, be considered instrumentalities of a foreign government and their officers and employees to be foreign officials.” But Congress (i) knew about SOEs when it enacted the FCPA, (ii) knew that some of the questionable payments in the pre-FCPA era may have been made to employees of SOEs, and (iii) knew how to include SOEs in the definition of “foreign official” if it had wanted to do so. Clearly, Congress did not do so, and contrary to the Government’s arguments, there is no evidence that Congress intended SOEs to be covered by this criminal statute, or intended the word “instrumentality” to encompass broadly anything through which a foreign government achieves an “end or purpose.” In fact, the plain language of the statute and its history illustrate that the FCPA was aimed at preventing improper payments to traditional government officials. If Congress had wanted SOEs to be included in the definition of “instrumentality,” it would have expressly said so – just as it did in 1976 when it enacted the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”).”

“Having no statutory authority for its sweeping position, the Government is thus unable to define the “appropriate circumstances” when an SOE allegedly falls within the FCPA. The Government states only that it is a “fact-based determination.” But facts in isolation are irrelevant unless analyzed in the context of a legal framework. And for over two hundred years it has been “emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department” – not the jury – “to say what the law is.” Marbury v Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803). Thus, while a jury may decide disputed issues of fact, this Court must first decide the law.”

“Defendants’ Motion squarely challenges the Government’s unsupported legal
interpretation of the FCPA by arguing that the term “instrumentality” simply does not include SOEs, and thus employees of SOEs are not, as a matter of law, “foreign officials.” The Government labels Defendants’ position as extreme, insisting that it “is not asking for a legal conclusion that all SOEs are instrumentalities,” only for a ruling that “the term instrumentality . . . can include SOEs.” But it is the Government’s position that is unreasonable, because the Government cannot articulate any principled test – and there is no test, other than one invented from whole cloth – for what would make one SOE, but not another, a government “instrumentality” under the FCPA. Accordingly, the Government’s concession, that some SOEs fall within and some outside the statute, coupled with the complete lack of any meaningful or discernable standards for deciding which is which, undermines the Government’s position and requires that it be rejected because it would render the FCPA unconstitutionally vague as applied.”

“Accordingly, the Court should hold that employees of SOEs are not “foreign
officials” under the FCPA and should dismiss Counts One through Ten of the
Indictment. Contrary to the Government’s overblown rhetoric, the sky will not fall upon such a ruling; rather, the issue will be returned to its proper forum: Congress. See Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 2896, 2933 (2010) (“If Congress desires to go further . . . it must speak more clearly than it has.”).”

This previous post links to the Defendants’ motion and my declaration filed in support. This previous post links to the DOJ’s opposition brief as well as supporting declarations from the State Department and the FBI.

The Carson defendants also moved (see here) to strike the State Department declaration or in the alternative for a court order requiring the State Department employee to appear for questioning at next week’s hearing). As noted in this prior post, the same State Department declaration was ordered stricken in the Lindsey “foreign official” challenge and is also being challenged in the O’Shea “foreign official” challenge – see here.

*****

In a related development, last week the DOJ announced (here) that “Flavio Ricotti, a former executive of [Control Components, Inc. - the same employer as the above referenced defendants challenging the DOJ's "foreign official" interpretation] has pleaded guilty for his participation in a conspiracy to secure contracts by paying bribes to officials of foreign state-owned companies as well as officers and employees of foreign and domestic private companies.” See here for the plea agreement.

As noted in the DOJ release, “Ricotti pleaded guilty [...] to a one-count superseding information [see here] charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials, and officers and employees of private companies in several countries, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Travel Act.”

The DOJ release further states as follows. “In connection with his guilty plea, Ricotti admitted that he conspired with other CCI employees to offer a payment to an official of Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company, in connection with attempting to obtain a valve contract for CCI in 2003. Ricotti also admitted to conspiring with other CCI employees to make a payment to an employee of a private company so that the employee would assist in awarding to CCI a valve contract in Qatar.”

As further noted in the DOJ release:

“In related cases, two defendants previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe officers and employees of foreign state-owned companies on behalf of CCI. On Jan. 8, 2009, Mario Covino, the former director of worldwide factory sales for the valve company, pleaded guilty [see here] to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and admitted to causing the payment of approximately $1 million in bribes to officers and employees of several foreign state-owned companies. On Feb. 3, 2009, Richard Morlok, the former finance director for the valve company, pleaded guilty [see here] to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and admitted to causing the payment of approximately $628,000 in bribes to officers and employees of several foreign state-owned companies. Covino and Morlok are scheduled to be sentenced in February 2012.”

See here for July 2009 enforcement action against Control Components, Inc.