Archive for the ‘SEC Enforcement Action’ Category

SEC Returns To “World Tour” Allegations In Administrative Action Against FLIR Systems

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

World TourAs highlighted in this prior post, in November 2014 the SEC brought an administrative FCPA enforcement action against Stephen Timms and Yasser Ramahi (individuals who worked in sales at FLIR Systems Inc., – an Oregon-based company that produces thermal imaging, night vision, and infrared cameras and sensor systems).

The conduct at issue was alleged expensive travel, entertainment, and personal items for Saudi foreign officials in order to influence the officials to obtain or retain business for FLIR with the Saudi Arabia Ministry of the Interior.

Based on the same conduct, the SEC yesterday announced this administrative action against FLIR Systems.

In summary fashion, the order states:

“This matter concerns violations of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA by FLIR. In 2009, employees of FLIR provided unlawful travel, gifts and entertainment to foreign officials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to obtain or retain business. The travel and gifts included personal travel and expensive watches provided by employees in FLIR’s Dubai office to government officials with the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Interior (the “MOI”). The extent and nature of the travel and the value of the gifts were concealed by certain FLIR employees and, as a result, were falsely recorded in FLIR’s books and records. FLIR lacked sufficient internal controls to detect and prevent the improper travel and gifts. Also, from 2008 through 2010, FLIR provided significant additional travel to the same MOI officials, which was booked as business expenses, but for which there is insufficient supporting documentation to confirm the business purpose. As a result of the unlawful conduct, FLIR earned over $7 million in profits from the sales to the MOI.”

Under the heading “FLIR’s Business with the Saudi Ministry of Interior” the order states:

“Stephen Timms (“Timms”) was the head of FLIR’s Middle East office in Dubai during the relevant time period, and was one of the company executives responsible for obtaining business for FLIR’s Government Systems division from the MOI. Yasser Ramahi (“Ramahi”) reported to Timms and worked in business development in Dubai.2 Both Timms and Ramahi were employees of FLIR.

In November 2008, FLIR entered into a contract with the MOI to sell binoculars using infrared technology for approximately $12.9 million. Ramahi and Timms were the primary sales employees responsible for the contract on behalf of FLIR. In the contract, FLIR agreed to conduct a “Factory Acceptance Test,” attended by MOI officials, prior to delivery of the binoculars to Saudi Arabia. The Factory Acceptance Test was a key condition to the fulfillment of the contract. FLIR anticipated that a successful delivery of the binoculars, along with the creation of a FLIR service center, would lead to an additional order in 2009 or 2010.”

Under the heading “World Tour,” the order states:

“In February 2009, Ramahi and Timms began preparing for the July 2009 Factory Acceptance Test. Ramahi and Timms then made arrangements to send MOI officials on what Timms later referred to as a “world tour” before and after the Factory Acceptance Test. Among the MOI officials for whom Ramahi and Timms provided the “world tour” were the head of the MOI’s technical committee and a senior engineer on the committee, who played a key role in the decision to award FLIR the business.”

The trip proceeded as planned, with stops in Casablanca, Paris, Dubai and Beirut. While in the Boston area, the MOI officials spent a single 5-hour day at FLIR’s Boston facility completing the equipment inspection. The agenda for their remaining seven days in Boston included just three other 1-2 hour visits to FLIR’s Boston facility, some additional meetings with FLIR personnel, at their hotel, and other leisure activities, all at FLIR’s expense. At the suggestion of Timms’ manager, a U.S.-based Vice President responsible for global sales to foreign governments, Ramahi also took the MOI on a weekend trip to New York while they were in Boston. In total, the MOI officials traveled for 20 nights on their “world tour,” with airfare and luxury hotel accommodations paid by FLIR. There was no business purpose for the stops outside of Boston.

Timms forwarded the air travel expenses for the MOI to his manager for approval, attaching a summary reflecting the full extended routing of the travel. The manager approved the travel, directing him to make the expenses appear smaller by “break[ing] it in 2 [submissions.]” Timms also forwarded the travel charges and an itinerary showing the Paris and Beirut stops, to FLIR’s finance department. FLIR’s finance department processed and paid the approved air expenses the next day. Neither Timms’ manager nor anyone in FLIR’s finance department questioned the itinerary or the travel expense, although the itinerary reflected travel to locations other than Boston.

After receiving questions from Timms’ manager, Ramahi and Timms later claimed that the MOI’s “world tour” had been a mistake. They told the FLIR finance department that the MOI had used FLIR’s travel agent in Dubai to book their own travel and that it had been mistakenly charged to FLIR. They then used FLIR’s third-party agent to give the appearance that the MOI paid for their travel. Timms also oversaw the preparation of false and misleading documentation of the MOI travel expenses that was submitted to FLIR finance as the “corrected” travel documentation. FLIR finance then made an additional payment to the Dubai travel agency for the remaining travel costs.

Following the equipment inspection in Boston, the MOI gave its permission for FLIR to ship the binoculars. The MOI later placed an order for additional binoculars for an approximate price of $1.2 million. In total, FLIR earned revenues of over $7 million in profits in connection with its sales of binoculars to the MOI.”

Under the heading “Additional Travel,” the order states:

“From 2008 through 2010, FLIR paid approximately $40,000 for additional travel by MOI officials. For example, Ramahi took the same MOI officials who went on the “world tour” to Dubai over the New Year holiday in December 2008 and again in 2009. FLIR paid for airfare, hotel, and expensive dinners and drinks. FLIR also paid for hotels, meals and first class flights for the MOI officials to travel within Saudi Arabia to help FLIR win business with other Saudi government agencies. Although the trips were booked as business expenses, the supporting documentation is incomplete and it is not possible to determine whether all the trips in fact had a business purpose.

Moreover, in June and July of 2011, a FLIR regional sales manager accompanied nine officials from the Egyptian Ministry of Defense on travel paid for by a FLIR partner. The travel centered on a legitimate Factory Acceptance Test at FLIR’s Stockholm factory. The travel, however, also included a non-essential visit to Paris, during which the officials spent only two days on demonstration and promotion activities relating to FLIR products. In total, the government officials traveled for 14 days and most of the officials only participated in legitimate business activities on four of those days. Three officials engaged in two additional days of training in Sweden. The total travel costs were approximately $43,000. FLIR subsequently reimbursed the partner for the majority of the travel costs, based upon cursory invoices which were submitted without supporting documentation.”

Under the heading “Expensive Watches,” the order states:

“At Timms’ and Ramahi’s instruction, in February 2009, FLIR’s third-party agent purchased five watches in Riyadh, paying approximately 26,000 Saudi Riyal (about U.S. $7,000). Ramahi and Timms gave the watches to MOI officials during a mid-March 2009 trip to Saudi Arabia to discuss several business opportunities with the MOI. The MOI officials who received the watches included two of the MOI officials who subsequently went on the “world tour” travel.

Within weeks of his visit to Saudi Arabia, Timms submitted an expense report to FLIR for reimbursement of the watches. The expense report clearly identified the watches as “EXECUTIVE GIFTS: 5 WATCHES” costing $1,425 each. Shortly thereafter, Timms specified that the watches were given to MOI officials, and identified the specific officials who received the watches.

Despite these red flags, the reimbursement was approved by Timms’ manager and, based on that approval and the submitted invoices, FLIR’s finance department paid the reimbursement to Timms.

In July 2009, in connection with an unrelated review of expenses in the Dubai office, FLIR’s finance department flagged Timms’ reimbursement request for the watches. In response to their questions, Timms claimed that he had made a mistake and falsely stated that the expense report should have reflected a total of 7,000 Saudi Riyal (about $1,900) for the watches, rather than $7,000 as submitted. Ramahi also told FLIR investigators that the watches were each purchased for approximately 1,300-1,400 Saudi Riyal (approximately $377) by FLIR’s third-party agent. In September 2009, at Timms’ direction, FLIR’s agent maintained the false cover story in response to emailed questions from FLIR’s finance department. Timms and Ramahi also obtained a false invoice reflecting that the watches cost 7,000 Saudi Riyal, which Timms submitted to FLIR finance in August 2009. The false, revised invoice was processed by FLIR.”

Under the heading, “FLIR’s FCPA-Related Policies and Training and Internal Controls,” the order states:

“During the relevant time, FLIR had a code of conduct, as well as a specific anti-bribery policy, which prohibited FLIR employees from violating the FCPA. FLIR’s policies required employees to record information “accurately and honestly” in FLIR’s books and records, with “no materiality requirement or threshold for a violation.” FLIR employees, including Timms and Ramahi, received training on their obligations under the FCPA and FLIR’s policy, although the company did not ensure that all employees, including Ramahi, completed the required training.

FLIR had few internal controls over travel in its foreign sales offices at the time. Although FLIR had policies and procedures over travel for its domestic operations, there were no controls or policies in place governing the use of foreign travel agencies. Instead, FLIR foreign sales employees worked directly with FLIR’s foreign travel agencies to arrange travel for themselves and others. Sales managers, such as Timms, were solely responsible for expense approvals for their sales staff. Timms’ manager was responsible for approving travel-related expenses for all non-U.S.-based senior sales employees (such as Timms) and approving the payment of large invoices to the foreign travel agencies.

FLIR also had few controls over the giving of gifts to customers, including foreign government officials. Sales staff and managers were responsible for all expense approvals for gifts and accounts payable was not trained to flag expenses that were potentially problematic. To the contrary, the initial expense submission for the watches was labeled in large English print “EXECUTIVE GIFTS: 5 WATCHES” for a total of $7,123, and was accompanied by email confirmation that the watches were provided to 5 MOI “officers,” when it was approved by Timms’ manager and processed and paid by FLIR accounts payable department.”

Under the heading, “Remedial Efforts,” the order states:

“In November 2010, FLIR received a complaint letter from FLIR’s thirdparty agent, and began an investigation that lead to the discovery of the improper watches and travel. FLIR subsequently self-reported the conduct to the Commission and cooperated with the Commission’s investigation.

Subsequent to the conduct described herein, FLIR undertook significant remedial efforts including personnel and vendor terminations. FLIR broadened its relevant policies and trainings and implemented a gift policy. FLIR enhanced access by its employees to its anti-bribery policy by providing translations into languages spoken in all countries in which it has offices. FLIR is in the process of enhancing its travel approval system in its foreign offices, including requiring all non-employee travel to be booked through either one large, designated travel agency or a limited number of designated regional travel agencies after receiving advance written approval from senior business personnel and the legal department. All travel agencies will be vetted through FLIR’s full FCPA due diligence framework, be subject to all of FLIR’s current FCPA training obligations, and cannot be reimbursed for travel bookings for non-employees in the absence of appropriate approvals. FLIR added additional FCPA training and procedures for its finance staff, and enhanced its third-party diligence process and contracts. FLIR also engaged outside counsel and forensic accountants to conduct a compliance review of travel and entertainment expenses in its operations outside the U.S.”

Under the heading, “Legal Standards and FCPA Violations,” the order states, in pertinent part:

“FLIR violated [the anti-bribery provisions] by corruptly providing expensive gifts of travel, entertainment, and personal items to the MOI officials to retain and obtain business for FLIR. [FLIR] also violated [the internal control provisions], by failing to devise and maintain a sufficient system of internal accounting controls to prevent the provision and approval of the watches and the travel and the falsification of FLIR’s books and records to conceal the conduct. As a result of this same conduct, FLIR failed to make and keep accurate books and records in violation of [the books and records provisions].”

As noted in the SEC’s release:

“The SEC’s order finds that FLIR violated the anti-bribery provisions of [the FCPA] and the internal controls and books-and-records provisions of [the FCPA].  FLIR self-reported the misconduct to the SEC and cooperated with the SEC’s investigation.  FLIR consented to the order without admitting or denying the findings and agreed to pay disgorgement of $7,534,000, prejudgment interest of $970,584 and a penalty of $1 million for a total of $9,504,584.”

In the release, Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated:

“FLIR’s deficient financial controls failed to identify and stop the activities of employees who served as de facto travel agents for influential foreign officials to travel around the world on the company’s dime.”

As a condition of settlement, FLIR is required to report to the SEC ”periodically, at no less than nine-month intervals during a two-year term, the status of its compliance review of its overseas operations and the status of its remediation and implementation of compliance measures.”

FLIR Systems issued this release stating:

“FLIR Systems … announced an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) resolving previously disclosed violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) committed by two former FLIR employees dating back to 2008.

FLIR discovered the FCPA violations related to approximately $40,000 in excessive travel related to factory acceptance tests and miscellaneous gifts valued at approximately $7,000. FLIR subsequently self-reported the actions to the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and then terminated the involved employees, who knowingly violated and actively circumvented the Company’s policies and financial controls. As part of its act of self-reporting, FLIR conducted a thorough investigation of its international business activities with the assistance of independent legal specialists. The settlement fully resolves all outstanding issues related to these investigations.

In announcing the settlement, the SEC recognized FLIR for self-reporting the violations.

“FLIR takes compliance very seriously and has policies and procedures in place to prevent such conduct,” said FLIR President and CEO,Andy Teich. “We self-reported the employees’ activities to the relevant authorities upon discovering them and cooperated with the government’s investigation. We have taken action to bolster our training, controls, and policies. The actions of the two former employees involved do not reflect the values of FLIR or the high standards to which we hold ourselves accountable. I am very pleased that we have fully resolved this matter and put it behind us.”

The DOJ declined to pursue any case against FLIR.”

Bruce Yannett (Debevoise & Plimpton) represented FLIR.

Yesterday, FLIR’s stock closed down approximately .9%.

Without Admitting Or Denying The SEC’s Findings, Goodyear Resolves SEC Administrative Action

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

GoodyearAs highlighted in this previous post, in February 2012 Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company disclosed as follows.

“In June 2011, an anonymous source reported, through our confidential ethics hotline, that our majority-owned joint venture in Kenya may have made certain improper payments. In July 2011, an employee of our subsidiary in Angola reported that similar improper payments may have been made in Angola. [...]  Following our internal investigation, we … voluntarily disclosed the results of our investigation to the DOJ and the SEC, and are cooperating with those agencies in their review of these matters.”

As highlighted in this previous post, in October 2014 Goodyear disclosed that it recorded a charge of $16 million in connection with the above FCPA inquiry.

Yesterday, an actual enforcement action dripped from the FCPA pipeline as the SEC announced an administrative action against Goodyear in which the company, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, agreed to pay approximately $16 million.

In summary fashion, the SEC Order states:

“This case involves violations of the books, records, and internal control provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Goodyear. Goodyear, headquartered in Akron, Ohio, is one of the world’s largest tire companies. From 2007 through 2011, Goodyear subsidiaries in Kenya (Treadsetters Tyres Ltd., or “Treadsetters”) and Angola (Trentyre Angola Lda., or “Trentyre”) routinely paid bribes to employees of government-owned entities and private companies to obtain tire sales. These same subsidiaries also paid bribes to police, tax, and other local authorities. In all, between 2007 and 2011, Goodyear subsidiaries in Kenya and Angola made over $3.2 million in illicit payments.

All of these bribery payments were falsely recorded as legitimate business expenses in the books and records of these subsidiaries which were consolidated into Goodyear’s books and records. Goodyear did not prevent or detect these improper payments because it failed to implement adequate FCPA compliance controls at its subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Under the heading “Improper Payments in Kenya,” the Order states:

“Treadsetters is a retail tire distributor in Kenya. In 2002, Goodyear acquired a minority ownership interest in Treadsetters. By 2006, Goodyear had acquired a majority ownership interest in the company, though the day-to-day operations of Treadsetters continued to be run by Treadsetters’ founders and the local general manager. During the relevant time period, Treadsetters had annual revenues of approximately $20 million.

From 2007 through 2011, Treadsetters’ management regularly authorized and paid bribes to employees of government-owned or affiliated entities, and private companies, to obtain business. The practice was routine and appears to have been in place prior to Goodyear’s acquisition of Treadsetters. The bribes generally were paid in cash and falsely recorded on Treadsetters’ books as expenses for promotional products.

Treadsetters’ general manager and finance director were at the center of the scheme. They approved payments for phony promotional products, and then directed the finance assistant to write-out the checks to cash. Treadsetters’ staff then cashed the checks and used the money to make improper payments to employees of customers, which included both government owned entities and private companies.

Between 2007 and 2011, Treadsetters paid over $1.5 million in bribes in connection with the sale of tires. This included improper payments to employees of government-owned or affiliated entities including the Kenya Ports Authority, the Armed Forces Canteen Organization, the Nzoia Sugar Company, the Kenyan Air Force, the Ministry of Roads, the Ministry of State for Defense, the East African Portland Cement Co., and Telkom Kenya Ltd. During that same time period, Treadsetters also made approximately $14,457 in improper payments to local government officials in Kenya, including city council employees, police, and building inspectors.

Goodyear did not detect or prevent these improper payments because it failed to conduct adequate due diligence when it acquired Treadsetters, and failed to implement adequate FCPA compliance training and controls after the acquisition.”

Under the heading “Improper Payments in Angola,” the Order states:

“Trentyre was incorporated in 2007, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Goodyear. Trentyre is primarily engaged in selling new tires for mining equipment. During the relevant time period, Trentyre had annual revenues between $6 million and $20 million.

From 2007 through 2011, Trentyre paid over $1.6 million in bribes to employees of government-owned or affiliated entities, and private companies, to obtain tire sales. Trentyre paid approximately $1.4 million of these bribes to employees of government-owned or affiliated entities in Angola, including the Catoca Diamond Mine, UNICARGAS, Engevia Construction and Public Works, the Electric Company of Luanda, National Service of Alfadega, and Sonangol. A majority of these improper payments were paid to employees of Trentyre’s largest customer at the time, the Catoca Diamond Mine, which is owned by a consortium of mining interests, including Endiama E.P., Angola’s national mining company, and ALROSA, a Russian mining company. During the same time period, Trentyre also made approximately $64,713 in improper payments to local government officials in Angola, including police and tax authorities.

The bribery scheme was put in place by Trentyre’s former general manager. To hide the scheme and generate funds for the improper payments, Trentyre falsely marked-up the costs of its tires by adding to its invoice price phony freight and customs clearing costs. On a monthly basis, as tires were sold, the phony freight and clearing costs were reclassified to a balance sheet account. Trentyre made improper payments to employees of customers both in cash and through wire transfers. As bribes were paid, the amounts were debited from the balance sheet account, and falsely recorded as payments to vendors for freight and clearing costs.

Goodyear did not prevent or detect these improper payments because it failed to implement adequate FCPA compliance training and controls at this subsidiary.”

Under the heading “Legal Standards and Violations,” the Order states:

“Goodyear subsidiaries in Kenya and Angola made improper payments to employees of government-owned entities and private companies to obtain business. These improper payments were falsely recorded as legitimate business expenses in the books and records of these subsidiaries which were consolidated into Goodyear’s books and records. Accordingly, Goodyear violated [the FCPA's books and records provisions]. [...] Goodyear also violated [the internal controls provisions] by failing to devise and maintain sufficient accounting controls to prevent and detect these improper payments.”

Under the heading “Goodyear’s Cooperation and Remedial Efforts,” the Order states:

“In determining to accept the Offer, the Commission considered remedial acts promptly undertaken by Respondent and cooperation afforded the Commission staff. After receiving information about the bribes, Goodyear promptly halted the improper payments and reported the matter to Commission staff. Goodyear also provided significant cooperation with the Commission’s investigation. This included voluntarily producing documents and reports and other information from the company’s internal investigation, and promptly responding to Commission staff’s requests for information and documents. These efforts assisted the Commission in efficiently collecting evidence including information that may not have been otherwise available to the staff.

Goodyear also has undertaken remedial efforts. In Kenya, Goodyear divested its ownership interest in Treadsetters, and ceased all business dealings with the company. In Angola, after Goodyear halted the improper payments its subsidiary lost its largest customer. Goodyear is now in the process of divesting this subsidiary.

Goodyear also undertook disciplinary action against certain employees, including executives of its Europe, Middle East and Africa region who had oversight responsibility, for failing to ensure adequate FCPA compliance training and controls were in place at the company’s subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Goodyear also implemented improvements to its compliance program, both specific to its operations in sub-Saharan Africa, and globally. In Africa, the improvements include expanded on-line and in-person anti-corruption training for subsidiary management, sales, and finance personnel; regular audits, by internal audit, specifically focused on corruption risks; quarterly self-assessment questionnaires required of each subsidiary regarding business with government-affiliated customers; quarterly management certifications from every subsidiary that cover among other things controls over financial reporting; and annual testing of internal controls at each subsidiary. To increase oversight, Goodyear also put in place a new regional management structure, and added new compliance, accounting, and audit positions. Goodyear is also making technology improvements, where possible, to electronically link subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa to its global network. At the parent company, Goodyear created a new senior position of Vice President of Compliance and Ethics, which further elevated the compliance function within the company. Goodyear has also expanded on-line and in-person anti-corruption and ethics training at its other subsidiaries, and implemented a new Integrity Hotline Web Portal, which enhanced users’ ability to file anonymous online reports to its hotline system. With that system, Goodyear is also implementing a new case management system for legal, compliance and internal audit to document and track complaints, investigations and remediation. Goodyear also has updated its policies governing third-party agents and vendors, and is in the process of implementing a new third-party due diligence software tool.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Goodyear agreed to pay $16,228,065 (disgorgement of $14,122,525 and prejudgment interest of $2,105,540). In addition, Goodyear is required to report to the SEC staff “periodically, at no less than 12-month intervals during a three-year term, [on] the status of its remediation and implementation of compliance measures.”  The Order states that the SEC “is not imposing a civil penalty based upon its cooperation in a Commission investigation and related enforcement action.”

In this SEC release, Scott Friestad (Associate Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division) stated:

“Public companies must keep accurate accounting records, and Goodyear’s lax compliance controls enabled a routine of corrupt payments by African subsidiaries that were hidden in their books. This settlement ensures that Goodyear must forfeit all of the illicit profits from business obtained through bribes to foreign officials as well as employees at commercial companies in Angola and Kenya.”

Joan McKown (Jones Day and a former SEC enforcement division attorney) represented Goodyear.

Yesterday, Goodyear’s stock closed down .09%.

A Focus On SEC FCPA Individual Actions

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

SECThis previous post provided various facts and figures from 2014 SEC FCPA enforcement.

This post focuses on SEC FCPA individual actions historically.

Like the DOJ, the SEC frequently speaks in lofty rhetoric concerning its focus on holding individuals accountable under the FCPA. For instance, in connection with the 2012 Garth Peterson enforcement action, the SEC’s Director of Enforcement stated (here) that the case “illustrates the SEC’s commitment to holding individuals accountable for FCPA violations.”

Speaking generally, SEC Chairman Mary Jo White has stated that a “core principle of any strong enforcement program is to pursue responsible individuals wherever possible … [and that] is something our enforcement division has always done and will continue to do.”

Most recently in November 2014, the SEC’s Director of Enforcement stated as follows.

“I always have said that actions against individuals have the largest deterrent impact. Individual accountability is a powerful deterrent because people pay attention and alter their conduct when they personally face potential punishment. And so in the FCPA arena as well as all other areas of our enforcement efforts, we are very focused on attempting to bring cases against individuals.  [...] [I]ndividual accountability is critical to FCPA enforcement — and imposing personal consequences on bad actors, including through bars and monetary sanctions, will continue to be a high priority for us.”

Since 2000, the SEC has charged 61 individuals with FCPA civil offenses.  The breakdown is as follows.

  • 2000 – 0 individuals
  • 2001 – 3 individuals
  • 2002 – 3 individuals
  • 2003 – 4 individuals
  • 2004 - 0 individuals
  • 2005 – 1 individual
  • 2006 – 8 individuals
  • 2007 – 7 individuals
  • 2008 – 5 individuals
  • 2009 – 5 individuals
  • 2010 – 7 individuals
  • 2011 – 12 individuals
  • 2012 – 4 individuals
  • 2013 – 0 individuals
  • 2014 – 2 individuals

As highlighted by the above statistics, most of the individuals charged – 35 (or  57%) were charged since 2008.  Thus, on one level the SEC is correct when it states that individual prosecutions are a focus of its FCPA enforcement program at least as measured against the historical average given that between 1977 and 1999 the SEC charged 22 individuals with FCPA civil offenses.

Yet on another level, a more meaningful level given that there was much less overall enforcement of the FCPA between 1977 and 1999, the SEC’s statements represent hollow rhetoric as demonstrated by the below figures.

Of the 35 individuals charged with civil FCPA offenses by the SEC since 2008:

  • 7 individuals were in the Siemens case;
  • 4 individuals were in the Willbros Group case;
  • 4 individuals were in the Alliance One case;
  • 3 individuals were in the Maygar Telekom case; and
  • 3 individuals were in the Noble Corp. case.

In other words, 60% of the individuals charged by the SEC with FCPA civil offenses since 2008 have been in just five cases.

Considering that there has been 72 corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions since 2008, this is a rather remarkable statistic.  Of the 72 corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions, 60 (or 83%) have not (at least yet) resulted in any SEC charges against company employees.  This figure is thus higher than the 75% figure recently highlighted regarding the DOJ.  This is notable given that the SEC, as a civil law enforcement agency, has a lower burden of proof in an enforcement action.

Compare the fact that since 2008 83% of corporate SEC enforcement actions have NOT (at least yet) resulted in any SEC charges against company employees to the following statistic. Between 1977 and 2004, 61% of SEC corporate FCPA enforcement actions RESULTED in related charges against company employees.

Like the prior DOJ post on the same topic, although certain historical comparisons of FCPA enforcement lack meaningful value, other comparisons are noteworthy.

For instance, while one can question how the SEC held individuals accountable (i.e whether the civil penalties were too lenient) for most of the FCPA’s history, the SEC did frequently hold individuals accountable when a company resolved an FCPA enforcement action.

With the exception of last week’s creative SEC enforcement action against PBSJ and Walid Hatoum ,the last SEC FCPA enforcement action against a company employee related to a corporate FCPA enforcement action occurred approximately three years ago in connection with the Noble Corporation matter (see here for the SEC’s enforcement action against Thomas O’Rourke, Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen - current or former employees of Noble Corporation).  Of note from this enforcement action is that when Jackson and Ruehlen put the SEC to its burden of proof, the SEC agreed to settle on the eve of trial in what can only be called a win for the defense.  (See here, here and here for prior posts).  Indeed, as highlighted in this post, the SEC has never prevailed in an FCPA enforcement action when put to its ultimate burden of proof.

Once again, like with the DOJ figures, one can ask the “but nobody was charged” question given the gap between corporate SEC FCPA enforcement and related individual enforcement actions.

Yet, like with the DOJ figures and as highlighted in this recent post, there is an equally plausible reason why so few individuals have been charged in connection with many corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions.  The reason has to do with the quality and legitimacy of the corporate enforcement action in the first place.

With the SEC, the issue is not so much NPAs or DPAs (although the SEC has used such vehicles three times to resolve an FCPA enforcement action – DPAs with Tenaris in 2011 and PBSJ Corp. in 2015 and a NPA with Ralph Lauren in 2013). Rather, the issue seems to be more the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy (notwithstanding its minor tweaks in 2013) as well as the SEC’s increased use of administrative actions.

For more on the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy and its impact of SEC enforcement actions, see pgs. 946-955 of my article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement.”  In the article, I discuss the affidavit of Professor Joseph Grundfest (Stanford Law School and a former SEC Commissioner) in SEC v. Bank of America and how SEC enforcement actions “typically omit mention of valid defenses and of countervailing facts or mitigating circumstances that, if proven at trial, could cause the Commission to lose it case.”  In the article, I also discuss the SEC’s frank admission in the Bank of America case that a settled SEC enforcement action “does not necessarily reflect the triumph of one party’s position over the other.”

Indeed, a notable development from 2014 (see here) was the Second Circuit concluding that SEC settlements are not about the truth, but pragmatism.

Individuals in an SEC FCPA enforcement, even if only a civil action, and even if frequently allowed to settle on similar neither admit nor deny terms, have their personal reputation at stake and are thus more likely than corporate entities to challenge the SEC and force it satisfy its burden of proof at trial as to all FCPA elements.

More recently, the SEC has been keen on resolving corporate FCPA enforcement actions in the absence of any judicial scrutiny.  As highlighted in this 2013 SEC Year in Review post, a notable statistic from 2013 is that 50% of SEC corporate enforcement actions were not subjected to one ounce of judicial scrutiny either because the action was resolved via a NPA or through an administrative order.  In 2014, as highlighted in this prior year in review post, of the 7 corporate enforcement actions from 2014, 6 enforcement actions (86%) were administrative actions.  In other words, there was no judicial scrutiny of 86% of SEC FCPA enforcement actions from 2014.

It is interesting to note that the SEC has used administrative actions to resolve 9 corporate enforcement actions since 2013 and in none of these actions have there been related SEC enforcement actions against company employees.

In other words, and like in the DOJ context, perhaps the more appropriate question is not “but nobody was charged,” in connection with SEC corporate FCPA enforcement actions, but rather – do SEC corporate FCPA settlements necessarily represent provable FCPA violations?

It is also interesting to analyze the 13 instances since 2008 where an SEC corporate FCPA enforcement action resulted in related charges against company employees.   With the exception of Siemens, KBR/Halliburton and Magyar Telekom, the corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions resulting in related charges against company employees occurred in what can only be described as relatively minor (at least from a settlement amount perspective) corporate enforcement actions.  These actions are:  Faro Technologies, Willbros Group, Nature’s Sunshine Products, United Industrial Corp., Pride Int’l., Noble Corp., Alliance One, Innospec, Watts Water, and PBSJ.

[Note – the above data was assembled using the “core” approach as well as the definition of an FCPA enforcement action described in this prior post]

The SEC Gets Creative In Bringing Its First FCPA Enforcement Action Of 2015

Monday, January 26th, 2015

CreativityIn its first Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action of 2015, the SEC got creative by agreeing to a deferred prosecution agreement with a legal entity that has not existed since April 2011 and bringing a related administrative action against an individual who agreed to resolve the action without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings.  Never before has FCPA enforcement seen such a combination.

While the DOJ frequently uses NPA and DPAs to resolve corporate FCPA enforcement actions, last week’s enforcement action is only the third time the SEC has used an NPA or DPA to resolve an FCPA enforcement action.  The other two instances are Tenaris (DPA in 2011) and Ralph Lauren (NPA in 2013).

The enforcement action was against PBSJ Corporation (PBSJ), an entity acquired in October 1, 2010 by WS Atkins plc (“Atkins”) as well as Walid Hatoum, a former executive of PBS&J International, Inc. (“PBS&J Int’l, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PBSJ) concerning a relationship with an alleged Qatari official in connection with projects in Qatar and Morocco.

As highlighted in this prior post, PBSJ voluntarily disclosed its FCPA scrutiny in December 2009.

Post-acquisition, PBSJ became an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Atkins and in April 2011, PBSJ changed its name to The Atkins North America Holdings Corporation.

In summary fashion, the two-year DPA “alleges” that:

“The PBSJ Corporation … on or about 2009, violated [the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions, books and records and internal controls provisions] by making offers and promises of payment and other benefits to certain Qatari government officials in order to secure two multi-million dollar development contracts in Qatar and Morocco and by failing to keep accurate books and records relating to those transactions, and by failing to maintain internal accounting controls to ensure the transactions were recorded accurately and that financial statements were prepared in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.”

According to the DPA:

“PBS&J International, Inc. (“PBS&J Int’l”) was a wholly-owned subsidiary of PBSJ headquartered and incorporated in Florida. PBS&J Int’l was a provider of engineering, architectural and planning services in international markets, including the Middle East. PBS&J Int’l currently is a subsidiary of Atkins.

The former President of PBS&J lnt’l, Walid Hatoum (“Hatoum”), is a United States citizen who initially worked for PBSJ as an engineer from 1986 until 1990. In February 2009, Hatoum was rehired to join PBS&J Int’l as its Director of lnternational Marketing, even though his prior employment file at PBSJ had been marked “Ineligible for Rehire .” Although Hatoum did not formally join PBS&J Int’l until April 2009, he assisted PBS&J lnt’l with identifying projects as early as November 2008. Hatoum was promoted to President ofPBS&J Int’l in mid-June 2009, and became an officer of PBSJ at the same time.

During 2009, PBS&J Int’l won two multi-million dollar development contracts. One contract was for work in Qatar and the other was for work in Morocco. Both were competitively solicited and approved by the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company (“Qatari Diar”). Qatari Diar was established by the Qatari government to coordinate the country’s real estate development.

PBSJ and PBS&J Int’l, through Hatoum, offered bribes to the then-Director of International Projects at Qatari Diar (“Foreign Official”), to secure Qatari government contracts by planning to funnel funds to a local company the Foreign Official owned and, controlled (“Local Partner”). Foreign Official, a former business colleague of Hatoum’s at another U.S. engineering firm, worked for Qatari Diar throughout 2009, until his resignation from Qatari Diar on December 21, 2009. Prior to joining PBSJ, Hatoum and Foreign Official discussed directing business in the Middle East to Local Partner.

In return, Foreign Official provided PBS&J Int’l with access to confidential sealed-bid information and pricing information on the two government contracts that helped PBS&J Int’l tender bids that had a greater likelihood of being awarded, including a government contract for which the Foreign Official was the project manager.”

Under the heading “Offers and Promises Made to Foreign Officials,” the DPA contains two subsections: “LRT Project in Qatar” and “Design Contract in Morocco.”

As to Qatar, the DPA states:

“In November and December 2008, Hatoum began discussing potential employment with PBSJ. Even before he received a formal employment contract, Hatoum met with PBS&J Int’l to discuss opportunities to grow PBS&J Int’l business in the Middle East. Hatoum discussed projects involving Qatari Diar, including a light rail transit project in Qatar (“the LRT Project”).

In January 2009, Hatoum arranged for Foreign Official’s brother, through Local Partner, to introduce PBS&J Int’l to Qatari Diar senior executives involved in the LRT Project. Soon after that meeting, PBS&J Int’l decided to bid on the LRT Project. PBS&J Int’l added Foreign Official’s company, Local Partner, on its proposal team as a subcontractor to handle local operations such as hiring local labor, as well as complying with bonding and insurance requirements. In return, Hatoum and PBS&J Int’l agreed to pay the Foreign Official, through Local Partner, 40% of the profits realized from any LRT Project contract as well as reimburse its direct costs. The remaining profits were to be split between PBS&J Int’l (40%) and another U.S.-based subcontractor (20%), which
would perform all of the planning and engineering services for the LRT project.

At that time, Hatoum was the only person at PBS&J Int’l who had any knowledge about Foreign Official’s ownership interest in Local Partner. Had PBSJ conducted meaningful due diligence at that time, it would have discovered Foreign Official’s dual role as both government official and third-party owner/operator of Local Partner.

During the bidding process, Foreign Official gave confidential sealed bid information to PBS&J Int’l to assist it in winning the LRT Project in return for promised payments. Foreign Official also made strategic and technical decisions on many aspects of the LRT Project that favored PBS&J Int’l with Hatoum’s knowledge.

Foreign Official used a Local Partner alias to communicate that information to Hatoum and other PBSJ and PBS&J Int’l employees while disguising his involvement on multiple conference calls and in dozens of emails to the United States. Hatoum was aware that Foreign Official was using the alias in communications with PBSJ employees, officers, and directors and with Qatari Diar. Hatoum flew to the Middle East to meet with Qatari Diar officials, including Foreign Official, to discuss PBS&J Int’l’ s qualifications for the LRT Project. At the meeting, neither Foreign Official nor Hatoum informed Qatari Diar that Foreign Official was working for Local Partner and providing confidential information and other assistance to help PBS&J Int’l win the contracts.

Following its initial submission, PBS&J Int’l revised its bid, based on information and guidance provided by the Foreign Official, to best position itself to win the LRT Project and to withstand possible challenges from competitors. On or about August 3, 2009, Qatari Diar awarded the LRT Project contract worth approximately $35.6 million to PBS&J Int’l.

After the award, PBS&J Int’l opened a joint account with Local Partner that was accessible to Foreign Official’s wife. PBS&J Int’l also authorized a four-year letter of credit relating to a bank guarantee in Qatar. The letter of credit was a precondition for receipt of the first contract payment by Qatari Diar to PBS&J Int’l, an up front, 10% (approximately $3.6 million) payment, which was deposited into the joint account.

Once the award was received, Hatoum offered Foreign Official an “agency fee” to Local Partner for 1.8% of the LRT Project contract amount (equivalent to approximately $640,000). Additionally, PBS&J Int’l agreed to pay half of the salary of Foreign Official’s wife, who worked for Local Partner.”

Under the sub-heading “Design Contract in Morocco” the DPA states:

“In addition to the LRT Project, Qatari Diar opened a Morocco hotel resort development (“Morocco Project”) for competitive bid. On August 7, 2009, PBS&J Int’l emailed its Statement of Qualifications for the design contract to Foreign Official, the Qatari Diar project manager for the Morocco Project.

In October 2009, Hatoum offered payment to Foreign Official in the form of an agency fee to Local Partner to secure the Morocco Project. The Morocco Project was worth approximately $25 million to PBS&J Int’l, of which the Foreign Official was offered an agency fee of 3% of the contract amount, which equates to approximately $750,000. Hatoum instructed a PBS&J Int’l employee to hide the agency fee within the company’s bid proposal by inflating other components of the offer for the Morocco Project.

Foreign Official attended meetings with PBS&J Int’l employees to discuss the project but neither Foreign Official nor Hatoum told the employees that he was working for Local Partner. At the same time, Foreign Official, using his Local Partner alias, reviewed and made changes to PBS&J Int’l’ s original bid offer via email and phone. He also made key technical and strategic proposal decisions throughout the bidding process and instructed PBS&J Int’ l to lower its offer to a specific dollar amount. By doing so, he ensured PBS&J Int’l's final bid had a greater likelihood of being approved by Qatari Diar. On or around October 19, 2009, Qatari Diar informed PBS&J Int’l that it was awarded the Morocco Project.”

Under the heading “Red Flags,” the DPA states:

“PBSJ and PBS&J Int’l officers and employees ignored multiple red flags that should have led them to uncover the payment scheme. For example, PBS&J Int’l and PBSJ employees knew that Local Partner was providing them with confidential sealed bid information. Hatoum also informed the employees that he was obtaining information from someone that Hatoum described as a “good friend” and “top executive” at Qatari Diar. Before PBS&J Int’l submitted its bid for the Morocco Project, a PBS&J Int’l officer learned that the husband of one of the Local Partner employees was a government official working on the Morocco Project. The PBSJ Int’l officer learned of Foreign Official’s role while attending dinner with Hatoum, Foreign Official and the Foreign Official’s wife. In addition, a PBSJ employee knew that “agency fees” to Local Partner were disguised as legitimate costs within the Morocco Project bid.”

Under the heading “Discovery of the Payment Scheme,” the DPA states:

“Shortly after PBSJ Int’l was awarded the Morocco Project contract, PBSJ’ s former Chief Operating Officer commented to PBSJ’s then-general counsel that PBS&J Int’l was successful in winning two contracts in the Middle East within a fairly short period of time. PBSJ’s then-general counsel asked Hatoum how he was able to win the LRT and Morocco Project contracts over companies with far more international experience. Hatoum told PBSJ’s then-general counsel PBSJ offered “agency fees” in order to win the projects and, when asked, admitted there “would be a problem” if the agency fees were not paid. PBSJ’ s then-general counsel immediately launched an investigation of this issue.

Three weeks later, in November 2009, a Qatari government official informed Hatoum and the then-President of PBSJ that Qatari Diar had discovered Foreign Official’s involvement in Local Partner and was rescinding PBS&J Int’l's contract for the Morocco Project. Hatoum then secretly made an offer of employment to a second Qatari foreign official in return for influencing Qatari Diar to reinstate the contract. However, Qatari Diar refused to reinstate the contract and did not provide PBS&J Int’l any proceeds for the project. PBSJ suspended Hatoum in December 2009. Hatoum also began deleting emails and other records.

PBS&J Int’l and Qatari Diar negotiated a termination of the LRT Project contract effective December 31,2009. In January 2010, Qatari Diar entered into a bridge contract with PBS&J Int’l to continue work on the LRT Project (the “Bridge Contract”) until a replacement company could be found. Ultimately, the period of performance on the Bridge Contract was 16  months . PBS&J Int’l earned $2,892,504 in profits on the Bridge Contract.

PBSJ and Qatari Diar caught Hatoum’s scheme before any of the offered and authorized amounts were paid.”

Under the heading “Failure to Maintain Adequate Internal Controls,” the DPA states:

“PBSJ failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls. The violations involved conduct orchestrated by a high level manager at PBS&J Int’l and numerous red flags were overlooked by PBSJ and PBS&J Int’l managers and employees. Employees were aware that they were receiving confidential information in a sealed-bid process from a foreign official and that their bids were inflated to conceal payments to Local Partner. Over a million dollars in payments were offered and authorized to Foreign Official through Local Partner without a system of internal accounting controls to identify and detect the improper transactions. PBS&J Int’l agreed to pay Local Partner 40% of the LRT Project profits without subjecting Local Partner or its employees to any meaningful due diligence. PBS&J Int’l did not request a due diligence questionnaire from Local Partner before it initiated its investigation into the matter, and asked no questions about Local Partner’s purported financial statements, work experience, ability to perform the work it was supposed to do under the contract, external auditors, or owners, despite knowing that a Local Partner employee was married to a government official at Qatari Diar. In fact, during the period, PBSJ considered but declined adopting due diligence controls over its contractors and joint venture partners.

As a result, PBS&J Int’l, through Hatoum, offered and authorized bribes to Foreign Official through Local Partner totaling approximately $1,390,000 to secure the LRT and Morocco Projects, plus a portion of any profits Local Partner realized from the LRT Project and partial salary to Foreign Official ‘s wife.

Although PBSJ offered FCPA training at PBSJ and PBS&J Int’l, the company did not ensure that its employees take the training prior to working on international matters. As a result, key PBS&J Int’l personnel on the LRT and Morocco Projects received little, if any, FCPA training during the relevant period. Hatoum received annual FCPA training from his previous employer. Hatoum was offered FCPA training by PBSJ on his first day of official employment in April 2009, but did not take it. Hatoum did not receive training from PBSJ until after Qatari Diar cancelled the Morocco Project in November 2009.”

Under the heading “Failure to Maintain Books and Records,” the DPA states:

“PBSJ, directly and through PBS&J Int’l, failed to make and keep books, records, and accounts which accurately and fairly reflected PBS&J Int’l's transactions with Local Partner intended for Foreign Official. Some of the payments offered and authorized to Foreign Official were concealed within other, legitimate categories of costs within bids, while others were improperly described in the books and records as legitimate transaction costs. PBSJ failed to accurately disclose in its books and records that the joint account entered into with Local Partner would benefit Foreign Official.”

Under the heading “Self-Report, Remediation, and Cooperation,” the DPA states:

“PBSJ conducted an internal investigation. PBSJ self-reported its preliminary findings of the conduct to staff of the Division of Enforcement (“Division”) and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”).

PBSJ also took immediate steps to end the misconduct. PBSJ suspended Hatoum in December 2009 and later reprimanded four other employees that missed red flags that should have alerted them to the illegal activity. PBSJ also withdrew all proposals in the Middle East initiated during Hatoum’s tenure with PBS&J Int’l. PBSJ reviewed its preexisting compliance program and revised and enhanced its compliance program, including, in part, adoption of: (1) a detailed due diligence questionnaire for contractors, sponsors, and agents; (2) an enhanced FCP A compliance program with mandatory annual training for employees and third-party agents; (3) an international compliance oversight committee at the corporate level; and (4) an annual FCPA compliance audit.

PBSJ ultimately provided substantial cooperation to the staff of the Division, including: voluntarily producing documents and disclosing information to the staff; voluntarily making witnesses available for interviews; and allowing its then-general counsel to interview with staff; and providing factual chronologies, timelines, internal interview summaries, and full forensic images of data.”

The DPA contains a so-called muzzle clause in which PBSJ and Atkins is prohibited from “denying, directly or indirectly, any aspect of [DPA] or creating the impression that the statements [in the DPA] are without factual basis.

In this release, Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) stated:

“Hatoum offered and authorized nearly $1.4 million in bribes disguised as ‘agency fees’ intended for a foreign official who used an alias to communicate confidential information that assisted PBSJ. PBSJ ignored multiple red flags that should have enabled other officers and employees to uncover the bribery scheme at an earlier stage.  But once discovered, the company self-reported the potential FCPA violations and cooperated substantially.”

As noted in the release:

“Under the DPA, PBSJ agreed to pay disgorgement and interest of $3,032,875 and a penalty of $375,000.  PBSJ took quick steps to end the misconduct after self-reporting to the SEC, and the company voluntarily made witnesses available for interviews and provided factual chronologies, timelines, internal summaries, and full forensic images to cooperate with the SEC’s investigation.”

Based on the same core conduct “alleged” in the DPA, the SEC also brought an administrative action against Hatoum.

In summary, the Administrative Order states under the heading “Hatoum Caused PBSJ’s Inaccurate Books and Records” as follows.

“Hatoum authorized illicit payments to Foreign Official that were not accurately and fairly reflected on PBSJ’s books and records. Hatoum directed subordinates to conceal some of the payments he offered and authorized to Foreign Official within bids. Other offers and promises to pay authorized by Hatoum to Foreign Official were improperly described in the books and records as legitimate transaction costs with his knowledge.”

Under the heading “Hatoum Caused PBSJ’s Internal Accounting Control Failure,” the order states:

“On April 22, 2009, Hatoum signed a “Business Conduct Standards” agreement for PBSJ employees in which he agreed that “I will neither accept nor give bribes or kickbacks of any value for services or favorable treatment for contracts.” As a high level manager at PBS&J Int’l and later as an officer of PBSJ, Hatoum was responsible for maintaining and ensuring compliance with PBSJ’s internal accounting controls at PBS&J Int’l. Hatoum, however, repeatedly exploited the company’s internal accounting control deficiencies to offer and authorize payments to Foreign Official through Local Partner totaling approximately $1,390,000 to secure the LRT and Morocco Projects, plus 40% of any profits realized from the LRT Project and partial salary to Foreign Official’s wife. Hatoum instructed subordinates to inflate PBS&J Int’l bids by concealing payments to Local Partner intended for Foreign Official. Hatoum took advantage of PBSJ’s accounting controls system by introducing Local Partner as a “legitimate” potential partner for the LRT Project and authorized a subordinate to execute an agreement to pay Local Partner 40% of the LRT Project profits without subjecting Local Partner or its employees to any meaningful due diligence. Hatoum also knowingly executed – and caused a PBS&J Int’l employee to send a questionnaire requesting advocacy assistance from the United States Department of Commerce that included false representations about Local Partner and PBS&J Int’l. Although Hatoum did not participate in PBSJ’s FCPA training until after the scheme was uncovered, Hatoum was aware of the prohibitions of the FCPA from annual FCPA training that he received from his former employer.”

As noted in the SEC’s release:

“The SEC’s order against Hatoum finds that he violated the anti-bribery, internal accounting controls, books and records, and false records provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Without admitting or denying the findings, Hatoum agreed to pay a penalty of $50,000.”

PBSJ and Atkins were represented by Mark Schnapp (Greenberg Traurig).  Hatoum was represented by Michael Lamont of Wiand Guerra King.

SEC Enforcement Of The FCPA – Year In Review

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

SECForeign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement, it is not just about the DOJ.  Granted, as a civil enforcement agency its sticks are less sharp than the DOJ’s, but the SEC also claims a significant piece of the FCPA enforcement pie (query whether it should – but that is a subject for another day – for instance as discussed in “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” the SEC wanted no part in enforcing the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions).

Today’s post is a year in review of SEC FCPA Enforcement.  (See here for a similar post for 2013; here for a similar post for 2012; here for a similar post for 2011; and here for a similar post for 2010).

Stay tuned for a similar post on DOJ FCPA enforcement in 2014.

Settlement Amounts and Specifics

In 2014, the SEC collected approximately $327 million in 7 corporate FCPA enforcement actions.

By comparison, in 2013 the SEC collected approximately $300 million in 8 corporate enforcement actions; in 2012 the SEC collected approximately $118 million in 8 corporate FCPA enforcement actions; in 2011 the SEC collected approximately $148 million in 13 corporate FCPA enforcement actions; and in 2010, the SEC collected approximately $530 million in 19 corporate FCPA enforcement actions.

The range of SEC FCPA enforcement actions in 2014 was, on the high end, $175 million (Alcoa), and on the low end, $2 million (Smith & Wesson). Of the $327 million the SEC collected in 2014 corporate FCPA enforcement actions, approximately 54% was in just one enforcement action (Alcoa) and two enforcement actions (Alcoa and Avon) comprised approximately 75% of the amount.

Three corporate FCPA enforcement actions from 2014 were SEC only (Bruker, Layne Christensen and Smith & Wesson).

Of the 7 corporate enforcement actions from 2014, 6 enforcement actions (all but the Avon action) were administrative actions.  In other words, there was no judicial scrutiny of 86% of SEC FCPA enforcement actions from 2014.  The settlement amounts in these actions comprised approximately 80% of the SEC’s $326 million collected in 2014 corporate FCPA enforcement actions.  By comparison, in 2013 there was no judicial scrutiny of 50% of SEC FCPA enforcement actions and settlement amounts in these actions comprised approximately 57% of the SEC’s $300 million collected.

In 2014, the SEC collected approximately $104 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest in enforcement actions that did not charge anti-bribery violations. This is noteworthy because many question, and rightfully so, whether disgorgement is an appropriate remedy in cases that do not charge FCPA anti-bribery violations.  See here for a prior post on so-called “no-charged bribery disgorgement” cases. In 2013, the SEC collected approximately $208 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest in no-charged bribery disgorgement cases; in 2012, the SEC collected approximately $57.4 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest in no-charged bribery disgorgement cases; and in 2011 the SEC collected approximately $51 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest in n0-charged bribery disgorgement cases.

The $327 million the SEC collected in 2014 FCPA enforcement actions breaks down as follows:

$2.7 million in a civil penalties (Bruker, Layne Christensen and Smith & Wesson); and

$324.3 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.

Thus, 99% of SEC FCPA settlement amounts in 2014 consisted of disgorgement and prejudgment interest.  By way of comparison, in 2013 98% of SEC FCPA settlement amounts consisted of disgorgement and prejudgment interest; in 2012 86% of SEC FCPA settlement amounts consisted of disgorgement and prejudgment interest; in 2011, disgorgement and prejudgment interest comprised 94% of SEC FCPA enforcement settlement amounts; and in 2010, disgorgement and prejudgment interest comprised 96% of SEC FCPA enforcement settlement amounts.

If one tries to analyze why some SEC FCPA enforcement actions in 2014 included a civil penalty, disgorgement and prejudgment interest (Bruker, Layne Christensen, and Smith & Wesson), whereas other enforcement actions included only disgorgement and prejudgment interest (Avon, Bio-Rad and HP), whereas other enforcement actions included only disgorgement (Alcoa), good luck and please enlighten us all with your insight.

Corporate vs. Individual Actions

Of the 7 corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions from 2014, 0 (0%) have involved, at present, related SEC charges against company employees.  By way of comparison, of the 8 SEC corporate FCPA enforcement actions from 2013, 0 (0%) have involved, at present, related SEC charges against company employees; in 2012, 0 of the 8 corporate (0%) FCPA actions involved related SEC charges against company employees; in 2011, 2 of the 13 (15%) corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions involved related SEC charges against company employees; in 2010, 3 of the 19 (15%) corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions involved related SEC charges against company employees.

Voluntary Disclosures

Of the 7 corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions from 2014, 4 enforcement actions (57%) (Avon, Bruker, Bio-Rad and Layne Christensen) were the result of corporate voluntary disclosures. 1 enforcement action (Smith & Wesson) originated from the manufactured Africa Sting enforcement action, 1 enforcement action (HP) was the result of a previous foreign law enforcement action and 1 enforcement action (Alcoa) was the result of a previous civil lawsuit. By way of comparison, of the 8 corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions in 2013, 3 enforcement actions (38%) were the result of corporate voluntary disclosures; in 2012 of the 8 corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions 4 (50%) were the result of corporate voluntary disclosures; and in 2011 of the 13 corporate SEC FCPA enforcement actions 11 (85%) were the result of corporate voluntary disclosures.

This remainder of this post provides an overview of SEC FCPA enforcement in 2014.

Avon (December 17th)

See here and here for prior posts

Charges:   Violation of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions

Settlement:  Approximately $67.4 million ($52,850,000 in disgorgement plus prejudgment interest of $14,515,013.13)

Disclosure:   Voluntary Disclosure

Individuals Charged:  No

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  Yes

Bruker Corp. (December 15th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges: None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement:  Approximately $2.4 million ($1,714,852 in disgorgement, $310,117 in prejudgment interest, and a $375,000 penalty)

Disclosure:   Voluntary Disclosure

Individuals Charged:  No

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  No

Bio-Rad (November 3rd)

See here and here for prior posts

Charges: None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement:  Approximately $40.7 million in disgorgement

Disclosure:   Voluntary Disclosure

Individuals Charged:  No

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  Yes

Layne Christensen (November 3rd)

See here and here for prior posts

Charges: None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement:  Approximately $5.1 million ($3,893,472.42 in disgorgement plus $858,720 in prejudgment interest as well as a $375,000 penalty amount)

Disclosure:   Voluntary Disclosure

Individuals Charged:  No

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  No

Smith & Wesson (July 28th)

See here and here for prior posts.

Charges:   None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement:  Approximately $2 million ($107,852 in disgorgement, $21,040 in prejudgment interest, and a civil monetary penalty of $1,906,000

Disclosure:   The enforcement action originated after a Smith & Wesson employee was criminally charged in the DOJ’s manufactured Africa Sting enforcement action.

Individuals Charged:  No (as to the conduct alleged in the corporate enforcement action).

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  No.

HP (April 9th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges:   None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement:  $34 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest (approximately $2.5 million of the disgorgement amount was satisfied by payment of $2.5 million in connection with the HP Mexico DOJ action).

Disclosure:   The enforcement action appears to have been the result of a previous German and Russian law enforcement investigation (see here for the prior post).

Individuals Charged:  No

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  Yes

Alcoa (January 9th)

See here for the prior post.

Charges:   None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal control provisions.

Settlement:  $175 million in disgorgement (of which $14 million will be satisfied by the payment of the forfeiture in the criminal action).

Disclosure:   A 2008 civil lawsuit between Alba and Alcoa.

Individuals Charged:  No

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  Yes

SEC Enforcement (Individual)

For the first time since April 2012, the SEC brought an FCPA enforcement action against an individual.  This enforcement action is summarized below.

Stephen Timms and Yasser Ramahi (November 17th)

See here for the prior post

Charges: None.  Administrative cease and desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, causing violations of the FCPA’s books and records provisions

Settlement:  Timms and Ramahi consented to the entry of the order and agreed to pay financial penalties of $50,000 and $20,000 respectively.

Employer Charged:  The individuals were associated with FLIR System, Inc. but at present the company has not been charged

Related DOJ Enforcement Action:  No