Archive for the ‘SEC Enforcement Action’ Category

Next Up – Mead Johnson

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

MeadFirst it was Johnson & Johnson (see here – $70 million enforcement action in April 2011).

Then it was Smith & Nephew (see here - $22 million enforcement action in February 2012).

Then it was Biomet (see here – $22.8 million enforcement action in March 2012).

Then it was Pfizer / Wyeth (see here  – $60 million enforcement action in August 2012).

Then it was Eli Lilly (see here – $29 million enforcement action in December 2012).

Then it was Stryker (see here – $13.2 million enforcement action in October 2013).

The latest of the most recent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions (there are many more than those listed above) premised on the theory that physicians of certain foreign health care systems are “foreign officials” under the FCPA is Mead Johnson Nutrition Company. Some will say this enforcement action – like certain of the others mentioned above – merely involved the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, but make no mistake about it, this action – as well as the prior actions – was all about the alleged “foreign officials.”

Yesterday, the SEC announced that Mead Johnson (a leading pediatric nutrition products) agreed to pay approximately $12 million pursuant to an administrative cease and desist order in which the company neither admitted or denied the SEC’s findings.

The substance of the order is approximately four pages and states in summary fashion as follows.

“This matter concerns violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Mead Johnson. The violations, which occurred in connection with the operations of Mead Johnson’s subsidiary in China, took place up through 2013.

The conduct at issue relates primarily to the misuse of marketing and sales funds in China. Despite prohibitions in the FCPA and Mead Johnson’s internal policies, certain employees of Mead Johnson’s majority-owned subsidiary in China, Mead Johnson Nutrition (China) Co., Ltd. (“Mead Johnson China”), made improper payments to certain health care professionals (“HCPs”) at state-owned hospitals in China to recommend Mead Johnson’s nutrition products to, and provide information about, expectant and new mothers. These payments were made to assist Mead Johnson China in developing its business. For the period from 2008 through 2013, Mead Johnson China paid approximately $2,070,000 to HCPs in improper payments and derived profits therefrom of approximately $7,770,000.

Mead Johnson China failed to accurately reflect the improper payments in its books and records. Mead Johnson China’s books and records were consolidated into Mead Johnson’s books and records, thereby causing Mead Johnson’s consolidated books and records to be inaccurate. Mead Johnson failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls over Mead Johnson China’s operations sufficient to prevent and detect the improper payments that occurred over a period of years.”

Under the heading “Mead Johnson China’s Improper Payments to HCPs,” the order states in full as follows.

“A portion of Mead Johnson China’s marketing efforts during the 2008 to 2013 period was through the medical sector, which included marketing through healthcare facilities and HCPs. Despite the prohibitions in the FCPA and Mead Johnson’s internal policies, certain employees of Mead Johnson China improperly compensated HCPs, who were foreign officials under the FCPA, to recommend Mead Johnson’s infant formula to, and to improperly provide contact information for, expectant and new mothers.

Funding for those payments came from funds generated by discounts provided to Mead Johnson China’s network of distributors.

Mead Johnson China uses third-party distributors to market, sell and distribute product in China. Some of Mead Johnson China’s funding of its marketing and sales practices were effected through discounts provided to the distributors. Pursuant to contracts between Mead Johnson China and its distributors, Mead Johnson China provided the distributors a discount for Mead Johnson’s products that was allocated for, among other purposes, funding certain marketing and sales efforts of Mead Johnson China. This form of funding was referred to as “Distributor Allowance.”

Although the Distributor Allowance contractually belonged to the distributors, certain members of Mead Johnson China’s workforce exercised some control over how the money was spent, and certain Mead Johnson China employees provided specific guidance to distributors concerning the use of the funds. Mead Johnson China staff also maintained certain records related to Distributor Allowance expenditure by distributors. In addition, Mead Johnson China used some of the funds to reimburse Mead Johnson China’s sales personnel for a portion of their marketing and other expenditures on behalf of Mead Johnson China.

Mead Johnson China’s sales personnel marketed product through medical channels, including healthcare facilities. These sales personnel encouraged HCPs at the healthcare facilities to recommend Mead Johnson products to mothers and to collect contact information of the mothers for Mead Johnson China’s marketing purposes. To incentivize HCPs to recommend Mead Johnson product and collect information from the mothers, these sales personnel improperly paid HCPs, providing cash and other incentives, contrary to Mead Johnson’s internal policies. The Distributor Allowance was the funding source for the cash and other incentives paid to HCPs.”

Under the heading “Mead Johnson Failed to Make and Keep Accurate Books and Records and Devise and Maintain an Adequate Internal Control System,” the order states in full as follows.

“The Distributor Allowance funds contractually belonged to the distributors, but were in large part under Mead Johnson China’s control. Mead Johnson China’s employees maintained certain records related to the Distributor Allowance, including records reflecting payments to HCPs. However, those records were incomplete and did not reflect that a portion of Distributor Allowance was being used contrary to Mead Johnson’s policies.

Mead Johnson failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal controls over the operations of Mead Johnson China to ensure that Mead Johnson China’s method of funding marketing and sales expenditures through its distributors was not used for unauthorized purposes, such as the improper compensation of HCPs. The use of the Distributor Allowance to improperly compensate HCPs was contrary to management’s authorization and Mead Johnson’s internal policies. Mead Johnson failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that Mead Johnson China’s funding of marketing and sales expenditures through third-party distributors was done in accordance with management’s authorization.”

Notwithstanding the above, the order otherwise specifically states:

“Mead Johnson has established internal policies to comport with the FCPA and local laws, and to prevent related illegal and unethical conduct. Mead Johnson’s internal policies include prohibitions against providing improper payments and gifts to HCPs that would influence their recommendation of Mead Johnson’s products.”

Under the heading “Internal Investigation and Remedial Efforts,” the order states in full:

“In 2011, Mead Johnson received an allegation of possible violations of the FCPA in connection with the Distributor Allowance in China. In response, Mead Johnson conducted an internal investigation, but failed to find evidence that Distributor Allowance funds were being used to make improper payments to HCPs. Thereafter, Mead Johnson China discontinued Distributor Allowance funding to reduce the likelihood of improper payments to HCPs, and discontinued all practices related to compensating HCPs by 2013. Mead Johnson did not initially self-report the 2011 allegation of potential FCPA violations and did not thereafter promptly disclose the existence of this allegation in response to the Commission’s inquiry into this matter.

As a result of its second internal investigation commenced in 2013, Mead Johnson undertook significant remedial measures including: termination of senior staff at Mead Johnson China; updating and enhancing financial accounting controls; significantly revising its compliance program; enhancing Mead Johnson’s compliance division, adding positions including a second senior-level position; establishing new business conduct controls and third party due-diligence procedures and contracts; establishing a unit in China that monitors compliance and controls in China on an on-going basis; and providing employees with a method to have immediate access the company’s policies and requirements.

Despite not self-reporting the 2011 allegation of potential FCPA violations or promptly disclosing the existence of this allegation in response to the Commission’s inquiry into this matter, Mead Johnson subsequently provided extensive and thorough cooperation. Mead Johnson voluntarily provided reports of its investigative findings; shared its analysis of documents and summaries of witness interviews; and responded to the Commission’s requests for documents and information and provided translations of key documents. These actions assisted the Commission staff in efficiently collecting valuable evidence, including information that may not have been otherwise available to the staff.”

Based on the above findings, the order finds:

“Up through 2013, certain Mead Johnson China employees made payments to HCPs using funds maintained by third parties. These funds and payments from the funds were not accurately reflected on Mead Johnson China’s books and records. The books and records of Mead Johnson China were consolidated into Mead Johnson’s books and records. As a result of the misconduct of Mead Johnson China, Mead Johnson failed to make and keep books, records, and accounts, which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflected its transactions as required by [the FCPA's books and records provisions].

Up through 2013, Mead Johnson failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls to ensure that Mead Johnson China’s method of funding marketing and sales expenditures through third-party distributors was not used for unauthorized purposes, such as improperly compensating Chinese HCPs to recommend Mead Johnson’s products. As a result of such failure, the improper payments to HCPs occurred contrary to management’s authorizations, in violation of [the FCPA's internal controls provisions].”

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

“Mead Johnson Nutrition’s lax internal control environment enabled its subsidiary to use off-the-books slush funds to pay doctors and other health care professionals in China to recommend its baby formula and give the company marketing access to mothers.”

As noted in the release:

“The company consented to the order without admitting or denying the findings and agreed to pay $7.77 million in disgorgement, $1.26 million in prejudgment interest, and a $3 million penalty.”

In this press release, Mead Johnson’s CEO Kasper Jakobsen stated:

“We are pleased to have reached this final resolution with the SEC. Integrity and compliance with laws and regulations are central to the success of our operations around the world. We will continue to reinforce these operating principles in all our interactions with customers and business partners. Our China business is one of Mead Johnson’s most important operations, and we remain confident in its continued long-term growth.”

Yesterday Mead Johnson’s stock closed up .64%.

According to reports, Mead Johnson was represented by F. Joseph Warin, Michael S. Diamant and Christopher W.H. Sullivan of Gibson Dunn.

BHP Billiton Becomes The Most Recent Foreign Company To Pay Uncle Sam

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Uncle Sam3BHP Billiton, a company based in Australia and the United Kingdom, was an official sponsor of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.  As such, the company received priority access to tickets, hospitality suites, and accommodations for the games.  Not surprisingly, the company invited 650 people (customers, suppliers, etc.) to attend the Olympic Games with three to four day hospitality packages.

But lo and behold, approximately 25% of these people invited were alleged “foreign officials” primarily from Africa and Asia and an even smaller percentage of these invited “foreign officials” actually attended the Olympic Games.

The end result seven years later?

Why of course $25 million to the U.S. Treasury because BHP Billiton had American Depositary Shares that trade on a U.S. exchange.

Yesterday the SEC released this administrative cease and desist order concerning BHP Billiton Ltd. and BHP Billiton Plc.

In summary fashion, the SEC order states:

“This matter concerns BHPB’s failure to devise and maintain sufficient internal controls over a global hospitality program that the company hosted in connection with its sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. BHPB invited approximately 176 government officials and employees of state-owned enterprises (collectively, “government officials”) to attend the Olympics at BHPB’s expense. The majority of these invitations were extended to government officials from countries in Africa and Asia that had well-known histories of corruption. The three to four day hospitality packages included event tickets, luxury hotel accommodations, meals, other hospitality, and, in many instances, offers of business-class airfare for government officials and their guests. BHPB informed its employees that “[o]ne of the core objectives [of the Olympic sponsorship] is to maximize the commercial investment made in the Games through assisting [BHPB] to strengthen relationships with key local and global stakeholders, e.g.: Government Ministers, Suppliers and Customers,” and that the hospitality program was “a primary vehicle to ensure this goal is achieved.”

BHPB recognized that inviting government officials to the Olympics created a heightened risk of violating anti-corruption laws and the company’s own Guide to Business Conduct, but the internal controls it developed and relied upon in an effort to address this risk were insufficient. As a result, BHPB invited government officials who were directly involved in, or in a position to influence, pending contract negotiations, efforts to obtain access rights, regulatory actions, or business dealings affecting BHPB in multiple countries. In addition, BHPB’s books and records, namely certain internal forms that employees prepared in order to invite a government official to the Olympics, did not, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect BHPB’s pending negotiations or business dealings with the government official at the time of the invitation.

As a result of this conduct, BHPB violated the internal controls and books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”).”

Under the heading “BHPB’s Hospitality Program for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games,” the order states:

“In December 2005, BHPB and the Beijing Organizing Committee announced their agreement for BHPB to become an official sponsor of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Under this agreement, BHPB paid a sponsorship fee and supplied the raw materials used to make the Olympic medals. In exchange, BHPB received the rights to use the Olympic trademark and other intellectual property in public announcements and advertisements, as well as priority access to tickets, hospitality suites, and accommodations in Beijing during the August 2008 Games.

BHPB established an Olympic Sponsorship Steering Committee (“OSSC”) to plan, oversee, and implement its sponsorship program, which involved multiple different branding, promotion, and relationship-building initiatives. The chair of the OSSC, who also was the chair of the Ethics Panel, reported directly to BHPB’s CEO.

One of BHPB’s objectives for the sponsorship was “to reinforce and develop relationships with key stakeholders” in China and in “product and investor markets, and regions where we have or would like to have operations.” BHPB’s strategy for accomplishing its objectives included “[u]tiliz[ing] Olympic hospitality to motivate China-based stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, government and media, to enhance business opportunities for BHP Billiton in China” and “[u]tiliz[ing] Olympic hospitality to build relationships with stakeholders from product and investor markets, and regions where we have or would like to have operations.”

One of the company’s sponsorship-related initiatives was a global hospitality program under which BHPB invited guests from around the world, including foreign government officials and representatives of state-owned enterprises, to attend the Beijing Olympics on three to four day hospitality packages. The hospitality packages included luxury hotel accommodations, meals, event tickets, and sightseeing excursions, at a cost of approximately $12,000 to $16,000 per package. In addition, BHPB executives approved the offer of round trip business class airfare to approximately 51 foreign government officials, as well as the airfares for 35 of these government officials’ spouses or guests. Apart from BHPB’s desire to enhance business opportunities by strengthening relationships with its guests, these trips had no other business purpose.

An internal e-mail to CSG presidents and other senior BHPB business managers emphasized the importance of the hospitality program to the success of BHPB’s sponsorship, stating, “[a]s you know we have made a commitment to support the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. One of the core objectives is to maximise the commercial investment made in the Games through assisting [BHPB] to strengthen relationships with key local and global stakeholders, e.g.: Government Ministers, Suppliers and Customers. The BHP Billiton Hospitality Program is a primary vehicle to ensure this goal is achieved.”

In early 2007, BHPB employees prepared country-specific Olympic Leverage Plans, which summarized BHPB’s business and Olympic-related objectives. In a number of instances, these plans discussed inviting key stakeholders, including government officials, to help BHPB develop relationships with a view to increasing or maintaining its business opportunities. For example, the Olympic Leverage Plan prepared for one country stated that BHPB’s business objectives in that country included “gaining access to regions that will provide growth for [BHPB’s] business” and “gaining port access.” The plan further stated that the hospitality program would “provide useful relationship building opportunity for . . . stakeholders” and that the invitees would include the country’s Minister of Mines and Minister of Transport. The Olympic Leverage Plan for another country, while not specifically addressing the hospitality program, stated that one of the goals for the sponsorship was “us[ing] Olympics program to strengthen and build the govt’s confidence and relationship with [BHPB], to help facilitate approvals for future projects.”

After Olympic Leverage Plans were prepared for each country, BHPB business managers submitted lists of potential invitees and were instructed to rank them in order of importance, with “Category A” being those “most critical to the business.” Internal BHPB presentations discussed the need to establish “the business benefit” of an Olympic invitation.

Eventually, BHPB invited approximately 650 people to attend the Beijing Olympics, including 176 government officials, 98 of whom were representatives of state-owned enterprises that were BHPB customers or suppliers. BHPB also invited the spouses of 102 of these government officials. Most of the invited government officials were from countries in Africa and Asia where there was a known risk of corruption. Sixty of these government officials ultimately attended, 24 of them with their spouses or guests. A number of other invited government officials accepted their invitations, but then cancelled before the Olympics began.”

Under the heading “BHPB’s Insufficient Internal Controls over the Olympic Hospitality Program,” the order states:

“Early in its planning for the Olympics, BHPB identified the risk that inviting government officials to the Olympics could potentially violate anti-corruption laws and the company’s own Guide to Business Conduct. The company relied on its existing operating model and an Olympic-specific internal approval process to address this risk. However, these internal controls, and BHPB’s implementation of them, were insufficient.

BHPB developed a hospitality application which business managers were required to complete for any individuals, including government officials, whom they wished to invite. These applications included the following questions:

9. What business obligation exists or is expected to develop between the proposed invitee and BHP Billiton?

10. Is BHP Billiton negotiating or considering any contract, license agreement or seeking access rights with a third party where the proposed invitee is in a position to influence the outcome of that negotiation?

11. Do you believe that the offer of the proposed hospitality would be likely to create an impression that there is an improper connection between the provision of the hospitality and the business that is being negotiated, considered or conducted, or in any way might be perceived as breaching the Company’s Guide to Business Conduct?

If yes, please provide details.

12. Are there other matters relating to the relationship between BHP Billiton and the proposed invitee that you believe should be considered in relation to the provision of hospitality having regard to BHP Billiton’s Guide to Business Conduct?

BHPB required each such application to be filled out and signed by an employee with knowledge of the invitee’s relationship with the company, and approved in writing by the president of the relevant CSG or the BHPB country president. A cover sheet that accompanied the blank forms included a short description of anti-bribery provisions in the Guide to Business Conduct and urged employees to re-read the section of the Guide concerning travel, entertainment, and gifts before completing the form. However, the controls did not adequately address the antibribery risks associated with offering expensive travel and entertainment packages to government officials.

First, BHPB did not require independent legal or compliance review of hospitality applications by someone outside the CSG that was submitting the application, and did not clearly communicate to its employees the fact that the Ethics Panel was not reviewing and approving each invitation to a government official. On the one hand, BHPB’s internal website stated that the hospitality applications were subject to “scrutiny by the Ethics Panel [steering committee],” and the hospitality applications themselves stated that, “[r]equests for travel and accompanying spouses will be approved by the Olympic Sponsorship Steering Committee and the Global Ethics Panel Sub-Committee.” E-mails sent to some BHPB business managers by a member of the OSSC staff stated that the Ethics Panel had “approved” their applications.

However, other than reviewing approximately 10 hospitality applications for government officials in mid-2007 in order to assess the invitation process, the OSSC and the Ethics Panel subcommittee did not review the appropriateness of individual hospitality applications or airfare requests. The Ethics Panel’s charter stated that its role simply was to provide advice on ethical and compliance matters, and that “accountability rest[ed] with business leaders.” Members of the Ethics Panel understood that, consistent with their charter, their role with respect to implementation of the hospitality program was purely advisory. As a result, business managers had sole responsibility for reconciling the competing goals of inviting guests – including government officials – who would “maximize [BHPB’s] commercial investment made in the Olympic Games” without violating anti-bribery laws.

Second, some hospitality applications were not accurate or complete. Many applications identified an employee of a state-owned enterprise as a “Customer,” but failed to identify the invitee as a “Representative of Government.” In addition, a number of applications contained “No” responses to Question 10, even when BHPB had pending negotiations, efforts to obtain access rights, regulatory actions, or other business dealings in which the government official was directly involved or in a position to influence. Furthermore, in a number of instances, BHPB business people were provided with examples of language that had been used by other employees when responding to Questions 10 and 11 in order to explain why an invitation was appropriate, even when there was a “Yes” response to Questions 10-12. As a result, many hospitality applications contained the exact same statements in response to Questions 10 and 11, rather than a description of the specific facts and circumstances relating to that government official.

Third, while BHPB had an annual Guide to Business Conduct review and certification process, and generalized training, it did not provide its employees and executives with any specific training on how to fill out the hospitality forms or how to evaluate whether an invitation to a government official complied with the Guide. During the relevant period, this portion of the Guide included a case example concerning a negotiation between BHPB and a Ministry for Planning in a particular country, in which the Minister indicated that it would help his consideration of the company’s application if the Minister and his wife could visit BHPB’s operations in Australia. The example stated that “this kind of situation requires the utmost caution and you must consult senior management. You must not offer to provide anything that could be reasonably regarded as an attempt to unduly influence the Minister’s decision. This means that you must not pay for travel by the Minister’s wife.” However, BHPB did not provide any guidance to its senior managers on how they should apply this portion of the Guide when determining whether to approve invitations and airfares for government officials’ spouses.

Fourth, although the form asked whether any business was “expected to develop” with the invitee, BHPB did not institute a process for updating hospitality applications or reassessing the appropriateness of invitations to government officials if conditions changed. Almost all of the hospitality applications relating to government officials were approved and submitted in mid-2007. However, BHPB did not require hospitality forms to be updated, or invitations to be reconsidered, in those situations when government officials subsequently became involved in negotiations, attempts by BHPB to obtain access rights, or other pending matters.

Fifth, hospitality applications were submitted by individual CSGs, and generally only reflected negotiations between the government official and that CSG. While lists of invitees were circulated among senior BHPB business managers, BHPB had no process in place to determine whether the invited government official also was involved in other CSGs’ negotiations, efforts to obtain access rights, or other business dealings.”

The order next states, under the heading “As a Result of its Insufficient Internal Controls, BHPB Invited Government Officials who were Directly Involved in, or in a Position to Influence, Pending Negotiations, Regulatory Actions, or Business Dealings with BHPB,” as follows:

“As a result of its failure to design and maintain sufficient internal controls over the Olympic global hospitality program, BHPB invited a number of government officials who were directly involved with, or in a position to influence, pending negotiations, efforts by BHPB to obtain access rights, or other pending matters.”

Republic of Burundi

In mid-2007, BHPB’s MinEx group submitted a hospitality application form to invite the as-yet-unidentified Burundi Minister of Mines and spouse to the Olympics, with airfare included. Because BHPB was not currently in negotiations with the Minister of Mines at the time, the hospitality application form contained a “No” response to Question 10. However, BHPB had a joint venture (“JV”) in Burundi with an entity that was in danger of losing a nickel exploration permit unless it made a substantial near-term financial investment in the project or negotiated a renewal or amendment of the permit. Under Burundi law, the Minister of Mines was responsible for reviewing an application to renew or amend a mining permit and presenting the application to the country’s Council of Ministers for final approval.

In late 2007 and early 2008, BHPB began to negotiate directly with the newly appointed Minister of Mines to extend and modify the JV’s nickel exploration permit. However, BHPB employees did not update the hospitality application or take steps to re-review the appropriateness of the invitation after these negotiations began. As noted above, no such re-review was required by the internal controls that BHPB relied upon for the Olympic hospitality program. The Minister of Mines and his wife attended the Olympics as BHPB’s guests for four days.

Republic of the Philippines

In July 2007, BHPB became embroiled in a dispute with a local JV partner concerning a prospective nickel mining operation in the Philippines. The JV partner sued BHPB in local court and filed requests with the country’s Secretary of Department of Environment and Resources (“DENR”), requesting reversion of the mining rights that the JV partner had assigned to the JV.

In October 2007, a BHPB employee from the Stainless Steel Materials CSG submitted a hospitality application to invite the Secretary and his spouse to attend the Olympics, with airfare included. The completed application contained a “Yes” response to Question 10, but only described a technical services agreement that BHPB was considering submitting to the DENR for the Secretary’s approval. Question 10 of the hospitality form did not explicitly require, and the employee’s response did not provide, any information about the Secretary’s role in reviewing the JV partner’s reversion request or the fact that the President of the Philippines had designated the Secretary to mediate the dispute between BHPB and its JV partner. The form included a “No” response to Question 11.

The Secretary accepted BHPB’s invitation in December 2007. In March 2008, he issued a decision denying the JV partner’s reversion request and continued during the ensuing months to mediate the parties’ dispute. In late July, BHPB became concerned that the company’s JV partner had learned about the Olympics invitation. As a result, BHPB withdrew the invitation shortly before the Olympics began.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

In mid-2007, MinEx submitted a hospitality application form to invite the Governor of the Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the “DRC”) and his spouse, with airfare included. Following its June 2007 review of 10 invitations to government officials, the Ethics Panel subcommittee advised MinEx to provide more detail about whether the invitation involved Gecamines, a state-owned entity with which BHPB was attempting to negotiate a copper exploration deal. In response, MinEx submitted a revised application that contained a “No” response to Question 10, stating, “[t]he issuing and management of mineral titles and negotiations with third parties in DRC have nothing to do with the Governor’s roles and responsibilities. Although [BHPB] are currently engaged in negotiations with State copper company, Gecamines, the Governor of Katanga will have no influence in these dealings.”

Later in 2007, however, BHPB employees held several meetings with the Governor. Internal summaries of these meetings noted that the Governor was “a close ally of [the DRC] President” and that having the Governor as BHPB’s ally “could be the key to unlock a successful entry in a deal with Gecamines.” In spite of obtaining this information after making the initial decision to invite the Governor of Katanga and his wife to the Olympics, BHPB employees did not update the hospitality application form or take steps to re-review the appropriateness of the invitation. No such re-review was required under the internal controls that BHPB relied upon for the Olympic hospitality program. The Governor accepted the invitation, but then cancelled before the Olympics.

Republic of Guinea

In May 2007, MinEx submitted a hospitality application to invite the Guinea Minister of Mines and his spouse to the Olympics, with airfare included. The application contained a “No” response to Question 10, and in response to Question 11 it stated, “No. A sound professional relationship with the Guinea Ministry of Mines is key for the success of the [BHPB] exploration and mining business in this country.” Following its June 2007 review of 10 invitations to government officials, the Ethics Panel subcommittee advised MinEx to provide additional information concerning this invitation. The MinEx employee who had prepared the original form asked BHPB’s Guinea country president to respond to the request for information concerning any pending negotiations with the Minister. The country president replied that “of course” there would be “further negotiations” regarding the upcoming renewal of a bauxite mining concession held by BHPB and the government’s intention to review all existing mining concessions, but that the response to Question 11 was “key in that regard.”

This information was not passed along to the Ethics Panel subcommittee, however, and the form was not updated to accurately reflect the pending negotiations across all of the CSGs operating in Guinea. Because they received no response to the Guinea country president’s email, MinEx officials mistakenly understood that the Ethics Panel had approved the invitation. The Minister accepted the invitation on behalf of himself and his wife in January 2008, but cancelled shortly before the Olympics began.”

Based on the above findings, the order states:

“As a result of the conduct described above, BHPB violated [the FCPA's books and records provisions] because its books and records, namely certain Olympic hospitality applications, did not, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect pending negotiations or business dealings between BHPB and government officials invited to the Olympics. BHPB violated [the FCPA's internal controls provisions] because it did not devise and maintain internal accounting controls over the Olympic hospitality program that were sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that access to assets and transactions were in executed in accordance with management’s authorization.”

Under the heading “BHPB’s Cooperation and Remedial Efforts,” the order states:

“In response to the Commission’s investigation, BHPB retained outside counsel to assist it with conducting an extensive internal investigation into potential improper conduct in the jurisdictions that were the subject of the staff’s inquiry. BHPB provided significant cooperation with the Commission’s investigation by voluntarily producing large volumes of business, financial, and accounting documents from around the world in response to the staff’s requests, and by voluntarily producing translations of key documents. BHPB’s counsel conducted scores of interviews and provided the staff with regular reports on the findings of its internal investigation.

BHPB also has undertaken significant remedial actions. BHPB has created a compliance group within its legal department that is independent from the business units. This compliance group is responsible for FCPA compliance, among other things, and reports directly to BHPB’s general counsel and Audit Committee. In addition, it has reviewed its existing anticorruption compliance program and implemented other changes. These include embedding independent anti-corruption managers into its businesses and further enhancing its policies and procedures concerning hospitality, gift giving, use of third party agents, business partners, and other high-risk compliance areas. BHPB also has enhanced its financial and auditing controls, including policies to specifically address conducting business in high-risk markets. BHPB has conducted extensive employee training on anti-corruption issues and overhauled its processes for conducting internal investigations of potential violations of anti-corruption laws.”

The order further states:

“During a one-year term …, Respondents [BHP Billiton] shall report to the Commission staff on the operation of BHPB’s FCPA and anti-corruption compliance program. If Respondents discover credible evidence, not already reported to the Commission staff, that: (1) questionable or corrupt payments or questionable or corrupt transfers of property or interests may have been offered, promised, paid, or authorized by Respondents, or any entity or person while working directly for Respondents, to any government official; (2) that related false books and records have been maintained; or (3) that Respondents’ internal controls failed to detect and prevent such conduct, Respondents shall promptly report such conduct to the Commission staff.”

During the one-year period, BHP Billiton shall also report to the SEC “on the operation of [its] FCPA and anti-corruption compliance program” and “shall undertaken one follow-up review.”

In this SEC release, Andrew Ceresney (Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division) stated:

“BHP Billiton footed the bill for foreign government officials to attend the Olympics while they were in a position to help the company with its business or regulatory endeavors. BHP Billiton recognized that inviting government officials to the Olympics created a heightened risk of violating anti-corruption laws, yet the company failed to implement sufficient internal controls to address that heightened risk.”

Antonia Chion (Associate Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division) added:

“A ‘check the box’ compliance approach of forms over substance is not enough to comply with the FCPA. Although BHP Billiton put some internal controls in place around its Olympic hospitality program, the company failed to provide adequate training to its employees and did not implement procedures to ensure meaningful preparation, review, and approval of the invitations.”

As noted in the SEC release:

“The SEC’s order finds that BHP Billiton violated [the FCPA's books and records and internal controls provions].  The settlement, in which the company neither admits nor denies the SEC’s findings, reflects BHP Billiton’s remedial efforts and cooperation with the SEC’s investigation and requires the company to report to the SEC on the operation of its FCPA and anti-corruption compliance program for a one-year period.”

BHP Billiton agreed to pay a $25 million penalty to settle the SEC’s charges.

This BHP Billiton release states in full as follows.

  • U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) to take no action
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation that commenced in 2009 resolved on all matters
  • No findings of bribery or corrupt intent
  • DOJ’s ‘no action’ and SEC resolution conclude the U.S. investigations
  • SEC imposes a civil penalty relating to accounting provisions of the FCPA
  • SEC notes BHP Billiton’s “significant cooperation” and “significant remedial actions”
  • SEC findings relate to BHP Billiton’s internal controls and books and records governing its hospitality program at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

BHP Billiton today announced the resolution of the previously disclosed investigation by the SEC into potential breaches of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The DOJ has also completed its investigation into BHP Billiton without taking any action.

The investigations related primarily to previously terminated minerals exploration and development efforts as well as hospitality provided by the Company at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. This concludes the US investigations on all matters.

BHP Billiton will continue to cooperate with the Australian Federal Police investigation, which was announced in 2013.

The matter is being resolved with the SEC pursuant to an administrative order which imposes a US$25 million civil penalty. The SEC Order makes no findings of corrupt intent or bribery by BHP Billiton.

The findings announced today by the SEC relate to a hospitality program hosted by BHP Billiton which supported its sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. As part of this program, the Company invited customers, suppliers, business partners, and government officials, along with Company employees, to the Olympic Games. While BHP Billiton made efforts at the time to address the risks related to inviting government officials to the Olympics, the controls it relied upon were insufficient to satisfy the civil books and records and internal accounting controls requirements of the U.S. statute.

The SEC noted the “significant cooperation” BHP Billiton provided during the extensive investigation, which commenced in 2009. It also noted the “significant remedial actions” the Company has taken over the past five years to enhance its compliance program.

At the time of its sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, BHP Billiton had no independent compliance function. Instead, accountability for complying with the Company’s anti-corruption policies, which were set out in the Company’s Guide to Business Conduct, was vested in its operating business units. The Company has since created an independent compliance function that reports to the head of the legal function and the Risk & Audit Committee of the BHP Billiton Board. Today this function would be required to approve any offer of hospitality of this kind to a government official. Under the SEC Order, BHP Billiton will self-report on its compliance program for twelve months.

BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie said, “We have fully cooperated with the SEC throughout this process. We have taken the appropriate remedial actions and developed a world class compliance program that builds on the strong policies we have had in place. BHP Billiton operates a global resources business and recognises that the highest standards of business conduct are an essential part of our operations. Our Company has learned from this experience and is better and stronger as a result.”

Scott Muller (Davis Polk & Wardwell) represented BHP Billiton.  See here for Davis Polk’s press release. According to the release, 8 attorneys worked on the matter.

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]