Archive for the ‘Serious Fraud Office’ Category

Across The Pond

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Today’s post highlights various developments across the pond in the United Kingdom.

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Last week, Sweett Group (a U.K.-based provider of professional services for the construction and management of building and infrastructure projects) provided this update regarding its previously disclosed scrutiny:

“Sweett Group, notified the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) last year about an allegation of impropriety concerning the conduct of a former employee in 2010, which was reported in the Wall Street Journal in 2013. That former employee operated from an office in Dubai under contract with Cyril Sweett International Limited (CSI).  CSI is a company registered in Cyprus and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sweett Group plc. Sweett Group initiated independent investigations of the allegation and has been keeping the SFO regularly informed as to the progress of those investigations. As was reported on 2 April 2014, evidence came to light that suggests that material instances of deception may have been perpetrated by a former employee or employees during the period 2009 – 2011. One of the former employees refused to answer questions asked of him by the independent investigators. The SFO has now decided to exercise its statutory powers under the Criminal Justice Act to investigate this matter. Sweett Group continues to cooperate fully with the SFO on this matter.”

The U.K. SFO issued this release stating:

“The SFO confirmed today that the Director has opened an investigation into Sweett Group in relation to its activities in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.”

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This recent front-page Wall Street Journal article added Tradition Financial Services of Switzerland to the growing list of financial services firms under scrutiny for  prior relationships with senior Libyan officials under Moammar Gadhafi.  According to the article, “City of London police pursuing a criminal probe have interviewed former employees of Tradition and are nearing a decision on whether to bring charges.”  The article also suggests that the SEC and DOJ are also “examining whether the firm or its employees were part of what authorities believe was a broad pattern in which Western companies used improper means to curry favor with officials in the Gadhafi regime.”  According to the article, “U.S. investigators have also looked into the Libyan activities of hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone of Harbinger Capital Partners.”

This 2011 guest post predicted scrutiny concerning business practices in Libya after Gadhafi. This previous post asked – in connection with the various Libya probes – whether the U.S. government bears some responsibility.

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This Pillsbury client alert asks – in regards to the Bribery Act’s recent three-year anniversary – “The UK Bribery Act, Three Years On: Can We Relax Yet?”  The alert begins:

“The Bribery Act 2010 has now been in force for three years. Despite the announcements and commentary that it heralded a new and aggressive face toward corporate corruption, there have as yet been no corporate prosecutions brought under the Act. Was it all sound and fury signifying nothing? Or should all involved remain cautious and focused on compliance?”

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In this recent speech, Ben Morgan (Joint Head of Bribery and Corruption at the U.K. Serious Fraud Office) asks “Deferred Prosecution Agreements:  What Do We Know So Far?”

The obvious answer is nothing since there has not yet been a UK DPA in the “FCPA-like” context or otherwise.  Nevertheless in the speech Morgan did highlight what “you need to do if a DPA is to be a potential resolution to an issue you discover.”

Morgan stated:

“It is not my job to try to persuade you to seek a DPA – that is a matter entirely for you and it is open to you to ignore that potential disposal of an issue and defend a prosecution instead. We are very comfortable with both scenarios, but the point of today is to concentrate on the DPA fork in the road as opposed to the adversarial prosecution fork in the road, so that’s what I will concentrate on. While my intention today is to encourage co-operation between you and the SFO, do remember that that only applies to those of you who choose the DPA fork in the road. For everyone else, remember we are ultimately a prosecutor and you can expect the bulk of our case load to be prosecuted in the usual way – the Director has made that entirely clear.”

[Comment:  years ago the DOJ said the same thing about NPAs and DPAs (i.e. they were to be used sparingly and only in appropriate circumstances) however the passage of time has suggested otherwise].

Back to Morgan’s speech.  He stated:

“If I was back in my old job, advising a company that had become aware of a potential criminal incident, I would be asking myself these two questions:

  • 1) Will the SFO ever find out? and
  • 2) If they do, what would they really do about it anyway?

Those of you who follow what the SFO has to say about DPAs will know that the Director and our General Counsel have spoken about both of these points at length. I do not repeat what they have said today, although I do endorse it. Today I want to make just two new points to amplify that.

As for “will the SFO find out” the point is simply this – our intelligence capability is expanding and as is widely known, we are investing heavily in it. The Director has said that we are seeking to make use of the full range of investigative tools available to us, and I can say from personal experience that that is now moving to a new level in practice. Through our own capabilities, and in conjunction with our law enforcement and intelligence partners, we have access to and are using that full range of tools. That is potentially game changing for us, not only in respect of forensic recovery of things that have happened in the past, but also in respect of evidence of things happening right now – crime in action.

Judging whether we will find out has always been an exercise in balancing risk. My message for you is if you don’t understand what that full range of investigative tools entails, you are not doing a proper balancing exercise – so you need to do some research on that, and have another think about your risk appetite. Refresh your assessment of what we’re able to do and how that might affect you.

As for “the SFO won’t do anything anyway”, I have to acknowledge history – we have very few corporate convictions in our stable. But under the current Director’s leadership I and others are expressly addressing that as a priority. Three points are worth making.

1) It is often said that it is too difficult to prosecute under pre-Bribery Act legislation. I disagree with that strongly – it can be done if the evidence is there. With the convictions recently of two of the controlling minds of Innospec – the former CEO and current Sales Director – we have shown that we have the resilience to find that evidence and make sure a jury has the opportunity to consider it, however long that takes and however robustly defendants try to stop that happening. Had the company not already pleaded, we would have had a conviction of a corporate under the old legislation for the bribery of foreign public officials. It can be done, we are doing it on other cases right now and we have the appetite to take it on on new cases as well if the evidence leads that way. It is not too difficult to prosecute under pre-Bribery Act legislation. It is hard, yes, but that is what the SFO is for, and we will do it.

2) Of course as time moves on, more and more of the conduct we are looking at is starting to straddle or post-date the coming into force of the Bribery Act, so for corruption offences at least, the job of prosecuting a corporate should become easier.

3) Finally on this, you will have heard the Director speak about the need for the logical expansion of the section 7 offence to cover other economic crimes, and my own view is that that logic is irresistible, such that the job of prosecuting corporates for more than just corruption offences should also become easier.”

As to “what we know about DPAs so far,” Morgan stated:

“[W]hen you become aware of potentially criminal conduct, there is a fork in the road – do you keep quiet and brace yourself for a fight if the SFO comes calling; or do you come and talk to us, work with us rather than against us, and try to manage the consequences of that incident responsibly, exhibiting the characteristics of honesty and integrity that I am sure every one of you has a lot to say about in your Code of Ethics and your Corporate Social Responsibility literature. Do you do the right thing morally, regardless of your analysis of the balance of risk?

I speak to defence barristers and solicitors about this a lot, and I am frequently told that the impediment to corporates coming forward is that their advisers cannot say with enough certainty what will happen if they do. That’s nonsense. Ever since DPAs have been on the agenda the consistent message from the SFO has been that a company that comes to tell us about a problem and genuinely co-operates with us in resolving it is unlikely to be prosecuted. While there will still be corporate prosecutions, the Director has said on many occasions that if a company genuinely does that, it will weigh heavily against the public interest parts of the Full Code Test pointing toward a prosecution. So actually, the position is pretty clear.

The question that naturally arises then is what is meant by genuinely co-operating with us? Again, I personally think this is pretty clear too – the DPA code covers it, and we have developed that in several speeches since. It seems to me that the issue amongst defence lawyers on co-operation is less a lack of clarity about what we are asking for, and more the fact that they don’t particularly like what we are asking for. For that reason I am glad to have this opportunity to speak directly to the corporates present here today. I think it’s important people hear from us about what we are asking for. If you want to have a chance of getting a DPA when you discover an issue somewhere in your network, you need to think through some of the following:

1) Tell us something we don’t already know, and do it within a reasonable period of the incident coming to light. I accept that it is hard to strike the balance between knowing enough about what has happened to make it worth speaking to us, and leaving it too long and us finding out anyway. If I was an adviser, I would be trying to approach that judgement by reference to the SFO’s own criteria for taking on a case. The Director has the power under section 1 of the Criminal Justice Act to open a criminal investigation into a suspected offence which appears to him on reasonable grounds to involve serious fraud, bribery or corruption. Practical tip number one is why not approach your analysis using that same test? I can’t guarantee it will get you a DPA, but it is the best help I feel I can offer in terms of when to come and talk to us.

One thing I can say with confidence is that generally speaking, the time to come will be a lot sooner than people have tended to think in the past. We certainly do not need you to have instructed lawyers to do an 18 month internal investigation and produce a weighty report. In the context of DPAs, from the SFO’s perspective those days are over. You need to decide early if you want a DPA to an option, and come and see us promptly if you do. And if that seems worrying, remember this – we have to apply the Full Code Test to any charging decision we make, so if you come and tell us something early you have the security that if having looked at it together, the evidence of a crime is not there, we MUST NOT pursue the case, and I can promise you we won’t. We are far too busy to try to force a square peg into a round hole.

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4) There are a series of other important steps a co-operating company needs to take – and these are set out in the Code of Conduct: engaging with us on the scope of an ongoing investigation, points around the capture and sharing of digital material, that sort of thing. The final practical tip I would offer is this. In the case of all co-operative steps, make sure that you really are co-operating; genuinely. I came across the awful phrase recently at an event “the impression of co-operation” and believe me, nothing is more likely to derail the DPA process than a stage-managed attempt to co-operate that, as our investigation progresses, inevitably transpires to have been designed to give no more than the impression of co-operation. It is a matter of substance, sustained over time, not form, and proper co-operation requires genuine effort on the part of a company from the point of coming to speak to us, right through the DPA process, and then on throughout the life of the DPA.

Remember that ultimately it is a matter for a judge whether a DPA is finalised, not the SFO. I can say for my part that I certainly won’t be inviting any corporate into the process who I do not honestly believe is being fully frank with us. Littering correspondence with the word “co-operation” but in fact doing anything but is really not good enough. Co-operation is something we will judge by actions, not words. And while I can’t speak for the judiciary, I would be stunned if anything other than genuine, unreserved co-operation from a corporate would be enough to satisfy a judge that it is in the interests of justice to dispose of criminal conduct through a DPA rather than a prosecution.

For those that choose the DPA fork in the road, my message for you today is a warm one; if we think a DPA is appropriate then we are willing to work with you, collaboratively, to present to the court a DPA that is properly in the interests of justice. To get to that mutual goal, where we are both in court asking the judge for the same thing, you will have to be frank and open with us, and co-operate with us. I’ve explained what that means to us. A DPA won’t be appropriate in every case, and even if you follow everything I’ve said this morning I can’t guarantee you will get a DPA, but if you choose to ignore everything I’ve said, you might quickly find you’ve ruled one out.”

“Friday” Roundup

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

On the brink of trial, statistics of note, the over-hyped U.K. Bribery Act turns 3, say what?, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in a special Thursday edition of the Friday roundup.

On The Brink of Trial

This February 2012 post highlighting the SEC’s enforcement action against Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen (a former and current executive of Noble Corp. respectively) asked – “will the SEC be put to its burden of proof.”  Among other things, the post noted that the SEC has never prevailed in an FCPA enforcement action when put to its burden of proof.

With the passage of time, the SEC’s case against the defendants was consistently trimmed as the SEC attempted to meet its burden (see this post as well as here).  Among other things, a portion of the SEC’s claims were dismissed or abandoned on statute of limitations grounds and the trial court judge ruled, in an issue of first impression, that the SEC has the burden of negating the FCPA’s facilitation payments exception.

On the brink of the SEC’s first-ever FCPA trial (trial was scheduled to begin next week), the parties have agreed to settle.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Jackson consented to a final judgment permanently restraining and enjoining him from violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions.  Jackson was represented by, among others, David Krakoff (Buckley Sandler).  In a release, Krakoff stated:

“We are very pleased with today’s settlement.  It resolves allegations that have hung over Mr. Jackson for many years without any admission of liability, without any payment of money and without any restriction on Mr. Jackson’s future employment opportunities.  Mr. Jackson can now move forward with his life and career.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Ruehlen consented to a final judgment permanently restraining and enjoining him from aiding and abetting FCPA books and records violations.  Ruehlen was represented by, among others, Joseph Warin and Nicola Hanna (Gibson Dunn).  In a release, Warin stated:

“We are very pleased with yesterday’s settlement.  Mr. Ruehlen is an exemplary and dedicated employee who first brought the allegations to light and fully cooperated with the SEC’s investigation.  While we were looking forward to presenting our case to a jury, the settlement of one record-keeping claim – without any admission of liability or wrongdoing, monetary penalty, or restriction on Mr. Ruehlen’s employment – satisfactorily ends the matter and allows Jim to focus his energies on his work for Noble.”

In neither consent is Jackson or Ruehlen required to pay any civil fine.

Score this one as you see fit, but my take is that this case represents yet another SEC failure in an FCPA enforcement action when put to its burden of proof.  As the Second Circuit recently recognized, SEC neither admit nor deny settlements are not about the truth, but pragmatism.

Statistics of Note

EY recently released its 13th annual Global Fraud survey (the results were based on interviews with more than 2,700 executives across 59 countries).  Statistics of note include the following.

“Despite the aggressive enforcement environment, our research suggests that the percentage of companies that have anti-bribery/anticorruption (ABAC) policies has increased by only 1% over the past two years, and a persistent minority has yet to take even the basic steps toward an effective compliance program.  One in five businesses still does not have an ABAC policy.  Less than 50% of respondents have attended ABAC training.  There has been a reduction in the level of reporting on compliance issues to boards.”

“The survey results show that executives in different roles have a differing view of the level of risk.  27% of chief compliance officers (CCOs) believe bribery and corrupt practices happen widely in their country versus 38% of all respondents — so they appear to have a more optimistic view than their colleagues.  18% of sales and marketing executives believe it is common practice to use bribery to win contracts in their sector versus 12% of all respondents — so they appear to have a more pessimistic view than their colleagues.”

“Additionally, the survey results suggest that compliance efforts may not always be targeting the right risks in the most effective way.  Less than a third of businesses are always or very frequently conducting anti-corruption due diligence as part of their mergers and acquisitions process.  45% of organizations are not mitigating risks by introducing a whistleblower hotline.  ABAC training is less likely to occur in jurisdictions where there is a higher perceived risk of bribery. Sales and marketing executives are the least likely of all our respondents to be included in risk assessments — despite being exposed to and aware of significant risks.  ABAC training, for example, is more likely to be attended by executives in mature markets, where corruption is perceived to be lower, than in higher-risk emerging markets. Of the survey population, 58% of respondents in developed markets had received ABAC training, compared with just 40% in emerging markets.”

Consistent with the observation in this recent post, these survey results again ought to prompt questions whether the current approach to enforcement – as well as enforcement policy – are effective.

Bribery Act Turns 3

The U.K. Bribery Act, a massively over-hyped law when it was being proposed and went live, has turned three.  On the day it went live, I offered the following two cents.

“As with any new law, there is likely to be a learning phase for both the enforcement agencies and those subject to the law. That was certainly the case in the U.S. in the years following passage of the FCPA in 1977. Thus, it very well may be the case that there are no enforcement actions for some time (recognizing that it often takes a few years from beginning of an inquiry to resolution of an action). Thus the greatest immediate impact of the Bribery Act is sure to be the compliance ethic it inspires. I expect that the enforcement actions that may develop over time to focus on egregious instances of corporate conduct on which no reasonable minds would disagree. I do not get the sense, based on public comments of the Ministry of Justice and the Serious Fraud Office, that the envelope will be pushed too far in the early years of the Bribery Act.”

Indeed, there has yet to be an “FCPA-like” Bribery Act enforcement action.  This troubles Transparency International – see here.

Say What?

Speaking of the Bribery Act, this is from “The Lawyer” regarding corruption allegations at FIFA and the ability of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office to bring an enforcement action against FIFA sponsors.

“Section 7 [of the U.K. Bribery Act] is entitled “Failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery”. Its reach is as global as the World Cup. The fact that Fifa is a Zurich-based NGO does not mean it’s offside. Similarly for the sponsors so long as some aspect of their business is carried out in the UK. A single sale of an Adidas football boot via a Visa credit card is sufficient for David Green [Director of the SFO] to apply to the courts for search warrants in order to unleash dawn raids on their UK HQs.”

Regarding the italicized portion … say what?

For the Reading Stack

See here for the always informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update.  Regarding the Second Circuit’s recent decision in SEC v. Citigroup, the Update states:

“For companies subject to the SEC’s authority to enforce the FCPA, the Second Circuit’s decision in the Citi matter provides some comfort that a corporate resolution requiring judicial approval, once achieved, should be subject to appropriate deference when it comes before a district court for review. At the same time, however, the decision also reinforces the understanding that resolutions achieved by settlement, even if approved by a court, do not constitute legal precedent.”

An interesting read here from the BBC regarding “contemporary business culture” in China.

“Chinese workplaces are just as political as those anywhere else in the world, some would argue more so because the value placed on outward harmony in Chinese culture drives the rivalry underground. [...]  The politics in a multinational’s China operation can be especially insidious when there’s a thin layer of western management attempting to operate according to principles which have limited purchase in the Chinese business culture beneath.”

Aboard the “bribery express” – from Eurasianet.

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A Happy Independence Day to U.S. readers and a good weekend to all.

Checking In With Richard Alderman

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Richard Alderman is the former Director of the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”).  Since leaving the SFO in April 2012, Alderman has remained active in anti-corruption projects.

In this Q&A, Alderman discusses certain of these projects and offers insight on the following issues:  the current international enforcement climate including multi-jurisdictional issues; voluntary disclosure; DPAs; and a compliance defense.

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In April 2012, you left the SFO.  What have you been doing since?

I have been working with some international institutions and NGOs dealing with anti-corruption on the front line. This is what I wanted to do because I had met a number of individuals who inspired me. Recent examples are the Convention on Business Integrity in Nigeria and an initiative by the Egyptian Junior Business Association aimed at the vibrant SME sector in Egypt. I have also had the privilege of meeting individuals involved in the radical transformation of the procurement practices of Moscow City Council.

How do you see the current international corruption enforcement scene?

We have moved on from where we were a few years ago when there were only a few states that took action in these cases. Examples of issues now are-

  • How do we deal with the interests of the different states that want to enforce the law?
  • What will be the impact of more enforcement by demand states (including demand states that are also supply states)?
  • When will law enforcement agencies uncover and prosecute corrupt companies that have no intention of complying with global rules?
  • How do we get the proceeds of settlements back to the demand states?
  • Can a system of incentives be devised to reward companies with top quality anti-corruption systems?

In current enforcement era, multiple sovereigns may have jurisdiction over the same alleged conduct.  What issues do you see regarding multi-jurisdictional enforcement?

This is becoming a key issue. I prepared a detailed report for the UNCAC conference in Panama in November 2013 that covered these and other issues.

Companies are undoubtedly at risk here. If we look at violations first, different states can prosecute for the same violation. The company’s only protection is the principle of double jeopardy but this is interpreted in different ways in different states. For example it is not an issue for the US because the US does not recognise foreign convictions and acquittals for this purpose.

This will become a particular issue when one of the enforcing states is the demand state. Why should such a state be prevented from taking action in its own courts because of a resolution elsewhere? We can expect national sovereignty issues.

Companies can also seek to exclude a state with a wide concept of double jeopardy by reaching a settlement with another state and then pleading double jeopardy in the first state. I have seen this.

The issue also arises with asset forfeiture. I do not understand how multiple states can confiscate the same asset or profit. Once the money has been paid to law enforcement somewhere then any further disgorgement is actually a criminal fine.

What about global settlements?

I am very much in favour of these. I know from my own experience that they are very difficult to bring about. The international mechanisms in Article 47 of UNCAC and Article 4(3) of the OECD Convention should be used to discuss how the different enforcing states should work together and how a global settlement should be structured. Neither mechanism has yet been used for this purpose but they are available. Enforcing states will be nervous but these mechanisms will be vital as more and more states start to enforce the law.

Do the recent Libor settlements have any implications for global settlements in corruption cases?

These settlements have been very remarkable. A UK prosecutor cannot however enter into such an agreement if there are criminal pleas in the UK. This is because the senior judge in the Innospec case said that it was wrong for the SFO to discuss the penalty to be paid by the company even if the penalty was subject to the overall approval of the court.

One consequence of the new UK DPA system is that the UK enforcing authority can enter into these discussions if what is being discussed is a DPA rather than a traditional prosecution. It will be up to the judge to decide if this is the right way forward.

The result is that UK prosecuting authorities will not be able to participate in global settlements in the future unless there is a DPA approved by the court. I see this as an issue that will be increasingly important in the UK.

Do you still favour corporate self-reporting of conduct that could implicate bribery and corruption laws?

Yes. I remain a keen supporter of self-reporting. This has however become more difficult for companies. There are two main reasons. These are-

  • No enforcing state has set out its policy on when it will refer the self-report to another state.  A company considering a self-report therefore has to think about the other states that may see the report (and whether employees are at risk). We need a proper understanding of what enforcing states should do. This needs to be publicly available and agreed by the UN and the OECD.
  • Even if the report is not passed to another state, that other state is likely to see media reports of the resolution and the admissions made by the company and decide to start its own action. There is an increasing risk of these follow up cases.

Should companies carry out their own investigations when alerted to alleged instances of improper conduct?

My experience is that major global companies take these allegations very seriously and want to see what happened. There is an issue about whether the company should self-report immediately or whether it should carry out some preliminary work to satisfy itself that there is something in the allegation. The expectations of enforcing authorities can vary here. My view has always been that the company should be satisfied first that there is something that requires detailed investigation.

I am in favour of companies carrying out their own investigations with agreement from the enforcing state about scope, milestones and regular updates. I know that some enforcing states will also want to carry out their own independent investigation. I understand the reasons for this but it means that the authority is spending its scarce resource on a case where the company is willing to cooperate and not on the more difficult cases where the company has no intention of self-reporting and cooperating. As I see it there is too little action by enforcing authorities in finding such companies and dealing with them.

Recently the U.K. adopted DPAs.  How do you feel about DPAs and what are the issues as you see them?  What issues do you see regarding DPAs?

I have always been in favour of DPAs as one tool available to prosecutors. My experience was that the UK was in a poor position in global cases with international resolutions with the traditional criminal justice tools. I saw two main advantages of DPAs. These are-

  • They can form part of a system of incentives to encourage companies to self-report and cooperate and to improve compliance.
  • They enable prosecutors to discuss global resolutions without contravening the Innospec case.

I know that the FCPA Professor has expressed considerable public opposition to DPAs. I agree that they need to be transparent and that the judges have to be fully involved. I also agree that we still need to see the traditional full prosecution with debarment in suitable cases. This could be where the company is systemically corrupt and has no intention of abandoning corruption. I want to see more of these cases being pursued by enforcing states.

The full prosecution should be part of the toolkit of the prosecutor. There should be other tools for other types of case. It is notable that the only states that have made a sustained attack on corporate corruption over the years have either not used traditional prosecution or have used it sparingly and have also used alternatives. This is significant although it seems to me to be insufficiently appreciated.

Should corporate compliance be a defence to a bribery or corruption offense or merely mitigate the potential fine and penalty amount?

I remain in favour of the compliance defence. The Bribery Act offence is an excellent model in this area. I have seen how much impact this had on companies and the scale of the improvement made in their anti-corruption work. There are a number of other states that have compliance as a defence.

There is however an issue that is going to be increasingly relevant in those states that have compliance as a defence. The public wants to see the offence produce results in terms of criminal convictions. So far there do not appear to be any in the states with a compliance defence. There will be a question about whether compliance as a defence is right or whether the US approach with compliance as mitigation is to be preferred because of the results achieved. We can expect a lot more on this. It may be one of the issues to be considered in the recently announced UK review of the effectiveness of the enforcing institutions.

You have talked publicly about sanctions and incentives for companies as it relates to bribery and corruption offenses.  Can you elaborate on this issue?

Alternatives to traditional prosecution together with self-reporting and cooperation are important incentives in the area of violations. There is though a wider issue that is not sufficiently recognised and discussed. This is whether there should be more general incentives to companies that have brought about an excellent standard of anti-corruption compliance.

There was a Recommendation by the OECD in 2009 encouraging states to look at public procurement, licenses, aid funding and export credits as a way of recognising companies with the highest standards of anti-corruption. There has been little progress on this although a few states have introduced some initiatives.

I am very much in favour of this. For example the citizens of a state will benefit if a company that meets very high standards is successful in a public procurement exercise and companies with a poor anti-corruption approach are not. If those companies with a poor record decide that they have to reform then that is a benefit to everyone.

I see this as one of the key issues in anti-corruption that will become increasingly prominent in the coming years. It has great potential to make a difference.

Friday Roundup

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Scrutiny alerts, across the pond, for the reading stack, and congrats.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts And Updates

FedEx

The Wall Street Journal reports here:

“FedEx Corp. told U.S. authorities that it received allegations that its Kenya operation paid bribes to government officials, according to a statement the company issued to The Wall Street Journal. The shipping company has told the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission about the allegations it potentially violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the statement said. FedEx also said it is investigating the allegations, and has “not found anything to substantiate the allegations.” The anonymous person contacted the firm through email in December 2013 with allegations of bribery in Kenya, according to an email reviewed by the Journal. [...] FedEx told the Journal it approached the SEC and DOJ “shortly after” receiving the December allegations, but didn’t say when specifically it went to authorities. The firm also said it has brought in a U.S. law firm and an external audit team in East Africa as a part of its investigation. The person alleged that FedEx’s Kenya operation bribed government officials in the country between 2010 and 2013, according to the email. FedEx operates through a so-called nominated service contractor in Kenya and other countries in the region, according to the allegations and the company’s website. The alleged bribes went to customs officials to clear shipments without inspection, as well as to government vehicle inspectors and others, the person alleged, according to the email.  The person also wrote that the same notification would go to the DOJ and SEC, according to the email …  FedEx said in its statement that it has been “engaged in a cooperative dialogue with both agencies” since it approached them about the allegations.”

Barrick Gold

Barrick Gold Corp. (a Toronto-based company with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange) and African Barrick Gold (and entity Barrick Gold holds an approximate 65% ownership interest in) were the focus of this recent Wall Street Journal article.  The article states, in pertinent part:

“As part of a process to buy land near [a Tanzania] mine starting last year, African Barrick paid more than $400,000 in cash mostly to Tanzanian government officials and consultants responsible for valuing the land, according to company invoices and copies of checks reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. An anonymous person said the payments were bribes to officials in position to influence African Barrick’s business interests, according to an email sent to the company last year and reviewed by the Journal. The person didn’t describe any quid pro quo behind the payments. African Barrick and Toronto-based Barrick Gold said payments they made weren’t bribes and were legitimate payments for expenses and allowances tied to an agreement with the Tanzanian government.”

In response to the WSJ article, African Barrick Gold released this statement.

Smith & Wesson

The company disclosed in its most recent annual report:.

“On January 19, 2010, the DOJ unsealed indictments of 22 individuals from the law enforcement and military equipment industries, one of whom [Amaro Goncalves] was our former Vice President-Sales, International & U.S. Law Enforcement. We were not charged in the indictment. We also were served with a Grand Jury subpoena for the production of documents. Since that time, the DOJ has been conducting an investigation to determine whether we have violated the FCPA and we have continued to cooperate fully with the DOJ in this matter. On February 21, 2012, the DOJ filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice the indictments of the remaining defendants who are pending trial, including our former Vice President-Sales, International & U.S. Law Enforcement. On February 24, 2012, the district court granted the motion to dismiss. Following extensive investigation and evaluation, the DOJ declined to pursue any FCPA charges against us and closed its investigation. The DOJ has noted our “thorough cooperation” in correspondence to the company.

In May 2010, we received a letter from the staff of the SEC giving notice that the SEC was conducting a non-public, fact-finding inquiry to determine whether there have been any violations of the federal securities laws. It appears this civil inquiry was triggered in part by the DOJ investigation into potential FCPA violations. We have always taken, and continue to take seriously, our obligation as an industry leader to foster a responsible and ethical culture, which includes adherence to laws and industry regulations in the United States and abroad. We are cooperating fully with the SEC in this matter and have undertaken a comprehensive review of company policies and procedures. We are in the final stages of discussions with the SEC staff that have brought us close to a resolution. Any future agreement is subject to final review and approval by the SEC Commissioners. Based upon the status of current discussions, we have estimated and accrued an expense of approximately $2.0 million in fiscal 2014.”

Across The Pond

Earlier this week, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced:

“[That a jury convicted] Dennis Kerrison and Miltiades Papachristos of conspiracy to commit corruption, following an investigation conducted by the Serious Fraud Office.  The convictions of Mr Kerrison, a former CEO of Associated Octel Corporation (subsequently renamed Innospec Limited) and Dr Papachristos, former Regional Sales Director for the Asia Pacific region, complete the SFO’s six year investigation into Innospec, which led to two other individuals and Innospec entering guilty pleas.

Innospec itself pleaded guilty in March 2010 to bribing state officials in Indonesia and was fined $12.7 million. The bribes were intended to secure, or serve as rewards for having secured, contracts from the Government of Indonesia for the supply of Innospec products including Tetraethyl Lead, also known as TEL, a highly dangerous organo-lead compound that was created as an octane booster to be added to engine fuel. Leaded fuel, i.e. fuel that contains TEL, was banned in the UK in 2000 due to links between the compound and severe neurological damage.”

As noted in the SFO release, the Kerrison and Papachristos matter was the “first contested overseas corruption case brought by the SFO concerning the bribery of foreign public officials.”

As further noted in the SFO release:

“Another former Innospec CEO, Paul Jennings, pleaded guilty in June 2012 to two charges of conspiracy to commit corruption and a further charge of conspiracy to commit corruption in July 2012. David Turner, former Innospec Sales and Marketing Director pleaded guilty to three charges of conspiracy to commit corruption in January 2012.”

The Innospec enforcement action also had a U.S. prong involving both the company and individuals (see here, here, and here for prior posts).

For The Reading Stack

An informative read here from Trevor McFadden (Baker & McKenzie) titled “The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines in FCPA Matters:  Understanding the True Impact on Settlement Discussions.”

Congrats

Congrats to Thomas Fox for his 1,000th post on the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog.  I second many of the big-picture observations he makes.  Over the years, Tom has become a good friend and trusted colleague and his “long strange trip” (as he puts it) is a testament that out of adversity can come opportunity.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Confusing And Conflicting Policy Statements From The U.K. SFO

Monday, May 12th, 2014

As the United Kingdom settles into the Bribery Act and enters the “facade” era of enforcement (see here for the prior post), it is difficult to reconcile the confusing and conflicting statements from Serious Fraud Office officials.

For instance, in this recent speech by Alun Milford (SFO General Counsel) titled “Corporate Criminal Liability and Deferred Prosecution Agreements” he states:

“Whatever the offence under investigation, there can be no prosecution unless the two stage test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors is met. First, there must be sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. If there is not, then that is the end of the matter.”

This is inconsistent with what the SFO previously said when it rolled out its Code of Practice relevant to DPAs.  In defending adoption of the “lower evidential test” in the Code of Practice and addressing concerns that this standard “was so easily satisfied as to have very little substance,” the SFO’s response was, in pertinent part, as follows.

“One of the principal purposes of DPAs is to bring a resolution to cases of corporate criminality more quickly. [...] If a prosecutor had to be satisfied that the evidence against an organization was sufficient to meet the Full Code Test (“Prosecutors must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against each suspect on each charge”) without the alternative of the ‘lower’ evidential test before considering whether a DPA was in the public interest, a key purpose of DPAs, as was the express intention of parliament, would become redundant. In order to achieve one of parliament’s key intentions in legislating for the introduction of DPAs a ‘lower’ evidential test is necessary.”

“Satisfaction of the Full Code Test, particularly in view of the well documented difficulties in proving corporate liability, would in most circumstances require a complete an full scale investigation, sometimes spanning many jurisdictions, which inevitably is time consuming and expensive. It is not intended for there to be such an investigation before a DPA is entered into.”

It is also difficult to square the above previous SFO statement – “it is not intended for there to be such a [full scale] investigation before a DPA is entered into” with the following statement from Milford’s recent speech regarding self-reporting:

“It is clear that we cannot accept such [self] reports at face value, especially where the company denies any wrongdoing on its part. [Note:  Query why a company would self-report if it denies any wrongdoing on its part - but that is separate issue]

Even in the case of a self-report, we will need to conduct our own, independent investigation into the extent of the wrongdoing not least because, if on initial review the case seemed right in principle for a DPA disposal, we would need to satisfy ourselves and possibly also a judge that the extent of what was reported was accurate. If, on embarking on our investigation, we find evidence trails disturbed, witnesses tipped off and their first accounts denied us, then we will find it hard to regard the company’s conduct in the preparation of the report as anything other than unhelpful, not least as we will in all probability have identified key individuals within the company as suspects who we might wish to prosecute.”

When law enforcement agencies create alternate realities with different standards and procedures – none of which have historical grounding in rule of law principles – the end result is confusing and conflicting policy statements.

That is exactly what is occurring at the present as the U.K. prepares to enter the “facade” era.