Archive for the ‘Travel and Entertainment’ Category

Avon Resolves Long-Standing FCPA Scrutiny By Agreeing To $135 Million Settlement

Friday, December 19th, 2014

AvonEarlier this week, the DOJ and SEC announced resolution of Avon’s long-standing FCPA scrutiny in China.  The conduct at issue took place between 2004 and 2008 and Avon disclosed the conduct to the enforcement agencies in 2008.

In short, the DOJ and SEC alleged that Avon’s indirect subsidiary (Avon China) provided approximately $8 million in things of value, including gifts, cash, and non-business travel, meals and entertainment, which it gave to Chinese officials in order to obtain and retain business benefits for Avon China.  Avon resolved FCPA books and records and internal controls charges related to this conduct.

Consistent with Avon’s prior disclosure, the aggregate settlement amount was $135 million.  While not a top-ten Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action, the settlement is the third-largest ever against a U.S. company.

The enforcement action included:

  • a DOJ component (a criminal information against Avon China resolved via a plea agreement and a criminal information against Avon Products resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement with an aggregate fine amount of $67.6 million); and
  • an SEC component (a civil complaint against Avon Products which it agreed to resolve without admitting or denying the allegations through payment of $67.4 million).

This post summarizes the approximately 175 pages of resolution documents.  Because all of the resolution documents have substantial overlap, the core allegations are highlighted in connection with the Avon China criminal information, yet repeated in the other resolution documents as well.

DOJ

Avon China Information

Avon Products (China) Co. Ltd. (“Avon China”) is described as an indirect subsidiary of Avon incorporated in China.  According to the information, Avon China and its affiliates manufactured and sold beauty and healthcare products through direct sales, as well as through “beauty boutiques” that were independently owned and operated.  The information states that in addition to independent sales representatives, Avon China had between 1,000 and 2,000 employees.  According to the information, Avon China’s books, records and accounts were consolidated into Avon’s books and records and reported by Avon in its financial statements.

Under the heading “The Chinese Regulatory Regime for Direct Selling” the information states:

“In or around 1998, the Chinese government outlawed direct selling in China for all companies.  In or around 2001, as a condition of its entry into the World Trade Organization, China agreed to lift its ban on direct selling.  In or around 2005, in order to test its planned regulations for direct selling, the Chinese government decided to issue one company a temporary license to conduct direct sales (the ‘test license.’). In or around March 2005, the Chinese government awarded the test license to Avon China, the defendant.  In or around late 2005, China lifted its ban on direct selling and allowed companies to apply for licenses to conduct direct sales.  Under China’s newly promulgated direct selling regulations, to conduct direct sales, a company was required to obtain a national direct selling license and approvals from each province and municipality in which it sought to conduct direct sales.  In order to obtain a license, a company was required to satisfy a number of conditions, including, in pertinent part, having a ‘good business reputation’ and a record that demonstrated no material violations of Chinese law for the preceding five years.  In or around February 2006, Avon China, the defendant, obtained its national direct selling license.  Between in or around February 2006 and in or around July 2006, Avon China, the defendant, obtained all of its provincial and municipal approvals to conduct direct selling.”

According to the information, Avon China created and maintained a Corporate Affairs Group whose duties included maintaining “guanxi (good relationships) with government officials and lobbying those officials on behalf of Avon China.”

Under the heading, “Overview of the Scheme to Falsify Books and Records,” the information states that from 2004 to 2008, Avon China, and Avon, acting through certain executives and employees, together with others, conspired to falsify Avon China’s and, thereby ultimately, Avon’s books and records in order to disguise the things of value Avon China executives and employees provided to government officials in China.

Specifically, the information alleges that from 2004 to 2008 Avon China “acting through certain executives and employees, disguised on its books and records over $8 million in things of value, including gifts, cash, and non-business travel, meals and entertainment, which it gave to Chinese officials in order to obtain and retain business benefits for Avon China.

The information alleges that:

Avon China “falsely and misleadingly described the nature and purpose of certain transactions on Avon China’s books and records, in part, because they believed that Chinese government officials did not want a paper trail reflecting their acceptance of money, gifts, travel, entertainment and other things of value from Avon China executives and employees.  The executives and employees also knew that, contrary to how the expenses were being described in Avon China’s books and records, the expenses were not incurred for legitimate business purposes.”

According to the information:

“Avon executives and employees, including high-level executives, attorneys, and internal auditors, learned that executives and employees of Avon China, the defendant, had in the past routinely provided things of value to Chinese government officials and failed to properly document it.  Instead of ensuring the practice was halted, disciplining the culpable individuals, and implementing appropriate controls at Avon and Avon China to address the problem, the Avon executives and employees, in conjunction with Avon China executives and employees, took steps to conceal the significant concerns raised about the accuracy of Avon China’s books and records and its practice of giving things of value to government officials.  These Avon and Avon China executives and employees, knowing that Avon China’s books and records would continue to be inaccurate if steps were not taken to correct Avon China’s executives and employees’ conduct, failed to take steps to correct such actions, despite knowing that Avon China’s books and records were consolidated into Avon’s books and records.”

The information then alleges various categories of payments.

Under the heading “gifts for government officials,” the information details designer wallets, bags, or watches “to obtain benefits from government officials, such as obtaining and retaining the direct selling license and requisite provincial and local approvals, avoiding fines, avoiding negative media reports, obtaining favorable judicial treatment, and obtaining government approval to sell nutritional supplements and healthcare apparel products, via direct selling, that did not meet or had yet to meet government standards.  According to the information, Avon China executives and employees, at various times, falsely or misleadingly described the gifts, including describing them as employee travel and entertainment, samples or public relations business entertainment.” Specific gifts mentioned include a $890 gift or entertainment expense, a $960 gift purchased from Louis Vuitton, a $800 Gucci Bag, and a $460 gift from Louis Vuitton.

Regarding avoiding negative media reports, the information alleges that a leading government-owned newspaper intended to run a story about Avon China improperly recruiting sales associates and that this article could cause Avon China to lose its direct selling license.  According to the information, “in order to convince the newspaper not to run the article … an Avon China employee caused Avon China to pay approximately $77,500 to become a “sponsor” of the paper at the request of a government official at the paper who was in charge of determining whether the potential article would run and who may have received a commission on monies received from sponsors.”

Under the heading “meals and entertainment,” the information alleges that Avon China “routinely entertained government officials in order to obtain the same business benefits highlighted above.  According to the information, executives and employees of Avon China, “intentionally concealed these improper meal and entertainment expenses in Avon China’s books and records by (1) intentionally omitting reference to the participation of government officials in order to conceal their participation, using descriptions like business entertainment, public relation entertainment, or no description at all; or (2) revealing the participation of government officials but intentionally describing the event inaccurately by omitting the identity or number of officials, the cost of the event, or the true purpose of the event.”

Under the heading “travel for government officials,” the information alleges that executives and employees of Avon China caused Avon China to “pay for travel expenses for government officials, and sometimes their families” in order to obtain the same improper business benefits highlighted above.  According to the information, “to conceal the true nature of these expenses, these executives and employees intentionally omitted from or concealed in Avon China’s records the name of the government officials, the fact that the travelers were government officials or relatives of government officials, and, at times, the number of travelers.”  The information also alleges that executives and employees of Avon China “intentionally falsified in Avon China’s books and records the purpose of the travel, which often was for personal, not legitimate business, purposes.  For example, the information alleges that certain personal trips for government officials (and occasionally their spouses and children) were described as “study trips” or “site visits” when the officials were instead sightseeing or taking a beach vacation.”  Specifically, the information alleges, among other trips, that Avon China paid for six officials from the Guandong Food and Drug Administration to travel to Avon’s headquarters in New York City and its research and development facility in upstate New York for a “site visit/study visit.” According to the information, the “officials never visited Avon’s headquarters, only spent one morning at Avon’s research and development facility, and spent the rest of the 18-day trip sightseeing and being entertained by an Avon China employee in New York, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Philadelphia, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.

Under the heading “cash for government officials,” the information alleges that “executives and employees of Avon China, gave cash to government officials in order to obtain benefits for Avon China and falsified Avon China’s records to conceal the true recipient of and purpose for the money.”  According to the information, “these employees accomplished this by submitting for reimbursement meal or entertainment receipts given to them by government officials and falsely claiming that the receipts reflected employee business expenses.  In truth, the employees had no such expenses, and the receipts were used to obtain cash to make payments to government officials.  The information also alleges other instances in which executives and employees of Avon China “gave cash to government officials in order to obtain business benefits for Avon China and falsely reported the payments as fine payments.”  In other instances, the information alleges that Avon China executives and employees “made payments to organizations designated by government officials.”

The information also contains a separate section regarding payments to Consulting Company A that was retained by Avon China “purportedly” to provide various services to Avon China.  The information alleges that these services “were memorialized in a scant two-page contract” and that Avon China “did not conduct any due diligence of Consulting Company A, nor did they require Consulting Company A to comply with Avon’s Code of Conduct (in particular, the provisions related to payments to government officials), even though Consulting Company A was retained specifically to interact with government officials on behalf of Avon China.”  The information alleges that executives and employees of Avon China caused Avon China to pay Consulting Company A additional monies for purportedly legitimate, though ambiguously described, services even though an Avon China executive knew Consulting Company A’s invoices were often false, and no Avon China executives or employees knew of any legitimate services being provided by Consulting Company A.

Based on the above conduct, Avon China was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

The information also contains a separate section titled “Discovery of the Falsification and Cover-Up.”  In pertinent part, the information alleges:

  • In 2005, a senior audit manager in Avon’s internal audit group reported to Avon’s Compliance Committee, that executives and employees of Avon China were not maintaining proper records of entertainment for government officials and that an Avon China executive had explained that the practice was intentional because information regarding that entertainment was “quite sensitive.”
  • In 2005, Avon’s internal auditors audited the Corporate Affairs Group’s travel and entertainment and discretionary expenses and issued a draft report.
  • The Draft Audit Report, which was reviewed by various Avon executives and Avon attorneys, contained conclusions regarding the Corporate Affairs Group’s expenses including: (1) high value gifts and meals were offered to government officials on an ongoing basis; (2) the majority of the expenses related to gifts, meals, sponsorships, and travel of substantial monetary value for Chinese government officials to maintain relationships with the officials; (3) a third party consultant was paid a substantial sum of money to interact with the government but was not contractually required to follow the FCPA, was not actively monitored by Avon China, and was paid for vague and unknown services; and (4) the payments, and the lack of accurate, detailed records, may violate the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws.
  • The management team of Avon China “insisted that the internal audit team remove the discussion of providing things of value to government officials and potential FCPA violations from the Draft Audit Report.
  • Certain Avon executives agreed with executives of Avon China to delete the discussion of the Corporate Affairs Group’s conduct from the Draft Audit Report.  An Avon Executive then directed the internal audit team to either (1) retrieve every copy of the Draft Audit Report and destroy them or (2) instruct the individuals who possessed copies of the Draft Audit Report to destroy them.
  • Avon executives did not instruct any executives or employees of Avon China to stop the conduct identified in the Draft Audit Report, put in place controls to prevent the conduct or ensure the accuracy of Avon China’s books and records.
  • In 2006, Avon’s internal auditors again reviewed the Corporate Affairs Group’s travel and entertainment and discretionary expenses and found that Corporate Affairs Group executive and employees were continuing their practice of giving things of value to government officials.  Notwithstanding learning that the conduct was continuing and that the books and records of Avon China were still being falsified, no Avon or Avon China executives or employees took steps to stop or prevent the conduct from recurring, and Avon China executives and employees continued operating in the same improper manner.
  • In 2007, an Avon executive reported to the Avon Compliance Committee that the matter reported in 2005 regarding potential FCPA violations by executives and employees of Avon China had been closed as “unsubstantiated” even though the executive and others knew of Avon China’s previous – and continuing – practice of giving things of value to government officials and the ongoing failure of Avon China’s books and records to reflect accurately and fairly the nature and purpose of the transactions.
  • From 2004 to 2008, Avon China executives signed false management representation letters to Avon China’s external auditor stating that Avon China’s books and records were fair and accurate.

Avon China Plea Agreement

According to the plea agreement, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines fine range was $73.9 million to $147.9 million.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, Avon China agreed to pay a criminal fine in the amount of $67.6 million.

In the plea agreement, Avon China waived all defenses based on the statute of limitations.

Avon Products Information

The information is based on the same core conduct alleged in the Avon China information.

Under the heading “Avon’s Internal Controls,” the information alleges, in pertinent part, as follows.

“Although Avon … and certain of its subsidiaries had policies in place relating to the review and approval of employee expenses, it lacked adequate controls to ensure compliance with those policies and thus, in practice, employee expenses were not adequately vetted to ensure that they were reasonable, bona fide, or properly documented.

Avon … lacked sufficient controls to ensure the integrity of its internal audit process, particularly with regard to its review of allegations of and testing for improper payments made to foreign government officials.  Avon’s internal audit group also failed to devote adequate funding, staffing, and resources to Avon China.

Avon … did not have adequate internal accounting and financial controls designed to detect and prevent, among other things, corruption-related violations, including FCPA violations.  In particular, after senior Avon executives … learned of specific corruption issues in China related to the provision of cash, meals, gifts, travel, and entertainment to government officials, Avon failed to take the necessary steps to implement appropriate controls to address such issues and prevent such risks in the future.

Avon … had an inadequate compliance program.  In fact, Avon did not have a dedicated compliance officer or compliance personnel.  Avon’s compliance program was particularly weak with regard to risks associated with foreign bribery.  For example, even though Avon operated in over 100 countries, including many countries with high corruption risks, Avon did not have a specific anti-corruption policy, nor did it provide any stand alone FCPA-related training.  Moreover, although Avon had a code of conduct that covered all of its employees and its subsidiaries’ employees, which, among other things, prohibited paying bribes, many employees of Avon and its subsidiaries were unaware of its existence.

Avon .. did not conduct corruption-related due diligence on appropriate third parties or have effective controls for the meaningful approval of third parties.  Avon also did not require adequate documentation supporting the retention of payments to third parties.

Avon … did not undertake periodic risk assessments of its compliance program and lacked proper oversight of gifts, travel, and entertainment expenditures.  Avon’s failure to maintain an adequate compliance program significantly contributed to the company’s failure to prevent the misconduct in China.”

Based on the core conduct and the specific allegations detailed above, Avon was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions as well as one count of violating the FCPA’s internal controls provisions for knowingly failing to implement a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurance of various aspects of its business as required by the provisions.

Avon Products DPA

Pursuant to the three year DPA, Avon admitted, accepted and acknowledged that it was responsible for the conduct alleged in the information.

Under the heading “Relevant Considerations,” the factors the DOJ considered in resolving the action were:

“(a) the Company’s cooperation, which included conducting an extensive internal investigation in China and other relevant countries; voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews; collecting, analyzing, translating, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Department; (b) the Company’s voluntary disclosure of its employees’ and its subsidiary’s employees’ misconduct to the Department, which came relatively soon after the Company received a whistleblower letter alleging misconduct but years after certain senior executives of the Company had learned of and sought to hide the misconduct in China; (c) the Company’s extensive remediation, including terminating the employment of individuals responsible for the misconduct, enhancing its compliance program and internal controls, and significantly increasing the resources available for compliance and internal audit; (d) the Company’s commitment to continue to enhance its compliance program and internal controls, including ensuring that its compliance program satisfies the minimum elements [set forth in the DPA]; and (e) the Company’s agreement to continue to cooperate with the Department …”

The DPA also states:

“The Department also considered that the Company, taking into account its own business interests, expended considerable resources on a company wide review of and enhancements to its compliance program and internal controls.  While the Company’s efforts in this regard were taken without Department request or guidance, and at times caused unintended delays in the progress of the Department’s narrower investigations, the Department recognizes that the Company’s efforts resulted in important compliance and internal controls improvements.”

Based on the conduct at issue, the DPA sets forth an advisory Sentencing Guidelines range of $84.6 million to $169.1 million.  The DPA sets forth a criminal fine amount of $67.6 million and the above-mentioned Avon China criminal fine was deducted from this amount.

Pursuant to the DPA, Avon agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor for an 18 month term and agreed to various periodic reporting obligations to the DOJ.

The DPA contains a standard “muzzle clause” in which it (or those associated with it) agreed not to make any public statements contradicting its acceptance of responsibility under the DPA.

In this release, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:

“Companies that cook their books to hide improper payments will face criminal penalties, as Avon China’s guilty plea demonstrates. Public companies that discover bribes paid to foreign officials, fail to stop them, and cover them up do so at their own peril.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York stated:

“For years in China it was ‘Avon calling,’ as Avon bestowed millions of dollars in gifts and other things on Chinese government officials in return for business benefits. Avon China was in the door-to-door influence-peddling business, and for years its corporate parent, rather than putting an end to the practice, conspired to cover it up.  Avon has now agreed to adopt rigorous internal controls and to the appointment of a monitor to ensure that reforms are instituted and maintained.”

Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office stated:

“When corporations knowingly engage in bribery in order to obtain and retain contracts, it disrupts the level playing field to which all businesses are entitled. Companies who attempt to advance their businesses through foreign bribery should be on notice.  The FBI, with our law enforcement partners, is continuing to push this unacceptable practice out of the business playbook by investigating companies who ignore the law.”

SEC

Based on the same core conduct alleged in the DOJ actions, in this civil complaint the SEC charged Avon with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.  In summary, the SEC’s complaint states:

“This matter concerns violations by A von Products, Inc. (“A von”) of the corporate record keeping and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws. [...] . From 2004 through the third quarter of 2008, Avon’s books and records failed to accurately and fairly reflect payments by Avon Products (China) Co., Ltd. (“Avon Products China”) to Chinese government officials. Avon Products China provided cash and things of value, including gifts, travel, and entertainment, to various Chinese government officials, including government officials responsible for awarding a test license, and subsequently a direct sales business license, that would allow a company to utilize direct door-to-door selling in China. Avon Products China  was, in fact, awarded a test license and, then, the first official direct selling business license in China. Avon Products China also adopted an internal “no penalty policy” and provided cash and things of value to Chinese government officials to avoid fines and other penalties in order to maintain an ostensibly pristine corporate image. Avon Products China also paid a third-party consultant for purportedly legitimate interactions with government officials, even though Avon Products China management knew the consultant’s invoices were often false and could not point to legitimate services provided by the consultant. At times , payments were made to suppress negative news in state-owned media and to obtain competitor information. In addition, Avon Products China provided cash to government officials on behalf of other Avon subsidiaries in China. Avon Products China falsified its books and records so as to conceal the cash and things of value provided to government officials.  Near the end of 2005, an Avon internal audit team reported potential issues concerning things of value provided to Chinese government officials. Nevertheless, remedial measures sufficient to address the issues were not implemented at Avon Products China. Similar issues related to Avon Products China were raised at the end of 2006. Again, responsive remedial measures were not implemented. The books and records at A von Products China were consolidated into the books and records of Avon. Avon thus violated [the books and records provisions] by failing to make and keep books, records , and accounts, which, in reasonable detail , accurately and fairly reflected the transactions and disposition of assets of the issuer. By failing to ensure that it maintained adequate internal controls sufficient to record the nature and purpose of payments, or to prevent improper payments, to government  officials, Avon failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that its transactions and the disposition of its assets were recorded correctly, accurately, and in accordance with authorization of management. Avon thereby violated [the internal controls provisions]. Finally, in May 2008, Avon began a review of its compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), the U.S . legislation that, among other things, prohibits payments to foreign government officials to obtain or retain business. As a result of its review, the company instituted extensive, related reforms.”

In certain respects, the SEC’s complaint contains additional details regarding certain of the alleged conduct such as:

  • Certain of the Chinese “foreign officials” are alleged to be individuals associated with the Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (“AIC”).
  • Regarding the Draft Audit Report, “Avon’s Legal Department took the position that conclusions about potential FCPA violations fell within the purview of Legal, and not Internal Audit.”
  • Regarding Avon’s initial investigation of the matter, Avon engaged a “major law firm” but “in mid-December 2005, sent the law firm a short e-mail stating that the company had ”moved on” from the issues and asking for an estimate of the fees incurred.”
  • “In May 2008 , the Avon Products China Corporate Affairs executive who had been terminated wrote to Avon’ s Chief Executive Officer alleging improper payments to Chinese government officials over several years in the form of meals, entertainment, travel, sponsorship of cultural events, gifts of art, and cash. The letter was forwarded to A von’s Legal Department and, in tum, to the audit committee of Avon’s board of directors. The audit committee commenced an internal investigation into the allegations and, in October 2008, Avon informed the Commission and the Department of Justice.”
  • As to various things of value: (i) “The majority of these payments were for meals and entertainment expenses under $200 per occurrence, without indication as to who attended the meal/entertainment or the business purpose of the expense.” (ii) a “Pearl River cruise for 200 State and Regional AIC officials during a conference of officials with responsibility for the oversight of Avon Products China’s direct selling business license.”; (iii) “corporate boxes at the China Open tennis tournament, given to AIC and other government officials in 2004 and 2005 “to thank them for their support.” During these years, Avon Products China was a corporate sponsor of the tournament and received the tickets as part of that sponsorship . Avon Products China also provided government officials with gifts that included Louis Vuitton merchandise, Gucci bags, and Tiffany pens.” (iv) “$23,000 for travel and expenses for government journalists to attend the ceremony at which Avon Products China launched its direct selling test;” (v) “Avon Products China’s employees also made payments to government officials for conferences, and related meals, gifts, and entertainment, in 150 instances aggregating $143,000. Records for these expenses do not indicate who attended the conferences, or the business purpose of the expenses. Approximately $15,000 of this amount was for expenses related to government journalists’ attendance at an Avon Products China media event.”

As noted in this SEC release:

“Avon, which neither admitted nor denied the allegations, agreed to pay disgorgement of $52,850,000 in benefits resulting from the alleged misconduct plus prejudgment interest of $14,515,013.13 for a total of more than $67.36 million.  In the parallel criminal matter, Avon entities agreed to pay $67,648,000 in penalties.  Avon also is required to retain an independent compliance monitor to review its FCPA compliance program for a period of 18 months, followed by an 18-month period of self-reporting on its compliance efforts.  Avon would be permanently enjoined from violating the books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws.  In reaching the proposed settlement, which is subject to court approval, the SEC considered Avon’s cooperation and significant remedial measures.”

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

“Avon’s subsidiary in China paid millions of dollars to government officials to obtain a direct selling license and gain an edge over their competitors, and the company reaped substantial financial benefits as a result. Avon missed an opportunity to correct potential FCPA problems at its subsidiary, resulting in years of additional misconduct that could have been avoided.”

In this release, Sheri McCoy (CEO of Avon Products, Inc.) stated: ”We are pleased to have reached agreements with the DOJ and the SEC.”

Avon was represented by Evan Chesler and Benjamin Gruenstein of Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

SEC Brings Another Travel And Entertainment FCPA Enforcement Action

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

World TourYesterday, the SEC brought its 7th Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action of 2014.  Like the previous 6 enforcement actions (5 against companies and 1 against individuals), the enforcement action was resolved via the SEC’s administrative process.

Yesterday’s enforcement action against life-sciences company Bruker Corporation was primarily based on excessive travel and entertainment benefits provided to alleged Chinese “foreign officials.”  The same core conduct was the basis of the SEC’s other most recent FCPA enforcement (see here).

In summary fashion, the SEC’s order sates:

“This matter concerns violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by Bruker. The violations took place from at least 2005 through 2011 and occurred throughout Bruker’s China operations. Employees of the China offices of four Bruker subsidiaries (collectively, the “Bruker China Offices”) made unlawful payments of approximately $230,938 to government officials (“Chinese government officials”) who were employed by state owned entities (“SOEs”) in China that were Bruker customers. These payments were made to obtain or retain business from the SOEs for the Bruker China Offices. Specifically, all of the Bruker China Offices provided non-business related travel to Chinese government officials, and one Bruker China Office also paid Chinese government officials under “research cooperation” ventures and “collaboration” agreements (collectively, the “Collaboration Agreements”) for which there was no legitimate business purpose. Bruker realized approximately $1.7 million in profits from sales contracts with SOEs whose officials received the improper payments.

The payments to the Chinese government officials were recorded as legitimate business and marketing expenses in the Bruker China Offices’ books and records, when in fact they were improper payments designed to personally benefit the officials. The Bruker China Offices’ books and records were consolidated into Bruker’s books and records, thereby causing Bruker’s books and records to be inaccurate. Bruker failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls sufficient to prevent and detect the improper payments that occurred over several years.”

According to the SEC order:

‘Bruker manages its China operations through the Shanghai and Beijing representative offices of the Asia-based subsidiaries of four Bruker divisions: Bruker Optics, Bruker BioSpin, Bruker Daltonics, and Bruker Materials (formerly Bruker AXS).”

Under the heading “The Bruker China Offices Improperly Funded Leisure Travel for Chinese Government Officials,” the Order states:

“The Bruker China Offices funded leisure travel for Chinese government officials to visit the United States, the Czech Republic, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. These leisure trips typically followed business-related travel funded by the Bruker China Offices. The Chinese government officials who went on the trips often authorized the purchase of products from the Bruker China Offices. For example, during 2006, as part of a sales contract with an SOE, a Bruker China Office paid for purported training expenses for a Chinese government official (who signed the sales contract on behalf of the SOE). In fact, the payment included reimbursement for sightseeing, tour tickets, shopping and other leisure activities in Frankfurt and Paris. Also, in 2007, a Bruker China Office paid for three Chinese government officials to visit Sweden for a conference, but included as part of the travel, several days of sightseeing in Sweden, Finland, and Norway.

The Bruker China Offices also funded certain trips for Chinese government officials that had no legitimate business component. For example, during 2009, a Bruker China Office paid for two Chinese government officials to travel to New York, despite the lack of any Bruker facilities there, and to Los Angeles, where they engaged in sightseeing activities. Also during 2009, a Bruker China Office paid for three Chinese government officials to visit destinations in Europe for sightseeing. In another instance, during 2010, a Bruker China Office paid for three Chinese government officials to visit Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, and Munich, in Germany, as well as Salzburg, Liz, Innsbruck, Graz, and Vienna, in Austria. And in 2011, a Bruker China Office paid for Chinese government officials from seven SOEs to go on sightseeing visits to Europe, including Austria, France, Switzerland, Italy, and the Czech Republic. In certain cases, the Chinese government officials who went on these trips were involved in purchasing products from the Bruker China Offices.

Overall, from 2005 through 2011, the Bruker China Offices paid approximately $119,710 to fund 17 trips for Chinese government officials that were for the most part not related to any legitimate business purpose. These trips were recorded in Bruker’s books and records as business expenses, without any indication that they were primarily for sightseeing and other nonbusiness related activities. Bruker improperly profited by $1,131,740 from contracts obtained from the SOEs whose officials participated on these trips.”

Under the heading, “A Bruker China Office Improperly Funneled Payments to Officials of SOEs Under the Guise of Collaboration and Research Agreements,” the Order states:

“From 2008 through 2011, a Bruker China Office paid $111,228 to Chinese government officials pursuant to 12 suspect Collaboration Agreements. Generally, under these Collaboration Agreements, the SOEs had to provide research on Bruker products, or had to use Bruker products in demonstration laboratories. However, the Collaboration Agreements did not specify the work product that the SOEs had to provide to be paid, and no work product was in fact provided to the Bruker China Office by the SOEs. Also, certain Collaboration Agreements were executed directly with a Chinese government official, rather than the SOE itself; in some cases, the Bruker China Office paid the Chinese government official directly. And at times, the Chinese government officials who signed the Collaboration Agreements or obtained payments under the Agreements were involved in purchasing products from the Bruker China Office. Bruker profited by approximately $583,112 from contracts improperly obtained from the SOEs whose officials received payments under the Collaboration Agreements.”

Under the heading, “Bruker Failed to Implement an Adequate Internal Controls System,” the Order states:

“From at least 2005 through 2011, Bruker failed to implement an adequate internal controls system to address the potential FCPA problems posed by its ownership of the Bruker China Offices, which sold their products primarily to SOEs. For example, Bruker did not translate its training presentations on FCPA, ethics, or compliance issues into local languages, including Mandarin. And although Bruker implemented an FCPA policy in 2006, it failed to translate that policy into Mandarin and relied mainly on its China-based managers to ensure that employees understood the potential FCPA implications of doing business with SOEs. Also, while Bruker periodically distributed its Code of Conduct (containing its gifts and entertainment policies) and employee handbook to employees worldwide, it again failed to translate these documents into local languages, including Chinese. Likewise, Bruker’s toll free employee hotline, which employees were to use to report complaints anonymously, was not provided in Mandarin, limiting its efficacy.

Bruker also failed to adequately monitor and supervise the senior executives at the Bruker China Offices to ensure that they enforced anti-corruption policies or kept accurate records concerning payments to Chinese government officials. The Bruker China Offices had no independent compliance staff or an internal audit function that had authority to intervene into management decisions and, if appropriate, take remedial actions. Bruker also failed to tailor its preapproval processes for conditions in China, instead allowing the Bruker China Offices approval over items such as nonemployee travel and changes to contracts. As a result, senior employees of the Bruker China Offices had unsupervised control over the compliance process; these employees in turn abused their privileges, approving suspect payments to Chinese government officials for non-business related travel and for purported Collaboration Agreements.”

Based on the above findings, the SEC’s Order finds that Bruker violated the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

Under the heading, “Discovery, Internal Investigation, and Self-Reporting,” the Order states:

“Bruker discovered the improper payments to Chinese government officials during 2011 while investigating the misappropriation of company funds by certain employees of a Bruker China Office. Upon learning about these payments, Bruker’s board of directors promptly initiated an investigation, with the assistance of independent outside counsel and an independent forensic consulting firm. Bruker self-reported the preliminary results of its internal investigation to both the staff of the Commission and to the Department of Justice. Thereafter, Bruker, on its own initiative, undertook a broad review of the China operations of its other divisions. To the extent this internal review identified additional issues of concern, Bruker fully shared its findings with the staff.

As part of its internal review and investigation, Bruker promptly undertook significant remedial measures including terminating the senior staff at each of the Bruker China Offices. Bruker also revised its pre-existing compliance program, updated and enhanced its financial accounting controls and its compliance protocols and policies, and implemented those enhancements in China, and thereafter around the world. These steps included: (1) instituting preapproval processes for nonemployee travel and significant changes to contracts; (2) establishing a new internal audit function and hiring a new director of internal audit who is charged with oversight over Bruker’s global compliance program, including FCPA compliance; (3) adopting an amended FCPA policy translated into local languages; (4) implementing an enhanced FCPA training program, which includes training programs in local languages as well as mandatory online employee training programs regarding ethics and FCPA compliance; (5) enhancing due diligence procedures for third-parties; and (6) implementing a new global whistleblower hotline.

Throughout the process, Bruker provided extensive, thorough, and real-time cooperation with the Commission. In addition to self-reporting to the Commission shortly after discovering the FCPA violations, Bruker voluntarily provided the Commission with real-time reports of its investigative findings; shared its analysis of important documents and summaries of witness interviews; expanded the scope of the investigation at the Commission’s request; and responded to the Commission’s requests for documents and information in a timely manner. These actions assisted the Commission in efficiently collecting valuable evidence, including information that may not have been otherwise available to the staff.”

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

“Bruker’s lax internal controls allowed employees in its China offices to enter into sham ‘collaboration agreements’ to direct money to foreign officials and send officials on sightseeing trips around the world. The company has since taken significant remedial steps to revise its compliance program and enhance internal controls over travel and contract approvals.”

As noted in the release:

“The SEC’s order finds that Bruker violated the internal controls and books and records provisions of the [FCPA].  The company agreed to pay $1,714,852 in disgorgement, $310,117 in prejudgment interest, and a $375,000 penalty.  Bruker consented to the order without admitting or denying the findings, and the SEC considered the company’s significant remedial acts as well as its self-reporting and cooperation with the investigation when determining a settlement.”

Todd Cronan (Goodwin Procter) represented Bruker.

According to Bruker’s public disclosures, the company has spent approximately $22 million in pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.  For more on this dynamic, and how settlement amounts in an FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences of FCPA scrutiny, see “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples.”

Yesterday, Bruker’s stock price fell 1.8%.

“World Tour” For Saudi Officials Results In Individual SEC FCPA Enforcement Action

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

World TourYesterday, for the first time since April 2012, the SEC brought a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against an individual.  Like the previous five SEC corporate FCPA enforcement actions in 2014, the enforcement action was brought via the SEC’s administrative process.

The enforcement action was 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 enforcement action is similar to previous FCPA enforcement actions against Lucent Technologies and UTStarcom in that the action focused on certain bona fide business travel that morphed into excessive travel and entertainment of foreign officials.

In summary fashion, the SEC’s order states:

“During 2009, Stephen Timms and Yasser Ramahi arranged expensive travel, entertainment, and personal items for foreign government officials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in order to influence the officials to obtain new business for their employer, FLIR Systems, Inc. and to retain existing business for FLIR with the Saudi  Arabia Ministry of Interior (the “MOI”). Timms and Ramahi subsequently provided false explanations for the gifts to FLIR and attempted to conceal the gifts’ true value by submitting false documentation to the company.”

In the order Timms is described as follows.

“Stephen Timms … is a United States citizen who resides in Thailand. FLIR hired Timms in November 2001. He was promoted to Middle East Business Development Director for FLIR’S Government Systems division in September 2007. 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.”

Ramahi, a United States citizen who resides in the United Arab Emirates, is described as follows.

“Ramahi was hired by FLIR in late 2005 and worked in business development in Dubai. During the relevant period, Ramahi’s manager was Timms, the head of FLIR’s Middle East office.”

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

“In November 2008, FLIR entered into a contract with the MOI to sell thermal binoculars 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.

At the same time, Ramahi and Timms were also involved in FLIR’s negotiations to sell security cameras to the MOI. In May 2009, FLIR signed an agreement for the integration of its cameras into another company’s products for use by the MOI. The contract was valued at approximately $17.4 million and FLIR hoped to win additional future business with the MOI under this agreement.”

Under the heading “World Tour” for Saudi Officials” the order states:

“In February 2009, Ramahi and Timms began preparing for the Factory Acceptance Test, which was scheduled to occur in July 2009 in Billerica, Massachusetts. Timms requested the names of the MOI officials who would attend the test so that travel arrangements could be made for them by FLIR’s travel agent in Dubai, UAE. Timms subsequently contacted the United States Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for assistance to obtain visas for the MOI officials to attend the Factory Acceptance Test.

Ramahi and Timms then sent 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.

In June 2009, Ramahi made arrangements for himself and MOI officials to travel from Riyadh to Casablanca, where they would stay for several nights at FLIR’s expense. The MOI officials then traveled to Paris with FLIR’s third-party agent, where they would also stay for several nights at a luxury hotel, also paid for by FLIR. Ramahi met the MOI officials and FLIR’s third-party agent in Boston for the equipment inspection at FLIR’s nearby facilities. On the way back from Boston, Ramahi traveled with most of the MOI officials to Dubai and arranged airfare and hotel accommodations for one MOI official to travel to Beirut before returning to Riyadh, all at FLIR’s expense. Timms received the travel itinerary ahead of the officials’ departure on the “world tour.”

The trip proceeded as planned. In total, the MOI officials traveled for 20 nights on their “world tour,” with airfare and hotel accommodations paid for by FLIR. In addition, while the MOI officials were in Boston, Ramahi and the third-party agent also took the MOI officials on a weekend trip to New York City at FLIR’s expense. There was no business purpose for the stops outside of Boston.

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 7 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.

Timms approved expenses incurred by Ramahi and the MOI officials in connection with the extended travel, and Timms’ manager approved the expenses for the air travel provided to the MOI officials in connection with their “world tour.” FLIR’s  finance department processed and paid the approved air expenses the next day.”

Under the heading “Expensive Watches for Saudi Officials,” the order states:

“In March 2009, while Ramahi was present, Timms provided expensive gifts to five MOI officials. 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).

In mid-March 2009, Ramahi and Timms traveled to Saudi Arabia for a nine-day business trip to discuss several business opportunities with MOI officials. According to Timms’ expense report, the purpose of the trip was to meet with MOI officials regarding FLIR’s efforts to sell its security cameras. During the trip, Timms, with Ramahi’s knowledge, gave the five watches to MOI officials. Ramahi and Timmsbelieved the MOI officials to be important to sales of both the binoculars and the security cameras. 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. At the time of his submittal, Timms confirmed that each watch cost $1,425 and was for “Executive Gifts.” Shortly thereafter, Timms identified the names of the MOI officials who received the watches. The reimbursement was approved by Timms’ manager and paid out to Timms.”

Under the heading “The Cover Up,” the order states:

“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) rather than $7,000 as submitted.

At his supervisors’ request, Ramahi secured a second, fabricated invoice reflecting that the watches cost 7,000 Saudi Riyal, which Timms submitted to FLIRfinance in August 2009. 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, the FLIR finance department attempted to contact FLIR’s third-party agent. In e-mail correspondence, the FLIR finance department asked the agent a series of questions about the watches. Unknown to the finance department, Timms drafted responses to the questions on behalf of the agent. At Timms’ direction, the agent maintained the false cover story: that the watches cost a total of 7,000 Saudi Riyal, not U.S. $7,000.

In July 2009, Ramahi and Timms claimed that the MOI’s luxury travel and “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 promised to send an invoice to the MOI to pay for the“world tour” travel. Instead, however, Ramahi and Timms used FLIR’s agent to give the appearance that 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’s finance department. For example, Timms obtained an invoice from the Dubai travel agency showing direct flights from Boston to Riyadh—a route not taken by the MOI officials on their “world tour.” Timms submitted the false invoice to FLIR finance as the “corrected” travel documentation.”

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

“At all relevant times, FLIR had in place a code of conduct which prohibited FLIR employees from violating the FCPA. The policy required employees to record information “accurately and honestly” in FLIR’s books and records, with “no materiality requirement or threshold for a violation.”

Both Ramahi and Timms received training on their obligations under the FCPA and FLIR’s policy prior to the provision of expensive gifts of travel, entertainment, and personal items to the MOI. On or around May 13, 2007 and on or around December 2, 2008, Timms completed FLIR’s two-part FCPA-specific online training courses, including courses focused on “Understanding the Law” and “Dealing with Third Parties.” Ramahi only completed part one of the two-part series in May 2007. The training course completed by both Ramahi and Timms, entitled “Understanding the Law,” gave examples of prohibited gifts under the FCPA and specifically identified gifts of luxury watches, vacations and side trips during official business travel.”

As stated in the order:

“Respondents violated [the FCPA's 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. Respondents also violated Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act, and Rule 13b2-1 thereunder, by knowingly circumventing FLIR’s existing policies and controls, placing a fabricated invoice for the watches into FLIR’s books and records and falsifying FLIR’s records regarding the MOI officials’ extended personal travel paid by FLIR. As a result of this same conduct, Respondents caused FLIR’s books and records to be not accurately maintained in violation of [the books and records provisions of the FCPA].”

As noted in the SEC’s order and release, “without admitting or denying the findings, Timms and Ramahi consented to the entry of the order and agreed to pay financial penalties of $50,000 and $20,000 respectively.”

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

“This case shows we will pursue employees of public companies who think it is acceptable to buy foreign officials’ loyalty with lavish gifts and travel. By making illegal payments and causing them to be recorded improperly, employees expose not only their firms but also themselves to an enforcement action.”

According to media reports, Timms is represented by Solomon Wisenberg (Nelson Mullins) an Ramahi is represented by Lisa Prager (Schulte Roth & Zabel).

According to the SEC’s release, “the SEC’s investigation is continuing.”  As relevant to any potential FCPA enforcement action against FLIR, the SEC’s order states under the heading “FLIR Profits from Sales to the Saudi Ministry of Interior” as follows.

“Following the equipment inspection in Boston, the MOI gave its permission for FLIR to ship the thermal binoculars. The MOI later placed an order for additional binoculars for an approximate price of $1.2 million. In total, FLIR received payments from the MOI for the binoculars that exceeded $10 million.

From September 2009 through August 2012, FLIR also shipped the security cameras and related accessories to the MOI. FLIR received payments for the cameras exceeding $18 million. FLIR subsequently submitted a bid to sell additional security cameras to the MOI. The bid expired before the contract was awarded by the MOI.”

Based on a review of FLIR’s SEC filings, it does not appear that the company has disclosed any FCPA scrutiny.

The First Travel And Entertainment Enforcement Action

Monday, June 16th, 2014

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

In 1999, the DOJ brought this civil complaint for a permanent injunction against Metcalf & Eddy Inc., the successor by merger of Metcalf & Eddy International Inc. (M&E International – a U.S. environmental engineering firm).  It was a notable case – the first Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action based solely on travel and entertainment issues.

The conduct at issue focused on sewage and wastewater treatment facility projects in Alexandria, Egypt sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”) for the benefit of the Alexandria General Organization for Sanitary Drainage (“AGOSD”), an alleged instrumentality of the Government of Egypt.

The complaint alleged that Metcalf & Eddy and M&E International provided excessive travel and entertainment expenses to the Chairman of AGOSD “to induce the official to use his influence to effect and influence an act of the Government of Egypt” in connection with two contracts (1) an approximate $11 million wastewater treatment facility project and (2) an approximate $25 million architectural and engineering services project.

The complaint alleged:

“Although the [contracts] were awarded by USAID, the prospective contractors and their bids were subject to review by a Technical Review Board comprised of five voting members.  AGOSD held a voting position on each of the boards, which position was shared by two AGOSD representatives.  As members of the Technical Review Boards, the AGOSD representatives participated in the evaluation and scoring of bidders.  Although the AGOSD Chairman himself did not participate in the evaluation and scoring of bidders in the selection process, officials at M&E International knew that we was capable of exerting influence upon his subordinates, including the AGOSD officials who sat on the Technical Review Boards.  [...]  In addition, M&E International officers knew that the Chairman could influence the selection process through direct communications with USAID regarding his preferences and that he could directly or indirectly impede the ability of M&E International to successfully complete its obligations under the contracts.”

The complaint focused on two trips the AGOSD Chairman made to the United States at the invitation of M&E International during time periods in which the awarding of the contracts were under consideration by USAID.  According to the complaint “the Chairman’s wife and two children accompanied him on both trips at M&E International’s expense.”

According to the complaint, the first trip (approximately 20 days) included travel to Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Orlando.  The complaint stated that during this trip “the AGOSD Chairman was invited to a water conference in Chicago.” According to the complaint, the second trip (approximately 13 days) involved travel to Paris, Boston and San Diego.

The complaint alleged that both of the contracts at issue required that travel associated with the contracts be in accord with Federal Travel Regulations (FTRs) and that under the regulations the Chairman was entitled to receive, in advance, a cash per diem payment to cover certain travel-related expenses.  The complaint alleged that the Chairman received 150% of his estimated per diem expenses and that USAID authorized the amount based upon M&E International’s representation that no accommodations were available within the per diem amount.

The complaint alleged:

“In each case, the payment of 150% of per diem was not a necessary expense, and in neither case was the payment of the extra 50% justified or documented by M&E International as required by the FTRs.”

The complaint also alleged that once the Chairman and his family were in the U.S. “M&E International paid for most of the travel and entertainment expenses incurred by and on behalf of the Chairman and his family, despite the fact that the Chairman had already received funds for his own per diem expenses.”  According to the complaint, “under these circumstances, the advance per diem payments were, in effect, unrestricted cash payments to the Chairman.”

The complaint also alleged that M&E International “paid to upgrade the Chairman’s airline tickets to first class for both of his trips to the United States” and that “M&E International’s provision of the first class tickets was a payment of a thing of value to the Chairman.”  The complaint also alleged that M&E International’s payment of the first class tickets for the Chairman’s wife and children were also “a payment of a thing of value to the Chairman.”

The complaint also alleged that during the relevant time period, “M&E International failed to make and keep books, records, and accounts which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflected the payment of money and things of value to or for the benefit of the Chairman.”  It is interesting to note that the complaint contains these allegations even though Metcalf & Eddy and M&E International were “domestic concerns” under the FCPA and thus the books and records and internal controls provisions did not even apply.

Finally, the complaint stated that M&E International did not “have any training or compliance program that educated its employees concerning the conduct prescribed by the FCPA.”

It is further interesting to note that the “means and instrumentality of interstate commerce” alleged in the complaint was a “commercial aircraft.”

Without admitting or denying the allegations in the DOJ’s civil complaint, in this Consent and Undertaking M&E agreed to “maintain a compliance and ethics program designed to detect and prevent violations of the FCPA and other applicable foreign bribery laws.”  The consent and undertaken set forth the minimum standards of such a program.  In the consent and undertaking M&E also agreed to implement various financial and accounting procedures consistent with the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

Finally, in the consent and undertaking, M&E agreed to pay a civil fine in the amount of $400,000 and reimburse the U.S. for the costs of the investigation in the amount of $50,000.

Friday Roundup

Friday, April 25th, 2014

FCPA scrutiny equals a raise, Qualcomm declines to cave, scrutiny alerts, industry specific risks, survey says, gaps in the narrative, a pulse on FCPA Inc., quotable and not quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup

FCPA Scrutiny Equals A Raise

There are some things that happen in the FCPA space that cause one to scratch their head.

Such as a company being under FCPA scrutiny paying audit committee members more money because of the time devoted to the FCPA scrutiny.  In its recent proxy statement, Wal-Mart disclosed as follows.

“Since November 2011, the Audit Committee has been conducting an internal investigation into, among other things, alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (the “FCPA”) and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with foreign subsidiaries, and whether prior allegations of such violations and/or misconduct were appropriately handled by Walmart. The Audit Committee and Walmart have engaged outside counsel from a number of law firms and other advisors who are assisting in the ongoing investigation of these matters. This investigation has resulted in a significant increase in the workload of the Audit Committee members since the commencement of this investigation, and during fiscal 2014, the Audit Committee conducted 13 additional meetings related to the investigation and compliance matters, and Audit Committee members received frequent updates via conference calls and other means of communication with outside counsel and other advisors related to the investigation. As it had done in November 2012 in recognition of the significantly increased commitment of time required of the Audit Committee to conduct this investigation, in November 2013, the CNGC (Compensation, Nomination, and Governance Committee) and the Board approved an additional annual fee in the amount of $75,000 payable to each Audit Committee member other than the Audit Committee Chair for fiscal 2014, and an additional annual fee in the amount of $100,000 payable to the Audit Committee Chair for fiscal 2014. These amounts were prorated for directors who served on the Audit Committee during a portion of fiscal 2014. The CNGC determined the amounts of these additional fees based on (1) the CNGC’s and the Board’s review of the significant additional time and effort that had been required of the Audit Committee members during the previous Board term in connection with these matters, which were in addition to the time spent by the Audit Committee with respect to the Audit Committee’s other duties and its regularly scheduled meetings, and (2) the expectation that the Audit Committee members would continue to expend approximately the same amount of time and effort in discharging their responsibilities as Audit Committee members at least through the remainder of fiscal 2014.”

Qualcomm Declines to Cave

Rare are so-called Wells Notices in the FCPA context for the simple reason that few issuers actually publicly push back against the SEC.  Thus, the below disclosure by Qualcomm earlier this week stands out:

“Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Formal Order of Private Investigation and Department of Justice Investigation : On September 8, 2010, the Company was notified by the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional office of a formal order of private investigation. The Company understands that the investigation arose from a “whistleblower’s” allegations made in December 2009 to the audit committee of the Company’s Board of Directors and to the SEC. In 2010, the audit committee completed an internal review of the allegations with the assistance of independent counsel and independent forensic accountants. This internal review into the whistleblower’s allegations and related accounting practices did not identify any errors in the Company’s financial statements. On January 27, 2012, the Company learned that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California/Department of Justice (collectively, DOJ) had begun an investigation regarding the Company’s compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). As previously disclosed, the audit committee conducted an internal review of the Company’s compliance with the FCPA and its related policies and procedures with the assistance of independent counsel and independent forensic accountants. The audit committee has completed this comprehensive review, made findings consistent with the Company’s findings described below and suggested enhancements to the Company’s overall FCPA compliance program. In part as a result of the audit committee’s review, the Company has made and continues to make enhancements to its FCPA compliance program, including implementation of the audit committee’s recommendations.

As previously disclosed, the Company discovered, and as a part of its cooperation with these investigations informed the SEC and the DOJ of, instances in which special hiring consideration, gifts or other benefits (collectively, benefits) were provided to several individuals associated with Chinese state-owned companies or agencies. Based on the facts currently known, the Company believes the aggregate monetary value of the benefits in question to be less than $250,000, excluding employment compensation.

On March 13, 2014, the Company received a Wells Notice from the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office indicating that the staff has made a preliminary determination to recommend that the SEC file an enforcement action against the Company for violations of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA. The bribery allegations relate to benefits offered or provided to individuals associated with Chinese state-owned companies or agencies. The Wells Notice indicated that the recommendation could involve a civil injunctive action and could seek remedies that include disgorgement of profits, the retention of an independent compliance monitor to review the Company’s FCPA policies and procedures, an injunction, civil monetary penalties and prejudgment interest.

A Wells Notice is not a formal allegation or finding by the SEC of wrongdoing or violation of law. Rather, the purpose of a Wells Notice is to give the recipient an opportunity to make a “Wells submission” setting forth reasons why the proposed enforcement action should not be filed and/or bringing additional facts to the SEC’s attention before any decision is made by the SEC as to whether to commence a proceeding. On April 4, 2014, the Company made a Wells submission to the staff of the Los Angeles Regional Office explaining why the Company believes it has not violated the FCPA and therefore enforcement action is not warranted.

The Company is continuing to cooperate with the SEC and the DOJ, but is unable to predict the outcome of their investigations or any action that the SEC may decide to file.”

Needless to say, this instance of FCPA scrutiny will be interesting to follow.

Scrutiny Alerts

Hiring Probes Expand

Reuters reports here:

“U.S. government agencies that have been probing banks’ hiring of children of powerful Chinese officials are expanding existing investigations in other industries across Asia to include hiring practices …The U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have been asking global companies in a range of industries including oil and gas, telecommunications and consumer products for information about their hiring practices to determine if they could amount to bribery …”.

For more on JPMorgan’s FCPA scrutiny which got this started, see here.  For more on so-called industry sweeps, see here.

Delphi Automotive

Delphi Automotive disclosed in it most recent SEC quarterly filing as follows:

“During the first quarter of 2014, Delphi identified certain potentially improper payments, made by certain manufacturing facility employees in China, that may violate certain provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”). Under the oversight of Delphi’s Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, Delphi has engaged outside counsel to assist in the review of these matters, and to evaluate existing controls and compliance policies and procedures. This review remains ongoing. Violations of the FCPA could result in criminal and/or civil liabilities and other forms of penalties or sanctions. Delphi has voluntarily disclosed these matters to the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC, and is cooperating fully with these agencies. Although Delphi does not expect the outcome of this review to have a material adverse impact on the Company, there can be no assurance as to the ultimate outcome of these matters at this time.”

United Technologies

United Technologies disclosed in its most recent SEC quarterly filing as follows:

“Non-Employee Sales Representative Investigation

In December 2013 and January 2014, UTC made voluntary disclosures to the United States Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission Division of Enforcement and the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office to report the status of its internal investigation regarding a non-employee sales representative retained by United Technologies International Operations, Inc. (UTIO) and International Aero Engines (IAE) for the sale of Pratt & Whitney and IAE engines and aftermarket services, respectively, in China. On April 7, 2014, the SEC notified UTC that it is conducting a formal investigation and issued a subpoena to UTC seeking production of documents related to the disclosures. UTC is cooperating fully with the investigation. Because the investigation is at an early stage, we cannot predict its outcome or the consequences thereof at this time. At the outset of the internal investigation, UTIO and IAE suspended all commission payments to the sales representative, and UTIO and IAE have not resumed making any payments. This led to two claims by the sales representative for unpaid commissions: a civil lawsuit filed
against UTIO and UTC and an arbitration claim against IAE. We are contesting the lawsuit and the arbitration claim. We do not believe that the resolution of the lawsuit or the arbitration will have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, results of operations, cash flows or financial condition.”

Industry Specific Risk

The reasons why companies become the subject of FCPA scrutiny are often unique to the industry the company is in.  This is why FCPA compliance is best tailored to a company’s unique risk profile as informed by a risk assessment.

This recent Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance post from the Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium is informative in collecting industry insight.

“Technology. Melissa Lea, Chief Global Compliance Officer, SAP AG. Profit margins for distributors are flexible in tech as so much of the cost is related to labor. And that flexibility offers room for partners to try to pad expenses to pay bribes. “Any time you hear about flexibility it opens the door for corruption,” said Ms. Lea, who noted that authorities have recently cracked down on bribery in the technology sector, once thought to be amongst the cleanest industries.

Pharmaceuticals. Rady A. Johnson, Chief Compliance & Risk Officer, Pfizer Inc. Drug companies pay doctors for a variety of consulting services and often invite them to attend events to promote their products. But since it’s these same doctors that prescribe drugs, pharmaceutical companies need to ensure that fancy conferences and payments for services are not cover for bribes. “We can’t do our job without interacting with health care professionals,” Mr. Johnson said. But companies need to ensure those interactions are appropriate and well defined, he said. In 2012, Pfizer agreed to pay more than $60 million to settle investigations into improper payments made to doctors and foreign officials.

Banks. W.C. Turner Herbert, Director of Anti-Corruption, Bank of America Corp.  Lately in the banking sector, corruption concerns have centered on hiring the relatives of foreign officials in exchange for business. In the past few years, U.S. authorities have investigated a number of banks over allegations of the practice, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. “Its a new area of enforcement without much precedence,” Mr. Herbert said. While hiring well-connected people shouldn’t, by itself, be a red flag, compliance officers need to ensure the selection is done on “merit and the business objectives” of the job, he said. “What draws red flags is if he’s not qualified,” Mr. Herbert said.

Survey Says

In connection with the above-mentioned Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium, Dow Jones released this “Anti-Corruption Survey Results 2014.”  The survey was conducted on-line “among compliance professionals worldwide” and 383 responses “were completed among companies with anti-corruption programs.”  It is difficult to assess survey results without knowing the precise questions asked, but the Dow Jones survey does contain some interesting nuggets.

Such as “approximately 30% of companies spend $1 million or more on anti-corruption staff and policies.”

In “Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense,” I suggest that the current FCPA enforcement environment does not adequately recognize a company’s good faith commitment to FCPA compliance and does not provide good corporate citizens a sufficient return on their compliance investments.

Compliance defense opponents (such as the DOJ) like to point out that such a defense will result in “paper compliance” and “check-a-box” exercises.  Such clichés, however, ignore the reality of the situation – this many companies are making substantial investments of time and money in pro-active compliance policies and procedures.

One irony of course is that several former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorneys who have criticized a compliance defense as resulting in “paper compliance” and “check-a-box” exercises now devote a substantial portion of their private practice advising companies on FCPA compliance.

Gaps in the Narrative

You know the narrative.

In 2002, an accounting partnership (Arthur Anderson) was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron.  Even though the Supreme Court ultimately tossed the conviction, Arthur Anderson essentially went out of business.  Because of this, in the minds of some, the DOJ can’t criminally charge business organizations with crimes and thus the DOJ has crafted alternative resolution vehicles such as non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements to avoid the perceived collateral consequences of a criminal indictment or conviction.

Never mind that the narrative is based on a false premise.  (See here for the guest post and article by Gabriel Markoff titled “Arthur Anderson and the Myth of the Corporate Death Penalty).

Nevertheless, the narrative persists and is accepted by some as gospel truth.

However, perhaps you have heard that in early April Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation (PG&E – a public company) was criminally charged with multiple violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.

The company’s stock is still trading (in fact it is up since the criminal charges were announced), it is still employing people, and it is still operating its business.

Recognizing the fallacy of the narrative is important for corporate leaders of businesses subject to DOJ scrutiny in the FCPA context or otherwise.  Defenses can be mounted and the DOJ can and should be put to its burden of proof more often.

A Pulse on FCPA Inc.

Law360 highlights “Four Practices Areas Generating Big Billable Hours.”  As to the FCPA the article notes:

“The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which mandates certain accounting transparency requirements and gives the U.S. government the power to pursue businesses that bribe foreign officials, is creating long workdays for attorneys throughout the world.  ”If Foreign Corrupt Practices Act were a stock, I wish I would have held it,” said William Devaney, co-chair of  Venable LLP’s FCPA and anti-corruption practice group. “We’ve seen huge growth in the practice area since 2004, and with the government’s current focus on FCPA, it’s safe to say anti-corruption enforcement will be around for a long time.”  After the FCPA was amended in 1998 to include additional anti-bribery provisions, the U.S. government began actively applying the FCPA to not only large companies but also their smaller counterparts.  As a result, Devaney says, a lot of midmarket and smaller companies are now coming into the FCPA compliance fold after acknowledging their obligations under the law, resulting in a surge in demand.
And according to Aaron G. Murphy, a partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, foreign countries passing legislation similar to the FCPA will create an explosion of fraud investigations that begin abroad but later will involve the U.S. Department of Justice.  Murphy said the FCPA stood as one of the lone anti-corruption laws in the world for 20 years, then in the mid-1990s, numerous foreign governments adopted similar rules to punish local and international corruption. ”No politician has ever been elected on a ‘get softer on corruption’ ticket,” Murphy said. “If anti-corruption laws get modified, they will probably get stronger, not weaker. So we likely won’t see, 20 years from now, attorneys reminiscing about when companies had to deal with corruption laws. This practice area is here to stay.”

That the FCPA practice is here to stay is all the more reason to elevate your FCPA knowledge and practical skills at the FCPA Institute.

The three other practice areas highlighted in the article were:  export controls and trade sanctions; civil false claims act; and patent litigation and patent trolls.

Quotable

The White House recently announced that President Obama named Kirkland & Ellis partner W. Neil Eggleston to be White House Counsel (see here).  FCPA Professor has highlighted in the past (see here and here) certain of Eggleston’s spot-on comments regarding the FCPA or related issues.

In this interview Eggleston stated: “I worry that [NPAs and DPAs] will become a substitute for a prosecutor deciding – this is not an appropriate case to bring – there is no reason to subject this corporation to corporate criminal liability. In the old days, they would have dropped the case. Now, they have the back up of seeking a deferred or non prosecution agreement, when in fact the case should not have been pursued at all. That’s what I’m worried about – an easy out.”

In another interview, Eggleston was asked “what is an important issue or case relevant to your practice area and why” and stated: “We are beginning to see the development of case law in the FCPA area, which I believe is good for the process. Most of these cases have been settled. When that occurs, defendants have little incentive to refuse to agree to novel Department of Justice theories of prosecution or jurisdiction, so long as the penalty is acceptable. The department then cites its prior settlement as precedent when settling later ones. But no court approved the earlier settlement, and the prior settlement should have no precedential value in favor of the DOJ in later settlements. As the DOJ increases its prosecution of individuals, we will see many more trials, which will give rise to courts, not the DOJ, interpreting the statute.”

Not Quotable

DOJ Deputy Attorney General James Cole was a keynote speaker earlier this week at the Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium.   According to the event agenda, the title was “What the Justice Department Has in Its Sights” and described as follows.

“From foreign bribery to insider trading, the U.S. Department of Justice has been at the forefront of rigorous enforcement that has forced companies to treat compliance seriously. We interview James Cole, deputy attorney general, about where the department is focusing its efforts now.”

I reached out to the DOJ Press Office for a transcript of Mr. Cole’s remarks and was told “we don’t have one.”

It is unfortunate that public officials speak about matters of public interest at private conferences that charge thousands of dollars to attend.

Reading Stack

The FCPA Guidance was sort of interesting to read, but as noted in my article “Grading the FCPA Guidance” it lacks any legal authority or effect.  A hat tip to the Tax Law Prof Blog for highlighting a recent U.S. Tax Court decision finding that IRS Guidance is “not binding precedent” nor “substantial authority” for a tax position.

The New York Times here goes in-depth on Dmitry Firtash, the Ukrainian businessman recently criminally charged in connection with an alleged bribery scheme involving Indian licenses (see here for the prior post).

An informative three-part series (here, here and here) by Tom Fox (FCPA Compliance & Ethics Blog) regarding gifts, travel and entertainment.

Miller & Chevalier’s FCPA Spring 2014 Review is here.