Archive for the ‘Travel and Entertainment’ Category

“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.

HP And Related Entities Resolve $108 Million FCPA Enforcement Action

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Hewlett-Packard Co. (“HP”) has over 300,000 employees worldwide.

Among the employees during a certain relevant time period, were 5 individuals in Russia employed by a subsidiary, 1 individual in Poland employed by a subsidiary, and a vaguely defined group of individuals in Mexico employed by a subsidiary that worked on one sales deal.

The above individuals engaged in conduct largely occurring 7-14 years ago.

The government alleges that all of these individuals were specifically trained on the FCPA by HP and that HP had other internal controls in place as relevant to these individuals.

Notwithstanding these controls, the government alleges that the individuals willfully circumvented HP’s controls to make alleged improper payments to alleged “foreign officials” by, among other things, creating secret slush funds, concealing certain other information, making false representations, and engaging in other covert means such as anonymous e-mail accounts and pre-paid mobile telephones.

So reads the latest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action.

Yesterday the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a coordinated FCPA enforcement action against various HP and related entities based on alleged conduct in Russia, Poland and Mexico.  As noted in this previous post, HP has been under FCPA scrutiny since early 2010.

The enforcement action involved:

HP and related entities agreed to pay approximately $108.2 million (all guaranteed by HP) to resolve the alleged FCPA scrutiny (approximately $76.7 million in the DOJ actions; and approximately $31.5 million in the SEC action).

The enforcement action, in terms of settlement amount, is the 11th largest of all-time and the 2nd largest of all-time against a U.S. company (recognizing of course that HP’s foreign subsidiaries were a large focus of the enforcement actions).

This post summarizes both the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions based on a review of the original source documents (comprising approximately 175 pages in total).

DOJ Enforcement Action

The enforcement action involved a criminal information against HP Russia resolved via a plea agreement; a criminal information against HP Poland resolved via a DPA; and an NPA concerning HP Mexico.

HP Russia

According to the information, HP Russia is a wholly owned subsidiary of HP and was principally responsible for transacting business in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (“CIS”).  During the relevant time period, the information alleges that HP Russia had approximately 315 and 55o employees and that HP Russia “was subject to HP’s internal accounting controls, and HP Russia’s financial results were included in the consolidated financial statements that HP filed with the SEC.”

The alleged conduct concerns five employees at HP Russia.

  • HP Russia Executive 1
  • HP Russia Executive 2
  • HP Russia Manager 1
  • HP Russia Manager 2
  • HP Russia Manager 3

The conduct at issue concerns “a project to automate the telecommunications and computing infrastructure of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Russia (“GPO” or “GP”),” a project valued at approximately $100 million.  According to the information, the Russian government used a state-owned entity organized under the Department of Affairs of the President of the Russian Federation, to manage the GPO project tender and execution.”

In pertinent part, the information alleges as follows.

“Between in or about 2000 and 2007, HP Russia and co-conspirators agreed to make and did make improper payments to secure, retain and implement the GPO project.  Members of the conspiracy structured the deal to create a secret slush fund, which by 2003 totaled approximately ($10 million at then-prevailing exchange rates), at least part of which was intended for bribes, kickbacks, and other improper payments.  To execute and hide the scheme, members of the conspiracy failed to implement internal controls intended to maintain accountability over HP’s assets, willfully circumvented existing internal controls, and falsified corporate books and records relied on by HP officers and external auditors to authorize the transaction and prepare HP’s consolidated financial statements.”

Regarding the slush fund, the information alleges that HP Russia “created million of dollars in excess margin for use as a slush fund” by selling product to an “often-used channel partner of HP” which in turn sold product to an intermediary at a mark-up. According to the information, “To keep track of the fund, which was concealed in the project’s financials, HP Russia maintained two sets of project pricing records:  off-the-books versions, known only to conspirators, which identified slush fund recipients, and sanitized versions of the same documents which were provided to HP credit, finance, and legal officers outside of HP Russia.” According to the information, “one example of an off-the-books document was an encrypted, password-protected spreadsheet.”

According to the information, various HP Russia employees concealed the slush fund during HP’s Solution Opportunity Approval and Review (“SOAR”) process which applied to “all-service related projects valued at greater than $500,000 anywhere in the world, including Russia.”  Among other things, the information alleges that HP Russia employees made false representations and falsely certified the adequacy of HP Russia’s internal controls, a certification the information alleges that “was relied upon by HP’s EMEA business to certify to HP’s headquarters in the United States that EMEA’s financial statements were accurate.”

According to the information, the alleged improper payments (approximately €8 million) were made through various intermediaries to “Russian Official A,” a director of a Russian government agency who assumed responsibility for the GPO Project as well as “Individual A,” an associate of Russian Official A, for things such as:

  • “expensive jewelry, luxury automobiles, travel, and other items typically associated with gifts”
  • “travel services, vehicles, tuition, electronic equipment, cotton, textiles, and various other items”
  • a “hotel bill: and “other luxury purchases” such as “expensive watches, swimming pool technology, and other items”
  • “furniture, vehicles, clothing, travel services, household appliances, hotel stays, and other items”

Based on the above alleged conduct, the information charges (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal controls provisions; (ii) one count of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions; (iii) one count of violating the FCPA’s internal controls provisions; and (iv) one count of violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

The conduct alleged in the information allegedly occurred between December 2000 and February 2007.  As to U.S. jurisdictional allegations, the information alleges a 2001 meeting in Rockville, Maryland regarding the GPO project; a 2003 e-mail “which was routed through the United States;” and a 2003 certification “transmitted to HP’s offices in California.”

The above charges were resolved via a plea agreement in which HP Russia agreed to plead guilty to the four charges described above.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, HP Russia agreed to pay a criminal fine of approximately $58.8 million.  In the plea agreement, HP agreed to guarantee HP Russia’s payment as well as other conditions imposed upon HP Russia such as cooperation, and compliance obligations typical in corporate FCPA enforcement actions.  Among other things, the plea agreement imposed upon HP a three year reporting obligation to the DOJ regarding remediation and implementation of various compliance measures. As pertinent to the above allegations, in the plea agreement HP Russia and HP waived any and all statute of limitation defenses.

According to the plea agreement, the advisory fine range based on the alleged conduct at issue was $87 million to $174 million.   The plea agreement states that the approximate $58.8 million fine was appropriate based on the following factors:

“(a) monetary assessments that HP has agreed to pay to the SEC and is expected to pay to law enforcement authorities in Germany relating to the same conduct at issue …; (b) HP Russia’s and HP’s cooperation has been, on the whole, extraordinary, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Department; (c) HP Russia and HP have engaged in extensive remediation, including by taking appropriate disciplinary action against culpable employees of HP and enhancing their internal accounting, reporting, and compliance functions; (d) HP has committed to continue enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls … (e) the misconduct identified … was largely undertaken by employees associated with HP Russia, which employed a small fraction of HP global workforce during the relevant period; (f) neither HP nor HP Russia has previously been subject of any criminal enforcement action by the Department or law enforcement authority in Russia or elsewhere; (g) HP Russia and HP have agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department and other U.S. and foreign law enforcement authorities, if requested by the Department …”

HP Poland

According to the information, HP Poland is a wholly owned subsidiary of HP and, among other functional responsibilities, HP Poland managed most of HP’s activities in Poland and had more than 200 employees during the relevant time period.   According to the information, HP Poland ”was subject to HP’s internal accounting controls, and HP Poland’s financial results were included in the consolidated financial statements that HP filed with the SEC.”

The specific alleged conduct concerned “HP Poland Executive” (a citizen of Poland who was the District Manager of Public Sector Sales and Public Sector Sales Lead).

According to the information, HP Poland “(i) caused the falsification of HP’s books and records; and (ii) circumvented HP’s existing internal controls, in connection with a scheme to make corrupt payments to one or more foreign officials in Poland, including the Polish Official [the Director of Information and Communications Technology within the Polish National Police Agency ("KGP") which was part of the Polish Ministry of the Interior and Administration].”

According to the information, “the conduct was related to HP Poland’s efforts to secure and maintain millions of dollars in technology contracts with the Polish government.”  The information alleges that HP Poland “resorted to corruption to foster a relationship with the Polish Official.”

Specifically, the information alleges that in 2006 the Polish Official attended a technology-industry conference in San Francisco and that the “weekend before the conference” HP Poland “paid for dinners, gifts, and sightseeing by the Polish Official in San Francisco.”  The information also alleges that HP Poland took the Polish Official on a side trip to Las Vegas “with no legitimate business purpose” and that while in Las Vegas HP Poland paid for the Polish Official’s “transportation and expenses … including lodging, drinks, dining, shows, other events on or near the Las Vegas Strip, and a private tour flight over the Grand Canyon.”  As to the above travel and entertainment allegations, the information also alleges that “another global technology company” (“Company A”) also wined and dined the Polish Official and paid for his expenses.

The information also alleges that “beginning in late 2006, HP Poland started providing technology products to the Polish Official for personal use.”  The information states:

“Early gifts included HP products, such as desktop and laptop computers, and later expanded to include additional HP computers, HP-branded mobile devices, an HP printer, iPods, flat screen televisions, cameras, a home theater system, and other items.”

According to the information, the above things of value were provided to the Polish Official “in circumvention of HP’s internal controls” and were not “properly reflected in HP’s books and records.”

The information also alleges that in early 2007, “shortly after receiving the first of these gifts, Polish Official signed a contract with HP Poland on behalf of the Polish government, valued at approximately $4.3 million.  A month later, the Polish Official signed another contract with HP Poland, valued at approximately $5.8 million.”

According to the information, “around the date of the second contract award, HP Poland expanded the bribes to include large cash payments to Polish Official from off-the-books accounts.  HP Poland agreed to pay Polish Official 1.2% of HP Poland’s net revenue on any contract awarded by KGP.”

The information then specifically alleges that in 2007 “Polish Official signed a KGP contract with HP Poland valued at approximately $15.8 million” and that “HP Poland Executive delivered to Polish Official’s personal residence a bag filled with approximately $150,000 in cash.”  The information also alleges another instance in which HP Poland Executive met Polish Official in a Warsaw parking lot and gave Polish Official another bag filled with approximately $100,000 in cash.  Further, the information alleges that in 2008, on at least four separate occasions, HP Poland Executive gave Polish Official bags of cash totaling at least $360,000.  According to the information, in 2008, Polish Official signed three contracts on behalf of KGP with HP Poland for approximately $32 million.

As to the above payments, the information alleges that HP Poland willfully circumvented HP’s internal controls and falsified corporate books and records relied on by HP’s officers and external auditors to prepare HP’s financial statements.  Moreover, the information alleges that HP Poland facilitated the corrupt relationship with Polish Official through covert means such an anonymous e-mail accounts, pre-paid mobile telephones, and other means to circumvent HP’s internal controls.

In total, the information alleges between 2006 and 2010 HP Poland “provided Polish Official cash worth the equivalent of approximately $600,000, gifts valued in excess of $30,000, and several thousand dollars in improper travel and entertainment benefits.” According to the information, “during this same time span, the Polish government awarded to HP Poland at least seven contracts for KGP-related information technology products and services, with a total value of approximately $60 million.

Based on the above conduct, the information charges HP Poland with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

The above charges were resolved via a DPA in which HP Poland admitted and accepted responsibility for the above conduct.  The DPA has a term of three years and it lists the following relevant considerations considered by the DOJ;

“(a) HP Poland’s cooperation with the Department’s investigation; (b) HP Poland’s ultimate parent corporation, HP, has committed to maintain and continue enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls …; and (c) HP Poland and HP have agreed to continue with the Department and other U.S. and foreign law enforcement authorities in any ongoing investigation …”

Based on the advisory guidelines calculation in the DPA, the fine range for the alleged conduct at issue was $19.3 million to $38.6 million.  Pursuant to the DPA, HP Poland agreed to pay approximately $15.5 million, an amount deemed “appropriate” given the “nature and extent of HP Poland’s and HP’s cooperation and their extensive remediation in this matter.”

Like the HP Russia plea agreement, in the HP Poland DPA, HP agrees to guarantee the payment of HP Poland and to implement various compliance measures and report to the DOJ for a three year period.  As is typical in FCPA DPAs, the HP Poland DPA contains a so-called “muzzle clause.”

HP Mexico

The NPA with HP Mexico (a wholly-owned subsidiary of HP based in Mexico) states that beginning in 2008 “HP Mexico began presales activities and discussions with Pemex (Mexico’s alleged state-owned petroleum company) to sell to Pemex a suit of business technology optimization (“BTO”) software, hardware, and licenses.”  According to the NPA, BTO is a niche product that requires sophisticated knowledge to integrate with other software products and the contracts for this software sale were for approximately $6 million.

According to the NPA, “HP Mexico sales managers on the BTO Deal ultimately decided that they could not win the business without working with, and making payments to, a Mexican information-technology consulting company. (“Consultant”)”  According to the information, “HP Mexico sales managers knew that Pemex’s Chief Operating Officer (“Official A”) was a former principal of Consultant” and that “HP Mexico employees also knew that Official A supervised Pemex’s Chief Information Officer (“Official B”), who was a key signatory on behalf of Pemex for the BTO Deal.”

According to the NPA, while the Consultant had prior technical experience, “HP Mexico ultimately retained Consultant in connection with HP Mexico’s bid for the sale to Pemex primarily because of Consultant’s connections to Official A, Official B, and other senior Pemex officials.”  According to the information, as part of its agreement with Consultant, HP Mexico agree to pay Consulant a commission, “which HP Mexico also called an ‘influencer fee,’ equal to 25% of the licensing and support components of the BTO Deal.”

To circumvent HP’s internal controls regarding channel partners, the NPA states that “HP Mexico executives pursuing the BTO Deal arranged for another entity (“Intermediary”), which was already an approved HP Mexico channel partner, to join in the transactions” and that “HP Mexico executives recorded Intermediary as the deal partner in its internal tracking system.”

The NPA states “HP Mexico through the Intermediary, Consultant made a cash payment of approximately $30,000 to an entity controlled by Official B” and that “Consultant made three additional cash payments totaling approximately $95,000 to the Official B controlled entity.”

According to the NPA, “in total, HP Mexico received approximately $2,527,750 as its net benefit on the BTO Deal.”

According to the NPA, the DOJ agreed to enter it based on the following factors:

“(a) HP Mexico and HP’s cooperation, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the DOJ; (b) HP Mexico and HP have engaged in extensive remediation, including taking appropriate disciplinary action against culpable employees, enhancing their due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, and enhancing their controls for payments of sales commissions to channel partners in Mexico; (c) HP Mexico’s and HP’s continued commitment to enhancing their compliance programs and internal controls; and (d) HP Mexico’s and HP’s agreement to continue to cooperate with the DOJ in any ongoing investigation.”

In the NPA HP Mexico admitted and acknowledged responsibility for the above conduct.  Pursuant to the NPA, HP Mexico agreed to pay a forfeiture of approximately $2.5 million.  Pursuant to the NPA, which has a term of 3 years, HP Mexico and HP agreed to various compliance obligations.  As is typical in FCPA NPAs, the NPA contains a so-called muzzle clause.

In the DOJ release, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz states:

“Hewlett-Packard subsidiaries created a slush fund for bribe payments, set up an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts to launder money, employed two sets of books to track bribe recipients, and used anonymous email accounts and prepaid mobile telephones to arrange covert meetings to hand over bags of cash.  Even as the tradecraft of corruption becomes more sophisticated, the department is staying a step ahead of those who choose to violate our laws, thanks to the diligent efforts of U.S. prosecutors and agents and our colleagues at the SEC, as well as the tremendous cooperation of our law enforcement partners in Germany, Poland and Mexico.”

Melinda Haag (U.S. Attorney for the N.D. of California) states:

“The United States Attorney’s Office, working alongside our colleagues in the Criminal Division, will vigorously police any efforts by companies in our district to illegally sell products to foreign governments using bribes or kickbacks in violation of the FCPA,  Today’s resolution with HP reinforces the fact that there is no double standard: U.S. businesses must respect the same ethics and compliance standards whether they are selling products to foreign governments or to the United States government.”

Valerie Parlave (Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office) states:

“This case demonstrates the FBI’s ability to successfully coordinate with our foreign law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice corporations that choose to do business through bribery and off-the-book dealings.  I want to thank the agents who worked on this case in Washington, New York and in our Legal Attaché offices in Mexico City, Moscow, Berlin and Warsaw as well as the prosecutors.  Their work ensures a level playing field for businesses seeking lucrative overseas government contracts.”

Richard Weber (Chief of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation) states:

“This agreement is the result of untangling a global labyrinth of complex financial transactions used by HP to facilitate bribes to foreign officials.  IRS-CI has become a trusted leader in pursuit of corporations and executives who use hidden offshore assets and shell companies to circumvent the law.  CI is committed to maintaining fair competition, free of corrupt practices, through a potent synthesis of global teamwork and our dynamic financial investigative talents.”

SEC Enforcement Action

The enforcement action involved an administrative cease and desist order against HP and is based on the same Russia, Poland and Mexico conduct described above.

Under the heading “Summary,” the order states:

“From approximately 2003 to 2010 (the “relevant period”), HP Co.’s indirect, wholly-owned subsidiaries in Russia, Mexico and Poland, by and through their employees, agents and intermediaries, made unlawful payments to various foreign government officials to obtain business. These payments were also falsely recorded in the subsidiaries’ books and records and, ultimately, in HP Co.’s books and records. In Russia, HP Co.’s subsidiary (“HP Russia”) made payments through HP Russia’s agents to a Russian government official to retain a multi-million dollar contract with the federal prosecutor’s office. The payments were made through shell companies engaged by the agents to perform purported services under the contract. In Poland, certain agents or employees of HP Co.’s Polish subsidiary (“HP Poland”) provided gifts and cash bribes to a Polish government official to obtain contracts with Poland’s national police agency. In Mexico, HP Co.’s Mexican subsidiary (“HP Mexico”) made improper payments to a third party in connection with a sale of software to Mexico’s state-owned petroleum agency. HP Co. and its consolidated subsidiaries (collectively, “HP”) earned approximately $29 million in illicit profits as a result of this improper conduct.

The payments and improper gifts to government officials made directly or through intermediaries were falsely recorded in the relevant HP subsidiaries’ books and records as legitimate consulting and service contracts, commissions, or travel expenses. In fact, the true purpose of the payments and gifts was to make improper payments to foreign government officials to obtain lucrative government contracts for HP. During the relevant period, HP lacked sufficient internal controls to detect and prevent the improper payments and gifts made by executives and representatives of certain of its foreign subsidiaries.”

As to HP Russia, the order also states under the heading “Additional Conduct,” as follows.

“In June and July 2006, several European HP subsidiaries, including HP Russia, arranged for a high-profile customer marketing event in connection with the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Germany. Despite managerial directives not to invite representatives of government customers, certain HP sales employees arranged for a number of government or state-owned customers to attend the event. In all, HP Russia and other European subsidiaries of HP paid tens of thousands of dollars in travel and entertainment expenses for these government customers, and HP Co.’s internal controls failed to detect or prevent the conduct.

Finally, in June 2005, HP Russia paid more than $2.5 million to a third party distributor for the supply of software and implementation services to a Russian state-owned enterprise. HP Russia’s records do not reflect what, if any, work was actually performed by the distributor for these payments, and communications among HP Russia employees suggest that the distributor may have played an influential role in connection with obtaining the contract. The payments to the distributor were recorded in HP Russia’s books and records as a payment for providing software and services, even though there was minimal evidence concerning what was actually provided for these payments.”

Based on the above, the order finds violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.  Specifically, the order states:

“HP’s global operations are organized by geographic regions and sub-regions, as well as business units. Employees in HP’s foreign subsidiaries may report to a supervisor in both their geographic region and their business unit. During the relevant period, HP’s foreign subsidiaries operated pursuant to compliance policies and directives developed by HP and implemented at the local subsidiary level by the country or regional management. Although HP had certain anti-corruption policies and controls in place during the relevant period, those policies and controls were not adequate to prevent the conduct described herein and were insufficiently implemented on the regional or country level. Further, HP failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that: (1) access to assets was permitted only in accordance with management’s authorization; (2) transactions were recorded as necessary to maintain accountability for assets; and (3) transactions were executed in accordance with management’s authorization.

[...]

As described above, HP Co. violated Section 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act. Its subsidiaries in Russia, Poland and Mexico falsely recorded the payments made to agents as payments for legitimate services or commissions, when the true purpose of these payments was to make corrupt payments to government officials to obtain business. The false entries were then consolidated and reported by HP in its consolidated financial statements. HP Co. also violated Section 13(b)(2)(B) by failing to devise and maintain sufficient accounting controls to detect and prevent the making of improper payments to foreign officials and ensure that payments were made only to approved channel partners.”

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

“In response to the Commission’s investigation, HP retained outside counsel to assist it in conducting an internal investigation into improper conduct in the jurisdictions that were the subject of the staff’s inquiry, as well as in other jurisdictions where HP identified additional issues. HP cooperated with the Commission’s investigation by voluntarily producing reports and other materials to the Commission staff summarizing the findings of its internal investigation. HP also cooperated by, among other things, voluntarily producing translations of numerous documents, providing timely reports on witness interviews, and by making foreign employees available to the Commission staff to interview.

HP has also undertaken significant remedial actions over the course of the Commission’s investigation, including by implementing a firm-wide screening process for its channel partners, training its public sector sales staff on its policies for dealing with business intermediaries, increasing compliance-related training for its global work force, and implementing additional enhancements to its internal controls and compliance functions. In addition, HP took disciplinary actions against certain of its employees in response to the conduct identified by the Commission staff and by the company through its internal investigation.”

In resolving the matter, the SEC ordered HP to cease and desist from committing future violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions and to pay disgorgement of $29 million and prejudgment interest of $5 million. According to the order, approximately $2.5 million of the disgorgement amount will be satisfied by HP’s payment of $2.5 million in forfeiture in connection with the HP Mexico DOJ action.  The order also requires HP to report to the SEC for a three year period regarding the status of its remediation and implementation of various compliance measures.

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

“Hewlett-Packard lacked the internal controls to stop a pattern of illegal payments to win business in Mexico and Eastern Europe. The company’s books and records reflected the payments as legitimate commissions and expenses.  Companies have a fundamental obligation to ensure that their internal controls are both reasonably designed and appropriately implemented across their entire business operations, and they should take a hard look at the agents conducting business on their behalf.”

Gibson Dunn attorneys Joseph Warin and John Chesley represented the HP entities.

In this release (a release HP had to consult with the DOJ before issuing) HP Executive Vice President and General Counsel John Schultz states:

“The misconduct described in the settlement was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company.  HP fully cooperated with both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the investigation of these matters and will continue to provide customers around the world with top quality products and services without interruption.”

HP’s stock closed yesterday up approximately .8%

In Depth On The Weatherford Enforcement Action

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Last week, the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) that Switzerland-based oil and gas services company Weatherford International agreed to resolve a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action based primarily on alleged conduct by its subsidiaries in Angola, the Middle East, and in connection with the Iraq Oil for Food program.  The enforcement action has been expected for some time (as noted in this prior post, in November the company disclosed that it had agreed in principle to the settlement announced last week).

The enforcement action involved a DOJ criminal information against Weatherford Services Ltd. resolved via a plea agreement, a criminal information against Weatherford International Ltd. (“Weatherford”) resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement, and a SEC settled civil complaint against Weatherford.  [Note, the SEC enforcement action also alleged violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions in regards to commercial transactions with various sanctioned countries in violation of U.S. sanction and export controls laws.  The DOJ - or other government entities - also alleged such conduct, but in resolution documents separate and apart from the FCPA resolution documents highlighted below].

Weatherford agreed to pay approximately $153 million to resolve its alleged FCPA scrutiny ($87 million to resolve the DOJ enforcement action and $66 million to resolve the SEC enforcement action).  The Weatherford action is the 8th largest FCPA settlement of all-time (see here for the top ten FCPA settlements).

DOJ

Weatherford Services Ltd.

Weatherford Services (“WSL”), incorporated in Bermuda, is identified as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Weatherford International that “managed most of Weatherford’s activities in Angola.”

The conduct at issue involved “two schemes to bribe Sonangol officials to obtain or retain business.”

Sonangol is alleged to be a “government-owned and controlled corporation” of the Angolan government. The information specifically states:

“Sonangol was the sole concessionaire for exploration of oil and gas in Angola, and was solely responsible for the exploration, production, manufacturing, transportation, and marketing of hydrocarbons in Angola.  Sonangol was run by a board of directors established by governmental decree in 1999.  Each member of the board was also appointed or renewed in their position by governmental decree.  Because Sonangol was wholly owned, controlled, and managed by the Angolan government, it was an ‘agency’ and ‘instrumentality’ of a foreign government and its employees were ‘foreign officials’” under the FCPA.

According to the information, the first bribery scheme “centered around a joint venture which WSL and other Weatherford employees established with two local Angolan entities.”  The information alleges that “Angolan Officials 1, 2, and 3 (described as “high-level, senior officials of Sonangol” with influence over contracts) controlled and represented one of the entities” and that a “relative of Angolan Official 4 (described as a “high-level, senior official of Angola’s Ministry of Petroleum” with influence over contracts entered into by the Angolan government) controlled and represented the other.”

The information alleges that the “joint venture began because WSL sought a way to increase its share of the well screens market in Angola” and states that “WSL learned that Sonangol was encouraging oil services companies to establish a well screens manufacturing operations in Angola with a local partner.”  Thereafter, “a high-level Weatherford executive sent Angolan Official 1 a letter expressing Weatherford’s intent to form a well screens manufacturing operation in Angola with a local partner and requesting Sonangol’s participation in the process.”

The information next alleges that “Angolan Official 1 advised WSL that Sonangol had selected local partners for WSL and that Sonangol would support the joint venture.”  According to the information:

“… the parties agreed that two local Angolan entities (“Angolan Company A” and Angolan Company B”) would be WSL’s joint venture partners.  Angolan Officials 1, 2 and 3 conducted all business with WSL on behalf of Angolan Company A.  Angolan Company B was owned in part by the daughter of Angolan Official 4.”

According to the information, “certain WSL and Weatherford employees knew from the outset of discussions regarding the joint venture that the members of Angolan Company A included a Sonangol employee and Angolan Official 3′s wife, while Angolan Company B’s members included Angolan Official 4′s daughter and son-in-law.”

According to the information, “prior to entering into the joint venture, neither Weatherford nor WSL conducted any meaningful due diligence of either joint venture partner.”  The information specifically alleges that Weatherford Legal Counsel A (a citizen of the U.S. and a Senior Corporate Counsel at Weatherford from 2004 to 2008) reached out to a law firm “to discuss whether partnering with the Angolan companies raised issues under the FCPA,” but that Weatherford Legal Counsel A “did not follow the advice” that had been provided to him.  In addition, the information alleges that Weatherford Legal Counsel A “falsely told [another] outside counsel that the joint venture had been vetted and approved by another outside counsel, when, in fact, no outside law firm ever conducted such vetting or gave such approval.”

The information alleges that WSL signed the final joint venture agreement with Angolan Company A and Angolan Company B in 2005, but that “neither Angolan Company A nor Angolan Company B provided any personnel or expertise to the joint venture, nor did they make any capital contributions.”

According to the information:

“In 2008, Angolan Company A and Angolan Company B received joint venture dividends for 2005 and 2006, including on revenues received in 2005 [before the joint venture agreement was executed].  [...]  In total, the joint venture paid Angolan Company A $689,995 and paid Angolan Company B $136,901.”

The information alleges that “prior to the distribution of joint venture dividends, WSL executives knew that Angolan officials were directing the distribution of those dividends.”

According to the information, “WSL benefitted from the joint venture arrangement” in the following ways: ”Sonangol began taking well screens business away from WSL’s competitors, even when a competitor was supplying non-governmental companies, and awarding it to WSL”  and “WSL received awards of business for which its bids were, by its own admission, not price competitive.”

The second bribery scheme alleged in the information relates to the “Cabinda Region Contract Renewal” in which WSL allegedly “bribed Angolan Official 5 (described as “a Sonangol official with decision-making authority in Angola’s Cabinda region”) so that he would approve the renewal of a contract under which WSL provided oil services to a non-governmental oil company in the Cabinda region of Angola.”  The information alleges that even though the contract was between WSL and a non-governmental company, Angolan law required “that it be approved by Sonangol before being finalized” and that “Angolan Official 5 was the Sonangol official responsible for approving or denying the renewal contract.”

The information alleges that Angolan Official 5 solicited the bribe and that “WSL executives agreed to pay the bribe Angolan Official 5 had demanded” even though a prior WSL Manager had refused to pay it.  According to the information, WSL made the payments to Angolan Official 5 through the Freight Forwarding Agent (described as a Swiss Company who provided freight forwarding and logistics services in Angola) who had previously paid bribes on behalf of WSL.”

As to the Freight Forwarding Agent, the information alleges that WSL retained the agent via a consultancy agreement in which the agent rejected a specific FCPA clause, but that “WSL and Weatherford acquiesced by removing the FCPA clause and inserting a clause requiring the Freight Forwarding Agent to ‘comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations issued by any governmental entity in the countries of business involved.”  According to the information, “WSL generated sham purchase orders for consulting services the Freight Forwarding Agent never performed, and the Freight Forwarding Agent, in turn, generated sham invoices for those non-existent services.”  The information alleges that the Freight Forwarding Agent passed money on to Angolan Official 5.

Based on the above, the information charges WSL with one count of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and specifically invokes the dd-3 prong of the statute applicable to “persons” other than issuers or domestic concerns.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, WSL agreed to pay a criminal fine in the amount of $420,000.

Weatherford International

The Weatherford information largely focuses on the company’s internal accounting controls and alleges as follows.

“Weatherford, which operated in an industry with a substantial corruption risk profile, grew its global footprint in large part by purchasing existing companies, often themselves in countries with high corruption risks.  Despite these manifest corruption risks, Weatherford knowingly failed to establish effective corruption-related internal accounting controls designed to detect and prevent corruption-related violations, including FCPA violations, prior to 2008.

Prior to 2008, Weatherford failed to institute effective internal accounting controls, including corruption-related due diligence on appropriate third parties and business transactions, limits of authority, and documentation requirements.  This failure was particularly acute when it came to third parties, including channel partners, distributors, consultants, and agents.  Weatherford failed to establish effective corruption-related due diligence on third parties with interaction with government officials, such as appropriately understanding a given third party’s ownership and qualifications, evaluating the business justification for the third party’s retention in the first instance, and establishing and implementing adequate screening of third parties for derogatory information.  Moreover, Weatherford failed to implement effective controls for the meaningful approval process of third parties.  Weatherford also did not require, in practice, adequate documentation supporting retention and in support of payments to third parties, such as appropriate invoices and purchase orders.

Prior to 2008, Weatherford did not have adequate internal accounting controls and processes in place that effectively evaluated business transactions, including acquisitions and joint ventures, for corruption risks and to investigate those risks when detected.  Moreover, following the establishment of joint ventures and certain other business transactions, Weatherford did not appropriately implement its policies and procedures to ensure an effective internal accounting control environment through proper integration.

Prior to 2008, Weatherford also did not have an effective internal accounting control system for gifts, travel, and entertainment.  In practice, expenses were not typically adequately vetted to ensure that they were reasonable, bona fide, or properly documented.

These issues were exacerbated by the fact that, prior to 2009, a company as large and complex as Weatherford – with its substantial risk profile – did not have a dedicated compliance officer or compliance personnel.  Although Weatherford promulgated an anti-corruption policy that it made available on its internal website, it did not translate that policy into any language other than English, and it did not conduct anti-corruption training.

Prior to 2008, Weatherford did not have an effective system for investigating employee reporting of ethics and compliance violations.  If an employee’s ethics questionnaire response indicated an awareness of payments or offers of payments to foreign officials or of undisclosed or unallocated funds, Weatherford did not have a protocol in place to perform any further investigation into the alleged corruption.  As a matter of practice, in fact, Weatherford did not conduct additional investigation of such allegations.  Prior to 2004, Weatherford did not require any employee to complete any kind of ethics questionnaire.

Further, Weatherford lack effective mechanisms to control its many foreign subsidiaries’ activities to ensure that they maintained internal accounting controls adequate to detect, investigate, or deter corrupt payments made to government officials.”

Under the heading “corrupt conduct” the information alleges – in summary form – as follows:

“Due to Weatherford’s failure to implement such internal accounting controls, a permissive and uncontrolled environment existed within Weatherford in which employees of certain of its wholly owned subsidiaries in Africa and the Middle East were able to engage in various corrupt conduct over the course of many years, including both bribery of foreign officials and fraudulent misuse of the United Nations’ Oil for Food Program.”

Thereafter, the information contains nine paragraphs of allegations that track the Angola allegations in the WSL information.

In addition, the information contains allegations about another alleged “scheme, in the Middle East, from 2005 through 2011″ in which “employees of another Weatherford subsidiary [Weatherford Oil Tool Middle East Limited (WOTME) - described as a British Virgin Islands corporation headquartered in Dubai that was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Weatherford and responsible for managing most of Weatherford's activities in North Africa and the Middle East] awarded improper ‘volume discounts’ to a distributor who supplied Weatherford products to a government-owned national oil company, believing those discounts were being used to create a slush fund with which to make bribe payments to decision makers at the national oil company.”

According to the information, “officials at the national oil company had directed WOTME to sell goods to the company through this particular distributor” and the information alleges:

“Prior to entering into the contract with the distributor, neither WOTME nor Weatherford conducted any due diligence on the distributor, despite (a) the fact that the Distributor would be furnishing Weatherford goods directly to an instrumentality of a foreign government; (b) the fact that a foreign official had specifically directed WOTME to contract with that particular distributor, and (c) the fact that executives at WOTME knew that a member of the country’s royal family had an ownership interest in the distributor.”

According to the information, “between 2005 and 2011, WOTME paid approximately $15 million in volume discounts to the distributor” that were “recorded in WOTME’s general ledger under a heading titled “Volume Discount Account.”

The information next contains four paragraphs of allegations relevant to the Iraq Oil for Food program and how Weatherford’s “failure to implement effective internal accounting controls also permitted corrupt conduct relating” to the program.

In a summary allegation, under the heading “Profits from the Corrupt Conduct in Africa and the Middle East” the information states:

“Due to Weatherford’s failure to implement internal accounting controls, an environment existed within Weatherford in which employees of certain of its wholly owned subsidiaries in Africa and the Middle East were able to engage in various corrupt business transactions, which conduct earned profits of $54,486,410, which were included in the consolidated financial statements that Weatherford filed with the SEC.”

Based on the above conduct, the information charges Weatherford with violating the FCPA’s internal controls provisions – specifically – that Weatherford knowingly:

“(a) failed to implement, monitor, and impose internal accounting controls and to maintain their effectiveness; (b) failed adequately to train key personnel to implement internal accounting controls to detect and avoid illegal payments and to identify and deter violations of those controls; (c) failed to monitor and control the financial transactions of its subsidiaries, in a manner that provided reasonable assurances that its subsidiaries’ transactions were executed in accordance with management’s general and specific authorization; (d) failed to monitor and control the financial transactions of its subsidiaries, in a manner that provided reasonable assurances that its subsidiaries’ transactions were recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles and any other criteria applicable to such statements; (e) failed to maintain a sufficient system for the selection and approval of, and performance of corruption-related due diligence on, third party business partners and joint venture partners, which, in turn, permitted corrupt conduct to occur at subsidiaries; (f) failed to investigate appropriately and respond to allegations of corrupt payments and discipline employees involved in making corrupt payments; (g) failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the company’s compliance and ethics program was followed, including training employees, and performing monitoring to detect criminal conduct; (h) failed to maintain internal accounting controls sufficient to prevent a subsidiary from entering into a joint venture agreement to funnel improper benefits to, and receive preferential treatment from, foreign government officials; (i) failed to maintain internal accounting controls sufficient to prevent a subsidiary from making payments to a channel partner not authorized by contract knowing there was a substantial likelihood that those payments were used to make corrupt payments; and (j) failed to maintain internal accounting controls sufficient to prevent kickbacks paid to the government of Iraq by a subsidiary.”

The charge against Weatherford was resolved via a DPA in which the company admitted, accepted, and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its officers, directors, employees, and agents as charged in the information.

The DPA has a term of three years and under the heading “relevant considerations” it states:

“The Department enters into this Agreement based on the individual facts and circumstances presented by this case and the Company.  Among the facts considered were the following:  (a) the Company’s cooperation has been, on the whole, strong, including conducting an extensive worldwide internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Department, including the production of more than 3.8 million pages of data; (b) the Company has engaged in extensive remediation, including terminating the employment of officers and employees responsible for the corrupt misconduct of its subsidiaries, establishing a Compliance Officer position that is a member of the Company’s executive board, as well as a compliance office of approximately 38 full-time compliance professionals, including attorneys and accountants, that the Compliance Officer oversees, conducting more than 30 anti-corruption compliance reviews in many of the countries in which it operates, enhancing its anti-corruption due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, and retaining an ethics and compliance professional to conduct an assessment of the Company’s ethics and compliance policies and procedures designed to ensure compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws; (c) the Company has committed to continue to enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls …; (d) the Company has already significantly enhanced, and is committed to continue to enhance, its compliance program and internal controls …; and (e) the Company has agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department in any ongoing investigation …”

Pursuant to the DPA, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range for the conduct at issue was $87.2 million to $174.4 million.  The DPA states that the monetary penalty of $87.2 million “is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of this case, including the nature and extent of the Company’s criminal conduct, the Company’s extensive cooperation, and its extensive remediation in this matter.”

The DPA specifically states that “any criminal penalties that might be imposed by the Court on WSL in connection with WSL’s guilty plea to a one-count Criminal Information charging WSL with violations of the FCPA, and the plea agreement entered into simultaneously, will be deducted from the $87.2 million penalty agreed to under this Agreement.”

Pursuant to the DPA, Weatherford agreed to review its existing internal controls, policies and procedures regarding compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws.   The specifics are detailed in Attachment C to the DPA.  The DPA also requires Weatherford to engage a corporate compliance monitor for ”a period of not less than 18 months from the date the monitor is selected.”  The specifics, including the Monitor’s reporting obligations to the DOJ, are detailed in Attachment D to the DPA.

As is common in FCPA corporate enforcement actions, the DPA contains a “muzzle clause” prohibiting Weatherford or anyone on its behalf from “contradicting the acceptance of responsibility by the company” as set forth in the DPA.

In the DOJ’s release, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman stated:

“Effective internal accounting controls are not only good policy, they are required by law for publicly traded companies – and for good reason.  This case demonstrates how loose controls and an anemic compliance environment can foster foreign bribery and fraud by a company’s subsidiaries around the globe.  Although Weatherford’s extensive remediation and its efforts to improve its compliance functions are positive signs, the corrupt conduct of Weatherford International’s subsidiaries allowed it to earn millions of dollars in illicit profits, for which it is now paying a significant price.”

Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, stated:

“When business executives engage in bribery and pay-offs in order to obtain contracts, an uneven marketplace is created and honest competitor companies are put at a disadvantage.  The FBI is committed to investigating corrupt backroom deals that influence contract procurement and threaten our global commerce.”

SEC

The SEC’s complaint (here) is largely based on the same core set of facts alleged in the above DOJ action.

In summary fashion, the complaint alleges:

“Between at least 2002 and July 2011, Weatherford and its subsidiaries authorized bribes and improper travel and entertainment intended for foreign officials in multiple countries to obtain or retain business or for other benefits. Weatherford and its subsidiaries also authorized illicit payments to obtain commercial business in Congo and authorized kickbacks in Iraq to obtain United Nations Oil for Food contracts.  Weatherford realized over $59.3 million in profits from business obtained through the use of illicit payments.”

As to the additional Congo allegations, the complaint states:

“In addition to bribery schemes involving Angolan government officials, WSL made over $500,000 in commercial bribe payments through the Swiss Agent to employees of a commercial customer, a wholly-owned subsidiary of an Italian energy company, between March 2002 and December 2008.

[...]

WSL mischaracterized the bribe payments as legitimate expenses on its books and records. Bank account records and a U.S. brokerage account statement show that among the recipients were two employees of the commercial customer who were responsible for awarding contracts to WSL. Weatherford obtained profits of$1,304,912 from commercial business in Congo relating to payments made by Swiss Agent.”

The SEC complaint also contains allegations concerning conduct in Algeria and Albania.

Under the heading “Improper Travel and Entertainment in Algeria,” the complaint alleges:

Weatherford also provided improper travel and entertainment to officials of Sonatrach, an Algerian state-owned company, that were not justified by a legitimate business purpose. The improper travel and entertainment to Sonatrach officials include:

• June 2006 trip by two Sonatrach officials to the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Hanover, Germany;

• July 2006 honeymoon trip of the daughter of a Sonatrach official; and

• October 2005 trip by a Sonatrach employee and his family to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for religious reasons that were improperly booked as a donation

In addition, on at least two other occasions, Weatherford provided Sonatrach officials with cash sums while they were visiting Houston. For example, in May 2007, Weatherford paid for four Sonatrach officials, including a tender committee official, to attend a conference in Houston. Prior to the trip, a Weatherford finance executive sent an email to a Weatherford officer requesting $10,000 cash to be advanced to a WOTME employee without providing any explanation tor the cash advance. The request was approved and a portion of the funds was provided to the tender committee official. There is no evidence the cash was used for legitimate business or promotional expenses. In connection with a December 2007 trip by three Sonatrach officials traveling to Houston, a Weatherford finance employee questioned the propriety of a WOTME employee’s request for a $14,000 cash advance in connection with the trip.  The finance employee’s concern was disregarded and the request was ultimately approved at high levels within Weatherford and a portion of the funds was provided to the officials.  In total, Weatherford spent $35,260 on improper travel, entertainment and gifts for Algerian officials from May 2005 through November 2008 that were recorded in the company’s books and records as legitimate expenses.”

Under the heading “Improper Payments to Albanian Tax Authorites,” the complaint alleges:

“From 2001 to 2006, the general manager and financial manager at a Weatherford Italian subsidiary, WEMESP A, misappropriated over $200,000 of company funds, a portion of which was improperly paid to Albanian tax auditors. WEMESPA’s general manager and financial manager misappropriated the funds by taking advantage of Weatherford’s inadequate system of internal accounting controls. They misreported cash advances, diverted payments on previously paid invoices, misappropriated government rebate checks and received reimbursement of expenses that did not relate to business activities, such as golf equipment and perfume. 

[...]

In addition to the cash payments, in 2005, after a regime shift in Albania, the Country Manager provided three laptop computers for the tax director and two members of Albania’s National Petroleum Agency, which the WEMESPA executives approved and misrecorded in the books and records.”

Under the heading “Misconduct During the Investigation and Subsequent Remediation Efforts,” the complaint states:

“Certain conduct by Weatherford and its employees during the course of the Commission staffs investigation compromised the investigation. These activities involved the failure to provide the staff with complete and accurate information, resulting in significant delay. In one instance, the staff sought information concerning the Iraq Country Manager who signed letters agreeing to pay bribes to Iraqi officials during the Oil for Food Program. The staff was informed that the Country Manager was missing or dead when, in fact, he remained employed by Weatherford. In at least two instances, email was deleted by employees prior to the imaging of their computers. On another occasion, Weatherford failed to secure important computers and documents and allowed potentially complicit employees to collect documents subpoenaed by the staff.  Subsequent to the misconduct, Weatherford greatly improved its cooperation and engaged in remediation efforts, including disciplining employees responsible for the misconduct, establishing a high level Compliance Officer position, significantly increasing the size of its compliance department, and conducting numerous anti-corruption reviews in many of the countries in which it operates.”

Under the heading “Anti-Bribery Violations,” the complaint states in pertinent part:

“Weatherford’s conduct in the Middle East and Angola violated [the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions]. From 2005 through 2011, Weatherford authorized $11.8 million in payments to national oil company officials through a distributor intended to wrongfully influence national oil company decision makers to obtain and retain business.  Weatherford also violated [the anti-bribery provisions] when it retained the Swiss Agent to funnel bribes to a Sonangol official to obtain the Cabinda contract. Weatherford similarly violated [the anti-bribery provisions] by bribing other Sonangol officials via the joint venture in return for contracts and preferential treatment.”

Under the heading “Failure to Maintain Books and Records,” the complaint states in pertinent part:

“Weatherford, directly and through its subsidiaries, also violated [the books and records provisions] when it made numerous payments and engaged in many transactions that were incorrectly described in the companys books and records. In the Middle East, for example, the money given to a distributor to be used as bribes was reflected in Weatherfords books and records as legitimate volume discounts. In Angola and Congo, payments to foreign officials and others were described as legitimate consulting fees rather than bribe payments.  Payments to Sonangol executives through the joint venture were misrecorded as legitimate dividend payments.”

Under the heading “Failure to Maintain Adequate Internal Controls,” the complaint states in pertinent part:

“Weatherford violated [the internal controls provisions] by failing to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls.  The violations were widespread and involved conduct at Weatherford’s headquarters as well as at numerous subsidiaries. Executives, managers and employees throughout the organization were aware of the conduct, which lasted a decade.  Weatherford paid millions of dollars to consultants, agents and joint venture partners without adequate due diligence. Weatherford approved cash payments to Algerian officials traveling to Houston without any justification for the payments. Employees made payments to agents without regard to grants of authority and, on some occasions, without even receiving an invoice. In Italy, internal accounting controls were ineffective, allowing executives to embezzle and pay bribes for years.

In the Middle East, the company failed on several occasions to perform due diligence on the distributor it used, despite the fact that the agent was imposed upon them by a national oil company official and would be selling to a government entity. The use of large volume discounts was not routinely reviewed.  [...] Weatherford also failed to provide FCPA … training.  While Weatherford did require certain employees to complete a yearly ethics questionnaire seeking instances of alleged misconduct, Weatherford failed to investigate or even review the responses.”

As noted in the SEC’s release, Weatherford agreed to pay approximately $65.6 million to the SEC, including an approximate $1.9 million penalty assessed in part for lack of cooperation early in the investigation.

In the SEC’s release, Andrew Ceresney (Co-Director of the SEC’s enforcement division) stated:

“The nonexistence of internal controls at Weatherford fostered an environment where employees across the globe engaged in bribery and failed to maintain accurate books and records.  They used code names like ‘Dubai across the water’ to conceal references to Iran in internal correspondence, placed key transaction documents in mislabeled binders, and created whatever bogus accounting and inventory records were necessary to hide illegal transactions.”

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

“Whether the money went to tax auditors in Albania or officials at the state-owned oil company in Angola, bribes and improper payments were an accustomed way for Weatherford to conduct business.  While the profits may have seemed bountiful at the time, the costs far outweigh the benefits in the end as coordinated law enforcement efforts have unraveled the widespread schemes and heavily sanctioned the misconduct.”

Joseph Warin (Gibson Dunn) represented Weatherford.

In this statement, Bernard Duroc-Danner (Weatherford’s Chairman, President and CEO) stated:

“This matter is now behind us. We move forward fully committed to a sustainable culture of compliance.  With the internal policies and controls currently in place, we maintain a best-in-class compliance program and uphold the highest of ethical standards as we provide the industry’s leading products and services to our customers worldwide.”

On the day of the enforcement action, Weatherford’s shares closed up approximately 1.2%.