Archive for the ‘Voluntary Disclosure’ Category

Friday Roundup

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Contorted, interesting, deserving?, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

Contorted

One of the most contorted words in the FCPA vocabulary is “declination” (see here among other posts).

This K&L Gates report contains a useful summary of DOJ and SEC comments at a recent conference.  It states:

“Mr. Knox [DOJ Criminal Division Fraud Section Chief] stated that companies continue to request specific information regarding the Department’s declinations, but that it is the Department’s long-standing practice not to publish details of declinations without a company’s permission, which is rarely given.  According to Mr. Knox, however, over the last two years, the Department has declined to prosecute dozens of cases.  Notably, Mr. Knox stated that, aside from finding no evidence of criminal conduct, the Department may issue a declination when a case involves an isolated incident, the company had a strong compliance program, and the problem was remediated.”

Newsflash.

If the DOJ does not find evidence of criminal conduct and therefore does not bring a case, this is not a “declination,” it is what the law commands.

On the topic of voluntary disclosure, the K&L Gates report states:

“Mr. Cain [SEC FCPA Unit Deputy Chief] started by stating “there is no perfect compliance program;” therefore, companies will always have some “background issues” which need to be addressed, especially as business and risk profiles change.  Mr. Cain does not expect companies to disclose these “normative” problems; however, companies should disclose “significant problems.”  These “significant problems” are the types of issues which may end up being enforcement actions if the SEC learns of them through means other than self-disclosure.”

“Mr. Knox took the position that it would be “very reckless and foolish” for him “to try and draw a line between matters which should be self-disclosed and matters which shouldn’t.”  In making the decision of whether to self-disclose, he advised companies and counsel to apply “common sense” and ask whether this is “something that [the Department] would be interested in hearing about?”  According to Mr. Knox, if the answer to that question is “yes,” then the Department would “probably want [a company] to self-disclose it.”  Nonetheless, there are instances which are not worthy of self-disclosure because the conduct is “minor” and “isolated” or the allegation of wrongdoing is “much too vague.”  Mr. Knox advised companies to “be thoughtful” when making disclosure decisions and carefully document any decision not to disclose.”

If the above leaves you scratching your head, join the club.

Interesting

My article “Why You Should Be Alarmed by the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action” highlights how ADM and its shareholders were victims of a corrupt Ukrainian government in that the government refused to give ADM something even the DOJ and SEC acknowledged ADM was owed – VAT refunds.  Among other things, the article discusses how VAT refund refusals were well-known and frequently criticized prior to the ADM enforcement action in late 2013.

Fast forward to the present day and VAT refund refusals remain a problem in Ukraine.  Recently the International Monetary Fund issued this release concerning a potential aid package for Ukraine.  Among the conditions is that Ukraine  adopt “reforms to strengthen governance, enhance transparency, and improve the business climate” such as taking “measures to facilitate VAT refunds to businesses.”

Deserving?

Earlier this week, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) released this statement

“Kellogg Brown & Root LLC, Technip S.A. and JGC Corp. agree to pay the equivalent of US $17 million in financial penalties as part of Negotiated Resolution Agreements with the African Development Bank following admission of corrupt practices by affiliated companies in relation to the award of services contracts for liquefied natural gas production plants on Bonny Island, Nigeria, from 1995 until 2004.”

The Director of the AfDB’s Integrity and Anti-Corruption Department stated:

“This settlement demonstrates a strong commitment from the African Development Bank to ensure that development funds are used for their intended purpose.  At the same time, it is a clear signal to multinational companies that corrupt practices in Bank-financed projects will be aggressively investigated and severely sanctioned. These ground-breaking Negotiated Resolution Agreements substantially advance the Bank’s anti-corruption and governance agenda, a strategic priority of our institution.”

Pardon me for interrupting this feel good moment (i.e. a corporation paying money to a development bank), but why is AfDB deserving of any money from the companies?  As noted here, AfDB’s role in the Bonny Island project was relatively minor as numerous banks provided financing in connection with the project.  Moreover, as noted here, the AfDB “invested in the oil and gas sector through a USD 100 million loan to NLNG [Nigeria LNG Limited] to finance the expansion of a gas liquefaction plant located on Bonny Island.”

As alleged in the U.S. Bonny Island FCPA enforcement actions, the above-mentioned companies allegedly made corrupt payments to, among others, NLNG officials.  And for this, the specific companies paid $579 million (KBR, et al), $338 million Technip, and $219 million (JGC).

Why is the bank that loaned money to NLNG deserving of anything?  Is there any evidence to suggest that the $100 million given to NLNG was not used for its “intended purpose” of building the Bonny Island project?

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

SBM Offshore, Sweett Group, Citigroup, Cisco, and Societe Generale.

SBM Offshore

The Netherlands-based company (with ADRs traded in the U.S. that provides floating production solutions to the offshore energy industry) has been under FCPA scrutiny for approximately two years.  It recently issued this statement which states, in summary, as follows.

“SBM Offshore presents the findings of its internal investigation, which it started in the first quarter of 2012, as the investigators have completed their investigative activities. The investigation, which was carried out by independent external counsel and forensic accountants, focused on the use of agents over the period 2007 through 2011. In summary, the main findings are:

  • The Company paid approximately US$200 million in commissions to agents during that period of which the majority relate to three countries: US$18.8 million to Equatorial Guinea, US$22.7 million to Angola and US$139.1 million to Brazil;
  • In respect of Angola and Equatorial Guinea there is some evidence that payments may have been made directly or indirectly to government officials;
  • In respect of Brazil there were certain red flags but the investigation did not find any credible evidence that the Company or the Company’s agent made improper payments to government officials (including state company employees). Rather, the agent provided substantial and legitimate services in a market which is by far the largest for the Company;
  • The Company voluntarily reported its internal investigation to the Dutch Openbaar Ministerie and the US Department of Justice in April 2012. It is presently discussing the disclosure of its definitive findings with the Openbaar Ministerie, whilst simultaneously continuing its engagement with the US Department of Justice. New information could surface in the context of the review by these authorities or otherwise which has not come up in the internal investigation to date;
  • At this time, the Company is still not in a position to estimate the ultimate consequences, financial or otherwise, if any, of that review;
  • Since its appointment in the course of 2012 the Company’s new Management Board has taken extensive remedial measures in respect of people, procedures, compliance programs and organization in order to prevent any potential violations of applicable anti-corruption laws and regulations. Both it and the Company’s Supervisory Board remain committed to the Company conducting its business activities in an honest, ethical, respectful and professional manner.”

The SBM Offshore release contains a detailed description of the scope and methodology of its review, as well as remedial measures the company has undertaken.  For this reason, the full release is an instructive read.

Sweett Group

As noted in this prior post, in June 2013 Sweett Group Ltd. (a U.K. based construction company) was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article titled “Inside U.S. Firm’s Bribery Probe.” The focus of the article concerned the construction of a hospital in Morocco and allegations that the company would get the contract if money was paid to “an official inside the United Arab Emirates President’s personal foundation, which was funding the project.”

Earlier this week, the company issued this release which stated:

“[T]here have been further discussions with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the UK and initial discussions with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the USA.  The Group is cooperating with both bodies and no proceedings have so far been issued by either of them.  The Group has commissioned a further independent investigation which is being undertaken on its behalf by Mayer Brown LLP.  Whilst this investigation is at an early stage and is ongoing, to date still no conclusive evidence to support the original allegation has been found.  However, evidence has come to light that suggests that material instances of deception may have been perpetrated by a former employee or employees of the Group during the period 2009 – 2011.  These findings are being investigated further.”

Citigroup

When first discussing Citigroup’s “FCPA scrutiny” I noted the importance of understanding that the FCPA contains generic books and records and internal controls provisions that can be implicated in the absence of any FCPA anti-bribery issues. (See here for a prior post on this subject).  As highlighted in this recent New York Times Dealbook article, this appears to be what Citigroup’s scrutiny involves.  According to the article:

“Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation into a recent $400 million fraud involving Citigroup’s Mexican unit, according to people briefed on the matter …  The investigation, overseen by the FBI and prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, is focusing in part on whether holes in the bank’s internal controls contributed to the fraud in Mexico. The question for investigators is whether Citigroup — as other banks have been accused of doing in the context of money laundering — ignored warning signs.”

Cisco

BuzzFeed goes in-depth as to Cisco’s alleged conduct in Russia that has resulted in FCPA scrutiny for the company. The article states, in pertinent part:

“[T]he iconic American firm is facing a federal investigation for possible bribery violations on a massive scale in Russia. At the heart of the probe by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, sources tell BuzzFeed, are allegations that for years Cisco, after selling billions of dollars worth of routers, communications equipment, and networks to Russian companies and government entities, routed what may have amounted to tens of millions of dollars to offshore havens including Cyprus, Tortola, and Bermuda.”

“Two former Cisco insiders have described to BuzzFeed what they say was an elaborate kickback scheme that used intermediary companies and went on until 2011. And, they said, Cisco employees deliberately looked the other way.”

“No one is suggesting that Cisco bribed Russia’s top leaders. Instead, the investigation is centered on day-to-day kickbacks to officials who ran or helped run major state agencies or companies. Such kickbacks, according to the allegations, enabled the firm to dominate Russia’s market for IT infrastructure.”

“Last year, according to sources close to the investigation, a whistleblower came forward to the SEC, sketching out a vast otkat [kickback] scheme and providing documents as evidence.”

“The two former Cisco executives laid out for BuzzFeed how the alleged scheme worked:  In Cisco’s Russia operations, funds for kickbacks were built into the large discounts Cisco gave certain middleman distributors that were well-connected in Russia. The size of the discounts are head-turning, usually 35% to 40%, but sometimes as high as 68% percent off the list price.  And there was a catch: Instead of discounting equipment in the normal way, by lowering the price, parts of the discounts were often structured as rebates: Cisco sent money back to the middlemen after a sale. Some intermediaries were so close to the Russian companies and government agencies — Cisco’s end customers — that these intermediaries functioned as their agents. These middleman companies would direct the rebate money to be sent to bank accounts in offshore havens such as Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands, or Bermuda.”

According to the article, WilmerHale is conducting the internal investigation.

Societe Generale

Like other financial services company, Societe Generale has come under FCPA scrutiny for business dealings in Libya.  (See here for the prior post).  As noted in this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, in a U.K. lawsuit the Libyan Investment Authority has alleged that the company “paid a middleman $58 million in alleged bribes to secure almost $2 billion in business … during the final years of dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s rule.”

Reading Stack

The most recent issue of the always informative FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton contains a useful analysis of the DOJ’s recent opinion procedure release (see here for the prior post).  Among other things, the Update states:

“[W]hy did it take eight months for the DOJ to issue an Opinion which could have simply cited [a prior Opinion Release]? The delay does not appear to be related to the DOJ’s heavy workload or bureaucratic inertia, as “significant backup documentation” was provided and “several follow up discussions” took place during the eight months.”

*****

A good weekend to all.  On Wisconsin!

Assignment: Read Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson’s New Article

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Larry Thompson has experience with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act from a number of vantage points few can claim:  DOJ Deputy Attorney General, a lawyer in private practice, and a general counsel of a major multinational company.

For this reason, you should read Thompson’s new article -”In-Sourcing Corporate Responsibility for Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” 51 American Criminal Law Review 199 (Winter 2014).

In the article, you will find an informed and candid critique of many current aspects of FCPA enforcement.

Thompson laments the uncertainty of the FCPA and states:

“The uncertainty of precisely what the FCPA forbids and allows harbors frightening potential for prosecutorial abuse and over-criminalization – topics that have preoccupied me, both as a private attorney and as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, for many years.  This uncertainty in the FCPA is particularly troubling when one is dealing not just with individuals, who have control over all their own actions, but also with large corporations – artificial ‘persons’ consisting of hundreds, or thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of individuals for whom the corporation can be held accountable.”

Referencing FCPA congressional hearings in 2010 and 2011, Thompson observes:

“DOJ was unperturbed by the uncertainty surrounding FCPA enforcement.  Indeed, one could be forgiven for suspecting that at least some federal prosecutors favor that uncertainty.  But we must never forget that uncertainty in the law is the antitheses of the rule of law.  There is reason that the Latin word for ‘uncertainty’ is arbitrarius.  That some FCPA enforcement attorneys might relish and exploit the arbitrary enforcement of a federal criminal statute is not merely unseemly – it is illegitimate.”

In short, you can add Thompson’s observation to my own (see here) in countering commentator suggestions that the FCPA is anything other than clear.

On the topic of the 2012 FCPA Guidance, Thompson cites my article “Grading the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Guidance” and states:

“Its 130 pages appear impressive at first glance, but about two-thirds of that is routine recitation of background information:  the introduction and table of contents consume thirty-five pages, the reprinting of the statute itself accounts for another thirty pages, and a summary of previously issued (and by definition inadequate) guidance and discussion of other statutes fleshes out yet another twenty pages.”

On the general topic of guidance and commenting on NPAs and DPAs used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions, Thompson cites my Congressional testimony and observes:

 ”The FCPA guidance … offered by the Justice Department [in NPAs and DPAs] is less helpful because it may include coerced settlements that record instances where even DOJ itself was not sure that a violation of the FCPA actually occurred.”

Thompson’s observation in this regard is similar to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s observation as highlighted in this previous post.

The majority of Thompson’s article renews calls for an FCPA compliance defense.

I first highlighted Thompson’s call (along with several other former higher ranking DOJ officials) for a compliance defense in my article ”Revisiting a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Defense” and in this previous post I further highlighted Thompson’s call for compliance defense at an FCPA symposium.

In short, a hard-to-ignore reality of the current compliance defense debate – against the backdrop of DOJ’s strong institutional opposition to compliance defense concepts – is the chorus of former DOJ officials who support compliance defense concepts.

In his new article, Thompson writes:

“[W]e must create an incentive structure that drives corporations to establish internal compliance programs and to root out foreign corruption within their own organizations.  Only those businesses themselves have the resources to conduct the global investigations that the FCPA requires.  To accomplish this end, I believe that we need to do two things:  first, we must give businesses clear and predictable guidance on what sort of compliance programs they must establish; second, we must give them powerful incentives to engage in self-investigation and self-reporting of the bribery they uncover or suspect.  The incentives I suggest are two:  (1) businesses must be assured that a strong compliance program and prompt and full self-disclosure will ensure that the company itself will not be subject to criminal prosecution under the FCPA; and (2) such self-disclosure will also prevent the company from being debarred from doing business with the federal government or being denied government permits or licenses necessary for the company’s operations.”

Adopting a similar “baby carrot” / “real carrot” analogy I used in “Revisiting an FCPA Compliance Defense“, Thompson writes:

“I propose two carrots.  First, if a corporation establishes a comprehensive, fully funded, adequately staffed and trained FCPA compliance program, then the rogue employee who circumvents it and violates the FCPA – and is caught and turned over to authorities by his employer – should be deemed to be acting outside the realm of his corporate responsibilities and the self-reporting corporation should not be held criminally liable for his conduct.  This would be an instance of a blameless corporation. For this incentive to work, of course, the carrot must be large and appetizing – hence the absolute necessity for transparency and predictability in FCPA enforcement.  The second carrot is that a genuinely cooperative, self-reporting company with a proper compliance program must be assured that it will not be debarred from contracting with the United States government or receiving the government permits required to run its operations.”

In my “Revisiting an FCPA Compliance Defense” article and elsewhere (see prior posts here, here and here) I have articulated – like Thompson – reasons why the DOJ should be in support of – not opposed to – a compliance defense.  A compliance defense is not a race to the bottom – as government officials have suggested – it is a race to the top.  Like Thompson, I have argued that a compliance defense will better facilitate DOJ’s prosecution of culpable individuals and advance the objectives of the FCPA.

I agree with Thompson when he says that the DOJ and SEC have an “almost wooden attitude” when it comes to the FCPA. Reflecting on the enforcement agencies sense of confidence and the billions of dollars collected in enforcement actions, Thompson states:

“But this supposedly shining vision of FCPA enforcement prowess is a Potemkin village, because without corporations’ own internal policing and self-reporting, the FCPA can accomplish little.”

I sincerely hope that Thompson’s article can renew a substantive – not rhetorical – discussion of a compliance defense and how it can help advance the laudable purpose of the FCPA.  To learn more about my proposal, and how it differs slightly from Thompson’s, see here.

Can the DOJ and SEC soften its “wooden attitude”?  Is the DOJ and SEC capable of diverting attention from enforcement statistics, settlement amounts, and political statements filled with empty rhetoric?

As I wrote in my most recent post about a compliance defense, the FCPA has witnessed courageous moments before and a courageous moment is once again presented..

Friday Roundup

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Most admired, from the U.K., one way to avoid judicial scrutiny is to avoid the courts, another DOJ official departs, scrutiny updates, and survey says.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Most Admired

Are companies that resolve a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement or are otherwise under FCPA scrutiny bad or unethical companies?  To be sure, certain companies that have resolved FCPA enforcement actions are deserving of this label, yet most are not.  Indeed, as detailed in this prior post several companies have earned designation as “World Most Ethical Companies” during the same general time period relevant to an enforcement action or instance of FCPA scrutiny.

In a similar vein, several FCPA violators or companies under FCPA scrutiny can be found on Fortune’s recent “Most Admired Company” list.  In the top 50, I count 12 such companies including IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, JPMorgan, and Cisco.

Let’s face it, not all companies that resolve FCPA enforcement actions or are under FCPA scrutiny are bad or unethical companies.  If more people would realize this and accept this fact, perhaps a substantive discussion could take place regarding FCPA reform absent the misinformed rhetoric.

From the U.K.

In this October 2013 post at the beginning of the U.K. trial of former News Corp. executives Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of News of the World, and Andy Coulson, another former News of the World editor, I observed as follows.

“What happens in these trials concerning the bribery offenses will not determine the outcome of any potential News Corp. FCPA enforcement action.  But you can bet that the DOJ and SEC will be interested in the ultimate outcome.  In short, if there is a judicial finding that Brooks and/or Coulson or other high-level executives in London authorized or otherwise knew of the alleged improper payments, this will likely be a factor in how the DOJ and SEC ultimately resolve any potential enforcement action and how News Corp.’s overall culpability score may be calculated under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines.”

Well …, this Wall Street Journal article reports as follows.

“[Rebekah Brooks testified that] she authorized payments to public officials in exchange for information on “half a dozen occasions” during her time as a newspaper editor—but did so only in what she said was the public interest. [...]  On the stand, Ms. Brooks, who edited News Corp’s Sun newspaper and its now-closed News of the World sister title, said the payments were made for good reasons, and done so on rare occasions and after careful consideration. “My view at the time was that there had to be an overwhelming public interest to justify payments in the very narrow circumstances of a public official being paid for information directly in line with their jobs,” said Ms. Brooks.”

As noted in this previous post at the beginning of News Corp.’s FCPA scrutiny, any suggestion that the media industry is somehow excluded from the FCPA’s prohibitions is entirely off-base.

One Way to Avoid Judicial Scrutiny is to Avoid the Courts

In recent years, the SEC has had some notable struggles in the FCPA context and otherwise when put to its burden of proof in litigated actions or otherwise having to defend its settlement policies to federal court judges.  For instance, Judge Shira Scheindlin (S.D.N.Y.) dismissed the SEC’s FCPA enforcement against former Siemens executive Herbert Steffen.  In another FCPA enforcement action,  Judge Keith Ellison (S.D.Tex.) granted without prejudice Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen’s motion to dismiss the SEC’s claims that sought monetary damages.  In Gabelli, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the SEC’s statute of limitations position.  Judge Richard Leon (D.D.C.) expressed concerns regarding the SEC’s settlement of FCPA enforcement actions against Tyco and IBM and approved the settlements only after imposing additional reporting requirements on the companies.  In addition, the SEC’s neither admit nor deny settlement policy has been questioned by several judges (most notably Judge Jed Rakoff) and the merits of this policy is currently before the Second Circuit.

The SEC’s response to this judicial scrutiny has been, as strange as it may sound, to bypass the judicial system altogether  when resolving many of its enforcement actions including in the FCPA context.  As detailed in this previous post concerning SEC FCPA enforcement in 2013, of the 8 corporate enforcement actions from 2013, 3 enforcement actions were administrative actions (Philips Electronics, Total, and Stryker) and 1 action (Ralph Lauren) was a non-prosecution agreement.  In other words, there was no judicial scrutiny of 50% of SEC FCPA enforcement actions from 2013.

Based on recent statements from SEC officials at the “SEC Speaks” conference this trend is going to continue.

According to this Vedder Price bulletin:

“Charlotte Buford, Assistant Chief Counsel, spoke about the SEC’s intention to use the administrative proceeding forum more frequently and in a wider variety of upcoming enforcement actions. Ms. Buford stated that in choosing the forum, the SEC considers factors such as speed and efficiency, the nature of the case, litigation considerations such as the amount of discovery needed, and settlement considerations. Ms. Buford noted that, although certain types of actions such as insider trading cases were historically brought in district court, two insider trading cases were recently brought as administrative actions. She also referenced the SEC’s recent action against Alcoa, Inc. involving FCPA violations, which was filed as a settled administrative proceeding. Ms. Buford indicated that the SEC will continue to increase its use of administrative proceedings in the coming years.”

This Perkins Coie alert adds the following:

“[Kara Brockmeyer - Chief of the SEC's FCPA Unit] also noted that companies can expect to see more cases resolved in administrative proceedings, and that the FCPA Unit is considering bringing litigated FCPA cases through administrative proceedings as well.”

SEC administrative settlements in the FCPA context were rare prior to 2010 largely because the SEC could not impose monetary penalties in such proceedings absent certain exceptions.  However, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act granted the SEC broad authority to impose civil monetary penalties in administrative proceedings in which the SEC staff seeks a cease-and-desist order.  However, Congress’s grant of such authority to the SEC – no doubt politically popular in the aftermath of the so-called financial crisis – has directly resulted in less judicial scrutiny of SEC enforcement theories including in the FCPA context.

Like so much of what is happening in the FCPA space (and government regulation of corporate conduct generally), this is a troubling development.

In other “SEC Speaks” tidbits, the Vedder Price bulletin also states:

“Kara Brockmeyer, Chief of the FCPA Unit, noted that her unit brought a variety of cases in 2013, which included “old school” bribery cases funneling money, improper travel and entertainment, and improper charitable donations. Ms. Brockmeyer stated that the SEC continues to see issues with third-party intermediaries, as many companies enter into arrangements with third parties without adequately explaining the roles of the third parties. Ms. Brockmeyer lauded companies for “putting more thought” into compliance programs and internal controls, as well as for their decisions to self-report. She also discussed the Cross-border working group, which has brought 21 fraud actions involving 90 individuals or entities and has revoked the registrations of 63 companies since this initiative started three years ago.”

The Perkins Coie alert also states:

“Turning to the area of cooperation credit and non-prosecution agreements (NPAs), Chief Brockmeyer stated that the 2013 Ralph Lauren case is a good example of where such an outcome was warranted.  Several factors that weighed in favor of that favorable NPA settlement resulted from the company: self-reporting the suspected bribery within two weeks of finding violations; discovering the violations on its own through internal monitoring activities; assisting the SEC’s investigation by providing English language translations of foreign documents, and bringing witnesses to the United States for questioning; and undertaking extensive remediation efforts, including a worldwide investigation to determine if there were any systemic issues.  Finally, Chief Brockmeyer added that it was significant that Ralph Lauren’s investigation determined that the bribery issues were confined to one country; if the violations were found to be more widespread, the company would likely still have received cooperation credit, but would not have been a candidate for a NPA.

Chief Brockmeyer stated that the SEC will continue to address Compliance Monitorship requirements on a case-by-case basis.  Recently, the SEC has imposed both “full” monitorships, as well as some “hybrid” monitorships that include 18 months of monitoring, combined with 18 months of self-monitoring by the company.  She noted that some companies might even qualify for just internal monitoring, but all these considerations depend heavily on the state of the company’s compliance program.

Finally, Chief Brockmeyer indicated that whistleblower tips continue to serve as a primary lead for the SEC in identifying potential FCPA actions.  The SEC is using these tips to identify specific sectors or industries that are not paying sufficient attention to corporate compliance or internal controls.  The SEC is also focused on enforcing the anti-retaliation whistleblower provisions in Dodd Frank.  In some instances, the SEC has observed that companies have required employees to sign confidentiality agreements that appear to bar an employee from becoming a whistleblower.  She opined that such agreements would violate Dodd-Frank’s prohibition against regulated entities taking actions to impede employees from making whistleblower complaints.”

Another DOJ Official Departs

When Lanny Breuer departed as DOJ Assistant Attorney Criminal Division in March 2013, Mythili Raman became Acting Assistant Attorney and carried forward much of the same rhetoric Breuer frequently articulated concerning the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement program.  (See here for my article “Lanny Breuer and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement).

In speeches (here and here) Raman stated that the DOJ’s “stellar FCPA Unit continues to go gangbusters, bringing case after case,” “our recent string of successful prosecutions of corporate executives is worth highlighting” and “we are not going away … our efforts to fight foreign bribery are more robust than ever.”

Like other DOJ FCPA officials before her, Raman frequently highlighted certain enforcement statistics, yet conveniently ignored the most telling enforcement statistic of all – the DOJ’s dismal record when actually put to its burden of proof in FCPA enforcement actions.  In short, for a long time the DOJ’s FCPA Unit has had a distorted view of success.

Certainly, the DOJ and SEC have had “success” in this new era of FCPA enforcement exercising leverage and securing large corporate FCPA settlements against risk-averse corporations through resolution vehicles often not subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny.  However, by focusing on the quantity of FCPA enforcement, the quality of that enforcement is often left unexplored.  The simplistic notion advanced by the enforcement agencies seems to be that more FCPA enforcement is an inherent good regardless of enforcement theories, regardless of resolution vehicles, and regardless of actual outcomes when put to its burden of proof.  This logic is troubling and ought to be rejected.  In a legal system founded on the rule of law, a more meaningful form of government enforcement agency success is prevailing in the context of an adversarial system when put to the burden of proof.  As to this form of success, during this new era of FCPA enforcement, the DOJ and SEC have had far less “success” in enforcing the FCPA.

Recently the DOJ announced that Raman is departing from her position. (See here).  In this related Q&A with the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (LB) Raman confirmed that the DOJ measures success in terms of quantity without regard to quality.

LB: [On enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which has increased in recent years] do you think you’re winning? Are there fewer bribes being paid now?

MR: We often measure our success by numbers of enforcement actions but actually at the end of the day…. the deterrent effect is what actually matters. I don’t know if fewer bribes are being paid or not. But I do know that there are many more companies who know what their obligations are now.

For additional coverage of Raman’s departure, see here and here.

Scrutiny Alerts

Last summer German healthcare firm Fresenius Medical Care AG disclosed an FCPA internal investigation (see here for the prior post).  In its recently filed annual report, the company stated as follows:

“The Company has received communications alleging certain conduct in certain countries outside the U.S. and Germany that may violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) or other anti-bribery laws. The Audit and Corporate Governance Committee of the Company’s Supervisory Board is conducting an internal review with the assistance of independent counsel retained for such purpose. The Company  voluntarily advised the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) that allegations have been made and of the Company’s internal review. The Company’s review and dialogue with the SEC and DOJ are ongoing.  The review has identified conduct that raises concerns under the FCPA or other anti-bribery laws that may result in monetary penalties or other sanctions. In addition, the Company’s ability to conduct business in certain jurisdictions could be negatively impacted. Given the current status of the internal review, the Company cannot reasonably estimate the possible loss or range of possible loss that may result from the identified matters or from the final outcome of the continuing internal review. Accordingly, no provision with respect to these matters has been made in the accompanying consolidated financial statements.  The Company’s independent counsel, in conjunction with the Company’s Compliance Department, have reviewed the Company’s anti-corruption compliance program, including internal controls related to compliance with international anti-bribery laws, and appropriate enhancements are being implemented. The Company is fully committed to FCPA compliance.”

Bio-Rad Laboratories disclosed as follows yesterday in an earnings release.

“[Fourth quarter] results included an accrued expense of $15 million in connection with the Company’s efforts to resolve the previously disclosed investigation of the Company in connection with the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; this is in addition to an accrued expense of $20 million in the third quarter of 2013.”

Survey Says

The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai recently released its China Business Report (2013-2014).

Notable findings include the following:

“Generally consistent with previous years, 80 percent of respondents cited bureaucracy as the No. 1 challenge, with 72 percent declaring difficulties from an unclear regulatory environment and 70 percent were concerned over problems with tax administration rounding out the top three leading legal and regulatory challenges that companies said hindered their business.”

As I’ve frequently stated, the root causes of much bribery and corruption are various trade barriers and distortions. These barriers and distortions – whether complex customs procedures, import documentation and inspection requirements, local sponsor or other third-party requirements, arcane licensing and certification requirements, quality standards that require product testing and inspection visits, or other foreign government procurement practices – all serve as breeding grounds for harassment bribes to be requested. Simply put, trade barriers and distortions create bureaucracy. Bureaucracy creates points of contact with foreign officials. Points of contact with foreign officials create discretion. Discretion creates the opportunity for a foreign official to misuse their position by making demand bribes.

The report also stated:

“Efforts by the Chinese government to target companies for corruption investigations have sharply increased companies’ concern over compliance with China’s laws and regulations. In 2013, 46 percent of companies said compliance with domestic laws was more important to their business, up from 31 percent in 2012, compared to international anti-bribery laws such as the FCPA (32 percent).

Twice as many respondents said that China’s more aggressive regulatory enforcement for anti-corruption and anti-competition has greatly increased or increased their own business risk (18 percent) than those who say their business risk has greatly decreased or decreased (8 percent). The issue of corruption and fraud was most strongly felt in the healthcare industry (24 percent), which contended with high profile government investigations of foreign and domestic pharmaceutical companies in 2013.”

The impetus for much of this concern is the result of GSK’s (and other pharma and healthcare related companies) scrutiny by Chinese authorities for alleged improper business practices.  (See here for the prior post).

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Friday, November 8th, 2013

That’s just so fringe, where now?, the pulse of FCPA Inc., scrutiny alerts and updates, for the reading stack, and save the date.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

That’s Just So Fringe

Many in the anti-corruption space have latched onto developments in other countries and carried forward the torch of reform.  Just goggle Anna Hazare’s hunger strike in India or discover the wealth of material written about marches and demonstrations in Brazil prior to Brazil’s bribery laws being amended.

Recently there was a march in Washington D.C., protesting, in part, government corruption.  (See here).  Why has there not been similar coverage in the anti-corruption space?  Where are those who otherwise carried forward the torch of reform?  Apparently the reaction is – when it happens here in the U.S. – well, that’s just so fringe.

Where Now?

As DOJ Deputy Assistant Attorney, John Burretta “oversaw the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, among others, including the Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit.”  He also “supervised the preparation of the DOJ and SEC’s Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, issued in November 2012.”

Like most other DOJ policy leaders and FCPA enforcement attorneys with supervisory powers during this new era of FCPA enforcement, Burretta is now in the private sector as he recently joined Cravath as a partner.  (See here).  According to his Cravath bio, “his practice focuses on investigations and white collar criminal defense, including advising and representing clients in matters related to the FCPA” among other things.

The Pulse of FCPA Inc.

Few FCPA Inc. participants are publicy-traded companies.  Thus, it is often difficult to take the pulse of FCPA Inc. other than anecdotal information.

However, one FCPA Inc. participant that is publicly traded is FTI Consulting.  The company recently disclosed that revenues for the quarter in its relevant business segment increased nearly 2% compared to the prior year “due to higher services revenues primarily for investigations involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and interest rate setting process concerning the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) …”.

It’s only one company, but with few FCPA Inc. datapoints publicly available, it is a relevant datapoint.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

Weatherford

Weatherford International recently disclosed as follows concerning its long-running FCPA scrutiny:

“During the quarter ended June 30, 2013, negotiations related to the oil-for-food and FCPA matters progressed to a point where we recognized a liability for a loss contingency that we believe is probable and for which a reasonable estimate can be made.  The Company estimates that the amount of this loss is $153 million and recognized a loss contingency equal to such amount in the quarter ended June 30, 2013.  Since our last 10-Q filing, substantial progress in the negotiations was made, and these negotiations have recently concluded. These negotiations have resulted in agreements with representatives of the DOJ and the SEC enforcement staff relating to terms and total payments to be made to government agencies relating to the oil-for-food and FCPA matters subject in each case to final review and approval by the DOJ and SEC Commission as well as judicial approval.  The agreements would require total payments to government agencies equal to the $153 million loss contingency that the Company recognized in the quarter ended June 30, 2013.  The agreements would also include (1) an agreement under which criminal prosecution for the Company would be deferred for three years and a plea agreement would impose a criminal conviction on one of the Company’s subsidiaries; (2) a requirement to retain, for a period of at least 18 months, an independent monitor responsible to assess the Company’s compliance with the terms of the agreement so as to address and reduce the risk of recurrence of alleged misconduct, after which the Company would continue to evaluate its own compliance program and make periodic reports to the DOJ and SEC; and (3) a requirement to maintain agreed compliance monitoring and reporting systems.  If final settlement terms differ from the agreements we have reached with DOJ and SEC representatives or if necessary approvals are not ultimately obtained, we could become subject to injunctive relief, disgorgement, fines, penalties, sanctions or imposed modifications to business practices that could adversely affect our results of operations.”

A $153 million FCPA settlement amount would be 8th largest of all time based on the current top ten settlement list.

Layne Christensen Co.

Layne Christensen Co. recently disclosed as follows concerning its long-running FCPA scrutiny:

“The Company is engaged in discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding a potential negotiated resolution of these matters. The Company believes that it is likely that any settlement will include both the payment of a monetary fine and the disgorgement of any improper benefits. In May 2013, the staff of the SEC orally advised the Company that they calculated the estimated benefits to the Company from allegedly improper payments, plus interest thereon, to be approximately $4.8 million, which amount was accrued by the Company as of April 30, 2013. Based on the results of the Company’s internal investigation, an analysis of the resolution of recent and similar FCPA resolutions, the Company currently estimates a potential settlement range for resolving these matters (including the amount of a monetary penalty and the disgorgement of any improper benefits plus and interest) of $10.4 million to $16.0 million. The Company has increased its reserve for the settlement of these matters from $4.8 million to $10.4 million, representing the low end of this range.  At this time, we can provide no assurances as to whether the Company will be able to settle for an amount equal to its current reserve or within its estimated settlement range or whether the SEC or DOJ will accept voluntary settlement terms that would be acceptable to the Company. Furthermore, the Company cannot currently assess the potential liability that might be incurred if a settlement is not reached and the government was to litigate the matter. As such, based on the information available at this time, any additional liability related to this matter is not reasonably estimable. The Company will continue to evaluate the amount of its liability pending final resolution of the investigation, and any related settlement discussions with the government; the amount of the actual liability for any fines, penalties, disgorgement or interest that may be recorded in connection with a final settlement could be significantly higher than the liability accrued to date.  Other than the indication of the estimated disgorgement amount noted above, the Company has not received any proposed settlement offers from the SEC or DOJ and there can be no assurance that its discussions with the DOJ and SEC will result in a final settlement of any or all of these issues or, if a settlement is reached, the timing of any such settlement or that the terms of any such settlement would not have a material adverse effect on the Company.”

ADM

ADM recently disclosed as follows concerning its long-running FCPA scrutiny.

“The Company has completed its internal review and is engaged in discussions with the DOJ and SEC to resolve this matter. In connection with this review, government agencies could impose civil penalties or criminal fines and/or order that the Company disgorge any profits derived from any contracts involving inappropriate payments. Included in selling, general, and administrative expenses for the nine months ended September 30, 2013 were charges for the Company’s current estimate of potential disgorgement, penalties, and fines that may be paid by the Company in connection with this matter of $54 million. As of September 30, 2013, the estimated loss provision liability of $54 million is included in accrued expenses and other payables in the Company’s consolidated balance sheet. These events have not had, and are not expected to have, a material impact on the Company’s business or financial condition.”

GSK

In my first GSK post over the summer, I posed the question – based on GSK disclosures and public statements – whether GSK is the victim of rogue employee conduct?

According to this U.K. Independent article:

“GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug company at the heart of a bribery investigation in China, is likely to avoid a company-wide charge for  allegedly funneling up to £300m in kickbacks to doctors and government officials.  Instead, police are likely to charge some of its Chinese executives, according to reports citing legal and industry sources.  Such an outcome would see Chinese police drop  claims made in September that corruption was co-ordinated at a company level.  [...] The [Chinese] police investigation into GSK is likely to be concluded around the end of November or in December, said a person with direct knowledge of the probe. The sources noted it was difficult to predict what Chinese authorities would ultimately do. But the most likely legal scenario was that they would charge Chinese GSK executives, said the person with direct knowledge of the investigation and two other sources familiar with the matter. The sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case. Indeed, the Ministry of Public Security had tried to find evidence tying GSK   as a legal entity to the alleged wrongdoing, but it was unlikely authorities would be able to prove its involvement at a corporate level, said the person with direct knowledge of the investigation.” (emphasis added).

Bio-Rad Labs

Bio-Rad recently disclosed that it recorded “an accrued expense of $20 million in connection with the Company’s initial efforts to resolve the previously disclosed investigation of the Company in connection with the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

For The Reading Stack

The always informative Miller & Chevalier quarterly update is out.  (See here for the Autumn 2012 FCPA Review).

From an article titled “The ‘Mens Rea’ Component Within the Issue of the Over-Federalization of Crime” by John Baker and William Haun in Engage, a Federalist Society publication.

“Designed to prohibit bribery of foreign officials for any business advantage, the [FCPA's] breadth allows the federal government to hold businesses liable for actions by rogue agents.  As former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Jones Day partner James Dunlop note, this “adds unnecessary uncertainty and opens businesses to massive, largely unavoidable, liability, with few offsetting benefits.”  The statute’s broad language can transgress the intent of Congress.  In discussing the example of Wal-Mart, Professor Mike Koehler has shown that Congress had no desire to apply the Act against “grease payments” to clerical employees, but that the backroom nature of FCPA enforcement gives that congressional limitation uncertain relevance. The reluctance of corporations to go to trial minimizes judicial review of the FCPA’s use. As a result, the FCPA investigations have developed a “prosecutorial common law,” allowing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to impose burdensome compliance costs without having to prove in court that criminal activity has actually occurred or is likely to occur.  Companies spend millions to “comply” with requirements possessing an unknown reach.  In remarks on the FCPA, former U.S. Attorney General Mukasey observed that, given how few FCPA cases actually see a court room, “there is a whole body of law being developed” in prosecutor’s offices through negotiated FCPA settlements with major companies. Even if the settlements are reasonable, as General Mukasey noted, they do not provide any clarity or consistency necessary to “demystify” an ordinary person’s responsibilities under the law.  He noted that DOJ and the business community reached an understanding on some aspects of the FCPA.  Such agreements, however, should not serve as the functional equivalent of legislation.  It is the obligation of Congress to establish clear mens rea requirements for the FCPA and other statutes, not the executive via piecemeal prosecution.”

What’s one takeaway point from the recent Diebold enforcement actions?  According to Richard Smith (Norton Rose Fulbright) in this recent Law360 article:

“The Diebold settlements underscore the need for companies to fully evaluate whether voluntary disclosure is in the company’s best interest. Although U.S. authorities may be willing to reward companies for self-disclosing FCPA issues — indeed, the DOJ specifically stated in the DPA that it credited Diebold for making such a disclosure — the positive credit received is not always clear. The ultimate financial and operational burden on a company may, in any given instance, outweigh credit received.  Based on previous enforcement action settlements, some companies may have assumed that voluntary disclosure assists the company in avoiding the imposition of a compliance monitor. In light of the Diebold settlements, however, companies assessing the option of self-disclosure must consider the real possibility that doing so may not shield them from the increased costs and scrutiny associated with the retention of independent compliance monitors.”

Save The Date

On December 4th in Washington, D.C., George Washington University Law School is hosting a full-day symposium titled “The International Fight Against Corruption: Are the OECD and UN Conventions Achieving their Objectives?”  To learn more about the event, see here.

Friday Roundup

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Scrutiny alerts and updates, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

Scrutiny Alerts And Updates

Avon

Yesterday, Avon’s stock dropped approximately 22% to $17.50.  The company disclosed a drop in third quarter sales and weaker than expected earnings.  Avon also disclosed, in pertinent part, the following regarding its long-running FCPA scrutiny:

“As previously reported in our Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ending June 30, 2013, we made an offer of settlement to the DOJ and the SEC in June 2013 that, among other terms, would have included payment of monetary penalties of approximately $12. Although our offer was rejected by the DOJ and the staff of the SEC, we accrued the amount of our offer in the second quarter of 2013.

In September 2013, the staff of the SEC proposed terms of potential settlement that included monetary penalties of a magnitude significantly greater than our earlier offer. We disagree with the SEC staff’s assumptions and the methodology used in its calculations and believe that monetary penalties at the level proposed by the SEC staff are not warranted. We anticipate that the DOJ also will propose terms of potential settlement, although they have not yet done so and we are unable to predict the timing or terms of any such proposal. If the DOJ’s offer is comparable to the SEC’s offer and if the Company were to enter into settlements with the SEC and the DOJ at such levels, we believe that the Company’s earnings, cash flows, liquidity, financial condition and ongoing business would be materially adversely impacted.

Although we are working to resolve the government investigations through settlement, our discussions are at early stages and at this point we do not know if those efforts will be successful and, if they are, what the timing or terms of any such settlements would be. We expect any such settlements will include civil and/or criminal fines and penalties, and may also include non-monetary remedies, such as oversight requirements and additional remediation and compliance requirements. We may be required to incur significant future costs to comply with the non-monetary terms of any settlements with the SEC and the DOJ. If we are able to reach settlements with the SEC and the DOJ, the Company believes that such settlements are likely to include monetary penalties that would be material to its earnings and cash flows in the relevant fiscal period and could, depending on the amounts of the settlements, materially adversely impact the Company’s liquidity, financial condition and ongoing business.

There can be no assurance that our efforts to reach settlements with the government will be successful.  If we do not reach settlements with the SEC and/or the DOJ, we cannot predict the outcome of any subsequent litigation with the government but such litigation could have a material adverse effect on our earnings, cash flow, liquidity, financial condition and ongoing business.>We have not recorded an additional accrual beyond the amount recorded in the second quarter of 2013 because at this time, in light of the early stages of our discussions of possible settlement terms with the government, the magnitude of the difference between our offer and the amount proposed by the SEC and the absence of a proposal from the DOJ, and our inability to predict whether we will be able to reach settlements with the government, we cannot reasonably estimate the amount of additional loss above the amount accrued to date.

Until these matters are resolved, either through settlement or litigation, we expect to continue to incur costs, primarily professional fees and expenses, which may be significant, in connection with the government investigations. Furthermore, under certain circumstances, we may also be required to advance and/or reimburse significant professional fees and expenses to certain current and former Company employees in connection with these matters.”

In certain respects, Avon’s disclosure was similar to its August disclosure (see here for the prior post) in which it stated “we made an offer of settlement to the DOJ and the SEC that, among other terms, included payment of monetary penalties of approximately $12 [million]. The DOJ and the SEC have rejected the terms of our offer.”

The fact that there is a negotiation and back and forth between the SEC and a company concerning an FCPA settlement number is not unusual, what is a bit unusual is that this back and forth is being aired in public via the company’s SEC filings.

Embraer

Previous posts here and here have profiled Embraer’s FCPA scrutiny.  In an article titled “Plane Maker Embraer Faces Bribery Inquiries,” the Wall Street Journal reports:

“U.S. and Brazilian authorities are investigating whether aircraft maker Embraer SA bribed officials in the Dominican Republic in return for a $90 million contracts to furnish the country’s armed forces with attack planes.”

According to the article, U.S. authorities say they have “evidence – including bank records and e-mails – that they believe shows that Embraer executives had approved a $3.4 million bribe to a Dominican official with influence over military procurement.”

Mead Johnson

Mead Johnson Nutrition Company recently disclosed as follows.

“The company has initiated an internal investigation of, and is voluntarily complying with a Securities and Exchange Commission request for documents relating to, certain business activities of the company’s local subsidiary in China. The company’s investigation is focused on certain expenditures that were made by the subsidiary in connection with the promotion of the company’s products or may have otherwise been made and that may not have complied with company policies and applicable U.S. and/or local laws. The company has retained outside legal counsel to conduct the investigation, which is being overseen by a committee of independent members of the company’s board of directors. At this time, the company is unable to predict the scope, timing or outcome of this ongoing matter or any regulatory or legal actions that may be commenced related to this matter.”

National Geographic

The on-line publication Vocativ recently published an article “Tut-Tut: Did National Geographic Bribe Egypt’s Famed Indiana Jones?”  The article begins as follows.

“This is not your typical story about international bribery. For one thing, it involves mummies. It also involves one of America’s most beloved institutions: National Geographic.  Vocativ has learned that the Justice Department has opened a criminal bribery investigation into the prestigious nonprofit. At issue: Nat Geo’s tangled relationship with Dr. Zahi Hawass, a world-famous Indiana Jones–type figure who for years served as the official gatekeeper to Egypt’s glittering antiquities.  Beginning in 2001 and continuing for a decade, National Geographic paid the archaeologist between $80,000 and $200,000 a year for his expertise. The payments came at a time when the popularity of mummies and pharaohs was helping transform the 125-year-old explorer society into a juggernaut with multiple glossies, a publishing house and a television channel. But they also came as Hawass was still employed by the Egyptian government to oversee the country’s priceless relics.”

According to the article, Hawass also worked with National Geographic competitor, the Discovery Channel.

Although National Geographic is a non-profit entity, the FCPA’s definition of “domestic concern” is “any corporation, partnership, association, joint-stock company, business trust, unincorporated organization, or sole proprietorship …”.

Teva Pharmaceuticals

As noted in this previous post, in August the company disclosed that it “received a subpoena … from the SEC to produce documents
with respect to compliance with the FCPA in Latin America.”  Earlier this week, Teva disclosed as follows.

“Beginning in 2012, Teva received subpoenas and informal document requests from the SEC and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to produce documents with respect to compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) in certain countries. Teva has provided and will continue to provide documents and other information to the SEC and the DOJ, and is cooperating with the government in their investigations of these matters. Teva is also conducting a voluntary investigation into certain business practices that may have FCPA implications and has engaged independent counsel to assist in its investigation. In the course of its investigation, which is continuing, Teva has identified in Russia, certain Eastern European countries, and certain Latin American countries issues that could potentially rise to the level of FCPA violations and/or violations of local law. Teva has brought these issues to the attention of the SEC and the DOJ. No conclusion can be drawn at this time as to any likely outcomes in these matters.”

JPMorgan

As highlighted in this previous post, in August JPMorgan’s hiring practices in China came under scrutiny.

The company recently disclosed:

“The Firm has received subpoenas and requests for documents from the SEC’s Division of Enforcement regarding, among other things, hiring practices relating to candidates referred by clients, potential clients and government officials, the Firm’s employment of certain former employees in Hong Kong, its business relationships with certain related clients in the Asia Pacific region and its engagement of consultants in the Asia Pacific region. The Firm has also received a request for documents from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the same referral hiring practices. The Firm is cooperating with these investigations. Separate inquiries on these or similar topics have been made by other authorities, including authorities in other jurisdictions, and the Firm is responding to those inquiries.”

Quotable

From Attorney General Eric Holder at the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery in Morocco.

“As we’ve all seen – and as President Obama has said – “[t]he struggle against corruption is one of the great struggles of our time.”  Fortunately [...] corruption is no longer widely seen as an accepted cost of doing business.  It is no longer tolerated as an unavoidable aspect of government.  On the contrary – it is now generally understood that the consequences of corruption are devastating – eroding trust in public and private institutions, undermining confidence in the fairness of free and open markets, siphoning precious resources at a time when they could hardly be more scarce, and all too often breeding contempt for the rule of law.

[...]

This is why, as Attorney General, I’ve consistently worked to ensure that anticorruption remains a top priority for my colleagues at every level of the United States Department of Justice – within as well as beyond our borders.”

A recent article in Corporate Counsel titled “The Perils of Keeping FCPA Infractions Under Wraps” states:

“Charles Duross, the deputy chief of the U.S. Justice Department’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit, delivered an ominous message Monday to in-house lawyers at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Annual Meeting in Los Angeles: Failure to report potential bribery is more perilous than ever.  Duross, who is based in Washington, D.C., said DOJ is handling a “pretty steady stream of cases,” with every major U.S. attorney’s office investigating alleged violations of the FCPA, which prohibits bribery of foreign officials.  “The risk of getting caught . . . is greater today than any point previously,” Duross said. “I think that’s kind of a no-brainer.”  Duross said he isn’t naïve about the calculus companies have to perform when deciding whether to report a potential FCPA infraction to the U.S. government. But if a company makes the disclosure on its own, he noted, the Justice Department stands ready to help.  DOJ can make deferred-prosecution or non-prosecution agreements with businesses—or even decline to pursue any action against them, he said. “It’s a tough one” for companies, Duross said. “No doubt about it.” Self-reporting can be overrated, according to New York-based Morrison & Foerster partner Carl Loewenson Jr., a co-chairman of the firm’s securities litigation, enforcement, and white-collar defense group who also spoke at the ACC event. Making the disclosures is great for business at the DOJ, as well as law firms and accounting offices, he said. But companies that report almost always get some type of a public charge, he noted. “I think that these days there are too many cases in which too many companies are being too reflexive about self-reporting” to the government, Loewenson said. “In some cases, not in all, you can solve these problems yourself.”

Reading Stack

Several spot-on observations in the most recent issue of the always informative FCPA Update from Debevoise & Plimpton concerning the recent Diebold enforcement action (see here and here for prior posts).

“Although there are significant aggravating factors that might explain imposing $48 million in penalties and disgorgement on a company that voluntarily disclosed what are, unfortunately, common improprieties in China, combined with wholly unrelated commercial bribery in Russia, the size of the financial resolution – apart from the substantial burdens of the monitorship – raises questions about future enforcement of the FCPA, as well as the incentives for companies to self-report.

The first noteworthy aspect of this resolution is the enforcement agencies’ decision to use the books and records and internal controls provisions as a vehicle for obtaining monetary relief penalizing purely commercial bribery (40% of the improper payments at issue). While not entirely novel or outside the theoretical reach of those provisions, were the enforcement agencies routinely to investigate issuers in connection with commercial bribery abroad, the “risk-based” calculus of almost all corporate compliance programs would potentially need to be rebalanced.

Second, the total financial aspect of the resolution was 16 times the total value of alleged improper payments. In describing the improper payments, the enforcement agencies aggregated a number of often small payments over five years. When considered alongside the Ralph Lauren enforcement action from earlier this year, the Diebold enforcement action, and in particular its imposition of a monitor, long-considered one of the most burdensome aspects of FCPA settlements, could call into question one common view of the statements relating to gifts and corrupt intent in the November 2012 DOJ/SEC joint Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: namely, that FCPA covered companies should not “sweat the small stuff.”

[...]

“[T]he Diebold enforcement actions revive the pre-guidance confusion about the government’s enforcement priorities and raise significant questions about the value of voluntary disclosure. The confusion, arising from repeated charges related to relatively small expenditures, including, even, $500 for four pairs of shoes provided as gifts to Chinese officials, was part of  the background of frustration with the government’s enforcement of the FCPA that led to publication of the joint DOJ/ SEC Resource Guide.  It has been commonly thought that the Resource Guide’s distinctions between “expensive gifts” and “token[s] of esteem or gratitude” signified at least an implicit recognition by U.S. enforcement agencies that compliance resources would be better allocated to topics other than gifts valued at a few hundred dollars, let alone gifts that individually do not exceed $100 in value. But the Diebold case will raise new questions about the government’s enforcement priorities, questions that will only be amplified by the imposition of a monitor, potentially one of the most disruptive, burdensome, and costly components of FCPA settlement tools, and one that had been in declining use for several years.”

An observant article from The Lawyer titled “Round Table on Cross-Border Disputes – Bandwagons Roll.”  It states:

“Co-operation [between foreign law enforcement regulators] is good.’”  [...]  More co-operation between regulators when they are trying to address the same issues is welcome.”  However, co-operation – while praised for attempting to provide consistency – has its drawbacks.  “They all want to impose sanctions for the same conduct.” [...]   “It’s common now for a company to finish a US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or UK Bribery Act investigation  that has taken three years and generated huge fees, to turn around and see a long line of regulators from, say, China or India with their own legal and  political concerns.”

It does not necessarily justify the behavior, but the following article at least puts the behavior in the proper context and highlights why Congress specifically included a facilitation payments exception in the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

“Seventy-five percent of businesses in Vietnam pay bribes to  government agencies on their own volition in order to avoid being stuck in red tape, a World Bank specialist says.  At an anti-corruption conference held in Hanoi Thursday, Soren Davidsen said that sixty-three percent of firms questioned in a survey said they paid the “unofficial fees” to speed up procedures.”

A useful compliance resource here from the U.S. – China Business Council titled “Best Practices for Managing Compliance in China.”

*****

A good weekend to all,