It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
Is This Appropriate?
If this truly is an event, “Drinks With an FBI Agent – Inside Stories From the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” is it appropriate?
Chinea and DeMeneses Sentences
The DOJ announced
“Benito Chinea and Joseph DeMeneses, the former chief executive officer and former managing director of a broker-dealer Direct Access Partner “were sentenced to prison … for their roles in a scheme to pay bribes to a senior official in Venezuela’s state economic development bank, Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela (Bandes), in return for trading business that generated more than $60 million in commissions.”
Chinea and DeMeneses were each sentenced to four years in prison. They were also ordered to pay $3,636,432 and $2,670,612 in forfeiture, respectively, which amounts represent their earnings from the bribery scheme. On Dec. 17, 2014, both defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Travel Act.”
In the release, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated:
“These Wall Street executives orchestrated a massive bribery scheme with a corrupt official in Venezuela to illegally secure tens of millions of dollars in business for their firm. The convictions and prison sentences of the CEO and Managing Director of a sophisticated Wall Street broker-dealer demonstrate that the Department of Justice will hold individuals accountable for violations of the FCPA and will pursue executives no matter where they are on the corporate ladder.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York stated:
“Benito Chinea and Joseph DeMeneses paid bribes to an officer of a state-run development bank in exchange for lucrative business she steered to their firm. Chinea and DeMeneses profited for a time from the corrupt arrangement, but that profit has turned into prison and now they must forfeit their millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains as well as their liberty.”
This previous post highlighted the DOJ enforcement action against Asem Elgawhary, a former principal vice president of Bechtel Corporation and general manager of a joint venture operated by Bechtel and an Egyptian utility company, for allegedly accepting $5.2 million in kickbacks to manipulate the competitive bidding process for state-run power contracts in Egypt.
The DOJ recently announced that Elgawhary was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison.
So what was Elgawhary?
A former principal vice president of Bechtel Corporation and general manager of a joint venture operated by Bechtel and an Egyptian utility company or a Egyptian “foreign official?”
Can the DOJ have it both ways?
Scrutiny Alerts and Updates
Anheuser-Busch InBev recently disclosed in its annual report:
“We have been informed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice that they are conducting investigations into our affiliates in India, including a non-consolidated Indian joint venture that we previously owned, ABInBev India Private Limited, and whether certain relationships of agents and employees were compliant with the FCPA. We are investigating the conduct in question and are cooperating with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.”
As highlighted in this previous post, in December 2013 German-based Bilfinger paid approximately $32 million to resolve an FCPA enforcement action concerning alleged conduct in Nigeria. The enforcement action was resolved via a three-year deferred prosecution agreement.
As noted in the previous post, Bilfinger’s CEO described the conduct at issue as “events from the distant past.”
From the not-so distant past, Bilfinger recently announced:
“Bilfinger received internal information last year indicating that there may have been violations of the Group’s compliance regulations in connection with orders for the supply of monitor walls for security control centres in several large municipalities in Brazil. The company immediately launched a comprehensive investigation. The allegation relates to suspected bribery payments from employees of a Bilfinger company in Brazil to public officials and employees of state companies.”
See here for a follow-up announcement from the company.
As a foreign company, Bilfinger is only subject to the FCPA’s anti-bribery violations to the extent the payment scheme involves a U.S. nexus (as was alleged in the prior Bilfinger FCPA enforcement action).
Canadian media reports:
“Seven people, including Revenue Quebec employees and officials with computer companies IBM and EBR, were [recently] arrested … in connection with an alleged corruption scheme aimed at obtaining a government IT contract worth $24 million.Two Revenue Quebec employees, Hamid Iatmanene and Jamal El Khaiat, stand accused of providing privileged information about an upcoming government contract to a consortium made up of IBM and Quebec company Informatique EBR Inc.”
As highlighted here, in 2000 IBM resolved an FCPA enforcement action.
As highlighted here, in 2011 IBM resolved another FCPA enforcement action. This enforcement action was filed in federal court (back in the day when the SEC actually filed FCPA enforcement actions in federal court vs. its preferred in-house method now) and Judge Richard Leon was concerned about the settlement process. As highlighted here, Judge Leon approved the settlement, but his July 2013 final order states, among other things:
“[For a two year period IBM is required to submit annual reports] to the Commission and this Court describing its efforts to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), and to report to the Commission and this Court immediately upon learning it is reasonably likely that IBM has violated the FCPA in connection with either improper payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business or any fraudulent books and records entries …””
According to media reports, Judge Leon stated: “if there’s another violation over the next two years, it won’t be a happy day.”
In this Law360 article, Richard Grime (former Assistant Director of Enforcement at the SEC and current partner at Gibson Dunn) states regarding recent alleged FCPA violations.
“It’s not that you couldn’t intellectually [conceive of] the violation. It’s that the government is sort of probing every area where there is an interaction with government officials and then working backwards from there to see if there is a violation, as opposed to starting out with the statute … and what it prohibits.”
Given that most SEC FCPA enforcement actions are the result of voluntary disclosures, it is a curious statement. Perhaps its companies, at the urging of FCPA Inc., that are probing every area where there is an interaction with government officials and then working backwards?
As reported here:
“Greek authorities [recently] indicted 64 people to stand trial over years-old allegations of bribery involving Siemens AG, the German engineering giant … A probe of corporate dealings from 1992 to 2006 allegedly found that Greece had lost about 70 million euros in the sale of equipment from Siemens to Greek telephone operator Hellenic Telecommunications also known as OTE, which was still owned by the state at the beginning of that period … A panel of judges decided that those indicted, including both Greek and German nationals, should stand trial for bribery or money laundering. The list of suspects includes former Siemens and OTE officials.”
As noted here, Joe Kaeser (President and CEO of Siemens) reportedly stated:
“I really believe the country (Greece) can move to the future, rather than trying to find the solutions in the past.” He added that his company had a “dark history,” mentioning compliance issues. But he said it was not a “black and white story” when asked whether the indictments had been politically motivated by the current friction between the German and Greek governments. ”Looking at the past doesn’t help the future because the past is the past.”
If the U.S. brings FCPA enforcement actions based on conduct that in some instances is 10 – 15 years old, it is not surprising that Greece is doing the same. Yet is this right?
As the U.S. Supreme Court recently stated in Gabelli:
“Statute of limitations are intended to ‘promote justice by preventing surprises through the revival of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has been lost, memories have faded, and witnesses have disappeared. They provide ‘security and stability to human affairs. [They] are ‘vital to the welfare of society [and] ‘even wrongdoers are entitled to assume that their sins may be forgotten.’ […] It ‘would be utterly repugnant to the genius of our laws if actions for penalties could ‘be brought at any distance of time.’”
I am glad to see that FCPA commentator Michael Volkov recently joined the club. Writing on the Garth Peterson / Morgan Stanley so-called declination, Volkov states: ”my intelligence on the case indicated that … [the] DOJ apparently wanted to demonstrate for political reasons that it could recognize a company’s compliance program to decline a case against a company.
A Future Foreign Official Teaser?
As recently reported by the Wall Street,
“China’s leadership is preparing to radically consolidate the country’s bloated state-owned sector, telling thousands of enterprises they need to rely less on state life support and get ready to list on public markets. [...] Communist Party leaders plan to release broad guidelines in the next months for restructuring the country’s more than 100,000 state-owned enterprises, according to government officials and advisers with knowledge of the deliberations. [...] Strategically important industries such as energy, resources and telecommunications are marked for consolidation, the officials and advisers say. The merged entities would then be reorganized as asset-investment firms, with a mandate to make sure they run more like commercial operations than arms of the government. Upper management will be under orders to maximize returns and prepare many of the companies for eventual listing on stock markets, these people say.”
In U.S. v. Esquenazi, the 11th Circuit concluded that an “instrumentality” under the FCPA is an “entity controlled by the government of a foreign country that performs a function the controlling government treats as its own.” The Court recognized that what “constitutes control and what constitutes a function the government treats as its own are fact-bound questions” and, without seeking to list all “factors that might prove relevant,” the court did list “some factors that may be relevant” in deciding issues of control and function.
As to control, the 11th Circuit listed the following factors:
“[whether] the foreign government’s formal designation of that entity; whether the government has a majority interest in the entity; the government’s ability to hire and fire the entity’s principals; the extent to which the entity’s profits, if any, go directly into the governmental fisc, and, by the same token, the extent to which the government funds the entity if it fails to break even; and the length of time these indicia have existed.”
As to function, the 11th Circuit listed the following factors:
“whether the entity has a monopoly over the function it exists to carry out; whether the government subsidizes the costs associated with the entity providing services; whether the entity provides services to the public at large in the foreign country; and whether the public and the government of that foreign country generally perceive the entity to be performing a governmental function.”
Have fun applying this test should China’s proposed changes go forward.
My own cents regarding Brazil’s recent implementation of regulations regarding certain features of its Clean Companies Act (a law which provides for only civil and administrative liability of corporate entities for alleged acts of bribery) is that the regulations are a yawner for any company that is already acting consistent with FCPA best practices.
For the Reading Stack
A thoughtful article here from Alexandra Wrage (President of Trace) regarding the “cult of the imperfect.” It states:
“Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt is credited with saving thousands of lives in Britain during the worst days of World War II after developing Chain Home, a low-frequency radar system able to detect aircraft from about 90 miles away. He openly encouraged what he called the “cult of the imperfect” among his team. He knew that Britain didn’t need the best possible radar system in five years; the country needed a viable radar system urgently. Immediately. Watson-Watt, who was knighted shortly after the Battle of Britain, is said to have instructed his team to strive for the third-best option, because “the second-best comes too late . . . the best never comes.
Perfect due diligence risk assessments never come. And even second-best may come too late. Just get started. You’ll see more protections and benefits from good (for now) than perfect (some day, maybe . . .).”
Sound advice that I agree with and completely consistent with Congressional intent in enacting the FCPA’s internal controls provisions and even prior enforcement agency guidance.
Problem is, the DOJ and SEC wear rose-colored glasses, including as to conduct years ago, and if a company is acting consistent with FCPA best practices 99% of the time, that means 1% of the time they are not.
A good weekend to all. On Wisconsin!