Archive for the ‘Wojciech Chodan’ Category

Testing Innocence

Monday, February 27th, 2012

By now you have probably heard that various Bonny Island bribery defendants were sentenced last week.  As noted in this DOJ release:

Albert Stanley (a former chairman and CEO of Kellogg, Brown & Root, Inc.) was sentenced to 30 months in prison, ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay $10.8 million in restitution to KBR, the victim of a separate kickback scheme Stanley engaged in;

Jeffrey Tesler (a U.K. citizen and agent of the TSKJ joint venture at the center of the bribery scheme) was sentenced to 21 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine in addition to previously forfeiting approximately $149 million.

Wojciech Chodan (a U.K. citizen and former salesman at KBR’s U.K. subsidiary) was sentenced to 1 year of probation and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine in addition to previously forfeiting approximately $727,000.

The Bonny Island bribery conduct the defendants were charged in was massive in scope and involved a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian officials to obtain engineering, procurement and construction contracts at Bonny Island Nigeria valued at more than $6 billion.

As detailed in this previous post, the corporate Bonny Island bribery enforcement actions resulted in approximately $1.6 billion in DOJ/SEC fines and penalties.  The DOJ’s press release announcing the sentences states as follows.  “Today’s prison sentences for Mr. Stanley and Mr. Tesler mark another important step in our prosecution of those responsible for a massive bribery scheme involving engineering, procurement and construction contracts in Nigeria.  These sentences reflect not only the defendants’ illegal acts, but also their substantial cooperation with the government. As a result of this investigation, three individuals have been convicted of FCPA-related crimes, and five companies in four countries have paid substantial penalties and undertaken significant efforts to enhance their compliance programs.  This case shows the importance the department places on putting an end to foreign bribery.”

Two people that probably have not heard of last week’s Bonny Island bribery sentences are Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez – two of the defendants in the Haiti Teleco enforcement action.  As noted in this prior post, in October 2011, Esquenazi was sentenced to 15 years in prison and Rodriguez was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

Was the conduct that Esquenazi and Rodriguez engaged in more egregious than the Bonny Island bribery conduct engaged in by Stanley, Tesler, and Chodan?

Not even close.  According to the DOJ, Esquenazi and Rodriguez participated in a scheme in which their employer, Terra Telecommunications Inc. paid $890,000 to shell companies to be used for bribes to Haiti Teleco officials to receive preferred telecommunications rates.

So what did Esquenazi and Rodriguez do to receive a significantly longer sentence than the defendants charged in connection with one of the largest bribery schemes ever under the FCPA?

Esquenazi and Rodriguez tested their innocence.  They exercised their constitutional right to a trial, put the DOJ to its burden of proof, and were convicted by a jury (their appeals are pending).

Professor Ellen Podgor notes in White Collar Innocence:  Irrelevant in the High Stakes Risk Game (here) as follows. “Our existing legal system places the risk of going to trial, and in some cases even being charged with a crime so high, that innocence and guilt no longer become the real considerations;” rather, “maneuvering the system to receive the least onerous consequences may ensure the best result for the accused party, regardless of innocence.”  In the article, Professor Podgor details several stories involving disparate criminal sanctions and states “the real moral of these stories is not whether the punishment was warranted, but rather the appropriateness of the level of risk that one has to take to proceed to trial, and the chilling effect of the high risk caused by the ―trial penalty.”  Podgor notes that “iinnocence becomes irrelevant as the real question becomes whether it is worth the risk of testing an innocence claim.”

Esquenazi and Rodriguez were found guilty by a jury.  However, the greatest factor in their sentences is likely that they tested their innocence.  In contrast, Stanley, Tesler, Chodan pleaded guilty and cooperated (although Tesler and Chodan did fight extradition for several years) and received substantially shorter sentences for engaging in much more egregious conduct.

Is this justice or is this merely knowing how to play a game?  Were Stanley, Tesler, and Chodan sentenced too lightly or were Esquenazi and Rodriguez sentenced too harshly?  What is the message sent to future FCPA individual defendants who might want to test their innocence?

Tesler Pleas to Bonny Island Bribery Charges

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Last Friday, the DOJ announced (here) that Jeffrey Tesler, a U.K. citizen and licensed solicitor who was recently extradited to the U.S., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison (S.D. of Texas) to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA.

In February 2009, Tesler (a former consultant to Kellogg, Brown & Root Inc. and its joint venture partners – Technip, Snamprogetti and JGC Corporation of Japan – in in the Bonny Island, Nigeria project) was charged via an 11 count indictment (1 count conspiracy to violate the FCPA and 10 counts of substantive FCPA violations) (see here) for his role in the massive Bonny Island, Nigeria bribery scheme.

According to the DOJ release announcing Tesler’s plea:

“Tesler admitted that from approximately 1994 through June 2004, he and his co-conspirators agreed to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials, including top-level executive branch officials, in order to obtain and retain the EPC contracts. The joint venture hired Tesler as a consultant to pay bribes to high-level Nigerian government officials and hired a Japanese trading company to pay bribes to lower-level Nigerian government officials. During the course of the bribery scheme, the joint venture paid approximately $132 million in consulting fees to a Gibraltar corporation controlled by Tesler and more than $50 million to the Japanese trading company. Tesler admitted that he used the consulting fees he received from the joint venture, in part, to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials.”

As part of his plea agreement (here), Tesler agreed to forfeit $148,964,568 to the U.S. – an amount which “represents proceeds traceable” to the charges Tesler pleaded guilty. The forfeiture amount is the largest individual forfeiture in the FCPA’s history. Tesler is to be sentenced on June 22, 2011.

In December 2009, Tesler’s co-defendant Wojciech Chodan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA (see here for the prior post). Chodan faces a maximum penalty of 60 months in prison and as part of his plea agreement he agreed to forfeit $726,885. Chodan is to be sentenced on April 27, 2011.

Both Tesler and Chodan reported to KBR’s former CEO Albert Jack Stanley who pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud (see here). Stanley’s plea agreement (here) contemplates a $10.8 million restitution payment and a sentence of 84 months.

For a summary of the corporate entities previously settling Bonny Island bribery charges see here. In January 2011, JGC (the remaining joint venture partner that has not yet settled) disclosed that it was in discussions with the DOJ to resolve its exposure via an agreement that would require it to pay approximately $218 million.

For additional coverage of Tesler’s plea see here from Bloomberg and here for certain questions raised by the FCPA Blog as to the forfeiture amount.

Chodan’s 9% Plea Agreement

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

If one were to categorize “successful” FCPA enforcement actions or DOJ “wins” and “losses” in FCPA enforcement actions, how does one categorize a plea agreement in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to 9% of the original charges?

In February 2009, Wojciech Chodan (along with Jeffrey Tesler) was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and ten counts of substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations in connection with the massive Bonny Island, Nigeria bribery case. (See here).

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced (here) that Chodan agreed to plead guilty to the one conspiracy charge. What you will not see in the DOJ’s release is that, in exchange, the DOJ agreed to dismiss the other 10 charges (i.e. 91% of the original charges) assuming the court accepts the plea agreement. (See here for the plea agreement).

Who is Wojciech Chodan?

As reflected in the plea agreement and original indictment, Chodan is a United Kingdom citizen who “was a commercial vice president (a non-officer position) and then, beginning in 1999, a consultant for M.W. Kellogg Ltd., which was a United Kingdom subsidiary of The M.W. Kellogg Company and then Kellogg, Brown & Root, Inc. (collectively KBR).”

Chodan reported to KBR’s CEO, Albert Jackson Stanley, among others. (In August 2008, Stanley pleaded guilty (see here) to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.).

According to the plea agreement, Chodan assisted KBR and its three partners in the so-called TSKJ joint venture obtain engineering, procurement, and construction (“EPC”) contracts (collectively valued at over $6 billion) to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island.

According to the plea agreement, between 1994 and June 2004 “Chodan agreed with Stanley and others to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials in order for TSKJ, KBR, and others to obtain and retain the EPC contracts to build the Bonny Island Project.” The plea agreement states that “Chodan knew that it was unlawful under U.S. law to bribe foreign government officials.”

According to the plea agreement, Chodan “recommended and agreed to the hiring of Jeffrey Tesler and Tri-Star Investments Ltd. (“Tri-Star) by TSKJ, expecting that Tesler and Tri-Star would pay bribes to high-level Nigerian government officials to assist TSKJ, KBR, and others in winning the EPC contracts to build the Bonny Island Project.” Also, according to the plea agreement, Chodan “recommended and agreed to the hiring of a global trading company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan (“Consulting Company B”) by TSKJ, expecting that Consulting Company B would pay bribes to lower level Nigerian government officials to assist TSKJ, KBR, and others in winning the EPC contracts to build the Bonny Island Project.”

The factual basis for the guilty plea states that “Chodan and his co-conspirators committed acts in furtherance of the scheme [...] in Houston, Texas, however, the factual basis for the guilty plea does not provide any further detail on this issue.

As noted in the DOJ release, Chodan “faces a maximum penalty of 60 months in prison on the conspiracy charge” and “as part of his plea agreement, Chodan agreed to forfeit $726,885.”

Andrew Lourie (here – who “served in various high-level positions with the U.S. Department of Justice, including as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief of Staff for the Criminal Division and as Chief of the Public Integrity Section”) represents Chodan.

For an overview of prior Bonny Island enforcement actions – see here.

Bonny Island Bribery Club Statistics

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Bonny Island.

It is located at the southern edge of the Niger delta of Nigeria. (see here).

It is the location featured in several corporate and individual FCPA enforcement actions – actions that have thus far resulted in approximately $1.3 billion in fines, penalties and disgorgement.

This number is sure to grow as one member of the joint venture at the center of bribery scheme – JGC of Japan – has yet to resolve its exposure although (as noted in this post from the FCPA Blog) it has confirmed that it is discussions with the DOJ.

In addition, the DOJ, in its indictments of Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan, is seeking forfeiture of $132 million.

Further, as noted in this prior post, Halliburton has disclosed that it faces exposure in the U.K. in connection with a Serious Fraud Office investigation of M.W. Kellogg Company (“MWKL”), a United Kingdom joint venture 55% owned by KBR. In its most recent 10-Q (here) Halliburton stated:

“MWKL is cooperating with the SFO’s investigation. Whether the SFO pursues civil or criminal claims, and the amount of any fines, restitution, confiscation of revenues or other penalties that could be assessed would depend on, among other factors, the SFO’s findings regarding the amount, timing, nature and scope of any improper payments or other activities, whether any such payments or other activities were authorized by or made with knowledge of MWKL, the amount of revenue involved, and the level of cooperation provided to the SFO during the investigations. MWKL has informed the SFO that it intends to self-report corporate liability for corruption-related offenses arising out of the Bonny Island project. MWKL has received confirmation that it has been admitted into the plea negotiation process under the Guidelines on Plea Discussions in Cases of Complex or Serious Fraud, which have been issued by the Attorney General for England and Wales.”

While the Bonny Island Bribery Club statistics are not yet final, this post provides a detailed breakdown of the current statistics.

Kellogg Brown & Root LLC / Halliburton Company / KBR Inc. (Feb. 2009)

Attorneys: Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP

DOJ

Entity: Kellogg Brown & Root LLC

Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation (4 Counts)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal Information and Plea Agreement

Benefit Received From Improper Payments: $235.5 Million

Sentencing Guidelines Range: $376.8 Million – $753.6 Million

Amount of Fine: $402 Million

Monitor: Yes – Three Years

SEC

Entity: Halliburton Company, KBR Inc.

Charges: FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violation (Halliburton Company), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation, Aiding and Abetting Halliburton’s FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violation, Knowingly Falsifying Books and Records and Knowingly Circumventing Internal Controls (KBR Inc.),

Disgorgement Amount: $177 Million

Technip S.A. (June 2010)

Attorneys: Patton Boggs LLP; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

DOJ

Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation (1 Count)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal Information and Deferred Prosecution Agreement (Term – 2 Years, 7 Months)

Value of Benefit Received From Improper Payments: $199 Million

Sentencing Guidelines Range: $318.4 Million – $636.8 Million

Amount of Fine: $240 Million (25% Below Minimum Guidelines Range)

Monitor: Yes – Two Years

SEC

Charges: Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation, FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violation

Disgorgement Amount: $98 Million

Snamprogetti Netherlands BV, ENI S.p.A (July 2010)

Attorneys: Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

DOJ

Entity: Snamprogetti Netherlands BV

Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Aiding and Abetting FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation (1 Count)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal Information and Deferred Prosecution Agreement (Term 2 Years)

Value of Benefit Received From Improper Payments: $214.3 Million

Sentencing Guidelines Range: $300 Million – $600 Million

Amount of Fine: $240 Million (20% Below Minimum Guidelines Range)

Monitor: No

SEC

Entity: Snamprogetti Netherlands BV, ENI S.p.A.

Charges: Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation, Knowingly Falsifying Books and Records and Knowingly Circumventing Internal Controls (Snamprogetti Netherlands BV), FCPA Books and Records and Internal Controls Violation (ENI S.p.A.)

Disgorgement Amount: $125 Million

[Note in all three of the above corporate actions, the entity received a -2 reduction in the culpability score for cooperation. Snamprogetti's total culpability score (and thus base fine multiplier) was below that of Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC, and Technip given that the company has fewer employees].

Albert Jackson Stanley (August 2008)

Attorney: Larry Veselka (Smyser, Kaplan & Veselka LLP)

DOJ

Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud (1 Count)

Resolution Vehicle: Criminal Information and Plea Agreement

Plea Agreement Contemplates an $10.8 Million Restitution Order (the amount Stanley agreed the victim – his former employer – incurred as a monetary loss because of his conduct)

Plea Agreement Contemplates a Sentence of 84 months (subject to a downward departure for cooperation)

SEC

Charges: Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violation, Knowingly Falsifying Books and Records and Knowingly Circumventing Internal Controls

Permanent Injunction

Jeffrey Tesler (March 2009)

Indictment Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violations (10 Counts)

Indictment Seeks Forfeiture $132 Million

Wojciech Chodan (March 2009)

Indictment Charges: Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA (1 Count), Substantive FCPA Anti-Bribery Violations (10 Counts)

Indictment Seeks Forfeiture $132 Million

Friday Roundup

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Some FCPA developments and news to pass along this Friday.

Additional Prosecutor Joins DOJ FCPA Unit

As reported earlier this week in the New York Times (see here), Jeffrey Knox, a current federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, will soon assume a new position in the DOJ’s FCPA unit. Knox, a prosecutor with extensive terrorism and foreign intelligence gathering experience, describes himself in the NY Times article “as a traditional law-and-order Republican.” Prior to becoming a DOJ prosecutor, Knox was an attorney at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York. For additional coverage, see here from Christopher Matthews at Main Justice.

Flavio Ricotti Extradition

As detailed in this DOJ release, “Flavio Ricotti, a former executive of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.-based valve company Control Components Inc. (CCI), has been extradited to the United States from Germany in connection with his alleged participation in a conspiracy to secure contracts by paying bribes to officials of foreign state-owned companies as well as officers and employees of foreign and domestic private companies.” According to the release, “Ricotti, 49, of Bientina, Italy, was arrested on Feb. 14, 2010, in Frankfurt, Germany, and arrived in the United States on July 2, 2010.”

As noted in the release:

“Ricotti and five other former executives of CCI were charged on April 8, 2009, in a 16-count indictment (see here) for their alleged roles in the foreign bribery scheme. According to the indictment, Ricotti, who served as CCI’s vice president and head of sales for Europe, Africa and the Middle East from 2001 through 2007, allegedly caused CCI employees and agents to make corrupt payments totaling approximately $750,000 to officers and employees of state-owned companies, and corrupt payments totaling approximately $380,000 to officers and employees of private companies. According to the indictment, these corrupt payments occurred in connection with CCI projects in various countries around the world, including in the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, India and Qatar.”

For more on the CCI matter, see here.

Other foreign nationals facing extradition to the U.S. to face FCPA charges include Jeffrey Tesler, the U.K. agent at the center of the Bonny Island bribery scheme, and Wojciech Chodan, also a U.K. citizen and a former salesperson and consultant of a U.K. subsidiary of Kellogg, Brown & Root. (See here). British judges have ruled that Tesler and Chodan can be extradited to the U.S. and these individuals are appealing that decision. And then of course there is Viktor Kozeny (see here).

A good weekend to all.