Add a few to the list, take a few off, a word on guest posts, take a deep breath, whose fault is it, once again nobody was charged. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.
Most companies bury FCPA disclosures deep in SEC filings. Not so with Nordion Inc. (here – a Canadian based health sciences company with shares traded in the U.S). It took the open and direct route by issuing a release (here) specifically devoted to the topic. The release states as follows.
“[The company] disclosed that it is conducting an internal inquiry and investigation of a foreign supplier and related parties focusing on compliance with the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) and the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Through the Company’s own internal review as part of its CFPOA compliance program, Nordion discovered potential compliance irregularities. As a result, the Company recently commenced an internal investigation of the possible compliance issues. These issues relate to potential improper payments and other related financial irregularities in connection with the supply of materials and services to the Company. The investigation is being conducted by outside legal counsel and external forensic and accounting firms who are experts in such compliance. These external advisors are reporting regularly to a special Committee of the Board constituted to deal with this matter. Nordion has voluntarily contacted the regulatory and enforcement authorities, including the Canadian and U.S. Department of Justice, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, to provide details of the matter and advise that an internal investigation is underway. The internal investigation is in its early stages and the Company’s external advisors have met with these authorities and will continue to provide reports to them as the investigation progresses.Nordion is committed to the highest standards of integrity and diligence in its business dealings and to the ethical and legally compliant business conduct by its employees, representatives and suppliers. The Company reviews its compliance programs on a regular basis to assess and align them with emerging trends and business practices. Corrupt or fraudulent business conduct is in direct conflict with the Company’s Global Business Practice Standards and corporate policies. The Company will continue to investigate this matter and cooperate with regulatory and enforcement authorities with a view to an expedient resolution.”
By my estimation, in the past four months, approximately twenty companies have become subject to FCPA scrutiny (whether through disclosures or FCPA-related civil complaints). In addition, industry sweeps as to the Hollywood movie industry and retail industry have reportedly been launched. See here for a prior post titled “The Sun Rose, A Dog Barked, and a Company Disclosed FCPA Scrutiny.”
Academi, Inc., formerly known as Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater was also in the news this week. As noted in this FBI release, pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement (here) the company admitted to certain facts and agreed to a $7.5 million fine in connection with certain export controls and firearms law violations. As noted in the release, the DPA ”also acknowledges and references a $42 million settlement between the company and the Department of State as part of a settlement of violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations.” As noted in this previous post, Blackwater has been under investigation for FCPA violations in Iraq (and Sudan as noted in the FBI release). The above DPA specifically states however that “this agreement does not apply to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation independently under investigation by the DOJ.” As noted in this previous post, Blackwater’s FCPA scrutiny in Iraq inspired Representative Peter Welch to introduce H.R. 5366, the “Overseas Contractor Reform Act,” an impotent debarment bill that passed the House in September 2010 (see here).
There are also developments to report on the other side of the Atlantic as the U.K. Serious Fraud Office announced hereas follows. “The Director of the Serious Fraud Office has decided to open a criminal investigation into allegations concerning GPT and aspects of the conduct of their business in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” As noted in this Bloomberg piece, GPT is a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. (EADS), and the investigation involved suspected payments to win a telecommunications deal with Saudi Arabia’s royal family. The Financial Times stated that the “Serious Fraud Office’s criminal inquiry is a step-change for the agency after it said in March that it was happy with an internal investigation the company was conducting.”
Although he is no longer in Congress, former Representative Todd Tiahrt is probably delighted by this news. See here for the prior post.
Take a Few Off
Huntsman Corporation recently disclosed as follows in a SEC filing (here).
“During the third quarter of 2010, we completed an internal investigation of the operations of Petro Araldite Pvt. Ltd. (“PAPL”), our majority owned joint venture in India. PAPL manufactures base liquid resins, base solid resins and formulated products in India. The investigation initially focused on allegations of illegal disposal of hazardous waste and waste water discharge and related reporting irregularities. Based upon preliminary findings, the investigation was expanded to include a review of the production and off-book sales of certain products and waste products. The investigation included the legality under Indian law and U.S. law, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, of certain payments made by employees of the joint venture to government officials in India. Records at the facility covering nine months in 2009 and early 2010 show that less than $11,000 in payments were made to officials for that period; in addition, payments in unknown amounts may have been made by individuals from the facility in previous years. [...] Also in May 2010, we voluntarily contacted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to advise them of our investigation and that we intend to cooperate fully with each of them. We met with the SEC and the DOJ in October 2010 to discuss this matter and we continue to cooperate with these agencies. Steps have been taken to halt all known illegal or improper activity, including the termination of employment of management employees as appropriate. In May 2012, the SEC and DOJ notified us that they would not recommend any enforcement action be taken against our Company in this matter.”
Since August 2010 (see here for the prior post), I have proposed that when a company voluntarily discloses an FCPA internal investigation to the DOJ and the SEC, and when the DOJ and/or SEC decline enforcement, the DOJ and/or the SEC should publicly state, in a thorough and transparent manner, the facts the company disclosed to the agencies and why the agencies declined enforcement on those facts.
In the meantime, we can only speculate as to why the enforcement agencies did not bring an enforcement action against Hunstman. Of note, in the DOJ’s written declination responses after the June 2011 House hearing (see here), the DOJ stated that it has declined matters when, among other circumstances, “the improper payments involved minimal funds compared to the overall business revenue.”
As noted in this previous post, in April Hercules Offshore disclosed as follows. “On April 4, 2011, the Company received a subpoena issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) requesting the delivery of certain documents to the SEC in connection with its investigation into possible violations of the securities laws, including possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in certain international jurisdictions where the Company conducts operations. The Company was also notified by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) on April 5, 2011, that certain of the Company’s activities were under review by the DOJ. On April 24, 2012, the Company received a letter from the DOJ notifying the Company that the DOJ has closed its inquiry into the Company regarding possible violations of the FCPA and does not intend to pursue enforcement action against the Company. The DOJ indicated that its decision to close the matter was based on, among other factors, the thorough investigation conducted by the Company’s special counsel and the Company’s compliance program. The Company, through the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, intends to continue to cooperate with the SEC in its investigation. At this time, it is not possible to predict the outcome of the SEC’s investigation, the expenses the Company will incur associated with this matter, or the impact on the price of the Company’s common stock or other securities as a result of this investigation.”
Earlier this week, the company updated its disclosure as follows. “On August 7, 2012, Hercules Offshore, Inc. (the “Company”) received a letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) notifying the Company that the SEC staff has completed its investigation into the Company regarding possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and does not intend to pursue enforcement action against the Company. As previously disclosed, the Company was notified by the SEC and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in April 2011, that certain of the Company’s activities were under review by the SEC and DOJ with respect to possible violations of the FCPA in certain international jurisdictions where the Company conducts operations. The Company previously disclosed that it received a letter from the DOJ on April 24, 2012, notifying the Company that the DOJ has closed its inquiry into the Company regarding possible violations of the FCPA and does not intend to pursue enforcement action against the Company. The DOJ noted that it terminated its investigation ‘…based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the thorough investigation undertaken by Hercules and the steps that Hercules has taken in the past and continues to take to enhance its compliance program, including efforts to ensure compliance with the FCPA.’ As a result of the termination by the SEC and the prior termination by the DOJ, there are no open FCPA investigations against the Company.”
As evident from the disclosures, unlike Huntsman, the FCPA scrutiny of Hercules was not based on a voluntary disclosure, but inquiries from the SEC and DOJ. Whether this represents a declination or a dud is the question.
Part of the mission of FCPA Professor is to facilitate a forum for discussion and analysis of FCPA and related issues among FCPA practitioners, business and compliance professionals, scholars and students, and other interested persons. Given this mission, I frequently publish guest posts (see here for approximately 60 such posts). In publishing guest posts, it should not be assumed in all cases that I agree in whole or in part with the content of such posts. Rather, providing the forum for delivery into the marketplace of ideas is what I hope to facilitate and I encourage all who want to make their voice heard on the issues to consider submitting a guest post.
A Deep Breath
The FCPA is a unique statute, with unique and difficult to manage risks.
Nevertheless , it was refreshing to see this piece by Pamela Marple (Chabourne & Park – here) in the NACD Director Advisory titled “The FCPA: A New Bear in the Woods?” Marple begins as follows. “Over the past five years, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has solidified itself as an industry brimming with expert forums, company departments and substantial news coverage. Is this statute really the bear in the woods some say it is?” Marple states as follows. “The existence of the FCPA industry (and professionals who are available to conduct internal investigations at a high price) does not mean that this reaction is what is always required. What is required first and foremost is reasonable judgment exercised by directors and professionals who seek both compliance and solutions—without assuming a bear is present at every turn.”
As I previously commented (here) to Corporate Board Member, corporate directors need to keep a proper perspective. There’s a whole industry out there that’s trying to sell the steroids version of FCPA compliance. But directors should not get their undies in a bundle over this. This is an issue, just like any other risk area, that directors need to have on their radar screen. Corporate directors should not panic when it comes to FCPA compliance.
Whose Fault is It?
Do FCPA violations occur because companies subject to the law go into foreign markets intent on engaging in bribery or because the companies are confronted by corrupt foreign officials seeking to line their own pockets?
Circumstances vary of course, but this recent article in the African Globe includes comments from human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Femi Falana who focused on the former. The article stated as follows. “In order to cover up the involvement of western governments and corporations in the promotion of corruption, terrorism and drug abuse in Africa, the impression is often created by top public officials of some foreign governments that Africans are the most corrupt people in the world,” Falana observed noting that only last week, the US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, kicked off her 11-day tour of some African states in Senegal by condemning corruption in Africa and urging African leaders to fight it in order to get good governance in the continent. He said it was also the kernel of President Barack Obama’s message to Africans when he made a brief stopover in Ghana three years ago. “While we do not condone corruption, it is high time the Obama administration was told to stop blaming the victims of grand corruption promoted and fuelled by western countries led by Switzerland, France, United Kingdom and United States,” Falana said.”
Nobody Was Charged
A recent New York Times article (here) once again raises the issue of why few corporate fraud enforcement actions result in individual charges. The article states as follows. “The Justice Department has collected $8.6 billion over the last three years, more than in any similar period in history, but relatively few prosecutions of individuals have come from the biggest settlements.”
In the FCPA context, I submit and stated during my 2010 Senate testimony (here), involves the quality of the corporate enforcement action. Given the prevalence of NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context and the ease in which DOJ offers these alternative resolution vehicles to companies subject to an FCPA inquiry, companies often agree to enter into such resolution vehicles regardless of the DOJ’s legal theories or the existence of valid and legitimate defenses. It is simply easier, more cost efficient, and more certain for a company to agree to a NPA or DPA than it is to be criminally indicted and mount a valid legal defense even if the DOJ theory of prosecution is questionable. (See here for my scholarship ”The Facade of FCPA Enforcement). Individuals, on the other hand, face a deprivation of personal liberty, and are more likely to force the DOJ to satisfy its high burden of proof as to all FCPA elements.
A telling statistic?
As noted in this prior post, since alternative resolution vehicles were first used in the FCPA context (December 2004) there have been 61 “core” corporate DOJ FCPA enforcement actions. 47 of the 61 ”core” corporate DOJ FCPA enforcement actions (77%) have been resolved via an NPA (19 instances) or a DPA (28 instances). In these 47 “core” corporate DOJ FCPA enforcement actions, only 7 enforcement actions (15%) have resulted in any individual FCPA criminal charges against company employees. In other words, when the DOJ resolves an FCPA enforcement action via a NPA or DPA, there is only a 15% likelihood that individual criminal charges will be filed against any company employee or those affiliated with the company. [Note: the above statistics were calculated in Sept. 2011]
For previous posts on this very same issue see here.
A good weekend to all.