An endorsement, it’s an FCPA world,  spot-on, for the reading stack and events of interest.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

An Endorsement

Several recent posts (see here for instance) have called for a common FCPA lingua franca including as to what is an FCPA enforcement action.  In this prior post, in an effort to improve the quality and reliability of FCPA statistics and related information, I set forth various metrics for what is an FCPA enforcement action, including the core approach I use in my FCPA data.

Recently Chuck Duross (DOJ FCPA Unit Chief) endorsed the core approach when he stated as follows:

“So the bottom line is, we don’t count statistics the way I guess some of the people, whether it’s the commentators or the media, or law firms and the like.  [...]  And so, you know, we count slightly differently by the way, than a lot of people in the public. If you have a parent and two subs plead guilty, and the parent gets a DPA, we don’t count that as three actions. That’s one matter from our prospective, and I think internally it just makes sense for us.”

[The website Main Justice recently posted here the full comments of Duross at the ABA's National Institute on White Collar Crime] 

As one informed observer recently shared with me, the lack of an FCPA lingua franca “muddies the conversational waters.”

Case in point, earlier this week the Wall Street Journal, citing statistics from a law firm, reported that “since 2009, the Justice Department has brought 108 [FCPA] cases while the SEC has brought 77.”

Using the core approach, the numbers since 2009 are as follows.  DOJ – 46 “core” FCPA enforcement actions; SEC – 50 “core” FCPA enforcement actions.  Obviously, there is a huge difference between these numbers, and even my “core” numbers paint an inadequate picture because many FCPA enforcement actions involve both a DOJ and SEC component based on the same alleged core set of facts.  In short, since 2009, there have been approximately 55 ”core” FCPA enforcement actions (and a point could be made that even this number overstates things a bit since it separately counts the seven Panalpina related actions).

For additional reading on a proper perspective on FCPA enforcement statistics, see this prior post.

It’s An FCPA World

Scrutiny alerts / updates regarding Microsoft, News Corp, Optimer Pharmaceuticals and Sig Sauer.

Microsoft

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported here that the DOJ and SEC “are examining kickback allegations made by a former Microsoft representative in China, as well as the company’s relationship with certain resellers and consultants in Romania and Italy.”  According to the article, “the China allegations come from an anonymous tipster who passed them on to U.S. investigators in 2012.”  The article further states that “the allegations in China were also the subject of a 10-month internal investigation [conducted by an outside law firm] that Microsoft concluded in 2010 [and that the investigation] found no evidence of wrongdoing” and that tipster “whose contract [with Microsoft] ended in 2008, was also involved in a labor dispute with Microsoft in China.”

As to Romania, the articles states that “U.S. government investigators are also reviewing whether Microsoft had a role in allegations that resellers offered bribes to secure software deals with Romania’s Ministry of Communications” and that in Italy “the agencies are looking at Microsoft’s dealings with consultants in Italy that specialize in customer-loyalty programs.”  According to the article, the allegations focus on Microsoft’s Italian unit’s use of “consultants as vehicles for lavishing gifts and trips on Italian procurement officials in exchange for government business.”

For additional coverage, see here from the New York Times.

John Frank (Microsoft Vice President & Deputy General Counsel) responded in a company blog post as follows.

“[T]he Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. government is reviewing allegations that Microsoft business partners in three countries may have engaged in illegal activity, and if they did, whether Microsoft played any role in these alleged incidents. We take all allegations brought to our attention seriously, and we cooperate fully in any government inquiries. Like other large companies with operations around the world, we sometimes receive allegations about potential misconduct by employees or business partners, and we investigate them fully, regardless of the source. We also invest heavily in proactive training, compliance systems, monitoring and audits to ensure our business operations around the world meet the highest legal and ethical standards. The matters raised in the Wall Street Journal are important, and it is appropriate that both Microsoft and the government review them. It is also important to remember that it is not unusual for such reviews to find that an allegation was without merit. (The WSJ reported earlier this week that an allegation has been made against the WSJ itself, and that, after a thorough investigation, its lawyers have been unable to determine that there was any wrongdoing). We cannot comment about on-going inquiries, but we would like to share some perspective on our approach to compliance. We are a global company with operations in 112 countries, nearly 98,000 employees and 640,000 business partners. We’re proud of the role we play in bringing technology to businesses, governments, non-profits and consumers around the world and the economic impact we have in local communities. As our company has grown and expanded around the world, one of the things that has been constant has been our commitment to the highest legal and ethical standards wherever we do business. Compliance is the job of every employee at the company, but we also have a group of professionals focused directly on ensuring compliance. We have more than 50 people whose primary role is investigating potential breaches of company policy, and an additional 120 people whose primary role is compliance. In addition, we sometimes retain outside law firms to conduct or assist with investigations. This is a reflection of the size and complexity of our business and the seriousness with which we take meeting our obligations. We also invest in proactive measures including annual training programs for every employee, regular internal audits and multiple levels of approval for contracting and expenditure. In a company of our size, allegations of this nature will be made from time to time. It is also possible there will sometimes be individual employees or business partners who violate our policies and break the law. In a community of 98,000 people and 640,000 partners, it isn’t possible to say there will never be wrongdoing. Our responsibility is to take steps to train our employees, and to build systems to prevent and detect violations, and when we receive allegations, to investigate them fully and take appropriate action. We take that responsibility seriously.”

News Corp.

Earlier in the week, in what was a strange article in that the Wall Street Journal was reporting on itself, the WSJ reported here that “the Justice Department last year opened an investigation into allegations that employees at The Wall Street Journal’s China news bureau bribed Chinese officials for information for news articles.  A search by the Journal’s parent company found no evidence to support the claim, according to government and corporate officials familiar with the case.”  The article states as follows.  “According to U.S. and corporate officials, News Corp. has told the Justice Department that some company officials suspect the informant was an agent of the Chinese government, seeking to disrupt and possibly retaliate against the Journal for its reporting on China’s leadership. The company officials came to that view after finding no evidence of the alleged bribery and because of the timing and nature of the accusations, company officials say.”

The article also states as follows concerning News Corp.’s overall FCPA scrutiny which splashed onto the scene in July 2011 (see here for the prior post).

“Since 2011, the Justice Department has been overseeing a criminal investigation of News Corp. relating to revelations that its British papers hacked phones and bribed public officials to get information for articles. Almost two years later, that probe is nearing completion, government and company officials said, setting the stage for settlement negotiations between the U.S. and News Corp.  News Corp., which has hired law firm Williams & Connolly to oversee the FCPA case, is expected to make its final presentation detailing the company’s global bribery investigation to the Justice Department next month, according to people familiar with the matter. It will be then up to the Justice Department to spell out what punishment or sanctions, if any, the agency wants, and at that point negotiations will likely begin. The Justice Department doesn’t publicly discuss cases that close without charges filed. Both sides expect an agreement would include a monetary settlement of some kind, based on the alleged violations in the U.K. The government has also investigated potential misconduct in the company’s former Russian outdoor billboard subsidiary, according to people familiar with the case, specifically whether it paid bribes to local officials to approve sign placements in that country.”

Optimer Pharmaceuticals

Optimer (see here for the prior post) disclosed as follows in a recent SEC filing.

In March 2012, we became aware of an attempted grant in September 2011 to Dr. Michael Chang of 1.5 million technical shares of OBI.  We engaged external counsel to assist us in an internal review and determined that the attempted grant may have violated certain applicable laws, including the FCPA.  In April 2012, we self-reported the results of our preliminary findings to the SEC and the DOJ, which included information about the attempted grant and certain related matters, including a potentially improper $300,000 payment in July 2011 to a research laboratory involving an individual associated with the OBI [Optimer Biotechnology, Inc.] share grant. At that time, we terminated the employment of our then-Chief Financial Officer and our then-Vice President, Clinical Development. We also removed Dr. Michael Chang as the Chairman of our Board of Directors and requested that Dr. Michael Chang resign from the Board of Directors, which he has not. We continued our investigation and our cooperation with the SEC and the DOJ.  As a result of our continuing internal investigation, in February 2013, the independent members of our Board of Directors determined that additional remedial action should be taken in light of prior compliance, record keeping and conflict-of-interest issues surrounding the potentially improper payment to the research laboratory and certain related matters. On February 26, 2013, our then-President and Chief Executive Officer and our then-General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer resigned at the request of the independent members of our Board of Directors.  In addition, over the past year, we have revised our compliance policies, strengthened our approval procedures and implemented training and internal audit procedures to make our compliance and monitoring more comprehensive.  We continue to cooperate with the SEC and DOJ, including by responding to informal document and interview requests, conducting in-person meetings and updating these authorities on our findings with respect to the attempted OBI technical share grant, the potentially improper payment to the research laboratory and certain matters that may be related.”

Sig Sauer

The Indian Express reports here reports allegations that Sig Sauer (a U.S. arms manufacturer) conspired with an Indian agent and his associates ”to sell arms to India in violation of the FCPA and Indian laws. A JV called Sig Sauer Asia LLC was created with the sole purpose of paying 10 per cent commission on all arms deals made with the Defence and Home ministries in India.”

Spot-On

In a recent Q&A on Law360, William Goodman (Kasowitz) stated as follows.

“Q: What aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?

A: In the area of federal criminal practice, there must be reform in and reduction of the power of prosecutors to force individuals and corporations to cooperate in marginal cases by threatening draconian outcomes if cooperation is not forthcoming. This practice is particularly reprehensible because it does not achieve anything approaching a fair result in many cases. When lawyers and clients have to cave in to pressure based on a threatened punishment and not based on the merits of the case, the truth and genuine justice take a back seat to expediency.”

In this recent Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Corporate Crime and Punishment” David Rivkin and John Carney stated as follows.

“Two weeks ago, a unanimous Supreme Court rebuffed the Securities and Exchange Commission Gabelli v. SEC. The SEC maintained that its enforcement actions for fines under the Investment Advisers Act weren’t subject to the five-year statute of limitations. This wasn’t the first time the courts have pushed back a federal agency for overreaching. It won’t be the last.  But the SEC’s audacity prompts a broader policy question: What good is accomplished by imposing monetary penalties on corporations, as the agency attempted to do in Gabelli? The answer is that when such penalties are sought by the government, they probably do more harm than good.  Monetary damages, including penalties, that are awarded in private lawsuits are an attempt to compensate victims of corporate fraud and other unlawful behavior, usually shareholders or customers, making them as “whole” as the law can approximate. The SEC doesn’t seek monetary fines in most cases—it has an array of other enforcement options including injunctive or remedial relief. When it does pursue a fine, however, the purpose is solely punitive. In Gabelli, for example, the SEC brought two sets of claims against principals of an investment firm who countenanced a client’s “market timing” scheme. The first claim sought disgorgement of profits to the government—a remedy that Gabelli didn’t appeal. But the SEC also sought large monetary fines designed solely to punish the defendants and brand them as wrongdoers. Who is the wrongdoer in such a situation? The company officials who made the bad decisions? The board of directors? The shareholders? Pinning a wrongdoer label on the corporation as a whole or fining a corporation in this way—years after any alleged wrongdoing—punishes current shareholders for conduct that benefited a largely different group of shareholders, if any benefit was conferred at all. From a current shareholder’s point of view, government-imposed corporate fines are virtually indistinguishable from a tax on investing, and are thus a disincentive for doing so.”

[...]

“The principal rationale for levying fines is to deter corporate wrongdoing. The mismatch between the shareholders that benefit from misconduct and those that are ultimately punished undermines this rationale.  Corporate fines are equally problematic when considered as punishment for a manager’s bad conduct. Fine an individual for his conduct, and you are likely to deter him from doing it again. Fine a corporation, and the managers responsible for the misconduct have almost always left or been fired long beforehand. New managers are in place, and for them the tab is just a price of doing business.  Moreover, even the threat of government fines or penalties puts immediate, intense pressure on a corporation to settle, regardless of the merits. A protracted legal fight means a public-relations nightmare. It could also impinge on corporate earnings, the reputations of current executives, and relationships with regulators and other business concerns.  Whether the corporation is actually culpable of wrongdoing is a consideration, but it may not be a major one. That question can be beside the point of getting back to business and avoiding a prolonged battle with the SEC. In the large number of settlement scenarios where actual guilt isn’t the most pressing or relevant consideration, the fines don’t by definition deter any future misconduct.  In any event, when the government obtains fines from corporate wrongdoers, the monies rarely go to any ascertainable “victims”—they merely transfer funds from businesses to an already bloated public sector. With the aggregate penalties often running into the billions of dollars, the economic distortions involved are substantial.”

“More recently, the SEC fined Eli Lilly $29 million in December 2012 for alleged misconduct that purportedly began more than a decade ago.”

As I highlighted in this post, it is an open question whether the Lilly enforcement action really accomplished anything.

Reading Stack

This recent Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update focuses on Latin America and contains useful charts of corporate enforcement actions, individual enforcement actions, and instances of FCPA scrutiny (2005 to 2012) that have involved alleged business conduct in Latin America.  Over at his FCPAmericas blog, Matt Ellis also recently posted here and here FCPA enforcement actions involving conduct in Latin America.

A useful update here from WilmerHale titled “Recent Court Decisions Reveal Litigation Challenges for SEC.”  It begins as follows.

“Although the US Securities and Exchange Commission may have significant leverage to get what it wants during the course of an investigation and even in settlements, several recent court decisions strongly suggest that the playing field levels once the agency ends up in litigation. From the US Supreme Court to the federal district courts, litigants are pushing back effectively against the SEC on everything from when the clock starts for the SEC to bring an action for civil monetary penalties to key discovery questions.”

From Sidley & Austin attorneys Kimberly Dunne and Alexis Buese an article (here) titled “Holding the Government to its Burden of Proof in FCPA Cases:  Litigating Jury Instructions.”  The article notes as follows.

“Unlike corporate defendants that resolved FCPA investigations pre‐indictment, individual defendants were not as willing to accept the government’s aggressive pre‐indictment demands or its broad interpretation of the statute, which the defense bar considered vague and untested. What ensued from the indictments that followed were a number of defense upsets.”

In my 2010 article “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement,” I noted that government enforcement agencies, when challenged, are vulnerable in contested actions and encouraged more FCPA defendants to challenge the enforcement agencies and further expose the facade of FCPA enforcement.

Events of Interest

Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium, April 2-3 in Washington, D.C..  I will be participating in a panel titled “The FCPA:  Does It Need Further Clarifying” along with Paul McNulty (Baker & McKenzie and former Deputy Attorney General) and David Yawman (Senior Vice President & Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer, PepsiCo, Inc.).  The panel is being moderated by Joe Palazzolo of the Wall Street Journal.

TRACE International, in partnership with Barrick Gold Corporation and Arnold & Porter LLP, presents a 1-day seminar on Anti-Corruption for the Extractive Industries being held on April 23, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.  (See here).

Neither Admit Nor Deny: Corporate Crime in the Age of Deferred Prosecutions, Consent Decrees, Whistleblowers and Monitors sponsored by Corporate Crime Reporter at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on May 3.  I will be participating in a panel titled “Deferred and Non-Prosecution Agreements” along with Anthony Barkow (Jenner & Block), Steven Fagell (Covington), Kathleen Harris (Arnold & Porter), Denis McInerney (Deputy Assistant Attorney General, DOJ Criminal Division), and David Uhlmann (Univ. of Michigan Law School).

*****

A good weekend to all and good luck with your brackets.