In an enforcement action anticipated for months (see here for the prior post), JGC Corporation on Japan last week became the fourth joint venture partner to resolve its FCPA exposure in connection with the Bonny Island, Nigeria project.
Other joint venture partners in the so-called TSKJ consortium to previously resolve Bonny Island bribery probes were KBR / Halliburton (see here), Technip (see here) and Snamprogetti (see here). In addition, M.W. Kellogg Ltd., the entity that originally formed the TSKJ consortium resolved a U.K. Serious Fraud Office enforcement action (see here). In terms of individual prosecutions, Albert Jack Stanley pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing (see here); Wojciech Chodan pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing (see here); and Jeffrey Tesler recently pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing (see here).

The JGC enforcement action involved only a DOJ component. Total settlement amount was $218.8 million and the criminal charges (see here for the information) were resolved via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

The substance of the criminal allegations are the same as in the prior KBR, Technip, and Snamprogetti enforcement actions. That is, the TSKJ consortium, of which JGC was a member, was formed for purposes of bidding on and performing a series of engineering, procurement, and construction (“EPC”) contracts to design and build a liquefied natural gas plant on Bonny Island, Nigeria.

Tesler was hired by TSKJ to “help it obtain business in Nigeria, including by offering to pay and paying bribes to high-level Nigerian government officials” and Tesler “was an agent of TSKJ and of each of the joint venture companies.”

According to the information, TSKJ also hired “Consulting Company B” – a “global trading company headquartered in Tokyo” to help it “obtain business in Nigeria, including by offering to pay and paying bribes to Nigerian government officials” and “Consulting Company B was an agent of TSKJ and of each of the joint venture companies.”

Most of the allegations in the information focus on the conduct of the JGC’s alleged co-conspirators such as Stanley, Tesler, and Tesler’s corporate entity, Tri-Star Investments Ltd. As to U.S. nexus, the information alleges money flowing through U.S. based accounts “to bribe Nigerian government officials” and co-conspirators faxing or e-mailing information into the U.S. in furtherance of the bribery scheme.

Based on the above conduct, the information charges conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and aiding and abetting FCPA anti-bribery violations.

DPA

The DOJ’s charges against JGC were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement.

Pursuant to the DPA, JGC admitted, accepted and acknowledged “that it is responsible for the acts of its employees, subsidiaries, and agents” as set forth above. As is typical in FCPA DPAs, JGC expressly agreed not to make any statements, directly or indirectly, “contradicting” the facts alleged.

The term of the DPA is two years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement based on the following factors.

“(a) after initially declining to cooperate with the Department based on jurisdictional arguments, JGC began to cooperate, and has agreed to continue to cooperate, with the Department in its ongoing investigation of the conduct of JGC and its present and former employees, agents, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, subsidiaries, and others relating to violations of the FCPA;

(b) JGC has undertaken remedial measures, including evaluating and enhancing its compliance program, and has agreed to undertake further remedial measures as contemplated by this Agreement; and

(c) the impact of JGC, including collateral consequences, of a guilty plea or criminal conviction.”

As stated in the DPA, the fine range for the above conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $312.6 million to $625.2 million. Pursuant to the DPA, JGC agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $218.8 million (30% below the minimum amount suggested by the guidelines). DPAs frequently then state why such a below-guidelines fine amount is “appropriate,” however the JGC DPA is silent as to this issue. Interesting also is that the conduct at issue took place between 1995 and 2004. Yet, the 2010 sentencing guidelines were used in calculating the fine rather than the 2003 guidelines that were used in the prior KBR, Technip, and Snamprogetti enforcement actions.

Pursuant to the DPA, JGC agreed to “engage a corporate compliance consultant.”

The DOJ release (here) states as follows. “With [the JGC] resolution, each of the four companies in the TSKJ joint venture, the former chairman of the U.S. joint venture partner, and several other individuals have now been held accountable for a massive conspiracy to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain lucrative construction contracts.” “The approximately $1.5 billion in criminal and civil penalties that have been imposed on the members of the joint venture far exceed their profits from the scheme. Foreign bribery is a serious crime, and as this case makes clear, we are investigating and prosecuting it vigorously.”

Manny Abascal (Latham & Watkins – see here – a former DOJ enforcement attorney) represented JGC.

This may not be the last we hear of Bonny Island bribery. Consulting Company B (based in Japan) was a key participant in the bribery scheme. Does anyone know anything about Consulting Company B and whether it might be next to resolve its Bonny Island exposure? If so, please share.