April 11th, 2014

Friday Roundup

It’s a complex world, you ask – I answer, scrutiny alerts and updates, quotable, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

It’s a Complex World

The world in which we live in is seldom simple and straight-forward.  This includes the so-called “fight” against corruption and bribery.  Regarding China’s “crackdown” on bribery, the BBC China Blog reports:

“Much has been written about China’s ongoing crackdown on corruption, but now one of the world’s biggest banks has put a price on it.  According to a report published by Bank of America Merrill Lynch this week, the Chinese government’s anti-graft campaign could cost the economy more than $100bn this year alone. [...]  Many of the micro effects of Xi Jingping’s anti-corruption drive have already been well documented of course; a slowdown in the restaurant trade for example, and a big dip in sales of luxury goods.  Over the past year or so, in Shanghai’s posh malls and boutique designer shops – once at the centre of the happy merry-go-round of official largesse and gift giving – you’ve almost been able to hear the sound of the weeping and gnashing of teeth. But the BofAML report suggests that the campaign is also having a significant and troubling macroeconomic effect.  Since early last year, it says, government bank deposits have been soaring, up almost 30% year on year. Even honest officials, the report suggests, are now so terrified of starting new projects, for fear of being seen as corrupt, that they’re simply keeping public funds in the bank.  [...] The report’s authors admit their calculations are a “back-of-the-envelope estimate of fiscal contraction”, but even if they are only half right it is an extraordinary amount of money and it highlights some of the challenges facing China’s anti-corruption crusader-in-chief, President Xi Jinping.”

Some-what related to the above topic, as noted in this Washington Times article:

“A key player in Nigeria’s emergence as Africa’s largest economy says U.S. companies are ceding investment opportunities to China and the Obama administration should do more to reverse the trend.  “The Obama administration has to focus more on Nigeria, said Prince Adetokunbo Sijuwade, whose family holds royal status in a vital corner of southern Nigeria and is invested heavily in transportation and oil infrastructures. “We feel that we can learn from the U.S. in terms of expertise. [...]  Prince Sijuwade speculated that several factors may have deterred U.S. investors in recent years, from concerns about government corruption to security. But he argued that allegations of widespread corruption in Nigeria are “overstated.”“Corruption is all over the world,” he said, noting potential U.S. investors’ fears of violating the Justice Department’s anti-corruption laws as an inhibiting factor on Nigerian investment.”

You Ask – I Answer

This op-ed poses the question “what’s driving pharma’s international bribery scandals?”

You ask – I answer.

A dubious and untested enforcement theory + extreme risk aversion because of potential exclusion from government sponsored healthcare programs + other typical reasons for why other companies face FCPA scrutiny, such as employees and third parties acting contrary to a company’s good-faith compliance policies and procedures = several FCPA enforcement actions against pharma and healthcare related companies.

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week:

“GlaxoSmithKline PLC is investigating allegations of bribery by employees in the Middle East, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, opening a new front for the company as it manages a separate corruption probe in China.  A person familiar with Glaxo’s Mideast operations emailed the U.K. drug company late last year and earlier this year to report what the person said were corrupt practices in Iraq, including continuing issues and alleged misconduct dating from last year and 2012. The emails cite behavior similar to Glaxo’s alleged misconduct in China, including alleged bribery of physicians. [...]  In an email, the person said Glaxo hired 16 government-employed physicians and pharmacists in Iraq as paid sales representatives for the company while they continued to work for the government. A government-employed Iraqi emergency-room physician has prescribed Glaxo products, even when they weren’t in the hospital’s pharmacy and a competitor’s brand was in stock, an email from the person said. Glaxo has been hiring government-employed Iraqi doctors as medical representatives and paying their expenses to attend international conferences, the person alleged in the emails. Glaxo pays other doctors high fees to give lectures in exchange for promoting and prescribing its drugs, the allegations continued. After Glaxo won a contract with the Iraqi Ministry of Health in 2012 to supply the company’s Rotarix vaccine, Glaxo paid for a workshop in Lebanon for Iraqi Ministry of Health officials, the email said. That included paying for a doctor’s family to travel to Lebanon “so it would be a family vacation for him at the hotel.”

As noted in the article, GSK has been under FCPA scrutiny since 2011 and GSK’s scrutiny China was the frequent focus of media attention last summer (see here for the prior post).

Quotable

Russel Ryan (King & Spalding and former high-ranking SEC enforcement attorney) hits a home run with this recent Wall Street Journal editorial titled:  ”When Regulators Think They Are Prosecutors.”  It states, in pertinent part:

“[A]dministrative agencies like the SEC were never intended to become arms of law enforcement. They were created to regulate, not prosecute. [...]  There are good constitutional reasons why agencies like the SEC were not born with this power to prosecute and punish. Prosecuting private citizens and companies is serious business. It’s a core executive branch function historically entrusted to the attorney general, a “principal Officer” subject to unfettered presidential control under Article II of the Constitution. [...]   [I]f policy makers insist on transforming the commission and similar agencies into quasi-criminal prosecutors with ever-increasing power to seek harsh punitive sanctions, those agencies should be brought under the stewardship of the attorney general or given cabinet rank with leaders who are removable at the president’s pleasure. Even that wouldn’t cure a second level of constitutional infirmity. Based mostly on precedent established before the SEC had any power to punish, courts have exempted SEC prosecutions from many bedrock due-process protections taken for granted in criminal cases. The presumption of innocence, for example, is largely meaningless because the SEC can win by a mere “preponderance of the evidence” rather than proof beyond reasonable doubt. The right to remain silent is equally hollow because courts let the SEC treat silence as evidence of guilt. For SEC defendants who can’t afford a good lawyer, tough luck, because there’s no right to have counsel appointed at government expense as there would be in a criminal prosecution. And even when the SEC loses after trial, double jeopardy doesn’t prevent it from trying to reverse the verdict or force a retrial, as it would a criminal prosecutor.  Dodd-Frank made things even worse by expanding the SEC’s ability to impose draconian financial penalties in administrative proceedings that have lax evidentiary rules, no jury trial, and limited judicial oversight.Basic constitutional safeguards should protect American citizens and businesses whenever a law-enforcement agency seeks to punish them for alleged wrongdoing, even in nominally civil proceedings. It’s time to incorporate those safeguards into an increasingly penal administrative prosecution system that is quickly sliding down a slick and constitutionally hazardous slope.”

For Ryan’s previous guest post on similar issues, see here.

Reading Stack

Certain of the conduct at issue in this week’s FCPA enforcement action against HP and related entities concerned alleged conduct in Poland.  This article from a Polish news service looks at what happens “when the dust settles.”

An insightful post on the Trace Blog from a former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorney who oversaw several monitors titled “Five Questions That can Keep Your Monitor From Running Away.”  Perhaps the best question though is: are monitors truly needed in many FCPA resolutions?  (See here and here for prior posts).

For your viewing enjoyment here, recently indicted Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash (see here) has released a video which insists he is an innocent party caught at the center of a “battlefield for the two biggest global players of Russia and the USA”.

*****

A good weekend to all.

Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:03 am. Post Categories: ChinaDmitry FirtashGlaxcoSmithKlineH-PMonitorNigeriaPharmaceutical IndustryPolicy ConsiderationsRelated Foreign InvestigationsSEC




April 10th, 2014

HP And Related Entities Resolve $108 Million FCPA Enforcement Action

Hewlett-Packard Co. (“HP”) has over 300,000 employees worldwide.

Among the employees during a certain relevant time period, were 5 individuals in Russia employed by a subsidiary, 1 individual in Poland employed by a subsidiary, and a vaguely defined group of individuals in Mexico employed by a subsidiary that worked on one sales deal.

The above individuals engaged in conduct largely occurring 7-14 years ago.

The government alleges that all of these individuals were specifically trained on the FCPA by HP and that HP had other internal controls in place as relevant to these individuals.

Notwithstanding these controls, the government alleges that the individuals willfully circumvented HP’s controls to make alleged improper payments to alleged “foreign officials” by, among other things, creating secret slush funds, concealing certain other information, making false representations, and engaging in other covert means such as anonymous e-mail accounts and pre-paid mobile telephones.

So reads the latest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action.

Yesterday the DOJ and SEC announced (here and here) a coordinated FCPA enforcement action against various HP and related entities based on alleged conduct in Russia, Poland and Mexico.  As noted in this previous post, HP has been under FCPA scrutiny since early 2010.

The enforcement action involved:

HP and related entities agreed to pay approximately $108.2 million (all guaranteed by HP) to resolve the alleged FCPA scrutiny (approximately $76.7 million in the DOJ actions; and approximately $31.5 million in the SEC action).

The enforcement action, in terms of settlement amount, is the 11th largest of all-time and the 2nd largest of all-time against a U.S. company (recognizing of course that HP’s foreign subsidiaries were a large focus of the enforcement actions).

This post summarizes both the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions based on a review of the original source documents (comprising approximately 175 pages in total).

DOJ Enforcement Action

The enforcement action involved a criminal information against HP Russia resolved via a plea agreement; a criminal information against HP Poland resolved via a DPA; and an NPA concerning HP Mexico.

HP Russia

According to the information, HP Russia is a wholly owned subsidiary of HP and was principally responsible for transacting business in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (“CIS”).  During the relevant time period, the information alleges that HP Russia had approximately 315 and 55o employees and that HP Russia “was subject to HP’s internal accounting controls, and HP Russia’s financial results were included in the consolidated financial statements that HP filed with the SEC.”

The alleged conduct concerns five employees at HP Russia.

  • HP Russia Executive 1
  • HP Russia Executive 2
  • HP Russia Manager 1
  • HP Russia Manager 2
  • HP Russia Manager 3

The conduct at issue concerns “a project to automate the telecommunications and computing infrastructure of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Russia (“GPO” or “GP”),” a project valued at approximately $100 million.  According to the information, the Russian government used a state-owned entity organized under the Department of Affairs of the President of the Russian Federation, to manage the GPO project tender and execution.”

In pertinent part, the information alleges as follows.

“Between in or about 2000 and 2007, HP Russia and co-conspirators agreed to make and did make improper payments to secure, retain and implement the GPO project.  Members of the conspiracy structured the deal to create a secret slush fund, which by 2003 totaled approximately ($10 million at then-prevailing exchange rates), at least part of which was intended for bribes, kickbacks, and other improper payments.  To execute and hide the scheme, members of the conspiracy failed to implement internal controls intended to maintain accountability over HP’s assets, willfully circumvented existing internal controls, and falsified corporate books and records relied on by HP officers and external auditors to authorize the transaction and prepare HP’s consolidated financial statements.”

Regarding the slush fund, the information alleges that HP Russia “created million of dollars in excess margin for use as a slush fund” by selling product to an “often-used channel partner of HP” which in turn sold product to an intermediary at a mark-up. According to the information, “To keep track of the fund, which was concealed in the project’s financials, HP Russia maintained two sets of project pricing records:  off-the-books versions, known only to conspirators, which identified slush fund recipients, and sanitized versions of the same documents which were provided to HP credit, finance, and legal officers outside of HP Russia.” According to the information, “one example of an off-the-books document was an encrypted, password-protected spreadsheet.”

According to the information, various HP Russia employees concealed the slush fund during HP’s Solution Opportunity Approval and Review (“SOAR”) process which applied to “all-service related projects valued at greater than $500,000 anywhere in the world, including Russia.”  Among other things, the information alleges that HP Russia employees made false representations and falsely certified the adequacy of HP Russia’s internal controls, a certification the information alleges that “was relied upon by HP’s EMEA business to certify to HP’s headquarters in the United States that EMEA’s financial statements were accurate.”

According to the information, the alleged improper payments (approximately €8 million) were made through various intermediaries to “Russian Official A,” a director of a Russian government agency who assumed responsibility for the GPO Project as well as “Individual A,” an associate of Russian Official A, for things such as:

  • “expensive jewelry, luxury automobiles, travel, and other items typically associated with gifts”
  • “travel services, vehicles, tuition, electronic equipment, cotton, textiles, and various other items”
  • a “hotel bill: and “other luxury purchases” such as “expensive watches, swimming pool technology, and other items”
  • “furniture, vehicles, clothing, travel services, household appliances, hotel stays, and other items”

Based on the above alleged conduct, the information charges (i) conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and books and records and internal controls provisions; (ii) one count of violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions; (iii) one count of violating the FCPA’s internal controls provisions; and (iv) one count of violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions.

The conduct alleged in the information allegedly occurred between December 2000 and February 2007.  As to U.S. jurisdictional allegations, the information alleges a 2001 meeting in Rockville, Maryland regarding the GPO project; a 2003 e-mail “which was routed through the United States;” and a 2003 certification “transmitted to HP’s offices in California.”

The above charges were resolved via a plea agreement in which HP Russia agreed to plead guilty to the four charges described above.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, HP Russia agreed to pay a criminal fine of approximately $58.8 million.  In the plea agreement, HP agreed to guarantee HP Russia’s payment as well as other conditions imposed upon HP Russia such as cooperation, and compliance obligations typical in corporate FCPA enforcement actions.  Among other things, the plea agreement imposed upon HP a three year reporting obligation to the DOJ regarding remediation and implementation of various compliance measures. As pertinent to the above allegations, in the plea agreement HP Russia and HP waived any and all statute of limitation defenses.

According to the plea agreement, the advisory fine range based on the alleged conduct at issue was $87 million to $174 million.   The plea agreement states that the approximate $58.8 million fine was appropriate based on the following factors:

“(a) monetary assessments that HP has agreed to pay to the SEC and is expected to pay to law enforcement authorities in Germany relating to the same conduct at issue …; (b) HP Russia’s and HP’s cooperation has been, on the whole, extraordinary, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Department; (c) HP Russia and HP have engaged in extensive remediation, including by taking appropriate disciplinary action against culpable employees of HP and enhancing their internal accounting, reporting, and compliance functions; (d) HP has committed to continue enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls … (e) the misconduct identified … was largely undertaken by employees associated with HP Russia, which employed a small fraction of HP global workforce during the relevant period; (f) neither HP nor HP Russia has previously been subject of any criminal enforcement action by the Department or law enforcement authority in Russia or elsewhere; (g) HP Russia and HP have agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department and other U.S. and foreign law enforcement authorities, if requested by the Department …”

HP Poland

According to the information, HP Poland is a wholly owned subsidiary of HP and, among other functional responsibilities, HP Poland managed most of HP’s activities in Poland and had more than 200 employees during the relevant time period.   According to the information, HP Poland ”was subject to HP’s internal accounting controls, and HP Poland’s financial results were included in the consolidated financial statements that HP filed with the SEC.”

The specific alleged conduct concerned “HP Poland Executive” (a citizen of Poland who was the District Manager of Public Sector Sales and Public Sector Sales Lead).

According to the information, HP Poland “(i) caused the falsification of HP’s books and records; and (ii) circumvented HP’s existing internal controls, in connection with a scheme to make corrupt payments to one or more foreign officials in Poland, including the Polish Official [the Director of Information and Communications Technology within the Polish National Police Agency ("KGP") which was part of the Polish Ministry of the Interior and Administration].”

According to the information, “the conduct was related to HP Poland’s efforts to secure and maintain millions of dollars in technology contracts with the Polish government.”  The information alleges that HP Poland “resorted to corruption to foster a relationship with the Polish Official.”

Specifically, the information alleges that in 2006 the Polish Official attended a technology-industry conference in San Francisco and that the “weekend before the conference” HP Poland “paid for dinners, gifts, and sightseeing by the Polish Official in San Francisco.”  The information also alleges that HP Poland took the Polish Official on a side trip to Las Vegas “with no legitimate business purpose” and that while in Las Vegas HP Poland paid for the Polish Official’s “transportation and expenses … including lodging, drinks, dining, shows, other events on or near the Las Vegas Strip, and a private tour flight over the Grand Canyon.”  As to the above travel and entertainment allegations, the information also alleges that “another global technology company” (“Company A”) also wined and dined the Polish Official and paid for his expenses.

The information also alleges that “beginning in late 2006, HP Poland started providing technology products to the Polish Official for personal use.”  The information states:

“Early gifts included HP products, such as desktop and laptop computers, and later expanded to include additional HP computers, HP-branded mobile devices, an HP printer, iPods, flat screen televisions, cameras, a home theater system, and other items.”

According to the information, the above things of value were provided to the Polish Official “in circumvention of HP’s internal controls” and were not “properly reflected in HP’s books and records.”

The information also alleges that in early 2007, “shortly after receiving the first of these gifts, Polish Official signed a contract with HP Poland on behalf of the Polish government, valued at approximately $4.3 million.  A month later, the Polish Official signed another contract with HP Poland, valued at approximately $5.8 million.”

According to the information, “around the date of the second contract award, HP Poland expanded the bribes to include large cash payments to Polish Official from off-the-books accounts.  HP Poland agreed to pay Polish Official 1.2% of HP Poland’s net revenue on any contract awarded by KGP.”

The information then specifically alleges that in 2007 “Polish Official signed a KGP contract with HP Poland valued at approximately $15.8 million” and that “HP Poland Executive delivered to Polish Official’s personal residence a bag filled with approximately $150,000 in cash.”  The information also alleges another instance in which HP Poland Executive met Polish Official in a Warsaw parking lot and gave Polish Official another bag filled with approximately $100,000 in cash.  Further, the information alleges that in 2008, on at least four separate occasions, HP Poland Executive gave Polish Official bags of cash totaling at least $360,000.  According to the information, in 2008, Polish Official signed three contracts on behalf of KGP with HP Poland for approximately $32 million.

As to the above payments, the information alleges that HP Poland willfully circumvented HP’s internal controls and falsified corporate books and records relied on by HP’s officers and external auditors to prepare HP’s financial statements.  Moreover, the information alleges that HP Poland facilitated the corrupt relationship with Polish Official through covert means such an anonymous e-mail accounts, pre-paid mobile telephones, and other means to circumvent HP’s internal controls.

In total, the information alleges between 2006 and 2010 HP Poland “provided Polish Official cash worth the equivalent of approximately $600,000, gifts valued in excess of $30,000, and several thousand dollars in improper travel and entertainment benefits.” According to the information, “during this same time span, the Polish government awarded to HP Poland at least seven contracts for KGP-related information technology products and services, with a total value of approximately $60 million.

Based on the above conduct, the information charges HP Poland with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.

The above charges were resolved via a DPA in which HP Poland admitted and accepted responsibility for the above conduct.  The DPA has a term of three years and it lists the following relevant considerations considered by the DOJ;

“(a) HP Poland’s cooperation with the Department’s investigation; (b) HP Poland’s ultimate parent corporation, HP, has committed to maintain and continue enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls …; and (c) HP Poland and HP have agreed to continue with the Department and other U.S. and foreign law enforcement authorities in any ongoing investigation …”

Based on the advisory guidelines calculation in the DPA, the fine range for the alleged conduct at issue was $19.3 million to $38.6 million.  Pursuant to the DPA, HP Poland agreed to pay approximately $15.5 million, an amount deemed “appropriate” given the “nature and extent of HP Poland’s and HP’s cooperation and their extensive remediation in this matter.”

Like the HP Russia plea agreement, in the HP Poland DPA, HP agrees to guarantee the payment of HP Poland and to implement various compliance measures and report to the DOJ for a three year period.  As is typical in FCPA DPAs, the HP Poland DPA contains a so-called “muzzle clause.”

HP Mexico

The NPA with HP Mexico (a wholly-owned subsidiary of HP based in Mexico) states that beginning in 2008 “HP Mexico began presales activities and discussions with Pemex (Mexico’s alleged state-owned petroleum company) to sell to Pemex a suit of business technology optimization (“BTO”) software, hardware, and licenses.”  According to the NPA, BTO is a niche product that requires sophisticated knowledge to integrate with other software products and the contracts for this software sale were for approximately $6 million.

According to the NPA, “HP Mexico sales managers on the BTO Deal ultimately decided that they could not win the business without working with, and making payments to, a Mexican information-technology consulting company. (“Consultant”)”  According to the information, “HP Mexico sales managers knew that Pemex’s Chief Operating Officer (“Official A”) was a former principal of Consultant” and that “HP Mexico employees also knew that Official A supervised Pemex’s Chief Information Officer (“Official B”), who was a key signatory on behalf of Pemex for the BTO Deal.”

According to the NPA, while the Consultant had prior technical experience, “HP Mexico ultimately retained Consultant in connection with HP Mexico’s bid for the sale to Pemex primarily because of Consultant’s connections to Official A, Official B, and other senior Pemex officials.”  According to the information, as part of its agreement with Consultant, HP Mexico agree to pay Consulant a commission, “which HP Mexico also called an ‘influencer fee,’ equal to 25% of the licensing and support components of the BTO Deal.”

To circumvent HP’s internal controls regarding channel partners, the NPA states that “HP Mexico executives pursuing the BTO Deal arranged for another entity (“Intermediary”), which was already an approved HP Mexico channel partner, to join in the transactions” and that “HP Mexico executives recorded Intermediary as the deal partner in its internal tracking system.”

The NPA states “HP Mexico through the Intermediary, Consultant made a cash payment of approximately $30,000 to an entity controlled by Official B” and that “Consultant made three additional cash payments totaling approximately $95,000 to the Official B controlled entity.”

According to the NPA, “in total, HP Mexico received approximately $2,527,750 as its net benefit on the BTO Deal.”

According to the NPA, the DOJ agreed to enter it based on the following factors:

“(a) HP Mexico and HP’s cooperation, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the DOJ; (b) HP Mexico and HP have engaged in extensive remediation, including taking appropriate disciplinary action against culpable employees, enhancing their due diligence protocol for third-party agents and consultants, and enhancing their controls for payments of sales commissions to channel partners in Mexico; (c) HP Mexico’s and HP’s continued commitment to enhancing their compliance programs and internal controls; and (d) HP Mexico’s and HP’s agreement to continue to cooperate with the DOJ in any ongoing investigation.”

In the NPA HP Mexico admitted and acknowledged responsibility for the above conduct.  Pursuant to the NPA, HP Mexico agreed to pay a forfeiture of approximately $2.5 million.  Pursuant to the NPA, which has a term of 3 years, HP Mexico and HP agreed to various compliance obligations.  As is typical in FCPA NPAs, the NPA contains a so-called muzzle clause.

In the DOJ release, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz states:

“Hewlett-Packard subsidiaries created a slush fund for bribe payments, set up an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts to launder money, employed two sets of books to track bribe recipients, and used anonymous email accounts and prepaid mobile telephones to arrange covert meetings to hand over bags of cash.  Even as the tradecraft of corruption becomes more sophisticated, the department is staying a step ahead of those who choose to violate our laws, thanks to the diligent efforts of U.S. prosecutors and agents and our colleagues at the SEC, as well as the tremendous cooperation of our law enforcement partners in Germany, Poland and Mexico.”

Melinda Haag (U.S. Attorney for the N.D. of California) states:

“The United States Attorney’s Office, working alongside our colleagues in the Criminal Division, will vigorously police any efforts by companies in our district to illegally sell products to foreign governments using bribes or kickbacks in violation of the FCPA,  Today’s resolution with HP reinforces the fact that there is no double standard: U.S. businesses must respect the same ethics and compliance standards whether they are selling products to foreign governments or to the United States government.”

Valerie Parlave (Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office) states:

“This case demonstrates the FBI’s ability to successfully coordinate with our foreign law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice corporations that choose to do business through bribery and off-the-book dealings.  I want to thank the agents who worked on this case in Washington, New York and in our Legal Attaché offices in Mexico City, Moscow, Berlin and Warsaw as well as the prosecutors.  Their work ensures a level playing field for businesses seeking lucrative overseas government contracts.”

Richard Weber (Chief of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation) states:

“This agreement is the result of untangling a global labyrinth of complex financial transactions used by HP to facilitate bribes to foreign officials.  IRS-CI has become a trusted leader in pursuit of corporations and executives who use hidden offshore assets and shell companies to circumvent the law.  CI is committed to maintaining fair competition, free of corrupt practices, through a potent synthesis of global teamwork and our dynamic financial investigative talents.”

SEC Enforcement Action

The enforcement action involved an administrative cease and desist order against HP and is based on the same Russia, Poland and Mexico conduct described above.

Under the heading “Summary,” the order states:

“From approximately 2003 to 2010 (the “relevant period”), HP Co.’s indirect, wholly-owned subsidiaries in Russia, Mexico and Poland, by and through their employees, agents and intermediaries, made unlawful payments to various foreign government officials to obtain business. These payments were also falsely recorded in the subsidiaries’ books and records and, ultimately, in HP Co.’s books and records. In Russia, HP Co.’s subsidiary (“HP Russia”) made payments through HP Russia’s agents to a Russian government official to retain a multi-million dollar contract with the federal prosecutor’s office. The payments were made through shell companies engaged by the agents to perform purported services under the contract. In Poland, certain agents or employees of HP Co.’s Polish subsidiary (“HP Poland”) provided gifts and cash bribes to a Polish government official to obtain contracts with Poland’s national police agency. In Mexico, HP Co.’s Mexican subsidiary (“HP Mexico”) made improper payments to a third party in connection with a sale of software to Mexico’s state-owned petroleum agency. HP Co. and its consolidated subsidiaries (collectively, “HP”) earned approximately $29 million in illicit profits as a result of this improper conduct.

The payments and improper gifts to government officials made directly or through intermediaries were falsely recorded in the relevant HP subsidiaries’ books and records as legitimate consulting and service contracts, commissions, or travel expenses. In fact, the true purpose of the payments and gifts was to make improper payments to foreign government officials to obtain lucrative government contracts for HP. During the relevant period, HP lacked sufficient internal controls to detect and prevent the improper payments and gifts made by executives and representatives of certain of its foreign subsidiaries.”

As to HP Russia, the order also states under the heading “Additional Conduct,” as follows.

“In June and July 2006, several European HP subsidiaries, including HP Russia, arranged for a high-profile customer marketing event in connection with the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Germany. Despite managerial directives not to invite representatives of government customers, certain HP sales employees arranged for a number of government or state-owned customers to attend the event. In all, HP Russia and other European subsidiaries of HP paid tens of thousands of dollars in travel and entertainment expenses for these government customers, and HP Co.’s internal controls failed to detect or prevent the conduct.

Finally, in June 2005, HP Russia paid more than $2.5 million to a third party distributor for the supply of software and implementation services to a Russian state-owned enterprise. HP Russia’s records do not reflect what, if any, work was actually performed by the distributor for these payments, and communications among HP Russia employees suggest that the distributor may have played an influential role in connection with obtaining the contract. The payments to the distributor were recorded in HP Russia’s books and records as a payment for providing software and services, even though there was minimal evidence concerning what was actually provided for these payments.”

Based on the above, the order finds violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.  Specifically, the order states:

“HP’s global operations are organized by geographic regions and sub-regions, as well as business units. Employees in HP’s foreign subsidiaries may report to a supervisor in both their geographic region and their business unit. During the relevant period, HP’s foreign subsidiaries operated pursuant to compliance policies and directives developed by HP and implemented at the local subsidiary level by the country or regional management. Although HP had certain anti-corruption policies and controls in place during the relevant period, those policies and controls were not adequate to prevent the conduct described herein and were insufficiently implemented on the regional or country level. Further, HP failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that: (1) access to assets was permitted only in accordance with management’s authorization; (2) transactions were recorded as necessary to maintain accountability for assets; and (3) transactions were executed in accordance with management’s authorization.

[...]

As described above, HP Co. violated Section 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act. Its subsidiaries in Russia, Poland and Mexico falsely recorded the payments made to agents as payments for legitimate services or commissions, when the true purpose of these payments was to make corrupt payments to government officials to obtain business. The false entries were then consolidated and reported by HP in its consolidated financial statements. HP Co. also violated Section 13(b)(2)(B) by failing to devise and maintain sufficient accounting controls to detect and prevent the making of improper payments to foreign officials and ensure that payments were made only to approved channel partners.”

Under the heading “Remedial Efforts,” the order states:

“In response to the Commission’s investigation, HP retained outside counsel to assist it in conducting an internal investigation into improper conduct in the jurisdictions that were the subject of the staff’s inquiry, as well as in other jurisdictions where HP identified additional issues. HP cooperated with the Commission’s investigation by voluntarily producing reports and other materials to the Commission staff summarizing the findings of its internal investigation. HP also cooperated by, among other things, voluntarily producing translations of numerous documents, providing timely reports on witness interviews, and by making foreign employees available to the Commission staff to interview.

HP has also undertaken significant remedial actions over the course of the Commission’s investigation, including by implementing a firm-wide screening process for its channel partners, training its public sector sales staff on its policies for dealing with business intermediaries, increasing compliance-related training for its global work force, and implementing additional enhancements to its internal controls and compliance functions. In addition, HP took disciplinary actions against certain of its employees in response to the conduct identified by the Commission staff and by the company through its internal investigation.”

In resolving the matter, the SEC ordered HP to cease and desist from committing future violations of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions and to pay disgorgement of $29 million and prejudgment interest of $5 million. According to the order, approximately $2.5 million of the disgorgement amount will be satisfied by HP’s payment of $2.5 million in forfeiture in connection with the HP Mexico DOJ action.  The order also requires HP to report to the SEC for a three year period regarding the status of its remediation and implementation of various compliance measures.

In the SEC release, Kara Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit) states:

“Hewlett-Packard lacked the internal controls to stop a pattern of illegal payments to win business in Mexico and Eastern Europe. The company’s books and records reflected the payments as legitimate commissions and expenses.  Companies have a fundamental obligation to ensure that their internal controls are both reasonably designed and appropriately implemented across their entire business operations, and they should take a hard look at the agents conducting business on their behalf.”

Gibson Dunn attorneys Joseph Warin and John Chesley represented the HP entities.

In this release (a release HP had to consult with the DOJ before issuing) HP Executive Vice President and General Counsel John Schultz states:

“The misconduct described in the settlement was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company.  HP fully cooperated with both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the investigation of these matters and will continue to provide customers around the world with top quality products and services without interruption.”

HP’s stock closed yesterday up approximately .8%





April 9th, 2014

“The FCPA Guide Presents A Classic Case Of Treating A Symptom While Ignoring The Disease”

This recent post highlighted a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act article by former Deputy DOJ Assistant General Larry Thompson in a recent issue of the American Criminal Law Review (“ACLR”).  Thompson’s article was part of a symposium edition of the ACLR (Volume 51, Number 1, Winter 2014) titled “Reducing Corporate Criminality:  Evaluating Department of Justice Policy on the Prosecution of Business Organizations and Options for Reform.”

In addition to Thompson’s article, there was another FCPA article in the ACLR edition that should likewise make its way onto your reading stack.

Barry Pollack (Miller & Chevalier) was the lead author of an article focusing on DOJ guidance surrounding the FCPA, including the 2012 FCPA Guidance.  (See “Lone Wolf Or The Start Of A New Pack:  Should The FCPA Guidance Represent A New Paradigm In Evaluating Corporate Criminal Liability Risks?”).

Commenting on DOJ settlement documents (NPAs/DPAs, etc.) serving as “de facto agency ‘jurisprudence’ guiding corporate conduct”, Pollack observes, consistent with my own observations in “The Facade of FCPA Enforcement” (2010), as follows.

“While publicly available resources regarding settlement dispositions through plea agreements, DPAs, and NPAs are helpful in providing corporations with some insight into the DOJ’s enforcement priorities and practices, there are some very important differences and limitations which distinguish these settlement documents from case law. Most importantly, these settlements represent the results of privately-negotiated agreements between the DOJ and corporate defendants, which are subject to little or no judicial scrutiny. While plea agreements and DPAs are filed with the court and are technically subject to a judge’s approval, the DOJ and defendants are not generally required to present or defend the factual assertions or legal theories contained in such agreements. Furthermore, NPAs are subject to no judicial scrutiny because they are not filed with the court. Accordingly, these documents provide fertile ground for the prosecution to advance expansive enforcement theories based on bare-boned and undeveloped factual assertions without having to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, given that the promise of avoiding the costly and risky endeavor of litigation through settlement provides every incentive to corporate defendants to accept the prosecution’s position so long as the matter is resolved quickly and for the lowest fine possible.

As a result, the agreements do not necessarily contain all of the relevant facts that went into determining the outcomes. They may contain broader enforcement theories than what would result from fully litigated cases, they do not have precedential value and thus do not bind the DOJ to act consistently, and they may not represent cases where criminal FCPA violations would have been found had the cases actually been litigated.”

Regarding the 2012 FCPA Guidance, Pollack writes:

“Overall, while the Guide is comprehensive and represents an unprecedented undertaking, it marks no sharp departure from current practice. Rather, the Guide clarifies the statute and how it is applied by the enforcement agencies, expressly confirms pre-existing enforcement practices and policies apparent in settlement documents to practitioners in the field, and consolidates current agency thinking into a single, comprehensive reference source.”

Spot-on and consistent with my own observations in “Grading the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Guidance.”

Further, Pollack states that the “FCPA Guide presents a class case of treating a symptom while ignoring the disease.”

Among the “facets” of the disease is that “the collateral consequences for contesting and litigating corporate criminal liability are far too great for a corporation of any size.”

The article then states:

“Unless and until at least one of these aspects of the disease is eradicated, the symptoms of the disease will continue to exist. The symptoms are over- and under-compliance based on a lack of clear understanding regarding what the law forbids, and the acceptance by risk-adverse corporations of criminal dispositions in cases that are eminently defensible.

In a world where the disease exists, the FCPA Guide makes perfect sense. It provides an authoritative source of information regarding current practice. Before the Guide was issued, practitioners could only cite to their own experience and the limited information available in negotiated settlements.”

[...]

“The FCPA Guide is not as novel as it might appear.”

[...]

“The authors hope that at some point, Congress will turn its attention to fighting the disease.”

I’ll second that, but add the DOJ and SEC to the mix (i.e. hopefully the enforcement agencies will turn its attention to better fighting the disease by reconsidering certain enforcement agency policies and procedures).  (See here among other posts for more).

Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:04 am. Post Categories: Deferred Prosecution AgreementsFCPA ReformFCPA ScholarshipGuidanceNon-Prosecution Agreement




April 8th, 2014

Ipse Dixit

This post last week highlighted the recent activity in SEC v. Mark Jackson & James Ruehlen (a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action scheduled for trial this summer).  As noted in the post, among other things, the SEC is seeking to exclude various defense expert witnesses on a variety of issues including internal controls issues.

If you read the SEC’s motions (see here – condensed into one document) you will see that a primary basis for exclusion is the SEC’s argument that the experts are merely offering their own naked ipse dixit.

I must confess – arcane latin phrases not being in my strike zone – I had to look up the meaning of ipse dixit.

Ipse Dixit – Latin for He himself said it – an unsupported statement that rests solely on the authority of the individual who makes it.

The term ipse dixit appears approximately 30 times in the SEC’s motions – and related to it – is the SEC’s argument that the experts’ internal controls opinions should be excluded because the experts fail to define certain terms and/or there is no discernible methodology underlying their opinions.

For instance, in seeking to exclude Alan Bell (CPA – regarding, among other things, internal controls) the SEC states:

“Bell could not define what constitutes a “circumvention” of an internal control.”

“Bell concedes that there are no written standards to evaluate what constitutes, in his view, a “circumvention” of an internal control.”

“Bell’s opinions are not the product of a reliable methodology applied to the facts of this case. In fact, Bell employed no methodology at all; instead, his opinions are “based on [his] 40 years of experience.”

In seeking to exclude Gary Goolsby (CPA – regarding, among other things, internal controls issues) the SEC states:

“There is also no discernible methodology underlying his opinion on Jackson’s purported reliance [on Noble's internal controls], other than Goolsby’s own naked ipse dixit. Goolsby’s methodology reduces to the proposition that “I know what I’m looking at.” Yet, in deposition, he could not explain what his opinion means, as a practical matter, with reference to the conduct at issue in this case. Goolsby’s testimony thus confirms what is apparent from his report – his factual findings are based on nothing more than his subjective say-so.”

In seeking to exclude Lowell Brown (regarding various FCPA compliance issues) the SEC states:

“There is no discernible analysis or methodology underlying Brown’s opinion as to Jackson’s purported reliance, other than Brown’s own naked ipse dixit – a manifestly improper basis for expert testimony.”

In seeking to exclude Professor Ronald Gilson (regarding, among other things, internal controls issues) the SEC states:

“There is no genuine methodology here, other than Gilson’s own ipse dixit based on his subjective interpretation of the evidence

In the final analysis, Gilson is an advocate for the defense who proffers nothing but his ipse dixit in the place of rigorous analytical connection between his deficient methodology (reading deposition transcripts and exhibits) and his expert conclusion (the inference that if Ruehlen told others at Noble what he was doing, he lacked the corrupt intent to violate the FCPA, as opposed to simply colluding to bribe foreign officials).”

The irony of course is that while attacking the defendants’ experts for their own ipse dixit, many of the SEC’s FCPA internal controls enforcement theories are nothing more than ipse dixit.

For instance, as noted in this prior post, the SEC alleged that Oracle violated the FCPA’s internal control provisions. The only allegations against Oracle itself is that it failed to audit distributor margins against end user prices and that it failed to audit third party payments made by distributors.  The SEC did not allege any red flags to suggest why Oracle should have done this.  Thus, how did Oracle violate the FCPA’s internal controls provisions?  What was the methodology the SEC used?

Ipse dixit.

Indeed, in a pointed critique of the SEC’s Oracle enforcement theory, the former Assistant Chief of the DOJ’s FCPA unit stated:

“Oracle is the latest example of the SEC’s expansive enforcement of the FCPA’s internal controls provision, and it potentially paints a bleak picture—one in which the provision is essentially enforced as a strict liability statute that means whatever the SEC says it means (after the fact).”  (See here for the prior post).

In many SEC FCPA enforcement actions, the SEC merely makes conclusory statements for why the company allegedly violated the FCPA’s internal controls provisions.  For instance, in the Philips enforcement action (see here for the prior post) the SEC states:

“Philips failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that transactions were properly recorded by Philips in its books and records. Philips also failed to implement an FCPA compliance and training program commensurate with the extent of its international operations. Accordingly, Philips violated [the internal control provisions].”

Source?  Methodology?

Ipse dixit.

As noted in my recent article “Why You Should Be Alarmed by the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action” one reason, among others, why you should be alarmed by the action is because of the “failure to prevent” standard invoked by the SEC for why ADM violated the FCPA’s internal controls provisions.  As noted in the article, this standard  does not even exist in the FCPA and is inconsistent with actual legal authority.  (See here for the previous post regarding SEC v. World-Wide Coin – the only judicial decision to directly address the FCPA’s internal controls provisions).

Moreover, as noted in the article, the “failure to prevent standard” is inconsistent with SEC guidance relevant to the internal-controls provisions.  (See also this prior post).  The SEC’s most extensive guidance on the internal controls provisions states, in pertinent part, as follows:

“The Act does not mandate any particular kind of internal controls system. The test is whether a system, taken as a whole, reasonably meets the statute’s specified objectives. ‘‘Reasonableness,’’ a familiar legal concept, depends on an evaluation of all the facts and circumstances.

Private sector decisions implementing these statutory objectives are business decisions. And, reasonable business decisions should be afforded deference. This means that the issuer need not always select the best or the most effective control measure. However, the one selected must be reasonable under all the circumstances.

Inherent in this concept [of reasonableness] is a toleration of deviations from the absolute. One measure of the reasonableness of a system relates to whether the expected benefits from improving it would be significantly greater than the anticipated costs of doing so. Thousands of dollars ordinarily should not be spent conserving hundreds. Further, not every procedure which may be individually cost-justifiable need be implemented; the Act allows a range of reasonable judgments.

The test of a company’s internal control system is not whether occasional failings can occur. Those will happen in the most ideally managed company. But, an adequate system of internal controls means that, when such breaches do arise, they will be isolated rather than systemic, and they will be subject to a reasonable likelihood of being uncovered in a timely manner and then remedied promptly.”

What is the source for the “failure to prevent” standard in ADM?  What is the methodology?

Ipse dixit.

In short, while attacking the defendants’ experts for their lack of defined methodology regarding internal controls issues, the SEC itself has long recognized that the FCPA’s internal controls lack a defined methodology.

As noted in this post, in a 2013 speech SEC Chair Mary Jo White reminded us why trials are important.  Among other things, White stated that “trials allow for more thoughtful and nuanced interpretations of the law in a way that settlements and summary judgments cannot.”

The SEC’s enforcement action against Jackson and Ruehlen represents an extremely rare instance in which the SEC is being forced to articulate its FCPA positions in the context of an adversary proceeding.

The SEC’s motions seeking to exclude defendants’ experts – while primarily based on ipse dixit – reminds us that a large portion of the SEC’s (and DOJ’s) FCPA enforcement program is nothing more than ipse dixit – and subjective say so.

Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:04 am. Post Categories: Enforcement Agency PolicyFCPA TrialsInternal ControlsJames RuehlenMark JacksonSEC




April 7th, 2014

Supreme Court – “Ingratiation And Access Are Not Corruption”

Corruption ought to be corruption, plain and simple.

The same rules and principles governing corruption of a “foreign official” ought to apply to corruption of U.S. “officials.”

Yet, as I have highlighted for years on these pages there is a glaring double standard when it comes to alleged corruption of “foreign officials” and corruption of U.S. “officials.”  The U.S. government is eager to address the former, yet countenances in many cases the latter by advancing certain policy arguments.

Last week in McCutcheon v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court dived into the topic of corruption.

The specific issue before the court was whether the aggregate limits on campaign contributions found in 2 USC 441(a)(a)(1), which restricts how much money a donor may contribute in total to all political candidates or political committees, violates the First Amendment.

In a plurality opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Alito, the court held that such aggregate limits are invalid under the First Amendment and in doing so dismissed the argument that such limits served the objective of combating corruption.

The opinion recognized that “while preventing corruption or its appearance is a legitimate objective, Congress may target only a specific type of corruption ‘quid pro quo’ corruption.”  As to that type of corruption, the opinion adopted a narrow view and stated: ”government regulation may not target the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford.  Ingratiation and access are not corruption.”

As to the aggregate limits at issue, the opinion stated:

“[S]pending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s officials duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption.  Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner influence over or access to elected officials or political parties.”

“The line between quid pro quo corruption and general influence may seem vague at times, but the distinction must be respected in order to safeguard basis First Amendment rights.”

Next, the plurality opinion addressed contributions through various “third parties” such party committees, PACs or others and stated:

“[T]here is not the same risk of quid pro quo corruption or its appearance when money flows through independent actors to a candidate, as when a donor contributes to a candidate directly.  When an individual contributes to candidate, a party committee, or a PAC, the individuals must by law cede control over the funds. [...] As a consequence, the chain of attribution grows longer, and any credit must be shared among the various actors along the way.  For those reasons, the risk of quid pro quo corruption is generally applicable only to the narrow category of money gifts that are directed, in some manner, to a candidate or officerholder.”

It is difficult to square this logic with – for example – the third-party payment provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In closing, the plurality opinion notes that any risk of corruption is cured by disclosure requirements under federal law and that “[t]oday, given the Internet, disclosure offers much more robust protections against corruption.”  It is interesting to note – as highlighted in my article “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” – that disclosure vs. prohibition was the preferred method of addressing the so-called foreign corporate payments problem by the Ford Administration and various members of Congress.

A dissenting opinion authored by Justice Breyer and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan states that the notion ”that large aggregate contributions do not give rise to corruption – is plausible only because the plurality defines corruption too narrowly.”

The dissenting opinion speaks broadly of corruption.

“Corruption breaks the constitutionally necessary chain of communication between the people and their representatives.  It derails the essential speech-to-government-action tie.  Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.  Insofar as corruption cuts the link between political thought and political action, a free marketplace of political ideas loses its point.”

“Since the kinds of corruption that can destroy the link between public opinion and governmental action extend well beyond those the plurality describes, the plurality’s notion of corruption is flatly inconsistent with the [basic constitutional rationales].

In the end, the double standard between the meaning of corruption as it relates to “foreign officials” vs. U.S. “officials” matters as it undermines the legitimacy and moral authority on which the U.S. government acts.

Against the backdrop of the U.S. government bringing FCPA enforcement based on allegations that a company was seeking access to certain foreign officials or certain information or that company employees were seeking to ingratiate themselves with foreign officials through such items of value as a bottle of wine, flowers, karaoke bars or cigarettes … just remember, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court “ingratiation and access are not corruption.”

Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:04 am. Post Categories: Double Standard