November 11th, 2014

In The Words Of Loretta Lynch

LynchRecently President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch (U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York) to be the next Attorney General.

This post highlights Lynch’s responses to various Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or FCPA related questions originally posed in this September/October 2013 Q&A with the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics’ magazine Compliance & Ethics Professional and posted on the DOJ’s website.

In the Q&A, Lynch speaks generally about corruption and compliance and specifically about Morgan Stanley’s so-called “declination” and the FCPA enforcement action against Ralph Lauren.  For additional information on Morgan Stanley’s so-called “declination” (see here and here) and for additional information on the Ralph Lauren enforcement action (see herehere and here).

Q: What did you learn about compliance programs, good and bad, in your [prior private] practice?

A: The most important thing I learned about compliance programs is also the most basic thing—the tone at the top truly sets the
parameters for whether one has an effective or ineffective compliance program. And by effective, I don’t mean a program in a company where there is never any wrongdoing, because that company does not exist. If there is one message I’d like to leave with corporate America, it is that the government actually does understand that things can and will go wrong, even where there is a strong compliance program. Every company develops issues. It’s how you deal with them that defines your corporate culture and informs me if you are serious about fixing the problem and preventing it from recurring going forward.

Q: One of the things that strikes me about your career in the U.S. Attorney’s Office is that fighting corruption has been an ongoing focus. And, it’s notable to point out that we’re not just talking about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), but also corruption here in the U.S. Are there common threads that you see among government corruption cases everywhere?

A: Corruption, whether here in Brooklyn or on the other side of the globe, has real and far-reaching consequences. The common
thread is that someone in power loses their connection to the constituency they are supposed to serve, whether citizens or shareholders. When government officials engage in self-dealing, when they abdicate their responsibility, when they succumb to greed, the average citizen pays for it dearly and on many levels. Constituents everywhere end up spending more for services—infrastructure, healthcare, education—and sometimes have to go without these vital services, when government officials line their own pockets with public funds. Law-abiding companies here in the U.S. and abroad are placed at a competitive disadvantage when business is won or lost based on bribes, not the quality of a company’s products and services.

And because corruption involves, at its heart, the breaking of a trust relationship, its ramifications often go far beyond the financial. Corruption infects society as a whole, increasing the level of cynicism and distrust that constituents have about their elected officials and government processes. In this way, corruption also impacts those government officials who are truly trying to do the right thing. They get tarred with the same brush. We all deserve honest and effective representation, and my office is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who trade on the trust we place in them to enrich themselves, who let greed get in the way of helping the people that they represent.

Q: The Morgan Stanley FCPA case was a very high-profile declination by main Justice and your U.S. Attorney’s Office. They don’t come that often, and it’s very rare to see compliance efforts cited so widely as the reason why. Can you give a brief description of the case for those who are not familiar with it?

A: Absolutely. In April of 2012, my office and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) fraud section prosecuted Garth Peterson, the former Managing Director in charge of the Morgan Stanley’s real estate group in Shanghai, China. Peterson had engaged in a conspiracy to sell an ownership interest in a Shanghai building owned by Morgan Stanley to a local government official who had provided assistance to Peterson in securing business for Morgan Stanley in China. During the conspiracy, Peterson repeatedly and falsely told Morgan Stanley that the corporation buying the ownership interest in the building was owned by the Shanghai government when, in fact, it was owned by Peterson and the local government official, among others. By lying and providing false information to Morgan Stanley, Peterson was circumventing the company’s internal controls, which were created and intended to prevent FCPA violations. Peterson was charged with one count of conspiring to circumvent Morgan Stanley’s internal controls, and after pleading guilty, he was ultimately was sentenced to a period of incarceration. We declined to take any action against Morgan Stanley in that case.

Q: Again, what’s notable is that it was the first major FCPA case I can recall in which there was a public declination, and just as importantly, the compliance program was cited so publicly as a major part of the reason why. In fact, it’s hard to remember many cases of any type in which the compliance program’s effectiveness was cited so publicly, which suggests to me that even people without FCPA risks should take note. What made this case so different?

A: You’re right. This was an unusual case. Morgan Stanley self-reported Peterson’s conduct, and cooperated fully and extensively
with the government’s investigation. But that’s not what made the case different. What set Morgan Stanley apart was that, after considering all the available facts and circumstances, the government concluded that Morgan Stanley was a company that had done all that it could. It had a compliance program specifically tailored to its business risks, with commitment to compliance from the very top of the company, that itself did not tolerate wrongdoing. The bank acted to fire Peterson before any of the facts became
public. We concluded that Peterson was the quintessential “rogue employee” who schemed to affirmatively sidestep compliance because he knew his behavior would  not be countenanced. Every company says its bad actors are “rogues,” and that they do not promote corruption, but at Morgan Stanley we could see it. There was a stark contrast between the bank’s corporate culture and Peterson’s actions.

This presented a fundamentally different situation from companies that say they don’t tolerate wrongdoing, yet push employees to meet goals and quotas overseas with little to no guidance on the risks and consequences. It was fundamentally different from companies who distance themselves from their agents and consultants overseas, and then argue that they have to “go along” to avoid being disadvantaged in overseas markets. And it was fundamentally different from companies that say “That’s not who we are,” yet have nothing on record that informs me otherwise.

What we saw was that Morgan Stanley conducted extensive due diligence with respect to the sale that Peterson orchestrated.
We saw that Peterson had circumvented a compliance program that was an active component of the company’s business—Peterson himself was trained on FCPA compliance seven times and reminded about FCPA compliance at least 35 times. Compliance
at Morgan Stanley was also proactive, with the bank routinely adjusting and updating its compliance program to address new
issues and problems as they arose. It was not simply a program that was put in place 10 years ago, set apart from the business, and
left unchanged over time, without regard to changes in the company’s business or the increasing complexity of transactions. When we looked at Morgan Stanley, we also saw a bank that invested resources, that had internal controls in place to ensure accountability, that regularly monitored transactions, and that randomly audited employees, transactions, and business units.

This case stands out because it also touched on a common complaint in the FCPA world, and that is the supposed lack of transparency regarding the government’s consideration of a company’s compliance efforts in making charging decisions. The lengthy description of Morgan Stanley’s compliance program in the Peterson charging document was a deliberate response to that criticism. The Peterson case was even cited for that purpose in the FCPA Resource Guide prepared by DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in November 2012.

Q: What should compliance professionals take away as key learning from that case?

A: There are actually two “takeaways” in this case. The first is that the government will aggressively pursue those who engage in criminal conduct involving corporate corruption. The second is that companies that employ robust and effective compliance programs are not only better able to detect and identify potential compliance issues that may negatively affect the company’s business and reputation, but also those unusual instances where an employee is intent on circumventing a company’s internal controls. An added benefit for a company that employs a robust compliance program is that the company will be in a better position to address concerns raised by regulators or the government, if the company’s conduct ever comes under scrutiny. Morgan Stanley was able to demonstrate that Peterson truly was a “rogue,” that he had betrayed them, and he had rejected their culture of compliance.

Q: More recently we had the declination in the Ralph Lauren case. In that case, Ralph Lauren discovered questionable payments by a third party working on their behalf in Argentina. You were the US attorney on that case as well. What were some of the factors that led to the decision not to prosecute?

A: Actually we did not decline prosecution in that case. Rather, we entered into a non-prosecution agreement with Ralph Lauren. The agreement is for a two-year term and requires the implementation of various corporate reforms. Ralph Lauren also paid an $882,000 penalty to the DOJ and disgorged $700,000 in ill-gotten gains and interest to the SEC. There were several reasons for that outcome. Ralph Lauren discovered criminal conduct involving violations of the FCPA while it was in the midst of trying to improve its internal controls and compliance worldwide. Our investigation revealed that, over the course of five years, the manager of Ralph Lauren’s subsidiary in Argentina had made roughly $580,000 in corrupt payments to customs officials for unwarranted benefits, like obtaining entry for its products into the country without the necessary paperwork or without any inspection at all. The bribes were funneled through a customs broker who, at the manager’s direction, created fictitious invoices that were paid by Ralph Lauren in order to cover up the scheme.

Several factors compelled our decision to enter into a non-prosecution agreement with Ralph Lauren. First, there was the detection
of the wrongdoing by the corporation itself, as part of an effort to improve global compliance standards. Following the discovery of the corruption, the company also undertook an exceedingly thorough internal investigation of the misconduct and cooperated fully with our investigation. They made foreign witnesses available for government interviews; they provided real-time translation
of foreign documents.

It was also very significant that Ralph Lauren implemented a host of extensive, remedial measures, including the termination of employees engaged in the wrongdoing, and improvements in internal controls and compliance programs. Finally, we took into account that they swiftly and voluntarily disclosed the conduct to the government and the SEC. The company first self-reported the misconduct to the government within two weeks of discovering it. They basically did everything that a company that finds itself in that unfortunate situation can possibly do.

Q: This was the first time the SEC publicly stated it would not proceed. What got their attention and led to the decision?

A: I cannot speak for the SEC, but we do typically have parallel investigations of FCPA violations, and I believe that they were swayed by the same factors that we were. Although Ralph Lauren did not have an anti-corruption program and did not provide any anticorruption training or oversight during the five-year span of the conspiracy, all of the government agencies investigating the case were impressed with their resulting commitment to compliance in this area globally, as well as their self-disclosure and full cooperation.

Q: Finally, are we seeing the start of a new era in which compliance programs are going to be looked at more closely by prosecutors? And, just as importantly, will good programs earn organizations public credit for their efforts?

A: Absolutely. Compliance is the lens through which we view your company. A robust compliance program demonstrates to us that the company “gets it.” Making your compliance program a top priority is an investment a company can’t afford not to make. To put it more bluntly, by the time you have a problem that has drawn the government’s attention, under our principles and guidelines that govern corporate prosecutions, the existence of a robust compliance program can save you, as in the Morgan Stanley case.

Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:04 am. Post Categories: ComplianceEnforcement Agency PolicyEnforcement Agency SpeechesMorgan StanleyRalph Lauren Corp.




November 10th, 2014

A Suggested Read On A Variety Of Topics

Read ThisSeveral prior posts (here, here, and here) have focused on basic causation issues in connection with many Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions.

The lack of causation between an alleged bribe payment and any alleged business obtained or retained is not a legal defense because the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions prohibit the offer, payment, promise to pay or authorization of the payment of any money or thing of value.  Indeed, several FCPA enforcement actions have alleged unsuccessful bribery attempts in which no business was actually obtained or retained.

Nevertheless, causation ought to be relevant when calculating FCPA settlement amounts, specifically disgorgement.  However, the prevailing FCPA enforcement theory often seems to be that because Company A made improper payments to allegedly obtain or retain Contract A, then all of Company A’s net profits associated with Contract A are subject to disgorgement.

Call it the “but for” theory. “But for” the alleged improper payments, Company A would not have obtained or retained the business.

However, this basic enforcement theory ignores the fact that Company A (as is often the case in FCPA enforcement actions) is generally viewed as selling the best product for the best price and because of this, or a host of other reasons, probably would have obtained or retained the business in the absence of any alleged improper payments.

If this general issue is of any interest to you (and it ought to be because it is instructive on many levels) you should read a recent U.K. decision in a civil case arising out of the same core facts alleged in the 2010 FCPA enforcement action against Innospec (see here for the prior post).

In addition, if the so-called “victim” issue in FCPA enforcement actions is of interest to you (i.e. because the FCPA involves bribery and corruption, when there is an FCPA enforcement action, there must be a victim) , you also should read the recent U.K. decision because it is instructive on this issue as well.

Prior to discussing the recent U.K. decision, a bit of background is necessary.

In 2010, Innospec agreed to pay approximately $26 million to resolve DOJ and SEC enforcement actions (see here).  The conduct was wide-ranging in that the enforcement action involved alleged violations of U.S. sanctions regarding doing business in Cuba in addition to alleged conduct in violation of the FCPA.  Even as to the FCPA conduct, the enforcement action was wide-ranging and included “standard” Iraq Oil-for-Food allegations found in a number of previous enforcement actions (i.e. inflated commission payments to an agent which were then used to pay kickbacks to the government of Iraq) as well as alleged conduct in Indonesia.

The bulk of the enforcement action though concerned DOJ allegations that Ousama Naaman (Innospec’s agent in Iraq) paid various bribes to officials in Iraq’s Ministry of Oil (“MoO”) to “ensure” that a competitor’s product “failed a field trial test and therefore would not be used by the MoO” as well as other allegations that Naaman paid other bribes to officials of the MoO to obtain and retain contracts with MoO on Innospec’s behalf.

The DOJ’s criminal information alleged (or perhaps merely assumed) a casual connection between the alleged bribes and the failed field test, as well as two specific contracts: a 2004 Long Term Purchase Agreement (“LTPA”) and a 2008 Long Term Purchase Agreement.

As often happens in this day and age, an Innospec competitor used the core conduct alleged in the DOJ’s enforcement action “offensively” in bringing civil claims against Innospec and various individuals in a U.K. court.

As highlighted in the U.K. decision, the claims were brought by a Jordanian company which alleged that Innospec “conspired to injure the claimants by engaging in corrupt practices, in particular the bribery of officials within the [MoO] with the intention of inducing its refineries to buy TEL rather than MMT …”.

TEL refers to a lead based fuel additive called tetraethyl lead and MMT refers to methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl, a product developed as a manganese based octane boosting and antiknock additive which was less toxic than TEL.

The U.K. decision is extremely dense as to the facts and circumstances surrounding the MoO’s decision to use TEL vs. MMT.

Relevant to the “but for” causation topic of this post, and as described by the U.K. court, the claimants “claim damages for the losses they allege they have suffered as a consequence of the conspiracy on the basis that, but for the bribery and corruption, the MoO would have started to purchase MMT ….”.  As further described by the U.K. court, ”the claimants also allege that between 2002 and 2008 payments were authorized by Innospec for travel and other expenses, including pocket money for Iraqi officials to incur goodwill and ensure continued orders of TEL.”

In the words of the U.K. court, in order for the claims to succeed, the claimants had to establish, among other things, that the decision to replace TEL with MMT “was not implemented because the promise of bribes by Mr. Naaaman procured the MoO to enter into the 2004 LTPA and that prevented sales of MMT” and “that, but for the promise of bribes, the decision would have been implemented and the MoO would have replaced TEL with MMT from early 2004 onwards, so that the counterfactual scenario on which the claim is based would have occurred.”  (Confusing verbiage to be sure, but that is what the decision says).

As noted in the U.K. decision, Innospec denied that bribes or the promise of bribes induced the 2004 LTPA, lead to the requirement of the field test or its result, or induced the 2008 LTPA.  Innospec argued that despite its admissions in the FCPA enforcement actions, the “court must look carefully and analytically at the evidence there is as to what bribes were paid and promised and when and whether any bribes paid or promised actually led to a decision different from that which would have been made anyway.”

In short, instead of merely alleging or assuming causation between alleged bribe payments and business or other benefits like the U.S. did in the FCPA enforcement action, the U.K. court held approximately 15 days of hearings with multiple witnesses to actually determine if there was a casual link between the alleged bribe payments or other benefits that Innospec obtained.

The end result of this process is that the U.K. court did not find any casual links and indeed found false certain allegations in the DOJ’s FCPA enforcement action.

For instance, as to the DOJ’s allegations that “Naaman, on behalf of Innospec, paid approximately $150,000 in bribes to officials of the MoO to ensure that MMT … failed a field trial test and therefore would not be used by the MoO as a replacement for TEL,” the U.K. court concluded that Naaman never made such payments.  Indeed, the U.K. court noted Naaman’s admission (which occurred after resolution of Innospec’s FCPA enforcement action) ”that he had never in fact paid the U.S. $150,000 in bribes to MoO officials to fail the field test, but had simply pocketed the money himself.”

In the words of the court, ”this has an important impact on the issue of causation.”

Regarding Innospec’s admission in the FCPA enforcement action that Naaman did indeed make such payments, the U.K. court stated:

“Unbeknownst to Innospec at the time they admitted these allegations, Mr. Naaman never in fact paid any of these monies to Iraqi officials, but notwithstanding that, Innospec had committed the relevant offense under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by making payments to him, believing they were reimbursing him for bribes paid, even though in truth they were not.”

In the words of the U.K. court, Naaman became upset that Innospec was not reimbursing him for certain expenses he viewed as being owed to him and that Naaman “saw the field test on MMT as an opportunity to recoup those expenses and informed Innospec that he proposed bribing the Iraqi engineers to fail the field test.  Innospec readily agreed and paid him some U.S. $150,000, expecting it would be used for bribes.  He kept the funds himself, believing that MMT would fail the field test [...]  On the material before the court, this was the first time it had emerged (some 10 months after Innospec signed the [U.S.] Plea Agreement) that money Innospec had paid to Mr. Naaman believing he had paid or promised to pay bribes was not so paid but simply pocketed by him.”

Regarding the 2004 LTPA that the DOJ alleged was a result of alleged improper payments to Iraqi officials, the U.K. court first noted the following about the U.S. invasion of Iraqi:

“[T]he U.S. authorities put Kellogg, Brown & Root in charge of procurement for the requirements of the Iraqi refineries, effectively replacing the finance department within the MoO.  All spending had to be approved by KBR which was the only entity which could actually conclude contracts and purchase products.”

“It seems to me that claimants’ case overlooks the fact that any switch to MMT would have had to be approved by KBR, and the weight of evidence at this time in August 2003 and thereafter is that KBR was not particularly enamoured of MMT, pointing strongly to the likelihood that, even if the claimants were right that there was a decision to continue with TEL and not to switch to MMT, which was in some way induced by bribery, the MoO may well have been driven to the same decision irrespective of bribery, because of the attitude of KBR.”

Elsewhere, the U.K. court termed it “fanciful in the extreme” certain of claimants’ evidence which sought to establish causation between the alleged bribes and business to Innospec.

In short, the U.K. court concluded that the 2004 LTPA was not procured by bribery.  Further the U.K. court stated:

“[T]he decision to enter the LTPA had to be and was endorsed by the American authorities .  Since there is no basis for saying that they were corrupted by the payment or promise of bribes, that is further demonstration that the LTPA was not procured by bribery.”

Indeed, in the words of the U.K. court, “bribery [was] the least likely explanation” for certain MoO decisions regarding the conduct at issue.  Elsewhere, the court stated that any suggestion that considerations made by the MoO “was induced or influenced by bribery by Innospec would be frankly ridiculous” and a “logical non-sequitur and a step too far.”

In closing, the U.K. court stated that even if it were wrong – and that the 2004 LTPA was procured by bribery ” that the MOO would always have followed the course they did, of continuing to use TEL given the octane boost they needed …”.

In terms of the 2008 LTPA, the U.K. court found that “no orders were ever placed under the LTPA, since the investigations by the U.S. authorities intervened.”

In short, what happened in the U.K. action was rather remarkable.

Certain facts alleged in a DOJ FCPA enforcement were subjected to an adversarial process and the resulting judicial scrutiny found certain facts false.  Moreover, instead of merely alleging or assuming causation, as if often the case in FCPA enforcement actions as relevant to determining settlement amounts, the U.K. court analyzed causation and found it lacking.

The U.K. action is also instructive when it comes to analyzing whether there are so-called “victims” in all FCPA enforcement actions.  In the past several years, there has been calls by some for portions of FCPA settlement amounts to be paid out to “victims” of the conduct alleged in the FCPA enforcement action.  (See here and here for prior posts). The general theory seems to be – for example – that if an FCPA enforcement action alleges bribes paid in Nigeria, Nigerian citizens must therefore be the “victims” of the conduct and thus somehow entitled to compensation.

As highlighted in prior posts, while this proposal “feels good,” it is not warranted for many different reasons.  In short, this proposal assumes two things:  (i) that FCPA enforcement actions always represent provable FCPA violations; and (ii) that there is a always a casual connection between the alleged bribes influencing “foreign official” conduct, that then always causes harm to the citizens of the “foreign official’s” country.

As to the first issue, such an assumption is not always warranted given that the vast majority of FCPA enforcement actions are resolved via non-prosecution agreements, deferred prosecution agreements, neither admit nor deny SEC settlements, or SEC administrative orders.  These resolution vehicles often represent the end result of a risk adverse business decision, not necessarily provable FCPA violations.  For instance, in the words of the Second Circuit, SEC neither admit nor deny settlements are not about the truth, but pragmatism.  For this reason, a typical FCPA resolution vehicle should not automatically trigger other actions or issues (whether plaintiff litigation, whistleblower bounties, or payments to an ill-defined group of alleged victims).

As to the second issue, such an assumption is also not always warranted.  Several FCPA enforcement actions fit into one of the following categories: (i) unsuccessful bribery attempts; (ii) payments to receive what the company was otherwise legitimately owed by a foreign government; or (iii) other situations where – for a variety of reasons – there would seem to be a lack of causation between the alleged bribes influencing “foreign official” conduct, that then causes harm to the citizens of the “foreign official’s” country. Indeed, most corporate FCPA enforcement actions involve companies that are otherwise viewed as selling the best product for the best price.  Moreover, as highlighted in this prior post, in one FCPA enforcement action a court found that an alleged bribery scheme benefited a foreign country.

Despite the above observations which I have long held, the failed field test allegations in the Innospec FCPA enforcement action legitimately caused me to ponder victim issues in FCPA enforcement actions.  After all, the DOJ alleged that Iraqi MoO officials were induced to sabotage a field test of a competitor product that resulted in the more harmful product, from a public health standpoint, to stay on the market.

It was a relatively convincing casual connection between an FCPA enforcement action and potential victims.

However, as highlighted above, the U.K. court found the failed field test allegation false and otherwise found deficient other causal links between other alleged conduct and actual business or benefits obtained or retained.

In short, the U.K. action should instruct the proponents of “victim” compensation that hinging a policy proposal on FCPA resolution documents is not always sound or warranted.

Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:06 am. Post Categories: DisgorgementFine / Penalty IssuesInnospecUnited KingdomVictims




November 7th, 2014

Friday Roundup

Roundup2A double standard dandy, scrutiny alerts, when the dust settles, quotable, asset recovery, protection money, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Double Standard Dandy

Numerous prior posts have highlighted the double standard between enforcement (or lack thereof) of the U.S. domestic bribery statute (18 USC 201) and the FCPA.  (See here for the double standard tag with approximately 40 posts).

A leading FCPA practitioner sent me the following lead paragraphs in reaction to this recent New York Times article about alleged corruption in connection with state attorney generals offices.

“Media reports this week exposed widespread practices in which U.S.-based issuers have allegedly retained paid lobbyists to wine, dine, and make huge campaign contributions to the chief prosecutors in numerous foreign countries in hopes of obtaining favorable prosecutorial decisions in those countries, often with apparent success.  The DOJ and SEC have immediately launched one of the largest investigations in history to determine whether these activities violated the FCPA, which forbids U.S. companies from giving or promising anything of value to a foreign official in order to gain an improper advantage.  If found guilty, these companies could face multi-million-dollar fines and any implicated executives could face years of incarceration.

Oh wait.  Never mind.  It turns out the chief prosecutors work only for domestic U.S. state governments rather than foreign governments, and thus any tainted decisions would betray U.S. citizens rather than non-citizens living in foreign locations.  Nothing to worry about here after all – just keep moving along, citizens.”

Well said.

Scrutiny Alerts

Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s FCPA scrutiny has been interesting to follow as it represents a rare instance of a company receiving a Wells Notice from the SEC.  In its annual report, the company disclosed:

“Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Formal Order of Private Investigation and Department of Justice Investigation : On September 8, 2010, we were notified by the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional office of a formal order of private investigation. We understand that the investigation arose from a “whistleblower’s” allegations made in December 2009 to the audit committee of our Board of Directors and to the SEC. In 2010, the audit committee completed an internal review of the allegations with the assistance of independent counsel and independent forensic accountants. This internal review into the whistleblower’s allegations and related accounting practices did not identify any errors in our financial statements. On January 27, 2012, we learned that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California/Department of Justice (collectively, DOJ) had begun an investigation regarding our compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The audit committee conducted an internal review of our compliance with the FCPA and its related policies and procedures with the assistance of independent counsel and independent forensic accountants. The audit committee has completed this comprehensive review, made findings consistent with our findings described below and suggested enhancements to our overall FCPA compliance program. In part as a result of the audit committee’s review, we have made and continue to make enhancements to our FCPA compliance program, including implementation of the audit committee’s recommendations.

As previously disclosed, we discovered, and as a part of our cooperation with these investigations informed the SEC and the DOJ of, instances in which special hiring consideration, gifts or other benefits (collectively, benefits) were provided to several individuals associated with Chinese state-owned companies or agencies. Based on the facts currently known, we believe the aggregate monetary value of the benefits in question to be less than $250,000, excluding employment compensation.

On March 13, 2014, we received a Wells Notice from the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office indicating that the staff has made a preliminary determination to recommend that the SEC file an enforcement action against us for violations of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA. The bribery allegations relate to benefits offered or provided to individuals associated with Chinese state-owned companies or agencies. The Wells Notice indicated that the recommendation could involve a civil injunctive action and could seek remedies that include disgorgement of profits, the retention of an independent compliance monitor to review our FCPA policies and procedures, an injunction, civil monetary penalties and prejudgment interest.

A Wells Notice is not a formal allegation or finding by the SEC of wrongdoing or violation of law. Rather, the purpose of a Wells Notice is to give the recipient an opportunity to make a “Wells submission” setting forth reasons why the proposed enforcement action should not be filed and/or bringing additional facts to the SEC’s attention before any decision is made by the SEC as to whether to commence a proceeding. On April 4, 2014 and May 29, 2014, we made Wells submissions to the staff of the Los Angeles Regional Office explaining why we believe we have not violated the FCPA and therefore enforcement action is not warranted.

We are continuing to cooperate with the SEC and the DOJ, but are unable to predict the outcome of their investigations or any action that the SEC may decide to file.”

Cobalt International

The other instance of FCPA scrutiny involving an SEC Wells Notice is Cobalt International.  Earlier this week, the company disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, the Company is currently subject to a formal order of investigation issued in 2011 by the SEC related to its operations in Angola. On August 4, 2014, the Company received a Wells Notice from the Staff of the SEC with respect to such investigation. On September 24, 2014, the Company responded to the Wells Notice in the form of a Wells Submission. The Company is unable to predict the outcome of the SEC’s investigation or any action that the SEC may decide to pursue.”

When the Dust Settles

It is always interesting to see what happens when the dust settles from an FCPA enforcement action (see here for the prior post). The recent Bio-Rad enforcement action concerned conduct in, among other places, Vietnam.

According to this source:

“The [Vietnam] Ministry of Health has called on police to investigate an American medical equipment manufacturer that has admitted to bribing Vietnamese officials. Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien filed a formal request on Wednesday with the Ministry of Public Security that asked investigators to determine whether anyone had accepted kickbacks from Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. On the same day, the ministry’s inspectors instructed government hospitals to review any purchases from from Bio-Rad since 2005 and submit a report on the issue by November 15.”

Quotable

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Yates v. United States, the case involving a fisherman who was criminally charged with violating the anti-shredding provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley (i.e. “altered, destroyed, mutilated, concealed, covered up, falsified, or made a false entry in a record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede or obstruct an investigation”) for disposing of some fish.

In this Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bill Shepherd, a partner in Holland & Knight LLP and lead counsel for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers which filed an amicus brief in the Yates case, states:

“[C]reativity in law enforcement should be confined to new strategies for undercover operations, not new, tortured interpretations of laws on the books. [...]  Congress is often criticized for overregulating and overcriminalizing. But the Yates case is a dramatic example of executive branch overreaching. Just because a prosecutor can file a charge doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. Prosecutors everywhere struggle with the burden of teaching new prosecutors how to recognize the appropriate use of their authority. Professional groups like the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section work to help foster that dialogue. Success among colleagues in prosecutors’ offices is measured, as it should be, by the number of convictions and the length of sentences handed down. But the other part of success—more difficult to measure—is the courage to close unfounded investigations or dismiss cases because they are not supported by the evidence, or don’t match an American sense of justice. The ultimate measure of success is the ability to live, work and raise a family in a safe environment—secure in the knowledge that government will not abuse that power with which we entrust it. This must be our universal goal.”

For coverage of oral argument in the Yates case, see here from the New York Times.

Asset Recovery

Deputy Attorney General James Cole recently delivered this speech at the Third Annual Arab Forum on Asset Recovery.

“Corruption undermines and weakens that which is the basis of modern society – the rule of law.  Corrupt officials who put their personal enrichment before the benefit of their citizenry create unstable countries.  Corruption siphons precious resources away from those in need at a time when such resources could hardly be more scarce and when the world economy could hardly be more vulnerable.  The repercussions of corruption – the hospitals left unbuilt, the roads still unpaved, the medicine undelivered – undermine the integrity of democratic institutions, creating gaps in government structures that organized criminal groups exploit.  And as we have seen time and again, countries plagued with corruption become breeding grounds and havens for other criminals and terrorist groups who threaten global security.”

[...]

“To underscore the U.S.’s commitment to asset recovery, Attorney General Holder established a Kleptocracy Initiative in the Department of Justice.  The Kleptocracy Team includes dedicated prosecutors working to forfeit corruption proceeds and, whenever we can, return those proceeds to benefit the people harmed by the corruption.  The Kleptocracy prosecutors are soon to be paired with a dedicated Kleptocracy squad of FBI agents and analysts, and this squad will enhance the capacity of the United States to respond rapidly in investigating and locating corruption proceeds.

The Kleptocracy Initiative seeks to deliver on our responsibility to protect the integrity of the U.S. financial system and its institutions from the destructive influence of corruption proceeds and to deny kleptocrats safe haven to hide and enjoy their ill-gotten gains.”

Speaking of asset recovery, the DOJ announced that it filed a civil forfeiture complaint seeking the forfeiture of $106,488.31 in allegedly laundered funds traceable to a $2 million bribe payment made by a Canadian energy company to Chad’s former Ambassador to the United States and Canada and his wife.

According to the release:

“From 2004 to 2012, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, 49, served as Chad’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada.  According to the forfeiture complaint, Bechir agreed to use his position to influence the award of oil development rights in Chad in exchange for $2 million and other valuable interests from Griffiths Energy International Inc., a Canadian company.  In order to conceal the bribe, Bechir and his wife, Nouracham Niam, 44, allegedly entered into a series of agreements with Griffiths Energy that provided for the payment of a $2 million “consulting fee” if the company secured the oil rights in Chad.  After securing these oil rights in February 2011, Griffiths Energy allegedly transferred $2 million to an account located in Washington, D.C. held by a shell company created by Niam.  In 2013, Griffiths Energy pleaded guilty in Canadian court to bribing Bechir. The complaint further alleges that, after commingling the bribe payment with other funds and laundering these funds through U.S. bank accounts and real property, Bechir transferred $1,474,517 of the criminal proceeds traceable to the bribe payment to his account in South Africa, where he is now serving Chad’s Ambassador to South Africa.  The current action seeks forfeiture of $106,488.31, which is the current balance of Bechir’s accounts in South Africa.  Those funds have been seized pursuant to the complaint unsealed today.  The Department of Justice is also seeking additional assets from Bechir and Niam.”

See here for the prior post highlighting the Canadian enforcement action against Griffiths Energy and pondering whether there would be a U.S. enforcement action.

Protection Money
Is paying “protection money” to tribal leaders in Egypt an FCPA issue?  (See here from National Geographic).
“No US firm will speak publicly of the measures they take to avoid open appeasement of Bedouin claims, but in private conversations, employees of American and European oil giants have spoken of hiring tribesmen for non-existent or unnecessary jobs. Usually they’re listed as security guards or dump truck drivers ferrying sand and gravel, but they seldom turn up to except to collect their monthly salaries. This arrangement has afforded most energy firms a largely hassle-free hand to work in the vast, poorly policed expanses that flank the Nile river.”
Reading Stack
Professor Brandon Garrett’s – “Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations.”
*****
A good weekend to all.
Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:03 am. Post Categories: Asset RecoveryBio-RadCobalt International EnergyDouble StandardGriffiths EnergyProtection MoneyQualcommRelated Foreign Investigations




November 6th, 2014

Items Of Interest From The Bio-Rad Enforcement Action

This previous post dived deep into the Bio-Rad Laboratories FCPA enforcement action.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting various issues from the enforcement action.

Play On Words

The enforcement action was the result of Bio-Rad’s voluntary disclosure and both the DOJ and SEC were complimentary of the company’s cooperation.

In the words of the DOJ, “that cooperation included voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, voluntarily producing documents from overseas, and summarizing the findings of its internal investigation. ”  Elsewhere the DOJ stated that Bio-Rad translated numerous documents and provided timely reports on witness interviews to the DOJ.

Likewise, the SEC noted that Bio-Rad’s investigation “included over 100 in-person interviews, the collection of millions of documents, the production of tens of thousands of documents, and forensic auditing.”

Against this backdrop, the DOJ’s press release contained a most interesting play of words.

“The department pursues corruption from all angles …” (emphasis added).

“The FBI remains committed to identifying and investigating violations of the FCPA.”  (emphasis added).

Bio-Rad’s press release also contained an interesting play on words as well.

As highlighted in several previous posts (see here for instance), the term “declination” is already one of the more amorphous term in the “FCPA vocabulary.”

In a further twist, the company’s press release stated:

“The DOJ declined to prosecute Bio-Rad, and the parties entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement under which Bio-Rad has agreed to pay a penalty of $14.35 million.” (emphasis added).

A Government Required Transfer of Shareholder Wealth to FCPA Inc?

Bio-Rad was the second FCPA enforcement in the past two weeks – Layne Christensen being the other (see here and here for prior posts).

Both enforcement actions were the result of voluntary disclosures in which the DOJ and/or SEC were complimentary of the company’s internal investigation, remedial actions, and compliance enhancements.

For instance, the DOJ noted that Bio-Rad conducted “an extensive internal investigation in several countries” and noted, among other things, as follows.

“the Company has engaged in significant remedial actions, including enhancing it anti-corruption policies globally, improving its internal controls and compliance functions, developing and implementing additional FCPA compliance procedures, including due diligence and contracting procedures for intermediaries, instituting heightened review of proposals and other transactional documents for all Company contracts … and conducting extensive anti-corruption training throughout the global organization.”

Likewise, the SEC stated, among other things, as follows.

“Bio-Rad also undertook significant and extensive remedial actions including: terminating problematic practices; terminating Bio-Rad employees who were involved in the misconduct; comprehensively re-evaluating and supplementing its anticorruption policies and procedures on a world-wide basis, including its relationship with intermediaries; enhancing its internal controls and compliance functions; developing and implementing FCPA compliance procedures, including the further development and implementation of policies and procedures such as the due diligence and contracting procedure for intermediaries and policies concerning hospitality, entertainment, travel, and other business courtesies; and conducting extensive anticorruption training throughout the organization world-wide.”

In the Layne Christensen action, the SEC likewise stated, as other things, as follows.

“Layne Christensen also took affirmative steps to strengthen its internal compliance policies, procedures, and controls. Layne Christensen issued a standalone anti-bribery policy and procedures, improved its accounting policies relating to cash disbursements, implemented an integrated accounting system worldwide, revamped its anti-corruption training, and conducted extensive due diligence of third parties with which it does business. In addition, Layne Christensen hired a dedicated chief compliance officer and three full-time compliance personnel and retained a consulting firm to conduct an assessment of its anti corruption program and make recommendations.”

Nevertheless, both Bio-Rad and Layne Christensen have two-year reporting obligations to the government after the enforcement action.

The following observation is the same as in this prior post.

In situations involving voluntary disclosures where the enforcement agencies are complimentary of the company’s remedial actions and compliance enhancements, such post-enforcement action reporting obligations seem to be little more than a government required transfer of shareholder wealth to FCPA Inc.

Sure, such post-enforcement action reporting obligations give enforcement agency officials something to do and provide even more work for FCPA Inc., but in the situations discussed above, are such post-enforcement action reporting obligations necessary?

Both Bio-Rad’s (see below) and Layne Christensen’s FCPA scrutiny lasted approximately four years from beginning to enforcement action.  Tack on two more years of reporting obligations and the result is that these two instances of FCPA scrutiny will have provided FCPA Inc. participants an engagement lasting over six years.

This recent Wall Street Journal article asks “what would get more companies to self-disclose bribery” (a more detailed answer to this question will be explored in a future post).

One answer is to ditch the post-enforcement action reporting obligations in cases where there is a voluntary disclosure and the enforcement agencies are complimentary of the company’s remedial actions and compliance enhancements.

Or perhaps the post-enforcement action reporting requirements do indeed lead to more voluntary disclosures when one considers the important gatekeeper role FCPA counsel often play in such corporate decisions.  (See here).

Timeline

As indicated in the resolution documents, Bio-Rad’s initial self-disclosure of potential FCPA violations occurred in May 2010. The length of the company’s FCPA scrutiny – from point of first public disclosure to resolution – thus lasted approximately 4.5 years. (See here for the prior post “The Gray Cloud of FCPA Scrutiny Simply Lasts Too Long”).

5 for 5

In 2014, there have been five SEC corporate FCPA enforcement actions (Bio-Rad, Layne Christensen, Smith & Wesson, Alcoa, and HP).  All have been resolved via the SEC’s administrative process.

My recent article, “A Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Narrative,” (see pgs. 991-995) discusses this trend and how it is troubling as it places the SEC in the role of regulator, prosecutor, judge and jury all at the same time.  As Judge Rakoff recently observed, “from where does the constitutional warrant for such unchecked and unbalanced administrative power derive?”

Here Come the Plaintiffs’ Lawyers

It is as predictable as the sun rising in the east.

No less than 24 hours after release of the Bio-Rad enforcement action documents, plaintiffs’ lawyers began salivating and announcing investigations to determine whether officers and directors of the company breached fiduciary duties owed to shareholders.  (See here, here, here, here, here, and here for releases).

Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:04 am. Post Categories: Bio-RadDeclination DecisionsLayne ChristensenRelated Civil LitigationVoluntary Disclosure




November 5th, 2014

A Comprehensive FCPA Resource

The question was recently asked: ”will there ever be a classic treatise on the FCPA?”New Era

According to Webster’s, a treatise is a book, article, etc., that discusses a subject carefully and thoroughly.

With that definition in mind, I invite you to consider my new book “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a New Era.”  Inside you will find:

  • A thorough telling of the story of the FCPA told largely through original voices of actual participants who shaped the pioneering law;
  • Foundational knowledge (such as DOJ and SEC policy and resolution vehicles and the realities of the global marketplace) that best enhance understanding and comprehension of specific FCPA topics;
  • A comprehensive analysis of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and for each element, exception or affirmative defense discussion of all legal sources of authority (including all relevant substantive FCPA judicial decisions) as well as non-legal sources of information (including discussion of over 70 FCPA enforcement actions);
  • Discussion of other legal issues also relevant to FCPA enforcement;
  • A comprehensive analysis of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions including legal authority as well as non-legal sources of information;
  • Analysis of the typical origins of FCPA scrutiny and enforcement;
  • Discussion of FCPA settlement amounts, how they are calculated, and analysis of legal and policy issues relevant to settlement amounts;
  • Discussion of FCPA sentencing issues, how sentences are calculated, and an analysis of legal and policy issues relevant to sentencing decisions;
  • An extended discussion and analysis of an often overlooked topics, “FCPA Ripples,” and how settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement;
  • An exploration of practical and provocative reasons for the general increase in FCPA enforcement during this new era including a discussion of FCPA Inc. and the business of bribery;
  • Identification and discussion of FCPA compliance best practices and benchmarking metrics; and
  • An in-depth discussion and analysis of FCPA reform designed to ensure that the FCPA is best achieving the original goals of the law and that FCPA enforcement is transparent and consistent with rule of law principles.

Whether the above topics highlighted and explored in “The FCPA in a New Era” make it a classic treatise, well, I invite you to come to your own conclusion.  At the very least, you will have to agree that the cover of the book is more inviting than a typical treatise.

While I am certainly not going to ascribe labels to my own work, I am pleased to share what others have said about “The FCPA In a New Era.”

Michael Mukasey, former U.S. Attorney General

“Professor Koehler has brought to this volume the clear-eyed perspective that has made his FCPA Professor website the most authoritative source for those seeking to understand and apply the FCPA. This is a uniquely useful book, laying out systematically the history and rationale of the FCPA, as well as its evolution into a structure governed as much by lore as by law. It will be valuable both to those who counsel international corporations, whether in connection with immediate crises or long-term strategies; and to those who contemplate what the FCPA has become, and how it can be improved.”

Professor Daniel Chow, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

“This is the single most comprehensive academic treatment of the Foreign Corrupt Practices available. Professor Koehler’s book will become the authoritative standard for the field. The book not only treats the history of the FCPA, but analyzes the statute’s elements in detail, discusses current cases, and makes proposals for reforms where the current law is deficient. The book is written in a clear, accessible style and I will use it often as a resource for my own scholarly work.”

 Richard Alderman, former Director of the UK Serious Fraud Office

“An excellent and thought-provoking book by a great expert. Backed up by rigorous analysis of cases, Professor Koehler constantly challenges those involved in anti-corruption work by asking the question ‘why?’ He puts forward many constructive and well-argued suggestions for improvements that need to be considered. I have learned a lot from Professor Koehler over the years and I can thoroughly recommend this book.”

Thomas Fox, FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog and FCPA Practitioner

“The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a New Era” should become one of the standard texts for any FCPA compliance practitioner, law student studying the FCPA or anyone else interested in anti-bribery and anti-corruption. It should be on your FCPA library bookshelf.”

Barry Vitou, thebriberyact.com and Compliance Practitioner

“If you only read one book on the US FCPA, read this one. [...] Mike Koehler’s new book is probably the best book we’ve read about the FCPA. [...] For those wanting a pair of ‘FCPA goggles’ no book is, in our opinion, better.”

To order a hard copy of the book, see here and here; to order an e-copy of the book, see here and here.

For media coverage of the book including Q&A’s, see here from Corporate Counsel, here from Global Investigations Review, and here from Corporate Counsel Weekly.

*****

Looking for even more information and analysis of the FCPA and FCPA enforcement?

I invite you to all also consider the following year in review articles.  Granted the below articles are not found between two covers, but you will find approximately 500 pages of FCPA statistics, trends and analysis over time.

For 2013, see here.

For 2012, see here.

For 2011, see here.

For 2010, see here.

For 2009, see here.

Posted by Mike Koehler at 12:04 am. Post Categories: ComplianceFCPA AppealsFCPA Inc.FCPA JurisprudenceFCPA ReformFCPA ScholarshipFCPA SentencesFCPA StatisticsFCPA Trials