Monday, December 14, 2009

Siemens ... The Year After

One year ago this week, Siemens agreed to pay $800 million in combined U.S. fines and penalties to settle FCPA charges for a pattern of bribery the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) termed “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope.” (see here).

The charged conduct involved improper payments to obtain or retain (among other business) transportation, telecommunication, energy and health sector contracts in (among other places) Argentina, China, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and Venezuela.

According to the DOJ, for much of Siemens’ operations around the world, “bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure.” Because Siemens (a German-based company) has shares listed on a U.S. stock exchange and because certain of the improper conduct had a U.S. nexus, the company was subject to the FCPA.

The Siemens matter easily remains the largest and most high-profile FCPA matter since the law was enacted in 1977.

Yet, on the same day Siemens agreed to resolve the FCPA matter, the company also announced that a U.S. government agency issued a formal determination declaring Siemens a “responsible contractor.” This designation assisted Siemens in continuing to do business with the U.S. government even though an entity found in violation of the FCPA may be barred from doing business with the federal government under Office of Management and Budget guidelines. (see here).

In the year since resolution of the Siemens FCPA matter, the U.S. government continues to do substantial business with the company it recently charged with engaging in a pattern of bribery “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope.”

This U.S. government business has helped Siemens outperform its competitors in a difficult recessionary environment and much of the company’s recent success is the direct result of government stimulus programs around the world.

Reacting to these government stimulus programs, Siemens executives stated that the company was in “an excellent position to generate additional business.” In June 2009, Siemens issued a press release noting that “the shares of the stimulus program that Siemens can address are the largest in the U.S.” (see here). Siemens’ executives proclaimed that the government stimulus programs should have a “stabilizing effect on our business.”

On such “stabilizing effect” on Siemens’ business has been the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in February 2009 to stimulate the American economy.

According to (see here) (a U.S. government website designed “to allow taxpayers to see precisely what entities receive Recovery money ..”), Siemens’ business units have already been awarded several dozen contracts funded by U.S. taxpayer stimulus dollars. These contracts have been awarded by the following government agencies: Department of Defense, Department of the Air Force, Department of the Army, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the General Services Administration.

According to, even the DOJ (i.e. the same government agency that prosecuted Siemens less than 365 days ago for a pattern of bribery the agency termed “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope”) awarded a Siemens business unit a contract funded with stimulus dollars.

It is not just the federal government that continues to do business with Siemens in the immediate aftermath of its unprecedented bribery scandal. Since December 2008, Siemens’ business units have also been awarded: a $135 million service contract with the University of Pennsylvania Health System (see here); a $205 million order for light rail vehicles from the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (see here); and a $140 million energy contract from the Northern California Power Agency (see here).

Siemens business with the U.S. government (and other units of government) in the immediate aftermath of its unprecedented bribery scandal raises several questions.

Does it even matter, aside from the fines/penalties and associated costs of getting caught, if a company violates the FCPA?

The above information suggests that the answer is no, so the question becomes should it matter? Should U.S. taxpayer dollars be awarded to a company which less than 365 days ago settled a bribery scandal “unprecedented in scale and geographic scope”?

The DOJ frequently speaks about deterrence as being a primary function of FCPA enforcement. But what deterrence is there when an FCPA violator (let alone the most egregious violator in the history of the FCPA) can immediately get U.S. government business, including from the same government agency that prosecuted it for violating the FCPA? Can FCPA enforcement ever be effective if Siemens is the template for future enforcement?

Siemens post-scandal business with the U.S. government also raises the question of whether Siemens secured the contracts at issue in the FCPA enforcement action, not because of the payments, but simply because Siemens offered the best products for the best prices?

Is this the reason the U.S. government continues to do business with Siemens in the immediate aftermath of its unprecedented bribery scandal? If so, what does this say about the rhetoric that accompanies a typical FCPA enforcement action (i.e. the company bribed to get business)?

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