Thursday, May 20, 2010

The FCPA and Reputational Damage

Nearly every FCPA presentation one sees or hears seems to talk about collateral sanctions which flow from an FCPA enforcement action, including the reputational harm companies "suffer" when disclosing FCPA issues or settling FCPA enforcement actions.

But is it true?

Do companies that disclose FCPA issues or settle FCPA enforcement actions actually suffer any reputational damage?

For companies, reputation is traditionally measured by stock price performance and business revenue.

Do companies that disclose FCPA issues or settle FCPA enforcement actions have a decrease in stock price or lose business?

How does one even measure such an issue?

Stock price movement upon the market first learning of a potential FCPA issue? Stock price movement upon settlement of an FCPA enforcement action? Something in between? Business revenue during the period of uncertainty (i.e. from disclosure to settlement)? Business revenue in the year after settlement of an FCPA enforcement action?

Whatever the metric, the answer to whether companies suffer reputational damage upon disclosing an FCPA issue or settling an FCPA enforcement action seems to be inconclusive.

That was the conclusion of a January 2009 study by Nera Economic Consulting (see here). Among other things, the study concluded that "the extent of the fallout from the relatively recent trend of increased FCPA enforcement actions remains uncertain." For some companies "there was no statistically significant price reaction" yet for other companies there was a "negative price reaction."

The below examples also seem to support the inconclusive answer.

Last month, (see here) Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (HP) Moscow offices were raided in connection with an investigation focusing on whether company executives made millions in payments to the prosecutor general of the Russian Federation to secure contracts. It was front page news in several publications, including the Wall Street Journal. This week HP (see here) disclosed second quarter results (the same quarter the issue surfaced). The results ... stellar. "Second quarter net revenue of $30.8 billion, up 13%, or $3.5 billion, from a year earlier." HP's Chairman and CEO said "HP had an exceptional quarter with strong performance across every region," - "we've built the best portfolio in the industry, and our customers are responding. We're winning in the marketplace, investing for the future and confident in the enormous opportunity that lies ahead." What about the company's performance in Russia? Even better. The HP release notes "revenue from outside of the United States in the second quarter accounted for 66% of total HP revenue, with revenue in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) increasing 25% while accounting for 10% of total HP revenue."

Front page press coverage of HP's potential FCPA issues seems to have had no affect on the company's reputation when viewed through the prism of financial performance.

What about Siemens?

In the 365 days after the Siemens enforcement action, Siemens outperformed its competitors and received mounds of new business from the U.S. government, including taxpayer funds from the $787 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in February 2009 (see here). This despite the fact (according to DOJ statements) that Siemens engaged in a pattern of bribery "unprecedented in scale and geographic scope" and for much of Siemens operations around the world "bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure." Siemens surely paid a hefty fine/penalty amount, but did its reputation suffer? It would appear not.

What about BAE?

When the BAE "FCPA-like" enforcement action was announced, the company's stock rose. Since the February 2010 enforcement action, the company has been inking contracts with the U.S. and U.K. governments (the prosecuting governments) left and right. This week it was a $10.7 million contract with the U.S. Army (see here). Last week it was a $5.5 million contract and a $10 million contract with U.S. government agencies (see here and here). Throw in a recent £111 million contract from the UK's Ministry of Defence (see here) and one would be justified in concluding that it matters very little if a company is caught engaging in bribery and corruption.

However, just when one is set to reach such a conclusion, along comes a company like Avon. Last month, the company shares dropped 8% upon news that its previously disclosed FCPA issues appear to have escalated. (see here, here and here). It sure looks like Avon's reputation (viewed through the prism of its stock price) has suffered because of the FCPA escalation.


Somewhat "on topic" is the recent news that Daimler AG, after a 17 year listing on the New York Stock Exchange, has decided to delist. Purely coincidence that this delisting is occuring approximately one month after Daimler resolved its FCPA case?

Daimler agreed to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement for conspiring to violate the FCPA's books and records provisions and knowingly falsifying books, records and accounts, provisions which only apply to "issuers".

(The DOJ's allegations as to Daimler also allege use of U.S. bank accounts and U.S. entities - an independent basis by which a foreign company like Daimler can become subject to the FCPA). For more on the Daimler enforcement action (see here and here).

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