Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Disconnected ... Another Telecommunications Company Settles An FCPA Enforcement Action

Yesterday, Veraz Networks, Inc. (see here) joined a long list of telecommunications companies to recently settle an FCPA enforcement action. Veraz, a California-based telecommunications provider, went public in April 2007 and sells its telecommunication products through both direct and indirect sales channels with a majority of its revenue coming from sales outside of the U.S.

Other telecommunications companies, or individuals employed in that industry, to recently resolve FCPA enforcement actions include: UTStarcom (see here and here for the enforcement action), Latin Node, Inc. (see here for the enforcement action), Lucent Technologies (see here and here for the enforcement action), Siemens (in part, see here for the enforcement action), various individuals in connection with the Haiti Teleco matter (see here for the enforcement action), and various employees of ITXC Corporation (see here for the enforcement action). Pending FCPA enforcement actions against telecommunications companies presumably include: Magygar Telekom (see here) and Global Crossing Limited (see here).

That's a long list.

Back to Veraz.

According to the SEC release (see here), Veraz violated the FCPA's books and records and internal control provisions in connection with "improper payments made by Veraz to foreign officials in China and Vietnam after the company went public in 2007."

The SEC complaint (see here) alleges that "from 2007 to 2008, Veraz resellers, consultants, and employees made and offered payments to employees of government-controlled telecommunications companies in China and Vietnam with the purpose and effect of improperly influencing these foreign officials to award or continue to do business with Veraz." According to the complaint, a Veraz supervisor referred to certain of these payments as the "gift scheme." The complaint further alleges that "Veraz failed to accurately record these improper payments on the Company's books and records, and failed to implement or maintain a system of effective internal accounting controls to prevent them in violation of the FCPA [...] and to put in place internal controls that are reasonably designed to ensure that their books and records are accurate."

The SEC's sparse factual allegations fall under two headings: "Veraz Made Improper Payments to Chinese Government Officials" and "Veraz Made Improper Payments to Vietnamese Government Officials."

As to payments to "Chinese Government Officials," the SEC alleges that Veraz engaged a consultant in China to assist Veraz sell products "to a telecommunications company controlled by the government of China." The complaint further alleges that the consultant "provided approximately $4,500 worth of gifts to officials" of the telecommunications company "in an attempt to secure a business deal for Veraz." The complaint further alleges that the consultant "also offered a separate improper payment to officials" at the telecommunications company "to secure a deal for Veraz valued at approximately $233,000." According to the complaint, "Veraz discovered this improper offer of payment prior to receiving any money from the transaction and cancelled the sale."

As to payments to "Vietnamese Government Officials," the SEC alleges that "Veraz sold products to a telecommunications company controlled by the government of Vietnam through a Singapore-based reseller." According to the complaint, a "Veraz employee, through the Singapore-based reseller, at times made or offered illicit payments to the CEO" of the telecommunications company "in order to win business for Veraz." The complaint further alleges that Veraz "approved of and reimbursed its employee for questionable expenses related" to the telecommunications company "including gifts and entertainment" for employees of the company and "flowers for the wife of the CEO" of the company.

In both instances, according to the complaint: (i) Veraz did not make or keep books, records, and accounts which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflected the improper gifts or payments provided by Veraz; and (ii) Veraz failed to devise and maintain an effective system of internal controls to prevent or detect violations of the FCPA.

Based on these allegations, the SEC charged Veraz with violating the FCPA's books and records and internal control provisions.

According to the SEC's release, Veraz, without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations, consented to entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining Veraz from future FCPA violations and ordering Veraz to pay a $300,000 civil penalty.

In an article to be published later this summer titled "The Facade of FCPA Enforcement," I highlight four pillars which contribute to the facade of FCPA enforcement.

The first pillar highlights the frequency in which FCPA enforcement actions are resolved based on uninformative, bare-bones, and legal conclusory statements of facts or allegations. Check as to the Veraz enforcement action. Just who were those Chinese and Vietnamese Government officials? The SEC complaint contains these wonderfully descriptive allegations: "a telecommunications company controlled by the government of China" and a "telecommunications company controlled by the government of Vietnam." What was the nature of the "illicit payments" made or offered to the CEO of the Vietnamese telecommunications company and what were the "questionable expenses" related to the same company? The complaint does not elaborate.

The second pillar highlights the increasing and alarming trend of FCPA enforcement actions being resolved based on tenuous, dubious and untested legal theories. Check as to the Veraz enforcement action. True, the enforcement action does not allege antibribery violations, but let's face it, if Veraz's books and records did not adequately reflect sales and marketing expenses associated with domestic customers and if Veraz did not have sufficient internal controls to prevent and detect such expenses, we would not be reading about this case as an "FCPA enforcement action" even though such conduct would similarly violate the FCPA's books and records and internal control provisions. Rather, this is an FCPA enforcement action (in the traditional sense) because the improperly recorded payments were directed at "foreign officials" - so alleges the SEC under the theory, never accepted by a court, that employees of state-owned or state-controlled enterprises are "foreign officials" under the FCPA.

The third pillar highlights highlights the opaque nature of FCPA enforcement and how similar enforcement actions, based on the government's own allegations, are resolved with materially different charges and penalties. Check as to the Veraz enforcement action. If ever there were carbon copy FCPA enforcement actions, it would seem to be Veraz, UTStarcom and Lucent. All principally involved providing things of value to Chinese "foreign officials" (employees of alleged state-owned enterprises). One would expect then that the charges would be similar as well. Wrong. Veraz appears to be only an SEC enforcement action charging only FCPA books and records and internal control violations. UTStarcom involved a DOJ non-prosecution agreement and an SEC enforcement action charging FCPA antibribery as well as books and records and internal control violations. Lucent also involved a DOJ non-prosecution agreement and an SEC enforcement action charging only FCPA books and records and internal control violations. Thus, three similar cases resolved three distinct ways.

[The fourth pillar highlights how seemingly clear-cut instances of corporate bribery and corruption (per the government's own allegations) are resolved without FCPA antibribery charges. Veraz is not BAE, Siemens, or Daimler - and thus this pillar is of little significance here].

One final point demonstrated by the Veraz enforcement action: resolution fines/penalties represent merely the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of the costs associated with an FCPA inquiry.

The final fine amount, $300,000, is 1/10 the amount of expenses incurred by the company in connection with the SEC investigation. As stated in the company's most recent 10-Q filing (May 2010) (see here) "as of March 31, 2010, the Company has incurred expenses relating to the SEC investigation of approximately $3 million."

No wonder Forbes (see here) recently termed the increase in FCPA enforcement the "bribery racket." No wonder the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (see here) recently posed the question - "is the FCPA Just a Full-Employment Act for the Private Bar?"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Technip Joins the Bonny Island Bribery Club

A French company bribes Nigerian foreign officials with the end result being $338 million paid into the United States treasury.

Welcome to the sometimes wacky world of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement. Except in this case, the end result is not so wacky because the French company, Technip (see here) was a U.S. issuer, and thus subject to the FCPA, because, between August 2001 and November 2007, it had American Depository Shares registered with and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In addition to being an Issuer subject to the FCPA, "Technip and other members of the joint venture [described below] routinely made use of the U.S. mails and of U.S. common carriers, and of other instrumentalities of U.S. interstate commerce" including improper payments "routed through banks in New York."

The Technip FCPA enforcement action has been anticipated since February when the company (see here) foreshadowed the pending settlement.

Yesterday, the DOJ and SEC announced the settlement. It includes payment of a $240 criminal penalty pursuant to a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement and payment of $98 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest pursuant to a settled SEC civil complaint.

The below post summarizes the DOJ release (to my knowledge the DOJ deferred prosecution agreement and criminal information are not yet publicly available) and the SEC settled civil complaint.


The DOJ release (here) states that Technip "has agreed to pay a $240 million criminal penalty to resolve charges related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for its participation in a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts [...] to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, [contracts that] were valued at more than $6 billion."

According to the release, "Technip, Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (KBR) (see here for the prior FCPA enforcement action), and two other companies were part of a four-company joint venture that was awarded four EPC contracts."

The release further states that "Technip authorized the joint venture to hire two agents, Jeffrey Tesler (see here for the criminal indictment) and a Japanese trading company, to pay bribes to a range of Nigerian government officials, including top-level executive branch officials, to assist Technip and the joint venture in obtaining the EPC contracts. According to the release, "at crucial junctures preceding the award of EPC contracts, a senior executive of Technip, KBR’s former CEO, Albert "Jack" Stanley (see here and here for the prior FCPA enforcement action), and others met with successive holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the Nigerian government to ask the office holders to designate a representative with whom the joint venture should negotiate bribes to Nigerian government officials." According to the release, "the joint venture paid approximately $132 million to a Gibraltar corporation controlled by Tesler and more than $50 million to the Japanese trading company during the course of the bribery scheme" and that "Technip intended for these payments to be used, in part, for bribes to Nigerian government officials."

As has become the norm in corporate FCPA prosecutions, Technip will not be required to plead guilty to anything as the criminal charges (one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the FCPA), while filed, will be deferred pursuant to two-year deferred prosecution agreement.

In a press release (see here) Technip Chairman and CEO, Thierry Pilenko said:

"The final agreement with the US authorities, completely in line with the road map that we laid out in February, puts this legacy story behind us and enables us to focus on continuing to develop Technip’s business. We stand by Technip's commitment to carrying out its business activities ethically and according to both the spirit and letter of the law worldwide. The Board of Directors of Technip and its management are strongly committed to the continued enhancement of our internal compliance policies and processes."

Technip's release further states:

"The DOJ investigation of Technip was resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement, in which the Department of Justice agreed not to pursue a prosecution of Technip in return for Technip’s agreement to undertake a variety of steps during the next two years, including maintaining and enhancing its compliance program and cooperating with the DOJ. Technip agreed to pay USD 240 million to the DOJ in eight equal installments of USD 30 million over the next two years. Technip will retain a French national, approved by the Department of Justice, to serve as an independent corporate monitor, who will be chiefly responsible for reviewing Technip’s compliance initiatives and recommending improvements."

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division stated: "The resolutions announced today demonstrate once again the department’s commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute international bribery by U.S. and foreign corporations alike."


In a settled civil complaint (see here) charging FCPA anti-bribery violations and FCPA books and records and internal violations, the SEC alleged that "between at least 1995 and 2004, senior executives at Technip, among others, devised and implemented a scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to assist in obtaining multiple contracts worth over $6 billion to build liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) production facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria." According to the SEC, "to conceal the illicit payments, Technip and others, through the joint venture, entered into sham 'consulting' or 'services' agreements with intermediaries who would then funnel their purportedly legitimate fees to Nigerian officials." Specifically, the SEC alleged that "Technip, through the joint venture, implemented this scheme by using a Gibraltar shell company controlled by a solicitor based in the United Kingdom (“the UK Agent” [Tesler]) and a Japanese trading company (“the Japanese Agent”) as conduits for the bribes" and that "as a result of the scheme, numerous books and records of Technip contained false information relating to, among other things, the UK Agent and the Japanese Agent, and the payments made to them."

As to Technip's internal controls violations, the SEC alleges as follows:

"Technip conducted due diligence on the UK Agent that was not adequate to detect, deter or prevent the UK Agent from paying bribes, and Technip conducted no due diligence on the Japanese Agent."

"Although the executives of Technip who participated in the joint venture were aware of [the FCPA's] prohibitions, Technip did not implement adequate controls to ensure compliance with the Act. For example, Technip did not adopt due diligence procedures as to agents that were adequate to detect, deter or prevent the payment of bribes by agents. The due diligence procedures adopted by Technip only required that potential agents respond to a written questionnaire, seeking minimal background information about the agent. No additional due diligence was required, such as an interview of the agent, or a background check, or obtaining information beyond that provided by the answers to the questionnaire. A senior executive of Technip admitted that the due diligence procedures adopted by Technip were a perfunctory exercise, conducted so that Technip would have some documentation in its files of purported due diligence. In fact, Technip executives knew that the purpose of the agreements with the UK Agent was to funnel bribes to Nigerian officials, and therefore certain answers by the UK Agent to the questionnaire were false."

According to the SEC release (see here) "without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Technip has consented to the entry of a court order permanently enjoining it from" future FCPA violations "and ordering Technip to disgorge $98 million in ill-gotten profits derived from the scheme and prejudgment interest."

Other members of the TSKJ joint venture that also potentially face FCPA exposure include Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. (see below information regarding Eni SpA), and JGC of Japan (see here).

In March 2010, Eni SpA of Italy disclosed (here) as follows:

"Snamprogetti SpA, the holding company of Snamprogetti Netherlands BV, was a wholly owned subsidiary of Eni until February 2006, when an agreement was entered into for the sale of Snamprogetti to Saipem SpA and Snamprogetti was merged into Saipem as of October 1, 2008. Eni holds a 43% participation in Saipem. In connection with the sale of Snamprogetti to Saipem, Eni agreed to indemnify Saipem for a variety of matters, including potential losses and charges resulting from the investigations into the TSKJ matter referred [...}, even in relation to Snamprogetti subsidiaries."

The disclosure further stated:

"As to Eni, the contacts with the US authorities have been intensified recently. Based on the ongoing status of the discussions, the Company has been able to estimate the cost of a global resolution of all potential claims arising from the investigation with the US authorities, similarly to Technip. As a result of this, a provision in the amount of €250 million has been accrued, also considering the contractual obligations assumed by Eni to indemnify Saipem as part of the divestment of Snamprogetti. Discussions with the US authorities are underway."

Stay tuned for additional analysis of the Technip DPA, criminal information, and other issues raised by the Technip enforcement action.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Additional Lighthouses and Buoys Sentence

Last Friday, the DOJ announced (see here) that John Warwick was sentenced to approximately three years in federal prison "for his role in a conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian government officials to secure maritime contracts." U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson also sentenced Warwick to two years of supervised release following his prison term and ordered Warwick to forfeit approximately $330,000 in proceeds from his crime.

In February, Warwick pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to Panamanian officials for the purpose of securing business for Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The business involved contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama's waterways.

This is the same conduct at issue in the prior plea and sentencing of Charles Edward Jumet. (See here for additional posts on this matter). In April, Jumet was sentenced to approximately 7.25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to two charges - conspiracy to violate the FCPA and making false statements to federal agents. (See here). Even though Jumet's charges were equal part FCPA and equal part making false statements to federal agents, his sentence was described as the "longest prison term imposed against an individual for violating the FCPA."

Given that Warwick was charged and pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy as Jumet, it suggests that the FCPA component of Jumet's sentence was between 3-4 years.

Innospec Agent Pleads Guilty

Approximately one year ago, a criminal indictment against Ousama Naaman was unsealed (see here). The indictment charged Naaman, a dual Canadian and Lebanese national, with violating the FCPA and conspiring to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud, while acting on behalf of a U.S. public chemical company and its subsidiary in connection with kickback payments to the Iraqi government under the United Nations Oil for Food Program. The indictment also charged Naaman with making payments on behalf of the company to Iraqi Ministry of Oil officials.

Since then, Naaman was extradited to the U.S. and the chemical company was identified as Innospec - which resolved its own FCPA enforcement action in March (see here).

As noted in this DOJ release, last Friday Naaman "pleaded guilty ... to a two-count superseding information filed June 24, 2010, charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and falsify the books and records of a U.S. issuer; and one count of violating the FCPA."

According to the release:

"From 2001 to 2003, acting on behalf of Innospec, Naaman offered and paid 10 percent kickbacks to the then Iraqi government in exchange for five contracts under the OFFP. Naaman negotiated the contracts, including a 10 percent increase in the price to cover the kickback, and routed the funds to Iraqi government accounts in the Middle East. Innospec inflated its prices in contracts approved by the OFFP to cover the cost of the kickbacks. Naaman also admitted that from 2004 to 2008, he paid and promised to pay more than $3 million in bribes, in the form of cash, as well as travel, gifts and entertainment, to officials of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and the Trade Bank of Iraq to secure sales of tetraethyl lead in Iraq, as well as to secure more favorable exchange rates on the contracts. Naaman provided Innospec with false invoices to support the payments, and those invoices were incorporated into the books and records of Innospec."

For additional coverage of the Naaman plea, see here from Christopher Matthews at Main Justice.

In 1998, the FCPA's antibribery provisions were amended to, among other things, broaden the jurisdictional reach of the statute to prohibit "any person" "while in the territory of the U.S." from making improper payments through "use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce" or from doing "any other act in furtherance" of an improper payment. (see 15 USC 78dd-3(a)). "Any person" is generally defined to include any person other than a U.S. national or any business organization organized under the laws of a foreign nation. (see 15 USC 78dd-3(f)).

In other words ... the FCPA ... it isn't just for Americans.

Ousama Naaman found out the hard way.

Other foreign nationals that have been the focus of FCPA enforcement actions include Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan (both U.K. citizens criminally indicted for their roles in the KBR / Halliburton bribery scheme)(see here) and Chrisitan Sapsizian (a French citizen who pleaded guilty to violating the FCPA for his role in a scheme to bribe Costa Rican foreign officials) (see here).

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum

I am pleased to serve as Chair of the World Bribery & Corruption Compliance Forum in London, September 14-15th.

As indicated on the conference brochure (here) speakers will include the U.K. Attorney General, and representatives from the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the OECD, the World Bank, Transparency International, Trace International as well as global business compliance professionals and legal practitioners.

Readers of the FCPA Professor Blog are entitled to 20% off the conference fee by using the above brochure and additional savings will be earned by booking by July 2nd.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Foreign Official" Brain Teasers

Two "foreign official" brain teasers are highlighted below.

One touches upon sovereign wealth funds, the other a Chinese state-owned enterprise (as well as sovereign wealth funds). Both are based on recent events.


A prior post discussed sovereign wealth funds and the FCPA (see here).

I noted that while no FCPA enforcement action has yet involved a sovereign wealth fund, such funds and the investments these funds make in private companies, are clearly on the radar screen of the enforcement agencies as both DOJ and SEC officials have in the past publicly stated that sovereign wealth funds pose FCPA risks because the funds are government owned (see here and here).

The next frontier of the enforcement agencies often times aggressive and dubious "foreign official" interpretation may thus be application to the investments made by sovereign wealth funds.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Chesapeake Energy Corp. (here) recently sold $900 million in preferred stock to a group of investors. Among others, Chesapeake sold shares to China Investment Corp. (a Chinese government sovereign wealth fund - here), Korea Investment Corp. (a South Korea government sovereign wealth fund - here) and Temasek Holdings (Singapore's sovereign wealth fund - here). For good measure, Abu Dhabi Investment Council (Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund - here) also invested in Chesapeake.

What would it take for Chesapeake employees to become Chinese "foreign officials"? A majority investment by China Investment Corp.? What if the investment was not a majority investment, but China Investment Corp. exercised veto rights over certain business decisions?

If not Chinese "foreign officials," what would it take for Chesapeake employees to become Korean "foreign officials." What if Korea Investment Corp. had the opportunity to appoint Chesapeake board members?

If not Korean "foreign officials," what fact or factors would it take for Chesapeake employees to become Singapore or Abu Dhabi "foreign officials"?


Numerous prior posts have discussed Chinese state-owned enterprises ("SOEs") and the enforcement agencies interpretation (one that has never been accepted by a court) that employees of alleged Chinese SOEs are Chinese "foreign officials" because the SOE is an alleged "instrumentality" of the Chinese government - notwithstanding the fact that it has publicly traded shares and other attributes of private ownership.

One of the largest ever IPO's is expected to soon price.

It involves Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. (a Chinese government owned bank - here) and its attempts to raise US$20 billion - $30 billion by listing shares on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Qatar Investment Authority (Qatar's sovereign wealth fund - here) is expected to invest US$2.8 billion in the offering. Kuwait Investment Authority (Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund - here) is expected to invest $800 million. Other investors expected to participate in the deal include Temasek Holdings (Singapore's sovereign wealth fund).

Can an entity such as Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. truly be considered a Chinese government instrumentality when it has publicly traded shares and multi-billion and million dollar investments from other nation's sovereign wealth funds? At what point could Agricultural Bank of China employees cease being Chinese "foreign officials" and become Qatar or Kuwait "foreign officials"?

It is not just sovereign wealth funds that are planning to make massive investments in Agricultural Bank of China. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Archer Daniels Midland Co. (here) is also expected to invest $100 million to $200 million in the IPO.

Can Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. truly be considered a Chinese government instrumentality while at the same time securing a multi-million dollar investment from a US food giant?


A recent article by Samuel Rubenfeld (Dow Jones News Service) titled "To Comply with Bribery Laws, Companies Must Decide Who's 'Official'" explores the meaning of the FCPA's "foreign official" element. In the article, a DOJ spokeswoman merely referred to the statutory definition of "foreign official" in the FCPA as her agency's comment for the article.

The FCPA defines "foreign official" as follows:

“Foreign official” means any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, or of a public international organization, or any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of any such government or department, agency, or instrumentality, or for or on behalf of any such public international organization."

So these aren't brain teasers after all, the DOJ apparently feels that the answer is found in the statute itself.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Second Africa Regional Anti-Corruption Seminar

Last week in Cameroon, the U.S. Department of Justice and Cameroonian Ministry of Justice co-sponsored the Second Africa Regional Anti-Corruption Seminar (see here for the U.S. Embassy's press release). As noted in the release, the annual seminar series "was started by the U.S. government because of the growing transnational nature of corruption and the importance many African nations attached to the recovery of stolen assets abroad" and because "the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and several other multilateral initiatives call for increased international cooperation to combat corruption." According to the release, working sessions included: "international standards to fight against corruption and recover stolen assets; investigating corruption in state-owned corporations and enterprises; international funds transfers; and investigating corruption in customs and revenue services."

U.S. Ambassador Janet Garvey (see here) opened the seminar and here comments can be found here.

Among other things, Ambassador Garvey stated that "corruption is a global problem and I don’t have to tell you that much work needs to be done at every level to combat it."

She then stated:

"In the United States, companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges are subject to stiff punishment under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) if they are caught engaging in corruption. We take this very seriously and such major corporations as Siemens, Daimler, BHP Billiton, Kellog, Brown and Root, and Britain’s BAE Systems have recently been forced to pay huge fines under the FCPA."

Stiff punishment under the FCPA?

Does Ambassador Garvey know that Siemens, Daimler, and BAE System were not even charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations?

[Note - BHP Billiton has not recently been forced to pay huge fines under the FCPA. Rather, the company disclosed in April 2010 (see here) as follows: "Following requests for information from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a part of an investigation relating primarily to certain terminated minerals exploration projects, the Company has disclosed to relevant authorities evidence that it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials. Accordingly, the Company is cooperating with the relevant authorities including conducting an internal investigation, which is continuing. It is not possible at this time to predict the scope or duration of the investigation or its likely outcome."]

Ambassador Garvey also stated as follows:

"In the U.S., we have taken other important steps to contribute to the global anti-corruption regime. Presidential Proclamation 7750 requires the U.S. Department of State to deny visas to citizens and government officials who have engaged in serious corruption."

For more on Presidential Proclamation 7750, including what happens when the Forest and Agriculture Minister of Equatorial Guinea and the son of Equatorial Guinea's president shows up at the U.S. "doorstep" on his way to his $35 million Malibu estate (see here). Short answer, he is let in. Despite the fact that federal law enforcement officials believe that "most if not all" of his wealth came from corruption related to oil and gas reserves in his home country. Despite the fact that the DOJ believes that he "may be receiving bribes or extortion payments" from oil companies operating in the country.

Thumbs up to the U.S. for sponsoring global anti-corruption seminars.

Thumbs down for yet another instance of "official rhetoric" not matching reality.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Honest Services Fraud and the FCPA

While much of the white-collar bar awaits the Supreme Court's decisions in the trio of honest services fraud cases on its docket (Jeffrey Skilling, Conrad Black and Bruce Weyhrauch) why not talk about the FCPA and honest services fraud!
What is honest services fraud? Stay tuned for the Supreme Court's decisions.

For present purposes, honest services fraud is part of the mail and wire fraud statutes and is found at 18 USC 1346 which simply states that the term “scheme or artifice to defraud” includes a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.

What does this have to do with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

It turns out, not much, but that is not how the DOJ saw it when charging James Giffen in 2004. (For more on the Giffen case see here).

The Giffen superceding indictment focuses on charges that he made unlawful payments totaling more than $78 million to the former Prime Minister and Oil Minister of Kazakhstan in violation of the FCPA.

In addition to the FCPA charges, the indictment also alleged that Giffen's actions violated 18 USC 1346 by depriving the citizens of Kazakhstan of the honest services of their government officials.

Yes, you did read that correctly - the DOJ alleged that Giffen deprived the citizens of Kazakhstan of the honest services of their government officials. That is why the Giffen honest services fraud charge is one of the more curious "tag-a-long" charges ever in an FCPA enforcement action.

Unlike most FCPA defendants (corporate and individual) Giffen mounted, and still is mounting, an aggressive legal defense.

In 2004, Giffen moved to dismiss portions of the charges that alleged a scheme to deprive the citizens of Kazakhstan of the honest services of their government officials. He asserted that application of the honest services fraud theory of Section 1346 to Kazakhstan impermissibly extended the mail and wire fraud statutes to cover activities beyond Congress' original intent.

Judge William Pauley of the Southern District of New York agreed with Giffen and granted his motion to dismiss portions of the charges that alleged a scheme to deprive the citizens of Kazakhstan of the honest services of their government officials. See U.S. v. Giffen, 326 F.Supp.2d 497 (S.D.N.Y. 2004).

In so holding, Judge Pauley stated that the DOJ offered "the slenderest of reeds to support its expansive interpretation." Among other things, Judge Pauley noted that the DOJ could not point to "any decision where a court upheld application of the honest services theory in an international setting involving a foreign government and its citizens."

When the DOJ pointed to "two 25-year old indictments" charging a similar theory, Judge Pauley noted that the DOJ "has not unearthed any published decision on the issue" and that the DOJ "conceded that there were no court decisions addressing the validity of the two 25-year old indictments." Judge Pauley further stated that just because certain U.S. Attorneys were able to obtain indictments "under an intangible rights theory, grounded between a foreign government and its citizenry, is not the kind or quality of precedent this Court need consider."

Accordingly, Judge Pauley concluded that "Congress did not intend that the intangible right to honest services encompasses bribery of foreign officials in foreign countries" and that "application of Section 1346 to Giffen [was] unconstitutional."


As FCPA practitioners well know, many current FCPA legal theories are aggressive, untested and not supported by any case law or other meaningful precedent or guidance.

If challenged, would a judge (like Judge Pauley in Giffen) conclude that the DOJ offered the "slenderest of reeds" to support its expansive interpretations?

What case law would the DOJ cite to support certain of its aggressive interpretations (such as employees of seemingly "commercial" enterprises being "foreign officials" under the FCPA)? Would DOJ not have to concede that there are no court decisions addressing the validity of its interpretations?

All interesting (and important) questions to ponder while awaiting the Supreme Court's honest services fraud decisions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"I was taught if they violated a law, you charge them. If they didn't violate the law, you don't charge them."

In 2008 (the most recent year for which I've seen the following statistic) seven of the sixteen non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements entered into by the DOJ were in the FCPA context. (See here).

NPAs and DPAs are thus very much a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act topic and these resolution vehicles are frequently covered on this blog. (See here and here).

Thus, the following exchange between Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and James Cole caught my eye. It occurred during Cole's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings last week for the Deputy Attorney General position.


SEN. SESSIONS: [...] I noticed just as an aside you did a speech entitled role of an in-house lawyer in a corporation in October of '06, and you stated this. Quote: "The experience with Arthur Andersen taught the government something that consequences were too drastic and hurt too many innocent employees. The government now tries to work settlements with companies that find themselves in that kind of predicament and the company does not get indicted and therefore can continue to exist." Closed quote. Well, we know that Arthur Andersen failed immediately upon being charged as I recall that. So I'm not suggesting this is a totally improper statement. But it seems to go beyond strict enforcement of the law and try to preserve corporations who perhaps should be charged and suffer whatever consequences might result from their criminal acts. Do you have any second thoughts about that quote that I just read?

MR. COLE: Senator Sessions, I don't. The point of that was to say that there are reasons why you charge corporations and reasons why you don't charge corporations. And certainly the Justice Department starting back when the Attorney General Eric Holder was deputy attorney general has issued a series of memoranda that guide prosecutors in determining when a corporation should be charged. The issue is so sensitive because when you charge a corporation and you cause its demise through that charge, thousands and thousands of employees who had no role in the misconduct are hurt. Thousands and thousands of shareholders who had no role in the misconduct and whose savings were invested in that corporation are hurt, and it's those people who had no role who are hurt are the ones you need to think about, as well, when you decide whether to charge a corporation.

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, I think that's, I guess, a reality, but it's got to be carefully thought through, else you're just picking and choosing winners. You're saying BP is too big to fail. They've got employees, too. This is a dangerous philosophy. Normally, I was taught if they violated a law, you charge them. If they didn't violate the law, you don't charge them.

MR. COLE: Well -- and one of the issues, Senator, that is very much, as I understand it, in the forefront of the prosecution decisions in the Department is to prosecute the individual executives in these companies who are responsible for these criminal acts because that's how you're going to get the most deterrence.

SEN. SESSIONS: But are you now saying that you're backing off corporate indictments?

MR. COLE: No, I am not at all. I'm just saying there are many ways to be quite effective, and I think you have to balance the interests of how much damage you're doing to people who had nothing to do with the wrongdoing versus how much deterrence you're going to be placing on future conduct like this. And I think you have to make sure that you are effective in the prosecution, both of corporations and of the individual officers.

SEN. SESSIONS: Yeah, so how much empathy you have for the employees. Well, anyway, it's a tough decision. I guess we could go 'round and 'round, but I think you need to be careful with that philosophy. It has some danger to it. I think you fully recognize, as an experienced prosecutor that you are, the -- I also salute you for wanting to reinvigorate traditional prosecutions in the Department. I hope that you will look at the numbers, you will look at the prosecutions and make sure that they are working effectively and that they're high enough based on the number of prosecutors and investigators in the country. I'm not sure that we are. We've added a lot of prosecutors and assistant United States attorneys around the country. They're paid big salaries. They need to be producing day after day. [...]


The above exchange raises an interesting question - what is the "shelf life" of the Arthur Anderson prosecution?

In other words, how long will the 2002 prosecution (and related consequences) guide DOJ corporate charging decisions? Will a DOJ prosecutor in 2015 or 2020 be persuaded not to criminally indict a corporation because of what happened in 2002? Should a corporation escape the most severe consequences of criminal conduct just because it employs lots of people? Just because the corporation sells certain products to certain customers?

All questions to ponder as another week begins.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Facts, Figures and Findings

Trace International has again turned out an informative product.

First, it was the Trace Compendium (here) a searchable database of FCPA enforcement actions.

Now, it is what is planned to be an annual global enforcement report "designed to identify and track international anti-bribery enforcement trends." See here for the 2010 report.

The "GER" - as it is being called - "provides a summary of all known international anti-bribery enforcement actions since the FCPA's passage some 33 years ago." As the GER notes, passing anti-bribery laws "is an important first step toward promoting international business transparency, but enforcement is a necessary second step in the effort to reduce corruption."

Some facts, figures, and findings from GER 2010 include:

"Twenty-two countries pursued 515 foreign bribery enforcement actions between 1977 and June 2010, including known matters still in the investigative stage. The United States established the strongest record in the period, undertaking over 75 percent of all actions. This record is noteworthy, even given that the United States passage of the world’s first foreign bribery law—the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977—gave the country a considerable head start on enforcement. The United States has accumulated almost 18 times as many anti-bribery enforcement actions as the country with the next highest total, the United Kingdom. Many countries worldwide have not pursued a single enforcement action in the 33-year period."

"The largest number of enforcement actions involves alleged bribe payments to officials in Iraq, Nigeria and China." As noted in the GER, Iraq is high on the list because of the numerous Oil-for-Food cases. Nigeria is not surprising given its prominent oil and gas industry, coupled with the GER's finding that "the extractive industries sector was most frequently the subject of international anti-bribery enforcement actions." China is not surprising either given the extent to which U.S. companies have flocked to this growth market in recent years, the fact that there are literally millions of Chinese "foreign officials" because the enforcement agencies deem all employees of state-owned or state-controlled enterprises to be "foreign officials," and because most companies operating in China do so through third-parties.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

UK Anti-Corruption Champion Appointed

As indicated in this U.K. Ministry of Justice release, Kenneth Clark has been appointed "as the United Kingdom’s new international anti-corruption champion."

According to the release, Clark's appointment "demonstrates the coalition government's clear commitment to transparency and accountability and recognises the significant cost of international corruption to our economy." The release further notes that Clark "will ensure the effective implementation of the Bribery Act 2010, legislation which will help to achieve the highest in international standards and demonstrates cross-party commitment to the fight against bribery."

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office has been criticized in recent months for its lack of transparency in resolving corruption matters (see here for more) and many have questioned the U.K.'s commitment to effectively prosecute such cases in light of the BAE bribery, yet no bribery enforcement action (see here, here and here).

Yet with the U.K.'s new Bribery Act, a new era is set to begin.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Record Year for Alliance One International Despite Pending $20 Million FCPA Enforcement Action

Earlier this week, leaf tobacco merchant Alliance One International Inc., (see here) announced record revenue, gross profit and operating income (see here).

The company also announced (see here at p. 8) that its negotiations with the DOJ and SEC to resolve previously disclosed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issues "have reached a stage at which an agreement in principle has been reached and we are able to estimate a probable loss in connection with these matters of $19.45 million for any disgorgement, fines and penalties."

I've posted before about the FCPA and reputational damage (see here) and posed the question whether companies that disclose FCPA issues or settle FCPA enforcement actions actually suffer any reputational damage?

For every company like Avon that has its credit downgraded during an FCPA investigation (see here), there seems to be more instances like Alliance One (i.e. a company doing just fine, in some cases really fine, notwithstanding an FCPA investigation or resolution of an FCPA enforcement action).

This raises the question - do customers, potential customers, and investors of an affected company even care if the company discloses FCPA issues or resolves an FCPA enforcement action?

Or, because of how the FCPA has come to be enforced (i.e. enforcement actions based on dubious and untested legal theories, subject to little or no judicial scrutiny, and subject to little or no legal defense by the company because of what that may mean in terms of cooperation) do customers, potential customers and investors of an affected company view the FCPA with a collective yawn?


If Alliance One sounds familiar, you have a good memory.

In April, the SEC resolved an FCPA enforcement action against individuals employed by predecessor companies of Alliance One (see here).

Often times, it is the company that first resolves an FCPA enforcement action that is then followed by (although not in all cases) an enforcement action against culpable employees.


For another tobacco company that also recently announced record earnings as well as a pending FCPA enforcement action (see here) regarding Universal Corporation.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When the Dust Settles

Documents used to resolve a typical FCPA enforcement action (whether a non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreement, plea, or settled civil complaint) are often peppered with vague generalities.

This is not surprising given that there is little serious threat of defense challenges and/or judicial scrutiny.

One element that is often vaguely described is the "foreign official" recipient of the alleged bribe. (This is in contrast to what the U.K. SFO has been doing in some of its recent enforcement actions when it "names names" - see here and here).

For instance, in the recent Daimler action (see here), certain of the "foreign officials" are described simply as follows:

"Nigerian government officials," "high-level members of the executive branch of the Nigerian government," "high-level executive branch official of Nigeria," and "a member of the Nigerian police force" and

"senior official of a [Egypt] government owned factory."

Given the ease in which information now flows and the world-wide interest in corruption and bribery, FCPA enforcement actions are read around the world.

Not only by foreign government officials and law enforcement agencies, but also by foreign media, foreign-based non-governmental organizations, and just plain old people.

It is thus not surprising that when the dust settles on the U.S. FCPA enforcement action, many are left wondering ... who are those "foreign officials"?

For the foreign government involved, it is potentially embarrassing to have "one of your own" (assuming that all "foreign officials" in FCPA enforcement actions are properly deemed as such) become the focus of a bribery investigation in the U.S. without doing something about it "at home."

Thus, with increasing frequency, one sees stories such as this recent Reuters report which details how the Nigeria Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has begun to probe the alleged bribe payments to the Nigerian "foreign officials" mentioned above.

What about that "senior official of a [Egypt] government owned factory"?

I've been told that this issue has become sort of a guessing game in Egypt and that Egyptian authorities have launched an investigation (see here)

Whether such foreign government investigations are bona fide or merely politically expediate cover is a valid question.

However, the take-away point is that just because the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action is over, does not necessarily mean that all the dust has settled. Often, other persons, for entirely different reasons, remain interested.

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Interesting Corollary

Last week's guest post (here) about the 1988 amendments to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the DOJ's decision not to issue compliance guidance provides an interesting corollary to private rights of action under the FCPA.

How so?

Around the same general time frame as the 1988 FCPA amendments, several courts addressed the issue of whether the FCPA contained an implied private right of action.

The answer was no.

Guess what was a key factor in the courts' reasoning?

The guidance that Congress envisioned the Attorney General would issue.

The leading FCPA private right of action case is Lamb v. Phillip Morris Inc., 915 F.2d 1024 (6th Cir. 1990).

Here is what the court had to say:

"Recognition of the plaintiffs' proposed private right of action, in our view, would directly contravene the carefully tailored FCPA scheme presently in place. Congress recently expanded the Attorney General's responsibilities to include facilitating compliance with the FCPA. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1(e), 78dd-2(f). Specifically, the Attorney General must 'establish a procedure to provide responses to specific inquiries' by issuers of securities and other domestic concerns regarding 'conformance of their conduct with the Department of Justice's [FCPA] enforcement policy....' 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1(e)(1), 78dd-2(f)(1). Moreover, the Attorney General must furnish 'timely guidance concerning the Department of Justice's [FCPA] enforcement policy ... to potential exporters and small businesses that are unable to obtain specialized counsel on issues pertaining to [FCPA] provisions.' 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1(e)(4), 78dd-2(f)(4). Because this legislative action clearly evinces a preference for compliance in lieu of prosecution, the introduction of private plaintiffs interested solely in post-violation enforcement, rather than pre-violation compliance, most assuredly would hinder congressional efforts to protect companies and their employees concerned about FCPA liability."

Given that the expected Attorney General guidance was a key factor in the court's reasoning that the FCPA does not contain a implied private right of action, how would a court address this issue today given that the Attorney General never issued the guidance?

Also, what about the snippet from the Sixth Circuit's opinion - that the 1988 amendments "clearly evinces a preference for compliance in lieu of prosecution."

In this era of so-called aggressive FCPA enforcement, does the DOJ have its priorities backwards

Thursday, June 10, 2010

DOJ Guidance and the FCPA

That is the issue addressed by James Parkinson (Mayer Brown - see here) in the below guest post.


As followers of this blog know well, the UK’s newly-enacted Bribery Act (here) calls for the UK government to “publish guidance about procedures that relevant commercial organisations can put into place to prevent persons associated with them from bribing…” Seeing this provision in the Bribery Act suggests the question whether similar guidance issued by the US government would be helpful.

As it turns out, the US government considered this very question over 20 years ago but declined to offer guidance to companies affected by the FCPA. In the 1988 amendments to the FCPA, Congress added provisions entitled “Guidelines by Attorney General,” which required the following:

"Not later than one year after August 23, 1988, the Attorney General, after consultation with the Commission, the Secretary of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of the Treasury, and after obtaining the views of all interested persons through public notice and comment procedures, shall determine to what extent compliance with this section would be enhanced and the business community would be assisted by further clarification of the preceding provisions of this section and may, based on such determination and to the extent necessary and appropriate, issue--

(1) guidelines describing specific types of conduct, associated with common types of export sales arrangements and business contracts, which for purposes of the Department of Justice’s present enforcement policy, the Attorney General determines would be in conformance with the preceding provisions of this section; and

(2) general precautionary procedures which issuers may use on a voluntary basis to conform their conduct to the Department of Justice’s present enforcement policy regarding the preceding provisions of this section.

The Attorney General shall issue the guidelines and procedures referred to in the preceding sentence in accordance with the provisions of subchapter II of chapter 5 of Title 5 and those guidelines and procedures shall be subject to the provisions of chapter 7 of that title."

15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1(d), 78dd-2(e).

Following the 1988 mandate, the DOJ issued a formal notice inviting all interested persons “to submit their views concerning the extent to which compliance with 15 U.S.C. 78dd-1 and 78dd-2 would be enhanced and the business community assisted by further clarification of the provisions of the anti-bribery provisions through the issuance of guidelines.” Department of Justice, Anti-Bribery Provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 54 Fed. Reg. 40,918 (Oct. 4, 1989).

What happened?

On July 12, 1990, the DOJ declined to issue guidelines on the anti-corruption provisions of the FCPA, stating:

"After consideration of the comments received, and after consultation with the appropriate agencies, the Attorney General has determined that no guidelines are necessary…. [C]ompliance with the [anti-bribery provisions] would not be enhanced nor would the business community be assisted by further clarification of these provisions through the issuance of guidelines."

Department of Justice, Anti-Bribery Provisions, 55 Fed. Reg. 28,694 (July 12, 1990).

How many responses did the DOJ receive?

According to the OECD’s Phase I Report on the US implementation of the Convention (at 15), “[o]nly 5 responses were received, and 3 of the responses were to the effect that guidelines were unnecessary.”

This suggests another question: what would the commentary landscape look like today if the DOJ published a new Federal Register notice soliciting “views concerning the extent to which compliance with 15 U.S.C. 78dd-1 and 78dd-2 would be enhanced and the business community assisted by further clarification of the provisions of the anti-bribery provisions through the issuance of guidelines”?

Given the rise in enforcement activity and the focus companies now bring to compliance, it seems very likely that far more than five people would submit comments.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FCPA Enforcement and Credit Ratings

Fitch Ratings (see here) is a global rating agency that provides credit opinions, research and data to the world's credit markets.

It recently issued a report titled "U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - No Minor Matter."

The report contains some interesting and informative non-legal perspectives on FCPA enforcement which are excerpted below.


"Aside from management distraction and reputational risk, additional compliance costs and fines [arising from FCPA violations] could have rating implications for those companies with modest FCF [free cash flow] and/or liquidity. It should also be noted that it can take years from the discovery of a violation to the time a plea agreement is reached. In the interim, corporate credit profiles, liquidity, and ratings may weaken. The fine that could be easily paid with cash on hand today might not be readily payable years down the road if a company’s credit profile has weakened and liquidity becomes constrained."

The report notes that many FCPA fines are "imposed on large investment grade corporations whose substantial cash balances easily afforded them the ability to absorb the payments with no or minimal increases in leverage."

However, the report notes, "there have also been violations by non-investment grade companies."

The report then discusses Willbros Group, Inc. "which borrowed from banks on a secured basis." The report notes that when the company became aware of its FCPA issues (see here for prior posts on Willbros) the issues resulted "in the restatement of its annual financial statements at December 2002 and 2003, as well as the first, second, and third fiscal quarters iof 2004 and 2003."

The report continues:

"In its 2005 10-K [Willbros] noted that it required an amendment on an indenture due to late filing and several amendments on its bank credit facility. In the July 1, 2005 Second Amendment and Waiver Agreement the credit facility was reduced from $150 million to $100 million."


The report also discusses the fiscal consequences of "deferring the legal consequences" of an FCPA violation - as so often happens given the frequency in which non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements are used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions. Pursuant to these agreements, the non-prosecuted or deferred charges could go "live" if the company fails to adhere to its obligations under the agreement. "This means," according to the report, "that investors and analysts cannot take a deep breath or relax until" the time period in the NPA or DPA has expired.


The report also discusses how FCPA issues can become a "sticking point in acquisitions/dispositions of businesses."

The report notes:

"Sellers may have contingent liabilities related to violations even after assets or businesses are sold. Prices could be less than expected and may hamper sellers who need to receive a certain level of cash or offload debt to deleverage or meet covenants. Additionally, buyers who have not done enough due diligence up front may find themselves with an unexpected obligation and higher litigation expenses in the future."

For a recent example of a company halting a planned acquisition because of an FCPA issue (see here).


As to "management distraction" resulting from an FCPA inquiry, the report notes:

"Fines, penalties, widespread adverse publicity with potential damage to corporate reputations, having an independent compliance monitor, and building up the compliance organization can all pose an enormous distraction to management. More importantly, while many companies tend to have significant financial resources at the
start of an inquiry, it generally takes years before there is a conclusion. In that interim, it is possible that a corporation’s financial profile could weaken."


The report contains an informative chart detailing "Fitch-Rate Issuers" that tracks the date the FCPA issue first went public.

Noteworthy examples include:

Accenture Ltd. (identified a potential FCPA issue in July 2003 - in its March 2010 SEC filing the company stated that there has been no new developments);

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (the SEC notified the company in October 2004 of an inquiry of certain pharma subsidiaries in Germany - in its 2009 10-K the company stated that it is cooperating with the SEC);

Eli Lilly & Co (the SEC notified the company in 2003 that it was investigating whether certain Polish units has violated the FCPA - in its 2009 10-K the company stated that the DOJ and SEC had issued subpoenas relating to other countries).


As to "credit implications," the report notes, among other things:

That, because the time from discovery of FCPA violations to resolution can take years, a company's credit profile could weaken - perhaps reflecting a weak economic cycle. When allegations of bribery separately arise, "for most corporations if the credit profile weakens, potential fines and/or legal contingencies would be among the items of concern in the Rating or Outlook."

The report then talks specifically about Avon and its FCPA issues (see here for a prior post).

The report notes:

"The cost of investigations and ongoing compliance can be sizeable, and each company’s liquidity and metrics over the medium term would need to be considered. Avon, with $10 billion in 2009 revenues, had $120 million in FCF. In April 2010 the company disclosed that the cost of the investigation would be in the $85 million - $95 million range, up from $35 million in 2009. The additional cost of widening the investigation represents a significant percentage of the company’s 2009 FCF. While the company has more than $1 billion in cash on hand, Fitch’s expectation of moderate FCF in the medium term was part of the rationale for the downgrade to ‘A-’ from ‘A’ on Feb. 2, 2010. Additional layers of investigatory or compliance-related expenses could hamper FCF for Avon and other companies that violate the FCPA. Continued relative weakness in FCF and/or increased leverage typically can provide the impetus for a downgrade or change in outlook for many corporations."

All in all, the Fitch Report is an interesting and informative read.

A couple of observations.

Some FCPA enforcement actions, per the enforcement agencies' allegations, involve conduct that goes "all the way to the top" - the Siemens enforcement action comes to mind. In this type of FCPA enforcement action, the company's credit ratings, and much else about the company's business, ought to be negatively impacted by the FCPA enforcement action.

However, enforcement actions like Siemens are clearly outliers.

The far more common FCPA enforcement action involves allegations of improper conduct by a single employee or a small group of employees - often in a foreign subsidiary. Even so, because of respondeat superior, the parent company issuer faces FCPA exposure. In such a situation - a common FCPA scenario - is it proper for company's credit rating to be negatively impacted by the enforcement action?

Add to this the fact that most FCPA enforcement actions are resolved through non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements. These agreements are privately negotiated, subject to no (or little) judicial scrutiny, and do not necessarily represent the triumph of one party's legal position over the other. In such a situation - again a very common FCPA scenario - is it proper for the company's credit rating to be negatively impacted by the enforcement action?

In my forthcoming piece "The Facade of FCPA Enforcement," I discuss why the facade of FCPA enforcement matters.

The Fitch Report has informed me of another reason why the facade of FCPA enforcement matters - and that is because FCPA enforcement actions can negatively impact a company's credit rating.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What is Alba?

It's the commercial enterprise at the center of two FCPA enforcement inquiries.
Commercial enterprise?

In the words of the late Gary Coleman - "whatcha talkin bout" (see here) - the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act concerns payments to "foreign officials."

However, that is not how the enforcement agencies see it.

Well, actually it is, but under the enforcement agencies' interpretation of the key "foreign official" element (an interpretation that has never received judicial approval), if a commercial enterprise seemingly has any hint of state involvement, it is an "instrumentality" of the foreign government and all employees of the commercial enterprise are deemed "foreign officials."

Over 50% of recent FCPA enforcement actions center, in whole or in part, on this controversial interpretation of the "foreign official" element.

The commercial enterprise at the center of two FCPA enforcement inquiries is Aluminium Bahrain BSC ("Alba").

First, a bit of background.

As evident from the DOJ's recent stay motion in Alba v. Sojitz Corporation - embedded in this story by Lisa Brennan at Main Justice, the DOJ is currently investigating whether Sojitz Corporation, a Japanese company with its principal place of business in Tokyo, and Sojitz Corporation of America, a wholly owned subsidiary and agent/or alter ego of Sojitz Corporation, made corrupt payments to Alba officials in violation of the FCPA. It appears that DOJ will assert jurisdiction over the Japanese entity based on this statement: "Sojitz Corporation, and its controlled subsidiaries, make use of United States banks to distribute aluminum, and other products, and is a member of the Chicago Board of Trade."

The DOJ filing also notes that since 2008 the DOJ has also been investigating a separate matter involving Alba, specifically, whether Aloca Inc. made corrupt payments to "public officials in Bahrain in connection with Alcoa's sale of alumina to Alba." (see page 3). (See page 11 of Alcoa's recent 10-Q filing - here - for more).

So what is Alba, the entity at the middle of two separate DOJ FCPA enforcement inquiries?

According to its website (here), Alba is one of the largest aluminium smelters in the world. The company has three shareholders: the government of Bahrain, the Saudi Public Investment Fund, and Breton Investments.

The company exports to more than 25 countries. Approximately 50% of its output is for Bahrain's downstream industries, about 20% for the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE) and Middle East market, approximately 13% for the Far East market, with the rest for North Africa, South East Asia, India, Europe and the U.S.

The company has over 3,000 employees.

Alba's CEO is Laurent Schmitt and its CFO is Tim Murray (see here). Prior to being appointed Alba's CEO, Mr. Schmitt was previously President of Rhodia Polyamide a world wide global business of Rhodia Group based in France. (see here). On Alba's board is David Meen (see here).

When Congress enacted the FCPA, did it envision that a company like Alba (a company with thousands of employees, a company conducting significant business outside of Bahrain, and company with non-"native" executive officers and board members) would be deemed a "instrumentality" of the Bahrain government by the enforcement agencies?

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Look Back in Time

Literally, Time Magazine that is.

In connection with my work in progress on the FCPA's legislative / early history, the below articles from Time's searchable archives caught my eye. (See here).


In November 1979, Time carried a piece (here) about the DOJ's new program to offer advice on the FCPA - what has come to be called the FCPA Opinion Procedure Release. The article contains this quote from Stanley Sporkin, the SEC's then Enforcement Chief: "We do not have guidelines for rapists, muggers and embezzlers, and I do not think we need guidelines for corporations who want to bribe foreign officials." Fast forward 30-some years and Sporkin is still on the FCPA scene. It was recently reported (here) that Sporkin is assisting former FBI Director Louis Freeh as the monitor in the Daimler enforcement action. Among the monitor's duties is "review[ing] and evaluat[ing] the effectiveness of Daimler's internal controls, record-keeping, and existing or new financial reporting policies and procedures as they relate to Daimler's compliance with the books and records, interal accounting controls and anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, and other applicable anti-corrption laws." (See here Appendix D).


Almost as soon as the FCPA was passed, concerns were raised that the law was harmful to U.S. business. There was much activity on this issue in the early 1980's as evidenced in this article from October 1980, this article from March 1981, this article from March 1981 as well, and this article from June 1981.

These articles detail, among other things: (i) that the Carter administration (Carter signed the FCPA into law in December 1977) "sent a hefty 250-page report to Congress on the various ways the U.S. discourages exporters" - one example - "the provisions of the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which have never been clearly spelled out by the Justice Department." (ii) that the GAO released a report in 1981 (see here for a prior post) detailing how the FCPA "is riddled with complicating ambiguities and shortcomings" including the key "foreign official" element; and (iii) that President Reagan's "transition team on the workings of the Securities and Exchange Commission [...] has recommended decriminalization of bribery."

At to this last point, Time notes:

"Such a stance by the Administration toward foreign bribery would itself cause problems. By failing to enforce the act as written, the Administration not only would leave the legislation's ambiguities unresolved, but would show a disrespect for the law, which is itself corrupting. Since the U.S. has adopted a moral position with regard to foreign bribery, neither the Administration nor Congress can now afford to let the subject wither away without compromising its principles in the process."


In response to Forbes recent FCPA article (see here), the Wall Street Journal Law Blog asked (see here) "is the FCPA just a full employment act for the private bar." Such a question as it relates to the FCPA is not new. This March 1981 Time piece notes that the FCPA was "dubbed by one Wall Street wag" as the "Accountants' Full Employment Act of 1977."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Roundup

A "foreign official" headed to prison, more on monitors, the language of bribery, more pre-enforcement action news, and perspectives from the field.

It's all here in the Friday roundup.

Haitian "Foreign Official" Headed to U.S. Prison

Numerous prior posts (see here, here, and here) have covered the FCPA and FCPA-related enforcement action involving Telecommunications D'Haiti ("Haiti Teleco").

The action was noteworthy because it involved "foreign officials." Because the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act only applies to bribe givers and not bribe recipients, the charges were not FCPA charges, but rather a money laundering conspiracy charge.

Earlier this week, Robert Antoine (a former Director of International Relations of Haiti Teleco responsible for negotiating contracts with international telecommunications companies on behalf of Haiti Teleco), was sentenced to four years in prison. In addition, Antoine was ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term, ordered to pay $1,852,209 in restitution, and ordered to forfeit $1,580,771. (See here for the DOJ release).

Certain of the indicted defendants, including "foreign official" Jean Rene Duperval, have not pleaded and the DOJ release notes that "trial for these remaining defendants is scheduled to begin July 19, 2010, in U.S. District Court in Miami."

Additional Guidance on the Use of Monitors in Deferred Prosecution Agreements and Non-Prosecution Agreements

Most corporate FCPA enforcement actions involve deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreements. Many of these agreements require the appointment of a compliance monitor.

Thus, most FCPA aficionados are familiar with the "Morford Memo" - the March 2008 DOJ guidance "relating to the use of independent corporate monitors in connection with deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements with corporations." The Morford Memo (see here) sets forth nine basic principles for
drafting monitor-related provisions in such agreements.

Recently Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler issued a memo (see here) "to supplement the guidance in the Morford Memorandum by adding a tenth basic principle to guide prosecutors in drafting agreements: namely, that an agreement should explain what role the Department could play in resolving any disputes between the monitor and the corporation, given the facts and circumstances of the case."

The Language of Bribery

The FCPA is a serious topic.

But that doesn't mean an FCPA article can't be informative and entertaining at the same time.

Case in point, "A Bribe By Any Other Name" by James Tillen and Sonia Delman (Miller & Chevalier) (see here).

Don't understand the significance of "moon cakes," "rice cake expenses" or "black mist?"

You probably should.

As the authors note, "[w]hen an expatriate manager does not recognize that a subordinate is seeking reimbursement for a bribe disguised by a code word or when auditors miss a suspect transaction concealed behind a local idiom, the employees themselves and the company as a whole are at serious risk of running afoul of anti-bribery laws."

The article concludes with a "few simple steps" companies can take to incorporate the language of bribery into compliance training and policies.

The Flood of Pre-Enforcement Action News Continues

One of these days, the FCPA dam is going to burst because the surge of pre-enforcement action news continues.

Among others in the "stay-tuned" category are: Alcatel-Lucent, Technip, Panalpina, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Add to the list Universal Corporation, "the world's leading leaf tobacco merchant and processor." (see here).

The company's recent 10-K (see here) notes as follows:

"As a result of a posting to our Ethics Complaint hotline alleging improper activities that involved or related to certain of our tobacco subsidiaries, the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation of the alleged activities. That investigation revealed that there have been payments that may have violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The payments approximated $2 million over a seven-year period. In addition, the investigation revealed activities in foreign jurisdictions that may have violated the competition laws of such jurisdictions, but we believe those activities did not violate U.S. antitrust laws. We voluntarily reported these activities to the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the SEC in March 2006. On June 6, 2006, the SEC notified us that a formal order of investigation had been issued.

Since voluntarily reporting, we have cooperated with and assisted the DOJ and SEC in their investigations, and for the past year we have engaged in settlement discussions with both authorities to resolve the matter. Those negotiations have resulted in agreements in principle being reached with representatives of the DOJ and the staff of the SEC. The final resolution of this matter remains subject to the completion of definitive agreements and the approval and execution of those agreements by the DOJ and the SEC. In addition, each settlement is subject to the approval of a federal district court with jurisdiction over the matter. We have been given no assurance that the settlements will be approved by the DOJ, SEC, or federal district courts. Based on the agreements in principle that have been reached to date, the resolution of this matter with the DOJ and the SEC is expected to include injunctive relief, disgorgement and prejudgment interest, fines, penalties, and the retention of an independent compliance monitor. Based in part on the progress of the matter and consultation with outside counsel, we have recorded accruals from time to time since the matter arose that are adequate to satisfy the estimated financial settlement we expect with the resolution of the matter. The financial settlement is not expected to have a material effect on our financial condition or results of operations."

Incidentally, on the same day, Universal issued a press release announcing record annual earnings (see here).

U.K. Bribery Bill - Perspectives from the Conference Circuit

Michael Osajda (see here) is an attorney and business ethics consultant. He frequently writes and speaks on FCPA issues, including for World-Check (see here).

In the below guest post, Osajda offers perspectives from recent presentations in Singapore and Hong Kong attended by over 120 business professionals and attorneys.


"My presentation compared and contrasted the FCPA and the U.K. Bribery Act. I spoke of the different bases for the two statutes, the FCPA being a product of a unique post Watergate cloture and a significant Cold War foreign policy element and the Bribery Act, a product of legislative efficiency and the need for the UK to comply with the OECD convention. The new offenses of foreign private bribery and failure to prevent bribery were stressed.

Like many commentators, the attendees were nervous about the SFO’s stated use of prosecutorial discretion to address issues such as facilitation payments and the appropriateness of business expenses. Attendees were concerned that SFO statements that it does not intend to shut down business and that it will look reasonably at facilitation payments, especially in circumstances that appear to be coercion that can be given to the field. These issues may be a mine filed until some pattern of prosecution or abstention is established. Another concern of attendees was the new strict liability offense of failure to prevent bribery. The attendees were interested as to the elements of “adequate procedures.” While the Sentencing Guidelines, the Woolf Report and OECD guidance are good starts, we will all wait for the guidance to come from the UK Secretary of State on the components of “adequate procedures”.

All in all this Asia trip underscores the world-wide interest of multinationals, whatever their home jurisdictions, to the issue of corruption. All understand that the landscape is changing and are interested in doing the right thing."


Also, Trace recently conducted a symposium in London "attended by over 60 company representatives and featuring speakers from government, the private bar and in-house legal and compliance departments." For insight into what was on the minds of program participants see here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

James Giffen Update

The FCPA enforcement action against James Giffen goes back a long way.

April 2003 to be precise (see here).

The case concerns allegations that Giffen made approximately $80 million in payments to senior Kazakhstan officials in connection with numerous deals in which American companies acquired oil and gas rights in Kazakhstan. In defense, Giffen has implicated the CIA and much of the delay in prosecuting this case revolves around access to classified documents.

The case is still active as documented in this recent Main Justice piece by Lisa Brennan.

Few have been following the Giffen case closer than Steve LeVine (see here). LeVine is author of The Oil and the Glory (see here).

A key figure in LeVine's book is James Giffen.

In this guest post, LeVine profiles next Monday's hearing in the Giffen case.


Next week, James Giffen -- the former chief oil adviser to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev -- returns to court in New York for the longest-running U.S. foreign bribery case in history. His strategy -- to gum up the works in the hope of getting all or most of the charges dropped -- has thus far appeared ingenious: Seven years after being led away in handcuffs from JFK Airport, Giffen appears none-too-close to trial. But will it ultimately pay off?

If the strategy does prevail, the Giffen case could send an important signal to bribers with financial wherewithal -- you can wait out the Department of Justice.

A key question at the moment is whether Giffen's lawyers -- in the vein of their already-bold, go-for-broke approach -- can plausibly, and as early as next Monday, successfully motion for dismissal of the charges on the basis of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.

William Schwartz, Giffen's chief lawyer and a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District where Giffen's case is being heard, declined to comment on the question of a Sixth Amendment motion when I emailed him. But I rang up lawyers specializing in the Foreign Corrrupt Practices Act -- the law applied to foreign bribery cases -- and they made the across-the-board observation that Giffen's strategy may not be strong enough to achieve such a straight-forward victory.

In his defense, Giffen asserts that the Central Intelligence Agency either knew or should have known all along that he was diverting millions of dollars from U.S. oil companies -- a total of some $80 million -- to Nazarbayev and other powerful Kazakhs. When he advanced the strategy, it was exquisitely timed -- in among the strongest periods of the George W. Bush Administration, with its hyper-sensitivity about the release of even unclassified documents -- under the premise that the CIA was unlikely to disgorge cables and what-not that would validate Giffen's claims. And if the CIA did refuse to so cooperate, Giffen could claim compellingly that he couldn't receive a fair trial.

Up to this point, Giffen has proven correct -- the CIA has been as slow as molassas, and has consequently tested the patience of federal Judge William Pauley. Yet, that doesn't necessarily add up to a successful Sixth Amendment motion, experts tell me. To win, Giffen would have to show an outside reason why the long delay has occurred, and that he is being harmed by it. But as a former U.S. prosecutor who didn't want to be identified told me, "When much of the litigation is instigated by the defendant, the defense would be hard-pressed to claim that it's been denied a speedy trial." As for hardship or harm, Giffen hasn't been sitting in jail, but rather whiling away his time at home in Westchester County near the Winged Foot Golf Club.

Even so, said Richard N. Dean, a Washington-based FCPA lawyer with long experience in the former Soviet Union, that doesn't mean that Giffen won't prevail. He sees a more fundamental issue at stake -- "I just don't know if [the prosecution] has a case or not," says Dean, who is a partner at Baker & McKenzie.

That is, it's true that the CIA has dragged its heels, but so has the prosecution itself -- it hasn't seemed at all in a rush to bring the case to trial. That makes Dean wonder "how strong they think their case is, whether they believe they can overcome the defense's assertion" of the CIA defense.

Schwartz, in other words, probably can't abbreviate the current snail's-pace pre-trial process: Judge Pauley is unlikely to grant a Sixth Amendment motion.

There's always the chance that government prosecutors will demonstrate renewed spine in Monday's hearing, and make it plain that they intend to go to trial soon -- the Justice Department certainly doesn't wish to give bribe-givers or their lawyers the idea that they can use delaying tactics to wiggle out of an FCPA case. In that event, Schwartz would need to prepare for a knock-down, drag-out jury trial that would reveal embarrassing details about his client's luxurious, heavy-partying life abroad.

Yet, given the case thus far, one gets the impression that one or both sides wish the case would simply go away. If this is in Schwartz's thinking, he must patiently hope that the prosecution elects to save face by dropping at least some of the more onerous charges, and perhaps then persuade Giffen to plead to lesser violations of the law.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Holder Memo and FCPA Enforcement

Attorney General Eric Holder recently issued a memo (here) regarding "Department Policy on Charging and Sentencing."

There is little that is new is this memo; in fact Holder states that the purpose of the memo is "to reaffirm the guidance" provided by Title 9 of the U.S. Attorneys' Manual, Chapter 27" (see here) - a manual which has "guided federal prosecutors" for "nearly three decades."

Nor is there anything FCPA specific in the memo.

Yet the memo, and the broad pronouncements Holder makes, call into question whether several recent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions contradict the guidance the Attorney General has reaffirmed.

In the memo, Holder states - "persons who commit similar crimes and have similar culpability should, to the extent possible, be treated similarly."

Under the law, "persons" include both individuals and business entities, including corporations.

However, as explored in this post, a two-tiered justice system has seemingly developed in FCPA enforcement.

Certain corporations in certain industries, most often selling certain things to certain customers, can seemingly violate the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions with very little consequence. In fact, with increasingly frequency, such companies are not even charged with FCPA antibribery violations and/or may not even have to plead guilty to anything. See here for the recent Daimler, here for the recent BAE, and here for the Siemens "bribery, yet no bribery" enforcement actions.

On the other hand, the DOJ seeks long prison sentences for individuals such as Charles Paul Edward Jumet, who make payments that pale in comparison to the payments made by the above corporations. In doing so, the DOJ usually trots out its get tough language (i.e. "bribery isn't just a cost of doing business overseas [... but] a serious crime that the U.S. government is intent on enforcing").

The Holder memo also states "in accordance with long-standing principle, a federal prosecutor should ordinarly charge 'the most serious offense that is consistent with the nature of the defendant's conduct, and that is likely to result in a sustainable conviction."

Again, reference is made to the Daimler, BAE, and Siemens enforcement actions.

In Daimler, the DOJ release (here) notes that Daimler "brazenly offered bribes in exchange for business around the world" and that Daimler "saw foreign bribery as a way of doing business." Yet, Daimler was not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations. In fact, Daimler was not required to plead guilty to anything as it received a deferred prosecution agreement.

In BAE, the DOJ's criminal information (here) alleges that “BAE provided substantial benefits to one KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) public official, who was in a position of influence regarding the KSA Fighter Deals (the “KSA Official”), and to the KSA Official’s associates.” The indictment alleges that BAE “provided these benefits through various payment mechanisms both in the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. and elsewhere.” Yet, BAE was not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations.

In Siemens, the DOJ release (here) states, among other things, that for "much of its operations across the globe, bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure for Siemens." Yet, Siemens was not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations.

It is difficult to reconcile the charging decisions in these recent enforcement actions with the language of the Holder memo.

As to sentencing, the Holder memo states - "in a typical case" the appropriate sentence should be reflected by the "applicable guidelines range, and prosecutors should generally continue to advocate for a sentence within that range."

Apparently, neither Siemens and Daimler were "typical" cases, because in both enforcement actions the DOJ advocated for a sentence significantly below the guidelines range.

In Siemens, the guidelines range (see here) was $1.35 billion - $2.7 billion. However, the ultimate DOJ fine was $448.5 million. Siemens did not voluntarily disclose the conduct at issue, nevertheless, the DOJ gave Siemens greater sentencing credit than allowed for under the guidelines because the guidelines calculation was "incongruent with the level of cooperation and assistance provided by the company in the Department’s investigation." For more on Siemens' fine, see here and here.

In Daimler, the guidelines range (see here) was $116 million - $232 million. However, the ultimate DOJ fine was approximately $94 million. Again, Daimler did not voluntarily disclose the conduct at issue, nevertheless, the DOJ gave Daimler greater sentencing credit allowed for under the guidelines. The DOJ stated, "indeed, because Daimler did not voluntarily disclose its conduct prior to the filing of the whistleblower lawsuit, it only receives a two-point reduction in its culpability." However, the DOJ "respectfully submit[ed] that such reduction is incongruent with the level of cooperation and assistance provided by the company in the Department's investigation."

As demonstrated above, three of the DOJ's most high-profile FCPA or "FCPA like" enforcement actions seemingly contradict many of the guiding principles in the Holder memo.

With Attorney General Holder now re-affirming these principles, it will be interesting to see if future FCPA enforcement actions comply more closely with these principles or if the future holds more facade enforcement actions.


Speaking of Attorney General Holder, while most of us were enjoying the Memorial Day barbeque, he was delivering remarks at the OECD Conference in Paris. See here for a copy of his remarks.