Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chodan's 9% Plea Agreement

If one were to categorize "successful" FCPA enforcement actions or DOJ "wins" and "losses" in FCPA enforcement actions, how does one categorize a plea agreement in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to 9% of the original charges?

In February 2009, Wojciech Chodan (along with Jeffrey Tesler) was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions and ten counts of substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations in connection with the massive Bonny Island, Nigeria bribery case. (See here).

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced (here) that Chodan agreed to plead guilty to the one conspiracy charge. What you will not see in the DOJ's release is that, in exchange, the DOJ agreed to dismiss the other 10 charges (i.e. 91% of the original charges) assuming the court accepts the plea agreement. (See here for the plea agreement).

Who is Wojciech Chodan?

As reflected in the plea agreement and original indictment, Chodan is a United Kingdom citizen who "was a commercial vice president (a non-officer position) and then, beginning in 1999, a consultant for M.W. Kellogg Ltd., which was a United Kingdom subsidiary of The M.W. Kellogg Company and then Kellogg, Brown & Root, Inc. (collectively KBR)."

Chodan reported to KBR's CEO, Albert Jackson Stanley, among others. (In August 2008, Stanley pleaded guilty (see here) to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.).

According to the plea agreement, Chodan assisted KBR and its three partners in the so-called TSKJ joint venture obtain engineering, procurement, and construction ("EPC") contracts (collectively valued at over $6 billion) to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island.

According to the plea agreement, between 1994 and June 2004 "Chodan agreed with Stanley and others to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials in order for TSKJ, KBR, and others to obtain and retain the EPC contracts to build the Bonny Island Project." The plea agreement states that "Chodan knew that it was unlawful under U.S. law to bribe foreign government officials."

According to the plea agreement, Chodan "recommended and agreed to the hiring of Jeffrey Tesler and Tri-Star Investments Ltd. ("Tri-Star) by TSKJ, expecting that Tesler and Tri-Star would pay bribes to high-level Nigerian government officials to assist TSKJ, KBR, and others in winning the EPC contracts to build the Bonny Island Project." Also, according to the plea agreement, Chodan "recommended and agreed to the hiring of a global trading company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan ("Consulting Company B") by TSKJ, expecting that Consulting Company B would pay bribes to lower level Nigerian government officials to assist TSKJ, KBR, and others in winning the EPC contracts to build the Bonny Island Project."

The factual basis for the guilty plea states that "Chodan and his co-conspirators committed acts in furtherance of the scheme [...] in Houston, Texas, however, the factual basis for the guilty plea does not provide any further detail on this issue.

As noted in the DOJ release, Chodan "faces a maximum penalty of 60 months in prison on the conspiracy charge" and "as part of his plea agreement, Chodan agreed to forfeit $726,885."

Andrew Lourie (here - who "served in various high-level positions with the U.S. Department of Justice, including as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief of Staff for the Criminal Division and as Chief of the Public Integrity Section") represents Chodan.

For an overview of prior Bonny Island enforcement actions - see here.

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