Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Roundup

Save the date, Halliburton speaks on Nigeria, and the SEC's first non-prosecution agreement ... it's all here in the Friday roundup.

Save the Date

FCPA enforcement 2010 is coming to a close. The three most significant events from 2010? The three most interesting events from 2010? And a bold prediction?

That is my task on December 29th when I participate in Securities Docket's annual "Year in Review" webcast slated for 1 p.m. EST. The webcast is free and you can sign up here.

Other participants who address the same questions as to their area of expertise include Compliance Week editor Matt Kelly, Francine McKenna (re: The Auditors), Francis Pileggi (Delaware corporate law guru), Kevin LaCroix (The D&O Diary), Tracy Coenen (The Fraud Files), Lyle Roberts (The 10b-5 Daily) and Securities Docket’s Bruce Carton.

Halliburton Statement on Nigeria Charges

In last week's Friday roundup, it was noted that Nigeria dropped charges against Dick Cheney after his former employer, Halliburton, reportedly agreed to pay a $250 million fine. According to various media reports, the sum consisted of $120 million in penalties and the repatriation of $130 million.

A Halliburton spokesman was quoted as saying "we have no comment to make on this."

Halliburton has now spoken and its statement (here) contradicts the widely reported $250 million figure. The statement reads, in full, as follows:

"Halliburton announced today the resolution of the previously disclosed investigation by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) arising out of allegations of improper payments to government officials in Nigeria in connection with the construction and subsequent expansion by a joint venture known as TSKJ of a natural gas liquefaction project on Bonny Island, Nigeria, in which Halliburton's former subsidiary KBR, Inc. had an approximate 25 percent interest. Pursuant to this agreement, all lawsuits and charges against KBR and Halliburton corporate entities and associated persons have been withdrawn, the FGN agreed not to bring any further criminal charges or civil claims against those entities or persons, and Halliburton agreed to pay US$32.5 million to the FGN and to pay an additional US$2.5 million for FGN’s attorneys’ fees and other expenses. Among other provisions, Halliburton agreed to provide reasonable assistance in the FGN’s effort to recover amounts frozen in a Swiss bank account of a former TSKJ agent and affirmed a continuing commitment with regard to corporate governance. Any charges related to this settlement will be reflected in discontinued operations."

SEC's First Non-Prosecution Agreement

In January 2010, the SEC announced a series of measures (see here) "to further strengthen its enforcement program by encouraging greater cooperation from individuals and companies in the agency's investigations and enforcement actions."

"New cooperation tools" not previously available to the SEC, include, among other things:

* "Cooperation Agreements — Formal written agreements in which the Enforcement Division agrees to recommend to the Commission that a cooperator receive credit for cooperating in investigations or related enforcement actions if the cooperator provides substantial assistance such as full and truthful information and testimony."

* "Deferred Prosecution Agreements — Formal written agreements in which the Commission agrees to forego an enforcement action against a cooperator if the individual or company agrees, among other things, to cooperate fully and truthfully and to comply with express prohibitions and undertakings during a period of deferred prosecution."


* "Non-prosecution Agreements — Formal written agreements, entered into under limited and appropriate circumstances, in which the Commission agrees not to pursue an enforcement action against a cooperator if the individual or company agrees, among other things, to cooperate fully and truthfully and comply with express undertakings."

The SEC release noted that "similar cooperation tools have been regularly and successfully used by the Justice Department in its criminal investigations and prosecutions."

Earlier this week, the SEC announced (here) its first non-prosecution agreement against Carter's Inc. related to enforcement action against its former Executive Vice President (Joseph M. Elles) for engaging in financial fraud and insider trading.

The SEC's announcement states as follows:

"The SEC also announced that it has entered a non-prosecution agreement with Carter's under which the Atlanta-based company will not be charged with any violations of the federal securities laws relating to Elles's unlawful conduct. The non-prosecution agreement reflects the relatively isolated nature of the unlawful conduct, Carter's prompt and complete self-reporting of the misconduct to the SEC, its exemplary and extensive cooperation in the investigation, including undertaking a thorough and comprehensive internal investigation, and Carter's extensive and substantial remedial actions. This marks the first non-prosecution agreement entered by the SEC since the announcement of the SEC's new cooperation initiative earlier this year."

The NPA (here) is similar to DOJ NPAs and DPAs in the FCPA context. Carter's agreed to cooperate in the investigation of its former employee and any other related enforcement action and Carter's is prohibited from making any public statement contrary to the factual basis of the agreement (notwithstanding that the NPA does not contain a factual basis or a statement of facts). The NPA specifically states that the agreement should not "be deemed exoneration of [Carter's] or be construed as a finding by the Commission that no violation of the federal securities laws have occurred."

Although the Carter NPA is not in an FCPA enforcement action, it is likely that NPAs (and DPAs) will be frequently used by the SEC (as they are by the DOJ) in the FCPA context.

As I note in the "Facade of FCPA Enforcement" (here), DOJ NPAs and DPAs have exploded in recent years and the "lions share" of these agreements are used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions. Many observers believe that NPAs and DPAs have taken the place of declinations and that companies are pressured to enter into such agreements prematurely even before each element of the relevant charge is established.

With the SEC now using such alternative resolution vehicles, the end result will be even less judicial scrutiny (not that there is much judicial scrutiny at present) as to SEC interpretations of the FCPA and whether factual evidence actually exists to support each element of an FCPA charge.

No comments:

Post a Comment