Friday, March 25, 2011

Libya

Two feature articles this week, one from the New York Times the other from Canada's Globe and Mail, focus on business dealings in Libya.

The New York Times article (here) by Eric Lichtblau, David Rohde and James Risen begins by noting that "some companies, including several based in the United States, appeared willing to give in to" Libya's demand for monetary contributions to help Libya pay $1.5 billion for its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 - as a condition of continuing to do business in the country.

The article also notes that after the U.S. reopened trade with Libya in 2004, American and international oil companies, telecommunications firms and contractors "discovered that Colonel Qaddafi or his loyalists often sought to extract millions of dollars in “signing bonuses” and “consultancy contracts” — or insisted that the strongman’s sons get a piece of the action through shotgun partnerships."

Among other examples cited, the articles notes that "in 2008, Occidental Petroleum, based in California, paid a $1 billion "signing bonus" to the Libyan government as part of a 30-year agreement." According to the article, "Petro-Canada, a large Canadian oil company, made a similar $1 billion payment after Libyan officials granted it a 30-year oil exploration license."

One strange aspect of the FCPA is that it does not prohibit payments to foreign governments, only foreign officials. See e.g., DOJ Opinion Procedure Release 09-01 (here) stating that the conduct at issue would "fall outside the scope of the FCPA" in that the things of value "will be provided to the foreign
government, as opposed to individual government officials ...".

The Globe and Mail article (here) by Nathan Vanderklippe begins as follows.

"Near the centre of Tripoli sits the bunker, residence and military command post of Moammar Gadhafi. It is hidden behind three concentric rings of defensive walls. It is a fortress that sprawls over six square kilometres. But for much of the past decade, those working hardest to penetrate it have not been citizens rising up against a despot. They have, instead, been wealthy Western companies, intent on wringing riches from the Libyan desert’s massive oil reserves. For some of them, gaining access to Col. Gadhafi – whether directly, or through one of his powerful sons, or through a shadowy network of well-connected “consultants” – was just one of the many challenges of operating in a country some remember as downright bizarre."

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