Thursday, July 14, 2011

Armor Holdings Resolves Enforcement Action / BAE Avoids Successor Liability

In February 2009, Richard Bistrong a former employee of Armor Holdings Inc. (a former publicly-traded company, currently a subsidiary of BAE Systems) pleaded guilty to charges he conspired with others to, among other things, obtain United Nations body armor contracts valued at $6 million by causing his employer to pay $200,000 in commissions to an agent while knowing that the agent would pass along a portion of that money to a United Nations procurement officer (a "foreign official" under the FCPA) to cause the officer to award the contracts. (See here and here for the prior posts).

Bistrong then became an informant for the government and helped the FBI manufacture an entirely different case - the Africa Sting case - against, among others, Jonathan Spiller (the former CEO and President of Armor Holdings and Bistrong's boss) and Stephen Gerard Giordanella (formerly associated with Armor Holdings). Spiller, who testified at the first Africa Sting trial that resulted in a mistrial (see here for the prior post) is one of the Africa Sting defendants that has pleaded guilty. Giordanella is scheduled for a September trial.

Yesterday, in a related development, the DOJ and SEC announced an FCPA enforcement against Armor Holdings. Total fines and penalties are approximately $16 million ($10.3 million via a DOJ non-prosecution agreement and $5.7 million via a settled SEC civil complaint).

That the DOJ would resolve the matter solely against Armor Holdings without also holding BAE accountable stands in stark contrast to other recent FCPA enforcement actions where the DOJ has used successor liability theories against acquiring companies (see here for the 2010 enforcement action against Alliance One International for instance). But then again, in 2010 the DOJ resolved an enforcement action against BAE - one that per the DOJ's own allegations directly implicated the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions - without FCPA charges. See here for the prior post.

This post analyzes both the DOJ and SEC enforcement actions against Armor Holdings.


The NPA (here) begins as follows.

The DOJ "will not criminally prosecute Armor Holdings, Inc., or any of its present or former parents, subsidiaries, or affiliates for any crimes ... related to the making of, and agreement to make, improper payments by Armor employees and agents to a procurement official of the United Nations in connection with efforts to obtain and retain body armor contracts for an Armor subsidiary from the U.N. in 2011 and 2003, and related accounting and record-keeping associated with these improper payments ...".

The NPA has a term of two years. As is typical in FCPA NPAs or DPAs, Armor agreed "not to make any public statement contradicting" the described conduct.

According to the NPA, the DOJ agreed to resolve the action via an NPA based, in part, on the following factors.

(a) Armor's complete disclosure of the facts at issue;

(b) Armor's self-investigation and cooperation with the DOJ and SEC;

(c) "the fact that all of the conduct [at issue] took place prior to the acquisition of Armor by BAE Systems; and

(d) "the extensive remedial efforts undertaken by Armor, before and after Armor's acquisition by BAE Systems, including but not limited to terminating the Armor employees who were involved in the misconduct; terminating approximately 1,700 international sales representatives and distributors of Armor Holdings Products LLC immediately after the acquisition closed; conducting extensive FCPA compliance training for over 1,000 Armor employees; implementing BAE Systems' due diligence protocols and review processes for any new Armor foreign sales representatives and distributors; and applying BAE Systems' compliance policies and internal controls to all Armor businesses."

According to the Statement of Facts in the NPA, "Armor manufactured security products, vehicle armor systems, protective equipment and other products for use, primarily, by military, law enforcement, security and corrections personnel." The conduct at issue focuses on Armor Holdings Products Group ("Products Group"), which was a wholly owned division of Armor, Bistrong (Product Group's Vice President for International Sales) and Armor Products International Ltd. ("API"), which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Armor that was a part of the Products Group and headquartered in the U.K.

Under the heading "Improper Conduct" the NPA states as follows. From 2001 to 2006, "API and its employees and agents made corrupt payments to a United Nations procurement official to induce that official to provide non-public, inside information to API, and to cause the U.N. to award body armor contracts to API." The NPA further states that "Armor employees falsely recorded the nature and purpose of these improper payments, as well as other payments, in Armor's books and records."

Under the heading "Books and Records" the NPA states as follows. From 2001 to 2006, "Bistrong, Products Employee A and others caused the Products Group to keep off Armor's books and records approximately $4.4 million in payments to agents and other third-party intermediaries used by the Products Group to assist it it obtaining business from foreign government customers."

Pursuant to the NPA, the DOJ agreed not to prosecute Armor based on the above described conduct if it complies with the compliance-related obligations set forth in the NPA. In an interesting sentence similar to the recent Tenaris DOJ NPA, the DOJ also agreed not to prosecute Armor for conduct "Armor specifically disclosed to the DOJ in meetings during its voluntary disclosure from March 2007 to December 2010." This sentence suggests that Armor disclosed other conduct to the DOJ in addition to the conduct described above.

See here for the DOJ's release announcing the enforcement action. Among other things, the release states as follows. "Due to Armor’s implementation of BAE’s due diligence protocols and review processes, its application of BAE’s compliance policies and internal controls to all Armor businesses, its extensive remediation and improvement of its compliance systems and internal controls, as well as the enhanced compliance undertakings included in the agreement, Armor is not required to retain a corporate monitor. Armor will be required to report to the department on implementation of its remediation and enhanced compliance efforts every six months for the duration of the agreement."


The SEC's settled civil complaint (here) is based on the same core conduct described above.

In summary, the complaint states as follows. "From 2001 through 2006, certain agents of Armor Holdings participated in a bribery scheme in which corrupt payments were authorized to be made to an official of the United Nations ("U.N."), for the purpose ofobtaining and retaining U.N. business. Armor Holdings generated more than $7.1 million in improper revenues, and realized over $1.5 million in improper profits, through the award of U.N. body armor contracts to its subsidiary during this period. From 2001 through June 2007, another Armor Holdings subsidiary employed an accounting practice that disguised in its books and records approximately $4,371,278 in commissions paid to intermediaries who brokered the sale of goods to foreign governments. By virtue of this conduct, Armor Holdings violated the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA and the Exchange Act."

In an SEC release (here), Robert Khuzami (Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement) stated that "illicit payments to U.N. officials are no less reprehensible than bribes to foreign government officials." As noted in the SEC release, Armor, without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations, consented to the entry of a permanent injunction against further FCPA violations and agreed to pay $1,552,306 in disgorgement, $458,438 in prejudgment interest, and a civil monetary penalty of $3,680,000.

The SEC release also contains the following summary statistic. "Since 2010, the SEC has filed 32 FCPA cases, including the case against Armor Holdings, and obtained more than $600 million in penalties, disgorgement and interest."

Roger Witten and Kimberly Parker (here and here of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr) represented Armor Holdings.

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