Monday, February 28, 2011

Judge Blasts SEC's Lack of Dilligence

Dig into the details of most FCPA enforcement actions and one quickly discovers that the conduct at issue is old - in some cases very old.

The February 2011 enforcement action against Tyson Foods for instance related to conduct between 2004 and 2006. See here for the SEC's complaint.

The January 2011 enforcement action against Maxwell Technologies alleged conduct going back to 2002. See here for the SEC's complaint.

The December 2010 enforcement action against Alcatel-Lucent alleged conduct going back to 2001. See here for the SEC's complaint.

The June/July 2010 Bonny Island bribery enforcement actions alleged conduct going back to 1995. See here for the SEC's complaint against Technip for instance.

The FCPA does not have a specific statute of limitations, rather the "catch-all" provisions in 18 USC 3282 (for criminal actions) and 28 USC 2462 (for civil actions) apply.

Cooperation is often the name of the game in FCPA enforcement inquiries and, because of that, tolling agreements are frequently agreed to. Thus, discussing a fundamental black-letter law concept like statute of limitations in the FCPA context seems foolish.

But imagine a world (a world that perhaps is slowly developing - see here for instance) in which individuals and companies in FCPA enforcement actions do mount legal defenses based on black-letter legal principles such as statute of limitations.

In that world, it is likely one would see judicial opinions like the recent opinion from U.S. District Court Judge Jane Boyle (N.D. Tex.) in SEC v. Microtune, Inc. et al (see here for the opinion).

The relevant facts are as follows.

In June 2008, the SEC filed an enforcement action against Microtune and two of its former executives alleging a fraudulent stock-option backdating scheme between 2000 and mid-2003. As noted in the opinion, the "crux" of the limitations defense "was that most of the acts forming the basis of the SEC's case occured between 2001 and mid-2003."

The precise issue before the court was "whether the doctrine of fraudulent concealment, relied on by the SEC, operate[d] to toll the running of the five-year limitations period under the facts of the case." The SEC argued that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the limitations defense "because the 'discovery rule' and certain equitable tolling principles including 'fraudulent concealment' and the 'continuing violations doctrine' applied and salvaged claims that would otherwise be barred by the five-year statute of limitations." The court had previously rejected the SEC's "discovery rule" and "continuing violations doctrine" claims, and focused on the SEC's "fraudulent concealment" theory for tolling the statute of limitations.

The court noted that in order for the SEC to prevail on its "fraudulent concealment" claim, it had to show that it "acted diligently once [the SEC] had inquiry notice, i.e., once [the SEC] knew of or should have known of the facts giving rise to [its] claim." The court held that there was "no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the SEC acted diligently nor as to whether the SEC discovered the alleged wrongdoing within the limitations period."

As noted in the opinion, "when asked about the SEC's diligence" counsel for the SEC explained as follows: "we, often for resource reasons, wait until the company does its own investigation before we complete ours." [In July 2006, Microtune announced it was commencing an internal review as to the alleged practices].

Judge Boyle was not persuaded and stated as follows. "While perhaps an understandable method of allocating Commission resources, such justification does not excuse the SEC's apparent inactivity from mid-2004 to mid-2006, when further investigation would have uncovered the full extent of Microtune's backdating and would have allowed the SEC to bring a complaint against Microtune much earlier than 2008."

Accordingly, the judge dismissed all claims against the defendants falling outside of the five year limitations period - except those saved as a result of tolling agreements reached in 2007 and 2008.

See here for an article about the ruling from Shannon Green at Corporate Counsel.

Ask any FCPA practitioner and, in a candid moment, they will tell you that SEC FCPA inquiries often unnecessarily drag on for many years, including long stretches of complete inactivity, unreturned phone calls, and other delays due to SEC resource issues - including turnover of SEC attorneys assigned to the case.

Again, because cooperation tends to be the name of the game in FCPA inquiries and because tolling agreements are frequently agreed to, the SEC's lack of diligence in an FCPA matter is generally not a relevant issue.

However, every once in a while it is interesting to think of what would happen if FCPA enforcement largely took place in the context of an adversarial system.

The recent Microtune decision would seem to provide a glimpse.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Big, Bold, and Bizarre

Many words could be used to describe Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement in 2010.

The words I selected in this Year in Review piece recently published by BNA's White Collar Crime Report are big, bold, and bizarre.

The article provides an overview of the year that was and describes the big, bold, and bizarre year in FCPA enforcement; the increased scrutiny of the FCPA and FCPA enforcement; and events related to the FCPA as well as other anti-corruption laws and initiatives.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The FCPA in 2015 - What Will It Look Like?

The Dow Jones Global Compliance Symposium (see here for details) is set for March 31st and April 1st in Washington DC at the Park Hyatt Washington.

I am pleased to be participating in a panel discussion on March 31st titled "The FCPA in 2015 - What Will It Look Like?"

Moderated by Dionne Searcey (Legal Correspondent - Wall Street Journal), other panelists will include: Mark Mendelsohn (Paul Weiss); Peter Jaffe (Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, AES); and Frederic Miller (PricewaterhouseCoopers).

Other panels or interviews at the Symposium will focus on the FCPA and related issues as well.

Joe Palazzolo (Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents) will speak with Stephen Reynolds (SVP & General Counsel, Alcatel-Lucent) in a keynote interview titled "Moving Forward: Alcatel-Lucent's Anti-Corruption Program." See here for prior posts on the December 2010 Alcatel-Lucent FCPA enforcement action.

Georg Kell (Executive Director, UN Global Compact) will be interviewed on "Stamping Out Corruption: The Role That Corporations Can Play."

Dionne Searcey will speak with Commissioner Dabney Friedrich (U.S. Sentencing Commission) in a featured interview expected to cover how new and evolving corporate and anticorruption regulations are being enforced.

David Wessel (Economics Editor, Wall Street Journal) will speak to former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in a keynote interview titled "FCPA Enforcement: How to Comply. If No Compliance, Then Jail Time, Not Just Fines." As highlighted in this previous post, Senator Specter chaired the November 30, 2010 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on "Examining Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act."

Jean Eaglesham (Senior Reporter, The Wall Street Journal) will speak with Lorin Reisner (Deputy Director, Enforcement Division, Securities & Exchange Commission) in a keynote interview expected to cover the SEC's enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Cassell Bryan-Low (Reporter - Wall Street Journal) will speak with Vivian Robinson (General Counsel - U.K. Serious Fraud Office) in a featured interview titled "The U.K. Bribery Act: Dispelling the Myths."

In addition, other events or interviews at the Symposium are sure to touch upon FCPA issues as well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Foreign Official" First

For the first time in FCPA history, a federal court judge, with the benefit of a detailed and complete overview of the FCPA’s extensive legislative history on the “foreign official” element, is being asked to rule on the DOJ’s interpretation that employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled enterprises are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.

See here for the motion to dismiss in U.S. v. Stuart Carson, et al.

See here for my declaration.

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day

Today is President's Day.

This post highlights the role of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and William Clinton in enactment and subsequent development of the FCPA.


After watching Congress investigate and hold hearings on the foreign payments problem for approximately nine months, in March 1976 President Ford issued a “Memorandum Establishing the Task Force on Questionable Corporate Payments Abroad” (see here).

The great debate at this time was whether the foreign payments problem should be addressed through a disclosure regime or through a criminalization regime. The Ford Administration favored the former and in June 1976, Ford released “Remarks Announcing New Initiatives for the Task Force on Questionable Corporate Payments Abroad.” (see here). As noted in the remarks, Ford directed the task force "to prepare legislation that would require corporate disclosure of all payments made with the intention of influencing foreign government officials."

Certain bills were introduced in Congress consistent with Ford's vision and in August 1976 Ford issued “Foreign Payments Disclosure – Message From the President of the United States Urging Enactment of Proposed Legislation to Require the Disclosure of Payments to Foreign Officials.” (see here).

Neither Ford's proposal, or any other, was enacted by Congress prior to the 1976 elections in which Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter.


Unlike the Ford Administration, the Carter administration favored the criminalization regime that was under consideration in the prior Congress and a movement that soon picked up speed when Congress reconvened in January 1977.

Certain members of the Carter administration testified at Congressional hearings throughout 1977 in favor of the criminalization regime and in December 1977, S. 305 (the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 and the Domestic and Foreign Investment Improved Disclosure Act of 1977) was presented to President Carter.

On December 20, 1977, President Carter signed S. 305 into law - see here for his signing statement.


As noted in this previous post, President Reagan's administration very soon sought decriminalization of foreign payments subject to the FCPA. During the Reagan administration (1981-1989), numerous efforts were made in Congress to amend the FCPA. Soon after the FCPA was enacted, it was widely recognized that the FCPA had addressed a serious problem, but that the statute created much uncertainty and was, in the minds of many, unworkable.

Among other things, the FCPA antibribery provisions enacted in 1977 contained a broad knowledge standard (“reason to know”) applicable to indirect payments to “foreign officials”; (ii) did not contain any affirmative defenses; and (iii) did not contain an express facilitating payments exception. Beginning in 1980, various bills were introduced - either as stand alone bills or specific titles to omnibus trade and export bills - that sought to amend the FCPA. This legislative process took eight years.

In August 1988, President Reagan signed H.R. 4848 the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Title V, Subtitle A, Part I of the Act was titled “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Amendments.” President Reagan's signing statement does not refer to the FCPA amendments buried in the omnibus trade bill. Among the amendments were a revised knowledge standard applicable to indirect payments and the creation of affirmative defenses and an express facilitating payment exception.


In November 1998, President Clinton signed S. 2375, the "International Anti-Bribery and Fair Competition Act of 1998." Among other things, the Act amended the FCPA by (i) creating a new class of persons subject to the FCPA - "any person" not an issuer or domestic concern to the extent such person's bribery scheme has a U.S. nexus; and (ii) creating a new alternative nationality jurisdiction test for U.S. issuers and domestic concerns.

See here for President Clinton's signing statement.

Will President Obama play a role in FCPA history?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Roundup

Fear mongering and the dark empire, FCPA scrutiny of Hamid Karzai's brother, the DOJ's kleptocracy unit takes shape, and survey findings ... it's all here in the Friday roundup.

Fear Mongering and the Dark Empire

What does Sharie Brown (here), Chair of DLA Piper's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Anti-Corruption and Corporate Compliance Practice, think about the U.K. Bribery Act, the surge in FCPA Inc., and the revolving door? See here for a recent interview with Corporate Crime Reporter.

A Future Afghanistan Related FCPA Enforcement Action?

A federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York is reportedly hearing evidence against Mahmood Karzai (a dual Afghan and U.S. citizen and the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai) including possible evidence that Afghan Investment Co. (incorporated in Virgina until 2010) bribed Afghanistan's then mining minister to secure a lease on the country's only cement factory. See Matthew Rosenberg "Grand Jury Investigates Karzai Brother) (Wall Street Journal - Feb. 16th).

If evidence exists that Karzai did indeed violate the FCPA, one can only imagine the political / foreign policy considerations of criminally indicting the brother of the Afghan President. I like to think that the government blindly goes where the evidence leads them, but the BAE and James Giffen enforcement actions suggests that may not always be the case.

To my knowledge, there has never been an FCPA enforcement action involving conduct in Afghanistan.

DOJ Kleptocracy Unit

Joe Palazzolo (Wall Street Journal Corruption Current) recently spoke with several officials involved in the DOJ's nascent kleptocracy unit. See here for previous discussion and other links regarding the kleptocracy initiative.

Palazzolo reports (here) that the unit will be housed in the DOJ's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and staffed by five lawyers. The FBI's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit will also divert two agents to the new unit. According to the report, "U.S. officials expect that most cases will involve foreign politicians who have left office and are no longer in a position to obstruct investigations." Palazzolo reports that the unit's "first major case could be ready in the next month and several more are expected this year."

Survey Findings

Among the findings in Deloitte and Forbes Insights 4th annual "Look Before You Leap" survey (here) is the following:

"Almost two-thirds (63%) of total survey respondents identified Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and anti-corruption issues that led to an aborted deal or a renegotiation over the past three years. Lack of transparency or unusual payment structures in contracts was cited by one in five and 18% pointed to the use of agents, consultants, distributors, or third parties to obtain or facilitate business."

The survey results indicate that strategic buyers are more impacted (and perhaps more sensitive to FCPA issues) than financial buyers such as private equity firms and hedge funds.


A good weekend to all.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

SFO Flexing It Muscle Even Without the Bribery Act

In previous statements (see here for instance) U.K. officials have said that it would be wrong to assume that the U.K. was ignoring bribery issues prior to passage of the Bribery Act.

Case(s) in point - the recent enforcement actions announced by the Serious Fraud Office against MK Kellogg Ltd. and Mabey & Johnson directors.

MK Kellogg Ltd.

Yesterday, the SFO announced (here) that M.W. Kellogg Limited ("MKWL") has been ordered to pay "just over £7 million [approximately $11.2 million] in recognition of sums it is due to receive which were generated through the criminal activity of third parties."

This SFO enforcement action has been expected for some time, as noted in this previous post from October 2009.

MKWL was the entity that originally formed the TSKJ consortium the focus of the Bonny Island bribery scandal. See this post for current enforcement statistics as to KBR/Halliburton, Technip, and Snamprogetti / ENI.

MKWL is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of KBR and as noted in this previous post as well as KBR's release (here) Halliburton has indemnification obligations to KBR in connection with the SFO enforcement action of "55% of such penalties, which is KBR’s beneficial ownership interest in MWKL."

According to the SFO release, "the SFO recognized that MKWL took no part in the criminal activity that generated the funds" but that the "funds due to MKWL are share dividends payable from profits and revenues generated by contracts obtained through bribery and corruption undertaken by MWKL's parent company and others." The SFO release notes that "MWKL was used by the parent company and was not a willing participant in the corruption."

As noted in the SFO release, the court order against MKWL was pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. What is the Proceeds of Crime Act? See this piece from John Rupp (Covington & Burling).

Richard Alderman, the Director of the SFO, stated in the release: "our goal is to prevent bribery and corruption or remove any of the benefits generated by such activities - this case demonstrates the range of tools we are prepared to use."

Mabey & Johnson Directors

In July 2009, the SFO brought an enforcement action against Mabey & Johnson Ltd. (a U.K. company that designs and manufacturers steel bridges). The conduct at issue involved allegations (that the company voluntarily disclosed) that it sought to influence decision-makers in public contracts in Jamaica and Ghana between 1993 and 2001. The prosecution also involved breaches of United Nations sanctions in connection with the Iraq Oil for Food program.

It was the first ever prosecution against a U.K. company for overseas corruption. See here and here for the prior post.

On February 10th, the SFO announced (here) that "two former directors ... of Mabey & Johnson Ltd. [Charles Forsyth and David Mabey] have been found guilty of inflating the contract price for the supply of steel bridges in order to provide kickbacks to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein."

According to the release, at the time of the offense, Forsyth was the Managing Director of Mabey & Johnson and Mabey was the Sales Director. The release notes that Richard Gledhill, a Sales Manager for contracts in Iraq, previously pleaded guilty. According to the release, all individuals are to be sentenced on February 23rd.

The U.S. has prosecuted numerous companies in connection with Iraqi Oil-For-Food fraud. See here for such allegations in the ABB matter, here for such allegations in the Innospec matter, here for such allegations in the General Electric matter.

However, these prosecutions have generally been corporate only prosecutions with few related enforcement actions against individuals.

In just its single Mabey & Johnson prosecution, the SFO would appear to have prosecuted more individuals than the U.S. has in its approximately 15 Iraqi Oil for Food corporate enforcement actions combined.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Egypt - A Country Sweep?

As has been widely reported, various countries have frozen (or have been asked to freeze) the assets of former President Hosni Mubarak and other former top officials. See here for Samuel Rubenfeld's roundup at Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents.

Were any of the billions or millions of Mubarak's assets, or those of other former top officials, obtained because of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations?

That is the question posed by a reader who notes that corruption investigations generally follow regime change.

During Mubarak's regime, several FCPA enforcement actions alleged conduct involving (in whole or in part) Egypt such as Lockheed, Metcalf & Eddy, Textron, United Industrial Corporation, York, and Daimler.

It is one thing to allege conduct implicating low-ranking "foreign officials" or employees of state-owned or state-controlled entities.

It is quite another to investigate conduct involving top officials of a government generally viewed as an ally in a volatile area of the world. Such barriers would seem to be removed with Mubarak's ouster and an investigation may now even be viewed as a way to further U.S. relations with a new Egyptian government.

The reader asks, will Mubarak's removal result in FCPA floodgates being opened in Egypt?

The past few years have witnessed certain "industry sweeps." Will a "country sweep" be next?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Acquiring a Deferred Prosecution Agreement

In November 2010, Pride International Inc. was one of several companies to resolve a coordinated FCPA enforcement action involving (at least in part) the use of Panalpina services.

As noted in this prior post, the Pride enforcement action included not only Nigeria - Panalpina related conduct, but also conduct relating to contract extensions in Venezuela, bribing an administrative law judge in India, customs duties in Mexico, as well as other improper conduct in other countries.

The enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was approximately $56.2 million ($32.6 million criminal fine via a DOJ plea agreement and deferred prosecution agreement; $23.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest via a SEC settled complaint).

The three year DPA (here) imposed on Pride a host of compliance undertakings including reporting to the DOJ on an annual basis (during the term of the DPA) "on its progress and experience in maintaining and, as appropriate, enhancing its compliance policies and procedures."

On February 7th, Pride announced (here) a definitive merger agreement by which U.K. based Ensco (plc) will acquire Pride in a cash and stock transaction expected to close in the second quarter of 2011. The release states as follows. "The transaction will create the second largest offshore driller in the world with 74 rigs spanning all of the strategic, high-growth markets around the globe."

So what will happen to Pride's DPA obligations?

A common clause in DPA's is a sale or merger clause.

In the Pride DPA, it states as follows.

Sale or Merger of Pride International

"Pride International agrees that in the event it sells, merges, or transfers all or substantially all of its business operations as they exist as of the date of this Agreement, whether such sale is structured as a stock or asset sale, merger or transfer (including the sale, merger, or transfer of unincorporated branches), it shall include in any contract for sale, merger or transfer a provision binding the purchaser, or any successor in interest thereto, to the obligations described in this Agreement."

Sure enough, Section 5.15 of the "Agreement and Plan of Merger" (here) states as follows.

"Deferred Prosecution Agreement. Effective as of the Effective Time, Parent [Ensco] agrees to be bound, and the Surviving Entity shall continue to be bound, by the obligations of the Company [Pride] set forth in the Deferred Prosecution Agreement, dated November 4, 2010, between the Company and the U.S. Department of Justice, to the extent required thereby."

Pride's FCPA compliance obligations and undertakens may not be the only FCPA-related issues on Ensco's plate.

Ensco has ADR's traded on the U.S. market and "following disclosures by other offshore service companies announcing internal investigations involving the legality of amounts paid to and by customs brokers in connection with temporary importation of rigs and vessels into Nigeria, the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors and management commenced an internal investigation in July 2007."

Ensco's most recent quarterly filing (here) states as follows.

"Our internal investigation has essentially been concluded. Discussions were held with the authorities to review the results of the investigation and discuss associated matters during 2009 and the first half of 2010. On May 24, 2010, we received notification from the SEC Division of Enforcement advising that it does not intend to recommend any enforcement action. We expect to receive a determination by the United States Department of Justice in the near-term. Although we believe the United States Department of Justice will take into account our voluntary disclosure, our cooperation with the agency and the remediation and compliance enhancement activities that are underway, we are unable to predict the ultimate disposition of this matter, whether we will be charged with violation of the anti-bribery, recordkeeping or internal accounting control provisions of the FCPA or whether the scope of the investigation will be extended to other issues in Nigeria or to other countries. We also are unable to predict what potential corrective measures, fines, sanctions or other remedies, if any, the United States Department of Justice may seek against us or any of our employees."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heating Up North of the Border

In its July 2010 Progress Report on the Enforcement of the OECD Convention (here), Transparency International ("TI") called Canada one of its "most disappointing" findings given "little or no enforcement" of Canada's FCPA like-statute, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act ("CFPOA")

Among other things, Canada was found to have an insufficient definition of a foreign bribery offense, jurisdictional limitations as to its statute, inadequacies in its enforcement system, and lack of awareness raising in the country as to foreign corruption issues.

The TI Report quoted Bruce Futterer (a TI Canada expert) as saying - “One is left with the impression that the enforcement of anti-bribery and foreign corruption legislation is not a high enough priority with the Canadian federal government and that more could be done both in terms of strengthening the existing legislation and allocating greater human and financial resources to the education and enforcement of the CFPOA.”

Against this backdrop, TI Canada's January 31st press release (here) caught my eye. Without providing a source, the release states as follows: "The recent revelation from the RCMP Sensitive Investigations and International Anti- Corruption Unit that 23 CFPOA investigations are underway means that, 'Canadian companies can no longer hide behind the world’s perception that business is done here in a completely ethical manner.'"

From little to no enforcement to 23 active investigations, that is big news north of the border.

For more see here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tyson Foods Settles FCPA Enforcement Action Involving Mexican Veterinarians And Their No-Show Wives

Yet another FCPA enforcement action raises the issue of whether the FCPA's "obtain or retain business" element means anything anymore or whether the FCPA, contrary to Congressional intent, has morphed into an all-purpose corporate ethics statute and - in a game of chicken - companies opt to settle rather than mount a legal defense.

Yesterday, Tyson Foods, one of the world's largest processors of chicken and other food items, agreed to resolve an FCPA enforcement action focused on payments to Mexican veterinarians (and their no-show wives) responsible for certifying product for export.

The enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was approximately $5.2 million ($4 million criminal fine via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement; $1.2 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest via a SEC settled complaint).


The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against Tyson resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

The information contains a background section which describes the following.

"The Government of Mexico administers an inspection program, Tipo Inspeccion Federal ("TIF"), for meat-processing facilities. Any company that exports meat products from Mexico must participate in the inspection program, which is supervised by an office in the Mexican Department of Agriculture ("SAGARPA"). The inspection program at each facility is supervised by an on-site veterinarian who is a government employee ("TIF veterinarian"), paid by the state, who ensures that all exports are in conformity with Mexican health and safety laws." "There are two categories of TIF veterinarians: 'approved' and 'official.' Although all TIF veterinarians are foreign officials under the FCPA, Mexican law permits approved veteriarians to charge the facility in which they work a fee for their services in addition to their offcial salary. Official veterinarians receive all of their salary from the Mexican government and may not be paid by the facility they supervise."

The conduct at issue focuses on Tyson de Mexico ("TdM"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tyson that produces protein-based and prepared food products for sale in Mexico and foreign countries other than the U.S. TdM is headquartered in Mexico and maintains three meat-processing factories in Mexico.

The information charges that from July 2004 through November 2006, Tyson, TdM, and others were engaged in a conspiracy to "assist Tyson and TdM in the export of meat products from Mexico through the payment and promise of payment of things of value to Mexican government-employed TIF veterinarians, in order to obtain or retain business for TdM by influencing the decisions of veterinarians responsible for certifying TdM products for export under the TIF Program."

The information does not give any detail as to how the payments sought to influence the veterinarians nor does it suggest that the product at issue was not qualified for export. In fact, as detailed below, Tyson's press release (a release the DOJ had to approve per the deferred prosecution agreement) states that there were no issues with the safety of the exported products.

Among other things, the information alleges that part of the conspiracy was "to place the wives of the TIF veterinarians on TdM's payroll, providing them with a salary and benefits, knowing that the wives did not actually perform any services for TdM ...". According to the information, upon "termination of the salaries to the wives of the TIF veterinarians" in November 2006 Tyson "agreed to increase the amount paid to the veterinarians based on false invoices by the same amount as the salaries previously paid to their wives."

The information alleges that the above payments were falsely recorded on company books and records as "professional fees" and salaries in order to conceal the true nature of the improper payments in the consolidated books and records of Tyson.

In addition to the above described payments, the information also alleges that from the time Tyson acquired TdM in 1994 through 2006, "Tyson made occassional additional improper payments to the TIF veterinarians on an ad-hoc basis."

Under the heading "Total Improper Payments" the information alleges as follows:

"Tyson, its executives, and its subsidiaries authorized the payment, directly or indirectly, of approximately $90,000 to Mexican government-employed veterinarians, in order to obtain or retain business for TdM by influencing the decisions of veterinarians responsible for certifying TdM products for export under the TIF program, resulting in profits of approximately $880,000."

In addition, the information alleges that from the time of Tyson's acquisition of TdM until May 2004, "an additional $260,000 in improper payments were made to the TIF veterinarians, both indirectly and directly, including through payments to wives of TIF veterinarians."

Based on the above allegations, the information charges Tyson with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and substantive FCPA anti-bribery violations.


The DOJ's charges against Tyson were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement.

Pursuant to the DPA, Tyson admitted, accepted and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its officers, employees, agents, and wholly-owned subsidiaries as set forth above.

The term of the DPA is two years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement "based on the following factors":

(a) Tyson voluntarily disclosed the misconduct;

(b) Tyson conducted a thorough internal investigation of the misconduct;

(c) Tyson reported all of its findings to the Department;

(d) Tyson cooperated in the Department's investigation of the matter;

(e) Tyson has undertaken certain remedial measures;

(f-g) Tyson has agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department and the SEC in any investigation of the conduct of Tyson and its directors, offcers, employees, agents, consultants, subsidiaries, contractors, and subcontractors relating to violations of the FCPA; and

(h) with respect to the corporate compliance reporting obligations, the Department considered the following facts and circumstances: (i) Tyson has already engaged in signficant remediation related to the misconduct and implemented an enhanced compliance program; (ii) approximately 85-90% of Tyson's sales are domestic; (iii) Tyson operates only six wholly-owned production facilities overseas, three in Mexico and three in Brazil, all of which have been subjected to rigorous FCPA reviews; (iv) Tyson's only direct government customers are domestic; and (v) the problematic operations in TdM comprised less than one percent of Tyson's global net sales.

As stated in the DPA, the fine range for the above described conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $5.04 to $10.08 million. Pursuant to the DPA, Tyson agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $4 million (approximately 20% below the minimum amount suggested by the guidelines).

Pursuant to the DPA, Tyson agreed to self-report to the DOJ "periodically, at no less than six-month intervals" during the term of the DPA "regarding remediation and implementation of the compliance activities" described in the DPA. Given the factors the DOJ set forth in (h) above, this reporting obligation is a bit of a surprise.

As is standard in FCPA DPAs, Tyson agreed not to make any public statement "contradicting the acceptance of responsibility" as set forth in the DPA and Tyson further agreed to only issue a press release in connection with the DPA if the DOJ does not object to the release.

In the DOJ's release (here) Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated as follows: “Tyson Foods used false books and sham jobs to hide bribe payments made to publicly-employed meat processing plant inspectors in Mexico - the penalty and resolution announced today reflect the company’s disclosure of this conduct, its cooperation with the government’s investigation and its commitment to implementing enhanced controls.”


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

The complaint alleges that Tyson "authorized" TdM's illicit activities and that "in connection with these improper payments, Tyson Foods failed to keep accurate books and records and failed to have effective internal controls, as the true nature of the payments were concealed through salary payments to phantom employees and through service invoices submitted by one of the veterinarians."

According to the SEC, "Tyson Foods realized net profits of more than $880,000 from export sales from [TdM] facilities in fiscal years 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Based on the above conduct, the SEC charged Tyson with FCPA's anti-bribery violations and FCPA books and records and internal control violations.

Without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations, Tyson agreed to an injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations and agreed to pay $1.2 million in disgorgement and pre-judgement interest.

In the SEC release (here), Robert Khuzami (Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement) stated: “Tyson and its subsidiary committed core FCPA violations by bribing government officials through no-show jobs and phony invoices, and by having a lax system of internal controls that failed to detect or prevent the misconduct."

Laurence Urgenson (here) of Kirkland & Ellis represented Tyson.

Tyson's press release (here) notes, among other things, that its voluntary disclosure occured in early 2007 and that "none of the products exported from Tyson de México during the time period involved were shipped to the U.S., nor were there any issues with the safety of the products."

David Van Bebber, the company's Executive Vice President and General Counsel stated as follows: “We’re committed to abiding by the law as well as our company’s Core Values, which call on all of our people to operate with integrity. While we’re disappointed mistakes were made, corrective action has been taken and the improper payments were discontinued. As our international operations have expanded, we continue to strengthen the compliance efforts of our international businesses including improved training and compliance programs, extensive retraining, and anti-corruption focused audits.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Without Admitting or Denying

It's not an FCPA specific issue, but it's certainly an FCPA enforcement issue.

A company is the subject of a SEC FCPA enforcement inquiry.

A civil complaint is generally filed, and then, on the same day, the company "without admitting or denying" the SEC's allegations agrees to resolve the case.

See here for the recent SEC FCPA enforcement action against Maxwell Technologies.

At PLI's "SEC Speaks" event last week, SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar shared (see here) his "wishes for 2011" including "the Enforcement Division must bring cases with obvious deterrent effect."

Commissioner Aguilar stated as follows:

"As we work to build a pro-active regulator, my second wish is that the SEC Division of Enforcement brings cases that have obvious deterrence value. I know that this is a wish that is shared by our Enforcement staff. This means that when the Commission announces the resolution of a matter we would notice a reaction that we haven’t always witnessed.

I envision a world where when the SEC announces a settlement in a high profile case, its impact is clearly noted — and leaves little doubt that it will make people that are engaged in similar activities think twice. An enforcement action by the SEC should be serious business, and it should cause an organization to seriously review how it has been operating. Moreover, our enforcement actions should have market-wide impact, and there should be sanctions that are significant enough to stop similar conduct in its tracks. The possibility of being sanctioned by the Commission should not be considered part of the cost of doing business.

I envision a world where our remedies are calibrated to be meaningful, not merely routine - and where federal judges can clearly see that the SEC understands its mission and seeks to protect investors and deter wrongdoers by obtaining appropriate sanctions and meaningful deterrence.

An additional wish for 2011 is to see defendants take accountability for their violations and issue mea culpas to the public. I hope that 2011 brings an end to the press release issued by a defendant after a settlement explaining how the conduct was really not that bad or that the regulator over-reacted. I hope that this revisionist history in press releases will be a relic of the past. If not, it may be worth revisiting the Commission’s practice of routinely accepting settlements from defendants who agree to sanctions “without admitting or denying” the misconduct." (emphasis added).

I agree. It is worth revisiting this central feature of SEC settlements.

The policy was first adopted in 1972 (see here) and states as follows.

"The Commission has adopted the policy that in any civil lawsuit brought by it or in any administrative proceeding of an accusatory nature pending before it, it is important to avoid creating, or permitting to be created, an impression that a decree is being entered or a sanction imposed, when the conduct alleged did not, in fact, occur. Accordingly, it hereby announces its policy not to permit a defendant or respondent to consent to a judgment or order that imposes a sanction while denying the allegations in the complaint or order for proceedings. In this regard, the Commission believes that a refusal to admit the allegations is equivalent to a denial, unless the defendant or respondent states that he neither admits nor denies the allegations."

The resolution policy can lead to absurd results (see here).

In the FCPA context, I submit this SEC resolution policy contributes to a "facade of enforcement" and results in companies resolving an SEC FCPA enforcement action notwithstanding dubious or untested legal theories and regardless of valid and legitimate defenses.


It is simply easier and more cost efficient to settle an enforcement action "without admitting or denying" the SEC's allegations than to engage in long protracted litigation with a primary regulator.

My recent "Facade of FCPA Enforcement" piece (here) contains a discussion of the SEC v. Bank of America case. Although not an FCPA case, the party's briefs provide valuable insight into the same SEC enforcement procedures used in FCPA enforcement actions and the motivations of settling parties in a government enforcement action. Even the SEC noted in that case that "the terms of a reasonable settlement do not necessarily reflect the triumph of one party's position over the other."

Thus, I agree with Commissioner Aguilar that it is worth revisiting the Commission’s practice of routinely accepting settlements from defendants who agree to sanctions “without admitting or denying” the misconduct.

This policy contributes to a "facade of enforcement," including in the FCPA context, and the starting analysis should be - why did the Commission adopt this policy in the first place?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is There A Difference?

In September 2010, during the sentencing of Nam Quoc Nguyen, one of the Nexus Technology defendants (see here for the post on the sentences), the DOJ called to the witness stand the former U.S. commercial attache from Vietnam who was asked to testify as to the "seriousness of the offense as it impacts Vietnam." (See here for relevant portions of the sentencing transcript).

While in Vietnam, the commercial attache oversaw a staff of about ten in delivering services to American companies to help them grow their exports and he managed an advocacy portfolio in Vietnam to assist U.S. companies in selling directly to the Vietnam government. The individual testified that his group "constantly advise[d] companies on strategies to enter the market, to bid on government contract, to win business."

The former commercial attache described Vietnam as a "corrupt country" and the DOJ presumably expected the individual to stay on message as to how corruption in Vietnam is not a victimless crime and to describe who suffers from corruption in Vietnam. He did that.

But the individual drifted it seemed in his testimony and said, "I make no bones about it. It's very difficult to do business in Vietnam. It's not very transparent but American companies are making money and there are a number of strategies that companies can follow."

The individual was asked "is it possible to do business in Vietnam without paying bribes." He answered "it is."

One of the strategies he discussed was the following.

"Often it [obtaining Vietnamese government business] may require a personal visit by the Ambassador or another high-ranking official to a government official or an official of a state-run enterprise. It could take the form of a letter from a high-ranking U.S. government official to another official in the Vietnamese government or state-owned enterprise." (See pg. 68).

The individual then specifically talked about a $180 million commercial satellite contract Lockheed Martin was awarded by Vietnam Post and Telematics Group (a "major state-owned enterprise"). See here for Lockheed's press release.

According to the individual's testimony, Lockheed (he described the company as "one of our clients") "was in a competitive position to provide $180 million commercial satellite to one of the major state-owned enterprises, Vietnam Post and Telematics Group, VNPT."

At this point, even the judge asked the DOJ attorney, "what does this have to do with what you said you were calling this witness to tell us about?"

After an exchange between the judge and the DOJ attorney, the individual finished by saying. "The bottom line is, we have been able to help companies work through. In this particular case, a European country was offering payment with regards to winning the bid but the intervention of the Ambassador with the Chairman of VNPT and the Minister of Information Communications, was a critical element to help the company win the business, and they have stated as such."

According to this October 2010 article, Lockheed is among the "biggest corporate campaign contributors in U.S. politics."

Is there a difference between (a) when a company (or its employees) gives something of value to a foreign official to obtain or retain business with a foreign government; and (b) when a company (or its employees) gives something of value to U.S. political parties or candidates, or spends millions lobbying the U.S. government, and then the U.S. government assists the company obtain or retain business with a foreign government?

What about those U.S. diplomats that act as "marketing agents" for U.S. companies such as Boeing as recently profiled by the New York Times (here).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Robert Amaee on the "The Elusive UK Bribery Act"

In this guest post, Robert Amaee (the former Head of Anti-Corruption and Proceeds of Crime Unit at the U.K. Serious Fraud Office and current counsel with Covington & Burling LLP in London - see here) addresses several issues regarding the U.K. Bribery Act, including its recently announced delay.


The Elusive UK Bribery Act

The UK Ministry of Justice (the “MoJ”) announced within the past few days that implementation of the UK Bribery Act 2010 (the “Bribery Act”) is to be postponed for a second time; leading to a barrage of criticism from respected sources such as the OECD and Transparency International. The Bribery Act will now not enter into force until three months after the MoJ publishes its guidance on certain provisions of the Bribery Act. The MoJ has not announced a date for the issuance of this guidance.

So, what’s going on?

Some business leaders and their representatives reportedly have complained about the impact the Bribery Act could have on the competitiveness of British business overseas; with the incoming head of the Confederation of British Industry claiming that the Bribery Act is “not fit for purpose”. The Bribery Act also stands accused of leaving too much discretion in the hands of officials at the UK Serious Fraud Office (the “SFO”) to resolve questions that have been posed concerning the Bribery Act’s jurisdictional reach as well as several of its substantive provisions. Others -- even within the UK Government -- are reported to have complained that the Bribery Act was rushed through Parliament without sufficient scrutiny of the impact on British business. So, what’s going on?

The Bribery Act has had an exceedingly long gestation period by any standard and, like many welcome but overdue arrivals, it is now causing a few birthing issues. You may not like this analogy much but the fact of the matter is that ever since the UK made a commitment in 1998 to fulfill its obligations under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and became a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption, there has been an unremitting flow of effort aimed at transforming the UK’s complex Victorian laws on bribery and corruption into something more readily understandable and enforceable.

Since 1998, there has been, inter alia, in the UK a Law Commission Report, Draft Corruption Bill 2003, Draft Corruption Bill 2006, Law Commission Consultation 2007, a further Law Commission Report, a Draft Bribery Bill published in March 2009, the Joint Committee Report on the Draft Bribery Bill and the UK Government’s positive response to that report, which described the Joint Committee’s scrutiny of the Bill as “thorough.”

It is a fact that the Bribery Act did move through Parliament at breakneck speed in the final hours of the last UK Government in April 2010, receiving Royal Assent with little time to spare. What is also true, though, is that the Bribery Act was extensively debated in Parliament between November 2009 and April 2010 and made its way onto the statute books with resounding cross party support.

Will the Bribery Act ever enter into force?

There remains very strong support, across the UK Government and within the wider business community, for an effective and enforceable statute to combat bribery and other forms of corruption. The UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC has expressed publicly his support for the Bribery Act as has the Justice Minister and UK Anti-Corruption Champion, Ken Clarke. I believe that there is practically no prospect of the UK Government reneging on the commitments the UK has made to modernise the laws prohibiting bribery and other forms of corruption or indeed significantly disarming the Bribery Act, as enacted last April.

No one in the UK or elsewhere can assert a legitimate interest in permitting corrupt officials around the globe to continue to amass personal wealth at the expense of their fellow citizens, who often are left to endure abject poverty. Quite apart from the moral repugnance that one feels, it is important to ensure that corrupt officials do not act as an impediment to economic growth and job creation within their often resource rich countries by holding companies to ransom and pocketing their nation’s wealth.

The Bribery Act aims to tackle business involvement in corruption by making the boardroom responsible for keeping a tight reign on the company’s employees as well as the actions of “associated parties,” thereby aspiring to stem the flow of corporate funds into corrupt hands. No one will argue against that laudable aim but at the same time it is important to ensure that the law is not so widely drafted that it leaves well meaning and ethical companies in the invidious position of sanctioning technical breaches of the Act in the hope of salvation through prosecutorial pragmatism.

What’s all the fuss about?

The Bribery Act runs to a mere 17 pages and contains only four substantive offences. But it is the scope of two offences in particular that has caused business leaders to reach for the nearest packet of aspirin.

The major criticism has focused on the offences in sections 6 and 7 of the Bribery Act, both of which stand accused of being too widely drawn and introducing novel concepts that the Bribery Act fails to define. In relation to both of those sections, implementing policies to deal with corporate hospitality, facilitation payments and the extent of a company’s exposure to third party folly are regularly cited as problematic by company representatives.

In essence, the section 6 offence of “bribery of a foreign public official” makes a person liable if he or she offers, promises or gives a financial or other advantage to a foreign public official with the dual intention of influencing the official and obtaining or retaining business or a business advantage. The concern that has been raised is that for an offence to be made out under this section there is no requirement to show that the person trying to win the business had a corrupt intent or an intent to induce “improper performance” on the part of the official (as is required for the section 1 offence) and that many routine innocent interactions with foreign public officials could, as a consequence, amount to technical breaches of the Bribery Act.

Section 7 of the Bribery Act creates a wholly unprecedented UK offence of “Failure of a commercial organisation to prevent bribery.” A UK registered company or a non-UK registered company that “carries on a business or part of a business” in the UK, with no “knowledge” of or involvement in bribery could find itself in the uncomfortable position of having to explain to a UK prosecutor how a rogue employee or “associated person” in a remote part of the world could have paid a particular bribe. If facing such a charge, the company would have to convince the prosecutor and, if it came to it, a court that the policy and procedures that it had developed and implemented amounted to the only defence available under section 7, namely the much talked about “adequate procedures”.

The Bribery Act stipulates that a person is associated with a company if that person “performs services” for or on the company’s behalf. The Bribery Act states that an employee, agent or subsidiary “may (for example)” be deemed to be an associated person but goes on to say that in determining the question of who performs a service on for you or on behalf of a company one would have to look at "all the relevant circumstances" and not just the ”nature of the relationship.”

The manner in which an “associated” person is treated in the Bribery Act certainly does give prosecutors wide discretion in deciding whether a company should be held to account for the conduct of those who are representing the company. In addition, whether a company is “carrying on a business or part of a business in the UK” is not defined or circumscribed in the Bribery Act itself. Rather, it has been left -- according to the Bribery Act’s legislative history -- to the judgment of prosecutors and the UK courts, grappling with the pertinent facts on a case by case basis and applying “common sense.”

In relation to the “adequate procedure” defence under section 7, the Bribery Act obliges the UK Government, through the Secretary of State, to publish guidance on procedures that companies “can put in place to prevent persons associated with them” from engaging in bribery. This will, in due course, be supplemented by prosecutorial guidance setting out the elements of each of the Bribery Act offences and the public interest considerations that prosecutors will take into account in deciding whether to prosecute.

The MoJ’s draft guidance on “adequate procedures” was published in September 2010 and was followed by a short consultation period, which ended in November 2010. The MoJ had been expected to publish in January 2011 its final guidance on “adequate procedures,” leaving thereafter a three month window for companies to digest the guidance and refine their anti-bribery procedures.

What’s next?

In postponing release of the final guidance and implementation of the Bribery Act, the UK Government appears to have taken note of the cumulative effect of the concerns outlined above, albeit rather late in the day, and put off implementation of the Act until the guidance can be shaped to address those concerns. The MoJ is reported to have explained the delay in issuing the statutory guidance by stating that it is assiduously working on the guidance to make it “practical and comprehensive for business.”

Practical and comprehensive guidance certainly would be a step in the right direction and would be welcome by all British businesses as well as by those non-UK registered companies carrying on a business, or part of a business, in the UK who are working hard to compete globally whilst staying on the right side of the law.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Charlie Monteith on U.K. Bribery Act Issues

In case you were sleeping last week ...

The U.K. Bribery Act, originally scheduled to "go live" in Fall 2010 and then pushed back to April 2011, has been further delayed so that guidance on the Act can be developed. A week ago, the U.K. Ministry of Justice confirmed the delay and a spokesperson said: "We are working on the guidance to make it practical and comprehensive for business. We will come forward with further details in due course. When the guidance is published it will be followed by a three month notice period before implementation of the Act."‪

What does Charlie Monteith, the former Head of Assurance at the SFO and currently counsel at White & Case in London, think about the delay.

He writes as follows:

"As the former Head of Legal Assurance at the SFO, and the lead drafter of the AG's guidance on what constitutes the legal elements of the offences under the Bribery Act plus public interest factors for and against prosecution, as well as contributing to the drafting of the Ministry of Justice's guidance on adequate procedures, I find it perplexing why neither were published at the end of January.

There has already been a great deal of confusing, misleading, and unhelpful information being given out (some by top UK legal firms) about its interpretation, a great deal of which would dissipate if the guidance was to be published. Instead of which, everyone (save for myself, I might add) is still in some confusion over whether hospitality or promotions will trigger an offence, plus a steer on the treatment small facilitation payments would be helpful.

The UK government has said it wants to do a proper assessment of the impact of the Bribery Act on business as part of its committment made last autumn to assess all pending legislation and regulation. Yet the Act has already had two business impact assessments: in 2009 and then again from July to December 2010. It has not changed in any meaningful way since first being presented to Parliament in the spring of 2009, despite the full rigour of parliamentary analysis by all parties in both Houses that lasted nearly a year and ended with a vote of support.

It is frankly difficult to see how there can be any changes now to an Act of Parliament that Parliament (albeit the last one) has approved. That would entail amending the Act and debating and approving the amendments through this Parliament for which there does not appear to be time in this current session due to end in the summer."

Monteith recently published this piece in the Criminal Law Review.

In it, he notes, among other things as follows.

That the Bribery Act's failure to prevent bribery offense "is a big stick, but with it comes an enormous carrot of a defence of having 'adequate procedures' designed to prevent bribery. (Unlike the FCPA). It may seem an odd thing for a prosecutor to say, but the defence is actually the most important aspect of the whole Act because it gives business the incentive to do something about preventing bribery."

Other topics covered in Monteith's article include: the SFO's approach to enforcement, debarment, disgorgement, and sentencing issues under the Bribery Act.

Friday, February 4, 2011

One Year Since The FCPA's Darkest Day

One year ago today, the DOJ filed a criminal information (here) against BAE Systems plc.

The first paragraph of the charging document stated that BAE was "the largest defense contractor in Europe and the fifth largest in the United States as measured by sales."

The information alleged that BAE served as the “prime contractor to the U.K. government following the conclusion of a Formal Understanding between the U.K. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“KSA”)” in which BAE sold several Tornado and Hawk aircraft, “along with other military hardware, training and services,” to the U.K. government, which sold the material and services to the Saudi government. The information refers to these frequent arrangements as the “KSA Fighter Deals.” In connection with these deals, the information alleges that “BAE provided substantial benefits to one KSA public official, who was in a position of influence regarding the KSA Fighter Deals (the “KSA Official”), and to the KSA Official’s associates.”

According to the indictment, BAE “provided these benefits through various payment mechanisms both in the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. and elsewhere." For instance, the information alleges that BAE “provided support services to [the] KSA Official while in the territory of the U.S.” and that these benefits “included the purchase of travel and accommodations, security services, real estate, automobiles and personal items.” The information alleges that a single BAE employee during one year submitted over $5 million in invoices for benefits provided to the KSA Official.

Yet, BAE was not charged with violating the FCPA.

Rather, BAE was charged with one count of conspiracy for “making certain false, inaccurate and incomplete statements to the U.S. government and failing to honor certain undertakings given to the U.S. government, thereby defrauding the United States …”. Among the false statements BAE made to the U.S. government was its commitment to not knowingly violate the FCPA.

365 days ago I wrote (here) as follows:

"Transparency, corporate accountability, and indeed a criminal justice system all suffered setbacks today. The FCPA suffered a black-eye as well and one would be right to ask, "what the heck is going on here!"

Interesting twists and turns followed.

One month later (see here), BAE announced yesterday that Michael Chertoff, President Bush's former Secretary of Homeland Security, joined its board. Since 2005, BAE has received over $200 million in Department of Homeland Security contracts.

September turned out to a strange month.

The DOJ blessed BAE's monitor, a person per the plea agreement that shall have “sufficient independence from [BAE] to ensure effective and impartial performance of the monitor’s duties.”

Yet, the monitor blessed by the DOJ was a lawyer in a U.K. law firm that represented BAE and a law firm that represented the Saudi official who was the alleged recipient of the improper payments given rise to the enforcement action that required the monitor in the first place. (See here).

As Bruce Carton, writing for Compliance Week noted (here), "perception-wise, at least, I would think that a monitor who is not employed by a law firm that has multiple clients involved in the underlying alleged conduct would be a far 'cleaner' choice."

Then a few weeks later (see here) the FBI, the same agency that assisted in the investigation of BAE’s conduct giving rise to the February 2010 enforcement action, awarded a $40 million information security contract to a BAE entity. This contract was merely the most noteworthy of the millions of dollars in government contracts BAE entities have received in the last 365 days.

Every time I hear the DOJ say that bribery "will not be tolerated," that it will hold "accountable" those who corrupt foreign officials, that it will "vigorously pursue violations of the FCPA, and that it will apply a “consistent, principled approach” in prosecuting cases ... I think of the FCPA's darkest day and its aftermath.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bonny Island Bribery Developments

As reported elsewhere earlier this week (see here among other places), JGC Corporation of Japan (here) is close to resolving an FCPA enforcement action. JGC is the fourth joint venture partner along with KBR, Technip and Snamprogetti in the TSKJ consortium (a consortium originally formed by M.W. Kellogg) involved in the Bonny Island, Nigeria project.

In a disclosure earlier this week (here) the company stated:

"JGC and DOJ have been engaged in discussions about a potential resolution of the investigation relating to JGC. It was confirmed at the meeting of JGC's board of directors held on January 31, 2011 that the Board has approved a potential resolution of the investigation. Based on this approval, JGC recognized a provision for the cost estimated for such a resolution, which will be appropriated as a financial loss in the 3rd Quarter Financial Result. The amount of such loss is 17.8 billion Japanese yen [approximately $218 million]".

The expected JGC settlement would thus fall in the Top Ten FCPA enforcement actions of all time (see here for the FCPA Blog's current list) and would bump the total amount of corporate fines and penalties U.S. authorities have collected in Bonny Island bribery cases to approximately $1.52 billion.

See here for my current Bonny Island bribery statistics.

How will JGC's expected settlement affect KBR (a company, along with its current or former affiliated entities, that has already paid $579 million in U.S. fines and penalties in connection with Bonny Island)?

In early January, KBR announced (here) that it "completed the acquisition of the 44.94 percent share interest in M.W. Kellogg Limited (MWKL) previously held by JGC Corporation. With the completion of the transaction, MWKL, which was previously an affiliate of both companies since 1992, is again a wholly-owned KBR subsidiary."

During a January 13th earnings call, Sue Carter (KBR - Senior VP and CFO) stated as follows:

"Also in regards to MWKL, included in the transaction is an estimate of JGC’s share of the ongoing [Serious Fraud Office] investigation. Any potential liabilities at this point are only estimated. Therefore any financial impact pending an actual outcome in the investigation will be trued up positive or negative."

During the Q&A, William Utt (KBR - Chairman, President and CEO) was asked "can you tell us what kind of risks are structured in the MWKL deal? I mean, you have indemnification clauses for FCPA from Halliburton on your original stake. Do you have a similar clause with JGC?" He responded as follows: "Well I think the indemnification from Halliburton goes towards any financial penalties associated with the SFO investigation and as Sue commented, we've already factored that into the purchase price with JGC subject to a true-up."

As Halliburton disclosed in its Oct. 22, 2010 10-Q filing, its indemnification obligations to KBR in connection with the SFO investigation "is limited to 55% of such penalties, which is KBR’s beneficial ownership interest in MWKL."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Maxwell Technologies is the First Corporate Enforcement Action of 2011

In early January, Maxwell Technologies Inc. ("Maxwell"), announced that the U.S. Department of Defense awarded the company a $1.7 million contract (here), "for the initial phase of a multi-phase program to develop a lighter, longer-lasting, energy source for field radios and other portable electronic equipment carried by military personnel."

On January 31st, Maxwell became the first company in 2011 to settle an FCPA enforcement action.

The Maxwell enforcement action involved both a DOJ and SEC component. Total settlement amount was approximately $14.4 million ($8 million criminal fine via a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement; $6.4 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest via a SEC settled complaint).

Maxwell previously disclosed (see here) that "discussions with the SEC and DOJ have resulted in an estimate of potential settlement of up to $20.0 million – representing the combined first offer of settlement put forth by the SEC and DOJ." Presumably, the company's disclosure of the government's settlement offer did not sit well with the DOJ and on July 30, 2009, Maxwell issued this strange press release.

As set forth more fully below, the alleged recipients of the bribe payments at issue were all employees of alleged Chinese state-owned or state-controlled enterprises. Also of note, the SEC's charges include disclosure violations not often seen in FCPA enforcement actions, based on allegation that Maxwell's bribe payments allowed the company to offset losses and fund product expansions that are now a source of revenue for the company.


The DOJ enforcement action involved a criminal information (here) against Maxwell resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement (here).

Criminal Information

The criminal information, a short eight pages, alleges that "from at least July 2002 through in or about May 2009, Maxwell and its subsidiaries paid approximately $2,789,131 to Agent 1 [a Chinese national, third-party agent responsible for Maxwell S.A.'s (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Maxwell) high voltage capacitor sales to Chinese customers] to be distributed to Chinese foreign officials, in return for securing contracts that profited Maxwell."

The Chinese foreign officials?

You guessed it, employees of alleged state-owned entities such as:

"Pinggao Group Co. Ltd. [formerly Pingdingshan High Voltage Switchgear Works) ... a state owned manufacturer of electric-utility infrastructure in Henan Province, China" (see here for the company's website)

"New Northeast Electric Shenyang HV Switchgear Co., Ltd. ... a state-owned manufacturer of electric-utility infrastructure in Liaoning Province, China" (see here for company information) and

"Xi-an XD High Voltage Apparatus Co., Ltd., ... a state-owned manufacturer of electric-utility infrastructure in Shaanxi Province, China" (see here for the company's website).

According to the information, "Maxwell and its subsidiaries accomplished [the bribe] payments by using Agent 1 to market and sell Maxwell's high voltage capacitors to Chinese consumers ... substantially all of which were Chinese state-owned entities." The information alleges that Agent 1 "requested quotes from Maxwell S.A. on behalf of prospective Chinese state-owned entities" and that "upon Agent 1's instruction, Maxwell S.A. added an extra 20 percent to the quoted amounts to arrive at a higher price for Maxwell S.A.'s high-voltage equipment." The information alleges that Agent 1 then distributed the extra amount "to officials at the Chinese state-owned entities" including employees of the above referenced companies.

Under the heading, "Knowledge Within Maxwell's U.S. Management," the information alleges that "Maxwell's management within the United States discovered, tactitly approved, concealed and caused to be concealed the bribery scheme." According to the information, following discovery of the payments by Maxwell senior management in the U.S. including by Executive A, Executive B, and Executive C (all U.S. citizens), under Executive E's (a Swiss citizen and Maxwell S.A's Vice President and General Manager) oversight and supervision, the payments at issue to Agent 1 actually increased from approximately $165,000 in 2002 to nearly $1.1 million in 2008.

According to the information, Maxwell's financial statements and reports described the bribe payments as "sales-commission expenses."

Based on the above allegations, the information charges Maxwell with FCPA anti-bribery violations and knowingly violating the FCPA's books and records provisions.


The DOJ's charges against Maxwell were resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement.

Pursuant to the DPA, Maxwell admitted, accepted and acknowledged that it was responsible for the acts of its officers, employees, subsidiaries, and agents as set forth above.

The term of the DPA is three years and it states that the DOJ entered into the agreement "based on the individual facts and circumstances" of the case and Maxwell.

Among the factors stated are the following.

(a) Maxwell voluntarily disclosed its FCPA violations to both the DOJ and the SEC;

(b) Maxwell cooperated with the Department's investigation of Maxwell and others;

(c) Maxwell undertook remedial measures, including the implementation of an enhanced compliance program, and agreed to undertake further remedial measures ...;

(d) Maxwell agreed to cooperate with the Department in any ongoing investigation of the conduct of Maxwell and its employees, agents, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, subsidiaries, and others relating to violations of the FCPA; and

(e) the impact on Maxwell, including collateral consequences, of a guilty plea or criminal conviction.

As stated in the DPA, the fine range for the above described conduct under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was $10.5 million to $21 million. Pursuant to the DPA, Maxwell agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $8 million (25% below the minimum amount suggested by the guidelines).

Pursuant to the DPA, Maxwell agreed to self-report to the DOJ "periodically, at no less than 12-month intervals" during the term of the DPA "regarding remediation and implementation of the compliance program and internal controls, policies, and procedures" described in the DPA.

As is standard in FCPA DPAs, Maxwell agreed not to make any public statement "contradicting the acceptance of responsibility" by Maxwell as set forth in the DPA and Maxwell further agreed to only issue a press release in connection with the DPA if the DOJ does not object to the release.

As to debarment issues, paragraph 22 of the DPA states as follows:

"The Department agrees to bring to the attention of governmental and other debarment authorities the facts and circumstances relating to the nature of the conduct underlying this Agreement, including the nature and quality of Maxwell's cooperation and remediation. By agreeing to provide this information to debarment authorities, the Department is not agreeing to advocate on Maxwell's behalf, but rather is providing facts to be evaluated independently by the debarment authorities."

See here for the DOJ release.


The SEC's civil complaint (here) alleges, in summary, as follows.

"From 2002 through May 2009, Maxwell violated the anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA") when it repeatedly paid bribes to Chinese officials in order to obtain and retain sales contracts for high voltage capacitors from several Chinese state-owned entities. Maxwell engaged in bribery to maintain its high-voltage capacitor business in China, which accounted for material revenue and profits during the relevant time period."

According to the complaint, "the illicit payments were made with the knowledge and tacit approval of certain former Maxwell officers and Maxwell failed to accurately record these payments on its books and records, and failed to implement or maintain a system of effective internal accounting controls to detect or prevent the payments."

The complaint alleges that "the improper payments generated nearly $15.4 million in sales contracts, from which Maxwell realized profits ofover $5.6 million."

According to the SEC:

"Maxwell violated [the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions] by engaging in widespread bribery of government officials in China in order to sell its high-voltage capacitors to several Chinese state-owned enterprises. Maxwell violated Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-l, and 13a13 thereunder by failing to disclose in its annual and periodic filings that the material revenues and profits associated with its long-standing bribery scheme enabled Maxwell to better financially position itself until new products could be commercially developed and sold. Maxwell violated [the FCPA's internal control provisions] by failing to maintain internal controls to prevent or detect the bribes paid to officials at Chinese state owned-entities. Finally, Maxwell violated [the FCPA's books and records provisions] by failing to accurately reflect the nature of the improper payments in Maxwell's books, records, and accounts."

The SEC's complaint contains an allegation not often seen in FCPA enforcement actions about how the company's alleged bribery scheme helped offset losses in other areas and helped fund future product development.

According to the SEC:

"Maxwell greatly depended on the revenue from Maxwell SA's high-voltage capacitor sales to China in order to help fund Maxwell's expansion into new product lines that are now expected to become Maxwell's future source of revenue. Maxwell engaged in the bribery scheme because it enabled the company to obtain material revenue needed to financially position itself to help fund the very products that today are sustaining Maxwell's future growth."

As to "Discovery of the Illicit Payments" the complaint states as follows.

"Potential FCPA and accounting concerns came to the attention of Maxwell's finance department in September 2008, during an internal review of Maxwell SA's commission expenses involving the Chinese Agent. Maxwell's management team asked about these commission payments after learning of the unusually high Chinese Agent commissions, which included the Extra Amounts. During this review, Executive A informed Maxwell's finance department that the payments made to the Chinese Agent were recorded as sales commissions. Maxwell's finance department then sought and obtained a signed FCPA certificate from the Chinese Agent in which he represented that he was familiar with the U.S. FCPA and local laws and regulations regarding corrupt payments" and that he had not in the past and will not in the future make any improper payments.

However, according to the SEC, "after obtaining the representations, Maxwell's finance department took no further corrective action regarding the commissions and Extra Amounts paid to the Chinese Agent ...".

In February 2009, Maxwell's new CEO, became aware of the issues with the Chinese Agent and he "immediately notified Maxwell's audit committee and outside counsel."

According to the SEC:

"During the relevant period, Maxwell's controls designed to prevent illicit payments to foreign officials were wholly inadequate. At the time, Maxwell's Code of Conduct contained a brief section on FCPA issues, but there is no evidence that employees received any FCPA training prior to the company's remedial steps."

As to Maxwell's internal controls failures, the complaint states as follows:

"Maxwell (1) failed to question why the contract prices were artificially inflated by 20% above the bid prices; (2) did not request supporting documentation for the invoices or track where the commission payments ultimately were distributed; (3) performed no due diligence on the agent; (4) did not require FCPA training for all relevant employees; and (5) failed to take any action even though it appears that certain former officers and senior managers of Maxwell had knowledge of the bribes paid by Maxwell SA and its agent since at least November 2002."

Without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations, Maxwell agreed to an injunction prohibiting future FCPA violations and agreed to $5,654,576 in disgorgement and $696,314 in prejudgment interest.

In the SEC release (here) Cheryl Scarboro (Chief of the SEC's FCPA Unit) stated as follows: "Maxwell's bribery allowed the company to obtain revenue and better financially position itself until new products were commercially developed and sold. This enforcement action shows that corruption can constitute disclosure violations as well as violations of other securities laws."

Jeffrey Higgins (here) of Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP and Jerome Roth (here) of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP represented Maxwell.

Since announcement of the January 31st enforcement action, Maxwell's shares are up approximately 6%.

As I explored in this recent post, 60% of 2010 corporate FCPA enforcement actions involved (in whole or in part) employees of alleged state-owned or state-controlled enterprises ("SOE"). In these cases, the enforcement agencies generally allege that such enterprises are "instrumentalities" of a foreign government and that such employees are therefore "foreign officials" under the FCPA.

So far in 2011, it's 100%.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Picking and Choosing?

The sentencing memos in the Ousama Naaman matter are interesting reads. Naaman's memo (here), submitted by Abbe Lowell of McDermott Will & Emery (here), provides a glimpse into cooperation by an individual FCPA defendant.

The DOJ's memo (here), while requesting a downward departure, details how Naaman's cooperation was not great at all and how Naaman is seemingly contesting various facts and issues he agreed to in pleading guilty.

The DOJ seeks a recommended sentence of 90 months (7.5 years) which would result in 79 months of additional incarceration given that Naaman has already 11 months of time served.

As previously reported (here), Naaman's sentencing has been delayed until April 18th.

One aspect of the DOJ's sentencing memo I found interesting is where the DOJ warns the judge that a "minimal sentence could not only possible be construed as a violation of U.S. treaty obligations [...] but could do much to undermine the efforts by the United States Departments of Commerce and State to educate U.S. businesses about the harm caused by and risk of engaging in transnational bribery." (See pgs. 34-36).

The treaty reference is to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (see here) and the DOJ specifically cites Art. 3 Sec. 1 - "The bribery of a foreign public official shall be punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties. The range of penalties shall be comparable to that applicable to the bribery of the Party's own public officials."

Is the DOJ picking and choosing which articles of the OECD Convention it wants to abide by?

Article 5 of the same OECD Convention, under the heading "Enforcement," states that investigation and prosecution of bribery offenses "shall not be influenced by considerations of national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another State or the identity of the natural or legal persons involved."

Are we to believe that the Giffen prosecution (see here for prior posts) was not influenced by considerations on the "potential effect upon relations with another state."?

Are we to believe that the BAE prosecution and the lack of FCPA charges (see here for the prior post) was not influenced by "considerations of national economic interest" or the "identity of the natural or legal persons involved."

It would seem that every time the DOJ specifically states in a sentencing memo (i.e. Siemens, BAE, Daimler, etc.) that, in deciding how to resolve a case, it considered the collateral consequences - including the risk of debarment and exclusion from government contracts - that prosecution of the offense is being "influenced by considerations of national economic interest" or the "identity of the natural or legal persons involved."

In an effort to avoid yet another rejection of its FCPA sentencing recommendation, the DOJ is now warning a judge that a "minimal sentence" could be "construed as a violation of U.S. treaty obligations."

In doing so, is the DOJ picking and choosing which articles of the OECD Convention it will abide by?