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Harry Cassin Publisher and Editor

Andy Spalding Senior Editor

Jessica Tillipman Senior Editor

Richard L. Cassin Editor at Large

Elizabeth K. Spahn Editor Emeritus 

Cody Worthington Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn Contributing Editor

Bill Waite Contributing Editor

Shruti J. Shah Contributing Editor

Russell A. Stamets Contributing Editor

Richard Bistrong Contributing Editor 

Eric Carlson Contributing Editor

Bill Steinman Contributing Editor

Aarti Maharaj Contributing Editor


FCPA Blog Daily News

Tuesday
Jul082008

FCPA-Inspired Civil Suits Take Center Stage

The always-helpful D & O Diary has a great post about FCPA-related civil litigation here. The topic is big news these days, with interest spurred by front-page suits brought by alleged victims of overseas public corruption -- most lately the government of Iraq, Bahrain's Alba and Denver oilman Jack Grynberg.

In the post and in a memo linked to it here, the D&O Diary moves the discussion further downstream -- to shareholder derivative suits based on FCPA-related conduct or allegations. And the subject isn't merely academic.

There's Willbros' $10.5 million settlement of a class action suit after the company restated results and upped its reserve to cover potential FCPA-related penalties; Immuncor's $2.5 million settlement of a suit claiming the company and some of its leaders misled investors about business practices and internal controls; and an ongoing securities lawsuit in which the plaintiffs claim that Nature's Sunshine Products, Inc. lacked internal controls and didn't properly account for foreign transactions.

Shareholder derivative suits based on allegations of overseas public bribery have also been filed against BAE Systems and Alcoa (see Alba above). Those cases, the memo says, illustrate how leading plaintiffs' securities lawyers are leaping in, signaling that more such suits are on the way.

For directors and officers, the potential coverage gaps in liability insurance are eye-opening. For example, D&O policies sometimes contain a so-called "commissions exclusion." It precludes coverage for losses from claims related to payments to or for an agent or employee of any foreign government. If that sounds like a prohibited payment under the FCPA, it's because the exclusion, as the memo notes, was created right after the FCPA's enactment. Then there's excluded coverage for FCPA-related fines and penalties, defense expenses for enforcement actions and . . . . well, lots more.

A special thanks to Kevin LaCroix and his D&O Diary for the reliable and otherwise hard-to-find information

View our prior posts on the private right of action for FCPA-related conduct here.
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Monday
Jul072008

The Lords Hear From The SFO

Yesterday the Serious Fraud Office asked the House of Lords to overturn April's High Court ruling that the SFO broke the law when it dropped its corruption investigation of BAE Systems.

The case involves BAE's alleged secret payments of £1 billion to the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin-Sultan. The payments were allegedly made when BAE was trying to sell jet fighters to the Saudi government.

In late 2006, the SFO was about to gain access to Swiss bank accounts that may have shown where BAE's payments went. The Saudis threatened to end anti-terrorism cooperation with the U.K unless the SFO stopped its investigation. The High Court in April criticized the government's capitulation as illegal and blasted the Saudi threats. "No one within this country or outside," the court said, "is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice."

Yesterday the SFO's lawyer told the Lords that Robert Wardle, who was then the SFO's director, was "convinced that Saudi Arabia was not bluffing." By December 2006, the lawyer said, Wardle believed the "danger was now both very grave and imminent." Because Wardle's decision was based on national security and not on commercial considerations, the lawyer said, the SFO was justified in stopping its investigation.

Public interest groups are arguing that the SFO's action contravened its charter and Britain's commitments under the OECD's anti-corruption convention.

The hearing before the Lords is continuing.

Whatever happens in London, the U.S. Justice Department is conducting its own investigation. The DOJ wants to know whether BAE and Prince Bandar violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and anti-money laundering laws.

In May this year, the DOJ turned up the heat. BAE's chief executive Mike Turner and director Nigel Rudd were detained at U.S. airports. Authorities apparently copied information from their laptop computers, cell phones, and papers before letting them leave. The DOJ has also reportedly served subpoenas on other BAE employees in the U.S.

In November 2007, according to the U.K.'s Guardian, the DOJ obtained Swiss banking records and evidence from a U.K. businessman who was part of the deal. The paper reported that Peter Gardiner had boxes of invoices allegedly detailing payments made by BAE to members of the Saudi royal family. Gardiner was flown by FBI agents to Washington in August 2007 to give testimony there. He traveled via Paris to avoid British attention, the paper said.

There's no evidence that BAE is co-operating with the DOJ's investigation. In fact, a Times Online article in May this year quoted a former DOJ official as saying that the recent heavy-handed behavior of U.S. authorities indicated "a severe lack of cooperation by BAE."

BAE and Prince Bandar have denied breaking any laws.

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Sunday
Jul062008

Shock And Awe In U.S. Federal Court

The government of Iraq filed a civil suit in late June in federal district court in New York City against two individuals and about 50 companies and some of their related firms for bribery that allegedly occurred under the United Nations oil-for-food program. Referring to the U.N. program as "the largest financial fraud in human history," the 47-page complaint seeks more than $10 billion in damages.

Many of the defendants named in the complaint -- which relies heavily on the U.N.'s October 2005 internal report by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker -- have already faced enforcement action for violating U.N. regulations or U.S. law, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Among those discussed in our prior posts are ABB, AB Volvo, Flowserve, Akzo Nobel, Chevron, Siemens, Ingersoll-Rand, York International, Oscar Wyatt, El Paso (successor to Coastal Corp.) and Textron. Others named in the complaint include Air Liquide, Atlas Copco, Boston Scientific, BNP Paribas, Buhler, Daewoo, Daimler-Chrysler, Dow, Eastman, Glaxo, Dresser, Kia Motors, Novo Nordisk and Vitol.

The complaint describes how kickbacks paid to representatives of Saddam Hussein were funded through illegal and undisclosed transportation and port fees, bogus after-sales service fees and overpricing of goods and services.

Although there is no private right of action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, this is the third civil suit filed this year in U.S. federal court by alleged victims of overseas public corruption. In March, Bahrain-owned Alba sued Alcoa and its agent in Pittsburgh for allegedly inflating prices and using the money to bribe Bahraini officials. Then in April, Denver-based oilman Jack Grynberg and his company brought a suit in the District Of Columbia against their former consortium partners BP and Statoil, and their top executives, for allegedly using some of Grynberg's money to bribe government officials in Kazakhstan.

Similar to the Alba and Grynberg complaints, the Iraqi government's claims are based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), common-law fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. Iraq also alleges illegal price discrimination under the Robinson Patman Act ("It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, knowingly to induce or receive a discrimination in price which is prohibited by this section.").

The complaint says the federal court in New York should hear the case because the oil-for-food program was administered at the United Nations' headquarters there, all funds related to the program "were supposed to pass through an escrow account in New York," and all oil-for-food contracts were "approved in New York."

View Iraq's complaint here (courtesy of The AmLaw Daily).

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Wednesday
Jul022008

Good News For Mr. Pinkerton

A report yesterday from Dow Jones said the United States has dropped its sputtering prosecution of David B. Pinkerton on charges of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The government had alleged that in June 1998, as the head of AIG Global Investment Corp., Pinkerton invested about $15 million of AIG's money in a consortium headed by Victor Kozeny -- with the understanding that Kozeny was bribing Azeri officials to ensure the privatization of the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR).

Prosecutors last year suffered a double setback in the case. In June 2007, a federal district court in Manhattan dismissed all FCPA and related counts against Kozeny, Pinkerton and their co-defendant, Frederic Bourke, Jr. The court said the FCPA's five-year statute of limitations had already expired. The government appealed, but then in October the Bahamas Supreme Court ruled against Kozeny's extradition, refusing to order his return to the U.S. to face trial. He's from the Czech Republic and reportedly has Irish citizenship, but he's been living in the Bahamas for more than a decade.

Dow Jones said U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin's order of nolle prosequi dismissing the charges against Pinkerton was signed but hadn't yet appeared in the court's public electronic filing system. The report continued,

In the nolle prosequi request - a copy of which was reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires - Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Abernethy wrote, "Based upon a review of the evidence and information pertaining to this defendant acquired since the filing of the indictment, the government concluded that further prosecution of David Pinkerton in this case would not be in the interest of justice."

No word yet on whether the government will also drop its case against Bourke.

 

Prosecutors obtained a related conviction in February 2004. Clayton Lewis, a former employee of Omega Advisors, Inc., pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA. Then in July 2007, Omega itself settled with the government, entering into a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ and agreeing to a civil forfeiture of $500,000. As the Justice Department noted then, Omega invested more than $100 million with Kozeny in 1998 for the Azeri privatization program. But the program fizzled and Omega lost its entire investment.

 

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A safe and happy Fourth of July to our American readers. It's easy to be cynical, and somehow "patriotic" has become a slur. That's too bad. Expressing gratitude for the blessings of country and countrymen is always fitting. To be sure, our Republic reflects human nature -- all of it. The flaws and pettiness and insecurities are there, but so are our finest traits. And while Americans from left, right and center are often bothered by the messiness of our great experiment with democracy, we can all be proud that ours is still a country of freedom, opportunity and hope. See you next week.

 

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Monday
Jun302008

Cash In The Freezer

The strange case of the Honorable William J. Jefferson, Member of the United States House of Representatives, keeps getting stranger.

Rep. Jefferson (D-La.) -- a Congressman since 1991 from a district that includes New Orleans -- was indicted in June last year by a federal grand jury for violating the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He was also charged with soliciting and accepting bribes, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. He faces a maximum of 235 years in prison if convicted on all 16 counts.

Now he says that in spite of the indictment, he's running for re-election. "The fact that I am the target of an overly zealous prosecution has not prevented my delivering for our district and our state," he said last month. Jefferson, 61, becomes not only the first elected federal official to be indicted under the FCPA, but also the first person to run for Congress while facing criminal FCPA charges.

Prosecutors allege that in August 2005, Jefferson hid $90,000 in the freezer at his Washington home. It was part of $100,000 provided by the government's cooperating witness and intended to be used to bribe a Nigerian official. "The cash was separated into $10,000 increments, wrapped in aluminum foil, and concealed inside various frozen food containers," according to prosecutors. The purpose of the alleged bribe was to induce the Nigerian official to steer business from Nigeria's dominant government-controlled telecommunications company to firms in which Rep. Jefferson's family members had interests.

“The schemes charged are complex," the Department of Justice said in its news release, "but the essence of this case is simple: Mr. Jefferson corruptly traded on his good office, and on the Congress where he served as a Member of the United States House of Representatives, to enrich himself and his family through a pervasive pattern of fraud, bribery and corruption that spanned many years and two continents.”

Rep. Jefferson's alleged co-conspirators were Vernon L. Jackson, a Louisville, Ky., businessman, and Brett M. Pfeffer, a former Jefferson congressional staff member. Jackson was sentenced to 87 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and paying bribes to a public official. Pfeffer was sentenced to 96 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and aiding and abetting the solicitation of bribes by a member of Congress.

As the Department of Justice says: Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

A conviction would bring a tragic end to Rep. Jefferson's amazing career. His official bio says he's the first African-American elected to Congress from his native Louisiana since Reconstruction. He graduated from Southern University A&M College and Harvard Law School, and in February of 1996 he received his Master of Laws in Taxation from Georgetown University, "making him only the second Member of Congress to do so while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives." As a State Senator, his bio says, he was "twice named 'Legislator of the Year' by the prestigious Alliance for Good Government."

View the DOJ's June 4, 2007 news release here.

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Friday
Jun272008

Lights Out On Another Week

Fridays are a mellow and reflective time here at the FCPA Blog. Feet on the desk, head tilted back, wondering what we'll eat over the weekend since the spouse took eggs benedict off our menu.

So we were thinking -- were we too hard on the Justice Department this week? The DOJ appeared in a couple of posts that were a bit off topic, prompting a friend to ask, "Does the FCPA Blog have an opinion about everything or is it just a busy body?" For the record, we admire and respect most of what happens at the DOJ. We appreciate the public service its people perform and our hats are off to them. But they're at the center of all FCPA criminal enforcement and, don't forget, we're all lawyers around here. So we're bound to shower them with attention -- if not always affection.

* * *

A few days ago the folks at the Economist Intelligence Unit, whose logo we're exploiting today, asked us to speak at their September '08 FCPA Conference in New York City. The St. Regis Hotel is a great venue and two of the speakers among many are Mark Mershon, the assistant DIC of the FBI's New York regional office, and Katheryn Nickerson, a senior lawyer at the Commerce Department, whom we've quoted here. They'll have perspectives on the FCPA that'll be different and worth hearing. Our other job, though, means we don't always have tight control over our schedule -- meaning we don't really know where we'll be tomorrow -- so we haven't committed yet to being in New York in September (our favorite month in the city). But we're working on it.

* * *

On Wednesday this week we talked about Halliburton, Expro and Umbrellastream (makes you think of Mary Poppins, doesn't it?). If you haven't read about the DOJ's FCPA Opinion Procedure Release 08-02, try to make some time for it. It's a genuine piece of FCPA history -- the first time on record that an attempted hostile takeover has intersected with the FCPA's compliance requirements. The Release shows some of the enormous influence the FCPA is having on American business, and on companies abroad. It also shows how much involvement our friends at the DOJ can have in an organization's life on questions of compliance. Lawyers, investment bankers, pundits, professors and various experts are going to be talking about this Release (and trying to live with it) for decades.

Well, it'll soon be time to turn the lights off around here. Another week gone by. We don't suppose there's a low-fat, cholesterol-free, no-sodium, high-fiber, nutrient-dense version of eggs benedict on the market yet? Probably not.

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Thursday
Jun262008

The DOJ's Slaughter Of Hope

The Justice Department broke civil service laws and the country's heart by "deselecting" qualified young applicants linked to Democrats and liberal groups ("weed out the wackos and wack jobs"). It's the saddest news we've heard from the District in a long time -- maybe since the plumbers taped the door locks at the Watergate Complex.

No civic betrayals cut deeper than those by men and women sworn to protect us, but who instead abuse their power in order to mow down political opponents. Our real enemies, they forget, are those who confuse the loyal opposition with enemies of the State.

The temptations of power should never be underestimated. We can all fall from grace at any time -- but for grace itself. Still, some news weighs on the spirit. As Ellen Podgor wrote in her blog, "It is pretty frightening to think that the department that will monitor elections has been compromised and continues to be compromised by political hiring practices."

She's right. Who's guarding our liberties?

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Fortunately the news from Washington can't keep the sun from rising. This morning the sky was beautiful and our breakfast fruit hit the spot. Then it was time for some chores so we turned to the screen. First stop -- the latest FCPA enforcement news from the DOJ's criminal division.

But the usual businesslike homepage was missing --replaced by a cheerful greeting and more:

Thank you for visiting the U.S. Department of Justice!

You have been randomly selected to take part in a survey, presented by Foresee Results, to let us know what we are doing well and where we need to do better.

The coincidence was jolting. The DOJ wanted our opinion about its performance. We couldn't wait.
Once you leave this site, the survey will appear in this window. In the meantime, please ignore this window and continue browsing our site in the other window.
Maybe there were too many windows. Maybe we closed something we shouldn't have. Anyway, the survey never appeared and we lost our chance.

There was, however, one small dialogue box still open:

ForeSee may disclose personal information in response to a judicial or other government subpoena, warrant or order.
Which reminded us again: Who is guarding our liberties?

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Wednesday
Jun252008

Halliburton, Expro and Umbrellastream Star In Opinion Procedure Release 08-02

Halliburton's messy battle to acquire British firm Expro via a hostile takeover has been big news in the global business press, with Halliburton up one day and down the next, but fighting on and on. Now, though, the story isn't just big news in the business press. It's big news too in the FCPA press (whatever that is). So what's going on?

Halliburton is the Requestor in the Justice Department's latest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Opinion Procedure Release No.: 08-02 (June 13, 2008). It's trying to acquire all the shares of the Target, which isn't identified in the Release but is Expro International Group PLC, a U.K.-based company traded on the London Stock Exchange. Expro -- with about 4,000 employees throughout the world -- provides well-flow management for the oil and gas industry.

Competition for Expro comes from a group of foreign investors. In the Release they're called the Competitor but in real life they're known more picturesquely as Umbrellastream.

Halliburton's problem is that it can't do much due diligence because of "U.K. legal restrictions inherent in the bidding process for a public U.K. company." So for FCPA compliance, it's buying a black box. And that's why it's asking the DOJ what will happen if Expro has been paying bribes to foreign officials to obtain business.

Will Halliburton be held responsible for Expro's past FCPA offenses, if there are any, or for violations after the acquisition but before Halliburton has a chance to clean up any compliance problems? Halliburton is worried -- as it should be.

Like most oil and gas services firms, Expro operates in high-risk countries and deals directly with government-owned customers. Halliburton may already have seen evidence of non-compliance but can't say anything now because it signed a non-disclosure agreement with Expro. (In a footnote, the DOJ warns would-be requestors not to limit their ability to put all the facts in an Opinion Request by signing non-disclosure agreements. But it lets Halliburton get away with it this time.)

While Halliburton would like to condition its bid on successful FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence and pre-closing remediation, it can't do that. Umbrellastream's bid is unconditional and unless Halliburton's is the same, it will automatically lose.

The DOJ says it's OK to proceed. But to get the green light, Halliburton has promised to pay a very high price. And that "price" is what makes Release 08-02 unique among all Releases.

If Halliburton wins Expro, it must meet with the DOJ right away and disclose information it has that "suggests that any FCPA, corruption, or related internal controls or accounting issues exist or existed at the Target." That's the kick-off.

Ten days later it will give the DOJ . . .

. . . a comprehensive, risk-based FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence work plan which will address, among other things, the use of agents and other third parties; commercial dealings with state-owned customers; any joint venture, teaming or consortium arrangements; customs and immigration matters; tax matters; and any government licenses and permits. Such work plan will organize the due diligence effort into high risk, medium risk, and lowest risk elements.
Then there are milestones at 90, 120 and 180 days, by when Halliburton must have finished the three "risk" phases of due diligence, all the while providing periodic reports to the DOJ.

Meanwhile Halliburton will impose on Expro its Code of Business Conduct and specific FCPA and anti-corruption policies and procedures; it will give all employees compliance training; fire agents and suppliers who aren't being retained; and require agents and others being retained to sign new contracts that include FCPA and anti-corruption representations and warranties.

In another feature new to Opinion Procedure Releases, Halliburton represents that after the closing it won't divest any of Expro if the DOJ is investigating Expro or "any of its officers, directors, employees, agents, subsidiaries, and affiliates." And no matter what, Expro and all its subsidiaries and affiliates will "retain their liability for past and future violations of the FCPA, if any."

That's not an express waiver of any and all available defenses, but it's close. And anyway, Halliburton will already have given the DOJ all the evidence of Expro's FCPA violations, which the DOJ would then be able to use to charge Expro, along with its aforesaid "officers, directors, employees, agents, subsidiaries, and affiliates."

No wonder the DOJ says that giving Halliburton the go-ahead to buy Expro (and expose everyone there to criminal enforcement action after the closing) "advances the interests of the Department in enforcing the FCPA . . . ."

People from Expro reading Release 08-02 must be seriously cheesed off. Is Halliburton promising to deliver their heads to the DOJ on a platter if they've ever done anything that would or could violate the FCPA? Well . . . . So will it surprise anyone if Expro's leaders aren't overjoyed by Halliburton's bid?

View DOJ Opinion Procedure Release 08-02 here.

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As a postscript, here are excerpts from one of many current press reports about Halliburton's tortuous efforts to snare Expro. This is from the Financial Times :

UK court delays Expro sale to Umbrellastream

By Michael Kavanagh and Megan Murphy in London

Published: June 23 2008 20:32 | Last updated: June 23 2008 22:41

Halliburton locked horns with the Takeover Panel on Monday over its failed attempt to kick-start an auction for Expro International, as the High Court postponed its approval of the sale of the British oil services company to a rival bidder.

During a dramatic hearing in London, Halliburton and Mason Capital, a US hedge fund that holds a 7.1 per cent stake in Expro, won a two-day delay on efforts to gain a court sanction on the sale of the UK company to the Candover-led consortium Umbrellastream for £1.8bn. . . .

The High Court’s decision to postpone the hearing is the latest twist in a fiercely contested takeover battle. . . .

Expro says that Halliburton’s bid, while 10p higher, was inadequate given the delays and risks associated with that deal. . . .

Tuesday
Jun242008

Coercive, Abusive and Unconstitutional --- For Starters

The rule of law in the United States got some badly needed help last week from an unlikely source -- 33 former United States Attorneys. A letter they sent to Senator Patrick Leahy (D.,VT), chair of the Judiciary Committee, asked him to support the proposed Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act known as S. 186. The bill's purpose is to stop the Justice Department's practice of pressuring companies to waive the attorney-client privilege.

Forcibly stripping legal entities of constitutional rights by threatening indictment or harsher punishment is a brutal practice. But it's the companies' flesh-and-blood employees who suffer most. Once an organization on its way to a plea deal or deferred-prosecution agreement waives the privilege, statements taken by the company's counsel during the internal investigation are handed over to prosecutors. That's done without the employees' consent, yet they face criminal prosecution and potential jail time for what they've said.

When they gave their statements, the employees didn't know all the relevant facts, couldn't possibly understand the implications of their words, had no idea the interviews would ever end up outside the company, never had help from lawyers and never even suspected they might need their own counsel. But according to the former USAs, several recent cases show that the employees "can be prosecuted for making false statements to the government, even though the statements were made only to company counsel."

A lesser but still important consequence of the DOJ's tactics is the undermining of compliance, the ex-prosecutors say. Employees who learn not to trust the attorney-client privilege will say less to company lawyers. Without a steady internal flow of honest and open dialogue, how can companies ever develop an effective compliance program? And when companies operate under deferred-prosecution agreements, the privilege is gone for two or three years. During that time everything said to in-house lawyers is open to the DOJ or SEC. So of course the lawyers aren't useful to employees as a compliance resource.

The New York Times reported that before the former U.S. Attorneys took up the cause, the DOJ's pressure tactics had come under "withering attack from lawyers, senior former Justice Department officials and federal judges, who criticized them as coercive, abusive and unconstitutional." There's more alarm today as the DOJ's modus operandi is adopted by more of the federal government -- now including the SEC, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, among others.

We close with thanks to the 33 former U.S. Attorneys. They must know better than most how the DOJ's current tactics are harming our companies, our citizens and our ideals. S. 186 would put a stop to it throughout the government. Let's hope Senator Leahy and his colleagues are listening.

The June 20, 2008 letter from the 33 former United States Attorneys to Senator Leahy can be found here courtesy of the Blog of the Legal Times.

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Sunday
Jun222008

Cases We'll Never Report

Not all Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations make the news. Here are three reasons why:

Reason #1. Ignorance. Some companies don't discover their own FCPA problems. It sounds improbable, but it happens. The usual scenario is this: One or more employees in a foreign outpost draw cash by manipulating the company's accounts-payable or expense-reporting system. They use the money to bribe government officials to obtain business for the company. Sometimes it's one employee in a sales job or government-relations role, or a small group whose pay and bonuses depend on the office's performance. The expatriate supervisor, if there is one, is crooked or clueless, so the phony accounting and illegal payments remain a local secret.

Reason #2. Silence. When organizations learn of their own FCPA problems, they have a choice -- to self-disclose or keep quiet. Public companies ought to be disclosing just about everything these days. Sarbanes Oxley targets illegal conduct anywhere, including overseas bribery. So the number of issuers choosing not to report potential FCPA offenses -- both antibribery and books and records violations -- should be small. Privately-held companies, however, are more likely to stay silent. That's most common, we suspect, where founding-family members are still in charge. Sadly for them, someone in the conspiracy of silence usually plays ball with the DOJ to save their own skin. The former insiders -- now known as Co-operating Witnesses -- can drive a stake through the heart of the organization.

Reason #3. Compliance. How many potential FCPA violations are discovered, self-disclosed to the DOJ or SEC, but never publicized or prosecuted? Nobody on the outside knows the numbers. But here's what can happen. A compliance-minded organization reports its own potential violation to the feds. At the same time, it submits evidence demonstrating that:

(1) It had an effective compliance program before the problem occurred;

(2) There are no prior offenses;

(3) Although the compliance program didn't prevent the conduct this time, it detected it quickly;

(4) This was an isolated event -- a rogue employee broke the rules for personal gain and not for the company's sake;

(5) The culprit has already been fired and the company is suing for restitution of misused corporate funds;

(6) Supervision over the problem office has been reorganized and managers replaced;

(7) The company's compliance program has been reviewed and tweaked to prevent similar incidents from happening;

(8) The company reported the problem to authorities in the U.S. and the host country right away, and is eager to help them with their own investigations; and

(9) Management's commitment to compliance has never been stronger.

A year goes by, maybe more. One day the company's lawyers receive a call from the DOJ. It's off the record. "We're satisfied justice has been served," the caller says. "Case closed."

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Friday
Jun202008

Putting Compliance Programs To The Test

How do you know if your company has an effective compliance program? The answer is crucial. If rogue employees violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, having an effective compliance program becomes a factor in whether the company will face a criminal enforcement action and, if it does, whether it will be rewarded with reduced penalties. So what does an effective compliance program look like?

The FCPA doesn't answer the question, and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are short on details. That's because all organizations have a different structure and no two operate the same way. So each one needs its own tailor-made program. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines describe hallmarks of an effective compliance program and what it should accomplish. And some features show up in FCPA Opinion Procedure Releases and deferred prosecution agreements. But the burden is always on each organization to figure out for itself how best to prevent, detect and respond to FCPA offenses.

So who finally decides what an effective compliance program looks like? Well, for better or worse, that's left to the people at the Justice Department. They decide which organizations will face FCPA criminal enforcement actions, and part of their decision should involve evaluating whether the company has an effective compliance program. And how do prosecutors do that? They look to the U.S. Attorneys' Criminal Resource Manual.

Relevant sections from the CRM appear between the lines below, with footnotes omitted and a couple of new paragraph breaks inserted, but otherwise unchanged. The provocative narrative is best read without our editorial filter -- at least for anyone curious to know how their own compliance program might someday be judged.

The DOJ's test of effectiveness, by the way, is consistent with the you'll-know-it-when-you-see-it-approach in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. And it comes with an even clearer message of encouragement and warning: honest compliance, even if it doesn't prevent every FCPA violation, will be rewarded, while phony gestures will only multiply everyone's troubles.

Here's what the DOJ has to say to its U.S. Attorneys:

_____________

While the Department [of Justice] recognizes that no compliance program can ever prevent all criminal activity by a corporation's employees, the critical factors in evaluating any program are whether the program is adequately designed for maximum effectiveness in preventing and detecting wrongdoing by employees and whether corporate management is enforcing the program or is tacitly encouraging or pressuring employees to engage in misconduct to achieve business objectives.

The Department has no formal guidelines for corporate compliance programs. The fundamental questions any prosecutor should ask are: "Is the corporation's compliance program well designed?" and "Does the corporation's compliance program work?" In answering these questions, the prosecutor should consider the comprehensiveness of the compliance program; the extent and pervasiveness of the criminal conduct; the number and level of the corporate employees involved; the seriousness, duration, and frequency of the misconduct; and any remedial actions taken by the corporation, including restitution, disciplinary action, and revisions to corporate compliance programs. Prosecutors should also consider the promptness of any disclosure of wrongdoing to the government and the corporation's cooperation in the government's investigation.

In evaluating compliance programs, prosecutors may consider whether the corporation has established corporate governance mechanisms that can effectively detect and prevent misconduct. For example, do the corporation's directors exercise independent review over proposed corporate actions rather than unquestioningly ratifying officers' recommendations; are the directors provided with information sufficient to enable the exercise of independent judgment, are internal audit functions conducted at a level sufficient to ensure their independence and accuracy and have the directors established an information and reporting system in the organization reasonably designed to provide management and the board of directors with timely and accurate information sufficient to allow them to reach an informed decision regarding the organization's compliance with the law. In re: Caremark, 698 A.2d 959 (Del. Ct. Chan. 1996).

Prosecutors should therefore attempt to determine whether a corporation's compliance program is merely a "paper program" or whether it was designed and implemented in an effective manner. In addition, prosecutors should determine whether the corporation has provided for a staff sufficient to audit, document, analyze, and utilize the results of the corporation's compliance efforts. In addition, prosecutors should determine whether the corporation's employees are adequately informed about the compliance program and are convinced of the corporation's commitment to it. This will enable the prosecutor to make an informed decision as to whether the corporation has adopted and implemented a truly effective compliance program that, when consistent with other federal law enforcement policies, may result in a decision to charge only the corporation's employees and agents.

Compliance programs should be designed to detect the particular types of misconduct most likely to occur in a particular corporation's line of business. Many corporations operate in complex regulatory environments outside the normal experience of criminal prosecutors. Accordingly, prosecutors should consult with relevant federal and state agencies with the expertise to evaluate the adequacy of a program's design and implementation. . . .

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View the United States Attorneys' Criminal Resource Manual, Title 9, Section 162 (Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations) here.
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Tuesday
Jun172008

Moscow Debates Reforms, Sort Of

The biggest public corruption story on the planet may be Russia -- the entire country, where red tape and bribery are scaring away foreign investors and wearing down ordinary citizens. Reform can't come soon enough, so we're glad that President Dmitry Medvedev is at least talking about the problem.

The numbers tell the story. Russia's 2006 rank on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index was a lowly 121st -- tied with Benin, Gambia, Guyana, Honduras, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda and Swaziland. Then things got even worse. In 2007, Russia fell to 143rd on the CPI -- tied with Gambia (again), Indonesia and Togo.

A thoughtful correspondent in Russia sent us the following story from the Moscow Times (here). The article signals that public corruption is finally on the Kremlin's agenda, which is good, but also that real reform may be a long way off. That may account for the gallows humor in the story -- a great Russian trait. (A government translator in Moscow once told us that the saying, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" means in Russian, "We have plenty of vodka but we're out of potatoes.") Here's the article:

Bill Floated to Ban Gifts to Bureaucrats as Bribes.

17 June 2008By Francesca Mereu / Staff Writer

Bureaucrats face a ban on accepting small gifts under a bill being floated by law enforcement officials.

President Dmitry Medvedev has said the fight against corruption is a priority, and the government is under pressure to find ways to root it out.

Under the Criminal Code, any money or gift given to a bureaucrat in the performance of his or her duties constitutes a bribe, but Article 575 of the Civil Code allows for the acceptance of gifts worth up to 11,500 rubles ($485).

An Investigative Committee official said Sunday that the "legal contradiction" created by the articles hindered investigators in their attempts to fight corruption, Interfax reported. The Investigative Committee is under the Prosecutor General's Office.

"In legal practice, and in particular when you investigate a crime linked to corruption, you often run into problems linked to the interpretation of these," the unidentified official said.

The lack of a clear legal definition of what constitutes corruption poses one of the most difficult obstacles when trying to battle the problem.

The initiative by the Investigative Committee, which is the main body responsible for battling corruption, is an attempt to downplay the magnitude of the problem, said Kirill Kabanov, director of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, an advocacy group.

"It seems that the $300 billion market for corruption in our country consists of gifts," Kabanov said, sarcastically.

"This is to soften the problem in the eyes of the population," he said. "It is like treating a very ill patient with iodine."

Calls to the Investigative Committee went unanswered Monday.

A final note. Our correspondent wondered how the "legal contradiction" noted in the article between the Russian civil code and criminal law would fit into the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act's affirmative defense that allows payments (or gifts) to foreign officials, if permitted under the written laws of the host country. Good question. For now, though, as Winston Churchill said about Russia itself, the answer remains a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Which means in Russian, don't bet the lunch money on the defense just yet.
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