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Entries in AGA Medical (7)


International Franchising and the FCPA (Part Two): A Flock of Foreign Officials 

This post continues from Part One: Vicarious Liability. There are several types of foreign officials that interact with a franchise’s broad array of potential agents abroad, which generates anti-corruption risks.

Click to read more ...


Unfinished Business

We don't know how many of the 50 or so disclosed and pending Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations will be resolved this year. But here are some we're watching:

Alcoa. In February 2008, government-owned Aluminum Bahrain BSC (Alba) accused its long-time U.S. supplier of overcharging for raw materials during a 15-year period, and using some of the money to bribe Alba's executives for more contracts. Alcoa's conspiracy, Alba said in a federal civil complaint filed in Pittsburgh, "succeeded in exacting hundreds of millions of dollars in over payments, which continue to accumulate to this day. Among other things, Plaintiff seeks damages in excess of $1 billion, including punitive damages, for this massive, outrageous fraud."

The Justice Department quickly intervened, asking the court to stay all discovery. It said the facts of Alba's allegations, if true, might violate the FCPA and mail and wire fraud statutes. Therefore, the DOJ said, it wanted to conduct a criminal investigation into Alcoa and its executives. That investigation is pending and the civil suit is still on hold.

Aon. The giant Chicago-based insurance broker disclosed in November 2007 an internal investigation into possible violations of the FCPA and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws. It said it had self-reported the investigation to the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and others, and that it had already agreed with U.S. prosecutors to toll any applicable statute of limitations. Meanwhile, in January this year, the U.K.'s Financial Services Authority (FSA) fined Aon's U.K. subsidiary £5.25 million for failing to recognize and control the risks of overseas payments being used as bribes. The fine was the largest the FSA had ever levied for financial crimes.

Avon. It said in October 2008 that it had launched an internal investigation into possible FCPA violations in China. The global beauty-products retailer didn't release details. The investigation may be linked to the payment to regulators of improper promotional expenses. China imposed restrictions on direct selling in the late 1990s that forced Avon to market its products through shops and boutiques. Two years ago, the company convinced China's regulators to allow its traditional door-to-door sales model. Avon's FCPA disclosure referred to "certain travel, entertainment and other expenses."

BAE. The case is about 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 U.K.-based BAE was trying to sell jet fighters to the Saudi government. Britain's Serious Fraud Office opened, then closed, an examination into the allegations. But the DOJ is conducting its own investigation of possible violations of the FCPA and anti-money laundering laws. In May 2008, 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. And 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, the paper said.

BAE apparently stonewalled the U.S. investigation at first but has since begun cooperating.

Medical Device Makers. Their overseas sales practices probably came under scrutiny in early 2007. That's when Johnson & Johnson (which owns device-maker Depuy) said it voluntarily disclosed to the DOJ and SEC that "subsidiaries outside the United States are believed to have made improper payments in connection with the sale of medical devices in two small-market countries. " In September 2007, Depuy and four other device makers paid $310 million to settle charges they paid kickbacks to induce U.S. doctors to buy their products. Now the SEC and DOJ want to know whether the companies bribed overseas doctors employed by government-owned hospitals to use their products. Biomet Inc., Stryker Corp., Zimmer Holdings Inc., Smith & Nephew plc and Medtronic Inc. disclosed FCPA investigations during 2007 and Wright Medical reported a similar investigation in June 2008.

Panalpina. In February 2007, the Justice Department said in connection with the resolution of Vetco's FCPA case that bribes in Nigeria "were paid through a major international freight forwarding and customs clearance company to employees of the Nigerian Customs Service . . .” Since then about a dozen leading oil and gas-related companies received letters from the DOJ and SEC asking them to "detail their relationship with Panalpina . . ." Among those involved are Schlumberger, Shell, Tidewater, Nabors Industries, Transocean, GlobalSantaFe Corp., ENSCO, Cameron, Noble Corp., Pride International, Global Industries and Parker Drilling.

Swiss-based Panalpina said in its 2008 half-yearly report that it would divest its domestic operations in Nigeria to a local investment group and retain no ownership or operating interest. It completed the transaction in November. It also said it was cooperating with an investigation by the DOJ and SEC and that its U.S. subsidiary in Houston had been instructed to produce documents and other information about services to certain customers in Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

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And a long-standing prosecution that isn't mentioned much these days but should be watched is US v. Giffen. It's in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Foley Square). American businessman James H. Giffen was arrested in New York in March 2003 for allegedly paying or offering $78 million in bribes to an advisor of Kazakhstan's president and its former oil and gas minister. He was charged with violating the FCPA, mail and wire fraud, false statements and money laundering.

When arrested, Giffen was carrying a Kazakhstan diplomatic passport. His lawyers have said he was acting in Kazakhstan with the full knowledge and approval of the U.S. government. Most of the court record is sealed, apparently because it contains classified documents. After nearly six years of little activity (raising speedy-trial issues, no doubt), there's more going on in the case now. A pre-trial conference was held this month and the next one is scheduled for June. Giffen is free on $10,000,000 bail.


Dealing With The DOJ

The Justice Department resolves corporate FCPA enforcement actions these days by using deferred and non-prosecution agreements. And the go-to guys for information about them are Ryan McConnell, an Assistant United States Attorney in Houston, and Larry Finder, a partner in Houston with Haynes and Boone. They've identified, cataloged, analyzed and published findings about every "corporate pre-trial agreement" (their term) used from 1993 to 2008 -- all 112 of them.

They were joined for their latest study by Scott Mitchell, the head of the high-profile Open Compliance & Ethics Group, a nonprofit organization that helps member companies improve their culture by "integrating governance, risk management, and compliance processes."

In 2008, the authors say, there were just 16 deferred and non-prosecution agreements, down 60% from the record-setting 40 agreements in 2007. (From 2003-2006, there were 47 agreements; before 2003, there were just 9.) Seven of the 16 agreements last year related to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act settlements, compared with about a third in 2007. Last year's pre-trial agreements involved Sigue Corp., Jackson Country Club, WABTEC, Flowserve, AB Volvo, Willbros Group, AGA Medical, Faro Technologies, ESI, Milberg Weiss, Lawson Products, Republic Services, American Italian Pasta Co, Penn Traffic, IFCO and Fiat.

We asked Larry Finder a couple of questions about the 2008 study. Here's what he had to say:

The FCPA Blog: Why were the DPA / NPA numbers down so much last year?

Lary Finder: Your guess is as good as mine. It's possible that the DOJ was distracted with Congressional hearings and the possibility of federal legislation on the monitor issue, but I truly can't divine the reasons. It is equally as possible that in the post-9/11 environment, more investigatory resources, e.g., FBI and U.S. Attorney, have been concentrated on terrorism-related matters rather than fraud cases. I just don't know.

The FCPA Blog: Your 2008 study talks about the Justice Department's recent clarification [at United States Attorneys Manual 9-28.710] that it won't require waivers of attorney-client or attorney work-product privileges when determining corporate "cooperation." You also talk about the DOJ's new internal rules on the appointment of monitors and the ban on "extraordinary restitution" payments by corporate targets. Do the DOJ's internal rules have the force of law?

LF: As I recall, the DOJ often states (in its published monographs, for example) that its policies are generally not enforceable against the government. The federal case the Department often cites as authority for that proposition is United States v. Caceres, a Supreme Court case from the late 1970s. That being said, our analysis suggests that the Department has been abiding by its own waiver policy. We saw that the privilege waiver language in DPAs was the exception (statistics from 2007 showed only 3 waivers, while in 2008 we found but two) . Further, the Department has every incentive to avoid the perception of violating its own policies on privilege and monitors, lest the organized white collar bar again lobby for curative federal legislation. We'll have to wait and see.

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Ellen Podgor at the White Collar Crime Prof Blog has already said, "This piece should be a must-read for in-house counsel and all attorneys working with companies on compliance programs." She's right. We don't know of any other way to get a clearer picture of what's going on with the DOJ's compliance agreements. This is practical information and a welcome bit of accountability.

The article can be downloaded now from SSRN here. It will appear in the May 2009 Corp. Counsel Rev. - Published by S. Tex. College Of Law, Volume XXVIII, No. 1.


China Notebook

This is the first deep economic downturn most Chinese have experienced, so fear and anger are in the air. A Bloomberg report yesterday quoted an editor of a state-run magazine in the southwestern city of Chongqing as saying, “We’re entering the peak of mass incidents. In 2009, Chinese society may face more conflicts and clashes that will test even more the governing capabilities of all levels of the party and government.”

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Even in prosperous times, corruption undermines governments. But add severe financial stress to the mix and people look for someone to blame. It's no surprise, then, that fighting corruption emerged as a top priority at the Chinese Communist Party's 17th National Congress this week in Beijing. “The principle that everyone is equal before the law must be enforced and no corrupt official should be able to escape punishment under the law," the official Xinhua News Agency reported, quoting a communiqué from the Party's internal anti-graft body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

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China punished 4,960 officials above county-head level between November 2007 and November 2008 for involvement in corruption, bribery or other law-breaking activity, the communiqué trumpeted. Of those, 801 were prosecuted.

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In May last year, the Sichuan earthquake killed about 100,000 people, including nearly 20,000 school children crushed in their classrooms. There were allegations then, denied by the government, that corrupt officials had allowed sub-par construction of school buildings. Then in September, in the afterglow of the Olympics, came news that Chinese milk and infant formula were contaminated with melamine, a chemical added to create fake levels of protein content. Nearly 300,000 kids became sick, many with kidney stones, and at least six infants died. Other product scandals last year involved tainted cough syrup, toys, seafood, toothpaste and dog food, among others. In July 2007, China executed the former top food and drug regulator for accepting nearly a million dollars in bribes in exchange for approving an antibiotic that killed at least ten people.

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In the six months ended November 2008, there were more than 550 publicly-funded overseas trips. The authorities banned almost 4,000 Party and government officials from traveling abroad during the same period, and will crack down more in the year ahead, according to the above-mentioned communiqué said.

Last month we told about the three-week study tour to the U.S. by 23 officials from the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou. In between beach days in Hawaii and sex shows in San Francisco, they spent just five days on government business. On the way to running up a bill of $94,000, the road-trippers crashed for two nights in $700 suites at the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

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This year's Wall Street Journal / Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom ranks China 132nd (behind Indonesia and above Nepal). It says the country's corruption "is perceived as widespread. China ranks 72nd out of 179 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2007. [The 2008 CPI is available here.] Corruption limits foreign direct investment and affects banking, finance, government procurement, and construction most severely, and there is a lack of independent investigative bodies and courts."

What country ranks first on the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom? Hong Kong, a Chinese Special Administrative Region with local rule. Corruption? It's "perceived as minimal. Hong Kong ranks 14th out of 179 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2007 [12th in the 2008 CPI], and foreign firms do not see corruption as an obstacle to investment."

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Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions in 2008 involving China included AGA Medical Corporation, Faro Technologies Inc., Shu Quan-Sheng and Siemens. Avon last year disclosed an internal investigation of its practices in China, and FCPA Opinion Procedure Release 08-03 also concerned the PRC.


No Quick Fix

The consequences of a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance problem can reverberate inside a company long after it reaches a settlement with the Justice Department. An illustration of that comes from AGA Medical. In early June last year, we reported that the privately-held maker of heart-related products resolved FCPA violations with the DOJ. The company's self-disclosure to prosecutors included emails to and from a Chinese distributor that left no doubt illegal activity had occurred, such as bribes in China of at least $460,000 to doctors at government-owned hospitals and to patent-office officials.

Just weeks after the settlement, AGA filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering, which is still pending. That document (we're quoting below from Amendment No. 4 to the S-1) talks about the settlement's actual and potential impact on the company, including its need for a new sales model overseas.

Here's what it says:

The terms and effects of our Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice relating to potential violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act may negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

On June 2, 2008, we entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, or the DPA, with the Department of Justice concerning alleged improper payments that were made by our former independent distributor in China to (1) physicians in Chinese public hospitals in connection with the sale of our products and (2) an official in the Chinese patent office in connection with the approval of our patent applications, in each case, in potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or the FCPA. The FCPA makes it unlawful for, among other persons, a U.S. company, acting directly or through an agent, to offer or to make improper payments to any "foreign official" in order to obtain or retain business or to induce such "foreign official" to use his or her influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof for such purpose.

As part of the DPA, we consented to the Department of Justice filing a two-count criminal statement of information against us in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, which was filed on June 3, 2008. The two counts include a conspiracy to violate the FCPA and a substantive violation of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA related to the above-described activities in China. Although we did not plead guilty to that information, we accepted responsibility for the acts of our employees and agents as set forth in the DPA, and we face prosecution under that information, and possibly other charges as well, if we fail to comply with the terms of the DPA. Those terms require us to, for approximately three years, (1) continue to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice on any investigation relating to violations of the FCPA and any and all other matters relating to improper payments, (2) continue to implement a compliance and ethics program designed to detect and prevent violations of the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws, (3) review existing, and if necessary, adopt new controls, policies and procedures designed to ensure that we make and keep fair and accurate books, records and accounts and maintain a rigorous anti-corruption compliance code designed to detect and deter violations of the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws, and (4) retain and pay for an independent monitor to assess and oversee our compliance and ethics program with respect to the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws. The DPA also required us to pay a monetary penalty of $2.0 million. In the fourth quarter of 2007, we had recorded a financial charge of $2.0 million for the potential settlement. The terms of the DPA will remain binding on any successor or merger partner as long as the agreement is in effect.

The effects that compliance with any of the terms of the DPA will have on us are unknown and they may have a material impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The activities of the government-approved independent monitor, as well as the continued implementation of a compliance and ethics program and the adoption of internal controls, policies and procedures to detect and prevent future violations of the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws, may result in increased costs to us and change the way in which we operate, the outcome of which we are unable to predict. For example, implementing and monitoring such compliance procedures in the large number of foreign jurisdictions where we operate can be expensive and time-consuming. As a result of our remediation measures, we may also encounter difficulties conducting business in certain foreign countries and retaining and attracting additional business with certain customers, and we cannot predict the extent of these difficulties.

In addition, entering into the DPA in the United States may adversely affect our operations or result in legal claims against us, which may include claims of special, indirect, derivative or consequential damages.

Our failure to comply with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice would have a negative impact on our ongoing operations.

As described above, we are subject to a three-year DPA with the Department of Justice. If we comply with the DPA, the Department of Justice has agreed not to prosecute us with respect to the above-described activities in China and, following the term of the DPA, to permanently dismiss the criminal statement of information that is currently pending against us. Accordingly, the DPA could be substantially nullified, and we could be subject to severe sanctions and resumed civil and criminal prosecution, as well as severe fines, penalties and other regulatory sanctions, in the event of any additional violation of the FCPA or any other applicable anti-corruption laws by us or any of our officers, other employees or agents in any jurisdiction or of our failure to otherwise meet any of the terms of the DPA as determined by the Department of Justice in its sole discretion. The claims alleged in the DPA with the Department of Justice only relate to our actions in China as outlined above, and do not relate to any future violations or the discovery of past violations not expressly covered by the DPA. Any breach of the terms of the DPA would also cause damage to our business and reputation, as well as impair investor confidence in our company and result in adverse consequences on our ability to obtain or continue financing for current or future projects.

In addition, although we are not currently restricted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, from participating in federal healthcare programs, any criminal conviction of our company under the FCPA in the future would result in our mandatory exclusion from such programs, and it may lead to debarment from U.S. and foreign government contracts. Any such exclusion or debarment would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our ability to comply with the terms of the DPA is dependent, among other things, on the success of our ongoing compliance and ethics program, including our ability to continue to manage our distributors and agents and supervise, train and retain competent employees, as well as the efforts of our employees to adhere to our compliance and ethics program and the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws. It is possible that, despite our best efforts, additional FCPA issues, or issues under anti-corruption laws of other jurisdictions, could arise in the future. Any failure by us to adopt appropriate compliance and ethics procedures, to ensure that our officers, other employees and agents comply with the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws and regulations in all jurisdictions in which we operate or to otherwise comply with any term of the DPA would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

In certain international markets, we have converted, or are in the process of converting, to a direct sales force model from a distributor-based sales model. Our business, financial condition and operating results may be adversely affected by the transition to a new sales model.

In August 2006, we negotiated an early termination with one of our international distributors, and we have since then undertaken to distribute our products in such distributor's country through our direct sales force. We also gave notice of termination to a second distributor and began operations in April 2008 through our direct sales force in such distributor's country. We gave notice of termination to a third distributor and began operations in July 2008 through our direct sales force in such distributor's country. In addition, we gave notice of termination to five other distributors and expect to begin operations in January 2009 through our direct sales force in these distributors' countries. We are also currently assessing the viability of distributing our products directly in other international markets. We have limited experience with direct sales of our products in international markets and, therefore, may not obtain the financial benefits that we expect. In addition, we may experience delays in implementing our direct sales force model due to the difficulty of hiring a sales force, establishing relationships with physicians, complying with local regulatory requirements, and other factors, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.




Faro Pays $2.95 Million For FCPA Settlement

Faro Technologies Inc. confirmed that it has resolved Foreign Corrupt Practices Act offenses with the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The DOJ settlement requires payment of a $1.1 million criminal penalty and entry into a two-year non-prosecution agreement with appointment of a compliance monitor. In settling with the SEC, Faro will pay about $1.85 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.

Florida-based Faro -- which designs, develops, and markets software and portable, computerized measurement devices -- self-disclosed potential FCPA violations in China to U.S. authorities in March 2006. It announced an anticipated settlement with prosecutors in its October 30, 2007 earnings release (see our post here).

Faro began selling its products directly to customers in China in 2003 through a Shanghai-based subsidiary, Faro China. In 2004 and 2005, a Faro employee authorized corrupt payments in the form of “referral fees” directly to employees of state-owned or controlled entities to secure business. It made illicit payments of $444,492 to obtain contracts worth about $4.9 million, and its net profit from the contracts was $1,411,306.

Faro employees routed the corrupt payments through a shell company to “avoid exposure,” according to internal e-mails. The employees also caused Faro China to enter into a bogus service contract with an intermediary, using it to pay the bribes. The intermediary aggregated the payments and invoiced Faro for reimbursement under the service contract. In its books and records, Faro falsely recorded the bribes as referral fees. The DOJ and SEC said the company failed to devise and maintain a system of internal controls for foreign sales sufficient to ensure compliance with the FCPA.

Faro's own documents, the DOJ said, revealed the extent of the bribery. "Profit lists" reflected the price of contracts and the costs of manufacture, along with line items for "referral fees" of 10%-15% of the contract price that were kickbacks to employees of state-owned customers. The DOJ gave the following examples:
A 2005 profit list for Purchase Order CH2005-VW34 for a purchase by Shanghai Turbine Generator Co., Ltd., a Chinese government entity, shows a contract value of $148,700 and an anticipated referral fee of $14,800, or approximately 10% of the contract value.

A 2005 profit list for Purchase Order Ch-2005-VW50(SW) for a purchase by Jiangxi Changhe Auto Co., Ltd. Hefel Plant, a Chinese government entity, shows a contract value of $53,086 and a referral fee of $8,000, or approximately 15% of the contract value.

Faro's non-prosecution agreement has a two-year term instead of the usual three years, presumably reflecting the company's prompt and detailed self-disclosure and effective corrective action. Faro said its estimated costs associated with the monitoring and stepped-up compliance obligations will be "in the range of $1 million to $2 million."

Neither Faro nor the DOJ explained why it took more than nine months to formally approve the previously announced settlement. We've speculated (here) that the Justice Department was delaying settlements involving compliance monitors, including Faro's, pending some accommodation with lawmakers on safeguards for the appointments. Controversy erupted last year after New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie appointed his former boss, ex-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, as a monitor in a domestic bribery case for orthopedic device maker Zimmer Holdings Inc. The news that Mr. Ashcroft's firm could make as much as $52 million from the appointment sent shock waves around Capitol Hill and triggered Congressional hearings.

It appears from FCPA settlements announced in the past month involving Willbros, AGA Medical, and now Faro that monitor appointments are back on track. The solution appears to have been relatively simple. As with Willbros and AGA Medical, Faro will nominate its candidate to act as compliance monitor (after consulting with the DOJ), and the DOJ will have final approval over its choice. Provided the DOJ doesn't interfere directly and allows Faro and the other companies to pick their own qualified candidates, the selection is taken out of the hands of the DOJ. That should prevent the appearance of political abuse or cronyism in the appointments.

Faro Technologies, Inc. trades on NASDAQ under the symbol FARO.

View the DOJ's June 5, 2008 news release here.

View the SEC's Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Release No. 57933 / June 5, 2008, Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 2836 / June 5, 2008, and Administrative Proceeding File No. 3-13059 here.

View Faro's June 5, 2008 press release here.


AGA Medical Resolves China-Related FCPA Charges

Privately-held AGA Medical Corporation will pay a $2 million criminal penalty and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice to settle Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. It paid bribes in China of at least $460,000 to doctors in government-owned hospitals and patent-office officials. The Minnesota-based firm makes products used to treat congenital heart defects.

AGA was charged with two counts of violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 371. Between 1997 and 2005, the company, one of its officers and other employees authorized corrupt payments to the doctors through AGA’s Chinese distributor. In exchange, the doctors directed their government-owned hospitals to purchase AGA’s products. Its sales in China for the period were about $13.5 million. Also, from 2000 through 2002, AGA applied for several Chinese patents. A high-ranking AGA officer agreed to pay bribes through the distributor to officials in the China State Intellectual Property Office to have the patents approved.

AGA's three-year deferred prosecution agreement requires appointment of a compliance monitor. Similar to the provisions seen recently with Willbros Group Inc., AGA will pick the monitor and the DOJ will approve or reject its choice: "AGA agrees to engage an independent corporate monitor ('the Monitor') within sixty (60) calendar days of signing this Agreement. Within thirty (30) calendar days after the signing of this Agreement, and after consultation with the Department, AGA will propose to the Department a candidate to serve as the Monitor. The Department retains the right, in its sole discretion, to accept or reject any Monitor proposed by AGA pursuant to the Agreement. In the event the Department rejects a proposed monitor, AGA shall propose another candidate within ten (10) calendar days after receiving notice of the rejection. This process shall continue until a Monitor acceptable to all parties is chosen."

The deferred prosecution agreement also contains a now-customary successor liability clause, whereby anyone who acquires AGA's business will also be bound by the compliance obligations in the agreement: "AGA 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, 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."

AGA self-disclosed the violations to the Department of Justice. Emails it provided between some of its U.S.-based officers and employees and the Chinese distributor left no doubt that illegal activity had occurred. Here are some excerpts from the distributor's messages:

This week I have maken [sic] an appointment with one key person in China knowledge and Patent Protection Bureau, Any action in China I must pay money to do.

I am still in agreement with our prior discussions and will cover her fee as long as we can get the [sic] patent issued in a timely manner.

Please inform [Officer A] don't give up the application for the first three patents in China. I will contact with the officials of China patent bureau again after Chinese new year. Maybe money will help us.

My company also need to provide 20% kickback for physicians and sometimes 10% discount to hospitals.

The physicians suggest the patient to use which device according [to] the patient's family economic ability and the kickback.

View the DOJ's June 3, 2008 news release here.

View the criminal complaint against AGA Medical Corporation here and the deferred prosecution agreement here (courtesy of the Corporate Crime Reporter).