If the cost of Avon's internal investigation is any indication of what's coming, its final deal with the feds is likely to make it onto our top ten list.
Entries in Aon (14)
Nearly half of Vietnam’s companies said they have had to bribe officials in order to do business, according to a survey released last month by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Aon Corporation, one of the biggest insurance brokerage firms in the world, agreed today to settled FCPA charges with the DOJ and SEC.
Here's a list of fines paid overseas for bribery by companies that have settled FCPA enforcement actions.
Bribery offences in the UK are mostly policed by the Serious Fraud Offices and, sometimes, the City of London Police, between whom there is a significant amount of cooperation.
Of the 150 files in the DOJ's hopper, our watch list includes more than half of them.
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.
* * *
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.
A couple of months ago, guest-blogger Scott Moritz talked about risk-based compliance. His post, we now see, was prophetic. Why? Because just last week, when Aon settled an enforcement action with the U.K.'s Financial Services Authority, the real star of the show was . . . risk-based compliance.
The FSA's Final Notice described how both U.K.-based Aon Ltd and its U.S. parent, Aon Corporation, have improved the way they'll deal with intermediaries -- the group apparently responsible for Aon's problems in a number of countries. The Aon companies, the Final Notice said, have "designed and implemented a new global anti-corruption programme that includes a policy limiting the use of third parties. Aon Ltd has also implemented robust risk-based procedures that control and restrict the circumstances in which staff may make payments to Overseas Third Parties, particularly in high risk jurisdictions."
Aon's new compliance policy, according to the Final Notice, generally . . .
. . . prohibits the use of third parties whose only service to Aon is to assist in the obtaining and retaining of business solely through client introductions in countries where the risk of corrupt practices is anything other than low. These jurisdictions are defined by reference to an internationally accepted corruption perceptions index. Any use of third parties not prohibited by the policy must be reviewed and approved in accordance with global anti-corruption protocols. . . . In addition, Aon Ltd has implemented an enhanced comprehensive risk-based training regime for its staff.How does risk-based compliance work? Guest-blogger Moritz said the concept is simple: certain customers, vendors, and intermediaries represent a higher compliance risk than others. Geography, nexus to government officials, business type, method of payment, dollar volume -- all are risk indicators. And he said the key to any risk-based approach is the strategic use of information technology -- tracking and sorting the critical elements, including risk-ranking, as well as enhanced due diligence and ongoing monitoring of high-risk parties proportionate to their risk profiles.
The benefits of risk-based compliance are clear. In places where risks are very low, compliance burdens can be reduced. Where risks are anything but low, compliance is stepped up one or more notches, to make sure nothing slips through. As we've often said, when there are more red flags around, the proper response is more compliance, not less. And that's what risk-based compliance is all about.
And one more thing . . .
Take a look at Don Lee's amazing story from the January 12th edition of the LA Times about Avery Dennison's FCPA compliance problems in China. Shanghai bureau chief Lee seems to have gotten everyone to talk on the record. This is one of the best articles we've read in the mainstream press or anywhere else about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at ground level.
The U.K.'s Financial Services Authority said yesterday that it has fined Aon Ltd £5.25 million ($8.05 million) for failing to recognize and control the risks of overseas payments being used as bribes. The fine is the largest the FSA has levied for financial crimes. Aon Ltd is the principal U.K. subsidiary of Chicago-based Aon Corporation, the world's biggest insurance broker.
Aon Corporation disclosed in November 2007 an internal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws. Aon said then in its Form 10-Q that it had self-reported the investigation to the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and others, and that it had already agreed with U.S. prosecutors to toll any applicable statute of limitations. The U.S. investigations are still pending.
This is now the third case brought by U.K. authorities involving overseas bribery by U.K. companies. In September 2008, the Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit of the City of London Police said an employee of CBRN Team Ltd, a U.K. security consulting firm, and an official of Uganda, had pleaded guilty to bribery charges. The CBRN employee received a suspended sentence and the Ugandan official was sentenced to twelve months in jail. And in October last year, the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office reached a £2.25 million civil settlement with construction firm Balfour Beatty plc for alleged unlawful accounting in connection with overseas "payment irregularities" which it self-reported.
Apparently to emphasize the new willingness of her agency and other U.K. authorities to prosecute overseas bribery, Margaret Cole, the FSA's director of enforcement, said:
The involvement of UK financial institutions in corrupt or potentially corrupt practices overseas undermines the integrity of the UK financial services sector. The FSA has an important role to play in the steps being taken by the UK to combat overseas bribery and corruption. We have worked closely with other law enforcement agencies in this case and will continue to take robust action focused on firms’ systems and controls in this area.According to its website, the Financial Services Authority is an independent non-governmental body with statutory powers under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. It has a range of rule-making, investigatory and enforcement powers intended to "promote efficient, orderly and fair financial markets and help retail financial service consumers get a fair deal." The Treasury appoints its 12-member board.
Between January 2005 and September 2007, according to the FSA, Aon Ltd didn't properly assess or control the risks involved in its dealings with overseas firms and individuals who helped it win business. "As a result of Aon Ltd’s weak control environment, the firm made various suspicious payments, amounting to approximately US$7 million, to a number of overseas firms and individuals." The payments were made in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burma, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The FSA said Aon cooperated fully and agreed to settle early in the investigation, qualifying for a 30% discount under the FSA’s settlement discount scheme. Without the discount the fine would have been £7.5 million.
View the FSA's January 8, 2009 release here.
Download the FSA's Final Notice (January 6, 2009) here.
View Aon's January 8, 2009 statement here.
We're always thankful for Fridays, of course, but today ranks above others. Finally we can say goodbye to October 2008 -- a month that changed the world. We asked a friend for a favor last week. "What if I don't help you?" he said. "We'll tell everyone you're a banker," we answered. And he really is a banker, poor guy.
We're thankful too for the American political process. No kidding. However you vote, you have to admire what happens every four years. Our street-level democracy may be messy, tacky and shrill, but it's never dull. And the best part? It still works. How brilliant were the Founders?
With Bloody October over and the election passing into history next week, we expect a burst of news about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Some big names to look for are Siemens (it has 29 appearances in this blog), Panalpina (19 appearances), the orthopedic device makers (9 appearances as a group and countless appearances on their own, as Biomet Inc., Stryker Corp., Zimmer Holdings Inc., Smith & Nephew plc, Medtronic Inc. and Wright Medical), Halliburton (9 appearances) and Aon Corporation (5 appearances). John Ashcroft, by the way, the heavyweight titleholder of compliance monitors, has 13 appearances.
A big danka shern (Wayne Newton's preferred spelling) to everyone who has ordered Bribery Abroad in hardcopy or by download, especially those who've taken the time to tell us they enjoyed the book (yo back to you, Mom).
And not least, a salute to the sponsors of the FCPA Blog, who have been more than generous with their support. A warm welcome today, by the way, to our newest sponsor, Daylight Forensic & Advisory. It joins our other sponsors with tangible aid and comfort for our efforts to keep the blog free-to-air, as they say. (Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor can contact us here.)
Enjoy the weekend.