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Entries in Jeffrey Tesler (67)

Tuesday
Apr282009

Catching Corrupt Lawyers, Part II

A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns. -- Mario Puzo

With that street-smart aphorism in mind, we went looking for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act-related cases where lawyers were alleged to be on the wrong side of the law.

Turns out there aren't many. Here's the rundown:

Jeffrey Tesler -- indicted by a Houston grand jury in February. Prosecutors say he was a middleman who handled or arranged corrupt payments from KBR to Nigerian officials. The London lawyer was arrested by British police in March at the request of American authorities, who are trying to extradite him to stand trial in the U.S.

Two American law firms were mentioned in November 2008 during an anti--corruption sweep in China. Avon had disclosed possible FCPA violations involving payments to Chinese regulators. Authorities there were reported to be reviewing foreign investment cases in which the two U.S. firms with offices in Hong Kong and Beijing played a role. The firms (and their lawyers) haven't been named.

J. Bryan Williams, a lawyer in Virginia, was an executive at Mobil Oil. He was also a friend of James H. Giffen, an American businessman arrested in New York in 2003 for paying $78 million in bribes to an adviser of Kazakhstan's president and former oil and gas minister. Williams took a $2 million kickback from Giffen for helping negotiate a deal involving Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field. Williams pleaded guilty in September 2003 to tax charges and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. Giffen is awaiting trial.

Hans Bodmer, a Swiss lawyer, represented Viktor Kozeny, the Czech-born fugitive charged with Frederic Bourke with bribing government officials in Azerbaijan. Bodmer was indicted by a New York federal grand jury in August 2003 on single counts of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to launder money. The court dismissed the FCPA charge, ruling that before being amended in 1998, the FCPA didn't apply to non-U.S.-resident foreign nationals who served as agents of domestic concerns. Bodmer then pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money. He's never been sentenced.

Attorney Philippe S.E. Schreiber represented Saybolt Inc. It's president, David Mead, said during his 1998 trial that he paid a $50,000 bribe to government officials in Panama only after Schreiber said it wouldn't violate the FCPA. That advice was wrong. Saybolt and Mead were charged with violating the FCPA. Mead was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison, home detention and probation, and a $20,000 fine; Saybolt's FCPA offenses resulted in five-years probation and a $1,500,000 fine. And Schreiber? Saybolt's shareholders sued him for legal malpractice (the case was settled in 2005); and the government never indicted him.

Alfredo Duran, a Miami lawyer, was charged in 1989 with arranging a bribe to officials in the Dominican Republic. The government said a $20,000 to $30,000 payment was intended to secure release of an airplane confiscated in a drug case. Duran's co-defendant jumped bail and returned to the Dominican Republic. At Duran's federal trial in Florida on FCPA charges, the court excluded evidence concerning the fugitive co-defendant, resulting in Duran's acquittal.

In 1994, attorney Harold Katz was indicted for bribing an Israeli Air Force officer to induce the purchase and maintenance of GE aircraft engines worth $300 million. The bribes, paid into Swiss bank accounts, totaled $7.8 million. A co-defendant was charged under the FCPA, while Katz faced mail and wire fraud and money laundering charges. He was never apprehended and remains a fugitive.

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That's it, then. Pretty thin record, isn't it? So the verdict on Mr. Puzo's wisdom about that briefcase? Well, either he's wrong when it comes to the FCPA and lawyers aren't the culprits after all. Or he's right and they don't get caught.
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Monday
Apr132009

Around The Horn

He wasn't kidding. Last week's record-setting indictment under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of six individuals from one company highlights the Justice Department's strategy to target people, not just companies. In September last year, Mark Mendelsohn -- the DOJ official responsible for FCPA criminal prosecutions -- told an audience: The number of individual prosecutions has risen – and that’s not an accident. That is quite intentional on the part of the Department. It is our view that to have a credible deterrent effect, people have to go to jail. People have to be prosecuted where appropriate. This is a federal crime. This is not fun and games. See our post here.

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Victims Rights? Congress didn't want prosecutors deciding American foreign policy through FCPA enforcement actions, so bribe-taking foreign officials aren't targeted. Taking that a step further, the names of bribe-takers don't even appear in FCPA complaints. That censorship may make foreign-policy sense, but it's got people in Nigeria upset and frustrated. They want to hear from the Justice Department which of their officials took any of the $182 million in bribes that KBR admitted paying, and where the money is now. Reports are here and here.

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Ask him. Prosecutors think Jeffrey Tesler knows who got KBR's bribe money. They allege he's the middleman who was spreading it around. Tesler, 60, a London lawyer, was indicted in February for violating the FCPA. He now faces up to 55 years in prison. British police arrested him in March at the request of U.S. authorities. Last week, Tesler appeared at his first extradition hearing. The London Magistrates' Court released him on bail and continued the proceedings. Here's a press report.

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An open and shut case. Aluminum Bahrain's federal civil suit in Pittsburgh against Alcoa alleging behavior that would violate the FCPA appears in the docket as "Closed." But not really. The court's order from March 2008 says, "To allow the Government to fully conduct an investigation without the interference and distraction of ongoing civil litigation, it is ordered that this case is administratively closed, to be reopened at the close of the Government's investigation." We talked about the Justice Department's intervention in the case here.

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Where's Clayton? Regarding our post yesterday about Frederic Bourke (here), a reader asked, What's happened to Clayton Lewis? He worked for Omega Advisors Inc. It invested and lost more than $100 million with Viktor Kozeny in the failed Azeri privatization program. The government said Lewis knew about the bribery scheme allegedly involving Kozeny and Bourke but went ahead with Omega's investment anyway. In 2004, Lewis pleaded guilty to onspiring to violate the FCPA. Where's he now? Still waiting to be sentenced. Almost everything in his court record is sealed. But a June 2008 letter from the DOJ said Lewis is a cooperating witness and shouldn't be sentenced until he's testified for the government at Bourke's trial. A copy of the letter can be downloaded here.

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Ashes to ashes? It's off our topic, but creepy. Two Los Angeles-area women allegedly cheated life insurance companies out of at least $750,000 by staging funerals for fictitious people. Last Wednesday, FBI agents arrested Faye Shilling, 60, and Jean Crump, 67, on federal fraud charges. According to the indictment, Shilling, a phlebotomist (a medical technician who collects blood), and Crump, an employee at a now-defunct Long Beach mortuary, cashed in life insurance policies for non-existent people they claimed had died. They allegedly obtained bogus death certificates, purchased burial plots and staged phony funerals to lend credibility to the scheme. When staging the funerals, the women allegedly "filled caskets with various materials" to make it appear they contained actual corpses. The DOJ's release is here.

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Real magic. What is it about Augusta that makes it so special? And this year was the final appearance of three-time champ Gary Player, 73. He showed up 52 times! Our favorite golf story: Gary Player was still on the practice tee, long after sunset, hitting balls. Buckets of them. Someone watching said, "I'd give anything to play golf like that man." Player looked up and said, "Would you really?" And he held out his hands to show the onlooker two bloody, torn-up palms.

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A community effort. Our thanks again to everyone who contributes time and resources to the FCPA Blog. We're thinking of our readers who send suggestions, tips, clips and encouragement. And those who order Bribery Abroad -- sometimes by the dozen. And our wonderful sponsors who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us every day.
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Tuesday
Mar312009

Enforcement Report For Q1 '09

We count seven Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions since the start of the year, including indictments, pleas and settlements, along with one newly disclosed investigation. Four of the enforcement actions involve individuals, and four relate to KBR. By this time last year, there had been just a couple of new enforcement actions (2008 finished with eleven organizations and twenty-six individuals being either charged with new FCPA offenses, settling enforcement actions, or having charges amended, reinstated or affirmed). Here's this year's rundown so far:

Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan (March 5, 2009) Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury

Two U.K. citizens who allegedly helped Houston-based Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) bribe Nigerian officials were indicted for violating the FCPA. Jeffrey Tesler, 60, of London, England, and Wojciech Chodan, 71, of Maidenhead, England, were indicted on Feb. 17, 2009 by a federal grand jury sitting in Houston. The Justice Department unsealed the indictments after Tesler's March 5 arrest by British police, who acted at the request of U.S. authorities. Chodan hasn't been arrested but faces an outstanding U.S. warrant. The DOJ said it will try to extradite Tesler and Chodan from the U.K. to stand trial in the U.S.

Tesler, a lawyer in London, and Chodan, a former employee and consultant of KBR's U.K subsidiary, were charged with one count of conspiracy to violate and ten counts of violating the FCPA. They face up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all counts. The indictment also seeks forfeiture from them of more than $132 million.

Morgan Stanley (February 13, 2009) Investigation Disclosed

The bank said in a short statement that "it has recently uncovered actions initiated by an employee based in China in an overseas real estate subsidiary that appear to have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Morgan Stanley terminated the employee, reported the activity to appropriate authorities and is continuing to investigate the matter."

In December 2008, the China-based managing director of Morgan Stanley Real Estate in Shanghai, Garth Peterson, left the bank. And Morgan Stanley's global head of property investing, Sonny Kalsi, was placed on administrative leave. Some of Morgan Stanley's property projects involved investments with government-linked Chinese enterprises. Several high-ranking Chinese officials from Shanghai have been arrested in recent years for corruption in connection with deals in the property market.

KBR and Halliburton (February 11, 2009) Criminal and Civil Enforcement Actions Resolved

Houston-based global engineering firm Kellogg Brown & Root LLC (KBR) pleaded guilty to a five-count criminal information, with one conspiracy count and four substantive counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. KBR agreed to pay a $402 million fine, the second largest criminal fine for an FCPA violation, following Siemens' $450 million penalty in December 2008. KBR’s parent company, KBR Inc., and its former parent company, Halliburton Company, also settled civil FCPA charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission, agreeing to be jointly liable to pay $177 million in disgorgement. The SEC's complaint alleged that Halliburton's internal controls failed to detect or prevent the bribery, and that its records were falsified to cover up the illegal payments.

KBR admitted paying Nigerian officials at least $182 million in bribes for engineering, procurement and construction contracts awarded between 1995 and 2004 to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria. The contracts to an international joint venture led by KBR were worth more than $6 billion. KBR's former CEO, Albert "Jack" Stanley, pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiring to violate the FCPA. His sentencing is scheduled for August 2009.

ITT Corporation (February 11, 2009) Civil Enforcement Action Resolved

The SEC filed a settled civil injunctive action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against New York-based ITT. The complaint alleged violations of the FCPA's books and records and internal controls provisions. ITT agreed to disgorge $1,041,112, together with prejudgment interest of $387,538.11, and pay a $250,000 civil penalty. The SEC said ITT self-reported the violations, cooperated with the SEC's investigation, and instituted remedial measures.

The violations resulted from payments to Chinese government officials by ITT's wholly-owned Chinese subsidiary, Nanjing Goulds Pumps Ltd. (NGP). From 2001 through 2005, NGP paid about $200,000 in bribes to employees of Chinese state-owned enterprises. ITT generated over $4 million in sales through the bribes and made profits of more than $1 million.

Richard Morlok (February 3, 2009) Guilty Plea to a One-Count Criminal Information

Richard Morlok, 55, the former finance director of California-based Control Components Inc., admitted that from 2003 through 2006, he arranged corrupt payments to foreign officials of about $628,000. The payments, usually made through agents, went to employees at state-owned enterprises in order to assist in obtaining and retaining business for his company. He was charged in a one-count information with conspiring to violate the FCPA. He faces up to five years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for July 2009.

Morlok said in his plea agreement that Control Components, which designs and makes valves for the oil, gas, nuclear, coal and power plant industries, earned about $3.5 million in profits from contracts obtained through the bribes. Illegal payments, he said, went to employees at China National Offshore Oil Company, PetroChina, Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation (China), KHNP (Korea), Rovinari Power (Romania) and Safco (Saudi Arabia), among others.

Morlok said that during a 2004 audit he provided false and misleading information about Control Component's commission payments to agents. The company is owned by British-based IMI plc, which trades on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol IMI.L.

Mario Covino (January 8, 2009) Guilty Plea to a One-Count Criminal Information

Mario Covino, 44, an Italian citizen living in Irvine, California and formerly the worldwide sales director for Control Components Inc. (see Richard Morlok above), pleaded guilty in federal court in Santa Ana to a single count of conspiring to violate the FCPA by paying at least $1 million in bribes to foreign officials in several countries. He's cooperating in an ongoing federal investigation and waiting to be sentenced in July 2009. He faces up to five years in prison.

Covino arranged for company employees and agents to pay about $1 million to employees at state-owned foreign enterprises from March 2003 through August 2007. He said his company made about $5 million in profits from the business obtained through the bribes. According to the plea agreement, some of the corrupt payments went to officials at Petrobras (Brazil), Dingzhou Power (China), Datang Power (China), China Petroleum, China Resources Power, China National Offshore Oil Company, PetroChina, Maharashtra State Electricity Board (India), KHNP (Korea), Petronas (Malaysia), Dolphin Energy (UAE) and Abu Dhabi Company for Oil Operations (UAE).
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Click on the party names for the original posts, with links to the charging documents, settlements, and news and litigation releases.
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Sunday
Mar292009

KBR: Nigerians Tell Their Own Story

A new Nigeria-based publication called Next has just posted an article (here) naming some of the officials who took bribes from KBR and its TSKJ joint venture for the $6 billion Bonny Island LNG development project. The story by Dapo Olorunyomi and Mojeed Musiliku names three former presidents among the bribe takers, including Sani Abacha, Abdusalami Abubakar, and Olusegun Obasanjo.

The reporting appears to be based primarily on documents produced during U.S. and French investigations of KBR, TSKJ, Jack Stanley (KBR's former CEO) and Jeffrey Tesler, an alleged London-based KBR middleman. He was indicted earlier this year by U.S. authorities for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and is being extradited from the U.K.

KBR resolved FCPA charges with the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission in February, agreeing to pay $579 million in penalties and disgorgement. Jack Stanley pleaded guilty last year to violating the FCPA and faces up to 7 years in prison and a fine of about $11 million. He and KBR admitted paying at least $182 million in bribes for contracts for the Bonny Island project.

Among the details in Next's story are these:

Having put the Train 1 and 2 contracts in the can, TSKJ turned its gaze on the Train 3 contract. For this, Stanley flew to Abuja again in the second quarter of 1997, with the sole mission of asking Mr. Abacha to recommend a trusted front man to collect his bribe.

Shortly after [Abacha] died on June 8, 1998, Mr.Tesler promptly erased him from the list of bribe beneficiaries, substituting him with the new helmsman, Abdulsalami Abubakar.

To keep the entire scheme on the rails, Stanley flew back to Abuja on February 28, 1999, asking Mr. Abubakar, to recommend a trusted front man to collect his bribe.

Another Nigeria-based publication, Vangard, last week carried an article (here) by Chudi Offodile, a former member of Nigeria's House of Representatives and Chairman of the House’s Public Petitions Committee from 2003 to 2005, where he was responsible for investigations. After spotting irregularities, he says his committee recommended dropping TSKJ and all its members from the Bonny Island project and other contracts in Nigeria. But, writes Offodile, he was continually stonewalled by high-level politicians.

He tells how his investigation got started and finally ended. He begins this way:

No one would have heard of the Nigeria LNG bribery scandal if not for Georges Krammer, former Director General of the French company, Technip [a TSKJ member]. Krammer was accused of paying 3 million euros in illegal commissions during investigations into Elf-Aquitane operations in Asia and Africa.

Krammer claimed the commissions were legal and in line with company's policy. Technip management disputed his claims and left him to face charges of misappropriating 3 million euros. Angered by this development, Krammer who had worked for Technip for 35 years, squealed. He went before Judge d’ Instruction Renaud Van Ruymbeke and told him how Technip’s commission payment system worked in Indonesia, Thailand and on the LNG Project in Nigeria.

Thus began the French investigation of the Nigeria LNG project with Renaud Van Ruymbeke in charge. The French investigation triggered off other investigations in Switzerland, the United States, and Nigeria. . . .

These two reports are unusual not only because of the details being disclosed. But also because both publications are reporting from inside Nigeria, in some cases about government officials still in power.
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Thursday
Mar052009

KBR's U.K. Middlemen Indicted

Two U.K. citizens who allegedly helped Houston-based Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) bribe Nigerian officials have been indicted for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Jeffrey Tesler, 60, of London, England, and Wojciech Chodan, 71, of Maidenhead, England, were indicted on Feb. 17, 2009 by a federal grand jury sitting in Houston. The Justice Department didn't unseal the indictments until after yesterday's arrest of Tesler by British police, who acted at the request of U.S. authorities. Chodan hasn't been arrested but faces an outstanding U.S. warrant. The DOJ said it will try to extradite Tesler and Chodan from the U.K. to stand trial in the U.S.

Tesler, a lawyer in London, and Chodan, a former employee and consultant of KBR's U.K subsidiary, were charged with one count of conspiracy to violate and ten counts of violating the FCPA. They face up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all counts. The indictment also seeks forfeiture from them of more than $132 million.

The indictment says a joint venture that included KBR entered into consulting contracts with a Gibraltar corporation allegedly controlled by Tesler called Tri-Star Investments. The joint venture paid Tri-Star about $132 million to be used to bribe Nigerian government officials. The bribes were intended to secure contracts worth more than $6 billion to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria. The joint venture, known as TSKJ, was equally owned by KBR, Technip, SA of France, Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. (a subsidiary of Saipem SpA of Italy) and JGC of Japan. Chodan allegedly participated in meetings where the bribery was discussed and he wired $50 million from KBR-controlled accounts to a Japanese trading company to be used to bribe Nigerian officials.

Among the details in the indictment: In August 2002, a KBR representative, using money KBR provided to Tesler, "delivered a pilot's briefcase containing one million U.S. dollars in one-hundred dollar bills to the [Nigerian] Official at a hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, for the benefit of a political party in Nigeria." And in April 2003, a KBR representative "delivered a vehicle containing Nigerian currency valued at approximately $500,000 to the hotel of the [Nigerian] Official in Abuja, Nigeria, for the benefit of a political party in Nigeria, leaving the vehicle in the hotel parking lot until the . . . Official caused the money to be removed."

Last month, KBR pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It agreed with the DOJ to pay a $402 million fine. KBR and its former parent company, Halliburton Company, also agreed to pay $177 million in disgorgement to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle the FCPA offenses. KBR's former CEO, Albert "Jack" Stanley, pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiring to violate the FCPA and to mail and wire fraud charges. He has been cooperating with prosecutors. His sentencing is now scheduled for Aug. 27, 2009.

The DOJ said it had help in the case from "authorities in France, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, including in particular the Serious Fraud Office’s Anti-Corruption Unit, the London Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police."

The indictment against Tesler and Chodan contains only FCPA charges. Usually the DOJ adds other criminal counts, such as money-laundering, mail and wire fraud. Relying strictly on alleged antibribery offenses will test the jurisdictional reach of the FCPA over foreign citizens who apparently were not in the U.S. at any times relevant to the charged conduct.

The FCPA asserts jurisdiction over foreign companies and nationals that take any act in furtherance of a corrupt payment while within the territory of the United States. See §78dd-3(a), (f)(1). This part of the FCPA is untested in court, but the DOJ interprets it expansively as conferring jurisdiction whenever a foreign company or national acting as an agent of an issuer or domestic concern causes an act to be done within the territory of the United States. (See the United States Attorneys' Manual, Title 9, Criminal Resource Manual §1018 “Prohibited Foreign Corrupt Practices” here.) The indictment says Tesler and Chodan were agents of KBR and sent some of the bribe money through U.S. bank accounts.

Another unusual aspect of the indictment is the use of the forfeiture remedy against Tesler and Chodan. (See 28 USC Section 2461, and Title 18 USC Section 981 (a)(l )(C), "all property, real and personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the violations.") The U.S. government says it wants the entire $132 million that KBR transferred to Tesler's Gibraltar company or the property derived from it. The DOJ apparently isn't distinguishing the KBR money Tesler allegedly paid out in bribes from amounts he may have kept.

Jeffrey Tesler was identified in KBR's 2007 annual report. British and French authorities investigated him two years ago but didn't file any charges. In 2007, British authorities searched his London office at the request of U.S. officials. He is listed as a consultant to a small North London law firm called Kaye Tesler & Co. Among other things, the firm offers anti-money laundering training. 

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

The DOJ's March 5, 2009 release can be downloaded here.

The federal grand jury's February 17, 2009 indictment of Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan can be downloaded here.

Saturday
Sep062008

Jack Stanley's Guilty Plea, Up Close

ProPublica is a privately-funded, non-profit, independent newsroom located in Manhattan. It's led by Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, and its staff includes some of the best editors and reporters in the business. Its mission is to save investigative journalism, which is going the way of the dodo in commercial newrooms across America.

One story ProPublica is now chasing is the guilty plea a few days ago by Albert "Jack" Stanley, the former chairman and CEO of KBR. He admitted violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by helping arrange and hide more than $182 million in illegal payments to Nigerian government officials. When news about the plea broke, we knew right away the story would be too big for blogs or even most traditional news organizations. The scale of the bribery is enormous, the companies involved are powerhouses, and the cast of characters is daunting. But it's the most important FCPA story around, and maybe the most important one ever. So it needs some special handling.

Enter ProPublica. Its first look at the Stanley plea appeared yesterday, in an article written by T. Christian Miller. He and four others reported the story, including the legendary Lowell Bergman, who's no stranger to the FCPA. This story appeared first in MSN Money, and then on ProPublica's site under what's called a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. That means we can republish it with attribution to ProPublica and without any changes.

While this post exceeds our typical word count, we doubt any readers will object.

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Bribery scandal rocks Big Oil

A former Halliburton exec has pleaded guilty to being in cahoots with crooked foreign officials. He's now helping US investigators, and a much wider crackdown is expected to unfold.

By ProPublica and PBS' "Frontline"

In the world of Big Oil, Albert "Jack" Stanley was legendary for winning billion-dollar contracts in Third World countries as the Halliburton executive who knew all the secrets of deals in places like Malaysia, Egypt and Yemen.

In the wake of his admission in a guilty plea last week that he had resorted to bribes, kickbacks and high-level corruption to secure deals in Nigeria, however, Stanley now lies at the center of a widening scandal in the oil industry that has implications for corporations and governments across the globe.

Stanley's case is the first in what federal officials believe will be a string of indictments in coming months against U.S. corporate executives who have participated in bribing foreign officials in recent years.

By agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, Stanley, who ran KBR when it was a subsidiary to Halliburton, promises to become a hammer for federal investigators seeking to crack open additional cases under a 30-year-old statute designed to halt overseas corporate corruption. About 80 cases involving major corporations accused of overseas bribery were under investigation as of last year, a high-level Justice Department official said.

In addition, Stanley's cooperation may provide a new tool for encouraging industrial countries in Europe and Asia to get more serious about enforcing anti-bribery laws against corporations based there. The $182 million in bribes were allegedly paid not just by Halliburton but by its partners, an international consortium of engineering companies from France, Italy and Japan. The United Kingdom has jurisdiction, too, because much of the bribery scheme was, according to court documents, hatched in London, where Stanley maintained a sumptuous home.

"We are very pleased to see that there has been an uptick in enforcement not only in the U.S. but in other countries as well,'' said Patrick McCormick, a spokesman for Transparency International-USA, an anti-corruption group funded by donations from government development agencies and private businesses and foundations. "We are hoping that (this case) is a sign of things to come."

A nightmare unfolding

The intensifying level of this government effort, pushed by a Republican administration normally friendly to business, cuts two ways for American business executives.

For those who may have been involved in bribery to secure construction contracts or equipment sales in developing countries around the world, it represents a nightmare.

The active involvement of the FBI is particularly worrisome to such people. In contrast to white-collar investigations handled by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI is believed to be prepared to use techniques more familiar to investigations of organized crime, including wiretapping and undercover agents.

Stanley's high profile and punishment -- he faces a potential seven-year sentence, the longest in the history of the federal statute outlawing the bribing of foreign officials -- also signal the federal government's willingness to seek long prison terms rather than fines and court injunctions.

For those who fret that they have been losing out to foreign competitors in jurisdictions less likely to prosecute bribery, it offers hope that the playing field will soon be leveled.

Stanley has already acknowledged paying bribes to unnamed senior Nigerian officials, although reports have identified the primary recipient as Nigeria’s late president, Sani Abacha. Stanley also has admitted receiving kickbacks of $10.8 million from contracts that Halliburton and predecessor companies signed with governments in Nigeria, Malaysia, Egypt and Yemen. Government officials in those countries, with the exception of Abacha, have not yet been implicated, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Stanley's testimony may also pose concerns for Vice President Dick Cheney, who ran Halliburton between 1995 and 2000, when Stanley was appointed as KBR's chief executive officer. Cheney has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation said that in previous interviews, Stanley repeatedly said that then-CEO Cheney had no knowledge of the bribes. At the time, however, Stanley was not a cooperating witness, a stance that changed in June when he was confronted with evidence of his involvement in the bribery scheme.

The vice president's office declined to comment, citing the continuing litigation.

Larry Veselka, Stanley's lawyer, said his client will cooperate fully in any investigation. A judge will determine Stanley's final sentence depending on his compliance with the plea agreement.

"He's going to cooperate with wherever they want to go and whatever they want him to do,'' Veselka said Thursday.

When oil mixes with greed

Stanley's rise and fall, detailed in U.S. and leaked French court documents, show what can happen when corporate greed mixes with the autocratic governments that control valuable natural resources such as oil and copper in lawless corners of the globe.

Now 65, Stanley spent nearly his entire career in the oil business, a globe-trotting high-level roustabout who made a specialty of dealing with governments in resource-rich, accountability-poor countries. He owned a million-dollar home in Texas and a residence in one of London's swankest neighborhoods -- a property that he will now have to sell under his plea agreement.

A fearsome competitor, Stanley had a reputation as a hard drinker. At his hearing in Texas, Stanley held himself up by gripping the podium, and he looked frail. He appeared to wince at references to alcoholism as a mitigating factor for his actions and to statements by the government prosecutor William Stuckwisch, who characterized Stanley's behavior as "egregious."

"Jack was . . . extremely capable, smart and totally dedicated to the company,'' said one former colleague, who did not want to be identified because of the continuing investigation. "I was shocked like everyone else when we heard about the bribes."

Others expressed less surprise that Halliburton was involved. Walter Carrington was the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria in 1994, when Stanley acknowledged making the first bribe payments to the Nigerian government.

"I used to brag that because of our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Americans weren't involved as other countries were. American businessmen would complain that it wasn't fair -- (that) other countries really ought to be doing more to keep people from doing this. It was a competitive disadvantage,'' said Carrington, who did not recall meeting Stanley. "Halliburton was a different kettle of fish. There were always stories going on about the way in which their people operated."

Stanley began his rise up the corporate ladder with M.W. Kellogg, an oil infrastructure company then owned by Dresser Industries. Dresser would later merge with Halliburton, and Kellogg would become KBR.

Stanley was working as a senior executive at Kellogg in the 1990s when the company formed a joint venture called TSKJ to pursue contracts to construct a liquefied-natural-gas plant on Bonny Island off Nigeria's oil-rich coast. Besides Kellogg, the TSKJ companies were France's Technip; Snamprogetti Netherlands, an affiliate of Italy's Eni.

As Nigerian officials weighed the consortium's bid against a competing group led by San Francisco-based Bechtel Engineering, Stanley decided to improve the chances of winning by offering bribes, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department and the SEC.

He hatched a plan to hire consultants who could direct the money to Nigerian officials, the court documents said. A consultant from the United Kingdom would pay off higher-level Nigerian officials, while a second, from Japan, would be responsible for bribing lower-ranking officials. In November 1994, the U.K. consultant, who was not identified, allegedly told an associate that it would take $60 million to secure the contract, the court documents said. Of that money, $40 million to $45 million would go to the "first top-level executive branch" of Nigerian officials, while an additional $15 million to $20 million would go to other Nigerian officials.

Later that month, Stanley traveled to the Nigerian capital to meet with senior officials and confirm that the U.K. consultant would serve as a go-between, according to court documents and officials familiar with the investigation.

Over the next year, TSKJ, operating through subsidiary companies in Madeira, Portugal, in the Portuguese offshore tax haven of Madeira Island, signed agreements to transfer millions of dollars to the U.K. consultant, according to court documents and people familiar with the investigation.

In December 1995, the Nigerian government awarded the first of the gas plant contracts to TSKJ. Over the next decade, the government awarded TSKJ four contracts worth a total of $6 billion to build and expand the plant.

Throughout that time, Stanley continued traveling to Nigeria to meet with senior officials and continued arranging payments through the U.K. and Japanese consultant firms, according to the court documents.

Abacha died suddenly in 1998. According to Nigerian press accounts, his death was either the result of a marathon Viagra-fueled orgy with four prostitutes or a conspiracy among his closest confidantes to poison him. No autopsy was ever performed. In the decade since Abacha's death, Switzerland alone has returned at least $500 million in his bank accounts to the government of Nigeria.

All told, Stanley traveled to Nigeria to meet with top officials on four occasions between 1994 and 2001 as part of the bribery scheme. TSKJ paid out $130 million in bribes through the U.K. consultant and $50 million through the Japanese firm, according to the court documents.

French and Nigerian investigators have identified the primary consultant to the consortium as Jeffrey Tesler, a London attorney who worked with Nigerian immigrants, according a transcript of testimony from the French case.

Tesler was not identified in U.S. court documents. He has been investigated by British and French authorities but has never been charged with wrongdoing. Last year, British authorities conducted a search of his London office at the urging of U.S. officials. A woman who answered the phone at Tesler's law office Thursday said the attorney could not be reached and would have no comment.

The Cheney connection

In the middle of the bribery and plant construction, Kellogg changed hands. In 1998, Kellogg's parent company, Dresser Industries, merged with Halliburton.

Cheney, then CEO of Halliburton, arranged the merger during a quail-hunting trip. Afterward, Cheney appointed Stanley to head KBR, a newly formed construction and logistics subsidiary that grew out of the merger.

In a 1999 article in Middle East Economic Digest, Cheney praised Stanley: "We took Jack Stanley (and a colleague) . . . to head up the organization, and that has helped tremendously."

As allegations of corruption mounted, however, Halliburton conducted an internal investigation into the charges. In June 2004, the oil services company publicly fired Stanley, who was working as a consultant, for improper personal enrichment. The company also severed all relations with Tesler's firm, Tri-Star Investments.

The bribery scandal is one of many involving Halliburton's KBR subsidiary in the past several years. KBR has repeatedly been criticized for overbilling the U.S. government for providing food, fuel and other services to U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Last year, Halliburton spun off KBR into a separate corporation. KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne said the company has not yet reviewed the plea agreement. "KBR does not in any way condone or tolerate illegal or unethical behavior. The company stands firm in its unwavering commitment to conduct business with the utmost integrity,'' Browne said in a prepared statement.

Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann declined to comment, saying the company had not yet reviewed the plea agreement. Earlier this year, Halliburton reported that the SEC was dramatically widening the scope of the investigation to cover projects built during the past 20 years in multiple countries.

Those investigations may focus on Stanley's activities in other countries. Court documents show that Stanley worked with another consultant, identified as a dual-national Lebanese and American citizen, in an elaborate kickback scheme.

Under the scheme, Stanley hired the consultant to help Halliburton and its predecessor firms arrange deals to build liquefied-natural-gas projects not only in Nigeria but also in Egypt, Yemen and Malaysia. From 1991 to 2004, the consultant directed $10.8 million of the proceeds back to Stanley through a Swiss bank account. These deals involved Stanley's original employer, M.W. Kellogg, as well as KBR.

This story is part of a joint reporting project by PBS's Frontline and ProPublica on international bribery, the subject of an upcoming documentary. Marlena Telvick and Oriana Zill de Granados reported from Houston. Additional reporting was contributed by Lowell Bergman, Jake Bernstein and T. Christian Miller. The story was written by Miller.

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Wednesday
Sep032008

Ex-KBR Boss Pleads Guilty

The Justice Department said today that Albert “Jack” Stanley, 65, a former chairman and CEO of KBR, the global engineering and construction firm based in Houston, pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He appeared in U.S. District Court in his hometown of Houston before U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison.

From 1995 to 2004, Stanley helped a joint venture that included KBR and its predecessors funnel $182 million in bribes to government officials in Nigeria. The bribes were paid in exchange for contracts worth $6 billion to build liquefied natural gas facilities there. Stanley and others met with high-ranking Nigerian government officials and their representatives at least four times to arrange the bribe payments. He also received $10.8 million in kickbacks from a consultant hired in connection with LNG projects around the world.

Under the plea deal accepted by the court, Stanley faces seven years in prison and a restitution payment of $10.8 million. A sentencing date hasn't been set. Criminal violations of the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions are punishable by five years in prison, and criminal violations of the accounting provisions by 20 years in jail. As part of his plea agreement, Stanley agreed to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in the ongoing investigations. The DOJ said it gathered evidence abroad and was helped by authorities in France, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In a related civil enforcement proceeding, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Stanley has consented to a final judgment permanently enjoining him from violating the anti-bribery, record-keeping and internal control provisions of Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Sections 30A and 13(b)(5) and Rule 13b2-1).

Stanley was a senior vice president of Dresser Industries, Inc. when it merged into Halliburton in September 1998. Dresser's wholly-owned construction subsidiary, Kellogg, was combined with Halliburton's construction subsidiary, Brown & Root, Inc., to form KBR. Stanley became CEO of KBR and was named chairman in 2001. He was fired in June 2004. In November 2006, Halliburton spun KBR off and it became a separate publicly-traded company. Vice President Dick Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive from 1995 to 2000.

KBR's 2007 annual report describes a joint venture called TSKJ "formed to design and construct large-scale projects in Nigeria. TSKJ's members are Technip, SA of France, Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V., which is a subsidiary of Saipem SpA of Italy, JGC [of Japan] and us, each of which has a 25% interest. TSKJ has completed five LNG production facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria and is nearing completion on a sixth such facility."

As KBR's senior representative in TSKJ, Stanley authorized the hiring of an agent in the U.K. and another in Japan to pay bribes to various Nigerian government officials, and concealed the payments. The SEC's complaint said,

In numerous Dresser, Halliburton and KBR company records, Stanley and others falsely characterized the payments to the UK Agent and the Japanese Agent as legitimate “consulting” or “services” fees when, in fact, Stanley knew they were bribes. For example, Stanley authorized entering into contracts with the UK Agent and the Japanese Agent that he knew falsely described the purpose of the contracts in order to make it appear that the agents would perform legitimate services. Stanley and others also prepared for approval internal company bid documents for the LNG Trains that mischaracterized the bribe payments as legitimate expenses. In addition, certain records falsified by Stanley were used in the companies’ due diligence process for approving use of the UK Agent.
KBR's 2007 annual report added these details:
In connection with the Bonny Island project, TSKJ entered into a series of agency agreements, including with Tri-Star Investments, of which Jeffrey Tesler is a principal, commencing in 1995 and a series of subcontracts with a Japanese trading company commencing in 1996. We understand that a French magistrate has officially placed Mr. Tesler under investigation for corruption of a foreign public official. . . .

Our representatives have met with the French magistrate and Nigerian officials. In October 2004, representatives of TSKJ voluntarily testified before the Nigerian legislative committee. Halliburton notified the other owners of TSKJ of information provided by the investigations and asked each of them to conduct their own investigation. . . .

In June 2004, all relationships with Mr. Stanley and another consultant and former employee of M.W. Kellogg Limited were terminated. The terminations occurred because of violations of Halliburton's Code of Business Conduct that allegedly involved the receipt of improper personal benefits from Mr. Tesler in connection with TSKJ's construction of the Bonny Island project.

Jeffrey Tesler, the Tri-Star Investments principal referred to in the annual report (called "the UK Agent" by the SEC), is a 60-year old lawyer in a small North London law firm called Kaye Tesler & Co.

KBR employs 52,000 people worldwide. Revenue last year was about $8.7 billion. According to its website, "not only is KBR the largest contractor for the United States Army and a top-ten contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, it is currently the world’s largest defense services provider. "

KBR, Inc. trades on the NYSE under the symbol KBR.

Halliburton Company trades on the NYSE under the symbol HAL.

View the plea agreement here.

View the DOJ's Sept. 3, 3008 release here.

View SEC Litigation Release No. 20700 and Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 2871 (Sept. 3, 2008) here.

View the SEC's Civil Complaint Securities and Exchange Commission v. Albert Jackson Stanley, 08-CV-02680, S.D. Tex. (Houston) here.

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