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  • Court dismisses SEC allegations against executives of hedge fund management firm as time-barred

    Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York issued a 32-page memorandum opinion this week dismissing the SEC’s civil suit against two former executives of an American hedge fund management firm (earlier coverage can be found here and here).

    The SEC’s complaint alleged that the executives violated the FCPA between May 2007 and April 2011 by causing the firm “to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials on the continent of Africa.” Specifically, the defendants allegedly induced Libyan authorities to invest in firm managed funds, and directed illicit efforts to secure mining deals by bribing government officials in Libya, Chad, Niger, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The case against the two executives was the latest in a line of civil and criminal proceedings involving the hedge fund management firm and its employees and executives, and the firm paid $412 million in criminal and civil penalties to settle its FCPA enforcement actions.

    Judge Garaufis, in dismissing the complaint in its entirety with prejudice, found that the claims were barred by the FCPA’s five-year statute of limitations, and he rejected the SEC’s tolling arguments. A cornerstone of this dismissal is the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Kokesh v. SEC, which held that SEC disgorgement actions are subject to a five-year statute of limitations.

    SEC FCPA Africa

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  • SEC settles with Beam Suntory for $8.2 million regarding India payments

    On July 2, the SEC settled FCPA allegations with alcoholic beverage company Beam Suntory, Inc. (“Beam”) in an administrative proceeding stemming from alleged FCPA violations from 2006 through 2012. Beam neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing. The SEC alleged that the company’s subsidiary in India made illegal payments to Indian government officials through third-party sales promoters and distributers. The third parties then presented fabricated or inflated invoices to the subsidiary. These invoices and accounting entries were ultimately incorporated into the parent company’s books and records. The SEC also alleged that Beam failed to maintain adequate internal controls.

    This is the third case the SEC has pursued related to conduct in India by alcoholic beverage companies, following Diageo in 2011 and AB InBev in 2016.

    SEC FCPA

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  • Legg Mason preparing for FCPA settlement

    On May 30, Legg Mason, a Baltimore-based investment management firm, announced in a 10-K SEC filing that it will soon complete negotiations with the DOJ and SEC to resolve FCPA allegations stemming from how Permal, a London-based fund purchased by Legg Mason in 2005, managed assets of Libyan governmental entities in 2005-2007. Legg Mason reserved $67 million for the settlement, which reflects, in part, the net revenues of approximately $31 million earned by Permal for managing the assets.

    DOJ SEC FCPA Legg Mason

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  • Clear Channel Outdoor discloses potential FCPA violations

    On April 30, Clear Channel Outdoor, one of the world’s largest outdoor advertising companies, disclosed that it had self-reported potential FCPA violations to the SEC and DOJ. The San Antonio-based company had previously disclosed that Chinese police were investigating “several employees” of its subsidiary, Clear Media Limited, for the misappropriation of funds in China. A related internal investigation purportedly found that three unauthorized bank accounts were opened in the name of the subsidiary and “certain transactions were recorded therein.” In the most recent disclosure, the company newly reported that: (i) “discrepancies” related to the misappropriation resulted in more than $10 million in “accounting errors”; (ii) it determined that there was a “material weakness” in the subsidiary’s internal controls over financial reporting, namely “falsification of bank statements and other supporting documentation used to complete bank reconciliations,” “collusion,” and “circumvention of controls”; and (iii) these issues “could implicate the books and records, internal controls and anti-bribery provisions” of the FCPA, making “possible . . . monetary penalties and other sanctions.” The company said it would cooperate with any investigation by the SEC or DOJ.

    DOJ SEC FCPA Clear Channel Outdoor

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  • Panasonic settles parallel FCPA actions for $280 million

    On April 30, a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement and SEC settlement with Japan-based Panasonic Corporation and a subsidiary were announced, with Panasonic agreeing to pay $280 million in total. The resolutions related to Panasonic’s U.S.-based subsidiary, Panasonic Avionics Corporation (PAC), and allegations that senior management of PAC orchestrated a bribery scheme to help secure over $700 million in business from a state-owned airline, in which PAC paid a Middle East government official nearly $900,000 for a “purported consulting position, which required little to no work,” and concealed the payment “through a third-party vendor that provided unrelated services to PAC.” PAC is then alleged to have falsely recorded the payments in its books and records, as well as similar payments made to other purported consultants and sales agents in Asia.

    Under the DPA with PAC, PAC agreed to pay the DOJ a $137.4 million criminal penalty for knowing and willful violations of the FCPA’s accounting provisions. The DOJ gave PAC a 20 percent discount off the low end of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range because of its cooperation and remediation, which, although untimely in certain respects, did include causing several senior executives who were either involved in or aware of the misconduct to be separated from PAC or Panasonic.” However, because many of PAC’s remediation efforts were “more recent, and therefore have not been tested,” the deferred prosecution agreement subjects the company to two years of scrutiny by an independent compliance monitor, followed by a year of self-reporting. The SEC‘s simultaneous settlement included violations of the anti-bribery as well as accounting provisions, and the payment of $143 million to the SEC.

    As FCPA Scorecard previously reported, Panasonic disclosed the investigations in February 2017, though they were first reported as early as 2013.

    DOJ SEC Panasonic DPA FCPA

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  • DOJ declines to prosecute Dun & Bradstreet, SEC issues $9 million fine for FCPA violations in China

    On April 23, Dun & Bradstreet, a commercial data and analytics firm, secured a declination letter from the DOJ regarding FCPA violations stating that, “consistent with the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy,” the DOJ would be declining to bring criminal charges against the company. Dun & Bradstreet simultaneously agreed to settle with the SEC regarding books and records and internal controls violations regarding the same conduct, and pay a total of $9 million, including a $2 million civil penalty and $6 million of disgorgement. Dun & Bradstreet had self-disclosed payments made by two Chinese subsidiaries through third party agents. One of the subsidiaries, part of a joint venture with a Chinese company, made payments to Chinese government officials to acquire non-public financial statement information on Chinese entities. The other subsidiary made improper payments both to obtain specific business and to acquire non-public personal data. The SEC noted that there were pre-acquisition concerns regarding the subsidiaries, but Dun & Bradstreet failed to take appropriate action to stop the payments or the false entries, which continued for several years after the acquisition.

    This is the first instance we are aware of a company receiving a full declination from the DOJ under the new policy. The policy, which grew out of the FCPA Pilot Program, states that when a company voluntarily self-discloses, fully cooperates, and timely and appropriately remediates, there will be a presumption that the DOJ will issue a declination. The Dun & Bradstreet declination letter notes the company’s self-identification and disclosure, thorough investigation, and full cooperation, including identifying all individuals involved in the misconduct. The DOJ also cited the company’s “full remediation,” in part by terminating 11 employees, including senior employees, and reducing compensation and other forms of discipline.

    DOJ FCPA FCPA Pilot Program SEC Dun & Bradstreet

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  • Kinross Gold Corporation settles SEC FCPA charge

    The SEC fined Kinross Gold Corporation $950,000 for its failure to implement and maintain adequate accounting controls at two subsidiaries in Ghana and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Kinross neither admitted nor denied the allegations. According to the SEC, Kinross acquired the subsidiaries in 2010 understanding that they lacked anti-corruption compliance programs. After three years of internal audits raising red flags, Kinross did implement adequate controls, however it did not maintain them. The SEC found that Kinross then awarded a contract to a sub-standard company preferred by Mauritanian officials, despite Kinross’s internal bidding and tendering procedures. Kinross also failed to conduct required due diligence when it awarded a politically connected consultant a contract to facilitate government contracts.

    SEC Anti-Corruption

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  • Israeli real estate conglomerate to pay $500,000 to resolve SEC allegations of FCPA books and records and internal controls violations

    On March 9, an Israeli-based real estate conglomerate agreed with the SEC, pursuant to an administrative order, to pay $500,000 to resolve alleged violations of FCPA books and records and internal controls provisions. According to the order, the SEC found that from 2007 through 2012, Elbit Imaging Ltd (“Elbit” or the “Company”) and its Netherlands-based subsidiary, Plaza Centers NV, paid millions of dollars to third party consultants and agents for purported services related to a Romanian real estate project and the sale of a real estate asset portfolio in the United States. The SEC found that these payments were made with no indication that any services were actually provided.

    Elbit did not admit or deny the SEC’s findings, but agreed to resolve this matter with a civil money penalty. In accepting Elbit’s offer for resolution, the SEC took into consideration Elbit’s self-reporting in 2016 to authorities in Romania and in the United States, as well as its full cooperation with the investigation, including the hiring of outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation, the findings of which were shared with the SEC. The SEC also considered the extensive remedial measures Elbit has put into place as a result of those findings and the Commission’s suggestions.

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  • Several companies report developments in FCPA investigations

    In the second half of February, at least three unrelated companies have publicly disclosed the existence and/or status of various FCPA investigations in forms filed with the SEC:

    • Teradata Corporation: On February 23, data analytics company Teradata disclosed that the DOJ and SEC have both declined to pursue FCPA enforcement actions in connection with a subsidiary’s “questionable expenditures for travel, gifts and other expenses” in Turkey. As the Dayton, Ohio-based company previously disclosed on August 4, 2017, Teradata initiated an internal investigation after discovering the questionable expenditures, self-reported the issues to the DOJ and SEC, cooperated with the agencies, and undertook certain remedial actions.
       
    • Fresenius Medical Care AG & Co. KGaA: On February 27, dialysis provider Fresenius Medical Care disclosed that the DOJ and SEC are investigating potential FCPA violations related to “certain conduct in the company’s products business in a number of countries,” and that it has reserved €200 million for a potential settlement with the agencies. After receiving “certain communications alleging conduct in countries outside the U.S. that might violate the FCPA or other anti-bribery laws” in 2012, the Bad Homburg, Germany-based company conducted an internal investigation, self-reported the issues to the DOJ and SEC, cooperated with the agencies, and undertook certain remedial actions.
       
    • Exterran Corporation: On February 28, energy company Exterran disclosed that the DOJ and SEC have both declined to pursue FCPA enforcement actions in connection with “self-reported [accounting] errors and possible irregularities” at an Italian subsidiary conducting business in the Middle East. In April 2016, Houston-based Exterran previously disclosed that it was restating its 2015 financial statements and conducting an internal investigation related to the accounting issues. Although “the SEC’s investigation related to the circumstances giving rise to the restatement is continuing,” the FCPA piece of the investigation has concluded.

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  • Sanofi announces DOJ declination in FCPA investigation

    As previously covered, French pharmaceutical company Sanofi S.A. announced in October 2014 that it was investigating whether certain payments made by company employees to healthcare professionals in the Middle East and Africa violated the FCPA. Sanofi launched an investigation to review payments made from 2007 to 2012 as a result of anonymous whistleblower allegations, and self-reported the allegations to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). On March 7, 2018,  Sanofi announced in its Form 20-F SEC filing that the DOJ notified Sanofi in February 2018 that it was closing the inquiry into the self-reported whistleblower allegations. Sanofi is continuing to cooperate with the SEC’s review of the allegations.

    DOJ SEC FCPA Whistleblower

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