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On August 8, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges filed against him in Malaysia in connection with the ongoing investigation of state fund 1MDB. Razak had previously pleaded not guilty to three charges of criminal breach of trust and one charge of abuse of power. The money laundering charges relate to approximately $10 million that was allegedly deposited into the former Prime Minister’s personal bank account. That is a small portion of the total funds under investigation as misappropriated from the state fund.
The day before, a $250 million super yacht was returned to Malaysia after it was previously seized in Indonesia following claims by the U.S. Department of Justice that is was purchased with funds misappropriated from 1MDB. Back in July 2016, DOJ filed civil forfeiture complaints seeking recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with the alleged “international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from [1MDB].” In June 2017, DOJ filed additional civil forfeiture complaints to recover another $540 million in assets. The investigation into assets linked to the state fund 1MDB continues with DOJ alleging that more than $3.5 billion in total funds were misappropriated from 1MDB from 2009 through 2015.
On August 6, the Department of Justice announced the arrest and first court appearance of Donville Inniss, former Minister of Industry of Barbados, who DOJ has charged with “laundering bribes that he allegedly received from a Barbadian insurance company in exchange for official actions he took to secure government contracts for the insurance company.” The indictment, which was initially issued under seal on March 15, charges Inniss with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering. It also seeks forfeiture of the funds he received as alleged bribes. The indictment alleges that as Minister of Industry, Inniss caused the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation, an agency of the Barbados Government, to renew two contracts with the Barbadian insurance company. In return, the insurance company purportedly paid him approximately $36,000, routing the payments through a dental company and its bank account located in New York. The indictment also references as co-conspirator, but does not name, the CEO of the dental company, a United States citizen and resident of Tampa, Florida. Inniss is also a lawful permanent resident of Tampa, Florida.
On August 1, DOJ announced the arrest of Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino, a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, on foreign bribery charges for making and conspiring to make corrupt payments to an official of Venezuela’s state-owned energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA). Gonzalez was arrested at Miami International Airport on an arrest warrant based on a criminal complaint in the Southern District of Texas, which was unsealed on July 31. Gonzalez made an initial appearance before a magistrate judge in the Southern District of Florida.
According to the criminal complaint, Gonzalez and a co-conspirator paid at least $629,000 in bribes to a former PDVSA official in exchange for favorable business treatment for Gonzalez’s companies, including: (1) directing PDVSA contracts to Gonzalez’s companies, (2) giving Gonzalez’s companies priority over other vendors to receive payments, and (3) awarding Gonzalez’s companies contracts in U.S. dollars rather than Venezuelan bolivars.
DOJ has announced charges against 17 individuals, including Gonzalez, as part of its investigation into bribery at PDVSA. 12 individuals have pleaded guilty.
On July 25, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matthew Miner, who oversees the Fraud Section as well as other parts of the Criminal Division, spoke at ACI’s 9th Global Forum on Anti-Corruption Compliance in High Risk Markets. His speech focused on the DOJ’s efforts to combat global corruption, with a focus on merger and acquisition activity. Miner emphasized, among other things, the efforts the Department was taking to reduce global corruption, highlighting in particular the DOJ’s permanent enshrinement of the FCPA self-disclosure program. He pointed to a recent success of that program, the DOJ’s declination of prosecution against a commercial data company for hiring-related misconduct by its recently acquired China subsidiaries, previously discussed here. Miner also discussed the Department recent “anti-piling on policy,” under which it gives credit for penalties paid to other enforcement authorities for the same misconduct. As an example of this policy, he noted how the Department credited 50% of the fine a French multinational banking and financial services company paid to French authorities for FCPA-related misconduct in a recent enforcement action.
Miner asserted that the Department would like to do a better job providing guidance to companies facing FCPA risk through mergers and acquisitions, particularly when such activity is in high-risk industries and markets. He quoted from the DOJ’s 2012 Resource Guide, noting that in an acquisition, “a successor company’s voluntary disclosure, appropriate due diligence, and implementation of an effective compliance program may also decrease the likelihood of an enforcement action regarding an acquired company’s post-acquisition conduct when pre-acquisition due diligence is not possible.” Addressing pre-acquisition diligence, Miner stated that when an acquiring company encounters corruption issues during the diligence process, it should come to the Department for guidance through its FCPA Opinion Procedures before moving forward. Miner stated that not enough companies are taking advantage of this “tremendous resource.”
Miner commented overall that with these policies and procedures, the Department hopes “to incentivize companies to invest in effective compliance programs and robust control systems to prevent misconduct and, in the event of a detected violation, to take full advantage of [the DOJ’s] enforcement approach.”
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.
On July 16, 2018, Luis Carlos De Leon-Perez, a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. De Leon’s convictions relate to allegations that he bribed officials at Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), and laundered money for bribes to other company employees. FCPA Scorecard provided earlier coverage of this case here.
De Leon admitted to soliciting and directing bribes from two U.S. citizens, including Cesar David Rincon Godoy, in exchange for securing payment priority for their companies from PDVSA and for awards of PDVSA contracts. De Leon also admitted to conspiring with these individuals to launder and conceal the proceeds of the scheme through a series of financial transactions, including wire transfers to offshore accounts. Sentencing is scheduled for September 24, 2018.
De Leon’s conviction underscores how wide investigations can become as the DOJ continues pulling threads and obtaining guilty pleas. The DOJ has charged 15 defendants in the PDVSA cases, 12 of whom have pleaded guilty to date, including De Leon. DOJ also credited the assistance of the Swiss Federal Office of Justice and the Spanish Guardia Civil.
A global bank and its Hong Kong subsidiary reached a settlement with the DOJ and the SEC related to its alleged practice of “awarding employment to friends and family of Chinese officials” to win business. The subsidiary agreed to pay a $47 million criminal penalty as part of a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ. It also agreed to continue to cooperate in any ongoing investigations. The DOJ noted that the subsidiary had not self-reported the conduct or properly disciplined the employees involved, although it did receive partial credit for cooperating with the investigation once it began.
The parent bank agreed to disgorge nearly $30 million in profits and prejudgment interest in an SEC administrative proceeding. The SEC noted the criminal fine imposed by the DOJ in deciding not to impose a civil penalty.
For prior coverage of the sons and daughters investigations into hiring practices in Asia, please see here.
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.
On June 27, Judge Frederico Moreno of the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida sentenced Egbert Yvan Ferdinand Koolman, an official of Servicio di Telecommunicacion di Aruba N.V. (Setar), to 36 months in prison following his guilty plea for money laundering charges in connection with a scheme to arrange and receive corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts in Aruba. According to the DOJ’s press release, Koolman, between 2005 and 2016, used his position as Setar’s product manager to influence the awarding of lucrative mobile phone and accessory contracts with the Aruban state-owned telecommunications company. Koolman also admitted to providing favored vendors with confidential Setar information in exchange for more than $1.3 million in corrupt payments. Koolman was ordered to pay over $1.3 million in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.
Previous Scorecard coverage of this matter can be found here.
Non-profit advocacy organizations accuses Bank of England of deceptive report on US whistleblower tip rewards programs
On June 20, the National Whistleblower Center, an American non-profit advocacy organization for whistleblowers, and the European Center for Whistleblower Rights formally requested that the Bank of England retract a report that they allege
smischaracterizes US whistleblower tip rewards programs, including regarding FCPA tips. The report, originally released in 2014 by the Bank of England in conjunction with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, had criticized the use of financial incentives for whistleblowers in the US, arguing that they were ineffective, “don’t generate quality tips,” and “impose expensive and unnecessary governance structures.” The report concluded that the UK should adopt regulatory changes to improve protections for all whistleblowers rather than provide rewards, which allegedly allot large financial payouts to a tiny minority of whistleblowers.
The Whistleblower Center disputed these assertions in a rebuttal report, released this year. According to the whistleblower advocacy organizations, many of the assertions in the Bank of England’s report “are simply false” and the continued use of the report “inhibit[s] the implementation of effective anti-fraud laws in the UK.” The organizations further complained that the 2014 report has been used as justification for stakeholders in UK to not create financial incentives for whistleblowers and that it has stifled momentum in the UK for an effective whistleblower program.
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Association Professional Success Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon and Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Enforcement and litigation trends" at the American Bankers Association General Counsel Meeting
- Andrea K. Mitchell to discuss "Developments in fair lending law" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Summit on Diversity and Inclusion
- David S. Krakoff to discuss "The DOJ corporate enforcement policy and your disclosure calculus one year in: Are companies benefitting?" at the American Conference Institute International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss "Legal & regulatory issues" at the Opal Group Marketplace Lending & Alternative Financing Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Hot topics in consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "New CDD Rule: Pitfalls in compliance" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Anti-money laundering/OFAC compliance" at the Institute of International Bankers U.S. Regulatory/Compliance Orientation Program