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  • Former Thailand Tourism Chief Sentenced to 50 Years for Accepting Bribes

    On March 29, the former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand was reportedly sentenced in Thailand to 50 years in prison for accepting $1.8 million in bribes from 2002 to 2007 from two U.S. filmmakers in exchange for rights to organize the Bangkok International Film Festival. The former tourism chief, Juthamas Siriwan, was also ordered to forfeit the bribe money. Her daughter, Jittisopa, received a 44-year prison sentence for her own involvement. In 2009, the U.S. filmmakers, Gerald and Patricia Green, who paid the bribes, were convicted in the U.S. on charges of FCPA violations. A U.S. federal court sentenced the Greens to six months incarceration, three years of supervised release, and $250,000 in restitution. 

    Ms. Siriwan and her daughter were also indicted in the U.S. in January 2009 for the same underlying conduct. The indictment raised interesting questions about the United States pursuing corruption on the “demand side,” in light of the fact that the FCPA does not criminalize the receipt of bribes. The indictment instead alleged money laundering violations and related charges. Ms. Siriwan moved to dismiss the U.S. indictment based on the double jeopardy provision of the Thai-US extradition treaty. The decision on her motion was stayed, pending the outcome of the Thai prosecution.

    FCPA Enforcement Action Bribery Thailand Bangkok

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  • ING Under Investigation by Dutch and U.S. Authorities for Activities Relating to VimpelCom

    In an annual report filed with the SEC on March 20, 2017, ING Groep, N.V., a Netherlands-based financial services company, stated that it is under criminal investigation by Dutch authorities “regarding various requirements related to the on-boarding of clients, money laundering, and corrupt practices,” and that it has also received “related information requests” from U.S. authorities.  A spokesperson for the Dutch prosecutor reportedly expressed suspicion that ING failed to report irregular transactions and may have enabled international corruption, including unusual payments made by VimpelCom, the Russian telecom company, to a government official in Uzbekistan through a shell company.  VimpelCom settled bribery charges with the U.S. and Dutch governments in February 2016, admitting to paying bribes amounting over $114 million to an Uzbek official and agreeing to pay over $397 million in penalties to the DOJ and SEC for violations of the FCPA.  ING stated that it is cooperating with the ongoing investigations and requests of Dutch and U.S. authorities.

    SEC DOJ Anti-Money Laundering Anti-Corruption ING Groep N.V. Dutch Uzbekistan VimpelCom

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  • French Financial Crimes Investigator Joins SFO Criminal Investigation of Airbus

    On Thursday, March 16, 2017, Airbus Group SE (Airbus) reportedly announced that a preliminary investigation has been opened by the Parquet National Financier, France’s financial crimes investigator, regarding the same fraud, bribery, and corruption allegations being probed by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Airbus, an aircraft manufacturer based in Toulouse, France, stated that the investigations into the use of third party agents by Airbus’s civil aviation business are being conducted in tandem, and it plans to cooperate fully with both the PNF and SFO. This unusual cooperation between France and the UK could potentially lead to the first use of a deferred prosecution agreement following France’s November 2016 enactment of the Law on Transparency, the Fight against Corruption and Modernization of Economic Life, which was enacted in response to international pressure on the French government to strengthen its corruption laws following severe sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice on French companies in recent years. 

    For prior coverage of the SFO’s investigation, please click here.

    Airbus Group SE UK Serious Fraud Office France Bribery

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  • DOJ Pilot Program Extended to Provide Adequate Time for Evaluation

    Speaking at the American Bar Association’s National Institute on White Collar Crime yesterday, U.S. Department of Justice official Kenneth Blanco reportedly announced that the Justice Department’s FCPA pilot program encouraging corporate cooperation will not end on April 5 of this year as originally announced.  Instead, until the Justice Department is able to render a final decision based on a complete evaluation, the program will remain in force.  Notably, as previously reported, the new Deputy Assistant Attorney General with oversight over the Fraud Section, Trevor N. McFadden, co-authored an article during his time in the private sector praising the program as “a step forward in providing companies and their counsel with more transparent and predictable benefits for self-reporting, cooperating, and remediating FCPA misconduct.”

    DOJ FCPA Update FCPA Pilot Program

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  • New Survey Reports on Corruption in the Asia Pacific Region

    Transparency International, a German nonprofit that tracks global corruption and perceptions of corruption, has published People and Corruption: Asia Pacific – Global Corruption Barometer. In what the organization calls “the most extensive survey of its kind,” the group spent a year and a half interviewing over 21,000 people living in the Asia Pacific region as a litmus test for corruption in the area.  The 38-page report found considerable differences in bribery rates between surveyed countries; for example, while Japan weighed in at 0.2%, a staggering 69% of people surveyed in India indicated they had paid a bribe in the past year in exchange for public services.  People across the surveyed region agreed that police were the most corrupt part of public services.  While Australians expressed the “most positive” outlook on corruption, people in Malaysia and Vietnam felt the least positive overall, and people in China “were most likely to think the level of corruption had increased recently.”  The report outlines three key recommendations, encouraging governments to “make good on promises,” “stop[] bribery in public services,” and “encourag[e] more people to report corruption.” 

    FCPA Update Germany Asia Japan Corruption

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  • New DOJ Appointee Expresses Commitment to Enforcing the FCPA

    In late January of 2017, President Donald Trump appointed Trevor N. McFadden as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division, a position that includes oversight over the Fraud and Criminal Appellate Sections.  The Fraud Section is in charge of enforcing the FCPA, placing the former Baker & McKenzie Litigation and Government Enforcement partner, who also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, in a key role to determine the future of FCPA enforcement under the new administration.  On February 16, 2017, McFadden gave a speech at the Global Investigations Review Conference in which he proclaimed his dedication to the continued enforcement of the statute.  While McFadden’s comments reflect Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent promise to enforce the FCPA, they contrast with President Trump’s 2012 comments that the FCPA is a “horrible law” that “should be changed.”

    Above all, McFadden’s message was one of enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.  He commented that the law “has been vigorously enforced” over its 40-year history, efforts which have “steadily increased over time.”  McFadden specifically highlighted two important trends of this history of enforcement: transparency to businesses, and cooperation with foreign nations in the fight against corruption.  McFadden’s emphasis on the “utmost importance” of working with other countries also signaled a continued commitment to what he called “important anti-corruption conventions,” including “the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (NCAC), the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), and several others.” 

    In looking to the future of FCPA enforcement, McFadden called the law’s continued “fight against official corruption [] a solemn duty of the Justice Department…regardless of party affiliation.”  He also emphasized that the Justice Department will continue to prioritize “individual accountability,” although he did comment that some people “may be unwittingly involved in facilitating an illegal payment under circumstances that do not merit criminal prosecution of the individual.”  Finally, McFadden expressed that a company’s “voluntary self-disclosures, cooperation, and remedial efforts” will “continue to guide our prosecutorial discretion determinations,” along with the “penalty reductions for companies that self-disclose, cooperate, and accept responsibility for their misconduct” provided for in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.  Interestingly, the only whiff of questioning past Justice Department approaches was McFadden’s mention of an upcoming review of the FCPA pilot program encouraging such company cooperation.  However, plans to re-evaluate the pilot program were already in place under the Obama administration, according to an article McFadden co-wrote with colleagues at Baker & McKenzie in April of 2016.  Notably, McFadden’s article called the pilot program “a step forward in providing companies and their counsel with more transparent and predictable benefits for self-reporting, cooperating, and remediating FCPA misconduct.” 

    DOJ FCPA Enforcement Action Trump Bribery

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  • Second Circuit Hears Oral Arguments on Accomplice Theory of Liability Under FCPA

    On March 2, 2017, a three judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard oral arguments in U.S. v. Hoskins.  The government charged U.K. citizen Lawrence Hoskins with FCPA violations as part of a larger scheme involving a U.S. subsidiary of French company Alstom S.A.  Hoskins, a non-resident foreign national who did not act on U.S. soil and who was an executive of a non-U.S. company (Alstom UK), argued in federal district court that Congress did not intend for people like him to be subject to direct FCPA liability, and that the government cannot circumvent Congressional intent by charging him with accomplice liability.  In August of 2015, the federal district court in Connecticut ruled in Hoskins’ favor, holding that the government would first have to show that Hoskins was subject to direct liability as an agent of a U.S. concern in order to reach accomplice liability.  The legal issues at hand are detailed in previous FCPA Scorecard posts here and here

    In addition to the important question of the scope of liability of foreign nationals under the FCPA, this argument has a secondary importance related to the right of the government to appeal criminal matters under Title 18 U.S.C. § 3731.  Section 3731 allows the government to appeal “from a decision, judgment, or order of a district court dismissing an indictment or information or granting a new trial after verdict or judgment, as to any one or more counts, or any part thereof….”  Here, Hoskins argues that the court did not dismiss any counts, so the government had no right to make the interlocutory appeal.  For its part, the government argues that the court’s ruling was effectively a dismissal of a portion of a count, making the matter appealable. 

    In ruling on the Hoskins case, the Second Circuit will have the potential to expand or limit both the reach of the FCPA, and the power of the federal government to bring interlocutory appeals when a trial court rules against it in a criminal matter. 

     

    FCPA Update FCPA Alstom SA

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  • Claims Management Company Reports Conclusion of SEC FCPA Investigation

    As previously covered here, Crawford & Co., an Atlanta-based claims management firm, disclosed in November 2015 that it self-reported possible FCPA violations to the DOJ and SEC.  These potential violations were identified during an internal audit.  On February 27, 2017, Crawford announced that it had received notice that the SEC “concluded its investigation and did not intend to recommend an enforcement action” related to this matter.   The company did not reference the DOJ in its announcement.

    DOJ SEC Crawford & Co. FCPA

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  • Financial Services Institution Discloses SEC FCPA Investigation into Hiring Practices

    On February 24, a major financial services institution disclosed in its 10-K that government and regulatory agencies, including the SEC, are conducting investigations concerning potential violations of the FCPA related to hiring of candidates referred by or related to foreign government officials.  The institution stated that it was cooperating with the investigations.

    This is not the first FCPA-related investigation of a company’s hiring practices.  As previously reported here in November 2016, a global financial company and a Hong Kong subsidiary agreed to pay approximately $264 million to the DOJ, SEC, and the Federal Reserve, ending a nearly three year, multi-agency investigation of the subsidiary’s “Sons and Daughters” referral program through which the children of influential Chinese officials were allegedly given prestigious and lucrative jobs as a quid pro quo to retain and obtain business in Asia.  Similarly, as reported here, in August 2015, the SEC announced a settlement with a multinational financial services company over allegations that the company violated the FCPA by giving internships to family members of government officials working at a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund in hopes of retaining or gaining more business from that fund. The company paid $14.8 million to settle the charges.

    Nor are the inquiries confined to financial services companies.  For example, the SEC announced in March 2016 that it settled charges with Qualcomm Inc., the San Diego-based mobile chip maker.  Qualcomm agreed to pay a $7.5 million civil penalty to resolve charges that it violated the FCPA by hiring relatives of Chinese government officials and providing things of value to foreign officials and their family members, in an attempt to influence these officials to take actions that would assist Qualcomm in obtaining or retaining business in China.

    DOJ SEC FCPA Federal Reserve Qualcomm Inc.

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  • DOJ Unveils New Guidelines on Corporate Compliance Programs

    The DOJ’s Fraud Section recently published an “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs.”  The guidelines were released on February 8 without a formal announcement.  Their stated purpose is to provide a list of “some important topics and sample questions that the Fraud Section has frequently found relevant in evaluating a corporate compliance program.”  The guidelines are divided into 11 broad topics that include dozens of questions.  The topics are:

    1. Analysis and Remediation of Underlying Conduct
    2. Senior and Middle Management
    3. Autonomy and Resources
    4. Policies and Procedures
    5. Risk Assessment
    6. Training and Communications
    7. Confidential Reporting and Investigation
    8. Incentives and Disciplinary Measures
    9. Continuous Improvement, Periodic Testing and Review
    10. Third Party Management
    11. Mergers & Acquisitions

    According to the Fraud Section, many of the topics also appear in, among other sources, the United States Attorney’s Manual, United States Sentencing Guidelines, and FCPA Resource Guide published in November 2012 by the DOJ and SEC.  While the content of the guidelines is not particularly groundbreaking, it is nonetheless noteworthy as the first formal guidance issued by the Fraud Section under the Trump administration and new Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  By consolidating in one source and making transparent at least some of the factors that the Fraud Section considers when weighing the adequacy of a compliance program, the guidelines are a useful tool for companies and their compliance officers to understand how the Fraud Section and others at the DOJ may proceed in the coming months and years. 

    However, while the guidelines may give some indication of what the DOJ views as a best practices compliance program, they caution that the Fraud Section “does not use any rigid formula to assess the effectiveness of corporate compliance programs,” recognizes that “each company’s risk profile and solutions to reduce its risks warrant particularized evaluation,” and makes “an individualized determination in each case.”

    DOJ SEC Corporate Compliance Program

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