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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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  • Guilty plea from former Venezuelan official in bribery scheme

    The DOJ announced on Thursday, April 19, that a former Venezuelan official had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charge arose from Cesar David Rincon Godoy’s role in a bribery scheme involving bribes paid by the owners of U.S. companies to Venezuelan government officials to secure energy contracts and payments on outstanding invoices. As the former general manager of the procurement subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), Rincon had solicited and accepted bribes. The judge entered a personal money judgment of $7,033,504.71. As a government official receiving the bribes, Rincon could not be charged himself with FCPA offenses (which are targeted at those paying the bribes). Related charges against four other individuals remain pending, including charges of conspiracy to violate the FCPA; 11 individuals have already pleaded guilty in the PDVSA cases.  

    For prior coverage of the PDVSA enforcement actions, please see here.

    DOJ Petroleos de Venezuela Venezuela Bribery FCPA Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Aruban telecom official pleads guilty to money laundering conspiracy involving FCPA violations

    Egbert Yvan Ferdinand Koolman, an official of Servicio di Telecommunicacion di Aruba N.V. (Setar), pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in connection with a scheme to arrange and receive corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts in Aruba.  The DOJ’s press release describes Setar as an Aruban state-owned company.  According to his plea agreement, Koolman, a Dutch citizen living in Florida, operated a money laundering conspiracy between 2005 and 2016 in his position as Setar’s product manager.   Lawrence W. Parker, Jr., who owned several Florida-based telecommunications companies, previously pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Koolman and Koolman’s wife.

    Koolman admitted that he conspired with Parker and others to transmit funds from Florida and elsewhere in the United States to Aruba and Panama with the intent to promote a wire fraud scheme and a corrupt scheme that violated the FCPA.  Koolman was promised and received bribes from individuals and companies located in the United States and abroad in exchange for using his position at Setar to award lucrative mobile phone and accessory contracts.  Koolman also admitted to providing favored vendors with confidential Setar information in exchange for the more than $1.3 million in corrupt payments.

    Setar filed a civil complaint against Koolman and other parties on March 3 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, which contains a few points of note.  First, Setar describes itself in the complaint as a privatized company, whereas the DOJ’s press release called it an instrumentality of the Aruban government.  Second, the complaint states that Setar became aware of some of Koolman’s alleged activities via the Panama Papers, the 2016 leak of over 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm and financial services provider Mossack Fonseca.

    DOJ FCPA Anti-Money Laundering

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  • FCPA class action against Embraer dismissed

    A class action against Embraer, the Brazilian aerospace firm, was recently dismissed by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman. The class action, which was brought in federal district court in New York, alleged that Embraer had failed to adequately disclose the scope and possible financial impact of ongoing corruption investigations by the DOJ and SEC, harming the company’s investors.

    In granting Embraer’s motion to dismiss, Judge Berman held that the company’s disclosures were sufficient as a matter of law, and that requiring disclosures advocated by the putative class plaintiffs would effectively require reporting companies to acknowledge guilt for conduct that was still being investigated and had not yet been charged.

    The underlying bribery alleged in the complaint (and being investigated by regulators) involves Embraer’s October 2016 admissions that from 2007 to 2011, company executives made payments to government officials in several countries, including the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia, Mozambique, and India, totaling $11.5 million. Embraer received government contracts resulting in profits over $83 million in exchange.

    This decision is a clear win for publicly traded companies currently under investigation for corruption-related conduct. Had the case proceeded, companies may have faced difficult choices between making more detailed disclosures to investors regarding the potential merits of ongoing investigations and protecting themselves against incriminatory public statements about these same matters.

    International Bribery Embraer Anti-Corruption

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  • Former media executive pleads guilty to bribing UN official

    Julia Vivi Wang, a Chinese-born naturalized U.S. citizen, reportedly pleaded guilty this week to violations of the FCPA related to a scheme to bribe the UN General Assembly’s former president John Ashe. Wang is a former executive of a media group that focused on promoting UN development goals, but she was accused of paying the bribe to secure diplomatic postings. She pleaded guilty this week in the SDNY to three counts, including violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA, as well as income tax fraud. 

    The charges relate to Wang’s payment of $500,000 to Ashe in April 2013 in exchange for receiving a diplomatic posting within the government of Antigua, where Ashe previously served as a UN representative. Wang is just the most recent in a line of other individuals who have faced FCPA repercussions for bribes paid to Ashe (who died in 2016), including Ng Lap Seng, who was found guilty of paying Ashe and another individual bribes worth at least $1 million, and Shiwei (Sheri) Yan who also pleaded guilty to paying Ashe bribes in excess of $800,000. As part of her plea, Wang admitted that she had failed to report approximately $2 million in income to the IRS.

    This guilty plea illustrates how prosecutors are able to unwind even complex bribery schemes by methodically targeting individual participants. The criminal charges against Wang were likely bolstered by the string of preceding bribery cases involving similar payments to Ashe that likewise resulted in a guilty pleas and verdicts.

    FCPA Enforcement Action Bribery FCPA

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  • Second executive pleads guilty to FCPA violations in Siemens case involving bribes in Argentina

    On March 15, Eberhard Reichert, a former executive of a Siemens AG subsidiary, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including conspiracy to commit bribery, falsify corporate books and records, circumvent internal controls, and commit wire fraud. According to the DOJ press release, Reichert “admitted that he and his co-conspirators concealed the illicit payments through various means, including using shell companies associated with intermediaries to disguise and launder the funds.” Reichert was indicted with seven others in 2011.

    Reichert was part of a decade-long scheme during which Siemens paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Argentine government officials to secure a contract to create national identity cards. A Siemens subsidiary was awarded a contract worth more than $1 billion to provide the ID cards in 1998. The Argentine government ended the project in 2001. Since then, Siemens and its employees have faced prosecutions and enforcement actions around the world as a result of the bribes and related conduct. Siemens pleaded guilty in the U.S. to violating the books and records provisions of the FCPA in 2008 for its conduct, and subsidiaries in Argentina and other countries pleaded guilty to similar crimes.  Siemens also paid $350 million to resolve an SEC case and paid a fine of $800 million to resolve charges brought by the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office.

    Prior FCPA Scorecard coverage of the case can be found here, here, here, and here.

    DOJ FCPA Bribery

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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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  • UK Serious Fraud Office recovers bribe from diplomat from Chad

    In what the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is calling a first, a £4.4 million recovery from a corruption case will be returned overseas. The SFO prevailed in a trial before the UK High Court and recovered the money from Chadian diplomats, including the wife of the former Deputy Chief of the Chadian Embassy to the United States who was received the money in the form of discounted shares of Canadian oil company Griffiths Energy International, Inc. Griffiths also paid “consultancy fees” to diplomats through a front company called “Chad Oil” set up five days before the agreements with the diplomats. In exchange for the payments, Griffiths received exclusive development rights in Chad.

    The case has continued for some time—Griffiths paid a C$10 million criminal fine in Canada in 2013. After Griffiths was taken over by a UK corporation, the U.S. DOJ filed an In Rem. complaint and later requested SFO assistance.

    This recovery will be “transferred to the Department for International Development who will identify key projects to invest in that will benefit the poorest in Chad.”

    UK Serious Fraud Office Anti-Corruption

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