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  • German Multinational Chemical Company Agrees to Pay DOJ More Than $11 Million, Receives Declination of FCPA Charges

    Financial Crimes

    On Friday, June 16, the DOJ issued a declination letter to attorneys for North American affiliates of a German multinational chemical company, in which the DOJ declined prosecution and closed an investigation of the company and certain of its subsidiaries and affiliates regarding potential FCPA violations that occurred between November 2006 and December 2009. The affiliates, which trades only on German stock exchanges and which has no securities registered with the SEC, agreed to pay DOJ a combined $11.2 million in disgorgement and forfeiture. 

    According to the DOJ letter, a New Jersey-based company acquired by the affiliate companies in October 2006, made corrupt payments to officials at and related to a Republic of Georgia state-owned and controlled entity to ensure continuity of business. Upon discovering this conduct, the affiliates initiated an internal investigation and subsequently withheld monies earmarked for a company controlled by the Georgian entity. These monies comprise the approximately $3.4 million that the affiliates agreed to forfeit.

    The DOJ letter stated that its decision is consistent with the FCPA Pilot Program, launched in April 2016 to encourage companies “to voluntarily self-disclose FCPA-related misconduct, fully cooperate with the Fraud Section, and, where appropriate, remediate flaws in their controls and compliance programs.” Accordingly, the DOJ determined that the affiliates had, among other things, voluntarily self-reported potential FCPA violations, conducted a thorough and proactive internal investigation, and continues to cooperate fully and remediate its compliance program and internal controls. Notably, the DOJ letter does not foreclose future prosecution of any individuals, and the letter explicitly delineates DOJ’s expectation that the affiliates will continue cooperating fully in any ongoing investigation of individuals.

    Financial Crimes DOJ Anti-Corruption

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  • Senators Introduce Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017

    Financial Crimes

    Senator Ben Cardin and Republican co-sponsors recently introduced a bill titled the “Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017,” which seeks “to identify and combat corruption in countries, to establish a tiered system of countries with respect to levels of corruption by their governments and their efforts to combat such corruption, and to assess United States assistance to designated countries in order to advance anti-corruption efforts in those countries and better serve United States taxpayers.”

    This bill, if enacted, would require the Secretary of State to publish annual rankings of foreign countries split up into three tiers that depend on whether those countries’ governments comply with “minimum standards for the elimination of corruption.” The introduced bill defines corruption as “the exercise of public power for private gain, including by bribery, nepotism, fraud, or embezzlement.”

    Once a country’s tier-rank is established, the bill would then require the Secretary of State, Administrator of USAID, and the Secretary of Defense to take various steps, including the creation of a “corruption risk assessment” and “corruption mitigation strategy” for U.S. foreign assistance programs; fortified anti-corruption and clawback provisions in contracts, grants and other agreements; disclosure of beneficial ownership for contractors and other participants; and mechanisms to investigate misappropriated funds.

    If passed into law, this bill would create substantial new enforcement powers to combat international corruption activities. And, unlike the current ambiguity under the FCPA regarding its applicability to state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (“SOEs”), as drafted, this bill expressly would cover SOEs. Like the FCPA, however, this bill also contains a broad national security waiver component, if the Secretary of State “certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that such waiver is important to the national security interest of the United States.”

    Financial Crimes Anti-Corruption FCPA Bribery Fraud

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  • DOJ’s Trevor McFadden Addresses Anti-Corruption, Export Controls & Sanctions Compliance Summit

    Financial Crimes

    On April 18, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Trevor McFadden spoke at the 10th annual Anti-Corruption, Export Controls & Sanctions Compliance Summit in Washington, D.C. According to Mr. McFadden, the Justice Department “remains committed to enforcing the FCPA and to prosecuting fraud and corruption more generally.” He emphasized the importance of company cooperation, stating that that the department considers voluntary self-disclosures and remedial efforts when making charging decisions. Mr. McFadden also stated that the department is making a “concerted effort to move corporate investigations expeditiously,” adding that FCPA investigations should be “measured in months, not years.”

    Mr. McFadden also discussed an increased prioritization of anti-corruption prosecutions around the world and stated that the DOJ will “seek to reach global resolutions that apportion penalties between the relevant jurisdictions so that companies that want to accept responsibility for misconduct are not unfairly penalized by multiple agencies.”

    Additionally, the department is assessing its FCPA Pilot Program. Last year, as part of the Program, the department began publishing information on cases it declined to prosecute due to voluntary self-disclosure, full cooperation, and comprehensive remediation. Mr. McFadden stated that the Program is “one example of an effort to provide more transparency and consistency for our corporate resolutions” and “will continue in full force.”

    Financial Crimes DOJ Anti-Corruption Export Controls Sanctions FCPA Pilot Program

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  • South Korea’s Former President Formally Indicted on Corruption Charges

    Financial Crimes

    On April 17, the former South Korean president was formally indicted on 18 charges of corruption including bribery, extortion, abuse of power, and leaking state secrets. The former president was impeached in December after months of public protests. Last month, she was removed from office and arrested.

    The corruption scandal has also implicated the former president’s longtime confidante, who is currently on trial on corruption charges. The pair is accused of coercing Korean businesses into donating $68 million to two non-profit foundations that the former president’s confidante controlled. They are both also accused of collecting or demanding $52 million in bribes from businesses, including $38 million from a Korean multinational conglomerate, $6.2 million from a retail conglomerate, and $7.8 million from a telecommunications and semiconductor conglomerate. The chairman of the retail conglomerate, was indicted on bribery charges on Monday.

    Financial Crimes FCPA Anti-Corruption Bribery

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

    Financial Crimes

    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 was also ordered to forfeit the bribe money. Her daughter received a 44-year prison sentence for her own involvement. In 2009, the U.S. filmmakers, who paid the bribes, were convicted in the U.S. on charges of FCPA violations. A U.S. federal court sentenced the filmmakers to six months incarceration, three years of supervised release, and $250,000 in restitution. 

    The former tourism chief 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. The former tourism chief 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.

    Financial Crimes FCPA Anti-Corruption Bribery

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  • Netherlands-Based Financial Services Company Under Investigation by Dutch and U.S. Authorities for Activities Relating to a Russian Telecom Company

    Financial Crimes

    In an annual report filed with the SEC on March 20, 2017, 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 the company failed to report irregular transactions and may have enabled international corruption, including unusual payments made by a Russian telecom company to a government official in Uzbekistan through a shell company.  The russian company 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.  The financial services comapny stated that it is cooperating with the ongoing investigations and requests of Dutch and U.S. authorities.

    Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering Bribery Anti-Corruption

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  • French Financial Crimes Investigator Joins SFO Criminal Investigation of Aircraft Manufacturer

    Financial Crimes

    On Thursday, March 16, 2017, an aircraft manufacturer based in Toulouse, France, 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). The company stated that the investigations into the use of third party agents by the company’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.

    UK SFO Bribery Anti-Corruption Fraud

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  • New Survey Reports on Corruption in the Asia Pacific Region

    Financial Crimes

    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.” 

    Financial Crimes FCPA Anti-Corruption

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  • Manufacturing Company Agrees to NPA, Will Pay More than $75 Million

    Federal Issues

    On December 29, a Kentucky-based manufacturer and distributor of cable and wire, entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ regarding improper payments to government officials in Angola, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, and Thailand. The company agreed to pay the DOJ a $20.5 million criminal penalty. The company simultaneously resolved an investigation by the SEC over the same conduct, and agreed to disgorge approximately $55.3 million, along with a $6.5 million penalty regarding accounting violations at its Brazilian subsidiary.

    According to the DOJ, beginning in 2002, the company’s employees became aware that the company’s foreign subsidiaries were using third party agents and distributors to make corrupt payments to foreign officials in various countries to secure business. In 2011, employees from the company’s subsidiary expressed concerns to regional and parent-level executives that commission payments were being used for improper purposes but the company failed to investigate the payments or implement a system of internal controls to detect and prevent the abuse. In total, the subsidiaries paid approximately $13 million to third party agents and distributors from 2002 to 2013, a portion of which was used to make unlawful payments to foreign government officials. According to the DOJ, the payments and resulting contracts netted the company more than $51 million in profits on sales to state-owned enterprises around the world. The SEC separately found that due to weak internal controls, the company failed to detect improper inventory accounting at its Brazilian subsidiary, causing the company to materially misstate its financial statements from 2008 to the second quarter of 2012.

    Simultaneous with its resolution with the company, SEC also resolved charges against the company’s then-senior vice president and the individual responsible for sales in Angola. The former senior vice president agreed to pay the SEC a $20,000 penalty without admitting or denying that he knowingly circumvented internal accounting controls and caused FCPA violations when he approved over $340,000 in payments to an agent in Angola. The SEC separately noted that while the company’s former CEO and CFO had now returned millions of dollars in compensation they had received during the period of the violations, the SEC had found no personal misconduct by either former officer.

    The company’s $20.5 million criminal penalty represented a 50 percent reduction off the bottom of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range based on the DOJ’s conclusion that the company “voluntarily and timely disclosed the conduct at issue, fully cooperated in the investigation and fully remediated. The benefits the company received from the DOJ are similar to those companies can receive for participating in the Fraud Section’s FCPA Pilot Program for the self-reporting of FCPA violations. Prior coverage of the Fraud Section’s FCPA Pilot Program can be found here.

    Federal Issues FCPA International Anti-Corruption SEC DOJ

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  • Argentine Sports Marketing Firm Agrees to $112.8 Million Settlement in Connection with FIFA Corruption Investigation

    Federal Issues

    An Argentine sports marketing firm, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. DOJ on December 13, admitting to wire fraud conspiracy in connection with paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to high-ranking FIFA officials in order to secure support for broadcasting rights in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay for the 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 World Cup. The four-year DPA calls for the firm to pay approximately $112.8 million in forfeiture and criminal penalties. In announcing the DPA, the DOJ noted its consideration of the firm’s remedial actions including termination of its entire senior management team, hiring a new General Manager, Chief Financial Officer, Legal Director, Chief Compliance Officer, and Compliance Manager, cooperation, and implementation of enhanced internal controls and a rigorous corporate compliance program.

    The deferred prosecution agreement is part of the DOJ’s wider investigation into corruption in international soccer. Thus far, DOJ has charged 42 defendants and obtained 19 guilty pleas in connection with the FIFA corruption prosecutions. Prior Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigations can be found here.

    Federal Issues Fraud International Anti-Corruption DOJ Bribery

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