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  • AG Sessions Discusses Approach to Enforcement at Annual Ethics Conference

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    In prepared remarks delivered April 24 at the Ethics and Compliance Initiative Annual Conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed the DOJ’s anticipated approach to prosecuting corporate fraud and misconduct under his leadership. The Attorney General announced the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) commitment to “re-double” its efforts to combat violent crime, while continuing to investigate and prosecute “corporate fraud and misconduct.” Specifically, Mr. Sessions pledged that the DOJ will “continue to emphasize the importance of holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct” and when making charging decisions, will account for “whether companies have good compliance programs; whether they cooperate and self-disclose their wrongdoing; and whether they take suitable steps to remediate problems.”

    Notable among the many points made by Mr. Sessions during his speech, was his emphasis on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). As explained by Mr. Sessions, “corruption harms free competition, distorts prices, and often leads to substandard products and services coming into this country” and, ultimately, “increases the cost of doing business, and hurts honest companies that don’t pay these bribes.” To this end, the Attorney General promised to “strongly enforce the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws.”  As he put it, “[c]ompanies should succeed because they provide superior products and services, not because they have paid off the right people.” In closing, the Attorney General took a moment to remind the audience that “[o]ur economy, and indeed, our whole system of self-government, depends on people believing that those who choose to disregard the law will be caught and punished. This is ultimately the responsibility of the Justice Department.”

    Agency Rulemaking & Guidance Federal Issues DOJ Enforcement FCPA Sessions

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  • Two Telecom Executives Pay FCPA Penalties

    Financial Crimes

    Two former executives of a Hungarian telecommunications company recently agreed to settle their FCPA claims with the SEC and pay related penalties, along with five-year bars against serving as an officer or director of any SEC-registered public company. The company’s former CEO agreed to pay a $250,000 penalty, while its former Chief Strategy Officer agreed to pay a $150,000 penalty. The settlements are still subject to court approval.

    The SEC’s case against these individuals was heading to trial this month prior to this week’s settlement. The SEC’s complaint alleged that these individuals used sham contracts to funnel millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials in Macedonia and Montenegro to win contracts and, importantly, block out competitors including U.S.-traded telecoms. This action was related to similar claims previously brought against the company and its majority owner, who settled civil and criminal FCPA charges in December 2011 for $95 million. In February 2017, another former executive settled FCPA charges, agreeing to pay a $60,000 penalty without admitting or denying the charges.

    These settlements underscore the FCPA’s broad territorial and jurisdictional reach, which can encompass transactions that facially do not even involve U.S. companies. As the SEC’s Stephanie Avakian noted, these individuals were ultimately charged because they “spearhead[ed] secret agreements with a prime minister and others to block out telecom competitors,” and “[the SEC] persevered in order to hold these overseas executives culpable for corrupting a company that traded in the U.S. market”.

    Financial Crimes SEC FCPA

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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 Voices Continued Support for Robust FCPA Enforcement

    Financial Crimes

    On April 24, 2017, in a speech at the Ethics and Compliance Initiative Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared to commit to the continued aggressive enforcement of the FCPA. He noted that bribery "increases the cost of doing business and hurts honest companies that don’t pay these bribes,” and he explained that the Trump administration’s DOJ will enforce laws that protect honest businesses: “One area where this is critical is enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Congress enacted this law 40 years ago, when some companies considered it a routine expense to bribe foreign officials in order to gain business advantages abroad.” AG Sessions also emphasized that individuals, not just companies, may face increased FCPA focus.

    These remarks come on the heels of comments from another senior DOJ official who recently noted that robust FCPA enforcement will continue. As previously reported, Trevor McFadden, the DOJ’s Criminal Division's Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, noted that the DOJ remains "intent on creating an even playing field for honest businesses."

    These remarks suggest that the DOJ will remain active in enforcing FCPA compliance issues, despite comments from then-candidate Trump that FCPA enforcement may be scaled back under his watch.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA

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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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  • DOJ Reduces Brazilian Construction Company Penalty Based on Inability to Pay

    Financial Crimes

    On April 11, the DOJ filed a memorandum in its case against a Brazilian construction company, requesting that the Court approve a lower sentence than originally proposed based on the company's inability to pay. On December 21, the company and its petrochemical affiliate reached a $4.5 billion combined global settlement with U.S., Brazilian, and Swiss authorities to resolve FCPA allegations, in which both companies agreed to plead guilty in the U.S. to conspiracy to violate the FCPA. As part of that agreement, the U.S. and Brazilian authorities agreed to conduct an independent analysis to confirm the accuracy of the construction company's representation that it had an inability to pay a penalty in excess of $2.6 billion. The memorandum set forth the DOJ’s determination that the construction company lacks the ability to pay a criminal penalty in excess of $2.6 billion and included adjustments for the requested penalty to match that ability. In particular, the portion of the penalty paid to the United States would be lowered from approximately $117 million to approximately $93 million. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 17.

    Prior Scorecard coverage of the company's settlement can be found here.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA Ability To Repay

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  • SEC’S FCPA Chief to Leave Agency Later in April

    Financial Crimes

    On April 4, the SEC announced that FCPA Unit Chief Kara Brockmeyer will leave the agency later this month. Ms. Brockmeyer joined the SEC in 2000 and has led the FCPA Unit since September 2011. Under her supervision of the unit, the SEC brought 72 FCPA enforcement actions resulting in judgments and orders totaling more than $2 billion in disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and penalties.

    Financial Crimes SEC FCPA

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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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  • 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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  • New DOJ Appointee Expresses Commitment to Enforcing the FCPA

    Financial Crimes

    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 law firm 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 his proir law firm 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.”

    Financial Crimes Trump FCPA

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