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  • Minnesota-Based Company Announces Closure of FCPA Investigations

    Financial Crimes

    On August 7, a Minnesota-based company announced in its Form 10-Q the closure of DOJ and SEC FCPA investigations related to gift, travel, entertainment, and other expenses incurred in connection with its Asia-Pacific operations. The company initially informed the DOJ and SEC about this matter in 2012 and thereafter provided the government periodic updates. According to the company’s 10-Q, the government’s investigations were closed “without further action taken by either [the SEC or DOJ].”

    Financial Crimes FCPA DOJ SEC

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  • Ohio-Based Corporation Discloses FCPA Investigation in Quarterly Filing

    Financial Crimes

    On August 4, Ohio-based corporation disclosed in its 10-Q that the DOJ and SEC are conducting investigations concerning potential violations of the FCPA related to a subsidiary’s operations in Turkey. The company operates in more than 70 countries and develops and sells technology-enabled solutions, including data warehouse management and database technologies. 

    According to the 10-Q, the company “discovered certain questionable expenditures for travel, gifts and other expenses at one of its international subsidiaries” doing business in Turkey. The company stated that it promptly launched an internal investigation and, in February 2017, self-disclosed the investigation to the SEC and DOJ. According to its 10-Q, the company has periodically updated the government about its investigation and plans to “continue to cooperate fully.” The company also noted that it already has “taken remedial actions,” including terminations, and that the FCPA issues “involved specific individuals who are no longer with the Company.” 

    It appears that the company is making a case for full cooperation credit under the DOJ’s Pilot Program, which encourages 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.”

    Financial Crimes FCPA DOJ SEC

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  • Three Companies Announce the Close of FCPA Investigations

    Financial Crimes

    During the week of July 24, 2017, three different companies announced the closure of DOJ and/or SEC FCPA investigations.

    In a Form 10-Q filed with the SEC on July 25, 2017, an American multinational technology company disclosed that the DOJ and SEC had each informed the company in June 2017 of the closure of their respective investigations into “alleged illegal activity by a former Poland employee in connection with sales to the Polish government.” The company initially informed the SEC in 2012 that the Polish Central Anti-Corruption Bureau was looking into the matter, and the DOJ followed up with its own investigation in April of 2013. The DOJ expanded the investigation from Poland to Argentina, Bangladesh, and Ukraine. The 2012 issues came on the heels of a 2011 settlement in which the company paid the SEC $10 million to settle separate FCPA allegations for alleged cash payments to Chinese and Korean officials.

    A South African alternative payment systems provider made a similar announcement on July 27, stating that the DOJ had written a letter to the company closing its investigation of alleged FCPA and disclosure violations. According to the announcement, the DOJ, along with the SEC and South African authorities, began looking into a 2012 contract award process involving a subsidiary of the company after an unsuccessful bidder for the same contract “refer[ed] unsubstantiated South African press articles to the DOJ.” The SEC was the first to bow out of the investigation, closing its inquiry through a letter in 2015, followed six months later by the South African government. The company is traded on NASDAQ’s Global Select Market, providing a jurisdictional hook into a case otherwise about payments made by a South African company in South Africa to South African citizens who were South African government employees. Our additional coverage of this matter can be viewed here.

    In a Form 10-Q filed on July 25, 2017, a mining company also announced the end of a DOJ investigation into alleged violations of the FCPA “relating to certain business activities of [the company] and its affiliates and contractors in countries outside the U.S.” According to the announcement, the Colorado company had already received a similar declination from the SEC earlier this year. Our additional coverage of this matter can be viewed here

    The DOJ simultaneously reportedly confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the agency was still actively enforcing the FCPA. The Journal cited an anonymous source at the DOJ for assurances that “though there haven’t been any new corporate FCPA cases since mid-January, there is no letup in U.S. enforcement efforts.”

    Financial Crimes DOJ SEC FCPA

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  • International Oil Field Service Company Agrees to Settle FCPA Claim for $29 Million in Disgorgement and Penalties

    Financial Crimes

    An international oil field service company recently settled allegations that the company improperly steered business to the friend of an Angolan official in exchange for that official awarding various oil contracts to the company. In total, the company agreed to pay the SEC $29.2 million, comprising $14 million in disgorgement, $1.2 million in prejudgment interest, and a $14 million penalty. The company’s former vice president also agreed to pay the SEC a $75,000 penalty related to these violations and other accounting irregularities.  

    This is the most recent settlement in a series of FCPA enforcement actions focusing on the company’s procurement processes and operations in various countries. A former subsidiary of the company settled similar FCPA allegations in 2009 related to alleged bribes paid to Nigerian officials to procure contracts in that country.    

    This settlement also highlights the role of whistleblowers in driving FCPA and other enforcement actions. A whistleblower employed by the company first alerted the company to potential FCPA issues in 2010, which resulted in the launching of an investigation into the allegations.

    Financial Crimes FCPA SEC Disgorgement Bribery Whistleblower

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  • Justice Department Official Stresses International Cooperation in FCPA Enforcement

    Financial Crimes

    In a recent speech before the Atlantic Council Inter-American Dialogue Event, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco discussed the importance of foreign law enforcement cooperation in FCPA investigations. Blanco focused his remarks on cooperation between the United States and Brazil and also touched on the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. 

    Blanco noted: “As transnational crime continues to grow in scope and complexity, we increasingly find ourselves looking across the globe to collect evidence and identify witnesses necessary to build cases, requiring greater and closer collaboration with our foreign counterparts. As a result, we find ourselves relying more and more on the use of the various mechanisms of international cooperation with our foreign partners that permit for evidence exchange, fugitive apprehension, and asset recovery.” 

    Blanco’s remarks highlight the DOJ’s continued focus on international and transnational conduct with the cooperation of foreign law enforcement agencies. He concluded: “We at the Department of Justice will continue, like we have for years, pushing forward hard against corruption, wherever it is, and we welcome our fellow counterparts around the world who are fighting this important fight against corruption.”

    Financial Crimes FCPA Corruption DOJ International

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  • Engineering and Construction Firm Receives Declination of FCPA Charges

    Financial Crimes

    On June 21, the DOJ issued a declination letter to attorneys for a Boston-based privately held engineering and construction firm, in which the DOJ declined prosecution and closed an investigation of the firm regarding potential FCPA violations that occurred in India between 2011 and 2015. The firm agreed to pay DOJ approximately $4 million in disgorgement. The DOJ announced the declination on June 29 with a link posted on its website, making it the second FCPA declination that the DOJ announced in June 2017. Prior to June, the DOJ had last issued an FCPA declination letter in September 2016. 

    According to the DOJ Letter, the firm paid approximately $1.18 million in bribes to India government officials in exchange for contracts that resulted in approximately $4 million in net profits (the disgorgement amount). The payments were made by the firm's division responsible for India operations and by the firm's wholly-owned subsidiary in India through fraudulent subcontractors and generally equaled two to four percent of the contract price. 

    The DOJ’s letter stated that its decision to close its investigation 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 firm had, among other things, made a “timely and voluntary self-disclosure” of potential FCPA violations, conducted and “thorough and comprehensive investigation,” fully cooperated with the DOJ, and performed full remediation, including the termination of all of the executives and employees involved in the conduct at issue. However, the letter provides little detail about these factors. 

    The DOJ letter makes clear that it does not foreclose future prosecution of any individuals connected to this matter, whether affiliated with the firm or otherwise.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA Pilot Program Bribery FCPA

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  • U.K. Banker Receives Six-Year Sentence for Taking Bribes

    Financial Crimes

    On June 20, 2017, a former banker for an international financial institution in London received a six year prison sentence for accepting more than $3.5 million in bribes. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Andrey Ryjenko also received two years (to run concurrently) for "concealing, disguising, converting and transferring criminal property."  

    Reuters reports that Ryjenko conspired with a U.S. consultant to direct the institution's investments towards certain companies in exchange for bribes deposited into a bank account in the name of Ryjenko's sister. The consultant, Dmitrji Harder, pleaded guilty in 2016 in the U.S. to two counts of violating the FCPA. For additional coverage and analysis of the U.S. Department of Justice's enforcement action against Harder, see the previous posts here.

    Both the Harder case and the Ryjenko prosecution were the result of a multinational investigation with cooperating agencies in several countries. Indeed, the CPS praised the cooperation, stating that Ryjenko's "conviction was made possible through effective cross-border partnerships between a number of jurisdictions, including the United States." According to Reuters, it was the bank that first contacted authorities in 2010 when its internal systems identified irregularities. 

    The Ryjenko conviction is part of a growing trend of foreign jurisdictions taking action against bribe recipients, who are not covered under the FCPA’s prohibitions in the U.S. (although U.S. authorities can sometimes try to pursue those bribe recipients under money laundering and other theories, if the bribe recipients can be brought under U.S. jurisdiction).

    Financial Crimes FCPA Bribery

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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 Rule-Making & 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”.

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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.”

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