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  • OFAC Assesses $2 Million Penalty Against International Oil and Gas Company for Violations of Ukraine-Related Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On July 20, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a $2 million civil money penalty assessed against an international oil and gas company, including two of its U.S. subsidiaries, for alleged violations of OFAC’s Ukraine-Related sanctions regulations. OFAC claims that, in May 2014, the company impermissibly dealt in services of a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation who had been placed on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDNs) by signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with the individual. Although the company claimed that it believed such actions were permissible, OFAC noted that the “plain language of the Ukraine-Related Sanctions” clearly indicates otherwise. In particular, OFAC stated that the sanctions blocked “any property and interests in property, and prohibited any dealing in any property and interests in property, of a person so designated.” In addition, the sanctions expressly forbid U.S. persons from “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person,” and, according to OFAC, do not differentiate between an individual’s “personal” and “professional” capacity—a distinction the company tried to make.

    Thus, concluded OFAC, information available at the time of the alleged violations “clearly put [the company] on notice that OFAC would consider executing documents with an SDN to violate the prohibitions in the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations.” The $2 million penalty was the largest that OFAC could impose under statute. OFAC imposed the penalty based on the following factors: (i) the company did not voluntarily self-disclose the violations; (ii) the company demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by disregarding clear warning signs; (iii) the company’s senior-most executives knew of the official’s status as an SDN when it executed the legal documents; (iv) the company caused significant harm to the sanctions program by dealing with a senior official of the Russian Federation; and (v) the company is a sophisticated and experienced oil company that has global operations and routinely deals in goods, services and technology subject to U.S. economic sanctions and export controls.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Treasury Department OFAC

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  • DOJ Files Suit to Seize $144 Million in Laundered Nigerian Oil Bribes

    Financial Crimes

    The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday, July 14, that prosecutors filed a civil complaint seeking to seize $144 million in assets that were allegedly the proceeds of corruption in Nigeria and were laundered in and through the U.S. According to the complaint, from 2011 to 2015, two Nigerian businessmen bribed Nigeria’s former Minister for Petroleum Resources, who oversaw Nigeria’s state-owned oil company. In return, the former Minister steered lucrative oil contracts to companies owned by the businessmen. The proceeds were then allegedly used to purchase assets subject to seizure and forfeiture, including a $50 million New York City condominium and an $80 million yacht.

    “The United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “The complaint announced today demonstrates the Department’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners around the globe to trace and recover the proceeds of corruption, no matter the source. Corrupt foreign officials and business executives should make no mistake: if illicit funds are within the reach of the United States, we will seek to forfeit them and to return them to the victims from whom they were stolen.”

    The suit was part of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

    Financial Crimes DOJ Anti-Money Laundering Corruption Nigeria

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  • OFAC Settles with International Insurance Group over Charges of Violating Sanctions Programs

    Financial Crimes

    On June 26, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) reached a settlement with an international financial services and insurance company based in New York for alleged violations of OFAC sanctions programs. OFAC claimed that the company “issued policies and insurance certificates, and/or processed claims and other insurance-related transactions that conferred economic benefit to sanctioned countries or persons and undermined the policy objectives of several U.S. economic sanctions programs.” Specifically, OFAC maintained the company violated the following sanctions programs: (i) Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560 (ITSR); (ii) Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 544 (WMDPSR); (iii) Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 538 (SSR); and (iv) Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515 (CACR). The settlement requires the company to pay $148,698 to settle the claims, which the company voluntarily self-disclosed to OFAC.

    For others to avoid these issues, OFAC suggested that “the best and most reliable approach for insuring global risks without violating U.S. sanctions law is to insert in global insurance policies an explicit exclusion for risks that would violate U.S. sanctions laws.”

    Financial Crimes Federal Issues OFAC Insurance Sanctions Risk Management

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  • Former DOJ Fraud Compliance Counsel Resigns, Criticizes President

    Financial Crimes

    Hui Chen, formerly Compliance Counsel Expert in the DOJ Fraud Section, is speaking out about the reasons for her May 2017 resignation, which she has attributed to unacceptable conduct by the President and his Administration. Chen was hired by DOJ in November 2015 after serving as Global Head for Anti-Bribery and Corruption and Standard Chartered Bank. She was the first lawyer to hold this position at the DOJ.

    In a June 25 LinkedIn post, Chen unleashed several criticisms against the President, including regarding lawsuits, conflicts of interest, and ongoing investigations. She said that she would “not tolerate” those conducts in a company, but “worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conduct.” Chen further elaborated on her criticisms in a July 4, 2017 interview with CNN, stating that the firing of FBI James Comey tipped the scales in favor of resignation. 

    The DOJ had previously posted an opening to hire a new Compliance Counsel, but that listing has now expired. It is not clear if anyone has been hired to replace Ms. Chen.

    Financial Crimes DOJ Trump Fraud

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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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  • 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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  • SFO Announces Charges Against British Multinational Bank and Four Former Executives in Qatar

    Financial Crimes

    On Tuesday, June 20, the UK Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) announced charges against a British multinational bank and four former executives for conspiracy to commit fraud and provision of unlawful financial assistance in violation of the Companies Act 1985. These charges relate to the bank’s capital raising arrangements with a Qatar's state-owned holding company and a contract oil and gas land drilling provider in June and October 2008, as well as to a $3 billion loan facility made available to the State of Qatar acting through the Ministry of Economy and Finance in November 2008. According to the SFO press release, the investigation was first announced in 2012, and the individuals charged include a former Chief Executive Officer of the British multinational bank, a former Executive Chairman of the bank’s Capital Investment Banking and Investment Management in Middle East and North Africa, a former Chief Executive of the bank’s Wealth and Investment Management, and a former European Head of the bank’s Financial Institutions Group.

    While no US-based charges have been announced, the SFO’s announcement comes on the heels of the bank’s March 2017 disclosure to the SEC in which the company stated that “the DOJ and SEC are undertaking an investigation into whether the Group’s relationships with third parties who assist the bank to win or retain business are compliant with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

    Financial Crimes SEC UK Serious Fraud Office Fraud

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  • Former Swiss Bank Executive Pleads Guilty in FIFA Investigation

    Financial Crimes

    On June 15, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced that a citizen of Argentina and a former managing director of a Swiss Bank pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy charges. His guilty plea came in connection with allegations that he facilitated the payment of more than $25 million in bribes to soccer officials by opening and managing bank accounts for those officials. In exchange for his assistance in facilitating these bribes, the former managing director received over $1 million in bonus payments from other co-conspirators, an amount he agreed to forfeit in connection with his plea. 

    The guilty plea came as part of the U.S. government’s investigation into corruption in international soccer which has been ongoing since May 2015. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigation can be found here.

    Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering Bribery FIFA

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  • Filipino National Sentenced for Running $9 Million Cybercrime Ring

    Financial Crimes

    On June 8, a U.S. District Court Judge sentenced a Filipino national to over five years in prison and two years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud last year. The defendant operated a $9 million international cybercrime operation that utilized stolen credit and debit accounts to process unauthorized financial transactions, according to an investigation led by the District of New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office. To obtain credit and debit card account information, the defendant engaged in computer hacking and ATM skimming, whereby millions of dollars were “monetized” through a “global network of ‘cashers’” who encoded the data onto counterfeit cards and then used the cards to withdraw money and make purchases.

    Financial Crimes Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Litigation Credit Cards Debit Cards Anti-Money Laundering Fraud ATM

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