FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

February 20, 2014

C’Mon Man Or the End of the World?

Prepare End of the WorldIt’s the end of the world as we know it,

It’s the end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

 The above lyrics came from REM and they reflect how I generally feel about law firm and lawyer pronouncements about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement because [SPOILER ALERT] I am a lawyer, I do practice law and I do work for a law firm, the venerable TomFoxLaw. The FCPA Professor regularly chides FCPA Inc. for their scaremongering tactics, usually monikered as ‘Client Alerts’. Mike Volkov is even more derisive when he calls them the FCPA Paparazzi and cites examples from his days in Big Law, where law firm marketing campaigns are centered around doomsday scenarios about soon-to-occur FCPA; UK Bribery Act; or [fill in the anti-corruption law here] prosecutions and enforcement actions. I usually take such law firm scaremonger and blathering’s to be about worth as much as the paper they are printed on. Indeed I chide the FCPA Professor and Monsieur Volkov for their protestations. In other words, I feel fine.

I am a proud card-carry member of FCPA Inc. because not only can I spell FCPA (and UKBA for that matter), I also make FCPA related pronouncements from time-to-time and practice law in the FCPA space. I think we generally do a pretty good job of getting information out there. But last week one missive occurred that not only met the above impugning adjectives but created a veritable tsunami of mis-information as it made its way from China to Europe and to the US that even I thought was beyond the pale. How absurd was it? So absurd that not only did the FCPA Professor and I agree about it, but we decided to post blogs about it today.

On February 5 a law firm client alert stated, “While the number of enforcement actions may decrease or hold steady, we can expect some “blockbuster” settlements in 2014 of matters that have long been under investigation.” Blockbuster…really? Do you think this law firm was implying that the Siemens record FCPA fine of $800MM, plus its equivalent $800MM fine in Germany, that’s a total of $1.6 bn for those of you keeping score at home, is seriously in danger of falling by the wayside in 2014? How about Halliburton’s comparatively paltry $579MM penalty? To be slapped aside like a green-skinned witch yelling, “I’m melting!” BAE coming in at No. 3 with a measly $400MM must be quaking it is British Wellington boots about now.

As inane as this comment was, the thing that attracted my attention was the tidal force wave by which this quote rode its way all the way to the US. By February 10th, this quote had morphed into the following, written in the South China Morning Post, “The United States is expected to impose “blockbuster” fines on companies bribing foreign officials this year, with China a likely target of US investigations, lawyers say. A report by US law firm WilmerHale predicts “blockbuster” settlements under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). “US enforcement authorities have stated there are a number of very large settlements in the pipeline,” said Jay Holtmeier, a partner at WilmerHale. “Given the attention paid to China in recent years, it is a safe bet some of those large settlements will involve conduct in China.”” Two days later the full storm reached the shores of the US when this article was referenced in the Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ’s) Corruption Currents.

So now not only do we have ‘blockbuster’ FCPA settlements coming; we will have them coming out of China. Various marketing departments will use these statements as ‘authoritative’, yet another reason to purchase their company’s products or services.

There are plenty of great FCPA resources out there, which inform the compliance practitioner, or indeed the non-compliance specialist, about the costs of a FCPA enforcement action. But more importantly there is more than a wealth of free, at no cost, information about how to craft a compliance program with any anti-corruption law, which currently exists. There is the same amount of information about how to ‘do compliance’, once again free and available at no charge. Is it marketing? My answer is either yes or better yet; who cares? Good solid information is good solid information no matter what the motives behind putting it out there are.

But here is the problem with making such statements which newspapers then follow them up by brandishing them as even more dire predictions. Someone might actually believe it. Next Congress will want to investigate these ‘blockbuster’ settlements or, perhaps, why after it was reported that they were coming, the Department of Justice (DOJ) did not have any ‘blockbuster’ settlements in 2014?

I thought about writing this blog post around the tale of the Boy Who Cried Wolf but I realized there is always another law firm or lawyer out there will to say the end of the world is coming “this year”. But perhaps the better analogy is the ESPN segment entitled “C’Mon Man!” during which each color commentator will describe a play or series of plays that made them scratch their heads and say “C’Mon Man!” So while I generally feel fine about the information disseminated by and from FCPA Inc., my suggestion is that everyone just take a deep breath and consider such information for what it is worth.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

February 19, 2014

Welcome to the Hotel California: FCPA Enforcement

Hotel CaliforniaThis past weekend I saw The Eagles on their ‘History of The Eagles Tour. It truly was that, a complete musical history of the group, from the beginning in 1971 up until now. They played for well over 3 hours and it was fantastic. The Eagles were at their peak in the 70’s when I was at my peak as a rock and roller, both in high school and college, so the concert was a very memorable experience. In one interesting twist they did not allow videos to be taken of the concert with cell phones or any other types of recordings. Of course the concert ended with song Hotel California and its iconic line “You can check out but you can never leave.”

I thought about that final line and how true it was in the late 70s and how true it is now in the world of international anti-corruption enforcement when I read a front page article in Sunday’s New York Times (NYT), entitled “Eavesdropping Ensnared American Law Firm”, and an blog post by the FCPA Professor, entitled “FCPA Lawyers Would Be Wise to Review Recent Third Circuit Decision”.

We know from the American Spectator article, “Rise of the Surveillance State”, by James Bovard about the National Security Agency (NSA) program ‘Echelon’, which he described as “a spy satellite system run by the National Security Agency along with the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Echelon reportedly scans millions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and faxes each hour, searching for key words.” Further, Bovard stated, “A February report by the European Union alleged that Echelon has been used for economic espionage. Former CIA Director James Woolsey told a German newspaper in early March that Echelon collects “economic intelligence.”” One example Woolsey gave was espionage aimed at discovering when foreign companies are paying bribes to obtain contracts that might otherwise go to American companies. Woolsey elaborated on his views in a March 17, 2001 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Op-Ed piece, justifying Echelon spying on foreign companies because some foreigners do not obey the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

After the NYT article, we know that US law firms can also fall under surveillance. The firm of Mayer Brown was monitored by the NSA’s Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), regarding work the law firm was doing for the government of Indonesia in trade disputes with the US. It is of no consequence that it was the Australians doing the spying as under the “Five Eyes Alliance”, Australia is one of five countries the US shares intel with and agrees not to spy on. While most Americans would understand the need to place those dealing with terrorists under surveillance, the need to monitor US law firms giving legal advice in a legal trade dispute seems one or two steps past the safety of the US homeland. While only mentioned in the article, I also wonder about the effect of this surveillance on the attorney-client privilege, the basic reason that clients come to lawyers, for confidential legal advice. If you know that you are susceptible to espionage, why would a client ever trust the confidentiality of your communications or even that they are confidential to start with. Moreover, if you know you are subject to surveillance, is the privilege destroyed if a country does so and passes the information along to the US?

Equally unsettling as the revelations in the NYT article is the FCPA Professor’s report on a Third Circuit, Court of Appeals decision, entitled “In Re: Grand Jury Subpoena”. In this matter, an attorney was consulted on an international transaction, which was described as follows: “In April 2008, Client approached Attorney to discuss issues he was having with the project. Client explained that he planned on paying Banker in order to ensure that the project progressed swiftly, as Banker was threatening to slow down the approval process. Attorney did some preliminary research, found the FCPA, and asked Client whether the Bank was a government entity and whether Banker was a government official. Although Attorney could not ascertain given his limited research whether the planned action was legal or illegal, he advised Client not to make the payment. Despite this advice, Client insisted that his proposed payment did not violate the FCPA, and informed Attorney that he would go ahead with the payment. Attorney gave Client a copy of the FCPA. After this communication, Attorney and Client ended their relationship.” The opinion stated that the Client made a payment to the banker’s sister.

In other words, the client came for legal advice regarding an international transaction, the attorney advised against the transaction in question but the client did so against the advice of his attorney and the attorney thereafter terminated the relationship. There was no evidence the lawyer advised the client how to violate the FCPA or in any way helped the client ‘get around’ the law.

The attorney-client privilege is not sacrosanct. There are some limited exceptions to it and one of those is the ‘crime-fraud exception’ which the Court of Appeals explained is, “To circumvent [the attorney-client] privilege under the crime-fraud exception, the party seeking to overcome the privilege . . . must make a prima facie showing that (1) the client was committing or intending to commit a fraud or crime, and (2) the attorney-client communications were in furtherance of that alleged crime or fraud.” (All citations omitted) But, in this case, there was no evidence presented that the attorney involved gave advice that was in the furtherance of a crime but only that “The communication between Attorney and Client was brief, and consisted mainly of informing Client on the applicable law and advising that he not make the payment. However, we believe that the questions posed by Attorney to Client and the information that Client could gain from those questions are sufficient for us to conclude that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the advice was used in furtherance of a crime or fraud.”

What were the questions posed by the client or put another way, what was the legal advice sought by the client? The Court stated, the “questions about whether or not the Bank was a governmental entity and whether Banker was a government official would have informed Client that the governmental connection was key to violating the FCPA. This would lead logically to the idea of routing the payment through Banker’s sister, who was not connected to the Bank, in order to avoid the reaches of the FCPA or detection of the violation. Of course, it is impossible to know what Client thought or how he processed the information gained from Attorney. But the District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Client “could easily have used [the advice] to shape the contours of conduct intended to escape the reaches of the law.””

What does the spying on a US law firm and this court decision invalidating the attorney-client privilege mean for FCPA enforcement? I think that it means if you find yourself in the position of having violated the FCPA; your company now has an even greater incentive to self-disclose. If you are a non-US based company subject to the FCPA, the NSA is watching you. Further, if you are a non-US company, which seeks legal advice, you are now on notice that US laws firm are being spied on. Lastly, if you have violated the FCPA and seek legal advice; it may well come to pass that the lawyer whose advice you sought, can be compelled to testify about those conversations. So in the words of The Eagles, if you engage in conduct that arguably violated the FCPA, you can check out but you can never leave.

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If you will be in Dallas this coming Thursday, February 20, I hope that you will join myself and fellow FCPA Blog Contributor Marc Bohn at the Corporate Compliance Summit on 2014 FCPA Concerns You Cannot Afford to Ignore. The event is complimentary and is sponsored by The Network. You can check it out and register by clicking here.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

February 12, 2014

Shirley Temple and Excellence in FCPA Training Video

Lead and LearnToday we honor one of the most interesting personalities of the 20th century, Shirley Temple, who died yesterday. She was probably the greatest child actress of all-time, being the lead grossing star for five straight years during the 1930s. But the thing I found most remarkable about this woman was her third career, after marriage and motherhood, in the US Diplomatic Corp. President Richard Nixon appointed her as a Representative UN. Nixon later appointed her as Ambassador to Ghana. President Ford named her to be the first female Chief of Protocol of the US. Finally, the first President Bush appointed her as Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. But whatever role Shirley Temple chose she did it with excellence.

Just as Ms. Temple had a commitment to excellence, so does my colleague, Mike Koehler, the FCPA Professor. Recently the FCPA Professor announced that he had partnered with Emtrain to create a best in class Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance training video. I had the opportunity to view the video and I can agree that it is certainly an excellent training video, which you should consider for use in your company’s ongoing compliance training and communication. As you would expect from the FCPA Professor, each slide is well documented and provides the basis for the training. However, the thing that I thought made the training stand out was the variety of techniques used throughout the video.

There are separate chapters on the following subjects: an Introduction to the FCPA, the social and business case for the FCPA, the definition of bribery under the Act, a definition of what constitutes “Anything of Value” under the Act, who is a Foreign Official under the Act and who else might be covered by the FCPA, what does it mean to “Obtain or Retain Business”, the high nature of Third Parties under the FCPA and how to manage that risk, what might be available as an exception to the Act and defenses under the FCPA, Books and Internal Controls, a discussion of the UK Bribery Act, Red Flags that you should be aware, creation of a FCPA compliance policy and self-reporting of violations to the DOJ/SEC and a summary section. After completion of the course you should be able to describe how corruption impedes global economic development and how it undermines the ability to compete fairly in business; outline three fundamental elements of a bribery offense that can lead to prosecution of companies as well as individuals; identify various red flags that can be indicators of bribery and outline how, and to whom, you should report concerns about possible bribery and corruption.

The video training includes the following:

  • Executive and non-executive versions
  • The ability to configure the course with company-specific policies, videos, graphics, text, and employee hotline or reporting information
  • 20+ video clips to illustrate real-world business scenarios that present risk
  • An Enforcement Risk Spectrum that helps learners “issue spot” bribery and corruption risk
  • The ability to use video scenes outside the e-Learning experience in live training, discussion groups, or company emails and reminders
  • A compliance Learning Management System (LMS), enabling an administrator to launch and track training efforts and generate audit-ready training reports showing time spent on each video, screen, policy, etc.
  • There will be productions available in Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, French, and other languages upon request.

But the video is more than simply a recitation of what is required under the FCPA. The thing that makes it stand out for me is the different types of training it employs to hold the listener’s attention. First is the length of 60 minutes for an executive/high risk trainee and a shorter length for those who do not fall into those categories. Next, for those who may desire to devolve deeply into the subject matter, are short concise descriptions of the legal and compliance concept involved in the discussions. For instance, in the section on the definition of bribery there is a discussion of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) established standards to combat bribery and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which established guidelines for codes of conduct for public officials, transparent and objective procurement systems, and increased accounting and auditing standards for the private sector. Added to this is a short piece on the UK Bribery Act. All of these non-US laws are then tied into the FCPA so the listener will have a broad understanding of what they may be facing in any multi-national business from the anti-corruption compliance perspective. Significantly, and most soberingly, the video points out that according to the World Bank Institute, more than $1 trillion is paid globally in bribes each year. Some of the worst affected countries are the poorest ones in the world.

What I think makes the video unique and frankly enjoyable to watch, is that it  has several interactive features. The first is that it opens with an interactive pre-assessment that is designed to determine how much you already know about global bribery and corruption. From there, each section has a short interactive questionnaire at the conclusion of the video on the section’s topic. These features allow the participants to examine their own expertise and then self-assess the lessons that they have learned throughout the presentation. By making each session interactive, you not only hold the attention of the listener but also garner their participation in the training. Any time you can get participation in training, you are a long way towards having an effective training program.

There are a couple of other cool features. It allows your company to customize the training by attaching some of your key anti-corruption policies and procedures for review during the Policies section of the training. Additionally, and following my mantra of Document, Document and Document, after completion of the training, your participation is electronically noted for record keeping, along with a copy of the training materials. So when the regulators want to see not only who was trained but also the materials they were trained on, you have easily assessable records to document the event.

So when the FPCA Professor says he has created a best in class FCPA training program, I heartily agree. You can check out a demo version of the training video by clicking here.

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As many of you know, Jon Rydberg and I wrote and published a book at the end of last year, entitled “Global Anti-Corruption & Anti-Bribery Leadership Practical FCPA and U.K. Bribery Act Compliance Concepts for the Corporate Board Member, C-Suite Executive and General Counsel”. On Thursday, February 13, we will discuss our book in a webinar hosted by Hiperos LLC. Hiperos President, Greg Dickinson, will be interviewing Jon and myself about the book, its genesis and our thoughts on ‘doing compliance’ as opposed to simply having a compliance program. The event is free and you can find details and register by clicking here.

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This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

February 5, 2014

Compliance Defense– The Movie

OscarsIn honor of The Movie Channel’s annual 28 days of Oscar, the upcoming Academy Awards and inspired by Jay Rosen’s prior career and the FCPA Professors hypothetical discussion between a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) and his Chief Executive Officer (CEO) last week, in a post entitled “It’s More Like Bronze Dust”; I thought I might write about Compliance Defense- The Movie. So starting with the Professor’s fictional Scenario B

Compliance Officer: Boss, I need more money and resources to devote to FCPA compliance.

Executive: Why?

Compliance Officer: Well, boss, an effective FCPA compliance program can reduce our legal exposure as a matter of law.

Executive: What do you mean?

Compliance Officer: Well, the money we spend on investing in FCPA best practices will be relevant as a matter of law.  In other words, if we make good faith efforts to comply with the FCPA when doing business in the international marketplace, we will not face any legal exposure when a non-executive employee or agent acts contrary to our compliance policies and/or circumvents our policies.

SIX MONTHS LATER…

 FADE IN

INTERIOR-OFFICE OF EXECUTIVE

In the heart of the energy capital of the world, in a darkened office, CEO reads a letter from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which informs him that his company is under investigation for payments to third parties that may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

CEO

(screaming) Ms. Pepper – what is this letter about?

MS. PEPPER – the long time admin for the CEO comes hurriedly comes into CEO’s massive office.

MS. PEPPER

It is a letter from the DOJ saying we’re under investigation for allegedly paying some bribes.

CEO

Well get me that Compliance Officer, what’s his name?

MS. PEPPER

Don’t you remember you let him go 3 months ago, after he installed that compliance program software you saw advertised at Office Depot?

CEO

Well then take a letter to the DOJ and tell them that we have a compliance program and that should be an absolute defense to any claims against us. They obviously don’t know how seriously we take compliance around here.

MS. PEPPER

I am not sure that is enough sir, I think that the program has to be effective.

CEO

What do you mean effective? After the CCO installed the compliance program on our computer server, everyone knew they had to follow it. The people who work here follow the law and I won the “Mr. Ethical Award” from the Chamber of Commerce last year. Everyone around here knows to follow the law.

MS. PEPPER

Sir, I think that the CCO said that it is more than having a compliance program in place; you actually have to do compliance. He might even have said you need to put some resources into it to show you were serious.

CEO

I spent $5,000 on that software program, which is pretty serious. Do you mean to say I have to do something else?

MS. PEPPER

Yes sir, I think that he said that not only does the program have to be effective, you have to be able to show it is effective.

CEO

Well that is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard, how are we supposed to compete if we can’t help out our friends so they stay our friends? And besides if any bribes were paid it’s because those greedy foreigners have their hands out. Surely we can’t be responsible for that?

The above dialogue is (hopefully) fictional. Unfortunately it may well be more close to the truth than we like to think. Those who have worked in the corporate world will know any costs which are indirect costs, such as compliance, are viewed as something to be avoided. This means spending money and providing personnel for compliance will be kept to the barest minimum. This is the major problem I see with thinking that a compliance defense is or should be a magic bullet for any corporation to use in a FCPA matter. Every compliance professional I have spoken with on this subject understands that your company will receive a free pass by having a written compliance program, then many companies will install such a paper program. For it is not having a program that is the critical factor but it is the doing of compliance, which makes a program effective.

Equally important is that for a compliance program to be effective, it has to evolve because both the sophistication of compliance and the risks in business evolve. Ten years ago, having a paper program was in the running to make your company an industry leader. Today, having only a paper program is a recipe for disaster. Just as risks evolve, so does the management of those risks. Continuous monitoring was not even considered 10 years ago. It has gone from an enhanced compliance solution, to a best practice, to a standard practice. Five years ago, most lawyers thought that distributors would not be subject to the FCPA because in a distributor sales model, they took title and risk of loss for the products they purchased. But it turns out that bribery and corruption can occur through a distributor sales model, just as it can through a sales agent model.

The clear model for all of this is the dramatic change that companies made in how they viewed safety on the job. Many point to the Exxon Valdez shipwreck as the seminal moment to see the shift in how safety was viewed by corporate America. Certainly after this event, Exxon made safety priority Number 1 in its corporate culture. As a trial lawyer defending corporations, I saw the shift to make safety ingrained into corporate culture in the energy industry, driven in large part by massive jury awards and high insurance premiums paid by corporations to cover those costs. The business solution was not only to put safety programs in place but also to run the business safely. This was drilled down even to those of us in corporate legal departments, not just the guys out on the drilling rigs or in the petrochemical plants.

In the corporate world there existed no magic bullet in the form of safety programs as an absolute defense to a company that violated its own or federal safety laws. Companies invested more money in safety because the costs of not doing so were greater. Under the FCPA, there currently is credit given for companies who have an effective compliance program. It is set out in the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines and discussed at some length in the FCPA Guidance. Such credit is given in the form of declinations to prosecute. While I wish that there was more public information made available on why the DOJ gives declinations, this lack of public information does not diminish the fact that they exist or that companies are clearly given credit for having an effective compliance program in place or simply doing compliance.

I began this post with a (hopefully) fictional dialogue. One thing I am not certain about though is what category it should sit in, comedy; drama or perhaps even tragedy. Enjoy the Oscar season.

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Although I do disagree with the FCPA Professor on the need for a compliance defense under the FCPA, one thing I do agree with him about is his creation of a best in class compliance training video, which he announced Monday. I have had the opportunity to view the full version and it is excellent recap of the FCPA and the obligations under the law. It has an interactive aspect that allows learning and practice with situations that is both instructive and enjoyable. As you would expect from the FCPA Professor, it has the text to drive greater understanding for those who might wish to do so. So if your company needs a first-rate FCPA training module, you should check this one out. You can do so by clicking here.

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This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

January 30, 2014

Inspector Lestrade – Does Leadership Matter?

Inspector LestradeContinuing our Sherlock Holmes homage, today we draw inspiration from the character of Inspector Lestrade as the theme of this blog post. In the original Doyle works, he appears in 13 of the stories and we are only introduced to him as Inspector G. Lestrade. In the current PBS series, we are informed his given name is Greg. Lestrade is not exactly the sharpest tack in the shed, as evidenced by Holmes comments that he is “an absolute imbecile” from the The Red-Headed League and the “best of a bad lot” from The Boscombe Valley Mystery.

I thought about Inspector Lestrade when I read some of the comments of UBS Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sergio Ermotti, as reported in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article entitled “UBS Chief’s Plea: Stop ‘Lecturingto Bankers” by David Enrich and Francesco Guerrera. UBS has not exactly been a law abiding corporate citizen over the past few years. As you might recall this is from the company, which had a $2.3 billion trading loss from one individual. It is also from the company that assisted approximately 17,000 Americans clients with illegally hiding $20bn of assets to avoid paying taxes on this money. UBS paid a fine of $780MM for these actions. But there is much more, as UBS also agreed to pay another $1.5 billion fine for its criminal actions in manipulating the LIBOR. What would you say the ‘tone’ is at UBS about complying with the law?

With all of these fines, penalties and criminal pleas behind him, Ermotti does not seem to think there is any room for criticism of his company. Rather unbelievably, Ermotti was quoted as saying, “Life is hard enough, and I think this constant lecturing on ethics and on integrity by many stakeholders is probably the most frustrating part of the equation. Because I don’t think there are many people who are perfect.” For those of you who might want that translated to Texan, the equivalent phrase is a very nasal twang of “Glass houses dear”. For the more spiritual out there you could fall back on “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Perhaps the most relevant question would simply be ‘How many angels dance on the head of a pin?’

Late last year, I engaged in a dialogue with other Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) commentators about whether motives matter in anti-corruption enforcement actions. I opined, in a post, entitled “Does Motive Matter in Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption Enforcement?”, that it really does not matter what the motives are for the Chinese government officials in prosecuting western companies, which violate Chinese national anti-bribery laws, if a company breaks the law, it can be subject to prosecution. The FCPA Professor, in a post, entitled “Should Motivations Matter”, said that impure motives do matter in anti-corruption enforcement actions, whether in China or the US. Others have suggested that the FCPA enforcement itself is hypocritical because the US allows gifts, entertainment, charitable donations and a wide variety of other acts to be given as a quid pro quo to US government officials, usually without criminal prosecution.

But Ermotti takes this debate to an entire new level. Now you cannot even criticize his bank unless you are ‘perfect’. Further, showcasing the obvious knowledge of his 60,000 plus employee base, Ermotti “said in the interview that most of the bad behavior that has landed UBS and others in hot water was caused by small groups of rogue employees and doesn’t reflect broader cultural problems in the industry. “It’s not because you’re a banker that you’re a criminal”.” This was in the face of criticism at the World Economic Forum in Davos (where Ermotti was interviewed and made his remarks) that “In a private meeting held between bank CEOs and central bankers and regulators Friday, several participants pointed to banks’ “conduct” issues as undermining efforts to rebuild public and investor confidence in the industry, according to executives and central bankers who were there.” This can be contrasted with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney who said at the same conference, “Whether or not [the industry] thrives will rest on the efforts of individuals and organizations to re-establish the system’s reputation for integrity”.

Yet again Ermotti doubled down when he claimed that the group, which cannot criticize, includes regulators and enforcement officials. This statement is almost the equivalent of another equally enlightened (former) CEO, Bob Diamond, who once ran Barclays and “told British lawmakers in 2011 that “there was a period of remorse and apology for banks. That period needs to be over.” The next year, Mr. Diamond was forced to resign after Barclays admitted trying to rig interest rates.” Ooops.

What does all of this say about the top of this once august organization? First and foremost, how you would like to be the person who has to ‘speak truth to power’ if your CEO says that only the ‘perfect’ can bring forward criticism? Do the words ‘career suicide’ ring any bells here? But more importantly you have a company which entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) regarding its tax evasion violations and then pled guilt to criminal conduct that as reported in another WSJ article “Regulators described the alleged illegality as “epic in scale,” with dozens of traders and managers in a UBS-led ring of banks and brokers conspiring to skew interest rates to make money on trades.” What would you say about its ‘tone-at-the-top’? Are they committed to following the law? How about complying with the terms of their multiple settlement agreements with US regulators? How about changing the culture in their organization, not simply to make compliance a goal but actually obey the law? What about instituting and then following a best practices program for compliance with anti-corruption laws such as the FCPA or Bribery Act; anti-tax evasion laws such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA); relevant anti-money laundering (AML) laws; or indeed others.

Without a hint of irony, the WSJ piece on Ermotti’s remarks ends with the following quote from him, “The banking industry is an easy target.” I wonder if Ermotti has the self-awareness of Inspector Lestrade to understand the wisdom of his words?

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

January 29, 2014

The Sussex Vampyre and the ADM FCPA Settlement

Sussex VampyreToday I want to use the story of The Sussex Vampyre as the starting point for an inquiry into the recent Archer-Daniels-Midland Corp (ADM) Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action. In the story, Holmes receives a letter from Robert Ferguson, who has become convinced that his second wife has been sucking their baby son’s blood and is a vampire. He has a crippled son from his first marriage who is terribly jealous of the new baby in their home. It turns out that this lame son, Jack, has been shooting poisoned darts at his baby brother and his stepmother’s behavior is actually sucking the poison out of the baby’s neck. The baby’s wounds were caused by Jack sending the darts, not by the mother biting her baby. In other words, what might be seen as something very scary is easily explained.

Once again demonstrating that the FCPA Professor and myself look at the same thing and come to different conclusions are reflected by those he states in his article “Why You Should Be Alarmed By the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action”. I see the ADM enforcement action as a continuation of the available case law favoring interpretations of the business nexus requirement to be applied broadly, where it is clear that bribery and corruption have occurred.

When I look at the facts laid out in the ADM settlement documents, I see the following: four separate bribery schemes hidden in the companies books and records clearly designed to influence the decision of a foreign government official. From 2002 to 2010, the company’s Ukrainian subsidiary rolled up VAT receivables of up to $46MM. What I see is a company, which over several years of slow and no response to its application for VAT tax refunds for goods purchased in Ukraine, responded to this problem by engaging in bribery and corruption to help them get the money that they were believed they were owed.

So what were these bribery schemes? There was the Charitable Donation Scheme, which according to the SEC Complaint, “an ADM executive in the tax department sent an e-mail to the head of an international tax organization and stated, “One of our affiliates operates in the Ukraine. In order to recover 100% of their input VAT they have to pay 30% of the amount to local charities.”” Next was the Stevedoring Company Scheme where two ADM subsidiaries made “payments to a stevedoring company in the port of Odessa so that it could pass on nearly all of those payments to Ukrainian officials in order to obtain VAT refunds on behalf of ACTI Ukraine.” Next was the Mischaracterization of Write-offs Scheme where ADM’s German subsidiary reported to the US parent that they had to write off 18% of the tax refund due back to the company. However upon payment of the VAT refund it would be at 100% of the total due. As the German subsidiary had taken a write off of 18% of the total, the corresponding amount of money would be funneled to “third-party vendors so that nearly all of those monies could be provided to Ukrainian government officials.” Finally, and most ingenuously, was the Fake Insurance Premiums Scheme. In this scheme, ADM’s Ukrainian subsidiary, arranged for an insurance company to falsely bill it for crop insurance, which said “Insurance Company never intended to honor, adjusting the premiums to be roughly 20% of the VAT refund.” This inflated amount was then paid to Ukrainian officials.

The FCPA itself says:

(a) Prohibition

It shall be unlawful for any issuer which has a class of securities registered pursuant to section 781 of this title or which is required to file reports under section 780d of this title, or for any officer, director, employee, or agent of such issuer or any stockholder thereof acting on behalf of such issuer, to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value to—

(1) any foreign official for purposes of—

(A)

(i) influencing any act or decision of such foreign official in his official capacity,

(ii) inducing such foreign official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official, or

(iii) securing any improper advantage; or

(B) inducing such foreign official to use his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality,

 in order to assist such issuer in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person;

In the case of US v. Kay, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals exhaustively reviewed the legislative history of the FCPA, from its passage in 1977 through the two amendments in 1988 and 1998. The Kay decision stands for the proposition that the defendant intend the paying of bribes to be a quid pro quo, which would assist (or is meant to assist) the payor in obtaining or retaining business. Further, it specifically stated that the “business nexus is not to be interpreted narrowly.” The facts in Kay were different than those presented in the ADM matter. However, with the admonition that the business nexus requirement is not to be interpreted narrowly, I believe the holding in Kay is such that it is not a stretch to see the conduct engaged in by ADM did assist, or was meant to assist, it in doing business in Ukraine. Indeed, the Kay decision stated, “In addition, the concern of Congress with the immorality, inefficiency, and unethical character of bribery presumably does not vanish simply because the tainted payments are intended to secure a favorable decision less significant than winning a contract bid.” Thus I look at Kay and see the conduct of ADM as falling within the broad outlines of the Kay decision.

How about the facilitation payment exception and that somehow the ADM subsidiaries were making payments exempted out of the FCPA because they were for routine services?

The FCPA itself states:

(b) Exception for routine governmental action

Subsections (a) and (g) of this section shall not apply to any facilitating or expediting payment to a foreign official, political party, or party official the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action by a foreign official, political party, or party official.

Further, the term “routine governmental action” is defined as one of the following:

  1.  Obtaining Permits;
  2. Processing visas and work orders;
  3. Providing police protection, mail pick-up and delivery;
  4. Providing phone services and utilities;
  5. Actions of a similar nature.

There is nothing in the statute about processing multi-million dollar tax refunds as a routine governmental action. Once again the Kay decision spoke to the issue of facilitation payments, similar to those made in the context of the ADM settlement, when it said “This observation is not diminished by Congress’s understanding and accepting that relatively small facilitating payments were, at the time, among the accepted costs of doing business in many foreign countries.” One key there is that facilitating payments be “relatively small”. Whatever 18% of $46MM might be, it certainly is not “relatively small”.

All of this leads me to see the ADM settlement as a continuation of the very limited case law interpretation that exists around the FCPA. So just as Holmes looked at the facts in The Sussex Vampyre and did not see something which could not be explained or need be feared; I look at the ADM enforcement action and see a company which engaged in bribery and corruption, knew it was doing so and actively tried to hide the corrupt payments in its books and records.

And once again, I would cite that the easiest response to all of this might be the advice given by Department of Justice (DOJ) representative Greg Anders, in his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee regarding amending the FCPA, that being that companies should not engage in bribery.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

December 27, 2013

My Favorite Blog Posts from 2013

One of the best things about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act and other anti-corruption practice areas is the top notch quality of commentators. While Mike Volkov regularly derides the FCPA paparazzi for being scare mongers and the FCPA Professor chastises FCPA Inc. for attempts to paint FCPA enforcement in the worst possible light so as to draw clients to their collective resources; there is also a great set of bloggers, writers and pundits who put out solid, useful and well-reasoned pieces on FCPA and Bribery Act issues. In this blog post, I would like to highlight some of my favorite posts from some of my favorite commentators over the past year.

From the Dean

If you do not know who the Dean of FCPA bloggers is you have not been looking too long or too hard. It’s Dick Cassin, who is the Founder, Editor and Publisher of the FCPA Blog, which consistently reports on all things compliance around the globe. But for me, it is when Dick writes from the heart, he is able to articulate what many of us are feeling but cannot seem to put into words. My favorite post from Dick this year was his tribute to President Kennedy on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the President’s assassination, entitled “And So The Legend of Camelot Was Born”. Dick ended his post with the following quote from Teddy White, “He advanced the cause of America at home and abroad. But he also posed for the first time the great question of the sixties and seventies: What kind of people are we Americans? What do we want to become?” The question still stands.

From the FCPA Professor

If you have never debated the FCPA Professor, live or via email, you should. But be prepared to bring your A-Game and your authority. He posts daily and has become a great resource for guest posts over the years which challenge the status quo on a variety of legal and compliance issues. Each morning I cannot wait to see what the Professor has to say that day. However, what I have really come to appreciate is his Friday Round-Ups. Each Friday, the Professor gives us a round-up of recent FCPA and related news, articles and developments not otherwise covered by him in his Monday – Thursday posts. I should also say he saves some of his best witticism for these posts. My favorite post from the Professor this year was the milestone of his 100th Friday Round Up, appropriately entitled “The 100th Edition of the Friday Round-Up”. Tune in each Friday for another edition of this great resource.

From Jim McGrath

I continually bemoan to Jim McGrath that he needs to post blogs more often than his twice or thrice weekly output. The reason being they are so good and I want to see more of his stuff. As you might guess from the title of his blog, Internal Investigations Blog, he tends to focus on investigations; some criminal, some civil, some internal and some external. McGrath is an ex-prosecutor and tends to view things through that prism and give us a different perspective of law enforcement. He writes about investigations inside and outside the realm of anti-corruption but his insights are certainly applicable to any FCPA or Bribery Act investigation.

My favorite post from McGrath this year was his piece on 7-Eleven, entitled “Human Trafficking Concerns for 7-Eleven in Wake of Payroll Scam”. In this article he detailed the federal investigation into allegations that 7-Eleven franchisees in New York and Virginia had engaged in human trafficking and possible involvement by the franchisor through its payroll system. His piece was a cautionary tale for the compliance practitioner about the need for internal controls, internal monitoring and internal investigations. McGrath ended his post with the following, “Further, its future due diligence efforts as regards suppliers and franchisees should include a review for human rights abuses such as those suggested here. Otherwise, it will have to sell a helluva lot of Slurpees to pay the fines, costs, and disgorgements that a failure to do so will no doubt entail.” In other words, trust but verify.

From Mike Volkov

Mike Volkov has worked at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Capitol Hill and for Big Law. He now has founded his own firm, the Volkov Law Group and writes the Corruption, Crime & Compliance blog. Mike primarily writes about anti-corruption but he also writes about health care fraud, anti-trust compliance and enforcement and many other topics. While I cannot determine if he set out to have a theme this year, Volkov has written many articles this year which focus on the role and position of the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), the need for independence and resources required for the position.

My favorite post from Volkov was entitled “The Only Thing [In-House Counsel and CCOs] Have to Fear, Is Fear Itself”. His title is a play-off of what I believe to be the most inspiring FDR speech so that alone is worth the price of admission. He also tells one of the great stories about his days from Big Law. Volkov related that he wrote his views on the UK Bribery Act and the length of time it would take for any meaningful enforcement to take place, “I received a call from the firm’s London partners and was chastised for undermining their entire “marketing” program. (In stark contrast, many clients wrote me and thanked me for my “honesty.)” As my 16 year old daughter might say, ‘Sometimes you just have to keep it real’.

From Across the Pond

If you do not subscribe to thebriberyact.com, you are missing out on the best site for all things UK Bribery. thebriberyact.com guys, Barry Vitou and Richard Kovalevsky QC, consistently give their readers both practical insight and in-depth analysis. Their interviews of the relevant players allow all compliance practitioners to develop insight into what the top UK regulatory officials are thinking about on the Bribery Act. They also write from the very British perspective of understatement and skewering satire, which is more than a ton of fun for us Americans to read.

My favorite post which illustrated all of the above traits was from March and is entitled “Parliament report calls for Bribery Act review: Our opinion – Junk in. Junk Out.” In this post, they took on the call for the urgent scrutiny of the UK Bribery Act by a parliamentary select committee claiming that the Act has met with “confusion and uncertainty.” To this rather inane claim, the guys responded “We cannot think of a piece of legislation which has sparked much more commentary, advisory, much of it on line and completely free, including our own eponymous website.” But my favorite line was their dénouement to the British MP who brought up the need for clarification of the UK Bribery Act, “And, Tony from Alderly PLC, if you’re reading feel free to give us a call.  We can help you.”

My Favorite from 2013 (Think Big)

My favorite blog post of the year was actually posted on December 28, 2012 by Matt Ellis, Founder and Editor of the FCPAméricas blog, which was entitled “Wal-Mart, Go Big on FCPA Compliance”. The reason that it is my favorite of 2013 is because it is the one post that I have thought the most about, talked the most about, read the most about and it even inspired me to write on the issue myself. In his post Ellis challenged Wal-Mart to “go big” on compliance in the wake of its world-wide FCPA investigation and policy implementation. He wrote, “Wal-Mart should instead use the FCPA investigation, and the attention it has generated, as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to go big on compliance.” Ellis went on to detail some specific suggestions that Wal-Mart could implement to help the fight against bribery and corruption that, due to its size and market share, would be in a unique opportunity to put in place.

Within the anti-corruption compliance community there was a noted buzz about Ellis’ piece and his suggestions. I was inspired to write a blog post, entitled “Wal-Mart-Be a Leader in Compliance”, due to the ideas articulated by Ellis. Seemingly inspired by Ellis’ example, Michael Scher, writing in the FCPA Blog, in a piece entitled “Michael Scher talks to the feds”, used the Wal-Mart investigation as a jumping off point to ask the DOJ to resolve several open issues on compliance as he saw them. In others words, Ellis piece (hopefully) got not only Wal-Mart to thinking but several others of us. That is why it is my favorite blog post of 2013.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013

December 13, 2013

More Compliance Lessons from the Asiana/SFO Crash Investigation

I have long been interested in the intersection in the changes in attitude regarding safety in the workplace by corporations and the changing attitudes on doing business through bribery and corruption. As a trial lawyer defending corporations in catastrophic accident lawsuits, I saw a sea change in the corporate attitude regarding safety, beginning in the 1980s through the 1990s. Many of the arguments used against safety during that era are used now. Some of my favorites are: (the financial excuse) it costs too much and doesn’t contribute to the bottom line; (the traditional excuse) we’ve always done it that way; and (my personal favorite) you can’t stop humans from screwing up and trying to injure themselves. But the reality is that safety at the work place did improve and now most companies not only say that safety is job No. 1 but they live and breathe that motto. Does this sea change mean that serious accidents do not happen at the workplace? Of course not, but it does not mean that companies have or even should give up the quest for zero accidents at work.

Part of the ongoing debate about compliance is whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) approach of corporate enforcement actions and the use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) help or hurt compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Some commentators remark that the simple fact that there are enforcement actions is indicia itself that the DOJ approach is not working. Mike Volkov took on this topic in his post, entitled “The Sky is the Limit: Escalating Fines, DPA/NPAs and Deterrence”, by asking if “it is important to ask the question whether the current enforcement scheme adequately punishes and deters corporations”? In his discussion he points to some who want more prosecution of individuals as a greater deterrent and others, notably the FCPA Professor, who want greater corporate protections against prosecution through the addition of a compliance defense as a mechanism to give corporations more incentive to do business in compliance with the law. Volkov ends by observing the DOJ’s current enforcement focus “will not change unless and until there is a good reason to do so – so far no one has pointed to any significant reason for the Department of Justice to change its practices.”

I thought about all of the above in the context of the hearings in Washington in front of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) surrounding the crash of the Asiana jet at San Francisco’s airport last summer. Earlier this week I wrote about one of the lessons from the hearings which was the need for enhanced training by Asiana pilots on not only the specific planes they pilot but also training that they can speak up when they see something that they believe is not right.

This need for training was made even more acute when the story about the testimony given by the Captain on board the flight in question in a New York Times (NYT) article, entitled “Pilots in Crash Were Confused About Control Systems, Experts Say”, where Captain Lee said that he told investigators that any of the three pilots on the plane could have decided to break off the approach, but he said it was “very hard” for him to do so because he was a “low-level” person being supervised by an instructor pilot. But more than even the failure to raise his hand and speak up, Lee did not heed the warning of a junior officer. As reported in an article by the Associated Press, entitled “Pilot who crashed at SFO was worried about landing”, after the accident, Lee told NTSB investigators that neither he nor the instructor pilot onboard the flight said anything when the first officer raised concerns four times about the plane’s rapid descent. Further, he was very concerned about his ability to make a visual landing. So not only was Lee afraid to speak the truth to a superior, he didn’t listen when questioned by a junior. In the world of workplace or airline safety, this is a recipe for disaster.

I think the key to overcoming these problems is training, which has long been recognized as a cornerstone of any best practices ethics and compliance program. I thought it might be an appropriate time to review the training statements made regarding the FCPA. The US Sentencing Guidelines list “Conducting effective training programs” as one of the factors the DOJ will take into account when a company accused of a FCPA violation is being evaluated for a sentence reduction. The Sentencing Guidelines mandate:

(4) (A) The organization shall take reasonable steps to communicate periodically and in a practical manner its standards and procedures, and other aspects of the compliance and ethics program, to the individuals referred to in subdivision (B) by conducting effective training programs and otherwise disseminating information appropriate to such individuals’ respective roles and responsibilities. 

After the promulgation of the Sentencing Guidelines, the DOJ and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) gave their views on training in the 2012 FCPA Guidance. Their Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program listed Training and Communication as one of the key elements. In this section they said that anti-corruption and anti-bribery compliance policies cannot work unless effectively communicated throughout a company. They advised that “a company has taken steps to ensure that relevant policies and procedures have been communicated throughout the organization, including through periodic training and certification for all directors, officers, relevant employees, and, where appropriate, agents and business partners.” But more than a simple dyadic promulgation of a rule, a company should tailor its training to its needs and its risks. This means that any “information should be presented in a manner appropriate for the targeted audience, including providing training and training materials in the local language.

In addition to the FCPA Guidance, the UK Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has stated that training is one of the Six Principles of an effective compliance program. Under Principle V, it states that “The business seeks to ensure that its bribery prevention policies and procedures are embedded and understood throughout the company through internal and external communication, including training, that is proportionate to the risks it faces.” The Guidance recognizes that communication and training deters bribery by companies, their employees and those persons associated with it, by enhancing awareness and understanding anti-corruption policies and procedures and the company’s commitment to their proper application. It therefore follows that making information available on legal requirements, obligations and policies and procedures for implementation of the same assists in more effective monitoring, evaluation and review of bribery prevention procedures. Anti-bribery training should provide, to company employees and those persons and entities associated with the company, the knowledge and skills needed to implement and utilize the anti-bribery procedures and handle in a satisfactory manner any bribery related problems or issues that may arise.

Fortunately violations of the FCPA rarely result in loss of life or limb. But that does not diminish the responsibility of companies to comply with the law. And just as corporate attitudes around safety changed dramatically, corporate attitudes about following the FCPA can change as well. Indeed they could even take the basic approach suggested by (the then) DOJ representative Greg Anders in testimony about attempts to amend the FCPA before the House Judiciary Committee, don’t pay bribes.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013

December 12, 2013

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been – The Bilfinger FCPA Settlement

Earlier this week the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had resolved an ongoing Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) with German entity Bilfinger SE (Bilfinger). This case involved the same background facts and events as the Willbros corporate FCPA enforcement action and the related individual enforcement actions with some of its former employees. The facts in this case were bad, bad, bad. The FCPA Professor went into a deep dive on the case in a blog post, entitled “German Company Resolves FCPA Enforcement Action Based On Conduct From “The Distant Past””. In another blog post, entitled “Of Note From The Bilfinger Enforcement Action”, he questioned why this particular enforcement action took so long to resolve.  Whatever the answer to that question might be, there are several interesting aspects to the matter which are of significance to the compliance practitioner, which I will highlight in this post.

I.                    DOJ Fine Calculation

To resolve the criminal aspects of this case, Bilfinger agreed to pay a $32 million criminal penalty as part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the DOJ. The thing that I found interesting about the fine calculation, as set out in the DPA, was the large increase in the amount due to the size of the bribery paid which increased the point calculation under the US Sentencing Guidelines by +18 and the increase for the payment of multiple bribes by +2.. The company only received a -2 for its cooperation in the investigation, clearly demonstrating recognition and affirmative acceptance of responsibility for its criminal conduct. The company did not self-disclose so it did not receive any credit under the US Sentencing Guidelines for that affirmative conduct. The calculated fine range was between $28MM to $56MM so the company received a fine at the lower end of the range. But not less than the lower end or event at the end.

II.                Landscaping Account to Pay Bribes

One of the interesting techniques that the company used to physically pay the bribes was through a petty cash account in the Joint Venture’s (JV) office in Nigeria. The DOJ has long cautioned companies about maintaining significant amounts of petty cash in offices or the undocumented use of petty cash accounts as a mechanism to funnel bribes. In this case, Bilfinger ingeniously said the cash was going to the Nigeria operation to pay “landscaping expenses”. With $6MM in bribes paid out, one might think the company was landscaping the Gardens at Versailles but the lesson learned for the compliance practitioner is that accounts which might appear to be legitimate business expenses need to be scrutinized though monitoring and auditing.

III.             Political Parties

Most compliance practitioners are well aware that the FCPA applies to government officials, their family members and similarly situated officers, directors and employees of state owned enterprises. However, in the Bilfinger enforcement action, the company paid bribes to “the dominant political party in Nigeria” which was not named in the Information of the DPA. The Anti-Bribery Provisions of the FCPA states:

§ 78dd-1. Prohibited foreign trade practices by issuers

(a)    Prohibition (b)

It shall be unlawful for any issuer which has a class of securities registered pursuant to section 78l of this title or which is required to file reports under section 78o(d) of this title, or for any officer, director, employee, or agent of such issuer or any stockholder thereof acting on behalf of such issuer, to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value to–

(2) any foreign political party or official thereof or any candidate for foreign political office for purposes of–

(A) (i) influencing any act or decision of such party, official, or candidate in its or his official capacity, (ii) inducing such party, official, or candidate to do or omit to do an act in violation of the lawful duty of such party, official, or candidate, or (iii) securing any improper advantage; or

(B) inducing such party, official, or candidate to use its or his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality in order to assist such issuer in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person; or.

IV.              Best in Class Compliance Program

During the pendency of the investigation, Bilfinger moved to create a best practices compliance program. They appear to have done so and agreed in the DPA to continue to maintain such a compliance program. Under Schedule C to the DPA, it set out the compliance program which the company had implemented and continued to keep in place, at least during the length of the DPA. It included the following components.

  1. High level commitment from company officials and senior management to do business in compliance with the FCPA.
  2. A substantive written anti-corruption compliance code of conduct.
  3. Written policies and procedures to implement this code of conduct.
  4. A robust system of internal controls, including accounting and financial controls.
  5. Risk assessments and risk reviews of its ongoing business.
  6. No less than annual assessments of its overall compliance program.
  7. Appropriate oversight and responsibility of a Chief Compliance Officer.
  8. Effective training for all employees and relevant third parties.
  9. An effective compliance function which can provide guidance to company employees.
  10. A robust internal reporting system.
  11. Effective investigations of any reported compliance issue.
  12. Appropriate incentives for employees to do business ethically and in compliance.
  13. Enforced discipline for any employee who violates the company’s compliance program.
  14. Suitable due diligence and management of third parties and business partners.
  15. A correct level of pre-acquisition due diligence for any merger or acquisition candidate, including a risk assessment and reporting to the DOJ if the company uncovers any FCPA-violative conduct during this pre-acquisition phase.
  16. As soon as practicable, Bilfinger will integrate any newly acquired entity into its compliance regime, including training of all relevant new employees, a FCPA forensic audit and reporting of any ongoing violations.
  17. Ongoing monitoring, testing and auditing of the company’s compliance function, taking into account any “relevant developments in the field and the evolving international and industry standards.”

V.                 Monitor

Bilfinger also agreed to an external monitor. However, the term of the monitor is not the entire length of the three-year DPA; the term of the monitor is only 18 months. The monitor’s primary function is to assess the company’s compliance with the terms of the DPA and report the results to the DOJ at least twice during the terms of the monitorship. After this 18 month term the DOJ will allow the company to self-report to the regulators. It should be noted that the term of the external monitor can be extended by the DOJ.

VI.              Who Pays the Cost of Bribery

The final point that I wish to raise is about the insidiousness of bribery and corruption and the true cost. To facilitate its illegal conduct Bilfinger (and Willbros) increased their charges to the various Nigerian entities which were paying for the project in question by 3%. So it was not Bilfinger and Willbros paying the bribes out of their collective corporate pocket but it was the people of Nigeria who were funding the western companies’ bribes. It does not get much worse or arrogant than that in the corporate world.

The Bilfinger enforcement action moves towards the ending of one of the sorriest examples of corporate malfeasance in the FCPA world. While it took a long time, justice has certainly been a long time coming. With the continued flight from justice of former Willbros employee James Tillery who renounce his US citizenship to try and escape prosecution by taking refuge in Nigeria; perhaps things are coming to an end. But with the conclusion of this corporate enforcement action against Bilfinger, perhaps there may be additional individual enforcement actions.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013

October 28, 2013

Wal-Mart: Be a Leader in Compliance

Lou Reed died yesterday. He was one of the most influential figures in rock and roll history and pop culture over the past 50 years. Starting with his band, the Velvet Underground, Rolling Stone magazine said that the group’s “debut [album] The Velvet Underground & Nico stands as a landmark on par with the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde.” Moreover, his work was “embraced by future generations, cementing the Velvet Underground’s status as the most influential American rock band of all time.” But his influence went simply beyond rock and roll, including all things hip and cool from fashion to even introducing Dion at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Reed could even be fashionable while advertising in a TV commercial for Nissan Xterra. Lou Reed was a true leader, in many areas.

In a post last week, entitled “Wal-Mart’s latest FCPA disclosure (October 2013)”, the FCPA Blog reported that Wal-Mart has spent over $155 MM in “costs incurred for the ongoing inquiries and investigations” and costs which “relate to global compliance programs and organizational enhancement.” This is in addition to the reported $157MM in costs for these matters in 2012. So for those of you keeping score at home, that is $312MM in costs related to the company’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation so far. Wal-Mart is well on its way to becoming the leader in the all-time costs for a FCPA investigation.

Also in the FCPA Blog last week, Michael Scher wrote an impassioned piece entitled “Wal-Mart and the FCPA: An open letter to the DOJ and SEC”. In this post Scher said, “We considered in a prior post the new spirit of tough enforcement at the DOJ and SEC and the need to seize the opportunity for more advocacy by the compliance profession, in particular to head off a resolution of the Wal-Mart investigation harmful to compliance officers and the public.” He urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to thoroughly investigate and bring severe sanctions against the company, if warranted by the company’s actions. His tack differed from that of Matt Ellis, who last December, in a blog post on FCPAméricas entitled “Wal-Mart, Go Big on FCPA Compliance”, urged the company to “innovate by playing to its strengths.” These strengths include both physical size and financial resources which would allow it to “use its enormous leverage in international markets to educate foreign audiences on compliance.” Further, he wrote that “Maybe it could use the high visibility placement of its stores throughout Mexico to begin to teach communities how to identify and avoid risks of petty corruption? It could partner with local municipalities to launch reporting centers in its Supercenters.”

Both of these articles stake out positions with much merit. I would like to suggest another approach; which can be summarized as follows: Wal-Mart – Be a Leader in Compliance. The conduct in which Wal-Mart has engaged in is all in the past. The company cannot change those actions, whatever they may have been, but what the company can control is its actions going forward. So here are my suggestions on how Wal-Mart can be a leader in compliance.

Lead in the Retail Industry

The first thing that I recommend Wal-Mart do is call an executive meeting of the largest retail industry trade group that the company belongs to. I would say that Wal-Mart wants to lead the retail industry in its fight against bribery and corruption on a world-wide basis. Wal-Mart could certainly take some of Matt Ellis’ suggestions to the group about ‘going big’ on compliance. But Wal-Mart, as a leader, could say that we need to agree amongst ourselves that we will not engage in bribery and corruption, nor will we tolerate members that do so. We will urge that our members engage in “Ethical Capitalism” along the lines as laid out by Dov Seidman. We will ask that our retail industry trade group institute an industry wide Code of Practice, similar to that instituted by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), which is designed “to stamp out bribery and corruption, particularly in emerging markets.”

Lead at the Chamber of Commerce

In the past, Wal-Mart has supported the US Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to amend the FCPA to add a compliance defense. Some argue this would level the playing field with the US government, while others claim that such a defense would help companies to understand their obligations under the FCPA. Wal-Mart can make clear that it understands quite simply that they, and other US companies, should not do business through bribery and corruption. Wal-Mart should aver that it will take the responsibility upon themselves to lead by example and put a best practices compliance program in place, not only to do business within the parameters of the FCPA but also because it makes good business sense to do so. Wal-Mart should demonstrate they now understand a compliance program is not a set of burdensome rules and procedures, which are designed to constrain how a person does business, but they are essential to the long term success of any organization. The company should embrace that concept and the belief that it should lie at the heart of the way a company does business.

Lead at the Board

While there is some debate as to how the allegations of corruption came up to the corporate headquarters or the initial company response about them; the FCPA Professor has made clear that he believes this scandal is largely a failure of corporate governance. As corporate governance starts at the Board, Wal-Mart should commit to having the most active and knowledgeable Board on anti-corruption matters there is in the US. Wal-Mart should bring in Jeff Kaplan (or some equally notable practitioner, such as the FCPA Professor) to lead Board training on the roles and responsibilities of a Board in overseeing compliance. While the Board does not have to, nor should it, delve down into the weeds of the company’s compliance program, it must understand the parameters and actions of the company’s compliance program going forward and be ready to act if allegations of bribery and corruption are brought forward.

Lead at the CCO Position

One thing that Donna Boehme consistently discusses in talks, articles, tweets, in person and just about everywhere else is that the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) must be separate from and not report to the General Counsel (GC). The CCO cannot be in any merged unit of the company’s overall legal group. Further, the CCO should report directly to the Audit or other appropriate committee of the Board and not to the GC. The reason for this is clear; it is so that the CCO can have the true independence to make the determinations of what the company can do ethically and in compliance with all relevant national and international anti-corruption legislations. If you keep your CCO buried under the GC on the organization chart, it is clear that legal is more important than compliance.

Lead by Working with the DOJ

Lastly, I would suggest that Wal-Mart call Chuck Duross and Kara Brockmeyer and ask for a meeting. In that meeting the company should lay out all the steps it takes to be a leader in compliance. Its lawyers can certainly make clear that they will defend the company, consistent with the ethical duties and Wal-Mart’s rights as a corporate citizen. Further, the FCPA Guidance suggests that the three goals of a compliance program should be to prevent, detect and then remediate. The conduct that did or did not occur from 2000-2006 is in the past. Wal-Mart is committed to working to remediate what it can do so now. Will such conduct aid it with the DOJ and SEC? Perhaps, but more importantly, Wal-Mart should desire to show that a company can work with the DOJ and SEC, consistent with both their obligations as the enforcement agencies, all towards the goal of greater compliance.

The one thing that I disagree with Michael Scher on is that the DOJ has to hammer Wal-Mart with fines, penalties or criminal prosecutions to support the compliance profession, compliance with the FCPA and doing business ethically. There are business solutions to business problems. If Wal-Mart decides to be a leader in compliance and does so in a public manner, that can do as much for moving forward the compliance profession, FCPA and other anti-corruption law compliance and the general proposition of doing business ethically as well as severe sanctions. Further, if Wal-Mart takes these steps, it can control its future rather than simply reacting going forward.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013

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