FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

December 17, 2014

Scrooge and Corporate Settlement Agreements

A Christmas CarolAlthough there seems to be a difference in the precise publication date between the online reference sites This Day in History and Wikipedia, today we celebrate the Charles Dickens’ work A Christmas Carol, which both sites acknowledge was published in 1843. This story has become well known and omnipresent in the Christmas season; in film, theater, radio, television, cartoon, opera and about every other form of media known to mankind. A Christmas Carol tells the story of a bitter old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come.

The book was written at a time when the English were examining and exploring Christmas traditions from the past as well as new customs such as Christmas cards and Christmas trees. Dickens’ source materials for the tale appear to be many and varied, but are principally, the humiliating experiences of his childhood, his sympathy for the poor and various Christmas stories and fairy tales. A Christmas Carol has been credited as one of the greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England. Scrooge himself is the embodiment of winter, and, just as winter is followed by spring and the renewal of life, so too Scrooge’s cold, pinched heart is restored to the innocent goodwill he had known in his childhood and youth. It is hardy tale that should be retold and remembered each holiday season as one of the true spirits for celebration.

I considered this work by Dickens when I read a recently released article entitled “Improving Corporate Settlement Agreements by The Fraud Guy, John Hanson. In this piece Hanson considers some shortcomings in a variety of corporate misconduct settlement agreements, where he believes “the Terms of most Agreements lack a full and practical appreciation for what constitutes an effective Program within a particular organization.” He articulates that “A key reason for this is because the parties to the Agreement miss the forest for the trees in that they too narrowly focus on Program sub-components (that piece of a Program associated with a particular risk, such as Anti-Corruption, Anti-Trust, False Claims, Organizational Conflicts of Interest, etc.…), the failure of which is only symptomatic of a higher level and overall Program failure.” Although Hanson’s critique of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs), corporate monitors and settlement agreements was broader than simply those issues in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement, I found his comments provided some useful insights into how both companies and the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) might help to make the process more robust in helping companies create a culture of compliance and ethics as result of a resolved enforcement action.

Ethical Tone

Here Hanson says that DPAs do not tie the relationship of compliance and ethics together going forward. He believes that one cannot exist without the other. He thinks many compliance program overseers focus too much on the sub-parts and institute too much of “A piecemeal approach that overly focuses on Program sub-components and neglects ethical tone almost completely is doomed to failure. It is like placing a Band-Aid on an arterial wound.”

While many external monitors will drill down into the detailed specifics of a certain issue or even sub-issue under compliance, such a mechanism can be a useful exercise. For example if there is a particular compliance problem being faced such a detailed approach may be warranted. For instance, if the company got into FCPA trouble for its use of third parties that came into a business relationship with the company through the Supply Chain, an extreme deep dive into the Supply Chain and management of those relationships from the compliance perspective may be important. However what such an approach may cost is losing a greater focus of the overall picture.

Time

A second critique is that many DPAs are simply too short in time length to “effectively implement remediation.” While this criticism is largely for DPAs outside the FCPA context, it bears some discussion. Hanson believes that “A Program is a process, not a one-time event. Moreover, it is a process that perpetuates and improves continuously. Generally speaking, for organizations without a robust and effective Program, it realistically takes at least three years to stand up this process to the point where it is effective and begins annually repeating.” A compliance program design and implementation can take up to 18-months and it can often take another year to assess the implementation results and fine tune the compliance regime going forward.

While most DPAs in the FCPA context are for three years, there have been examples of where either a company was released early from a DPA or a monitorship ended at the 18-month mark rather than the full three years. An example of this is Pride International (now ENSCO) who were rewarded by being released early for its superior enhanced compliance efforts. In the latter category is Weatherford, among others, whose external monitorship can end at 18-months after the execution of the DPA, if sufficient progress is met.

External Monitors

Hanson had some very interesting thoughts about the use of corporate monitors. He has long championed more professionalism for monitors, specifically regarding their training in implementing compliance programs, not simply as very good white-collar defense lawyers or internal investigators. However, in his paper Hanson notes that other concerns have lessened both the effectiveness of external monitors or even their use; when he writes, “Due to past negative publicity arising from problems resulting from poor/immature government agency Monitor selection policies and/or inexperienced and/or ineffective Monitors, government agencies and organizations alike have developed some misperceptions that have led to Monitors being underutilized, even avoided. While some government agencies are still developing or improving Monitor selection policies, many have already adopted policies that addressed past concerns.”

Hanson champions his concerns for monitors with the experience issue. He believes that “many Monitors come from the ranks of whitecollar defense attorneys, who, as noted above, frequently lack the requisite level of compliance and ethics training and knowledge, as well as practical Program experience, to serve in that role most effectively. Additionally, most persons selected to be a Monitor have never been a Monitor before and are unaware of the nuances associated with such a specialized role.” To rectify this issue, Hanson advocates greater monitor training from organizations such as the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) or others. Finally, as Hanson notes, “it is of much greater importance to engage a Monitor who is an expert in compliance and ethics rather than one who is an expert on the substantive underlying criminal and/or regulatory violations.”

As usual when John Hanson writes something relating to the compliance field, you should definitely read it. Hanson’s unique background as a forensic auditor, FBI agent and four-time corporate monitor provide valuable insights to any compliance related issue. His current article is no different. You can use many of his insights directly in your compliance program through engaging an outside expert, called monitor or something else, to help move your compliance and ethics program forward on a number of fronts.

Hanson’s article is available through JDSupra 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

December 8, 2014

DPAs and NPAs – Powerful Tools in the Fight Against Corruption

ToolAs readers of this blog know the FCPA Professor and I usually look at the same Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action, item or remark and see different things. Sometimes we even hear the same thing and come away with different interpretations. Last week, we experienced yet another instance of the former where we both looked at the same article, that being one in Global Investigations Review entitled “Caldwell: settlement a “more powerful tool” than convictions” by Rahul Rose, yet came away with different interpretations. After some to-ing and fro-ing, we decided that we would both post our interpretations on the same day. So with a nod to Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg, today we have the first twin posts from different bloggers dual- blog posts. Since we agreed to write our respective posts without seeing the other’s post and hence could not comment on each other’s post, I urge that after you finish reading my blog today, you click on over to the FCPA Professor’s site and see what his thoughts on Caldwell’s remarks might be.

The specific remarks we want to focus on were apparently made by during the Q&A session of Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell who spoke at the Launch of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Foreign Bribery Report, note these remarks were not found in the printed remarks of the speech on the Department of Justice (DOJ) website. In her Q&A, Rose reported the following, “Caldwell told the audience in Paris: “Companies cannot be sent to jail, so all a court can do is say you will pay ‘x’. We can say: ‘you will also have a monitor and will do all sorts of other things for the next five years, and if you don’t do them for the next five years then you can still be prosecuted’.” [And for the money shot] “In the United States system at least it is a more powerful tool than actually going to trial,” she said.”

It turns out that I have been thinking along these lines as well. The debate over the usefulness of Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPAs) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) has been long attended. Yet there are a couple of key reasons that DPAs and NPAs are such powerful tools in the fight against anti-corruption and anti-bribery which I do not believe have been fully articulated or explored. The first is that by settling, the DOJ (and Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC]) will have the ability to monitor the company going forward. This process began under the practice of formally appointing a corporate monitor nominated by the company in the throes of the enforcement action and who would be agreed to by the DOJ. This practice is generally referred to as a company having mandatory monitor.

While this specific practice received a fair amount of criticism from a variety of sources, the basic concept was sound. That concept was that a neutral third party would review a company’s compliance with the terms and conditions of a DPA or NPA and report to the DOJ at intervals generally no shorter than annually. This would give the DOJ eyes and ears into a company to oversee its adherence to the terms of the settlement. But what information did Caldwell convey in her statement as to why she thinks settlements are such a powerful tool? I read three pieces of information her statement about why FCPA settlements are such powerful tools.

‘Do All Sorts of Other Things’

Under this prong a settling defendant is required to do “all sorts of other things.” We know from the DPAs and NPAs relating to FCPA enforcement over the past several years, the minimum that a company will be required to institute is a best practices anti-corruption compliance program. While the FCPA Guidance specifies ten hallmarks of an effective compliance program, the DPAs and NPAs have had between 9 to 16 items listed in the best practices anti-corruption compliance programs that settling companies’ have agreed to institute. If the DOJ went to trial and secured a conviction the company would not have to put such a compliance program in place but only pay a fine or some other monetary penalty. Further, by requiring such a best practices anti-corruption compliance program in such a public manner, through a publicly filed DPA or NPA, the DOJ can communicate its current thinking on what it believes constitutes such a program. This provides valuable information to the compliance practitioner going forward and I believe completely disabuses the argument that companies cannot know what their obligations might be to comply with the FCPA or that companies do not know what the DOJ expects from them in the area of a FCPA compliance regime.

‘You will also have a monitor’

David E. Matyas and Lynn Shapiro Snyder
from the law firm of Epstein Becker & Green P.C., described the duties of a corporate monitor in their article entitled, “Monitoring the Monitor? The Need for Further Guidance Governing Corporate Monitors Under Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements”. The monitor would meet with “the company’s board and employees. A monitor then develops a work plan which defines the scope, access, and power the monitor will have over the company. The monitor’s work involves frequent visits to the company (including possible on-site accommodations) and broad access to company documents and meetings. The monitor should be knowledgeable about the regulatory aspects of the company’s operations, but that is not necessarily a criterion for selection of the monitor. Indeed, a monitor can hire others to assist in his or her responsibilities at the company’s expense. The monitor files periodic reports with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and makes visits with that office as well as with the company. At the conclusion of a monitor’s term – often 24-36 months – the monitor files a final report that details the activities accomplished and whether the company complied with all the terms of the agreement.”

So the monitor provides the DOJ with continued insight into what the company is doing to satisfy its settlement obligations around the implementation of its compliance program. If the DOJ has high confidence that the company has and will continue to put significant resources and efforts into its compliance program, it may agree to a voluntary monitor, as we have seen with the Parker Drilling and Hewlett-Packard (HP) DPAs. If the DOJ does not have such confidence, it may require a monitor for the length of the DPA, such as we saw in the Total DPA, which was three years. The DOJ may also take an interim position on the mandatory or voluntary nature of the monitor by allowing a company to end a mandatory monitorship half-way through the pendency of a DPA as it did with the Weatherford DPA, which allowed the mandatory monitorship to end at the 18 month mark of a three year DPA, if certain criteria were met.

‘You can still be prosecuted’ 

This final point is not to be underestimated. Once again if a company is found guilty at trial, a fine and/or penalty will be assessed and payment is the end of it. While it still may be under enhanced scrutiny, it will not have the affirmative obligation to report any FCPA violations going forward, nor will it bear potential liability and prosecution for failure to implement the terms and conditions of the DPA or NPA. Indeed, the company will agree to be prosecuted if there is another violation or it fails to implement as agreed to.

So by using DPAs and NPAs as settlement tools, I believe that the DOJ is able to impact on an ongoing basis, for two to three years, the compliance program of a settling company. This continued oversight usually translates into greater enthusiasm by a settling company to get compliance right so that it does not have to go through the full FCPA investigation and enforcement process. Of course there will always be recalcitrant companies such as Marubeni Corporation, which do not take the agreed to compliance obligations seriously going forward. When they get into trouble as recidivists, the second penalty is usually much higher. But there is also benefit to the compliance practitioner and greater compliance community because the DOJ communicates its expectations in these DPAs and NPAs. So they also work as powerful communication tools. Finally, by requiring a third party to act as the monitor, whether voluntary or mandatory, the DOJ can get some independent insight into what a company is doing compliance-wise.

Not knowing what the Professor has said, I have not tried to anticipate his arguments or rebut them directly. Nonetheless, I have tried to articulate why I agree with Ms. Caldwell’s remarks and why I continue to find the DOJ’s use of DPAs and NPAs as settlement tools a powerful weapon in the fight against bribery and corruption. I also hope that you will find favor with this exercise that the FCPA Professor and I have engaged in because we both believe that ongoing debate over FCPA enforcement is worthwhile for the compliance practitioner and necessary for the long-term success of compliance moving 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, 2014

October 27, 2014

Critiquing FCPA Enforcement and the GSK Domestic Corruption Conviction

Lady Scales of JusticeRecently the FCPA Professor posted a blog, entitled “Look in the Mirror Moments, in which he used written commentary by the US Secretary of the Treasury to the Chinese government about the Chinese governments anti-trust investigations as a mechanism to explore critiques of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement. In this post, he compared certain aspects of FCPA enforcement to the Chinese corruption enforcement action against GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK). Leaving aside the differences in anti-trust enforcement (price-fixing, monopolistic behavior and illegal collusion) and anti-corruption enforcement (bribery), I wanted to review his critiques through the prism of the known facts of the GSK enforcement action.

The FCPA Professor had the following comments about FCPA enforcement, in comparison with the Chinese corruption enforcement action against GSK. He said,

Without in any way trying to comprehensively compare the overall U.S. legal system to the overall Chinese legal system, the following attributes of FCPA enforcement must at least be acknowledged. 

The vast majority of corporate FCPA enforcement actions lack transparency and the resolution documents (whether a non-prosecution agreement, deferred prosecution agreement or civil administrative order) are the result of an opaque process ultimately controlled by the same office prosecuting or bringing the action. 

As to the swiftness of FCPA enforcement actions, one can only assume that the majority of general counsels and board of directors of companies under FCPA scrutiny would be jumping for joy if the scrutiny – from start to finish – would resolve itself in 15 months rather than the typical 3-5 years (and in some instances more) of FCPA scrutiny lingering.”

The difficulty I have with both of these points is that one cannot separate the Chinese enforcement action against GSK from the Chinese legal system that produced it. Let’s start with the ‘jumping for joy’ prong. The initial difference to note is that the Chinese enforcement action was a domestic prosecution based upon Chinese domestic law for bribery and corruption of Chinese. It was not a US (or UK) company violating US (or UK) laws. This means that the relevant documents and witness were in the locality where the investigation was performed. Even when a key witness, GSK China Country Manager Mark Reilly was in the UK, he voluntarily returned to China to give evidence but was prevented from leaving the country without being charged with a crime. So as far as is known, there were no government-to-government requests for information, no Letters Rogatory or use of any other international discovery mechanism to obtain evidence.

Moreover, the procedural protections in place under US (and UK) criminal procedure simply do not exist in China. There is no right to counsel, no right against self-incrimination, no right to confront witness and not even a right to know what the charges against you might be. These lack of rights were certainly borne out in the speed in which the Chinese investigative authorities were able to obtain evidence and public confessions from GSK principals involved in the bribery and corruption. The first 30-day timeline of the GSK investigation went as follows:

  • June 28, 2013 – Local Police announced they have place GSK officials under investigation for economic crimes.
  • July 11, 2013 – Public Security Ministry issued statement accusing GSK of bribery.
  • July 15 , 2013 – Four senior company execs ‘detained’. Finance chief barred from leaving country.
  • July 16, 2013 – GSK General Counsel (GC) placed under ‘house arrest’ along with 30 other employees. One of the four GSK China executives who were detained, admited to bribery allegations on Chinese state television.
  • July 22, 2013 – GSK formally apologized for breaking Chinese law regarding domestic bribery and corruption.
  • July 26, 2013 – Peter Humphrey, a UK citizen and his wife, a naturalized US citizen, both hired by GSK in an ancillary matter related to the GSK corruption scandal were arrested but not told of the charges against them.

A little over one year later, in July, 2014 the trial of Humphrey and his wife was announced. Orignially it was to be held in secret with both Humphrey and his wife still not told of the formal charges against them. However after diplomatic protests by both the US and UK governments, Humphrey and his wife were both convicted and sentenced in an open trial, albeit lasting only one day, on August 8, 2014. The charges against them were announced at trial. Thereafter, GSK pled guilty in a secret one-day trial GSK was fined approximately $491MM and China Country Manager Mark Reilly and four other GSK China business unit executives were found gulity. They were all sentenced to jail but given suspended sentences.

How did the Chinese government develop its evidence so quickly? One of the defendant’s, admitted, on state run televison, his involvement in the bribery scheme only 18 days after the investigation was announced by Chinese authorities. Indeed, GSK itself made a public apology only 24 days after the announcement by the Chinese authorities it was under investigation. We now know that GSK was informed by a whistleblower of allegations of bribery and corruption as early as January 2013 yet in June GSK announced it had not found anything to substantiate these allegations.

I believe the answer is found in the differences in the Chinese and US legal systems. It all starts with the following: in China you are presumed guilty while in the US (and the UK), you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. In an article in the New York Times (NYT), entitled “Presumed Guilty in China’s War on Corruption”, Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley wrote that the “war on corruption often operates beyond the law in a secret realm of party-run agencies”. The process “Known as Shuanggui, it is a secretive, extralegal process that leaves detainees cutoff from lawyers, associates and relatives.” Moreover, even as a case moves through the Chinese criminal justice system, defendants’ counsel “have limited access to evidence, witnesses, and their clients.” It does not get any better when a defendant actually goes to court because “Lawyers say Chinese courts rarely allow them to call defense witnesses, while prosecutors frequently withhold cruical evidence.” Finally, of the 8,110 officials charged with corruption “in the first half of this year, 99.8 percent were convicted”. To this rather amazing trial court conviction rate, I would add the the prosecution does even better on appeal, never losing to a convicted defendant.

Does that sound like a system in which you would jump for joy if you were caught up in, even knowing that the time from announcment of investigation until 99.8% chance of conviction awaited you? Even if the government investigation only took 14 months? In the US, corporations have the same rights as individuals at trial; to cross-examine witness, to be made aware of the charges against it, those charges must be brought with specficity, right to counsel, right to an open trial and right to appeal. These rights are all enshrined in the US Constitution. Those rights are not present for individuals or corporations under Chinese law or jurisprudence.

But the FCPA Professor also critiqued the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in FCPA enforcements with the following observation: The vast majority of corporate FCPA enforcement actions lack transparency and the resolution documents (whether a non-prosecution agreement, deferred prosecution agreement or civil administrative order) are the result of an opaque process ultimately controlled by the same office prosecuting or bringing the action.When a company enters into negotiation with the DOJ and SEC it is with legal counsel in tow. Even if we in the general public are not privy to these negotiations over the terms and conditions of enforcement actions I am confident that there is some give and take. Further, while I only have personal knowledge of one negotiation for the specific terms of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), the lawyer representing the company made clear it was a negotiation. It was not a Diktat with sentencing simply pronounced by the DOJ. Does the office which handles the investigation also handle the settlement negotiation? Yes but that is what prosecutors do each and every day in every city, county, town, hamlet, state and federal jurisdiction in this country.

Just as it takes two to tango, it takes two to negotiate. The DOJ does not negotiate with itself. Another party is sitting across the table and that other party is the company involved in the FCPA investigation. Why is that company there in the room negotiating? Because the company has assessed its interest and determined that it would be better off settling than going to trial. This is in the face of DOJ failures in the trial court in the Gun Sting cases, the O’Shea trial and the trial court overturning the verdict in the Lindsey Manufacturing conviction. Simply because there is a negotiation between the DOJ and a private party does not make it some nefarious process, even if the prosecutors hold the upper hand.

As far as the fines and penalites, there has been nothing to suggest the basis of the $491MM fine assessed against GSK. That amount is a bit less than the amounts initially reported that GSK China paid out as bribes, somewhere over $500MM. At least in the US, there are the Sentence Guidelines which form some basis of the calculation. Of course there is always some prosecutorial discretion to lessen a fine or penalty below the suggested amount. We have seen that occur this year with the HP enforcement action and recently Asst. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell suggested that Alcoa could have been fined over $1bn for its conduct, while the actual fine was $384MM. It is appropriate for prosecutors to have such discretion.

While the DOJ is also critiqued that DPAs (and Non-Prosecution Agreement [NPAs]) are essentially the same as going to trial with a near 100% success rate, I think this belies the number of declinations that the DOJs gives out. Unfortunately (and here the FCPA Professor and I do agree); there is not enough information given out about declinations; either regarding the raw numbers or the specific reasons for a declination. Only if a company agrees or is required to make such information public does it become known. Nevertheless, there is the recent example of Layne Christensen, which received a declination. In an article in Compliance Week, entitled “How Two Companies Got Regulators to Drop FCPA Charges”, Jaclyn Jaeger reported on the reasons the company sustained this result of receiving a declination through interviews with Christensen GC, Steve Crooke, its Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Jennafer Watson and its outside counsel Russ Berland. Jaeger detailed the specific steps the company took and we can all see the effect it had upon the DOJ, through the declination to prosecute the company.

The debate about the costs of FCPA enforcement actions, the proper role of DPAs/NPAs and length of time of investigations is a healthy one and living in the open society that we have in the US, one that we will continue to have. Since I am not a prosecutor (or ex-prosecutor), I cannot look in the mirror at FCPA enforcement but I can review the facts of the DOJ and SEC’s FCPA enforcement, contrasted with the Chinese domestic bribery and corruption proseuction of GSK and believe that there is no basis for comparing the two systems, as they are so different in too many fundamental aspects.

I can however say one thing with absolute certainly; wherever you do want to be, a Chinese jail is not high on the list.

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

October 7, 2014

The Positive Effects of DPAs and NPAs in FCPA Enforcement

JusticeOne of the oft-made criticisms regarding the Department of Justice (DOJ) around its enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is its the use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) somehow pervert the course of justice. Some of the criticisms include: DPAs and NPAs are either too harsh or too lenient; DPAs and NPAs let corporations off too easily or they are too unfair to corporations; DPAs and NPAs are inherently unfair as they give the DOJ too much leverage in any negotiation or that the DOJ uses them as a way to simply seek bigger fines and to not go after the real culprits, i.e. rogue employees; the fines levied under DPAs and NPAs are too great or too small, but whichever it is, there is not appropriate judicial oversight; and my personal favorite, the DOJ needs to ‘trial-lawyer up’ and go to trial against big bad corporations which violate the FCPA to really show ‘em they mean business.

Speaking from the perspective of a former in-house type, I have argued that corporations desire DPAs and NPAs because they bring certainty. Not only in ending an enforcement action but also in knowing your obligations going forward; and they bring certainty in setting the fines and penalties to be paid for a FCPA violation. And, of course, if you enter into a DPA or NPA you bring your corporate client the certainty that you will not ‘Arthur Anderson’ your organization out of existence.

However there are other reasons why the use of DPAs and NPAs has been positive and that is the effect on companies. In a recent paper, entitled, “The Effect of Deferred and Non-Prosecution Agreements on Corporate Governance: Evidence from 1993-2013 ”, authors Wulf A. Kaal and Timothy Lacine looked precisely at that issue. In an exhaustive study they reviewed all publicly available DPAs and NPAs from 1993 to 2013. The authors found that in a wide variety of categories 97.41% of the publicly available DPAs and NPAs “mandated substantive governance improvements” in the corporations that entered into them. Any time you have 97% improvement in anything, I would say someone must have been doing something right, somewhere, somehow. From the thesis of their article, it would appear that what the DOJ is doing right is using DPAs and NPAs to positively impact corporate governance.

What were some of the changes brought about through the use of DPAs and NPAs? In the area of Board governance there were provisions including mandating changes requiring additional reporting obligations for the Board; required changes to existing Board committee structure of the entity, often creating new board committees. Other changes included increased Board monitoring obligations, the addition of independent director(s) and changes pertaining to management of the entity. In addition to more Board involvement, under a number of DPAs and NPAs, a settling company’s senior management was required to provide additional oversight and involvement with the compliance function. Similarly monitoring obligations have generally increased with many DPAs and NPAs containing specific provisions that related to ongoing monitoring requirements.

Both the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) position and the compliance function were significantly impacted by many of the DPAs and NPAs. Many contained provisions relating to a new, improved or expanded compliance program. Additionally, many DPAs and NPAs contained provisions pertaining to improved compliance communications and training requirements in the compliance function. Internal controls and required improvements pertaining to books and records were also noted. Of course, if a company did not have a Code of Conduct or CCO, they were required.

The authors have also identified additional and continuing oversight factors. They note that DOJ “involvement suggest that prosecutors can promote an ethical corporate culture through enhanced compliance measures in N/DPAs. Under this theory, the DOJ’s expansionary tendencies in N/DPAs are a mere extension of legally mandated compliance requirements. In fact, corporate governance of the respective entity plays a major role in federal prosecutors’ charging decisions. The increased role of independent private sector oversight may help address the increased complexity of corporate crime and dwindling public funds. Given their education and experience as well as their ability to fill a void left by the system, prosecutors may be uniquely qualified to institute corporate governance changes.”

I think this ongoing DOJ oversight is not to be underestimated as a positive effect for compliance. Clearly if an external monitor is required there will be at least annual reporting to the DOJ on the company’s implementation of the terms and conditions of its settlement. But even if the DOJ does not require an external monitor there is always a requirement that the settling company report to the DOJ on the extent of its compliance efforts. The best practice would suggest that an independent third party make this assessment but even if it is not accomplished in such a manner, there is still DOJ oversight.

While the DOJ has pronounced that they are not involved in industry sweeps, the reality is that some industries have been hit with more FCPA enforcement actions than others. If there are a large number of FCPA settlements using DPAs and NPAs in one industry, it can have the effect of increasing both the knowledge of compliance and sophistication of compliance programs within that industry. I have personally witnessed this in the energy industry in Houston where compliance is now driven as a business solution to the legal problem of FCPA compliance. Scott Killingsworth calls this Private-to-Private compliance solutions. I call it business solutions to legal problems. Whatever you might wish to name it, these FCPA enforcement actions have increased the prevalence of compliance programs in the energy industry.

The authors also believe that through the use of DPAs and NPAs, the DOJ is better able to communicate its expectations of what it expects in the way of a best practices compliance program. They state that Boards, “management and corporate counsel may see these preexisting measures as a roadmap for preparing for future investigations and handling the eventual investigation.”

Finally, the authors provide a very interesting insight as to the power of DPAs and NPAs, which is not often discussed in the FCPA context. They contend that use of DPAs and NPAs, as corporate governance tools, “may be preferable to changes to federal law.” They explain, “Compared with more meaningful congressional governance reform, N/DPA-related governance reform is relatively “cheap” for corporations because comparatively few board and management positions are adversely affected. Furthermore, N/DPA-related governance reform is a measure supported by most corporate insiders as it is seen as beneficial for investors. Until regulators belatedly realize the threat posed by particular industry practices, as identified in N/DPAs, and consider acting upon it, N/DPA-related governance reform is entity specific and increases the availability of relevant, decentralized, and institution specific information for regulatory action. Preemptive remedial measures preceding the execution of N/DPAs and associated N/DPA feedback effects can create the framework for anticipatory dynamic regulation as a regulatory supplement.”

This last concept speaks to the transactional cost of changing not only laws surrounding corporate governance but the reform of a corporation for itself. The key stakeholder unit of investors certainly profits by having more and better corporate governance, as does the corporation itself. I found the authors’ work to be a welcome addition to the ongoing debate on DPAs and NPAs.

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

March 21, 2014

The Destruction of Arthur Andersen and the Use of DPAs in FCPA Enforcement

Arthur AndersenThe debate over the efficiencies of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) continued this week with additional criticism of their use. I have argued that DPAs are in a corporation’s interest because they can bring certainty to the conclusion of an enforcement action and allow it to make remedial changes and move forward. However yesterday I came across an article by Larry Katzen, a former partner at Arthur Andersen and author of “And You Thought Accountants were Boring – My Life Inside Arthur Andersen.” Katzen’s piece is entitled “A Business World Massacre – What Can Happen 
When Government Needs a Scapegoat” and it details the destruction of the firm after it’s guilty verdict surrounding the Enron scandal. Katzen articulates the human costs for the total wipeout of the firm and sets out clearly what can happen when a company goes to trial and sustains a guilty verdict. I received permission to reprint his article in full, which is below:

==============================================================================================================================================================================================================================

A Business World Massacre – What Can Happen 
When Government Needs a Scapegoat 

It remains one of the greatest travesties in the history of American business: In 2001, the 85,000 employees of one of the world’s largest accounting firms began losing their jobs in droves. Their employer had become tainted by its loose association with Enron Corp., a financial house of cards that was imploding and taking with it billions of dollars in employee pensions and shareholder investments.

In 2002, accounting firm Arthur Andersen was convicted of charges related to Enron’s fraudulent practices. The charges had nothing to do with the quality of their auditing – or any of Enron’s illicit practices. The conviction was appealed, and in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in a unanimous vote. But the damage had already been done.

To date, despite millions of records being subpoenaed, there is no evidence Arthur Andersen ever did anything wrong. Still, perceptions are everything: Most people are not aware that the accounting firm, which led the industry in establishing strict, high standards, became a government scapegoat.

When I speak to groups across the country, I ask the following questions. Below are the typical responses I receive – and the actual facts.

1.     What do you remember about Arthur Andersen? 

Typical Response: They were the ones that helped facilitate the Enron fraud. They deserved what they got.

Fact: Arthur Andersen was the largest and most prestigious firm in the country. It was considered the gold standard of the accounting profession by the business community.

2.     For what was Arthur Andersen indicted? 

Typical Response: They messed up the audit of Enron and signed off on false financial statements.

Fact: They were indicted for shredding documents. These documents were drafts and other items that do not support the final product. All accounting firms establish policies for routinely shredding such documents.

3.     How long was it between the Enron blowup and when Arthur Andersen went out of business? 

Typical Response: One to three years.

Fact: The largest accounting firm in the world was gone in 90 days.

4.     Was the indictment upheld? 

Typical Response: Yes, that is why they went out of business.

Fact: No. The Supreme Court overruled the lower court in a 9-0 decision, and came to the conclusion within weeks, making it one of their quickest decisions ever.

5.     How many people lost their jobs as a result of the false accusations? 

Typical Response: Have no idea, but the partners got what they deserved.

Fact: Eighty-five thousand people lost their jobs and only a few thousand were partners. Most were staff people and clericals who made modest sums of money.

6.     Who benefited from Arthur Andersen going out of business? 

Typical Response: Everyone – we finally got rid of those crooks and made a statement to the rest of business to operate ethically.

Facts: It was not the Arthur Andersen people; they lost their jobs. It was not the clients; they had to go through the stress and expense of finding a new auditing firm. It was not the business world in general: It now has fewer firms from which to choose and rates increased. It was their competitors who benefited – they got Andersen’s best people and clients and were able to increase their rates and profitability.

7.     What accounting firms now have ex Arthur Andersen partners playing leadership roles in their firms? 

Typical Response: None

Facts: The “big four,” all the large middle-tier firms and many small firms have former Arthur Andersen partners in leadership positions. Finally, many members of the new Public Accounting oversight Board (PCAOB), which oversees these firms, now have former Arthur Andersen people involved in reviewing the quality of these firms.

==============================================================================================================================================================================================================================

Was Arthur Andersen guilty of a crime? The jury said yes but the US Supreme Court said no. Were they a part of one of the biggest corporate frauds of all-time? Perhaps. Did Arthur Andersen make mistakes? Yes. Did the firm deserve to get wiped out as a result of document shredding? Are you kidding?

The destruction of Arthur Andersen is foremost on the mind of every General Counsel (GC), Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Board of Director whose company is facing the decision of whether or not to fight in court any charges related to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations. Some have argued that DPAs pervert the course of justice but from where I sit, having seen Arthur Andersen destroyed before our collective eyes, the better practice is to enter into a DPA. Was it really in the interest of the Department of Justice (DOJ), or even the People of the United States, who after all the DOJ represent, to throw 85,000 people out of work for the document shredding engaged in by the firm’s Houston office?

Some commentators seem to argue that if a company violates the FCPA, they should get what they justly deserve. But does it serve any interest to wipeout an entire company? Finally, for those who want to tell company management to man up and go to trial, GCs, Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Board members and others need to remember their legal obligations to their companies and shareholders and not be cowboys going to the last gunfight. Put another way, do you want to be the first GC, CCO, Board member or CEO who tells the DOJ that you are over-reaching and we are going to trial and lose everything like Arthur Andersen did?

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 3, 2014

The FCPA Year in Reivew-the eBook

I am pleased to announce the release of my eBook, “2013-the FCPA Year in Review” available through amazon.com. The past year saw the highest number of U.S. prosecutions of corporate bribery overseas since the banner year of 2010.  Some of the key corporate cases were Parker Drilling, Total and Weatherford. 2013 also saw 13 individuals prosecuted for FCPA or related criminal or civil violations. This jump in prosecutions illustrates the government’s commitment to aggressively pursuing these cases.

In this book, I review the underlying facts which led to the FCPA enforcement actions and the key lessons to be learned by the compliance practitioner going forward. I am certain that you will find this book useful in assessing your compliance program for 2014 and beyond.

It is a great value at $4.99. You can purchase a copy of the eBook, “2013-the FCPA Year in Review” by clicking here.

January 2, 2014

The 2013 FCPA Year in Review-Corporate Enforcement Actions

In my final post of 2013, I reviewed all of the individual Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions which occurred in the past year. In this first post of 2014, I review all the corporate enforcement actions in 2013. If you would like to have a handy reference on all of the 2013 FCPA enforcement actions, I am pleased to announce the publication of my latest book, entitled, “2013-the FCPA Year in Review”. It is available in an eBook format on Amazon.com.

A.     Total

Total SA engaged in a nearly decade long, breathtaking bribery scheme. In this scheme, Total paid approximately $60MM to an un-named Iranian Official of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), who steered two major projects Total’s way. The projects for which Total paid the bribes were the Sirri A and E oil and gas fields and South Pars gas field. Total paid a criminal penalty to the DOJ of $245.2 million and civil penalty of $153 to the SEC.” Total’s agreed monetary penalty of $398MM was the fourth biggest FCPA resolution.

B.     Parker Drilling

The company was involved in a bribery scheme to pay-off judges in a Nigerian Tax Court to allow Parker Drilling to pay lower than warranted tax assessments for its drilling rigs in the country. Due to its efforts to create a gold standard compliance program all the while undergoing its own internal investigation, Parker Drilling’s conduct earned it an “approximately 20 percent reduction off the bottom of the fine range” which suggested a fine of between $14.7MM to $29.4MM. The final DOJ fine was $11,760,000. The company also agreed to pay disgorgement of $3,050MM plus pre-judgment interest of $1,040,818, to the SEC.

C.     Ralph Lauren

The Ralph Lauren Company received Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPA) granted by the SEC and DOJ. The illegal conduct at issue related to its Argentinian subsidiary and efforts by the General Manager of that operation, who conspired with a customs clearance agency to make payments “to assist in improperly obtaining paperwork necessary for goods to clear customs, to permit clearance of items without the necessary paperwork, to permit the clearance of prohibited items, and to avoid inspection.” For its conduct, Ralph Lauren agreed to pay $882K to the DOJ and $593K in disgorgement and $141K in pre-judgment interest to the SEC.

D.    Weatherford

In late November, Weatherford International Limited (Weatherford) concluded one of the longest running open FCPA investigations when it agreed to the ninth largest FCPA fine of all-time and one of its subsidiaries, Weatherford Services Limited (WSL), agreed to plead guilty to violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. The total amount of fines and penalties for the FCPA violations was $152.6 million. The company was also hit with another $100 million in fines and penalties for trade sanctions bringing its total amount paid to $252.6 million. The bribery schemes that Weatherford used were varied but stunning in their brazen nature. But in spite of how things began, Weatherford was able to make a turnaround and substantially improve its position by reversing this initial nose-thumbing at US regulators.

E.     Stryker

In an interesting FCPA enforcement action resolved in October, the Stryker Corporation agreed to settle with the SEC via an Administrative Order, not a criminal action filed by the DOJ. According to the FCPA Blog, “The SEC said Stryker Corporation will pay $13.2 million to resolve FCPA violations. The bribes totaled about $2 million and were ‘incorrectly described as legitimate expenses in the company’s books and records,’ according to the SEC. Stryker will disgorge to the SEC $7.5 million and prejudgment interest of $2.28 million. It is also paying a penalty of $3.5 million.” SEC Complaint. There was not even a civil Complaint filed by the SEC and Stryker is not required to have a Corporate Monitor to assess its ongoing compliance efforts or its commitment to having a compliance program.

F.     Diebold

In late October, Diebold, an Ohio company which makes ATM machines, agreed to pay a criminal fine of $25.2 million to the DOJ and $23 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest to the SEC to resolve allegations it violated the FCPA by covering up bribes to bank officials in China, Indonesia and Russia. The total fine of just over $48MM. The DOJ charged it in a two-count information with conspiring to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records provisions and a substantive books and records offense. There were no charges under the anti-bribery provisions, which apply only to corrupt payments to foreign officials. The Diebold resolution took the form of a DPA with the DOJ, along with a fines and a Corporate Monitor. From its resolution with the SEC in addition to the profit disgorgement and prejudgment interest paid the company agreed to an agreed injunction to stop, once again, violating the FCPA.

G.    Bilfinger SE

In early December, DOJ announced it had resolved an ongoing 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 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.

H.    Archer-Daniels-Midland

In late December, it was announced by the DOJ and SEC that they had settled both a criminal and civil enforcement action with Archer-Daniels-Midland Company. The DOJ resolved the criminal action when a subsidiary of ADM pled guilty and agreed to pay more than $17 million in criminal fines to resolve charges that it paid bribes through vendors to Ukrainian government officials to obtain value-added tax (VAT) refunds, in violation of the FCPA. In a parallel civil FCPA action settled with the SEC and the SEC Press Release noted that “The payments were then concealed by improperly recording the transactions in accounting records as insurance premiums and other purported business expenses. ADM had insufficient anti-bribery compliance controls and made approximately $33 million in illegal profits as a result of the bribery by its subsidiaries.” In addition to the DOJ fine of $17.8MM, ADM agreed to pay “disgorgement of $33,342,012 plus prejudgment interest of $3,125,354.”

What Did It All Mean?

The clear message from these corporate enforcement actions is that early detection and remediation can lead to a significant reduction in fines and penalties. I believe that these corporate enforcement actions make clear that a company’s actions during the pendency of the investigation, in addition to the underlying FCPA violations, will be evaluated and assessed to determine the final penalty. The DOJ and SEC continue to communicate not only what they believe constitutes a best practices compliance program but equally importantly what actions a company can engage in which will significantly reduce a company’s overall fine and penalty. Both the DOJ and SEC continue to communicate, through their enforcement actions, to the compliance practitioner what they expect from companies in the way of a best practices compliance program and what a company should do if they discover a potential FCPA violation. These communications, through enforcement actions, DPAs, NPAs and Declinations, are consistent with the information provided by the DOJ/SEC in the FCPA Guidance. These enforcement actions demonstrate that if a company gets ahead of the curve, it can significantly lessen its overall penalty and pain.

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 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

December 4, 2013

The Weatherford FCPA Settlement, Part III

Yesterday, I reviewed the conduct which Weatherford International Limited (Weatherford) engaged in over a period from 2002-2011 in connection with its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation, noted the deficiencies in its compliance program and its internal controls and even how the company intentionally impeded the investigations of both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Today, I want to look at how the company changed course in mid-stream during the investigation, brought in a top-notch and well respected lawyer as its Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), created a best-in-class compliance program; all of which saved the company millions of dollars in potential fines and penalties.

  1. I.                    DOJ Fine Calculation

To resolve the criminal aspects of this case, Weatherford agreed to pay an $87.2 million criminal penalty as part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the DOJ. There was also another $65.6 million paid to the SEC. However the figure paid to the DOJ was at the very bottom range of a potential criminal penalty. The range listed in the DPA was from $87.2 to $174.3 million. In coming up with this range under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, it is significant for the actions that Weatherford did not receive credit for during the pendency of the investigation. The company did not receive a credit for self-reporting. The company only received a -2 for its cooperation because prior to 2008 the company engaged in activities to impede the regulators’ investigation.

So the fine range could have been more favorable to the company. But the key is that Weatherford received the low end of the range. How did they do this?

A.     New Sheriff in Town

One of the key things Weatherford did was bring in Billy Jacobson as its CCO and give him a seat at the table of the company’s Executive Board. He was a Federal Prosecutor in the Fraud Section, Criminal Division, US Department of Justice. He also served as an Assistant Chief for FCPA Enforcement Department so we can assume he understood the FCPA and how prosecutors think through issues. (Jacobson also worked as a State Prosecutor in New York City, with my former This Week in FCPA co-host Howard Sklar, so shout out to Howard.) Jacobson was not hired directly from the DOJ but after he had left the DOJ and had gone into private practice. There is nothing that shows credibility like bringing in a respected subject matter expert and giving that person the tools and resources to turn things around.

But more than simply bringing in a new sheriff, Weatherford turned this talk into action by substantially increasing its cooperation with the government, thoroughly investigating all issues, turning over the results to the DOJ and SEC and providing literally millions of pages of documents to the regulators. The company also cleaned house by terminating officers and employees who were responsible for the illegal conduct.

B.     Increase in Compliance Function

In addition to establishing Jacobson in the high level CCO position, the company significantly increased the size of its compliance department by hiring 38 compliance professionals and conducted 30 anti-corruption compliance reviews in the countries in which Weatherford operates. This included the hiring of outside consultants to assess and review the company’s compliance program and beefing up due diligence on all third parties, including those in the sales and supply chain, joint venture (JV) partners and merger or acquisition (M&A) candidates. The company also agreed to continue to enhance its internal controls and books and records to prevent and/or detect future suspect conduct.

If you have ever heard any of the current Weatherford compliance professionals speak at FCPA conferences, you can appreciate that they are first rate; that they know their stuff and the company supports their efforts on an ongoing basis.

C.     Best in Class Compliance Program

During the pendency of the investigation, Weatherford 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 and FCPA-violative conduct during this pre-acquisition phase.
  16. As soon as practicable, Weatherford 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.”

D.    Monitor

Weatherford 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.

II.                Conclusion

It certainly has been a long, strange journey for Weatherford. I should note that I have not discussed at all the Oil-For-Food aspect of this settlement, which was an additional $100MM penalty to the company. However, with regard to the FCPA aspects of the matter, there are some very solid and telling lessons to be drawn from this case. First and foremost is that cooperation is always the key. But more than simply cooperating in the investigation is that a company should take a pro-active approach to putting a best-in-class compliance program in place during, rather than after the investigation concludes. Also, a company cannot simply ‘talk-the-talk’ but must come through and do the work to gain the credit. The bribery schemes that the company had engaged in and the systemic failures of its compliance program and internal controls, should serve as a good set of examples for the compliance practitioner to use in assessing a compliance program.

The settlement also sends a clear message from both the DOJ and SEC on not only what type of conduct will be rewarded under the US Sentencing Guidelines, but what they expect as a compliance program. One does not have read tea leaves or attempt to divine what might be an appropriate commitment to compliance to see what the regulators expect these day.

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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