FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

November 24, 2014

The FCPA Guidance: Still Going Strong at Two

Brithday TwoOne of the great things about Sunday afternoon is that Mike Volkov posts his Monday blog, when I usually have time to read it when I get the email notification that it is up. Yesterday he wished the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) jointly released 2012 A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (Guidance) a belated Happy 2nd Birthday and bemoaned the fact no one else had done so. Inspired, and somewhat chagrined by Volkov, I decided to blog today about a couple of the highlights from the FCPA Guidance.

I. The Ten Hallmarks of Effective Compliance Programs

As a ‘Nuts and Bolts’ guy I found the DOJ/SEC formulation of their thoughts on what might constitute a best practices compliance program, the most useful part. The Guidance cautions that there is no “one-size-fits-all” compliance program. It recognizes a variety of factors such as size, type of business, industry and risk profile a company should determine for its own needs regarding a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance program. But the Guidance made clear that these ten points are “meant to provide insight into the aspects of compliance programs that DOJ and SEC assess”. In other words you should pay attention to these and use this information to assess your own compliance regime.

  1. Commitment from Senior Management and a Clearly Articulated Policy Against Corruption. It all starts with tone at the top. But more than simply ‘talk-the-talk’ company leadership must ‘walk-the-walk’ and lead by example. Both the DOJ and SEC look to see if a company has a “culture of compliance”. More than a paper program is required, it must have real teeth and it must be put into action, all of which is led by senior management. The Guidance states, “A strong ethical culture directly supports a strong compliance program. By adhering to ethical standards, senior managers will inspire middle managers to reinforce those standards.” This prong ends by stating that the DOJ and SEC will “evaluate whether senior management has clearly articulated company standards, communicated them in unambiguous terms, adhered to them scrupulously, and disseminated them throughout the organization.”
  2. Code of Conduct and Compliance Policies and Procedures. The Code of Conduct has long been seen as the foundation of a company’s overall compliance program and the Guidance acknowledges this fact. But a Code of Conduct and a company’s compliance policies need to be clear and concise. Importantly, the Guidance made clear that if a company has a large employee base that is not fluent in English such documents need to be translated into the native language of those employees. A company also needs to have appropriate internal controls based upon the risks that a company has assessed for its business model.
  3. Oversight, Autonomy, and Resources. This section began with a discussion on the assignment of a senior level executive to oversee and implement a company’s compliance program. Equally importantly, the compliance function must have “sufficient resources to ensure that the company’s compliance program is implemented effectively.” Finally, the compliance function should report to the company’s Board of Directors or an appropriate committee of the Board such as the Audit Committee. Overall, the DOJ and SEC will “consider whether the company devoted adequate staffing and resources to the compliance program given the size, structure, and risk profile of the business.”
  4. Risk Assessment. The Guidance states, “assessment of risk is fundamental to developing a strong compliance program”. Indeed, if there is one over-riding theme in the Guidance it is that a company should assess its risks in all areas of its business. The Guidance is also quite clear that when the DOJ and SEC look at a company’s overall compliance program, they “take into account whether and to what degree a company analyzes and addresses the particular risks it faces.” The Guidance lists factors that a company should consider in any risk assessment. They are “the country and industry sector, the business opportunity, potential business partners, level of involvement with governments, amount of government regulation and oversight, and exposure to customs and immigration in conducting business affairs.”
  5. Training and Continuing Advice. Communication of a compliance program is a cornerstone of any anti-corruption compliance program. The Guidance specifies that both the “DOJ and SEC will evaluate whether 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.” The training should be risk based so that those high-risk employees and third party business partners receive an appropriate level of training. A company should also devote appropriate resources to providing its employees with guidance and advice on how to comply with their own compliance program on an ongoing basis.
  6. Incentives and Disciplinary Measures. Initially the Guidance notes that a company’s compliance program should apply from “the board room to the supply room – no one should be beyond its reach.” There should be appropriate discipline in place and administered for any violation of the FCPA or a company’s compliance program. Additionally, the “DOJ and SEC recognize that positive incentives can also drive compliant behavior. These incentives can take many forms such as personnel evaluations and promotions, rewards for improving and developing a company’s compliance program, and rewards for ethics and compliance leadership.”
  7. Third-Party Due Diligence and Payments. The Guidance says that companies must engage in risk based due diligence to understand the “qualifications and associations of its third-party partners, including its business reputation, and relationship, if any, with foreign officials.” Next a company should articulate a business rationale for the use of the third party. This would include an evaluation of the payment arrangement to ascertain that the compensation is reasonable and will not be used as a basis for corrupt payments. Lastly, there should be ongoing monitoring of third parties.
  8. Confidential Reporting and Internal Investigation. This means more than simply a hotline. The Guidance suggests that anonymous reporting, and perhaps even a company ombudsman, might be appropriate to have in place for employees to report allegations of corruption or violations of the FCPA. Furthermore, it is just as important what a company does after an allegation is made. The Guidance states, “once an allegation is made, companies should have in place an efficient, reliable, and properly funded process for investigating the allegation and documenting the company’s response, including any disciplinary or remediation measures taken.” The final message is what did you learn from the allegation and investigation and did you apply it in your company?
  9. Continuous Improvement: Periodic Testing and Review. As noted in the Guidance, “compliance programs that do not just exist on paper but are followed in practice will inevitably uncover compliance weaknesses and require enhancements. Consequently, DOJ and SEC evaluate whether companies regularly review and improve their compliance programs and not allow them to become stale.” The DOJ/SEC expects that a company will review and test its compliance controls and “think critically” about its own weaknesses and risk areas. Internal controls should also be periodically tested through targeted audits.
  1. Mergers and Acquisitions.Pre-Acquisition Due Diligence and Post-Acquisition Integration.Here the DOJ and SEC spell out their expectations in not only the post-acquisition integration phase but also in the pre-acquisition phase. This pre-acquisition information was not something on which most companies had previously focused. A company should attempt to perform as much substantive compliance due diligence that it can do before it purchases a company. After the deal is closed, an acquiring entity needs to perform a FCPA audit, train all senior management and risk employees in the purchased company and integrate the acquired entity into its compliance regime.

II. Declinations

Many commentators such The FCPA Professor, Mike Volkov, myself and others have advocated that the DOJ release information about Declinations because they are an excellent source of information for the compliance practitioner about the DOJ’s thinking on FCPA enforcement issues. Indeed I had written, “In an area like Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA) enforcement, where guiding case law is largely non-existent, compliance practitioners must rely on the actions and decisions of federal enforcement agencies for information. Such information is available in the form of enforcement actions, the release of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs), and hypothetical fact patterns presented to the Department of Justice (DOJ) through its Opinion Release procedure. But one highly valuable source of guidance has been kept from regulated entities and their counsels: DOJ and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “declination” decisions, opinions which are drafted when the agencies decline to prosecute an individual or organization. A change is needed in this counterproductive policy. The release of substantive information on declinations would help foster greater compliance with the FCPA by providing practitioners with specific facts of circumstances where investigations did not result in an enforcement action.”

Whether the DOJ was answering any of the commentary, it hardly matters. But a significant section of the Guidance is dedicated specifically to six Declinations provided to companies which self-disclosed possible FCPA violations. The types of issues reported to the DOJ were as varied as mergers and acquisitions (M&A); actions by third parties on a company’s behalf which violated the FCPA; payments improperly made by company employees which were incorrectly characterized as facilitation payments; and illegal bribes paid out by a small group of company employees. From these Declinations, I derived the following points (1) The Company was alerted to possible corrupt conduct via its compliance program or internal controls. (2) Possible FCPA violations were self-reported or otherwise voluntarily disclosed to the DOJ/SEC. (3) The entities in question conducted a thorough internal investigation and shared the results with the DOJ/SEC. (4) The conduct violative of the FCPA was not pervasive and consisted of relatively small bribes or other corrupt payments. (5) The company took immediate corrective action against the person(s) engaging in the conduct. (6) Each company’s compliance program was expanded or enhanced and these enhancements were reflected in compliance training, internal process improvements and additional enhanced internal controls.

So here’s to the Guidance at the ripe of age of 2. Thanks for coming into all of our (compliance) lives. I have also held back the best for last; the Guidance is available for free on the DOJ website and you can download it 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

November 17, 2014

Opinion Release 14-02: Dis-Linking The Illegal Conduct Going Forward

Dis-linkOne of my favorite words in the context of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement is dis-link. I find it a useful adjective in explaining how certain conduct by a company must be separated from the winning of business. But it works on so many different levels when discussing the FCPA. Last week I thought about this concept of dis-linking when I read the second Opinion Release of 2014, that being 14-02. One of the clearest ways that the Department of Justice (DOJ) communicates is through the Opinion Release procedure. This procedure provides to the compliance practitioner solid and specific information about what steps a company needs to take in the pre-acquisition phase of due diligence. However, 14-02 directly answers many FCPA naysayers long incorrect claim about how companies step into FCPA liability through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity.

From the Opinion Release it was noted that the Requestor is a multinational company headquartered in the United States. Requestor desired to acquire a foreign consumer products company and it’s wholly owned subsidiary (collectively, the “Target”), both of which are incorporated and operate in a foreign country, never issuing securities in the United States. The Target had negligible business contacts in the US, including no direct sale or distribution of their products. In the course of its pre-acquisition due diligence of the Target, Requestor identified a number of likely improper payments by the Target to government officials of Foreign Country, as well as substantial weaknesses in accounting and recordkeeping. In light of the bribery and other concerns identified in the due diligence process, Requestor also detailed a plan for remedial pre-acquisition measures and post-acquisition integration steps. Requestor sought from the DOJ an Opinion as to whether the Department would then bring an FCPA enforcement action against Requestor for the Target’s pre-acquisition conduct. It was specifically noted that the Requestor did not seek an Opinion from the Department as to Requestor’s criminal liability for any post-acquisition conduct by the Target.

Improper Payments and Compliance Program Weaknesses

In preparing for the acquisition, Requestor undertook due diligence aimed at identifying, among other things, potential legal and compliance concerns at the Target. Requestor retained an experienced forensic accounting firm (“the Accounting Firm”) to carry out the due diligence review. This review brought to light evidence of apparent improper payments, as well as substantial accounting weaknesses and poor recordkeeping. The Accounting Firm reviewed approximately 1,300 transactions with a total value of approximately $12.9 million with over $100,000 in transactions that raised compliance issues. The vast majority of these transactions involved payments to government officials related to obtaining permits and licenses. Other transactions involved gifts and cash donations to government officials, charitable contributions and sponsorships, and payments to members of the state-controlled media to minimize negative publicity. None of the payments, gifts, donations, contributions, or sponsorships occurred in the US, none were made by or through a US person or issuer and apparently none went through a US bank.

The due diligence showed that the Target had significant recordkeeping deficiencies. Nonetheless, documentary records did not support the vast majority of the cash payments and gifts to government officials and the charitable contributions. There were expenses that were improperly and inaccurately classified. It was specifically noted that the accounting records were so disorganized that the Accounting Firm was unable to physically locate or identify many of the underlying records for the tested transactions. Finally, the Target had not developed or implemented a written code of conduct or other compliance policies and procedures, nor did the Target’s employees show an adequate understanding or awareness of anti-bribery laws and regulations.

Post-Acquisition Remediation

The Requestor presented several pre-closing steps to begin to remediate the Target’s weaknesses prior to the planned closing in 2015. Requestor aimed to complete the full integration of the Target into Requestor’s compliance and reporting structure within one year of the closing. Requestor has set forth an integration schedule of the Target that included various risk mitigation steps, dissemination and training with regard to compliance procedures and policies, standardization of business relationships with third parties, and formalization of the Target’s accounting and record-keeping in accordance with Requestor’s policies and applicable law.

DOJ Analysis

The DOJ noted black-letter letter when it stated, ““It is a basic principle of corporate law that a company assumes certain liabilities when merging with or acquiring another company. In a situation such as this, where a purchaser acquires the stock of a seller and integrates the target into its operations, successor liability may be conferred upon the purchaser for the acquired entity’s pre-existing criminal and civil liabilities, including, for example, for FCPA violations of the target. However this is tempered by the following from the 2012 FCPA Guidance, “Successor liability does not, however, create liability where none existed before. For example, if an issuer were to acquire a foreign company that was not previously subject to the FCPA’s jurisdiction, the mere acquisition of that foreign company would not retroactively create FCPA liability for the acquiring issuer.””

This means that because none of the payments were made in the US, none went through the US banking system and none involved a US person or entity that this would not lead to a creation of liability for the acquiring company. Moreover, there would be no continuing or ongoing illegal conduct going forward because “no contracts or other assets were determined to have been acquired through bribery that would remain in operation and from which Requestor would derive financial benefit following the acquisition.” Therefore there would be no jurisdiction under the FCPA to prosecute any person or entity involved after the acquisition.

The DOJ also provided this additional information, “To be sure, the Department encourages companies engaging in mergers and acquisitions to (1) conduct thorough risk-based FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence; (2) implement the acquiring company’s code of conduct and anti-corruption policies as quickly as practicable; (3) conduct FCPA and other relevant training for the acquired entity’s directors and employees, as well as third-party agents and partners; (4) conduct an FCPA-specific audit of the acquired entity as quickly as practicable; and (5) disclose to the Department any corrupt payments discovered during the due diligence process. See FCPA Guide at 29. Adherence to these elements by Requestor may, among several other factors, determine whether and how the Department would seek to impose post-acquisition successor liability in case of a putative violation.”

Discussion

Mike Volkov calls it ‘reading the tea leaves’ when it comes to what information the DOJ is communicating. However, sometimes I think it is far simpler. First, and foremost, 14-02 communicates that there is no such thing as ‘springing liability’ to an acquiring company in the FCPA context nor such a thing as simply buying a FCPA violation, simply through an acquisition only, there must be continuing conduct for FCPA liability to arise. Most clearly beginning with the FCPA Guidance, the DOJ and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have communicated what companies need to do in any M&A environment. While many compliance practitioners had only focused on the post-acquisition integration and remediation; the clear import of 14-02 is to re-emphasize importance of the pre-acquisition phase.

Your due diligence must being in the pre-acquisition phase. The steps taken by the Requestor in this Opinion Release demonstrate some of the concrete steps that you can take. Some of the techniques you can use in the pre-acquisition phase include (1) having your internal or external legal, accounting, and compliance departments review a target’s sales and financial data, its customer contracts, and its third-party and distributor agreements; (2) performing a risk-based analysis of a target’s customer base; (3) performing an audit of selected transactions engaged in by the target; and (4) engaging in discussions with the target’s general counsel, vice president of sales, and head of internal audit regarding all corruption risks, compliance efforts, and any other major corruption-related issues that have surfaced at the target over the past ten years.

Whether you can make these inquiries or not, you will also need to engage in post-acquisition integration and remediation. 14-02 provides you with some of the steps you need to perform after the transaction is closed. If you cannot perform any or even an adequate pre-acquisition due diligence, the time frames you put in place after the acquisition closes may need to be compressed to make sure that you are not continuing any nefarious FCPA conduct going forward. But it all goes back to dis-linking. If a target is engaging in conduct that violates the FCPA but the target itself is not subject to the jurisdiction of the FCPA, you simply cannot afford to allow that conduct to continue. If you do allow such conduct to continue you will have bought a FCPA violation and your company will be actively engaging and participating in an ongoing FCPA violation. That is the final takeaway I derive from this Opinion Release; it is allowing corruption and bribery to continue which brings companies into FCPA grief. Opinion Release 14-02 provides you a roadmap of the steps you and your company can take to prevent such FCPA exposure.

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

June 16, 2014

Watergate is Not Just a Hotel – Corporate Suitors for Alstom

Watergate ComplexToday is the anniversary of an event that can truly be said to have changed the world; although certainly not in the manner intended by its planners, sponsors or participants. Today is the anniversary of the 1972 Watergate Break-In. How much of the world has changed because of this event? We certainly would not have had Jimmy Carter as the US President and most probably would not have had the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) passed into law during his administration. Would Ronald Reagan have become President four years earlier in 1976 rather than 1980? Who knows, but, if yes, would the Soviet Union have collapsed sooner under the weight of his military buildup? What about the fall of the Shah and the taking of the US hostages, think Reagan would have had a more ‘robust’ response than Carter? All tantalizing questions for those interested in the great What Ifs of history.

Over the weekend, I read that the long shuttered Watergate complex is scheduled to be torn down to make way for a more modern office edifice in its most desirable of Washington DC locations. This reminded me of one of my favorite Watergate era slogans “And Watergate was not just a hotel!” Indeed it was not just a building, rather an entire mindset of a presidency that went seriously off the rails.

Interestingly I found a parallel to this slogan when reading about the overtures by General Electric (GE), then Siemens and also Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to purchase some or all of the French company Alstom. These offers are in spite of Alstom’s very public current anti-corruption issues, in several countries. Mike Volkov, in a blog post entitled “Alstom: The Next Poster Child for Anti-Corruption Enforcement”, said “In our FCPA world, we have a new poster child for blundering – Alstom. The handwriting is on the wall – as time goes on, the Justice Department is building a bigger and bigger FCPA case against Alstom. One of my favorite Dylan lyrics applies with full force – “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Further, “Clearly we have a case where the client company just does not understand what is going on, nor does senior leadership have the ability or desire to respond and fix the problems. Instead, Alstom’s failure to act and respond reflects the lack of any ethical culture. That in a nutshell is probably 90 percent of the reason that a culture of bribery took over the company.” Pretty strong stuff.

Four senior executives have been charged for FCPA violations around one project. The FCPA Professor reported, “The conduct at issue concerned the Tarahan coal-fired steam power plant project in Indonesia.” All were charged around the same set of facts. They are alleged to have paid bribes to officials in Indonesia, including a member of Indonesian Parliament and high-ranking members of Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company, in exchange for those officials’ assistance in securing a contract for the company to provide power-related services for the citizens of Indonesia, known as the Tarahan project.” Two of the four Alstom executives have pled guilty to FCPA violations.

Over the weekend, the Financial Times (FT) reported, in an article by Caroline Binham, entitled “UK prosecutors press on with Alstom probe”, that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been given permission by the UK attorney-general to prosecute both the company and former employees for allegations of overseas bribery. The SFO “has also notified seven individuals but is considering whether to prosecute them after they were interviewed with the assistance of French authorities, people familiar with the investigation told the Financial Times…Among those who received letters from the SFO are the company’s former senior vice-president of ethics and compliance, Jean-Daniel Lainé, and three Britons who formerly held senior management positions: Graham Hall, Robert Hallett and Nicholas Reynolds.” All of the individuals identified in the FT article do not appear to have been a part of the Indonesia power project, which appears to form the basis of the FCPA charges here in the US.

So why such high level suitors for a company of which Volkov has opined, “It is an important reminder of how bad a company’s culture can become and the consequences of embracing a culture of lawlessness versus a culture of ethics and integrity.” What about all that ‘Springing Liability’ for which both Siemens and GE might be liable for if they are successful in purchasing some or all of Alstom that the US Chamber of Commerce and others rail about? I think that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) answered these questions in the FCPA Guidance when they stated, “companies that conduct effective FCPA due diligence on their acquisition targets are able to evaluate more accurately each target’s value and negotiate for the costs of the bribery to be borne by the target. In addition, such actions demonstrate to DOJ and SEC a company’s commitment to compliance and are taken into account when evaluating any potential enforcement action.” But pre-acquisition work is only one part of the equation, as the FCPA Guidance goes on to state, “FCPA due diligence, however, is normally only a portion of the compliance process for mergers and acquisitions. DOJ and SEC evaluate whether the acquiring company promptly incorporated the acquired company into all of its internal controls, including its compliance program.Companies should consider training new employees, reevaluating third parties under company standards, and, where appropriate, conducting audits on new business units.”

One thing that GE and Siemens have in common are world-class compliance programs. Siemens was the subject of the highest FCPA fine ever at $800MM back in 2008. Since that time, it has successfully concluded a robust monitorship under the terms of its Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA). Siemens compliance representatives regularly speak at compliance related events and discuss not only the company’s commitment to anti-corruption compliance but they also detail how compliance is done at Siemens. GE is well known for having its compliance folks regularly speak at conferences about the details of its compliance regime. In other words, both companies’ have very public robust compliance regimes in place and most probably follow, at a minimum, the parameters set out in the FCPA Guidance.

Just as “And Watergate is not just a hotel!”; Springing Liability is not a warranted fear under the FCPA. The FCPA Guidance makes clear the steps a company should engage in under the FCPA to avoid liability in a mergers and acquisition (M&A) context. The steps are not only relatively straightforward; they are good business steps to take. If you do not know what you are looking to acquire, it is certainly hard to evaluate it properly and then to integrate it efficiently.

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 6, 2014

Remember the Alamo: Analogy for Compliance Officers?

Remember the AlamoToday is the anniversary of the most historic day of many in the history of the great state of Texas, the date of the fall of the Alamo. While March 2, Texas Independence Day, when Texas declared its independence from Mexico and April 21, San Jacinto Day, when Texas won its independence from Mexico, probably both have more long-lasting significance, if it is one word that Texas is known for around the world, it is the Alamo. The Alamo was a crumbling Catholic mission in San Antonio where 189 men, held out for 13 days from the Mexican Army of General Santa Anna, which numbered approximately 1,800. But on this date in 1836, Santa Anna unleashed his forces, which over-ran the mission and killed all the fighting men. Those who did not die in the attack were executed and all the deceased bodies were unceremoniously burned. Proving he was not without chivalry, Santa Anna spared the lives of the Alamo’s women, children and their slaves. But for Texans across the globe, this is our day to Remember the Alamo.

While Thermopylae will always go down as the greatest ‘Last Stand’ battle in history, the Alamo is right up there in contention for Number 2. Like all such battles sometimes the myth becomes the legend and the legend becomes the reality. In Thermopylae, the myth is that 300 Spartans stood against the entire 10,000 man Persian Army. However there was also a force of 700 Thespians (not actors; but citizens from the City-State of Thespi) and a contingent of 400 Thebans who fought and died alongside the 300 Spartans. Somehow, their sacrifice has been lost to history.

Likewise, the legend that lifts the battle of the Alamo to the land of myth is the line in the sand. The story goes that William Barrett Travis, on the day before the final attack, when it was clear that no reinforcements would arrive in time and everyone who stayed would perish; called all his men into the plaza of the compound. He then pulled out his saber and drew a line in the ground. He said that they were surrounded and would all likely die if they stayed. Any man who wanted to stay and die for Texas should cross the line and stand with him. Only one man, Moses Rose, declined to cross the line. The immediate survivors of the battle did not relate this story after they were rescued and this line in the sand tale did not appear until the 1880s.

But the thing about ‘last stand’ battles is they generally turn out badly for the losers.  Very badly. I thought about this when a former Department of Justice (DOJ) official said at Compliance Week last year that he viewed anti-corruption compliance officials as “The Alamo” in terms of the last line of defense in the context of preventing violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). I gingerly raised my hand and acknowledged his tribute to the great state of Texas but pointed out that all the defenders were slaughtered, so perhaps another analogy was appropriate. Everyone had a good laugh back then at the conference. But in reflecting on the history of my state and what the Alamo means to us all; I have wondered if my initial response too facile?

What happens to a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner when they have to make a stand? Do they make the ultimate corporate sacrifice? Will they receive the equivalent of a corporate execution as the defenders of the Alamo received? This worrisome issue has certainly occurred even if the person ‘resigned to pursue other opportunities.’ My fellow FCPA Blog Contributing Editor Michael Scher has been a leading voice for the protection of compliance officers, as have Donna Boehme and Michael Volkov. In a post entitled “Michael Scher Talks to the Feds” he quotes, “a compliance officer (CO) working in Asia asked for recognition and protection: “A CO will not stand up against the huge pressure to maintain compliance standards if he does not get sufficient protection under law. Most COs working in overseas operations of U.S. companies are not U.S. citizens, but they usually are first to find the violations. Since the FCPA deals with foreign corruption, how could the DOJ and SEC not protect these COs?”” In the same post, he asked of the DOJ “Wal-Mart’s compliance officers and professionals allegedly were intentionally obstructed by senior executives from conducting a compliance review and subjected to career-ending retaliation. If confirmed, will the DOJ and SEC’s settlement demonstrate that such harassment of compliance professionals is not condoned? Will the DOJ and SEC also make it clear that compliance officers working for multi-national companies like Wal-Mart in countries outside of America will receive the same protections as those working in America?”

Writing about the MF Global scandal in the New York Times (NYT) in an article entitled “Another View: MF Global’s Corporate Governance Lesson” Michael Peregrine stated that the “compliance officer is the equivalent of a “protected class” for governance purposes, and the sooner leadership gets that, the better.” Particularly in the post Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) world, a company’s CCO is a “linchpin in organizational efforts to comply with applicable law.” When a company fires (or asks him/her to resign), it is a significant decision for all involved in corporate governance and should not be solely done at the discretion of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Jonathan Marks has long advocated that the departure of a CCO from a company is such a material event that it should be disclosed by public companies.

In the area of anti-money laundering (AML) compliance professionals, Reuters reported, in an article entitled “Bankers anxious over anti-money-laundering push to go after individuals”, that at the Securities Industry Financial Markets Association conference, John Davidson, E*Trade Financial’s global head of AML, said that the “new push by regulators and lawmakers to hold individuals, rather than just institutions, accountable for regulatory violations involving money laundering is spooking members of the U.S. financial industry.” He further said that this aggressive trend and a new vigorous AML bill, introduced in Congress by Representative Maxine Waters, entitled “Holding Individuals Accountable and Deterring Money Laundering Act”, were all “a little scary.” He found the trend towards more AML enforcement against individuals “an incredibly disturbing trend.” The reason it is so scary, an un-named top level compliance officer said, is “that compliance officers at the largest Wall Street institutions were feeling especially nervous because the power structures in those institutions sometimes did not give compliance officers enough authority to act.”

Upon further reflection I now believe the Alamo reference appropriate for compliance officers. It is because sometimes we have to draw a line in the sand to management. And when we do, we have to cross that line to get on the right side of the issue, the consequences be damned. Remember the Alamo!

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

September 24, 2013

Don’t Butt-Slide into Second Base: Be a Better Company

Most fortunately, the final week of the baseball season is here. This means that I no longer have to contend with living in the same city as the joke of an alleged major league team – the Houston Astros, at least when the regular season ends next week, the Astros stop playing and the play-offs begin. To say that the Astros season has been ridiculous for masquerading as a Major League Baseball (MLB) team would be a compliment but it moved to the absurd last week as one play summed it up better than anything that I could have made up – the butt-slide play. In this play, Astros shortstop, Jonathan Villar, slid face first into the butt-cheek of Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. (For a video clip of the play, click here.)

The butt-slide play sums up the Astros 2013 season of futility. From the start of the season, with a team made up of largely AAA players, to the end of a season made up mostly of A-AA players. In between we’ve been treated to the Astros ending a 23 year relationship with the Astros wives charity, via a terse one-line email (i.e. you’re fired); to the interview of owner Jim Crane who informed us that he had made $100MM in the trucking business so he must be the smartest guy in the room; to a current 105 losses while on their way to yet another record-loss season; let’s not forget their TV contract with Comcast and the fabulous viewing figures recorded on Sunday by the Nielsen rating service, which racked up a fantastic score of 0.00, with an average audience of zero households viewing the game and, finally, all of this while being the most profitable team in the history of MLB. But, still, the ‘butt-slide’ says it all. When your slide into second base becomes not only a metaphor for the team’s entire season but fodder for an entire nation’s laughingstock, it really is time to cash it in.

Yesterday in the FCPA Blog, in a post entitled “Who Speaks for the Compliance Officers?”, Michael Scher said “The [International] Chamber [of Commerce] apparently will not be satisfied until there is little or no enforcement.” Scher’s statement was based on the letter that the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) complaining about the FCPA Guidance, issued last year, which as Scher stated, “The letter has been correctly criticized for off-target “belly-aching.”” Scher’s criticism follows that of Michael Volkov,  see his blog post “FCPA “Reform”: Another Shot in the Dark” in Corruption,  Crime and Compliance and Jessica Tillipman’s blog post “Let’s Just Be Honest for a Moment” also in the FCPA Blog.

Instead of whining and belly-aching there might be another way for corporate America, and indeed the ICC, to approach the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance. That path was laid about by Leslie Dach, in an article in the October issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR), entitled “Don’t Spin a Better, Story. Be a Better Company”. The article was quite interesting for the following information which appeared with the author’s credentials, “Leslie Dach wrote this column shortly before stepping down as the executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart. He previously served as vice chairman of Edelman, a global communications firm.” While this statement certainly does not make clear why Dach left Wal-Mart, (i.e. did he ‘resign to pursue other opportunities’?) it does give one pause for some reflection.

Nevertheless, I found Dach’s thesis quite interesting. Dach’s bottom line is that he believes “it is a huge mistake to assume that once you’ve explained your perspective, the public will embrace you…I know what doesn’t work: thinking you can tell a better story without actually becoming a better company.” Ultimately Dach advises, “If a drumbeat of criticism starts up against your company, don’t rush to raise your voice above it. Stop to listen. And commit to getting better.” Dach detailed several areas inside the company where goals such as sustainability, women’s economic empowerment and more-healthful food were “compatible with building a stronger business.” He cited Wal-Mart’s increased efficiency of its trucking fleet and turning its waste stream into recycling income as examples of sustainability. He said that buying from local, women-owned businesses strengthened the company’s ties with local communities. He said that offering more healthful food meant more relevant products for the company’s consumers.

I thought about Dach’s ideas in the context of Wal-Mart and other companies which are going through very public FCPA-based or other corruption investigations. Publicly released information indicates that Wal-Mart may be spending over $1MM per day on their ongoing internal investigation and getting their compliance program up to speed. But what if the company took it a step further and applied Dach’s ideas to compliance. In his article he wrote about the company’s efforts to source $20bn of products from women-owned businesses. This took a concerted effort to identify which merchandising areas had the potential to produce such an amount of product, which the company could sell in its stores. This was coupled with incentives for the company’s buyers to show progress in purchasing goods from women-owned enterprises. But even more the company “took a 360-degree approach to the work, engaging our entire supply chain and our customers, communities, and employees.” Here is the part I liked best about Dach’s piece,  while the tone was set by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mike Duke “ultimately, the challenge isn’t the CEO’s job, or one person’s job; it is everyone’s job.”

Last December Matt Ellis wrote a great piece on his blog site, FCPAméricas, entitled “Wal-Mart, Go Big on FCPA Compliance”, where he challenged the company to innovate in compliance “by playing to its strengths.”  He cited examples of work in the company’s supply chain; its opportunities to “educate foreign audiences on [anti-corruption] compliance” through teaching persons in the communities where it has locations on “how to identify and avoid risks of petty corruption.” Ellis ended his piece with the following, “Wal-Mart has the spotlight. Time will tell if it chooses to use it.”

I think that Dach’s challenge to create a better company, coupled with Ellis’ specific challenge for Wal-Mart to go big for compliance, present an excellent juxtaposition to the whining and belly-aching of the ICC. Rather than claim that the FCPA is (1) too difficult to understand; (2) too hard to follow; and (3) unfair, they could advocate Dach’s approach to use the law as a basis to become better businesses. I cannot think of any non-criminal enterprises which aver that they want to do business unethically and corruptly. Companies faced with intense FCPA or other anti-corruption law scrutiny, such as GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK), might well take this opportunity to move outside the ordinary and become better companies by doing compliance right and better. Such actions would not only put them in better stead with the regulators but make them better companies. In other words, don’t simply whine like the ICC and butt-slide into second base.

Also, as it appears Leslie Dach is no longer working for Wal-Mart, they may want to give him a call to help them figure out how to do so.

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Episode 6 of the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report is up. In this episode, I talk about the role of senior management in a compliance program. To watch or listen, click 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, 2013

September 8, 2013

Star Trek Premiers and Hiring Practices under the FCPA

Today is the 46th anniversary of the premier episode of the most iconic science fiction related television show during my lifetime – Star Trek. I am a self-confessed uber-trekkie and I can still remember watching the first episode, The Man Trap. So here’s to you, all the crew members of the Starship Enterprise, you have had a great run and I can only hope it keeps going on yet another five year mission “Where no man has gone before.”

I.                   JP Morgan’s Hiring Practice Inquiry

Last month the New York Times (NYT) reported that JP Morgan Chase is under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) scrutiny in China for its hiring practices. In an article, entitled “Hiring in China By JPMorgan Under Scrutiny”, reporters Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Ben Protess and David Barboza broke the story that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating JP Morgan Chase to determine “whether JPMorgan Chase hired the children of powerful Chinese officials to help the bank win lucrative business in the booming nation.” The article is based upon “a confidential United States government document”.

The article details several situations where JPMorgan hired the children of Chinese government officials and sometime thereafter the bank was able to secure work from the business or industry of a parent of a hired employee. The examples included the hiring of a “son of a former Chinese banking regulator who is now the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate, according to the document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, as well as public records. After the chairman’s son came on board, JPMorgan secured multiple coveted assignments from the Chinese conglomerate, including advising a subsidiary of the company on a stock offering, records show.” In another instance, the bank hired the daughter of a Chinese railway official. After hiring the daughter, JP Morgan was hired to assist the company to go public.

Things got worse when Dawn Kopecki, in a Bloomberg article entitled “JPMorgan Bribe Probe Said to Expand in Asia as Spreadsheet Is Found”, reported that there was “an internal spreadsheet that linked appointments to specific deals pursued by the bank”.  She noted that the original investigation, which began in Hong Kong, has now been expanded to other countries in Asia and that JP Morgan “has opened an internal investigation that has flagged more than 200 hires for review, said two people with knowledge of the examination, results of which JPMorgan is sharing with regulators.” Kopecki quoted Dan Hurson, a former US prosecutor and SEC lawyer who runs his own Washington practice, who said that the “SEC will hunt for evidence showing “these weren’t real jobs, that they were only there because their father or mother were important public officials”; and “If the public official requested the job for the child, that would be a strong indication to the company that the official was seeking and receiving something of value.” Perhaps more damaging was that the spreadsheet had information which apparently linked “some hiring decisions to specific transactions pursued by the bank.”

In a later NYT article, entitled “JPMorgan Hiring Put China’s Elite on an Easy Track”, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Ben Protess further reported that the JP Morgan hiring program even had its own name, which was ‘Sons & Daughters’. Although the program was originally set up to provide transparency and visibility into the hiring process which might implicate FCPA issues, they reported that it went badly “off track”. Under the Sons & Daughters hiring program, a two-tiered track was created in the hiring process; one for regular applicants and one for children of Chinese officials. However, as time passed the program began to be used to allow for fewer job interviews and relaxed hiring standards for the candidates in the program. This allowed the company to hire some candidates who had “subpar academic records and lacked relevant expertise.”

II.                Steps for the Compliance Practitioner

For the compliance practitioner, the first thing to note is that there is no per se prohibition against hiring the son or daughter of a foreign government official. As noted by the FCPA Professor in the original NYT article, “While the hire of a son or daughter itself is not illegal, red flags would be raised if the person hired was not qualified for the position, or, for example, if a firm never received business before and then lo and behold, the hire brought in business.” In a blog post entitled “Regarding Princelings And Family Members” the FCPA Professor cited three Opinion Releases; 82-04, 84-01, and 95-03 where the Department of Justice (DOJ) looked at the hypothetical facts presented around the hiring of a family member of a foreign official as an agent or representative and found that the facts as presented, did not give rise to a FCPA violation.

Mike Volkov, writing his Corruption, Crime and Compliance blog, in a post entitled “All in the Family: Enforcement Focus on Hiring of Relatives of Foreign Officials”, said that “The issue boils down to corrupt intent – was the hiring made with the intent to improperly influence a government official?  That is not an easy question to answer since no one is a reader but the facts surrounding the hiring can certainly give some insight into what the company’s actor was intending when the relative was hired.” He cautioned that the task of the compliance practitioner is to (as I refer to it) ‘dis-link’ the hiring decision by the company from the obtaining or retaining of business from the foreign government official concerned. Volkov listed ten key questions which need to be addressed in the hiring process.

  1. Who, if anyone, at the company is sponsoring/supporting the applicant?
  2. How did this applicant come to the company’s attention?
  3. What is the applicant’s relationship to the foreign official?
  4. What involvement, if any, has the foreign official had with the company relating to the applicant’s interest?
  5. In which office/division does the foreign official serve?
  6. How important is this specific office/division to the company’s business relationship with the foreign government?
  7. Is the applicant qualified for the position that he/she has applied?
  8. Has the applicant (or will the applicant) be subject to the normal hiring process?
  9. Has the company completed a due diligence review of the applicant and the foreign official to identify any corruption risks?
  10. Has the company or any representative provided any assurance to the foreign official or the applicant that the applicant will be hired?

I would add that the follow up to Volkov’s points is that all decisions made must be documented. This means that all information regarding the hiring process needs to be kept in a repository which can be called up for review if called upon by a government regulator. I have often said that your company’s HR function needs to be a key component of your overall FCPA compliance program and the JP Morgan investigations reinforces that need. So if you need to provide more compliance training to your HR department on this issue, now would be an excellent time for you to do so.

How does all of the above tie into the premier of Star Trek? Easy – do not get caught in the trap of hiring in violation of the FCPA when some simple and frankly necessary steps can help keep you out of hot water. And while doing that click here for a YouTube video of the iconic opening theme from Star Trek.

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

August 16, 2013

Where’s The Ball? Lesson for the Compliance Practitioner in China

Where’s the ball? That iconic question was asked by Oakland A’s center fielder Chris Young to Houston Astro left fielder Robbie Grossman near second base late Wednesday night, as Grossman was returning to the dugout after robbing Young of a game-winning walk-off home run by literally catching Young’s shot after it was over the left field fence. Grossman obliged Young as he passed second base, opening up his glove with a big grin on his face, to show that he did indeed have the ball. (For a clip of Young’s shot and Grossman’s catch, click here. Young’s question “Where’s the ball?” is at the 23 second mark.)

I thought about that question when I read an article in the Financial Times (FT), entitled “China drug bribe probes broaden”, where reporters Patti Waldmeir, Jamil Anderlini and Andrew Jack wrote that Chinese authorities are widening their probe of western pharmaceutical companies. In one example cited it was stated that the government of Shanghai “told hospitals to look for corruption in the purchasing and prescribing of drugs, as well as in clinical trials conducted with hospital participation.” This broadening also included investigations of doctors. Separately the State Administration for Industry and Commerce announced that it would investigate “bribery, fraud and anti-competitive practices in a range of industries that touch the lives of consumers, from drugs and medical services to school admissions.”

Whether the focus on the corruption by western companies is based on politics, nationalism, the rising cost of domestic drugs or any other reason, it really does not matter, however, it could mean that in addition to investigation and potential enforcement by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); the Chinese themselves may take up the task. If that is the case there will most probably be cooperation between the various investigative agencies involved. All of that means more pain for the companies involved.

Over the past couple of days Mike Volkov has provided information to the compliance practitioner to assist in this new world order in China. In a blog post, entitled “China and Compliance Solutions: Choking Off the Money Supply” and webinar, entitled “How to Avoid Corruption Risks in China”, Volkov gave some specific suggestions for the compliance professional to utilize in the current enforcement environment in China. In his webinar, he said that western companies operating in China need to understand that the cost of compliance will exceed other countries. While there is certainly an upside in revenues from China business, it also involves greater compliance costs and risks. Companies need to construct enhanced compliance controls and implement aggressive monitoring programs, demand adherence to strict documentation policies and to integrate non-Chinese controls and personnel into China operations to supervise and monitor the local operations.

Volkov identified third party risks as the greatest risk because companies have a limited ability to control the outgoing of their monies much more than companies usually do of their own. Some of the key questions that need to be explored in the due diligence process include what specific services will the third parties be used for and have you verified that the potential agent can deliver those services? You need to care that there is an absence of relationship between your Chinese employees and third party. You also need to inquire about how the third party came to the company’s attention? So, for instance, does it have an internal sponsor in your company? Volkov notes that not only must audit rights be secured by western companies; they need to exercise those rights. Lastly, he advises that any unjustified expenditures have to be aggressively pursued both through the audit process and into the investigative process, if needed.

Volkov believes that a key control involves focusing on internal expenditure. Unfortunately, he notes that external auditors often rely on Chinese affiliates, who he believes are “notorious for bending to company resistance to auditing standards and inquiries.” Therefore companies need to require their external auditors to install quality controls. Companies should also demand strict adherence to auditing standards. He suggests that there should be both forensic auditing and transaction testing to review individual receipts and transactions. Lastly, he suggests that money should only be doled out through strict supervision by a non-Chinese controller.

In his blog post, Volkov drills down into some specific protections that a company can take to control its cash outlays in China to try and prevent some of the more well-known bribery schemes. He believes that “The strategy for compliance is then to focus on access to the money which the bribe payor needs to complete the bribe. Resources and controls need to be allocated and designed based on this analysis and focus.” He provides two scenarios where bribery and corruption can occur and two possible strategies to combat such actions.

In the first scenario, a company employee obtains company money by fraud and then pays a government official. Under this scenario, a company employee uses a fake invoice(s), which is typically required in China to satisfy tax authorities. The fake invoice, which may involve another party as the recipient of the payment, is a means by which to “steal” the money from the company and use it for an improper purpose. This was the bribery scheme used by Eli Lilly’s employees in China where employees submitted false expense accounts and used the difference to fund their bribery scheme.

Volkov’s prescription for this is that the company’s compliance function must ensure that internal financial controls are scrupulously followed, so that any potential fake invoice is identified in advance.  He believes whether the offender is an ex-pat or a local employee it is important to enforce such rules, it is an issue which can be debated and the outcome will depend on the personal and the specific situation facing the company. The reason would seem rather self-obvious; that is, if no one is watching the invoicing process, verifying the accuracy of the invoice and ensuring that the payment is justified, money will slip out from the company for bribes. But, then again, maybe not given the paucity of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions in China. This means the focus of internal controls should include not only fake invoices but systems, procedures and forms to ensure that only approved and appropriate payments are made.

Under his second scenario, Volkov cites the situation where a company employee enlists the assistance of an agent to make direct payments to a foreign official to ensure that the government official purchases the company’s product or service. The company employee knows that the third party is used (or will be used) for legitimate and improper payments. The company employee knows that some of the invoices submitted by the third party are for legitimate services and some are for non-existent services and used to finance bribe payments. Sounds sort of like GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s (GSK) China operation to me.

To help counteract this second bribery and corruption scenario, Volkov recommends that “China-focused compliance strategy to reduce illegal money flows through third parties requires enhanced resources and controls to conduct due diligence, monitoring of money payments, justification for every payment, and enhanced monitoring elements. Each payment has to be fully justified, documented and corroborated. Monitoring techniques have to include detailed transaction testing and in-depth compliance and financial audits.” He once again cautions that the objective is to concentrate compliance on the movement of each dollar, confirm the legitimacy, and look for any signs of potential funding of bribery through the third party.

We started out with the question of “Where’s the Ball?” Just as Chris Young thought it was prudent to verify that indeed the Astros outfielder had caught his near game-winning, walk-off home run; you need to be prepared to ask some direct questions in your Chinese operations. If you do not see the ball or you do not get direct answers, my suggestion is that you gear up and get some people in place who can do so. Otherwise you might end up like our friends at GSK.

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

July 9, 2013

Significant FCPA Enforcement Actions in 2013 – Individuals

77 years – that is how long Great Britain went without a native son winning the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon. This past Sunday that drought ended when Andy Murray won the coveted trophy in a straight set win over Novak Djokovic. This year’s championship was a wild ride, with the incredible upsets in the early rounds and the decimation of the women’s favorites by the semi-finals. But it was Murray’s year and his hoisting the Wimbledon Cup on Sunday was certainly one for the ages. Well done, Andy.

As singles tennis is that most individual of sports, it seems proper that in today’s post, I will discuss the individual Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions in the year to-date. Both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) made clear in the first half of this year that they will aggressively enforce the FCPA against individuals. Mike Volkov has gone so far as to predict that “It is clear that FCPA enforcement for 2013 will go down as the year of criminal prosecutions of individuals.”

A.     BizJet Executives

The lineup of those three BizJet executives and one employee involved in these enforcement actions is as follows:

  1. Bernd Kowalewski – President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO);
  2. Peter DuBois – Vice President of Sales and Marketing;
  3. Neal Uhl – Vice President of Finance; and
  4. Jald Jensen – Regional Sales Manager

Defendants DuBois and Uhl pled guilty in January, 2012 and had their pleas unsealed on April 5, 2013. Defendants Kowalewski and Jensen were charged by Criminal Indictment, also in January, 2012, but are still at large today. The DOJ Press Release states that “The two remaining defendants are believed to remain abroad.” The bribes were characterized as “commission payments” and “referral fees” on the company’s books and records. Payments were made from both international and company bank accounts here in the US. In other words, this was as clear a case of a pattern and practice of bribery, authorized by the highest levels of the company, paid through US banks and attempts to hide all of the above by mis-characterizing them in the company’s books and records.

B.     Alstom Executives

In April, Two individuals from a company later identified as Alstom were charged or had their charges made public in April. According to a DOJ Press Release dated April 16, 2013, “Frederic Pierucci, 45, a current company executive [of Alstom] who previously held the position of vice president of global sales for the Connecticut-based U.S. subsidiary, was charged in an indictment unsealed yesterday in the District of Connecticut with conspiring to violate the FCPA and to launder money, as well as substantive charges of violating the FCPA and money laundering.” Pierucci was arrested. Additionally, former Alstom executive “David Rothschild, 67, of Massachusetts, a former vice president of sales for the Connecticut-based U.S. subsidiary, pleaded guilty on Nov. 2, 2012, to a criminal information charging one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.” In May, the FCPA Blog reported that a third Alstom executive was charged. William Pomponi, a former Vice President of Sales for Alstom’s US subsidiary was indicted for conspiring to violate the FCPA and to launder money, as well as substantive FCPA and money laundering offenses.

All three were charged around the same set of facts, that being the payment of bribes to officials in Indonesia, including a member of Indonesian Parliament and high-ranking members of Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company, in exchange for assistance in securing a contract for the company to provide power-related services for the citizens of Indonesia, known as the Tarahan project. The charges allege that, in order to conceal the bribes, the defendants retained two consultants purportedly to provide legitimate consulting services on behalf of the power company and its subsidiaries in connection with the Tarahan project.

C.     Frederic Cilins

In a blog post, entitled “The Danger of FCPA “Proactive” Investigations”, Mike Volkov stated “At the recent Dow Jones Compliance Symposium in Washington, D.C., an FBI official warned the attendees that the Shot Show debacle would not deter law enforcement from using proactive investigations techniques. It was a stark warning because it was realized in less than thirty days.” This was dramatically demonstrated with the arrest of Frederic Cilins, in April.

An article in the Financial Times (FT), entitled “FBI sting says that ‘agent’ sought to have mining contracts destroyed”, reported that “Frederic Cilins held the last of a series of meetings with the widow of an African dictator to discuss what she was going to do with some sensitive documents.” What were these ‘sensitive documents’? The FT reported that it had seen “some of the documents” and “According to one copy of a contract seen by the FT” it appeared to agree to pay $4m the wife of the then President of the country to help to secure rights to a mining concession in Guinea. Unfortunately for Cilins he “did not realise that the woman he was talking to was wearing a wire and that FBI agents were watching. As he left the meeting, the agents arrested him carrying envelopes filled with $20,000 in cash, the indictment says. That was a pittance compared with the $5m he was taped offering the dictator’s widow during what US authorities say was a two-month campaign to tamper with a witness and destroy records.”

Cilins has been charged with obstruction of justice and was remanded to Manhattan for trial. After bail was initially set at $15MM, Cilins requested that it be reduced. The trial judge, William H. Pauley III threw the $15MM bail out, and set a trial date for Dec. 2, 2013.

D.    Uriel Sharef – Siemens

Uriel Sharef was a former officer and board member of Siemens. According to the SEC Press Release announcing resolution of his matter, “The settlement resolves the Commission’s civil action against Sharef for his role in Siemens’ decade-long bribery scheme to retain a $1 billion government contract to produce national identity cards for Argentine citizens. The final judgment, to which Sharef consented, enjoins him from violating the anti-bribery and related internal controls provisions of the FCPA and orders him to pay a $275,000 civil penalty, the second highest penalty assessed against an individual in an FCPA case.”

The SEC Press Release stated that “Sharef met with payment intermediaries in the United States and agreed to pay $27 million in bribes to Argentine officials. Sharef also enlisted subordinates to conceal the payments by circumventing Siemens’ internal accounting controls.”

E.     Paul Novak – Willbros

In April, the DOJ announced the sentencing of Paul G. Novak, a former consultant of Willbros International, Inc., a subsidiary of the Houston based Willbros Group, for his role in a conspiracy to pay more than $6 million in bribes to government officials of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and officials from a Nigerian political party. According to the DOJ Press Release announcing the sentencing, “Novak pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA. Novak admitted that from approximately late-2003 to March 2005, he conspired with others to make a series of corrupt payments”. Novak was sentenced to serve 15 months in a federal prison.

The sentencing continues the long running saga of the company over efforts by Willbros, Novak, certain employees and others to make a series of corrupt payments totaling more than $6 million to various Nigerian government officials and officials from a Nigerian political party to assist Willbros and its joint venture partner, a construction company based in Mannheim, Germany, in obtaining and retaining the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS) Project, which was valued at approximately $387 million. The EGGS project was a natural gas pipeline system in the Niger Delta designed to relieve existing pipeline capacity constraints.

F.     Direct Access Partners

In May, the FCPA Blog, in a post entitled “Two traders and a bank official charged for Venezuela bribes”, reported that two brokers, Tomas Alberto Clarke Bethancourt and Jose Alejandro Hurtado, affiliated with the New York brokerage firm Direct Access Partners, LLC (DAP) were charged in federal court with paying at least $5 million in bribes to María de los Ángeles González de Hernandez, an official at a state-owned Venezuelan bank, Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela (BANDES) to win bond trading work. After receiving the bribes, she authorized fraudulent trades, which generated more than $66 million in revenue on trades in Venezuelan sovereign or state-sponsored bonds for DAP. The DOJ also charged her with Travel Act conspiracy and substantive offenses, and two money laundering-related counts.

In June, the FCPA Blog reported, in a post entitled “Brokerage boss charged in Venezuela kick back scheme”, that Ernesto Lujan, the former head of the Miami office of DAP, was arrested for conspiracy to bribe an officer at a state-owned Venezuela bank in exchange for bond trading business. He was charged with substantive FCPA and Travel Act offenses and conspiracy counts. He was also charged with two money laundering-related counts.

Both the DOJ and SEC have made clear it that they will prosecute individuals for FCPA violations. As noted by Mike Volkov, the DOJ is going to prosecute individuals when they have strong evidence of criminal conduct and will pick those individual cases where prosecutions are warranted. Further, the BizJet prosecutions demonstrate that the DOJ will continue to use all investigative techniques to build criminal cases including wiring cooperating witnesses and recording telephone calls to make their criminal cases. Finally, the DOJ will prosecute officials when they have evidence of obstruction or witness tampering and will also use the Travel Act to bring enforcement actions.

It has been quite a first half of the year.

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

May 9, 2013

DPAs and NPAs – Useful Tools to Achieve Compliance

The debate on whether the use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) has become lively again over the past couple of weeks. Last week, there was a panel hosted by the Corporate Crime Reporter conference at the National Press Club. The panel was moderated by Steven Fagell, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, and the panelists included Denis McInerney, the Criminal Division’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, David Uhlmann, the former chief of the Environmental Crimes Section at the Department of Justice (DOJ), and currently a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, the FCPA Professor, Michael Koehler, Kathleen Harris, a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP in London, and Anthony Barkow, a partner at Jenner & Block in New York.

The FCPA Professor wrote about the conference in two posts this week. The second post, entitled “Seeing the Light from the ‘Dark Ages’”, reported on the panel discussion. In this post, the Professor flatly says that DPAs and NPAs should be abolished in the context of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement and that a compliance defense should be added to the FCPA. In the other corner stands Mike Volkov, who said in a recent post, entitled “The Continuing Controversy Over DPAs and NPAs”, that DPAs and NPAs are part of the growing arsenal of prosecutorial tools that can be brought to bear by the DOJ and now the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The Professor previously articulated his views against DPAs and NPAs last fall in a post entitled “Assistant Attorney General Breuer’s Unconvincing Defense Of DPAs / NPAs”. In that post he said that the “use of NPAs or DPAs allow “under-prosecution” of egregious instance of corporate conduct while at the same time facilitate the “over-prosecution” of business conduct.” The ‘under-prosecution’ comes “because they [DPAs and NPAs] do not result in any actual charges filed against a company, and thus do not require the company to plead to any charges, allow egregious instances of corporate conduct to be resolved too lightly without adequate sanctions and without achieving maximum deterrence.” The ‘over-prosecution’ comes “because of the “carrots” and “sticks’ relevant to resolving a DOJ enforcement action often nudge companies to agree to these vehicles for reasons of risk-aversion and efficiency and not necessarily because the conduct at issue actually violates the law.” Volkov, being a former prosecutor, says that “Prosecutors like to have a variety of tools. An up or down decision system – indict or decline to indict – does not give prosecutors any ability to address the hard cases, where they are more inclined to decline prosecution rather than indict.”

However, I am neither a former prosecutor, like Volkov, nor a former white collar defense lawyer, like the Professor. I am a recovering trial lawyer who then went in-house. From this background I think that there is another line of reasoning as to why DPAs and NPAs are useful FCPA compliance enforcement tools and that line of reasoning is certainty. The primary reason for the prosecution and a company entering into a DPA/NPA is certainty. The one thing I learned in almost 20 years of trying cases is that nothing is certain when you leave the final decision to an ultimate trier of fact who is not yourself, whether that trier of fact be a jury, judge or arbitrator. The most important thing for a company is certainty and that is even more paramount when a potential criminal conviction looms over its corporate head. Certainty is equally critical for the prosecution. No matter how ‘slam dunk’ the facts are, or appear to be, once a prosecutor turns over the final decision in a case to another trier of fact; the prosecution has lost certainty in the final decision. Every corporate defendant who goes to trial can and should raise all procedural and factual defenses available to it. No prosecutor can ever be 100% certain that it will win every court ruling or that a guilty conviction will be upheld on appeal. However, a DPA/NPA can bring certainty. For a company, certainty in its rights and obligations, for the prosecution the same is true.

There was another article which considered the panel discussion held at the Corporate Crime Reporter conference entitled “McInerney Defends Deferred and Non Prosecution Agreements”. This article included quotes from David Uhlmann, who said that he believes, “This is about a profound ambivalence in parts of the Department about the very notion of corporate criminality.” Uhlmann believes that it this ambivalence which has driven the use of DPAs. He believes that the DOJ should make an “up or down” decision on whether a corporation should be prosecuted or not. He was quoted as saying “There is no more important role that the Justice Department plays than its role investigating and prosecuting crime. And if the Justice Department believes that a particular case warrants criminal prosecution, it should bring criminal charges. It should not sacrifice criminal prosecution to a private agreement never entered in court, never overseen by a judge in any meaningful way that doesn’t involve any public hearing, that doesn’t involve any corporate officials coming into the courtroom admitting guilt. On the other hand, if the Justice Department doesn’t believe that a criminal prosecution is necessary or warranted, then they should decline. They should decline prosecution in favor of — in most cases they have the option of civil or administrative enforcement.”

The Professor had a slightly different take on the use of DPAs in the context of criminal prosecutions of corporations. He was quoted as saying, “The Department has become so uncomfortable with the traditional notions of corporate criminal liability that they have constructed and indeed championed this alternative reality that is equally problematic.” Further, “These resolutions have had a troubling, distortive and toxic effect on this one area of law,” Koehler concluded. “There is no judicial scrutiny of most fcpa enforcement theories.” And, lastly, “Of course, the Justice Department is in favor of these because it makes their job easier. Of course, the FCPA bar and FCPA Inc. is in favor of these it expands the market for legal services.”

Criminal Division Deputy Assistant Attorney General McInerney made clear that he is not ambivalent at all about corporate criminal liability and specifically stated this. So let me speak from the perspective of a lawyer from Houston, who has represented companies in the energy space for quite some time. The frustration that boiled over from the lack of prosecutions regarding the financial troubles of the recent years should not obscure the fact that the DOJ has and will continue to pursue criminal cases against corporations.

But to paraphrase Joe Jackson, something else is going on ‘round here with prosecutions of corporate criminal conduct and the use of DPAs/NPAs. While one role of the DOJ is to prosecute law breakers; I believe that another role of the DOJ is to increase and encourage compliance with laws. The DPA/NPA debate does not stand in a vacuum. I believe that by offering incentives for companies to self-disclose and cooperate, the DOJ is increasing compliance with the FCPA. If there is no incentive to cooperate, there will be none. Period. If a company will face a criminal indictment or charge if it investigates a matter and self-discloses to the DOJ, how many companies will do so? McInerney was quoted as saying, “You are disincentivizing companies in terms of doing the right thing. You are not crediting companies for doing the right thing.”

Now let me take the flip side; Arthur Anderson. For all the howls that there is no empirical evidence that indicting and convicting companies puts them out of business; I am certainly not persuaded. I saw it happen, here in Houston. Was it in the interest of the US government to put Arthur Anderson out of business? Did it further the policies of this country to go from the Big Four to the Big Three? What about all the Arthur Anderson employees who did not work on the Enron account, what policy did it further to have them lose everything they invested in their professional life? If DPAs/NPAs are less draconian in their effect than destruction of a corporation’s existence, does that make them somehow less useful? If the DOJ wants to put such a factor into their decision making, I find that to be an appropriate calculus.

As to the charge that the FCPA Bar/FCPA Inc. used DPAs/NPAs to expand their market for work? [Full disclosure – I am a member of the FCPA Bar and ergo, FCPA Inc.] I think that it is the job of a lawyer to advise his or her clients on their legal obligations and to assist in fulfilling those obligations. Is it in my own myopic self-interest to advocate compliance with the FCPA? Or am I a part of the FCPA Bar and Inc. which assists companies to comply with a now 35 year old law? Whichever answer you prefer, I believe that there is more compliance now and that the use of DPAs/NPAs is a contributing factor to this increased compliance.

Another panelist, Anthony Barkow posited yet another angle. He said “one the primary policy justifications — or certainly a significant policy justification — is — getting DPAs and NPAs is easy. “It’s a lot easier than charging a company,”” Barkow said. “And it’s a lot easier than charging it and to try to get a plea.” While I do not pretend to know the intricacies of obtaining an indictment or going before a grand jury, it is always easier to settle something rather than try a case. But that does not mean any less work goes on, either from the corporate side or especially from the government side. FCPA enforcement actions are huge, document intensive cases and from what little I know of the process, the DOJ works quite hard to craft an appropriate resolution for each case. Further, there are multiple levels of review in the DOJ so many sets of eyes look at these matters. So while it may be easier to reach a resolution rather than charging and criminally trying a corporation, that does not mean in any way, shape or form that this work is easy. The work is hard, time intensive and takes literally thousands of man-hours by all parties involved to reach any resolution. Simply because a new enforcement tool is available, which is short of a criminal indictment and trial, does not mean that it is not a useful tool and should not be used.

Mike Volkov ended his post with the following, “The debate will continue – I have no doubt of that.” I would certainly second that notion. But from where I sit the use of DPAs/NPAs has improved compliance with the FCPA because their use has given corporations a real incentive to thoroughly investigate allegations of bribery and corruption and then work with the government to appropriately remediate the situation.

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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