FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

April 21, 2015

The Petrobras Scandal and Corruption of Political Parties Under the FCPA

7K0A0075When does bribery and corruption move from a business issue to a political issue to a national issue? Why should US companies be held to the gold standard of anti-corruption laws? Should the US government even care if US companies engage in bribery of politicians and political parties outside the US? I pose these questions as we see some of these issues now being played out in real time in Brazil.

Earlier this month, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article by Rogerio Jelmayer and Jeffrey T. Lewis, entitled “Brazil Graft Probe Reaches Higher Up” said that “A widening investigation into alleged corruption at Brazil’s state-controlled oil company edged closer to President Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday when police arrested her ruling political party’s treasurer. The official, João Vaccari Neto, was charged with receiving “irregular donations” for the Workers’ Party from some suppliers to the oil company” [Petrobras]. Moreover, one cooperating witness, Pedro Barusco, “told a congressional hearing in March that he amassed nearly $100 million in bribes as a part of the alleged bribery schemes and the Workers’ Party may have received twice as much.”

But the corruption scandal appears to be much broader than simply one politician. Another WSJ article, by reporters Paulo Trevisani and Paul Kiernan, entitled “Brazil Attorney General Seeks Corruption Probe Approval”, said that the Brazilian Attorney General “has asked the Supreme Court for permission to proceed with investigations against an undisclosed number of politicians”. He asked for “28 probes involving 54 persons”. Interestingly, this part of the Brazilian corruption probe is separate and apart from the “team of prosecutors who have been working on the case from the southern Brazilian city of Curitba”. The reason is that under Brazilian law “special treatment is afforded to high-ranking authorities, whose cases my be heard by the Supreme Court.” This anomaly required “any evidence pointing to government officials or lawmakers had to be sent to” the Brazilian Attorney General.

As the corruption scandal continues to morph, allegations have reached the level of last year’s Brazilian Presidential election. Mary Anastasia O’Grady, also writing in the WSJ, in an article entitled “An Escalating Corruption Scandal Rocks Brazil”, said that interviewed defeated Presidential candidate Aécio Neves, head of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil, told her that he lost the election because of “organized crime”. This was not some dark mafia plot but came about from “alleged skimming operations at the government-owned oil company.” She went on to note, “Prosecutors allege that Petrobras contractors were permitted to pad their contracts and remit the excess as kickbacks to the oil company, which passed hundreds of millions of dollars to politician and, more importantly the PT.” The PT is the ruling party currently led by Brazilian President Rousseff.

It has not yet been reported that any US companies are under investigation by the Brazilian Attorney General for the bribing of politicians or a political party such as the President’s Workers’ Party. However, for any US companies that have been engaged in trying to influence elections in Brazil through campaign contributions, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) specifically incorporates politicians, political parties and candidates for political offices as foreign government officials for purposes of the Act. In the 2012 FCPA Guidance it states, “The FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions apply to corrupt payments made to (1) “any foreign official”; (2) “any foreign political party or official thereof ”; (3) “any candidate for foreign political office”; or (4) any person, while knowing that all or a portion of the payment will be offered, given, or promised to an individual falling within one of these three categories. Although the statute distinguishes between a “foreign official,” “foreign political party or official thereof,” and “candidate for foreign political office,” the term “foreign official” in this guide generally refers to an individual falling within any of these three categories.”

Additionally, politicians and political parties are incorporated into the FCPA through the accounting provisions of the FCPA. As further stated in the FCPA Guidance, “Additionally, individuals and entities can be held directly civilly liable for falsifying an issuer’s books and records or for circumventing internal controls. Exchange Act Rule 13b2-1 provides: “No person shall, directly or indirectly, falsify or cause to be falsified, any book, record or account subject to [the books and records provision] of the Securities Exchange Act.” And Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act (15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(5)) provides that “[n]o person shall knowingly circumvent or knowingly fail to implement a system of internal accounting controls or knowingly falsify any book, record, or account ….”. The Exchange Act defines “person” to include a “natural person, company, government, or political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality of a government.”

The most well known FCPA enforcement action involving bribes paid to politicians was the Halliburton/KBR enforcement action. For those of you who may have forgotten this case, which has the third highest FCPA fine of all-time, Halliburton subsidiary KBR admitted that a consortium which it led paid Nigerian officials at least $132 million in bribes for engineering, procurement and construction contracts awarded between 1995 and 2004 to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria. The consortium was named TSKJ and consisted of subsidiaries of the following entities: KBR; Technip, a French company; ENI, an Italian company; and JGC, a Japanese company. There was also a corrupt agent involved in paying the bribes, Jeffrey Tesler and another Japanese company Marubeni Corporation.

BONNEY ISLAND SETTLEMENT BOX SCORE

Entity Fine, Penalty and Disgorgement of Profits (in $ millions)
Halliburton (KBR) $579
ENI $365
Technip $338
JGC $218
Marubeni Corp $50
Jeffery Tesler (the Bag Man) $149
Total $1,699

 

So for those of you keeping score at home, there has been, and could be fines, penalties and profit disgorgement of over $1.699 billion. This figure does not include the amount paid out by these corporations for attorneys’ fees, forensic costs and other professional fees, which can be only speculated about.

 The Petrobras scandal continues to morph and to grow way beyond the bounds of simple commercial bribery. One of the goals in the passage of the Act was to prevent US companies from illegally influencing foreign officials and foreign elections through the payments of bribes. The Petrobras scandal may well demonstrate to the world community how important it is to remember that now is certainly not the time to try and weaken either the FCPA or its enforcement going forward. If there is ever to be a truly level playing field in commerce across the globe, it will be by enforcement of anti-corruption laws such as the FCPA that makes it safe for US businesses to compete on the global stage and compete on the basis of quality, not bribe paid.

But the morphing of the Petrobras bribery scandal into the Brazilian political scene may also demonstrate how commercial bribery can work to corrupt a democratic political system. If the money paid from bribes for commercial contracts worked its way into the Brazilian election, this would be perversion of the democratic process. It is this commercial issue that demonstrates why businesses, particularly US businesses, have a role in the international fight against bribery and corruption. It also seems to me to be a straight line from commercial bribery to political corruption to the explosion of terrorism against such corruption. While the FCPA may not have been passed with this connection to terrorism in mind, it is certainly an important US government tool in that fight as well.

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, 2015

April 20, 2015

The Intersection of the FCPA, TI-CPI and Tax Appeals in Brazil

Three Way IntersectionThe Transparency International-Corruptions Perceptions Index (TI-CPI) is released each year in November. The TI-CPI rates Brazil as 69th out of 175 countries on its index, coming in with a score of 43 out of 100. I wonder if TI might consider an interim report this year on Brazil? As things keep going, more and more corruption is alleged to be a part of the everyday fabric of the country. While the Petrobras and related scandals have been well chronicled, the overall stench of corruption just keeps spreading and spreading.

Recently it was announced yet another set of investigations around corruption has begun. This time it involves the Brazilian Finance Ministry’s Administrative Council for Tax Appeal. In an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), entitled “Brazil Probes New Bribery Allegations”, Paulo Trevisani reported that this is an “arbitration board that hears appeals from taxpayers who dispute how much they owe the [Brazilian] government.” The investigation would appear to be widespread as “Prosecutors said 74 companies and 24 individuals are under investigation.”

Interestingly not only is the Finance Ministry investigating the allegations but also the Brazilian internal revenue service, the Brazilian federal police and the Brazilian federal prosecutors office. In what would seem to indicate the inherent conflict of interest in the Finance Ministry investigating itself, Trevisani reported the “Finance Ministry said the alleged scheme wasn’t systematic but rather, involved “isolated acts” carried out by a small group of government tax officials. When prosecutors announced the investigation on March 26 they said that losses to the nation’s treasury totaled $6.1 billion over 15 years.” Oops.

While the entities and individuals under investigation have not been named, “a leading investigator on the case said companies under investigation include Ford Motor Brazil, a unit of Ford Motor Co.; JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, the Brazilian unit of the Spanish bank Banco Santander SA; and Brazil’s second largest private-sector bank, Bradesco SA.” You may recall from an earlier blog post I noted that Brazil’s third largest state-owned bank Caixa Econômica Federal (Caixa) is also under investigation for corruption.

However, this new corruption scandal is the first time that non-Brazilian companies have come under investigation outside of the Petrobras scandal. The WSJ article noted, “Brazil’s tax system is among the most onerous and complex in the world. Penalties can be steep. That has fostered an environment where corruption can flourish, [un-named] experts say. “Taxes in Brazil are so high and complicated that it is easy for companies to get in trouble with the taxman,” the leading investigator told The Wall Street Journal. The investigator said frequent tax disputes created opportunities for ill-intentioned public servants to profit by helping firms circumvent red tape. Prosecutors say the probe began in 2013 after they received an anonymous letter describing details of the alleged scheme.”

An article in forbes.com, entitled “Ford On List Of Companies Suspected Of Brazilian Tax Fraud” by Kenneth Rapoza, went further than the WSJ article when it laid out the list of “companies are under investigation for taking part in various tax bribery schemes” and then listed the amounts they allegedly avoided paying. The Top Ten list is:

  • Santander: R$3.3 billion
  • Bradesco: R$2.7 billion
  • Ford: R$1.7 billion
  • Gerdau: R$1.2 billion
  • Light: R$929 million
  • Banco Safra: R$767 million
  • RBS: R$672 million
  • Camargo Correa: R$668 million
  • Mitsubishi: R$505 million
  • Banco Industrial: R$436 million

An article in businessinsider.com, entitled “Brazil uncovers multibillion-dollar tax fraud”, reported that this investigation, dubbed Operation Zeal, had uncovered that “the [tax] body managed to obtain tax appeals board rulings in the companies’ favor by either cutting penalties or waiving them altogether. In return, officials allegedly received bribes from some 70 companies believed to have benefited from the scheme. A written statement issued by Brazilian federal police stated “The investigations, begun in 2013, showed the organization acted within the body sponsoring private interests, seeking to influence and corrupt advisors with a view either to securing the cancellation or reduction of penalties from tax authorities”. Moreover, “Police said the scam could have netted the companies as much as 19 billion reais ($5.9 billion) but evidence uncovered so far amounts to around a third of that amount.” Finally, and perhaps most ominously, the article said, “Federal police organized crime chief Oslain Campos Santan said the total sums could end up being “as much” as that involved in the Petrobras scam”.

This new Brazilian corruption scandal recalls the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action against the Houston-based Parker Drilling Company. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Press Release issued at the time of the announcement of the conclusion of the matter, the company was issued a tax assessment on its drilling rigs. The Press Release went on to state, “According to court documents, rather than pay the assessed fine, Parker Drilling contracted indirectly with an intermediary agent to resolve its customs issues. From January to May 2004, Parker Drilling transferred $1.25 million to the agent, who reported spending a portion of the money on various things including entertaining government officials. Emails in which the agent requested additional money from Parker Drilling referenced the agent’s interactions with Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance, State Security Service, and a delegation from the president’s office. Two senior executives within Parker Drilling at the time reviewed and approved the agent’s invoices, knowing that the invoices arbitrarily attributed portions of the money that Parker Drilling transferred to the agent to various fees and expenses. The agent succeeded in reducing Parker Drilling’s TI Panel fines from $3.8 million to just $750,000.”

So with all of the above that has been written about in the past few weeks, where do you think Brazil should be on the TI-CPI? While its rating of 43 out of 100 may not seem too low or perhaps more accurately too much perceived corruption, it may be time for a mid-year reassessment. Certainly if you are a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner you may wish to perform your own reassessment. If you have any dealings with the Brazilian Finance Ministry’s Administrative Council for Tax Appeal, you need to perform an internal investigation starting today on all information you can find about the process and results. For if the results were extremely favorable the reason for the achievement may have violated both Brazilian law and the FCPA.

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, 2015

April 13, 2015

Brazilian Corruption Scandal Expands Past Petrobras – Is a FCPA Country Sweep Next?

BroomThe Brazilian corruption scandal took a new turn last week, when the Brazilian government announced that it was investigating the country’s health ministry and the state-owned bank Caixa Econômica Federal (Caixa). As reported by Rogerio Jelmayer and Luciana Magalhaes in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), in an article entitled “Corruption Scandal in Brazil Gets Bigger”, the schemes were similar to those used in the Petrobras scandal, where inflated contracts were awarded to contractors who kick backed the overcharges to those in position to award the business.

This expansion of Brazilian government investigation is also the first reported instance of companies outside the energy sector or those doing business with the Brazilian state-owed enterprise Petrobras being investigated by the Brazilian government. Over the years there have been several Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions regarding US companies doing business in Brazil. With this expansion of the Petrobras corruption scandal to other government departments and state-owned entities, a new chapter may be opening. This new chapter may bring not only Brazilian domestic bribery and corruption scrutiny but also draw the attention of US or UK regulators, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

In the health ministry the area of contracts under investigation were those for advertising. The WSJ article said, “the cost of advertising contracts was inflated by as much as 10%, prosecutors said, with the surplus also passed along to politicians. The health ministry said all its advertising contracts meet the legal requirements, and it will investigate the allegations and cooperate with police and prosecutors.” It certainly is comforting when the government says it will cooperate with investigators.

But perhaps more interesting was the timing of the allegations against the country’s third largest state-owned bank Caixa. While the allegations around the scope and extent of the bribery were similar to those made against the Brazilian health ministry, the declarations of these new investigations coincided with the announcement last week by the government Finance Minister Joaquim Levy and Caixa Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Miriam Belchior for “an initial public offering [IPO] in the insurance joint venture it has with French insurer CNP Assurances.”

What do you think the comfort level will be for institutional investors about now in this IPO? I wonder if under IPO rules and regulations in Brazil, whether the CEO must certify either the financial statement as accurate or that there is no evidence of corruption in the organization? Even those in Brazil recognize the gravity of these allegations against Caixa. Luis Santacreu, a banking analyst at the Brazilian rating agency Austin Ratings, said that he thought this announcement would make the IPO more difficult and “the allegations against Caixa show it needs to improve its governance.”

These two developments demonstrate the difficulties that international companies may have in doing business in Brazil going forward. It is not difficult to believe that a country sweep on those doing business in Brazil, with the Brazilian government or with Brazilian state-owned enterprises, may well be coming. Given the recent 2014 World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Olympics, it would not seem too great a stretch for the DOJ or SEC to begin to look at US companies with significant amounts of commerce with and in Brazil.

While we have not seen evidence of country sweeps to-date, there has been evidence of industry sweeps in FCPA enforcement. The FCPA Professor, in a blog post entitled “Industry Sweeps”, posted an article from FCPA Dean Homer Moyer, entitled “The Big Broom of FCPA Industry Sweeps”. In his article, Moyer said that an industry sweep is the situation where the DOJ and/or SEC will focus “on particular industries – pharmaceuticals and medical devices come to mind — industry sweeps are investigations that grow out of perceived FCPA violations by one company that enforcement agencies believe may reflect an industry-wide pattern of wrongdoing.” Moyer further wrote, “Industry sweeps are often led by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), which has broad subpoena power as a regulatory agency, arguably broader oversight authority than prosecutors. They are different from internal investigations or traditional government investigations, and present different challenges to companies. Because the catalyst may be wrongdoing in a single company, agencies may have no evidence or suspicion of specific violations in the companies subject to an industry sweep. A sweep may thus begin with possible cause, not probable cause. In sweeps, agencies broadly solicit information from companies about their past FCPA issues or present practices. And they may explicitly encourage companies to volunteer incriminating information about competitors.”

As a compliance professional, one of the key takeaways from the Brazilian corruption scandal is that you should take a very hard and detailed look at your company. With the spread of Brazilian investigations around corruption, we can see that these scandals are not be limited to only the energy or energy-related service industry. One of the first things you can begin to do is to review the list of third parties who might work with the Brazilian government or with Brazilian state-owned enterprises. You should begin by asking such questions as:

  • What is the ownership of the third party? Is there a business justification for the relationship?
  • Is there anyone in the company who is responsible for maintaining the relationship? Is there ongoing accountability?
  • How is the relationship being managed?
  • Are you engaging in any transaction monitoring?
  • Are you engaging in any relationship monitoring?
  • What is the estimated or budgeted size of the spend with the third party?

While the GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) investigation has reverberated throughout the China, I think that the Brazilian corruption scandals will be with us for some time. As bad as it seems about now, and it certainly appears bad, there are many lessons that the compliance practitioner can not only draw from but use for teaching moments within your company. For if you are doing business with the Brazilian government or with Brazilian state-owned enterprises it may not be “if you are subject to a FCPA sweep” but only “when”.

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, 2015

April 10, 2015

International Anti-Corruption Enforcement Efforts

ARound the GlobeWhile the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is still the most widely recognized and enforcement anti-bribery and anti-corruption law across the globe, there have been a number of initiatives which will lead directly to greater anti-bribery and anti-corruption enforcement. This increased enforcement will lead to increased risks for companies that do not have anti-bribery and anti-corruption compliance programs in place. This post discusses the efforts of other countries to enact and enforce legislation to curb bribery and corrupt across the globe.

China 

Over the past 18 months, GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) was embroiled in a very public, very nasty bribery and corruption investigation. It culminated in the conviction of GSK and the assessment of a $491 million fine, criminal conviction of four senior GSK China subsidiary managers and the criminal convictions of two ancillary GSK-hired investigators. The entry of the Chinese government into the international fight against corruption and bribery is truly a game-changer. While there may be many reasons for this very public move by the Chinese government, it is clear that foreign companies are now on notice. Doing business the old fashioned way will no longer be tolerated. This means that international (read: western) companies operating in China have a fresh and important risk to consider; that being that they could well be subject to prosecution under domestic Chinese law.

The international component of this investigation may well increase anti-corruption enforcement across the globe. First of all, when other countries notorious for their endemic corruptions, for example India, see that they can attack their domestic corruption by blaming it on international businesses operating in their country, what lesson do you think they will draw? Most probably that all politics are local and when the localities can blame the outsiders for their own problems they will do so. But when that blame is coupled with violations of local law, whether that is anti-bribery or anti-price fixing, there is a potent opportunity for prosecutions.

One of the audit failures of GSK was around well known compliance risks in China, including (1) event abuse planning; (2) mixture of legitimate and illegitimate travel; (3) other collusion with travel agencies; and (4) parallel itineraries. So those risks are well known and have been documented. While the cost of monitoring is high and would involve the tedious work of verifying millions of receipts by calling hotels, airlines and office supply stores and scrutinizing countless transactions for signs of fraud; if your compliance risks are known for a certain profile, then you should devote the necessary resources to making sure you are in compliance in that area.

Brazil 

While GSK was a harbinger of international anti-corruption investigations and enforcement actions based on domestic anti-bribery laws; Brazil and its state-owned energy company Petrobras may become the world’s largest corruption investigation. In a New York Times (NYT) article, entitled “Scandal Over Brazilian Oil Company Adds Turmoil to the Presidential Race”, the scandal was detailed by a former Petrobras official, Paulo Roberto Costa. Mr. Costa was the person who oversaw the company’s refining operations. He has admitted to having engaged in the receipt of bribes for at least a 10 year period “equivalent to 3 percent of the value of the deals from the Brazilian construction companies that obtained the contracts” to build refineries. This amounted to literally millions being “stashed in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.” He “inflated budgets for new projects” by 3% and then had that amount kicked back to him as bribes. The allegations were verified “through an associate, Alberto Youssef, a black-market money dealer who testified that he helped launder funds in the scheme. Mr. Youssef, who has also accepted a plea deal, testified that more than a dozen of Brazil’s largest construction companies had paid hefty bribes to obtain lucrative Petrobras contracts.” Interestingly, Brazilian President Rousseff “has also effectively acknowledged the prevalence of corruption inside the executive suites of Petrobras, while denying that she had known about the kickbacks when they were taking place.”

The scandal has not only engulfed suppliers to Petrobras in Brazil. It has now moved to the international stage. From shipyards in Singapore, which have been alleged to have paid bribes to Petrobras, to Rolls Royce in Great Britain which has been alleged to have paid bribes for the sale of turbine engines; this scandal truly is international in scope and may engulf more companies going forward. In addition to violations of Brazilian law, the US government has reportedly opened an investigation, as Petrobras USA is a US stock-exchange issuing entity and subject to the FCPA. Indeed, in the US there are already multiple shareholder derivative lawsuits against the US entity for mis-representing its true value because of the corruption allegations against the company in Brazil.

The Petrobras scandal continues to make news almost daily and its repercussions continue to reverberate across the globe. The FCPA Blog, in an article entitled “Swiss AG freezes $400 million in Petrobras bribe probe”, stated that in Switzerland alone there are nine open investigations into alleged money laundering tied to Petrobras. In mid-March the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) announced that they had issued an order to freeze $400 million of assets allegedly tied to a Petrobras corruption scheme. The FCPA Blog further stated the OAG announced “The release of over $120 million reflects Switzerland’s clear intention to take a stand against the misuse of its financial center for criminal purposes and to return funds of criminal origin to their rightful owners.”

The domestic Brazilian Anti-Bribery Law, the Clean Company Act, enacted into law in 2014, is uniquely designed for oversight by internal audit. Compliance programs will be evaluated on three prongs: the structure of the program; specifics about the legal entity; and an evaluation of the program’s efficiency. The first prong will include consideration of the existence of mechanisms for reporting suspected or actual misconduct, training, code of conduct, policies and procedures, periodic risk assessments, and application of disciplinary measures against employees (including senior management too) involved in wrongdoing. Under the second prong, the compliance risks associated will be considered. Compliance programs should be tailored to the company’s risks; “one-size-fits-all” programs will not be accepted. The third prong will consist of a case-by-case verification, that it is not simply a paper program.

Finally, and no doubt spurred by the Petrobras corruption scandal, the FCPA Blog also reported, in another article entitled “After protests, Brazil president issues anti-graft regulations”, that Brazilian President Dilma Roussef issued a presidential decree with regulations under the Clean Company Act. The new regulations issued address some of the crucial questions concerning the administrative procedure for imposing corporate liability and assessing fines. It also set out the criteria for determining fines, evaluating compliance programs, and entering into leniency agreements. Finally, the decree also provides that books and records accuracy and completeness will be a key criterion for evaluating compliance programs, no doubt inspired by the FCPA accounting provisions. As the FCPA Blog said, “The regulations under the Clean Company Act are a critical milestone in the effort to restore credibility to Brazil’s federal government, in light of its past commitments to fighting corruption in the corporate world.”

Conclusion 

What does all of the above mean for a global company? It means that some law that prohibits bribery and corruption will cover your business. It will not and does not matter if you are a US, UK or Brazilian company doing business outside of your home country, somewhere a law prohibiting bribery and corruption will cover your actions. Even if you are not covered by the FCPA, the UK Bribery Act or the Clean Company Act, if you are doing business in a local country you can still be subject to prosecution under its domestic anti-bribery laws. This means that there will be greater enforcement going forward and greater cooperation between enforcement agencies.

For businesses the only response to this plethora of new laws is to implement and enhance a best practices anti-bribery/anti-corruption compliance program and there are several examples that companies can follow to do so. In the US, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) provided their suggestions with their Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program; the UK Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has provided commentary on the Six Principles of an Adequate Procedures compliance program and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has put forth its Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics, and Compliance.

All of these anti-bribery/anti-corruption regimes set forth easily digested concepts that a company could implement. However, there must be more than simply a paper program in place. A company must actually do compliance for it to be effective. By making compliance a part of normal business practices, it will be possible to prevent, detect and then remediate any bribery or corruption issues that may arise.

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, 2015

March 27, 2015

Compliance Programs under the Brazilian Clean Companies Act

BrazilEd. Note-I recent asked Rafael Mendes Gomes if he could give my readers some information about the recent regulations issued by the Brazilian government around the Clean Companies Act. Both he and Vitor Lopes da Costa Cruz responded with today’s guest post. 

According to the World Bank, Brazil is the world’s seventh wealthiest economy, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$ 2.253 trillion in 2012. On the other hand, Brazil is ranked 69th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perception Index, and was recently shaken by investigations into a multi-billion dollar scandal involving the state controlled oil giant Petrobras, threatening to engulf the country’s most senior politicians—including its president. Brazil is also a signatory of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions – the “OECD Convention”.

The OECD Convention entered into force in 1999, and the OECD’s Working Group conducts peer reviews to evaluate the implementation of the Convention and effective enforcement of measures to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute bribery, but Brazil was one of the last signatories to pass a law focused on the supply side of the bribes: business organizations. Law 12.846/2013, often referred to as the Clean Companies Act, took effect on January 29th, 2014, and makes business organizations liable for illegal acts against national or foreign public administration, including bribery. An English translation of Law 12.846/2013 is available here.

The Clean Companies Act applies to any Brazilian business organization, company, foundation, association of persons or entities, formally organized or not, regardless of how they are organized or the corporate model they adopt, as well as foreign companies having office, branch, or representation in the Brazilian territory, even if informally and/or temporarily. The Act subjects companies to severe civil and administrative penalties and sanctions for bribing domestic or foreign government officials, and the fines can be of up to 20 percent of the company’s annual gross revenues.

In Article 7, VIII, the statute provides for that, in defining the penalties to be applied to an organization for violations of the statute, the enforcer will take into account the “existence of internal mechanisms and procedures of integrity, audit and incentive for the reporting of irregularities, as well as the effective enforcement of codes of ethics and codes of conduct within the organization” (free translation). The problem was that the statute did not provide guidance on what said mechanisms and procedures consisted of, or how much discount or credit would be granted to companies that have effective compliance programs in place. In the Sole Paragraph or Article 7, the statute sets forth that the criteria of evaluation of the compliance mechanisms and procedures were to be defined by Regulation to be issued by the Federal Executive Branch.

Finally, after over a year of the Clean Companies Act having entered into force, on March 18th, President Dilma Rousseff issued a Federal Decree (8.420/2015) regulating the statute, as a part of a series of anti-corruption measures to counter the increasing public opinion pressure against her administration. The Decree covers some of the crucial aspects of the Act, concerning the evaluation of compliance or corporate integrity programs, the administrative procedure for imposing corporate liability and assessing fines, and the rules regarding leniency agreements.

Of particular interest to companies doing business in Brazil is what the Decree sets forth that regulators and enforcers shall regard as the hallmarks of an effective compliance program, which guidelines are in our view closely aligned with international standards, mainly those provided by the FCPA Resource Guide and OECD’s Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics, and Compliance.

In this post we will focus on the available legal guidance in Brazil, regarding compliance programs, as provided for in the recently enacted Decree, outlining the hallmarks of a compliance program under Brazilian law:

  1. Tone at the Top, translated as the commitment from the top executives of the company, including members of the board, evidenced by the visible and unequivocal support to the compliance program.
  2. Ethics Code and written policies and procedures, enforced to all members in the organization, extended to third parties when applicable.
  3. Periodic Training regarding the organizations Compliance Program.
  4. Periodic Risk Assessment, aimed at making the necessary adjustments to the company’s compliance program.

As regards risk assessment, the Decree sets forth that the Brazilian Authorities shall consider the following when assessing the effectiveness of a Compliance Program, during an investigation:

  • The number of employees;
  • The complexity of the company’s internal hierarchy and the number of departments, governance bodies or sectors;
  • The use of third parties intermediaries as consultants or sales agents;
  • The industry or sector in which the company operates;
  • The countries in which it operates, directly or indirectly;
  • The level of interaction with the public sector and the importance of permits, licenses, and governmental approvals for its operations;
  • The amount and location of legal entities that form the economic group; and
  • Whether the company is regarded by law as a micro or small business.
  1. Accounting Records that comprehensively and accurately reflect the company’s transactions.
  2. Political Contributions. Transparency as regards donations and contributions to political campaigns, candidates and political parties
  3. Relationship with the Public Administration. Specific Proceedings around prevention of fraud or irregularities in public tenders, in the performance of public contracts, and in the interaction with the public sector (including tax collections and inspections, governmental authorizations, licenses, and permits).
  4. Compliance Officer: Independence, structure, and authority of the internal body responsible for implementing and enforcing the compliance program.
  5. Confidential Reporting Channels (hotline), widely advertised to the company’s employees and third parties, and mechanisms for the protection of whistleblowers acting in good faith.
  6. Disciplinary Action in case of violations and procedures to ensure the prompt interruption of the wrongful conduct or violation, and timely remediation of damages caused.
  7. Third Party Due Diligence for the hiring of third party intermediaries, such as consultants, vendors, contractors, suppliers, and service providers, and, if applicable, the monitoring of the intermediaries’ activities.
  8. M&A Due Diligence: M&A anti-corruption due diligence and risk assessment.
  9. Monitoring and Continuous Improvement. Constant monitoring of the compliance program, in order to ensure its continuous improvement.

Having the Federal Executive Branch provided guidelines and clarifications on critical aspects of the Clean Companies Act, by means of the Decree in review, defining parameters and criteria for application of the statute, companies now have a clearer picture of what is expected from them, how investigations are supposed to be conducted, and how cooperation will take place. It is also true that enforcers are now better equipped, at least from the legislation standpoint, to fight corporate bribery.

Now Brazil has the challenge to demonstrate effective enforcement of such laws.

Authors:

Rafael Mendes Gomes is the partner in charge of compliance and anti-bribery at Chediak Advogados, with offices in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The firm offers legal assistance to both Brazilian and international clients across different industries and business sectors.

rafael.gomes@clcmra.com.br

Vitor Lopes da Costa Cruz is a senior associate in the compliance and anti-bribery team at Chediak Advogados. He assists companies in the assessment, design, and implementation of compliance programs.

vitor.cruz@clcmra.com.br

You can access Chediak Advogados Compliance and Anti-bribery web page here.

February 13, 2015

Bone-headed Moves on the Football Field and Idiotic Statements About Corruption

Pete CarrollThree things can happen when you throw the football, and two of them are bad.”

That football truism (allegedly) came from former Texas Longhorn head coach Darrell Royal. While he intoned it in a different era, Pete Carroll and his Seattle Seahawks proved it still to be valid in the most recent Super Bowl, Carroll called for a pass play on the one-yard line in the last minute of the game and his quarterback threw an interception. Was it the most idiotic call in Super Bowl history? I will leave that answer to the pundits but I will say that Carroll now has the ignominy of making two of the most bone-headed decisions of all-time in football, one in the Super Bowl and the second in College Football’s 2005 National Championship Game, which cost his team the game. Perhaps not what you might want as your epitaph.

For those of you who may have forgotten Carroll’s NCAA National Championship Game FUBAR, his team, the University of Southern California, needing to make one yard at the University of Texas (UT) 43 yard line to achieve a first down and ice the game, Carroll called a running play after pulling off the field that year’s Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. That left one running back on the field and everyone on the field, everyone in the stands and watching the game knew the remaining running back, Lendale White, would get the ball. He did and was promptly stuffed by the UT defense. Vince Young then led UT down the field, scored and Texas won the National Championship. As a UT alum all I can say is, thanks Pete.

I thought about Carroll and his making not one but two idiotic calls for the ages as I have been studying the ongoing Petrobras bribery scandal. While the GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) corruption enforcement action in China may well presage a new era of countries enforcing their local anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws, the Petrobras case may herald this too. The scandal came to the attention of many American’s in the fall of 2014 during Brazil’s Presidential election in a New York Times (NYT) article, entitled “Scandal Over Brazilian Oil Company Adds Turmoil to the Presidential Race, where Simon Romero detailed the bribery scandal involving a former official of Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company, named Paulo Roberto Costa. Mr. Costa was the person who oversaw the company’s refining operations. He has admitted to having engaged in the receipt of bribes for at least a 10 year period “equivalent to 3 percent of the value of the deals from the Brazilian construction companies that obtained the contracts” to build refineries. This amounted to literally millions being “stashed in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.”

Costa who “was first arrested in March as part of a money laundering investigation by the federal police, has already agreed to surrender the $25 million fortune he hid in offshore accounts, his yacht and his luxury car, in addition to paying a fine of more than $2 million.” He “inflated budgets for new projects” by 3% and then had that amount kicked back to him as bribes. The allegations were verified “through an associate, Alberto Youssef, a black-market money dealer who testified that he helped launder funds in the scheme. Mr. Youssef, who has also accepted a plea deal, testified that more than a dozen of Brazil’s largest construction companies had paid hefty bribes to obtain lucrative Petrobras contracts.”

Further “He testified that a portion of the money was then handed to João Vaccari Neto, the treasurer of the Workers Party. Mr. Costa said that other top political allies of President Rousseff, including the leaders of both houses of Congress, Henrique Eduardo Alves and Renan Calheiros, also benefited from the kickbacks, according to a report by Veja, a Brazilian magazine.” Interestingly, President Rousseff “has also effectively acknowledged the prevalence of corruption inside the executive suites of Petrobras, while denying that she had known about the kickbacks when they were taking place.”

To say things have mushroomed would be almost likely citing Darrell Royal on passing the football to Carroll. Petrobras is in many ways the engine that drives the Brazilian economy. Not only is it directly responsible for the employ of upwards of 80,000 employees. It is also the continent’s largest company by market capitalization so the amount of work that it generates for the Brazilian economy is staggering.

Just as staggering is this bribery scheme in which it finds itself now engulfed. According to an article by Luciana Maglahaes and Rogerio Jelmayer in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), entitled “Petrobras Ex-CEO Weighs In”, the company has “lost $80 billion, or 65% of its market share over the past five months.” The company has publicly said that it cannot estimate the amount of money it lost or was overcharged by. The WSJ article noted, “Prosecutors estimate that around $732 million may have been skimmed. But former Petrobras Chief Executive Maria das Graças Silva Foster, who resigned under pressure last week, said projects tied to the alleged scheme may be overvalued by as much as $31 billion.” Think about that number $31 billion in overcharges to the company.

So, how does Carroll and his bone-headed passing call work into this story? First of all it was not Carroll who made the call but the team’s Offensive Coordinator. Yet he did so because Carroll told him to call a passing play. In other words, idiotic tone at the top reigned and the employee base simply followed the boss’s wishes.

In the Petrobras corruption scandal, we were treated to remarks by José Sergio Gabrielli, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company from 2005 to 2012. This was also one of the company’s most successful periods of financial growth. The former CEO has claimed not to know anything about any corruption issues that may have arisen during his tenure. Moreover, “Mr. Gabrielli said the alleged fraud was the work of a few bad apples inside the company, and not an indication of broader problems with corporate governance or internal controls at Petrobras.” He then added that the business generated by the company surely outweighed any nefarious effects by stating “Even if the numbers are huge…how much has Petrobras invested from 2003 to 2014? Probably it invested an average of $30 billion a year.” He also added it was really all much ado about nothing by noting that the press had blown the “scandal out of proportion”.

So there you have it encapsulated in three lines; the clearest articulation of a defense of bribery and corruption that I have recently seen. First it was the oldie but goodie rogue employee defense. (I mean there were 80,000 plus employees, how could you stop all of them from engaging in illegal conduct.) Second, look at all the money we made, so even if the corruption cost us $31bn we averaged that much per year while he was at the helm. Finally, it is really no big deal anyway and is all “blown out of proportion.”

Is it really any wonder Petrobras now finds itself in one of the world’s largest corruption scandals? If that is the attitude of the former CEO, do you think he communicated this laissez-faire attitude to his direct reports and that perhaps it cascaded down the organization? As to Carroll, if he gets back to a championship game, either in professional or college football, he might want to consider his play calling. As for the former CEO of Petrobras, Brazilian prosecutors are fighting to freeze his assets and his major complaint is that he has to deal with too many lawyers. Enough said.

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, 2015

October 23, 2014

Hammer Films’ Frankenstein and the Monster of Corruption in Brazil

Filed under: Best Practices,Corruption in Brazil,Frankenstein,Hammer Films — tfoxlaw @ 7:37 pm

Peter Cushing as Dr. FrankensteinToday we celebrate the initial two Hammer Films Frankenstein entries into the horror pantheon. These classic films, from the 1950s, were the The Curse of Frankenstein and The Revenge of Frankenstein. In both films Peter Cushing played the monster’s creator, Dr. Frankenstein. In the first film Christopher Lee played the monster and Michael Gwynn was cast in the role for the second movie, but he was in a purely human form, not the disfigured creature that Lee played. In both films, Cushing played the Baron as inherently evil, dismembering medical patients and even murdering people to obtain body parts for his experiments. The Baron did not have the internal conflict that E.E. Clive brought to the role in the Universal classics Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. Further, neither Lee nor Gwynn brought the pathos to the role of the monster that Boris Karloff was able to imbue into the character. Notwithstanding these criticisms, I hardily recommend both films for your October FrightFest viewing pleasure.

I thought about the nefariousness that Cushing brought to the role of Dr. Frankenstein when I read a recent article about the ongoing bribery and corruption scandal in Brazil and how it may affect the country’s Presidential election. These issues were explored in a piece in the New York Times (NYT), entitled “Scandal Over Brazilian Oil Company Adds Turmoil to the Presidential Race”, by Simon Romero. In the article, Romero details the bribery scandal involving a former official of Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company, named Paulo Roberto Costa. Mr. Costa was the person who oversaw the company’s refining operations. He has admitted to having engaged in the receipt of bribes for at least a 10 year period “equivalent to 3 percent of the value of the deals from the Brazilian construction companies that obtained the contracts” to build refineries. This amounted to literally millions being “stashed in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.”

Costa who “was first arrested in March as part of a money laundering investigation by the federal police, has already agreed to surrender the $25 million fortune he hid in offshore accounts, his yacht and his luxury car, in addition to paying a fine of more than $2 million.” He “inflated budgets for new projects” by 3% and then had that amount kicked back to him as bribes. Costa’s allegations were “corroborated Mr. Costa’s claims through an associate, Alberto Youssef, a black-market money dealer who testified that he helped launder funds in the scheme. Mr. Youssef, who has also accepted a plea deal, testified that more than a dozen of Brazil’s largest construction companies had paid hefty bribes to obtain lucrative Petrobras contracts.”

The political angle comes from the following allegation by Costa, “He testified that a portion of the money was then handed to João Vaccari Neto, the treasurer of the Workers Party. Mr. Costa said that other top political allies of President Rousseff, including the leaders of both houses of Congress, Henrique Eduardo Alves and Renan Calheiros, also benefited from the kickbacks, according to a report by Veja, a Brazilian magazine.” Interestingly President Rousseff “has also effectively acknowledged the prevalence of corruption inside the executive suites of Petrobras, while denying that she had known about the kickbacks when they were taking place.” She was quoted for the following, ““If anything happened, and everything indicates that it did, I can guarantee that all of the bleeding that eventually may have existed has been stanched,” Ms. Rousseff told the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo in an interview.” She also went in the other direction, as “She has railed against the public disclosures of his testimony, calling them the equivalent of a “coup” aimed at thwarting her re-election bid. The judge in the case, Sergio Moro, has responded by saying that the law requires that evidence in the case be made public.”

The scandal has the potential to be devastating to the country. Romero said, “If their testimony is proven true, the oil scandal would dwarf previous corruption cases in Brazil, including a vote-buying scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of senior figures from the Workers Party in 2013. Their convictions and punishment were viewed as a precedent-setting shift in a political culture in which impunity has long prevailed.” Moreover, “the scandal has hurt the campaign of Ms. Rousseff, who has overseen Petrobras for more than a decade. As a cabinet minister and protégé of Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, she was chairwoman of the board at Petrobras during the period when Mr. Costa said he assembled the bribery scheme within the company. She no longer sits on the board at Petrobras, but chooses its top executives.”

There are several lessons learned for the compliance practitioner. The first is the mechanism for funding the bribery scheme via overcharging. This requires vigilance and oversight from the corporate office by persons who understand the bidding process and the costs involved in any project. Another internal control should relate to the ability to pay rebates for overcharges. Yet another consideration demonstrated is that sometimes your customer can get you into corruption hot water under such laws as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act. Now that the scandal has become so public, companies doing business with Petrobras are on notice of potential issues. Not only should they consider them when doing business with Petrobras but also companies need to review and possibly revisit their internal controls over these issues.

Unfortunately, the corruption issue may prove more endemic for Brazil and Petrobras. Near the end of his piece Romero quotes Sérgio Lazzarini, an economist at Insper, a São Paulo business school, who has written widely on Brazil’s state capitalism. Lazzarini noted, “It’s Corruption 101: You get control of a state enterprise and then channel resources from it to the parties in your coalition,” and “The situation is endemic, unlikely to change regardless of which president is in power.” Like the evil of Dr. Frankenstein in the Hammer Films, that may be the most lasting commentary on the scandal.

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

July 31, 2014

Lessons Learned from the Beautiful Game: Compliance, FIFA and the World Cup

World Cup e-BookThe 2014 World Cup is over and in the books. It was a great tournament for probably everyone across the globe but the host nation of Brazil. While there are many lessons to be learned from this event, the lead up to and events of this year’s World Cup provide some interesting insights for the compliance practitioner. I have collected some of my writings on FIFA, the World Cup and the world of the ‘Beautiful Game’ in one volume, entitled, “Lessons Learned from the Beautiful Game: Compliance, FIFA and the World Cup”. It is now out and available from amazon.com in Kindle e-reader format.

In this short volume I take a look at some for the following topics.

  • FIFA and its selection process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
  • Performing due diligence and World Cup bids.
  • Referee Professionalism as an anti-corruption tool
  • What are some of the consequences for failure to set a proper tone-at-the-top.
  • Leadership lessons from managers of some of the world’s top soccer clubs.
  • Lessons learned from both compliance successes and failures.

I am sure that you will find this e-Book gives you some ideas for your anti-corruption compliance program, no matter which FIFA country you might practice compliance in. Finally, you cannot beat the price, as it is only $3.99. You can order a copy by going to amazon.com or by simply clicking here.

July 11, 2014

Friday Comings and Goings

7K0A0032I wish I could be there.

Next week, the FCPA Professor is leading his first FCPA Institute this summer over two days, July 16 and 17. The event will be held in Milwaukee and hosted by the law firm of Foley and Lardner.

The Professor’s stated goal in leading this first Institute is “to develop and enhance fundamental skills relevant to the FCPA and FCPA compliance in a stimulating and professional environment with a focus on learning. Information at the FCPA Institute is presented in an integrated and cohesive way by an expert instructor with FCPA practice and teaching experience.” Some of the topics, which will be covered, include the following:

  • An informed understanding of why the FCPA became a law and what it seeks to accomplish;
  • A comprehensive understanding of the FCPA’s anti-bribery and books and records and internal controls provisions and related enforcement theories;
  • Various realties of the global marketplace which often give rise to FCPA scrutiny;
  • The typical origins of FCPA enforcement actions including the prominence of corporate voluntary disclosures;
  • The “three buckets” of FCPA financial exposure and how settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are typically not the most expensive aspect of FCPA scrutiny and enforcement;
  • Facts and figures relevant to corporate and individual FCPA enforcement actions including how corporate settlement amounts are calculated;
  • How FCPA scrutiny and enforcement can result in related foreign law enforcement investigations as well as other negative business effects from market capitalization issues, to merger and acquisition activity, to FCPA related civil suits; and
  • Practical and provocative reasons for the general increase in FCPA enforcement.

In other words, it is what you have come to expect from the FCPA Professor; well-thought out reasoned analysis, practical knowledge and learning, and provocative thinking and assessment. But more than all of the above I believe you will receive some great insight into and why the FCPA Professor continually challenges the status quo in many areas about the FCPA. He and I often look at the same thing and see different views but by seeing more than one view, I believe you will come away with a deeper overall understanding of the entire FCPA picture.

For complete information on the FCPA Institute, click here.

As Monty Python might say And Now For Something Completely Different. If you would like a much shorter view of some FCPA and anti-corruption related topics, check out some of my most recent podcasts, the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report. 

In Episode 74, I visit with Paul McNulty about his upcoming move to become the President of his alma mater, Grove City College.

In Episode 72, I visit with the GRC Pundit, Michael Rasmussen about why companies have such a disconnect when it comes to the theory and practice of their GRC practices.

In Episode 69, I visit with Joe Oringel about his company’s exciting new approach to transaction monitoring in the anti-corruption space.

In Episode 68, I interview Neil Swidey, author of Trapped Under the Sea about his experiences in researching and writing his book.

In Episode 66, the FCPA Professor shares his thoughts on the Esquenazi decision.

In Episode 63 and 64, I have a two-part discussion of the management of third parties under the FCPA.

For those few of you on the planet not aware of it, the World Cup final will be held this coming Sunday. Mike Brown and I have been discussing the World Cup, FIFA and anti-corruption in our World Cup Report series. You can check out Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, or Part V.

All of the episodes of the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report are available for download on iTunes at no cost so if you want to catch up on all things FCPA and compliance related on the drive to work, you can do so. A happy Friday and enjoyable weekend to all.

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 5, 2014

Overwhelmed? Planning and Execution in Compliance

IMG_3289What should you do when an event or series of events is so overwhelming that it staggers your ability to evaluate, plan and respond to it or them? I thought about that question when I read an article in the New York Times (NYT) about the role of the Mayor of Rio De Janeiro in the upcoming World Cup this summer and the 2016 Olympics, entitled “Rio’s Mayor, Shepherd of the City’s Rebirth, Feels the Strains, Too” by Simon Romero. In the article, the Mayor, Eduardo Paes, discussed the strains he is under in tearing and then rebuilding his city in anticipation of the globe’s two greatest sporting events. He was quoted as saying “Don’t ever in your life do a World Cup and Olympic Games at the same time. This will make your life almost impossible.”

What if something happens in your company, corruption-wise, and your life as the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance officer is turned upside down, much like Paes?. My colleague Stephen Martin advocates having a 1-3-5 year plan in place to fall back upon. Martin believes that such a document would be an important item to produce to a prosecutor, who might be reviewing your compliance program in the event of a voluntary self-disclosure, a Dodd-Frank or other whistle-blower event, which has led your company to receive a subpoena or letter of inquiry or an industry sweep. He believes that such a strategic plan could well lead to the development of credibility for your company and your compliance program in the event of one of the aforementioned eventualities.

But, if you do have such a plan, how can you implement it in the face of something as overwhelming as is facing the current Mayor of Rio? In his book, “Achieving 100% Compliance of Policies and Procedures”, author Stephen Page discusses ‘Creating a Review and Communication Control Plan.’ In this section he sets forth several steps for the compliance professional to use in reviewing, creating and implementing updated compliance procedures. A review plan should be created to enable policies and procedures to “remain an integral party of the daily work lives of the target audience.” Page breaks down the process into three main categories: (1) General Review; (2) Ongoing Communications; and (3) Training Campaign.

The CCO or compliance practitioner should keep track of “external and internal events which may cause change to business process, policies and procedures.” He lists two examples of where new laws applicable to your business organization and internal events drive changes within a company. Such internal changes could be a company reorganization or major acquisition. This type of review appears to be similar to the Department of Justice (DOJ) advocacy of ongoing risk assessments. In several Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) announced this year, the DOJ listed several different areas to review, including:

  1. Geography;
  2. Interaction with types and levels of Governments;
  3. Industrial Sector of Operations;
  4. Involvement with Joint Ventures;
  5. Licenses and Permits in Business Operations;
  6. Degree of Government Oversight; and
  7. Customs and Immigration. 

Communications of the overall policies and procedures should not be a single event but continuous and ongoing. In other words, do not simply post your new policy on your company’s business policy website and let it sit there for years. You should make the announcement of policy implementation more public and such communication should be followed up. Page gives several examples of how policies can be communicated.

  1. Via company-wide email;
  2. Posters placed through the physically facilities;
  3. Strategic placement of information on company bulletin boards;
  4. In company meetings; and
  5. In newsletters.

Finally, ongoing training is a key component of an effective compliance program. He recognizes that training is constrained by budgetary realities. However there are various formats and media that can be used for training. These include in small workshop groups, presentations at company-wide conferences, smaller departmental meetings, internal webcasts/video casts and training DVDs.

The author concludes by noting that a review plan “is a great tool” for the compliance analyst as it provides a method for the ongoing evaluation of policies and sets forth a manner to communicate and train on any changes which are implemented. More than simply staying current, this approach will help provide the dynamics that the DOJ continually talks about in keeping your program fresh. Lastly, such a review plan can also guide the compliance practitioner in creating an ongoing game for compliance program upgrades and updates that Stephen Martin advocates.

 Another approach is one articulated by Jan Farley, the CCO at Dresser-Rand, which basically is ‘don’t spread yourself too thin”. Jan’s comments also echo something that I believe is clear from the Guidance: Don’t focus on the small stuff. Indeed the Guidance states, “Thus, it is difficult to envision any scenario in which the provision of cups of coffee, taxi fare, or company promotional items of nominal value would ever evidence corrupt intent, and neither DOJ nor SEC has ever pursued an investigation on the basis of such conduct.” In other words, do not waste your compliance time, resource or energy around these small issues. However, if these small issues are a part of a larger systemic or long standing course of conduct that violates the FCPA, then the DOJ may well look into these issues. You will want to show the DOJ you are focusing on the “big stuff”.

The Guidance also makes clear that each company should assess its risks and manage its risks. The Guidance specifically notes that small and medium-size enterprises likely will have different risk profiles and therefore different attendant compliance programs than large multi-national corporations. Moreover, this is something that the DOJ and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) take into account when evaluating a company’s compliance program in any FCPA investigation. This is why a “Check-the-Box” approach is not only disfavored by the DOJ, but, at the end of the day, it is also ineffectual. It is because each compliance program should be tailored to the enterprise’s own specific needs, risks, and challenges.

Another approach was set out by Bruce Rector, in an article in the Houston Business Journal (HBJ), entitled “Strategic planning needs constant follow-up to be successful”. In the article Rector sets out steps to assist in utilizing a strategic plan. He recognizes that while a strategic plan can serve as guide for your company going forward, it must actually be utilized to garner any use out of it. Rector notes “if your company and management team have expended the time and resources to pull together a strategic plan, the next logical step is to follow up and keep things on track.” Revising Rector’s steps for the compliance practitioner I have set out the following.

  •  Review the Goals of the Strategic Plan. This requires that you arrange a time for the CCO and team to review the goals of the Strategic Plan. Rector advises that to the extent possible this should be done in person. The CCO should lead a discussion of the Strategic Plan and determine how this goal in the Plan measures up to its implementation in your company.
  • Design an Execution Plan. Here Rector advises that the “Keep it Simple Sir”, or KISS method, is the best to move forward. This would suggest that for each compliance goal, there should be a simple and straightforward plan to ensure that the goal in question is being addressed. Rector notes that any “plan must be specific with clear tasking and deliverables and a definite timeline for delivery.”
  • Put Accountabilities in Place. In any plan of execution, there must be accountabilities attached to them. Simply having a time line is not enough. This means that the persons tasked with the responsibility of performing the tasks be clearly identified, by both the individual so tasked and the actual task they are assigned to complete. Accountability also includes a “follow-up mechanism to ensure that these vital goals are achieved.” This requires the CCO or other senior compliance department representative to put these in place and then mandate a report requirement on how the task assigned is being achieved.
  • Schedule the Next Review of the Plan. Most interestingly, Rector recommends a review of the foregoing process on a weekly basis. While noting that this may seem time consuming, he believes that once the group assigned with this responsibility gets “into the rhythm, it can go smoothly.” While I would not necessarily agree that weekly meetings are required, Rector does correctly note that such regularity allows any problems which may arise to be detected and corrected more quickly than if meetings are held at a less frequent basis.

If you face a challenge as great as Mayor Paes, you will indeed need something to assist you in moving forward. While starting from scratch or implementing a compliance regime in the midst of an internal investigation or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action can be daunting, the basic advice to put down a plan and follow that plan with reasonable actions and steps is solid advice. But keep in mind Jan Farley’s counsel as well and do not  spread yourself too thinly. Focus on your entity’s risk and then manage or, if need be, remediate your risk.

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

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