FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

September 12, 2014

The FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report

If you have not done so, I hope that you might go over to my podcast site, the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report,  to check out some of my recent podcasts. The episodes are between 20-30 minutes long and they are available for download on iTunes so you can listen to them on your commute to work or when working out at the gym.

Internal Controls

I have begun a series on internal controls in a best practices FCPA compliance program with noted internal controls expert Henry Mixon. In Parts I & II, Mixon and I discuss the basics of what are internal controls. These podcasts supplement some of my recent blogs on internal controls.

Episode 85-What Are Internal Controls, Part I

Episode 87-What Are Internal Controls, Part II

HR and Compliance

One of the best allies for the compliance function in any company is the Human Resources department. I explore how HR can assist compliance in a myriad of components of any best practices compliance program.

Episode 86-Use of HR in a Compliance Program

Continuous Improvement of a Compliance Program

In the FCPA Guidance and in almost every speech I have heard by a Department of Justice official, they talk about how your compliance program should evolve to meet new compliance risks, changes in best practices, geographic markets where your company does business and new product/service offerings. You can do this by continuous improvement of your compliance program.

Episode 84-Continuous Improvement of Your Compliance Program

The Compliance EcoSystem

Jon Rydberg is the Founder and CEO of Orchid Advisors. He is also the former CCO of Smith & Wesson and was at the company when it navigated it way through a FCPA investigation and enforcement proceeding. From these experiences, Rydberg has developed a holistic approach to compliance which he has trademarked as the “Compliance EcoSystem”. I explore his ideas on an fully integrated approach to compliance

Episode 83-Interview with Jon Rydberg

Use of Interviews in Your Compliance Program

Brian Ching is the most famous player in the history of the Houston Dynamos soccer club. Ching recently retired and moved into the front office as the General Manager of the Houston Dash, the Houston professional women’s soccer club. I interviewed Ching on his transition to management and how the Dash use the face-to-face interview process to not only assess the non-soccer skills that the team requires of its players but also to communicate the team’s expectations. There are some very significant insights about how a company can communicate its expectations regarding ethical business practices.

Episode 79-Interview with Brian Ching

The FCPA Professor

Finally and last but certainly not least, I bring back the FCPA Professor for a two-part podcast on his new book The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act In a New Era.

Episode 80, Interview with the FCPA Professor, Part I

Episode 81-Interview with the FCPA Professor, Part II

A good weekend to all.

September 4, 2014

Pro Football and the FCPA Professor

FootballFor those of us lucky enough to enjoy AAA (or perhaps AA) baseball, disguised as a major league team in our city, today brings harbingers of elation. No the Houston Astros are not moving to a city near you but the National Football League (NFL) begins its 95th season tonight with a match up of Seattle and Green Bay. I do not care if the Houston Texans are in the toilet again or my beloved Dallas Cowboys will stomp to yet another 8-8 season under the egotistical owner Jerry Jones. I love watching pro football. So for all you pro football aficionados out there, here’s to us!

With the upcoming season now only hours away, I was interested to receive the FCPA Professor’s latest article (as opposed to his latest book The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act In A New Era) entitled “How a Successful Football Organization Can Inform Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance in a Business Organization”. As readers of this blog will know, I often use sports to discuss the nuts and bolts of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance. So it was gratifying to see the FCPA Professor use sports in some of his writings. Further, since he is much better known for his basketball prowess (he went to college on a basketball scholarship), I was particularly gratified when he harkened back to my primary sport of football for his latest paper by stating, “In the spirit of the season, this article highlights four attributes of a successful football organization that can also elevate FCPA compliance in a business organization.” The four attributes are:

Understanding the playbook

While beginning with the proffer that any successful team has playbook that is effectively communicated, the FCPA Professor noted, “understanding the playbook and effectively communicating its contents are essential first steps in managing and minimizing FCPA risk in a business organization. Yet as simple as this sounds, many business organizations fail to take adequate steps to ensure that everyone is actually on the same page when it comes to FCPA compliance.” From this he moves into some thoughts on training.

The Professor cautions against over-complicating your FCPA training. I tell the folks that I train on the FCPA that the one thing I want them to take away is that if their stomach tells them something is wrong or the hair on the back of their neck stands up, just raise your hand and ask for help. The Professor phrases it another way by stating, “Toward this end, the goal of FCPA training should not be to make each participant an expert on the FCPA’s specific elements but rather to provide all participants a pair of FCPA goggles so they can approach their specific job functions able to recognize FCPA risk and report it to the appropriate experts within the business organization.” He concludes this section by stating, “In short, and just as in football, success in the field is best accomplished by an FCPA compliance playbook that engages employees and motivates them to spot risk, which is then effectively communicated to all members of the organization in a language they can actually understand.”

Execution by all team members

Here the Professor makes an interesting observation, which is too often overlooked in the compliance arena. In football there are skill positions such as those people who handle the football. Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers generally are the most well known and well paid. However the Professor notes, “success on the field is more often dependent on execution by the so-called ‘‘grunt players,’’ such as a successful snap by the center, the ability of the offensive line to protect the quarterback and the ability of the defensive line to pressure the quarterback. Indeed, key to building a successful football organization is drafting and cultivating such ‘‘grunt’’ players as evidenced by the frequency in which offensive or defensive linemen are selected in the NFL draft ahead of various ‘‘skilled positions.’’”

In the compliance world, there are skilled players at the top, such as the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and various Board members who may be involved with a company’s compliance function. However many FCPA violations arise out of what the Professor calls the ‘grunt work’ of doing business. To be sure, there was the KBR $148 million bribe paid through its joint venture (JV) for work in Nigeria. But more often it is the spade work of doing business which can lead to a FCPA violation, as the Professor notes, “tax, import/export and securing licenses, permits, certifications and the like—are actionable under the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.”

He further notes that compliance must be viewed as a corporate wide function. It is not and should not be viewed as strictly a legal function as “it is also a finance and auditing issue and thus a function that is best achieved holistically throughout a business organization.” I agree with his observations and would urge compliance practitioners to take a look at your compliance program through the eyes of your field team or international business representatives. Moreover by getting these folks to ‘raise their hands’ and get information in your hands, you may be able to stop a compliance issue before it becomes a full FCPA violation.

A flexible playbook

Here the Professor channels his inner FCPA Guidance by noting that a team’s playbook “is uniquely tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of the team based upon its current roster.” In the business world, this means that you need to assess your company’s compliance risks and manage your risks, not those of some other entity. The Professor suggests some basic questions you should start with to make this determination.

  • Where does your company do business? What are those countries reputations for corruption?
  • Who are your potential customers? Are they foreign governments or state owned enterprises?
  • What is your sales model? Do you use third parties in the sales cycle in foreign countries?
  • How do get your products into foreign countries? Do you use freight forwarders or customs brokers? How about visa processors for your company personnel?
  • How does your company obtain the necessary licenses, permits, certifications and other necessary paperwork to do business in foreign countries?

Your risk level will depend in large part on answers to these questions. The Professor ends this section with the following, “just like a football playbook that is uniquely tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of the current roster and adjusted throughout the season to incorporate specific opponents, an FCPA compliance playbook that is consistent, yet flexible enough to incorporate specific realities in different countries, can best minimize FCPA scrutiny and enforcement.”

Playing hard, but not too aggressively

In football players certainly want to play hard but face penalties for playing too aggressively. I would add that sometimes there are grey areas in the rules that can get players into trouble. Moreover, just as each football team will have its own risk tolerance, businesses will as well. The Professor states, “The same is true for FCPA compliance. Business organizations, particularly those accountable to shareholders to increase value, should aggressively compete in the global marketplace to gain a competitive edge over competitors. Yet the practical reality is that much of what happens in the global marketplace can also fall into a gray area given the FCPA’s provisions, which have frequently been found to be vague and ambiguous when subjected to judicial scrutiny. The potential of a business organization to find itself on the wrong end of enforcement agency discretion is further compounded if employees seek to justify their conduct under the FCPA’s facilitating-payments exception and affirmative defenses.”

I would guess that the FCPA Professor had fun writing this article. I certainly enjoyed reading it. For any fan of football, I would speculate that you would too. Even if you are not a football fan, I believe that you will gain new and additional insights into some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of FCPA compliance by reading this article.

You can down the Professor’s article 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

August 20, 2014

Voyager II Launches and The FCPA Professor’s New Book

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act In A New EraMany readers of this blog will recall that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is 37 years old this year. Perhaps less might remember that also 37 years ago, NASA launched Voyager II, which was an unmanned spacecraft. It was the first of two such crafts to be launched that year on a “Grand Tour” of the outer planets, organized to coincide with a rare alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Aboard Voyager II was a 12-inch copper phonograph record called “Sounds of Earth.” Intended as a kind of introductory time capsule, the record included greetings in 60 languages and scientific information about Earth and the human race, along with classical, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll music, nature sounds like thunder and surf, and recorded messages from then President Jimmy Carter and other world leaders. Being good engineers, NASA conveniently included instructions on how to play the record, with a cartridge and needle provided.

In light of the age of the FCPA and our celebration of reaching for the stars, today I wanted to celebrate a volume from one of the FCPA’s most prolific commentators, Mike Koehler, the FCPA Professor. The author of numerous legal and scholarly articles and his eponymous daily blog, The FCPA Professor, he joined the thin ranks of those authors with hard bound volumes concerning the FCPA with his edition, The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act In A New Era.

As you would expect from the FCPA Professor he has lengthy sections on the genesis of the FCPA and its legislative history; general legal principals as they relate to FCPA enforcement and interpretation as well as the specifics of the text of the FCPA itself; and a review of enforcement actions. He also gives his insights as to why there was such an explosion of FCPA enforcements, beginning in 2004 and continuing right up until the present. He provides some pointers on FCPA compliance programs and ends the book with a discussion of FCPA reform. Of course, as you would expect from the FCPA Professor, the entire work is chocked full of quotations, citations and endnotes.

I would like to highlight some of my favorite discussions in the book. In Chapter 5 entitled FCPA Enforcement, he identifies “Three Buckets” of FCPA financial exposure. They are “(i) pre-enforcement actions professional fees and expenses; (ii) fine, penalty and disgorgement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action; and (iii) post-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.” With this tripartite description he lays out what a company might reasonably expect if it finds itself embroiled in an FCPA investigation and enforcement action. The message I got from this Chapter was that you had better have a strong compliance program in place because it is going to be a long hard and costly slog going forward if you don’t.

In Chapter 6, entitled Reasons for the increase in FCPA enforcement, The Professor sets out his thoughts on why there has been such an explosion of growth in FCPA enforcement. While both the use of Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) and Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) are noted along with the passage and implementation of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX); there are other reasons cited in the section entitled (appropriately enough) ‘Provocative Reasons’. These include that FCPA enforcement is “lucrative for the US government”; “the emergence and rapid rise of a lucrative industry called FCPA Inc.” (full disclosure – I am a card carrying member of FCPA Inc.); and the revolving door of lawyers who go into government service, enforce the FCPA and then leave government service to defend clients under government scrutiny for FCPA issue.

As the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ guy, I was very interested in Chapter 8, entitled FCPA Compliance and best practice. Fortunately he left some room for folks like me to go into the weeds of a compliance program but he did state, “While FCPA risk cannot be eliminated, it can be effectively managed and minimized when doing business in the global marketplace, and one positive result of the increase in FCPA enforcement in this new era has been the related increase in ‘soft’ enforcement of the FCPA through compliance policies and procedures.” He went on to define ‘soft enforcement’ as “a law’s ability to facilitate self-policing and compliance to a greater degree than can be accomplished through ‘hard’ enforcement alone. This was music to my ears. He also gave some practical approaches to implementing or enhancing your compliance program that I found to be quite useful for the compliance practitioner.

The Professor ends his book with a renewed call for FCPA reform. While he recognizes that, post Walmart, the impetus in Washington for amending the FCPA has all but died out; he does lay out all his reasons for the creation of a compliance defense amendment to the FCPA. Another cornerstone of his call for reform is to abolish NPAs and DPAs from the Department of Justice’s (DOJs) prosecutorial arsenal. Both of these issues bear serious weight and scrutiny and the FCPA Professor lays out his thoughts on each. Whatever your position on these issues is, you need to read up on what the Professor has to say to fully form your own internal debate.

As I have often remarked about the FCPA Professor, you may disagree with him but your FCPA knowledge and experience will be enriched by reading anything he puts out there for the rest of us to consume. However, after the publication of this book, I will have to add that it should become one of the standard texts for any FCPA compliance practitioner, law student studying the FCPA or anyone else interested in anti-bribery and anti-corruption. It should be on your FCPA library bookshelf. It certainly now sits proudly on mine.

You can purchase a copy of The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act In A New Era 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

June 19, 2014

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been – The First 1000 Blog Posts

1000Yes, indeed the Grateful Dead can and does inform your compliance regime as today is my 1000th blog posting on the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog. To say that I ever thought I would see this day or this many blog posts, would portend a level of clairvoyance that even Carnac the Great could not conceive of pontificating upon. I had struggled with a theme for this momentous accomplishment but my sublimely-grounded English wife brought me down from the ethereal clouds with the following suggestion, “Even an old dog can learn new tricks.” Nothing like being married to a younger woman.

So today, I want to write about some of the things I have learned on this 4+ year journey, which began in late 2009/early 2010 after a serious automobile/bicycle event (Box Score: Hummer-1 Tom-0) where about the only thing I had on my hands was time while I was at home convalescing. I started to explore the world of social media, engaging on Twitter, webinaring from my home office and blogging. I was so un-savvy in this arena that about the only positive thing my teenaged daughter could say about me was “Dad, you are so unhip, you are retro. But that is cool too.” The first thing I learned was that even a complete computer misfit and social media idiot could set up a blog on WordPress. It is not only easy but free. I cannot say with any pride that some of my early blogs were very good but I can say that for a lawyer, whose only skill was to be able to perform word processing in Microsoft Word, I could type and then upload a blog post into WordPress. At that point in my blogging career, that was a major accomplishment.

Although it did take some time, I learned how to stop writing like a lawyer, with full citations in each blog, coupled with as much lawyerese as I could manage, by finally adjusting to a blogging format. I also relearned an old lesson, which says that if you really want to learn about a subject, write on it. I remember one of the first things I learned when researching the Travel Act was that this Kennedy era law, passed largely through the efforts of Bobby Kennedy, was designed to help in the fight against organized crime. So who would say a 60 year old law cannot be used for a 21st century purpose? Or maybe even a Watergate-era like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) could not have an expansive use, beyond that for which it was passed in 1977? I also learned that if you put out solid content people will read and listen to what you have to say.

I learned there are some great people out there blogging in the ethics and compliance space. I have met some fabulous colleagues through my blogging who have not only been incredibly supportive but whom I now cherish as good friends. Some of them include Mike Koehler, the FCPA Professor, for his scholarly rigor and continued intellectual challenges. Dick Cassin, the Dean of FCPA bloggers, for his unflinching support to myself and so many others. Mike Volkov, former prosecutor and DC-insider, who is always around to bounce a tough question off. Howard Sklar, who was my This Week in FCPA podcast partner, until we lost him to the corporate world. Francine McKenna, a great and generous mentor for myself and many others and the go-to person all issues in and around the accounting world. Jim McGrath, the internal investigations guy, who brings a former state prosecutor’s perspective to how investigations should be handled and critiqued. Matt Ellis, whose focus on and insights into South America (as in – it’s not a country) continue to shine a light on anti-corruption issues south of the border. Matt Kelly, Editor of Compliance Week, who saves some great witticisms for his weekly blog posts. These are but a very few of the folks I am now privileged to call friends because of my blogging.

I learned that there is way too much white noise in the FCPA space. The FCPA Professor calls them FCPA Inc. and Mike Volkov derides them as the FCPA paparazzi. Whatever you might call them, they put out reams and reams of information, sometimes useful but many times not. What I have tried to do is synthesize some of the most useful for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), compliance practitioner or anyone else who does the day-to-day work of anti-bribery/anti-corruption compliance. There are many, many things you can know but a far smaller subset of what you need to know. I try to bring to the compliance practitioner what they need to know. That is why the subtitle of my blog is ‘The Nuts and Bolts of FCPA Compliance’. I have tried to write about things which the compliance professional can use in the everyday practice of compliance.

I have learned that blog posts, which I thought were the most important, may turn out to be the least viewed blogs. Conversely, posts I did not think would be of great interest turned out to have the largest number of one-day hits. For instance, the largest single number of one-day hits I had was an article from two years ago about the SNC-Lavalin corruption investigation in Canada. [For a blog about FCPA compliance-go figure.] The second largest number was a recent blog post using the GM internal investigation as an exploration in the differences between a corporate legal function and its compliance function.

I have learned that by committing to something, you become much better at it. My first year of blogging, I tried to put out 2-3 blogs per week but beginning in 2011, I committed to a daily blog post. Once I made that commitment, blogging became a part of my workday. Once it became a part of my workday, it was like any other project or assignment. I had to set aside the time to work on it. It has made me a much more efficient and better writer to know that I need write something, during my workday. Yes there have been times I was up at 5 AM to write a post or stayed up way past my school-night bedtime trying to crank something out but those situations have become few and far between as I became more disciplined about my blogging.

But most of all I have learned that blogging is fun. It is fun because it is a challenge to write about something in an informative and engaging manner. It is fun to tie a Shakespeare play to a compliance and ethics theme. It is fun to read a week’s worth of Sherlock Holmes’ stories and tie a compliance topic to a story each day for one week. It is fun to find out what happened this day in history and use it as a hook to grab your readers’ attention. It is fun to engage in a debate with the FCPA Professor on a topic of mutual interest, where we look at the same thing, yet see it from different perspectives. And it is fun when you meet someone for the first time and after you introduce yourself, they say to you “When is a rose, not a rose? When it’s a FCPA violation”.

Where will the next 1000 blogs posts take me? I have no clue but if they are as much fun as the first 1000 posts have been I hope that you will continue to join my on This Long Strange Trip.

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

May 15, 2014

Nolan Ryan’s First No-Hitter and Checking In On the FCPA Professor

LearnAs the Houston Astros continue their journey into complete non-relevance, both to myself and the greater southeast Texas TV watching audience, today we celebrate one of the Astros greatest players, Nolan Ryan. On this day, 41 years ago, Ryan pitched the first of his seven No-Hitters. Ryan played with the Astros from 1980-1988. Of course the idiocy of current Astros management did not begin with the current owner, as the team basically cut Ryan in 1988, saying that he was “washed up” at the tender age of 41. He simply went on to play for the Texas Rangers for another six years, where he only went on to pitch No-Hitters six and seven and record another 1000 strikeouts.

While I cannot determine at this point if the FCPA Professor will have a similarly sterling 26 year career that Ryan accomplished, he recently has done a couple of things that I certainly believe continue to demonstrate his All-Star work in the fields of law and compliance. As clearly denominated by his moniker, the FCPA Professor, he teaches law with a specialization in the arena of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). While myself and others bemoan to him that he needs to get out on the speaking circuit so that we can hear more of this critique and analysis of FCPA enforcement and to learn from him, I was interested to see he is correcting this by 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. For more information on the FCPA Institute, click here.

However, as I will not be able to attend the Professor’s FCPA Institute since I will be hosting my daughter’s annual summer trek to the heat and humidity of Houston, I was equally pleased to see another offering by the FCPA Professor which comes out this summer and indeed it appears in book stores next month. It is his long awaited volume, entitled The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a New Era, where the Professor takes a look at the FCPA’s new era of enforcement and confronts the FCPA statutory text, legislative history, judicial decisions, enforcement agency guidance, and resolved FCPA enforcement actions. The contents include the following: Prologue Introduction and Overview; Chapter 1. Before the New Era: The Story of the FCPA and Its Early Enforcement; Chapter 2. FCPA Foundational Knowledge; Chapter 3. The FCPA’s Anti-Bribery Provisions; Chapter 4. The FCPA’s Books and Records and Internal Controls Provisions; Chapter 5. FCPA Enforcement; Chapter 6. Reasons for the Increase in FCPA Enforcement; Chapter 7. The FCPA’s Long Tentacles; Chapter 8. FCPA Compliance and Best Practices; Chapter 9. FCPA Reform; and Conclusion. Of course there is a handy Index as well.

The Professor has some early high praise for his work including the following kudos:

From Michael Mukasey, Former U.S. Attorney General, says “Professor Mike Koehler has brought to this volume the clear-eyed perspective that has made his FCPA Professor website the most authoritative source for those seeking to understand and apply the FCPA. This is a uniquely useful book, laying out systematically the history and rationale of the FCPA, as well as its evolution into a structure governed as much by lore as by law. It will be valuable both to those who counsel international corporations, whether in connection with immediate crises or long-term strategies; and to those who contemplate what the FCPA has become, and how it can be improved.”

From Daniel Chow, Associate Dean for International and Graduate Programs, The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law, USA, says of the book “This is the single most comprehensive academic treatment of the Foreign Corrupt Practices available. Professor Koehler’s book will become the authoritative standard for the field. The book not only treats the history of the FCPA, but analyzes the statute’s elements in detail, discusses current cases, and makes proposals for reforms where the current law is deficient. The book is written in a clear, accessible style and I will use it often as a resource for my own scholarly work.”

From Richard Alderman, Former Director of the UK Serious Fraud Office, states “An excellent and thought-provoking book by a great expert. Backed up by rigorous analysis of cases, Professor Koehler constantly challenges those involved in anti-corruption work by asking the question “why?” He puts forward many constructive and well-argued suggestions for improvements that need to be considered. I have learned a lot from Professor Koehler over the years and I can thoroughly recommend this book.”

And from Tom Fox – “if the FCPA Professor writes about it you need to read it. While you may disagree with him, your FCPA perspective and experience will be enriched by the exercise.”

So if you are like me and cannot make it up to Milwaukee in July, go to Amazon.com and pre-order a copy of the FCPA Professor’s book, which is scheduled to ship next month. To order click 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

April 21, 2014

Nursery Rhymes, a Chinese Proverb, the HP FCPA Enforcement and the Myth of the Rogue Employee

Cow Jumping Over the MoonHey diddle diddle,

The Cat and the fiddle,

The Cow jumped over the moon.

As my friend and colleague Jay Rosen is want to remind us, he continually learns much about compliance and ethics from his Kindergarten-aged daughters. I submit that you need only look to children’s nursery rhymes in the context of the recent Hewlett-Packard (HP) Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement (FCPA) to fully appreciate the inanity of the myth of the ‘rogue employee.’ HP has been cited as the prime example of the case where a small group of evil or ‘rogue employees’ purposely mislead their ultimate US corporate parent (HP Co) by engaging in bribery and corruption for which their US corporate parent, who did not engage in the corrupt action, were forced to pay the fines and penalties (and attendant investigative costs, remediation costs and negative publicity). For the purposes of this discussion we will leave out the millions of dollars that HP potentially benefited from via the illegal actions of its alleged ‘rogue employees’; or if there has ever been a case involving ‘rogue employees’ who, intentionally or otherwise, took a company down into FCPA grief.

I. HP-Poland – the Tale of Little Jack Horner – what a good boy I am

Little Jack Horner

Sat in the corner,

Eating a Christmas pie;

He put in his thumb,

And pulled out a plum,

And said ‘What a good boy am I!’

This is the one where commentators are having a Eureka moment. After all, the settlement documents point to one man, HP’s Poland Country Manager, and his John Le Carré-esque meetings. In this bribery scheme, the Country Manager engaged in a multi-year bribery scheme to pay bribes to one Polish government official to secure a large number of contracts. These bribes were paid surreptitiously, using a variety of techniques to evade detection but they all had one thing in common which I will ask you to figure out from the Bribery Box presented below.

HP-Poland Bribery Box Score

Bribe Amount Method of Payment Year Paid Business Received
$150,000 Bag of cash, delivered to home of Polish gov official 2007 Contract valued at $15.7MM
$100,000 Bag of cash, delivered in parking lot to Polish gov official 2007
$130,000 to $140,000 Bag of cash delivered to Polish gov official 2008 Contract executed January 2008
$110,000 Bag of cash 2008 Contract executed in April 2008
$90,000 Bag of cash delivered to Polish gov official 2008 Contract executed May 2008
$30,000 Bag of cash delivered to Polish gov official 2008 Final 3 contracts totaled $32MM in value
$6,000 (offer) 2010 For contract signed in 2010 valued at $4MM
$30,000 Delivered as gifts 2007-2010 Total contracts valued at $60MM

For those of you not so quick on the draw the common element, at least until the end of the Box Score, is that all the bribes were paid in cash. For part of my in-house legal career, I did legal work for the energy industry and I have some familiarity in the amount of money that Country Manager’s made, at least the range of their salary and bonus, and it certainly was not enough to fund bribes in the amount of $600,000 in cash over a couple of years.

So let me get this straight, no one else at HP-Poland aided the Country Manager while he helped himself to the kitty? Didn’t anyone even notice, say in 2007, one of our $250,000 was missing? If not, the Country Manager had to have help in siphoning off funds from HP itself to fund these bribes? So my first question is where was HP internal audit? At the country level? At the region level? At the corporate level? Where was HP Co, when HP-Poland landed $60MM in contracts, in determining how these contracts were procured? Where were HP internal controls?

Was the Country Manager like Little Jack Horner? What a good boy I am?

II.   HP-Russia – Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three Bags Full

Baa, baa, black sheep,

Have you any wool?

Yes, sir, yes, sir,

Three bags full.

HP-Russia seems to confuse commentators the most about the myth of the ‘rogue employee’. Here they point to the coded spreadsheets (the “Encrypted Spreadsheet”), which could only be unlocked and read by the conspirators themselves. And after all, they lied, lied, when they were asked about some of the details of the transaction in questions. I am sure Inspector Renoir is still shocked, shocked, to discover that gambling is still occurring on the premises of Rick’s Café American in Casablanca.

So why three bags full? Well, first of all, if you are from a certain university in central Texas you’ll immediately know what it means. For the less delicate among you, it would mean a large load of Col. Sherman Potter’s horse-hockey; three bags full in fact. This deal had been floating around HP for years, was well-known enough to raise multiple Red Flags inside the company and was simply internally shopped until it slid through by hook, nook or crook; or in this case, three bags full.

The initial deal was inked with the Russian government in June 2001 but as the Russian government could not fund it, they sought another foreign government to fund and that government was the US. However, to do so, it required that at least 85% of all goods and services were of US origin. To meet this requirement, the initial deal was changed to substitute a US intermediary (Intermediary 2) who replaced the Swiss intermediary on the deal (Intermediary 1). HP Co conducted due diligence on Intermediary 2 and then met with Intermediary 2 in the US to conduct additional due diligence. However, Intermediary 2 balked at answering more “pointed questions” about its expertise and financial wherewithal to handle the transaction. HP Co then told HP-Russia that they would not approve the transaction.

Not to be deterred from a good deal, the foreign government financing was switched from the US to Germany. In addition, Intermediary 2 was ditched for a one-man shop, Burwell Consulting Ltd (Burwell). Burwell and others were eventually paid nearly $21MM in bribes for the Russia government contract. There has been much discussion about how HP-Russia tricked HP-Germany’s employees through the use of “encrypted, password protected spreadsheets that tracked the deal’s financial inflows and outflows”. However, what I found more interesting was the discussion about how not only had HP-Russia shopped the deal internally and been told a resounding NO by HP Co for obvious Red Flags present but also the discussion of how HP-Russia internally funded the bribery scheme.

They did so by the classic ‘stuffing the channel’ that every software lawyer, accountant, bookkeeper, auditor, sales rep and anyone else subject to GAAP or IFSR learns on their first day of training on their first job. It goes like this: HP-Russia sold products to a channel partner; who then sold them to Intermediary 3; who then sold them back to HP with a mark-up and voila, you have a big pile of cash with which to bribe.

So what does the HP-Russia deal tell us about HP as a company? As with HP-Poland, you would have to question where was internal controls while this was playing out, at the country level, at the region level, at the anywhere level? But there is far more than simply internal controls going on here. Based on what was publicly announced in the settlement documents, HP Co had actual knowledge that the deal was rife with Red Flags as it was presented. It was so bad they shut it down. Of course, the business guys simply resurrected it in another place, in another guise. What does that say about the overall effectiveness of the compliance function at the time if HP-Russia could bring a Red Flagged deal to HP Co only to have it stopped, then to shove it through HP-Germany due to weak controls? What about the internal controls on how HP-Russia was able to generate $21MM in scammed money to pay the bribes in the first place? Think anyone else might have thought about running that scam through those robust internal controls? After all, its only three bags full…

III.   HP-Mexico – Fool Me Once…

Fool Me Once,

Shame on You;

Fool me twice,

Shame on Me.

The above did not come from George Bush (The Younger) but is purported to be an old Chinese proverb. I like that thought anyway and it certainly informs our look the claim of ‘rogue employee’ in Mexico. Here, for reasons far beyond my comprehension, HP was able to secure a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA) from the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the actions of its subsidiary in Mexico in paying a bribe of $1.6MM to facilitate the winning of a contract worth $6MM. But the lesson learned from the ancient Chinese proverb certainly informs our look at the allegation of the ‘rogue employee’ down Mexico way.

HP-Mexico wanted to use a certain agent involving a deal with Pemex because he had a very close relationship with the Pemex official who would be making the decision on the contract. HP-Mexico even signed a contract with this agent where his description of services was an “influencer fee” for which he would receive a 25% commission. This agent could apparently neither meet HP Co’s due diligence requirements, accept HP Co’s mandatory commission rate or both but whatever the reason, they were not approved as an agent on the Pemex deal. But like all good HP business folks (beginning to see a pattern here?) HP-Mexico simply subcontracted this agent to an existing, approved HP channel partner. HP-Mexico then amazingly (or perhaps not) said that they needed to raise the commission rate of this channel partner from 1.5% to 26.5% because this channel partner was now “managing discounts with Pemex” which coincidentally, this channel partner had never done. Because this channel partner was previously approved by compliance, the request for increase in commission rate was never submitted to compliance for approval. Think an internal control or two might have been appropriate in this situation?

What do the nursery rhymes and Chinese proverb tell us about HP and the Myth of the Rogue Employee? All three of the bribery schemes involved showed that there were multiple failures of numerous systems that allowed the schemes to run rampant. But perhaps the thing that they speak to the most is the culture that existed at the company during the time frames in question. While the FCPA Professor and others have noted that some of the conduct in question began in Russia as long ago as 1999, the settlement documents speak to conduct in Poland as recently as 2010. Certainly, the NPA for HP-Mexico’s conduct was for actions in 2009. What was the tone set that not only allowed employees to think that they could get away with subverting the law but that they had to do so. That, perhaps, is the most troubling questions unanswered by the Myth of the Rogue Employee.

Whatever the answer to HP’s culture of compliance may have been at the time of the conduct which led to the enforcement action, the claim that the company does not bear responsibility for either setting that tone, facilitating the conduct by looking the other way when convenient or not having appropriate internal prevention and detection controls in place to prevent massive fraud by its own employees; the reality is that when a employees of a company can evade controls to generate multi-millions of dollars to generate pools of money to pay bribes, there is no ‘rogue employee’ or even small group of rogue employees. Or there is about as much chance as a cow jumping over the moon.

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

April 14, 2014

The HP FCPA Settlement

FCPA SettlementLast week the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) jointly announced the conclusion of a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action against Hewlett-Packard Company (HP). In the settlement, HP agreed to pay $108MM in fines, penalties and disgorgements for criminal and civil acts. To say that it was one of the more perplexing FCPA settlements would seem to be an understatement. While some will read the settlement documents and see conduct which did not merit such a high total amount of fines and penalties, I am not from that camp.

The tale of this sordid affair of bribery and corruption occurred over 3 continents with multiple countries involved, evidencing an entire breakdown in company internal controls and a complete lack of a culture of compliance. Yet the settlement documents make great pains to emphasize that few employees were actually involved in the nefarious conduct. How bad was the conduct? Think right up there with BizJet because we had bags of cash delivered to a Polish government official. (But unlike BizJet, the Board of Directors did not approve the bribery scheme and it was not taken across the border.) For the Russian deal, it was shopped through several countries with multiple levels of company review, which did not seem to work or care much about anything except getting the deal done. For Mexico, they just seemed to get a free pass where the contract description for the agent who paid the bribe was “influencer fee”.

Finally, as most readers might remember, HP did not self-report this misconduct to the DOJ or SEC. Apparently, the story of HP’s bribery by its German subsidiary to gain a contract in Russia was broken by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article in April 15, 2010. The next day, the DOJ and SEC announced they were investigating the allegations of bribery. However, HP was made aware of the allegations by its German subsidiary in December 2009, when German authorities raided HP’s offices in Munich and arrested one HP Germany executive and two former employees. Yet HP never self-reported. Not exactly the poster child for self-disclosure for any company going forward.

Of course HP’s public response at the time indicated its attitude, when a HP spokesperson was quoted in the WSJ article as saying “This is an investigation of alleged conduct that occurred almost seven years ago, largely by employees no longer with HP. We are cooperating fully with the German and Russian authorities and will continue to conduct our own internal investigation.”

More befuddlement comes from the reported facts around HP Germany. As noted by the WSJ report, one, then current, HP executive was arrested and two former employees were arrested in connection with the investigation by German authorities. There is no mention of them in any of the settlement documents. The WSJ article also reported that investigation-related documents submitted to a German court showed that German prosecutors were “looking into whether H-P executives funneled the suspected bribes through a network of shell companies and accounts in places including Britain, Austria, Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands, Belize, New Zealand, the Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania, and the states of Delaware and Wyoming”. While some of these countries were mentioned in the settlement documents there was no mentions of DOJ or SEC investigations into Wyoming, Belize, the British Virgin Islands or New Zealand.

What are we to make of the criminal fines levied against the Russian and Polish subsidiaries of HP? The Polish subsidiary pled guilty to a two count Criminal Information consisting of (1) violating the FCPA’s internal control provisions; (2) violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions. The US Sentencing Guidelines suggested a fine range of $19MM to $38MM, the final fine was $15,450,244.

For the Russia deal, the Russian subsidiary pled guilty to a four count Criminal Information consisting of (1) conspiracy to violate the books and records provisions of the FCPA; (2) violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions; (3) violating the FCPA’s internal control provisions; (4) violating the FCPA’s books and records provisions. The US Sentencing Guidelines suggested a fine range of $87MM to $174MM, yet the final fine was $58,772,250.

Finally, in Mexico HP’s subsidiary, according the to the SEC Press Release, “paid a consultant to help the company win a public IT contract worth approximately $6 million. At least $125,000 was funneled to a government official at the state-owned petroleum company with whom the consultant had connections. Although the consultant was not an approved deal partner and had not been subjected to the due diligence required under company policy, HP Mexico sales managers used a pass-through entity to pay inflated commissions to the consultant.” This was internally referred to by HP as an “influencer fee.” Pretty clear evidence of what it was to be used for, wouldn’t you say? Yet the DOJ did not to criminally prosecute the company’s Mexican subsidiary and entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA), HP agreed to pay forfeiture in the amount of $2,527,750.

How did HP accomplish all of this? In a Press Release HP Executive Vice President and General Counsel John Schultz said, “The misconduct described in the settlement was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company. HP fully cooperated with both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the investigation of these matters and will continue to provide customers around the world with top quality products and services without interruption.”

As reported by the FCPA Professor, in his blog post entitled “HP And Related Entities Resolve $108 Million FCPA Enforcement Action”, the HP Russian subsidiary Plea Agreement gave the following factors for the reduction in the fine from the Sentencing Guideline range:

“(a) monetary assessments that HP has agreed to pay to the SEC and is expected to pay to law enforcement authorities in Germany relating to the same conduct at issue …; (b) HP Russia’s and HP’s cooperation has been, on the whole, extraordinary, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the Department; (c) HP Russia and HP have engaged in extensive remediation, including by taking appropriate disciplinary action against culpable employees of HP and enhancing their internal accounting, reporting, and compliance functions; (d) HP has committed to continue enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls … (e) the misconduct identified … was largely undertaken by employees associated with HP Russia, which employed a small fraction of HP global workforce during the relevant period; (f) neither HP nor HP Russia has previously been subject of any criminal enforcement action by the Department or law enforcement authority in Russia or elsewhere; (g) HP Russia and HP have agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department and other U.S. and foreign law enforcement authorities, if requested by the Department …”

In the same blog post, the Professor reported the following reasons were stated for reduction in the final fine by HP’s Polish subsidiary’s:

“(a) HP Poland’s cooperation with the Department’s investigation; (b) HP Poland’s ultimate parent corporation, HP, has committed to maintain and continue enhancing its compliance program and internal accounting controls …; and (c) HP Poland and HP have agreed to continue with the Department and other U.S. and foreign law enforcement authorities in any ongoing investigation …”

We have witnessed companies, which have engaged in ‘extraordinary cooperation’ with the DOJ during the pendency of their FCPA investigations. BizJet is certainly one that comes to mind. Further, there are clear examples of companies, which extensively remediated during the pendancies of their FCPA investigations, from which they clearly benefited. Two prime examples are Parker Drilling, which not only received a financial penalty below the suggested range but also was not required to have a corporate monitor, while they had C-Suite involvement in its bribery scheme. Weatherford seeming came back from the brink during mid-investigation when they hired Billy Jacobson and turned around not only their attitude towards cooperation with the DOJ but also their efforts toward remediation.

Both of these companies are headquartered in Houston and both have been quite active on the conference circuit talking about their compliance programs so most compliance practitioners are aware that these companies are on the forefront of best practices. Perhaps HP is on some circuit doing that, somewhere. If so, kudos to them. If their remediation work led to a best practices compliance program for the company and their extraordinary cooperation led to the astonishing reduction in penalties to their entities, I certainly tip my cap to them. If their lawyers were great negotiators and made great presentations to the DOJ and SEC, all of which led to or contributed to the final results, a tip of the cap to them as well.

So what is the lesson to be learned for the compliance practitioner? Other than befuddlement, I am not sure. Congratulating HP and its counsel is not a lesson it is an action. If HP now has a best practices compliance program, I hope they will provide the compliance community with the lessons that they learned and incorporated into their compliance program, which allowed them to obtain the fines below the minimum suggested range. If they have incorporated some enhanced compliance components into their program I hope they will share those enhancements too.

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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

February 20, 2014

C’Mon Man Or the End of the World?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

February 19, 2014

Welcome to the Hotel California: FCPA Enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

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