FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

December 8, 2013

And The Hits Just Keep on Coming for the ‘Sons and Daughters’ Hiring Program

About the best thing that you can say for the Houston Texans is that they did not lose on Sunday. Of course they did not play on Sunday, pathetically losing Week 14’s game last Thursday. For their season’s effort, the head coach was fired the next day. At least in the National Football League (NFL) there is accountability.

On the other hand, the hits just keep on coming for JP Morgan Chase. On the front page of Sunday’s New York Times (NYT), in an article entitled “Bank Tracked Business Linked to China Hiring”, reporters Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenburg reviewed yet more potentially damning evidence in the Bank’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation. They were able to view documents which had been recently disclosed by JP Morgan Chase to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in connection with the bank’s ongoing internal investigation into its ‘Sons and Daughters’ hiring program which apparently targeted the children of communist party officials and high ranking officials of state owned enterprises for employment in order to obtain business from their parents. The reporters noted, “Until now, the indications of a connection between the hires and business deals have not been so explicit.”

Emails, Spreadsheets and Whistleblowers

The reporters studied both documents and emails which seemed to indicate that the bank thought hiring of these sons and daughters would and did contribute in bringing business to the bank. The documents included spreadsheets “that list the bank’s “track record” for converting hires into business deals”. Another set of documents discussed in the article were described as “historical deal conversion” spreadsheets. The article went on to detail that in one column there was a list of the job candidates and in another column “the bank recorded its track record for winning business from the companies tied to the candidates.” There were other spreadsheets which listed the hires of well-connected children and the revenue that the bank earned from deals involving with hires linked to those companies. These other documents included spreadsheets which discussed “about 30 employees with ties to state-owned companies or Communist Party officials, including the daughter of the deputy minister of propaganda, a relative of a Chinese financial regulator and the nephew of the executive chairman at Sinotruk, which is part of a state-owned trucking enterprise.”

There were also emails cited in the article which seemed to indicate that depth and pervasiveness of the ‘sons and daughters’ hiring program. One email discussed “the “existing and potential business opportunities,” a senior JPMorgan executive in Hong Kong emphasized that the father of a job candidate was the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate. The executive also extolled the broader benefits of the hiring program, telling colleagues in another email: “You all know I have always been a big believer of the Sons and Daughters program — it almost has a linear relationship” with winning assignments to advise Chinese companies.”

In addition to these emails and documents discussed in the NYT article, the reporters also interviewed current and former bank employees. Apparently at least two whistleblowers came forward to identify the hiring scheme, “with one filing a complaint in April 2011 with the Hong Kong stock exchange and another coming forward to American authorities this year.” It has not been clear when JP Morgan Chase began its internal investigation or what was the genesis of the investigation.

The Tang Xiaoning Hiring

The article went into specifics with one of the hiring’s, that of “Tang Xiaoning, a onetime Goldman and Citigroup employee whose father is the chairman of the China Everbright Group, appeared to encapsulate the spirit of the “Sons and Daughters” program for state-owned clients. The father, approached a JPMorgan executive in Hong Kong in March 2010 about a position for his son, records and interviews show. The executive, who led JPMorgan’s China investment banking unit, welcomed the request and urged his colleagues in an email a day later to discuss “how we can leverage more on this account going forward.” But in an internal compliance form, the executive played down the significance of hiring Mr. Tang, documents show, saying there was “no expected benefit.”

Tang Xiaoning was subsequently hired on a one-year employment agreement. Thereafter his father, Tang Shuangning, who had done little if any business with the bank prior to the hiring of his son. But thereafter, “a China Everbright subsidiary hired the bank to advise on a $300 million private offering of shares, according to interviews. And in 2011, after Mr. Tang worked at JPMorgan for several months, China Everbright’s banking subsidiary hired JPMorgan as one of several financial advisers on its decision to become a public company, a deal that was delayed amid turmoil on the world’s markets.” In 2012, after two successive one-year extensions of his employment agreement, “China Everbright International, a subsidiary focused on alternative energy businesses, hired JPMorgan to advise on a $162 million sale of shares, according to Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ, a research service.” When the issue of a third one-year employment agreement it was clear what bank officials in China thought of the situation. The NYT article quoted an email which read, ““Given where we are on China Everbright, I think we may need another contract for Xiaoning,” the executive wrote.”

The article notes that the origins of the ‘Sons and Daughters’ hiring program was to comply with the FCPA. The reporters noted, “According to documents and interviews with current and former employees, JPMorgan created the “Sons and Daughters” program in 2006 with the expectation that the hires would receive heightened scrutiny. But by 2009, the “Sons and Daughters” program was putting the job candidates on the fast track to employment. The documents show that applicants from prominent Chinese families faced less stringent hiring standards — and fewer job interviews — than the average junior-level hire.” Moreover, there has apparently been no direct evidence of knowledge by the program at the corporate headquarters in New York.

Ongoing Monitoring is Critical

So for the compliance professional what are some of the lessons that can be drawn from this matter? First and foremost is that there needs to be ongoing monitoring to determine whether employees are staying within the compliance program. Even after all the important ethical messages from management have been communicated to the appropriate audiences and key standards and controls are in place, there should still be a question of whether the company’s employees are adhering to the compliance program. Two of the seven compliance elements in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines call for companies to monitor, audit, and respond quickly to allegations of misconduct. These three highlighted activities are key components enforcement officials look for when determining whether companies maintain adequate oversight of their compliance programs.

Your company should establish a regular monitoring system to spot issues and address them. Effective monitoring means applying a consistent set of protocols, checks, and controls tailored to your company’s risks to detect and remediate compliance problems on an ongoing basis. To address this, your compliance team should be checking in routinely with local Finance departments in your foreign offices to ask if they’ve noticed recent accounting irregularities. Regional directors should be required to keep tabs on potential improper activity in the countries in which they manage. Additionally, the global compliance committee should meet or communicate as often as every month to discuss issues as they arise. These ongoing efforts demonstrate that your company is serious about compliance.

This means that you may want to walk down the hall and talk to your company’s Human Resources (HR) Department to see if there is anything around hiring of the children or family members of government officials. You might also do some transaction monitoring to see if there are new clients, customers or projects which popped up suddenly as new business for the company. Or take it a step further to see if there were contracts or business retained because of any hiring.

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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013

November 12, 2013

Of Princelings and Princess-lings – Does Their Employment Have Corrupt Intent?

There was an excellent article this weekend in the Financial Times (FT), entitled “Finance: Plugged Into the Party”, where reporters Henry Sender and Tom Mitchell explored the hiring of sons and daughters of Chinese government officials, in what now might be called the ‘Era of the Prince-lings’. However, it appears that this era is closing when they noted, “amid a US regulatory probe and a new political climate in China, the era is coming to an end.” The article detailed how the practice of hiring the sons and daughters of high government officials began in the early 1990s. The practice seems have begun with the hiring of the first princess-ling – Margaret Ren, the daughter-in-law of a former Chinese Premier.

Given this long standing practice I wondered how it might be viewed under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). In last year’s FCPA Guidance, it related that to violate the FCPA, an offer, promise, or authorization of a payment, or a payment, to a government official must be made “corruptly.” As Congress noted when adopting the FCPA, the word “corruptly” means an intent or desire to wrongfully influence the recipient:

In order for a corporation to be criminally liable under the FCPA, it must be found to have acted corruptly. The word “corruptly” is used in order to make clear that the offer, payment, promise, or gift, must be intended to induce the recipient to misuse his official position; for example, wrongfully to direct business to the payor or his client, to obtain preferential legislation or regulations, or to induce a foreign official to fail to perform an official function.

The Guidance goes on to relate that the FCPA focuses on intent, so that it does not require that a corrupt act succeed in its purpose. Further, a foreign official need not solicit, accept or indeed receive a bribe for the FCPA to be violated. The Guidance points to the Innospec enforcement action in which “a specialty chemical company promised Iraqi government officials approximately $850,000 in bribes for an upcoming contract. Although the company did not, in the end, make the payment (the scheme was thwarted by the U.S. government’s investigation), the company still violated the FCPA and was held accountable.” Further, this is why “Regardless of size, for a gift or other payment to violate the statute, the payor must have corrupt intent—that is, the intent to improperly influence the government official. The corrupt intent requirement protects companies that engage in the ordinary and legitimate promotion of their businesses while targeting conduct that seeks to improperly induce officials into misusing their positions.”

But, beyond corruptly, for an individual to be criminally liable under the FCPA, that person must act ‘willfully’. The Guidance notes that the FCPA does not define ‘willfully’ but the Guidance points to its construction by federal court decisions. Indeed in US v. Kay, the US Supreme Court upheld jury instructions stated that willfully is “knowledge that [a defendant] was doing a ‘bad’ act under the general rules of law” thereby connoting a willful act is one which is committed both voluntarily and purposefully, and with a bad purpose in mind. The Guidance went on to cite the US Supreme Court in Bryan v. United States, for the proposition that “[a]s a general matter, when used in the criminal context, a ‘willful’ act is one undertaken with a ‘bad purpose.’ In other words, in order to establish a ‘willful’ violation of a statute, ‘the Government must prove that the defendant acted with knowledge that his conduct was unlawful.’”

So what if we look at JP Morgan Chase under the above. The FT article reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is looking into whether the Bank hired the sons of two government officials to “get lucrative mandates from the Chinese Ministry of Railways and Everbright Bank.” Further, this investigation has “turned up internal documents linking hires to mandates JPMorgan was trying to win, raising questions about whether the recruits were signed up on merit or purely for their pedigree”.

The article goes on to note that that any possible enforcement actions for such Princeling hiring’s could well be complicated by the fact that “many of the princelings can boast impressive qualifications, such as an Ivy League education.” They can also be “highly experienced, highly qualified people in their own right.” Even if these people were well-connect in mainland China and this is one of the reasons they were hired does this rise to the level of “The word “corruptly” is used in order to make clear that the offer, payment, promise, or gift, must be intended to induce the recipient to misuse his official position”. Further, what if there is some type of mixed motive but no outward indicia of corruption; is that sufficient to bring a FCPA violation?

I do not pretend to have any insight into how the JPMorgan Chase investigation will turn out. Last week, it JPMorgan Chase indicated that the dreaded ‘Where Else’ question of FCPA investigations had been asked when it revealed that the original investigation in hiring practices had expanded into other countries. However, I believe that simply the hiring of the sons and daughters of government officials does not violate the FCPA. There still must be corrupt intent. To overcome any such suspicion, I think the key is to ‘Document, Document, and Document’ your hiring practices to demonstrate that any family members of government officials are qualified for any position that you might offer them and they went through the same hiring process as all other candidates.

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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013

July 10, 2013

Dog Bite Defense No. 4 and the Defense of an FCPA Claim

As most readers of this blog know, I am a recovering trial lawyer. I almost always acted as defense counsel for corporations in my trial lawyer career. In the trial lawyer world, there are four recognized defenses to any claim which are known as the “Dog Bite Defenses”. They are:

  1. My dog didn’t bite you.
  2. Even if my dog did bite you, it’s because you provoked him.
  3. Even if my dog did bite you, you really aren’t injured.
  4. My dog didn’t bite you because I don’t have a dog.

The fourth version of the Dog Bite defense is certainly an ‘all-in’ move. You had either (1) better be right or (2) have some big kahunas to make that argument to a jury with a straight face.

I recently saw a couple of examples of the ‘Dog Bite’ defense which caught my eye. The first was in an article in the most recent issue of The New Yorker, entitled “Buried Secrets”, by Patrick Radden Keefe. His article discussed the ongoing situation involving the Beny Steinmetz Group Resources Group (BSGR), its mining concession in the country of Guinea and its representative Frederic Cilins, who is in jail in New York, denied bail and awaiting jail for obstruction of justice charges. In an exhaustively reported article, Keefe wrote about his interviews with many of the principal players in this saga including BSRG founder Beny Steinmetz, its representative Cilins and the current President of Guinea, Alpha Condé.

As reported in two Financial Times (FT) articles, entitled “Contracts link BSGR to alleged bribes” (the “mine rights article”) and “FBI sting says that ‘agent’ sought to have mining contracts destroyed” (the “FBI sting article”), by the same triumvirate of FT reporters Tom Burgis, Misha Glenny and Cynthia O’Murchu; there are allegations that “The resources arm of Beny Steinmetz Group agreed to pay $2m to the wife of an African president to help it secure rights to one of the world’s richest untapped mineral deposits, according to documents seen by the Financial Times”. These payments were allegedly memorialized in “Copies of two contracts from 2007 and 2008, apparently signed by BSGR’s representatives in the mineral-rich west African nation of Guinea, set out agreements for the company to make payments and transfer shares to Mamadie Touré, wife of the then president Lansana Conté.”

The FBI sting article reported that on Sunday April 14, 2013, “Frederic Cilins held the last of a series of meetings with the widow of an African dictator to discuss what she was going to do with some sensitive documents.” Unfortunately for Cilins he “did not realise that the woman he was talking to was wearing a wire and that FBI agents were watching. As he left the meeting, the agents arrested him carrying envelopes filled with $20,000 in cash, the indictment says. That was a pittance compared with the $5m he was taped offering the dictator’s widow during what US authorities say was a two-month campaign to tamper with a witness and destroy records.”

So how does the Dog Bite defense come into play here? As reported by Keefe during his interview with Beny Steinmetz, Steinmetz said “the documents that were discussed in Jacksonville did not prove anything, he said-they were forgeries”, these were the ‘alleged documents’ that Cilins was so keen to get back from Mamadie Touré. Keefe also reported that the BSGR representative, Asher Avidan, when presented with a photograph of a signature told Keefe that the signature “was identical to his own but dismissed it as “a simple Photoshop.”

While it might not be anything new to claim that a signature on a contract is a forgery, especially if you do not want to acknowledge that you signed the document in question, the next line of defense is certainly an ‘all-in’ play. During the interview with Avidan, he said that Mamadie Touré was “not his [the deceased President’s] wife. Not even sleeping with him. Then he added, “She is a lobbyist. Like a thousand others.” What this means for a defense under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is if the payments were made but they were not to a foreign government official or spouse, it might not be covered under the FCPA. The problem with this defense is that you do have to admit that (1) the contracts exist and (2) the payments were made or promised. So you had better hope that the jury believes it when you claim the counter-party to the contract was not the wife of the President.

And that ladies and gentlemen is Dog Bite defense No. 4.

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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013

October 15, 2012

How Casanova Informs Your FCPA Compliance Program

One cannot use ‘sex’ in the title of a blog or company email filters will pick it up as spam. So while our title today focuses on Casanova and lust, this post will focus on sex. Yesterday, an article in the Sunday New York Times (NYT) entitled “Strauss-Kahn Say Sex Parties Went Too Far, But Lust Is No Crime” caught my eye. In the article reporters Doreen Carvajal and Maia de la Baume detailed the libertine sex life of the former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK).

I.                   The Times Article

It turns out that DSK’s little tryst with the maid in the hotel in New York was but a small sampling of his escapades. According to the NYT article, “The exclusive orgies called “parties fines” — lavish Champagne affairs costing around $13,000 each — were organized as a roving international circuit from Paris to Washington by businessmen seeking to ingratiate themselves with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Some of that money, according to a lawyer for the main host, ultimately paid for prostitutes because of a shortage of women at the mixed soirees orchestrated largely for the benefit of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who sometimes sought sex with three or four women.” Apparently such events had a long and treasured history in France where “Libertinage” goes back to the 16th Century.

According to DSK he said, “I long thought that I could lead my life as I wanted,” in an interview with the French magazine Le Point. “And that includes free behavior between consenting adults.” Ah those French. Where is Casanova when you need him to explain how a Frenchman needs a little liaison with 3 or 4 women now and again?

However, it turns out that our Libertine DSK was not exactly paying for ‘services rendered’. These sex romps cost a lot of money, as stated in the NYT article, over $13,000 per event. The events started out with lavish dinners and then couples would pair off and pair off and pair off. (Cue the Viagra pop-up ad now.) More ominously, DSK did not pay for these events himself. The NYT article quoted Karl Vandamme, a defense lawyer who represents Fabrice Paszkowski, the owner of a medical supply company who played a crucial role in organizing the sex parties. “Libertines are people like you and me: people who have a normal life,” said Mr. Vandamme, who said his client invested around $65,000 in party expenses, betting on the political rise of Mr. Strauss-Kahn.” (Emphasis mine)

So what is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance angle here? I think that everyone would agree that providing prostitutes to foreign governmental officials to obtain or retain business would be a violation of the FCPA. But here there are a couple of points that I found of interest far beyond simply providing hookers.

II.                FCPA Application

A.       Covered Recipient

The first is who precisely does the FCPA cover? Certainly it covers foreign governmental officials and I would certainly argue that it covers employees of state owned enterprises and it does cover other persons as well. Under the FCPA officers or employees of public international organizations are covered. The definition reads as follows:

For purposes of this section:

(1)   A) The term “foreign official” means any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, or of a public international organization, or any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of any such government or department, agency, or instrumentality, or for or on behalf of any such public international organization. (emphasis supplied)

The IMF is a public international organization. Prior to becoming the Managing Director of the IMF in 2007, DSK was active in French politics, holding several government offices and even unsuccessfully running for the Socialist Party candidate for President in 2007. He was the Managing Director of the IMF from 2007 until he resigned after having been accused of sexual assault by a hotel maid in New York City in 2012.

B.        Obtain or Retain Business

So our Libertine friend DSK could be covered by the FCPA if a US company was participating in conduct which would violate the FCPA. One person was quoted in the NYT article that his client, both personally and through his company, invested money to pay for the sex romps “betting on the political rise” of DSK. The FCPA makes illegal “use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value” which are intended to do any of the following:

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

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

Here we have clients paying for lavish gift parties, which I would argue are per se unreasonable under the Gifts and Entertain affirmative defense under the FCPA. (No snickers here please as I am not arguing that a $100 for hooker is reasonable.) Further, the clear intent of at least the client of the above quoted Mr. Vandamme was “betting on the political rise of” DSK. Think the client, Fabrice Paszkowski, the owner of a medical supply company, was just shelling out that kind of money so DSK could ‘enjoy himself’ or is it more probable that Paszkowski, would expect to “obtain or retain” some business or other benefit from his now sated buddy DSK?

There are several learning moments from the fall of DSK and FCPA compliance. The first is to remember that the FCPA covers more than simply foreign government officials and employees of state owned enterprises. As stated it also covers officers and employees of public international organizations. It is even broader as it also covers political parties and those seeking political office in foreign countries. The DSK Libertine Sex Party lifestyle also reminds us that the FCPA not only prohibits bribes paid in cash but the ubiquitous “anything of value”. (And no I am not going to debate whether having sex with four partners a night is “anything of value” particularly if Viagra is included in the cost.)

It could certainly be interesting if the names of any companies subject to the FCPA come up in the ongoing investigation into DSK.

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, 2012

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