FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

June 16, 2015

Like a Rolling Stone and Charitable Donations Under the FCPA

Like a Rolling StoneToday we celebrate one of the seminal achievements in rock and roll for it was on this day, 50 years ago, in 1965 that Bob Dylan recorded his single Like a Rolling Stone. Columbia Records executives initially rejected the song as too long to be released as a single because it came in at over 6 minutes in length. However, through a campaign of subterfuge, Dylan’s manager was able to have it played by New York City DJs. The popularity of the song became so great that the same Columbia Records executives were forced to release it and it went to Number 2 on the Top 40.

According to the site ThisDayInHistory.com, “The most important impact of “Like A Rolling Stone” was not commercial but creative. Rolling Stone magazine said Dylan “transformed popular song with the content and ambition of ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’” Or as Bruce Springsteen said of the first time he heard it, “[it] sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.”” And my favorite part is the opening organ riffs played by a 21-year-old Al Kooper who was just sitting in on the session.

I thought about this odd convergence that came together to create what Rolling Stone magazine named as the greatest song of all time in 2004 in the context of the continuing fallout from the ongoing scandal involving the governing body of international soccer, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). In a BBC Online article, entitled “Fifa corruption: South Africa cash ‘worrisome”, Andrew Harding wrote “A key figure in South Africa’s football World Cup bid has broken ranks with the government to suggest there might be some truth to a claim that a $10m bribe was paid to secure the 2010 tournament.” That figure is Tokyo Sexwale who was “a member of both the World Cup bid team and local organising committee”. Sexwale has now questioned whether the $10MM payment made to Jack Warner of Trinidad was truly a donation.

Sexwale went on to ask, “”Where are the documents, where are the invoices, where are the budgets, where are the projects on the ground?””

I thought about those questions in the context of a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner working under a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act compliance program around charitable donations. There has been a paucity of FCPA enforcement actions around charitable donations. Both the Schering-Plough Corporation and Eli Lilly and Company enforcement actions centered in Poland were Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) civil enforcement actions based upon violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions to the FCPA. There was no evidence of bribes being paid which rose to criminal conduct.

Generally, it is assumed that if you do the required review of the charitable organization that is due to receive a corporate donation and in this due diligence, there is no tie to a government official or family member, the donation can be made under the FCPA. However consider Sexwale’s comments around the evidence of whether a bribe was paid to Warner or if it was simply because “part of the feeling at the time – it’s a good thing, this [$10MM of] altruism (towards the African diaspora in the Caribbean)”. Yet even Sexwale noted the problem when he added, “The question is going to be: “What was done to make sure that your good intentions – you as the giver – have been realised?””

His comments gave me pause to think that companies who make charitable donations in foreign countries may now have to monitor these donations at a greater level and with greater scrutiny. The starting point may now well be as stated by Sexwale, “What was done to make sure that your good intentions – you as the giver – have been realized?” If this is now a standard of enquiry and oversight the Department of Justice (DOJ) will require validation on how your company can have assurances that your good intentions are realized? Once again you can look to the basic questions that Sexwale posed in the BBC online article, Where are the documents, where are the invoices, where are the budgets, where are the projects on the ground?

There have been four Opinion Releases around charitable donations under the FPCA. Opinion Release 95-01 was a request from a US-based energy company that planned to donate $10MM for equipment and other costs to a medical complex that was under construction near a large construction project. Opinion Release 97-02 dealt with a request from a US-based utility company who planned to donate $100K for construction and other costs to a government entity that proposed to build an elementary school near a facility. Before releasing funds, the utility company required certain guarantees from the government regarding the project, including that the funds would be used exclusively for the school. Also, the donation was directly to the foreign government and not a charity. Opinion Release 06-01 dealt with money to fund a pilot project in which the US Company would contribute $25,000 to the in country Ministry of Finance to improve local enforcement of anti-counterfeiting laws. The contribution was intended to provide incentive awards to local customs officials, needed because the African country involved was a major transit point for illicit trade and the local customs officials have no incentive to prevent the contraband. Finally, Opinion Release 10-02focused on the underlying due diligence engaged in by a US-based Micro Financial Institution (MFI) operating in an unnamed Eurasian country. The Release specified the three levels of due diligence that the US MFI had engaged in on the proposed locals MFIs which were listed as eligible to receive the funding. In addition to the specific discussion of the due diligence performed by the US MFI and noting the controls it had put in place after the funding was scheduled to be made the DOJ also listed several of the due diligence and/or controls that it had previously set forth in prior Opinion Releases relating to charitable donations.

While these Opinion Releases certainly imply a level of scrutiny at the post donation level, their primary focus is on who the donations are being made to and are they a government official. However, the DOJ may well expect both pre and post donation scrutiny, along the lines of Sexwale’s questions, which could demonstrate the legitimacy of the donation. However Sexwale’s questions also raise up something that the DOJ and SEC often say, that being that a good anti-corruption compliance program is really just good business. Shareholders and investors have the right to know how and where their money is begin spent. It would seem to behoove any company to want to the know the same thing that Sexwale wants to know about the $10MM payment to Jack Warner, What was done to make sure that your good intentions – you as the giver – have been realized? 

To hear the original version of Like a Rolling Stone on YouTube, 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, 2015

May 18, 2015

The Thrill is Gone: On the Intersection of CSR and the FCPA

BB KingYes indeed the thrill is gone as BB King died last week. While I cannot aver he was the bluesman ever as Keith Richards would say that was Robert Johnson, or he was even the greatest bluesman during my lifetime as Muddy Waters lived until 1965, he was certainly the most well-known and prolific bluesman I ever heard and therefore he had the greatest influence on my passion for the blues than perhaps any other. My favorite BB King song is Mannish Boy and album is “Live in Cook County Jail” which I was introduced to in law school by a law school buddy and his wife who hailed from Chi-town. So even though BB King is dead, his music and name will live on forever.

Somehow it seems fitting that the legacy of BB King inform today’s blog post which is about the intersection of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and anti-corruption laws such as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and UK Bribery Act. Last week I had the opportunity to visit with Alison Taylor, who is the Director of Energy and Extractives for BSR, for a podcast on the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report. BSR is a global non-profit business network and consultancy dedicated entirely to sustainability that works through its 275 member companies and assists with sustainability and CSR issues. BSR does one on one consulting, grant funded research and collaborative initiatives, all to aid in bringing people together to solve problems that no single company can solve on their own.

Taylor has spent quite a lot of time studying organizational psychology looking at the organizational dynamics of corruptions and looking at what are the organizational culture characteristics of corrupt organizations. So before we got to her specific expertise in CSR, I asked her about some of her observations regarding the organizational issues that can lead to a high risk of corruption. We began with how excessive local autonomy can lead to corruption issues, where Taylor believes that a high corruption risk can derive from a “lack of oversight from headquarters leaving local leadership with a very, very heavy position with authority and ability to control and limit the information coming out of that team. You have an archetypal corrupt team in a remote location, very far from head office, with an autocratic command and control leader, very high pressure, unrealistic incentives, and then strong information boundaries, so a strong incentive not to share meaningful information with the rest of the company. Often very high performing, often getting very good results, but that is a melting pot of corruption risk, in essence.”

A second area where Taylor has seen corruption risks increase is where high pressure and high rewards can work to undermine business ethics and compliance. She said, “What you can end up with is, and this is something that hits sales people in remote environments in particular, is that these sales people are on the ground. They’re in Angola, they’re in China, they’re in a high-risk market. They’re being told simultaneously, “Whatever you do, don’t pay bribes. But whatever you do, grow your business by 20 or 30% this year, and we don’t really care how you do it.” Then what will happen is that that individual or that team will make a calculation about what the company considers more important. That’s where you see the [high] corruption risk. What I’m really saying is that companies are not aligning their strategies, their goals, their incentives, with their corruption checks and balances. It’s leaving employees with mixed messages.” While all of this might seem self-evident, I found her next observation quite interesting and one that is not always considered in an anti-corruption compliance program. It is that if you have a robust compliance program, and your internal messaging is not consistent, “Then you are, in parallel, incentivizing employees to have to meet sales targets that may not be realistic, given the characteristics of the external environment.”

Taylor tied these two concepts of strong local control and high pressure together in her next point. Where a company may have a very autocratic command and control structures and high pressure to meet sales goals, “The leadership is very demanding, very high pressure, telling the team “If you don’t meet these targets, your job is under threat.” There is a strong limit of bottom up information so people are discouraged from sharing their problems and sharing the pressures that they may be under, often so the leadership can maintain plausible deniability. That can play very heavily into oversight dynamics between the center and the region.”

We next turned to the intersection of CSR and anti-corruption programs such as those based on the FCPA’s Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program and UK Bribery Act’s Six Principals of Adequate Procedures. I found Taylor’s initial comments telling as she stated, “if I were to say one thing about CSR and anti-corruption, it’s that those two conversations need to be brought together a lot more closely.” In other words, as in many areas of complimentary compliance issues Taylor has found that CSR programs and compliance practitioners tend to be siloed and do not interact enough. She went on to add that, “I think what we’ve got going on is that the anti-corruption department and the CSR department aren’t speaking the same language and aren’t talking about the same things. There needs to be a lot more thinking about what is appropriate from a community investment point of view and whether that violates anti-corruption standards.”

Taylor advocated companies stepping back and looking at CSR in conjunction with compliance in a more holistic approach. She stated, “There’s obviously a lot of, just the different language and the different thinking going on. Sometimes there will be some communication, but it most often takes the form of the compliance due diligence process and background checks slowing down the CSR team. What I think is really needed, is for companies to take a giant step back and look at their entire strategy.”

She also observed that “CSR programs, particularly in terms of community investment, community development, particularly for extractive companies, and particularly in high risk markets, they’re not exclusively in high risk markets, are an absolutely key part of the company managing its non-technical risk and maintaining a social license to operate, which is absolutely critical. The cost of community processes to extract its companies absolutely astronomical.”

Taylor’s thoughts and ideas resonated strongly with me and I would recommend that any Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner’s out there go do some checking into your company’s CSR initiatives to see if any are outside the US and would have FCPA implications. You may well have written a charitable donation tract into your FCPA compliance policy and procedures but your CSR program or initiative may be implemented separate and apart from your department. If you do have functioning CSR initiatives, you should review them for FCPA implications. You should also review your oversees operations to see if they meet any of the high risk criteria that Taylor identified to see if there are Red Flags which you may need to clear or simply greater FCPA risk management tools you need to put in place. While you are at it, listen to BB King Live in Cook County Jail on YouTube or download it from iTunes, slap on your headphones and enjoy some of the greatest blues ever created.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com. © Thomas R. Fox, 2015

January 16, 2014

Each Case is Unique – Drawing Lessons from Opinion Release 13-01

7K0A0032“Each case turns on its own facts.” How many times have you heard a representative of the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) make that statement at a conference or other public event? The reality is that this is true and, in the context of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), both regulators look at the facts and circumstances around each case in making a wide range of assessments. While this is frustrating to business types, as a lawyer I find it to be not only an appropriate analysis but also an accurate way in which to look at things.

Late in 2013 the DOJ issued its only Opinion Release, that being Opinion Release 13-01. One of the things that this Opinion Release stands for is that each fact scenario presented under the FCPA must be evaluated on its own facts. While this maxim is certainly true, I believe that the Opinion Release goes further and provides significant information to the compliance practitioner for charitable donations going forward.

Facts

The Requestor is a partner with a US law firm which represents Foreign Country A in various international arbitrations. This business relationship has enabled the law firm to bill Foreign Country A for over $2 million throughout the past 18 month; it is further anticipated that in 2014, the fees on matters for Foreign Country A will exceed $2 million. During the course of representation, the Requestor has become a personal friend of Foreign Official, who works in Foreign Country A’s Office of the Attorney General (the “OAG”). This Foreign Official’s daughter suffers from a severe medical condition that cannot effectively be treated in Foreign Country A or anywhere in the region. The physicians treating Foreign Official’s daughter have recommended that she receive inpatient care at a specialized facility located in Foreign Country B. Requestor reports that the treatment will cost between approximately $13,500 and $20,500 and that Foreign Official lacks financial means to pay for this treatment for his daughter. The Requestor has proposed to pay the medical expenses of the daughter of this foreign office.

Representations

The Requestor made the following representations in submitting the request for an Opinion Release.

  • The Requestor’s intention in paying for the medical treatment of Foreign Official’s daughter is purely humanitarian, with no intent to influence the decision of any foreign official in Foreign Country A with regard to engaging the services of the Law Firm, Requestor, or any third person.
  • The funds used to pay for the medical treatment will be Requestor’s own personal funds. The Requestor will neither seek nor receive reimbursement from the Law Firm for such payments.
  • The Requestor will make all payments directly to the facility where Foreign Official’s daughter will receive treatment in Foreign Country B. Foreign Official will pay for the costs of his daughter’s related travel.
  • Foreign Country A is expected to retain the Law Firm to work on one new matter in the near future. Requestor is presently unaware of any additional, potential matters as to which Foreign Country A might retain the Law Firm. However, if such a matter develops, Requestor anticipates that Foreign Country A would likely retain the Law Firm given its successful track record and their strong relationship.
  • Under the law for Foreign Country A, any government agency, such as OAG, that hires an outside law firm must publicly publish a reasoned decision justifying the engagement. It is a crime punishable by imprisonment under the penal code of Foreign Country A for any civil servant or public employee to engage in corrupt behavior in connection with public contracting.

In addition to the representations made by the Requestor, there was also information presented which showed that the Foreign Official and Requestor have discussed this matter transparently with their respective employers. Both the government of Foreign Country A and the leadership of the Law Firm have expressly indicated that they have no objection to the proposed payment of medical expenses. Additionally, the Requestor has provided a certified letter from the Attorney General of Foreign Country A that represents the following:

  • The decision by the Requestor to pay for or not to pay for this medical treatment will have no impact on any current or future decisions of the OAG in deciding on the hiring of international legal counsel.
  • In the opinion of Foreign Country A’s Attorney General, the payment of medical expenses for Foreign Official’s daughter under these circumstances would not violate any provision of the laws of Foreign Country A.

DOJ Analysis

In its analysis, the DOJ noted that “A person may violate the FCPA by making a payment or gift to a foreign official’s family member as an indirect way of corruptly influencing that foreign official. See United States v. Liebo, 923 F.2d 1308, 1311 (8th Cir. 1991). However, “the FCPA does not per se prohibit business relationships with, or payments to, foreign officials.” FCPA Opinion Release 10-03 at 3 (Sept. 1, 2010). Rather “the Department typically looks to determine whether there are any indicia of corrupt intent, whether the arrangement is transparent to the foreign government and the general public, whether the arrangement is in conformity with local law, and whether there are safeguards to prevent the foreign official from improperly using his or her position to steer business to or otherwise assist the company, for example through a policy of recusal.”

But I found the meat of the analysis to the following line of the Opinion Release, “the facts represented suggest an absence of corrupt intent and provide adequate assurances that the proposed benefit to Foreign Official’s daughter will have no impact on Requestor’s or Requestor’s Law Firm’s present or future business with Foreign Country A.”

Discussion

This analysis was based on several factors which are worth highlighting:

  • No role in obtaining or retaining business – The Foreign Official involved does not play any role in the decision to award Foreign Country A’s legal business to Law Firm.
  • Full transparency – Both the Requestor and Foreign Official informed their respective employers of the proposed gift and neither has objected.
  • The gift is not illegal under local law – The Attorney General of Foreign Country A has expressly stated that the proposed gift is not illegal under Foreign Country A’s laws. This is further reinforced by Foreign Country A’s public contracting laws, which require transparent reasoning in contracting for legal work and criminally punish corrupt behavior.
  • Direct payment to third party provider – The Requestor will pay the medical provider directly, ensuring that the payments will not be improperly diverted to Foreign Official.

I believe that Opinion Release 13-01 demonstrates once again that there is significant room for creative lawyering in the realm of FCPA compliance. Obviously the DOJ responded favorably by its final decision that it would not prosecute under the facts presented to it. For the compliance practitioner, there are several key takeaways beyond simply noting that you are limited only by your legal imagination. First, and foremost, is transparency. Both the Requestor and Foreign Official openly discussed this issue with their employers and superiors. One or both of them went to the Attorney General of the country in question and sought an opinion on the legality of the payment of medical expenses so there was visibility at the highest levels of the Foreign Country’s government in addition to confirmation that the gift was in fact legal under the laws of the country involved. Next is that the Foreign Official in question did have decision making authority over the law firm obtaining or retaining business. Finally, the direct payment to the third party provider is always a critical element which should not be overlooked.

I know, understand and appreciate that this Opinion Release is limited to its facts and circumstances but it gives the compliance practitioner some excellent guidance on how to think through charitable donations under the FCPA.

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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

December 23, 2013

Supermarket to the World – The ADM FCPA Enforcement Action

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

At this point, the Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA), Plea Agreement between the company and the DOJ and the Criminal Information is not available. However the SEC Civil Complaint is available, as are Press Releases from both the DOJ and SEC. In today’s blog I will review the underlying facts as set out in the SEC Civil Complaint. In a subsequent blog post, I will review the NPA, Plea Agreement and Criminal Information.

The underlying facts centered on ADM’s ongoing issues related to the receipt of VAT refunds in Ukraine. The company had many years of slow and no response to its application for refunds where goods purchased in Ukraine were then exported. From 2002 to 2010, the company’s Ukrainian subsidiary rolled up VAT receivables of up to $46MM. The company employed three different bribery schemes to help them get this money that they were owed out of the country. ADM’s two entities which were directly involved in the bribery scheme were Alfred C. Toepfer, International GmbH (“the German subsidiary”) and its affiliate, Alfred C. Toepfer International (Ukraine) Ltd. (“the Ukrainian subsidiary”).

Charitable Donation Scheme

According to the SEC Complaint, “an ADM executive in the tax department sent an e- mail to the head of an international tax organization and stated, “One of our affiliates operates in the Ukraine. In order to recover 100% of their input VAT they have to pay 30% of the amount to local charities.” While recognizing that this requirement was not illegal and that there were avenues for appeal and assistance with this issue through the US government and trade groups, the SEC Complaint noted that “Given ADM’s insufficient anti-bribery compliance policies and procedures at the time, it did not prevent or detect the improper payments made by” the German subsidiary or the Ukrainian subsidiary.

Use of Third Parties

A second bribery scheme entailed the German and Ukrainian subsidiaries making “payments to a stevedoring company in the port of Odessa (the “Shipping Company”) so that it could pass on nearly all of those payments to Ukrainian officials in order to obtain VAT refunds on behalf of ACTI Ukraine.” The Shipping Company would present inflated invoices to the German subsidiary and this inflated amount “represented a sum that was available for the Shipping Company to pass to Ukraine government officials.” Further, when the German subsidiary would receive an invoice from the Shipping Company, “it withheld payment of a portion of the amount in the invoice, and then upon receiving the relevant VAT refund, ACTI Hamburg released the funds to the Shipping Company.”

Mischaracterization of Write-offs

In yet another bribery scheme, the German subsidiary reported to the US parent that it would negotiate with the Ukrainian government over the amount of the VAT refund and if there was a negotiated settlement it would be less than the full refund due the company. The German subsidiary would then write-off 18% of the total amount of any VAT refund due to it from the Ukrainian government. However when the VAT refund was actually made it would be at 100% of the total due. As the German subsidiary would have taken a write off of 18% of this total, the corresponding amount of money would be funneled to “third-party vendors so that nearly all of those monies could be provided to Ukrainian government officials.”

Fake Insurance Premiums

In an inventive bribery scheme, the Ukrainian subsidiary General Manager “organized a scheme through which ACTI Ukraine used a Ukrainian insurance company (the “Insurance Company”) to funnel improper payments to Ukrainian government officials. ACTI Ukraine arranged for the Insurance Company to falsely bill it for crop insurance, which the Insurance Company never intended to honor, adjusting the premiums to be roughly 20% of the VAT refund.” This bribery scheme succeeded in the face of email reports from the Ukrainian subsidiary to the German subsidiary that said “The contracts completed here, either sporadically or ad hoc, include no kind of insurance protection, but serve the purpose only of generating a commission for the VAT repayment in this manner. Regardless of the wording of the contract, the content is completely different. That means that in case of conflict, claims could not be made successfully.”

Discussion

The problems that ADM subsidiaries faced in the VAT refund issue is one faced by many companies in many countries. Governments usually have little incentive to timely or otherwise process tax refunds, especially in the amounts which ADM was seeking. From the SEC Compliant it does appear there is not any issue that ADM was seeking or did obtain VAT refunds that it was not entitled to receive, only that the Ukrainian tax authorities were sitting on these refunds. In other words, it may be construed that ADM was involved in a situation where it was paying bribes for something it was otherwise entitled to receive but as noted in the SEC Civil Complaint it that the company received VAT refunds “earlier than they otherwise would have.”

While I might disagree that by speeding up the process, the company obtained some unfair business advantage, I do believe that the payments can in any way be considered legal or otherwise in compliance with the FCPA. Simply considering the amounts of money involved and the false accounting entries are enough to show a FCPA violation. In many ways, I found the most interesting sentence in the SEC Civil Complaint to be the following, “ADM violated Section 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act by failing to maintain an adequate system of internal controls to detect and prevent the illicit payments.” The SEC Complaint expanded on this when it stated, “ADM failed to implement sufficient anti-bribery compliance policies and procedures, including oversight of third-party vendor transactions, to prevent these payments” at the German and Ukrainian subsidiaries. The message from the SEC Civil Complaint is that your compliance program must have both a prevent and detect component and if it does not, you are susceptible to a books and records violation, with a fine and profit disgorgement assessment.

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 29, 2013

Notes from the Diebold and Stryker FCPA Enforcement Actions

Last week was a heck of a week in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement world. Both Diebold Incorporated (DBD) and the Stryker Corporation (SYK) agreed to resolutions of their outstanding FCPA violations.

A.     Diebold

The DBD resolution took the form of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ), along with a fine of $25.2MM, and a Corporate Monitor from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) including $22.9MM in disgorgement and prejudgment interest to the SEC along with an agreed injunction to stop, once again, violating the FCPA. That’s a total fine of $48MM.

The conduct at issue was approved at the highest level of the company and involved multiple bribery schemes, in multiple countries for multiple years. The bribery box score is as follows:

DBD Bribery Box Score

List of DBD Executive, Employee or 3rd Party Involved in Bribery Schemes Illegal Conduct Around Type of Illegal Conduct Those Involved
Executive A Officials at Banks 1 & 2; both in China; Banking officials in Indonesia Approved payments of $1.75 MM over five years; improper trips, gifts and entertainment Executive A & B, Employee A & B
Executive B Officials at Banks 1 & 2; both in China; Banking officials in Indonesia Approved payments of $1.75 MM over five years; improper trips, gifts and entertainment
Executive C Banks in Russia Approved payments of at least $1.2MM
Employee A Banks in Russia Hid illegal payments in books and records
Employee B Hid illegal payments in books and records
Employee C Banks in Russia Distributor 1 & 2,  Executive A & C
Distributor 1 Banks in Russia Made illegal payments
Distributor 2 Banks in Russia Made illegal payments

B.     Stryker

SYK’s penalties were considerably less than those paid by DBD. According to the FCPA Blog, “The SEC said Stryker Corporation will pay $13.2 million to resolve FCPA violations. The bribes totaled about $2 million and were ‘incorrectly described as legitimate expenses in the company’s books and records,’ according to the SEC. Stryker will disgorge to the SEC $7.5 million and prejudgment interest of $2.28 million. It is also paying a penalty of $3.5 million.” SYK received only an Administrative Order, not even a SEC Complaint. Further, unlike DBD, SYK is not required to have a Corporate Monitor to assess its ongoing compliance efforts or its commitment to having a compliance program. The Stryker Bribery Box Score is as follows:

Stryker Entity Bribery Scheme Used Amount of Bribes Paid Illicit Profits
Stryker Mexico Cash payments $76,000 $2.1MM
Stryker Poland Cash payments, illegal travel, lodging, gifts and expenses; charitable donations $460,000 $2.4MM
Stryker Romania Illegal travel, lodging, gifts and expenses $500,000 $1.7MM
Stryker Argentina Commission Payments or Honoraria to Doctors $966,500 $1.04MM
Striker Greece Charitable Donations $197,055 $183,000

C.     Some Comments

1. DBD’s China Investigation

The FCPA Professor noted an interesting nugget from the DBD DPA, in a blog post entitled “Of Note From The Diebold Enforcement Action”, the “It is merely one paragraph in the SEC’s complaint, but it may be perhaps the most notable issue in the Diebold enforcement action (an action based primarily on excessive travel and entertainment payments by subsidiaries – the bulk of which occurred in China). Para. 28 of the SEC’s complaint states:

“Other executives at Diebold were on notice of potential corruption issues at Diebold China. In 2007, a regional government agency in China, the Chengdu Administration of Industry & Commerce (“CDAIC”), opened an investigation involving, among other issues, leisure trips and gifts Diebold China had provided to bank officials. Company executives in China and the U.S. learned of the investigation after a Diebold field office in Chengdu was raided by authorities. Executives A and B took the lead in responding to the investigation. Diebold was able to settle the matter with no corruption charges filed, by paying CDAIC an administrative penalty of 600,000 RMB (approximately $80,000) for business registration violations. Despite being on notice of potential corruption issues at Diebold China, Diebold failed to effectively investigate and remediate these problems.”

In short, the bulk of the conduct at issue in the $48 million Diebold enforcement action was previously investigated by a foreign law enforcement agency and was resolved without corruption charges.”

While I disagree that the bulk of DBD’s illegal conduct involved its Chinese operations, I do agree with the Professor that this is certainly interesting. Is this the mechanism by which the DOJ/SEC were informed about DBD’s conduct? DBD did receive a discount of -5 base points for self-disclosure, full cooperation and demonstrating responsibility for its conduct but it is not clear which, if any, of these three prongs were met. Or, indeed, all of them? Equally interesting is speculating on the level of cooperation between the Chengdu Administration of Industry and Commerce and the DOJ. Or perhaps did it go in a different direction, as the persons cited as taking the lead in responding to this Chinese investigation, Executives A & B, have something to do with resolving the matter at the relatively low cost of $80,000?

2.         Stryker Greece’s Donation to a Public University

From the SYK Cease and Desist Order, there is some interesting information regarding the bribery scheme the company used in Greece. Here the company made a “sizeable and atypical donation of $197,055 to a public university…” Normally I would say that donations to public, i.e. state-owned, universities would not be subject FCPA scrutiny because they are gifts directly to a foreign government. But here the Order specifies that “The donation was made pursuant to a quid pro quo arrangement with the foreign official, pursuant to which Stryker Greece understood it would obtain and retain business…in exchange for making the donation to the foreign official’s pet project. In addition to emails attesting to this quid pro quo nature of the donation, the Order specifies that the donation was “improperly booked as legitimate marketing expense in an account entitled “Donations and Grants.””

Readers will recall the gift of $135 Million by Wynn Resorts Ltd (WYNN) to a foundation which supports the University of Macau. A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article on this donation, entitled “Macau School Ties Roil Wynn Resorts” and was co-authored by Kate O’Keefe and Alexandra Berzon, reported the Chairman of Wynn’s Board “told analysts last month that the donation was vetted in advance by outside experts,” relative to the FCPA. The donation is apparently not for construction or other infrastructure projects but “the gift will support academic activities.” The WSJ article also reports that the Board of the University foundation includes “current and former government officials” and “a member of the committee to elect Macau’s chief executive”, who is the chancellor of the university.” The SEC opened and closed an investigation into this matter with no enforcement action.

Perhaps it is the clear email trail showing the quid pro quo for the donation but I wish there was more information about the illegal nature of the Stryker Greece donation versus the apparent non-action in the Wynn donation.

For the compliance practitioner, I think there are several clear messages that the DOJ and SEC are communicating in these two enforcement actions. From the DBD enforcement action, if your company finds itself in an investigation which becomes an enforcement action, it must take serious remediation steps during the pendency of the enforcement action. If not you will probably have a Corporate Monitor appointed. So do not wait, remediate now. From the SYK enforcement action, the SEC once again emphasized the importance of internal controls and accurately recording your expenses in your books and records. Neither of these messages are new or earth-shattering but both bear repeating and perhaps providing to your management in a teaching moment.

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 10, 2013

Will World Cup 2022 Become World Cup 2023?

SPOILER ALERT – This article reveals that the temperature becomes quite hot in Qatar in the summer months.

That paragon of compliance and ethics, the world’s richest and most influential single-sport ruling body Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), has been in the news recently because it has only just recently discovered, after an exhaustive multi-year investigation, that temperatures in the country of Qatar can reach between 40-50C during the summer months, and for those of you who don’t read  Celsius temperatures that translates to between 104 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. I have been in such temperatures and I can assure you that is hot weather. However, although FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup tournament to Qatar back in 2011, it has only now become aware of the fact that there is hot weather in the summer months in Qatar.

The Wall Street Journal on Qatar’s Bid

I was also interested in the bid process which awarded the rights to host the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. In a January 13, 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), entitled “Qatar’s World Cup Spending Spree”, reporter Matthew Futterman detailed the “spending spree” of a reported one year amount of $43.3 million by Qatar, which led to its winning World Cup bid. Futterman’s article focused on information derived from the internal documents of Qatar’s bidding committee. Futterman reported that there was no evidence that Qatar violated the rules and regulations of FIFA to secure its winning bid. Rather, he reported on how Qatar “worked within FIFA’s broad guidelines” to secure its winning bid.

From the internal bid documents, obtained by the WSJ, Futterman reported that some of the tactics used by Qatar included:

1.      Charitable Donations. Commitments were made to establish, build or continue to fund soccer academies, through a football-training academy, Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence, controlled by the Qatar Royal Family, for the home countries in which FIFA executives who would vote on the 2022 site selection. The WSJ article cited examples in Thailand and Nigeria. In Thailand, Futterman reported that Aspire would “build a football academy” and in Nigeria it would “expand grass-roots training”. These internal documents also revealed that the Aspire Academy would continue to work with three African countries which were home to FIFA executive committee members, who all had a vote on the 2022 site selection.

2.      Use of Marketing Agents. The Qatar bid included the hiring of certain well known celebrities to assist in the effort. In order to “talk up” the Qatar bid to host the 2022 World Cup, the WSJ reported that it hired several international personalities as “Bid Ambassadors” to endorse the Qatar bid. These endorsements were important because they assisted Qatar to “establish its legitimacy within FIFA and connections to executive committee members.” The only Bid Ambassador named in the WSJ article was the former French star Zinedine Zidane. It was reported that Zidane received $3 million for his endorsements of the Qatar bid.

Review under the FCPA and Bribery Act

FIFA is generally recognized as a, non-US, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and, therefore, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) does not apply to it. But I thought it might be of use to review some of the tactics, as reported in the WSJ, that Qatar used to secure the 2022 World Cup bid, in the context of what might be allowed under the FCPA. Probably most fortunately for both FIFA and the Qatar, was that FIFA’s award was made before the UK Bribery Act became effective. However, it should be noted that the UK Bribery Act would apply to UK companies and citizens involved in the matter because there is no public/private distinction under the Bribery Act and unlike the FCPA, the Bribery Act does not require that a bribe be offered or paid to a foreign governmental official, only that a bribe or offer to bribe be made.

Charitable Donations – The Football Academies

Charitable donations are not banned by the FCPA or the Bribery Act. However any such donations must be made following the requirements of these laws. The FCPA Blog reported that when asked about the guidelines regarding requests for charitable giving, the FCPA then Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section at the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Mark Mendelsohn, said that any such request must be evaluated on its own merits. He advocated a “common sense” approach in identifying and clearing Red Flags. This would include determining if a governmental decision maker held a position of authority at the charity to which the donation would be made; whether the donation was consistent with a company’s overall pattern of charitable giving; who made the request for the donation; and how was it made.

Use of Marketing Agents – The Bid Ambassadors

Much has been written on the use of agents under the FCPA. The UK Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Consultative Guidance on the Six Principals for an “adequate procedures” or best practices anti-bribery and anti-corruption program also discuss agents. Recently, Michael Volkov, noted FCPA attorney, spoke on the topic of due diligence on third parties. Volkov believes the key for any compliance based issue is to document the evidence. If you ask questions and get answers, document the process. If you ask questions and do not receive answers, document that process too. But the key is to Document, Document, and Document.

Under the FCPA or Bribery Act, a significant investigation, in the form of background due diligence, must be employed. When a company does business with higher-risk third parties, you need to understand not just the parties involved, but the transactions that follow. This means that a company must also proceed with transactional due diligence. The most important thing to know is, will there be money left on the table? You need to know where that money is going. Under the FCPA if the end user is a Government, you need transaction-level due diligence if you want to be safe. However, the Bribery Act does not make this governmental/non-governmental distinction.

Remember the former French star Zidane and his $3 million payment? The question is what was he, and the other Bid Ambassadors, paid to do? According to the WSJ, they “helped Qatar establish its legitimacy within FIFA and connections to executive committee members”. Such a purpose might well require audit rights to determine where the money paid to the agent went and whether it can it be accounted for in a financial review. But there is one further analysis that being the amount paid to the agent. A commission rate can be a percentage of a successful bid or it can be a flat rate, fixed fee payment. In this situation we do not know what the financial reward to Qatar will be for hosting the 2022 World Cup. Indeed, the reward may not be financial but rather the prestige of hosting the quadrennial championship of the world’s most popular sporting event. So there may be no such measure of the Zidane payment. But if the figures cited in the WSJ article are correct, Zidane received an amount of almost 10% of the Qatar one-year budget. That must have purchased some serious connections. Such a high figure, in an applicable situation, might well lead to significant FCPA and Bribery Act scrutiny.

To say that FIFA was unaware that it gets hot in the summer in Qatar seems disingenuous at best. As reported by Roger Blitz, in a Financial Times (FT) article, entitled “Fifa faces quandry over World Cup in Qatar” Sepp Blatter, FIFA President has gone on record to say that awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was “a mistake”. FIFA’s response to this newly discovered temperature issue would seem to equally demonstrate why it believes that all the other rules do not apply to it. There is talk that FIFA will simply move the 2022 World Cup Tournament from the summer of 2022 to the winter of 2023, no matter who or what it disrupts.

Qatar itself has instituted a $205bn infrastructure building program, including “new power plants and a new metro system. Billions more will be spent on hotels and stadiums.” But this construction effort has also come under criticism. The FT article also noted that The Guardian “reported that Nepalese workers were dying at the rate of one a day because of unsafe conditions on building sites”. Further, a local employment system known as kafala has impacted many laborers who have had their passports confiscated and have had delays in salary payments.

Apparently FIFA took none of these factors about Qatar’s bid into account when the award was made. I wonder what FIFA did base its decision on? But most importantly, I wonder if they will change the Tournament designation from World Cup 2022 to World Cup 2023?

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 4, 2013

The Wishbone, American Exceptionalism and the FCPA

It is Friday and this week’s college football began last night with the Texas Longhorns on television. The game reminded me about James Street who died this week. Street was as unlikely a football hero as there could have been for the “Horns”, he was the star quarterback who led the University of Texas to the 1969 National Championship and a win over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. To do so, Texas had to beat the University of Arkansas, in the final game of the season. In that game, with the Longhorns down 14-8 and with 5 minutes 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Texas had the ball on the fourth down with 3 yards to go. Street went to the sideline to get the call from Head Coach Darrell Royal who called “Right 53 veer pass.” As reported in his obituary in the New York Times (NYT), “The play, a deep pass with only one receiver, the tight end, seemed to Street like the most improbable call in that situation. It had not worked the handful of times Texas had tried it. Street had expected a counter option to pick up a first down. He asked Royal if he was sure. “Damn right, I’m sure,” the coach growled. In the Texas huddle, Street, who was 5 feet 10 inches and weighed 168 pounds, said, “Boys, you ain’t gonna believe this,” then called the play. Bob McKay, a tackle, wisecracked, “Damn it, Street, you can’t throw the ball that far.” But he could, in this case resulting in a 44-yard completion to tight end Randy Peschel. Two plays later, Texas scored and won, 15-14.” A truly exceptional result for a quarterback who was the first great wishbone quarterback.

One of the things recently discussed in the House Judiciary Committee hearing on amending the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) to add a compliance defense was that companies from other countries were engaging in bribery and corruption to secure business in places like India and West Africa. While it is somewhat difficult to see how adding a compliance defense, which requires an effective compliance program to be in place, can be used to defeat non-US companies alleged to be paying bribes to obtain business requires a fairly vivid imagination. However, there is a way to beat the corrupt companies and that is through competition in the marketplace.

Obviously this means through delivery of better goods and services. But it may also mean having a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) component in a country. The CSR can take many forms. Some of these can include a US company acting as a funding angel for indigenous start-up businesses; training of locals to be more than simply employees and contractors to a US company but also training in how to set up and run a business. Clearly if a local workforce is to become skilled it will need specific training, particularly if the local workforce is doing more than simply digging ditches. The CSR can also include funding of local charities, organizations or projects such as buying computers for a local school.

I am talking about more than compelled giving as the use of CSR, which can be not only a powerful tool for a business to develop relationships in a country but it can foster US foreign policy as well. One of the blogs I follow is Jason Poblete’s DC Dispatches. While Poblete and I sit on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, I admire him for one thing he constantly discusses which is that there are market solutions to problems and issues. He points to business solutions for a variety of issues and US companies engaging in local CSR development in foreign countries sounds like one, to me, that benefits both the company involved and the US in general. In other words, such CSR activity can be a market solution the problem of bribes paid by non-US companies to garner business.

But some US companies fear that if they engage in such a construct effort, they will run afoul of the FCPA. For instance, particularly in the energy industry, skilled training is delivered at a much higher level here in the US than in, say, Africa. This means that officials, employees or others involved in national oil companies need to come to the US for training, with all the attendant expenses. Yet many companies are fearful such activity will run afoul of the FCPA and draw Department of Justice (DOJ) scrutiny. Yet such activity benefits not only the US Company that provides it but the US government in general and the overall positive perception of American business. This perception is not something to be discounted.

The DOJ has recognized that charitable giving does not necessarily violate the FCPA. There have been four Opinion Releases on this topic and in none of these matters did the DOJ seek enforcement against the requesting party.

Opinion Release 95-01

This request was from a US-based energy company that planned to operate a plant in South Asia, but there was no medical facility in the area. The energy company planned to donate $10 million for equipment and other costs to a medical complex that was under construction nearby. The donation would be made through a US charitable organization and a South Asian LLC.

Opinion Release 97-02

This request was from a US-based utility company that planned to operate a plant in Asia, but there was no primary-level school in the area. The utility company planned to donate $100,000 for construction and other costs to a government entity that proposed to build an elementary school nearby. Before releasing funds, the utility company said it would require certain guarantees from the government entity regarding the project, including that the funds would be used exclusively for the school. Because the donation was directly to the government entity and not any government official the FCPA does not apply and the DOJ took no enforcement action based on these facts.

Opinion Release 06-01

This request was from a Delaware company doing business in Africa. The company planned a pilot project in which it would contribute $25,000 to the Ministry of Finance in the country to improve local enforcement of anti-counterfeiting laws. The contribution would fund incentive awards to local customs officials, which is needed because this African country is a major transit point for illicit trade and the local customs officials have no incentive to prevent the contraband.

Opinion Release 10-02

This Opinion Release dealt with a US-based Micro Financial Institution (MFI) operating in an unnamed Eurasian country. The Release specified the three levels of due diligence that the US MFI had engaged in on the proposed locals MFIs which were listed as eligible to receive the funding. In addition to the specific discussion of the due diligence performed by the US MFI and noting the controls it had put in place after the funding was scheduled to be made the DOJ also listed several of the due diligence and/or controls that it had previously set forth in prior Opinion Releases relating to charitable donations.

Jason Poblete is right; there are market solutions out there which deal with US competitiveness in a world awash with bribery and corruption. These solutions sometimes involve creative assistance to localities to raise their standards of education, living and income. Such intentions are not corrupt as that term is defined by the FCPA. While they certainly can benefit the company which provides the financial or other assistance, there are other benefits for more than simply the players involved.

So please do not argue that US companies are at a disadvantage. James Street was an exceptional quarterback at the University of Texas running the wishbone option to perfection. American exceptionalism still exists and the tangible benefits of it are sought all over the globe. The FCPA was passed in part to aid American businesses and it should not be used as stumbling block to do so when it is properly followed.

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

January 23, 2013

The FCPA Guidance on the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program

Many commentators are still mining the Department of Justice (DOJ)/Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) publication, A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, (the “Guidance”), which was released last November. I continue to find nuggets to provide to the compliance practitioner, as do others. But as we are a Base 10 culture, today I want discuss the 10 points listed as the ‘Hallmarks of Effective Compliance Programs”. They are a change in style, but not content, from the prior 13 point minimum best practices that the DOJ has in the Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) since at least November, 2010 and, indeed, from prior information made available by the DOJ.

I.                   Where Have We Been

Beginning with at least the Metcalfe & Eddy Consent and Undertaking, filed in December, 1999, the DOJ has laid out its thoughts on what should go into a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) anti-corruption compliance program. In the Metcalfe & Eddy Consent and Undertaking, the DOJ laid out ten points of an effective FCPA anti-corruption compliance program. This was modified somewhat in Opinion Release 04-02, which laid out a best practices compliance program in 12 points, where the DOJ reviewed the proposal by an investment group who were acquiring certain companies and assets from ABB Ltd. ABB Vetco Gray Inc. and ABB Vetco Gray (UK) Ltd., two of the entities being acquired, had previously pled guilty to FCPA violations. The investment group desired to protect itself from further liability, to the extent possible, by proposing to the DOJ a comprehensive best practices compliance program. While the DOJ noted that this compliance program was not a shield against future violations, the DOJ would not “intend to take an enforcement action [against the investors] for violations of the FCPA prior to their acquisition from ABB.”

In the Panalpina DPA, issued in November, 2010, the DOJ laid out a 13 point minimum best practices compliance program. This number was changed this past summer when the Data Systems & Solutions LLC (DS&S) DPA was announced. In this enforcement action the DOJ listed 15 points on its minimum best practices FCPA anti-corruption compliance program. Then later in the summer, the DOJ moved to a 9 point compliance program in the Pfizer DPA. Even with all these changes in the number, the substance of each compliance program has remained the same.

II.                Where Are We Now? Hallmarks of Effective Compliance Programs

The Guidance cautions that there is no “one-size-fits-all” compliance program. It recognizes that depending on a variety of factors such as size, type of business, industry and risk profile that a company should determine what is appropriate for its own needs regarding a FCPA compliance program. But the Guidance makes clear that these ten points are “meant to provide insight into the aspects of compliance programs that DOJ and SEC assess”. In other words you should pay attention to these and use this information to assess your own compliance regime.

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

As I commented earlier in this article, the DOJ and SEC have communicated what they believe are the important parts of a risk based, anti-corruption compliance program for many years. I do not think that a compliance defense could be set out any more succinctly. However, I do like things set out in Base 10 and the “Hallmarks of Effective Compliance Programs” is an excellent compilation of where we are and what you need in place to go forward. I recommend this as a good a starting point for any compliance practitioner to implement a new compliance program or to evaluate the state of an ongoing compliance regime so assess your company’s risks and use these hallmarks as a basis to move forward.

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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013

January 10, 2013

Internal Audit Review of Charitable Donations Under the FCPA

When is a rose not a rose? When it is a charitable donation not made for philanthropic purposes and it violates the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). I thought about that concept when reviewing the Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) FCPA enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) late last month. The Lilly enforcement action discussed a bribery scheme utilized by Lilly in Poland. The scheme and FCPA violations mirrored an earlier FCPA enforcement action, also brought by the SEC as a civil matter, rather than by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a criminal matter, against another US entity Schering-Plough, for making charitable donations in Poland which violated the FCPA. One of the remarkable things about both of these enforcement actions, brought almost eight years apart, was that they involved improper payments to the same Polish charitable foundation to wrongfully influence the same Polish government official to purchase products from both of these companies.

I.                   The Bribery Schemes

Both companies were involved in negotiations for the sale of products with the Director of the Silesian Health Fund (Health Fund). He had also established a charitable foundation, the Chudow Foundation to engage in restoration of ancient castles in Poland. Both companies made donations to the Chudow Foundation at or near the time decisions were made regarding the purchase of their respective products by the Health Fund. The FCPA books and records violations for the donations stated that they were all mischaracterized on the respective company’s books. The donations were made by each company with the description for the donations as follows:

LILLY BOX SCORE OF DONATIONS MADE TO CHUDOW FOUNDATION

  Date Amount of Donation Listed Reason for Donation
1 6/21/2000 $2,730 Purchase of computers
2 11/13/2000 $1,855 To support the foundation in its goal to develop activities in [Chudow Castle]. It was also noted that the ‘value of the request’ was indirect support of educational efforts of foundation settled by Silesian [Health Fund]
3 5/22/2001 $8,019 Rental of castle for conferences
4 11/05/2001 $2,438 Rental of castle for conferences
5 3/27/2002 $7,779 Rental of castle for conferences
6 6/14/2002 $7,434 Rental of castle for conferences
7 11/20/2002 $5,112 Rental of castle for conferences
8 1/29/2003 $2,622 Rental of castle for conferences
  Total $37,989

Although all of these donations were approved by a team within Lilly, the “Medical Grant Committee [MGC]”, who reviewed the request for such donations, the MGC’s approval was “largely based on the justification and description in the submitted paperwork.” While Requests 1 & 2 may have had tangential value to the stated purpose of the Chudow Foundation to restore castles in Poland, even Request 3 was clearly a quid pro quo as an action to obtain business. Just as clearly, ‘rental of castle’ is not a charitable donation but an expenditure, even with that understanding, the SEC Complaint noted that Lilly held no conferences at any castles so it was an outright misrepresentation.

SCHERING-PLOUGH BOX SCORE OF DONATIONS MADE TO CHUDOW FOUNDATION

  Date Amount of Donation Listed Reason for Donation
1 2/23/1999 $777 Covering fight against viral hepatitis
2 3/17/2000 $4,909 Support of health campaign within county of Gliwice
3 7/19/2000 $8,065 Financing second stage of health prevention campaign in Gliwice
4 11/8/2000 $8,766 Financing for the Foundation
5 12/20/2000 $9,292 Financing second stage of research
6 3/19/2001 $4,340 Financing lung cancer prevention program
7 3/22/2001 $4,854 Financing screening examinations to detect skin cancer
8 4/25/2001 $4,958 Support of lung cancer prevention program
9 6/4/2001 $5,019 Support of lung cancer prevention program
10 10/29/2001 $4,878 Support of a coronary disease prevention program and promote the image of the company in the medical community
11 12/18/2001 $10,067 Support of an anti-chain smoking health program and promote the company as one that cares about the people of Silesia
12 12/19/2001 $5,067 Financing of Foundation
13 3/25/2002 $4,868 Support actions of Foundation in preventing infectious diseases of the liver
  Total $75,860

The Schering-Plough SEC Complaint noted that the company Manager involved in the payment scheme, “provided false medical justifications for most of the payments on the documents that he submitted to the company’s finance department.” Additionally, he structured the payments so that they were at or below his approval limit so that he did not have to ask for permission to make the improper payments. The Manager in question viewed the donations as “dues that were required to be paid for assistance from the Director.”

II.                The Red Flags for Charitable Donation

 a.     Schering-Plough

What were the factors which should become red flags for the review of charitable donations under the FCPA? The Schering-Plough SEC Complaint listed several items which it deemed indicia of red flags.

1.      No due diligence. The first is that no due diligence was performed on the charity to identify the Director of the Silesian Health Fund as the founder or his role in the Chudow Foundation.

2.      Donations not related to health care. While the company permitted donations to healthcare related programs there was no follow up to determine the purposes or uses of the donated funds.

3.      Outside normal range of donation. The next red flag was that the donations made to this single charitable foundation approximately 40% of the company’s promotional budget in 2000 and 20% in 2001.

4.      Disproportionate sales. The company’s sales increased disproportionately compared with its own sales of the same products in other areas of Poland. Up to 53% of one product was sold in the region run by the Director of the Silesian Health Fund.

b.  Lilly

The Lilly SEC Complaint listed several items which it deemed indicia of red flags.

1.      No due diligence. Once again there was no due diligence performed on the charity to identify the Director of the Silesian Health Fund as the founder or his role in the Chudow Foundation.

2.      Donations not related to health care. Unlike Schering-Plough, the reasons listed for the charitable donations did not relate to health care. Moreover, they were approved by a Lilly committee specifically tasked with reviewing such requests failed to investigate beyond the submitted paperwork, which was apparently not correct.

3.      Outside normal range of donation. The SEC Complaint quoted an email from a Lilly manager who said that he had decided to commit 70-75% of the [charitable donation] budget and the Director of the Silesian Health Fund was given a “free hand to manage the Lilly investment, emphasizing the fact we only doing this for him…”

4.      Suspicious Timing. The donations were made at or near the time that decisions on the purchase of Lilly products were made by the Director of the Silesian Health Fund. One donation was made two days are the Director of the Silesian Health Fund agreed to make a purchase of Lilly products.

Here Lilly used charitable donations to a charitable foundation which was, as stated in the SEC Complaint, “founded and administered by the head of one of the regional government health authorities at the same time that the subsidiary was seeking the official’s support for placing Lilly drugs on the government reimbursement list.” There were a total of eight payments made to the charitable foundation. In addition to the charitable donations made, Lilly “falsely characterized the proposed payments”. Lilly had a group which reviewed the request for such donations called the “Medical Grant Committee [MGC]” which approved the payments “largely based on the justification and description in the submitted paperwork.”

III.       The Role of Internal Audit

Jon Rydberg, Principal of Orchid Advisors, has categorized the Lilly situation as one of a failure of internal controls. I would add that there was also a failure of internal audit. What does internal audit need to review in the context of charitable donations under the FCPA? Internal audit needs to start with the DOJ FCPA Guidance regarding charitable donations. Internal audit should begin by asking the following five initial questions:

(1)   What is the purpose of the payment?

(2)   Is the payment consistent with the company’s internal guidelines on charitable giving?

(3)   Is the payment at the request of a foreign official?

(4)   Is a foreign official associated with the charity and, if so, can the foreign official make decisions regarding your business in that country?

(5)   Is the payment conditioned upon receiving business or other benefits?

Next internal audit should make inquiries based upon the DOJ Opinion Releases issued regarding charitable donations. Some of the protections a company can do to comply with the FCPA regarding charitable donations are as follows:

1)      Have the donation recipients certified that they or the entity will comply with the requirements of the FCPA;

2)      Has the recipient provided audited financial statements; and

3)      Has the recipient restricted the use of the donated funds to humanitarian or charitable purposes only;

4)      Were the funds transferred to a valid bank account; and

5)      Ongoing auditing and monitoring of the efficacy of the charitable donation program.

Based upon the Schering-Plough and Lilly SEC enforcement actions, there are some additional inquiries that internal audit should make, they are as follows:

a.      What was the timing of the charitable donation or promise to make a donation in relation to the obtaining or retaining of business?

b.      Did the company follow its normal protocol for requesting, reviewing and making a charitable donation or is there a pattern of unusual donations outside the protocol?

c.       Did any one person make multiple donations just below their authority level so that it did not have to go up the line for review?

d.      Was the total amount donated to one charitable foundation out of proportion to the rest of the country or region’s charitable donation budget?

e.       Did the sales in one area, region or country spike after a pattern of charitable donations?

The information on the red flags from the prior Opinion Releases and the best practices, as set out in the FCPA Guidance, have been available for some time. I think that the information found in both the Schering-Plough and Lilly enforcement actions have a different focus for internal audit. In addition to looking at the timing of charitable donations to see if they are at or near the time of the awarding of new or continued business, I think that internal audit may now need to look at overall increases in sales to determine if they are tied to a pattern of charitable donations. I once heard my colleague Henry Mixon explain how the award of a contract may be the product of fraud or corruption. By looking at the timing and quantum of charitable donations, internal audit may be able to ascertain that a spike in sales is tied to corrupt conduct. This may not be something that is on the current radar of auditors when they review charitable donations, but may now be something they need to consider.

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

January 3, 2013

From China to Poland and Brazil-The Lilly FCPA Enforcement Action- Part II

In Parts II and III of my review of the Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), I will discuss some the processes and procedures which you can use in your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act compliance program which should enable you to prevent or detect FPCA violations, similar to those Lilly sustained, as discussed in Part I of these blog posts on the Lilly enforcement action. Today, in Part II, I will discuss the FCPA issues that Lilly faced in China, Brazil and Poland.

As it is a New Year, I would like to start out with listing Paul McNulty’s Three Maxims regarding the effectiveness of a FCPA compliance program. I have been privileged to hear Paul speak many times for several years. These Maxims were the questions he posed to companies when he was in his role as the United States Deputy Attorney General. First, what did you do to prevent it? Second, what did you do to detect it? Third, what did you do to remedy it?

With the McNulty Maxims in mind, Lilly got into FCPA hot water for using four different styles of bribery schemes in four separate countries. In China, the corruption involved employees and bribery payments which were falsely labeled as reimbursement of expenses. In Brazil, the corruption involved a distributor which received a larger than normal discount for Lilly products. The additional revenues generated from this discount were used to pay a bribe. In Poland, the corruption involved charitable donations which were falsely labeled in Lilly’s books and records. These charitable donations were used to induce a Polish government official to approve the purchase of Lilly products; and, finally, Lilly’s subsidiary in Russia, paid bribes to Offshore Agents who were domiciled outside Russia and who performed no services for the compensation they received.

I.                   China

According to the SEC Complaint, in China the FCPA violations centered around various sales representatives who submitted false expense reports to cover bribes which were paid or their supervisors who instructed them to do so. The SEC Complaint noted that although the dollar amounts for the gifts provided to Chinese officials “generally small, the improper payments were wide-spread throughout the [Chinese] subsidiary.” To prevent such actions, a company must train its employees about the requirements of the FCPA, or any other relevant anti-corruption law, regarding what is and is not allowed under such laws. A company must then follow up to monitor and audit such activities. In a sales model which is employee based, internal audit must review the expense reports of its sales representatives as they represent the highest risk of corruption.

II.                Brazil

In Brazil, Lilly used the distributor model to market its drugs through third-party distributors who then resold these products to public and private entities. As noted by Matt Ellis, in his post entitled “Eli Lilly’s Distributor in Brazil: The Non-Obvious FCPA Risk”, the discounts that distributors typically receive from manufacturers such as Lilly can be problematic under the FCPA because “enforcement officials can see these discounts as potential “loose money” that can be used for bribe payments. This is especially the case when the distributor is engaging in other activities on behalf of the producer, like marketing, licensing, and customs clearance.” This was the situation that Lilly found itself in as the standard range of discounts given to distributors was “between 6.5% and 15%, with the majority of distributors in Brazil receiving a 10% discount” but in early 2007, at the request of a Lilly sales manager, the company awarded an unusually high discount of between 17% and 19% to a distributor for the sale of a Lilly drug to the government of one of the states of Brazil. The distributor used approximately 6% of this additional discount to create a fund to pay Brazilian government representatives to purchase the Lilly drugs from him.

a.      Prevent

In the area of prevent, the SEC Complaint noted the following “Lilly-Brazil’s pricing committee approved the discounts without further inquiry. The policies and procedures in place to flag unusual distributor discounts were deficient.” Lastly, as stated by Ellis, “It noted that the company relied on representations of the sales and marketing manager without adequate verification and analysis of the surrounding circumstances of the transactions.” Indeed Kara Brockmeyer, the SEC’s chief FCPA enforcer, stated in the SEC Press Release announcing the matter:

Eli Lilly and its subsidiaries possessed a “check the box” mentality when it came to third-party due diligence. Companies can’t simply rely on paper-thin assurances by employees, distributors, or customers. They need to look at the surrounding circumstances of any payment to adequately assess whether it could wind up in a government official’s pocket.

All of this means that if a discount is outside the normal range typically given to a distributor, a red flag is raised as to why the increased discount was allowed. Simply basing a management decision on the representations of a sales manager is not a sufficient mechanism to clear such a red flag.

b.         Detect

From the detect prong, internal audit needs to follow up with ongoing monitoring and auditing. Internal audit can be used to help determine the reasonableness of a commission rate outside the accepted corporate norm. Further, as noted by Jon Rydberg, of Orchid Advisors, in an article entitled “Eli Lilly’s Remedial Efforts for FCPA Compliance – After the Fact”, the company should be “implementing compliance monitoring and corporate auditing specifically tailored to anti-corruption” for the distributor sales model.

III.             Poland

Here Lilly used charitable donations to a charitable foundation which was, as stated in the SEC Complaint, “founded and administered by the head of one of the regional government health authorities at the same time that the subsidiary was seeking the official’s support for placing Lilly drugs on the government reimbursement list.” There were a total of eight payments made to the charitable foundation. In addition to the charitable donations made, Lilly “falsely characterized the proposed payments”. Lilly had a group which reviewed the request for such donations called the “Medical Grant Committee [MGC]” which approved the payments “largely based on the justification and description in the submitted paperwork.”

a.      Prevent

From the prevent prong, it is clear that if the MGC had adequately reviewed the donation request, it would have determined that the charitable foundation was administered by the same person making the decision over the sale of Lilly products. Indeed, the largest request was made just two days after the government decision maker authorized a large purchase of Lilly products. The SEC Complaint also noted that of there were different corporate justifications for the eight requests for the charitable donations made. So, as noted by Rydberg, there was a failure of corporate governance and financial controls. In its FCPA Guidance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) lists five questions which a company should ask when considering a charitable donation. They are: (1) What is the purpose of the payment? (2) Is the payment consistent with the company’s internal guidelines on charitable giving? (3) Is the payment at the request of a foreign official? (4) Is a foreign official associated with the charity and, if so, can the foreign official make decisions regarding your business in that country? (5) Is the payment conditioned upon receiving business or other benefits?

b.      Detect

From the detect prong, there are several things which can be incorporated into a FCPA compliance program regarding charitable donations. The DOJ has issued several Opinion Releases on charitable donations and based on Opinion Release 10-02, some of the protections a company can do to comply with the FCPA regarding charitable donations are as follows:

1)      Certifications by the recipient that it will comply with the requirements of the FCPA;

2)       Due diligence to confirm that none of the recipient’s officers or directors are affiliated with the foreign government at issue;

3)      A requirement that the recipient provide audited financial statements;

4)      A written agreement with the recipient restricting the use of funds to humanitarian or charitable purposes only;

5)      Steps to ensure that the funds were transferred to a valid bank account;

6)      Confirmation that contemplated activities had occurred before funds were disbursed; and

7)      Ongoing auditing and monitoring of the efficacy of the program.

These protections allow an audit trail which can be monitored or audited by the company’s audit team.

Tomorrow I will take a look at Lilly’s FCPA violations in Russia and use that information to set forth some minimum best practices which you can use in your compliance program to help you both prevent, detect and then FCPA compliance violations.

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

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,412 other followers