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On September 14, a New York federal district court granted class certification to a group of shareholder investors suing an American hedge fund management firm and two of its senior executives on the grounds that the investors were misled about a government investigation into the company’s activities in Africa. In finding that the proposed class met all the requirements for certification, the court certified a class of investors that held some of the more than 100 million outstanding shares between February 2012 and August 2014, the time period in which the firm allegedly violated the Securities Exchange Act. Plaintiffs claim that the firm told investors it was not under any pending judicial or administrative proceeding that might have a material impact on the firm, when in fact it was under DOJ and SEC investigation over allegations that its employees were bribing government officials in Africa. The allegations against the firm were made public in 2014 media reports detailing government scrutiny into its dealings in Africa.
Click here for prior FCPA Scorecard’s coverage of this matter.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York issued a 32-page memorandum opinion this week dismissing the SEC’s civil suit against two former executives of an American hedge fund management firm (earlier coverage can be found here and here).
The SEC’s complaint alleged that the executives violated the FCPA between May 2007 and April 2011 by causing the firm “to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials on the continent of Africa.” Specifically, the defendants allegedly induced Libyan authorities to invest in firm managed funds, and directed illicit efforts to secure mining deals by bribing government officials in Libya, Chad, Niger, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The case against the two executives was the latest in a line of civil and criminal proceedings involving the hedge fund management firm and its employees and executives, and the firm paid $412 million in criminal and civil penalties to settle its FCPA enforcement actions.
Judge Garaufis, in dismissing the complaint in its entirety with prejudice, found that the claims were barred by the FCPA’s five-year statute of limitations, and he rejected the SEC’s tolling arguments. A cornerstone of this dismissal is the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Kokesh v. SEC, which held that SEC disgorgement actions are subject to a five-year statute of limitations.
The DOJ recently unsealed criminal charges against a former hedge fund executive. This indictment follows a civil suit filed in January 2017 against the executive and others by the SEC regarding FCPA violations. In 2016, the DOJ and SEC also pursued a joint FCPA enforcement action against his former employer, an American hedge fund management firm, alleging various bribes, self-dealing, and other malfeasance relating to the procurement of mineral, oil, and other natural resource contracts in African counties.
While the SEC’s initial January 2017 civil matter against the executive alleged FCPA violations, the recently announced criminal indictment does not directly charge him with violating the FCPA. He is alleged to have obstructed the DOJ and SEC’s investigations of the firm and made false statements, but also to have committed investment advisor fraud.
On May 31, Samuel Mebiame, the son of a former Prime Minister of Gabon, a former consultant to a joint venture between mining company Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC (Och-Ziff) and an entity incorporated in the Turks and Caicos, was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to violate the FCPA by bribing government officials in several African countries.
As previously reported here, Mebiame previously pleaded guilty to allegations related to payments of approximately $3 million to high-level government officials in Niger, in addition to providing luxury cars, in order to obtain uranium mining concessions. Similarly, the DOJ charged Mebiame with bribing a high-ranking government official in Chad with luxury foreign travel to obtain a uranium mining concession there, and with bribing government officials in Guinea with cash, the use of private jets, and a luxury car in order to obtain confidential government information. Prior Scorecard coverage regarding Och-Ziff is here.
A former Guinean mining minister was found guilty earlier this week on bribery and money laundering charges following a seven-day jury trial in Manhattan federal court. He was charged with receiving and laundering $8.5 million in bribes allegedly for securing mining rights for two Chinese companies.
The conviction came one day after the former minister took the stand in his own defense and admitted to lying to banks about his status as a government official, as well as failing to report the payments on his IRS tax return.
The conviction also follows other notable enforcement actions involving the mining industry in the Republic of Guinea. Earlier this year, the SEC charged former Och-Ziff executives with bribing government officials across Africa to secure mining deals, including in Guinea.
On January 26, the SEC charged two more former executives of an American hedge fund management firm with being the “driving forces” behind a massive bribery scheme across Africa that violated the FCPA. The civil complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges that the former head of the firms European office in London, and an investment executive on Africa-related deals, caused the firm "to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials on the continent of Africa.” Specific allegations include that they induced Libyan authorities to invest in the firm's managed funds, and directed illicit efforts to secure mining deals by bribing government officials in Libya, Chad, Niger, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In announcing the complaint, Kara Brockmeyer, Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit, said the defendants “were the masterminds of the firm’s bribery scheme that improperly used investor funds to pay bribes through agents and partners to officials at the highest levels of foreign governments.” The complaint seeks disgorgement and civil monetary penalties among other remedies.
The complaint follows the firm’s payment last September of $412 million to the DOJ and SEC to settle criminal and civil charges in one of the largest ever FCPA enforcement actions. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the firm’s settlement with the DOJ and SEC can be found here.
Gabonese National Pleads Guilty to Bribing Government Officials in Africa in Connection with Och-Ziff Mining Operations
On December 9, 2016, the son of a former Prime Minister of Gabon pleaded guilty to conspiring to make corrupt payments to government officials in Africa in violation of the FCPA. The Gabonese national worked as a consultant for a joint venture between mining company Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC (Och-Ziff) and an entity incorporated in the Turks and Caicos. The DOJ charged him with conspiring to pay approximately $3 million in bribes to high-level government officials in Niger, as well as providing them with luxury cars, in order to obtain uranium mining concessions. Similarly, the DOJ also charged him with bribing a high-ranking government official in Chad with luxury foreign travel for the official and his wife in order to obtain a uranium mining concession there. In addition, the DOJ charged him with bribing government officials in Guinea with cash, the use of private jets, and a luxury car in order to obtain confidential government information.
The guilty plea comes on the heels of Och-Ziff’s $412 million settlement with the DOJ and SEC to resolve related criminal and civil charges of violating the FCPA in connection with the bribery of high-level government officials across Africa. The settlement represented the fourth largest FCPA financial penalty at the time. Och-Ziff’s CEO and former CFO have also previously settled related civil allegations. Prior Scorecard coverage of Och-Ziff’s settlement with the DOJ and SEC may be found here.