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On June 4, the DOJ announced that Legg Mason, a Baltimore-based investment management firm, had entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay $64.2 million to resolve FCPA allegations in connection with the firm’s involvement in Libya through Permal, a London-based fund purchased by the firm. Between 2004 and 2010, Permal, a Legg Mason subsidiary, partnered with Société Générale S.A., a Paris-based multinational bank, “to solicit business from state-owned financial institutions in Libya.” As admitted by Société Générale in its own resolution with the DOJ, Société Générale paid bribes of over $90 million through the use of a Libyan broker with respect to 14 investments made by Libyan state-owned financial institutions. For seven of the transactions, Société Générale made payments to the Libyan broker to benefit Legg Mason, through Permal. Permal managed the investments and earned profits of approximately $31 million.
Legg Mason’s resolution includes a penalty of $32.625 million and disgorgement of $31.617 million. As part of the agreement, Legg Mason agreed to continue to cooperate with the DOJ in related investigations and prosecutions, as well as to enhance its compliance program. According to the DOJ, the resolution is based on factors including Legg Mason’s cooperation in the investigation, as well as the fact that the company “did not voluntarily and timely disclose the conduct at issue.” The DOJ also found that the misconduct was “not pervasive throughout Legg Mason or Permal,” but rather that Société Générale was responsible for running the scheme, noting that Legg Mason and Permal earned less than one-tenth of the profits earned by Société Générale.
As FCPA Scorecard previously reported, Legg Mason had announced the near completion of the agreement in a recent SEC filing.
On June 4, the DOJ announced that Société Générale S.A., a Paris-based multinational bank, and its wholly owned subsidiary SGA Société Générale Acceptance N.V., agreed to pay $585 million to resolve charges in the United States and France involving bribes to Libyan officials. According to the DOJ, Société Générale will enter into a deferred prosecution agreement related to charges of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. Société Générale’s subsidiary will also plead guilty in the Eastern District of New York to similar charges. Almost $293 million of the resolution will be paid to France and credited by the U.S. This is the first coordinated anti-bribery enforcement action by the DOJ and French authorities.
Société Générale admitted that it had paid over $90 million in bribes through a Libyan broker in connection with 14 investments made by state-owned financial institutions in Libya. For each transaction, Société Générale paid the Libyan broker a commission, some of which the Libyan broker then paid to high ranking Libyan officials to secure the investments for Société Générale from the state institutions. This scheme resulted in Société Générale obtaining 13 investments and one restructuring from the Libyan state institutions, and earning approximately $523 million in profits. The scheme also involved payments for the benefit of a Legg Mason subsidiary; Legg Mason resolved its FCPA issues with the DOJ on the same day.
As part of the same deferred prosecution agreement, Société Générale also agreed to pay $275 million to resolve charges arising from manipulation of U.S.-dollar and Japanese yen LIBOR.
On May 30, Legg Mason, a Baltimore-based investment management firm, announced in a 10-K SEC filing that it will soon complete negotiations with the DOJ and SEC to resolve FCPA allegations stemming from how Permal, a London-based fund purchased by Legg Mason in 2005, managed assets of Libyan governmental entities in 2005-2007. Legg Mason reserved $67 million for the settlement, which reflects, in part, the net revenues of approximately $31 million earned by Permal for managing the assets.
On May 1, the Department of Justice announced the indictment of a Honduran national, Carlos Alberto Zelaya Rojas, for trying to launder more than $1.3 million in bribes that had been paid to his brother, the former Executive Director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security. The bribes had been paid by two Honduran businessmen for the benefit of the Executive Director. The indictment alleges that Zelaya Rojas conspired with his brother to launder the funds through international wire transfers and the purchase of real estate in the New Orleans area. The indictment further alleges that Zelaya Rojas also used his brother’s high-ranking position to profit from lucrative Honduran government contracts and that he impeded an official proceeding by lying to the U.S. government about the source of the funds. Zelaya Rojas was arrested on the same day the indictment was announced.
On May 9, the DOJ issued a new policy to discourage “piling on” in corporate enforcement cases, including those involving the FCPA. The new policy directs the DOJ to “consider the totality of fines and penalties” being imposed by the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies on a company for the same misconduct. In a speech delivered to a New York City bar organization, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein described the new policy as encouraging “coordination among Department components and other enforcement agencies” with the aim of “avoiding unfair duplicative penalties.”
The new policy contains four main elements. First, the DOJ should not threaten criminal prosecution solely to persuade a company to pay a larger settlement in a civil case. Second, DOJ components must coordinate with one another to achieve an overall equitable result. Third, the DOJ should coordinate with other federal, state, local, and foreign enforcement authorities. Finally, the DOJ should consider several factors, including the egregiousness of the wrongdoing and the adequacy of the company’s cooperation with the DOJ, in determining whether multiple penalties serve the interests of justice in a particular case.
Rosenstein specifically noted in his address that the DOJ’s “FCPA Unit [had recently] announced its first coordinated resolution with . . . Singapore.” See FCPA Scorecard post. The new policy does not prohibit the DOJ from considering additional remedies in “appropriate circumstances.”
On April 30, Clear Channel Outdoor, one of the world’s largest outdoor advertising companies, disclosed that it had self-reported potential FCPA violations to the SEC and DOJ. The San Antonio-based company had previously disclosed that Chinese police were investigating “several employees” of its subsidiary, Clear Media Limited, for the misappropriation of funds in China. A related internal investigation purportedly found that three unauthorized bank accounts were opened in the name of the subsidiary and “certain transactions were recorded therein.” In the most recent disclosure, the company newly reported that: (i) “discrepancies” related to the misappropriation resulted in more than $10 million in “accounting errors”; (ii) it determined that there was a “material weakness” in the subsidiary’s internal controls over financial reporting, namely “falsification of bank statements and other supporting documentation used to complete bank reconciliations,” “collusion,” and “circumvention of controls”; and (iii) these issues “could implicate the books and records, internal controls and anti-bribery provisions” of the FCPA, making “possible . . . monetary penalties and other sanctions.” The company said it would cooperate with any investigation by the SEC or DOJ.
On April 30, a DOJ deferred prosecution agreement and SEC settlement with Japan-based Panasonic Corporation and a subsidiary were announced, with Panasonic agreeing to pay $280 million in total. The resolutions related to Panasonic’s U.S.-based subsidiary, Panasonic Avionics Corporation (PAC), and allegations that senior management of PAC orchestrated a bribery scheme to help secure over $700 million in business from a state-owned airline, in which PAC paid a Middle East government official nearly $900,000 for a “purported consulting position, which required little to no work,” and concealed the payment “through a third-party vendor that provided unrelated services to PAC.” PAC is then alleged to have falsely recorded the payments in its books and records, as well as similar payments made to other purported consultants and sales agents in Asia.
Under the DPA with PAC, PAC agreed to pay the DOJ a $137.4 million criminal penalty for knowing and willful violations of the FCPA’s accounting provisions. The DOJ gave PAC a 20 percent discount off the low end of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range because of its cooperation and remediation, which, although untimely in certain respects, did include causing several senior executives who were either involved in or aware of the misconduct to be separated from PAC or Panasonic.” However, because many of PAC’s remediation efforts were “more recent, and therefore have not been tested,” the deferred prosecution agreement subjects the company to two years of scrutiny by an independent compliance monitor, followed by a year of self-reporting. The SEC‘s simultaneous settlement included violations of the anti-bribery as well as accounting provisions, and the payment of $143 million to the SEC.
As FCPA Scorecard previously reported, Panasonic disclosed the investigations in February 2017, though they were first reported as early as 2013.
On April 23, Dun & Bradstreet, a commercial data and analytics firm, secured a declination letter from the DOJ regarding FCPA violations stating that, “consistent with the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy,” the DOJ would be declining to bring criminal charges against the company. Dun & Bradstreet simultaneously agreed to settle with the SEC regarding books and records and internal controls violations regarding the same conduct, and pay a total of $9 million, including a $2 million civil penalty and $6 million of disgorgement. Dun & Bradstreet had self-disclosed payments made by two Chinese subsidiaries through third party agents. One of the subsidiaries, part of a joint venture with a Chinese company, made payments to Chinese government officials to acquire non-public financial statement information on Chinese entities. The other subsidiary made improper payments both to obtain specific business and to acquire non-public personal data. The SEC noted that there were pre-acquisition concerns regarding the subsidiaries, but Dun & Bradstreet failed to take appropriate action to stop the payments or the false entries, which continued for several years after the acquisition.
This is the first instance we are aware of a company receiving a full declination from the DOJ under the new policy. The policy, which grew out of the FCPA Pilot Program, states that when a company voluntarily self-discloses, fully cooperates, and timely and appropriately remediates, there will be a presumption that the DOJ will issue a declination. The Dun & Bradstreet declination letter notes the company’s self-identification and disclosure, thorough investigation, and full cooperation, including identifying all individuals involved in the misconduct. The DOJ also cited the company’s “full remediation,” in part by terminating 11 employees, including senior employees, and reducing compensation and other forms of discipline.
The DOJ announced on Thursday, April 19, that a former Venezuelan official had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charge arose from Cesar David Rincon Godoy’s role in a bribery scheme involving bribes paid by the owners of U.S. companies to Venezuelan government officials to secure energy contracts and payments on outstanding invoices. As the former general manager of the procurement subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), Rincon had solicited and accepted bribes. The judge entered a personal money judgment of $7,033,504.71. As a government official receiving the bribes, Rincon could not be charged himself with FCPA offenses (which are targeted at those paying the bribes). Related charges against four other individuals remain pending, including charges of conspiracy to violate the FCPA; 11 individuals have already pleaded guilty in the PDVSA cases.
For prior coverage of the PDVSA enforcement actions, please see here.
Egbert Yvan Ferdinand Koolman, an official of Servicio di Telecommunicacion di Aruba N.V. (Setar), pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in connection with a scheme to arrange and receive corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts in Aruba. The DOJ’s press release describes Setar as an Aruban state-owned company. According to his plea agreement, Koolman, a Dutch citizen living in Florida, operated a money laundering conspiracy between 2005 and 2016 in his position as Setar’s product manager. Lawrence W. Parker, Jr., who owned several Florida-based telecommunications companies, previously pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Koolman and Koolman’s wife.
Koolman admitted that he conspired with Parker and others to transmit funds from Florida and elsewhere in the United States to Aruba and Panama with the intent to promote a wire fraud scheme and a corrupt scheme that violated the FCPA. Koolman was promised and received bribes from individuals and companies located in the United States and abroad in exchange for using his position at Setar to award lucrative mobile phone and accessory contracts. Koolman also admitted to providing favored vendors with confidential Setar information in exchange for the more than $1.3 million in corrupt payments.
Setar filed a civil complaint against Koolman and other parties on March 3 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, which contains a few points of note. First, Setar describes itself in the complaint as a privatized company, whereas the DOJ’s press release called it an instrumentality of the Aruban government. Second, the complaint states that Setar became aware of some of Koolman’s alleged activities via the Panama Papers, the 2016 leak of over 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm and financial services provider Mossack Fonseca.