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Foreign Corrupt Practices Act & Anti-Corruption

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  • Report: California-Based Ride Sharing Company Facing DOJ Scrutiny

    On August 29, the Wall Street Journal reported that a California-based ride sharing company is facing scrutiny from the DOJ, which has taken preliminary steps to investigate potential FCPA violations at the company. The company has expanded into more than 70 countries. A company spokesman confirmed the DOJ’s inquiry. The Wall Street Journal report stated that it was unclear whether DOJ would open a formal investigation.

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  • MTS Systems Announces Closure of FCPA Investigations

    On August 7, MTS Systems announced in its Form 10-Q the closure of DOJ and SEC FCPA investigations related to gift, travel, entertainment, and other expenses incurred in connection with its Asia-Pacific operations. Minnesota-based MTS Systems initially informed the DOJ and SEC about this matter in 2012 and thereafter provided the government periodic updates. According to MTS Systems’ 10-Q, the government’s investigations were closed “without further action taken by either [the SEC or DOJ].”

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  • Teradata Discloses FCPA Investigation in Quarterly Filing

    On August 4, Ohio-based Teradata Corporation disclosed in its 10-Q that the DOJ and SEC are conducting investigations concerning potential violations of the FCPA related to a subsidiary’s operations in Turkey. Teradata operates in more than 70 countries and develops and sells technology-enabled solutions, including data warehouse management and database technologies. 

    According to Teradata’s 10-Q, the company “discovered certain questionable expenditures for travel, gifts and other expenses at one of its international subsidiaries” doing business in Turkey. Teradata stated that it promptly launched an internal investigation and, in February 2017, self-disclosed the investigation to the SEC and DOJ. According to its 10-Q, Teradata has periodically updated the government about its investigation and plans to “continue to cooperate fully.” Teradata also noted that it already has “taken remedial actions,” including terminations, and that the FCPA issues “involved specific individuals who are no longer with the Company.” 

    It appears that Teradata is making a case for full cooperation credit under the DOJ’s Pilot Program, which encourages companies to “voluntarily self-disclose FCPA-related misconduct, fully cooperate with the Fraud Section, and, where appropriate, remediate flaws in their controls and compliance programs.”

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  • Macau Real Estate Developer Convicted of Violating FCPA

    On July 27, 2017, a federal jury in the Southern District of New York convicted Ng Lap Seng of Macau of bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy, for his role in a widespread plan to bribe United Nations officials in order to establish a new conference facility in Macau. Five other defendants have also been charged; four have pleaded guilty, and one passed away. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

    As pointed out on the FCPA Professor, this is a significant win for the DOJ because it marks the first time since 2011 that the DOJ has successfully taken an FCPA case to verdict. Our additional coverage of this matter can be viewed here.

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  • CDM Smith Receives Declination of FCPA Charges

    On June 21, the DOJ issued a declination letter to attorneys for CDM Smith, Inc., in which the DOJ declined prosecution and closed an investigation of CDM regarding potential FCPA violations that occurred in India between 2011 and 2015. CDM, a Boston-based privately held engineering and construction firm, agreed to pay DOJ approximately $4 million in disgorgement. The DOJ announced the declination on June 29 with a link posted on its website, making it the second FCPA declination that the DOJ announced in June 2017. Prior to June, the DOJ had last issued an FCPA declination letter in September 2016. 

    According to the DOJ Letter, CDM paid approximately $1.18 million in bribes to India government officials in exchange for contracts that resulted in approximately $4 million in net profits (the disgorgement amount). The payments were made by CDM’s division responsible for India operations and by CDM’s wholly-owned subsidiary in India through fraudulent subcontractors and generally equaled two to four percent of the contract price. 

    The DOJ’s letter stated that its decision to close its investigation is consistent with the FCPA Pilot Program, launched in April 2016 to encourage companies to “voluntarily self-disclose FCPA-related misconduct, fully cooperate with the Fraud Section, and, where appropriate, remediate flaws in their controls and compliance programs.” Accordingly, the DOJ determined that CDM had, among other things, made a “timely and voluntary self-disclosure” of potential FCPA violations, conducted and “thorough and comprehensive investigation,” fully cooperated with the DOJ, and performed full remediation, including the termination of all of the executives and employees involved in the conduct at issue. However, the letter provides little detail about these factors. 

    The DOJ letter makes clear that it does not foreclose future prosecution of any individuals connected to this matter, whether affiliated with CDM or otherwise.

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  • U.K. Banker Receives Six-Year Sentence for Taking Bribes

    On June 20, 2017, a former banker at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London received a six year prison sentence for accepting more than $3.5 million in bribes. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Andrey Ryjenko also received two years (to run concurrently) for "concealing, disguising, converting and transferring criminal property."  

    Reuters reports that Ryjenko conspired with a U.S. consultant to direct EBRD investments towards certain companies in exchange for bribes deposited into a bank account in the name of Ryjenko's sister. The consultant, Dmitrji Harder, pleaded guilty in 2016 in the U.S. to two counts of violating the FCPA. For additional coverage and analysis of the U.S. Department of Justice's enforcement action against Harder, see the previous posts here.

    Both the Harder case and the Ryjenko prosecution were the result of a multinational investigation with cooperating agencies in several countries. Indeed, the CPS praised the cooperation, stating that Ryjenko's "conviction was made possible through effective cross-border partnerships between a number of jurisdictions, including the United States." According to Reuters, it was the bank that first contacted authorities in 2010 when its internal systems identified irregularities. 

    The Ryjenko conviction is part of a growing trend of foreign jurisdictions taking action against bribe recipients, who are not covered under the FCPA’s prohibitions in the U.S. (although U.S. authorities can sometimes try to pursue those bribe recipients under money laundering and other theories, if the bribe recipients can be brought under U.S. jurisdiction).

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  • Linde Gas Agrees to Pay DOJ More Than $11 Million, Receives Declination of FCPA Charges

    On Friday, June 16, the DOJ issued a declination letter to attorneys for Linde North America Inc. and Linde Gas North America LLC (collectively, “Linde”), in which the DOJ declined prosecution and closed an investigation of Linde and certain of its subsidiaries and affiliates regarding potential FCPA violations that occurred between November 2006 and December 2009. Linde, part of Germany’s Linde Group, which trades only on German stock exchanges and which has no securities registered with the SEC, agreed to pay DOJ a combined $11.2 million in disgorgement and forfeiture. 

    According to the DOJ letter, Spectra Gases, a New Jersey-based company acquired by Linde in October 2006, made corrupt payments to officials at and related to a Republic of Georgia state-owned and controlled entity to ensure continuity of business. Upon discovering this conduct, Linde initiated an internal investigation and subsequently withheld monies earmarked for a company controlled by the Georgian entity. These monies comprise the approximately $3.4 million that Linde agreed to forfeit.

    The DOJ letter stated that its decision is consistent with the FCPA Pilot Program, launched in April 2016 to encourage companies “to voluntarily self-disclose FCPA-related misconduct, fully cooperate with the Fraud Section, and, where appropriate, remediate flaws in their controls and compliance programs.” Accordingly, the DOJ determined that Linde had, among other things, voluntarily self-reported potential FCPA violations, conducted a thorough and proactive internal investigation, and continues to cooperate fully and remediate its compliance program and internal controls. Notably, the DOJ letter does not foreclose future prosecution of any individuals, and the letter explicitly delineates DOJ’s expectation that Linde will continue cooperating fully in any ongoing investigation of individuals.

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  • Supreme Court Limits SEC Disgorgement

    On June 5, the Supreme Court ruled in Kokesh v. SEC that the SEC’s authority to disgorge profits from defendants is subject to the five-year statute of limitations applicable to penalties and fines. The Court rejected the SEC’s position that disgorgement is an equitable remedy and not a penalty, resolving a circuit split on the issue. Writing for the unanimous Court, Justice Sotomayor said that disgorgement “bears all the hallmarks of a penalty,” reasoning that it “is intended to deter, not to compensate.” The defendant in Kokesh was an investment adviser who had been ordered to disgorge approximately $35 million for allegedly misappropriating investor funds.

    The SEC routinely seeks disgorgement in FCPA enforcement actions. The Kokesh decision may lead the SEC to seek tolling agreements sooner and in more circumstances, particularly where the alleged conduct occurred over a long period of time. The decision may also impact defendants’ ability to claim insurance coverage for disgorgement because insurers might deny coverage for payment of penalties.

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  • SFO Charges Additional Individual Defendant in Connection with F.H. Bertling North Sea Investigation

    The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has reportedly charged the former chief commercial officer of F.H. Bertling Ltd. with two counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments to assist F.H. Bertling with attaining or retaining contracts for freight forwarding services to the North Sea oil exploration project Jasmine. The former executive is the seventh individual charged, in addition to the company, with violations of section 1 of the UK Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 for alleged conduct between January 2010 and May 2013 in connection with the Jasmine project.

    The charges follow on the heels of separate corruption charges against the company and other individuals related to an Angolan project. Last July, the SFO charged F.H. Bertling and seven individuals with violation of section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 through conspiring to make corrupt payments between January 2005 and December 2006 to an agent of the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol, in order to facilitate F.H. Bertling’s freight forwarding business operations and contracts in Angola.

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  • DOJ Voices Continued Support for Robust FCPA Enforcement

    On April 24, 2017, in a speech at the Ethics and Compliance Initiative Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared to commit to the continued aggressive enforcement of the FCPA. He noted that bribery "increases the cost of doing business and hurts honest companies that don’t pay these bribes,” and he explained that the Trump administration’s DOJ will enforce laws that protect honest businesses: “One area where this is critical is enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Congress enacted this law 40 years ago, when some companies considered it a routine expense to bribe foreign officials in order to gain business advantages abroad.” AG Sessions also emphasized that individuals, not just companies, may face increased FCPA focus.

    These remarks come on the heels of comments from another senior DOJ official who recently noted that robust FCPA enforcement will continue. As previously reported, Trevor McFadden, the DOJ’s Criminal Division's Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, noted that the DOJ remains "intent on creating an even playing field for honest businesses."

    These remarks suggest that the DOJ will remain active in enforcing FCPA compliance issues, despite comments from then-candidate Trump that FCPA enforcement may be scaled back under his watch.

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