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On January 3, 2018, Petrobras announced that it has agreed to pay $2.95 billion to resolve the securities class action pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York regarding the company’s well-known corruption scandal in Brazil. The class action claimed that investors were harmed by alleged corruption when contractors overcharged Petrobras and kicked back some of the overcharges through bribes to Petrobras officials. Under the proposed settlement, Petrobras has agreed to pay the funds in three installments. The agreement does not constitute any admission of wrongdoing or misconduct by Petrobras and Petrobras claims that this reflects its status as a victim of the acts uncovered in Operation Car Wash, as the corruption investigation in Brazil is known. The settlement agreement is still subject to approval by the District Court.
Past ScoreCard coverage related to the Petrobras corruption allegations and investigation can be found here.
The World Bank recently sanctioned two French companies for separate allegations of corruption in developing countries. On November 30, the World Bank announced that Oberthur Technologies SA, a French digital security company, was debarred for 2.5 years for “corrupt and collusive practices” related to a project that would establish a national ID system in Bangladesh. As part of its Negotiated Resolution Agreement (NRA), Oberthur acknowledged “improper payments to a sub-contractor and collusive misconduct to obtain and modify bid specifications to narrow competition and secure the award of the contract.” Oberthur was credited for its “extensive cooperation” with the World Bank’s investigation, including voluntarily acknowledging the misconduct, proactively conducting an internal investigation, holding individuals accountable, and taking “preliminary steps to improve its governance and compliance procedures.”
On December 5, the World Bank separately announced that Sediver SAS, a French manufacturing company, was debarred for two years for a “corrupt practice” related to a project that would improve electricity infrastructure in the Congo. A World Bank investigation found evidence that the company “made improper payments to an employee of a consulting company to influence a tender process.” Under the NRA, Sediver’s parent company was also “conditionally non-debarred” for an 18-month probationary period. The holding company for the entities agreed to pay €6.8 million to the Congo, and the companies agreed to develop and implement a “group-wide integrity compliance program.” The holding company was credited for its “ongoing cooperation” with World Bank investigators, “acceptance of responsibility,” and “voluntary corrective and remedial actions.”
SAP Self-Discloses Approximately $6.8 Million in Payments to Gupta Family-Related South African Entities
On October 26, SAP, a German multinational software corporation, announced that it has voluntarily disclosed commission payments of approximately $6.8 million to Gupta family-related entities to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The voluntary disclosure in July has led to an ongoing DOJ and SEC investigation into SAP’s conduct.
SAP acknowledged that between December 2014 and June 2017, contracts with Transnet and Eskom, both South African state-owned companies, were closed with the assistance of Gupta family-related entities. SAP’s internal investigation has also led to the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against three employees in South Africa. The Gupta family, which is connected to South African president Jacob Zuma, has previously denied wrongdoing associated with receiving such kickbacks. While acknowledging cooperation with the DOJ and the SEC, SAP stated that it has had no interaction with South African authorities and has not decided whether the company will approach South African authorities in the future. The U.S. investigation is ongoing and SAP has acknowledged that it has begun the process of sharing documents with authorities.
On October 25, Judge Chen of the U.S. District Court for the E.D.N.Y. sentenced Hector Trujillo, the former general secretary of Guatemala’s soccer federation and a former judge, to eight months in prison and ordered restitution of $415,000 and forfeiture of $175,000. His sentence comes after a guilty plea to wire fraud and conspiracy in June 2017. Mr. Trujillo was arrested in 2015 as part of the U.S. government’s investigation into FIFA corruption. Trujillo’s sentencing marks the first individual sentenced among a group of more than 40 individuals who have been indicted or pleaded guilty since 2015.
This sentencing comes as part of the U.S. government’s ongoing investigation into corruption in international soccer which has been ongoing. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigation can be found here.
On September 14, Braskem SA, a Brazilian petrochemical company, agreed to pay its U.S. investors $10 million for concealing its role in a corruption scandal involving Petrobras. The settlement resolves a 2015 lawsuit brought by U.S. investors against Braskem, which alleged the company had misled investors into believing its operations were legitimate. The settlement follows the December 2016 guilty plea by the company and its affiliated construction firm Odebrecht SA to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Together, the companies agreed to pay $3.5 billion in a combined global settlement with U.S., Brazilian, and Swiss authorities.
On Friday, August 18, a Russian employee of Bombardier Transportation AB, a Swedish branch of Bombardier, the Canadian producer of aircraft and train equipment, was charged by a Swedish prosecutor with aggravated bribery. Evgeny Pavlov, a sales executive, is alleged to have bribed a public official in Azerbaijan to win a contract valued over $300 million to supply Azerbaijan with a signaling system for its railways. Pavlov was first detained in March 2017 and has been held in custody since that time. If convicted, he faces six years imprisonment and deportation.
According to a March 2017 report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), an investigative reporting network spread across Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America established in 2006 to conduct transnational investigative reporting to expose global organized crime and corruption, Bombardier Transportation AB was suspected of paying “millions of dollars in bribes to unidentified Azerbaijani officials through a shadowy company registered in the United Kingdom,” which the Swedish prosecutor has characterized as having “no employees or business” but which profited substantially in this deal by purchasing equipment from Bombardier Transportation AB and selling the identical equipment to Bombardier’s Azerbaijan affiliate for a profit. According to export records reviewed by the OCCRP, the equipment was delivered directly from Bombardier Transportation AB to Azerbaijan. The report identified the UK intermediary as Multiserv Overseas Ltd., which, according to an earlier OCCRP report is alleged to have ties to Vladimir Yakunin, the former president of Russian Railways, and is alleged to have had similar involvement in a Bombardier contract with Russia.
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.
Senator Ben Cardin and Republican co-sponsors recently introduced a bill titled the “Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017,” which seeks “to identify and combat corruption in countries, to establish a tiered system of countries with respect to levels of corruption by their governments and their efforts to combat such corruption, and to assess United States assistance to designated countries in order to advance anti-corruption efforts in those countries and better serve United States taxpayers.”
This bill, if enacted, would require the Secretary of State to publish annual rankings of foreign countries split up into three tiers that depend on whether those countries’ governments comply with “minimum standards for the elimination of corruption.” The introduced bill defines corruption as “the exercise of public power for private gain, including by bribery, nepotism, fraud, or embezzlement.”
Once a country’s tier-rank is established, the bill would then require the Secretary of State, Administrator of USAID, and the Secretary of Defense to take various steps, including the creation of a “corruption risk assessment” and “corruption mitigation strategy” for U.S. foreign assistance programs; fortified anti-corruption and clawback provisions in contracts, grants and other agreements; disclosure of beneficial ownership for contractors and other participants; and mechanisms to investigate misappropriated funds.
If passed into law, this bill would create substantial new enforcement powers to combat international corruption activities. And, unlike the current ambiguity under the FCPA regarding its applicability to state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (“SOEs”), as drafted, this bill expressly would cover SOEs. Like the FCPA, however, this bill also contains a broad national security waiver component, if the Secretary of State “certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that such waiver is important to the national security interest of the United States.”
On April 18, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Trevor McFadden spoke at the 10th annual Anti-Corruption, Export Controls and Sanctions Compliance Summit in Washington, D.C. According to Mr. McFadden, the Justice Department “remains committed to enforcing the FCPA and to prosecuting fraud and corruption more generally.” He emphasized the importance of company cooperation, stating that that the department considers voluntary self-disclosures and remedial efforts when making charging decisions. Mr. McFadden also stated that the department is making a “concerted effort to move corporate investigations expeditiously,” adding that FCPA investigations should be “measured in months, not years.”
Mr. McFadden also discussed an increased prioritization of anti-corruption prosecutions around the world and stated that the DOJ will “seek to reach global resolutions that apportion penalties between the relevant jurisdictions so that companies that want to accept responsibility for misconduct are not unfairly penalized by multiple agencies.”
Additionally, the department is assessing its FCPA Pilot Program. Last year, as part of the Program, the department began publishing information on cases it declined to prosecute due to voluntary self-disclosure, full cooperation, and comprehensive remediation. Mr. McFadden stated that the Program is “one example of an effort to provide more transparency and consistency for our corporate resolutions” and “will continue in full force.”
On April 17, former South Korean president Park Geun-hye was formally indicted on 18 charges of corruption including bribery, extortion, abuse of power, and leaking state secrets. Ms. Park was impeached in December after months of public protests. Last month, she was removed from office and arrested.
The corruption scandal has also implicated Ms. Park’s longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, who is currently on trial on corruption charges. The pair is accused of coercing Korean businesses into donating $68 million to two non-profit foundations that Ms. Choi controlled. Ms. Park and Ms. Choi are also accused of collecting or demanding $52 million in bribes from businesses, including $38 million from Korean conglomerate Samsung, $6.2 million from the retail conglomerate Lotte, and $7.8 million from the telecommunications and semiconductor conglomerate SK. Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte, was indicted on bribery charges on Monday.
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