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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 Thursday, November 16, 2017, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Wal-Mart”) disclosed in an SEC filing that it has set aside $283 million for a potential resolution with DOJ and SEC of alleged FCPA violations. The investigation into possible FCPA violations in Mexico was first disclosed in Wal-Mart’s December 2011 SEC filing and, in subsequent filings, Wal-Mart stated that the allegations had been expanded to include possible violations in Brazil, China, and India, among others.
In its November 16 filing, Wal-Mart reiterated that it has been cooperating with the DOJ and SEC in their investigations, and the discussions with these government agencies has progressed such that Wal-Mart can reasonably estimate a probable loss of $283 million, although it noted that the company cannot assure that its efforts to resolve these matters will ultimately succeed as anticipated.
Click here for FCPA Scorecard’s prior coverage of this matter.
After serving as Acting Chief of the SEC’s Enforcement Division’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit for more than six months, SEC veteran Charles Cain will now officially take on the position of head of the FCPA Unit. According to an SEC press release, Cain intends “to build upon the important work the unit has done to combat corruption and level the playing field globally.” The SEC named Cain to the Acting Chief role in April 2017 after his predecessor, Kara Brockmeyer, left the agency.
After graduating with honors from The George Washington University Law School, Cain spent two years in the private sector before joining the SEC in 1999. In addition to serving as Deputy Chief of the FCPA Unit since 2011, Cain co-authored A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an effort for which he received the Irving M. Pollack Award.
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 September 28, the SEC announced that diagnostic test manufacturer Alere Inc. had settled a variety of FCPA books and records and internal control allegations stemming from its sales practices in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, including the failure to improperly characterize and record payments made to government officials in Columbia and India. In concluding the more than two year investigation, Alere agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $9.2 million, and disgorgement and interest of approximately $3.8 million. As part of the settlement agreement, Alere did not admit or deny the SEC’s findings of fact. As discussed in a previous FCPA Scorecard post, the DOJ announced in March 2016 that it is also investigating the company’s foreign sales practices. That investigation is ongoing.
Ongoing FCPA investigations can of course have costly business implications beyond reputational damage; the ongoing FCPA investigation of Alere appears to have taken a toll, likely playing a role in the reduced price paid by Abbott Laboratories in April 2017 to acquire Alere.
On September 21, the Swedish telecom Telia Company AB agreed to pay $965 million as a result of criminal and civil actions brought by the DOJ and SEC charging the company with paying bribes to an Uzbek government official from 2007 to 2010. Telia entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ that required the company to pay a $548.6 million criminal penalty for violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, $274 million of which will be paid to the Swedish Prosecution Authority and credited by the DOJ. $40 million of the total criminal penalty consisted of forfeiture by Telia on behalf of its indirect subsidiary Coscom. According to the criminal information, around 2007, Telia began operating a mobile telecommunications business in Uzbekistan through Coscom, and the companies allegedly then conspired to make approximately $331 million in bribes to an Uzbek government official to expand their share of the telecommunications market.
On the same day, the SEC issued a cease-and-desist order finding that Telia violated the anti-bribery and internal accounting controls provisions of the FCPA and ordering the company to disgorge $457 million in illicit profits (but also agreeing to credit up to half that amount if disgorged to the Swedish Prosecution Authority). The SEC found that over the relevant time period, “Telia paid bribes to a government official in Uzbekistan in order to obtain and retain business that generated more than $2.5 billion in revenues.” It found that Telia paid the Uzbek official $330 million in bribes “funneled through payments for sham lobbying and consulting services to a front company controlled by the official.” The SEC agreed that the $40 million forfeiture to the DOJ would also offset.
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].”
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.”
During the week of July 24, 2017, three different companies announced the closure of DOJ and/or SEC FCPA investigations: IBM, Net 1 UEPS Technologies, Inc. (“Net 1”), and Newmont Mining.
In a Form 10-Q filed with the SEC on July 25, 2017, IBM disclosed that the DOJ and SEC had each informed the company in June 2017 of the closure of their respective investigations into “alleged illegal activity by a former IBM Poland employee in connection with sales to the Polish government.” The company initially informed the SEC in 2012 that the Polish Central Anti-Corruption Bureau was looking into the matter, and the DOJ followed up with its own investigation in April of 2013. The DOJ expanded the investigation from Poland to Argentina, Bangladesh, and Ukraine. The 2012 issues came on the heels of a 2011 settlement in which IBM paid the SEC $10 million to settle separate FCPA allegations for alleged cash payments to Chinese and Korean officials.
South African alternative payment systems provider Net 1 made a similar announcement on July 27, stating that the DOJ had written a letter to the company closing its investigation of alleged FCPA and disclosure violations. According to the announcement, the DOJ, along with the SEC and South African authorities, began looking into a 2012 contract award process involving a Net 1 subsidiary, Cash Paymaster Services Proprietary Limited, after an unsuccessful bidder for the same contract “refer[ed] unsubstantiated South African press articles to the DOJ.” The SEC was the first to bow out of the investigation, closing its inquiry through a letter in 2015, followed six months later by the South African government. Net 1 is traded on NASDAQ’s Global Select Market, providing a jurisdictional hook into a case otherwise about payments made by a South African company in South Africa to South African citizens who were South African government employees. Our additional coverage of this matter can be viewed here.
In a Form 10-Q filed on July 25, 2017, Newmont Mining also announced the end of a DOJ investigation into alleged violations of the FCPA “relating to certain business activities of [Newmont Mining] and its affiliates and contractors in countries outside the U.S.” According to the announcement, the Colorado company had already received a similar declination from the SEC earlier this year. Our additional coverage of this matter can be viewed here.
The DOJ simultaneously reportedly confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the agency was still actively enforcing the FCPA. The Journal cited an anonymous source at the DOJ for assurances that “though there haven’t been any new corporate FCPA cases since mid-January, there is no letup in U.S. enforcement efforts.”
Halliburton Company recently settled allegations that the company improperly steered business to the friend of an Angolan official in exchange for that official awarding various oil contracts to the company. In total, Halliburton agreed to pay the SEC $29.2 million, comprising $14 million in disgorgement, $1.2 million in prejudgment interest, and a $14 million penalty. Halliburton’s former vice president also agreed to pay the SEC a $75,000 penalty related to these violations and other accounting irregularities.
This is the most recent settlement in a series of FCPA enforcement actions focusing on Halliburton’s procurement processes and operations in various countries. Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR settled similar FCPA allegations in 2009 related to alleged bribes paid to Nigerian officials to procure contracts in that country.
This settlement also highlights the role of whistleblowers in driving FCPA and other enforcement actions. A Halliburton whistleblower first alerted the company to potential FCPA issues in 2010, which resulted in the launching of an investigation into the allegations.