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On January 9, the SEC and the DOJ announced the resolution of parallel FCPA enforcement actions against a major U.S. extractive industries firm and one of its subsidiaries. The actions related to improper payments to officials of a foreign government, and to a "middle man" serving as an intermediary to secure contracts to supply a government controlled aluminum plant. The SEC's cease and desist order asserts the parent firm lacked sufficient internal controls to prevent and detect bribes made through foreign subsidiaries, and that the bribes were improperly recorded in the parent company's books and records as legitimate commissions or sales. The order directs the parent firm to disgorge $175 million, $14 million of which will be satisfied by forfeiture required in the parallel DOJ action. In connection with the DOJ action, the parent company pleaded guilty to one count of violating the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions and consented to entry of a judgment that requires the company to pay a $209 million criminal fine and forfeit $14 million. The plea agreement also requires the parent firm to maintain and implement an enhanced global anti-corruption compliance program, and both the parent and subsidiary companies must cooperate with the DOJ in its continuing investigation of individuals and institutions that were involved in the subject activities.
On January 6, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that two former CEOs of an oil and gas services company had been charged for their alleged involvement in a scheme to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and for other related offenses. The DOJ also revealed that the companys former general counsel had entered a guilty plea on bribery and fraud charges related to the alleged schemes. According to two separate Criminal Complaints that were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the former CEOs allegedly paid bribes to a Colombian official for his assistance in securing approval of a contract valued at approximately $39 million. They were also charged with attempting to defraud members of the companys board through their attempts to secure kickbacks for themselves as part of an effort to acquire another firm. The Information filed against the former GC provided further details on the bribery and kickback schemes.
On December 20, the DOJ and the SEC announced separate enforcement actions against a major U.S. agribusiness firm and one of its foreign subsidiaries. In the DOJ action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, a foreign subsidiary of the U.S. corporate parent pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, and agreed to pay $17.8 million in criminal fines. The plea resolved the government's allegations that the subsidiary paid bribes through intermediary firms to Ukrainian government officials in exchange for over $100 million in value-added tax (VAT) refunds. The plea agreement with the DOJ was accompanied by a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. parent to resolve claims that the company failed to implement internal controls sufficient to prevent and detect FCPA violations. Under that agreement, the company must periodically report on its compliance efforts, and continue implementing enhanced compliance programs and internal controls. The SECs parallel civil enforcement action resolved charges that the parent firms lack of sufficient anti-bribery compliance controls, which contributed to FCPA violations by foreign subsidiaries that generated over $33 million in illegal profits. The U.S. parent corporation consented to entry of a judgment that requires the company to disgorge the illegal profits plus $3 million in interest. The judgment also permanently enjoins the parent company from violating the relevant parts of the Exchange Act and requires compliance reporting for a three-year period.
On November 26, the DOJ announced that Weatherford Internationala multinational oil services companyand certain of its subsidiaries agreed to pay approximately $250 million to resolve FCPA, sanctions, and export control violations. The DOJ alleged in a criminal information that the company knowingly failed to establish an effective system of internal accounting controls designed to detect and prevent corruption, including FCPA violations. The alleged compliance failures allowed employees of certain of the companys subsidiaries in Africa and the Middle East to engage in prohibited conduct over the course of many years, including both bribery of foreign officials and fraudulent misuse of the United Nations Oil for Food Program. The company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, pursuant to which it must pay an approximately $87 million penalty, retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for at least 18 months, and continue to implement an enhanced FCPA compliance program and internal controls. The subsidiaries pleaded guilty to related specific acts of corruption, including those alleged in a separate criminal information. The DOJ alleged, among other things, that employees of certain subsidiaries engaged in at least three schemes to pay bribes to foreign officials in exchange for government contracts. In addition the parent company agreed to pay over $65 million and submit to compliance and monitoring requirements to resolve parallel SEC civil allegations that the company violated the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal accounting controls provisions of the FCPA. Separately, the parent company entered into an agreement with the Treasury Departments Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ, as well as an agreement with the Department of Commerce, to resolve alleged sanctions and export controls violations. Collectively, those agreements require the company to, among other things, pay $100 million in penalties and finesinclusive of a $91 million settlement with OFACand undergo external audits of its efforts to comply with the relevant U.S. sanctions law for calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014. Those payments resolve allegations, described in part in another DOJ criminal information, that the company and certain subsidiaries exported or re-exported oil and gas drilling equipment to, and conducted business operations in, sanctioned countriesincluding Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syriawithout the required U.S. Government authorization.
On October 22, the DOJ and the SEC announced parallel actions against a U.S. company that makes ATMs and bank security systems for allegedly violating the FCPA. The federal authorities allege that from 2005 to 2010 the company provided a total of approximately $1.8 million in payments, gifts, and non-business travel to employees of state-owned banks in China and Indonesia, and attempted to disguise the benefits, including by making payments through third parties designated by the banks and by inaccurately recording leisure trips for bank employees as "training." The government also alleges that from 2005 to 2009, the company entered into false contracts with a distributor in Russia for services that the distributor was not performing in order to facilitate approximately $1.2 million in bribes to employees of privately-owned banks in Russia in order to obtain and retain ATM-related contracts with those customers. The company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ and consented to a final judgment in the SEC matter. Pursuant to those agreements, the company must pay a $25.2 million penalty and disgorge approximately $22.97 million, inclusive of prejudgment interest. The company also must implement numerous specific changes to its internal controls and compliance systems, and retain a compliance monitor for at least 18 months. The government acknowledged the company's voluntary disclosure and extensive internal investigation and cooperation.
On October 15, the DOJ filed an indictment against a Swiss national and former executive at Maxwell Technologiesa U.S.-based energy storage and power-delivery companyfor alleged violations of the FCPA. The DOJ claims that over a more than six-year period the former executive engaged in a conspiracy to make and conceal payments to Chinese government officials in order to obtain and retain business, prestige, and increased compensation for his company. This individual action follows a 2011 action by the DOJ and the SEC against the company based on the same allegations and which the company agreed to resolve for $13.65 million.
On May 29, the DOJ and the SEC announced that a French oil and gas company will pay nearly $400 million to resolve allegations that the company made illegal payments through third parties to an Iranian official in exchange for oil and gas concessions. The penalty is the third largest FCPA penalty ever obtained by federal authorities. The company entered a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve one count each of (i) conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, (ii) violating the internal controls provision of the FCPA, and (iii) violating the books and records provision of the FCPA, as detailed in a criminal information filed in the Eastern District of Virginia. Pursuant to the DPA, the firm will pay a $245.2 million penalty, cooperate with the DOJ and foreign law enforcement to retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for a period of three years, and continue to implement an enhanced compliance program and internal controls designed to prevent and detect FCPA violations. A separate SEC Order resolves parallel civil charges and requires, among other things, that the company to disgorge $153 million in illicit profits.
On May 7, the DOJ charged two employees of a U.S. broker-dealer and a senior official in Venezuela's state economic development bank for their alleged roles in what the DOJ describes as a "massive international bribery scheme." According to an unsealed criminal complaint, the DOJ accuses the broker-dealer employees and the foreign official of violating the FCPA by conspiring to pay $5 million in bribes to the foreign official in exchange for her directing the economic development bank's trading business to the broker-dealer, which yielded millions more in mark-ups and mark-downs for the broker-dealer. The government alleges that commissions paid on the directed trades were split with the foreign official through monthly kickbacks and that some of the trades executed for the bank had no discernible business purpose. To further conceal the scheme, the government claims, the kickbacks often were paid using intermediary corporations and offshore accounts, the assets of which the government is pursuing through a separate civil forfeiture action. On the same day, the SEC announced a parallel civil action against the two broker-dealer employees and two other individuals who allegedly participated in and profited from the scheme. The investigations and subsequent criminal and civil charges stemmed from a routine periodic SEC examination of the broker-dealer. The DOJ warned others in the financial services industry, particularly brokers, about engaging in similar activities, and the SEC's conduct in this case suggests its examiners are focused on conduct that potentially violates the FCPA.
- United States of America v. Clarke et al. Complaint
- Securities and Exchange Commission v. Clarke et al. Complaint
On April 22, the DOJ and the SEC announced parallel actions against Ralph Lauren to resolve allegations that a subsidiary of the company paid bribes to Argentine officials over a several-year period to obtain improper customs clearance of merchandise. The SEC action included the agency's first non-prosecution agreement related to FCPA misconduct, which the SEC determined was appropriate given "Ralph Lauren's prompt reporting of the violations on its own initiative, the completeness of the information it provided, and its extensive, thorough, and real-time cooperation with the SEC's investigation." According to the SEC's NPA, Ralph Lauren's cooperation involved (i) reporting preliminary findings of its internal investigation to the staff within two weeks of discovering the illegal payments and gifts, (ii) voluntarily and expeditiously producing documents, (iii) providing English language translations of documents to the staff, (iv) summarizing witness interviews that the company's investigators conducted overseas, and (v) making overseas witnesses available for staff interviews and bringing witnesses to the U.S. The SEC agreement also required Ralph Lauren to pay over $700,000 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, while the DOJ required the company to pay a nearly $900,000 penalty.
On April 5, 2013, Koninklijke Philips Electronics, N.V., the Dutch parent of the Philips group of companies, settled an SEC administrative proceeding for more than $4.5 million. The SEC alleged that Philips violated the internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA based on improper payments by employees of its Polish subsidiary to Polish government officials from 1999-2007 in connection with contracts for medical equipment. The SEC cited Philipss voluntary disclosure of the improprieties and subsequent remedial measures in deciding to accept the settlement.
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