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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • Jury acquits former metal industry supplier executives of U.K. SFO bribery charges

    Financial Crimes

    On July 16, a London jury acquitted three former metal industry supplier executives who had been charged with foreign bribery by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The SFO reportedly failed to prove that the former executives – a managing director, sales head, and project manager – had paid bribes to secure overseas contracts. The acquittal comes three years after the company entered into the SFO’s second-ever deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). The July 2016 DPA resolved, at a corporate level, some of the same bribery allegations that the executives faced at trial, and resulted in the company paying a £6.5 million fine. The company’s identity in the DPA was not publicly known until restrictions were lifted at the conclusion of the trial.


    Financial Crimes UK Serious Fraud Office DPA Bribery

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  • SEC defends whistleblower award delay in foreign bribery case

    Financial Crimes

    On July 11, the SEC responded to a petition asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to compel a whistleblower award determination from the agency. In April 2017, the “John Doe” petitioner had applied for an SEC whistleblower award, claiming that beginning in May 2011 and continuing for the next several years, he voluntarily provided original information to the Commission that led to the SEC and DOJ’s $519 million resolution of foreign bribery claims against a multinational pharmaceutical company (previously reported here). Under the SEC Whistleblower Program established by the Dodd-Frank Act, the petitioner could be eligible for up to 30% of that $519 million recovery. In April 2019, after the SEC still had not issued a preliminary determination in connection with his application, the petitioner sought relief in court. The petitioner argued that it was a “simple task” to evaluate his claim, and the agency’s two-year delay was “unreasonable.”

    In its response, the SEC argued that the petitioner “greatly misapprehends the work, effort, and time involved in reviewing whistleblower claims,” “overlooks the substantial complexities involved in adjudicating claims regarding the matter,” and “ignores that the SEC is processing a voluminous number of other whistleblower applications that require the attention of the Commission in addition to his claim.”

    For additional information about SEC whistleblower awards and procedures under the SEC Whistleblower Program, see the article published here by Buckley LLP attorneys.

    Financial Crimes SEC Whistleblower

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  • Two businessmen and two former Venezuelan officials charged in bribery investigation

    Financial Crimes

    On June 24, two businessmen, Luis Alberto Chacin Haddad and Jesus Ramon Veroes, pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The charges relate to bribes paid to Venezuelan officials at a state-owned and state-run electricity company in an effort to obtain $60 million in contracts for their Florida-based businesses. Pursuant to their plea agreements, the businessmen will each forfeit at least $5.5 million in profits, as well as Miami-area real estate obtained with the ill-gotten gains. Sentencing is scheduled for September 4.

    In addition, on June 27 the Venezuelan officials they allegedly bribed, Luis Alfredo Motta Dominguez (former minister of electrical energy in Venezuela and the head of the company) and Eustiquio Jose Lugo Gomez (former procurement director at the company), were charged by eight-count indictment in the Southern District of Florida. On the same day, the same officials were also sanctioned by OFAC. See related InfoBytes coverage here.

    Financial Crimes FCPA Bribery OFAC

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  • Two Ecuadorians charged with FCPA conspiracy related to oil company investigation

    Financial Crimes

    On May 9, pursuant to an indictment filed in federal court in Miami without announcement by DOJ, two Ecuadorian citizens were charged with conspiracy to violate FCPA, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and nine counts of money laundering. The indictment was first reported on July 1 by the Financial Times.

    The charges against Armengol Alfonso Cevallos Diaz and Jose Melquiades Cisneros Alarcon, who both live in Florida, relate to the ongoing investigation and prosecution of bribery and money laundering at Ecuador’s state oil company. To date, the investigation has yielded four guilty pleas. One additional defendant has pleaded not guilty; his case is pending.

    See prior FCPA Scorecard coverage here.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA Anti-Money Laundering Bribery

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  • FinCEN updates list of FATF-identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On July 12, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory reminding financial institutions that on June 21, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) updated two documents that list jurisdictions identified as having “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. The first document, the FATF Public Statement, identifies two jurisdictions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, that are subject to countermeasures and/or enhanced due diligence due to their strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. The second document, Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process, identifies the following jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies that have developed an action plan with the FATF to address those deficiencies: the Bahamas, Botswana, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Pakistan, Panama, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Yemen. Notably, Serbia has been removed from the list and Panama has been added since the last update in March (covered by InfoBytes here). FATF further notes that several jurisdictions have not yet been reviewed, and that it “continues to identify additional jurisdictions, on an ongoing basis, that pose a risk to the international financial system.” Generally, financial institutions should consider both the FATF Public Statement and the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process documents when reviewing due diligence obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices.

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons FATF FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • OFAC sanctions Venezuela’s military counterintelligence agency

    Financial Crimes

    On July 11, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions, pursuant to Executive Order 13850, against the Government of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) for operating in the country’s defense and security sector. According to OFAC, the DGCIM has been involved in human rights abuses and the “politically motivated” arrest and death of a Venezuelan Navy captain. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned entity or of other entities “that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more” by the sanctioned entity “that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.” U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with these entities. Furthermore, OFAC also referred financial institutions to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network advisories FIN-2019-A002, FIN-2017-A006, and FIN-2018-A003 for further information concerning the efforts of Venezuelan government agencies and individuals to use the U.S. financial system and real estate market to launder corrupt proceeds, as well as human rights abuses connected to corrupt foreign political figures and their financial facilitators.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions Venezuela Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC sanctions Iranian-backed Hizballah officials

    Financial Crimes

    On July 9, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13224 against three Iranian-backed Hizballah political and security figures for “exploit[ing] Lebanon’s financial and security elements” in furtherance of Hizballah’s and Iran’s activities in support of terrorists and acts of terrorism. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC notes that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated individuals. The designated individuals are also subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implement the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015, and allow OFAC the authority to “prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.”

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions Iran Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC sanctions Cuban oil company for facilitating Maduro regime

    Financial Crimes

    On July 3, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against Cuban state-run oil import and export company for continuing to provide support to the Maduro regime by the importation of oil from Venezuela. The sanctions are pursuant to Executive Order 13850. OFAC alleges that the state-run company has been the recipient of oil from Venezuela and has expanded its operations to include non-traditionally traded oil products. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these individuals, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by such individuals, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.” OFAC notes that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities.

    Additionally, the announcement notes that OFAC is delisting an oil tanking company in recognition of the company’s actions to ensure that its vessels are not complicit in supporting the Maduro regime. As a result of the delisting, all property and interest of the company is now unblocked and lawful transactions involving U.S. persons are no longer prohibited.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Executive Order Sanctions Venezuela Cuba

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  • OFAC sanctions Maduro regime officials in Venezuela

    Financial Crimes

    On June 27 and 28, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two Maduro regime officials and the son of Maduro for engaging in significant corruption and fraud to the detriment of the people of Venezuela. Specifically, OFAC designated the two regime officials pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13692, for having previously received bribes from two Venezuelan businessmen in exchange for awarding contracts for expensive equipment to maintain Venezuelan electrical infrastructure, which were incompatible with the Venezuelan electrical system. Continued corruption and mismanagement resulted in persistent countrywide blackouts, limiting the people’s access to basic goods, services, and potable water supplies, among other things.

    Additionally, pursuant to E.O. 13692, OFAC designated the son of Maduro for being a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela and a member of Venezuela’s illegitimate National Constituent Assembly, “which seeks to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and dissolve Venezuelan state institutions, [and] was created through an undemocratic process instigated by Maduro’s government to subvert the will of the Venezuelan people.”

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons Venezuela Sanctions Executive Order Department of Treasury

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  • Federal Judge denies Ukrainian billionaire’s motion to dismiss criminal charges, and Austrian Supreme Court grants U.S. extradition request

    Financial Crimes

    Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Illinois denied a motion to dismiss filed by Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash, allowing several criminal charges––including one count of aiding and abetting an FCPA violation––to proceed. Shortly thereafter, the Austrian Supreme Court reportedly agreed to extradite Firtash to the United States, subject to final review by Austria’s Justice Minister. For prior coverage of Firtash’s motion to dismiss, please see here

    Firtash’s motion argued, inter alia, that he could not be liable under the FCPA as a Ukrainian citizen who does not belong to any class of foreign nationals subject to that statute. Because the Seventh Circuit had not reached the precise question that Firtash raised, Firtash cited Second Circuit precedent holding that “foreign nationals may only violate the [FCPA] outside the United States if they are agents, employees, directors, or shareholders of an American issuer or domestic concern.” United States v. Hoskins, 902 F.3d 69, 97 (2d Cir. 2018). Because Firtash is none of these, he claimed to be exempt from FCPA liability.

    Judge Pallmeyer disagreed. Putting aside Hoskins, the judge analyzed generally applicable Seventh Circuit and Supreme Court jurisprudence regarding secondary liability, and concluded that a defendant can be liable for aiding and abetting or conspiring to commit a crime even if he or she would be exempt from primary liability for that crime. Judge Pallmeyer acknowledged that the presumption against extraterritorial application “arguably undermined” the Seventh Circuit precedent upon which her opinion relied, but stated that she was “unwilling to disregard clear guidance from the Seventh Circuit” on the subject of secondary liability. In addition to conflicting with Hoskins, Judge Pallmeyer’s opinion supports the broader scope of FCPA liability for foreign nationals that the DOJ has been pushing for years, and marks the beginning of a potential circuit split on the issue of secondary liability under the FCPA.

    Financial Crimes FCPA Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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