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  • Brazilian airline agrees to $41 million FCPA settlement

    Financial Crimes

    On September 15, a São Paulo-based domestic airline agreed to pay over $41 million to resolve parallel civil and criminal investigations by the SEC and DOJ. The investigations related to a bribery scheme executed by the airline to secure favorable payroll tax and fuel tax treatment through two pieces of new legislation. At the time of the conduct, the airline was the largest air transportation and travel services group in Brazil and its shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The favorable tax treatment provided the airline, along with all other Brazilian airlines, reduced taxes and expenses.

    According to the SEC and DOJ, a member of the airline’s Board of Directors (the “Director”) orchestrated the scheme, meeting and communicating with Brazilian officials and politicians and their close associates on numerous occasions. At one point, the Director communicated with a close associate of a Brazilian official who, “in turn, discussed the bribe schemes . . . with the Brazilian Official . . . via an ephemeral messaging application that uses end-to-end encrypted and content-expiring messages.” The servers of this messaging application were exclusively located in the United States (one the jurisdictional hooks relied on by the government).

    The Director ultimately authorized and directed the bribe payments from the airline to officials, and payments were made both directly from the airline and from companies controlled by the Director to various companies controlled by Brazilian officials or their close associates. Some of the intermediary companies receiving the corrupt payments were based in the U.S. and some of the payments were transmitted through a U.S. correspondent bank. The payments made directly by the airline were authorized from the Director’s own “Cost Center,” which had been created under the airline’s legal department and over which the Director had full discretion with no clearly defined controls or limits. The payments were inaccurately recorded in the airline’s books and records as payments to various third-party vendors for services that were never actually rendered. The airline did not have an effective review process of the documentation submitted before or after the disbursement of funds to monitor whether the invoices were authentic or whether the payments were for bona fide expenditures.

    As a result of this conduct, the SEC and DOJ determined that the airline violated the anti-bribery provisions, the books and records provisions, and the internal controls provisions of the FCPA.

    To resolve the civil charges, the airline agreed to a cease-and-desist order, disgorgement and pre-judgment interest totaling $70 million, although all but $24.5 million was waived based upon the airline’s present financial condition.

    To resolve the criminal charges, the airline entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). The original criminal penalty was calculated to be $87 million but was reduced to $17 million in light of the airline’s financial condition. In calculating the penalty, the DOJ acknowledged full credit for the airline’s cooperation, despite the fact that the airline did not self-report the violations. The DOJ also considered the airline’s remedial measures, which included terminating the Director at issue and relationships with all third-party vendors involved in the underlying misconduct, and a complete overhaul of its compliance program. However, the DPA did not require the appointment of a corporate compliance monitor.

    The DOJ and SEC each agreed to offset $1.7 million in penalties the airline is expected to pay to resolve the parallel Brazilian proceedings against their respective resolutions.

    Financial Crimes FCPA SEC DOJ Enforcement Of Interest to Non-US Persons Brazil Bribery

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  • International medical waste provider agrees to $84 million FCPA settlement

    Financial Crimes

    On April 20, the DOJ entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with an Illinois-based international medical waste management company, in which the company agreed to pay a fine of approximately $52.5 million related to a conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provision and books and records provisions. Together with a related resolution with the SEC, and with various foreign authorities, the total resolution will reach over $84 million.

    According to the DOJ, between 2011 and 2016, the company participated in a scheme to bribe officials at government agencies and instrumentalities in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina to obtain and retain business and to secure improper advantages in connection with providing waste management services. An executive at the company’s Latin America division directed employees in the company’s offices in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina to pay bribes, typically in cash, that were calculated as a percentage of the underlying contract payments owed to the company from government customers.

    As part of the DPA, the company agreed to cooperate with the DOJ’s ongoing or future investigations, to improve its compliance program, and to retain an independent compliance monitor for two years, followed by self-reporting for the remainder of the term.

    The DOJ noted that in addition to cooperation and remediation the resolution reflects a number of factors including, the company’s (i) “failure to voluntarily and timely disclose the conduct that triggered the investigation”; and (ii) “the nature, seriousness, and pervasiveness of the offense.”

    The SEC simultaneously announced a resolution of a related matter, in which the company consented to a cease-and-desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records, and internal accounting controls provisions.  According to the SEC, the scheme also included sham third-party vendors who used false invoices to conceal cash payments to government clients. In addition, the company failed to have sufficient internal accounting controls in place to prevent or detect the misconduct and failed to implement its FCPA policies or procedures prior to 2016. Under the terms of the order, the company agreed to pay $28.2 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, of which up to $4.2 million will be offset by disgorgement paid to foreign authorities.

    Financial Crimes SEC DOJ FCPA Bribery Enforcement Of Interest to Non-US Persons Brazil Argentina Mexico

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  • OFAC sanctions Paraguayan official

    Financial Crimes

    On August 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13818 against three Paraguayan individuals and five entities under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. According to OFAC, the designations highlight the financial risks and activities where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge, which is marked by many unregistered money exchange houses, trade based money laundering, and a lack of awareness regarding money laundering and terrorist financing typologies, among other things. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned persons, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more” by them that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC notes that its regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with these individual and entities, which include “the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions SDN List Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Designations Paraguay Argentina Brazil Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Global engineering company subsidiary agrees to $43 million FCPA settlement

    Financial Crimes

    On June 25, the DOJ entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the subsidiary of a UK-based global engineering company, in which the subsidiary agreed to pay a fine of approximately $18.3 million related to a conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. Together with resolutions by a related subsidiary with the SEC, and various foreign authorities, the total resolution will reach over $43 million.

    According to the DOJ, between 2011 and 2014, the subsidiary participated in a scheme to bribe officials in Brazil to win an approximately $190 million contract from Petrobras to design a gas-to-chemicals complex in the country. The DOJ stated that the subsidiary admitted to paying bribes in Brazil to win the contract, which involved the participation of an Italian sales agent affiliated with a Monaco-based intermediary company. The DOJ further noted that the subsidiary “took acts in furtherance of the scheme while located in New York and Texas, and earned at least $12.9 million in profits from the corruptly obtained business.”

    As part of the DPA, the subsidiary agreed to cooperate with the DOJ’s ongoing or future investigations, to improve its compliance program, and to report to the DOJ on those improvements. The subsidiary’s criminal penalty reflected a 25 percent discount off the bottom of the applicable U.S. Sentencing Guidelines due largely to its cooperation and remediation. The DOJ noted that in addition to cooperation and remediation the resolution reflects a number of factors including, (i) the subsidiary’s “failure to voluntarily and timely disclose the conduct that triggered the investigation”; and (ii) “the nature and seriousness of the offence, which spanned multiple years and involved a high-level executive.”

    The SEC simultaneously announced a resolution of a related matter, in which a related subsidiary consented to a cease-and-desist order finding violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records, and internal accounting controls provisions. According to the SEC, the subsidiary paid approximately $1.1 million in bribes to obtain the Brazilian contract. Under the terms of the order, the subsidiary agreed to pay $22.7 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, in which up to $12.6 million will be offset by disgorgement paid to foreign authorities. 

    In related proceedings, the subsidiary received provisional court approval for a settlement with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and settled with several Brazilian authorities. Under the terms of the DPA, the DOJ will credit up to approximately $10.7 million of the criminal penalty to payments the subsidiary makes to the SFO and to Brazilian authorities.

    Financial Crimes SEC DOJ FCPA Bribery UK Of Interest to Non-US Persons Brazil

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  • Brazilian Petrochemical Company Reaches $10 Million Settlement With Investors

    Financial Crimes

    On September 14, a Brazilian petrochemical company, agreed to pay its U.S. investors $10 million for concealing its role in a corruption scandal involving a Brazilian multinational corporation in the petroleum industry. The settlement resolves a 2015 lawsuit brought by U.S. investors against the petrochemical company, 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 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.

    Financial Crimes FCPA Anti-Corruption Braskem SA Petrobras Brazil Switzerland

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