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Former Guinean Minister of Mines Charged with Receiving and Laundering $8.5 Million in Bribes from Chinese Companies
On December 13, the former Minister of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Guinea was arrested and charged in the U.S. with laundering bribes he allegedly received from two Chinese companies in exchange for actions he took to secure valuable mining rights for a conglomerate associated with the companies. According to the complaint filed by the DOJ, the former mining Minister received approximately $8.5 million in bribes in 2009 and 2010. To conceal the bribes, he allegedly transferred the funds to a bank account in Hong Kong which he opened while misreporting his occupation to conceal his status as a government official. He later allegedly transferred millions of dollars from the bribe proceeds into two U.S. banks to whom he also allegedly lied to conceal his position as a foreign government official and the source of the funds. The former Minister is a United States citizen and was residing in New York City when he was arrested.
Argentine Sports Marketing Firm Agrees to $112.8 Million Settlement in Connection with FIFA Corruption Investigation
An Argentine sports marketing firm, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. DOJ on December 13, admitting to wire fraud conspiracy in connection with paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to high-ranking FIFA officials in order to secure support for broadcasting rights in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay for the 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 World Cup. The four-year DPA calls for the firm to pay approximately $112.8 million in forfeiture and criminal penalties. In announcing the DPA, the DOJ noted its consideration of the firm’s remedial actions including termination of its entire senior management team, hiring a new General Manager, Chief Financial Officer, Legal Director, Chief Compliance Officer, and Compliance Manager, cooperation, and implementation of enhanced internal controls and a rigorous corporate compliance program.
The deferred prosecution agreement is part of the DOJ’s wider investigation into corruption in international soccer. Thus far, DOJ has charged 42 defendants and obtained 19 guilty pleas in connection with the FIFA corruption prosecutions. Prior Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigations can be found here.
In a first under Israeli law, an IT solutions provider was fined approximately $1.2 million by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on December 15 for bribing a government official from the African county of Lesotho. The Israel-based company produces high-tech identification cards and products for population registration and border control. In 2012, the company entered into a $30 million agreement with the government of Lesotho to sell its products to the African country. The company was charged with paying a mediator $500,000 to advance that deal, with a significant amount of that sum intended as a bribe for the director general of Lesotho’s interior ministry. As part of the plea agreement, the company must also cooperate with an ongoing parallel investigation in Lesotho and implement an anti-corruption compliance program.
The prosecution and plea agreement represent the first time a company has been indicted or convicted of bribing a foreign official under Israeli law. In July 2008, Israel added Article 291A to its penal code, outlawing bribery of foreign public officials. The law was enacted in conjunction with Israel entering the UN Convention against Corruption in February 2009 and the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions in March 2009. Prior to the case against the company, Israel had come under international criticism for lack of enforcement of Article 291A. The case adds Israel to the list of countries prosecuting companies for bribery of foreign officials and places Israeli companies on notice of future prosecutions.
On December 1, the U.S. Senate, by a 99-0 margin, passed a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) sending the measure to the White House and delaying any potentially tougher actions until next year. Originally approved in 1996, the extended bill passed onto the Senate in November with only one vote against it from the House. Congressional authority to enforce sanctions against Iran—which was due to expire on December 31 if not renewed—will be presented to President Barack Obama, who will decide whether to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
Just weeks after announcing that it set aside approximately $520 million for a potential settlement of FCPA matters being investigated by the SEC and DOJ, Reuters reports that a spokeswoman for an Israeli pharmaceutical company has confirmed that they are investigating new potential bribes to state healthcare workers in Romania. Reuters claims to have reviewed emails sent in the past year by an anonymous tipster to the company’s CEO and audit committee that detail bribes paid to healthcare providers in exchange for recommending the company’s drugs. Romania was not among the countries the company identified as being part of the settlement discussions with the SEC and DOJ in its recent SEC filing, although the company has said it is conducting a worldwide investigation of its business practices.
Prior Scorecard coverage of the company’s investigation can be found here.
On December 7, a former president of a Nicaraguan soccer federation, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges. The guilty plea came in response to allegations that the former president accepted approximately $150,000 in bribes for helping an American company acquire media rights to FIFA events. As part of the plea, the former president agreed to forfeit almost $300,000 and could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years for each count. Last month, the former president of the American company also pleaded guilty to racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy charges alleging that the former president arranged bribe payments totaling more than $14 million dollars in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches.
The former president was indicted by the DOJ in May 2015 along with 13 other FIFA officials. The former president was the final official to be extradited to the United States. The sprawling investigation has resulted in multiple other guilty pleas from former FIFA officials. Prior Scorecard coverage on the FIFA investigations can be found here.
Treasury Sanctions North Korean Officials and Companies from Transportation, Mining, Energy, and Financial Services Industries
On December 2, OFAC announced its decision to designate 16 entities and seven individuals in response to North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapons development and violations of U.N. security council resolutions. The designations include a number of North Korean banks and other entities in the financial services sector of the North Korean economy. As a result of today’s action, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked. Additionally, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions involving the designated persons and listed aircraft. The additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List were made pursuant to Executive Orders 13382, 13687, and 13722, which target proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, the Government of North Korea, and a number of North Korean trade and industry sectors, including transportation, coal and energy, and financial services.
On November 21, the Financial Stability Board, in consultation with the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and national authorities, released its updated 2016 list of G-SIBs and 2016 list of G-SIIs. Each of the new 2016 lists comprise the same banks/insurers as those on their respective 2015 list. The Basel Committee also released the following additional information related to its 2016 G-SIB assessment: (i) a list of all the banks in the assessment sample; (ii) the denominators of each indicator used to calculate the banks' scores; (iii) the cutoff score that was used to identify the G-SIBs in the updated list; (iv) the thresholds used to allocate G-SIBs to buckets for the purpose of calculating the specific higher loss absorbency requirements; and (v) links to disclosures of all banks in the assessment sample.
An Israel-based pharmaceutical company, stated in its Form 6-K filed with the SEC on November 15, 2016, that it has set aside approximately $520 million for a potential settlement of FCPA matters being investigated by the SEC and DOJ. The company explained that the reserve relates to conduct that occurred between 2007 and 2013 in Russia, Mexico, and the Ukraine, and that it was discovered in the course of the investigation that began in early 2012 with the issuance of an SEC subpoena to the company, as well as a concurrent internal investigation of its worldwide business practices.
Should the pharmaceutical company enter into a settlement, it will top the growing list of pharmaceutical companies that have been subject to multimillion dollar penalties for conduct in violation of the FCPA, including the following:
- A $5.5 million settlement in 2016 of allegations relating to bribery of Chinese and Russian doctors;
- A $20 million settlement in 2016 of allegations relating to bribery of Chinese health care professionals;
- A $25 million settlement in 2016 of allegations relating to bribery of Chinese doctors;
- A $14 million settlement in 2015 of allegations relating to bribery of healthcare professionals at state-owned hospitals in China;
- A$29 million settlement in 2012 of allegations relating to bribery of government employed physicians in Russia, Brazil, China and Poland; and
- A $70 million settlement in 2011 of allegations relating to conspiracy and bribery of doctors employed by state-controlled health care systems in Greece.
Major Global Financial Company Pays $264 Million to Settle FCPA Investigation of its Referral Hiring Practices in China
A major global financial company (“Company”) and a Hong Kong subsidiary (“Subsidiary”) agreed on November 17, 2016, to pay approximately $264 million to the DOJ, SEC, and the Federal Reserve, putting an end to a nearly three year, multi-agency investigation of the Subsidiary’s “Sons and Daughters” referral program through which the children of influential Chinese officials and executive decisions makers were allegedly given prestigious and lucrative jobs as a quid pro quo to retain and obtain business in Asia. The conduct occurred over a seven year period, included the hiring of approximately 100 interns and full-time employees at the request and referral of Chinese government officials, and resulted in more than $100 million in revenues to the Company and approximately $35 million in profit to the Subsidiary.
The Subsidiary entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a $72 million criminal penalty, as well as to continue cooperating with the ongoing investigation and/or prosecution of individuals involved in the conduct. Additionally, the Subsidiary agreed to enhance its compliance programs and report to DOJ on the implementation of those programs. DOJ asserts in its press release that the Subsidiary admitted that, beginning in 2006, senior Hong Kong-based investment bankers set up the referral program as a means to influence the decisions of Chinese officials to award business to the Subsidiary, going so far as to link and prioritize potential hires to upcoming business opportunities, as well as to create positions for unqualified candidates where no appropriate position existed. The Subsidiary also admitted that its bankers and compliance personnel worked together to paper over these arrangements and hide the true purpose of the hire.
DOJ acknowledged that while the Subsidiary did not voluntarily or timely disclose its conduct, in determining an appropriate resolution DOJ considered a number of actions taken by the Company, including the commencement of a thorough internal investigation, the navigation of foreign data privacy law to produce documents from foreign countries, and the provision of access to foreign-based employees for interviews in the US. Additionally, DOJ considered the employment actions taken by the Subsidiary, which resulted in the departure of 6 employees and the discipline of 23 employees.
In connection with the same conduct, the Company also settled allegations with the SEC and the Federal Reserve. In a cease and desist order filed today, the SEC found that the Company violated the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The SEC considered the Company’s remedial actions and cooperation with the ongoing investigation, ordering the Company to pay over $105 million in disgorgement and $25 million in interest. Finally, in a consent cease and desist order filed today, the Federal Reserve Board imposed an approximately $62 million civil monetary penalty on the Company for operating an improper referral hiring program and failing to maintain adequate enterprise-wide controls to ensure candidates were vetted and hired appropriately and in accordance with anti-bribery laws and company policies. This order, among other things, requires the Company to enhance its oversight and controls of referral hiring practices and anti-bribery policies, as well as to continue cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “How the new administration sets the tone for 2021” at the American Conference Institute Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum on Fintech & Emerging Payment Systems
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP in consumer finance at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable