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Richard L. Cassin Publisher and Editor

Andy Spalding Senior Editor

Jessica Tillipman Senior Editor

Elizabeth K. Spahn Editor Emeritus

Cody Worthington Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn Contributing Editor

Bill Waite Contributing Editor

Shruti J. Shah Contributing Editor

Russell A. Stamets Contributing Editor

Richard Bistrong Contributing Editor 

Eric Carlson Contributing Editor

Bill Steinman Contributing Editor

Aarti Maharaj Contributing Editor


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FCPA Blog Daily News

Sunday
Sep022007

Enron's Culture Of Non-Compliance

One consistent measure of a compliance culture is executive responsibility. In the case of Enron's CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, there was little evidence of that. True, he was obligated to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But remarkably, his January 1, 1996 Employment Agreement might have allowed him to be convicted under the FCPA and still keep his job. How? By his own declaration that he had no personal knowledge of or involvement in the crime -- the same defense he later bet on and lost at his federal trial for conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud and insider trading.

Fellow executives Rebecca Mark, Kenneth Rice and Joseph Sutton lacked Mr. Skilling's sui generis right to declare themselves innocent. Upon an FCPA offense, however, their employment agreements, like his, allowed the board to decide that if they'd acted in good faith after all, they could remain employed by Enron (never mind the mens rea element of a federal criminal conviction under the FCPA).

Mr. Skilling's Employment Agreement said in part:

Employee shall at all times comply with United States laws applicable to Employee's actions on behalf of Employer, including specifically, without limitation, the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, generally codified in 15 USC 78 (FCPA), as the FCPA may hereafter be amended, and/or its successor statutes. If Employee pleads guilty to or nolo contendere or admits civil or criminal liability under the FCPA, or if a court finds that Employee has personal civil or criminal liability under the FCPA, or if a court finds that Employee personally committed an action resulting in any Enron entity having civil or criminal liability or responsibility under the FCPA with knowledge of the activities giving rise to such liability or knowledge of facts from which Employee should have reasonably inferred the activities giving rise to liability had occurred or were likely to occur, such action or finding shall constitute "cause" for termination under this Agreement unless (i) such action or finding was based on the activities of others and Employee had no personal involvement or knowledge of such activities, or (ii) Employer's Board of Directors or Enron's management committee (or, if there is no Enron management committee, the highest applicable level of Enron management) determines that the actions found to be in violation of the FCPA were taken in good faith and in compliance with all applicable policies of Employer and Enron.
(emphasis added)

View Jeffrey Skilling's Employment Agreement Here.

Wednesday
Aug292007

Materiality, But Not By The Numbers

Strictly speaking, “materiality” should never be part of an FCPA discussion. A payment or promise to pay anything of value can violate the antibribery provisions, and the books and records provisions apply to any book, record or account. So size doesn’t matter after all.

Even so, materiality discussions sometimes happen. For example, what test applies to small cash gifts to foreign officials that are unrecorded but discovered during pre-acquisition due diligence of a non-U.S. target?

There is no purely quantitative test. Under U.S. accounting standards, small undisclosed amounts can be material, depending on all the circumstances. Some questions to ask are whether the payments are illegal under local law? If the payments stop, does the target risk losing a big amount of business? Do the payments mean the target's compliance in other areas is questionable? Do they violate loan covenants or other contractual requirements?

An omission or misstatement about small illegal payments can interact with important aspects of the business and thereby become material. So it is more than a matter of numbers.

View SEC Staff Accounting Bulletin: No. 99 – Materiality Here.

Tuesday
Aug282007

Dear Readers,

The FCPA Blog is grateful for your many expressions of support and encouragement. Your comments and suggestions are an important ingredient, so please let us hear from you, either in the comments section after a post or by email Here.

The aim is to respond to all ideas for discussions and to share contributions from readers, many of whom have a wealth of FCPA knowledge and experience.

Again, thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

The FCPA Blog

Monday
Aug272007

An Exodus From Nigeria?

A Reuters report from August 26, 2007 quotes Noble Corporation as saying it has been unable to obtain or renew permits for five of its seven drilling rigs operating in Nigeria due to the FCPA investigation of operations there. If those permits cannot be obtained, "we may need to terminate the drilling contract," Noble reportedly said. Presumably, the permits cannot be obtained because Noble will not authorize potentially corrupt payments to Nigerian government officials.

If true, the U.S. Department of Justice apparently has told Noble and at least ten more oil and gas service companies to pull out of Nigeria instead of risking future FCPA violations. That could put serious pressure on Nigeria's oil industry. The country finally will be forced either to renounce corrupt practices in the oil patch, or try to find new service providers who have the needed technology and are beyond the reach of the FCPA. Are there any?

View the Reuters' Report Here.

View Earlier Posts About Nigeria Here and Here.

Monday
Aug272007

The Long, Strong Arm of the FCPA

Its jurisdictional reach is legendary, but understanding exactly why the FCPA's coverage stretches so far and wide is not always easy. One explanation comes from the United States Attorneys' Manual, in this clear and sometimes ominous exposition:

Under the FCPA, U.S. jurisdiction over corrupt payments to foreign officials depends upon whether the violator is an "issuer," a "domestic concern," or a foreign national or business. An "issuer" is a corporation that has issued securities that have been registered in the United States or who is required to file periodic reports with the SEC. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 78c(a)(8), 78dd-1(a). A "domestic concern" is any individual who is a citizen, national, or resident of the United States, or any corporation, partnership, association, joint-stock company, business trust, unincorporated organization, or sole proprietorship which has its principal place of business in the United States, or which is organized under the laws of a State of the United States, or a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States. See § 78dd-2(h)(1).

Issuers and domestic concerns may be held liable under the FCPA under either territorial or nationality jurisdiction principles. For acts taken within the territory of the United States, issuers and domestic concerns are liable if they take an act in furtherance of a corrupt payment to a foreign official using the U.S. mails or other means or instrumentalities of interstate commerce. See §§ 78dd-1(a), 78dd-2(a). For acts taken outside the United States, U.S. issuers and domestic concerns are liable if they take any act in furtherance of a corrupt payment, even if the offer, promise, or payment is accomplished without any conduct within U.S. territory. See §§ 78dd-1(g), 78dd-2(i). In addition, U.S. parent corporations may be held liable for the acts of their foreign subsidiaries where they authorized, directed, or controlled the activity in question, as can U.S. citizens or residents, themselves "domestic concerns," who were employed by or acting on behalf of such foreign-incorporated subsidiaries.

Prior to 1998, foreign companies, with the exception of those who qualified as "issuers," and most foreign nationals were not covered by the FCPA. The 1998 amendments expanded the FCPA to assert territorial jurisdiction over foreign companies and nationals. A foreign company or person is now subject to the FCPA if it takes any act in furtherance of the corrupt payment while within the territory of the United States. There is, however, no requirement that such act make use of the U.S. mails or other means or instrumentalities of interstate commerce. See § 78dd-3(a), (f)(1). Although this section has not yet been interpreted by any court, the Department interprets it as conferring jurisdiction whenever a foreign company or national causes an act to be done within the territory of the United States by any person acting as that company's or national's agent.

(emphasis in original)

From the United States Attorneys' Manual, Title 9, Criminal Resource Manual §1018 “Prohibited Foreign Corrupt Practices” (November 2000).

View CRM §1018 Here.

Friday
Aug242007

Textron's FCPA Violations Caused by Fifth Tier French Subsidiaries

Textron Inc., without admitting or denying books and records and internal controls allegations, consented to the entry of a final judgment with the SEC permanently enjoining it from future violations of Sections 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, ordering it to disgorge $2,284,579 in profits, plus $450,461.68 in pre-judgment interest, and to pay a civil penalty of $800,000. Textron will also pay a $1,150,000 fine pursuant to a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ.

The SEC complaint alleges that from approximately 2001 through 2003, two of Textron's fifth tier French subsidiaries that it acquired in 1998 and 1999 authorized and made approximately $650,539 in kickback payments in connection with its sale of humanitarian goods to Iraq under the U.N. Oil for Food Program. The complaint also alleges that Textron's subsidiaries made illicit payments of $114,995 to obtain thirty-six contracts in the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt, and India from 2001 to 2005.

View the SEC’s Litigation Release Here.

View the SEC’s Complaint Here.

View the DOJ's Press Release Here.

Thursday
Aug232007

There Are Moral Problems . . .

"There are moral problems as well as legal problems that go far beyond simply the question of illegal payoffs to foreign officials.

"There are questions concerning the role of multi­national corporations, the extent to which they have obligations to the countries in which they conduct their business, the extent to which they should seek to raise the standards of conduct there, the respect which they should show the laws of other countries.

"Indicative of the complexity of this problem was the suggestion by one clergyman stated in a New York Times article -- that perhaps the gravest sin of a company, which had been exposed as making a multimillion dollar payment to the head of a Central American country to secure a reduction in tax level, was the harm inflicted upon the people of that country by channeling money into the hands of the ruler at the expense of tax revenues which would hopefully have been expended to alleviate the terrible poverty in that country.

"This is surely a dimension that most people have not consid­ered, and yet, I think is a most important one for it may well involve an ethical consideration that is perhaps more meaningful and more important than the legal problems associated with the bribe itself."

From a speech by A. A. Sommer, Jr., Commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission, “Business Ethics and the Free Enterprise System ,” April 2, 1976.

Wednesday
Aug222007

Prosecutors Appeal Dismissal of FCPA Charges Related to Azerbaijan

The press is reporting that the Department of Justice on August 21, 2007 appealed the dismissal of FCPA charges against three men in connection with a bribery scheme in Azerbaijan.

On June 21, 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed all FCPA and related counts of an indictment against Viktor Kozeny, Frederic Bourke, Jr. and David Pinkerton. The District Court said the statute of limitations had run. The Justice Department argued that the five-year limitations period should be tolled based on the government's official requests for foreign evidence from the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The October 2005 indictment accused the three in a scheme to bribe senior government officials in Azerbaijan in order to ensure the privatization of the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan ("SOCAR").

On July 6, 2007, hedge fund Omega Advisors, Inc. acknowledged that Clayton Lewis, one of its former employees, had learned, prior to Omega’s investment in the privatization of SOCAR, that Kozeny had entered into arrangements with some officials of the government of Azerbaijan that gave those officials a financial interest in the privatization. Lewis pleaded guilty on February 10, 2004 to conspiracy to violate the FCPA .

Omega entered into a settlement agreement with the DOJ and will not be prosecuted for any crimes related to its participation. Omega civilly forfeited $500,000 and agreed to continue to cooperate with the Government in connection with its investigation and prosecution of the case.

As a postscript, the DOJ noted that Omega invested more than $100 million in the Azeri privatization program in the spring and summer of 1998 and lost all of its investment, and to date privatization has not occurred.

View A Press Report of the Government's Appeal Here.

View the DOJ's Announcement of the Omega Settlement Here.

View the DOJ's Announcement of the Indictment Against Kozeny et al Here.

Sunday
Aug192007

FCPA Compliance For Small Companies

"Small Organizations.—In meeting the requirements [for an effective compliance program under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines], small organizations shall demonstrate the same degree of commitment to ethical conduct and compliance with the law as large organizations. However, a small organization may meet the requirements . . . with less formality and fewer resources than would be expected of large organizations. In appropriate circumstances, reliance on existing resources and simple systems can demonstrate a degree of commitment that, for a large organization, would only be demonstrated through more formally planned and implemented systems.

"Examples of the informality and use of fewer resources with which a small organization may meet the requirements . . . include the following: (I) the governing authority’s discharge of its responsibility for oversight of the compliance and ethics program by directly managing the organization’s compliance and ethics efforts; (II) training employees through informal staff meetings, and monitoring through regular 'walk-arounds' or continuous observation while managing the organization; (III) using available personnel, rather than employing separate staff, to carry out the compliance and ethics program; and (IV) modeling its own compliance and ethics program on existing, well-regarded compliance and ethics programs and best practices of other similar organizations."

(emphasis added)

Quoted from the 2005 U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Chapter 8, Part B, §8B2.1., Effective Compliance and Ethics Program, Commentary Application Note 2 (c) (iii).


View Chapter 8, Part B of the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines Here.

Sunday
Aug192007

An Effective FCPA Compliance Program Might Save the Company (A Great Defense Team Might Not)

“An Overview of the Organizational Guidelines” from the United States Sentencing Commission's May 2004 release includes the following jaw-dropping statement:

Criminal liability can attach to an organization whenever an employee of the organization commits an act within the apparent scope of his or her employment, even if the employee acted directly contrary to company policy and instructions. An entire organization, despite its best efforts to prevent wrongdoing in its ranks, can still be held criminally liable for any of its employees’ illegal actions.

(emphasis added)

This is meant to encourage adoption of effective compliance programs in order “to alleviate the harshest aspects of this institutional vulnerability . . . .”

It is also fair warning.

The majority view of the federal courts of appeals which have considered the question have held that a corporation is vicariously criminally liable for the crimes employees commit while acting within the scope of their employment--that is, within their actual or apparent authority and on behalf of the corporation. See Standard Oil Co. v. United States, 307 F.2d 120 (5th Cir. 1962); Developments in the Law--Corporate Crime: Regulating Corporate Behavior Through Criminal Sanctions, 92 Harv.L.Rev. 1227, 1247-5 1 (1979).

Under this view, which constitutes an application of respondeat superior principles to criminal statutes, it may be irrelevant that the employee is not a high managerial official, that the corporation may have specifically instructed the employee not to engage in the proscribed conduct, or that the statute is one that requires willful or knowing violations, rather than one that imposes strict liability. See, e. g., United States v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 467 F.2d 1000 (9th Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 1125 (1973); Continental Baking Co. v. United States, 281 F.2d 137 (6th Cir. 1960); United States v. Armour & Co., 168 F.2d 342 (3d Cir. 1948); but see Holland Furnace Co. v. United States, 158 F.2d 2 (6th Cir. 1946). The stated rationale is that the criminal statutes impose a duty upon the corporation to prevent its employees from committing the statutory violations.

See Committee Comment to Instruction 5.3, Pattern Criminal Federal Jury Instructions (7th Cir. 1998).

What, then, should corporations do? The "Overview of the Organizational Guidelines" says this:

The [federal sentencing guidelines mitigate] the potential fine range - in some cases up to 95 percent - if an organization can demonstrate that it had put in place an effective compliance program. This mitigating credit under the guidelines is contingent upon prompt reporting to the authorities and the non-involvement of high level personnel in the actual offense conduct.

(emphasis added)

View "An Overview of the Organizational Guidelines" Here.

View the Seventh Circuit’s Pattern Criminal Federal Jury Instructions Here.

Thursday
Aug162007

Panalpina's Practices Fall Under the FCPA Spotlight

February 6, 2007 -- The DOJ reports Vetco’s admission that payments to Nigerian Customs Officials violated the FCPA. The DOJ says, “These corrupt payments were paid through a major international freight forwarding and customs clearance company to employees of the Nigerian Customs Service, and coordinated largely through Vetco Gray Controls Inc.'s offices in Houston. . . . From at least September 2002 to at least April 2005, . . . [Vetco] authorized that agent to make at least 378 corrupt payments totaling approximately $2.1 million to Nigerian Customs Service officials to induce those officials to provide the defendants with preferential treatment during the customs process.”

April 26, 2007 -- Tidewater Inc. announces an internal investigation of its Nigerian operations. “The Audit Committee commissioned the internal investigation in late February 2007 after management brought to its attention a settlement earlier that month of well-publicized criminal FCPA proceedings (the second in recent years) involving Vetco Gray Controls, a Houston-based oil service company with substantial operations in Nigeria. Tidewater's management and the Audit Committee were concerned that the Company's Nigerian affiliate used the same third-party agent for its temporary importations in Nigeria that was thought to be significantly implicated in the 2007 Vetco Gray proceedings.”

July 24, 2007 -- Panalpina says some customers of its U.S. subsidiary have “been requested by U.S. authorities to produce documents related to the provision of its services to Nigeria for a specific customer and its contractor. This request was triggered by the plea agreement of such customer with the U.S. authorities for allegedly making improper payments to Nigerian officials to secure preferential customs treatment. . . . U.S. authorities have extended the scope of their review to Panalpina’s documents related to services into Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia for a limited number of customers.”

July 25, 2007 -- rigzone.com carries a Dow Jones Commodities News story, reporting that the DOJ sent letters on July 2, 2007 to eleven oil and oil-service companies, “asking them to detail their relationship with Panalpina . . . The Justice Department letter, which was read to Dow Jones, cited concerns about payments that may violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The oil and oil-service firms were asked to list the countries where Panalpina provided it with services in the past five years, and to specify what it paid for those services. Each firm also was asked to meet separately with federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C. A Justice Department spokesman didn't respond to requests for comment.”

(emphasis added)

__________________

As mentioned in an earlier post, similar internal investigations into Nigerian operations have now been announced by Tidewater, Nabors Industries, Transocean, GlobalSantaFe Corp., Noble Corp. and Global Industries.

View the DOJ News Release Here.

View the Tidewater News Release Here.

View the Panalpina News Release Here.

View the rigzone.com Story Here.

Wednesday
Aug152007

A Few Words About US . . .


Keeping Tabs on the FCPA

SINGAPORE--LAWFUEL - The Law Newswire – August 14, 2007 – Lawyers, business people, academics and others have a new way to follow developments in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The FCPA Blog, launched earlier this month, describes itself as “News and Views About The United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

One of the most talked about United States laws, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits bribing foreign officials to obtain or retain work. Violators can pay fines and penalties reaching tens of millions of dollars, and serve up to five years in prison.

Interest in the FCPA is likely to intensify. The U.S. Department of Justice recently said it will step up enforcement. More cases of bribery are being reported worldwide, especially in the oil and gas and communications industries.

The FCPA Blog is the product of attorneys from Cassin Law LLC, an American law firm with an international practice. Through the firm’s compliance work, it handles FCPA matters for U.S. and foreign companies that are subject to the law.

“We want to help companies and individuals comply with the FCPA ,” said Richard L. Cassin, one of the lawyers responsible for the blog. “It’s always important to have current information. And we talk about the evergreen issues– those FCPA areas that general counsels and compliance officers deal with every day.”

View the News Release Here.