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Entries in El Paso Corporation (9)

Tuesday
Apr302013

Disgorgement, an overlooked aspect of the Ralph Lauren settlement?

As part of its recent settlement with the SEC, Ralph Lauren Corporation agreed to disgorge $593,000 that was "obtained or retained as a result of the violations discovered during the investigation," along with $141,846 in pre-judgment interest. 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jan032012

Corporate Enforcement Since 2006 

Yesterday we posted our 2011 FCPA enforcement index. Today we look at corporate enforcement for all the years from 2006.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug022010

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

While looking at FCPA enforcement data, Bruce Hinchey, left, made a startling and disturbing discovery about the consequences of self reporting.

Here's his story:

* * *

Dear FCPA Blog,

Many question the Department of Justice’s claim that there are tangible benefits to voluntary disclosure of a FCPA violation.

As a part of a yet unpublished paper, I consider the data from 40 FCPA cases from 2002 through 2009 and the differences between bribes paid and penalties levied against companies that do and do not self-disclose.

In the paper, linear regression analysis of the cases reveals a sound statistical relationship between the amounts a company bribes and the corresponding fine it receives. For now, I will focus on the fine-to-bribe ratio companies face for FCPA violations. The fine-to-bribe ratio is calculated by simply dividing the total penalty a company received by the amount it bribed.

Voluntary Disclosures

Within the voluntary disclosure group the fine-to-bribe ratios ranged from encouragingly low (Bristow Group Inc. and Latinode Inc. stand out with a fine-to-bribe ratio of 0 and .89, respectively) to strikingly high (Baker Hughes Inc. and Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc. had fine-to-bribe ratios of 10.73 and 8.46, respectively). On average, this group faced a 4.53 fine-to-bribe ratio. Thus, it appears as though a voluntarily disclosing company might expect a fine of $4.53 for every dollar given as a bribe.

Involuntary Disclosures

The involuntary disclosure group also had surprisingly high ratios (Flowserve Corp. and Akzo-Nobel NV had fine-to-bribe ratios of 17.37 and 13.42, respectively) and low ratios (the Chevron Corp. and El Paso Corp.’s fine-to-bribe ratios were 1.5 and 1.41, respectively). This group, however, faced an average fine-to-bribe ratio of 3.22, suggesting a non-voluntarily disclosing company might expect a fine of only $3.22 per dollar bribed, compared to the voluntary disclosure group’s 4.53. This ratio would be even lower had it included the disproportionately low fine-to-bribe ratios levied in the cases against Siemens AG and KBR, which I dismissed as outliers.

Remaining Questions

Given the bribe-to-fine ratios in the published cases in recent years, the Justice Department appears not to be following up with its promised benefits. The seemingly disproportionate bribe-to-fine ratios outlined above raise questions about whether current FCPA enforcement is fundamentally fair.

Many thanks,

Bruce Hinchey

______________________

Bruce is a lawyer completing an LLM in government procurement law at the George Washington University Law School. His paper, "Punishing the Penitent: Disproportionate Fines in Recent FCPA Enforcements and Suggested Improvements," can be downloaded at SSRN here.

It was generous of Bruce to share his work with us and our readers. Thank you, Bruce, for blowing our mind.

He's currently looking for a position in an FCPA defense and government contracts practice and can be reached at bhinchey@law.gwu.edu

Monday
Oct052009

Grease For Oil

Larry Buterman (left) from Chadbourne & Parke's New York office sent us an article he published in the Bloomberg Law Reports. It explains why the Justice Department's enforcement actions in the U.N. oil for food cases don't allege antibribery offenses under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The reason: the kickbacks typically went directly to the Iraqi government and not to foreign officials. "[B]y their express terms," he says, "the FCPA's antibribery provisions apply only to payments made to those connected to the government. Payments to a government itself, in contrast, are not covered by the FCPA." (Also see our post here.)

The oil for food program probably helped a lot of average Iraqis. But it also funded the pre-war regime in a systematic, unaccountable and illegal way. Buterman says, "According to a United Nations' Independent Inquiry Committee, between 1999 and 2003, over 2,200 separate companies abused the [program] by making improper payments, totaling over $1.5 billion, to the Iraqi government in order to obtain goods contracts." The entities charged with violations have settled, taken deferred prosecution agreements, and paid about $170 million in fines, penalties and disgorgements. "And," he says, "given the DOJ's July 31, 2009 announcement that it plans to seek extradition of Ousama Naaman—a Canadian national charged with violating the FCPA in connection with the OFFP—it appears the government's vigorous enforcement efforts in the area are continuing."

We turned to footnote 3 in the article for the following list of OFFP-related enforcement actions by the DOJ and SEC (we've added last week's case involving AGCO Corporation). The Netherlands, Denmark, and the U.K have also punished companies for violating the U.N. Iraqi sanctions.

Here's the DOJ / SEC list (with related cases grouped together and linked to our original posts):

U.S. v. AGCO Limited, No. 09-cr-00249 (D.D.C. 2009); U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. AGCO Corporation, No. 09-cv-01865 (D.D.C. 2009) (here)

U.S. v. Novo Nordisk A/S, No. 09-cr-00126 (D.D.C. 2009); U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Novo Nordisk A/S, No. 09-cv-00862 (D.D.C. 2009) (here)

U.S. v. Naaman, No. 08-cr-00246 (D.D.C. 2008); U.S. v. CNH Frances S.A., No. 08-cr-00379 (D.D.C. 2008) (here)

U.S. v. CNH Italia S.p.A., No. 08-cr-00378 (D.D.C. 2008); U.S. v. Iveco S.p.A., No. 08-cr-00377 (D.D.C. 2008); U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Fiat S.p.A., No. 08-cv-02211 (D.D.C. 2008) (here)

U.S. v. Volvo Constr. Equip., AB, No. 08-cr-00069 (D.D.C. 2008); U.S. v. Renault Trucks SAS, No. 08-cr-00068 (D.D.C. 2008); U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. AB Volvo, No. 08-cv-00473 (D.D.C. 2008) (here)

U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Flowserve Corp., No. 08-cv-00294 (D.D.C. 2008) (here)

U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Akzo Nobel, N.V., No. 07-cv-02293 (D.D.C. 2007) (here)

U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Chevron Corp., No. 07-cv-10299 (S.D.N.Y 2007) (here)

U.S. v. Ingersoll-Rand Italiana S.p.A., No. 07-cr-00294 (D.D.C. 2007); U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd., No. 07-cv-01955 (D.D.C. 2007) (here)

U.S. v. York Int'l Corp., No. 07-cr-00253 (D.D.C. 2007); U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. York Int'l Corp., No. 07-cv-01750 (D.D.C. 2007) (here)

U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. El Paso Corp., 07-cv-00899 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (here)

U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Textron Inc., No. 07-cv-01505 (D.D.C. 2007) (here)

A copy of "Enforcement Without a Violation: FCPA Lessons From the Government's Investigation Into the Oil for Food Program," by Lawrence E. Buterman, originally published in the Vol. 1, No. 3 edition of the Bloomberg Law Reports—White Collar Crime, can be downloaded here.
_______________

RIP Craig Johnson. A founder of both Venture Law Group and, more recently, Virtual Law Partners, Craig was an inspirational figure in Silicon Valley and far beyond. He was many things -- great lawyer, venture capitalist and entrepreneur. With Guy Kawasaki and Rich Karlgaard he co-founded the influential Garage Technology Ventures. We knew him as a warm and engaging colleague, a man with the courage to think for himself; to many others he was a generous, good-humored mentor, unstinting with his encouragement. Our sympathies to his wife, RoseAnn Rotandaro, and his entire family.
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Wednesday
May062009

Iraq's Lawsuit Legacy

In July 2008, the government of Iraq launched a massive FCPA-related federal lawsuit in New York City. We first talked about it here. The complaint named 93 defendants in claims alleging bribery and fraud under the now-defunct United Nations oil-for-food program. Iraq sought more than $10 billion in damages, describing the U.N. program as "the largest financial fraud in human history." (Bernie Madoff hadn't yet reset the scale for measuring financial frauds.)

What's happening in the case today? After nearly a year, Iraq is still trying to serve some of the defendants. A claimant usually has 90 days to effect service of process; in this case, the court's been lenient by granting several extensions. Overseas service can be complicated. So Iraq asked the court to help by issuing letters rogatory (requests for assistance addressed to foreign courts). The non-binding letters are directed at courts in Austria, Jordan, Malaysia, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the federal court's most recent order, anyone not served by July 24, 2009 will be dropped from the suit. Until the deadline passes, none of the defendants have to file answers or raise their defenses.

The post-war Iraqi government alleged that kickbacks were paid to representatives of Saddam Hussein through illegal and undisclosed transportation and port fees, bogus after-sales service fees and overpricing of goods and services. Some of those named have already faced enforcement actions for violating the U.N. regulations or U.S. law, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Among them are ABB, AB Volvo, Flowserve, Akzo Nobel, Chevron, Siemens, Ingersoll-Rand, York International, Oscar Wyatt, El Paso and Textron.

There's no private right of action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. So Iraq's claims are based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), common-law fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and illegal price discrimination.

Here's the full list (which may change after July 24) of everyone named as a defendant in the complaint:

AGCO Denmark A/S, AGCO S.A., Valtra do Brazil, Air Liquide Engineering, Akzo Nobel N.V., N.V. Organon ("Organon"), Intervet International B.V. (Intervet"), Mais Co. for Medical Products, Atlas Copsco CMT, AWB Ltd., B. Braun Medical France, B. Braun Melsungen A.G., B. Braun Medical Industries SDN BHD (Malaysia), Aesculap AG and KG, Aesculap Motric S.A., Aesculap Sugical Instruments SDN, Boston Scientific S.A., BNP Paribas USA, BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA, BNP Paribas Hong Kong, BNP Paribas Paris, BNP Paribas UK Holdings Limited, BNP Paribus London Branch, Buhler Ltd., David B. Chalmers, Jr, Chevron Corp., Daewoo International Corp., Daimler Chrysler AG, Dow Agrosciences, ABB AG, Eastman Kodak S.A., El Paso Corp. (successor to Coastal Corp.), Evapco (Austria), Evapco Europe S.R.L., Avio Flowserve Corp., Flowserve Corp., Flowserve Pompes (Formely Ingersoll-Dresser Pompes), Flowserve B.V.

And some more:

GlaxoSmithKline Walls House, Glaxo Smithkline Egypt SAE, ABB Automation, Glaxo Wellcome SA (South Africa) (PRY) Ltd., SmithKline Beecham International, ABG Allgemeine Baumaschinen-GesellschaftmbH, Dresser international, Ingersoll-Rand Italiana SPA, Thermo King Ireland Limited, Ingersoll-Rand Benelux N.V., Ingersoll-Rand World Trade Ltd., Cilag AG International, Janssen Pharmaceutical, ABB Elektric Sanayi AS, Kia Motors, Liebherr Export AG, Liebher France SA, Seono Pharma International, Merial, Novo Nordisk, Pauwels, Railtech International, ABB Industrie AC Machines, F. Hoffman La Roche, Roche Diagnostics GMBH, Rohm and Haas France S.A., Secalt S.A., Siemens S.A.A. of France, Siemens Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. of Turkey, Osram Middle East FZE, Solar Turbines Europe,

And the final batch:

St. Jude Medical Export GMBH, ABB Industrie Champagne, Sulzer Buckhardt Engineering Works Ltd., Sulzer Pumpen Deutschland GMBH, Sulzer turbo Ltd., Textron Inc., David Brown Guinard Pumps S.A.S., David Brown Transmissions France S.A., Renault Trucks SAS, ABB Near East Trading Ltd., Renault Agriculture & Sonalika International, Renault V.I, Volvo Construction Equiptment AB, The Weir Group, Oscar S. Wyatt, Jr, Vitol S.A., Woodhouse International, York Air Conditioning and Refrigeration FZE, and ABB Solyvent-Ventec.

Download Iraq's June 27, 2008 complaint here.
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Monday
Mar022009

The SEC Takes It Back

Disgorging profits is a common and prominent feature these days in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Last year Siemens disgorged $350 million and this year KBR paid $177 million. Maybe because disgorgements now happen so often, or because the payments have become so enormous, we automatically accept them as a suitable remedy. We don't question why the SEC uses disgorgement, where the remedy came from, or where it's going.

But at least one person has asked those questions. He's David C. Weiss (Dartmouth College, Michigan Law School), student-author of an extended note in the January 17, 2009 edition of the Michigan Journal of International Law.

According to Weiss, disgorgement never appeared in an FCPA enforcement action until just five years ago. That's right -- 27 years passed without a single FCPA-related disgorgement order. Then, in 2004, ABB Vetco Gray, Inc. paid $16.4 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest. Next came Titan Corp. in 2005, paying $15.5 million. That same year, Diagnostics Products Corp. disgorged $2.8 million and DPC (Tianjin) Co. Ltd. $2.8 million. In 2006, Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. disgorged $7.7 million and Statoil $10.5 million. In 2007, Baker Hughes Inc. disgorged $23 million, El Paso Corp. $5.5 million, and York International $10 million.

Want to hear the rest? In 2008, Fiat disgorged $7.2 million, Siemens $350 million, Faro Technologies $1.8 million, Willbros $10.3 million, AB Volvo $19.6 million, Flowserve $3.2 million, and Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp. $289,000. And so far this year, ITT Corporation has disgorged $1.4 million, and KBR $177 million.

Disgorgement, then, has a short but intense history in FCPA enforcement actions, and it seems to have appeared out of the blue. As Weiss puts it, "The SEC has developed the 'law' of disgorgement with neither the input, contemplation, nor blessing of Congress, and it is for this reason that one should ask normative questions about the role of disgorgement in the future enforcement of the prohibition on foreign bribery."

He points out that the SEC began requiring disgorgement just when other countries (with U.S. encouragement) started enacting their own extra-territorial anti-corruption laws. So here's the question: When more than one country enforces antibribery laws against a single company, which jurisdictions, if any, should use disgorgement as a remedy? Who decides, for example, if Siemens should forfeit ill-gotten gains to the United States Treasury or the German Chancellery? How about Italy or Norway, Greece or Argentina?

Weiss looks at laws around the world aimed at punishing foreign public bribery, and particularly those with disgorgement-like remedies. "The penal codes of at least twenty-one countries," he says, "include provisions for 'forfeiture' or 'confiscation' of the proceeds of a crime, or they base the amount of a fine on such proceeds." His survey shows just how new most of the laws are -- the majority coming into force either following enactment of the OECD anti-corruption convention in 1998 or after the events of 9/11 in 2001.

There's no evidence, Weiss says, that "Congress intended that the SEC pursue disgorgement as it has done since 2004. This fact alone should at least make one question the normative function of disgorgement." Disgorgement, he says, wasn't mentioned when the FCPA was first debated and adopted in 1977, nor when Congress amended the law in 1988 or 1998. Weiss himself doesn't say the SEC lacks the legal mandate to pursue disgorgement or that the remedy is somehow improper. But he does point out that the "lack of any statement that disgorgement should be part of the SEC’s enforcement arsenal, and the rarity of the remedy at the time that Congress passed the FCPA and its amendments, are reasons that some commentators have used to question the impropriety of the remedy."

It's great to see the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as the object of some fresh research and scholarship. And at 47 pages and 238 footnotes (a couple of which mention the FCPA Blog), Weiss' work is thorough and thoughtful.

The cite for the note is: Weiss, David C.,The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, SEC Disgorgement of Profits, and the Evolving International Bribery Regime: Weighing Proportionality, Retribution, and Deterrence, Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 30, No. 2 (January 17, 2009).

It's available from SSRN here.
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Sunday
Jul062008

Shock And Awe In U.S. Federal Court

The government of Iraq filed a civil suit in late June in federal district court in New York City against two individuals and about 50 companies and some of their related firms for bribery that allegedly occurred under the United Nations oil-for-food program. Referring to the U.N. program as "the largest financial fraud in human history," the 47-page complaint seeks more than $10 billion in damages.

Many of the defendants named in the complaint -- which relies heavily on the U.N.'s October 2005 internal report by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker -- have already faced enforcement action for violating U.N. regulations or U.S. law, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Among those discussed in our prior posts are ABB, AB Volvo, Flowserve, Akzo Nobel, Chevron, Siemens, Ingersoll-Rand, York International, Oscar Wyatt, El Paso (successor to Coastal Corp.) and Textron. Others named in the complaint include Air Liquide, Atlas Copco, Boston Scientific, BNP Paribas, Buhler, Daewoo, Daimler-Chrysler, Dow, Eastman, Glaxo, Dresser, Kia Motors, Novo Nordisk and Vitol.

The complaint describes how kickbacks paid to representatives of Saddam Hussein were funded through illegal and undisclosed transportation and port fees, bogus after-sales service fees and overpricing of goods and services.

Although there is no private right of action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, this is the third civil suit filed this year in U.S. federal court by alleged victims of overseas public corruption. In March, Bahrain-owned Alba sued Alcoa and its agent in Pittsburgh for allegedly inflating prices and using the money to bribe Bahraini officials. Then in April, Denver-based oilman Jack Grynberg and his company brought a suit in the District Of Columbia against their former consortium partners BP and Statoil, and their top executives, for allegedly using some of Grynberg's money to bribe government officials in Kazakhstan.

Similar to the Alba and Grynberg complaints, the Iraqi government's claims are based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), common-law fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. Iraq also alleges illegal price discrimination under the Robinson Patman Act ("It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, knowingly to induce or receive a discrimination in price which is prohibited by this section.").

The complaint says the federal court in New York should hear the case because the oil-for-food program was administered at the United Nations' headquarters there, all funds related to the program "were supposed to pass through an escrow account in New York," and all oil-for-food contracts were "approved in New York."

View Iraq's complaint here (courtesy of The AmLaw Daily).

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Wednesday
Nov142007

Chevron Pays $30 Million To Settle Oil For Food Violations

Chevron Corporation resolved violations under the U.N. Oil-For-Food Program by entering into a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and separate agreements with the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury ("OFAC") and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC's charges against Chevron included violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act under the books and records and internal controls provisions (Sections 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934). Chevron will pay a civil penalty of $3,000,000, disgorge $25 million, and pay OFAC a penalty of $2,000,000 for violating the sanctions against the former government of Iraq.

The case revealed an enormous breakdown of Chevron's compliance program. According to the SEC's complaint, despite a January 2001 company-wide policy prohibiting the payment of surcharges in connection with the purchase of Iraqi oil, Chevron's traders included $20 million in illegal surcharges to Iraq for the purchase of 78 million barrels of crude oil under 36 contracts.

"Among other things," the SEC said, "the policy required traders to obtain prior written approval for all proposed Iraqi oil purchases, and charged management with reviewing each proposed Iraqi oil deal. Chevron's traders did not follow the company-wide policy and Chevron's management was unsuccessful in ensuring its compliance. Despite being required to consider the identity, experience and reputation of a third party seller prior to approving a proposed Iraqi oil purchase, Chevron's management relied on its trader's representations. . . . At least one trader responsible for a large portion of Chevron's purchases from Iraq factored the cost of the surcharge payments into price negotiations with third parties. One third party seller, whose company on occasion sold oil to Chevron, stated that the trader he dealt with at Chevron and the trader's bosses always knew about the illegal surcharge demands by Iraq. . . . Chevron failed to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls to detect and prevent such illicit payments. Chevron's accounting for its Oil for Food transactions failed properly to record the true nature of the company's payments to third parties."

Other Oil-For-Food prosecutions have been resolved against El Paso Corporation and Oscar Wyatt, Jr., Textron, York International and Ingersoll-Rand Co., Ltd.

Chevron Corporation trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CVX.

View the SEC's Litigation Release No. 20363 / November 14, 2007 Here.

View the SEC's Complaint Here.

View the DOJ's November 8, 2007 Non-Prosecution Agreement Here.

Monday
Oct012007

Oscar Wyatt, Founder Of Coastal Corporation, Pleads Guilty To Iraq Bribes

Guilty Plea Follows El Paso's Settlement of FCPA Violations Earlier This Year

Oscar Wyatt Jr., 83, pleaded guilty on October 1, 2007 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the U.N. oil-for-food program. The U.S. Government accused him of paying millions in illegal surcharges directly to Iraqi officials in return for oil allocations from 2000 to 2002. He faces 18 to 24 months in prison under a plea agreement and will forfeit $11 million. He founded and ran Coastal Corporation, which he sold to El Paso Corporation in 2001.

In February this year, El Paso settled violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act related to illegal surcharges it paid to Iraqi officials under the oil-for-food program. It disgorged $5,482,363 in profits and paid a civil penalty of $2,250,000. It also entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and cooperated in providing evidence relating to Wyatt's role. Violations under the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA carry potential prison sentences of 5 years, while under the oil-for-food program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, Wyatt could have faced 20 years for his role.

The Securities and Exchange Commission's February 7, 2007 litigation release said, “El Paso failed to maintain an adequate system of internal controls to detect and prevent the illegal payments. Although El Paso inserted a provision in some contracts requiring the third party to represent that it had not paid surcharges, El Paso failed to conduct due diligence to ensure that surcharges were not paid. Recorded conversations reveal El Paso’s knowledge that the provision was entirely ineffective. In one conversation, a third party that indicated he was willing to pay illegal surcharges to Iraq indicated that he would be equally willing to sign a false certification denying the payment. El Paso’s accounting for its Oil for Food transactions failed properly to record the nature of the company’s payments. In at least fifteen transactions, a portion of the company’s price for oil constituted kickbacks to Iraq. The company failed to so designate those payments, characterizing them instead simply as part of the cost of goods sold.”

During Wyatt's trial, which ended mid-way with his guilty plea, prosecutors played tapes for the jury of conversations between him and Saddam Hussein.

El Paso Corporation trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol EP.

View the SEC's Litigation Release No. 19991 / February 7, 2007 Here.

View the SEC's Complaint Against El Paso Corporation Here.

View the DOJ's 2005 Press Release About Wyatt's Indictment Here.