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Entries in Germany (83)

Monday
Sep272010

Former Fugitive Now Waits And Hopes 

What's life like for Ousama Naaman? He's scheduled to be sentenced in December and faces up to ten years in prison. But he hopes to serve his time in a Canadian jail.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug302010

Siemens' Second Chance

During its billion-dollar internal investigation, Siemens discovered and documented 4,283 illegal payments related to 332 projects around the world. The total value of bribes paid was at least $1.4 billion, resulting in fines and penalties in the U.S. and Germany of about $1.6 billion.

That was 2008. What has Siemens done since then about compliance?

In FY2007, it had 173 compliance staff worldwide. By FY2009, the number had grown to 598. It has now given in-person compliance training to 1,400 senior managers, 80,000 employees with "sensitive functions," and 220 compliance officers. Another 140,000 employees have completed on-line compliance training (the company has about 400,000 employees). In FY2009, Siemens fired 244 employees for compliance breaches and disciplined another 473.

A few years ago, Siemens could have received a corporate death sentence. Its crimes were that bad. And its compliance program, if you could call it that, had been subverted. But instead of a death sentence, there was that rather painless settlement with U.S. and German authorities. Some complained that justice wasn't served.

A year before the settlement, however, new CEO Peter Löscher had said: Siemens endorses clean business. Period. I am not interested in deals that can only be had through corruption.

Compliance first, profit second, he said. People believed him. So the company got a second chance and made it count.

As Peter von Blomberg, the deputy chairman of Transparency International Germany, recently said: "The case of Siemens shows that companies can be successful without corruption. Even with a compliance monitor appointed by the U.S. authorities, a much larger compliance organization, and scrutiny of every transaction,  CEO Löscher just announced the best quarterly results ever."

That's why we like second chances.

*     *     *

We're grateful to i-Sight for its post about the recovery of Siemens, which included a company-prepared presentation about current compliance efforts.

Tuesday
Aug242010

A Shocking Confession

German police last Thursday raided a global pipeline-equipment supplier on suspicion of bribing foreign officials to win work.

The raid came two weeks after Eginhard Vietz, 69, the owner and managing director of Hanover-based Vietz GmbH, gave an interview to the German business newspaper Handelsblatt. Vietz told the paper his company and its competitors pay bribes in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as a standard business practice.

Vietz GmbH supplies welding, bending, and testing gear for onshore and offshore oil and gas pipelines to customers world wide.

Mr. Vietz said his company regularly paid bribes "because there are certain countries where there is no other way to do it."

"Nobody is disadvantaged by what I am doing," he said, explaining he was only trying to keep his workers busy.

The Hanover prosecutor, Manfred Knothe, told the German Press Agency (DPA) that police raided the company's head office in Hanover and plants in Leipzig and Essen, seizing computers and files.

Knothe told DPA that "Vietz's description of the kickbacks had been so detailed that prosecutors had no choice but to investigate him on suspicion of corrupting others, an offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison."

Overseas bribery is sensitive in Germany. Since 2007, prosecutors have charged leading firms Siemens, Daimler, and MAN. Siemens and Daimler also faced FCPA enforcement actions in the U.S.

The Handelsblatt newspaper quoted Vietz as saying, "I don't feel I did anything wrong. You can't change the way the world is."

Last year, according to German press reports, Vietz accompanied Germany's economics minister on a trip to Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. This year, he visited the United Arab Emirates as part of a delegation with state premier Christian Wulff, who's now Germany's president.

*   *    *

In the Handelsblatt interview, Eginhard Vietz said among other things that he'd paid bribes repeatedly. In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, and Nigeria, he said it's not easy to do business without bribery. "The same goes for Russia," Vietz said.

Asked about anti-corruption laws in the countries where he does business, he said China even has the death penalty for bribery. "Nevertheless, I have experienced myself that I could only win contracts through bribes. And I also have lost contracts because a competitor paid more."

Vietz said most of the people deciding who wins state contracts are poorly paid and easily bribed. "They're only human," he said. He usually bribes the senior management in purchasing departments -- the people who make the buying decisions. "They are mostly civil servants we are dealing with in these countries, mainly at state firms."

The payments are usually funded by inflating commissions to sales agents, he said, with the money then transferred to accounts in Switzerland and then passed on as bribes. The amounts are usually between 5% and 10% of the total contract value. He said those amounts are added to the prices he charges the customers, so his margins aren't reduced. He said he's always careful in structuring the payments to comply with German tax laws.

U.S. companies, he said, claim to be particularly clean but are actually the worst. The SEC, he said, uses its authority to prosecute foreign competitors, while U.S. companies make themselves world leaders with government protection. Asked for an example, he said three years ago in Moscow, while bidding for a big contract, he knew he was 40% below the offer of his American competitors. "Suddenly, the American ambassador spoke to the customer. I did not get the job."

Handelsblatt pointed out that since Siemens stopped paying bribes, it hasn't lost work or shed jobs because of compliance. Vietz replied, "I can't speak for Siemens. Maybe a large corporation has other possibilities. But I doubt that anyone can build large plants in countries such as Nigeria without making specific contributions."

*     *     *

Special thanks to a reader for sending the link to the August 10, 2010 Handelsblatt interview with Eginhard Vietz. It can be viewed here.

Thursday
Aug052010

The Enforcement Gap

By Nancy Z. Boswell and Robert N. Walton, Transparency International-USA

Transparency International’s sixth annual report on enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, released last week, paints a mixed picture. On the positive side, it shows active enforcement in seven of the 36 countries evaluated, including the U.S, Germany, Italy and Norway. The U.K. even made the cut, despite the disappointing news last month that it is postponing the implementation of its sweeping new Bribery Act until April 2011. 
 
Far less encouraging is the report’s finding that there is only moderate enforcement in nine countries and little to none in the remaining 20. This latter undistinguished group represents 15% of world trade and includes G8 members Canada, Japan and France.  
 
The numbers speak for themselves, but the underlying question is why, after a dozen years, so many governments that committed to criminalize the use of bribes to get business have failed to live up to that promise. One can only conclude many of them have decided that it is not in their economic interest to do so. Motivations may vary, but these governments may see greater value in promoting the international commercial success of their country’s enterprises. If that means ignoring the Anti-Bribery Convention, so be it.
 
This disheartening conclusion is ominous for the countries where bribes continue to be paid, and for fair competition for those who observe the rule of law. There can be little doubt that inconsistent enforcement will allow bribery to continue unabated and may well undermine support of those countries that have followed their commitments with action. Likewise, it will hinder efforts to ensure that important emerging exporters –- notably China, India and Russia –- agree to and impose foreign bribery constraints on their companies. 
 
Given the serious and damaging consequences of bribery in countries that can least afford it, the OECD, the governments that are complying with the convention, and those of us in the anti-corruption movement need to put more pressure on lagging countries to step up to their commitments and actively enforce the convention. Time is running out.

Nancy Boswell is the President and CEO of Transparency International- USA (TI-USA) and a former member of the Board of Directors of Transparency International (TI). She can be contacted here.

Rob Walton is TI-USA's Senior Policy Director for Private Sector Initiatives. He can be reached here.

Tuesday
Jul272010

Medical Ghosting And The FCPA

The debate about medical ghosting has focused on the U.S. market. But could the DOJ and SEC now be looking at the practice overseas, where it might violate the FCPA?

Main Justice reported that in April, the DOJ and SEC sent letters to AstraZeneca PLC, Baxter International Inc., Eli Lilly & Co., and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. The letters asked about business practices in Brazil, China, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Medical ghosting works like this. Drug companies hire outside firms to draft articles touting a drug, then retain a doctor or scientist to sign off as the author. The drug company then finds a publisher, who doesn't know the article was written by someone other than the person who signed it.

Doctors and scientists eagerly participate because publication credit increases their prestige and professional standing. And the drug-companies use the medical journal articles as "independent" proof that their drugs are safe and effective.

A Senate report released last month and quoted in the New York Times said: “Manipulation of medical literature could lead physicians to prescribe drugs that are more costly or may even harm patients."

The FCPA's antibribery provisions prohibit among other things (1) the giving of anything of value (2) to a foreign official (3) to obtain or retain business. See, e.g., 15 U.S.C. §78dd-1(a) [Section 30A of the Securities & Exchange Act of 1934].

Ghosting has those elements. Giving a doctor or scientist an unsigned manuscript for publication has real value. Doctors and scientists working in government-owned or managed hospitals overseas are "foreign officials" under the FCPA. And articles appearing to independently endorse a drug help its manufacturer obtain or retain business.

We don't know if medical ghosting will figure in any FCPA-related investigations of the drug companies. But it could.

Wednesday
Apr212010

No Jail For Convicted Siemens Execs

Two former senior managers from Siemens who were central actors in the company's global bribery scandal were convicted by a criminal court in Germany Tuesday but let off with only probation and fines.

Michael Kutschenreuter and Hans-Werner Hartmann, both 55, were found guilty in a Munich court of breach of trust and abetting bribery.

Kutschenreuter, who headed Siemens' telecoms group, was given probation for two years and fined €160,000. Hartmann, former accounting chief at the telecoms unit, was given an 18-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay €40,000 to charity.

In December 2008, Siemens AG pleaded guilty in the United States to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, reaching settlements with the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. At the same time, the company resolved charges by the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office based on its corporate failure to supervise its officers and employees.

It paid a criminal fine of $450 million in the DOJ settlement and $350 million in disgorgement of profits under its agreement with the SEC. In the German case, it paid €395 million, on top of the €201 million it had paid in October 2007 to settle a related action brought by the Munich Public Prosecutor.

Siemens has said its global bribery may have topped $1.8 billion. The Justice Department's information charging the company in the biggest FCPA enforcement action ever tells of more than 4,000 payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business -- and systematic and intentional violations of the FCPA's internal controls and books and records provisions.

According to the U.S. charging documents, Siemens' telecoms unit paid bribes of $5.3 million in Bangladesh and $4.5 million in Nigeria.

At least three other former Siemens executives have been convicted of bribery over the past few years. They were also given suspended sentences of around two years.

No one from the company has been charged in the U.S., possibly because American prosecutors haven't been able to assert jurisdiction over them. This week's convictions of Kutschenreuter and Hartmann may have been the final criminal trials in Germany of Siemens' personnel involved in the company's massive global bribery.

The German defendants' light treatment in their home courts contrasts sharply with this week's U.S. sentencing of American Charles Paul Edward Jumet. He was given 87 months in prison -- the longest sentence ever for FCPA-related offenses.

Wednesday
Apr142010

Goodbye, Mr. Mendelsohn

As head of the DOJ's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement unit, Mark Mendelsohn transformed the FCPA from a legal backwater to a headline practice. He's leaving the Justice Department Friday after a dozen years, and leaving behind the most aggressive overseas anti-bribery regime in the world.

In November last year, Mendelsohn's boss, Assistant AG Lanny Breuer, called him an "exceptional public servant and a visionary steward of the FCPA program." In private practice, he's expected to earn between $2.5 and $3 million a year. 

Mendelsohn's view of the FCPA and American anti-corruption policy wasn't complicated. He pushed enforcement against corporations of any size and from any country -- including U.S.-government contractor KBR, German industrial giants Siemens and Daimler AG, British-based BAE Systems, and France's Alcatel-Lucent. Financial penalties ballooned during Mendelsohn's time, topped by Siemens' $800 million payment to the DOJ and SEC in December 2008.

He also led the government's charge against individual FCPA defendants -- among them KBR's Jack Stanley, entrepreneur Frederic Bourke, and the 22 shot-show defendants. 

During his term, no corporations mounted a courtroom defense against FCPA charges; instead all made deals with the DOJ to settle their cases. That gave Mendelsohn extraordinary power -- in the FCPA realm, he and the DOJ became prosecutor, judge, and jury. That's more power than most mortals can handle, but he did just fine. 

Like all top cops, he was criticized from every direction. Some said he was overzealous, that his expansive view of the FCPA went far beyond Congress' original intent. Others complained that corporations enjoyed easy settlements, based not on bribery charges but only related offenses, and never resulting in debarment from U.S. government business. But his fans cheered because nearly all corporate defendants were given second chances.

Above all, Mendelsohn was an honest advocate for compliance, not only at home but abroad. That may be his most important contribution. His steady hand encouraged prosecutors in other countries to fight public sleaze. And his FCPA team partnered with counterparts in England and Germany, Italy and France, Switzerland, Hungary, Costa Rica, Nigeria and elsewhere, forging ties that led to the first real global enforcement actions. Those cases helped change attitudes everywhere.

His boss was right. Mark Mendelsohn was an extraordinary public servant and an FCPA visionary.

Friday
Feb122010

Daimler Settlement Reported

A Bloomberg story today in Business Week here says Daimler AG will pay "about $200 million and two subsidiaries will plead guilty to resolve a U.S. investigation into whether it paid bribes to secure business overseas, according to people familiar with the accord."

Bloomberg said the deal still needs approval by federal district court judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C.

The story quoted a Daimler spokesperson as saying: “We are in discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding consensually resolving the agencies’ investigations.” The spokesperson was identified as Ute Wuest von Vellberg, from Stuttgart, Germany. “There can be no assurance about whether and when settlement with the DOJ and the SEC will become final and effective," he said in an interview.

The FCPA investigation into Daimler began in 2004, triggered by the firing of an alleged whistleblower from the audit group at DaimlerChrysler Corp., Daimler's former affiliate.

We'll update this story as it develops.

Special thanks to Marc Bohn for his help with this post.

Sunday
Dec132009

MAN Group Fined €150.6 Million For Bribery

German truck maker MAN Group said on Friday that two subsidiaries will pay fines of €75.3 million each to German authorities to resolve corruption charges first disclosed in May this year (here). The fines were imposed against MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG (the commercial vehicles division) and MAN Turbo AG (the compressors / turbines division) by the public prosecutors' office in the Munich District Court. The company announced at the same time a €20 million settlement with German authorities for unpaid taxes. MAN's releases about the settlements are here and here.

The company separately disclosed (here) that two executive board members of MAN Turbo had resigned "to clear the way for new management." Dr. Gerhard Reiff had been on the board since 2005 and Dr. Stephan Funke since 2007.

MAN's internal investigation uncovered suspicious payments of €51.6 million relating to around 80 transactions. The payments were found in a number of countries and most were through agents and other intermediaries. The company said it has fired 20 employees and is considering suing them for damages. It didn't disclose the countries involved or who may have received illegal payments in the form of "so-called referral commissions." The internal investigation involved "around 70 lawyers, auditors and tax experts . . . working since mid-May to analyze the suspicious payments made in the last ten years at all of MAN’s subgroups."

MAN is Germany's second largest truck, bus and diesel-engine manufacturer behind Daimler AG. It reported revenue in 2008 of €14.9 billion and has 51,000 employees worldwide.

The company said it launched a compliance initiative in July. It said it will disclose to prosecutors any future suspected bribery cases and cooperate with them, establish a revamped compliance office on January 1, 2010 reporting directly to the executive board, provide hands-on compliance training to all employees in sales, purchasing, and marketing jobs, use an IT system designed to reveal any suspicious payments, abolish "referral commissions," and impose due diligence requirements on all agents. MAN said it will also continue talks with various anti-corruption NGOs about joint projects.

The company is listed on the German DAX and its largest shareholder is Volkswagen. MAN AG's ADRs trade on the over-the-counter pink sheets under the symbol MAGOY.PK. It hasn't disclosed any investigations by the U.S. Justice Department or SEC.

Monday
Nov232009

Ex-ABB Manager Arrested, Mexican Agent Pleads Guilty

The Justice Department announced on Monday (November 23) the arrest of the former general manager of a Sugar Land, Texas-based ABB subsidiary for his alleged role in a conspiracy to bribe Mexican government officials. The bribes were allegedly intended to secure contracts with the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), a Mexican state-owned utility company. The DOJ also said a Mexican citizen who acted as a middleman pleaded guilty in the case and is cooperating in the investigation.

The DOJ charged John Joseph O'Shea, 57, of Pleasanton, California, in an 18-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Houston on November 16. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (18 U.S.C. § 371), 12 counts of violating the FCPA (15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2 et seq), four counts of international money laundering (18 U.S.C. § 1956), and one count of falsifying records in a federal investigation (18 U.S.C. § 1519).

Although not named in the DOJ release or charging documents, ABB has confirmed that O'Shea was its employee. Fortune carried this statement from the company: "The individual is a former employee of an ABB unit in Texas. He was terminated in the fall of 2004. ABB continues to cooperate with U.S. authorities."

O'Shea hired Fernando Maya Basurto, 47, of Mexico City, to act as the Texas unit's sales agent in Mexico. Under his contract, Basurto received a percentage of sales as his commission. In December 1997, CFE awarded the Texas business unit a contract, known as the SITRACEN contract, to upgrade the backbone of Mexico's electrical network system. The SITRACEN contract generated more than $44 million dollars in revenue for ABB's Texas business unit. In October 2003, CFE also awarded it a multi-year contract for maintenance and upgrades of the SITRACEN contract that generated more than $37 million in revenue.

According to the indictment, O'Shea and Basurto agreed to pay 10 percent of the revenues from the SITRACEN contract to officials at CFE. And for the Evergreen contract, O'Shea authorized more than $900,000 in bribes to CFE officials. He also took a kickback of 1 percent. The indictment alleges that O'Shea, Basurto and others covered up the bribery after ABB fired O'Shea. They fabricated documents that "purported to be evidence of a legitimate business relationship between the Texas business unit and the Mexican companies that provided the false invoices." The indictment described emails between Basurto and O'Shea in which they discussed creating fake correspondence and a phony contract.

ABB discovered the alleged bribery and fraud during an internal investigation. It self-disclosed the payments and related activities to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission and helped with their investigations.

Basurto was first arrested in Dallas in April on a criminal complaint charging him with conspiracy to structure transactions and structuring transactions to evade currency reporting requirements. He was later indicted on the same charges on June 10, 2009. As part of his plea deal, the DOJ filed a superseding criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, to launder money, and to falsify records. The information said jurisdiction over Basurto was based on his being "an agent of a domestic concern, as that term is defined in the FCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(h)(1)."

He pleaded guilty on November 16 in Houston. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice his gain or the victim's loss caused by his crimes. The Justice Department hasn't announced his sentencing date.

Basurto's indictment gave details of the bribes. It said, for example:

Basurto would maintain control over all of these funds [from the Texas business unit] and would, at CFE Official C's instruction, wire funds from these accounts to a Merrill Lynch brokerage account. CFE Official C would then cause some of these funds to be further transferred to the son-in-law of CFE Official N and to the brother of CFE Official C. Basurto would follow additional instructions from CFE Official C concerning the "Good Guys" funds, including giving CFE Official C approximately $20,000 in cash.

For O'Shea, the conspiracy and falsification of records counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. Each of the 12 substantive FCPA counts carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The four international money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The indictment also gives notice of criminal forfeiture.

 The DOJ said German authorities assisted in the investigation. Payments allegely were made to the CFE officials through German banks and accounts there.

In July 2004, ABB and two subsidiaries disgorged $5.9 million and paid a $10.5 million penalty for FCPA violations involving Nigeria, Angola and Kazakhstan. In a 2007 earnings release, ABB said it disclosed to the DOJ and SEC "suspect payments made by employees of company subsidiaries in Asia, South America and Europe, in particular Italy. These suspect payments were discovered as a result of ABB's internal audit and compliance program." See our post here.

As the DOJ says, an indictment is merely an accusation, and O’Shea is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

View the DOJ's November 23, 2009 release here.

Download the November 16, 2009 criminal indictment in US v. John Joseph O'Shea here.

Download the November 16, 2009 superseding criminal information in US v. Fernando Maya Basurto here.

Download Basurto's plea agreement with the Justice Department here.