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Entries in Nature's Sunshine Products (6)

Tuesday
Aug172010

Watching For Whistleblowers

In its quarterly report released August 9, SciClone Pharmaceuticals, Inc. said it received an SEC subpoena and a letter from the DOJ investigating the "sale, licensing and marketing of its products in foreign countries, including China."

According to SciClone, the DOJ said it was looking at FCPA issues in the pharmaceutical industry generally, and had received information about SciClone's practices suggesting possible violations.

A reader was curious about the timing of SciClone's announcement. Less than a month ago, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It authorizes payments of 10% to 30% for recoveries of at least a million dollars based on information about violations of the securities laws, including the FCPA.

So we asked SciClone if the FCPA investigation was triggered by a recent whistleblower complaint. Ana Kapor, the firm's director of investor relations and corporate communications, answered quickly but said only: "We are not able to comment on this topic beyond what we included in our filings earlier this week."

Is this the first FCPA-related whistleblower case under the new reward program? Or is it, as most assume, part of the year-old investigation of drug makers that already targeted GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and Merck? Or is it both? There's no way to tell until someone involved goes on the record.

SciClone Pharmaceuticals, Inc. trades on NASDAQ under the symbol SCLN.

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A slice of the FCPA pie. In his August 16 article about FCPA-related civil suits, Forbes' Nathan Vardi correctly says there's no private right of action under the FCPA. So plaintiff lawyers look for other ways to sue directors and officers for their company's overseas bribery.

Results of the suits have been mixed but some have produced big settlements. He lists Faro Technologies, which paid $6.9 million; Nature’s Sunshine, which paid $6 million; Immucor, $2.5 million; and Syncor, $15.5 million. And he says plaintiff lawyers are prowling for more targets by following SEC and DOJ leads -- including Weatherford International, Parker Drilling, Avon Products, and Pride International.

Ther article is Plaintiff Lawyers Join The Bribery Racket.

Monday
Nov092009

Toss Jefferson's FCPA Conspiracy Count

Before getting to William Jefferson, this reminder: Frederic Bourke is scheduled to be sentenced in Manhattan today (Tuesday, November 10) at 2:30 pm. He could be jailed for up to ten years for conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and lying to federal investigators.

Now Jefferson: He'll learn his sentence this Friday in Alexandria, Virginia. Prosecutors want him jailed for 27 to 33 years. And once again there's a question whether the jury found Jefferson guilty of any FCPA-related offense. This time the answer could influence how long he'll spend behind bars. Here's the issue.

The former nine-term congressman was convicted in August on 11 of 16 corruption charges. He was acquitted on Count 11 of the indictment -- the only substantive FCPA charge he faced. But the jury convicted him on Count 1. It alleged three separate illegal conspiracies -- to solicit bribes, deprive citizens of honest services, and violate the FCPA. The jury's verdict form did not require it to specify which of the three illegal conspiracies the panel believed he engaged in. So Jefferson's conviction on Count 1 may or may not have included a finding that he conspired to violate the FCPA.

Since the verdict, many have wondered whether Jefferson was really convicted of an FCPA-related offense. Could he have been acquitted of the substantive charge and convicted on the conspiracy? Our view (here) was yes, the jury could have convicted Jefferson of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The evidence supported it. And a guilty verdict recorded for Count 1 meant all three alleged conspiracies could be presumed proven, including the FCPA-related charge.

The government has now said the same thing in its sentencing memo: "The verdict form completed by the jury on August 5, 2009 did not require the jury to delineate which, if not all, of the objects charged in the conspiracy in Count 1 were found to have been proved, only that at least one of the objects was proven by the government beyond a reasonable doubt." Jefferson's lawyers argue that based on the facts, the jury couldn't have convicted him of the FCPA conspiracy once it acquitted him of the substantive FCPA offense.

Will Judge Ellis use the FCPA-related conspiracy element to calculate Jefferson's sentence? We hope not. Trying to read the jury's mind when imposing a sentence on any defendant is wrong. In Jefferson's case, not requiring the jury to declare which of the three conspiracy objects it voted to convict on was an error. Fundamental to a defendant's rights at trial and for appeal is jury accountability. That accountability was lacking as to Count 1. So the count should be tossed as to all three conspiracies it alleged, and none of them should be included in the sentencing computation.

William Jefferson is scheduled to be sentenced on November 13, 2009 at 9:00 am in the U.S. District Court for the Easter District of Virginia (Alexandria Division) by Judge T.S. Ellis, III.

Download a copy of the government's sentencing memorandum in U.S. v. Jefferson dated November 6, 2009 here.

Download a copy of William Jefferson's memorandum in aid of sentencing dated November 9, 2009 here.

* * *
The D & O Diary reports the resolution of an FCPA-related civil suit on November 6, 2009 against Nature’s Sunshine Products. The company agreed to pay $6 million. The plaintiffs in the securities lawsuit had alleged the company lacked appropriate internal controls and that its books and records did not reflect the foreign transactions.

In late July, the SEC filed a settled enforcement action against Nature's Sunshine Products Inc. (NSP), its CEO Douglas Faggioli and its former CFO Craig D. Huff. The charges involved bribes by NSP's Brazilian subsidiary to customs officials and false accounting to conceal the payments. The SEC's complaint alleged that Faggioli and Huff, in their capacities as control persons, violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the securities laws in connection with the Brazilian bribes. See our post here.
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Thursday
Oct012009

Enforcement Report For Q3 '09

During the third quarter, we counted Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions involving nine individuals and five corporations. Among the developments: Three FCPA-related trials were completed, all ending badly for the defendants (Bourke, Jefferson and Green). For the first time, the SEC asserted control-person liability in an FCPA case (Faggioli and Huff). And the Justice Department used a California anti-corruption law as the basis for a federal Travel Act charge in an FCPA prosecution (CCI).

Here's what happened:

AGCO Corporation (September 30, 2009) Criminal and civil enforcement actions resolved. To settle charges that it paid kickbacks to the pre-war Iraqi regime under the U.N. oil for food program, agricultural equipment-maker AGCO Corporation agreed with the Justice Department to pay a criminal fine of $1.6 million and enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement. Its U.K. subsidiary was charged in a one- count criminal information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the books and records provisions of the FCPA.

In its settlement of civil charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission, AGCO Corporation agreed to disgorge $13,907,393 in profits and $2,000,000 in pre-judgment interest, and pay a civil penalty of $2,400,000. The SEC charged the company with failing to maintain an adequate system of internal controls to detect and prevent the corrupt payments and failing to properly record the payments.

Gerald and Patricia Green (September 14, 2009) Convicted of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and violating the FCPA.
The Hollywood film executives were found guilty by a federal jury in LA of violating the FCPA by bribing a Thai official in exchange for contracts to manage and operate Thailand's yearly film festival.

Gerald Green, 77, and Patricia Green, 52, were convicted of conspiring to violate the FCPA and U.S. money laundering laws, nine counts of violating the FCPA, and seven counts of money laundering. Patricia Green was found guilty of two counts of falsely subscribing to a U.S. income tax return.

The conspiracy and FCPA charges each carry a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison. Each of the money laundering counts carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The tax charges against Patricia Green each carry a statutory maximum penalty of three years in prison. The Greens are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu on December 17, 2009.

Leo Winston Smith (September 3, 2009) Guilty plea to a two-count indictment. The former director of sales and marketing for Pacific Consolidated Industries (PCI), admitted that he bribed an official from the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD) in return for equipment orders. Smith, 73, pleaded guilty in the U.S. federal district court for central California to conspiracy to violate the FCPA (18 U.S.C. §371) and corruptly obstructing and impeding the due administration of the internal revenue laws (26 U.S.C. §7212(a)).

Sentencing is scheduled for December 18, 2009. He faces a maximum five years in prison on the FCPA conspiracy charge and three years on the tax charge, and a fine of about $255,000.

Oscar H. Meza (August 28, 2009) Resolved civil enforcement action. Meza, the former sales director in Asia for Faro Technologies, Inc., was charged by the SEC with violating the FCPA's antibribery provisions (Section 30A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [15 U.S.C. §78dd-1]), the books and records and internal control provisions (Section 13(b)(5) ofthe Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rule 13b21 [15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(5) and 17 C.F.R. § 240.13b2-1]), and with aiding and abetting Faro's violations of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions. The complaint alleged that he "authorized bribery payments to employees of Chinese state-owned companies in order to obtain contracts, and that in order to conceal the bribes Meza instructed that account entries be altered."

Meza paid a $30,000 civil penalty and $26,707 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.

William Jefferson (August 5, 2009) Convicted of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The former nine-term congressman from Louisiana was found guilty by a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia of 11 of 16 corruption charges. In addition to the conspiracy charge, he was also found guilty of soliciting and taking bribes, depriving citizens of honest services, money laundering and racketeering, and conspiracy to solicit bribes. He was acquitted of a substantive charge of violating the FCPA.

Jefferson's case started in 2005 when the FBI raided his congressional office. He then became the first elected U.S. official to be charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The indictment alleged among other things that he conspired to bribe the then Nigerian vice president, Atiku Abubakar, to steer telecommunications contracts to companies controlled by Jefferson's family.

Nature's Sunshine Products Inc. (NSP), Douglas Faggioli, and Craig D. Huff (July 31, 2009) Civil enforcement actions resolved. The SEC filed a settled enforcement action against NSP, its CEO Faggioli, 54, and its former CFO Huff, 53. The charges related to cash payments made in 2000 and 2001 by the Brazilian subsidiary of NSP, a manufacturer of nutritional and personal care products, to import unregistered products into Brazil and the subsequent falsification of its books and records to conceal the payments. NSP was required to pay a civil penalty of $600,000; Faggioli and Huff each paid $25,000.

The SEC's civil complaint alleged thatNSP's Brazilian subsidiary made a series of cash payments to customs officials to import product into that country and then purchased false documentation to conceal the nature of the payments. The conduct violated the FCPA, and the antifraud, issuer reporting, books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint also alleged that Faggioli and Huff, in their capacities as control persons, violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the securities laws in connection with the Brazilian cash payments. NSP also failed to disclose the payments to Brazilian customs agents in its filings with the SEC.

Control Components Inc. (July 31, 2009) Criminal enforcement action resolved. Valve-maker CCI of Rancho Santa Margarita, California pleaded guilty to violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA (15 U.S.C. §78dd-2) and the Travel Act (18 U.S. C. §1952). It bribed foreign officials in a decade-long scheme to secure contracts in about 36 countries. CCI's plea agreement imposes a criminal fine of $18.2 million, a compliance monitor for three years, and a three-year term of organizational probation.

CCI designs and manufactures service control valves for use in the nuclear, oil and gas, and power generation industries. Its website is here. It's owned by British-based IMI plc, which trades on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol IMI.L.

The corrupt payments were made to foreign officials at state-owned entities including Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corp. (China), Guohua Electric Power (China), China Petroleum Materials and Equipment Corp., PetroChina, Dongfang Electric Corporation (China), China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, Petronas (Malaysia) and National Petroleum Construction Company (United Arab Emirates).

Ousama Naaman
(July 31, 2009) Arrested in Frankfurt, Germany. The Canadian citizen had been indicted in August 2008 for his alleged role in an eight-year conspiracy to defraud the United Nations Oil for Food Program (OFFP) and to bribe Iraqi government officials in connection with the sale of a chemical additive used in refining leaded fuel. Naaman, 60, of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the FCPA and two counts of violating the FCPA. The Justice Department is trying to extradite him from Germany to the United States to stand trial. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

Helmerich & Payne Inc. (July 30, 2009) Criminal and civil enforcement actions resolved. The Oklahoma-based oil and gas driller paid a $1 million criminal penalty to the Justice Department and entered into a two-year deferred prosecution agreement to settle FCPA violations related to improper payments to government officials in Argentina and Venezuela. It was also required to disgorge to the Securities and Exchange Commission $320,604 plus prejudgment interest of $55,077.22 for books and records and internal controls violations.

Avery Dennison Corporation (July 28, 2009) Civil enforcement action resolved. Label-maker Avery Dennison resolved civil and administrative charges brought by the SEC in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Avery was charged with violating the FCPA's books and records and internal controls provisions. In the administrative action, the SEC ordered the company to disgorge $273,213 and $45,257 in prejudgment interest. In the federal civil action, Avery agreed to a final judgment requiring it to pay a civil penalty of $200,000.

From 2002 through 2005, the Reflectives Division of Avery (China) Co. Ltd. paid or authorized the payment of kickbacks, sightseeing trips, and gifts to Chinese government officials amounting to about $30,000. In one transaction, Avery China secured a sale to a state-owned end user by agreeing to pay a Chinese official a kickback of nearly $25,000 through a distributor. Avery China earned $273,213 in profit from the transaction, which it inaccurately booked as a sale to the distributor rather than to the end user.

Frederic Bourke (July 10, 2009) Convicted of conspiring to violate the FCPA, violating the Travel Act, and lying to FBI agents.

Bourke, 63, is co-founder of well-known handbag brand Dooney & Bourke. A federal jury in Manhattan found that he invested in Czech-born promoter Viktor Kozeny's unsuccessful attempt in 1998 to gain control of Azerbaijan's state oil company, Socar, despite knowing Kozeny planned to bribe Azeri leaders. Kozeny has also been charged in the case but is a fugitive living in the Bahamas. Bourke was acquitted of money-laundering charges.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 13, 2009. Bourke faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the alleged violations on each of the two counts on which he was convicted.
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Click on the party names for the original posts, with links to charging documents, plea agreements, and news and litigation releases.

View our enforcement report for Q2 '09 here.

View our enforcement report for Q1 '09 here.

View our 2008 enforcement index here.
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Sunday
Aug232009

FCPA Liability Keeps Growing

In late July, the SEC filed a settled enforcement action against Nature's Sunshine Products Inc. (NSP), its CEO Douglas Faggioli and its former CFO Craig D. Huff. The charges involved bribes by NSP's Brazilian subsidiary to customs officials and false accounting to conceal the payments. As we said here, the SEC's complaint alleged that Faggioli and Huff, in their capacities as control persons, violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the securities laws in connection with the Brazilian bribes.

As control persons. What's that mean?

A nice explanation appears on law.com from Philip Urofsky, the editor-in-chief of the FCPA Digest. He said in an interview that NSP's officers, Faggioli and Huff, were charged individually under Section 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as those "in control" of the Brazilian employees who paid the bribes. Urofsky said it's the first time control-person liability has been used in the FCPA context. He explained:

What [the SEC charges] allege is that the current CEO, who was at the time the COO, had overall responsibility for the international operations of the company, including the export of products to Brazil. And the people who would know about these issues were under his control, and that the former CEO had authority and responsibility for the internal controls and books and records. This is a departure from the former practice. It's consistent with Section 20A as it's used in private litigation, but I've never seen the SEC use it in an FCPA case.
How significant is the appearance of control-person liability? Urofsky again:
It's an indication of the SEC's willingness to use all the tools at its disposal to hold individuals liable for acts within the corporation. Up until now, they usually would allege some knowledge, direct knowledge, and involvement of an individual. That is limiting because sometimes they don't have the evidence, don't have the last link. Also, in this case it's the CEO and CFO. But Section 20A has been used against a much wider variety of corporate officers and even directors in civil litigation. So there's potential where the directors are very active and involved in the operations of the company. In those circumstances, the SEC might very well look and see if there are facts to justify holding that person responsible.
There's a lot more in the interview on law.com here.
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Wednesday
Aug122009

Juiced Up Enforcement

For those who missed any of the FCPA enforcement news during the recent hyper-active stretch, here's what happened:

July 28 -- Label-maker Avery Dennison Corporation resolved civil and administrative charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC filed settled enforcement actions in the United States District Court for the Central District of California charging Avery with violating the FCPA's books and records and internal controls provisions. In the administrative action, the SEC ordered Avery to disgorge $273,213 plus $45,257 in prejudgment interest. In the federal civil action, Avery will pay a civil penalty of $200,000.

July 30 -- Oil and gas driller Helmerich & Payne Inc. was hit with a $1 million criminal penalty by the Justice Department to settle Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations related to improper payments to government officials in Argentina and Venezuela. The SEC ordered the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based firm to disgorge $320,604 plus prejudgment interest of $55,077.22.

July 31 -- The Justice Department announced that valve-maker Control Components Inc. (CCI) of Rancho Santa Margarita, California pleaded guilty to violating the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (15 U.S.C. §78dd-2) and the Travel Act (18 U.S. C. §1952). CCI admitted bribing foreign officials and private parties in a decade-long scheme to secure contracts in about 36 countries. CCI's plea agreement requires it to pay a criminal fine of $18.2 million, implement an anti-bribery compliance program, retain a compliance monitor for three years, serve a three-year term of organizational probation, and cooperate with ongoing investigations.

July 31 -- The SEC filed a settled enforcement action against Nature's Sunshine Products Inc. (NSP), its Chief Executive Officer Douglas Faggioli. 54, and its former Chief Financial Officer Craig D. Huff, 53. According to the SEC, the charges relate to cash payments made in 2000 and 2001 by the Brazilian subsidiary of NSP, a manufacturer of nutritional and personal care products, to import unregistered products into Brazil and the subsequent falsification of its books and records to conceal the payments.

July 31 -- The Justice Department said a Canadian citizen has been indicted for his alleged role in an eight-year conspiracy to defraud the United Nations Oil for Food Program and to bribe Iraqi government officials in connection with the sale of a chemical additive used in refining leaded fuel. Ousama Naaman, 60, of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, was indicted on Aug. 7, 2008, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The indictment charges Naaman, who's in Germany, with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and two counts of violating the FCPA.

August 4 -- The year's third Foreign Corrupt Practices Act trial started when the husband-and-wife movie producers arrested in 2007 faced a federal jury in Los Angeles. Prosecutors allege that Gerald and Patricia Green paid more than $1.8 million in bribes to a former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in return for $14 million in contracts to stage the Bangkok Film Festival. In July this year, Frederic Bourke was convicted of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. And . . .

August 5 -- William Jefferson, the former nine-term congressman from Louisiana, was found guilty of 11 of 16 corruption charges by a federal jury, including conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He was acquitted of a substantive charge of violating the FCPA. He was also found guilty of soliciting and taking bribes, depriving citizens of honest services, money laundering and racketeering, and conspiracy to solicit bribes.

* * *
Another day, another lesson. Concerning state-law violations underlying federal Travel Act charges, a reader has pointed out that the CCI indictments weren't the first. He or she cited U.S. v. David H. Mead and Frerik Pluimers, (Cr. 98-240-01) D.N.J., Trenton Div. 1998, where defendant Mead was convicted following a jury trial of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and the Travel Act (incorporating New Jersey's commercial bribery statute) and two counts each of substantive violations of the FCPA and the Travel Act. The reader said there have been other similar cases. For us (and others we've heard from), it's been a prosecutorial tactic hidden in plain sight. Our eyes are now open. And we say again: Compliance programs shouldn't overlook the dangers of bribes to private parties overseas.

* * *
We remember laying on our back as a kid, outdoors on clear nights in New Hampshire, mesmerized by the annual Perseid meteor shower. This week we were city-bound and missed the show. Maybe next year.

* * *
We're outta here for a three-day weekend. Thanks to everyone who helped make this another great week. See you Monday.
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Friday
Jul312009

SEC Settles With Nature's Sunshine, Two Officers

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a settled enforcement against Nature's Sunshine Products Inc. (NSP), its Chief Executive Officer Douglas Faggioli. 54, and its former Chief Financial Officer Craig D. Huff, 53. According to the SEC, the charges relate to cash payments made in 2000 and 2001 by the Brazilian subsidiary of NSP, a manufacturer of nutritional and personal care products, to import unregistered products into Brazil and the subsequent falsification of its books and records to conceal the payments.

NSP will pay a civil penalty of $600,000; Faggioli and Huff will each pay $25,000.

The SEC's civil complaint alleges that, faced with changes to Brazilian regulations which resulted in classifying many of NSP's products as medicines, NSP's Brazilian subsidiary made a series of cash payments to customs officials to import product into that country and then purchased false documentation to conceal the nature of the payments. The conduct violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the antifraud, issuer reporting, books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint also alleges that Faggioli and Huff, in their capacities as control persons, violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the securities laws in connection with the Brazilian cash payments. NSP also failed to disclose the payments to Brazilian customs agents in its filings with the SEC.

The civil injunctive action filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah alleges that NSP violated Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), 13(b)(2)(B) and 30A of the Exchange Act, and Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 13a-1 and 13a-13, and that Faggioli and Huff violated Sections 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) as control persons pursuant to Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act.

In its own statement, NSP said "no current NSP officers, directors, or employees are alleged to have participated in or had knowledge of any of the improper conduct alleged in the complaint, which occurred approximately eight years ago. . . . Nature’s Sunshine now believes that all government investigations relating to potential FCPA violations by the Company or related persons have been fully resolved. The Company anticipates no action by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in a previously disclosed investigation relating to these events."

NSP said it self reported the results of its internal investigation to the SEC and the DOJ and "fully cooperated in the government investigations."

The DOJ has not indicated if it will pursue criminal prosecution of anyone involved in the case.

Nature's Sunshine Products Inc. trades on the Over-The-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) under the symbol NATR.OB.

View the SEC's Litigation Release No. 21162 (July 31, 2009) in SEC v. Nature's Sunshine Products, Inc., Douglas Faggioli and Craig D. Huff, Case No. 09CV672 (D. Utah) here.

Download a copy of the SEC's civil complaint here.
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