In June 2010, a California-based VOiP company called Veraz Networks, Inc. paid $300,000 to settle SEC charges that it violated the FCPA's books and records and internal controls provisions by making illegal payments to foreign officials in China and Vietnam.
Entries in Veraz (7)
Nearly half of Vietnam’s companies said they have had to bribe officials in order to do business, according to a survey released last month by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
There's always a danger that an unhealthy corporate practice, even an illegal one, will gain internal acceptance and legitimacy simply because it happens all the time.
An FBI agent told a gathering of international law enforcement officials last week that several U.S. public companies are being investigated for bribery in Indonesia.
The first quarter of 2010 was the busiest ever for FCPA-related enforcement. This past quarter was one of the quietest for new enforcement actions, with just one from the DOJ and three from the SEC.
There were some sentencings -- including the longest prison term ever for an FCPA-related offense -- a few sentencing delays, a guilty plea, and some odds and ends. But during most of the quarter the DOJ was MIA and the SEC barely popped its head out.
Here's what happened:
DOJ / SEC Enforcement Actions
Bobby J. Elkin, Jr., Baxter J. Myers, Thomas G. Reynolds, and Tommy L. Williams (April 29) The SEC brought a civil enforcement action against the former employees of Dimon, Inc., now Alliance One International, Inc. Defendants Myers and Reynolds agreed to pay civil penalties of $40,000 each. All four defendants also consented to the entry of final judgments permanently enjoining them from violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA (Section 30A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934) and aiding and abetting violations of Sections 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B).
Technip S.A. (June 28) The Paris-based engineering and construction firm resolved FCPA-related charges resulting from bribes to Nigerian officials through the KBR-related TSKJ joint venture. It agreed to pay the DOJ a $240 million criminal penalty. It also settled a civil complaint filed by the SEC by disgorging $98 million in profits. It was charged in a two-count criminal information with one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the FCPA. Its two-year deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ requires Technip to retain an independent compliance monitor and cooperate in ongoing investigations.
Veraz Networks, Inc. (June 29) paid $300,000 to settle charges brought by the SEC that it violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by making illegal payments to foreign officials in China and Vietnam.
Charles Paul Edward Jumet (April 19), 53, was sentenced to 87 months in prison and fined $15,000. Prosecutors said it's the longest sentence ever in an FCPA-related case. He pleaded guilty in November 2009 to being part of a decade-long bribery conspiracy in Panama. A two-count criminal information charged him with conspiring to violate the FCPA and giving a false statement to the FBI about how he paid some of the bribe money.
Robert Antoine (June 2), 62, of Miami and Haiti, a former employee of Haiti’s state-owned national telecommunications company, was sentenced to 48 months in prison for being part of a bribery and money-laundering scheme. He pleaded guilty in March this year to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was also ordered by a federal judge in Miami to pay $1,852,209 in restitution and to forfeit $1,580,771, and serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.
John Webster Warwick (June 25), 64, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian government officials to secure maritime contracts. He also received two years of supervised release following his prison term and forfeited $331,000 in proceeds of the crime. The DOJ did not explain why his sentence was five years shorter than his co-defendant, Charles Jumet (see above).
Ousama M. Naaman (June 25), 61, a dual citizen of Canada and Lebanon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Innospec's former agent in Iraq was charged in a June 24, 2010 superseding information with engaging in an eight-year conspiracy to defraud the United Nations oil-for-food program and bribing Iraqi officials. No sentencing date was set.
Wojciech Chodan (April 21), 71, a U.K. citizen, was ordered extradited from Britain to the U.S. by a London court. He was indicted in February 2009 by a federal grand jury in Houston for helping KBR and its partners bribe Nigerian officials. His fellow countryman Jeffery Tesler, a London lawyer indicted at the same time, also lost his extradition hearing in March this year. With appeals, their extraditions may not be final for at least a year.
Gerald and Patricia Green (April 29 and June 7) Their sentencing was delayed and then removed from the court's calendar. The judge in Los Angeles federal court is examining evidence about Mr. Green's medical condition and sentences in similar cases.
Albert "Jack" Stanley (mid June), 66, had final sentencing delayed until at least September 23, 2010. The former chairman and CEO of KBR pleaded guilty in September 2008 to a two-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit mail and wire fraud. He's free on unsecured bail of $100,000 pending final sentencing, which has been rescheduled a half dozen times. He was sentenced to 84 months in prison and a restitution payment of $10.8 million. The jail term is subject to review based on his cooperation with the government in related prosecutions (see Chodan and Tesler above).
Sojitz (May 27) The DOJ intervened in the second civil suit brought by Aluminium Bahrain BSC -- known as Alba -- against a raw material supplier and broker. It asked for a stay in Alba's suit against Japanese trading company Sojitz Corp. More than two years ago, the Justice Department obtained a stay in Alba's civil suit against Alcoa, Inc. The DOJ said discovery in the cases could interfere with the government's own investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing including possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by Alcoa, Sojitz and other parties.
New Charging Document
Shot-show prosecution (April 19) The government filed a superseding indictment in the prosecution of the 22 shot-show defendants, charging them under a consolidated grand jury indictment with 44 counts, including conspiracy to violate the FCPA, substantive FCPA offenses, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and aiding and abetting.
In the Pipeline
Panalpina (April 29) The Swiss logistics giant said it expects settlement "in the near future" with the DOJ and SEC of FCPA-related charges. The case dates back to at least early February 2007. The DOJ noted then in connection with Vetco's FCPA settlement that bribes in Nigeria "were paid through a major international freight forwarding and customs clearance company to employees of the Nigerian Customs Service . . .”
Civil Suit Private parties have no right of action under the FCPA. Only the DOJ and SEC can enforce it. Plaintiffs bring FCPA-related claims under RICO (18 U.S.C. § 1962(c)), conspiracy to violate RICO (18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)), fraud, civil conspiracy, breach of fiduciary duties, and others.
Parker Drilling's directors (early June) were sued in a derivative action in Harris County, Texas after the company's detailed disclosure about a DOJ / SEC investigation of compliance problems in Nigeria and Kazakhstan.
San Jose, California-based VOiP company Veraz Networks, Inc. paid $300,000 to settle charges brought by the SEC that it violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by making illegal payments to foreign officials in China and Vietnam.
The SEC said the company hired a consultant in China who in 2007 and 2008 gave gifts and offered improper payments worth about $40,000 to officials at a government-controlled telco to win business for Veraz. Also in 2007 and 2008, a Veraz employee made improper payments to the CEO of a government-controlled company in Vietnam to win.
Veraz had disclosed the $300,000 settlement with the SEC in March. It said then that because of the ongoing compliance investigations, it had to delay filing its quarterly reports for March and May 2008. That resulted in NASDAQ warning Veraz "that its common stock may be subject to delisting." NASDAQ ultimately granted an extension for the filings, which were made in July 2008, allowing Veraz's common stock to continue to be listed.
The company said in November 2009 that it had spent $2.5 million to investigate and handle the FCPA compliance issues. The SEC began investigating the company in early 2008. Veraz then launched an internal investigation and discovered potential FCPA violations in China and Indonesia, which it self-reported. The SEC then requested documents related to Vietnam.
The SEC said without elaborating that it had help in its investigation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Veraz Networks trades on NASDAQ under the symbol VRAZ.
View the SEC's Litigation Release No. 21581 (June 29, 2010) in Securities and Exchange Commission v. Veraz Networks, Inc., Case No. CV-10-2849 (PVT) (N.D. Cal. filed June 29, 2010) here.
View the SEC's civil complaint against Veraz here.
VOiP provider Veraz Networks said in an earnings release Thursday that it has reached agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. It said it would pay a civil penalty of $300,000 and agree to entry of an injunction "prohibiting violations of the non-fraud provisions" of the FCPA. It also said the settlement still needs final approval by the SEC and the court. A copy of Veraz's March 11, 2010 release is here.
San Jose, California-based Veraz Networks trades on NASDAQ under the symbol VRAZ.
The SEC began investigating the company in early 2008. Veraz then launched an internal investigation and discovered potential FCPA violations in China and Indonesia, which it self-reported to the SEC. The SEC also requested documents related to Vietnam.
Because of the ongoing investigations, the company had to delay filing its quarterly reports for March and May 2008. That resulted in NASDAQ warning Veraz "that its common stock may be subject to delisting." NASDAQ ultimately granted an extension for the filings, which were made in July 2008, allowing Veraz's common stock to continue to be listed.
The company said in November 2009 that it had spent $2.5 million to investigate and handle the FCPA compliance issues.
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A copy of Veraz's November 16, 2009 Form 10-Q is here. The company's disclosure in that filing regarding the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act said:
On April 3, 2008, the Company received a letter from the SEC informing it that the SEC was conducting a confidential inquiry, or SEC Inquiry, and requesting that the Company voluntarily produce documents in connection with the SEC Inquiry. On April 5, 2008, the Company’s Board of Directors appointed a special committee, or Special Committee, consisting entirely of independent directors to cooperate with the SEC in connection with the SEC Inquiry and to oversee an independent investigation into the matters raised by the SEC Inquiry. . . .
On July 17, 2008, Independent Counsel reported their findings to representatives of the SEC and, on July 21, 2008, provided to the SEC copies of certain documents collected by Independent Counsel during the course of its independent investigation. The Company provided all the requested documents to SEC.
As a result of the SEC Inquiry, the Company was not able to file timely its quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the first quarter ended March 31, 2008 and, on May 21, 2008, the Company received a notification letter from NASDAQ stating that its common stock may be subject to delisting in accordance the NASDAQ rules.
The Company’s management attended a hearing on July 24, 2008 to request that NASDAQ grant the Company’s request for an extension of time in which to comply with the NASDAQ listing standards. On July 29, 2008, the Company filed its quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2008 and now believes it is in compliance with all SEC filing requirements. Additionally, on August 6, 2008, the Company received notification from NASDAQ informing the Company that the NASDAQ hearing panel had determined to continue listing the Company’s common stock on the NASDAQ.
During the course of the SEC inquiry, the Company became aware of allegations of misconduct relating to the Company’s business practices in the Asia Pacific region that, if true, may constitute violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA. These potential FCPA violations include alleged misconduct related to a Chinese customer and an Indonesian customer. In addition, the Special Committee was informed and made the Company aware of allegations of possible fraud perpetrated against the Company and violations of the Company’s Code of Conduct and Ethics, or Policy. The allegations of possible fraud and violations of the Policy involve payments from a reseller to certain non-management employees (whose employment has since been terminated) and other potentially inappropriate commercial relationships between non-management employees and a reseller.
On January 27, 2009, the Company received a subpoena from the SEC requesting documents related to the Company’s business practices in Vietnam. In connection with such SEC investigation, the Company produced documents and provided testimony relevant to the SEC’s investigation and is continuing to cooperate with the SEC in its investigation. In November 2009, the Staff of the SEC contacted the Company concerning some of the transactions described above and the Company is cooperating with the Staff.
At the current time, the Company cannot determine the probability of or quantify the amount of any fines or penalties associated with the SEC matters discussed above.
There were no expenses incurred related to SEC investigation in the three and nine months ended September 30, 2009. During the three and nine months ended September 30, 2008, the Company had incurred SEC investigation expenses of $0.2 million and $2.3 million, respectively. To date, the Company has incurred expenses related to the SEC investigation of approximately $2.5 million.