On December 21, the FIFA Ethics Committee announced that it would ban its embattled President, Sepp Blatter, and Vice President, Michel Platini, from all football-related activities for eight years. The ban was imposed as a result of an investigation into a payment of $2 million from FIFA to Platini in 2011 that was authorized by Blatter. The Ethics Committee’s statement on their decision stated that the payment was made without a legal basis. Platini is currently the head of UEFA, the governing body of European football. News reports state that it was widely anticipated that Platini would be elected President of FIFA in the upcoming 2016 election, but he has now withdrawn his candidacy following the Ethics Committee’s decision. Click here to view prior InfoBytes coverage on FIFA.
On January 8, the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office announced that a printing company specializing in official documents such as election ballots was ordered to pay penalties totaling £2.2 million following its 2014 conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. The SFO’s announcement regarding the sentencing stated that its investigation began in 2010 and centered on £395,074 in corrupt payments made to foreign officials in Kenya and Mauritania. Two of the company’s former employees, also convicted in connection with the same investigation, were ordered to pay penalties totaling over £20,000.
On December 10, the DOJ announced three unsealed indictments of a total of 20 defendants in connection with various money laundering schemes. Fifteen of the defendants were arrested and taken into custody, while the remaining individuals are still being sought by authorities.
The first indictment alleges that the former president and CEO of an Orange County, California bank and five other individuals, as members of a narcotics trafficking and international money laundering organization, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by participating in schemes to launder drug proceeds. According to the DOJ, the former bank official used his position, insider knowledge, and connections to “promote and facilitate money laundering transactions involving members and associates of the enterprise.” The DOJ alleges that the six defendants (i) arranged to convert purported drug proceeds, in the form of cash provided by an undercover informant, into cashier’s checks made out to a company the informant claimed to own; (ii) proposed to an informant that the informant and his boss purchase a controlling interest in the Orange County bank to more easily facilitate money laundering operations; and (iii) proposed to set up a foundation in Liechtenstein to be used, in part, to launder the informant’s drug sale proceeds. Read more…
DOJ Charges 16 Additional Individuals with FIFA-Related Corruption; Swiss Authorities Arrest Two High-Ranking FIFA Members
On December 3, the DOJ charged an additional 16 individuals in connection with its ongoing corruption investigation into FIFA. The new indictment included a number of high ranking FIFA members, including Alfredo Hawit, the president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and vice-president of FIFA, and Juan Angel Napout, the president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and a member of the FIFA executive committee. Both of these individuals were arrested by Swiss authorities in Zurich and are opposing extradition to the United States.
With the additional 16 individuals, a total of 41 people and entities have been charged as part of the DOJ’s ongoing investigation.
FinCrimes Webinar Series Recap: The Role of Corruption Risk in a Financial Crimes Compliance Program
BuckleySandler hosted a webinar, The Role of Corruption Risk in a Financial Crimes Compliance Program: What are Banks Doing to Detect Corruption in the Wake of the FIFA Scandal?, on September 24, 2015 as part of their ongoing FinCrimes Webinar Series. Panelists included Thomas Coupe, EMEA Global Financial Crimes at Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Compliance; Gaon Hart, Global Anti-Bribery & Corruption Policy and Education Lead at HSBC; and Denisse Rudich, Financial Crimes Compliance Specialist at Firedrake Consulting. The following is a summary of the guided conversation moderated by Jamie Parkinson, partner at BuckleySandler, and key take-aways you can implement in your company.
Best Practice Tips and Take-Aways:
- Corruption risk for a financial services firm is presented both directly and indirectly. Corruption risk is presented directly when an employee or third parties acting on behalf of an institution act in a way that implicated anti-corruption laws, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, U.K. Bribery Act or another anti-corruption law. Corruption risk is presented indirectly when a customer seeks to use a financial institution for a corrupt deal or to hold or transmit funds associated with a corrupt scheme.
- It is important to have one person your organization can look to when an anti-corruption concern arises. This person should serve as the point of contact for your regulators and have the ability to quickly escalate concerns to senior management and the board of directors.
- New customers with past corruption issues present special challenges. Be sure that your onboarding and due diligence processes are able to identify and evaluate these concerns.
- Bear in mind that corruption risk management also requires looking at your organization internally. This means examining your own employees for conflicts issues, evaluating your organization’s sponsorships and donations, and performing due diligence on your third-party suppliers.
- Effective anti-corruption risk management requires cultivating a culture within your organization that supports your efforts. This is an area that regulators are increasingly interested in.
On June 10, Eletrobras, Brazil’s state-run power company, announced that it had hired Hogan Lovells to investigate potential violations of the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws and corporate policies. The focus of the investigation will be “projects in which Eletrobras Companies take part in a corporate form or as minority shareholder, through special purpose entities.” According to an earlier Eletrobras filing, the investigation was triggered by testimony taken in conjunction with the Brazilian government’s ongoing investigation of corruption allegations against Petrobras, dubbed “Operation Car Wash.” That testimony alleged that the CEO of an Eletrobras subsidiary received illicit payments from a consortium of companies bidding for the Angra 3 power plant project.
BuckleySandler hosted a webinar, Dealing with PEPs: AML & Corruption Risks, on December 18, 2014 as part of its ongoing FinCrimes Webinar Series. Panelists included Mary Butler, Deputy Chief, International Unit, at the Asset Forfeiture & Money Laundering Section, Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice; Paul Dougherty, Managing Director of the anti-money laundering program for the United States and Canada at Bank of America; and Noreen Fierro, Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer of the Group Insurance Division of Prudential Financial. The following is a summary of the guided conversation moderated by Jamie Parkinson, partner at BuckleySandler, and key take-aways you can implement in your company.
Key Tips and Take-Aways:
- Make sure that the organization has appropriate procedures in place to identify Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and that those procedures appropriately explain how a PEP is defined by the institution.
- Understand the different global standards for PEP compliance and, where appropriate, have country-specific policies and procedures to manage onboarding and monitoring.
- Encourage cooperation among the different financial crime compliance disciplines within your institution to assist in identifying and monitoring PEPs.
On August 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a district court’s holding that the Dodd-Frank Act’s antiretaliation provision does not apply extraterritorially. Liu Meng-Lin v. Siemens AG, No. 13-4385, 2014 WL 3953672 (2nd Cir. Aug. 14, 2014). A foreign worker was allegedly fired by his foreign employer for internally reporting violations of U.S. anti-corruption rules, which he claimed violated the antiretaliation provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. This provision prohibits an employer from firing or otherwise discriminating against any employee who makes a disclosure that is required or protected under Sarbanes-Oxley or any other law, rule, or regulation subject to the SEC’s jurisdiction. The court first determined that the facts alleged in the complaint revealed “essentially no contact with the United States” and rejected an argument that the foreign company voluntarily subjected itself to U.S. securities laws by listing its securities on the New York Stock Exchange. The court also held that, given the longstanding presumption against extraterritoriality and the absence of any “explicit statutory evidence that Congress meant for the provision to apply extraterritorially,” the cited provision does not apply to purely foreign-based claims.
On July 23, Thomas Baxter, General Counsel for the New York Federal Reserve Bank, in public remarks at a risk management conference, questioned the FCPA’s “exception for ‘facilitating or expediting payments’ made in furtherance of routine government action.” Mr. Baxter stated that “official corruption is a problem that some U.S. financial institutions have found challenging during the last year,” and suggested that those problems could derive from an organizational value system undermined by the facilitating payments exception. Mr. Baxter acknowledged that the exception “is grounded in a practical reality,” but expressed his preference for a zero tolerance standard. He explained that “when an organizational policy allows some types of official corruption . . ., this diminishes the efficacy of compliance rules that are directed toward stopping official corruption.” He urged U.S. financial institutions to foster organizational value systems that “go beyond black-letter U.S. law” with regard to official corruption. Mr. Baxter made these comments in the context of a broader speech on organizational culture and its impact on compliance in which he also suggested that foreign banks’ recent sanctions and tax evasion compliance woes could be explained by a difference in the corporate values of foreign and U.S. banks and their employees when it comes to laws designed to support broader U.S. public policy.
On May 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit became the first circuit court to define “instrumentality” under the FCPA. U.S. v. Esquenazi, No. 11-15331 (11th Cir. May 16, 2014). The FCPA generally prohibits bribes to a “foreign official” defined as “any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof.” Two individuals appealed their convictions and sentences imposed for FCPA and related violations, arguing that the telecommunications company whose employees they were alleged to have bribed in exchange for relief from debt owed to that company was not, as the government asserted and a jury found, an “instrumentality” of a foreign government. As the court explained, “instrumentality” is not defined in the FCPA, and no circuit court has yet offered a definition. The court held that, based on the statutory context of the term following amendment of the FCPA in 1998 to implement the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, an instrumentality is “an entity controlled by the government of a foreign country that performs a function the controlling government treats as its own.” The court explained that to determine control, triers of fact should consider (i) the foreign government’s formal designation of the entity; (ii) whether the government has a majority interest in the entity; (iii) the government’s ability to hire and fire the entity’s principals; (iv) the extent to which the entity’s profits, if any, go directly into the governmental fisc, and the extent to which the government funds the entity if it fails to break even; and (v) the length of time those indicia have existed. The court added that the factors to consider in determining whether an entity performs a function of the government include: (i) whether the entity has a monopoly over the function it exists to carry out; (ii) whether the government subsidizes the costs associated with the entity providing services; (iii) whether the entity provides services to the public at large in the foreign country; and (iv) whether the public and the government of that foreign country generally perceive the entity to be performing a governmental function. In this case, the court determined that the telecommunications company at issue was an instrumentality under the FCPA, and after applying that decision to the convicted individuals’ specific challenges, affirmed their convictions and sentences.
On April 14, the DOJ and the SEC announced additional charges in a previously announced case against employees of a U.S. broker-dealer related to an alleged “massive international bribery scheme.” The DOJ announced the arrest of the CEO and a managing partner of the New York-based U.S. broker-dealer on felony charges arising from an alleged conspiracy to pay bribes to a senior official in Venezuela’s state economic development bank in exchange for the official directing financial trading business to the broker-dealer. The SEC, whose routine compliance examination detected the allegedly illegal conduct, announced parallel civil charges against the same two executives. Broker-dealer employees charged earlier in the case pleaded guilty last August for conspiring to violate the FCPA, the Travel Act, and anti-money laundering laws, as well as for substantive counts of those offenses, relating, among other things, to the scheme involving bribe payments. In November 2013, the Venezuelan bank senior official pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court for conspiring to violate the Travel Act and anti-money laundering laws, as well as for substantive counts of those offenses, for her role in the scheme.
Recently, the DOJ issued its first opinion release of 2014 regarding application of the FCPA. In this instance, an investment bank and securities issuer who was a majority shareholder of a foreign financial services company sought the DOJ’s opinion with regard to the bank’s purchase of the remaining minority interest from a foreign businessman who now serves as a senior foreign official. The DOJ determined that based on the facts and representations described by the requestor, the only purpose of the payment to the official would be consideration for the minority interest. The DOJ explained that although the FCPA generally prohibits an issuer from corruptly giving or offering anything of value to any “foreign official” in order to assist “in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to” the issuer, it does not “per se prohibit business relationships with, or payments to, foreign officials.” In this situation, the DOJ determined, based on numerous, fact-intensive considerations, that the transfer of value as proposed would not be prohibited under the FCPA. The DOJ found no indications of corrupt intent, citing, among other things, the proffered purpose to sever the parties’ existing financial relationship to avoid a conflict of interest, and the use of a reasonable alternative valuation model. The DOJ also determined the bank demonstrated that the parties would appropriately and meaningfully disclose their relationships before the sale closed, and that the bank would implement strict recusal and conflict-of-interest-avoidance measures to prevent the shareholder/foreign official from assisting the bank in obtaining or retaining business. As with all Opinion Releases under the FCPA, the DOJ cautioned that the opinion has no binding application to any other party.
On March 19, the DOJ announced that Marubeni Corporation, a Japanese trading company, agreed to plead guilty to violating the FCPA by participating in a seven-year scheme to bribe high-ranking government officials in Indonesia to help the company secure a contract for a power project. The DOJ charged that to conceal the bribes, the company and a consortium partner retained two consultants purportedly to provide legitimate consulting services on behalf of the power company and its subsidiaries in connection with the project. The DOJ asserted, however, that the primary purpose for hiring the consultants was to use them to pay bribes to Indonesian officials.The eight-count criminal information against the company included one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and seven counts of violating the FCPA. As part of its plea, the company admitted its criminal conduct and agreed to pay a criminal fine of $88 million, subject to the district court’s approval. Sentencing is scheduled for May 15, 2014. Two years ago, the company entered a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay $54.6 million to resolve allegations it acted as an agent for a joint venture in a scheme to bribe Nigerian officials.
On January 6, the DOJ announced that two former CEOs of an oil and gas services company had been charged for their alleged involvement in a scheme to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and for other related offenses. The DOJ also revealed that the company’s former General Counsel (GC) had entered a guilty plea on bribery and fraud charges related to the alleged schemes. According to two separate Criminal Complaints that were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the former CEOs allegedly paid bribes to a Colombian official for his assistance in securing approval of a contract valued at approximately $39 million. They were also charged with attempting to defraud members of the company’s board through their attempts to secure kickbacks for themselves as part of an effort to acquire another firm. The Information filed against the former GC provided further details on the bribery and kickback schemes.
On December 20, the DOJ and the SEC announced separate enforcement actions against a major U.S. agribusiness firm and one of its foreign subsidiaries. In the DOJ action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, a foreign subsidiary of the U.S. corporate parent pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, and agreed to pay $17.8 million in criminal fines. The plea agreement resolved allegations that the subsidiary paid bribes through intermediary firms to Ukrainian government officials in exchange for over $100 million in value-added tax (VAT) refunds. The DOJ also entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. parent to resolve claims that the company failed to implement internal controls sufficient to prevent and detect FCPA violations. Under that agreement, the company must periodically report on its compliance efforts, and continue implementing enhanced compliance programs and internal controls. The SEC’s parallel civil enforcement action resolved charges that the parent firm’s lack of sufficient anti-bribery compliance controls, which contributed to FCPA violations by foreign subsidiaries that generated over $33 million in illegal profits. The U.S. parent corporation consented to entry of a judgment that requires the company to disgorge the illegal profits plus $3 million in interest. The judgment also permanently enjoins the parent company from violating the relevant parts of the Exchange Act and requires compliance reporting for a three-year period.