Colorado Mining Company Announces FCPA Investigation

Recently, a gold mining company based in Colorado disclosed in its quarterly filings an investigation of certain business activities of the company and its affiliates outside the U.S. for possible violations of the FCPA. The company stated that it had hired outside counsel to assist in the investigation, and it was working with the SEC and DOJ with respect to the investigation. The company also stated that, in March 2016, it entered into one-year tolling agreements with the SEC and DOJ. The company’s recent disclosure of the investigation did not specify the nature of the business activities being investigated or where the potential misconduct took place, but the company has mining operations in Ghana, Australia, Indonesia, Peru, and Suriname.

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Consultant Pleads Guilty to FCPA Charges Before Trial

On April 20, the DOJ announced that Dmitrij Harder, the former owner and president of two Pennsylvania consulting companies pleaded guilty to violations of the FCPA. Mr. Harder pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the FCPA by bribing an official at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) before U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The EBRD was a development bank based in London that was owned by approximately 65 sovereign nations and provided financing for development projects in Eastern Europe. On March 2, Judge Diamond ruled that the FCPA covered EBRD as a public international organization, rejecting one of Harder’s key defenses at his upcoming trial. Read more…

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DOJ Settles with New Jersey Mortgage Lender Over False Claims Act Violations

On April 15, the DOJ announced a $113 million settlement with a New Jersey-based mortgage company to resolve allegations that the mortgage lender violated the False Claims Act. According to the DOJ, the mortgage company – acting as a direct endorsement lender in HUD’s Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program – knowingly originated and accepted FHA-insured mortgage loans that did not properly comply with HUD origination, underwriting, and quality control requirements. As part of the settlement agreement, the mortgage company agreed that it failed to (i) meet HUD underwriting requirements from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2011; (ii) adhere to FHA’s quality control requirements between 2006 and 2008 by not sharing with production and underwriting management its early payment default quality control review; (iii) perform timely quality control reviews or perform audits of early payment defaults between 2008 and 2010; and (iv) report improperly originated loans between 2006 and 2011. The DOJ’s investigation further found that, after conducting a review of FHA loans underwritten between 2007 and 2012, the mortgage company self-reported to HUD only one of hundreds of loans that the company identified as not meeting FHA mortgage insurance requirements. Per the settlement agreement, the mortgage company must make an initial payment of $26 million by May 2, 2016.

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DOJ Settles with National Bank Over Underwriting Practices

On April 8, the DOJ announced a $1.2 billion settlement with a San Francisco-based bank and the bank’s Vice President of Credit-Risk – Quality Assurance to resolve allegations that the bank submitted false claims for FHA insurance in connection with loans that did not meet FHA underwriting standards. According to DOJ, “[d]uring the period May 1, 2001 through on or about December 31, 2008, [the bank] (or its predecessor) submitted to HUD certifications stating that certain loans were eligible for FHA mortgage insurance when in fact they were not.” The settlement agreement further explains that when certain of these loans defaulted, HUD paid for the insurance claims out of the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund. In addition, the settlement agreement states that from January 2002 through December 2010, the bank failed to inform HUD that the bank’s quality assurance personnel had determined that some of the FHA-insured loans contained a material finding. In response to this failure to self-report, the DOJ also asserted claims against the bank’s VP of Credit-Risk – Quality Assurance, as the individual responsible for overseeing the bank’s self-reporting policy and procedures. Both the bank and the individual officer acknowledged responsibility for the alleged violations as part of the settlement agreement.

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DOJ Announces New Pilot Program to Encourage FCPA Cooperation and Self-Reporting

On April 5, the DOJ announced a one-year pilot program designed to encourage corporations to voluntarily self-report FCPA-related misconduct and cooperate with the DOJ. The program emerges from the DOJ’s heightened focus on individual accountability as highlighted in the Yates Memo. For corporations that (i) voluntarily disclose the misconduct and all relevant facts related to the misconduct “within a reasonably prompt time after becoming aware of the offense”; (ii) fully cooperate with the DOJ investigation; and (iii) take appropriate actions towards remediation, the DOJ may offer up to a 50% fine reduction from the bottom of the applicable Sentencing Guidelines fine range calculation, and will generally not require the appointment of a monitor if the corporation has already implemented an effective compliance plan. Furthermore, the DOJ notes that in certain circumstances, it will consider declining prosecution altogether.

While the pilot program ends in one year, any corporation that voluntarily self-reports or cooperates in FCPA matters during the pilot period will be eligible for the benefits, even if the pilot period expires during the investigation. More details and specific requirements can be found in the DOJ’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement Plan and Guidance.

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