On September 29, 2016, the DOJ issued two declination letters concerning suspected FCPA violations, closing their investigations of two Texas-based corporations. The DOJ claims that its investigation of one of the corporations found that the company’s employees paid approximately $500,000 in bribes to Venezuela and China government officials in order to influence those officials’ purchasing decisions and thereby secure approximately $2.7 million in profits. With respect to its investigation of the second corporation, DOJ claims that the company’s China subsidiary provided approximately $45,000 worth of benefits to China government officials to obtain sales which generated profits of approximately $335,000. In connection with the issuance of the declination letters, the companies agreed to the disgorgement of their profits from the sales associated with their purportedly illegal conduct. Read more…
On October 20, the DOJ announced that a former president of a soccer event management company pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges. His guilty plea came in response to allegations that, as the company’s former president, he negotiated and made bribe payments totaling more than $14 million on behalf of the company to a high ranking soccer official in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches. As part of the plea, the company’s former president agreed to forfeit approximately half a million dollars and could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years for each count.
The guilty plea came as part of the U.S. government’s investigation into corruption in international soccer. It follows guilty pleas from the soccer event management company itself, its international parent company, and the parent company’s owner, in connection with related charges brought by the DOJ.
Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigation can be found here.
On September 26, the DOJ announced charges against a Chinese trading company and its executives for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and to defraud the United States; as well as for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments through U.S. financial institutions. The criminal complaint alleges that the company served as a third-party payer, using an illicit network of front companies, financial facilitators, and trade representatives to purchase sugar and fertilizer for a banking entity based in North Korea that OFAC had designated as a Specially Designated National (SDN) in 2009. The civil forfeiture complaint seeks forfeiture of funds spread out across 25 different bank accounts located in China and connected to the affairs of the company. In addition, OFAC imposed sanctions on the company, which is located near the North Korean border and openly worked with the SDN banking entity after 2009.
On September 29, the DOJ announced a settlement with a large regional bank, whereby the bank agreed to pay $83 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by originating and underwriting mortgage loans insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that did not meet applicable FHA requirements. In addition to underwriting defects, the DOJ alleged deficiencies in the bank’s quality control function, especially during periods of increased loan volume, as well as failures to adequately self-report loans with material defects. The settlement is not an admission of liability by the bank. BuckleySandler represented the bank in this matter.
On September 29, the DOJ and OCC announced separate settlement agreements with a major U.S. bank regarding alleged violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The DOJ’s complaint alleged that the bank repossessed vehicles owned by active duty servicemembers without the required court orders. Under the DOJ consent order, the bank agreed to pay $10,000 to each affected servicemembers whose vehicles were repossessed between from January 2008 to July 2015 not in compliance with SCRA, plus any lost equity in the repossessed vehicle, with interest. The DOJ identified 413 affected servicemembers and the bank agreed to set aside $4,130,000 (or more if needed) to pay the required compensation. The bank also agreed to pay a $60,000 civil penalty. The DOJ acknowledged that the bank had in 2014, prior to the investigation, taken steps to ensure SCRA compliance with a full-scale review of its portfolio to identify servicemembers for SCRA protection, and had previously and voluntarily commenced efforts to compensate any affected borrowers. In the OCC consent order, the OCC found errors and deficiencies by the bank in four areas: (i) applying the 6% interest rate cap; (ii) filing accurate military status affidavits; (iii) repossessing servicemembers automobiles while they were on active duty; and (iv) implementing its SCRA compliance program. Under the consent order for a civil money penalty, the bank agreed to pay a civil money penalty of $20 million, to create a remediation plan for affected servicemembers, and to bolster its SCRA-related policies and procedures.