Russian Nuclear Official Pleads Guilty in FCPA-Related Case

On August 31, the DOJ announced that Vadim Mikerin, the former president of TENAM Corporation and a director of the Pan American Department of JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX), pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with arranging over $2 million in bribes for contracts with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation. TENEX, a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, is based in Moscow and acts as the sole supplier and exporter of Russian Federation uranium and uranium enrichment services to nuclear power companies worldwide. Mr. Mikerin admitted to conspiring to transfer funds from the United States to offshore accounts with the intent to perpetuate a bribery scheme in violation of the FCPA. These bribes were made to influence the award of contracts to transport down-blended uranium to US nuclear utility providers. As part of Mr. Mikerin’s plea agreement, he agreed to forfeit over $2.1 million he received in bribes. Mr. Mikerin is expected to be sentenced in December, and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In addition to Mr. Mikerin, two other individuals, Darren Condrey and Boris Rubizhevsky, have pleaded guilty for their respective involvement in the scheme, including conspiracy to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, respectively.

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Large Multinational Financial Services Company Settles FCPA Charges Relating to Internships

On August 18, the SEC announced a settlement with a large multinational financial services company over allegations that the company had violated the FCPA by giving internships to family members of government officials working at a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund in hopes of retaining or gaining more business from that fund. The order entered as part of the settlement quoted emails between company employees purportedly demonstrating that the company gave the internships in hopes of keeping and growing the business relationship with the fund. The SEC also alleged that the company gave the internships to the family members without requiring that they pass through the competitive screening process the company typically requires for interns. Finally, the SEC alleged that the company had inadequate controls to prevent the improper hiring of relatives of government officials. The company paid $14.8 million to settle the charges, with $8.3 million in disgorgement, $1.5 million in pre-judgment interest, and a $5 million penalty.

The company previously disclosed in January 2015 that it had received a Wells Notice concerning possible FCPA violations in connection with the internships. The settlement follows earlier press reports of a broad SEC investigation into bank hiring practices in Asia, and appears to be the first settlement resulting from the investigation.

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Former SAP Executive Pleads Guilty to Paying “Necessary” Bribes

On August 12, the DOJ and SEC announced joint enforcement actions against software giant SAP International’s former head of Latin American sales, Vicente Garcia. Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and will be sentenced on December 16, 2015 in the Northern District of California. The DOJ alleges that SAP paid bribes to Panamanian officials to secure software license sales in late 2009, using sham contracts and fake invoices. Garcia “admitted that he believed paying such bribes was necessary” to secure the contracts.

The SEC simultaneously issued an administrative cease and desist order against Garcia describing a scheme by which Garcia, in violation of SAP’s internal controls, gave discounts to a local business partner to generate excess earnings, which were used to create the slush fund used to pay at least $145,000 in bribes to secure approximately $3.7 million in sales. Garcia and others also arranged to receive kickbacks from the sales. Garcia agreed to pay disgorgement of the kickbacks he received plus prejudgment interest, totaling $92,395.

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Orthofix Deferred Prosecution Agreement Extended for Two Months

In a recently-filed status report, the DOJ and medical device manufacturer Orthofix revealed that the company’s Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) will be extended by two months. The DPA was due to expire on July 17, 2015, but the status report states that Orthofix agreed to the extension in June to give DOJ “additional time to (1) evaluate Orthofix’s compliance with the internal controls and compliance undertakings in the DPA and (2) further investigate potentially improper conduct the company disclosed during the term of the DPA.” The report continued that DOJ intended to complete its investigation in August and inform Orthofix “of its proposed course of action shortly thereafter.”

Orthofix entered into the DPA on July 10, 2012 to resolve allegations that a Mexico-based subsidiary paid bribes to employees of Mexico’s government-operated health system (see prior FCPA scorecard coverage).

Earlier this year, another medical device manufacturer, Biomet, announced that its DPA would be extended for one year after it disclosed additional potential FCPA violations to the DOJ and SEC.

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Vantage Drilling Self-Reports Potential FCPA Violation

On August 4, Vantage Drilling Company, an international offshore drilling contractor, acknowledged that an overseas agent had entered into plea discussions with Brazilian authorities and provided evidence in the ongoing corruption investigation focused on Petrobras. Vantage acknowledged that the agent had purportedly provided evidence related to a former director of Vantage and Petrobras. The company disclosed that it had opened an internal investigation and self-reported the matter to the DOJ and the SEC.

The Brazilian corruption investigations into Petrobras and its affiliates and counterparties continue to expand with no end in sight, and the expected related U.S. investigations are beginning to be disclosed.

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SEC Subpoenas Flowserve Corporation Related to FCPA Investigation

On July 30, Flowserve Corporation, a global supplier of industrial pumps, valves, and seals, disclosed that the SEC had issued a subpoena in connection with an investigation of potential FCPA violations. Flowserve revealed earlier this year that it had terminated an employee of an overseas subsidiary for conduct that violated its Code of Business Conduct and “may have violated” the FCPA. It self-reported the matter to the SEC and the DOJ and has now completed an internal investigation. Flowserve stated that it “currently believe[s] that this matter will not have a material adverse financial impact,” but that there are no assurances that it will not be subjected to penalties and additional costs.

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SEC Drops Investigation of NCR Corporation

On July 28, NCR Corporation, a leading global provider of ATM machines, announced that the SEC had decided not to pursue an enforcement action following an investigation of the company’s FCPA compliance. In 2013, the company disclosed that an anonymous whistleblower had alleged various FCPA and other violations in China, the Middle East (including Syrian sanctions issues), and Africa. The company stated that it had investigated internally and determined the allegations to be without merit. The company then disclosed the matter to the SEC and the DOJ, both of whom requested additional information. The company did not provide an update regarding the status of the DOJ’s inquiries.

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Mead Johnson Nutrition Settles SEC FCPA Charges for $12 Million

On July 28, Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (“Mead”), an infant formula maker, agreed to pay $12.03 million to settle civil FCPA charges with the SEC. The SEC alleged that a majority-owned subsidiary in China used discounts given to third-party distributors to make over $2 million in bribes from 2008 to 2013 to healthcare professionals at state-owned hospitals, to get them to push the use of Mead’s products to new mothers, reaping profits of over $7 million. The SEC also alleged that the subsidiary’s books and records were false as a result of the improper payments, and were then consolidated into the parent company’s books and records; Mead’s internal controls were also alleged to be deficient. Mead did not admit or deny liability.

Of note, the settlement came through the SEC’s administrative process, continuing the trend at the SEC of sending cases to its internal decision-makers instead of to a federal court. The alleged facts also highlight the danger of directing the activities of third-party distributors (here, related to the use of discounts provided to them).

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SEC Opens FIFA-Related Investigations

Although not yet confirmed by the SEC, media reports suggest that the SEC has opened several investigations of publicly traded companies who contracted with FIFA. Indictments in the FIFA cases have alleged that certain companies paid kickbacks to officials of FIFA and related organizations in order to win marketing and apparel contracts. The specific companies targeted in the SEC’s new probe have not yet been named. Without the apparent involvement of a foreign official in the FIFA cases, presumably the SEC will be focusing on the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA, along with other potential violations.

Previous BuckleySandler coverage of this investigation can be found here.

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FIFA Investigation Update: First FIFA Official Extradited to United States

On July 15, after 50 days of detention, a high-ranking FIFA official widely reported to be former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb was extradited from Switzerland to the United States. Webb ultimately agreed to be extradited despite initially contesting his extradition at a hearing following his arrest. Six other FIFA officials arrested in connection with DOJ’S corruption investigation are continuing to fight extradition. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice is overseeing the extradition proceedings.

All seven officials were formally indicted by the DOJ on May 27.

Previous BuckleySandler coverage of this investigation can be found here

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LBI Enters Into DPA and Former Executives Plead Guilty to Resolve DOJ FCPA Investigation

On July 17, the DOJ announced that Louis Berger International Inc. (“LBI”) had agreed to enter into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement to resolve the DOJ’s FCPA investigation into the New Jersey-based construction management company’s operations in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Kuwait.  LBI also agreed to pay a $17.1 criminal penalty.  LBI admitted that it bribed foreign officials to secure government construction management contracts around the world.  According to the company’s admissions regarding a conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, from 1998 to 2010, LBI concealed $3.9 million in corrupt payments through various methods, including (i) using inflated and fictitious invoices that were used for the payments of bribes through intermediaries, and (ii) paying fictitious “commitment fees,” “counterpart per diems,” “marketing fees,” and “field operation expenses.”

Under the terms of the DPA, the DOJ will defer criminal prosecution of LBI for a period of three years and the company will retain an independent compliance monitor for three years.  In addition, Richard Hirsch of the Philippines and James McClung of the United Arab Emirates, both former executives of LBI, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA.  They are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 5, 2015. Continuing its recent trend, the DOJ emphasized the company’s self-disclosure and cooperation, as well as remediation efforts.

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DOJ Seeks Civil Forfeiture of $34 Million in Bribe Payments Made to Chadian Diplomats by Griffiths Energy

On June 30, the DOJ filed a Complaint to forfeit shares of Griffiths Energy International, a Canadian energy company accused of bribing various Republic of Chad diplomats to receive oil development rights in Chad.  The diplomats include the former Chadian Ambassador to the United States and Canada, and Chad’s Deputy Chief of Mission to the United States.  The assets at issue are currently frozen in the U.K.

The DOJ is seeking roughly $34 million in Griffiths Energy shares, as the cash value amount “traceable to, and involved in the laundering of, bribe payments made to the Chadian diplomats” for the rights to develop oil blocks in Chad. According to the Complaint, the former Ambassador, serving from 2004 to 2012, and the Deputy Chief of Mission, serving from approximately 2007 through the end of 2014, used their official positions to assist Griffiths Energy in securing development rights to oil blocks in Chad. The bribes were allegedly paid in several ways, including through issuance of company shares and payments to companies nominally owned by the wives and associates of the diplomats.  The Complaint highlighted that before the company pursued the shell company avenue, legal counsel had warned the company that a planned consulting agreement directly with the Ambassador was illegal.  This Complaint follows a separate suit by the DOJ in 2014, with sought a “civil forfeiture of over $100,000 in allegedly laundered funds traceable to the $2 million bribe payments.”

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FIFA Investigation Updates: Plea Agreement with American FIFA Official Unsealed

On June 15, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York unsealed a 2013 plea agreement under which American FIFA Executive Committee Member Chuck Blazer secretly pleaded guilty to ten charges related to corruption in the soccer organization. Mr. Blazer agreed to forfeit more than $1.9 million, and to pay back-taxes and penalties on more than $11 million in unreported income.

According to the plea agreement, Mr. Blazer began cooperating with the DOJ’s investigation in December of 2011, even agreeing to work undercover making secret recordings. The unsealing of the plea agreement is the latest development in the ongoing fallout from the racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering indictments announced three weeks ago by the DOJ against soccer executives at FIFA and others tied to the organization. Mr. Blazer’s testimony at his plea hearing in November 2013 was unsealed two weeks ago.

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DOJ Reaches Agreement with Government Contracting Company and Former VP over Alleged Bribery

On June 16, the DOJ entered into a non-prosecution agreement with a Florida-based defense and government contracting company to resolve allegations that it conspired to bribe Kuwaiti officials for the purpose of securing a government contract. In connection with his alleged involvement in the bribery scheme, the company’s former vice president (VP) also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). In 2004, Kuwait’s Ministry of the Interior initiated the Kuwait Security Program, a homeland security project intended to “provide nationwide surveillance for several Kuwaiti government agencies, primarily through the use of closed-circuit television cameras.” The program was divided into two phases: (i) the planning and feasibility period; and (ii) the installment of equipment, methods, and programs suggested during the first phase. According to the non-prosecution agreement, the company and its former VP schemed to ensure that the company won both the Phase I and II contracts. Specifically, the company, its former VP, and other senior employees established a shell company to bid on Phase I, giving the company an advantage in the Phase II bidding, which contained the more lucrative revenues. The shell company secured the Phase I contract for approximately $4 million, and half of those funds were allegedly diverted to a consultant who bribed Kuwaiti officials to assist the government contracting company in obtaining the Phase II contract. Admitting to the DOJ Criminal Division’s charges and cooperating with the federal investigation, the company has agreed to (i) pay a $7.1 million penalty; (ii) conduct a review of its current internal controls, policies, and procedures, and make any necessary changes to ensure that its record keeping and anti-corruption compliance program are sufficient; and (iii) report annually to the Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia on the remediation and implementation of its compliance program and internal controls, policies, and procedures.

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Net 1 Announces Closure of SEC FCPA Investigation

On June 8, Net 1 UEPS Technologies, Inc., a South Africa-based mobile payments company incorporated in Florida, announced that the SEC had closed a FCPA investigation arising out of a contract with the South African Social Security Agency. The SEC and the DOJ opened parallel investigations in November 2012, and the DOJ investigation remains ongoing. Net 1 has asserted that the investigation was instigated by one of the losing bidders on the contract.

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