Two Additional Businessmen Plead Guilty in Venezuelan Oil Company Scheme

On January 10, it was announced that two additional defendants, owners of Florida and Texas-based energy companies, had pleaded guilty to foreign bribery charges related to a scheme to corruptly secure energy contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

According to admissions contained here and here, they conspired with other previously charged defendants from 2008 through 2012 to pay bribes and other things of value, including recreational travel, meals, and entertainment to the company’s officials to obtain energy contracts or receive payment for previously awarded contracts. Some of the bribes were paid to the company’s official’s relative to conceal the nature, source, and ownership of the bribe.

In total, eight individuals have now pleaded guilty in cases related to the government’s investigation into bribery at the company. The government’s investigation is ongoing. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage on the company’s investigations can be found here.

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Four Individuals Face FCPA Charges Related to Vietnam Project

On January 10, the DOJ announced the unsealing of an indictment charging four individuals, including the nephew and brother of former UN Secretary-General with violations of the FCPA and other offenses in connection with the attempted $800 million sale of a commercial building known as Landmark 72 in Hanoi, Vietnam. According to the government, the brother and nephew conspired to bribe a governmental official of an unnamed Middle Eastern country to get his country to purchase the building from a Korea-based company, where the brother was then a senior executive. To facilitate the sale of Landmark 72, the Korea-based company hired the nephew to secure an investor for the deal.

According to the allegations, the brother and nephew agreed to pay the foreign official $500,000 initially, and $2 million upon completion of the sale, through the co-defendant, who had falsely held himself out as an agent of the foreign official; the fourth individual allegedly assisted in obtaining the initial $500,000. In a twist, according to the DOJ, the co-defendant then stole the money and used it for personal expenses instead of paying any bribes. After the Landmark 72 deal failed to go through, the nephew allegedly lied and provided forged emails from the foreign official and other documents to the Korea-based company regarding the status of the deal and stole approximately $225,000 that was advanced by the Korea-based company to cover brokerage expenses.

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American Multinational Food Company and British Multinational Confectionery Company Settle FCPA Charges with SEC for $13 Million Related to India Chocolate Factory

On January 6, the British company and the American multinational food company, agreed to pay $13 million to settle the SEC’s allegations related to an agent’s interactions with Indian officials regarding a chocolate factory in India. The charges relate to payments made by the British company’s India unit in 2010 to a local agent who provided consultation services and dealt with Indian governmental officials to obtain clearances and licenses to increase production at the British company’s Baddi plant. The SEC alleged, and both companies neither admitted nor denied, that the British company violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA.

According to the SEC, the British company failed to perform appropriate due diligence on the agent and to monitor the agent’s actions, creating a risk that payments could be used for improper purposes. While the agent submitted invoices claiming that he prepared various license applications, the SEC claimed that these license applications were actually prepared by the British company’s other employees. The SEC noted in its decision that the American company had completed its own internal investigation that led to the British company ending its relationship with the agent and that the American company both cooperated with the SEC’s investigation and undertook “extensive remedial actions with respect to [the British company].”

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Manufacturing Company Agrees to NPA, Will Pay More than $75 Million

On December 29, a Kentucky-based manufacturer and distributor of cable and wire, entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ regarding improper payments to government officials in Angola, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, and Thailand. The company agreed to pay the DOJ a $20.5 million criminal penalty. The company simultaneously resolved an investigation by the SEC over the same conduct, and agreed to disgorge approximately $55.3 million, along with a $6.5 million penalty regarding accounting violations at its Brazilian subsidiary.

According to the DOJ, beginning in 2002, the company’s employees became aware that the company’s foreign subsidiaries were using third party agents and distributors to make corrupt payments to foreign officials in various countries to secure business. In 2011, employees from the company’s subsidiary expressed concerns to regional and parent-level executives that commission payments were being used for improper purposes but the company failed to investigate the payments or implement a system of internal controls to detect and prevent the abuse. In total, the subsidiaries paid approximately $13 million to third party agents and distributors from 2002 to 2013, a portion of which was used to make unlawful payments to foreign government officials. According to the DOJ, the payments and resulting contracts netted the company more than $51 million in profits on sales to state-owned enterprises around the world. The SEC separately found that due to weak internal controls, the company failed to detect improper inventory accounting at its Brazilian subsidiary, causing the company to materially misstate its financial statements from 2008 to the second quarter of 2012.

Simultaneous with its resolution with the company, SEC also resolved charges against the company’s then-senior vice president and the individual responsible for sales in Angola. The former senior vice president agreed to pay the SEC a $20,000 penalty without admitting or denying that he knowingly circumvented internal accounting controls and caused FCPA violations when he approved over $340,000 in payments to an agent in Angola. The SEC separately noted that while the company’s former CEO and CFO had now returned millions of dollars in compensation they had received during the period of the violations, the SEC had found no personal misconduct by either former officer.

The company’s $20.5 million criminal penalty represented a 50 percent reduction off the bottom of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range based on the DOJ’s conclusion that the company “voluntarily and timely disclosed the conduct at issue, fully cooperated in the investigation and fully remediated. The benefits the company received from the DOJ are similar to those companies can receive for participating in the Fraud Section’s FCPA Pilot Program for the self-reporting of FCPA violations. Prior coverage of the Fraud Section’s FCPA Pilot Program can be found here.

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Israeli Multinational Pharmaceutical Company Settles FCPA Violations with SEC and DOJ for $519 Million

On December 22, an Israeli multinational pharmaceutical company announced an agreement with the SEC and DOJ to resolve FCPA violations stemming from conduct in Ukraine, Mexico, and Russia, with a $519 million settlement and a deferred prosecution agreement. The company will pay more than $236 million in disgorgement and interest to the SEC, the second largest FCPA-related corporate disgorgement to date. As part of its agreement with the DOJ, the company will pay a $283 million criminal fine and enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement under the supervision of an independent compliance monitor.

Prior Scorecard coverage of the company’s investigation can be found here.

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