On February 4, the SEC settled FCPA allegations with a California-based pharmaceutical company with a cease and desist order finding that the company violated the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions related to activities in China. The SEC found that from at least 2007 to 2012, employees of the company’s subsidiaries gave money and gifts to Chinese officials (including employees of state-owned hospitals) in order to boost sales. The SEC further found that the company failed to devise and implement a sufficient system of internal accounting controls and lacked an effective anti-corruption compliance program.
On February 1, the SEC agreed to a $3.7 million settlement with a Germany-based software company regarding allegations that it violated the FCPA regarding the payment and offer of bribes to senior Panamanian government officials. The settlement, stemming from the actions of the company’s former executive Vincente Garcia who pleaded guilty last August to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, found that the company lacked appropriate internal controls to detect the illegal activity. According to the SEC, Garcia arranged the sale of heavily discounted software licenses and used the savings to create a “slush fund.” The money in this fund was then used to pay bribes and kickbacks.
Oil and Gas Company Files Lawsuit Against Drilling Partners Challenging Post-FCPA Settlement Reticence
On January 11, a Houston-based oil and gas company filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against its drilling partners in the company’s Guinean operations. The company claims that the drilling partners have unjustly delayed performing the work called for by their operating agreement because of uncertainty over whether the government of Guinea would terminate its drilling agreement with the company in light of the FCPA investigation into the company. That investigation was resolved by a declination letter issued by DOJ in May 2015 and a settlement with the SEC in October 2015. (See previous InfoBytes coverage of that investigation here and here.) The company is seeking a ruling that the drilling partners are in violation of the operating agreement and an order forcing them to fulfill their obligations.
In a November 2015 SEC filing, the company reported a complete lack of operating revenue and warned that further delays in fulfilling requirements imposed by the government of Guinea could result in a loss of the company’s concession to drill in the country. This case illustrates the potential business risks posed by an FCPA investigation—even if it is resolved on relatively favorable terms.
On December 16, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sentenced a former regional director of a Pennsylvania-based software and technology company for his involvement in a conspiracy to bribe Panamanian government officials to obtain technology contracts. U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer sentenced Vicente Eduardo Garcia to 22 months in prison for his role in the bribery scheme. In August 2015, Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA, admitting that in 2009 he and others conspired to bribe two Panamanian government officials directly and a third official through an agent in order to obtain a contract to provide a Panamanian state agency with a technology upgrade package. Garcia and his co-conspirators used sham contracts and false invoices to conceal the bribes, and Garcia personally received over $85,000 for arranging the bribes. Garcia previously settled with the SEC and agreed to pay disgorgement of $85,965 plus prejudgment interest.
Former Russian Government Official Sentenced For Nuclear Energy Conspiracy Involving FCPA Violations
On December 15, a former Russian government official, Vadim Mikerin, was sentenced to 48 months in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with $2 million in bribe payments he accepted to award government contracts with a Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation. U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the District of Maryland also ordered Mikerin, who resides in Maryland, to forfeit $2.1 million. Between 2004 and October 2014, Mikerin received bribe payments intended to improperly influence him in his role as a key official at a subsidiary of a Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation and to secure improper business advantages for U.S. companies that did business with the subsidiary. Mikerin admitted that, in connection with the FCPA violations, he conspired with others to transmit approximately $2,126,622 from the United States to shell company bank accounts in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland. Mikerin also admitted to using consulting agreements and code words to conceal the bribes. Two of Mikerin’s co-conspirators – Daren Condrey and Boris Rubizhevsky – also pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and are awaiting sentencing.
In a quarterly securities filing made on December 9, a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of airport security equipment, disclosed that the SEC and DOJ have made separate proposals to end their FCPA investigations into the company that would include payments totaling approximately $15 million. The company had previously announced in a September 2015 press release that it had offered the SEC $1.6 million to settle the SEC’s FCPA investigation of the company. The company’s 10-Q disclosed that the SEC rejected that offer. The company stated that it remains in discussion with the SEC and DOJ about settlement and is also discussing a settlement with the Danish government concerning a resolution of these matters.
The company previously reported that the DOJ and SEC had “substantially” completed their investigations of potential bribery involving transactions by the company’s Danish subsidiary. The transactions at issue involved distributors paying the subsidiary more than was owed, and the subsidiary then allegedly transferring the excess money to third parties identified by the distributors. At the time of its 2011 disclosure of the potentially problematic transactions, the company stated that it had not ascertained the ultimate beneficiaries or purpose of the transfers.
Two former executives of a now-defunct New York-based broker-dealer were each sentenced to two years in prison for their roles in a bribery scheme involving a Venezuela’s state-owned economic development bank. On December 8, Tomas Clarke, the former Miami-based senior vice president of the broker-dealer, was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to forfeit nearly $5.8 million for his role. On December 4, Ernesto Lujan, the former managing partner at the broker-dealer’s Miami office, was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to forfeit $18.5 million. The pair pleaded guilty in August 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to conspiracy to violate the FCPA, the Travel Act, and to commit money laundering, as well as substantive counts of these offenses. Read more…
On November 9, an Atlanta-based claims management firm disclosed that it reported possible FCPA violations to DOJ and SEC. The company discovered the possible violations during an internal audit and has since launched an investigation, using outside counsel and external forensic accountants. The company stated that it intends to cooperate with the SEC and the DOJ in this matter, but the filing did not elaborate on the nature or location of the potential violations.
Developments in Uzbekistan Telecommunications FCPA Investigations: Dutch Telecommunications Company Makes Provision in Connection with Investigation; DOJ Names Russian Telecommunications Company in Civil Forfeiture Action
On November 3, a Dutch telecommunications company announced that, based on its assessment of ongoing FCPA investigations, it would make a provision in the amount of $900 million in its third quarter financial statements. The company previously disclosed that the SEC, the DOJ, and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service were conducting investigations related to its business in Uzbekistan and prior dealings with a Gibralter-registered company that negotiates mobile phone licenses on behalf of the Uzbek government.
On November 5, another company under investigation for its conduct in Uzbekistan disclosed that the DOJ referenced it in a civil forfeiture complaint. The DOJ’s complaint was directed at an unnamed Uzbek government official, but the complaint alleged that the company and certain other parties made corrupt payments to the unnamed official to gain access to the Uzbek telecommunications market.
On November 2, a pharmaceutical company disclosed that the DOJ requested documents and other information related to the company’s compliance with the FCPA. The SEC is also investigating the company’s compliance with the FCPA, a fact the company disclosed in May. The SEC’s subpoena sought information about the company’s grant-making activities worldwide, specifically naming Japan, Brazil, Turkey and Russia in its request, and also addressed non-FCPA items. The company said that it plans to cooperate with DOJ’s investigation.
On October 9, James Rama, a former Vice President of Florida-based defense contractor IAP Worldwide Services, Inc., was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to 120 days in prison for conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Rama pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge on June 16 for his role in a scheme by IAP to pay more than $1.7 million in bribes to Kuwaiti officials to win a government contract intended to provide nationwide surveillance capabilities for several Kuwaiti government agencies. Rama had faced a recommended sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines of between 57 and 60 months, but received a substantially shorter sentence in part due to his cooperation with authorities during their investigation. Prosecutors had recommended that Rama receive a one year sentence, while the defense had requested just supervised release. IAP previously entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ and agreed to pay $7.1 million to resolve the allegations against the company.
On October 5, the SEC announced a settlement with Bristol-Myers Squibb to resolve allegations that the pharmaceutical company’s Chinese joint venture, BMS China, gave cash, jewelry, and other benefits to health care providers in order to boost prescription sales at state-owned or controlled hospitals. The SEC proceeded via an administrative cease and desist order. The SEC’s order found that the company violated the internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA. Bristol-Myers consented to the SEC’s order without admitting or denying the findings, and agreed to disgorge profits of $11.4 million plus $500,000 in pre-judgment interest and pay a civil penalty of $2.75 million. Bristol-Myers also agreed to report to the SEC for two years regarding the status of its efforts to implement anti-corruption compliance controls.
The SEC’s order states that Bristol-Myers failed to investigate red flags and claims by terminated BMS China employees that raised the possibility that sales personnel were making improper payments. The order also states that Bristol-Myers was too slow to fill gaps in its internal controls regarding interactions with health care providers.
On October 2, Canadian mining company Kinross Gold Corp. announced that the SEC and DOJ are investigating potentially improper payments to government officials in West Africa. The company’s announcement states that it received subpoenas from the SEC in 2014 and 2015, and a request for information from the DOJ in December 2014. The subpoenas came after the company launched an internal investigation in August 2013 to investigate a whistleblower complaint alleging improper payments to government officials and internal control deficiencies in the company’s West African mining operations.
On September 30, the former CFO of Siemens S.A.-Argentina pleaded guilty in a federal court in New York to conspiring to pay nearly $100 million dollars in bribes to Argentinian officials. The former executive, Andres Truppel, who is a German and Argentinian citizen, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the antibribery, internal controls, and books and records provisions of the FCPA, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As described in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s press release, the violations stemmed from Siemens’ bid to win an Argentine government contract worth $1 billion to create a national identity card system. Mr. Truppel faces up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release when he is sentenced; there is no information on when sentencing will occur.
Truppel was one of eight former Siemens executives indicted in 2011 on charges of conspiring to violate the FCPA and other statutes (see previous BuckleySandler coverage here and here). Siemens itself reached a record $800 million resolution in 2008 with the DOJ and SEC related to FCPA violations in numerous countries, including Argentina. Siemens S.A.-Argentina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions as part of that resolution.
On September 29, Hyperdynamics Corp. announced a settlement with the SEC, fully resolving the SEC’s FCPA investigation into the Houston-based oil and gas company’s operations in the Republic of Guinea. The SEC proceeded via an administrative cease and desist order. Hyperdynamics consented to the SEC’s order without admitting or denying the findings, and agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty. The SEC’s order describes books and records and internal control offenses based on the lack of supporting documentation related to $130,000 the company paid for public relations and lobbying services in the Republic of Guinea during 2007 and 2008.
Hyperdynamics first disclosed that the DOJ was investigating alleged FCPA violations by the company in the Republic of Guinea in 2013. In May of this year, the company announced that the DOJ’s investigation had concluded without enforcement action, and released the DOJ’s declination letter, which noted Hyperdynamics’s cooperation with the investigation. At that time, the company acknowledged that a parallel SEC investigation was ongoing. Previous BuckleySandler coverage of this investigation can be found here.