Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)

A red sky at morning is the traditional harbinger of ill weather. From our vantage point in Brussels, we’ve scanned the horizon for signs of the future of anti-bribery enforcement activity in Europe. We’ve identified four factors that are starting small, but may build into heavy seas.

In particular, there are signs that companies that sell to governments in Europe may be well advised to shore up compliance procedures so they can remain dry if a wave of anti-corruption sentiment breaks over the public procurement sector.


Continue Reading Shelter from the Coming Storm: Anti-Corruption Compliance in European Public Procurement

On March 5, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had frozen over $458 million of ill-gotten assets that former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his co-conspirators had stashed in bank accounts across the globe.  The DOJ is seeking to recover almost $100 million more.  The largest-ever kleptocracy forfeiture action brought in the United States, this case is a victory for the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, a program launched by the DOJ Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in 2010.  We wrote about the Initiative’s first-ever action here, brought in 2012, when the DOJ executed a forfeiture order of just over $400,000 against a former Nigerian governor.  And while the DOJ has seen great success in its actions against bribe-payers through the enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, initiatives to bring bribe-takers to justice have faced bumps in the road, probably because of the politically fraught and complex nature of such cases.
Continue Reading It Doesn’t Pay to Steal: In Largest Ever Kleptocracy Forfeiture Action, DOJ Seizes $458 Million

Vacation is great, but it can involve a great deal of planning.  And, paradoxically, leisure travel can involve more planning than traveling for business.  That travel-related work stands out as a centerpiece of the October 22, 2013 Diebold, Inc. (Diebold) Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).  The $48 million in penalties, disgorgement, and interest, and the 18-month compliance monitor imposed on Diebold under the settlement, serve to demonstrate the strong emphasis that the DOJ and SEC place on appropriate compliance planning, and the significant steps that will be taken against companies seen to be lacking an internal compliance compass.

Continue Reading Tryin’ to Make a Dollar out of Fifteen Cents: The Diebold FCPA Settlement Explains What Officials Did on Their Vacation

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has held that the whistleblower protection provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act do not apply outside the United States, even where the employee alleged he was terminated for raising compliance concerns under U.S. international law. Specifically, the court found that Dodd-Frank did not protect an employee of Siemens in China who alleged he was terminated in retaliation for raising compliance concerns under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The decision will strike many observers as remarkable, since the extraterritorial provisions of the FCPA itself have been construed so broadly. The opinion in the case, Liu v. Siemens AG, Civ. No. 13 Civ. 317 (WHP) Slip Op. (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2013), may be viewed online here.
Continue Reading Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Protection: For America Only

By: Thad McBride, Mark Jensen, and Cheryl Palmeri

In early August, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating JPMorgan Chase related to alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in China.  According to the article, the press had not previously reported on the investigation, and the Times knowledge of it was based on a “confidential United States government document.”  The article generated a number of similar news reports.
Continue Reading The FCPA in the News: Big Scoops, Real Fallout

By: Scott Maberry and Mark Jensen

One FCPA compliance topic we are often asked about by clients is how government investigations start. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have developed a number of mechanisms largely within their control (including whistleblowers and cross-industry investigations) to learn about bribery allegations.  There are also mechanisms outside of government control, such as investigative journalism, that can identify bribery allegations and effectively force the government’s hand into investigating them.  Recent events surrounding FCPA allegations against International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”) suggest a new actor that can force the broadening or deepening of existing FCPA investigations: the U.S. courts.
Continue Reading A Rising Voice on FCPA Compliance: The Court

By: Cheryl Palmeri

On May 29, 2013, Total, S.A. (Total), the French petroleum corporation, agreed to pay nearly $400 million to resolve charges that it violated the anti-bribery and books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  Collectively, the penalties imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against Total mark one of the largest settlement amounts yet under the FCPA.
Continue Reading Total Settlement of FCPA Charges

By: Thad McBride

Asserting that “the protection of human rights … is not left exclusively to the internal affairs of [any one] country,” in December 2012 the United States enacted the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 (the “Magnitsky Act”).  Under the law, the President is required to identify individuals found to be involved in human rights violations and impose targeted sanctions on them.  Interestingly, as discussed below, these sanctions seem to be based in significant part on concerns about corruption in Russia.  While the U.S. government continues to aggressively enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with respect to parties giving bribes, the Magnitsky Act suggests that Congress may seek to employ economic sanctions to target recipients of corrupt payments.


Continue Reading U.S. Sanctions Target Russian Corruption, Human Rights Violations

By: Thad McBride and Cheryl Palmeri

A New York federal district court judge has dismissed a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) claim against a former executive of Siemens, S.A. Argentina and Siemens Transportation Systems for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) brought the civil FCPA enforcement action against Herbert Steffen for his role in an alleged scheme by which Siemens paid bribes to top government officials in Argentina to secure a project to create national identity cards.
Continue Reading Line in the Sand: Siemens Argentina Case Limits Personal Jurisdiction Under the FCPA

By: Reid Whitten and Thad McBride

For years, a significant number of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions have focused on or involved the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Chinese subsidiaries, or Chinese officials.  It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the PRC is fertile ground for corruption: many of its major industries are dominated by state-owned or -controlled companies.  A tradition of gift-giving and hospitality may blur the distinction between friendly gesture and kickback.  And the sheer volume of business transacted in the country makes policing illicit exchanges for business advantages a tall order for any enforcement agency.
Continue Reading Is China Getting Serious or Redirecting Responsibility? New guidance on Chinese Anti-Bribery Enforcement

By: Matthew Riemer and Mark Jensen

On December 17, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced a settlement under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) with Allianz SE (“Allianz”), the insurance company based in Germany, resulting in $5.3 million in civil penalties and more than $7 million in disgorgement and interest.  The settlement stemmed from a two-year investigation into allegations that an Allianz subsidiary paid bribes to government officials in Indonesia over a seven-year period and violated the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.  The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) started its own investigation into potential criminal liability for Allianz, but closed its case in 2011 with a declination letter, an event that was reported in the Wall Street Journal.
Continue Reading No Knowledge, but Hints of Omissions in the Allianz FCPA Settlement