Bess MyersonTwo famous New Yorkers died this week. Both spoke to not only to the glamour of the Big Apple, but the city’s once undisputed crown as the cultural mecca of the US. They were Allie Sherman and Bess Myerson. Allie Sherman

Sherman was with the New York (Football) Giants as an Assistant Coach when they were the original America’s Team. He later became the Head Coach when the Giants were ending a phenomenal run as the greatest pro football team in America. Sherman coached some of the most memorable players from the last century including Sam Huff, Frank Gifford, Andy Robustelli, Charley Connerly and Y. A. Tittle. As an Assistant Coach, he was a part of a team that went to the National Football League (NFL) championship games in 1956 and 1958/9. As Head Coach, he took the Giants to the championship games from 1961-63. That is six championship games appearances in seven years, a record no other team in football has ever achieved.

The second death was that of Bess Myerson. In my little hometown in podunk Texas, Bess Myerson was about the highest epitomy of American high class and grace that one could imagine. (My parents hated the Kennedys so Jackie was not a candidate.) What I did not fully appreciate until I read her obituary in the New York Times (NYT), entitled “New Yorker of Beauty, Wit, Service and Scandal by Enid Nemy and William McDonald, was that Myerson was the first Jewish Miss America and what her win of that crown meant in 1945 to Jews in America. The article quoted Barra Grant, Ms. Myerson’s daughter for the following; “When my mother walked down the runway, the Jews in the audience broke into a cheer. My mother looked out at them and saw them hug each other, and said to herself, ‘This victory is theirs.’” But in Bryan, Texas, she was not the Jewish Miss America; she was just Bess Myerson, the one and only Miss America we knew by name.

I thought about these two famous New Yorkers, where they came from and what New York once stood for as I considered the ongoing tragedy of AirAsia Flight 8501 and pondered facilitation payments. In another article in the NYT, entitled “AirAsia Jet That Crashed Had Lacked All Clearances to Fly, Regulators Say, Tom McCawley reported that “AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed in the Java Sea on Dec. 28, was allowed to take off from Surabaya, Indonesia, even though it did not have all the required clearances from regulators to fly that day, the Indonesian Transportation Ministry said on Monday.” While the article did not identify those Indonesian who allowed this to occur, McCawley did report “The [Indonesian Transportation] Ministry said it was suspending several officials for allowing the flight to take off.” Moreover, “other airlines and airports across the country will also be scrutinized to see if they have been cutting corners in similar ways.”

The article did not say or even suggest that bribes were paid to allow this flight to take off when it did not have the proper permits to do so, such actions did occur in Indonesia, which had a 2014 score on the Transparency International – Corruption Perceptions Index at 34 and came in at a ranking of 107 out of 157 countries ranked. Fresh on the minds of all anti-corruption, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act practitioners and others is the Alstom FCPA enforcement action where a large amount of the companies bribes were paid in Indonesia to secure winning contracts. Of course, Alstom is a French company and AirAsia is Malaysian entity.

FCPA enforcement actions involving US companies and the air industry are unfortunately very well known. Biz-Jet and its bribes to secure business are in a direct line to Dallas Airmotive, involved in a FCPA enforcement action in the past quarter. But in the AirAsia case, I wondered about something different, that continuing FCPA bug-a-boo around facilitation payments. Facilitation payments are exempted out of FCPA violations but the AirAsia case is a clear example of the slippery slope of how something that is not illegal can easily move into such a realm and the true cost of corruption. Two of the loudest responses by the business community to the Wal-Mart allegations of bribery and corruption were that they were simply payments to expedite the process of licensing in Mexico and what did you expect to get things moving in Mexico anyway?

What if AirAsia made small payments to move things along faster with the Indonesian Transportation Ministry? What if these payments might properly be characterized as facilitation payments under an anti-corruption law such as the FCPA? McCawley’s article reported, “Officials have said that AirAsia had permits to fly the popular Surabaya-Singapore route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but later changed its schedule to fly on other days of the week, The Associated Press reported. Flight 8501 took off on a Sunday. Mr. Murjatmodjo said that while Singapore officials had approved the Sunday flight, Indonesia had not, and the aviation agency used incorrect information in granting Flight 8501 a takeoff slot.”

So what if that ‘incorrect information’ used by the Indonesian aviation agency turned out to be ‘facilitated’ by a grease payment? Is the granting of such approval something that would be been granted eventually but AirAsia was just trying to speed up the process? What if there were safety reasons for not allowing AirAsia to operate on the Sunday when the plane went down? What if it was something safety related to the flight controllers or something other than the plane or crew? Make no mistake about it, facilitation payments are bribes, yet there are other gray areas around them that can create confusion and make it hard for companies to police them.

A similar view was recently articulated by Thomas C. Baxter, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who indicated a general unease with facilitation payments. Baxter was quoted in the FCPA Blog for the following, “Baxter said an organizational policy that allows some types of official corruption — including facilitating payments – “diminishes the efficacy of compliance rules that are directed toward stopping official corruption.”” Further, “While I understand that the exception is grounded in a practical reality, I feel that zero tolerance for official corruption would have been a better choice. To any public servant with an extended hand, I would say in a loud and clear voice, “pull it back and do your job.” And, let me note the OECD Working Group on Bribery recommends that all countries encourage companies to prohibit or discourage facilitating payments.”

Allie Sherman and Bess Myerson reminded us of a New York that once existed. With the proliferation of the internet and social media, I doubt US culture will ever be so concentrated in one city again. The AirAsia crash may portend of things in the future, so if it comes to pass that bribery and corruption was involved to obtain a seemingly minor approval to allow the flight of an airplane on a day it was not licensed to fly; perhaps one thing that comes out of the tragedy is the removal of this seeming anomaly of allowing bribes under the FCPA by calling them facilitation payments.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2015

IMG_3289One of the more confusing areas of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is in that of facilitation payments. Facilitation payments are small bribes but make no mistake about it, they are bribes. For that reason many companies feel they are inconsistent with a company culture of doing business ethically and in compliance with laws prohibiting corruption and bribery. Further, the FCPA Guidance specifies, “while the payment may qualify as an exception to the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, it may violate other laws, both in Foreign Country and elsewhere. In addition, if the payment is not accurately recorded, it could violate the FCPA’s books and records provision.” Finally, further the FCPA Guidance states, “Whether a payment falls within the exception is not dependent on the size of the payment, though size can be telling, as a large payment is more suggestive of corrupt intent to influence a non-routine governmental action. But, like the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions more generally, the facilitating payments exception focuses on the purpose of the payment rather than its value.” [emphasis in original text]

In recent remarks, Thomas C. Baxter, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicated a general unease with facilitation payments. Baxter was quoted in the FCPA Blog for the following, “Baxter said an organizational policy that allows some types of official corruption — including facilitating payments – “diminishes the efficacy of compliance rules that are directed toward stopping official corruption.”” Further, “While I understand that the exception is grounded in a practical reality, I feel that zero tolerance for official corruption would have been a better choice. To any public servant with an extended hand, I would say in a loud and clear voice, “pull it back and do your job.” And, let me note the OECD Working Group on Bribery recommends that all countries encourage companies to prohibit or discourage facilitating payments.”

In addition to these clear statements about whether the FCPA should continue to allow said bribes; you should also consider the administrative nightmare for any international company. The UK Bribery Act does not have any such exception, exemption or defense along the lines of the FCPA facilitation payment exception. This means that even if your company allows facilitation payments, it must exempt out every UK Company or subsidiary from the policy. Further, if your company employs any UK citizens, they are subject to the UK Bribery Act no matter who they work for and where they may work in the world so they must also be exempted. Finally, if your US Company does business with a UK or other company subject to the UK Bribery Act, you may be prevented contractually from making facilitation payments while working under that customer’s contract. As I said, an administrative nightmare.

  1. The Statute

When the FCPA was initially passed in 1977, the facilitating payment exception was found under the definition of foreign official. However, with the 1988 Amendments, a more explicit exception was written into the statute making it clear that the anti-bribery provisions “shall not apply to any facilitating or expediting payment to a foreign official, political party, or party official the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action . . .” The statute itself provided a list of examples of facilitation payments in the definition of routine governmental actions. It included the following:

  • Obtaining permits, licenses, or other official documents;
  • Processing governmental papers such as visas and work orders;
  • Providing police protection, mail services, scheduling inspections;
  • Providing utilities, cargo handling; or
  • Actions of a similar nature.

It is important to note that the language of the FCPA makes it clear that a facilitation payment is not an affirmative defense but an exception to the general FCPA proscription against bribery and corruption. Unfortunately for the FCPA Practitioner there is no dollar limit articulated in the FCPA regarding facilitation payments. Even this limited exception has come under increasing criticism. As far back as 2009, the OECD studied the issue and recommended that member countries encourage their corporations to not allow the making of facilitating payments, “in view of the corrosive effect of small facilitation payments, particularly on sustainable economic development and the rule of law.”

Interestingly, one of the clearest statements about facilitation payments comes not from a FCPA case about facilitation payments but the case of Kay v. US, 359 F.3d 738, 750-51 (5th Cir. 2004). This case dealt with whether payment of bribes to obtain a favorable tax ruling was prohibited under the FCPA. In its opinion the Fifth Circuit commented on the limited nature of the facilitating payments exception when it said:

A brief review of the types of routine governmental actions enumerated by Congress shows how limited Congress wanted to make the grease exceptions. Routine governmental action, for instance, includes “obtaining permits, licenses, or other official documents to qualify a person to do business in a foreign country,” and “scheduling inspections associated with contract performance or inspections related to transit of goods across country.” Therefore, routine governmental action does not include the issuance of every official document or every inspection, but only (1) documentation that qualifies a party to do business and (2) scheduling an inspection—very narrow categories of largely non-discretionary, ministerial activities performed by mid- or low-level foreign functionaries.

2. Enforcement Actions

Con-way

The FCPA landscape is littered with companies who sustained FCPA violations due to payments which did not fall into the facilitation payment exception. In 2008, Con-way Inc., a global freight forwarder, paid a $300,000 penalty for making hundreds of relatively small payments to Customs Officials in the Philippines. The value of the payments Con-way was fined for making totaled $244,000 and were made to induce the officials to violate customs regulations, settle customs disputes, and reduce or not enforce otherwise legitimate fines for administrative violations.

Helmerich and Payne

In 2009, Helmerich and Payne, Inc., paid a penalty and disgorgement fee of $1.3 million for payments which were made to secure customs clearances in Argentina and Venezuela. The payments ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 but were not properly recorded and were made to import/export goods that were not within the respective country’s regulations; to import goods that could not lawfully be imported; and to evade higher duties and taxes on the goods.

Panalpina

Finally, there is the Panalpina enforcement action. As reported in the FCPA Blog, this matter was partly resolved last year with the payment by Panalpina and six of its customers of over $257 million in fines and penalties. Panalpina, acting as freight forwarder for its customers, made payments to circumvent import laws, reduce customs duties and tax assessments and to obtain preferential treatment for importing certain equipment into various countries but primarily in West Africa.

DynCorp

Then there is the DynCorp International investigation matter. As reported in various sources the matter relates to approx. $300,000 in payments made by subcontractors who wished to speed up their visa processing and expedite receipt of certain licenses on behalf of DynCorp. This investigation has been going on for several years and there is no anticipated conclusion date at this time.

3.      Some Guidance

So what does the Department of Justice (DOJ) look at when it reviews a company’s FCPA compliance program with regards to facilitation payments? Initially, if there is a pattern of such small payments, it would raise a Red Flag and cause additional investigations, but this would not be the end of the inquiry. There are several other factors which the DOJ could look towards in making a final determination on this issue. The line of inquiry the DOJ would take is as follows:

  1. Size of payment – Is there an outer limit? No, there is no outer limit but there is some line where the perception shifts. If a facilitating payment is over $100 you are arguing from a point of weakness. The presumption of good faith is against you. You might be able to persuade the government at an amount under $100. But anything over this amount and the government may well make further inquiries. So, for instance, the DOJ might say that all facilitation payments should be accumulated together and this would be a pattern and practice of bribery.
  2. What is a routine governmental action? Are we entitled to this action, have we met all of our actions or are we asking the government official to look the other way on some requirement? Are we asking the government official to give us a break? The key question here is whether you are entitled to the action otherwise.
  3. Does the seniority of the governmental official matter? This is significant because it changes the presumption of whether something is truly discretionary. The higher the level of the governmental official involved, the greater chance his decision is discretionary.
  4. Does the action have to be non-discretionary? Yes, because if it is discretionary, then a payment made will appear to be obtaining some advantage that is not available to others.
  5. What approvals should be required? A facilitation payment is something that must be done with an appropriate process. The process should have thought and the decision made by people who are the experts within the company on such matters.
  6. Risk of facilitation payments and third parties? Whatever policy you have, it must be carried over to third parties acting on your behalf or at your direction. If a third party cannot control this issue, the better compliance practice would be to end the business relationship.
  7. How should facilitation payments be recorded? Facilitation payments must be recorded accurately. You should have a category entitled “Facilitation Payments” in your company’s internal accounting system. The labeling should be quite clear and they are critical to any audit trail so recording them is quite significant.
  8. Monitoring programs? There must always be ongoing monitoring programs to review your company’s internal controls, policies and procedures regarding facilitation payments.

So we return to the question of when does a grease payment become a bribe? There is no clear line of demarcation. The test seems to turn on the amount of money involved, to whom it is paid and the frequency of the payments. Additionally, accurate books and records are a must. Finally, remember that the defense of facilitation payments is an exception to the FCPA prohibition against bribery. Any defendant which wishes to avail itself of this exception at trial would have to proffer credible evidence to support its position, but at the end of the day, it would be the trier of fact which would decide. So, much like any compliance defense, the exception is only available if you use it at trial and it would be difficult to imagine that any company will want to use the facilitation payment exception.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

The Engineer's ThumbWe conclude our week of Sherlock Holmes inspired themes with one of the few cases in which Holmes fails to bring the criminals to justice, The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb. In this adventure a young engineer, Victor Hatherley, arrives at Dr. Watson’s surgery with a gruesome injury, a severed thumb. He relates his tale to Watson, who then takes him to see Holmes. Hatherley was hired to inspect a hydraulic press by one Lysander Stark, who claims that it is used to compress fuller’s earth into bricks. However when Hatherley goes to Stark’s country residence to inspect the machine he discovers that it is actually a printing press used to create counterfeit money. He tries to flee and in the process, Hatherley is forced to jump from a second story window, in the process getting his thumb severed by Stark’s cleaver. Hatherley, Watson and Holmes arrive at the Stark residence as the house is on fire, and the perpetrators have fled.

Once again using the Holmes tale as a contrast I refer to the recently released white paper, published by Transparency International UK (TI-UK), entitled “How to Bribe: A typology of Bribe-Paying and How to Stop It”. It was created by TI-UK, lawyers from the London firm of Pinsent Masons and thebriberyact.com, with principal author Julia Muravska and editors Robert Barrington and Barry Vitou. Just as Stark hid the true purpose of his hydraulic press, the title of this work does not convey its true use in how to stop bribes and bribery schemes by identifying them.

 Barry Vitou, partner in Pinsent Masons and co-founder of thebriberyact.com, states in the forward that “This handbook is perfect for General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officers and anyone in any company responsible for anti-bribery compliance from the Board of Directors, down. The purpose is to show how people pay bribes in practice. The examples are based on realistic experiences or real cases. Many bribery cases receive little attention. Often the focus is on the international examples in far away places where, it is sometimes said, you have to ‘pay the man’ to get business done. The impression given is that it would never happen at home. Yet it does. While the first two sections focus on the how, why and when bribes are sometimes paid in a short final section the handbook covers some examples of more prosaic bribery, at home. Who said it could never happen here? Transparency International deserve credit, once again, for putting together a document designed to be practical and helpful for those keen to avoid falling into the trap of bribery.” The white paper has three main sections.

Section I: What is a Bribe?

In this section, the authors review what constitutes a bribe. Recognizing that cash will always be king, they also take a look at excessive gifts, entertainment and travel, charitable donations and political contributions, favors to family members or friends and even the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) exempted facilitation payments. I particularly found the discussion of facilitation payments interesting in light of the recent claims that Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) in the Ukraine and Wal-Mart in Mexico were essentially making facilitation payments.

The authors end this section with the following guidance about the specific types of bribe and how to spot them.

Section 2: How Bribes are Paid?

In this section, the white paper lays out a variety of different bribery schemes. Of course they include agents, distributors, intermediaries, introducers, sub-contractors, representatives and the like. But they also detail schemes that the compliance practitioner should acquaint his or herself on. These bribery schemes include false or inflated invoicing or products, offshore payment arrangements and off-balance sheet payments, joint ventures, training, per diems and expense reimbursement arrangements, rebates and discounts and employment agreements. Once again, the authors end this section with the guidance on how to spot and stop each of the bribery schemes they detail.

Section 3: Bribery On Your Doorstep

In this section, the authors cite to cases and examples that were derived from real cases and illustrate how bribes can be paid within the UK. They note that even though “bribery is illegal across the board in the UK, experience shows that bribery also happens in the UK” and cite several reports. The first was by TI-UK and it showed that 5% of citizens polled in the UK said they had paid a bribe at least once in the past twelve months. Further, a recent survey of the construction sector found that more than a third of the industry professionals polled stated that they had been offered a bribe or incentive on at least one occasion. Lastly, the white paper notes that the first three prosecutions under the UK Bribery Act were for bribes paid in the UK. So the authors conclude “It is fair to say that in common with many other countries, UK public officials are susceptible to bribery. Public officials are almost all, universally, paid less than their peers may be paid in the private sector but in many cases in their hands rests the power to make decisions which have huge financial consequences for others. All the ingredients for paying a bribe exist. Likewise, bribes may be paid in the private sector, and there is increasingly a grey area between public and private sector as government services are contracted out.” In this section, some of the examples are inflated invoices, bribes to local planning departments, excessive expenses for training, and even an example of bribes paid to police.

Suggested Reading

Although neither this blog nor the books I have published on anti-corruption compliance made their list, there is an excellent resource list at the end of the white paper for additional reading and research on the subject. It ranges from government guidance’s to David Lawler’s excellent text “Frequently Asked Questions in Anti-Bribery and Corruption”.  Their list is an excellent resource in and of itself.

So we finish our Sherlock Holmes themed blogs. I hope that you have enjoyed the stories and tie-ins as much as I have enjoyed revisiting them this past week.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

Sussex VampyreToday I want to use the story of The Sussex Vampyre as the starting point for an inquiry into the recent Archer-Daniels-Midland Corp (ADM) Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action. In the story, Holmes receives a letter from Robert Ferguson, who has become convinced that his second wife has been sucking their baby son’s blood and is a vampire. He has a crippled son from his first marriage who is terribly jealous of the new baby in their home. It turns out that this lame son, Jack, has been shooting poisoned darts at his baby brother and his stepmother’s behavior is actually sucking the poison out of the baby’s neck. The baby’s wounds were caused by Jack sending the darts, not by the mother biting her baby. In other words, what might be seen as something very scary is easily explained.

Once again demonstrating that the FCPA Professor and myself look at the same thing and come to different conclusions are reflected by those he states in his article “Why You Should Be Alarmed By the ADM FCPA Enforcement Action”. I see the ADM enforcement action as a continuation of the available case law favoring interpretations of the business nexus requirement to be applied broadly, where it is clear that bribery and corruption have occurred.

When I look at the facts laid out in the ADM settlement documents, I see the following: four separate bribery schemes hidden in the companies books and records clearly designed to influence the decision of a foreign government official. From 2002 to 2010, the company’s Ukrainian subsidiary rolled up VAT receivables of up to $46MM. What I see is a company, which over several years of slow and no response to its application for VAT tax refunds for goods purchased in Ukraine, responded to this problem by engaging in bribery and corruption to help them get the money that they were believed they were owed.

So what were these bribery schemes? There was the Charitable Donation Scheme, which according to the SEC Complaint, “an ADM executive in the tax department sent an e-mail to the head of an international tax organization and stated, “One of our affiliates operates in the Ukraine. In order to recover 100% of their input VAT they have to pay 30% of the amount to local charities.”” Next was the Stevedoring Company Scheme where two ADM subsidiaries made “payments to a stevedoring company in the port of Odessa so that it could pass on nearly all of those payments to Ukrainian officials in order to obtain VAT refunds on behalf of ACTI Ukraine.” Next was the Mischaracterization of Write-offs Scheme where ADM’s German subsidiary reported to the US parent that they had to write off 18% of the tax refund due back to the company. However upon payment of the VAT refund it would be at 100% of the total due. As the German subsidiary had taken a write off of 18% of the total, the corresponding amount of money would be funneled to “third-party vendors so that nearly all of those monies could be provided to Ukrainian government officials.” Finally, and most ingenuously, was the Fake Insurance Premiums Scheme. In this scheme, ADM’s Ukrainian subsidiary, arranged for an insurance company to falsely bill it for crop insurance, which said “Insurance Company never intended to honor, adjusting the premiums to be roughly 20% of the VAT refund.” This inflated amount was then paid to Ukrainian officials.

The FCPA itself says:

(a) Prohibition

It shall be unlawful for any issuer which has a class of securities registered pursuant to section 781 of this title or which is required to file reports under section 780d of this title, or for any officer, director, employee, or agent of such issuer or any stockholder thereof acting on behalf of such issuer, to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value to—

(1) any foreign official for purposes of—

(A)

(i) influencing any act or decision of such foreign official in his official capacity,

(ii) inducing such foreign official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official, or

(iii) securing any improper advantage; or

(B) inducing such foreign official to use his influence with a foreign government or instrumentality thereof to affect or influence any act or decision of such government or instrumentality,

 in order to assist such issuer in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person;

In the case of US v. Kay, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals exhaustively reviewed the legislative history of the FCPA, from its passage in 1977 through the two amendments in 1988 and 1998. The Kay decision stands for the proposition that the defendant intend the paying of bribes to be a quid pro quo, which would assist (or is meant to assist) the payor in obtaining or retaining business. Further, it specifically stated that the “business nexus is not to be interpreted narrowly.” The facts in Kay were different than those presented in the ADM matter. However, with the admonition that the business nexus requirement is not to be interpreted narrowly, I believe the holding in Kay is such that it is not a stretch to see the conduct engaged in by ADM did assist, or was meant to assist, it in doing business in Ukraine. Indeed, the Kay decision stated, “In addition, the concern of Congress with the immorality, inefficiency, and unethical character of bribery presumably does not vanish simply because the tainted payments are intended to secure a favorable decision less significant than winning a contract bid.” Thus I look at Kay and see the conduct of ADM as falling within the broad outlines of the Kay decision.

How about the facilitation payment exception and that somehow the ADM subsidiaries were making payments exempted out of the FCPA because they were for routine services?

The FCPA itself states:

(b) Exception for routine governmental action

Subsections (a) and (g) of this section shall not apply to any facilitating or expediting payment to a foreign official, political party, or party official the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action by a foreign official, political party, or party official.

Further, the term “routine governmental action” is defined as one of the following:

  1.  Obtaining Permits;
  2. Processing visas and work orders;
  3. Providing police protection, mail pick-up and delivery;
  4. Providing phone services and utilities;
  5. Actions of a similar nature.

There is nothing in the statute about processing multi-million dollar tax refunds as a routine governmental action. Once again the Kay decision spoke to the issue of facilitation payments, similar to those made in the context of the ADM settlement, when it said “This observation is not diminished by Congress’s understanding and accepting that relatively small facilitating payments were, at the time, among the accepted costs of doing business in many foreign countries.” One key there is that facilitating payments be “relatively small”. Whatever 18% of $46MM might be, it certainly is not “relatively small”.

All of this leads me to see the ADM settlement as a continuation of the very limited case law interpretation that exists around the FCPA. So just as Holmes looked at the facts in The Sussex Vampyre and did not see something which could not be explained or need be feared; I look at the ADM enforcement action and see a company which engaged in bribery and corruption, knew it was doing so and actively tried to hide the corrupt payments in its books and records.

And once again, I would cite that the easiest response to all of this might be the advice given by Department of Justice (DOJ) representative Greg Anders, in his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee regarding amending the FCPA, that being that companies should not engage in bribery.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

7K0A0223Last week, in a post entitled “Supermarket to the World – The ADM FCPA Enforcement Action”, I reviewed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Compliant brought in connection with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation of Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM). There was also a criminal Plea Agreement entered into by the ADM subsidiary, Alfred C. Toepfer International (Ukraine) Ltd. (the Ukraine subsidiary) with the Department of Justice (DOJ), who was the defendant in this criminal action. In addition to the SEC Complaint, ADM entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA) with the DOJ. This post will review some of the requirements found in the NPA and other information found in the Plea Agreement which the company entered into to resolve the FCPA investigation.

I.                   The Fine

As set out in the Plea Agreement, the base fine which the defendant was looking at receiving was $45MM based upon the US Sentencing Guidelines. The culpability score had a -5 based upon some or all of the following factors: “The organization, prior to imminent threat of disclosure or government investigation and within a reasonably prompt time after becoming aware of the offense, reported the offense to appropriate governmental authorities, fully cooperated in the investigation, and clearly demonstrated recognition and affirmative acceptance of responsibility for its criminal conduct.” Based upon the culpability score the fine range was listed from a low of $27.3MM to a high of $54.6MM. However the company paid only a fine of $17.7MM, which was noted to be approximately a 33% reduction from the low end of the fine range, with an additional reduction of “of $1,338,387 commensurate with the fine imposed by German authorities on Alfred C. Toepfer International G.m.b.H”; ADM’s German subsidiary which pled guilty and was involved in the bribery scheme. Additional factors in the reduction of the fine were “(a) the Defendant’s timely, voluntary, and thorough disclosure of the conduct; (b) the Defendant’s extensive cooperation with the Department; and (c) the Defendant’s early, extensive, and unsolicited remedial efforts already undertaken and those still to be undertaken.”

II.                The NPA

ADM entered into a three year NPA regarding the resolution of this matter. In a letter to ADM confirming the NPA, the DOJ stated that it was entering into the agreement with the ADM because of its conduct in self-disclosing the FCPA violations and the company’s conduct thereafter. The letter set out the following: “(a) the Company’s timely, voluntary, and thorough disclosure of the conduct; (b) the Company’s extensive cooperation with the Department, including conducting a world-wide risk assessment and corresponding global internal investigation, expanding the scope of the investigation where necessary to ensure the review was effective and thorough, making numerous presentations to the Department on the status and findings of the internal investigation, voluntarily making current and former employees available for interviews, voluntarily producing documents to the Department, and compiling relevant documents by category for the Department; (c) the Company’s early and extensive remedial efforts already undertaken at its own volition, and the agreement to undertake further enhancements to its compliance program as described in Attachment B (Corporate Compliance Program); and (d) the Company’s agreement to provide annual, written reports to the Department on its progress and experience in monitoring and enhancing its compliance policies.”

III.             Best in Class Compliance Program

Under Attachment B of the NPA, the company agreed to maintain a best practices compliance program which it had created during the pendency of the investigation. ADM agreed to maintain this compliance program at least during the length of the NPA. It included the following components.

  1. High level commitment from company officials and senior management to do business in compliance with the FCPA.
  2. A substantive written anti-corruption compliance code of conduct.
  3. Written policies and procedures to implement this code of conduct.
  4. A robust system of internal controls, including accounting and financial controls.
  5. Risk assessments and risk reviews of its ongoing business.
  6. No less than annual assessments of its overall compliance program.
  7. Appropriate oversight and responsibility of a Chief Compliance Officer.
  8. Effective training for all employees and relevant third parties.
  9. An effective compliance function which can provide guidance to company employees.
  10. A robust internal reporting system.
  11. Effective investigations of any reported compliance issue.
  12. Appropriate incentives for employees to do business ethically and in compliance.
  13. Enforced discipline for any employee who violates the company’s compliance program.
  14. Suitable due diligence and management of third parties and business partners.
  15. A correct level of pre-acquisition due diligence for any merger or acquisition candidate, including a risk assessment and reporting to the DOJ if the company uncovers and FCPA-violative conduct during this pre-acquisition phase.
  16. As soon as practicable, ADM will integrate any newly acquired entity into its compliance regime, including training of all relevant new employees, a FCPA forensic audit and reporting of any ongoing violations.
  17. Ongoing monitoring, testing and auditing of the company’s compliance function, taking into account any “relevant developments in the field and the evolving international and industry standards.”

IV.              Ongoing Reporting

Under the NPA, ADM was not required to sustain an external corporate monitor. However the company did agree that it would report to the DOJ on no less than an annual basis during the pendency of the NPA, specified as “an initial review and submit an initial report, and (2) conduct and prepare at least two (2) follow-up reviews and reports.” Further, the company is required to “submit to the Department a written report setting forth a complete description of its remediation efforts to date, its proposals reasonably designed to improve the Company’s internal controls, policies, and procedures for ensuring compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anti -corruption laws, and the proposed scope of the subsequent reviews.”

V.                 Facilitation Payments

I engaged with a colleague on whether the payments made by the ADM subsidiaries were simply facilitation payments because they were made to simply speed up the tax refund process. Whatever the payments were, they were not in any way, shape or form, facilitation payments. Initially, it should be noted that the FCPA says that the anti-bribery provisions “shall not apply to any facilitating or expediting payment to a foreign official, political party, or party official the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action . . .” The statute itself provided a list of examples of facilitation payments in the definition of routine governmental actions. It included the following:

  • Obtaining permits, licenses, or other official documents;
  • Processing governmental papers such as visas and work orders;
  • Providing police protection, mail services, scheduling inspections;
  • Providing utilities, cargo handling; or
  • Actions of a similar nature.

In addition to this language, the payments must be properly recorded on a company’s books and records; not disguised as payments for insurance premiums or other false entries that the ADM subsidiaries used in connection with the Ukraine tax authorities. When does a facilitation payment become a bribe? There is no clear monetary line of demarcation. The test seems to turn on the amount of money involved, to whom it is paid and the frequency of the payments. In the ADM matter, there were payments of approximately $22MM to receive tax refunds of $33MM. Whatever you might call the payments made by the ADM subsidiaries, they were certainly not facilitation payments.

The ADM FCPA settlement is extremely useful for the compliance practitioner for several reasons. The first is that it sets out some sophisticated mechanisms which are used to fund bribes. In addition to bribery schemes I discussed in the post entitled “Supermarket to the World – The ADM FCPA Enforcement Action” the NPA discussed another bribery scheme used ADM in Venezuela. All of the bribery schemes that the company’s subsidiaries engaged in were discussed or uncovered by the corporate office at some time before it began an official internal investigation. This once again shows the claim of the ‘rogue employee(s)’ is not something that stands up in criminal FCPA enforcement actions.

Equally important is that ADM received clear and very substantive credit for the actions that it took after it began its internal investigation. It self-disclosed, it cooperated extensively, it remediated thoroughly to put together a best practices compliance program. Lest anyone think these actions are for naught, or that the DOJ does not take such actions into account, note the 33% reduction in fine that ADM received, the NPA it received for the corporate parent and the lack of an external corporate monitor. These are clear signs from the DOJ as to the types of conduct and actions that it not only approves of but will be taken into account in the calculation of any fines and penalties. In other words, self-disclose, extensively cooperate, and remediate if your company finds itself in this situation.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2013