On April 20, 2017 the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) offered new guidance for individuals and entities (and their counsel) who seek to have their names removed from OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN).

The guidance comes in the form of updates to OFAC’s Frequently Asked Questions and sets forth the procedures for petitioning for removal from the SDN list.  The petition itself appears quite simple.  In fact, the only requirements are that it include: (1) the name and contact information of the SDN; (2) the date of the relevant OFAC listing action; and (3) a “detailed description” of the reasons that individual or entity should be removed from the SDN list. Parties may also submit additional evidence or argument as to why the SDN designation is not appropriate.

While OFAC notes that all petitions are unique, OFAC announces a goal to send its first questionnaire within 90 days of receiving a petition.  The time a party takes to respond to the questionnaire (and any subsequent questionnaires) can, of course, significantly draw out the overall petition process.

Although individuals may submit their own petitions, hiring proper counsel is likely a wise decision.  Not only can knowledgeable counsel navigate the grounds on which OFAC is likely to remove a person from the SDN list (i.e., positive change in behavior, change in the basis for the designation, mistaken identity, or death), counsel can help ensure that information disclosures will comport with OFAC’s expectations (ideally limiting the number of follow-up questionnaires).

Counsel should be cautioned not to run afoul of OFAC’s sanctions regimes while representing an SDN.  Although there are general licenses under most of OFAC’s sanctions regimes permitting legal services to aid a person in contesting SDN status, restrictions on the origin of payments may complicate matters.

New clarity on the path off of the sanctions black list is encouraging evidence of OFAC’s commitment to ensuring that the SDN list encourages good behavior and is not a heavy-handed punishment.  While the reality of the petition process may not be as simple as the FAQ suggests, clear guidelines are a great aid to targeted individuals and their counsel.

Copyright: bedo / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: bedo / 123RF Stock Photo

In a complaint recently filed in Delaware Chancery Court, a shareholder of General Cable Corp. (“General Cable”) has asked the Court to compel the release of documents related to General Cable’s $82 million settlement of claims under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

In January, General Cable, a Kentucky-based industrial cable manufacturer, agreed to the $82 million settlement with the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The DOJ and SEC alleged that between 2002 and 2013 General Cable paid approximately $13 million in bribes to secure more than $50 million in contracts in Africa and Asia.  General Cable’s penalties were reduced based its voluntary disclosure of the payments and the SEC noted that there was no evidence of personal misconduct by the former CEO and CFO who had already returned millions in compensation.

In the recent shareholder complaint, the shareholder alleges that he has been improperly denied access to corporate records regarding the investigation and settlement of the FCPA claims.  The shareholder previously requested, and was provided, board meeting transcripts and materials from 2011 to 2015.  The shareholder alleges that General Cable has refused his subsequent requests, including requests for internal audit reports, emails, and other document related to the improper payments and the settlement with authorities.  The shareholder asserts that the documents are necessary to evaluate potential steps to improve corporate governance.

Potential shareholder litigation is yet more collateral damage extending from FCPA violations.  Should the shareholder be successful, there may be significant new precedent as to what investigative and settlement documents a shareholder has the right to review.  Well documented compliance policies and education remain the best way to avoid FCPA violations and the ancillary challenges that so often follow.

 

The International Trade Commission (ITC) issued an order on January 27, 2017,  barring the import table saws produced by German tool manufacturer, Robert Bosch GmbH (“Bosch”). The ITC determined that the components of Bosch’s REAXX safety technology infringed the two patents held by US-based SawStop LLC (“SawStop”).  As described in a press release at the outset of the ITC’s investigation, both the saws produced by SawStop and by Bosch contain active injury mitigation technologies which are able to detect when a user comes into contact with the blade can avoid catastrophic injury.

As the ITC had previously determined that Bosch’s saws infringed two of SawStop’s patents, the ITCs recent order was limited to Bosch’s request that the ITC forego any penalties and permit the continued importation of its saws because: (1) SawStop did not have the manufacturing and distribution capacity to meet US demand and (2) by preventing the import of Bosch’s safer saw, the ITC would be increasing potential injuries to consumers.  Indeed, Bosch cited to “millions or billions of dollars” in societal costs for severe injuries from the use of unsafe saws. Ultimately, Bosch’s argument that US consumers should be afforded the ability to buy saws with the latest safety technology (leaving aside the countless antiquated table saws that fill factories and wood shops across the country) was unpersuasive.  Further, the ITC appeared to accept that SawStop was capable of meeting demand and ordered that all of Bosch’s infringing saws be excluded.

In an recent article on Law360, Robert W. Kent, Jr. looked at lessons to be learned from the first six months of the Department of Justice’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Pilot Program. Announced in April 2016, the year-long pilot program is designed to up the ante for companies during FCPA investigations by offering sentencing reductions or declinations (with disgorgement of all profits from the alleged misconduct) to companies that voluntarily disclose misconduct and cooperate fully while ostensibly restricting any cooperation credit for companies that no not meaningfully participate in an investigation.

Mr. Kent offers a number of insightful observations on the first six months of the pilot program. Among his many insights are a few key take-aways for companies of all sizes.

First, FCPA enforcement actions have increased dramatically. As of October, there have already been more enforcement actions announced in 2016 than in any full year prior. Whether this surge will continue remains to be seen, but companies must assume that this heightened level of vigilance is the new standard.

Second, the DOJ is publicizing the details of alleged misconduct with more detail in the past. The factual recitations of the alleged conduct, even in letters declining further investigation or prosecution, clearly outline the alleged schemes and those involved, and may tarnish a company’s relationship with partners and the public.

Third, the Yates Memo’s focus on individual accountability appears to be taking root as the DOJ and SEC have appeared to coordinate efforts, leading to SEC enforcement actions against four individuals in the past six months. The specter individual enforcement actions or criminal charges is a powerful deterrent and one the DOJ and SEC seem ready to use as part of the current enforcement push.

Finally, a bit of good news for companies in the midst of the government’s enforcement surge, the DOJ and SEC are recognizing and crediting the value of robust FCPA compliance programs. In numerous releases regarding FCPA resolution, the DOJ and SEC have focused on the responsiveness of compliance programs when allegations of misconduct arise internally. Subsequent internal investigations which include the strict preservation of evidence and aid from internal investigators to government agencies in deciphering global financial data are similarly lauded. Nevertheless, the ability to identify and report potential misconduct will always require training employees and executives at every level. Therefore, while the yield from the internal investigations may garner leniency from the DOJ or SEC, training which will allow the company to identify misconduct and start the process of internal investigation and self-disclosure must not be understated.

At the half-way point, the FCPA pilot program is proving to be a genuine catalyst for changing how FCPA violations are reported and investigated. In April, the DOJ said that it would re-evaluate the need to continue the pilot program after a year. However, another six months like this and we may have arrived at a new FCPA enforcement status quo, pilot program or none.