Last month, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales effectively shut down the operation of the UN-operated International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (called by its Spanish initials, “CICIG”) by declining to renew its mandate past its September 2019 expiration date and by barring the head of CICIG, Iván Velásquez, from re-entering the country. CICIG, a uniquely independent organ of the United Nations (“U.N.”), was created in 2007 to support and assist Guatemalan institutions in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting public corruption. Over the past decade, it has investigated nearly 200 public officials, and its efforts led to the prosecution and ultimate resignation of former Guatemalan President, Otto Pérez Molina. Continue Reading Anti-Corruption in Guatemala: A Critical Moment for CICIG
The English High Court has dismissed an application to discharge the U.K.’s first Unexplained Wealth Order which was obtained by the National Crime Agency on February 27, 2018.
Since January 31, 2018 a number of U.K. enforcement authorities have been able to apply to the English courts for an Unexplained Wealth Order in circumstances where a person’s assets appear disproportionate to their known income. Once granted, an Unexplained Wealth Order requires an individual or company suspected of serious crime, or a politically exposed person from outside the EEA, to explain and account for the source of their wealth.
In summary, the High Court ruled that:
- The respondent fell within the category of persons against whom an Unexplained Wealth Order can be made as her husband is a non-EEA PEP (by virtue of his former role as the Chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan).
- There were reasonable grounds for suspecting that a property in London owned by the respondent was purchased with unlawfully obtained income.
- The order did not breach the respondent’s human rights.
- Neither privilege against self-incrimination nor spousal privilege excuse compliance with an Unexplained Wealth Order.
Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.
The £16.4 million fine imposed by the UK Financial Conduct Authority on Tesco Personal Finance plc provides a salutary lesson on the regulatory exposure associated with failing adequately to prepare for and respond to a cyber-attack – one of the FCA’s stated regulatory priorities.
The episode illustrates how cybersecurity failures can expose a business not only to increasingly draconian penalties under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation where personal data is involved (effective from 25 May 2018), but also to regulatory enforcement penalties where systems are not in place or are not operated effectively in a crisis.
It highlights the critical importance for businesses of:
- Establishing cybersecurity and data protection compliance firmly on the management and risk agenda. More than just the costs of doing business in the digital economy, these can give rise to serious regulatory and franchise exposure;
- Taking effective action to prevent foreseeable cyber-attacks;
- Establishing appropriate crisis management procedures and providing training to staff on how to invoke them, including through desktop exercises that provide scenario planning training; and
Engaging constructively and immediately with the relevant authorities and stakeholders to mitigate even greater damage to the business once an attack has occurred.
Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.
On September 27, 2018, in remarks delivered at the 5th Annual Global Investigations Review New York Live Event, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matthew S. Miner reported on the accomplishments of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) over the course of the last twelve months. Importantly, he also discussed recent changes to the DOJ’s policies on prosecution of business organizations and how those changes have been implemented. Miner highlighted the DOJ’s efforts to incentivize and provide guidance to companies to self-report, cooperate and remediate corporate misconduct while underscoring the importance of robust compliance programs to detect and prevent wrongdoing and to obtain full credit in resolving investigations by the DOJ. Continue Reading DOJ Remarks Highlight Changes to White Collar Policy
On September 27, 2018, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed parallel actions in federal court against an internet dealer that sold “contracts for difference” (CFD) based on securities and commodities margined with bitcoin. The actions, which were assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice, signal continued coordination among federal agencies to police market activity involving financial transactions in cryptocurrencies. Continue Reading The CFTC and SEC Bring Charges Against International Securities Dealer for Bitcoin-Funded Swaps Activity
On September 26, 2018, a federal court in the District of Massachusetts found that virtual currencies are a commodity under the Commodity Exchange Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1 et seq, (“CEA”). This marks the second time that a court has accepted the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (“CFTC”) position and upheld the agency’s authority to regulate unleveraged and unmargined spot transactions in virtual currency under the agency’s anti-fraud and manipulation enforcement authority. Most notably, however, the reasoning behind its decision potentially expands the scope of the CFTC’s oversight of the market. Continue Reading Second District Court Determines Virtual Currencies Are Commodities
On July 31, 2018, in response to a review of the Bribery Act 2010 (the “Bribery Act”) conducted by the UK Government, the Law Society, the City of London Law Society and the Fraud Lawyers Association published a joint response (the “Joint Response”) to the UK Government’s call for evidence on the enforcement and effectiveness of the legislation. Continue Reading Law Society, CLLS and Fraud Lawyers Association Respond to UK Government Review of the Bribery Act
Over the past year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has increasingly scrutinized initial coin offerings (“ICO”) and certain digital assets. On September 20, 2018, the SEC’s Enforcement Division co-Director, Stephanie Avakian, gave a speech in which she addressed the Division’s approach to dealing with these new forms of tradeable assets. This speech came only days after the SEC settled its first case charging an unregistered broker-dealer for facilitating the sale of digital tokens from several ICOs since the 2017 DAO Report. In her speech, Avakian provided three key insights into the Division’s enforcement strategy. Continue Reading SEC Enforcement Division Co-Director Provides Insight Into Commission’s Approach to ICOs and Cryptocurrencies
On September 14, 2018, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York certified as a class action a securities fraud suit against hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC (“Och-Ziff”) and two of its executives. Shortly after the decision certifying the class, the parties informed the court that they had reached an agreement in principle to settle the case, which had gone forward on the basis of allegations that Och-Ziff had failed to make adequate disclosures related to its knowledge of the investigation. Continue Reading Certification of Securities Class Action Against Och-Ziff Relating to FCPA Violations Highlights Potential Collateral Consequences of FCPA Investigations
On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York issued a decision holding that Initial Coin Offerings (“ICO”) may qualify as securities offerings and therefore be subject to the criminal federal securities laws. This ruling came as two U.S. regulators—the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”)—announced separate actions under securities laws against companies engaged in the cryptocurrency marketplace, including the sale of digital tokens. As the popularity of cryptocurrencies grows and businesses and entrepreneurs increasingly turn to ICOs to raise capital, these developments may serve as guideposts for how cryptocurrencies and ICOs will be viewed by courts and federal regulators in cases to follow. Continue Reading Federal Court, SEC, and FINRA Scrutinize Cryptocurrencies and ICOs