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
On 5 September 2018, in a highly anticipated decision on the scope of legal privilege under English law, the English Court of Appeal handed down its decision in SFO v ENRC, rejecting the restrictive approach that had been taken by the High Court to litigation privilege.
The decision has important implications both as to when litigation may be said to be in reasonable contemplation and as to what documents can be said to be for the dominant purpose of litigation. Most significantly, the Court of Appeal confirmed that documents created for the purposes of avoiding contemplated litigation were covered by litigation privilege. In relation to legal advice privilege, the Court of Appeal saw “much force” in criticisms of the narrow approach that had been taken in the Three Rivers No 5 line of authorities, although ultimately held that it was an issue that could only be resolved by the U.K. Supreme Court.
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On September 4, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced a $25.2 million settlement with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi (“Sanofi” or the “Company”) for violating the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in connection with a scheme to bribe foreign officials to increase sales of Sanofi products. The Sanofi settlement encompasses conduct by three Sanofi subsidiaries organized in Kazakhstan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”). The Sanofi settlement follows a recent enforcement action by U.S. authorities against another French company—Société Générale—for FCPA violations. In announcing the Sanofi resolution, the SEC signaled its intention to focus further on bribery risk in the pharmaceutical industry. Continue Reading Sanofi Settles FCPA Charges With SEC for $25.2 Million
On August 27, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced a $34.5 million settlement with investment management firm Legg Mason, Inc. (“Legg Mason” or the “Company”) for violating the internal controls provision of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in connection with a scheme to bribe Libyan government officials to secure investments from Libyan state-owned financial institutions. The SEC settlement follows a June 2018 non-prosecution agreement between Legg Mason and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regarding the same conduct. Under the non-prosecution agreement, Legg Mason agreed to pay $64.2 million. The Legg Mason settlements reflect the increased focus of U.S. authorities on coordinating with other authorities in imposing penalties on a company, including not “piling on,” and the continued enforcement of the FCPA, while highlighting the potential risks under the FCPA of not having proper controls in place for assessing use of third party intermediaries.
On August 21, 2018, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) unanimously approved final amendments (the “Amendments”) to its regulations governing chief compliance officer (“CCO”) duties and annual compliance report requirements for swap dealers, major swap participants and futures commission merchants (together, “Registrants”) (the “CCO Rule”).
The Amendments seek to streamline and clarify the CCO Rule, as well as align the CCO Rule with the corresponding Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) regulations governing CCOs of security-based swap dealers and major security-based swap participants (the “SEC CCO Rule”). In particular, the Amendments significantly streamline and help harmonize the content of the annual compliance report. However, the CFTC declined to fully harmonize the CCO’s duties with parallel provisions of the SEC CCO Rule. Specifically, the CFTC emphasized that the CCO Rule requires CCOs to take a more active role in oversight of regulated activities, rather than the advisory role more traditionally associated with CCOs in the securities industry. The CFTC justified the departures from the SEC CCO Rule in respect of these duties by referring to the differences between the Registrants and the SEC-regulated entities. The CFTC did not, however, take these differences into account by adopting more flexible reporting lines, as commenters had requested. If anything, the Amendments reinforce the CFTC’s expectations regarding escalation of issues by the CCO to the highest levels of management of a Registrant.
Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.
On August 24, 2018, the Second Circuit in United States v. Hoskins issued a decision limiting the FCPA’s reach, holding that foreign nationals who cannot be convicted as principals under the FCPA also cannot be held liable for conspiring to violate or aiding and abetting a violation of the statute. The decision, written by Judge Pooler (joined by Chief Judge Katzmann and Judge Lynch, who also wrote a concurring opinion), concluded that, due to affirmative legislative policy and extraterritoriality concerns, the FCPA’s reach cannot be extended via conspiracy or complicity liability to implicate individuals who cannot violate the FCPA as principals. Although the decision limits the government’s ability to prosecute foreign nationals for conspiring to commit or aiding and abetting a violation of the FCPA, practically speaking, the decision will apply only to a small class of foreign nationals and entities – those who engaged in a bribery scheme in which there is otherwise jurisdiction under the FCPA, but who are not themselves subject to the FCPA’s jurisdiction. That said, the ruling is significant as one of the few cases limiting the FCPA’s jurisdiction due to the statute’s unique, extraterritorial nature, which may encourage charged defendants in other cases to challenge the DOJ’s broad interpretation of its jurisdiction.
Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.
On August 2, 2018, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) announced multiple whistleblower awards totaling more than $45 million. Although this is only the seventh such aggregate award announced by the CFTC since the inception of its whistleblower program in October 2011, it is the Commission’s highest to date, and comes weeks after the agency’s announcement of two such awards last month. This recent activity, which follows a two-year hiatus during which the CFTC did not grant any whistleblower awards, may signal the Commission’s renewed focus on touting the success of its whistleblower program as well as the conclusion of a number of major CFTC investigations. It is also in keeping with the Commission’s aggressive pace of enforcement actions in recent months. Continue Reading CFTC Announces Highest Aggregate Whistleblower Award to Date, Totaling More Than $45 Million
On Monday, following two reversals of convictions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut moved to dismiss the sole securities fraud claim remaining against former Jefferies bond trader, Jesse Litvak, bringing an end to the 5 1/2-year long case against him. During the case’s winding procedural path, the Government twice secured convictions against Litvak by jury trial—on the theory that Litvak’s alleged misstatements about his own costs and profit margins for residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) trades would have been material to the decision-making of a reasonable (and often sophisticated) investor-buyer. And twice the Second Circuit overturned the convictions on narrow and technical grounds. Notably, even while seeking to dismiss the remaining charge, the Government maintains in its filing that the Second Circuit’s decisions left undisturbed the soundness of its legal theories—namely that a broker-dealer’s misstatements relating to his own profits to sophisticated counterparties could satisfy the materiality requirement for securities fraud as a matter of law. Thus, notwithstanding the additional hurdles presented by the Second Circuit’s decisions, the Government’s decision not to pursue yet another trial against Litvak does not signal a death knell for all similar charges in the future, particularly those that are currently pending and arose as part of the Government’s RMBS probe. But the somewhat torturous history of the Litvak case does highlight the difficulty for the Government in establishing the materiality of alleged misstatements made to sophisticated securities professionals who undertake their own analysis of trades. Indeed, in many of these RMBS cases, the Government faced an uphill battle from the start, evidenced by its inability to secure convictions in many of them. Continue Reading Two Strikes and You’re Out: The Litvak Saga Comes to an End
The long-running criminal case against Jesse Litvak seems to have come to an end, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut filing a motion yesterday seeking voluntary dismissal of the sole remaining charge. This action—which has resulted in the government twice obtaining a criminal conviction against Litvak, only to see both convictions overturned by the Second Circuit—raised somewhat novel questions of the materiality of information a broker-dealer provides about its own costs or profit margins to sophisticated counterparties. Notably, even while seeking dismissal, the Government again reiterated its view that the legal theory it pursued, and which the Second Circuit twice appeared to credit, remains sound and (presumably) actionable in future cases. Continue Reading Government Moves to Voluntarily Dismiss Remaining Charge Against Jesse Litvak, Foregoing a Third Trial
DOJ has expanded its efforts to give more concrete guidance to companies facing FCPA risk to M&A transactions and the question of successor liability. In a speech on July 25, 2018, at the American Conference Institute’s 9th Global Forum on Anti-Corruption Compliance in High Risk Markets, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matthew S. Miner highlighted DOJ’s views on successor liability for FCPA violations by acquired companies. Miner sought to clarify DOJ’s policy regarding the voluntary disclosure of misconduct by successor companies and to highlight the benefits of such disclosure as spelled out in the joint DOJ and SEC FCPA Resource Guide (the “Resource Guide”). In general, as with other recent pronouncements and actions by DOJ, such as the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy, Miner’s speech seemed intended to highlight ways in which firms can gain cooperation credit (up to and including a declination) in FCPA investigations. Continue Reading DOJ Remarks Provide Guidance on Addressing FCPA Risk in M&A Transactions