On July 12 and 16, 2018, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) announced two awards to whistleblowers, one its largest-ever award, approximately $30 million, and another its first award to a whistleblower living in a foreign country. These awards—along with recent proposed changes meant to bolster the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC” or “Commission”) own whistleblower regime—demonstrate that such programs likely will continue to be significant parts of the enforcement programs of both agencies and necessarily help shape their enforcement agendas in the coming years. Continue Reading CFTC Announces Two Significant Awards by Whistleblower Program
Breon S. Peace’s practice focuses on white-collar defense, regulatory enforcement matters and complex civil litigation.
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a non-prosecution agreement (“NPA”) with a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of Credit Suisse Group AG arising out of the so-called “princelings” scandals of recent years—the practice of hiring unqualified, but politically-connected, relatives of Chinese officials to garner business from state-owned firms. Per Credit Suisse’s admissions, “bankers discussed and approved the hiring of close friends and family of Chinese officials in order to secure business,” resulting in $46 million “in profits from business mandates with Chinese” state-owned enterprises. As part of the resolution, Credit Suisse agreed to a $47 million criminal penalty, to continue to cooperate with DOJ, and to enhance its compliance program, including adopting additional controls around hiring. In addition, Credit Suisse agreed to pay nearly $25 million in disgorgement and $4.8 million in prejudgment interest to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). In its press release, DOJ stated that it was giving Credit Suisse a 15 percent discount from the bottom end of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for its cooperation in the investigation, while also (as discussed more below) noting steps the firm did not take that worked to limit the amount of such cooperation credit. While this is hardly the first of the “princelings” cases, it does demonstrate DOJ’s continued commitment to the cooperation framework it laid out in its FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (“Enforcement Policy”) late last year.
On November 29, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ” or the “Department”) announced a new FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (the “Enforcement Policy”) applicable to investigations of companies under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). The Enforcement Policy builds on the FCPA Pilot Program (the “Pilot Program”) that has been in effect since April 2016, and provides additional transparency regarding the credit the Department will provide to companies that self-report FCPA violations and then cooperate with the resulting investigation. By and large, the new policy, which is now part of the U.S. Attorney’s Manual (“USAM”), makes key provisions of the Pilot Program permanent, and significantly, it also promises additionalbenefits to companies that qualify. The Enforcement Policy signals a further effort by DOJ to encourage companies to self-report and cooperate, although the policy also leaves the Department with considerable leeway in assessing key threshold questions for eligibility even for companies that do self-report.
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In a September 25, 2017 speech in New York, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) Division of Enforcement (the “Division”) Director James McDonald outlined the CFTC’s focus on creating greater incentives for self-reporting and cooperation in order to deter and detect misconduct in the commodities markets. Director McDonald’s speech accompanied the release of an Updated Advisory on Self Reporting and Full Cooperation, which supplements the guidance issued by the CFTC earlier this year.
The new guidance reflects an effort by the CFTC to rebalance the incentives facing firms who identify potential misconduct to favor voluntary reporting and pro-active cooperation, reinforced by the potential for concrete benefits in the form of fine reductions and, potentially, declination of prosecution in appropriate cases. Commodities market participants and financial institutions should take note of this guidance when considering how to respond to potential evidence of misconduct and in dealing with the Division.
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