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Elizabeth Vicens’ practice focuses on a broad spectrum of securities enforcement, investigations and compliance, as well as securities litigation, with a concentration in complex, cross-border issues.

On August 12, 2022, in United States v. Hoskins, No. 20-842 —F.4th—, 2022 WL 330357 (2d. Cir. Aug. 12, 2022) (“Hoskins II”), a three-judge panel from the Second Circuit upheld a lower court decision to overturn the foreign bribery conviction of a former Alstom SA executive, Lawrence Hoskins.  The Court concluded that the trial evidence did not support a finding that Defendant Hoskins was an “agent” of a U.S. subsidiary of the French multinational railway manufacturer Alstom (“Alstom U.S.”).  While highly fact-intensive and likely subject to narrow interpretation in the future, the decision is the Second Circuit’s most recent limitation on the extraterritorial reach of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”).  This follows a prior Second Circuit decision in this same case limiting the scope of the FCPA’s extraterritorial reach of conspiracy liability for certain foreign individuals acting abroad.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Upholds District Court’s Rejection of DOJ Attempt to Expand Extraterritorial Reach of FCPA Through Agency Liability

On August 1, 2022, Robinhood Crypto LLC (“RHC”) entered into a Consent Order with the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) based on “serious deficiencies” related to anti-money laundering (“AML”), cybersecurity, and virtual currency that were identified in DFS’s examination of RHC covering the period from January to September 2019.
Continue Reading DFS Enters Consent Order with Robinhood Crypto for Deficiencies in AML, Cybersecurity, and Virtual Currency Compliance

On July 12, 2022, the Brazilian Government published Federal Decree No. 11,129/2022,[1] which amends the regulation of the Brazilian Clean Companies Act (“BCCA”), Brazil’s 2013 Anticorruption Law.  The new regulation came into effect earlier this week, on July 18, 2022, and replaces Decree No. 8,420/2015, which previously regulated the application of the BCCA.

Overall, the new decree resembles past regulation in form and substance, however, it provides additional guidance on the expectations of the Controladoria Geral da União (“CGU”), which oversees compliance with the BCCA, in assessing integrity programs and the range and application of administrative fines for violations of the law.  The new decree also clarifies and details procedural mechanisms for the conduct of investigations and negotiation of leniency agreements by the CGU and Brazilian public prosecutors (Advocacia Geral da União – “AGU”).[2]

Continue Reading New Anticorruption Decree Modifies Regulation of Brazilian Clean Companies Act

On June 8, 2022, the SEC announced a notable settlement with national audit firm CohnReznick LLP, charging it with failure to uphold several professional standards during its 2017 audits of two public companies that had previously been sued by the SEC for accounting fraud.  In its order, the SEC specifically alleged that CohnReznick violated professional standards and contributed to materially misleading financial statements by, among other things, failing to exercise sufficient professional skepticism and accepting assertions from company management without sufficient supporting evidence.  The SEC fined CohnReznick $1.9 million, levied fines and suspensions against several of its audit partners, and imposed an independent consultant with a sweeping mandate to demand various audit-related and internal process reforms and veto new audit clients.  This action is consistent with the SEC’s repeated warnings that “gatekeepers” such as auditors are in the agency’s crosshairs.

Continue Reading SEC Imposes Penalties and Sweeping Independent Consultant on CohnReznick for Alleged Audit Failures in Case Underscoring SEC’s Focus on “Gatekeepers”

On June 7, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had charged software company Synchronoss Technologies, Inc. and seven of its current and former employees in connection with an alleged long-running accounting fraud involving improper revenue recognition of more than $46 million across six quarters.   All of those implicated settled with the SEC and agreed to pay a range of penalties, except for the former CFO and controller, who will litigate against the SEC in New York federal court.  Synchronoss was ordered to pay a $12.5 million penalty.

Continue Reading SEC Accounting Enforcement Action Signals Heightened Focus on Individual Accountability and Puts Public Company Executives on Notice for Potential SOX 304 Reimbursement

2021 was a year of transition for white-collar criminal and regulatory enforcement. As courthouses reopened and trials resumed, newly-installed heads of law enforcement authorities looked to reset priorities and ramp up enforcement in the first year of the Biden administration. 
Continue Reading Priorities, Trends and Developments in Enforcement and Compliance

On December 6, 2021, the Biden Administration issued the “United States Strategy on Countering Corruption”. It is the U.S. government’s first-ever comprehensive anti-corruption plan, and “marks a new chapter” in the country’s efforts to curb graft. If the Administration is successful in executing it, the Strategy may spur a significant increase in anti-corruption investigations and

On October 28, 2021, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco announced the administration’s first significant changes to the DOJ’s policies on corporate criminal enforcement, highlighting departures from Trump-era policies. The announcement focused on three corporate enforcement policy developments:

  1. Individuals and Corporate Misconduct: to be eligible for cooperation credit, companies must provide the DOJ with all

On September 2 and 3, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced settlements with Pareteum Corporation (“Pareteum”) and Kraft Heinz Co.[1] (“KHC”) for accounting fraud following years of alleged accounting improprieties and financial restatements at both companies.  The underlying facts differed in significant ways, including with respect to the alleged involvement of senior executives, but both companies apparently received cooperation credit for their prompt and proactive remediation and cooperation with the SEC Division of Enforcement’s investigations.  The messaging in relation to the announcement of these cases and their timing, coming in the early days of new Enforcement Director Gurbir Grewal’s tenure, is instructive.  We expect the SEC to continue to focus on accounting fraud and to credit companies who provide cooperation in these challenging and resource-intensive investigations.  To see a meaningful increase in the frequency and nature of cooperation, the SEC would be well-served to provide even more explicit guidance on how cooperation results in improved settlement terms.  That said, these recent settlements are helpful in understanding the benefits of cooperation at this time.
Continue Reading Two Recent Settlements Highlight Heightened SEC Focus on Accounting Fraud and Potential Benefits of Cooperation

On August 9, 2021, the SEC issued a cease-and-desist order against digital asset exchange Poloniex, Inc. for allegedly operating an unregistered exchange in violation of Section 5 of the Exchange Act in connection with its operation of a trading platform that facilitated the buying and selling of digital asset securities.[1]

In the cease-and-desist order, the SEC alleged that Poloniex met the definition of an “exchange” because it “provided the non-discretionary means for trade orders to interact and execute through the combined use of the Poloniex website, an order book, and the Poloniex trading engine.”  The SEC also found, based on internal communications, that Poloniex decided to be “aggressive,” ultimately listing token(s) it had internally determined carried a “medium” risk of being considered securities under the Securities Act of 1933 pursuant to the test set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in SEC v. W.J. Howey.[2]  However, the SEC did not identify what digital asset(s) it determined were securities nor why, simply stating that Poloniex facilitated trading of “digital assets that were investment contracts and therefore securities.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Poloniex agreed to the entry of the order and a payment of $10,388,309 in disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty.
Continue Reading SEC Enforcement Action Against Poloniex Signals Heightened Scrutiny for Crypto Exchanges