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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 September 30, 2020, amidst a blizzard of cases filed at the end of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fiscal year, the SEC announced a settlement with BGC Partners, Inc. (“BGC”) involving allegedly misleading disclosures concerning how it calculated a key non-GAAP financial measure (“NGFM”).[1]   This settlement is the latest in a string of enforcement actions relating to what the SEC views as improper uses of NGFMs.  In advance of year-end reporting, this action is a useful reminder to companies to carefully consider the SEC guidance and recent enforcement actions related to NGFMs.  At least 95% of all Fortune 500 companies publish NGFMs, and the SEC has indicated that it will be reviewing NGFMs with particular scrutiny this year-end in light of the challenges of reporting on performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continue Reading SEC Brings Enforcement Action Against Global Brokerage Company, Finding False and Misleading Statements In Connection With Non-GAAP Financial Measures

On June 1, 2020, the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (the “Department”) released revisions to its guidance regarding the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs, which the Department uses in assessing the “adequacy and effectiveness” of a company’s compliance program in connection with any decision to charge or resolve a criminal investigation, including

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly unfold, with breathtaking effects on everyday life barely imaginable just weeks ago, enforcement agencies have responded with pronouncements prioritizing investigations into COVID-19-related frauds and have proceeded with some significant non-COVID-19 law enforcement actions likely planned before the full impact of the pandemic could have been predicted.  At the same time, enforcement agencies are having to respond to the same practical challenges and constraints that the rest of society and other large organizations around the world face.  They, like the rest of us, are facing severe travel restrictions, learning to work remotely, and dealing with colleagues and family members who are sick from the virus.  Over the coming weeks and months, enforcement agencies will be managing the COVID-19-focused enforcement priorities and moving forward with their existing matters, while they deal with the practical realities and uncertainties presented by the pandemic.
Continue Reading Law Enforcement Priorities and Practicalities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

On June 17, 2019, in a decision interpreting the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause, the United States Supreme Court in Gamble v. United States upheld the doctrine of dual-sovereignty.[1]  In doing so, the Court confirmed that one sovereign may prosecute a defendant under its laws even if another sovereign has already prosecuted the defendant for the same conduct, notwithstanding the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against multiple prosecutions for the “same offence.”[2]  While Gamble does not represent a shift in the law, the Court’s opinion has implications for companies facing parallel investigations by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and other prosecutors, whether state or foreign authorities.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Upholds Dual-Sovereignty Doctrine Allowing Parallel Criminal Prosecutions At Home and Abroad

On May 13, 2019, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Hunt with respect to the applicable statute of limitations in a FCA action in which the Government has declined to intervene.  The FCA sets forth two limitation periods applicable to FCA actions and provides that an action must be brought within the longer of either (i) within 6 years after the date on which the violation occurred; or (ii) within three years of the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by a relevant official of the United States.  In no event may an action be brought more than 10 years after the date on which the violation was committed.  The issues in Cochise Consultancy were whether the second, alternative, limitations period applies to an action in which the government has intervened and whether, if so, the relevant official includes the private relator.  These issues are important because, if the longer period applies, a relator can bring an action long after (and more than 3 years after) she learned of the FCA violation.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Longer Time Limits for Non-intervened FCA Actions

On May 7, 2019, the Department of Justice issued formal guidance to DOJ’s False Claims Act litigators on the circumstances in which DOJ will grant credit for cooperation during FCA investigations.

The guidance explains the factors that DOJ considers in determining whether to award cooperation credit in FCA investigations and the types of credit available.

As discussed in our most recent blog post, on April 30, 2019, the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ” or “the Department”) announced updated guidance for the Criminal Division’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (“the Guidance”).  The Guidance is relevant to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in conducting an investigation of a corporation, determining whether to bring charges, negotiating plea or other agreements, applying sentencing guidelines and appointing monitors.[1]  The Guidance focuses on familiar factors: the adoption of a well-designed compliance program that addresses the greatest compliance risks to the company, the effective implementation of the company’s compliance policies and procedures, and the adequacy of the compliance program at the time of any misconduct and the response to that misconduct.  The Guidance makes clear that there is no one-size-fits-all compliance program and that primary responsibility for the compliance program will lie with senior and middle management and those in control functions.
Continue Reading DOJ Guidance on Corporate Compliance Programs: A Checklist for Directors

On April 30, 2019, the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced updated guidance for the Criminal Division’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (“the Guidance”) in charging and resolving criminal cases.  This memorandum highlights key updates and discusses the themes present across versions of the Guidance.  Overall, this newest version places greater emphasis

In a recent speech at the annual ABA White Collar Crime Conference in New Orleans, Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced certain changes to the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (“the Enforcement Policy” or “Policy”) to address issues that the DOJ had identified since its implementation.[1]  These and other recent updates have since been codified in a revised Enforcement Policy in the Justice Manual.[2]

The Enforcement Policy, first announced by the DOJ in November 2017, was initially applicable only to violations of the FCPA, but was subsequently extended to all white collar matters handled by the Criminal Division.[3]  The Policy was designed to encourage companies to voluntary self-disclose misconduct by providing more transparency as to the credit a company could receive for self-reporting and fully cooperating with the DOJ.  Among other things, the Enforcement Policy provides a presumption that the DOJ will decline to prosecute companies that meet the DOJ’s requirement of “voluntary self-disclosure,” “full cooperation,” and “timely and appropriate remediation,” absent “aggravating circumstances” – i.e. relating to the seriousness or frequency of the violation.  For more information on the Enforcement Policy, read our blog post explaining it here.
Continue Reading DOJ Updates FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy

Nearly a decade ago, WikiLeaks ushered in the age of mass leaks.  Since then, corporations, governments, public figures and private entities have increasingly had to reckon with a new reality: that vigilantes, activists, extortionists and even state actors can silently steal and rapidly disseminate proprietary information, including customer data and other sensitive information.  Last month, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) indicted four individuals based on information first revealed in the “Panama Papers” leak.  This marks a significant milestone in law enforcement’s reliance on evidence based on an unauthorized mass leak of information.  While leaks and hacks are not a novel phenomenon—in 1971, the New York Times published top secret documents on the Vietnam War and, in 1994, a paralegal leaked tobacco industry documents that ultimately cost the industry billions of dollars in litigation and settlement costs—the frequency, scale and ease of dissemination of leaked information today presents a difference not only of degree, but of kind.  The new Panama Papers-based criminal case will likely raise a host of novel legal issues based on legal challenges to the DOJ’s reliance on information illegally obtained by a third party, as well as information that would ordinarily be protected by the attorney-client privilege.  In this memorandum, we discuss the potential issues raised by the prosecution and their implications.
Continue Reading U.S. Criminal Prosecution Based on Panama Papers Hack Raises Novel Legal Issues