On December 20, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) released its 2019 Examination Priorities. The six themes for this year’s priorities are: retail investors (including seniors and those saving for retirement), compliance and risk in registrants responsible for critical market infrastructure (clearing agencies, transfer agents, national securities exchanges and Regulation SCI entities), oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, digital assets, cybersecurity and anti-money laundering. The only new theme for 2019 compared to 2018 is digital assets, which we take to imply a plan to more closely—and substantively—regulate investment advisers and broker-dealers involved with this asset class. The 2019 priorities also more explicitly than the 2018 priorities describe specific practices that OCIE found concerning in examinations of those entities, many of which involved failure to adequately safeguard client assets and the adequacy of disclosures of conflicts of interest. We expect to see a corresponding focus in Enforcement Division investigations and cases on these issues as a result. Continue Reading Lessons from the SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations’ 2019 Priorities
On November 15, 2018, the Division of Enforcement (the “Division”) of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) released its Annual Report on the Division of Enforcement (the “Report”), highlighting the enforcement division’s recent initiatives and reinforcing its focus on cooperation and self-reporting. The Report provides a succinct overview of the Division’s enforcement priorities over the last year, discusses its overall enforcement philosophy, sets out key metrics about the cases brought in the last year, and highlights its key initiatives for the coming year. While the Division’s priorities—preserving market integrity, protecting customers, promoting individual accountability, and increasing coordination with other regulators and criminal authorities—do not mark a departure from prior guidance, the Report does highlight the Division’s particular focus on individual accountability and a few target areas of enforcement. Continue Reading Virtual Currencies, Manipulation, Cooperation, and More: CFTC Enforcement Division’s 2018 Annual Report
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
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 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.
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On June 13, 2018, in its latest decision in a long-running litigation, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia considered the applicability of certain exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to documents sought by journalists relating to the actions of the independent compliance monitor that Siemens AG was required to retain under the terms of its 2008 plea agreement for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”). Broadly speaking, although the court concluded that portions of the documents that related to Siemens’ business operations and the DOJ’s analysis of the monitor’s activities were exempted from disclosure, the court also required the DOJ to produce other portions of those materials and to reevaluate, based on the court’s decision, whether additional materials had to be disclosed. The decision, and the lengthy litigation over the application of FOIA to these materials, highlight the complexity of identifying the boundaries of the FOIA protection applicable to the typically sensitive and confidential information companies provide to compliance monitors and the risk that such information later will have to be disclosed once it is in the hands of the government. Continue Reading Recent District Court Decision on Applicability of FOIA to Siemens FCPA Monitorship Documents Provides Guidance on Scope of Possible Disclosures
On April 23rd, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on the protection of whistleblowers reporting breaches of Union Law.
The proposal sets out minimum standards of protection for whistleblowers against retaliation when they report breaches in specific policy areas. The proposal is premised on the view that the lack of a common, effective approach to whistleblower protection across Member States can impair the enforcement of European law. Continue Reading The European Commission Proposes new Rules to Strengthen Whistleblower Protection
Internal investigations and public enforcement actions often pose legal issues involving multiple practice areas and jurisdictions.
In Italy, internal investigations may concern criminal, corporate, contract, data protection and labor law issues.
In the past, internal investigations in Italy tended to be mainly “reactive,” responding to public enforcement activities. The challenge in these investigations was balancing complying with disclosure obligations in relation to public enforcement authorities with volunteering confidential or disproportionate information. Continue Reading Internal Investigations and Public Enforcement: Italy at a Glance
Companies operating in Italy should take note of an important change in Italian law introducing more comprehensive regulations on whistleblowing procedures in the public and non-financial private sector. Among other relevant aspects, Law No. 179/2017, which entered into force on December 29, 2017, expands existing whistleblowing protections to the private sector, requiring companies that have adopted formal compliance programs pursuant to Legislative Decree No. 231/2001 (“Decree 231”) to also implement a formal whistleblower program.
Prior to Law No. 179/2017, only financial services and banking firms were required to implement formal whistleblower programs, pursuant to Italian legislation implementing European Directive 23/2013 (CRDIV). In addition, Law No. 190/2012, also called the “Anticorruption Law,” provided protection against retaliation for civil servants who reported the commission of a wrongdoing. Many companies operating in Italy have adopted formal compliance programs pursuant to Decree 231, incentivized by a provision that affords a defense against certain types of criminal offences for firms with such a program. Law No. 179/2017 requires such companies to integrate a formal whistleblower policy as part of their compliance programs. Continue Reading The New Italian Law on Whistleblowing Procedures and Its Impact on Compliance Programs