The Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (together, the “Regulators”) have jointly fined Barclays’ CEO, Jes Staley, a total of £642,430. The fine was imposed for Mr Staley’s repeated attempts to uncover the identity of an anonymous whistleblower, which constituted a failure to act with the due skill, care and diligence the Regulators expect from a CEO. The case was observed with interest as the first brought by financial regulators under the UK’s Senior Managers Regime. The Regulators chose not to impose more severe sanctions (which could have involved the removal of Mr Staley from his role) after failing to find that Mr Staley was guilty of any deliberate wrongdoing. Continue Reading UK Regulators Fine Barclays’ CEO for Errors of Judgement in Relation to Whistleblower

On April 23rd, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on the protection of whistleblowers reporting breaches of Union Law.[1]

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.[2] Continue Reading The European Commission Proposes new Rules to Strengthen Whistleblower Protection

On April 18, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) proposed Regulation Best Interest under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to establish a new “best interest” standard of conduct for broker-dealers when making a recommendation of any transaction or investment strategy involving securities to a retail customer. The SEC also proposed an interpretation to reiterate and clarify the fiduciary duty applicable to investment advisers under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Finally, the SEC proposed a new disclosure form for investment advisers and broker-dealers to provide to retail investors.

In proposing the new Regulation Best Interest and the Guidance, the SEC has attempted to more closely align the standards of conduct applicable to broker-dealers and investment advisers while recognizing the fundamental differences between the services each provides and maintaining investor choice.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

On April 24, 2018, Altaba, formerly known as Yahoo, entered into a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), pursuant to which Altaba agreed to pay $35 million to resolve allegations that Yahoo violated federal securities laws in connection with the disclosure of the 2014 data breach of its user database.  The case represents the first time a public company has been charged by the SEC for failing to adequately disclose a cyber breach, an area that is expected to face continued heightened scrutiny as enforcement authorities and the public are increasingly focused on the actions taken by companies in response to such incidents.  Altaba’s settlement with the SEC, coming on the heels of its agreement to pay $80 million to civil class action plaintiffs alleging similar disclosure violations, underscores the increasing potential legal exposure for companies based on failing to properly disclose cybersecurity risks and incidents.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

On April 18, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Lagos v. United States.  Lagos presents the important issue of whether a corporate victim’s professional costs—such as investigatory and legal expenses—incurred as a result of a criminal defendant’s offense conduct must be reimbursed under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act.

The court’s decision will impact a company’s considerations when deciding whether and how to conduct an internal investigation, particularly when the corporation is the potential victim of a crime.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

In a February post, we discussed in detail recent changes to the U.S. tax rules governing the deductibility of settlement payments and court-ordered damages payments.  The IRS has now released some limited guidance on this new law (IRS Notice 2018-23), and this post addresses what is in this guidance (the “Notice”).

To recap, under the new law: a settlement or court-ordered payment made to (or at the direction of) a government in relation to the violation of any law (or the investigation or inquiry by such government into the potential violation of any law) is not deductible for U.S. tax purposes unless the payment constitutes “restitution (or remediation of property) ” or “a payment for the purpose of coming into compliance with a law”.

Continue Reading IRS Issues Guidance on Deductibility of Settlement Payments Under New Law

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

On March 1, 2018, U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ” or the “Department”) officials announced that the Criminal Division is expanding the applicability of a policy that encourages corporate self-reporting and cooperation for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) to reach other types of non-corruption criminal cases.  Speaking at the American Bar Association’s National Institute on White Collar Crime in San Diego, John Cronan, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Criminal Division, and Benjamin Singer, Chief of the DOJ Securities and Financial Fraud Unit, told attendees that the Criminal Division will apply the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (the “FCPA Enforcement Policy”) as nonbinding guidance in cases other than FCPA cases.

The FCPA Enforcement Policy, which was adopted in November 2017, provided additional guidelines regarding the credit the Department will provide to companies that self‑report FCPA violations and then cooperate with the resulting investigation – including a presumption that self-reporting companies will not be criminally charged.  Expanding use of the FCPA Enforcement Policy signals the Department’s perception of its success and a further effort by DOJ to encourage companies to self-report and cooperate.  It also provides important guidance for companies faced with a variety of different types of investigations regarding the treatment they can expect, and tools to advocate before the Department for more favorable resolutions. Continue Reading DOJ Announces Expansion of Approach Encouraging Self Reporting and Cooperation

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

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court resolved a question that had created significant uncertainty concerning the scope of the anti-retaliation protections provided by Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”).

In Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the expansive interpretation of Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliatory protections established by relevant Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) regulations and previously accepted by the Second and Ninth Circuits. In so doing, the Court held that employees who report potential securities law violations internally but not to the SEC fall outside the definition of a “whistleblower” under Dodd-Frank and accordingly do not benefit from its anti-retaliation protections. Instead, the Court held that the plain text and purpose of Dodd-Frank make clear that its anti-retaliatory protections – and not just Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower bounty incentives – apply only to whistleblowers who report securities law violations to the SEC.

The decision provides an additional incentive for whistleblowers to report to the SEC, and limits some remedies that might otherwise be available to whistleblowers who face retaliation. However, the decision should not generally cause companies to change their whistleblower policies and practices.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.