A company faced with a crisis needs to act quickly to assess and determine the scope of any potential liability in order to guide its first response and frame the forthcoming investigation.  Issues overlooked in the early phases of an investigation could prove very costly down the road, limiting options or potentially subjecting a company to greater penalties.
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On May 2, 2019, FINRA proposed new rules to designate “high-risk” firms and strengthen its ability to impose additional obligations on those firms.[1]

  • Proposed Rule 4111 would authorize FINRA to designate “Restricted Firms” based on the number of event disclosures made by the firm and its registered persons. Restricted Firms would be subject to limitations on their operations and could be required to maintain restricted deposits that could only be withdrawn with FINRA’s consent.
  • Proposed Rule 9559 would create an expedited appeals process, including a process for challenging a designation as a Restricted Firm and any obligations imposed.

FINRA expects that only a small number of large firms (500 or more registered representatives) would be affected by the proposed rules, and that only zero to two would have been impacted in any given year had the rules been effective from 2013-2018.[2]

Early signals from FINRA about this rulemaking generated concern that the standards would be overly subjective, leading to uncertainty in application.  We believe, however, that the proposed rules on balance reflect a reasonable, and largely objective, approach given FINRA’s stated goal to “impose tailored obligations” on those firms that “present heightened risk of harm to investors.”[3]
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On May 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control released “A Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments”, providing general guidance on the elements OFAC considers to compose an effective sanctions compliance program.

Broadly, the framework endorses a risk-based approach to compliance (recognizing that no two compliance programs will

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.
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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

On April 3, 2019, Senator (and Democratic Presidential contender) Elizabeth Warren announced proposed legislation—dubbed the “Corporate Executive Accountability Act”—that would effect a dramatic change in white collar criminal law by permitting prosecution of corporate executives for negligent conduct.  Under traditional criminal law principles, defendants must typically have at least knowledge with respect to the conduct that constitutes the crime.  However, under Senator Warren’s proposed law, executives of large companies could be criminally prosecuted (and fined and/or jailed if convicted) if they are found to have acted negligently in failing to prevent criminal acts committed by the companies they supervise.  The bill is unlikely to be enacted, but it nonetheless represents a significant policy indication from a Presidential candidate.
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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.
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On February 20, 2019, the Paris criminal court found Swiss bank UBS guilty of illegally soliciting French clients and laundering the proceeds of tax fraud, and imposed a record fine of EUR 3.7 billion.

The Paris criminal court (32nd chamber of the Tribunal de grande instance) followed the prosecution’s case, which had requested a fine

On 21 February, the UK Financial Conduct Authority issued its first competition enforcement decision against three asset management firms. The FCA imposed fines totaling £414,900 for an infringement based on the sharing of strategic information on a bilateral basis during an IPO and a placing, shortly before share prices were set. The decision reflects increasing

On February 15, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced that it had settled—on a no-admit, no-deny basis—with Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation (“Cognizant”) for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) involving Cognizant’s former president and chief legal officer.[1] The same day, the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) indicted the two former executives and the SEC filed a civil complaint seeking permanent injunctions, monetary penalties, and officer-and-director bars against them. The DOJ declined to prosecute Cognizant.[2] The DOJ’s declination was in part based on the fact that Cognizant quickly and voluntarily self-reported the conduct, and, as a result of that self-report, the DOJ was able to identify culpable individuals. This settlement reflects the DOJ demonstrating its continued commitment to its FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy, under which the DOJ has committed to extending significant cooperation credit, up to and including declinations, to companies that provide meaningful assistance to further DOJ investigations. The resolution also reflects the DOJ’s “anti-piling on” policy in action, as the DOJ declination recognized the “adequacy of remedies such as civil or regulatory enforcement actions,” namely Cognizant’s resolution with the SEC, as a factor in declining to prosecute.[3]
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