Corporate Investigations

As discussed in Cleary Gottlieb’s December 21, 2018 Alert Memorandum, on December 18, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an important ruling in In re Grand Jury Subpoena, holding, inter alia, that foreign state-owned corporations are subject to criminal jurisdiction in the United States and upholding Special Counsel Mueller’s authority to serve and enforce a grand jury subpoena on a sovereign entity.

The foreign state-owned corporation subsequently sought a stay of enforcement of the contempt order from the Supreme Court, which Chief Justice Roberts granted.  This Alert Memorandum focuses on two key developments that took place on January 8, 2019.  First, the Supreme Court, voting as a whole, lifted the administrative stay previously entered by Chief Justice Roberts.  Second, the D.C. Circuit Court issued its full, albeit partially redacted, opinion, which provides additional reasoning for the panel’s decision, seeks to reconcile any purported conflict with rulings issued by other Circuit Courts on the legal question at hand, and focuses on the state owned nature of the entity involved.

Please click here to read the full Alert Memorandum.

On December 18, 2018, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important ruling in In re Grand Jury Subpoena, holding that foreign state-owned corporations are subject to criminal jurisdiction in the United States and that the exceptions to sovereign immunity set forth in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (the “FSIA”)[1] apply to criminal as well as to civil cases.[2]  The court also rejected the foreign sovereign entity’s argument that it should be excused from complying with a subpoena because doing so would violate the law of the respondent’s country of incorporation.  Although In re Grand Jury Subpoena arises in the context of enforcing a grand jury subpoena, its language and holding could potentially be extended to criminal prosecutions of a foreign state or state-owned entity.

Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Rules in Special Counsel Mueller Investigation That State-Owned Corporations Are Subject to Criminal Jurisdiction in the United States

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.[1]  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.[1]  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 September 14, 2018, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York certified as a class action a securities fraud suit against hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC (“Och-Ziff”) and two of its executives.[1]  Shortly after the decision certifying the class, the parties informed the court that they had reached an agreement in principle to settle the case, which had gone forward on the basis of allegations that Och-Ziff had failed to make adequate disclosures related to its knowledge of the investigation. Continue Reading Certification of Securities Class Action Against Och-Ziff Relating to FCPA Violations Highlights Potential Collateral Consequences of FCPA Investigations

On September 4, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced a $25.2 million settlement with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi (“Sanofi” or the “Company”) for violating the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in connection with a scheme to bribe foreign officials to increase sales of Sanofi products.[2]  The Sanofi settlement encompasses conduct by three Sanofi subsidiaries organized in Kazakhstan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”).  The Sanofi settlement follows a recent enforcement action by U.S. authorities against another French company—Société Générale—for FCPA violations.[3]  In announcing the Sanofi resolution, the SEC signaled its intention to focus further on bribery risk in the pharmaceutical industry. Continue Reading Sanofi Settles FCPA Charges With SEC for $25.2 Million

On August 27, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced a $34.5 million settlement with investment management firm Legg Mason, Inc. (“Legg Mason” or the “Company”) for violating the internal controls provision of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in connection with a scheme to bribe Libyan government officials to secure investments from Libyan state-owned financial institutions.[1]  The SEC settlement follows a June 2018 non-prosecution agreement between Legg Mason and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regarding the same conduct.[2]  Under the non-prosecution agreement, Legg Mason agreed to pay $64.2 million.  The Legg Mason settlements reflect the increased focus of U.S. authorities on coordinating with other authorities in imposing penalties on a company, including not “piling on,” and the continued enforcement of the FCPA, while highlighting the potential risks under the FCPA of not having proper controls in place for assessing use of third party intermediaries.

Continue Reading Legg Mason Settles FCPA Charge with SEC for $34.5 Million

When the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation against Volkswagen AG (“VW“) and its subsidiaries Audi AG (“Audi”) and Volkswagen Group of America, VW instructed an international law firm to conduct an internal investigation and to represent it (i.e., only VW) before the U.S. Department of Justice.  The lawyers, including German lawyers based in the firm’s Munich office, conducted the internal investigation throughout the Volkswagen group.  Audi, though not a client of the law firm, allowed the internal investigation within its sphere and accessed the internal investigation’s findings via VW.  In January 2017, VW and the U.S. Department of Justice concluded a plea agreement covering 2.0 liter diesel engines designed and produced by VW and installed in VW and Audi vehicles and 3.0 liter engines designed and produced by Audi and installed in VW vehicles. Continue Reading German Federal Constitutional Court: Seizure of Documents Relating to an Internal Investigation at German Office of International Law Firm Found Not to Violate Constitutional Rights

A recent report in the Wall Street Journal, drawing on a source “familiar with the matter”, indicates that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement has launched a probe into whether certain issuers may have improperly rounded up their earnings per share to the next higher cent in quarterly reports. While the SEC has neither confirmed the report nor otherwise disclosed the existence of any such investigation, the Journal reports that the SEC has sent inquiries to at least 10 companies requesting information about such accounting adjustments that could have inflated reported earnings. The targeted companies have not yet been identified. Whether the reported inquiries amount to a broad-based sweep of issuer accounting practices remains to be seen. However, such an investigation would be consistent with SEC Chairman Jay Clayton’s announced enforcement priorities, which include a focus on public-company accounting practices and the protection of retail investors.

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