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

On August 24, 2018, the Second Circuit in United States v. Hoskins issued a decision limiting the FCPA’s reach, holding that foreign nationals who cannot be convicted as principals under the FCPA also cannot be held liable for conspiring to violate or aiding and abetting a violation of the statute. The decision, written by Judge Pooler (joined by Chief Judge Katzmann and Judge Lynch, who also wrote a concurring opinion), concluded that, due to affirmative legislative policy and extraterritoriality concerns, the FCPA’s reach cannot be extended via conspiracy or complicity liability to implicate individuals who cannot violate the FCPA as principals. Although the decision limits the government’s ability to prosecute foreign nationals for conspiring to commit or aiding and abetting a violation of the FCPA, practically speaking, the decision will apply only to a small class of foreign nationals and entities – those who engaged in a bribery scheme in which there is otherwise jurisdiction under the FCPA, but who are not themselves subject to the FCPA’s jurisdiction. That said, the ruling is significant as one of the few cases limiting the FCPA’s jurisdiction due to the statute’s unique, extraterritorial nature, which may encourage charged defendants in other cases to challenge the DOJ’s broad interpretation of its jurisdiction.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

On Monday, following two reversals of convictions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut moved to dismiss the sole securities fraud claim remaining against former Jefferies bond trader, Jesse Litvak, bringing an end to the 5 1/2-year long case against him.[1]  During the case’s winding procedural path, the Government twice secured convictions against Litvak by jury trial—on the theory that Litvak’s alleged misstatements about his own costs and profit margins for residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) trades would have been material to the decision-making of a reasonable (and often sophisticated) investor-buyer.  And twice the Second Circuit overturned the convictions on narrow and technical grounds.  Notably, even while seeking to dismiss the remaining charge, the Government maintains in its filing that the Second Circuit’s decisions left undisturbed the soundness of its legal theories—namely that a broker-dealer’s misstatements relating to his own profits to sophisticated counterparties could satisfy the materiality requirement for securities fraud as a matter of law.[2]  Thus, notwithstanding the additional hurdles presented by the Second Circuit’s decisions, the Government’s decision not to pursue yet another trial against Litvak does not signal a death knell for all similar charges in the future, particularly those that are currently pending and arose as part of the Government’s RMBS probe.  But the somewhat torturous history of the Litvak case does highlight the difficulty for the Government in establishing the materiality of alleged misstatements made to sophisticated securities professionals who undertake their own analysis of trades.  Indeed, in many of these RMBS cases, the Government faced an uphill battle from the start, evidenced by its inability to secure convictions in many of them. Continue Reading Two Strikes and You’re Out: The Litvak Saga Comes to an End

The long-running criminal case against Jesse Litvak seems to have come to an end, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut filing a motion yesterday seeking voluntary dismissal of the sole remaining charge.[1]  This action—which has resulted in the government twice obtaining a criminal conviction against Litvak, only to see both convictions overturned by the Second Circuit—raised somewhat novel questions of the materiality of information a broker-dealer provides about its own costs or profit margins to sophisticated counterparties.  Notably, even while seeking dismissal, the Government again reiterated its view that the legal theory it pursued, and which the Second Circuit twice appeared to credit, remains sound and (presumably) actionable in future cases.[2] Continue Reading Government Moves to Voluntarily Dismiss Remaining Charge Against Jesse Litvak, Foregoing a Third Trial

A federal district court in California has become the latest court to hold that the 10-year statute of limitations under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”) for offenses “affecting a financial institution” extends to offenses committed by banks and their employees, not just offenses committed against them.  The decision is the latest chapter in a long-running debate between the Government and financial institutions that has played out in a series of federal court decisions over the last three years regarding interpretation of FIRREA.  While this is not the first decision to hold that the 10-year limitations period applies to offenses by financial institutions, it is the first outside of the Second Circuit. Continue Reading California District Court Holds that FIRREA’s 10-Year Statute of Limitations Reaches Risks Caused to Financial Institutions by Their Own Employees

On June 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Société Générale S.A. (“Société Générale”) and its wholly-owned subsidiary, SGA Société Générale Acceptance, N.V. (“SGA”), have agreed to pay over $1 billion in total penalties to U.S. and French authorities in connection with bribe payments to Libyan officials and manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”). SGA pled guilty on June 5 to conspiracy to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s (“FCPA”) anti-bribery provisions. Société Générale entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement relating to charges of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and conspiracy to transmit false commodities reports. As the first coordinated resolution by U.S. and French authorities of a foreign bribery case, the case highlights the increasing potential legal exposure for multinationals based on violations of the FCPA and anticorruption laws in other jurisdictions. The resolution signals that French authorities will actively exercise the authority they derive from the “Sapin II” anticorruption law, as also demonstrated by the recent bribery charges in France against former Havas chairman Vincent Bolloré. The resolution also underscores the potential benefits of cooperation, remediation and joint resolutions with multiple authorities.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

On May 3, the Second Circuit vacated on evidentiary grounds Jesse Litvak’s conviction – after a second trial – on a single count of securities fraud related to trades of residential mortgage backed securities (“RMBS”) and remanded the case to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.[1]  This ruling is the latest setback for the government, as the Second Circuit in 2015 had vacated Litvak’s prior conviction on ten counts of securities fraud, one count of fraud against the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”), and four counts of making false statements to the government, following his first trial.[2] Continue Reading Second Circuit Again Reverses Fraud Conviction of RMBS Trader Litvak

On April 25, 2018, a jury in the United States District Court in Connecticut acquitted former UBS AG (“UBS”) trader Andre Flotron of conspiring to manipulate the precious metals futures market through “spoofing.”  The verdict, the first acquittal in a criminal spoofing-related case since the practice was outlawed by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) in 2010, reflects the difficulties the government faces in cracking down on the practice. Continue Reading Acquittal of Former UBS Trader Signals Potential Challenges for Government’s Anti-Spoofing Initiative

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.

On March 27, 2018, the Canadian Government announced the introduction of legislative amendments to bring deferred prosecution agreements (“DPA”) to Canada.  The legislation, which would create the “Remediation Agreement Regime” (“RAR”), follows a global trend.  In recent years, DPA regimes have been introduced in the U.K. and France, and considered in a variety of other common law jurisdictions including Singapore and Australia.  Although broadly patterned on an approach pioneered in the United States, like the statutory enactments in other countries adopted more recently, the Canadian RAR regime is likely to be considerably more structured and involve much more substantive judicial supervision. Continue Reading Canada Proposes New Deferred Prosecution Agreement Program