On July 29, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed a securities and wire fraud indictment against Trevor Milton, the founder and one-time chairman of Nikola Corporation (“Nikola”), a pre-revenue electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicle company which went public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (“SPAC”).[1]  The Indictment alleges that Milton made deceptive, false, and misleading claims regarding Nikola’s products and technology, which were directed at retail investors through social media and television, print, and podcast interviews.  The SEC also filed a parallel civil action against Milton, alleging violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, and which contends that Milton engaged in a “relentless public relations blitz” on social media and the popular press directed at “Robinhood investors” in order to inflate Nikola’s stock price.

These actions further confirm the heightened law enforcement and regulatory scrutiny of SPACs, as well as continuing interest by government authorities in protecting retail investors in so-called meme stocks.[2]
Continue Reading DOJ Indicts Founder of Nikola for Allegedly Defrauding Retail SPAC Investors

On May 12, 2021, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (“Ericsson”) announced that it had reached an agreement to settle a claim by a competitor, Nokia Corporation, for €80 million (approximately $97 million).[1]  Although Nokia’s complaint against Ericsson was not filed publicly, and therefore the details of the claim are not known, Ericsson’s announcement stated that “[t]he settlement relates to events that were the subject of a 2019 resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of investigations into Ericsson’s violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).”[2]  This appears to be a rare instance in which a company that allegedly paid bribes to obtain business from a government entity agreed to compensate a competitor that lost out on the business opportunity as a result of the corrupt conduct, and demonstrates a further, significant risk of follow-on litigation relating to FCPA violations.
Continue Reading Recent Settlement Highlights Risk of Follow-On Litigation Related to FCPA Investigations

On August 20, 2020, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it had charged Joseph Sullivan, the former Chief Security Officer (“CSO”) of Uber Technologies Inc. (“Uber”), with obstruction of justice and misprision of a felony for allegedly attempting to cover up Uber’s 2016 data incident during the course of an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”).
Continue Reading DOJ Charges Former Uber Executive for Alleged Role in Attempted Cover-Up of 2016 Data Breach

In late July 2019, U.S. federal and state regulators announced three headline‑grabbing data privacy and cybersecurity enforcement actions against Equifax and Facebook.  Although coverage of these cases has focused largely on their striking financial penalties, as important are the terms the settlements imposed on the companies’ operations as well as their officers, directors, and compliance professionals—and what they signal about potential future enforcement activity to come.
Continue Reading July 2019 Privacy and Cybersecurity Enforcement: Lessons for Management and Directors

Last month, Representative Maxine Waters, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced a discussion draft of the “Bad Actor Disqualification Act of 2019” (the “Proposed Act”).  Similar to proposed legislation Rep. Waters introduced in 2015 and 2017, the effect of the Proposed Act, if passed, would be to dramatically increase the burdens on institutions

On June 17, 2019, in a decision interpreting the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause, the United States Supreme Court in Gamble v. United States upheld the doctrine of dual-sovereignty.[1]  In doing so, the Court confirmed that one sovereign may prosecute a defendant under its laws even if another sovereign has already prosecuted the defendant for the same conduct, notwithstanding the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against multiple prosecutions for the “same offence.”[2]  While Gamble does not represent a shift in the law, the Court’s opinion has implications for companies facing parallel investigations by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and other prosecutors, whether state or foreign authorities.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Upholds Dual-Sovereignty Doctrine Allowing Parallel Criminal Prosecutions At Home and Abroad

On May 2, 2019, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an important decision delineating the boundaries between conducting a proper internal investigation and acting as an arm of the government.

For the government, the consequences of “outsourcing” an investigation to a company and its counsel could be exclusion

On March 4, a federal judge of the Northern District of California granted a directed verdict motion in favor of Robert Bogucki, the former head of Barclays’ foreign exchange (“FX”) trading desk.  Bogucki went to trial on charges that he had engaged in a “front-running” scheme to manipulate the FX options market in advance of a client’s corporate transaction.  Following the government’s presentation of its case at trial, Judge Charles Breyer acquitted Bogucki, finding that the government had failed to present sufficient evidence such that a reasonable jury could find Bogucki guilty of any fraud charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
Continue Reading District Court Acquits Barclays FX Trader of Fraud Charges

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]
Continue Reading DOJ Issues Twelfth Declination Letter Under FCPA Cooperation Policy

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