Category Archives: Corporate Criminal Liability and Enforcement

The Enforcement of Financial Market Crimes: A Comparative Case Study of Canada and the United Kingdom

by Anita Indira Anand

Strong enforcement of the law governing financial markets improves investment, reduces information asymmetries among corporations and investors, and prevents adverse selection. It has proven to be a deterrent, signaling to potential wrongdoers that criminal activity has serious consequences. It can also provide victims of crime with compensation for their losses. Despite these benefits, developed market economies struggle to develop comprehensive systems which allow for the successful prosecution of financial crimes. Indeed, the law of financial market crime is perhaps the most poorly-enforced branch of criminal law.

While there is no universally-accepted definition of “financial market crime,” the term typically refers to “any non-violent crime that generally results in a financial loss.”[1] In my comparative analysis of the enforcement of financial market crimes in Canada and the United Kingdom (UK), I argue that financial market crimes have low enforcement rates for a multiplicity of reasons common to both jurisdictions. To begin, financial market crimes have historically been relatively low priority for law enforcement officials who are required to devote increasing resources to violent crimes. In addition, and perhaps relatedly, law enforcement infrastructure lacks financial resources, which undermines the investigation and prosecution of financial market crime and fraud cases. Furthermore, technology, especially the prevalence of social media, has allowed new types of fraud to develop, with insufficient tools and financial resources to deal with them. Finally, past treatment of financial market criminals as pillars of the community who have merely had a fall from grace has weakened public perceptions of the harm caused by these crimes.

In both the UK and Canada, there is a lack of coordination among enforcement agencies when these crimes are investigated and prosecuted. While market regulation is more centralized in the UK, both countries rely on multiple agencies – and require those agencies to work together for the system to properly function. Theoretically, this integrated approach to financial market crime enforcement should work. Yet, in both countries, problems have arisen as regulators struggle to determine which agency (or agencies) should be responsible for tackling a specific financial crime, and handle issues of information sharing between national and local law enforcement teams. This lack of proper coordination has hampered officials in both countries as they attempt to prosecute and prevent financial market crime. In light of these issues, I propose three main reforms. Continue reading

CFTC Enters the Market for Anti-Corruption Enforcement

by Alice S. Fisher, Douglas K. Yatter, William R. Baker III, Douglas N. Greenburg, Robyn J. Greenberg, and Benjamin A. Dozier

New enforcement advisory encourages reporting of foreign corrupt practices that the agency intends to pursue under the Commodity Exchange Act.

On March 6, 2019, the Division of Enforcement (Division) of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC or Commission) announced that it will work alongside the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate foreign bribery and corruption relating to commodities markets.[1] CFTC Enforcement Director James McDonald announced the agency’s new interest in this area as the Division issued an enforcement advisory on self-reporting and cooperation for violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) involving foreign corrupt practices.[2]

For companies and individuals who participate in the markets for commodities and derivatives — or whose activities may impact those markets — the CFTC announcement adds a new dimension to an already crowded and complex landscape for anti-corruption enforcement. A range of industries, including energy, agriculture, metals, financial services, cryptocurrencies, and beyond, must now consider the CFTC and the CEA when assessing global compliance and enforcement risks relating to bribery and corruption. This article summarizes the new developments and outlines key considerations for industry participants and their legal and compliance teams. Continue reading

Strong Whistleblower Protections Reflect a Positive Compliance Culture

By Maria T. Vullo

In a recent submission (PDF: 2.36 MB) to Congress, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) reported that, for fiscal year 2018, the SEC paid the largest whistleblower awards since the institution of its program in 2012 following the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank).  Specifically, in FY 2018, the SEC awarded 13 individuals over $168 million collectively for tips that led to actions by the SEC to protect investors.[1]

Other statutes likewise provide financial incentives to whistleblowing.  Under the False Claims Act (FCA), for example, persons who report fraud in government contracting can receive up to 30 percent of the government’s recovery in an action.  Many states, including New York, have enacted state-level equivalents of the FCA.  For many decades, the FCA has contributed to large recoveries to the U.S. Treasury, with an expansion of recoveries in part due to the reporting of violations by whistleblowers. Continue reading

Canadian Corporate Criminal Liability

by Lincoln Caylor and Nathan Shaheen

Introduction

In Canada, corporate criminal liability is increasingly becoming an area of focus for regulators, law enforcement officers, and the public. As stories of corporate wrongdoing have generated media and public interest, key stakeholders have been trying to develop various tools and mechanisms to properly apportion fault and determine liability in often complex and highly public scandals. One merely has to read about the SNC-Lavalin matter that has generated controversy and the calls for a public inquiry in the highest echelons of the Canadian executive branch to understand the importance of carefully managing corporate criminal liability. This blog posts reviews Canadian corporate criminal liability, setting out some new developments in the law and highlighting key areas of concern for corporations undertaking either an internal investigation or being investigated by a regulator.

Overview Of Canadian Corporate Liability Doctrine

In Canada, corporate criminal liability is narrow in scope. Unlike in the United States, Canada does not apportion criminal liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Rather, corporate liability is generally apportioned to the employees or individuals involved in the wrongdoing, instead of the actual corporations themselves.[1]

Unlike American precedent, Canadian jurisprudence has historically upheld the ‘identification doctrine’, an organizing principle of corporate liability wherein an “identity” is established “between the directing mind and the corporation, which results in the corporation being found guilty for the act or the natural person, the employee”.[2] The identification doctrine will only be used in narrow circumstances to hold the corporation accountable. It will not be engaged if the employee/individual who committed the alleged acts is not a ‘directing mind’ of the corporation, or if there was fraud on the corporation. Additionally, judges retain the residual right to not apply the doctrine depending on the circumstances of the case. Continue reading

Protecting Attorney-Client Privilege and Respecting Fifth Amendment Rights While Cooperating with the Government

by John F. Savarese and Carol Miller

In 2018, two cases illustrated the potential hazards that can arise when companies’ efforts to cooperate with the government later provide a basis for individuals questioned during internal investigations to claim that their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination were compromised.  While these cases, which we summarize below, have the greatest impact in connection with the representation of individuals in such investigations, companies responding to white collar inquiries need to keep these new developments in mind, particularly in conducting internal investigations and working in a cooperative mode with the government.  Companies and their counsel must be mindful of these issues both to insure that individual employee rights are protected and to protect as much as possible the confidentiality and integrity of the company’s review. Continue reading

Financial Institutions Alert: Marijuana-Related Businesses Developments in the Marijuana Industry and the Implications for Financial Institutions

By Sharon Cohen Levin, John F. Walsh, Paul M. Architzel, Franca Harris Gutierrez, Matthew T. Martens, Michelle Nicole Diamond, Emma Bennett, and Zachary Goldman

The myriad—and conflicting—state, federal and international laws governing the burgeoning marijuana industry have created a complicated legal landscape for financial institutions. In the United States, most states have legalized some form of marijuana use, but the manufacture, sale and distribution of marijuana nevertheless remains illegal under federal law. As a result, in providing financial products and services to US marijuana-related businesses (MRBs), a financial institution could risk violating the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. § 841. Moreover, engaging in or facilitating transactions that contain proceeds from US marijuana sales could create liability under the money laundering laws.

Further complicating matters, Canada became the first major world economy to legalize recreational marijuana in October 2018. Because the US narcotics laws generally do not apply to activity that is legal abroad, providing financial products and services to Canadian MRBs would not violate the CSA or implicate the US money laundering laws. However, that is not the case in many European countries. The European Union recently passed a law expanding the extraterritorial scope of member countries’ money laundering laws with respect to certain narcotics-related offenses. These laws could now criminalize the transfer of funds from activity that is legal in the foreign country (e.g., marijuana sales in Canada) if that activity would be illegal in the home country.

Below we discuss the fragmented legal and regulatory landscape governing the marijuana industry as well as notable recent developments and their implications for global financial institutions. Continue reading

Detoxing Corporate Culture: How To Assess Toxic Cultural Elements

by Benjamin van Rooij, Adam Fine, and Judy van der Graaf

All views here represent the authors’ own views and not their organizations.

There is a cultural moment in the world of corporate compliance. Following recent major corporate scandals, there is now growing recognition among corporate boards and beyond  that truly changing corporate misconduct means addressing the toxic elements within cultures.

The central question for companies and regulators is how to assess toxic cultural elements.

Toxic corporate culture exists when organizations, whose chief business and business means are legal, develop structural violations of rules over a period of time.

Our recent paper (PDF: 1.06 MB), published in Administrative Science,  offers an in-depth analysis of what toxic cultural elements played a role in three major corporate scandals: BP’s polluting and unsafe oil exploration practices, VW’s diesel emission cheating practices, and Wells Fargo’s fake and unauthorized accounts schemes. In all three cases, the illegal behavior spanned over a decade and investigators concluded that corporate culture was to blame. Yet in all three cases, no one had yet systematically sought to understand what toxic cultural elements sustained the illegal conduct. We developed an analytical framework to examine toxicity in organizational cultures on three levels: structures, values, and practices (see Table 1 below[1]). Continue reading

Firm Reputation Following Accounting Frauds: Evidence from Employee Ratings

by Christos A. Makridis and Yuqing Zhou

Intangible capital is becoming an increasingly important determinant of firm value. For example, the ratio of intangible capital to the United States’ GNP is totaling 1.7, according to McGrattan and Prescott (2010).[1] Companies are further prioritizing their brand and perception among consumers and the media, which can affect the way they do business by influencing corporate strategy and investment. In this sense, how employees and/or the general public think about a company can ultimately influence the company’s ability to retain and attract talented employees, which is an integral determinant of firm value.[2]

While there are many different circumstances that firms find themselves in, some can be particularly damaging. For example, the public revelation of a cyber security breach can have lasting reputational effects when a company prides itself on privacy and security, as was the case with Equifax and their 2017 breach.[3] Much like data breaches, the public revelation of an accounting fraud can have a lasting effect on a company’s reputational capital. If employees and/or the public do not trust senior leadership, then employee engagement and retention will quickly dwindle. No one wants to work for an infamous company, especially skilled workers, given their ability to find alternative options in the labor market. Continue reading

DOJ Tells Tech Companies to Develop “Responsible Encryption”

by Laura Goodall, Michael Mugmon, and John F. Walsh

On November 29, 2018, in a speech at the Georgetown University Law School, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein renewed his call for tech companies to build into their products the means for law enforcement to legally access decrypted data, the development of so-called “responsible encryption.”[1] Mr. Rosenstein analogized such encryption to requirements that buildings disable elevators in the event of a fire but still retain firemen’s access, and he beseeched the private sector to work with the government to mitigate the security threats posed by rapid technological advances.

Summary of Mr. Rosenstein’s Address

Detailing the threat of ransomware, Mr. Rosenstein warned that the “malicious use of technology will be more pernicious and pervasive tomorrow than it is today, and even more difficult to combat.” To “forestall those ominous consequences,” he proposed three steps: Continue reading

New DOJ Policy Revises “Yates Memorandum”

by Michael W. Peregrine and Rebecca Martin

A new Department of Justice policy (the “Policy”) modifies critical elements of the prominent 2015 “Yates Memorandum” on individual accountability. Introduced on November 29 by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (the “DAG”), the Policy is manifested, in part, by specific revisions to Justice Manual (previously referred to as the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual).

The Policy clarifies the relationship between the scope of a defendant’s disclosures regarding individuals and qualifying for cooperation credit, particularly in the context of civil litigation. In so doing, it also raises critical compliance oversight issues for corporate governance. Continue reading