Category Archives: Enforcement

Trump v. Obama: U.S. SEC Anti-Corruption Enforcement Actions Scorecard

by Stephen Choi and Mitu Gulati

Sometimes, a graph says it better than words.

Below, is a graph by month of new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforcement actions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) against public companies and subsidiaries.  Using data from the Securities Enforcement Empirical Database (SEED), a collaboration between NYU and Cornerstone Research, we track SEC FCPA actions from January 2016 through the end of the SEC fiscal year on September 30, 2017.  SEED defines a public company as a company with stock that trades on the NYSE, NYSE MKT LLC, NASDAQ, or NYSE Arca stock exchanges at the start date of the SEC enforcement action.  We divide our months based on whether the action was initiated under the Obama Administration (blue) or the Trump Administration (red). Continue reading

SEC Leadership Discusses Continuing Priorities

by Mary Jo White, Andrew J. Ceresney, Kara Novaco Brockmeyer, Robert B. Kaplan, Julie M. Riewe, Jonathan R. Tuttle and Arian M. June

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, Co-Directors of Enforcement Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin, and Acting Director of the Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) Peter Driscoll participated in a panel discussion on Tuesday, September 5, at NYU Law School. The moderated discussion, followed by questions from the audience, was titled “The Securities and Exchange Commission: Priorities Going Forward.”

In sum, the SEC officials emphasized that investors should expect no major shift from the SEC in terms of enforcement or examinations. While there has been some discussion in recent months of frauds victimizing retail investors, there will not be a major paradigm shift in the kinds of cases the Commission will focus on. The panelists also spent a significant amount of time discussing cybersecurity and cyber-related enforcement actions, as well as the SEC’s increased use of big data in investigations and examinations. Continue reading

New York DFS Pursues $630 Million Fine Against Bank for Alleged Anti-Money Laundering and Sanctions Compliance Failures

By Brad S. Karp, H. Christopher Boehning, Jessica S. Carey, Michael E. Gertzman, Roberto J. Gonzalez, Richard S. Elliott, Rachel Fiorill and Karen R. King

On August 28, 2017, the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) announced a “Notice of Hearing and Statement of Charges” that seeks to impose a nearly $630 million civil penalty against Habib Bank Limited and its New York Branch (“the Bank”) based on allegations of persistent Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (“AML”) and sanctions compliance failures.[1] A hearing is scheduled for September 27, 2017 before Cassandra Lentchner, DFS’s Deputy Superintendent for Compliance. The Bank – the largest bank in Pakistan – has contested DFS’s allegations and indicated that it plans to challenge the penalty and surrender its DFS banking license, thus eliminating its only U.S. branch.  DFS also issued two related orders, which (1) expanded the scope of a review of prior transactions for AML and sanctions issues, that was already underway under the terms of an earlier consent order; and (2) outlined the conditions under which the Bank could surrender its DFS banking license, including the retention of a DFS-selected consultant to ensure the orderly wind down of its New York Branch.

The severity of the language and proposed penalty in DFS’s statement of charges reflects the large number and extent of alleged compliance failures at the Bank, which DFS claims persisted for more than a decade, despite agreements with DFS and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (“Federal Reserve”). According to DFS, these failures are “serious, persistent and apparently affect the entire [Bank] enterprise” and indicate a “dangerous absence of attention by [the Bank’s] senior management for the state of compliance at the New York Branch.”

This enforcement action illustrates that a DFS-regulated institution’s failure to show steady progress in remedying identified concerns can have significant and franchise-threatening consequences. We describe the enforcement action in more detail below, including the numerous compliance failures alleged by DFS. Continue reading

How to Punish a Corporation: Insights from Social and Behavioral Science

by Benjamin van Rooij and Adam Fine

“Justice cannot mean a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but nothing more than a sideways glance at a C.E.O. who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars,” wrote U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in a New York Times op-ed. When she calls for stronger action against corporate crime, she’s not alone. Calls resound, particularly on the political left. In 2015, the Department of Justice, under then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, issued a new policy prioritizing prosecuting corporate criminals.

Punishing corporate executives more strongly may be justified. Punishment rarely occurs, and, when it does, it is often too weak to constitute “justice.” But once we agree that more punishment is warranted, the next question is how we can make punishment more effective in preventing corporate crime? Continue reading

Professional Service Advisers in the United Kingdom Under New Obligations to Report Suspicions of Financial Sanctions Breaches

by Satish M. Kini, Carl Micarelli, Alex Parker, and Konstantin Bureiko

On August 8, 2017, the United Kingdom (“UK”) broadened the obligation to report known or suspected financial sanctions breaches to apply to a range of professional service providers and certain businesses, including lawyers, external accountants and auditors. This reporting obligation reflects a wider trend of the UK government taking a more proactive approach to enforcing sanctions compliance.[1]

This reporting obligation is now similar in scope to the money laundering reporting obligations, as imposed by the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017.[2]

As well as impacting the internal compliance policies of professional services firms operating in the UK, this new obligation may also impact the dealings of their clients, particularly in a mergers and acquisitions context. It is also likely to significantly increase the number of reports made to the UK’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”). Continue reading

Second Circuit Limits District Courts’ Supervision of Deferred Prosecution Agreements

by Brandon Fox and Natalie K. Orpett

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an important decision limiting district courts’ authority to supervise Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs), a method companies and the Department of Justice (DOJ) frequently use to resolve criminal investigations.  Under DPAs, companies are charged with – but not convicted of – crimes, so long as they abide by the terms of the agreement.  In United States v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., — F.3d –, 2017 WL 2960618 (2d Cir. July 12, 2017), the companies (collectively, HSBC) and DOJ agreed to a DPA based on HSBC’s alleged failure to prevent money laundering by Mexican drug cartels and violations of sanctions laws.

Under the terms of the DPA, HSBC consented to the appointment of a monitor who was to provide DOJ with periodic reports regarding HSBC’s compliance with the agreement.  After arraignment on the charges, DOJ and HSBC requested that the court grant an exclusion of time under the Speedy Trial Act, which was necessary so that HSBC could fulfill its obligations under the DPA rather than go to trial in 70 days.  As a condition to granting the motion, the district court ordered the parties to file quarterly reports apprising it of significant developments in HSBC’s efforts to comply with the DPA. Continue reading

Second Circuit Limits Judicial Scrutiny of Deferred Prosecution Agreements

by John F. Savarese, Ralph M. Levene, David B. Anders, Marshall L. Miller, and Christopher R. Deluzio

In an anticipated and important decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district court’s order requiring the unsealing of an independent monitor’s report detailing HSBC’s compliance with a deferred prosecution agreement. United States v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A. (Nos. 16-308, 16- 353, 16-1068, 16-1094, July 12, 2017). In so doing, the Second Circuit substantially limited a district court’s power to scrutinize DPAs, thereby following a course similarly embraced by the D.C. Circuit (as discussed in our prior memo).

In the district court, Judge Gleeson granted the joint request by DOJ and HSBC to approve the DPA, subject to the Court’s ongoing oversight of the DPA’s implementation pursuant to the Court’s asserted “supervisory authority”—a decision we discussed in our earlier memo. As part of its oversight, the Court ordered the government to file under seal an independent monitor’s report, which eventually led to a member of the public requesting access to the report. Construing that request as a motion to unseal, the Court granted the motion, finding that the monitor’s report was a “judicial document” subject to the public’s qualified First Amendment right of access. The government and HSBC appealed. Continue reading

CFTC Non-Pros Agreements with Citibank Traders Reflects Implementation of New Cooperation Advisories

by Aitan Goelman

On January 19, 2017, the CFTC Enforcement Division issued new advisories outlining the factors that the Division would consider in evaluating cooperation by individuals and companies.  Intended to underscore the high value the Division placed on cooperation, these advisories were issued on the same day that the Commission announced a $25 million fine against Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., (“Citi”) for violating the CEA’s anti-spoofing provisions.  The accompanying Order included a discussion of Citi’s cooperation and its impact on the terms of the settlement.  On March 30, 2017, the Commission announced settlements with two former Citi traders, including the former desk head, for the same misconduct.  These settlements included significant fines and market bans. Continue reading

UVA Corporate Crime Registry

by Brandon Garrett

Monday, the University of Virginia School of Law launched a newly revamped registry containing documents and data related to federal corporate prosecutions.  The database, called the Corporate Prosecution Registry, allows researchers to view more than 3,000 decision documents, many of them previously hard to find or once shielded from the public eye, while also allowing them to better search specific subject matter and look at overall trends. Continue reading

Denials and Admissions in Civil Enforcement – Looking Beyond the SEC

by Verity Winship and Jennifer K. Robbennolt

Should agencies require admissions of guilt from the targets of civil enforcement?  The SEC’s policy of letting enforcement targets settle while neither admitting nor denying allegations provoked judicial rebukes and a public debate. But the SEC is only the tip of the iceberg. Administrative agencies rely heavily on settlement as a key enforcement tool.  Admissions of guilt—or, more commonly, declarations that nothing is admitted—form part of these settlement agreements and the underlying negotiations.

Our recent article, Admissions of Guilt in Civil Enforcement, uses the explicit debate over the SEC’s practices to draw attention to the high (and mostly unexamined) stakes of admissions for civil enforcement throughout the administrative system. Continue reading