The interaction of corporate and individual liability in cases of corporate misconduct raises complex issues for prosecutors, management, and employees alike. Such issues, however, are generally discussed in connection with situations where corporate wrongdoing can be attributed to one or more individuals. Yet those “rogue employee” situations are neither the most difficult ones to address, nor the most frequent to arise.
More common, as evidenced by the numerous DPAs acknowledging wrongdoing entered into by corporate entities, and more problematic from a fairness standpoint, are situations where wrongdoing is instructed more or less overtly by senior management, and/or imbedded in a company’s business model and corporate culture, and implemented by lower level executives as part of their duties. The fairness issue stems from the pressure on both prosecutors and the company’s senior management to identify sanctionable individuals who may not be those ultimately responsible. And this problem is compounded in cross-border enforcement situations. Continue reading →
On March 29, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that on March 28, a federal grand jury in the Central District of California indicted two senior corporate executives with two corporations on multiple counts for their roles in a scheme involving defective and dangerous dehumidifiers made in China. Simon Chu and Charley Loh, who served respectively as part owners, chief administrative officer, and chief executive officer of the same two corporations in California, were charged with (1) conspiracy (a) to commit wire fraud, (b) to fail to furnish information under the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), and (c) to defraud the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); (2) wire fraud; and (3) failure to furnish information under the CPSA. The Department indicated this was the first time that any individual had been criminally charged for failure to report under the CPSA. Continue reading →
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 →
In a long-awaited but widely-expected development, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) has issued a new consultation paper proposing that Heads of Legal do not need to be designated as Senior Managers under the Senior Managers Regime (“SMR”). Ever since the introduction of SMR in 2016, the FCA has delayed formally confirming whether heads of legal should be allocated the SMF18 role (Other Overall Responsibility Function).
The FCA came to its position in light of the potential difficulties created by legal professional privilege. A fundamental principle of the SMR is that if a firm breaches a FCA requirement, the Senior Manager responsible for that area can be held accountable if they did not take reasonable steps to prevent the breach from occurring (the so-called ‘Duty of Responsibility’). This could lead to a conflict of interest in which a Head of Legal wishes the firm to waive privilege to help him or her avoid personal liability, while being professionally obliged to advise the firm not to waive privilege where this is not otherwise beneficial for the firm. The FCA also explained that privilege would often restrict it from exercising its usual supervisory processes regarding Senior Managers to obtain documents and information from Heads of Legal, leaving little benefit in requiring them to be Senior Managers. Continue reading →
On January 11, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal of Rajat Gupta, who was seeking to undo his insider trading conviction. Relying on the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v.Newman, Gupta argued that—to satisfy the requirement that Gupta personally benefit from tipping inside information—the Government must show “a quid pro quo – in which [Gupta] receive[d] an ‘objective, consequential . . . gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.’” In other words—intangible benefits should not, standing alone, constitute a personal benefit sufficient to uphold a criminal conviction. The Second Circuit rejected this argument, finding that the Supreme Court’s decisions in Dirks v. SEC and Salman v. United States foreclosed such a narrow definition of “benefit,” opting instead for a test that looked at “varying sets of circumstances”—including those that involve indirect, intangible, and nonquantifiable gains, such as an anticipated quid quo pro that can be inferred from an ongoing, business relationship—to satisfy the “personal benefit” test. This case is the latest in a line of decisions—in the Supreme Court, as well as the Second and Ninth Circuits—to reject defendants’ arguments for a narrow definition of the “personal benefit” element of insider trading law based on Newman. Continue reading →
OCC’s New and Revised Sections of Policies and Procedures Manual Relating to Enforcement Actions Suggest Continued Heightened Interest in Actions Against Individuals
Historically, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”) has applied a single set of internal policies and procedures to enforcement actions brought against individuals (institution-affiliated parties (“IAPs”)) and institutions (national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks (collectively, “banks”)). On November 13, the OCC issued a new section to its Policies and Procedures Manual (“PPM”) specific to enforcement actions against IAPs (the “IAP PPM”) and simultaneously updated the existing sections for Bank Enforcement Actions and Related Matters (the “Bank PPM”)and for Civil Money Penalties (“CMPs”) (the “CMP PPM”). The new IAP PPM generally breaks no new ground, and most changes to the Bank PPM and CMP PPM align those two sections with, and reflect the issuance of, the IAP PPM. There are, however, several notable additions and modifications to the new and revised sections that serve to improve the clarity and transparency of the OCC’s enforcement action process.
Beyond those distinctions, the issuance of a standalone IAP PPM suggests a continued, if not increased, focus by the OCC on actions against IAPs going forward, and is consistent with the broader theme, evidenced over the last several years, of regulatory and law enforcement focus on holding individuals accountable in cases of financial institution wrongdoing. The new OCC IAP PPM suggests a continual focus on holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct in the financial industry. Continue reading →
Following the consultation papers published in July and December 2017, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) on 4 July 2018 provided responses to the industry feedback it received and issued near-final rules on extending the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (“SMCR”) to almost all FCA-regulated firms. Notably, the FCA has confirmed that the new rules will apply from 9 December 2019. We summarise below the limited changes from the FCA’s initial SMCR proposals, the main features of which have been covered in our previous client updates.
In addition, the FCA has published a consultation paper regarding the introduction of a new directory of financial services workers (the “Directory”). This will be available from 10 December 2019 for banks, building societies, credit unions and insurers, and from 9 December 2020 for all other firms. The key aspects of the Directory and firms’ significant related notification obligations are outlined below. Continue reading →
Defense lawyers all around the world have heard loud and clear that prosecutors and police agencies have announced a new age of international cooperation. Prosecutors from one country have been posted to the offices of another. Agents from nations around the world now sit at desks next to each other in central locations like London. Global resolutions of big cases are being announced by enforcers in multiple jurisdictions. One of the main subject-matter focuses of these joint cases has been anti-corruption – namely the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the United States and the Bribery Act in the United Kingdom. Continue reading →
This past year marked the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). Since its enactment in 1977, the U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) has brought approximately 300 FCPA enforcement actions, while the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) has brought approximately 200 cases. This anniversary year, the first year of the Trump administration, demonstrated that the FCPA continues to be a powerful tool in combating corruption abroad and encouraging compliance at global companies.
Prominent law enforcement and regulatory officials have referred to financial sector compliance officers, as “essential partners” in ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations, whose “difficult job[s]” merit “appreciat[ion] and respect.” Officials have noted the critical role these professionals play in shaping the culture of financial institutions, as well as the industry more generally. However, a series of recent enforcement actions in which financial sector compliance officers have been personally sanctioned has strained this partnership, fueling concerns among financial sector compliance officers that they are being unfairly targeted.
Law enforcement and regulatory officials have responded to these concerns with assurances that both the ethos of a partnership and their even-handed enforcement approach remain intact. Officials have stressed that in the rare instances in which financial sector compliance officers have been held personally accountable, the majority had engaged in affirmative misconduct. Rarer still, they contend, are cases where compliance officers were found to have exhibited “wholesale” or “broad-based” failures in carrying out responsibilities assigned to them. In these particular cases, officials have stressed that the enforcement actions proceed only when, after carefully weighing the evidence, the facts indicate that the compliance officers “crossed a clear line.”Continue reading →