In order to provide an overview for busy in-house counsel and compliance professionals, we summarize below some of the most important international anti-corruption developments in the past month, with links to primary resources. This month we look at how a busy 2015 ended. What did the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) do to close out the year with a bang? How much jail time did FCPA defendants receive? Which state-owned enterprises were at the center of enforcement actions and investigations? The answers to these questions and more are here in our December 2015 Top Ten list:
UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) Brings Second Failure to Prevent Bribery Case in as Many Months. On December 2, 2015, the SFO announced that Sweett Group PLC had admitted an offense under Section 7 of the UK Bribery Act 2010 (UKBA) for failing to prevent bribery in the Middle East. Just over two weeks later, on December 18, 2015, the SFO announced that Sweett Group had pleaded guilty to that offense at Southwark Crown Court. According to the SFO, servants and agents of Sweett Group's "associated person," Cyril Sweett International Limited, paid bribes to an individual in order to secure a project management and cost consulting services contract with an insurance company, Al Ain Ahlia Insurance Company, related to the building of a hotel in Dubai. The Sweett Group resolution is only the second time that the SFO has brought a Section 7 case and follows quickly on the heels of its first resolved Section 7 case, the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with ICBC Standard Bank Plc announced on November 30, 2015 (and discussed in last month's Top Ten). Two Section 7 cases in as many months suggest that the SFO is vigorously pursuing these charges, a development to watch for in 2016. Although liability under the UKBA, unlike under the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions, is not strictly confined to bribery of foreign public officials, it is nevertheless notable that the state of Abu Dhabi, through its sovereign wealth fund, owns approximately 20% of Al Ain Ahlia Insurance, whose shares are traded on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. The SFO cleared the Sweett Group of separate bribery allegations involving a Moroccan hospital design contract in 2014.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Brings FCPA Charges Against Two Individuals for Venezuelan Bribery Scheme. On December 10, 2015, a Houston grand jury returned a sealed indictment charging Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera with conspiring to violate the FCPA and wire fraud statute, violating the FCPA, and laundering money1. According to the indictment, which was unsealed following Rincon's and Shiera's reported arrests in Houston and Miami on December 16, 2015, the defendants conspired to secure lucrative energy contracts with Venezuela's state-owned and state-controlled oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), and two of its purchasing and procurement subsidiaries, PDVSA Services, Inc. and Bariven S.A., by paying bribes to at least five officials (called Officials A through E in the indictment) at those companies. Reports from October 2015 stated that U.S. authorities had launched...