I encourage those that questioned my inclusion of FCPA issues in my list of top ten 2008 development to refer to the January 5, 2009 memo from the Gibson Dunn law firm entitled "2008 Year-End FCPA Update" (here).
As the memo puts it, 2008 was ‘by any measure …a monster year in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (‘FCPA’) enforcement." The memo goes on to note that "2008 saw the FCPA’s enforcement regime mature like never before," adding that "there were no unimportant FCPA enforcement actions this year."
The memo highlights several enforcement trends. First, with particular emphasis on the recent massive Siemens FCPA fine, the report notes the trend toward escalating corporate financial penalties.
The memo reports that the Siemens fine eclipsed the prior record FCPA fine by nearly twenty times; in fact, the memo notes, the Siemens fine substantially exceeds "the aggregate of every dollar collected by the U.S. government in connection with FCPA settlements over the statute’s thirty-one year history." The memo also emphasizes the staggering costs that Siemens incurred in connection with the investigation. The memo notes that the company’s investigation and corporate remediation costs exceeded $1 billion.
To show that "enormous foreign prior settlements are certain not to be a fluke of 2008," the memo cites ABB’s recent announcement that it has reserved $850 million for potential costs associated with the continuing investigation of alleged improper practices.
The memo also addresses a theme I have frequently sounded (most recently here), that FCPA enforcement actions increasingly are accompanied by follow-on civil litigation. The memo notes that FCPA investigations increasingly have "spurred a variety of collateral civil suits, including securities fraud actions, shareholder derivative suits, and lawsuits initiated by foreign governments or business partners." Companies "can no longer assume that making peace with DOJ and the SEC will end the pain associated with their alleged FCPA violations."
With respect to securities litigation following on after FCPA investigations, the memo notes that "in recent years, courts have been trending towards finding that plaintiffs adequately alleged false or misleading statements, thereby meeting the heightened pleading standard under the PSLRA." However, as I noted in a recent post (here), the Ninth Circuit in the InVision Technologies case made it clear that "there are limits on the types of allegations that will meet this threshold."
The memo also reproduces an interesting bar graph showing the foreign jurisdictions having the "dubious distinction of being the most-referenced setting for FCPA allegations." Among the top countries are Nigeria, Iraq, China, Vietnam and Ecuador.
The memo, which is detailed and interesting, identifies a number of other important trends, including the increased internationalization of foreign anti-corruption endorsement.
Answer: Less Than One Day: In my January 7, 2009 post (here) regarding the accounting scandal dramatically disclosed at the Indian technology company Satyam Computer Services, I raised the question of how long it would take for plaintiffs’ lawyer to initiate a securities class action lawsuit against the company in a U.S. court.
The answer is – less than a single day.
Even before the close of business on January 7, plaintiffs’ lawyers announced (here) that they had filed a securities class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on behalf of purchasers of the company’s ADRs (which are traded, or at least were traded, on the NYSE) against the company and certain of its directors and officers. A copy of one of the Satyam complaints that has been filed can be found here.
The well of scandal is an ever-flowing stream, providing the plaintiffs’ bar with a constantly replenished source of new litigation targets. So much for the notion that the pool of potential securities litigation defendants is "fished out."
New Year’s Resolution: Some people resolve lose more weight, other people resolve to get more exercise. Even though I need to spend more time fooling around with technology like I need a hole in my head, my New Year’s resolution is to try to get more plugged into the new social media.
Along those lines, you will note that I have added a button in the right hand sidebar that links to my LinkedIn profile. I encourage everyone to check out my profile by clicking on the button. I would also like to strongly encourage other readers that are active on LinkedIn to "connect" with me. I am still trying to figure out what the site will lead to, but at least if readers of this blog start connecting we can try to work through it together.
In addition, I have recently signed up for Twitter. Again, I am still feeling my way along with the new technology, but I will say that I have used Twitter several times over the past couple of days to alert "followers" (in effect, subscribers) to developments before I had a chance to get a post up on my blog. For example, as soon as I saw the link to Cornerstone’s year end report, I posted a "tweet" on Twitter. I also added a "tweet" about the new Satyam lawsuit as soon as I learned about it. I encourage readers who may also be active on Twitter to sign up for future updates.
Finally, I welcome readers’ thoughts and comments on these new media. As I said, I am still trying to figure all of this out, and I am particularly interested in thoughts and comments about how best to take advantage of these new technologies.