On August 17, 2016, the English courts rejected an application by UK oil and gas exploration company Soma Oil & Gas Holdings Limited (“Soma”) to force the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) to expedite or discontinue its investigation of the company’s dealings in Somalia. The SFO is investigating Soma for potentially improper payments to Somali government officials in the Ministry of Petroleum in order to secure exploration rights by the Somali government. Continue Reading The English Court Rejects an Application by UK Company to End SFO Investigation
On August 11, Key Energy Services, Inc. agreed to pay $5 million to settle alleged violations of the FCPA. According to the SEC, Key Energy’s Mexican subsidiary made improper payments to an employee of Petróleos Mexicanos (“Pemex”) to induce him to provide inside information and assistance on contracts with Pemex.
On August 16, 2016, the SEC announced that Health Net, a California-based health insurance provider, will pay $340,000 to settle charges that it illegally used severance agreements requiring outgoing employees to waive their ability to obtain monetary awards from the SEC’s whistleblower program. This is the third enforcement action the SEC has brought for violations of Rule 21F-17 of the Exchange Act, which promotes whistleblowing to the SEC by providing in relevant part, “No person may take any action to impede an individual from communicating directly with the Commission staff about a possible securities law violation including enforcing, or threatening to enforce, a confidentiality agreement . . . with respect to such communications.”
The French Ministry of Finance is scheduled to introduce new anti-bribery and corruption laws under the Sapin II Bill (“Sapin II” or the “Bill”) later this year. The new proposals intend to overhaul France’s current anti-bribery and corruption system by introducing a corporate duty to maintain an adequate compliance programme, a new anti-corruption agency to oversee compliance with the new requirements, increased support for whistleblowers, and the removal of certain barriers to prosecuting companies for overseas offences. In addition to their requirements under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) and U.K. Bribery Act, global companies that operate in France may need to review their compliance policies to ensure that they meet these new French requirements.
After an aggressive grassroots campaign and under significant public pressure, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the enactment of sweeping changes to Mexico’s anti-corruption laws on July 18, 2016.
This week, the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”), officially announced that it has been conducting a criminal investigation into Monaco-based Unaoil SAM, an oil industry consultancy firm. The investigation was launched in March of this year, spurring police raids of the offices and homes of the company’s officials. The investigation began on the heels of media reports by The Huffington Post and its Australian partner Fairfax Media which alleged that the company engaged in international bribery schemes to secure contracts in high-risk countries for its multinational clients. The SFO, however, does not cite specifically to these media outlets as their source, but instead contends that the agency has been approached by a number of sources. Continue Reading SFO Announces Investigation into Unaoil Bribe-for-Contracts Scheme
On 8 July 2016, the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) received approval from the English court to enter into its second Deferred Prosecution Agreement (“DPA”) since their introduction in the United Kingdom in February 2014. The DPA relates to bribery offences committed by an unnamed U.K. company (“Company XYZ”) and comes less than a year after the SFO’s first DPA with ICBC Standard Bank PLC (“Standard Bank”) in November 2015.
On July 5, 2016, the European Commission published a proposal for a directive that will amend the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (“4AMLD”) in an effort to counter terrorist financing and increase transparency to prevent tax avoidance and money laundering. The Commission determined that the evolving terrorism threat in Europe and the large-scale concealment of funds in offshore jurisdictions revealed by the Panama Papers necessitated these proposed amendments aimed at addressing gaps in the oversight of financial systems.
The U.K. Ministry of Justice (“MoJ”) is considering extending the existing offences of “failing to prevent” bribery and tax evasion to other economic crimes such as money laundering and fraud. The proposals were announced by David Cameron at the recent Anti-Corruption Summit hosted by the United Kingdom on May 12, 2016 and confirmed that same day by the MoJ. Continue Reading The United Kingdom Considers Extending Corporate Criminal Liability to Failing to Prevent Money Laundering and Fraud
The U.K. has decided to leave the European Union (“EU”) with a 51.9% vote to “Leave” the EU against 48.1% to “Remain”. This note briefly sets out next steps over the coming days, weeks and months and highlights some of the key issues that firms will need to address during this time.