CCC’s: Some After Thoughts From An FTAIA Conference

I went to a very interesting conference on the FTAIA a few weeks ago.  I’ve been a bit busy so haven’t had a chance to post.  But, FTAIA issues aren’t going to be settled anytime soon, so here goes.

On September 27 I was fortunate to be able to attend the conference Extraterritoriality of Antitrust Law in the US and Abroad: A Hot Issue. The conference was sponsored by George Washington Law School and Concurrences.  Application of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvement Act (FTAIA) is indeed a hot issue. And with the capacitors investigation being the next big thing in international cartel enforcement, I boldly predict the FTAIA is going to continue to be a hot issue.

There was a number of interesting panels and insightful discussions at the conference.  Judge Dianne P. Wood, Chief Judge of the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was a terrific choice as the keynote speaker. Before the joining the Court of Appeals, Judge Wood was instrumental in many difference roles in promoting competition law internationally and fostering cooperation among the world’s competition law community. I was in the Antitrust Division when Judge Wood was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General overseeing all international matters.  Judge Wood traced the history of international cartel enforcement and cooperation from when the US had a monopoly, then the US and EU had a duopoly, and now there is at least an oligopoly of cartel enforcement with more nations joining as time passes.

Judge Wood also discussed the fact that the FTAIA is not a subject-matter jurisdiction limitation on the power of the federal courts but a component of the merits of a Sherman Act claim involving nonimport trade or commerce with foreign nations.  The first significant difference is that if application of the FTAIA were a jurisdictional issue it could be raised at any time. If brought to the court’s attention that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear a case, the case must be dismissed.  And the court is the fact-finder.  But as a substantive element of a Sherman Act offense, whether complaint satisfies the FTAIA is decided on a Motion to Dismiss with all inferences drawn in favor of the plaintiff.

Judge Wood also noted that the Seventh and Ninth Circuit have different standards for measuring whether anticompetitive conduct abroad has a direct, substantial and reasonably foreseeable effect on commerce in the United States.  The Ninth Circuit has interpreted the FTAIA requirement of “direct” to mean that the effect on U.S. commerce follow as an “immediate consequence” of the defendant’s conduct. U.S. v. Hui Hsuing, 778 F. 3d 738, 758 (9th Cir. 2014). The Seventh and Second Circuits, on the other hand, have construed the term “direct” in the FTAIA to denote a “reasonably proximate causal nexus.” Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics Corp., 775 F.3d 816, 819 (7th Cir. Nov. 26, 2014), as amended (Jan. 12, 2015); Lotes Co. v. Hon Hai Precision Indus., 753 F.3d 395, 410 (2d Cir. 2014).  In most cases there may not be a difference in the outcome depending upon what standard is used.  In fact, the Supreme Court declined to take cert. in the Motorola and AU Optronics cases (see prior post here).  But Judge Wood noted that a Supreme Court decision on FTAIA issue would be welcome.  


Comity was a major theme of the conference.  Judge Wood noted that comity is fundamentally an Executive Branch consideration.  If a case is properly before a court, (i.e. the court has jurisdiction), it is generally not the court’s job to dismiss the case on comity grounds.

There was another observation on comity that I found insightful.  Daniel Bitton was a panelist and he offered this caution regarding how the US treats foreign nationals.  Imagine, he said, if other countries had sought to extradite Apple executives for the e-book conspiracy?  The point being the US is not the only jurisdiction with anti-cartel laws, and the US needs to be mindful that how we foreign executives are treated under US law may become the way that US executives are treated by foreign jurisdictions.

Mr. Bitton’s example struck home to me because while the Antitrust Division prosecuted the e-books case civilly, the Division always declared Apple’s conduct to be hard-core price-fixing organized at the highest levels of the company.  The Division’s opening brief reads:

 “Apple conspired with five of the six largest U.S. trade book publishers to raise the prices at which consumers purchase electronic books (“e-books”) and eliminate retail price competition…..Stripped of the glitz surrounding e-books and Apple, this is an unremarkable and obvious price-fixing case appropriate for per se condemnation.”

Based on the DOJ’s charging language, the Apple case could have been brought as a criminal case (see a prior post here).

The executive branch does need to be (and generally is) mindful of “Cartel Karma.”  In an earlier post (here), I quoted Forbes columnist Tim Worstall writing about the US reach in the FCPA arena:

It’s most certainly not good economics that one court jurisdiction gets to fine companies from all over the world on fairly tenuous grounds. Who would really like it if Russia’s legal system extended all the way around the world? Or North Korea’s? And I’m pretty sure that the non-reciprocity isn’t good public policy either. Eventually it’s going to start getting up peoples’ noses and they’ll be looking for ways to punish American companies in their own jurisdictions under their own laws. And there won’t be all that much that the U.S. can honestly do to complain about, given their previous actions.

The degree of comity (or respect) competition agencies show (or don’t show) each other will be increasingly important.  For example, I think it was a good thing that the court rejected the Antitrust Division’s request for ten-year prison sentences for certain AU Optronics individuals who were convicted in the TFT-LCD cartel.  I think even seeking the maximum jail sentence request may chill foreign cooperation (including the willingness to extradite to the US).

Another good tip from one of the panelists.  (Ian Simmons I believe, but pardon me if I’ve got this, or anything else wrong in this post).  Mr. Simmons said anytime he is dealing with a confusing, ambiguous statute [and the FTAIA makes anyone’s top ten list], he likes to refresh himself by re-reading the statute.  So here it is (and with the capacitors investigation heating up, many of us will be re-reading the statute often):

§ 6a. Conduct involving trade or commerce with foreign nations

This Act [15 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq.] shall not apply to conduct involving trade or commerce (other than import trade or import commerce) with foreign nations unless—

(1) such conduct has a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect—

(A) on trade or commerce which is not trade or commerce with foreign nations, or on import trade or import commerce with foreign nations; or

(B) on export trade or export commerce with foreign nations, of a person engaged in such trade or commerce in the United States; and

(2) such effect gives rise to a claim under the provisions of this Act, other than this section.

Thanks for reading.

PS.  For those who might be interested,  New York University School of Law and Concurrences Review will host the 2nd Edition of the Conference “Antitrust in Emerging and Developing Economies” at NYU School of Law in New York City on Friday, October 23, 2015. The conference will feature the law, practice and policy in several of the most antitrust-prominent developing nations, including China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and Africa.  More information here.

Former CEO of Marketing Agency Sentenced to Prison for $2 Million Fraud and Kickback Scheme

The former CEO and president of a pharmaceutical marketing company was sentenced to three and one half years in prison for participating in a scheme to defraud the company in which he obtained more than $2 million in fraud and kickback proceeds, and for willfully failing to report that unlawful income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.

Michael J. Mitrow Jr., 48, of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, was sentenced to serve 42 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service in each of those years.  He was also ordered to pay $83,219 in restitution to the IRS and $1,468,259.43 to Access Communications.  In January 2015, Mitrow pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York, who also imposed today’s sentence.

“Corporate officers who engage in fraud and kickback schemes and fail to report their illegal gains are defrauding their employers and cheating honest taxpayers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo.  “The sentence handed down today sends a strong message that these individuals will be held to account for committing offenses that were made possible by violating their fiduciary obligations.”

“Michael Mitrow defrauded the marketing agency that he led as its CEO out of over $1 million, using it to pay personal expenses including $600,000 to fly in private jets,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “His fraud and his failure to report the proceeds as income resulted in a federal conviction for Mitrow.  At his sentencing today, he learned that the price of his crimes is not only repayment of the ill-gotten money but also the loss of his liberty.”

According to the indictment and superseding information previously filed in Manhattan federal court, other court filings and statements made during the proceedings in this case:

Mitrow was the CEO and president of the company from 1998 through approximately 2009.  From approximately 2008 through 2009, Mitrow defrauded the company by submitting fraudulent invoices for consulting services that were purportedly provided to the company but were, in fact, never provided.  Instead, Mitrow used the proceeds from those invoices to fund more than $600,000 in private jet travel.  Mitrow further defrauded the company by causing it to pay $415,000 in payments by the company to a relative of Mitrow and his co-defendant and brother, Matthew Mitrow, despite the representations made by the Mitrows to a private equity firm that acquired the company that the relative had severed all ties to the company. In addition, Mitrow willfully failed to report to the IRS his income from the fraudulent consulting invoices, which exceeded $600,000; $1.4 million in kickback payments he received from Creative Press and East Coast Vending, printing and direct mail marketing companies owned by co-defendant Robert Madison and located in Phoenix, in order to help grow the business through additional  printing and direct mailing contracts for Creative Press with his company; and more than $200,000 in personal purchases that Mitrow made with his corporate credit card and fraudulently coded as business expenses of the company.

Matthew Mitrow, 42, of Westfield, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return for the 2008 tax year, and was sentenced in July 2015 to serve three months in prison.  As part of his plea agreement with the government, Matthew Mitrow paid $30,822 in restitution to the IRS.

Robert Madison, 44, of Henderson, Nevada, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud in the payment of undisclosed kickbacks to the Mitrow brothers, and was sentenced in May 2015 to serve 18 months in prison and 18 months of home confinement.  As part of his plea agreement with the government, Madison will be subject to an order of restitution in an amount to be determined by the court.

Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo and U.S. Attorney Bharara thanked the IRS-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who investigated this case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Young of the Southern District of New York and Senior Litigation Counsel Nanette L. Davis of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting this case.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit is handling this case.

Owner and Operator of Miami-Based Mental Health Centers Pleads Guilty in $70 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

An owner, a clinical director, and a therapist pleaded guilty today for their roles in a health care fraud scheme involving three Miami-based mental health centers.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Division and Special Agent in Charge Shimon Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

Santiago Borges, 51, Erik Alonso, 45, and Cristina Alonso, 43, all of Miami, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro of the Southern District of Florida.  Borges pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay health care kickbacks.  Erik Alonso pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to make false statements relating to health care matters.  Cristina Alonso pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to make false statements relating to health care matters.

Borges owned the now-defunct mental health centers R&S Community Mental Health Inc. (R&S) and St. Theresa Community Mental Health Center Inc. (St. Theresa), and was an investor in New Day Community Mental Health Center LLC (New Day).  Erik Alonso was the clinical director of all three centers.  Cristina Alonso was a therapist at R&S.

R&S, St. Theresa and New Day were community mental health clinics that purported to provide intensive mental health services to Medicare beneficiaries in Miami.  In connection with their guilty pleas, the defendants admitted that, from 2008 through 2010, the clinics billed Medicare for costly partial hospitalization program (PHP) services that were not medically necessary or not provided to patients.  Borges admitted that he paid kickbacks to patient recruiters who, in exchange, referred beneficiaries to the centers.  Erik Alonso admitted that he oversaw the preparation of false patient records.  Cristina Alonso admitted that she fabricated patient records, including group therapy session notes that were used to support claims for reimbursement from Medicare.

According Borges’ plea agreement, between January 2008 and December 2010, the centers submitted more than $70 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.  Medicare paid approximately $28 million on those claims.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney A. Brendan Stewart of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged over 2,300 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $7 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to:

Colorado Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Kidnapping a Toddler and Producing Child Pornography

A Colorado man was sentenced today to life in prison for kidnapping a toddler and producing child pornography, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner of the Eastern District of California and Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin of ICE-HSI San Francisco Office.

Shawn McCormack, 31, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was found guilty in April 2015 by a federal jury of four counts of sexual exploitation of a child and two counts of kidnapping.  Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii of the Eastern District of California presided over the trial and imposed the sentence.

“McCormack’s depraved actions in this case are the stuff of nightmares.  While posing as a trusted friend and house guest, McCormack kidnapped his hosts’ toddler child and sexually abused the child in local motels and parked cars,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Through tireless efforts, law enforcement was able to rescue the victim from further abuse and ensure that McCormack never again will victimize another child.”

“McCormack’s acts were both vile and heart-breaking, and they may have continued undetected for years but for the imaginative, dogged, and painstaking work of the investigators who brought him to justice,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner.  “We are gratified by the sentence McCormack received today, which is both severe and just, and while the harm that he inflicted cannot be undone, we can be assured that he will not be able to inflict further harm upon our most vulnerable.”

“The sexual exploitation of children is a heinous crime that leaves lifelong emotional scars on young victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Spradlin.  “It is our duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves.  Together with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to pursue child predators and make them accountable for their dark and monstrous deeds.”

According to evidence presented at trial, McCormack, feigning to be a friend, traveled to a couple’s residence in Bakersfield, California, and stayed as an overnight guest on multiple occasions.  During several of the overnight stays, in the middle of the night, McCormack removed the couple’s toddler from the house and sexually abused the toddler in nearby motels and other locations, and then returned the toddler to the house before the parents awoke.  The evidence demonstrated that McCormack photographed and recorded the sexual abuse and distributed the images and videos to others online, including to an undercover officer with the Toronto Police Services.  McCormack also recorded his sexual abuse of a second toddler and distributed those images as well.

The trial evidence showed that, in 2010, during forensic analysis of the computer of another individual, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents in Boston, discovered images and recordings distributed by McCormack.  After the agents identified the date, time and motel room in which one of the videos had been produced, they learned that McCormack had rented that motel room on the night when the recording was created.

This case is part of an ongoing HSI-led investigation being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Field Offices in Bakersfield, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Boston, Massachusetts; the Bakersfield Police Department; the Colorado Springs Police Department; Toronto Police Services and the FBI.  This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Maureen C. Cain of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick R. Delahunty and Megan A.S. Richards of the Eastern District of California.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

Three Japanese Auto Parts Executives Indicted for Bid-Rigging Conspiracy Involving Body Sealing Products Installed in U.S. Cars

A federal grand jury in Covington, Kentucky, returned an indictment against one former and two current Japanese automotive executives for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for the sale of automotive body sealing products sold in the United States.

The indictment, filed today in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Kentucky, charges Keiji Kyomoto, Mikio Katsumaru and Yuji Kuroda – all Japanese nationals – with conspiring to rig bids for and fix the prices of body sealing products sold to Honda Motor Company Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp. and certain of their subsidiaries and affiliates for installation in vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States and elsewhere.  Automotive body sealing products consist of body-side opening seals, door-side weather-stripping, glass-run channels, trunk lids and other smaller seals, which are installed in automobiles to keep the interior dry from rain and free from wind and exterior noises.

“These executives conspired for years with their competitors to fix the prices of body sealing products sold to Honda and Toyota and installed in U.S. cars,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “Today’s indictment is another reminder that antitrust violations are not just corporate offenses but also crimes by individuals.  The Antitrust Division will continue to vigorously prosecute executives who orchestrate their companies’ efforts to break the law.”

“The FBI is committed to aggressively investigating individuals who engage in criminal conduct that corrupts the global marketplace,” said Special Agent in Charge Howard S. Marshall of the FBI’s Louisville Division.  “We will continue our work with the Department of Justice Antitrust Division to uncover schemes aimed at creating an unfair competitive advantage by way of price fixing, bid rigging or other illegal means.”

The indictment alleges that Kyomoto, Katsumaru and Kuroda participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as September 2003 until at least October 2011.  For most of this period, Kyomoto resided in the United States and served as President of an unnamed joint venture with offices in Indiana and Michigan, which manufactured and sold automotive body sealing products.

Katsumaru, who resided in Japan, served in multiple managerial positions during the conspiracy period, including Manager of the Sales and Marketing Division, for an unnamed company based in Hiroshima, Japan, that partially owned the joint venture and also manufactured and sold automotive body sealing products.  Kuroda, who resided in Japan, served as a sales branch manager at the same Hiroshima-based company for the entirety of the charged period.

According to the indictment, Kyomoto, Katsumaru and Kuroda each instructed subordinates at their respective companies to communicate with co-conspirators at other companies in order to allocate sales of, rig bids for and fix the prices of automotive body sealing products; were aware that employees under their supervision were engaging in such communications; and condoned such communications.  The indictment further alleges that Kyomoto attended meetings in the United States with co-conspirators during which Kyomoto and the co-conspirators reached agreements regarding sales of automotive body sealing products to Honda and Toyota.  The indictment also alleges that Katsumaru and Kuroda instructed and encouraged certain employees at their company to destroy evidence of the conspiracy.  Each individual faces a maximum penalty to 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine if convicted.

Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.  A total of 58 individuals and 37 companies have been charged and have agreed to pay more than $2.6 billion in criminal fines.  This indictment was brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Louisville Field Office, Covington Resident Agency, with the assistance of the FBI’s International Corruption Unit and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Kentucky.  Anyone with information about anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, visit or call the FBI’s Louisville Field Office at 502-263-6000.

Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud Conspiracies at Georgia Public Foreclosure Auctions

A Georgia real estate investor pleaded guilty today for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Fulton and DeKalb counties, Georgia.

Morris Podber admitted that he conspired with others not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions on selected properties.  After the public foreclosure auctions, Podber admitted that he and his co-conspirators would divvy up the targeted properties in private side auctions, open only to the conspirators.  Podber admitted to conspiring to use the mail to carry out their fraud, which included making and receiving payoffs and diverting money to co-conspirators that should have gone to the mortgage holders and others.

“This is the ninth real estate investor held accountable for bid rigging at public foreclosure auctions in Georgia,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “We will continue to root out anticompetitive conduct at foreclosure auctions and obtain justice for homeowners and lenders.”

According to documents filed with the court, the purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and divert money to the conspirators that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.  Podber admitted to participating in a conspiracy in Fulton County from July 2005 until August 2010; and to participating in a conspiracy in DeKalb County from October 2006 to August 2011.

“Incidents of bid rigging at public real estate auctions continue to be an issue in Georgia and elsewhere in the United States, and the FBI would like to remind the public that such matters are violations of federal law,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.  “The FBI will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in identifying, investigating and prosecuting those individuals engaged in such activities.”

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section, the FBI’s Atlanta Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Washington Criminal II Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-598-4000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258 or visit

The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.  For more information about the task force, please visit

Antitrust Division Provides Guidance for an Effective Compliance Program

On Sept 16, 2015, The Antitrust Division announced that Kayaba Industry Co. Ltd., dba KYB Corporation (KYB) had agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $62 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix the price of shock absorbers installed in cars and motorcycles sold to U.S. consumers.  The plea agreement indicated that KYB would receive credit for instituting an effective compliance program going forward.  The Division had only recently announced that it was possible for a company to get credit for a forward-looking compliance program that change the culture of the company.  This was a big and new step for the Division so there was a great deal of curiosity as to what the company did that the Division considered credit worthy.  Yesterday, the Division filed its sentencing memorandum which gives an outline of the compliance steps that KYB took.

The first thing to note is that the government praised KYB’s cooperation, noting that it cooperated early, the CEO ordered a complete and timely internal investigation, and the company has made employees and documents available that were outside the US.  I would say that early and complete cooperation is probably the most important factor in convincing the government that there has been a change in culture.   But, in the past, that alone would not earn a company any credit for a compliance program.  In its sentencing memorandum, the Division said this about KYB’s compliance efforts:

“KYB’s compliance policy has the hallmarks of an effective compliance policy including direction from top management at the company, training, anonymous reporting, proactive monitoring and auditing, and provided for discipline of employees who violated the policy.” Case: 1:15-cr-00098-MRB Doc #: 21 Filed: 10/05/15.

These steps closely follow the US Sentencing Guidelines outline for an effective compliance and ethics program:  US Sentencing Guidelines, §8B2.1. Effective Compliance and Ethics Program.

At a recent conference, Brent Snyder indicated that more pleas with credit for compliance programs are in the works and will provide a roadmap for what the Division considers an effective compliance programs.  I wrote about that in  a recent blog post (here). [Note:  There was one other plea agreement in the Forex investigation that indicated credit for a compliance program, but that sentencing memorandum has not yet been filed.  Blog post here.]

The credit for a compliance program is a welcome development. But, the current policy raises one question in my mind.  The Division has indicated that it still will not credit “backward looking compliance programs,” that is, compliance programs that have failed.  But, what if KYB had had this compliance program in place all along, yet certain managers violated it?  In that case, the company would not have received credit for the same program?  It will be interesting to see how the Division’s approach to compliance programs evolves.

Thanks for reading.

Len Blavatnik to Pay $656,000 Civil Penalty for Violating Antitrust Premerger Notification Requirements

The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, at the request of the Federal Trade Commission, filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., against Len Blavatnik for violating the premerger notification and waiting period requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act of 1976 when he acquired voting securities of TangoMe Inc. in August 2014.  At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement, subject to approval by the court, under which Blavatnik has agreed to pay a $656,000 civil penalty to resolve the lawsuit.

The HSR Act of 1976, an amendment to the Clayton Act, imposes notification and waiting period requirements for transactions meeting certain size thresholds so that they can undergo premerger antitrust review.  Federal courts can assess civil penalties for premerger notification violations under the HSR Act in lawsuits brought by the Department of Justice.  For a party in violation of the HSR Act, the maximum civil penalty is $16,000 per day.

Further details about this matter are described in the FTC’s press release issued today, and in the attached complaint.

Justice Department Announces BHF-Bank (Schweiz) AG Reaches Resolution under Swiss Bank Program

The Department of Justice announced today that BHF-Bank (Schweiz) AG (BHF) has reached a resolution under the department’s Swiss Bank Program.

The Swiss Bank Program, which was announced on Aug. 29, 2013, provides a path for Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States.  Swiss banks eligible to enter the program were required to advise the department by Dec. 31, 2013, that they had reason to believe that they had committed tax-related criminal offenses in connection with undeclared U.S.-related accounts.  Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.

Under the program, banks are required to:

  • Make a complete disclosure of their cross-border activities;
  • Provide detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have a direct or indirect interest;
  • Cooperate in treaty requests for account information;
  • Provide detailed information as to other banks that transferred funds into secret accounts or that accepted funds when secret accounts were closed;
  • Agree to close accounts of accountholders who fail to come into compliance with U.S. reporting obligations; and
  • Pay appropriate penalties.

Swiss banks meeting all of the above requirements are eligible for a non-prosecution agreement.

According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement signed today, BHF agrees to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts and pay penalties in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute this bank for tax-related criminal offenses.

BHF was established in 1974 as a wholly-owned Swiss subsidiary of BHF-BANK Aktiengesellschaft (BHF-BANK AG), a private bank located in Germany.  Deutsche Bank AG purchased BHF-BANK AG in 2010, and in 2014, BHF-BANK AG was sold to a consortium of investors.  BHF is headquartered in Zurich and has a branch in Geneva.  The name of the group is now BHF Kleinwort Benson Group.

BHF opened and maintained undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers.  It chose to continue to service U.S. customers without disclosing their identities to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or taking steps to ensure that clients were compliant with U.S. tax laws and without considering the impact of U.S. criminal law on that decision.

BHF offered a variety of traditional Swiss banking services that it knew could assist, and did assist, U.S. clients in the concealment of assets and income from the IRS, such as “hold mail” services, which minimized the paper trail between the U.S. clients and undeclared assets and income, and debit cards, which allowed U.S. clients to access their undeclared accounts without having to visit BHF.

In 1982, Plinius Management Limited, Zurich (Plinius), a trust company, was formed as a wholly-owned subsidiary of BHF to provide special services for wealthy clients, which included advice regarding trusts, foundations, fiduciary agreements and holding companies in order to protect assets and minimize tax liability.  Plinius had no employees, and BHF provided it with staff and infrastructure.

Plinius also assisted with referrals to establish various types of structures, including Liechtenstein Anstalten and Stiftungen, and British Virgin Islands and Panamanian entities.  Plinius did not create the structures; instead, it would contact an external trust company or law firm in Liechtenstein to set up the entity within the agreed-upon jurisdiction.  While Plinius’ relationship managers did not have access to the Forms A held by BHF that identified the beneficial owners, in some cases they were aware of the ultimate beneficial owner(s) of the accounts.  Four subsidiary-related structured accounts were established for U.S. persons, which improperly sheltered U.S. taxpayer-clients and hid their assets from the IRS.

U.S.-related accounts, including offshore structured accounts, came into BHF through its relationship managers, through external asset managers or otherwise.  For example, one account in the name of an offshore entity was referred to a BHF manager from a U.S.-based structuring lawyer prior to 2008, and transferred to BHF from another Swiss bank.  The file contained a Form W-8BEN and certification of non-U.S. persons for the offshore corporate accountholder.  BHF’s management approved opening the account even though the account also held U.S. securities.  There was no Form W-9 completed or provided to BHF for the U.S. beneficial owner.  BHF did not confirm that the U.S. beneficial owner was compliant with U.S. tax obligations.

In the fourth quarter of 2000, BHF signed a Qualified Intermediary (QI) Agreement with the IRS.  The QI regime provided a comprehensive framework for U.S. information reporting and tax withholding by a non-U.S. financial institution with respect to U.S. securities.  The QI Agreement was designed to help ensure that, with respect to U.S. securities held in an account at BHF, non-U.S. persons were subject to the proper U.S. withholding tax rates and that U.S. persons were properly paying U.S. tax.

BHF implemented a policy that every client had to sign either a Form W-9 or a Declaration of Non-U.S. Person Status, which required the customer to declare whether he or she was a U.S. person for tax purposes.  Some U.S. clients who did not want to have their identities disclosed to the IRS could avoid detection by declining U.S. securities.  Approximately five clients refused to sign a Form W-9, but BHF nevertheless continued to service these clients’ accounts and kept them open.

While participating in the Swiss Bank Program, BHF encouraged existing and prior accountholders and beneficial owners of U.S.-related accounts to provide evidence of tax compliance or of participation in any of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs or Initiatives or to disclose their accounts to the IRS through such a program.  BHF sought waivers of Swiss bank secrecy from all accountholders and obtained waivers for more than 50 percent of its accounts.  BHF has also provided certain account information related to U.S. taxpayers that will enable the government to make requests under the 1996 Convention between the United States of America and the Swiss Confederation for the Avoidance of Double Taxation with respect to Taxes on Income for, among other things, the identities of U.S. accountholders.

Since Aug. 1, 2008, BHF held a total of 125 U.S.-related accounts, comprising total assets under management of approximately $202,964,006.  BHF will pay a penalty of $1.768 million.

While U.S. accountholders at BHF who have not yet declared their accounts to the IRS may still be eligible to participate in the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, the price of such disclosure has increased.

Most U.S. taxpayers who enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to resolve undeclared offshore accounts will pay a penalty equal to 27.5 percent of the high value of the accounts.  On Aug. 4, 2014, the IRS increased the penalty to 50 percent if, at the time the taxpayer initiated their disclosure, either a foreign financial institution at which the taxpayer had an account or a facilitator who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement had been publicly identified as being under investigation, the recipient of a John Doe summons or cooperating with a government investigation, including the execution of a deferred prosecution agreement or non-prosecution agreement.  With today’s announcement of this non-prosecution agreement, noncompliant U.S. accountholders at BHF must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo thanked the IRS, and in particular, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the IRS Large Business & International Division for their substantial assistance.  Ciraolo also thanked Charles M. Duffy, who served as counsel on this matter, as well as Senior Counsel for International Tax Matters and Coordinator of the Swiss Bank Program Thomas J. Sawyer, Attorney Kimberle E. Dodd and Senior Litigation Counsel Nanette L. Davis of the Tax Division.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.