Green Grants and Grantees are now in #GFPFE crosshairs and there is no bag limit

The Economist’s handy graph showing the breakdown of the Trump Administration’s Proposed Budget shows in stark budgetary terms what US government agencies are facing.  I have reviewed the proposed budget and have concluded that it is the strongest indicator yet that the Trump Administration intends to reinvigorate Grant Fraud and Procurement Fraud Enforcement (#GFPFE).  The graph shows a change in overall agency funding and portends an intra-agency reorientation that is likely to effect grantees or contractors that have been awarded or are currently working on Grants or Contracts awarded by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Department of Energy (Energy).

Let’s review:

  • Review and Recap of Current Posture:

I have previously laid out  here out about why conditions are perfect for a renaissance in Grant Fraud and Procurement Fraud Enforcement (GFPFE). I took the Department of Energy’s enforcement temperature here, I looked at an EPA-OIG audit of laboratories here, and I noticed a NASA-OIG audit announcement of ground and ocean temperatures here. Last week there was an NPR story on case by case review of individual EPA scientists while newly minted EPA Administer Scott Pruitt made statements here questioning the connection between human activity and climate change while raising questions about the measurement of global temperatures. Then a top level EPA transition official, David Schnare, resigned, but not before acknowledging that while ” the vast majority of career staff at the EPA… are dedicated public servants,…there are a small handful “who were definitely antagonistic” to Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt. “They’re here for some other reason. They’re here for a cause,” he was quoted as saying in The Hill.

  • Presidential Shift in Priorities Always Wins:

EPA career civil servants who think nobility of purpose protects them in the face of an overwhelming Presidential Administration shift in priorities should pay a visit to the Antitrust Division’s field offices in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas and Philadelphia (punch line: they no longer exist).  The Antitrust Division Criminal Program’s Senior Litigators, who woke up on 911 in the World Trade Center Marriott, eagerly supported a GFPFE initiative whose purpose was to “protect the supply chain of goods and services to the nation’s warfighter.” Their tireless work and willingness to support other components of USDOJ in GFPFE efforts became a liability when a new Presidential Administration changed the definition of success from number of cases filed to the number of cases not filed (for anyone wanting to learn about the important competition enforcement function Antitrust Division Field Offices performed can start with the dearly departed Philadelphia Field Office’s Chief Robert E Connolly’s column here). The bottom line is Presidential shift in priorities always wins over perceived nobility of purpose of career public servants.

  • Nobility of Purpose in combatting CO2 is going to be challenged

I know it will come as a shock to many, but there are many scientists–legitimate scientists–who do not come to the same conclusions about the connection between rising CO2 levels and rising temperatures.  I have no idea what the truth is, but I recognize that when you have a President and heads of the EPA and Energy who doubt the warming narrative and view expenditures in that regard to be a waste of money. It would behoove everyone in the risk assessment business to understand what they think and read what they read.  If you restrict your news to the Washington Post and the New York Times, you are flying blind.  Worse, your clients will be flying blind. It is important to recognize that the outgoing administration saw this coming and adorned future budgets with global warming money that will be hard to cut out.  That will stimulate efforts to try.

  • Let’s Look At the Proposed Budget for Department of Energy:

The preamble states:

[The Budget] reflects an increased reliance on the private sector to fund later-stage research, development, and commercialization of energy technologies and focuses resources toward early-stage research and development. It emphasizes energy technologies best positioned to enable American energy independence and domestic job-growth in the near to mid-term.

My translation: Grants for developing green technologies are drying up.  No more Solyndras.

The preamble states:

It also ensures continued progress on cleaning up sites contaminated from nuclear weapons production and energy research and includes a path forward to accelerate progress on the disposition of nuclear waste. At the same time,the Budget demonstrates the Administration’s strong support for the UnitedStates’ nuclear security enterprise and ensures that we have a nuclear force that is second to none. The President’s 2018 Budget requests $28.0 billion for DOE, a$1.7 billion or 5.6  percent decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget would strengthen the Nation’s nuclear capability by providing a $1.4 billion increase above the 2017 annualized CR level for the National Nuclear SecurityAdministration, an 11 percent increase.

My translation: Grants for development of nuclear energy capabilities and military nuclear applications are back in vogue.  $6.5 billion in clean-up funds will be oriented towards nuclear.  The important factor to consider is that, in all likelihood, this changes the mix of responsive contractors.

  • Let’s look at EPA proposed budget:

The Compliance Assurance budget is lowered to $419 million, which is $129 million below the 2017 annualized CR level. It “better targets” EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) at a level of approximately $250 million, which would result in a savings of $233 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. ORD would prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities, such as providing STAR grants.

It supports Categorical Grants with $597 million, a $482 million reduction below 2017 annualized CR levels. These lower levels are in line with the broader strategy of streamlining environmental protection. This funding level eliminates or substantially reduces Federal investment in State environmental activities that go beyond EPA’s statutory requirements.

It eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs. These geographic program eliminations are $427 million lower than the 2017 annualized CR levels. The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.

It eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, saving an additional $347 million compared to the2017 annualized CR level.

My translation: Grants for development of green technologies and reducing CO2 emissions are slashed.  EPA is being oriented around traditional toxins to land, water and air.  Its administration of $100 million to fix Flint Michigan’s water problems and orientation around poisoning will help with the repositioning. 

So while Energy moves onto new contractors for a nuclear spend, EPA moves towards traditional environmental problems and even NASA will now move, happily for many, toward an ambitious space program, all three agencies move away from green and CO2 mitigation programs.  Current contractors and grantees in these areas have a dual problem.  First, the funding in these areas is drying up.  Second, any problems that are found in the award or administration of grants or contracts in these now shuttered programs have a lower risk of causing collateral damage to supporters of the new Administration and they undermine the case against shuttering those programs.  Within the investigative agent community and auditing community examining procurements and grants in these shuttered program areas, investigation carries even lower risk and even higher reward (imagine how an indictment early next week alleging a massive fraud scheme involving a company that had been administering a major grant would be received by the Administration that is looking to justify a shift in funding priorities).  Investigative agents, many of whom in the prior Administration felt professionally stunted because of managerial interference against developing fraud and corruption cases have now been unshackled.  Inquiries that could never blossom into full blown investigations using IG subpoenas and active grand juries can now be taken out from from the back of desk drawers or they can be reopened with the support of career mid-level management looking to take action that will be looked upon favorably when the permanent Inspector General arrives later in the year.

 

People for People (PFP), DOJ-OIG and #GFPFE

By Bradford.Geyer@GeyerGorey.Com

Changes in enforcement priorities dictate when grant irregularities are referred to enforcement agencies.  This case involving People for People (PFP) provides a good example of that principal.  In reviewing the reports and correspondence, it appears that the matter remained bottled up in DOJ OIG-Audit.  Had it been referred to the investigative agents within the agency you can see how the alleged conduct referenced in the 2013 audit report could have stimulated investigation perhaps with the support of a US Attorney’s Office. Here are the report’s conclusions:

“PFP did not fully comply with the grant requirements we tested. We found material weaknesses in PFP’s internal controls, expenditures, drawdowns, FFRs, progress reports, budget, and program performance resulting in the questioned costs totaling $893,445. These weaknesses resulted in PFP providing multiple sets of accounting records during the audit, even though the grants had ended. We found that PFP charged $420,729 to the grant for personnel and fringe benefit costs that were unallowable. We found that PFP charged direct costs of $34,834 to the grant for unallowable expenditures, and $9,631 to the grant that could not be adequately supported. PFP also charged indirect costs of $232,754 to the grant for unallowable expenditures. PFP drew down $195,497 in grant funds in excess of the accounting records. We found PFP could not support the amounts drawn down or reported on the Federal Financial Reports. PFP could also not provide a correct account of grant charges per grant budget category to ensure proper budget management. Additionally, we found that PFP did not have procedures in place to ensure the timely submission of Federal Financial Reports and progress reports, nor did it ensure that progress reports provided supported information. We also determined that PFP did not meet the goals and objectives of the grants.”   

The Grantee here received grant payments from the government for $893,445 based on unallowable and unsupported grant expenditures.  This would have been seen by agents as a major problem. The “multiple sets of accounting records” (whether or not ultimately defensible) would have attracted attention.   Agents might have seen another red flag and opportunity in what seems to be a reference in the audit report to a redacted executive who abruptly exited the grantee.  A quick interview of this exited executive or some interviews around the subject of the exit would be seen as possibly carrying a beneficial reward risk ratio.   We can’t know for sure, but the file doesn’t seem to indicate that agents were copied on the correspondence or reports so they may not have known about it.   

Under many enforcement regimes the conclusions above might have caused an immediate referral  from audit to investigative agents within the OIG and likely to a US Attorney’s Office.  Instead, People for People was permitted to implement what looks like an informal corporate integrity agreement drafted by the government while it was permitted to pay back one half million dollars over a period of years.  As someone who represents grantees I understand how honest, ethical and well-intentioned grantees can find themselves in situations comparable to this one,  but investigative agents within enforcement agencies are rarely persuaded by benign explanations for otherwise suspicious conduct.  I also can see how this result may have been extraordinarily evolved while it maximized public welfare benefits.  It is just I know from first hand experience that agents and prosecutors rarely seem to be motivated by such notions.  

It would be interesting to understand the factors that were considered within DOJ-OIG that dictated that this matter to remain “in house” within an audit component rather than being referred to the US Attorney’s Office or USDOJ Criminal Division.  While patience and forgiveness are wonderful traits we don’t often see those traits exhibited as strongly as they seem to have been exhibited here and matters like these when reviewed by new leadership could contribute to a view that there was somewhat lax enforcement of grant spending in recent years.

Update: DOJ OIG Audit of People for People, Inc., Results in Repayments Totaling More Than $554,000 Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today that People for People, Inc., of Philadelphia, PA, has made cash repayments of more than $554,000 to the DOJ as a result of a DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) grant audit. The OIG’s audit report, which we released in 2013, assessed People for People’s management of two grants from the DOJ Office of Justice Programs (OJP). These grants were intended to fund mentoring programs for children of prisoners. We concluded that People for People had not complied with various grant requirements, and we identified $893,445 in unallowable and unsupported grant expenditures. The report included 13 recommendations to improve People for People’s grant management and address these questioned costs. Since the audit, People for People has worked closely with OJP to implement all of our recommendations for management improvements and provided us with additional documentation sufficient to address approximately $339,000 of the questioned costs. The more than $554,000 in cash repayments announced today were made to address the balance of the questioned costs, which primarily related to expenses for which accounting records were insufficient, salary payments that were unallowable, and payments for rent, telephone bills, and other indirect costs that had not been approved by OJP. The OIG’s August 2013 report is available on the OIG’s website at the following link: https://www.oig.justice.gov/reports/2013/g7013007r.pdf.

 

Trade Risks (Part 3): Trade Preference Programs

by Janet Labuda

In recent hearings on Capitol Hill, Peter Navarro of the National Trade Council talked about the need for free, fair, and reciprocal trade agreements. According to Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, the United States, Canada, and Mexico will engage in discussions to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement starting in early summer.

As we all know, the United States canceled its participation in the multi-lateral Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, stating that any new agreements would most likely be bi-lateral in nature. Regardless of how the state of play turns out, the ability to administer, monitor, and enforce these agreements will be crucial to their success.

Currently, the United States has free trade agreements with twenty countries. In addition, there are legislative initiatives such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act,  the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and the Haiti HOPE Act that are meant to provide an economic stimulus to the foreign countries involved, if certain conditions are met.

There are two rules of origin that enter into the trade process, one for non-preferential treatment, and one for preferential treatment of goods. What is basic to the use of any preferential agreement is the description of the product to enable an accurate classification in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The classification, linked to the country of origin, will be key to meeting the requirements or conditions necessary to claim a benefit under a preferential trade program. It should be noted that origin, or where the product was made, as opposed to where the product was purchased or obtained is what drives preference.

In general, legislative trade programs tend to have easier preference requirements compared to negotiated Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Most FTAs contain similar origin requirements which include:

  • Employing the “wholly obtained” criterion for goods that are wholly the growth, product, or manufacture of a particular country. On the other hand, for goods that consist in whole or in part of materials from more than one country, the majority of U.S. preferential rules of origin schemes are based:
    • on a change in name, character, and use (substantial transformation) and
    • on a required minimum local value content; unless specified otherwise, the cost of foreign materials may not be included in local value content unless they undergo a double substantial transformation.
  • Other preferential rules of origin (e.g., NAFTA preferential rules of origin) are based on a tariff-shift method and/or regional value-content method for goods that are not wholly obtained from the applicable region or country.

Therefore knowledge of the origin of various components will be key to obtaining preferential treatment.

One of the more complex rules involves the manufacturing of wearing apparel. While many exceptions can be negotiated, the basic rule for textile imports claiming preference include a yarn forward rule of origin. This means that the yarn must originate in a partner country, the downstream fabric production must be originating in a partner country, and the assembly must occur in a partner country.

It does not matter which rule of origin you are claiming or for what product. What matters is that everyone in the supply chain understands the conditions of preference and possesses documentary evidence supporting the preferential claim of reduced, or duty free, treatment. It is imperative that all participants in the supply chain know that a claim of preference under a special trade rule will be made.  Each participant in the supply chain needs to understand what documents are required to show production, to support the claim. Enforcement of trade preference programs is complex; traditionally non-compliance has often exceeded 20% of claims reviewed.  In most instances the participants in the supply chain failed to maintain adequate records.

It is recommended that for every product for which a preference will be claimed, a manufacturing log be created and updated as any changes to the production occurs.  Begin with the purchase order that provides an in-depth description of the final product. Identify components used and their origin.  Describe each step of the manufacturing process, and maintain backup documents showing the process from beginning to end.  This will go a long way in effectively dealing with Customs inquiries as both Congress and the Administration are calling for stepped up enforcement of U.S. trade laws.

DEFENDANTS IN SEC CASE INVOLVING LOANS TO PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES SENTENCED CRIMINALLY

U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Litigation Release No. 23768 / March 3, 2017

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Capital Financial Partners, LLC et al., No. 15-cv-11447-IT (D. Mass. filed Apr. 7, 2015)

United States of America v. Will D. Allen and Susan C. Daub, No. 15-cr-10181 (D. Mass. filed June 15, 2015)

Defendants in SEC Case Involving Loans to Professional Athletes Sentenced Criminally

On March 1, 2017, William D. Allen and Susan C. Daub, both defendants in a parallel SEC enforcement action, were each sentenced to six years imprisonment and ordered to pay $16.8 million in restitution for their role in an investment scheme involving fraudulent loans to professional athletes.

Allen and Daub were arrested in June 2015 on criminal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and charging a money transaction in connection with specified unlawful activity. The criminal complaint against Allen and Daub alleged that they collected funds from investors for certain fictitious or oversubscribed loans to professional athletes and created the false impression that athletes were repaying certain fictitious or oversubscribed loans on schedule by making scheduled monthly payments to investors from new investor funds. They pled guilty to the criminal charges in November 2016.

In the SEC’s parallel enforcement action, filed in federal court in April 2015, the SEC’s complaint alleges that Allen and Daub, and three corporate entities they owned or controlled – Florida-based Capital Financial Partners Enterprises LLC, and Boston-based Capital Financial Partners LLC and Capital Financial Holdings LLC – operated a Ponzi scheme that raised almost $32 million from investors who were promised profits from loans to professional athletes. The SEC’s complaint charges Allen, Daub and the three corporate entities with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC’s complaint also named WJBA Investments LLC, Insurance Depot of America LLC, Simplified Health Solutions LLC, and Simplified Health Solutions 2 LLC. – entities owned or controlled by Allen, Daub, or both – as relief defendants for the sole purpose of recovering investor funds received as a result of the alleged Ponzi scheme.

On April 28, 2015, the SEC obtained a preliminary injunction that continued an asset freeze against Allen, Daub, the defendant corporate entities, and relief defendants, restrained the defendants from accepting additional investor funds, and prevented the defendants from destroying or concealing documents related to the alleged Ponzi scheme.

The SEC’s litigation against Allen, Daub, and the corporate defendants and relief defendants is continuing. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement and prejudgment interest, and civil penalties.

Former Executive Director Of The Ramapo Local Development Corporation Pleads Guilty To Securities Fraud And Conspiracy Charges

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that N. AARON TROODLER, the former Executive Director of the Ramapo Local Development Corporation (“RLDC”), pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel to conspiring with Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence to commit securities fraud as a result of a scheme to defraud investors in municipal bonds issued by the RLDC and the Town of Ramapo (the “Town”). This case is believed to be the first conviction for federal securities fraud in connection with municipal bond issuances.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As we said at the time of his arrest, N. Aaron Troodler defrauded both the citizens of Ramapo and thousands of investors around the country, helping to sell over $150 million of municipal bonds on fabricated financials. Today, Troodler has admitted to committing securities fraud. This guilty plea, in what we believe to be the first municipal bond-related criminal securities fraud prosecution, is a big step in policing and bringing accountability to the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Information to which TROODLER pled guilty today and the related Indictment of TROODLER’s co-conspirator, Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence:

As of August 2015, the Town had more than $128 million in outstanding bonds that had been issued for various municipal purposes, while the RLDC, a corporation created and owned by the Town under state law, had issued $25 million in bonds to pay for the construction of Provident Bank Park (now Palisades Credit Union Park), a minor league baseball stadium in Ramapo.

The Indictment and Superseding Information charge that St. Lawrence and TROODLER lied to investors in the Town’s and RLDC’s bonds in order to conceal the deteriorating state of the Town’s finances and the inability of the RLDC to make scheduled payments of principal and interest to holders of its bonds from its own money.

While the fraud predated the construction of the stadium, the Town’s financial problems were caused largely by the $58 million total cost of the stadium. The Town paid more than half of that cost, despite the rejection of the Town’s guarantee of bonds to pay for construction of the stadium in a Town-wide referendum in 2010 and St. Lawrence’s public statements that no public money would be used to pay for the stadium.

The defendants lied to investors primarily by making up false assets in the Town’s General Fund. The General Fund is the Town’s primary operating fund. The accumulated difference over time between how much money the Town receives in taxes and fees and how much it spends in a year is the fund’s balance. The fund balance is a cushion that can be spent during difficult financial times. The size of the fund balance relative to the amount of the fund’s revenue and trends in a town’s General Fund balance over time are the primary indicators of the town’s financial health.

The Indictment alleges that St. Lawrence lied to the RLDC’s bond rating service in January 2013 when he told them in a telephone call that the 2012 fund balance would remain unchanged from the 2011 balance. Immediately after that call ended, St. Lawrence told Town employees “to do [an upcoming] refinancing of the short term debt as fast as possible because . . . we’re going to have to all be magicians to get to some of those numbers.”

The Indictment and the Superseding Information also allege that St. Lawrence and TROODLER told investors in the Town’s and RLDC’s bonds that the RLDC was making the payments on its bonds from its operating revenue, meaning money it was making from its ordinary business of running the baseball stadium and selling condominiums at a development it had built. That was important to investors because it led them to believe that the Town would not have to pay off the RLDC’s $25 million bonds. It also made the RLDC’s bonds look less risky. The RLDC actually made those payments from money TROODLER borrowed from the bank or money TROODLER obtained from the Town at St. Lawrence’s direction.

When the RLDC issued $25 million in bonds to build the stadium building itself in 2011, St. Lawrence inflated the size of the Town’s General Fund by including a false $3.6 million receivable in the General Fund. The Town’s financial condition was important to investors in the RLDC’s bonds because the Town guaranteed the payments of principal and interest on the bonds. Without that fake asset, the General Fund’s balance would have been negative in that year.

In addition, St. Lawrence inflated the General Fund with another fake receivable for $3.08 million from 2010 through 2015. It first went on the Town’s books when the RLDC agreed to buy property known as The Hamlets from the Town for $3.08 million. That sale never closed because the land turned out to be a habitat for rattlesnakes. Rather than take the receivable off the Town’s books – and reduce the size of the General Fund balance by $3.08 million, thereby creating a negative balance – St. Lawrence claimed the receivable had to do with the RLDC’s purchase of another property from the Town that had already taken place. To keep it on the books, St. Lawrence then caused the Town Attorney to tell the Town’s auditors over a period of years that the receivable would be paid back within a year, which was required if the receivable was going to stay in the General Fund. Without this fake receivable alone, the Town’s General Fund balance would have been negative for years.

In May 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) searched Town Hall in connection with this investigation. Less than 10 days later, St. Lawrence inflated another receivable in the General Fund – this one for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to reimburse the Town for expenses from Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. St. Lawrence claimed that the Town was going to receive $3.145 million from FEMA when the Town hadn’t even submitted those claims to FEMA yet. Without St. Lawrence’s inflation of this receivable alone, the projected General Fund balance for 2012 would have been negative when the Town sold bonds in May 2013.

Finally, the Indictment alleges that St. Lawrence also inflated the General Fund balance by making more than $12 million in transfers from the Town’s Ambulance Fund to the General Fund from 2009 to 2014. The group of properties in Ramapo that pays into the Ambulance Fund is different from the group of properties that pays into the General Fund. Under state law, transfers between funds with different tax bases can only be loans. St. Lawrence told the auditors that the two funds had the same tax base to justify the transfers.

* * *

TROODLER, 42, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, pled guilty to one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

TROODLER is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Seibel on September 18, 2017, at 3:30 p.m.

The charges against Christopher St. Lawrence contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office. He also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for their assistance in the investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James McMahon, Daniel Loss, and Stephen J. Ritchin are in charge of the prosecution.

Kiekert AG to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging Involving Auto Parts

Kiekert AG, an automotive parts manufacturer based in Heiligenhaus, Germany, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $6.1 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to rig bids of side-door latches and latch minimodules installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Kiekert participated in a conspiracy to eliminate competition by agreeing to allocate sales, rig bids and fix prices for side-door latches and latch minimodules sold to Ford Motor Company and its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere between September 2008 and May 2013.  In addition to Kiekert’s agreement to pay a $6.1 million criminal fine, the manufacturer has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“The Antitrust Division has uncovered conspiracies involving more than 50 automotive parts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “Automobile manufacturers, and the American consumers who buy their cars, are entitled to prices set by competition, not secret cartels.”

“Americans expect corporations in the United States and overseas to conduct their business honestly.  To do anything less, compromises consumer trust,” said Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of FBI’s Detroit Division.  “Today’s plea agreement of Kiekert AG, demonstrates the resolve of the FBI and the Department of Justice to protect American consumers from price fixing and bid rigging schemes that ultimately harm the U.S. economy.”

Side-door latches secure car doors to the body.  Latch minimodules include the side-door latch and all related mechanical operating components, including the electronic lock function.

According to the charges, Kiekert officials participated in meetings and communications with representatives of another major side-door latch producer, during which they agreed to allocate sales, rig bids and fix prices submitted to Ford.  To effectuate those agreements, the conspirators exchanged information on bids and price quotations for submission to Ford.

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.  Including Kiekert, 48 companies and 65 executives have been charged in the division’s ongoing investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.9 billion in criminal fines.

These charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.

Kiekert AG Information

USDOJ Grants and Grantees now in the Crosshairs

We see continuing signs of reinvigorated grant fraud enforcement.  The latest submisison involves a long simmering dispute that has resurfaced involving corporate fines that are recovered, allocated and spent by USDOJ.  USDOJ grants have been a source of frustration for supporters of the current Administration and some believe that white collar enforcement suffered as perverse incentives encouraged the offsets of criminal cases and terms of imprisonment in favor of large recoveries of fines from corporations (Does anyone from the cartel world recall the furious whispers about this case?).  Now there seems to be Trump Administration-led push to shine a media spotlight on USDOJ grants.  Typically, this foreshadows official actions:

Last night Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was on Fox News discussing the issue speaking in bellicose terms. This accompanied various news articles that covered various aspects of the dispute.

Today on Fox News there is a lengthy piece on the subject with sub links:

“It’s clear partisan politics played a role in the illicit actions that were made,” Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, told Fox News. “The DOJ is the last place this should have occurred.

Findings spearheaded by the House Judiciary Committee point to a process shrouded in secrecy whereby monies were distributed to a labyrinth of nonprofit organizations involved with grass-roots activism.”

To see how far some have delved into this issue, check out this google search.  You have to go to less established media sources like this InfoWars article referencing State Department grants to get a sense of where this could lead (some will need to don protective suits–oh what we have to do for risk analysis!).  Since there was not as much reporting as there could have been, it is likely this issue could get significant play now. There is also likely to be a convergence effect when problems in one grant tranch from one agency  spills over into other grant programs.

This latest resurfacing of this issue by White House allies suggests a trend and it will likely add to calls for a significant realignment of DOJ on the left side of the org chart and also in its mission in terms of how it helps victims. Particularly vulnerable to significant reform are CRS, OJP, COPS, Office of Violence Against Women (grants) (biannual report) and Office of Access to Justice.  Obviously, grants and grantees will be a subject of interest as well.

I have referenced a prior DOJ IG 2016 civil case here.  Designating an enforcement priority can change whether a case is criminal or civil because criminal investigation assets redeploy and there is often a multiplier effect because the combination of criminal and civil enforcement assets allows for parallel investigations.  Overnight,  a larger swath of FBI agents start trolling for footholds in grants or procurement areas.  Not good.  When investigators expand the duration or number of grants reviewed, when they send agents to do coordinated interviews while serving grand jury and inspector general subpoenas and when AUSA’s start calling witnesses before traditional grand jury investigations, things can change fast.

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’I am an individual who:’ type=’checkbox-multiple’ options=’has a whistleblower claim,needs legal representation’/][contact-field label=’I am a company representative who is interested in:’ type=’checkbox-multiple’ options=’legal representation,conducting an internal investigation,voluntary or mandatory disclosures,whistleblower defense,learning more about a compliance assessment,crisis management’/][contact-field label=’I am a law firm representative who:’ type=’checkbox-multiple’ options=’needs legal help perfecting a whistleblower claim,needs legal help with corporate defense,needs help with a voluntary or mandatory disclosure,needs internal investigations support from former federal agents’/][/contact-form]

Procurement Fraud and Grant Fraud enforcement programs are likely to be revitalized by the Trump Administration.

It’s no shock that a political change in the Executive Branch leads to an increase in grant fraud and procurement fraud enforcement. The reason? There is low risk in scrutinizing grants and contracts awarded by the outgoing administration. Whatever shenanigans are discovered by a new Administration will have occurred during the term of the previous administration and any negative economic impacts from pulling a grant or imposing a fine, will only impact the grant recipient and, potentially, its subcontractors, who are often presumed by an incoming Administration to have stronger ties to its predecessor.

Imagine you are a high-level Department of Justice official in a new administration positioned to deploy resources toward matters you believe most merit investigation and possible prosecution.  You will need to work on accomplishing the new Administrations mission as well as continue to satisfy your existing management chain with positive results.  What is the best way to move forward in this environment.

The most obvious way is to go after the low-hanging fruit: to aim the enforcement initiative at situations in which there is a high risk/reward ratio. Nowhere in white collar enforcement, is this ratio more favorable than in the realm of grant fraud and procurement fraud enforcement (GFPFE). Contributing to the richness of this area from an enforcement standpoint is that since 2009 the enforcement apparatus adopted a rigid prevention model, decreased the number of federal agents developing cases, increased barriers between the investigations and audit components of the Office of Inspector Generals (OIG’s) and made it more difficult to engage in aggressive or effective GFPFE.[1] This shift away from effective GFPFE in 2009 coincided with the largest spending increase in government history so it stands to reason there will be plenty of cases worth developing.

* * * Click Here for the Rest of the #GFPFE Analysis * * *

 

Labuda on trade risks

Compliance: what are the trade risks (part 1)

by Janet.Labuda@FormerFedsGroup.Com

Over the last few weeks, I have written a series of short articles discussing the need for developing a compliance-based approach to transacting international trade. This will help to prepare your organization to effectively deal with the risks inherent in importing.

What are these risks that continue to be the focus of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)? There are various operational policies and programs that give insight into the agency’s concerns. The most important is the identification of Priority Trade Issues (PTIs). Currently, CBP considers the agency’s trade enforcement priorities to be:

Antidumping and Countervailing Duty case administration and enforcement;

Import Safety;

Intellectual Property Rights protection;

Revenue;

Textiles; and

Trade Agreements.

In CBP’s own words “Priority Trade Issues (PTIs) represent high-risk areas that can cause significant revenue loss, harm the U.S. economy, or threaten the health and safety of the American people. They drive risk-informed investment of CBP resources and enforcement and facilitation efforts, including the selection of audit candidates, special enforcement operations, outreach, and regulatory initiatives.”

* * * * * Click here for the rest of the story * * * * * 

 

New Jersey Plastic Surgeon Sentenced To Prison For Evading Taxes

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Morris County, New Jersey, Plastic Surgeon Sentenced To Three Years In Prison For Evading Taxes On More Than $5 Million In Income

NEWARK, N.J. – A plastic surgeon with a practice in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 36 months in prison for fraudulently diverting millions in corporate earnings for his personal use, costing the United States nearly $3 million in tax revenue between 2006 and 2010, U.S Attorney Paul Fishman announced.

David Evdokimow, 56, of Harding Township, New Jersey, was previously convicted of all eight counts of a superseding indictment charging him with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, four counts of personal income tax evasion and three counts of corporate tax evasion. He was convicted following three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman, who imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.

According to the superseding indictment and evidence at trial:

Evdokimow ran his medical practice through a corporation called De’Omilia Plastic Surgery P.C. (De’Omilia). He conspired with others to conceal millions of dollars of taxable income from the IRS by forming shell corporations and then having trusted associates open bank accounts for those corporations. Evdokimow then convinced these associates to give him their signatures or signature stamps so that he had full access to the shell company bank accounts while at the same time being able to conceal his connection to those accounts. He and the other conspirators then funneled millions of dollars in De’Omilia income into the bank accounts of the shell corporations and falsely claimed that these transfers were legitimate business expenses. Evdokimow also used bank accounts in the name of De’Omilia to pay his personal expenses, and falsely claimed those were business expenses too.

Evdokimow used the shell corporation and De’Omilia bank accounts to pay for more than $5.8 million in personal expenses, including designer apparel, jewelry, vacations, artwork, and multiple residences, all of which he falsely claimed as business expenses.

Evdokimow also opened accounts at several banks in order to cash checks received directly from patients for professional medical services. Between 2009 and 2011, Evdokimow cashed more than $360,000 in checks from patients, which he failed to report on his federal income tax returns.

Evdokimow was convicted of concealing more than $5.8 million in income from tax years 2006 to 2010. By concealing this income, Evdokimow evaded paying almost $3 million in taxes during that period.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Hillman sentenced Evdokimow to one year of supervised release and fined $96,000. He previously paid the taxes owed.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Murphy and Justin Herring of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.