CCC’s: DOJ Announces “Coordination of Corporate Resolution Penalties” Policy

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On May 9, 2018 Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein delivered remarks to the New York City Bar White Collar Crime Institute. He announced a new Department policy that encourages coordination among Department components and other enforcement agencies when imposing multiple penalties for the same conduct.  The full prepared remarks are here.  Below is an excerpt:

Today, we are announcing a new Department policy that encourages coordination among Department components and other enforcement agencies when imposing multiple penalties for the same conduct.

The aim is to enhance relationships with our law enforcement partners in the United States and abroad, while avoiding unfair duplicative penalties.

It is important for us to be aggressive in pursuing wrongdoers. But we should discourage disproportionate enforcement of laws by multiple authorities. In football, the term “piling on” refers to a player jumping on a pile of other players after the opponent is already tackled.

Our new policy discourages “piling on” by instructing Department components to appropriately coordinate with one another and with other enforcement agencies in imposing multiple penalties on a company in relation to investigations of the same misconduct.

In highly regulated industries, a company may be accountable to multiple regulatory bodies. That creates a risk of repeated punishments that may exceed what is necessary to rectify the harm and deter future violations.

Sometimes government authorities coordinate well.  They are force multipliers in their respective efforts to punish and deter fraud. They achieve efficiencies and limit unnecessary regulatory burdens.

Other times, joint or parallel investigations by multiple agencies sound less like singing in harmony, and more like competing attempts to sing a solo.

Modern business operations regularly span jurisdictions and borders. Whistleblowers routinely report allegations to multiple enforcement authorities, which may investigate the claims jointly or through their own separate and independent proceedings.

By working with other agencies, including the SEC, CFTC, Federal Reserve, FDIC, OCC, OFAC, and others, our Department is better able to detect sophisticated financial fraud schemes and deploy adequate penalties and remedies to ensure market integrity.

But we have heard concerns about “piling on” from our own Department personnel. Our prosecutors and civil enforcement attorneys prize the Department’s reputation for fairness.

They understand the importance of protecting our brand. They asked for support in coordinating internally and with other agencies to achieve reasonable and proportionate outcomes in major corporate investigations.

And I know many federal, state, local and foreign authorities that work with us are interested in joining our efforts to show leadership in this area.

“Piling on” can deprive a company of the benefits of certainty and finality ordinarily available through a full and final settlement. We need to consider the impact on innocent employees, customers, and investors who seek to resolve problems and move on. We need to think about whether devoting resources to additional enforcement against an old scheme is more valuable than fighting a new one.

Our new policy provides no private right of action and is not enforceable in court, but it will be incorporated into the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, and it will guide the Department’s decisions.

This is another step towards greater transparency and consistency in corporate enforcement. To reduce white collar crime, we need to encourage companies to report suspected wrongdoing to law enforcement and to resolve liability expeditiously.

There are four key features of the new policy.

First, the policy affirms that the federal government’s criminal enforcement authority should not be used against a company for purposes unrelated to the investigation and prosecution of a possible crime. We should not employ the threat of criminal prosecution solely to persuade a company to pay a larger settlement in a civil case.

That is not a policy change. It is a reminder of and commitment to principles of fairness and the rule of law.

Second, the policy addresses situations in which Department attorneys in different components and offices may be seeking to resolve a corporate case based on the same misconduct.

The new policy directs Department components to coordinate with one another, and achieve an overall equitable result. The coordination may include crediting and apportionment of financial penalties, fines, and forfeitures, and other means of avoiding disproportionate punishment.

Third, the policy encourages Department attorneys, when possible, to coordinate with other federal, state, local, and foreign enforcement authorities seeking to resolve a case with a company for the same misconduct.

Finally, the new policy sets forth some factors that Department attorneys may evaluate in determining whether multiple penalties serve the interests of justice in a particular case.

Sometimes, penalties that may appear duplicative really are essential to achieve justice and protect the public. In those cases, we will not hesitate to pursue complete remedies, and to assist our law enforcement partners in doing the same.

Factors identified in the policy that may guide this determination include the egregiousness of the wrongdoing; statutory mandates regarding penalties; the risk of delay in finalizing a resolution; and the adequacy and timeliness of a company’s disclosures and cooperation with the Department.

Cooperating with a different agency or a foreign government is not a substitute for cooperating with the Department of Justice. And we will not look kindly on companies that come to the Department of Justice only after making inadequate disclosures to secure lenient penalties with other agencies or foreign governments. In those instances, the Department will act without hesitation to fully vindicate the interests of the United States.

The Department’s ability to coordinate outcomes in joint and parallel proceedings is also constrained by more practical concerns.  The timing of other agency actions, limits on information sharing across borders, and diplomatic relations between countries are some of the challenges we confront that do not always lend themselves to easy solutions.

The idea of coordination is not new. The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and many of our U.S. Attorney’s Offices routinely coordinate with the SEC, CFTC, Federal Reserve, and other financial regulators, as well as a wide variety of foreign partners. The FCPA Unit announced its first coordinated resolution with the country of Singapore this past December.

The Antitrust Division has cooperated with 21 international agencies through 58 different merger investigations during the past four years.

Here is a link to the policy on Coordination of Corporate Resolution Penalties.

As the Deputy Attorney General stated, coordination is not new.  The Antitrust Division routinely coordinates with other federal and state agencies on most investigations.  And some coordination always occurs on international investigations.  In the recent financial crimes investigations such as Libor and FOREX the amount of coordination was extensive among federal agencies such as the Antitrust Division, Criminal Division, FBI, SEC, CFTC, state AG office, as well as with many foreign jurisdictions.  It is rumored that meetings were held in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice since no conference room could hold the throngs of participating enforcers.

Coordination by the Antitrust Division with enforcers from other federal, state and international enforcers is not new, but there is a continual debate about whether such coordination prevents “piling on.”  Of course, what a defense attorney may call piling on, the prosecutors may deem to be a hard but fair hit.  There is no referee or instant replay.  The question of piling on or double counting is a subject of continuing debate in antitrust circles.  It’s a tough question as foreign jurisdictions are injured by international cartels and they have stakeholders that want a significant penalty.  Sorting out proportional penalties among sovereign nations is a particularly tough ongoing challenge. This new policy document is not going to end that debate but a written policy document (while creating no new rights) could enhance defendants’ power of persuasion with the Department of Justice if they have some credible numbers to back up a “piling on” argument.

Thanks for reading.

PS.  Several publications have reported that Richard Powers will become the next Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Enforcement in the Antitrust Division.  The Antitrust Division has made no announcement yet.  One of the many qualifications Mr. Powers will bring to the position, if he is named as the Criminal Deputy, is his experience in multi-agency, international prosecutions. He worked on both Libor and Forex while a member of the Antitrust Division’s New York Field Office.

UBS Securities Japan Co. Ltd Sentenced for Long-running Manipulation of Libor

UBS Securities Japan Co. Ltd. (UBS Securities Japan), an investment bank, financial advisory securities firm and wholly-owned subsidiary of UBS AG, was sentenced today for its role in manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a leading benchmark used in financial products and transactions around the world, the Justice Department announced.

UBS Securities Japan was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in the District of Connecticut.  UBS Securities Japan pleaded guilty on Dec. 19, 2012, to one count of engaging in a scheme to defraud counterparties to interest rate derivative trades by secretly manipulating LIBOR benchmark interest rates.  UBS Securities Japan signed a plea agreement with the government in which it admitted its criminal conduct and agreed to pay a $100 million fine, which the court accepted in imposing sentence.  In addition, UBS AG, the Zurich-based parent company of UBS Securities Japan, entered into a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with the government requiring UBS AG to pay an additional $400 million penalty, to admit and accept responsibility for its misconduct as set forth in an extensive statement of facts and to continue cooperating with the Justice Department in its ongoing investigation.  The NPA reflects UBS AG’s substantial cooperation in discovering and disclosing LIBOR misconduct within the financial institution and recognizes the significant remedial measures undertaken by new management to enhance internal controls.

Together with approximately $1 billion in regulatory penalties and disgorgement – $700 million as a result of a Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) action; $259.2 million as a result of a U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) action; and $64.3 million as a result of a Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) action – the Justice Department’s criminal penalties bring the total amount of the resolution to more than $1.5 billion.

“This action, and the resulting sentence, prove that no individual or firm is above the law – no matter what,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “The Department of Justice will continue to stand vigilant against corporations or individuals who threaten the integrity of our financial markets, undermine the stability of our economy, or jeopardize the well-being of our citizens.  And, when supported by the facts and the law, we will never hesitate to use every tool and authority available to us to hold accountable those who illegally take advantage of others for their own financial gain.”

“Through its guilty plea and sentence, UBS has been held to account for deliberately manipulating LIBOR, one of the cornerstone interest rates in our global financial system,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division.  “The $1.5 billion global resolution against UBS – of which this guilty plea and sentence are a critical element – is just one of several actions we have taken against financial firms throughout the world that sought to illegally influence LIBOR.  As we continue our active and ongoing investigation of the manipulation of LIBOR, our prosecutors and agents will continue to tenaciously follow the evidence wherever it leads.  Neither UBS, nor the individual UBS defendants we have charged in connection with this sophisticated scheme, nor any other bank or individual, is above the law.”

According to documents filed in these cases, LIBOR is an average interest rate, calculated based on submissions from leading banks around the world, reflecting the rates those banks believe they would be charged if borrowing from other banks.  LIBOR serves as the primary benchmark for short-term interest rates globally, and is used as a reference rate for many interest rate contracts, mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other consumer lending products.  The Bank of International Settlements estimated that as of the second half of 2009, outstanding interest rate contracts were estimated at approximately $450 trillion.

LIBOR, published by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), a trade association based in London, is calculated for 10 currencies at 15 borrowing periods, known as maturities, ranging from overnight to one year.  The LIBOR for a given currency at a specific maturity is the result of a calculation based upon submissions from a panel of banks.

Beginning in September 2006, UBS Securities Japan and a senior trader employed in the Tokyo office of UBS Securities Japan orchestrated a sustained, wide-ranging and systematic scheme to move Yen LIBOR in a direction favorable to the trader’s trading positions, defrauding UBS’s counterparties and harming others with financial products referencing Yen LIBOR who were unaware of the manipulation.  Between November 2006 and August 2009, the senior trader or a colleague of the senior trader endeavored to manipulate Yen LIBOR on at least 335 of the 738 trading days in that period, and during some periods on almost a daily basis.  Because of the large size of the senior trader’s positions, even slight moves of a fraction of a percent in Yen LIBOR could generate large profits.  For example, the senior trader once estimated that a 0.01 percent movement in the final Yen LIBOR fixing on a specific date could result in a $2 million profit for UBS.

According to the charging documents, UBS Securities Japan and the senior trader employed three strategies to execute the scheme: causing UBS to make false and misleading Yen LIBOR submissions to the BBA; causing cash brokerage firms, which purported to provide market information regarding LIBOR to panel banks, to disseminate false and misleading information about short-term interest rates for Yen, which those banks could and did rely upon in formulating their own LIBOR submissions to the BBA; and communicating with interest rate derivatives traders employed at three other Yen LIBOR panel banks in an effort to cause them to make false and misleading Yen LIBOR submissions to the BBA.

In entering into the NPA with UBS AG, the Justice Department considered information from UBS and from regulatory agencies in Switzerland and Japan demonstrating that in the last two years UBS has made important and positive changes in its management, compliance and training to ensure adherence to the law.  The Department received favorable reports from the FINMA and the Japan Financial Services Authority (JFSA) describing, respectively, progress that UBS has made in its approach to compliance and enforcement and UBS Securities Japan’s effective implementation of the remedial measures the JFSA imposed based on findings relating to the attempted manipulation of Yen benchmarks.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  The prosecution is being handled by Deputy Chiefs Daniel Braun and William Stellmach and Trial Attorneys Thomas B.W. Hall and Sandra L. Moser, along with former Trial Attorney Luke Marsh, of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Glover and Liam Brennan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut have provided valuable assistance.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance in this matter.

The investigation leading to these cases has required, and has greatly benefited from, a diligent and wide-ranging cooperative effort among various enforcement agencies both in the United States and abroad.  The Justice Department acknowledges and expresses its deep appreciation for this assistance.  In particular, the CFTC’s Division of Enforcement referred this matter to the Department and, along with the FCA, has played a major role in the investigation.  The SEC has also played a significant role in the LIBOR series of investigations and, among other efforts, has made an invaluable contribution to the investigation relating to UBS.  The Department of Justice also wishes to acknowledge and thank FINMA, the Japanese Ministry of Justice, and the JFSA.  Various agencies and enforcement authorities from other nations also have participated in different aspects of the broader investigation relating to LIBOR and other benchmark rates, and the Department is grateful for their cooperation and assistance.

Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling Resentenced to 168 Months for Fraud, Conspiracy Charges

Former Enron Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey K. Skilling has been resentenced to 168 months in prison on conspiracy, securities fraud, and other charges related to the collapse of Enron Corporation. In addition to the prison sentence, Skilling, 59, was ordered to forfeit approximately $42 million to be applied toward restitution for the victims of the fraud at Enron.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division made the announcement after Skilling was resentenced before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake at the U.S. District Court in Houston.

“The sentence handed down today ends years of litigation, imposes significant punishment upon the defendant and precludes him from ever challenging his conviction or sentence,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “With today’s court action, victims of Skilling’s crimes will finally receive more than $40 million that he owes them.  We appreciate the hard work and dedication of all the prosecutors and agents who have handled this important case from the initial investigation to today’s successful conclusion.”

A federal jury found Skilling guilty in Houston on May 25, 2006, of one count of conspiracy, 12 counts of securities fraud, one count of insider trading, and five counts of making false statements to auditors.  Judge Lake initially sentenced Skilling to serve 292 months of imprisonment on Oct. 23, 2006.  On Jan. 6, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed Skilling’s convictions but vacated his sentence and remanded for a new sentencing hearing.  The court of appeals concluded that the district court erred by increasing Skilling’s sentence for having substantially jeopardized the safety and soundness of a financial institution – that is, Enron’s pension plan.  As a result, the court of appeals effectively reduced Skilling’s guidelines range of imprisonment by approximately nine years.

In May 2013, the government and Skilling entered into an agreement to recommend jointly to the district court a sentence between 168 months and 210 months of imprisonment, a limited reduction in Skilling’s guidelines range of imprisonment in exchange for Skilling agreeing, among other things, not to contest the original forfeiture and restitution order and to waive all appeals and other litigation.  As court documents make clear, the government entered into this agreement, in part, to bring finality to Skilling’s convictions and thereby allow the government to promptly seek the distribution of approximately $42 million to victims of Skilling’s crimes.

Skilling’s convictions stemmed from a scheme to deceive the investing public, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and others about the true performance of Enron’s businesses. The scheme was designed to make it appear that Enron was growing at a healthy and predictable rate, consistent with analysts’ published expectations, that Enron did not have significant write-offs or debt and was worthy of an investment-grade credit rating, that Enron was comprised of a number of successful business units, and that the company had an appropriate cash flow. This scheme had the effect of artificially inflating Enron’s stock price, which increased from approximately $30 per share in early 1998 to over $80 per share in January 2001, and artificially stemming the decline of the stock during the first three quarters of 2001.

The fraud scheme eventually unraveled and Enron filed for bankruptcy in December 2001, making its stock virtually worthless.

The investigation into Enron’s collapse was conducted by the Enron Task Force, a team of federal prosecutors supervised by the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Special Agents from the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation. The Task Force received considerable assistance from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The resentencing hearing was handled by Patrick Stokes, Albert Stieglitz and Robert Heberle of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.