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.

“Karl Lee” Charged for Evading US Sanctions

Sanctions Previously Had Been Imposed Because of “Karl Lee’s” Role in Iranian Weapons Proliferation Activities; an Additional Round of Sanctions Are Also Announced Today
Li Fangwei, who is more commonly known by his alias “Karl Lee,” is charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by using United States-based financial institutions to engage in millions of dollars of U.S. dollar transactions in violation of economic sanctions that prohibited such financial transactions. In addition, Li Fangwei is also charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, a money laundering conspiracy, two separate violations of IEEPA and two separate substantive counts of wire fraud, in connection with such illicit transactions.   Li Fangwei, a national of the People’s Republic of China, is a fugitive.

The announcement was made today by Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, George C. Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge for the FBI’s New York Field Office.

“ These charges are an important part of the ‘ all tools’ approach our government is takingagainst Li Fangwei to shut down and deny him the profit from his proliferation activities,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “This case is an outstanding example of multiple agencies working together to focus various enforcement efforts on the significant threat to our national security posed by such proliferation networks.”

“As alleged, Li Fangwei has used subterfuge and deceit to continue to evade U.S. sanctions that had been imposed because of his illicit trade in prohibited materials with Iran,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.   “Previously having been exposed as a violator of those sanctions, Li spun a web of front companies to carry out prohibited transactions essentially in disguise.   He now stands charged with serious crimes, and millions of his dollars have been seized.   It is the hope of this Office not only that Li’s banned commerce cease once and for all, but that he be apprehended and brought before the bar of American justice.”

“Whether motivated by greed or otherwise, Li Fangwei allegedly ignored sanctions imposed by the United States Government and hid behind front companies he developed to engage in a series of illegal transactions, including attempts to acquire ‘dual use’ items on behalf of Iran-based entities,” said Director in Charge Venizelos.  “IEEPA makes it a crime to willfully violate U.S. sanctions on designated countries such as Iran.  Individuals and companies who evade U.S. sanctions and misuse our banking system to further their illegal activity not only undermine the integrity of our financial markets but also threaten U.S. National Security interests.  The FBI is committed to ensuring that strategically important goods and technology, particularly those that could be used in the production or delivery of weapons of mass destruction, do not end up in the wrong hands.”

According to the superseding indictment previously filed in Manhattan federal court and other court documents:

Li Fangwei controls a large network of industrial companies based in eastern China, one of which is LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd. (LIMMT).   Over the years, Li Fangwei’s companies have done millions of dollars of business with Iran.   This business has included selling to Iranian entities various metallurgical goods and related components that are banned for transfer to Iran by, among others, the United Nations, because the items are controlled by the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (a multinational group that maintains “control lists,” which identify nuclear-related dual-use equipment, material and technology).   Li Fangwei has been, among other things, a long-time supplier to Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization.   In addition, Li Fangwei has been a principal contributor to Iran’s ballistic missile program, through China-based entities that have been sanctioned by the United States.

In light of his supply of restricted items to Iran, the United States has imposed targeted sanctions on both Li Fangwei and LIMMT.   Specifically, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) publicly added LIMMT (in 2006) and Li Fangwei (in 2009) to its List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List).  By virtue of their inclusion on the SDN List, Li Fangwei and LIMMT were effectively precluded from conducting any business within the United States without first obtaining a license or authorization from OFAC.   Neither Li Fangwei nor LIMMT has sought such a license or authorization.

The above-referenced restrictions have forced Li Fangwei to operate much of his business covertly.   In response to United States sanctions, Li Fangwei has built an outsized network of China-based front companies to conceal his continuing participation, and LIMMT’s continuing participation, in sanctioned activities.   The front companies are listed in Exhibit A to the superseding indictment.   As shown in Exhibit A, many of those front companies have used the same address as LIMMT, or a close variant thereof.

During the period from 2006 through to the present, Li Fangwei has used front companies to engage in more than 165 separate U.S. dollar transactions, with a total value in excess of approximately $8.5 million dollars.   Included in those illicit transactions have been transactions involving sales to U.S. companies and sales of merchandise by Li Fangwei to Iran-based companies utilizing the U.S. financial system.   Li Fangwei also attempted to acquire on behalf of Iran-based entities so-called “dual use” items from the United States, China and other countries that could be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction and/or devices used to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

Additionally, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced the seizure of over $6,895,000 in funds attributable to the Li Fangwei front companies, and the filing of a civil complaint seeking the forfeiture of those funds to the United States.   The seized funds are substitutes for money held by Li Fangwei’s front companies at banks in China, and were seized from accounts at U.S. banks held in the name of foreign banks used by these front companies to conduct U.S. currency transactions (the correspondent accounts).   The funds were seized pursuant to seizure warrants issued on Dec. 18, 2013, and April 25, 2014.   The $6,895,000 represents funds used by the Li Fangwei front companies to engage in transactions that violate the U.S. sanctions laws and thus are subject to forfeiture.   There are no allegations of wrongdoing by the U.S. or foreign banks that maintain these accounts.   Because the funds used in those transactions are held in banks overseas, the United States is unable to seize the funds directly.   However, pursuant to U.S. law, the United States can seize funds located in a bank’s correspondent accounts in the United States if there is probable cause to believe that funds subject to forfeiture are on deposit with that bank overseas.   Based on this provision and others, the seizure warrants were executed.   These funds were transferred to a seized asset account maintained by the United States Marshals Service pending resolution of the forfeiture action.

Based on information developed in the course of the FBI’s investigation into Li Fangwei that forms the basis of the superseding indictment, OFAC today is adding eight additional front companies used by Li Fangwei to its List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.

Finally, the United States Department of Commerce announced today the addition of nine China-based suppliers of Li Fangwei to its Entity List.

The Superseding Indictment charges Li Fangwei with seven separate offenses:

  • Count One: Conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act;


  • Counts Two and Three: Substantive violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act;


  • Count Four: Money laundering conspiracy;


  • Count Five: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; and


  • Counts Six and Seven: Wire fraud.

If convicted, Li Fangwei faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of Counts One through Four and Counts Six and Seven, and 30 years in prison on Count Five.  The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.

Additional efforts directed at Li Fangwei and his network were announced today by the U.S. Department of State’s Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program, Department of Treasury and the Department of Commerce.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.