This Week in Compliance

This Week in Compliance: Telefonica Brasil settles World Cup related FCPA charges

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  • Telefonica Brasil settles World Cup related FCPA charges: Telefonica Brasil was fined USD 14.25 million by the SEC for providing football match tickets and other hospitality to government officials who were in a position to aid the company’s business. The SEC charged the  telecommunications company with internal accounting controls and recordkeeping violations. The company bought tickets to the 2014 World Cup for USD 5.1 million and tickets worth USD 428,000 for the 2013 Confederations Cup and booked the costs as “publicity institutional events” and “advertising and publicity”. The tickets went to a combined 127 government officials. The settlement took into account the company’s remedial action and cooperation; the company enhanced its internal accounting controls and improved its compliance functions.

Business

  • World Bank debars Chinese electric power company: A Chinese electric power company was debarred by the World Bank on Tuesday for fifteen months for “fraudulent practices” involving a project in West Africa. Sieyuan Electric Co., Ltd will be ineligible to participate in World Bank-financed projects during the fifteen-month debarment. The World Bank said Sieyuan falsified past contracting experience in order to meet the requirements of a contract for the project. The fifteen-month debarment represents a reduced period of sanction in light of the company’s cooperation and voluntary remedial actions.
  • Hawaiian businessman sentenced for FCPA violations: Frank James Lyon, a businessman from Hawaii who admitted bribing officials in Micronesia was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment this week for FCPA violations. Lyon Associated, his engineering and consulting company, paid bribes to officials in Micronesia worth USD 440,000. One of the officials, Master Halbert, was also charged by the DOJ for taking bribes. Halbert pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and is scheduled to be sentenced in July.
  • India’s NSE imposes fines on 250 firms for non-compliance: The National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) imposed fines worth a total of INR 2.84 crore on more than 250 companies for failure to comply with listing regulations as specified by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The penalties have been imposed on, among other, Jet Airways, Power Grid, Bharat Electronics, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, New India Assurance company, and Oil India. More than 30 companies on the list are liable to pay a fine of Rs 4.5 lakh each. The NSE may ultimately suspend the trading of companies in case non-compliance continues for two consecutive quarters.

Government

  • Former El Salvador first lady back out of corruption plea deal: Ana Ligia de Saca, the former first lady of El Salvador pulled out of a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to corruption charges after prosecutors demanded the return of USD 17.3 million in ill-gotten gains. The deal would have included a shortened legal process and community service instead of a three-year prison sentence in exchange for confessing to her role on laundering USD 25 million in public money. Ligia’s lawyers are arguing that the deal did not include returning the illicit gains. Ligia’s husband, Tony Saca, was the country’s president between 2004 and 2009. He is serving a 10-year sentence for diverting USD 300 million to his own companies and others.
  • Romania warned of EU sanctions over corruption: The European Commission warned this week that Romania could face severe sanctions if it goes through with implementing legislation that would grant “de facto impunity” for corrupt officials. The sanctions could include EU court action, denial of entry to the EU’s free-travel Schengen zone, and cuts in funding from the EU. Romania amended its criminal code earlier this year to limit the statute of limitations on certain corruption charges, which would automatically clear several high-ranking politicians of corruption charges. Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) pushed back against the Commission’s criticism on Monday, saying the reforms were “intended to enhance human rights and restore balance in Romania’s justice system”.
  • Former mayor admits to receiving bribes in coffee cups: In an unusual twist for a public corruption investigation, the former long-time mayor David Webb Jr. pleaded guilty to corruption charges and provided key testimony at the trial in Chicago’s federal court which also led to the conviction of contractor Michael Jarigese and his business Tower Contracting. The conviction relates to the bribery of the former mayor with nearly USD 100,000 to secure work from the city. Webb admitted to the jurors that Jarigese had passed him bribes in coffee cups filled with cash during meetings in his City Hall office. Typically, contractors would be the ones testifying against politicians, yet, in this case, the mayor was the one to cooperate with the jurors which, in turn, could earn him a reduced prison sentence.
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