This Week in Compliance

This Week in Compliance: Multiple GDPR Investigations Involving Big Tech Firms Expected To Conclude This Summer

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  • Multiple GDPR Investigations Involving Big Tech Firms Expected To Conclude This Summer: Ireland’s data regulator listed details of 16 GDPR investigations into Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Linkedin, all of whom have their European headquarters in Ireland. Helen Dixon, the Commissioner for Data Protection said that five investigations are “well advanced” and that she expects to circulate draft decisions on potential sanctionable infringements to fellow EU data regulations during the summer. One investigation is aimed at determining whether Facebook met requirements to secure and safeguard its users’ personal data in relation to a data breach in May 2018. Dixon indicated that “taking a scalp” as a deterrent is not the approach she is taking, but that she is obliged to apply a fine when infringements are identified.

Business

  • German healthcare firm to settle charges with U.S. authorities: German health-care firm Fresenius Medical Care AG said last week in a regulatory filing that it had reached an agreement in principle with U.S. authorities regarding a foreign-bribery investigation stemming from an anonymous whistleblower complaint. The company said in the filing that it had recorded EUR 224 million in charges relating to the potential settlement. The allegations first came under investigation in 2012, after an anonymous whistleblower sent an email to Fresenius managers and board members in April 2012. The email contained allegations that the company engaged in widespread bribery in parts of Latin America. The deal is still subject to final approval by the company and government officials.
  • SFO ends investigations of Rolls-Royce and GlaxoSmithKline: The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced this week that it has closed the investigations into Rolls-Royce and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It said that following a review of the evidence available and “an assessment of the public interest”, it decided not to prosecute any individuals in the Rolls-Royce case. The decision came as a surprise to many white-collar crime lawyers and anti-corruption campaigners, considering the company agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement in January 2017 in which it admitted to illegal conduct covering more than two decades. The SFO has had serious difficulty in prosecuting individuals for white collar crimes; earlier this year the prosecution of three former Tesco executives failed. The GSK investigation involved allegations that the pharmaceutical company had earned hundreds of millions of GBP by bribing hospitals and officials in China to buy its medicines.
  • Dutch prosecutors raid businesses in Odebrecht case: Prosecutors in the Netherlands raided multiple businesses across the country on Tuesday as part of an investigation into allegations that Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht used shell companies to distribute USD 100 million in bribes. Financial records and other data were seized from half a dozen home and businesses. Prosecutors did not name any of the businesses involved, but said that the entities were suspected of being used on a large scale to facilitate bribery.
  • Novartis loses whistleblower damages case: Novartis lost a court case in New Jersey on Tuesday as a jury hit the pharmaceutical giant with net damages totaling USD 1.5 million pursuant to a claim by a former executive who said she was fired in retaliation for objecting to a proposed drug study. The executive, Min Amy Guo, said she objected to a 2012 study for a cancer drug by McKesson Corp, including concerns that the study appeared to be a kickback to McKesson to help sell the medicine. Novartis maintains that Ms. Guo was fired for legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons.

Government

  • EU parliament report calls for European tax evasion authority: A committee of the EU Parliament released a report this week recommending that the European Union set up a police force to investigate tax evasion and financial crime and create a watchdog to counter money-laundering. The lawmakers concluded that action on closing loopholes in tax rules has been lackluster in many countries as governments showed “a lack of political will to tackle tax avoidance and financial crime.” The report also called a number of European states that, according to the report “display traits of a tax haven and facilitate aggressive tax planning”. States have thus far ignored calls for a common tax evasion fighting body over fears of losing national competences.
  • Another two individuals indicted in Venezuelan bribery case: A federal indictment unsealed this week charges the president of a Miami-based company and a former sales representative with bribing officials at Venezuela’s state energy company PDVSA. The bribes were allegedly meant to win work and receive payment of past due invoices. The two defendants stand accused of bribing three PDVSA officials, two of which have already pleaded guilty in the case recently. In addition, the two defendants took kickbacks of USD 985,000 and USD 285,000 respectively.
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