SEC Files Settled Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Charges Against Siemens AG for Engaging in Worldwide Bribery With Total Disgorgement and Criminal Fines of Over $1.6 Billion

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a settled enforcement action on December 12, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Siemens Aktiengesellschaft (“Siemens”), a Munich, Germany-based manufacturer of industrial and consumer products, with violations of the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). Siemens has offered to pay a total of $1.6 billion in disgorgement and fines, which is the largest amount a company has ever paid to resolve corruption-related charges. Siemens has agreed to pay $350 million in disgorgement to the SEC. In related actions, Siemens will pay a $450 million criminal fine to the U.S. Department of Justice and a fine of €395 million (approximately $569 million) to the Office of the Prosecutor General in Munich, Germany. Siemens previously paid a fine of €201 million (approximately $285 million) to the Munich Prosecutor in October 2007.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that:

Between March 12, 2001 and September 30, 2007, Siemens violated the FCPA by engaging in a widespread and systematic practice of paying bribes to foreign government officials to obtain business. Siemens created elaborate payment schemes to conceal the nature of its corrupt payments, and the company’s inadequate internal controls allowed the conduct to flourish. The misconduct involved employees at all levels, including former senior management, and revealed a corporate culture long at odds with the FCPA.

For more see SEC.gov.

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SEC Files Settled Books and Records and Internal Controls Charges Against Fiat S.p.A. and CNH Global N.V. For Improper Payments to Iraq Under the U.N. Oil for Food Program — Fiat Agrees to Pay Over $10 Million in Disgorgement, Interest, and Penalties

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act books and records and internal controls charges against Fiat S.p.A. and CNH Global N.V. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Fiat S.p.A., an Italian company, provides automobiles, trucks and commercial vehicles. CNH Global N.V., a majority-owned subsidiary of Fiat, provides agricultural and construction equipment. The Commission’s complaint alleges that from 2000 through 2003, certain Fiat and CNH Global subsidiaries made approximately $4.3 million in kickback payments in connection with their sales of humanitarian goods to Iraq under the United Nations Oil for Food Program (the “Program”). The kickbacks were characterized as “after sales service fees” (“ASSFs”), but no bona fide services were performed. The Program was intended to provide humanitarian relief for the Iraqi population, which faced severe hardship under international trade sanctions. The Program required the Iraqi government to purchase humanitarian goods through a U.N. escrow account. The kickbacks paid by Fiat’s and CNH Global’s subsidiaries diverted funds out of the escrow account and into Iraqi-controlled accounts at banks in countries such as Jordan.

According to the Commission’s Complaint:

During the Oil for Food Program, Fiat’s subsidiary, IVECO S.p.A., used its IVECO Egypt office to enter into four direct contracts with Iraqi ministries in which $1,803,880 in kickbacks were made on the sales of commercial vehicles and parts. After agreeing to pay the ASSFs, IVECO Egypt increased its agent’s commissions from five percent to between fifteen and twenty percent of the total U.N. contract price, which the agent funneled to Iraq as kickbacks. The agent submitted invoices for the inflated commissions, and IVECO financial documents show line items for “contract pay-back” due to the agent. IVECO and the agent secretly inflated the U.N. contracts by ten to fifteen percent. Despite the agent’s invoices being held for one year and the unusually large commissions, IVECO paid the invoices. In one instance, IVECO set up a bank guarantee in the amount of the ASSF in favor of a Dubai-based firm that operated as a front company for Iraq. IVECO’s bank guarantee was canceled and, instead, the agent established an identical bank guarantee to conceal IVECO’s role. A line item identified as “pay-back” on IVECO documents corresponded to the amount of the agent’s bank guarantee. The ASSFs were incorrectly recorded as legitimate commissions on the company’s books and records.

For more see SEC.gov.

Local Government Botches E-Discovery and Legal Hold — County Underestimates Value of Its Own E-mail Records

Some public agencies don’t realize that in ligation their own good records can be their best defense.

Commonly a defendant in a lawsuit is reluctant to search through its e-mails – and incredulous that a court would force it to dig deep for them. In Toussie v. County of Suffolk, 2007 WL 4565160 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2007), a New York county made the process of e-discovery excessively difficult and expensive for itself.

Plaintiffs sued the county for allegedly barring them from participation in a real estate auction to which they were entitled. After the lawsuit started, the county did a poor job of preserving its e-mail records. Then, when the plaintiffs demanded – in the “discovery” phase of the lawsuit — that the county search for and disclose relevant e-mail, the county faltered. It initially turned over only two e-mail records.

For more see legal-beagle.com

When U.S. E-Discovery Meets EU Roadblocks

By Shannon Capone Kirk, Emily Cobb and Michael Robotti
The National Law Journal
December 22, 2008

One of the most challenging aspects of electronic discovery arises when U.S. litigation crosses borders into European Union countries with strong privacy laws. Ten years ago, these challenges seemed nonexistent; today, litigators face increasing roadblocks to e-discovery based on foreign privacy laws.

Are these roadblocks real or imaginary?

All European Union privacy laws derive from EU Directive 95/46/EC, adopted by the European Parliament in October 1995. The directive and the national laws implementing it shield “personal data” from disclosure in most instances. This protection is in stark contrast to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, which mandates that parties disclose relevant information regarding any matter not privileged.

Because Rule 26 has been broadly interpreted, U.S. discovery generally is viewed as the most far-reaching among common law countries. This expansive scope directly conflicts with the protections afforded to personal data in the European Union. It is, therefore, not surprising that EU privacy laws restrict the “transfer” of personal data to the United States from the European Union. This article does not seek to define personal “data.”

EU privacy laws protect against the “processing” (reviewing) and “transfer” (which can include viewing, from the United States, data “hosted” on an EU Web site) of personal data — “any information relating to an identified or identifiable” individual, which is construed broadly to include information such as an e-mail address. See, e.g., The Sedona Conference Working Group on International Electronic Information Management, Discovery and Disclosure, Framework for Analysis of Cross-Border Discovery Conflicts 8-9 (August 2008) (hereinafter Sedona Report).

For more see law.com.

25 Percent of Reported E-Discovery Opinions in 2008 Involved Sanctions Issues

Sheri Qualters
The National Law Journal
December 17, 2008

One-quarter of the reported electronic discovery opinions issued in the first 10 months of the year involved sanctions issues, according to a new Kroll Ontrack Inc. study.

The Kroll Ontrack software division of risk consultant Kroll Inc. analyzed 138 reported cases from January through October 2008 for the study. Also, according to the analysis, 13 percent of cases addressed preservation and spoliation issues; 12 percent involved computer forensics protocols and experts; 11 percent addressed admissibility; and 7 percent of cases involved privilege considerations and waivers.

The cases illustrate that judges frequently issue sanctions for mishandling of electronic discovery and lack of document retention policies, said Michele Lange, Kroll Ontrack’s director of legal technologies, in a statement. “It is clear that courts are no longer allowing parties to plead ignorance when it comes to [electronic discovery] best practices.”

Kroll Ontrack’s study detailed several decisions, including a federal court decision in the Northern District of California that required defendants to pay more than $250,000 in fees and costs for discovery conduct “among the most egregious this court has seen,” according to an Aug. 12 opinion by U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte. Keithley v. The Home Store.Com Inc., No. 3:03-cv-04447 (N.D. Calif.).