Inside Baseball: Former Baseball Star Convicted of Insider Trading

The phrase “inside baseball” took on new meaning for a former baseball star, Doug DeCines, who was recently convicted on insider trading and securities fraud charges.  Inside baseball is a term that usually refers to a detail-oriented approach to any subject, which requires a specific knowledge about what is being discussed, with nuances that are not easily understood by outsiders.  This term became reality for DeCinces when he was convicted on Friday, May 12, 2017 of illegal insider trading for a stock buy that earned him more than $1 million.

DeCines was no stranger to white collar crime allegations. On August 4, 2011, DeCinces, along with three others, was charged with securities fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  The SEC alleged that DeCinces and his associates made more than $1.7 million in illegal profits when Abbott Park, Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories Inc. announced its plan to purchase Advanced Medical Optics Inc. through a tender offer. Without admitting or denying the allegations, DeCinces agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle the SEC’s charges.

Then in November 2012, DeCinces received a criminal indictment on insider trading in a related matter and was charged with securities fraud and money laundering.  Evidence at trial was that DeCinces was tipped off in 2009 that a Santa Ana-based medical device firm, Advanced Medical Optics, was going to be sold. The information came from the company CEO, James Mazzo, who was DeCinces’ neighbor in Laguna Beach, California, prosecutors argued. DeCinces bought more than 90,000 shares in the company days before Abbott Laboratories bought the firm, and he sold the shares for a profit of about $1.3 million, prosecutors said.[1]  On May 12, 2017, after a nearly two-month trial, a federal court jury in Santa Ana, California found him guilty on 13 charges.[2]

DeCinces, who is now 66 years old, will remain free on bail until sentenced. A hearing date was not immediately set for sentencing.  At the time of the merger, Advanced Medical Optics had seen its stock price plunge from more than $30 to under $10 in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street crash. It more than doubled after the merger was announced.

Canadian insider trading laws have not been as aggressively enforced as those in the U.S. The epic failure of the Ontario Securities Commission to secure a conviction in the prosecution of John Felderhof arising from the Bre-X Minerals scandals has now gained notoriety in the Hollywood movie Gold.[3]  There has only been one prosecution for insider trading under the Criminal Code, resulting in a guilty plea and a 39 month jail term for Stanko Grmovsek.[4]  Canada’s team, the Toronto Blue Jays major league baseball franchise, have been largely scandal free and is celebrating their 40th season in Toronto.

[1] http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/sports/ex-baseball-star-doug-decinces-guilty-insider-trading-article-1.3160385

[2] Hannah Fry, Former Angels player Doug DeCinces found guilty of insider trading, Los Angeles Times (May 12, 2017). Retrieved on May 13, 2017.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_(2016_film)

[4] See, Insider Trading in Canada, 2nd Edition, 2017, Lexis Nexis, N. Keith, pp. 88-94

Corruption Prosecution Collapses After Wiretap Evidence Excluded

The high-profile corruption prosecution of two executives and the alleged intermediary to a foreign government has ended dramatically after a judge excluded the wiretap evidence collected by the RCMP. The defendants – Kevin Wallace & Ramesh Shah, both former Vice-Presidents at SNC-Lavalin, and Zulfiquar Bhuiyan, a dual Bangladeshi-Canadian citizen – were charged under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act for bribes allegedly paid by SNC-Lavalin to secure a contract to supervise construction in Bangladesh.

The construction project was to build a multipurpose bridge connecting the southwestern region to the rest of Bangladesh. [1]  It was intended to stimulate economic growth by allowing transport of passengers, freight, natural gas, telecommunications and electricity.[2]  The project was forecast to cost approximately $2.9 billion and was funded, in part, by a $1.2 billion credit from the World Bank.

The Canadian investigation started after a World Bank investigator provided information obtained from four tipsters to the RCMP.  The tipsters alleged SNC-Lavalin was in the process of bribing Bangladeshi officials to secure the contract to supervise construction.  The RCMP never met any of the tipsters, but spoke with one by telephone.  The information provided by three of the four tipsters was obtained from other sources, but the RCMP never spoke with the tipsters’ other sources where identified.  The RCMP used information from the tipsters to obtain authorization to wiretap the private communications of the three defendants.  The information gathered on the wiretap led to the charges being laid.

Intending to challenge the wiretaps, the defence applied for a third party production order to compel senior investigators of the World Bank to appear before a Canadian court and produce documents.  The trial judge granted the applications.  The decision was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.[3]   The Court overturned the trial judge’s decision.  The Court held that the World Bank did not waive its immunity by voluntarily providing information to Canadian law enforcement officials accordingly, its documents were immune from production.  Further, the Court found the documents requested were not relevant to the challenge of the wiretaps.

The defence subsequently brought a successful application to exclude the wiretap evidence.  Justice Nordheimer found that the two preconditions for a wiretap – (i) reasonable and probable grounds to believe an offence is or has been committed and (ii) investigative necessity – were not met and the wiretap should never have been granted.  On the first criterion, Justice Nordheimer noted that the RCMP relied almost entirely on information provided by the tipsters.  In his view, that information was not sufficient to provide reasonable and probable grounds because it was not compelling, credible or corroborated.  He was particularly critical of the reliability of the information.  He wrote:

The fact that a particular investigation may be difficult, does not lower the standard that must be met in order to obtain a [wiretap] authorization. Reduced to its essentials, the information provided in the ITO was nothing more than speculation, gossip, and rumour. Nothing that could fairly be referred to as direct factual evidence, to support the rumour and speculation, was provided or investigated. The information provided by the tipsters was hearsay (or worse) added to other hearsay.[4]

On the second criterion for a wiretap, Justice Nordheimer found that the RCMP failed to establish there were no other reasonable ways to investigate the allegations.

Justice Nordheimer concluded that the wiretap should not have been issued, and the evidence gathered by wiretap violated the defendants’ Charter rights to be free of unreasonable search.  Accordingly, he excluded all of the private communications intercepted from the evidence at trial. The Crown admitted that it had no reasonable prospect of conviction without the wiretap evidence.  The prosecutor decided not to call any evidence, and all three defendants were acquitted.

This was certainly not the end that Canadian prosecutors envisioned to a case the World Bank described as “a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials, SNC-Lavalin executives, and private individuals” that was proven by “credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources.”[5]  The collapse of the Canadian case was caused, in large part, by deficiencies in the RCMP’s preliminary investigation.  Investigators appear to have taken insufficient steps to vet tipster information before seeking authorization for wiretaps.  This failure rendered the wiretap evidence inadmissible.  This case underscores the importance of the preliminary stages of the investigation and highlights opportunities for defence counsel seeking to exclude evidence obtained by wiretaps authorized primarily on the basis of tipster information.

[1] World Bank “Bangladesh Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project”, online: http://projects.worldbank.org/P111017/bangladesh-padma-multipurpose-bridge-project?lang=en

[2] Ibid.

[3] World Bank Group v. Wallace, 2016 SCC 15

[4] R. v. Wallace. 2017 ONSC 132 at para 71

[5] World Bank, “World Bank Statement on Padman Bridge” (29 June 2012) online: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2012/06/29/world-bank-statement-padma-bridge

Workplace Manslaughter Charge Going To Trial Says Quebec Superior Court

 

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The Quebec Superior Court recently released a decision with broad implications for corporate employers, owners, managers and supervisors across Canada.  In R. c. Fournier,[1] Justice Villemure held that an individual’s  contravention of provincial health and safety legislation was an “unlawful act”, under section s. 222(5)(a) of the Criminal Code (“Code”) and therefore a basis for committal to trial under a criminal charge of manslaughter.  This case involved the owner of a small construction company, who is now personally being charged with manslaughter arising from a workplace fatality. This is the first decision of its kind in Canada.

The decision must not only have been a shock for Mr. Fournier, the owner of a small construction firm, who had lost a worker in a tragic workplace accident, but also for criminal lawyers across Canada, since this is the first time this issue has been considered by the courts.  It  will be even more shocking for individuals, supervisors and employers, and others, bound to comply with provincial, strict liability health and safety laws.  Since there were 852 workplace fatalities in Canada in 2015 – there were 852 potential opportunities for a contravention of health and safety laws to give rise to criminal manslaughter charges.[2]

What Happened in this Case

According to the Superior Court’s decision the facts of the case include the following:

  • Lévesque and Mr. Fournier were working together at a construction project replacing in-ground sewer and water main lines;
  • The Quebec Safety Code was applicable to the excavation that was taking place;
  • Fournier and Mr. Lévesque were both working in an excavation on the day of the fatality;
  • The walls of the excavation were not shored, and dirt and other material removed from excavation was placed too close to the edge of the excavation;
  • Lévesque died when the walls of the excavation collapsed. He was working alone at the time of the collapse.[3]

Mr. Fournier was charged with two counts under the Code — criminal negligence for breach of the duty of persons directing work under section 217.1 thereby violating s. 220 of the Code, and manslaughter by unlawful act under section 222(5)(a) of the Code. There is no mention in the Superior Court decision about whether strict liability offences under the Quebec Safety Code were also laid against Mr. Fournier and what the outcome, if any of those charges were.

Following a preliminary inquiry, a judge committed Mr. Fournier to stand trial on both charges.  Mr. Fournier challenged the committal to stand trial on the manslaughter charge.

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President Trump and Congress Water Down Anti-Corruption Rules for U.S. Mining Companies

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On February 14, 2017, President Trump signed into law a joint resolution of Congress to repeal a critical anti-corruption rule for oil, gas and mining companies. The law was introduced by the House on January 30, 2017. It quickly moved to the Senate, where it was passed with the support of the Republicans and opposition of the Democrats.

The rule is referred to as the “Cardin-Lugar regulations” and was enacted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in accordance with the Cardin-Lugar amendment of 2010.  The amendment, prompted by the 2008 financial crisis and high prevalence of corruption in developing countries, directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue a rule requiring oil, gas and mining companies listed on the U.S. stock exchange to disclose how much they paid to hosting foreign governments (above a certain threshold).  The purpose of this amendment was to curb bribery and otherwise illicit payments made to governments in return for specific natural resource extraction projects.

The rule itself took a decade to finalize, and, up until the U.S. government’s recent decision to overturn it, was set to take effect next year. As the rule stood, it would require U.S. listed mining companies to file an annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission, outlining the type and total amount of payments made to foreign governments (and the U.S. federal government) with respect to extractive projects. With the decision to repeal the Commission’s rule, there is therefore no indication that U.S.-listed companies will be subject to a reporting regime in the near future. That is, until the Securities and Exchange Commission creates a new rule. While the Cardin-Lugar regulations have been overturned, the Cardin-Lugar amendment has not been. This means that U.S.-listed companies will likely still be subject to reporting requirements at some point in time, as the Cardin-Lugar amendment requires the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue disclosure rules on extractive companies. However when this rule will be enacted, is yet to be determined. Given the length of time associated with enacting the original rule, it is unlikely that a new reporting regime will be established any time soon. In the meantime, U.S.-listed companies will be required to continue to track their payments, pursuant to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act , however, they will not be required to make this information public.

It is unlikely that other countries who have adopted legislation consistent with the Cardin-Lugar regulations will follow the U.S. government’s new direction in this field. The regulations have received widespread support from the world’s major extractive companies, and many companies have a reporting regime. It has led to the creation of a global standard of transparency in the extractive industry, with numerous countries including Canada, the UK and the EU, enacting similar legislation to help combat corruption and to increase accountability in corporate governance.

Canada continues to be one of the countries supporting transparency requirements in the extractive industry. The Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act  for example came into force in June 2015 and contains broad reporting obligations for oil, gas and mining companies. The reporting obligations go even further than the Cardin-Lugar provision, to include not only entities included on Canadian stock exchanges, but also certain private companies.

A concern for Canadian and foreign companies who will maintain their reporting regimes is whether the repeal of the Cardin-Lugar regulations will place U.S.-listed companies operating in mining extraction areas at an advantage compared to companies subject to rigorous transparency requirements. Particularly for projects in developing countries such as Africa, where there is a problem with corruption and where succumbing to bribery could lead to the award of mining rights and subsequent contracts. While the Cardin-Lugar rule would not have ended corruption, it was expected to put pressure on those giving bribes and those receiving them, as they would be aware that they would have to report any payments made to government. With the repeal, there is the possibility that U.S.-listed companies could feel more inclined to engage with corrupt governments and be under less pressure to decline a bribe, which could put them ahead of competitors from Canada, the UK, the EU and elsewhere. Whether or not this will in fact cause such a shift in the thinking and conduct of U.S.-listed companies during their dealings with foreign governments is of course undetermined. However, there remains a concern for mining companies subject to these types of reporting regulations, when operating and competing against American companies in these areas.

Mining companies listed on both U.S. and foreign exchanges will still be subject to transparency requirements. While the U.S. may not have reporting requirements, U.S.-listed companies operating in Canada, UK and EU will still be required to comply with applicable transparency legislation. Therefore, if a company has reason to believe and is concerned that an American competitor is committing bribery or corruption, it should consider further investigation. The suspect company may be subject to other transparency requirements and anti-corruption legislation.

In conclusion, although the repeal of the Cardin-Lugar regulations signals that Canadian, UK and EU companies will have tougher reporting guidelines compared to their US neighbours, the playing field may have just become more complex, rather than uneven.

Upcoming Event: Is Canada taking White Collar Crime Seriously?

17-0195-LA-NormKeithSeminar_Social_Banner

Norm Keith, LL.M., partner at Fasken Martineau, will address this timely and important topic of the accountability, criminal enforcement and the social responsibility of corporations in Canada. Topics to be covered will include:

1. The “new normal” of criminalizing corporate behavior;
2. How the Westray Mine disaster changed corporate criminal liability;
3. The problem of proof in white collar prosecutions (Dunn & Duffy);
4. Recent examples of white collar convictions (Karigar & Kazenelson);
5. Will criminal prosecutions make businesses “more ethical”;
6. Towards a rationale model of corporate accountability and compliance.

When:
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
7:45am Breakfast
8:15am Presentation
9:00am Q&A

Where:
Fasken Martineau, 333 Bay Street, 24th Floor, Bay Adelaide

>> Register Now – Space is limited <<

Guest Post: Insights into the New French Anti-Bribery & Corruption Law

This week, White Collar Post features a guest post from Frédéric Ruppert(1) and Maria Lancri(2).

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In December 2016, France passed into law the so called “Sapin 2” law to combat non-ethical behavior and promote transparency. Its new anti-corruption legislation is intended to improve its commitment to business ethics, the prevention of fraud and prohibiting the bribery of foreign public official. This new French law sets forth anti-corruption measures with a view to the more efficient pursuit and prosecution of corruption cases, both foreign and domestic. The impetus came from the frequent critics, most notably from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that France had not been adequately enforcing its current anti-corruption  laws.

Large companies now have mandatory anticorruption programs, pursuant to the new law, Companies or groups of companies over 500 employees and EUR100 million of turnover and public administrations must implement a detailed anti-corruption compliance program.

Some features of the new law include obligation to implement an anti-corruption compliance program  and that the executive managers bear the actual responsibility of enforcing this obligation within their companies. This is in line with a current trend where the underlying rationale is that only when individuals understand that their personal liability is at stake, will they take care of the situation.

Anticorruption programs are quite common in various organizations now, in particular following the footsteps of US, UK and many Canadian companies. The enforcement of the parent companies’ local laws (most notably US based) against their French subsidiaries, has really helped the understanding and acceptance of such regulations. French subsidiaries of foreign companies have implemented these programs for years now.

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A New “Certainty” in Plea Bargaining

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In R v Anthony-Cook[1], the Supreme Court in a unanimous judgement authored by Moldaver J. has settled the test to be applied where a judge is faced with a joint submission he or she has difficulty accepting.  This case has important implications for accused and their counsel in negotiating a Plea bargain with the Crown in criminal and quasi-criminal, regulatory prosecutions.

Joint submissions are the culmination of the plea bargaining process in criminal cases. They are the result of discussions and negotiations, often with the assistance of a judge conducting pre-trial conference. The Crown inevitably focuses on the seriousness of the allegations and the harm to the alleged victims. The defence will focus on numerous considerations including mitigating factors, circumstances of the accused, evidentiary problems with the Crown’s case and remedial steps taken by the accused. Sometimes the negotiations involve consideration of what’s often referred to as a “rehabilitative remand” where the accused is given time to undergo a restorative justice program, make restitution, or initiate procedures to prevent the harm caused from reoccurring.

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Corruption in the Aviation Industry? “Please Say it Isn’t So!”

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The international aviation industry is highly competitive, international, and yes, known for allegations of corruption. Whether buying, selling, maintaining, servicing or supplying an aircraft, an airport, or the supply chain or related needs, corruption risks associated with the aviation industry is well documented. Companies and individuals involved in the industry face pressures and temptations to flout the law to gain business advantage. However, the legal and business consequences of airline corruption includes, but is not limited to, criminal investigations, prosecutions, convictions, penalties, reputations being destroyed, disgorgement of profits, shareholder losses from the drop of share price, careers ruined, civil law suits launched by investors, loss of confidence by the investment community, legal fees, fines, and jail terms for individuals involved.  Several examples illustrate the serious risks and consequences of corruption in the global aviation industry.

In June 2012, Brazil-based Embraer S.A., the world’s third largest commercial aircraft manufacturer, indicated in its Form 6-K (Report of Foreign Private Issuer) filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), that the company had received a subpoena from the SEC inquiring into certain operations concerning sales of aircraft. In response to this SEC-issued subpoena and associated inquiries into the possibility of non-compliance with the U. S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), Embraer retained outside legal counsel to conduct an internal investigation on transactions carried out in three specific countries.

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Corporate Compliance to Prevent Criminal Liability in Canada

tie-690084Introduction: The Bill C-45 Initiative

Effective corporate compliance to prevent regulatory risk requires a foundation of legal understanding. While corporate accountability and criminal liability has been a recent focus of legislation, law enforcement and regulatory agencies, the modern legislative framework for holding corporations criminally responsible for the wrongdoing[1] was enacted over a decade ago with the passing of Bill C-45 – An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Criminal Liability of Organizations).

These amendments to the Criminal Code (“Code”) expanded the range of individuals whose acts and omissions could result in corporate criminal liability from those who were “directing minds” to the current standard descried in the Code as “senior officers”. Somewhat surprisingly, there have been few cases interpreting the new Code provisions and considering the scope of individuals that may be “senior officers” for the purposes of the Code. The limited jurisprudence does affirm the increased risk of criminal liability for corporations arising from the Bill C-45 amendments. Decisions from the Courts of Appeal for Ontario and Quebec[2] indicate that courts will interpret the term “senior officer” broadly, encompassing certain lower level managers as well as those employees who manage an important aspect of the corporation’s business.

Replacement of “Directing Mind” with Statutory Formula

The historical and political impetus for Bill C-45 was the 1992 Westray mine disaster, where 26 miners were killed in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. No individuals or corporate employer was ever convicted of a criminal or occupational health and safety regulatory offence. In response to a public inquiry, failed legal proceedings and union lobbying, Bill C-45 was passed to amend the Code to facilitate the conviction of organizations for criminal offences.

Under the former identification theory, a corporation faced criminal liability for the criminal acts of a “directing mind” of the corporation. At common law, the directing mind was defined as a person with:[3]

authority to design and supervise the implementation of corporate policy rather than simply to carry out such policy. In other words, the courts must consider who has been left with the decision making power in a relevant sphere of corporate activity.

The amendments were designed to remedy the inherent limitations of the attached to the “directing mind” paradigm and to better align the Code with the reality of modern, large corporations. As a result, Bill C-45 introduced the defined term “senior officer”. Under the Code, “senior officer” is:

  • a representative who plays an important role in the establishment of an organization’s policies; or
  • is responsible for managing an important aspect of the organization’s activities; and,
  • in the case of a body corporate, includes a director, its chief executive officer and its chief financial officer.

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New French Anti-Corruption Law Provides for DPAs

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On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 France passed its new anti-corruption legislation, to improve its commitment to business ethics, the prevention of fraud and prohibiting the bribery of foreign public official.  The new anti-corruption law, which has taken over a year to revise and implement, is intended to reach the same standards and levels of enforcement as the United Kingdom’s Bribery Act (“BA”) and the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). The most interesting aspect of the new law is that it permits corporate defendants to enter into negotiated resolutions, in a form that is commonly known as Deferred Prosecution Agreements (“DPAs”).

France has long been criticized for its weak anti-corruption law and enforcement activities.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) working group on bribery said recently that about 24 new corruption cases were opened in the past two years by French authorities yet no French corporation had been convicted of any foreign bribery offence.  In 2014, however, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) secured three of the ten biggest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) enforcement actions against French companies by means of DPAs.  French corporate giants Alston paid $772 million, Total SA, paid $398 million and Technip SA, paid $338 million.  France is the only country whose corporations have appeared on the DOJ’s FCPA top ten list, three times.

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