Category Archives: International Trends in White Collar Enforcement

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

united-states-capitol-1675540_1280

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.

What happens in Vegas…SEC investigates Sands Hotel and Casino

In 2006 through to at least 2011, the Las Vegas Sands hotel and casino corporation transferred funds totaling more than $62 million to a “consultant” in China to promote their interests.

Lacking supporting documentation for appropriate authorization and identity, the money trail raised a red flag for the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the United States. This led to an investigation under the authority of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), as well as an investigation carried out by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), since the Sands is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Since the Sands management could not account for the funds transferred to the consultant, bribery was inferred. This lack of controls extended to other transactions, including gifts and entertainment to foreign officials, employee and vendor expense reimbursement, and customer complimentary services.

Continue Reading »

Managing Local and International Criminal Law Risk for Mining Companies

Despite internal safe guards and the best efforts of mining companies and their executives, criminal investigations can arise in relation to operations at home or abroad.  How a company responds to a criminal investigation or to possible internal criminal misconduct, can have a serious legal and reputational impact, particularly since changes to Canadian law have made it easier for prosecutors to convict corporations and their officers of criminal wrongdoing.  Today at Fasken Martineau’s PDAC 2016 seminar, Peter Mantas and Norm Keith of Fasken Martineau and Sandy Boucher of Grant Thornton discussed how proactive a mining company should be during the critical period after suspected criminal wrongdoing is discovered.

Continue Reading »

White Collar Crime in South Africa

Although white collar crime is a worldwide phenomenon, in South Africa it tends to stand out as being particularly prevalent. White collar crime is a growing menace to businesses in and around South Africa. More and more senior managers are being involved in fraudulent schemes and activities. In addition, the sophistication and complexity in the way white collar crimes are carried out are on the rise.

One of the major catalysts of white collar crime in South Africa is that the perpetrators know that they are unlikely to be caught. The lack of investigation and prosecution is a concern to businesses in South Africa. How much protection will they receive if they do fall victim to white collar crime? Investigators of white collar crime attempt to put together dockets, with their attorneys’ assistance, which are then submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority. However, there is a lack of resources to facilitate prosecuting services in dealing with such complex crimes.

Continue Reading »

Supreme Court of Canada redefines human smuggling

On November 27, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada decided two appeals, B010 v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) and R. v. Appulonappa[1]. The appeals concerned the meaning and application of the human smuggling provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)[2].

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously concluded that the offence of “human smuggling” in s. 117 of IRPA, despite its broad wording, applies only to those engaged in organized crime. It does not apply to those who provide humanitarian, mutual and family assistance to asylum-seekers coming to Canada.

These cases arose out of large scale entries to Canada in 2009 and 2010 by Tamil refugees arriving by boat in British Columbia. The Supreme Court’s decision comes in the midst of the most serious worldwide refugee crisis since the Second World War and as Canada prepares to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees.

Continue Reading »

New era of White Collar Crime enforcement in Canada

Recent trends have seen legislative penalties increase, prosecutors cracking down, and more individuals going to jail.  We have entered a new era of white collar crime enforcement in Canada.

In mid-2013, the Corruption Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) was amended by the Federal Government.  It introduced a “new books and records” offence, increased the maximum jail time to 14 years for individuals, and promised to phase out the legality of facilitation payments.  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was assigned the exclusive jurisdiction over investigation and laying charges under the CFPOA and given an enhanced increase in their mandate to investigate and prosecute more corporations and individuals, which it is doing.

Following this, the RCMP prosecuted Nazir Karigar, a Canadian-Indian business man, under the CFPOA. At his lengthy trial it was never proven that he gave a bribe to an Air India (foreign) official, as alleged; the Crown did prove, to the court’s satisfaction, that he intended to pay a bribe to secure business with Air India for an American company. That was enough to convict and send him inside for 3 years.

Continue Reading »