Corporate Crime Update – Winter 2019

Welcome to the Winter 2019 edition of our corporate crime update – our round up of developments in relation to corruption, money laundering, fraud, sanctions and related matters. Our update now covers a number of jurisdictions.

For the full update on each jurisdiction, please click on the name of the jurisdiction below. Below we provide a brief overview of what is covered in each update.

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OFSI imposes its first monetary penalty — Raphaels Bank sanctions breach

Authors: Daniel Hudson, Partner, London and Daniel Hyde, Associate (Australia), London

On 25 February 2019, the UK Government’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) published a notification of its first imposition of a monetary penalty under new powers afforded to it under the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (“the Act”). The £5,000 penalty was imposed on Raphaels Bank for dealing, without a licence, with funds belonging to a designated person in breach of EU financial sanctions in relation to Egypt. The penalty amount represents a 50 per cent reduction of the baseline penalty amount initially assessed by OFSI as a result of Raphaels Bank’s voluntary disclosure of the breach and subsequent cooperation.

The notification is brief, seemingly because OFSI is making ongoing enquiries in connection with other aspects of the breach unconnected with Raphaels Bank. However, it is apparent that OFSI determined the penalty amount in accordance with its case assessment process set out in its monetary penalty guidance (“Guidance”), which makes this case a useful, albeit currently limited, illustration of its application of that process.

In this briefing, we discuss the significance of the first monetary penalty imposed by OFSI, particularly:

  • the reduction to the final penalty amount as a result of Raphaels Bank’s disclosure and co-operation;
  • the low-value of the breach;
  • the current brevity of the notification;
  • possible public interest considerations behind the penalty; and
  • the two procedural rights of review available under section 147 of the Act.

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The importance of supply chain due diligence and the risks of modern slavery – OFAC settles North Korean sanctions case with fine

Authors: Kyle Wombolt, Jeremy Birch, Antony Crockett and Emily Purvis.

A recent enforcement action by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) against US company e.l.f Cosmetics Inc (ELF) highlights the importance of supply chain due diligence in conducting cross border business. The action against ELF reflects a global trend of increased regulatory focus on supply chains in relation to a range of business conduct issues, including corruption, modern slavery, and other human rights violations. To mitigate sanction violation risk, companies should verify the country of origin of goods and services in their supply chains.

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FCA fines asset managers in first use of its competition powers

On 21 February 2019, the FCA announced its first decision under its competition enforcement powers, finding three asset management firms have breached competition law. This decision is an important assertion of the FCA’s intention to use its competition powers – previous matters which involved the FCA were subsequently taken over by the European Commission under EU competition law. In its announcement, the FCA emphasised its commitment to taking enforcement action to protect competition, issuing a warning to the asset management industry to avoid undermining the proper process for setting the prices of shares in IPOs and placings and the potential impact failure to do so has on the UK’s capital markets.

To read our full briefing on the decision, please click here.

HERBERT SMITH FREEHILLS’ 2019 GUIDE TO CORPORATE INVESTIGATIONS IN CHINA

Authors: Kyle Wombolt and Anita Phillips

Kyle Wombolt, global head of corporate crime and investigations, and Anita Phillips, professional support consultant, have updated their guide to corporate investigations in China. This forms part of GIR’s acclaimed text, The Practitioner’s Guide to Global Investigations 2019, third edition. It is regarded as the only text covering the nuts and bolts of multi-jurisdictional corporate investigations.

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Australia: Final Report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry released

The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (Hayne Report) was released to the public on 4 February 2019. The Federal Government has agreed to take action on all 76 recommendations contained in the Hayne Report, and in a number of areas has indicated it intends to go further, including conducting an immediate review of financial counselling services.  Herbert Smith Freehills have prepared a briefing paper which identifies the following key themes and reforms contained within the Hayne Report:

  1. Governance overhaul – Boards will need to exercise greater scrutiny over their governance systems, policies and procedures;
  2. Conflicts – a number of the changes proposed are designed to alter the objective from one of ‘managing’ to one of ‘eliminating’ conflicts of interest;
  3. Individual accountability – the proposed changes to remuneration and accountability regimes are significant, with individuals to be held to account more than ever before for the adequacy of complex systems, policies and procedures;
  4. Principles not prescription – the Hayne Report observes that prescriptive laws which are vast and complex may be less effective than statements of broad matters of principle, suggesting that now may be an apt time to revisit the current approach to regulation of the provision of financial services within Australia;
  5. Enforcement revolution – above all, the Hayne Report recommends greater personal accountability coupled with stronger regulators with an incentive to investigate and hold wrongdoers to account, making for an ‘enforcement revolution’. Organisations which do not proactively seek to identify and address inadequacies in their systems will likely find themselves redirecting resources toward activities which will do little to enhance their reputations or shareholder wealth.

The briefing paper considers in detail the key changes recommended in the Hayne Report and what these changes will mean for businesses and the Australian financial services landscape.

OFAC Imposes Blocking Sanctions on PdVSA

Authors: Susannah Cogman, Partner, London; Daniel Hudson, Partner, London; Jonathan Cross, Counsel, New York; Geng Li, Associate, New York; and Christopher Milazzo, Associate, New York.

On January 28, 2019, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced the designation of Venezuelan state-owned oil producer Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) as a Specially Designated National (“SDN”), which follows the White House’s earlier announcement recognizing Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the Interim President of Venezuela. The sanctions are significant because PdVSA has a monopoly in the Venezuelan oil sector and contributes significantly to Venezuela’s foreign trade income. Concurrent with the designation announcement, OFAC also issued a number of general licenses that authorize a range of activities involving PdVSA and its subsidiaries.

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FATCA Update: First-ever conviction signals increased enforcement risk

The former CEO of Saint Vincent-based Loyal Bank pleaded guilty and was convicted on 11 September of conspiring to defraud the US by failing to comply with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). This is the first conviction obtained by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) since FATCA came into effect in 2014 and was the result of a sting operation. The FBI worked with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the City of London Police, the UK Financial Conduct Authority and the Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation. The offender’s sentencing date is yet to be scheduled and he is facing a maximum of five years in prison.

This conviction, on the heels of a US governmental report critical of the IRS’s limited use of FATCA, could mark a more active enforcement environment going forward. Under FATCA, certain foreign financial institutions (FFI) must report US citizens’ account information to the IRS and the US has intergovernmental agreements with Hong Kong and other Asian jurisdictions to facilitate this. The DOJ has indicated that financial institutions in Hong Kong and Singapore are on the US authorities’ priority list in terms of FATCA enforcement. As such, both US citizens and financial institutions in the region should remain cognisant of FATCA’s requirements and ensure compliance. For our full briefing on the conviction, please click here.

 

Kyle Wombolt
Kyle Wombolt
Head of Global Corporate Crime & Investigations Practice, Hong Kong
+852 2101 4005
Robert Hunt
Robert Hunt
Partner, Hong Kong
+852 2101 4128
Pamela Kiesselbach
Pamela Kiesselbach
Senior Registered Foreign Lawyer (England and Wales), Hong Kong
+852 2101 4032

Jeremy Birch
Jeremy Birch
Senior Associate, Hong Kong
+852 2101 4195

HKMA endorses benefits of cooperation

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has recently released its first Guidance Note on Cooperation with the HKMA in Investigations and Enforcement Proceedings.

In releasing the guidance note, the HKMA has expressly signalled its desire to encourage and facilitate cooperation, noting that its benefits include time, cost and resource savings to both the HKMA and institution or individual concerned. Continue reading

Middle East Anti-Bribery and Corruption Regulations Legal Guide 2018

Welcome to the first edition of our Anti-Corruption Regulation Legal Guide for the Middle East.

We are delighted to launch this publication, which presents the legislative framework regulating bribery and corruption across arrange of Middle East jurisdictions, drawing upon the combined knowledge and experience of our lawyers, as well as qualified and experienced counsel in each of the jurisdictions covered. We understand this guide to be unique in terms of scope and content. Continue reading