Two executives plead guilty for FCPA charges

On November 10, 2017, the US Department of Justice ("DOJ") announced that two former executives at a Dutch oil and gas services company had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA") for their roles in a scheme to bribe foreign government officials in Brazil, Angola and Equatorial Guinea.  One executive, a citizen of the United Kingdom, was the company’s CEO from 2008 to 2011, and a former board member of one of its wholly-owned Houston subsidiaries.  The other executive was a former Texas and California-based sales and marketing executive at the same subsidiary. It is expected that the DOJ will settle with the company in due course.

DOJ charges five individuals in connection with bribery scheme

On November 7, 2016, the DOJ announced that it had charged two former executives from a company, a former employee, a former intermediary and an executive of an international engineering consulting firm – all for their alleged participation in a scheme to pay bribes to foreign government officials for the benefit of a US-based subsidiary. The charges announced follow the announcement on January 17 2017 of a deferred prosecution agreement with the company and a penalty as part of a global resolution to investigations by the DOJ, UK SFO and Brazilian authorities related to the corrupt conduct.

NYDFS fines bank for poor conduct in foreign exchange trading

On November 13, 2017, New York Department of Financial Services ("NYDFS") announced it had fined a bank for failing to implement effective controls over its foreign exchange business. Under the published consent order the bank will take remedial actions to prevent the conduct from re-occurring and will submit plans to the NYDFS to improve senior management oversight of the company’s compliance with New York State laws and regulations relating to the company’s foreign exchange trading business. 

SEC settles with software company and founder on charges of misleading investors

On October 26, 2017, the US Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") announced that it had settled with Zenefits FTW Insurance Services ("Zenefit"), a software company with a focus on insurance, and its founder. According to the SEC’s order, Zenefits provides a cloud-based platform for small and mid-sized businesses to manage human resource functions, including the purchase of employee health insurance policies. Although Zenefits recognized that it operated in a highly regulated industry, it did not take sufficient steps to ensure its growing workforce was properly licensed to sell insurance.  Unbeknownst to investors, the company allowed employees to use a computer script created by its founder to enable them to spend less time on pre-licensing education than required by California law. Zenefits also allowed employees to sell insurance before they had taken and passed their licensing exams, and permitted some employees licensed in one state to sell insurance in other states where they weren’t licensed. Zenefits agreed to pay a $450,000 penalty, and the founder agreed to pay $350,000 in disgorgement plus $23,692.39 in interest and a $160,000 penalty for a total of $533,692.       

OFAC, BIS and State Department publish new regulations tightening US sanctions concerning Cuba

On 8 November 2017, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security ("BIS") published significant amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations ("CACR") and Export Administration Regulations("EAR"). These amendments were made following President Trump’s June 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum ("NSPM") setting out changes of policy direction towards Cuba.

Details can be found at our e-bulletin here.

US authorities issue comprehensive implementation guidance on new US sanctions legislation

On October 27 and 31, 2017, OFAC posted comprehensive guidance related to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 ("CAATSA"). The new guidance addresses multiple provisions of CAATSA, mainly the provisions concerning secondary sanctions targeting Russia. The new guidance significantly limits and clarifies the scope of these secondary sanctions. Details can be found at our e-bulletins here and here.