Why it matters: On Sept. 21, 2017, the DOJ announced a global resolution among the DOJ, SEC and its counterpart enforcement agency in the Netherlands, on the one hand, and a Swedish telecommunications company and its Uzbek subsidiary, on the other, pursuant to which the telecom companies agreed to pay a combined total penalty of $965 million to resolve charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) arising out of “a scheme to pay bribes in Uzbekistan.” A DOJ spokesman said that the resolution “underscores the Department’s continued and unwavering commitment to robust FCPA and white-collar criminal enforcement.”

Detailed discussion: On Sept. 21, 2017, the DOJ announced that Telia Co. AB, an international telecommunications company based in Sweden (and a former issuer of publicly traded securities in the United States), and its Uzbek subsidiary Coscom LLC had entered into a global resolution with the DOJ, the SEC and the Public Prosecution Service of the Netherlands (Openbaar Ministrie, or OM) pursuant to which Telia and Coscom agreed to pay a combined total penalty of $965 million to resolve charges under the FCPA arising out of “a scheme to pay bribes in Uzbekistan.”

The DOJ said that Telia and Coscom admitted to paying, through “various managers and employees within Telia, Coscom and affiliated entities,” approximately $331 million in bribes between 2007 and 2010 to an Uzbek government official who was “a close relative of a high-ranking government official and had influence over the Uzbek governmental body that regulated the telecom industry.” Telia and Coscom knowingly structured the payments so as to conceal the bribes, including by making payments through a shell company that management knew was beneficially owned by the foreign official. The admitted reason for the bribes was so that “Telia could enter the Uzbek market and Coscom could gain valuable telecom assets and continue operating in Uzbekistan.”

As part of the resolution, Telia agreed to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in connection with criminal information that was filed on the same day in the Southern District of New York that charged Telia with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. In addition, Coscom pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Pursuant to the terms of the DPA, Telia agreed to pay criminal penalties and agreed to “implement rigorous internal controls and cooperate fully with the Department’s ongoing investigation, including its investigation of individuals.”

Telia and Coscom also simultaneously entered into separate, yet interconnected, settlements with the SEC and the OM. See the SEC’s press release announcing its resolution with Telia and Coscom here. According to the DOJ, “the combined total amount of criminal and regulatory penalties paid by Telia and Coscom to the U.S., Dutch, and Swedish authorities will be $965,773,949.”

Kenneth A. Blanco, acting assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, said that the global resolution “underscores the Department’s continued and unwavering commitment to robust FCPA and white-collar criminal enforcement. It also demonstrates the Department’s cooperative posture with its foreign counterparts to stamp out international corruption and to reach fair, appropriate and coordinated resolutions.” Added Stephanie Avakian, codirector of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, “As this global settlement demonstrates, the SEC continues to work closely with our counterparts at home and abroad to expose and pursue such corruption.”