Ed. note: This is a weekly column by Elie Mystal, Managing Editor of Above the Law Redline, wrapping up the week that was in law and finance. Elie is not a practicing attorney, and anything he says that you listen to can and will be used against you.
Maybe It’s The DOJ That’s Asking For A Bribe?
The law firm Gibson Dunn reported that companies paid a record amount of fines for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Firms paid an average of $157 million to settle FCPA investigations.
If I was sipping cocktails with Avery Tolar on Grand Cayman, I’d tell him that I think the FCPA is borderline idiotic. There are countries out there where you can’t do business without greasing somebody’s wheels, but we’re going to fine our business for accepting that reality? When in Rome, the dude abides.
But, in these globalized times, it’s probably unworkable to abandon the FCPA. Bribes are bad, theoretically, and you shouldn’t get an advantage just because your illicit envelope is fatter than the other guy’s. Except, that’s precisely the kind of regime the DOJ has set up. The Gibson Dunn reports says that the government took the money… I mean “settlements,” but states “External compliance monitors were not imposed for the duration of a deferred-prosecution agreement as a part of any bribery settlements last year.” Read more »
The investment banks promised favorable research to Toys “R” Us Inc. and its private-equity owners to win roles in its initial public offering, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said today in a statement. The regulator fined the firms a total of $43.5 million, faulting them for “implicitly or explicitly” making promises that their analysts would give positive coverage. Six of the 10 firms didn’t have adequate supervisory procedures to prevent the practice…In May 2010, Citigroup’s investment bankers hosted a chaperoned call with the firm’s research analyst, who then e-mailed a supervisor. “I so want the bank to get this deal!” the analyst said in the e-mail, according to Finra. Days later, bankers told the retailer that they could “count on Citi’s firm-wide support and advocacy for the Toys story and valuation.” Other firms contacted Toys “R” Us after making their pitches, expressing enthusiasm about the firm’s prospects and providing assurances that the views of bankers and analysts were aligned, Finra said. Toys “R” Us and investors, including KKR & Co., withdrew the IPO filing last year. [Bloomberg]
When building cases against financial wrongdoers of all shapes and sizes, prosecutors and their junior partners over at the SEC have a couple of options. Find some people willing to spill on other people in exchange for not being put in jail, or pay them. The latter is accomplished via the whistleblower program, which can net you a pretty nice lump sum, indeed. Now, having to share obviously cuts into Mary Jo White and Preet Bharara’s haul, and someone’s going to have to pay for that. Guess who? Read more »
If you’re going to team up with other banks to manipulate interest rates and engage in other shady behavior, just make sure to be the first one to go to regulators and let them know what you’ve all been up to. Read more »
Britain and the US tag-teamed a 1-2 punch around breakfast and lunch, respectively so who wants to knee the bank in the balls on its way home from work tonight or just after dinner? France? Germany? Read more »
Over the last several years, Bank of America has paid something like $827 billion in fines and settlements, including $16.65 billion just last month. So while another billion here or there would represent but a drop in the bucket, you can sort of understand why Moynihan et al would be done, emotionally, cutting these checks and why they would try and get out of whatever penalties they can, however thin the arguments for doing so (“Just put us out of our misery already”) may be. Unfortunately, today is apparently not Moynihan’s day and tomorrow’s not looking very good either. Read more »
Steven A. Cohen proved to be a stickler for the letter of the law when it came to paying the criminal penalty imposed on his former hedge fund as part of its guilty plea on insider trading charges. On April 10, Judge Laura Taylor Swain of Federal District Court in Manhattan gave Mr. Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors up to 90 days to pay the $848 million penalty, part of an overall $1.2 billion criminal settlement reached with prosecutors last November. On Tuesday, the 90th day since Judge Swain accepted the firm’s guilty plea, Mr. Cohen’s firm made that payment, according to court records. [Dealbook]