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The Bribery Act and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Potential Traps for the Unwary in Corporate Transactions

Friday, August 10, 2012

By John Rupp, Ian Redfearn and Mark Herman, Covington & Burling LLP

Enforcement authorities and legislators in many countries have focused with renewed vigor during the past few years on seeking to investigate and prosecute bribery—in particular, bribery involving public officials.

Commercial bribery also is prohibited in many countries, although there does not appear to have been a similar increase in the number of enforcement actions focusing on commercial bribery.

Several countries recently have adopted stringent new anti-bribery legislation, such as the U.K. Bribery Act 2010 (the Bribery Act). Many other countries have stepped up their enforcement of existing laws, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the United States. Some of this increased enforcement activity has been prompted by domestic political considerations. But intergovernmental organizations also have played a role by highlighting the corrosive effect that bribery tends to have when it is permitted to flourish.

In addition to initiating an ever increasing number of bribery-related investigations and prosecutions, enforcement authorities in several countries have been imposing ever larger fines for bribery offenses. Indeed, the 10 largest fines for bribery have been imposed within the past five years. National enforcement authorities also have significantly increased the number of individual prosecutions for bribery on the premise that imprisoning individuals for having offered, paid, or accepted a bribe has an even more powerful deterrent effect than fining companies that have engaged in bribery.

Shareholders, Competitors Take Action

Another bribery-related development that has been gaining momentum recently is the filing of lawsuits by shareholders of companies that have been penalized for having engaged in bribery and by competitors that have lost business to companies that have engaged in bribery. Shareholder actions have been especially common in the United States. By contrast, the increase in competitor lawsuits has been a more widespread phenomenon. That trend towards ancillary litigation prompted by bribery prosecutions seems likely to accelerate in the future.

Finally, in the United States, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act establishes a new whistleblower incentive program for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Under the Dodd-Frank act and the SEC's rules implementing the program, the SEC must pay a cash award to an individual who voluntarily provides original information to the SEC that leads to successful enforcement of the federal securities laws, including the FCPA, resulting in monetary sanctions of more than $1 million. According to a report issued by the SEC in November, the commission received 334 whistleblower tips during the first seven weeks that the new whistleblower office was operational.1 Of those tips, 13 related to potential FCPA violations.

Due Diligence

Despite the developments noted above, a recent survey conducted by Ernst & Young found that many commercial organizations do not routinely conduct bribery-related due diligence before completing corporate transactions.2 Only 43 percent of the global respondents in the survey said that they consistently conduct pre-acquisition or pre-investment bribery-related due diligence. The figure was higher for U.S. respondents, with 77 percent saying that they consistently conduct bribery-related due diligence before such transactions.

At the very least, the discovery post-transaction of pre-transaction misconduct by the target can limit the options the acquiring or investing company has to deal with that misconduct.

Failing to conduct bribery-related pre-transaction due diligence can have very significant consequences. By ignoring the target's pre-acquisition or pre-investment conduct, a commercial organization may unwittingly inherit both civil and criminal liability. The organization's reputation also may be compromised. Further, even if the acquiring company escapes direct liability, inattention to the target's pre-transaction conduct may cause the acquiring or investing company to overpay substantially for shares or other assets.

For example, according to public securities filings, eLandia International Inc. acquired Latin Node Inc. (LatiNode) in 2007. After the acquisition, an internal investigation revealed payments violating the FCPA. In 2008, eLandia disclosed that it had determined that the $26.8 million purchase price was approximately $20.6 million in excess of the fair value in light of the cost of the investigation, resulting fines and penalties, termination of LatiNode senior management, and loss of business.3

Legacy Liability

In fact, many of the bribery-related matters on which we have advised during the past few years have involved “legacy” liability issues—the liability, direct or indirect, that a company can inherit in some jurisdictions from the historic misconduct of a company that has been acquired or in which an investment has been made. At the very least, the discovery post-transaction of pre-transaction misconduct by the target can limit the options the acquiring or investing company has to deal with that misconduct.

This article focuses on important bribery-related legacy liability issues. We begin by summarizing pertinent provisions of the Bribery Act and the FCPA. We then discuss the legacy liability risks presented by three types of transaction. The article assumes that the bribery that has occurred in each scenario is subject to prosecution under either the Bribery Act or the FCPA. That often will be a safe assumption in view of the very broad jurisdictional reach of those statutes, a point that is addressed below. But even when a commercial organization is not subject to one of those statutes, it almost certainly will be subject to other anti-bribery laws. We conclude by discussing steps that companies should consider taking to minimize legacy liability risks.

The Legislation
The Bribery Act

The Bribery Act, broadly speaking, establishes three substantive offenses:

• offering, promising or giving a bribe4;

• requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe5; and

• bribing a foreign public official.6

All of the foregoing offenses can be committed by a commercial organization. Further, if a commercial organization commits one of those offenses with the consent or connivance of a senior officer, or an individual purporting to act as a senior officer, the senior officer or individual purporting to act as a senior officer also may be criminally liable, as could the individual employees or agents who offered or paid the bribes.7

A commercial organization may commit the offense of failing to prevent bribery if an “associated person” bribes another person with the intention of obtaining or retaining business or an advantage in the conduct of business for that commercial organization.8 An “associated person” is one who performs services for or on behalf of a commercial organization that is subject to the Bribery Act, such as an employee, agent or subsidiary.9

Guidance

It is a defense to the failing to prevent bribery offense for a commercial organization to prove that it had developed and implemented “adequate procedures” to prevent associated persons from engaging in bribery. The U.K. Ministry of Justice has published guidance on the procedures that commercial organizations that are subject to the Bribery Act should adopt to combat bribery.10

The Bribery Act has broad extra-territorial application.11 The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the lead anti-bribery enforcement entity in the United Kingdom, or Crown Prosecution Service can initiate a prosecution under the Bribery Act if an act or omission forming part of a bribery-related offense has occurred in the United Kingdom. The Bribery Act also may be triggered if any person involved in bribery is found to have a “close connection” to the United Kingdom. That includes British citizens, British nationals, individuals ordinarily residing in the United Kingdom, U.K. incorporated companies, and U.K. partnerships.

What Is ‘Carrying on Business?'

The offense of failing to prevent bribery can be committed by companies and partnerships incorporated or formed in the United Kingdom, as well as companies and partnerships formed outside the United Kingdom that are “carrying on a business, or part of a business,” in the United Kingdom. The concept of “carrying on a business, or part of a business,” which is not further defined in the Bribery Act, has been the subject of substantial commentary—in part because it is potentially the most far-reaching and the most elastic trigger for Bribery Act jurisdiction.

As a general rule, there is no time limit in respect of indictable criminal offenses under U.K. law. But as the Bribery Act only entered into force on July 1, 2011, bribery occurring before that date would not be subject to the act. Earlier misconduct potentially would be caught by the previous common law or statutory bribery offenses—though there was a debate as to whether those offenses prohibited bribery outside the United Kingdom prior to 2002, when the position was clarified by the entry into force of provisions of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

The key time bar for the prosecution of historic bribery is not found in the substantive law, but rather in the procedural guidance that governs the exercise of a prosecutor's discretion. The Crown Prosecution Service's Code for Crown Prosecutors requires that prosecutions only be brought where there is:

(1) sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction; and

(2) a public interest in prosecution.

The same two-stage test is applied by the SFO. In cases involving wrongdoing that dates back many years or even decades, enforcement authorities may find it more difficult to assemble sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and, except in respect of the most egregious misconduct, there is likely to be a diminished public interest in pursuing a prosecution.

The FCPA

The FCPA prohibits the making or offering of a corrupt payment to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his official capacity to assist in obtaining or retaining business.12 Although the phrase does not actually appear in the FCPA, officials at the Department of Justice have taken the position that a violation of the FCPA also will be deemed to have occurred if the purpose of the particular conduct was to secure a business-related advantage—for example, a reduction in the company's tax liabilities.

The FCPA applies to:

• “issuers” of U.S. securities (any company registered or required to file reports under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934);

• “domestic concerns” (including any entity organized under the laws of any U.S. state or having its principal place of business in the United States, and U.S. citizens, nationals, and residents); and

• any person who engages in an act in furtherance of bribery while in the United States.

The law also applies to officers, directors, employees, and agents of issuers and domestic concerns. In addition to the bribery offenses, the FCPA imposes record-keeping and internal-controls requirements on issuers of U.S. securities.13

The FCPA is enforced criminally by DOJ and civilly by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Depending on the charges, U.S. prosecutors may be able to reach conduct that occurred more than five years in the past.

Because the FCPA does not provide otherwise, the statute of limitations for criminal charges or civil claims under the FCPA is five years.14 Depending on the charges, however, prosecutors may be able to reach conduct that occurred more than five years in the past. For example, a conspiracy is deemed to be a “continuing offense” for this purpose. This means that, if prosecutors charge a conspiracy to commit bribery, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until the last bribe made, or last act taken in furtherance of the bribery conspiracy. Accordingly, prosecutors may be able to charge a pattern of bribery starting more than five years in the past, so long as the conduct or conspiracy continued into the five-year limitations period.

Corporate Transactions

In this section, we analyze the bribery risks associated with three typical corporate transactions: share purchases, asset purchases, and mergers.

Share Purchases

The transaction:

HoldCo acquires TargetCo by means of a share purchase. TargetCo continues to exist following completion of the share purchase as a direct subsidiary of HoldCo. During the pre-acquisition due diligence, HoldCo discovers that employees or agents of TargetCo had paid bribes but that the bribery had ceased by the time the acquisition was completed.

TargetCo would be criminally liable under the Bribery Act for the pre-transaction bribery described above—to the extent it occurred after July 1, 2011—unless it was able to prove that it had implemented “adequate procedures” to prevent bribery. Even with such procedures, TargetCo's senior officers also may be personally criminally liable if they consented to or connived in the commission of offenses by TargetCo, as could the individual employees or agents who offered or paid the bribes. By contrast, HoldCo should not be held to be criminally liable under the Bribery Act since the wrongdoing had ceased by the time of the acquisition, and TargetCo was not associated with HoldCo while the bribery was taking place.

In contrast, under U.S. law, when two corporations merge, liabilities become the responsibility of the surviving company.

The SFO may decide not to prosecute TargetCo if HoldCo implements an approved remediation plan that addresses the historic misconduct.15 Statements by the former director of the SFO suggest that there would be “little benefit in an SFO investigation at the corporate level” in such circumstances.16

In particular, the SFO may decide that the prosecution of TargetCo for its pre-transaction misconduct—as opposed to individuals who are shown to have been involved in the bribery—would not be in the public interest if HoldCo disclosed its due diligence findings to the SFO before the share purchase was completed and implemented an approved risk mitigation program thereafter in a timely manner.

Other Liability Issues

Even if HoldCo does not itself face criminal liability under the Bribery Act, there is a risk of criminal and civil liability under the U.K. Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). POCA prohibits the use, acquisition, retention, control, transfer, disguise, or concealment of criminal property, with the requisite mindset.17 The term “criminal property” includes property that directly or indirectly represents the benefit of criminal conduct.18 HoldCo therefore could be criminally liable under POCA if it benefits from the historic wrongdoing of TargetCo—for example, if HoldCo receives revenue in the United Kingdom generated as a result of TargetCo's pre-acquisition bribery. In that scenario, however, the SFO may decide to pursue a civil action to recover the tainted revenues from HoldCo rather than commence a criminal prosecution.

If a POCA prosecution were to be pursued, HoldCo would have a defense if it were to file a suspicious activity report before completing the acquisition described above and obtained consent from the U.K. Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) for its receipt of revenue linked to the suspected pre-acquisition misconduct.19 If HoldCo were to contact SOCA to obtain such consent, it should consider reporting the matter to the SFO at the same time. That would enable HoldCo to negotiate with and obtain SFO approval of a remediation program focusing upon TargetCo, which—as already noted—potentially would reduce the likelihood of the SFO's prosecuting TargetCo for its historic misconduct.

The approach that the Department of Justice has taken under the FCPA is similar. Assuming that no bribery occurs post-acquisition and HoldCo does not consolidate TargetCo's inaccurate books and records into its own financial statements, HoldCo should not be liable under the FCPA. However, TargetCo, which continues to exist, remains liable for its FCPA violations.

Several recent settlements reflect enforcement action against TargetCo, but not HoldCo. For example, DOJ in 2011 agreed to a nonprosecution agreement with defense manufacturer Armor Holdings Inc. based on Armor's conduct before its acquisition by BAE Systems Inc.20 As part of this agreement, Armor agreed to pay a monetary penalty of nearly $10.3 million, but the compliance obligations set forth in the NPA did not generally apply more broadly to the acquiring company, BAE Systems.

Risks Remain

There are still risks for HoldCo in this scenario. The SEC has taken the position that HoldCo commits an FCPA violation if it consolidates at the parent level financial statements of TargetCo that do not properly account for bribes. In addition, there is a risk that, as a practical matter, an investigation by enforcement authorities would involve HoldCo, as well as TargetCo. DOJ might investigate, for example, whether any bribery occurred under HoldCo's ownership or whether HoldCo had relevant knowledge of or involvement in the conduct at issue. Moreover, if HoldCo discloses the conduct, there is a risk that DOJ could demand that HoldCo implement compliance measures or take other steps to ensure that bribery does not occur. Some settlements with DOJ suggest that the department may require HoldCo to take certain remedial action or agree to cooperate in return for the assurance that enforcement action will not be taken.21

In both the United Kingdom and United States, HoldCo could suffer reputational damage from the prosecution of TargetCo. It also could be damaged by the prosecution of TargetCo's senior officers or employees—individuals who HoldCo may have been relying upon to operate TargetCo post-acquisition. In addition, of course, HoldCo could be damaged financially if TargetCo was required to pay a substantial fine for its pre-acquisition misconduct. That would be the case, in particular, if TargetCo's financial performance is reflected post-transaction in the consolidated accounts of HoldCo.

Asset Purchases

The transaction:

BuyCo acquires the assets of SellCo. During pre-acquisition due diligence, BuyCo discovers that SellCo had obtained the assets through bribery or that bribery by employees or agents of SellCo increased the value of the assets.


It is unlikely that BuyCo would face criminal liability under the Bribery Act in respect of the historic misconduct of SellCo if BuyCo purchases assets from SellCo rather than SellCo itself. BuyCo could face prosecution under POCA, but it would be able to mitigate that risk if it were to obtain SOCA's consent to the receipt of revenue linked to the assets. Obtaining consent from SOCA would not prevent the country in which the bribes were paid from initiating a prosecution, however—a possibility that underscores the importance of pre-transaction due diligence for BuyCo when contemplating any asset purchase.

To deal with the U.K. component of this scenario, BuyCo should consider discussing its due diligence findings with the SFO concurrently with its filing of a suspicious activity report, seeking assurance regarding the SFO's likely approach to investigation and prosecution. Self-reporting should be considered in this situation because the formal and informal guidance that the SFO has issued has not distinguished between share and asset purchases. Pre-acquisition engagement with the SFO therefore can provide some comfort to BuyCo regarding the SFO's likely action.

Legacy liability is less likely under the FCPA with asset as opposed to share purchases. In the usual case, BuyCo would not inherit the liabilities of SellCo simply by virtue of its acquiring SellCo assets. But U.S. courts have recognized several exceptions to that general rule, holding that liability may be imposed on a purchaser if:

• the purchaser agrees to assume the seller's liability;

• the transaction amounts to a de facto merger;

• the purchaser is merely a continuation of the seller; or

• the transaction is entered into fraudulently to escape liability for such obligations.22

Relying upon the exception for a purchaser that is merely a continuation of the seller, a federal administrative law judge has held a corporation liable for trade control violations after what was arguably an asset acquisition.23 The same theory could be applied in FCPA cases—that is, DOJ could assert that FCPA liability passes from SellCo to BuyCo if BuyCo is a mere continuation of SellCo. If, for example, the assets acquired are key long-term contracts obtained through bribery, DOJ might well try to hold BuyCo liable for SellCo's bribery.

In addition, there may be a risk that BuyCo could be considered to have made a “payment” “in furtherance of” a bribe within the meaning of the FCPA if, for example, payment of the purchase price enriches SellCo for having engaged in past bribery. In FCPA Opinion Procedure Release 2001-01, DOJ considered this question and discussed the risk that funds contributed to a joint venture by one company may be used to make payments to an agent under pre-existing unlawful contracts that another company contributed to the joint venture. Although it did not decide to take any enforcement action on this ground, the department again identified the potential risk of “in furtherance” liability in FCPA Opinion Procedure Release 2008-02.

Mergers

The transaction:

Company (A) merges with company (B) and company (B) is dissolved immediately thereafter. During pre-merger due diligence, company (A) discovered that employees or agents of company (B) had paid bribes but the bribery had ceased by the time the merger was completed.


Company (A) is not likely to face criminal liability under the Bribery Act in this situation. But it may face criminal liability under POCA if it continues to benefit from the past criminal conduct of company (B) because of its use, acquisition, retention, control, transfer, disguise, or concealment of criminal property.

It therefore would be prudent for company (A) to file a suspicious activity report with SOCA in this scenario to request consent to its receipt of revenue from any asset that company (B) acquired as a result of bribery. It should consider discussing its due diligence findings with the SFO at the same time.

It is unlikely that company (B) would be prosecuted for its pre-dissolution bribery in this scenario. According to guidance issue by the director of the SFO, the director of public prosecutions, and the attorney general of England and Wales:

“Dissolution of a company has the same effect as the death of a human defendant inasmuch as the company ceases to exist.”24

Although company (B) could be restored post-dissolution, the SFO probably would focus on the potential criminal liability of company (B)’s former employees, agents, and senior officers, and the potential criminal liability of company (A) under POCA.

In contrast, under U.S. law, when two corporations merge, liabilities become the responsibility of the surviving company.25 The theory is that the predecessor company does not disappear but rather continues in the form of the new corporation. This rule applies equally in the FCPA context. Both the SEC and DOJ have brought and resolved charges or claims against companies that were dissolved after having merged with other entities.

Recently, for example, DOJ entered into an NPA with Alliance One International (AOI), a company formed in 2005 by the merger of Dimon and Standard Commercial Corp. (Standard). Dimon's subsidiary Dimon International AG (DIAG) and Standard's subsidiary Standard Brazil (Standard Brazil) each had bribed Thai government officials to secure contracts with the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, a government agency involved in the sale of tobacco leaf. DIAG and Standard Brazil were merged into a new subsidiary, Alliance One International AG (“AOIAG”), which pleaded guilty to FCPA charges.26 Meanwhile, AOI—the parent—entered into an NPA with the Justice Department.

The information filed in the Alliance One case explains the Department of Justice's successor liability theory as follows:

After the merger of Dimon and Standard in or around 2005, AOI consolidated the assets, liabilities, and business affairs of Standard Brazil with DIAG and renamed the subsidiary corporation ALLIANCE ONE INTERNATIONAL AG (“AOIAG”), defendant herein. Defendant AOIAG became the successor corporation to both DIAG and Standard Brazil, and became legally accountable for the criminal acts of its two predecessor corporations.27

27 Information, United States v. Alliance One Int'l AG, No. 4:10-cr-00017 (W.D. Va., Aug. 6, 2010).


 

Mitigating the Risks

We summarize below some steps that purchasers and investors should consider taking in order to mitigate the risks described in the preceding scenarios. These steps draw upon the “good practice principles” for bribery-related due diligence in corporate transactions that were published by Transparency International in May 2012, as well as the authors' own experiences in conducting such due diligence.28

Conduct Due Diligence on All Transactions

Commercial organizations that are subject to the Bribery Act or the FCPA should conduct bribery-related due diligence in connection with any proposed merger or acquisition. Prudent commercial organizations that are not subject to the Bribery Act or the FCPA also should conduct anti-bribery due diligence before engaging in corporate transactions since they may incur liabilities under other anti-bribery laws.

The guidance issued by the U.K. Ministry of Justice regarding the “adequate procedures” defense states that an effective anti-bribery program will require systematic due diligence on potential and existing “associated persons” who or that are thought to present a bribery risk—a requirement that is likely to extend to almost all merger or acquisition targets. It is unlikely that a commercial organization could avail itself of that defense if it failed to conduct pre-transaction due diligence on a target company that subsequently was found to have been involved in bribery, or if an acquiring company failed to take reasonable steps post-transaction to extend its compliance program to the target.

Counsel advising on mergers and acquisitions also should be sure that sufficient pre-acquisition due diligence is conducted. A cautionary example relates to the acquisition of Changsha Valve Works by Watts Water Technologies, Inc. in 2005. After the acquisition, Watts discovered that Changsha had paid bribes to Chinese public officials. In 2011, Watts entered into a cease and desist order with the SEC, which required Watts to pay disgorgement of more than $2.7 million, prejudgment interest of $820,791, and a civil penalty of $200,000.29 Subsequently, in June 2012, Watts sued outside counsel for malpractice, claiming that the firm failed to warn Watts of possible corruption issues while advising on the transaction.30

Ensure That Sufficient Resources Are Devoted to Anti-Bribery Due Diligence

Effective bribery-related due diligence should examine the bribery risks associated with the target entity's business, such as its industry sector, region of operations, sales channels, and customer mix; assess the integrity of relevant third parties such as employees, agents and shareholders; and evaluate the adequacy of the target's pre-transaction anti-bribery program.

Public sources might be relied upon in identifying sector or region-specific risks, but the assessment of third parties and the evaluation of the target's anti-bribery program are likely to be more resource-intensive. Some pertinent information might be obtained from due diligence questionnaires completed by the target entity but that information should be verified independently by document reviews and interviews. The due diligence process also should draw upon the expertise of the prospective purchaser's or investor's legal, compliance, and finance teams.

Conduct Due Diligence Sooner Rather Than Later

The resource intensive nature of bribery-related due diligence means that it ought to be built into the broader transactional due diligence process and commenced at the earliest possible opportunity. A potential purchaser or investor must have sufficient opportunity to understand the risks associated with the target entity and consider how best to respond to that assessment—including to liaise with enforcement authorities or walk away from the potential transaction. Indeed, if a purchaser or investor decides that it cannot proceed with a proposed deal at all due to bribery-related risks, it would be preferable to walk away at an early stage, before it has incurred significant transactional costs.

Ensure Senior Managers Oversee Process

The U.K. Ministry of Justice's “adequate procedures” guidance requires a top-level commitment to anti-bribery policies and procedures. That commitment should extend to bribery-related due diligence when a company is considering a corporate transaction. In practice, this means that the appropriate senior managers of the potential purchaser or investor should consider bribery-related risks as part of their transactional decision-making process, and they ought to think about remediation that might be required post-transaction if the deal being considered goes ahead.

Consider Proactive Reporting To Appropriate Enforcement Authorities

As noted above, U.S. and U.K. enforcement authorities have encouraged proposed purchasers and investors to report incidents of bribery that they have identified during pre-transaction due diligence. In appropriate circumstances, such disclosures may help to insulate the purchaser or investor from civil or criminal liability in respect of the target's historic misconduct, whether under anti-bribery or anti-money laundering laws. In other circumstances, however, voluntary disclosure may not be recommended.

Ensure That Due Diligence Influences Post-Transaction Management Decisions

Bribery-related due diligence should not stop when a transaction has been completed. The period immediately following a transaction affords an important opportunity for a purchaser or investor to better understand the entity it has acquired, without the time pressures and confidentiality constraints that sometimes inhibit comprehensive pre-transaction due diligence. Information obtained through bribery-related due diligence, whether pre- or post- transaction, also should be disseminated to relevant individuals within a commercial organization to guide bribery-related risk assessments and remediation measures for the merged or acquired entity.

Consider Bribery-Related Escrow Account

If bribery by the target is discovered during the pre-acquisition or pre-investment phase of the transaction, acquiring or investing companies should consider creating an escrow account to cover the costs that they may incur and the damages that they may suffer as a result of the target's pre-acquisition or pre-investment bribery. Once the proceeds of the transaction have been transferred to the target and distributed to the target's shareholders or principals, the target may well be dissolved, which may limit the acquirer's or investor's ability to recover its costs or obtain compensation for its losses in the future.

Failing to undertake appropriate pre-acquisition or pre-investment bribery-related due diligence may defeat even the most concerted effort to convince the target company to agree to the creation of a bribery-related escrow account. It also will impair the acquiring or investing company's ability to make the decisions needed to ensure that the conditions agreed for the escrow account will cover the liabilities and damages that the acquiring or investing company may face once the acquisition is completed or the investment has been made.

Conclusion

Commercial organizations need to consider the impact of the potentially applicable anti-bribery and money-laundering statutes on any transaction. The substance and implications of the relevant statutes can vary considerably, which means that careful legal analysis as well as efforts to understand the target's pre-transaction conduct should be undertaken. Ignoring conduct that violated the anti-bribery laws to which the target was subject prior to the acquisition or investment can have disastrous consequences unless such exposure is managed in a thoughtful and informed manner.

John Rupp is a partner in Covington & Burling LLP's London office. He advises on compliance matters, including assisting companies in revising their compliance policies and procedures and structuring and undertaking internal investigations involving trade control issues, bribery, money laundering, accounting irregularities, and pharmaceutical marketing issues.  

Ian Redfearn is an associate in the dispute resolution group in Covington & Burling's London office. He regularly advises clients on anti-bribery and anti-money laundering matters involving the U.K. Bribery Act 2010 and the U.K. Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.  

Mark Herman is an associate in Covington & Burling's Washington, D.C., office. His practice focuses white collar defense and investigations, including matters involving bribery and trade controls. He also advises clients on compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  

Disclaimer  

This document and any discussions set forth herein are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice, which has to be addressed to particular facts and circumstances involved in any given situation. Review or use of the document and any discussions does not create an attorney-client relationship with the author or publisher. To the extent that this document may contain suggested provisions, they will require modification to suit a particular transaction, jurisdiction or situation. Please consult with an attorney with the appropriate level of experience if you have any questions. Any tax information contained in the document or discussions is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for purposes of avoiding penalties imposed under the United States Internal Revenue Code. Any opinions expressed are those of the author. The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. and its affiliated entities do not take responsibility for the content in this document or discussions and do not make any representation or warranty as to their completeness or accuracy.  

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