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Canary in the Cobalt Mine: Glencore Corruption Probe May Not Be a One Off

The U.S. arm of Glencore, the global commodities trading and mining giant, has been served a subpoena by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to news accounts. The DOJ’s subpoena reportedly seeks documents and information pertaining Glencore’s business in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria and Venezuela to assess potential violations of U.S. anti-money laundering laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the principal U.S. law essentially prohibiting the bribery of foreign officials for business gain by U.S. companies and others subject to United States’ jurisdiction (broadly construed and applied).The Glencore subpoena may not be a one-off and it should be viewed– at least for risk assessment and compliance improvement purposes– as potentially part of a larger U.S. strategy to proactively target corruption and, by extension, money laundering, in Africa and Africa’s extractives industries. (The wider context is that the Trump Administration views U.S. anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and sanctions laws and their enforcement as “tools of economic diplomacy”, including to advance trade and other policy objectives).

U.S.-China Trade and Tech War on Three Fronts

Much of the talk of trade war between the United States and China, and perhaps other countries, has focused on traditional trade measures and counter-measures like tariffs that strike at the core of international trade: most basically, the movement of goods and services across international borders. But there are two additional fronts of a U.S.-China trade war (thus far): intellectual property and the use of U.S. sanctions and other laws to “coerce and deter” economic rivals like China.

Trump Administration Supercharged Global Magnitsky Corruption and Human Rights Sanctions

Beyond the parameters of the Global Magnitsky Act, EO 13818 markedly enlarges the range of sanctionable conduct and persons. The differences between the language of EO 13818 and the Global Magnitsky Act are substantive and significant. In several instances, EO 13818 expands sanctions by omitting the Act’s qualifying language, adding new bases for sanctions, and/or leaving key terms undefined. Key instances of EO 13818’s broad and/or uncertain language are discussed below.

U.S. Multinationals, Dual Citizens May Have Greater Magnitsky Sanctions Exposure

The Global Magnitsky Act defines a “foreign person” as “any citizen or national of a foreign state (including any such individual who is also a citizen or national of the United States), or any entity not organized solely under the laws of the United States or existing solely in the United States.” Accordingly, under the Global Magnitsky Act, individuals who are dual (or more) nationals and companies that are organized under U.S. law(s) and foreign law(s) or exist (e.g., are present, authorized to conduct business) in the United States and one or more foreign jurisdictions, like “foreign persons” completely lacking U.S. status, are apparently subject to sanctions for committing or facilitating sanctionable corrupt acts and human rights abuses. Thus, these  “U.S. Persons,” when regarded as “foreign persons” under the Global Magnitsky Act, have additional sanctions exposure that would not apply to, for example, individuals holding only U.S. citizenship or companies organized only under U.S. law(s) and existing only in the United States.

U.S. Magnitsky Sanctions Are a Powerful Weapon Against Corruption and Human Rights Abuse

EO 13818 directly targets foreign government officials and private parties who commit or enable human rights abuses and certain corrupt acts. The Order also employs extraordinary theories of liability. For example, EO 13818 holds current and former “leaders” of foreign entities (government and private) strictly and vicariously liable—and thus sanctionable—for the corrupt acts, during a leader’s tenure, of their entities. The Order also imputes the sanctioned status of a blocked private or government entity to its current or former “leaders,” if the entity was blocked “as a result of activities related to the leader’s or official’s tenure.” Additionally, EO 13818 treats as a corrupt act the transfer or facilitation of the transfer of corrupt proceeds by current or former foreign government officials and “persons acting for or on their behalf.” These three bases for liability, among others, are unique to EO 13818—they are not provided for by the Global Magnitsky Act.

Hdeel Abdelhady to Speak on Managing Money Laundering, Trade Sanctions, and Corruption Risks

MassPoint’s Founder and Principal, Hdeel Abdelhady, will speak at a program on managing money laundering, trade sanctions, and corruption risks in business. The program, entitled “Know Your Business Partners: A Must to Managing Money Laundering, Trade Sanctions, and Corruption Risks,” will take place on November 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at the American Bar Association Business Law Section’s Fall 2017 Meeting.

Sovereign Commercial Enterprises: Anti-Corruption and Confidentiality Risks

State-owned enterprises (SOEs, including sovereign wealth funds) are prominent players in international business. Given their ownership, SOEs have garnered scrutiny for their lack of transparency and heightened anti-corruption and anti-money laundering risk, as have individual SOE executives and other personnel who qualify as Politically Exposed Persons. In connection with commercial activities, SOEs are not protected in most cases by sovereign immunity. Thus, SOEs can, like their privately-owned counterparts, be subject to foreign legal processes. Given the greater scrutiny around SOEs and some of the high profile enforcement actions involving them directly or indirectly (for example, the 1MDB case), anti-corruption and other compliance, as well as good governance and risk management, are essential to avoid legal, commercial, and reputational risk and loss.

Cross Compliance for Financial Institutions: Anti-Corruption – Anti-Money Laundering Nexus

Enforcement authorities in the US and Asia reportedly are investigating financial institutions for potentially corrupt employment and business relationships with family members of government officials. The investigations underscore policy links between anti-corruption and anti-money laundering regimes where dealings with Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) are involved.

This article, published by Hdeel Abdelhady in Butterworths Journal of Banking and Financial Law, briefly discusses the pending investigations and the anti-corruption-AML policy nexus, and suggests, with respect to PEPs and more generally, that financial institutions facilitate fluidity in their compliance programs to allow for the sharing of information and adaptation of compliance protocols across (sometimes impermeable) internal functional and disciplinary lines.