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WPP, the Largest Global Advertising Group, Settles FCPA Charges with SEC for $19.2 Million (Part I of III)

After a long hiatus, the SEC announced a settlement with WPP plc, the world’s largest advertising group, for FCPA violations in India, China, Brazil and Peru for $19.2 million.  The SEC’s resolution charges WPP with violations of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal accounting controls provisions of the FCPA. The Justice Department’s investigation of WPP appears to be ongoing. WPP has dual headquarters, in...

Episode 207 — Common Pitfalls in Conducting Internal Investigations

An internal investigation is like reading a good novel.  You begin the journey with a general expectation of what the novel or the “investigation” is about.  As you learn more, the investigation gains momentum filled with moments of discovery, surprise and ultimately a basis for understanding.  In some cases, the end of the story (e.g. an oil well explosion) or dramatic event is known.  In...

4 Requirements for a Healthy Relationship Between a CCO and the Corporate Board

Chief compliance officers need the support and advocacy of the corporate board to have a chance to succeed.  A CCO has many important relationships to protect and nurture within the company.  None is more important that the CCO’s relationship with the Board.  In recognition of this basic requirement, CCOs have to dedicate themselves to building a strong and positive relationship.  A basic list of four...

Former Ericsson Employee Indicted for Role in Foreign Bribery Scheme

In a surprising (but fully warranted) twist, the Justice Department returned an indictment against a former employee of Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (“Ericsson”), a global telecommunications company, for his role in paying approximately $2.1 million in bribes to high-level government officials in the Republic of Djibouti. Afework “Affe” Bereket, 53, a dual citizen of Ethiopia and Sweden, was charged in a two-count indictment – Count 1...

The Big “G” in ESG – CCOs Need to Embrace ESG as a Compliance Opportunity

Chief compliance officers can occasionally suffer from a “complex” (akin to the Jungian one).  CCOs and their priorities are often pushed aside in favor of “more important” corporate initiatives.  CCOs are used to fighting for their initiatives and standing firm when challenged by so-called “competing” priorities. ESG is not a threat to compliance; it is an opportunity.  CCOs cannot be shy when it comes to...

NewTek, Inc., a Software Provider, Settles OFAC Violations for $189,483

The Treasury Department’s Offices of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) continues its enforcement run in 2021, and added yet another tech company to its list of targets. NewTek, Inc. (“NewTek”), a software provider that develops and supplies live production and 3D animations hardware and software, agreed to pay $189,483 to settle 52 violations of the Iran Sanctions Program.  NewTek’s violations arose from its sales to foreign...

A Compliance Crisis at NFT Marketplace OpenSea – Transparency on the Blockchain

Matt Stankiewicz, Partner at The Volkov Law Group, joins us for a post on the recent scandal at OpenSea, the cryptocurrency industry’s preeminent NFT marketplace. Matt can be contacted at MStankiewicz@volkovlaw.com. The crypto industry is abuzz with a recent scandal involving OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace in the industry (for those not in the know, NFT stands for non-fungible token, and the most common use...

The Fraud Hammer: DOJ and SEC Prosecute CEO of Silicon Valley Start Up

When prosecutors turn on you, watch out. The economy is full of fraudsters, many of whom escape detection.  Conmen, liars and cheats abound – when they get caught, however, the consequences can be severe. Interestingly, the SEC’s enforcement regime extends beyond the public markets and includes private companies.  In the technology sector, there are numerous technology start-ups, all living for the dream to be acquired...

The Myth of Corporate Resources and Efficiency

When I was a federal prosecutor and investigating corporations for misconduct, I imagined a well-oiled machine with vast resources, capable of overwhelming government prosecutors and law enforcement agents with lawyers, resources and influence. Prosecutors typically view corporations with this inflated perspective. After working with companies and gaining insights into internal corporate functions, I have realized that prosecutors routinely inflate corporate resources, capabilities and influence. Except...

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Cryptocurrency and the Unbanked: How the Blockchain Can Benefit the Impoverished

I recently came across a paper prepared by students from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs that delves into the benefits that cryptocurrency and the blockchain can provide to the world’s unbanked.  Specifically, the paper discusses how cryptocurrencies can help with “reaching and benefitting the unbanked/underbanked people, who do not make use of traditional financial services, including banks.”  Gemini Trust Company, LLC, one of...