In the past two weeks, Judges Richard J. Sullivan and Shira A. Scheindlin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York separately issued important rulings in civil Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) cases against foreign executives of non-U.S.-based companies whose stock is traded on a U.S. stock exchange. Their rulings reached opposite results on the issue of the court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over foreign executives who are alleged to have violated the FCPA. One or both of these rulings could provide the Second Circuit with a rare opportunity to clarify the FCPA’s jurisdictional reach in the context of purely foreign bribery schemes.
SEC v. Straub, __ F. Supp. 2d __, No. 11 Civ. 9645 (RJS) (Feb. 8, 2013) (Sullivan, J.)
In December 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) brought a civil enforcement action against three senior executives of a Hungarian telecommunications company, Magyar Telekom, who allegedly bribed government and political party officials in Macedonia and Montenegro in 2005 and 2006 to win business and shut out competition in the telecommunications industry. The SEC alleges that these executives used sham “consultancy” and “marketing” contracts to pay approximately €4.875 million to Macedonian officials and €7.35 million to Montenegrin officials. The three executives then allegedly caused the bribes to be falsely recorded in Magyar’s books and records, which were consolidated into the books and records of its parent company, Deutsche Telekom AG. Both Magyar and Deutsche Telekom were publicly traded through American Depository Receipts (“ADRs”) on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”). The defendants allegedly made false certifications to Magyar’s auditors, who in turn provided unqualified audit opinions that accompanied the filing of Magyar’s annual reports with the SEC. There was no allegation that any of the negotiations or meetings regarding this scheme occurred within the United States, that the payment of bribes occurred through banks located in the United States, or that the foreign defendants otherwise ever traveled to the United States in furtherance of the bribery scheme.