The recent settlement by Telia Company AB (“Telia”), one of the first of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) under the Trump administration and one of the largest FCPA enforcement actions to date, has been touted by some as a sign that enforcement will remain tough. In this area of the law with scant case law or other guidance for companies looking to evaluate their own conduct and compliance programs, do these charting and resolution documents offer anything new? Telia obtained the maximum downward departure from the US Sentencing Guidelines and avoided the imposition of an independent monitor – what can be gleaned from the facts of the resolution as to how?
On September 21, 2017, Telia, a Swedish telecommunications company, entered into a $965 million joint settlement with U.S., Dutch, and Swedish authorities. The settlement revolved around allegations that Telia bribed a foreign official (widely reported to be Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbekistan’s former president Islam Karimov), to assist Telia and its Uzbeki subsidiary, Coscom LLC (“Coscom”) in expanding the company’s share of the Uzbeki telecommunications market. According to the settlement documents (Links to the settlements: DOJ and SEC), from 2006 to 2007, Telia made approximately $331 million in corrupt payments to secure approvals from the Uzbek Agency for Communications and Information and business in the Uzbek telecommunications sector, generating more than $2.5 billion in revenues and approximately $457 million in profit. READ MORE
Last Wednesday, former SAC Capital Advisors manager Mathew Martoma lost a bid to overturn his 2014 insider trading conviction in the Second Circuit. United States v. Martoma, No. 14-3599, 2017 WL 3611518 (2d Cir. Aug. 23, 2017). Martoma, the latest in a string of important insider trading decisions, is significant because the Second Circuit departed from the “relationship test” that had been central to Second Circuit insider trading cases in recent years. See United States v. Newman, 773 F.3d 438 (2d Cir. 2014). The departure was based on a 2016 Supreme Court decision, Salman v. U.S., in which the Court rejected the “relationship test” as set forth in Newman, and reaffirmed the standard set in Dirks v. SEC, 463 U.S. 646, 103 S. Ct. 3255, 77 L. Ed. 2d 911 (1983), holding that where a close relationship exists between the tipper and tippee, the government is not required to show that the insider received a benefit of a “pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.” Martoma had appealed his conviction before Salman was issued, and relied heavily on the Second Circuit’s relationship test outlined in Newman.
In Newman, the Second Circuit overturned the insider trading convictions of two portfolio managers who were “remote tippees,” individuals who traded on inside information but with one or more layers of individuals between them and the insider who originally provided the information. The insiders in Newman were friends with the tippees but did not gain any personal benefit in exchange for the information provided. The government argued in that case that it only needed to show that the tippees traded on “material, nonpublic information they knew insiders had disclosed in breach of a duty of confidentiality.” However, the Second Circuit rejected that argument, explaining that the government was required to show that the insider shared confidential information in exchange for a personal benefit, and that the remote tippees were aware of that fact. The Second Circuit also held that where there is no quid pro quo exchange for confidential information given by a tipper to a tippee, such information only amounts to a “personal benefit” when the tipper has a “meaningfully close personal relationship” with the tippee. To meet the test, that relationship must “generat[e] an exchange that is objective, consequential, and represents at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.” (Emphasis added.) Essentially, if there was no potential for financial gain resulting from the gift of information, no personal benefit existed under Newman. In the immediate aftermath of Newman, many insider trading prosecutions within the Second Circuit became untenable and were dropped.