The French Connection

Posted On Tuesday, September 25, 2018
By: Marc S. Raspanti

What Happened?

France and the United States worked together, for the first time, in a foreign bribery case in order to expand the reach of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The Rundown

On June 4, 2018, the Department of Justice announced that Société Générale S.A., the Paris based global financial services institution, agreed to pay a hefty $585 million to resolve criminal charges with the United States and France for its participation in bribery schemes with Libyan state owned financial institutions. From 2004 to 2009, Société Générale paid $90 million in bribes to a Libyan intermediary who, in turn, paid high ranking Libyan officials a percentage from this bribe in order to secure investments from Libyan state institutions. Société Générale derived state contracts worth $3.66 billion and profits of $523 million from the Libyan bribery scheme. 

Through America and France’s combined investigative effort to prosecute all those involved in the aforementioned scheme, the DOJ announced a $64.2 million settlement from Legg Mason Inc., the Maryland based investment management firm, on the same day. From 2004 to 2010, Permal Group Ltd., Legg Mason’s subsidiary, managed the funds the Libyan state institutions invested in Société Générale as a result of the bribery scheme. Through Permal, Legg Mason managed seven of these investments and earned $31.6 million.

In continuation of the giant crackdown on FCPA violators, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Sanofi, the Paris based pharmaceutical company, agreed to pay more than $25 million to resolve charges that its subsidiaries in Kazakhstan and the Middle East participated in bribery schemes in order to secure business on September 4, 2018. In Kazakhstan, officials were paid bribes to guarantee that Sanofi was awarded bids at public institutions. In the Middle East, pay-to-prescribe schemes were aimed at healthcare providers to increase Sanofi prescriptions.

For the Record

“For years, Société Générale undermined the integrity of global markets and foreign institutions by issuing false financial data and by fraudulently securing contracts through bribery,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “Today’s resolution – which marks the first coordinated resolution with France in a foreign bribery case – sends a strong message that transnational corruption and manipulation of our markets will be met with a global and coordinated law enforcement response.”

The Take Away

2018 continues to be a robust year of enforcement with the international FCPA. While only time will tell if this momentum continues, the DOJ’s multi-million dollar settlements against Société Générale, Legg Mason Inc., and Sanofi seem to signify that it will.