BoardAndFraud

SEC’s Enforcement Powers Increase!

In summary, The Amendments double the SEC’s statute of limitations for disgorgement to 10 years in intentional fraud cases, grant the SEC 10 years to seek equitable relief in all cases, codify the SEC’s ability to obtain disgorgement in federal court proceedings, and make other changes that expand the SEC’s enforcement authority.

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Board and Fraud: SEC and Goodwill Impairment

Background

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) today charged New York-based brand-management company Sequential Brands Group, Inc. (“Sequential or “SQBG”) with failing to impair its goodwill as required by accounting

Board of Directors Oversight

Under the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, in order to receive credit for having an effective compliance program, and thereby reduce the fines imposed on the organization, a Board of Directors must be “knowledgeable about the content and operation of the compliance and ethics program,” and must “exercise reasonable oversight with respect to the implementation and effectiveness of the compliance and ethics program.”

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Herbalife – “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes” – Translated: Who Will Guard the Guards Themselves, or Who will Watch the Watchmen?

Herbalife’s business relationship in China was committed to illegal activity, which it knew or should have known violated the FCPA. Specifically,  beginning in late 2006, Herbalife China provided improper benefits and payments to government officials to obtain direct selling licenses for two cities.
Herbalife paid out millions of dollars in bribes. Fraudulent expense reimbursements were used to fund the bribes, which is is a common tactic for these types of bribes.

Specifically, the SEC found that Herbalife China paid bribes through extravagant meals, gifts, and other benefits given to Chinese officials to obtain sales licenses and remove negative media coverage in China. Managers at the subsidiary asked employees to falsify expense report documents, for example, adding names to meal receipts to get below the company’s per head spending limit. It also found that the payments and benefits were inaccurately recorded and that Herbalife failed to maintain a sound system of internal controls.

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SEC and its New Silent Whistleblower: Risk Based Data Analytics

The SEC just announced its first actions arising from investigations generated by the Enforcement Division’s EPS (Earnings Per Share) Initiative, which utilizes risk-based data analytics to uncover potential accounting and disclosure violations caused by, among other things, earnings management practices.

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Donut Holes! Dunkin’ Data Breach Settlement

Dunkin’ was repeatedly alerted to attackers’ ongoing attempts to log in to customer accounts by a third-party app developer. The app developer even provided Dunkin’ with a list of nearly 20,000 accounts that had been compromised by attackers over just a sample five-day period. “Yet, Dunkin’ failed to investigate the attacks to identify other customer accounts that had been compromised, determine what customer information had been acquired, or whether customer funds had been stolen.

Dunkin agreed to pay $650,000 as penalty settlement costs for the lawsuit over its failure to respond to credential stuffing attacks.

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Tipsters – SEC Adds Clarity, Efficiency and Transparency to Its Whistleblower Award Program

On Wednesday, September 23. 2020, the SEC voted to adopt amendments to the rules governing its whistleblower program.
According to the SEC, the amendments are meant to “provide greater transparency, efficiency and clarity, and to strengthen and bolster the program.”

The amendments were proposed for public comment in June 2018 and have been adopted with some changes.

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FCPA – Mergers & Acquisition Due Diligence

When a company acquires another company, the successor company can be liable for the acquired company’s activities before acquisition. The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) have administered Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) enforcement actions against successor companies in cases involving egregious and sustained violations, where the successor company directly participated in the violations, or where the successor company failed to stop the misconduct from continuing after the acquisition.

This writing explores some key steps that should be taken pre and post acquisition.

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DOJ Unravels a Decade-Old Scheme that involved Kickbacks, Money Laundering, Sham Shell Companies, and Fake Invoices

According to evidence presented at trial, Aleksandr Pikus, 45, of Brooklyn, New York, and his co-conspirators perpetrated a scheme through a series of medical clinics in Brooklyn and Queens over nearly a decade.   The clinics employed doctors, physical and occupational therapists, and other medical professionals who were enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  In return for illegal kickbacks, Pikus referred beneficiaries to these health care providers, who submitted claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Pikus and his co-conspirators then laundered a substantial portion of the proceeds of these claims through companies he controlled, including by cashing checks at several New York City check-cashing businesses.  Pikus then failed to report that cash income to the IRS.  Instead, Pikus used the cash to enrich himself and others and to pay kickbacks to patient recruiters, who, in turn, paid beneficiaries to receive treatment at the medical clinics.  The evidence further established that Pikus and his co-conspirators used sham shell companies and fake invoices to conceal their illegal activities.

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Coming soon the New EU Whistleblower Protection Law

Soon all public and private organizations in the EU with more than fifty (50) employees will soon be required to comply with a new EU Whistleblower Protection law. The new law highlights the importance of responsive, transparent, and timely whistleblowing case management. So just implementing a hotline is not enough. Organizations must consider confidentiality, acknowledgment of the tip or compliant, response times, the competence of persons receiving the reports, communication with the whistleblower, and feedback on how the case is being processed. The new law also includes the right to report concerns externally while remaining legally protected. That’s a risk organizations must avoid. With the December 2021 deadline fast approaching, there is no better time for management and boards to act. 

Read more!

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Three Lines Model or Enterprise Resiliency Model?

In July 2020, The Institute of Internal Auditors (“IIA”) updated its Three Lines of Defense Model (“Model”) to emphasize more active forms of risk management and governance that appear to go beyond merely defensive maneuvers made by the internal audit function.  

Some believed the old model sent a message that we should fear risk. I never saw it that way. I understood the subliminal message was the model was about achieving objectives, which requires both the creation and the protection of value. The new model does a much better job of confirming that risk management contributes “to achieving objectives and creating value, as well as to matters of “defense” and protecting value.”

Learn why the Enterprise Risk Resilient Model might be a better choice.

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Baker Tilly’s Global Forensic Investigations, Compliance and Integrity Practice expands its AML/BSA and Sanctions Services and Solutions!

Our experience conducting fraud investigations, domestically and globally, allows us to advise our clients on measures they can take to prevent fraud from occurring and detect issues before they expand. Our clients look to us to design anti-fraud programs and controls, perform anti-bribery and anti-corruption compliance assessments, and perform proactive fraud examinations to identify possible red flags or indicators of fraudulent activity. Because of our collective skills and the depth and breadth of our experiences, we are also able to design and enhance compliance programs and serve as integrity monitors. 

Correcting deficiencies, addressing gaps in controls, and remediation of specific issues is important at the end of every investigation to prevent the same or similar frauds from recurring.

We address these important client needs at the end of our investigations and can assist with implementing remedial actions.

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Webinar – July 28, 2020 – Best Practices for Conducting Remote Internal Investigations

In this pandemic era, global companies have been challenged to maintain a reliable and effective internal investigation program. Companies have relied on remote investigation strategies to collect and review documents and conduct interviews. In conducting remote investigations, companies have to ensure that they follow investigation requirements, maintain the confidentiality of the process, and comply with applicable data privacy rules and security requirements.

In this webinar, Jessica Sanderson, Partner at The Volkov Law Group, and Jonathan T. Marks, Partner| Leader of the Global Forensic Investigation, COmpliance & Integrity Practice at Baker Tilly, will discuss best practices for conducting remote internal investigations. They will outline strategies for collecting and reviewing documents, analyzing financial data, and conducting interviews using remote technologies.

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Author: Jonathan T. Marks, CPA, CFF, CFE


Partner, Firm Practice Leader - Global Fraud & Forensic Investigations, Compliance, & Integrity Services

Communication and work product may be privileged and confidential.

Attribution

The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at jtmarkscpa@gmail.com

Jonathan T. Marks, his firm, their affiliates, and all related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication.

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