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SAN FRANCISCO – ZAO Hewlett-Packard A.O. (HP Russia), an international subsidiary of the California technology company Hewlett-Packard Company (HP Co.), pleaded guilty today to felony violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and was then sentenced for its role in bribing Russian government officials to secure a large technology contract with the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California, Principal Assistant Attorney General Marshall L. Miller of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Assistant Director in Charge Timothy A. Gallagher of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
HP Russia pleaded guilty this morning before U.S. District Judge D. Lowell Jensen of the Northern District of California to conspiracy and substantive violations of the anti-bribery and accounting provisions of the FCPA. According to the plea agreement, HP Russia executives created a multimillion dollar secret slush fund, at least part of which was used to bribe Russian government officials who awarded the company a contract valued at more than €35 million.
At the conclusion of the plea proceeding, the court sentenced HP Russia to pay a $58,772,250 fine.
“Today’s conviction and sentence of HP Russia demonstrates that the United States Attorney’s Office is dedicated to aggressively prosecuting all forms of corporate fraud that touch our district, wherever they may occur,” said U.S. Attorney Haag. “HP’s cooperation during the investigation is what we expect of major corporate leaders facing the challenges of doing business around the world.”
“In a brazen violation of the FCPA, Hewlett Packard’s Russia subsidiary used millions of dollars in bribes from a secret slush fund to secure a lucrative government contract,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Miller. “Even more troubling was that the government contract up for sale was with Russia’s top prosecutor’s office. Tech companies, like all companies, must compete on a level playing field, not resort to secret books and sham transactions to hide millions of dollars in bribes. The Criminal Division has been at the forefront of this fight because when corruption takes hold overseas, American companies and the rule of law are harmed. Today’s conviction and sentencing are important steps in our ongoing efforts to hold accountable those who corrupt the international marketplace.”
“For more than a decade HP Russia business executives participated in an elaborate scheme that involved paying bribes to government officials in exchange for large contracts,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “There is no place for bribery in any business model or corporate culture. Along with the Department of Justice, the IRS and international law enforcement partners, the FBI is committed to investigating corrupt backroom deals that threaten our global commerce.”
“HP Russia thought that they could play by a different set of rules than the. rest of the international business community,” said Chief Richard Weber, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Unfortunately, they are not alone. For other companies out there conducting business in this way, let the message be very clear—we will relentlessly follow the money trail. IRS-CI is a trusted leader in the pursuit of corporations and executives who circumvent the law. CI is committed to maintaining fair competition, free of corrupt. practices, through a potent synthesis of global teamwork and our dynamic financial investigative talents.”
According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, HP Russia created excess profit margins to finance the slush fund through an elaborate buy-back deal scheme. HP subsidiaries first sold the computer hardware and other technology products called for under the contract to a Russian channel partner, then bought the same products back from an intermediary at a nearly €8 million mark-up and an additional €4.2 million in purported services, then sold the same products to the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation at the increased price. The payments to the intermediary were then largely transferred through multiple layers of shell companies, some of which were directly associated with government officials. Proceeds from the slush fund were spent on travel services, luxury automobiles, expensive jewelry, clothing, furniture and various other items.
To keep track of and conceal these corrupt payments, the conspirators inside HP Russia kept two sets of books: secret spreadsheets that detailed the categories of bribe recipients, and sanitized versions that hid the bribes from others outside of HP Russia. They also entered into off-the-books side agreements to further mask the bribes. As one example, an HP Russia executive executed a letter agreement to pay €2.8 million in purported “commission” fees to a U.K.-registered shell company, which was linked to a director of the Russian government agency responsible for managing the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation project. HP Russia never disclosed the existence of the agreement to internal or external auditors or management outside of HP Russia.
On April 9, 2014, the government also announced criminal resolutions with HP subsidiaries in Poland and Mexico which violated the FCPA in connection with contracts with Poland’s national police agency and Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, respectively. Pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement, the department filed a criminal information charging Hewlett-Packard Polska, Sp. Z o.o. with violating the accounting provisions of the FCPA. Hewlett-Packard Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V. entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the government pursuant to which it has agreed to forfeit proceeds and has admitted and accepted responsibility for its misconduct. In total, the three HP entities will pay $76,760,224 in criminal penalties and forfeiture.
In a related FCPA matter, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a proposed final judgment in April 2014 to which HP Co. consented. Under the terms of the proposed final judgment, HP Co. has paid $31,472,250 in disgorgement, prejudgment interest and civil penalties, bringing the total amount of U.S. criminal and regulatory penalties against HP Co. and its subsidiaries to more than $108 million.
Court filings acknowledge HP Co.’s extensive cooperation with the department, including conducting a robust internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence for the department. Court filings also acknowledge the extensive anti-corruption remedial efforts undertaken by HP Co., including taking appropriate disciplinary action against culpable employees, and enhancing HP Co.’s internal accounting, reporting, and compliance functions.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam A. Reeves of the Northern District of California, Trial Attorneys Ryan Rohlfsen and Jason Linder of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section with the assistance of Phillip Villanueva, Maryam Beros and Bridget Kilkenny of the Northern District of California. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided significant assistance in this matter. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office with assistance from the FBI’s New York Field Office and FBI Legal Attache offices in Mexico City, Moscow, Berlin and Warsaw, and the IRS-CI’s Oakland Field Office.
The Justice Department expresses its deep appreciation for the significant assistance provided by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, the Polish Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA), the Polish Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Dresden, Germany, and our law enforcement partners in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Latvia, Italy, Spain and Hungary.
Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.