When is a rose not a rose? When it is a charitable donation not made for philanthropic purposes and violates the FCPA. This was a feature of the Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) FCPA enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2012, involving a bribery scheme utilized by Lilly in Poland. The scheme and FCPA violations mirrored an earlier FCPA enforcement action, also brought by the SEC as a civil matter, rather than by the Department of Justice as a criminal matter, against another US entity Schering-Plough, for making charitable donations in Poland which violated the FCPA. One of the remarkable things about both of these enforcement actions, brought almost eight years apart, was that they involved improper payments to the same Polish charitable foundation to wrongfully influence the same Polish government official to purchase products from both of these companies.
The Bribery Schemes
Both companies were involved in negotiations for the sale of products with the Director of the Silesian Health Fund (Health Fund). He had also established a charitable foundation, the Chudow Foundation to engage in restoration of ancient castles in Poland. Both companies made donations to the Chudow Foundation at or near the time decisions were made regarding the purchase of their respective products by the Health Fund. The FCPA books and records violations for the donations stated that they were all mischaracterized on the respective company’s books. The donations were made by each company with the description for the donations as follows:
Although all of these donations were approved by a team within Lilly, the “Medical Grant Committee [MGC]”, who reviewed the requests for such donations, the MGC’s approval was “largely based on the justification and description in the submitted paperwork.” While Requests 1 & 2 may have had tangential value to the stated purpose of the Chudow Foundation to restore castles in Poland, even Request 3 was clearly a quid pro quo as an action to obtain business. Just as clearly, ‘rental of castle’ is not a charitable donation but an expenditure, even with that understanding, the SEC Complaint noted that Lilly held no conferences at any castles so it was an outright misrepresentation.
The Schering-Plough SEC Complaint noted that the company Manager involved in the payment scheme, “provided false medical justifications for most of the payments on the documents that he submitted to the company’s finance department.” Additionally, he structured the payments so that they were at or below his approval limit so that he did not have to ask for permission to make the improper payments. The Manager in question viewed the donations as “dues that were required to be paid for assistance from the Director.”
The Red Flags for Charitable Donation
What were the factors which should become red flags for the review of charitable donations under the FCPA? The Schering-Plough SEC Complaint listed several items which it deemed indicia of red flags.
The Lilly SEC Complaint listed several items which it deemed indicia of red flags.
Here Lilly used charitable donations to a charitable foundation which was, as stated in the SEC Complaint, “founded and administered by the head of one of the regional government health authorities at the same time that the subsidiary was seeking the official’s support for placing Lilly drugs on the government reimbursement list.” There was a total of eight payments made to the charitable foundation. In addition to the charitable donations made, Lilly “falsely characterized the proposed payments”. Lilly had a group which reviewed the request for such donations called the “Medical Grant Committee [MGC]” which approved the payments “largely based on the justification and description in the submitted paperwork.”
Three Key Takeaways
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