Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations

GIR Awards 2019 – Boutique or Regional Investigations Practice of the Year and Outstanding In-house Counsel of the Year

James Thomas

20 August 2019

GIR Awards 2019 – Boutique or Regional Investigations Practice of the Year and Outstanding In-house Counsel of the Year GIR Awards 2018

Over the coming days GIR will reveal the shortlists for its fifth annual awards ceremony, which will be held on 24 October in Washington, DC, at the Four Seasons Hotel. 

Read on for the nominees in the categories of Boutique or Regional Investigations Practice of the Year and Outstanding In-house Counsel of the Year.

The 2019 Awards will take place on the evening of 24 October after the inaugural GIR Live Sanctions, Export Control and National Security conference.

The black-tie event will provide a chance to celebrate the investigations lawyers and practices that have impressed most in the past year, and is held in aid of Swawou Layout Girl’s School in Kenema, Sierra Leone, which helps disadvantaged girls in the region.

GIR’s top 30 investigations practices will also be unveiled on the night and the event will culminate with a career achievement award for one exceptionally respected and admired individual.

Boutique or regional investigations practice of the year – the nominees:

BCL Solicitors

It has been an impressive year for BCL Solicitors, with partners at the firm playing a crucial role in securing an acquittal in a Greek bribery case and defending an individual in a fraud case tied to Tesco’s deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). Shaul Brazil represented Robert John Dougall, former vice president of DePuy, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, from a prosecution brought in Athens. Dougall was acquitted of money laundering based on the evidence and of fraud on double jeopardy grounds, having already been convicted of similar charges brought in the UK in 2010. An official for the UK’s Serious Fraud Office testified at the request of Dougall’s lawyers. Partner Richard Sallybanks, meanwhile, successfully defended Tesco’s former commercial director John Scouler against charges of fraud and false accounting. The UK retailer signed the country’s fourth DPA in relation to the case in 2017.

Ferrari & Associates

Boutique Washington, DC, firm Ferrari & Associates has had a stellar year working on some of the highest-profile sanctions cases. Founder Erich Ferrari is acting for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, the former head of Russia’s largest energy company EN+ and aluminium company Rusal, as the businessman attempts to remove himself from a list of sanctioned Russian oligarchs. The firm also continues to represent Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to taking part in a multibillion-dollar scheme to subvert US sanctions on Iran.

Kaplan Hecker & Fink

The New York-based boutique scored a major victory in its dogged attempt to dismiss charges against Robert Bogucki, Barclays’ former US head of forex trading, over an alleged multibillion-dollar front-running scheme. After repeatedly petitioning a federal court in San Francisco to dismiss the indictment, US prosecutors’ case against Bogucki collapsed in March, two weeks after the trial began. In dismissing the case, the presiding judge said “no jury could reasonably find that defendant Robert Bogucki made material or false pretences, representations or promises”. The firm’s nomination comes only two years since its founding, and just over twelve months after partner Sean Hecker, who handled the Bogucki case, joined from Debevoise & Plimpton.

Levine Lee

Name partner Seth Levine’s advocacy for former Deutsche Bank trader Gavin Black triggered a significant debate on how US authorities make use of companies’ internal investigations. Levine argued that Black’s Fifth Amendment rights had been violated when the trader was interviewed by Deutsche Bank at the direction of the government during the bank’s internal investigation into Libor manipulation. In response, Manhattan Chief US District Judge Colleen McMahon dismissed Levine’s broader argument that his client’s 2018 conviction should be quashed because of due process violations. But in an unusual rebuke, McMahon said she was “deeply troubled” by evidence showing that Deutsche Bank’s internal investigation was directed by the government.

Saud Advogados

Rio de Janeiro-based Saud Advogados led oil and gas company TechnipFMC’s ground-breaking settlement negotiations with Brazilian authorities as part of a wider $300 million resolution for bribery that also included US enforcement agencies. TechnipFMC’s Brazilian subsidiaries simultaneously settled with the US and Brazil’s Office of the Comptroller General, Federal Prosecution Service and the Office of the Attorney General over bribes paid in the country. The resolution was the first time that the three Brazilian agencies, whose squabbling in the past has led to staggered enforcement actions against companies, jointly resolved a corporate case together with US agencies.

Outstanding In-house Counsel of the Year – the nominees: 

Olivier Catherine - Group General Counsel at Sonepar in Paris 

The sanctions committee of France’s Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) declined in July to penalise electrical parts manufacturer Sonepar because the company’s compliance programme, under the supervision of Olivier Catherine, was consistent with the requirements in Sapin II, a French anti-corruption law. The AFA wanted to impose a penalty because of Sonepar’s alleged failings in its anti-corruption compliance processes and procedures. But the sanctions committee disagreed in what was the first-of-its-kind case. The company was one of a group of six to face AFA’s first audit after the agency was put together. Catherine joined Sonepar in May 2018 midway through its audit, which began in October 2017. A related criminal investigation into the company, which started in September 2018 after the AFA passed on information obtained during the audit to prosecutors, continues.

Caroline Chang – General Manager, Group Legal at Keppel Corporation in Singapore

Lawyers sing Chang’s praises as she strives to ensure that infrastructure company Keppel improves its compliance and anti-corruption measures following allegations of bribing Brazilian officials. She successfully helped the company secure a first-of-its-kind $422 million settlement with authorities in the US, Singapore and Brazil in December 2017, and has overseen swathes of remedial measures such as strengthening Keppel’s compliance programme and sanctioning and replacing various employees. Counsel who have worked with Chang describe her as “incredibly hardworking, smart and strategic” and praise her ability to stay on top of issues across multiple countries and time zones.

Rogéria Gieremek – Chief Compliance Officer at Latam Airlines in São Paulo

Under the leadership of chief compliance officer Rogeria Gieremek, Chile-based Latam Airlines has seen notable improvements to its compliance programme in recent years following a 2016 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act settlement. The company agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement for three years and a monitorship for at least 27 months. In May 2019, the monitor gave Latam’s compliance programme the all-clear, certifying that it is “reasonably designed and implemented to prevent and detect violations”. Latam’s DPA is due to expire later this year. Brazil-based Gieremek played an important role in guiding Latam to what looks to be a successful end to its FCPA case.

Christoph Hiestand – Group General Counsel at Julius Baer in Zurich

Hiestand’s major achievement this year is Julius Baer’s successful resolution of its three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the US Department of Justice in February. The private Swiss bank signed the $547 million DPA in 2016 over allegations that it helped US clients evade tax. Hiestand’s guidance in the matter means that the charges against Julius Baer were formally dismissed. Colleagues say Hiestand shows strong leadership and is capable of dedicating the company’s management’s attention to the right issues at the right time.

Natalia Shehadeh – Chief Compliance Officer at TechnipFMC in Houston 

TechnipFMC’s chief compliance officer in Houston, Natalia Shehadeh, led the oil and gas company towards its landmark foreign bribery settlement in 2019 over bribery in Brazil and Iraq. The June settlement marked the first time that the US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission were able to settle a case together with a trio of Brazil’s enforcement agencies: the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), Federal Prosecution Service (MPF) and the Office of the Attorney General (AGU). Shehadeh, who joined the company in April last year, helped it combine its compliance culture following Technip’s 2017 merger with FMC. Perhaps the greatest indication of the quality of Shehadeh’s work was the US government’s decision to not impose a monitor, even though the company was a recidivist.  

Registration for the awards is now open. The awards ceremony will be held after GIR Live Sanctions, Export Control and National Security, also on 24 October.

GIR has also announced the shortlists for the Enforcement Agency or Prosecutor of the Year and Emerging Enforcer of the Year categories, and will continue to announce all nominees over the next few days.