Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations

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Tuesday, 12 March 2019

FRC to be replaced with new regulator

UK Business Secretary Greg Clark announced on 11 March that a new enhanced regulator called the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority will replace the existing Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

According to the government, the new regulator will be a statutory body with more transparency, which will directly regulate the biggest firms rather than delegate regulatory functions to their own professional bodies, among other changes.

The move comes after an independent review of the FRC by Sir John Kingman in December found the need for a new audit regulator “with a clear and precise sense of purpose”.

Australia enacts whistleblower reforms

Australia’s whistleblower reforms received royal assent from Australia’s governor-general on 12 March, according to the country’s parliamentary website. 

After receiving royal assent, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2018 is now law. Companies will have six months to introduce whistleblower protection programmes.

The law introduces protections including giving whistleblowers the right to take their allegations to the media or to politicians 90 days after they disclosed it to their employer, provided there is evidence that doing so is in the public interest.

On the same day, the European Commission proposed new whistleblower rules for EU law. The rules include the requirement that companies create clear reporting channels for whistleblowers. The European Parliament and the Council of Europe will now decide whether to approve the rules. 

Denmark to let FSA bypass court to impose fines

Denmark’s business minister is pushing plans for the country’s Financial Supervisory Authority to be able to bypass the court system to impose fines to speed up cases against banks involved in money laundering, according to reports.

The move comes as a response to public anger over the €200 million Danske Bank money-laundering scandal.

Business minister Rasmus Jarlov reportedly said that Denmark’s current disciplinary system involving the courts takes too long.

He said the changes would quicken the process but would require authorities to be sure of the misconduct and the possibility for banks to appeal against any fines imposed.

Brazil’s CGU re-extends deadline in Rolls-Royce probe

Brazil’s Ministry of Transparency and Comptroller General of the Union (CGU) has again pushed back the date when it will announce the results of its bribery investigation into UK engineering company Rolls-Royce.

In an email on 11 March, the CGU told GIR that it had changed its deadline in February to 20 August. 

The CGU opened a formal investigation into Rolls-Royce in January 2018 and initially had until 17 July of that year to reach a decision. However, the agency told GIR in August that year that it had extended the deadline for at least another 180 days.

Ex-KPMG exec and former PCAOB official found guilty in US fraud case

A jury at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York found former KPMG executive David Middendorf and ex-Public Company Accounting Oversight Board official Jeffrey Wada guilty of taking part in a scheme to help the firm pass the accounting regulator’s inspections.

In a statement on 11 March, the Manhattan attorney’s office said the jury convicted Middendorf of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud while Wada was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud. 

Middendorf and Wada were each acquitted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the US, the office said. 

Deutsche Bank subpoenaed for Trump records

The New York Attorney General’s office issued a subpoena to Deutsche Bank on 11 March for records relating to the financing of four Trump Organization projects, according to The New York Times.

The new inquiry by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, was prompted by the testimony of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer. Cohen testified that Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements and provided copies of statements he said had been submitted to Deutsche Bank.  

Jersey-based Investors Bank was also subpoenaed for the records relating to Trump Organization projects.

US flooring company agrees US$33m securities fraud DPA

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on 12 March that it has entered into a US$33 million deferred prosecution agreement with flooring company Lumber Liquidators for filing false statements regarding the sale of laminate flooring from China.

The company admitted to knowingly filing a false and misleading statement to investors broadly denying allegations that its products did not meet health and safety standards and that it failed to comply with California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations, as featured in a 2015 CBS news documentary.

The DOJ’s fraud section and lawyers from the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case. Lumber Liquidators was represented by Richard Morvillo at Orrick.

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