Bribery Enforcement Action in the Insurance Business……Again

December 22, 2011

 

The insurance industry looks to be a target. This would not be a surprise if you read my recent blog, Bribery and the Board in the Insurance Broker Business, here. With only days left in 2011, I won’t go so far as to use the (2011 word of the year, at least as per my list) contagion, but I have a feeling I will be using the term “systemic” industry risk a lot in 2012.

This time it is Costa Rica. The funds were intended as education and training for INS officials (see how difficult it is to avoid doing business with public officials in the international space),  but some of it went to travel to “tourist destinations” or other purposes not provided within the brokers “books and records.” In this case, and unlike the previous Willis UK Bribery Act case, the NPA (non-prosecution agreement) made note of invoice and other records that made it obvious “that the expenses were clearly not related to a legitimate business purpose.”

The NPA included “failure to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls with respect to foreign sales activities sufficient to ensure compliance with the FCPA.”

The price tag you ask?………….$25 million ($1.76 million penalty, with was a substantial reduction thanks to “extraordinary cooperation”, “timely and complete disclosure of improper payments”, and the 5.25 million pound payment to the UK’s FSA (Financial Services Authority); plus $14.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest in a related SEC settlement) not to mention their legal, investigation and communication cost.

The ultimate cost will be difficult to determine, but is potentially much greater than the above, due to potential reputational damage, the new costs to “adhere to rigorous compliance”, and the costs of possible follow-on civil liability claims.

Who you ask…………….? Sorry,………………………………………………….. AON. Here, here, here.

The bigger question……….did they buy investigation coverage under the Marsh exclusive program, or negotiate it themselves with Chartis (to save the commission)? And, will they jump on the band wagon to market this case as the perfect “loss example” to their clients?

At the risk of defending a competitor, it is very likely that the SFO, SEC, DOJ, etc, have a great scapegoat in the insurance brokerage industry: 1) we are the best direct link to business of every size and in every sector, 2) going after international accounting/auditing/consulting firms is difficult because they have a longer history of successfully defending themselves from liability; 3) many of the clients of audit/consulting firms don’t retain them for risk management advice, 4) “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t just apply to child raising.

The loss control opportunity (the investment in time and resources should reflect the risk, which means the risk needs to be identified to determine the applicability of the following):

  1. Get the “rigorous compliance, bookkeeping and internal controls standards” in place now, not after the enforcement action,
  2. Follow the DOJ “minimum best practices compliance program” as per their common Deferred Prosecution Agreement (the research is a good start, but here is a hint) aka Plea Agreement,
  3. Establish Legal and Compliance Committee of the Board (3 members, no execs),
  4. Appoint one or more senior executives to implement of oversee anti-corruption policies, procedures and standards, and provide adequate resources and an adequate level of autonomy from management, (note that US Sentencing Guidelines suggest that this compliance officer reporting to the General Counsel who reports to the board may not qualify, see here for NY Times article, “MF Global’s Risk Officer Said to Lack Authority”),
  5. Appoint a Compliance Consultant to aid in those activities and the reporting obligations,

The insurance spin – There are two insurance vehicles that come to mind for the transfer of direct “bribery enforcement” based loss:

  1. Standalone Investigation Costs Coverage – this is a new product, rarely purchased and largely unknown product, but no matter what the purchase decision, the due diligence alone is worth your (and your broker’s) effort,
  2. Investigation Costs Coverage as built into a D&O or D&O/Professional Liability policy – there is no rhyme or reason to the contract language so tread carefully. Make sure your broker identifies “Entity” coverage vs “Personal” coverage, and if this analysis covers less than a dozen areas of the policy, ask them  to try again,
  3. Request details on “formal” vs “informal” investigations, but recognize that the “broader” the policy the more onerous there “reporting” obligations, and the greater the risk of erosion or exhaustion of limits.

For indirect loss you might only be able to look to your D&O or D&O/Professional Liability policy. The key for D&O coverage is:

  1. Don’t assume it is a D&O policy as almost every policy provide coverage to the corporate Entity,
  2. Know how your policy or program (layers of policies) is exposed to erosion or exhaustion,
  3. Follow-on or Downstream loss can come from many directions, so request information on how your policy responds to “derivative” demands, “securities claims”, and regulatory enforcement not included in the initial bribery/corruption enforcement,
  4. Since some “bribery enforcement” loss does not name individuals, then you may have skipped the “direct loss” comments above, and therefore I will repeat – the “broader” the policy the more onerous there “reporting” obligations, and the greater the risk of erosion or exhaustion of limits.

D&O, Professional Liability and Crime insurance underwriters are tightening their underwriting standards. They are raising the RED FLAG on the departure of Chief Risk Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, or General Counsel, and may no longer settle for “resigned to pursue other opportunities”.

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at gshields@mitchellsandham.com,  416 862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at http://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: This article does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.


Bribery and Anti-Corruption Enforcement Insurance in Canada

December 15, 2011

 

I speculate that the Governance, Compliance and Risk Management issue of Bribery and Anti-Corruption will go from a dusty item entered in to board minutes, to a material agenda item. This is not necessarily a good thing because none of the other agenda items can be easily de-weighted.

As mentioned in previous blogs, CFPOA, Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, only recently started receiving press based on the enforcement action against Niko Resources, here, here, here and here.

A March 2011 OECD, report, here, suggested the RCMP was had 20 active CFPOA enforcement investigations. Based on the CFPOA being sleepy legislation for most of its 13 year history, and considering that only two cases, Hydro Kleen and Niko, have seen the light of day, it can be extrapolated that there have been any new investigations launched in the last ten months.

With the inconsistent Canadian legal precedent on disclosure obligations for public issuers, and with few to no announcements by such public issuers disclosing any RCMP investigations, it can also be assumed that many of the 20+ companies have no idea they are being investigated.

With there being such little press and such small financial consequences (until Niko), it would also be a fair statement to suggest that Anti-Bribery, Anti-Corruption compliance programs within individual Canadian companies might not be receiving substantial resources or significant board/executive attention.

My strong recommendation is that this needs to change and change quickly. The best defence (to an investigation or enforcement action) is a good offence. This offence needs to be well worded, aggressively communicated, strongly enforced and meticulously documented.

The FCPA, the use counterpart, has seen very active enforcement. This enforcement has resulted in many follow-on claims including class action securities claims. Since we only have one enforcement action in Canada, that has been brought after the inception of Bill 198 (secondary market liability legislation), and it is too early to determine the risk of follow-on litigation, the only thing Canadian directors and executives can do is assume the financial, market and reputational risk of an CFPOA Enforcement Action will be material to the organization.

There is no doubt that more enforcement actions will soon become public. This means there will be a lot of Directors, Creditors and Shareholders receiving an unpleasant surprise in the new year. When the issue becomes public every company decision, announcement, prospectus and even individual discussions and emails will become the subject of scrutiny and conjecture.

It is usually at this point of crisis that risk management and insurance are raised. Insurance coverage will become a critical question. Directors and officers will want to know if their D&O insurance policy will respond. But they may not recognize that there is no such thing as a “standard” D&O insurance policy. They also might not realize that early response of the D&O policy to a CFPOA enforcement action or investigation may put these directors at a considerable personal risk.

The issues of policy limit adequacy, limit erosion or exhaustion, “notice” obligations, exclusions and continuity are too detailed for this blog post. These issues are also too specific to the specific to the actual insurance program in place and the unique investigative order and potential litigation.

There are dedicated Investigation Costs insurance products available and in the works. These policies are designed specifically for investigation costs, and in most cases they provided limits of liability that will not erode the limits available under the D&O program.

The only way to extract value from the risk management activity of “risk transfer to insurance” is to identify risk, develop loss control tools, determine coverage priorities and negotiate and buy insurance prior to “smelling smoke.”

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at gshields@mitchellsandham.com,  416 862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at http://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: This article does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.

 


Bribery and the Board in the Insurance Broker Business

August 1, 2011

 

Between the FCPA, UK Bribery Act and the CFPOA there are many new cases in the bribery landscape. However, there is a very recent case involving a multinational insurance brokerage. This case is not categorized as a direct bribery issue, but rather a failure to prevent bribery. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) announced last week, here, that it fined Willis Limited 6.9 million pounds for “failings in its anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls” which “created an unacceptable risk that payments by Willis Limited to overseas third parties could be used for corrupt purposes.”

This case changes the game before most people have even started to learn the rules. It is still very common for corporate leaders to respond to news of bribery enforcement by saying “everyone is doing it” and “that is just how we do business in (insert industry)(insert city).” Most internal and third party professionals will be quick to point out that such realities are not an acceptable defence to regulatory enforcement. However, those defences are still being attempted, and the result is industry based systemic risk as regulators then say “ok, where else and who else” and start flipping over rocks in other regions or at industry competitors. Therefore, don’t be surprised to see similar settlements in insurance brokerage industry.

The rules of the game are that directors and senior management need to turn their minds to controls and procedures to prevent this (recently) unacceptable behaviour. In the Willis case, it seems that the organization, unlike many other organizations, did in fact create and implement “appropriate anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls”, but the FSA has suggested with this fine that the existence of controls is not enough and they are required to “ensure that those systems and controls are adequately implemented and monitored”, at the grassroots level.

The time period of the payments in question was January 2005 to December 2009, which means that there is a long tail of liability involved with FSA bribery enforcement actions and therefore organizations and their governing minds had better respond quickly to create and/or increase their controls and control enforcement and monitoring.

The Willis case, and the recent Canadian CFPOA case against Niko Resources, here, might suggest that international bribery enforcement is not a game, because the value of the fines are many multiples of the alleged inappropriate payments in question (at least those values that were disclosed.) In the Niko case the payments in question were less than C$200,000, but the fine was C$9.6 million (the actual value of Niko’s business dealings in “high risk jurisdictions” were not disclosed.) In the Willis case, the total value of transactions over the five year period was 27 million pounds, with the suspicions payments totalling $227,000, and the fine being 6.895 million pounds (after a 30% discount for cooperation and early settlement.)

Here is the loss control opportunity presented by this case to directors, officers, management and employees of corporations doing business overseas (I know this is easier said than done, this is a just a blog):

  • Identify all payments to foreign third parties (especially in “high risk jurisdictions” – if it helps to narrow things down (kidding) the Niko case involved Bangladesh, the Willis case involved Egypt and Russia),
  • Establish and record the commercial rationale for all payments to foreign third parties – this needs to be done to the minute degree of demonstrating “in each case why it was necessary… to use an Overseas Third Party (OTP) to win business and what services (the company) would receive from that OTP in return for a share of its commission”
  • Understand that foreign official is a much broader group than you might think (other bribery cases have set the precedent that doctors and other medical staff in most countries are considered foreign officials, World Bank and IMF staff are foreign officials), 
  • Realize other enforcement examples are not just a learning opportunity but an obligation; the acting director of enforcement and financial crime in the Willis case specifically said this case was “particularly disappointing as we have repeatedly communicated with the industry on this issue”, 
  • Provide formal training to staff to recognize an affected payment and to record in detail (more than a brief description) the reasons and resulting services surrounding the payment. This is the only way to demonstrate adequate monitoring and effectiveness of anti-bribery systems and controls, 
  • Ensure adequate due diligence on OTP to assess how the OTP is connected to the organization’s client, the foreign official and any other involved third party, 
  • Recognize that you are responsible for indirect bribery or alleged bribery of a foreign official, not just for direct bribery. This means you are responsible for the actions of any Third Party that could be in a position of making improper payments to help your organization win or retain business from overseas clients or prospective clients, 
  • Ensure that this due diligence is applied to each and every time a payment is made to a Third Party, not just the inception of business with that Third Party.

There is a very strong argument that the Willis case is not a bribery case, it is a books and records case, but FSA does not seem to care about the distinction. The case has been lumped in with the recent UK Bribery Act / FCPA / CFPOA bribery enforcement actions, so it is getting media attention that it may or may not deserve.

Is this a good example of directors’ and officers’ liability? No, not directly. There was no mention of negligence by an individually named director or officer. But many bribery enforcement actions have spawned downstream criminal, civil and securities liability lawsuits, so if directors and officers do not learn and react to the public pain suffered by other entities, they have a good chance of facing personal liability.

My advice, be careful about extending your D&O insurance policy to FCPA / UK Bribery / CFPOA enforcement action if you don’t fully understand how your policy is exposed to Entity Coverage or other risk of erosion or exhaustion of its limits of liability. There is no regulation or oversight of D&O policy wordings or pricing in Canada, so your assumption of the level of “personal loss” coverage in your D&O policy might be incorrect. Without early investigation you might not find that out until it is too late.

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at gshields@mitchellsandham.com, 416 862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at http://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: This article does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.


CFPOA (Bribery) Enforcement Action on the Rise

July 8, 2011

 

Risk Management will be a particular challenge based on the “ground level” exposures and the difficulty identifying and controlling risk that is created by a vast number of activities conducted by a large number of people with significant geographic and supervisory separation.

Therefore, based on single aggregate limits, and considerable number of parties and matters insured under a typical D&O insurance policy, a full understanding of how and where limits are sharing should be a top priority for D&O buyers.

In past blog posts I have been critical of Canadian regulation and enforcement of Bribery. But, I can now suggest there has been an extraordinary increase in Canadian corporate bribery enforcement. I am not suggesting the alarm bells should be raised, as the number of cases has gone from one to two (two to three if you include individuals), and I am sure that 99.something % of Canadians (and nearing that number of politicians) could not tell you what CFPOA stands for. This is not as easily said of FCPA. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, here, in the US has seen significant press over the last year. This should be no surprise, the US government provides a website listing enforcement actions in chronological order (there are 14 actions under ‘A’ alone), a dedicated email address for reporting violations, and transparency on settlements/judgments (which have been in the hundreds of millions of dollars.)

I wouldn’t be worried about wiretaps and agents posing as foreign government officials……, if your organization does absolutely no business (purchasing or selling, travel or expenses) outside of Canada. We are not known for aggressively fighting white collar (I prefer the term “financial”) crime. However, if you do any business outside of Canada, perhaps some risk identification and loss control is a good idea.

CFPOA stands for The Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. It can be found on a Canadian government site, here, but there is no “enforcement” section, or any obvious “report bribery or corruption” contact information. I don’t even recommend a search of Canadian government information regarding corruption or bribery, as it is a time wasting and frustrating exercise in ineffective links and extraordinarily outdated reports. Prior to this very recent case, I could find reference to only two criminal prosecutions in Canada since the 1999 inception the act and the only one with a dollar figure was for $25,000.

In June, enforcement of bribery in Canada actually made publication. I would like to say that it made headlines, but the only page-one google hits for “bribery enforcement in Canada” were law firm briefs and low profile blogs.

The recent case is Niko Resources Ltd., here, which is based on bribery of a junior energy minister in Bangladesh. As per the Reuters report by Scott Haggett, “the charges stemmed from providing a car worth $191,000 and a $5,000 trip”, but the fine is $8,260,000 plus a victim surcharge of 15% for a total $9.5 million fine. This does not include legal costs and it does not contemplate the reputational damage to Niko, or their 3.2% fall in market cap of their shares (which equates to more than $120 million.) Class action securities claims have been started for less.

A CFPOA settlement in this range is material to even the biggest Canadian corporations and it obvious that the intent is to send a warning signal to all Canadian companies, directors and senior management (and to try to get the Government out of the news for being complete ineffective on bribery and corruption.)

Here is the corporate governance, risk management and insurance spin. For this we will have to look outside of Canada because, in the article here at Canadian Lawyer Magazine by Andi Balla, it has been expressed by the head of the RCMP unit in charge of investigation corruption of foreign officials that “Canadian legislation is very short and hard to interpret.”

Based on the US experience with FCPA, and the very recent UK Bribery Act, the issue of Bribery will receive increased focus as a material Corporate Governance, Risk Management and Compliance responsibility. Risk Management will be a particular challenge based on the “ground level” exposures and the difficulty identifying and controlling risk that is created by a vast number of activities conducted by a large number of people with significant geographic and supervisory separation.

Like most other corporate risks, good loss control will come from establishing, communicating, enforcing and monitoring policies and procedures. But identifying, qualifying and quantifying risk in order develop specific risk based policies and procedures is much easier (not to mention quicker) to say than do.

The U.K. Ministry of Justice, regarding the new U.K. Bribery Act (took effect July 1, 2011), here, has provided some Guidance, here, to their legislation. But enacting policies and procedures is further complicated by the vague language of the official guidance which uses phrases like “extremely unlikely to engage Section 1” (the section prohibiting Active and Passive bribery), and introduces the “reasonable person” test and “common sense approach”. One area that makes it difficult to define or identify risk is the “associated persons” language which is not easily defined and includes any person or entity who “performs services” for the company. Therefore, direct and even indirect contractors could create a risk of liability for the corporation.

Other concerns with the U.K. guidance is that many terms are not defined. One such term is “close connection”, because this close connection to the U.K. could apply to the person committing the offence, or to place of incorporation, or to the location of the consenting senior officers. Another important term “carry on business”, because the parent company or even a subsidiary entity does not have to be incorporated in the U.K. in order to be responsible under the Act.

Directors of affected companies will to have look at the “relative ‘value’ of the spend” in every foreign business dealing and determine its ‘proximity’ to a pending business deal in order to identify activities that generate risk. They will then have to prioritize which activities could become the subject of scrutiny under the Act and direct resources accordingly.

The insurance response has yet to be determined. Some ideas are presented by Anjali Das, a partner in the Chicago office of the Wilson Elser law firm, are published in The D&O Diary Blog, here.

Insurance underwriters will eventually be requesting copies of Anti-Bribery policies and procedures, but that has not started (in Canada) and we hope to provide warning of any such change.

Directors, if not already, will soon be asking their General Counsel, CFO, Corporate Secretary, or whoever else is their go-to-person on personal liability and directors’ and officers’ liability insurance (D&O), about the potential response of their D&O policy to a CFPOA investigation. Since there are many dozens of different D&O policy wording and hundreds of endorsements in current use in Canada, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Your current in force policy wording needs to be reviewed. I suggest asking for an electronic searchable version from your insurance broker and searching for the term “fine”. If you are attempting to find the answer in paper form I recommend starting from the last endorsement and working backward. It is common for large publicly-traded companies to have more than 20 endorsements on their D&O policy, changing a good portion of the base policy wording. You will likely see a “fines and penalties” exclusion (unfortunately not in the exclusion section,) hidden in the definition of Loss. However, there may be a ‘carve-back’ (and exception to the exclusion) for defence costs.

Before you do anything regarding affirmative insurance coverage for an CFPOA action, an examination of priorities is warranted. Meaning, what do all of the Insureds, or at least Classes of Insureds, want the policy to do? I have not seen a CFPOA exclusion used in Canada, and Canadian underwriters are not likely to take a knee-jerk reaction to the Niko CFPOA enforcement action. I have also not seen any specific CFPOA endorsements in the Canadian marketplace, but I am sure they are in the works. But, the “broadening” of coverage to include Loss based on CFPOA actions may not be in the best interest of all Insureds. There is usually only one limit of liability available and it is shared by every director, officer, employee and the corporate entity (including every subsidiary) for every individual allegation, investigation and lawsuit. Also, it is common that in the middle of a potentially large group of claims (or circumstances which could lead to a claim) policy limits are not renewed (refreshed) at the expiry of the policy and therefore the one limit of liability may be the only limit available for all of these parties and matters for many years.

Therefore, based on single aggregate limits, and considerable number of parties and matters insured under a typical D&O insurance policy, a full understanding of how and where limits are sharing should be a top priority for D&O buyers.

I try not to subject my readers to 2,000 words in a post, but this does not give the corporate governance, risk management and insurance spin the detail it deserves. Therefore, if you would like more details in these areas, or if you would like help understanding your D&O policy and its potential triggers (positive and negative) regarding CFPOA enforcement, notice obligations or risk of limit exhaustion, please don’t hesitate to call me directly.

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at gshields@mitchellsandham.com,  416 862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at http://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: This article does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.


What is the Direction of Canadian Corporate Fraud?

June 23, 2011

 

Interesting article on Corporate Fraud and Executive Compensation available, here, at Marketwatch.

I will let you read it, but the Greg’s notes on it, 1) “97% of companies on the S&P 500 Index pay incentive compensation to executives even when the company is underperforming its peers”, and 2) “FBI Director Robert Mueller recently told Congress that the FBI had 667 ongoing probes into corporate fraud and 1,700 open cases of securities fraud.”

In case the authors are correct in their observation that crime is not down we are just numb to it, why don’t we do a quick “lest we forget” and recount: Bernard Madoff, Jeffrey Skilling, Kenneth Lay, Dennis Kozlowski, John Rigas, Joe Nacchio, James McDermott Jr., Sam Waksal, Sam Israel, Bernie Ebbers (see the Time article, here, called Top 10 Crooked CEOs).

Now, just in case you are like many Canadians who have allowed themself to be lulled into a false sense of security, based on a lack of fraud enforcement in Canada and extraordinarly little media coverage attention to corporate fraud and a Canadian moral superiority complex, here is the Canadian content.

Please keep in mind that thanks to the absence of criminal enforcement in Canada, some of these cases should be classified as securities concerns and not allegations of fraud against any individuals. Based on the low level of media coverage, you may never have heard about these incidents – Barry Landen (here, Penna estate fraud, not huge, but very sad), Peter Sbaraglia and Robert Mander (here, accused by OSC of $40 million fraud), Milowe Brost and Gary Sorenson (here, Brost was jailed this year for forgery, but accused with Sorenson of a Ponzi scheme which could reach $400 million), Wolfgang Stolzenberg (here, accused of a $1 billion fraud in the Castors Holdings case), Ronald Weinberg, Hasanain Panju, and Lino Pasquale Matteo and John Xanthoudakis (here, facing 36 charges including fraud and publishing a false prospectus in the Cinar case, with Xanthoudakis also being part of Norshield (here, $215 million alleged fraud) and Matteo also part of Mount Real (here), Earl Jones (here, surrendered and pleaded guilty (so I don’t know how quick I would be to count that as a win for our justice system) to two fraud charges related to a $50 million Ponzi scheme that ran from 1982 to 2009),  Ian Thow (here, originally accused of a $32 million Ponzi fraud but pleaded guilty on amounts totaling $8 million and sentenced to 9 years). There are many more, but I have run out of time, and hopefully opened a few eyes.

I have decided to avoid pure Canadian class actions securities claims due to the risk of suggesting fraud in any of these cases, and/or the risk of reprisal for any such inference. But I can assure you that we have had more than our share of securities related games played in Canada resulting in massive losses suffered by Canadian investors.

Now the risk management spin. There are many ways for investors, fund managers, investment advisors, directors and officers to protect yourself.

  1. If things are going absolutely great and you have no complaints or concerns about your current position: pull your head out of the sand and start your own investigation immediately. Take two, three, four hours, pull out a recent prospectus, annual report or one of those intentionally complicated sell sheets, and read the fine print, notes and management assumptions. If it does not make any sense, read it again. If it still doesn’t make any sense, start asking questions and preface each question with “pretend you are answering this question like I am your mother or your five year old” (keep in mind that some of the people above did actually defraud their mother);
  2. If a few things are bugging you but you can’t put your finger on it, see point 1 above.
  3. If you have not invested or accepted the board position, see the points above;
  4. Request evidence of Fidelity/Crime insurance. You can’t rely on this in place of the points above, but at least you will get some comfort that the company and the individuals have been vetted by a large financial institution who shares a financial exposure to the company. Then take the evidence of insurance, Google the name of the insurer, call the company from the info online, not the one on the evidence of insurance, and confirm the company and policy actually exist. This four minutes will be more due diligence than most stakeholders perform, and it will improve your comfort level with your risk;
  5. Repeat point 4 for Directors’ and Officers’ liability insurance (D&O) and Professional Liability insurance (E&O). Many, but not all, fraudsters avoid any additional audit, review or questions, (unfortunately they don’t seem to be subject to much of that from regulators, auditors, lawyers, suppliers or investors), so they reject any suggestion of insurance coverage as a waste of money;
  6. Find the references to a contract, sales agreement, independent third party review, or other “feel good statement” attributed to any third party in any company document, pick two (or if you are really diligent, three) and take four minutes to Google the name, call the company or person from the online information, and confirm the details of the pronouncement;
  7. Read the Ian Thow link above and the victim statements detailed in the sentencing decision, and be thankful they allowed their tragic and embarrassing stories to be publicized so that we can learn without having to suffer more loss that we already have (yes, every mutual fund holder, pensioner, bank client and insurance buyer pays a significant amount for fraud losses every year.) It could be the most valuable 20 minutes of your life.

With prosecutions being rare and convictions (without a guilty plea) being almost non-existent, one can only surmise the actual number for frauds that are currently being perpetrated in Canada.

So what is the direction of Canadian corporate (aka, white collar, or financial) fraud? It doesn’t matter, there is plenty of it right now to warrant concern and the 4 hours and 44 minutes of time suggested above.

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at gshields@mitchellsandham.com,  416 862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at http://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: This article does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.