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Commodities Trading Company Agrees to Pay Over $98M to Resolve Foreign Bribery Case

Freepoint Commodities LLC (Freepoint), a commodities trading company based in Stamford, Connecticut, has agreed to pay over $98 million to resolve an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) stemming from the company’s involvement in a corrupt scheme to pay bribes to Brazilian government officials. 

Freepoint has also agreed to disgorge more than $7.6 million to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in a related matter.

“As today’s resolution demonstrates, the Criminal Division remains resolute in our fight against bribery and corruption,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Our dedicated prosecutors are working tirelessly to hold both corporations and culpable individuals to account. Let this case also send a reminder that our policies offer the greatest benefits to companies that are proactive and act with urgency.”   

According to court documents, Freepoint entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the department in connection with a criminal information filed in the District of Connecticut. The information charges the company with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provision of the FCPA for its scheme to pay bribes to Brazilian government officials to secure business with Brazil’s state-owned and state-controlled oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. – Petrobras (Petrobras).    

“This office and our federal law enforcement partners are keeping a watchful eye on those not only involved in the financial industry, but all U.S. businesses that operate overseas, to ensure that they are complying with our nation’s laws,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery for the District of Connecticut. “This hefty financial sanction and deferred prosecution agreement should both serve as a deterrent to illegal conduct in the U.S. and abroad, and as a reminder that the Justice Department incentivizes those who report illegal conduct and work with us to correct wrongdoing.”

Between approximately 2012 and 2018, Freepoint and its co-conspirators paid bribes to Petrobras officials in exchange for confidential information about pricing and bids submitted by Freepoint’s competitors. Freepoint and its co-conspirators concealed the scheme by communicating using code words and encrypted messaging applications, engaging in sham negotiations, and funneling the bribes through an intermediary who used offshore bank accounts and shell companies. Freepoint earned over $30 million in profits in connection with the scheme.

“This case exemplifies the FBI’s relentless fight against corruption and our commitment to holding companies accountable for criminal business practices,” said Assistant Director Michael Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI, along with our domestic and international partners, will continue to aggressively combat these crimes and work to level the playing field of the global marketplace.”

“This resolution and the indictment of three individuals demonstrate the commitment by the FBI and the Justice Department to holding accountable both corrupt companies and actors — wherever they are — for their illicit business activity,” said Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office. “Our tireless work with partners around the globe ensures that businesses earn their contracts and that consumers are protected from inflated prices.”

Pursuant to the DPA, Freepoint has agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $68 million and administrative forfeiture in the amount of $30,551,150. Freepoint has also agreed to continue cooperating with the department in any ongoing or future criminal investigation relating to this conduct. The department will credit up to one-third of the criminal penalty against amounts that Freepoint pays to resolve an investigation by law enforcement authorities in Brazil for related conduct. The department will also credit up to 25% of the forfeiture amount against disgorgement that Freepoint pays the CFTC in a related matter.

The department reached this resolution with Freepoint based on a number of factors, including, among others, the nature and seriousness of the offense. Freepoint received credit for its cooperation with the department’s investigation, which included (i) promptly and thoroughly responding to requests by the department by producing and summarizing relevant documents and other information; (ii) engaging in significant efforts to aggregate and analyze complex financial information and trade data for more than 4,000 transactions; (iii) making company officers and employees available for interviews, and arranging separate counsel where appropriate; (iv) providing all relevant facts known to it, including information about the individuals involved in the conduct. However, in the initial phases, Freepoint’s cooperation was limited in degree and impact, and largely reactive.

Freepoint also engaged in remedial measures, including: (i) conducting an analysis of the causes of the underlying conduct and undertaking appropriate remediation to address those root causes and taking additional steps to improve its compliance program, including by retaining an advisory firm to evaluate its third-party compliance program; (ii) overhauling its third-party compliance and risk management program, including through the implementation of enhanced risk-based due diligence, screening, ongoing monitoring and oversight procedures, and the implementation of FCPA training for third-party agents; (iii) reducing the use of third-party intermediaries; (iv) implementing a global agent onboarding and tracking procedure; (v) strengthening its corporate governance and risk management structures, including through the utilization of data and metrics to evaluate risk, enhancing the independence and stature of its compliance function, and hiring additional, experienced compliance personnel; (vi) updating the company’s global anti-bribery and corruption policy to include FCPA red flags; (vii) implementing a process for reporting and investigating allegations of misconduct; and (viii) conducting testing of its third-party compliance program.

In light of these considerations, the criminal penalty calculated under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines reflects a 15% reduction off the bottom of the applicable guidelines fine range.   

The department has recently charged three individuals in relation to Freepoint’s bribery scheme, including:

  • Glenn Oztemel, who allegedly worked as a senior oil trader at Freepoint and caused Freepoint to make corrupt payments to an intermediary, which were disguised as purported consulting fees and commissions, and which were used to pay bribes to Petrobras officials.
  • Gary Oztemel, the brother of Glenn Oztemel, who allegedly used his company Oil Trade & Transport S.A. to corruptly assist Freepoint in obtaining or retaining business in Brazil.
  • Eduardo Innecco, who worked as an agent for Freepoint and received purported consulting fees and commissions that he allegedly used to pay bribes to Petrobras officials on behalf of Freepoint.

The case against Glenn Oztemel, Gary Oztemel, and Eduardo Innecco is pending.

The FBI Los Angeles Field Office is investigating the case, with assistance from the FBI’s International Corruption Unit.

Trial Attorneys Allison L. McGuire and Clayton P. Solomon and Assistant Chiefs Derek J. Ettinger and Jonathan P. Robell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGarry for the District of Connecticut are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York also provided significant assistance.

The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and authorities in Brazil, Latvia, Switzerland, and Uruguay provided assistance in the matter.

The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

DPA

Updated December 15, 2023


Topic

FOREIGN CORRUPTION Office of Public Affairs

Components

Criminal Division 

Criminal – Criminal Fraud Section 

Criminal – Office of International Affairs 

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 

USAO – Connecticut 

USAO – New York, Eastern Press Release Number: 23-1424

SOURCE: justice.govMIDTOWN TRIBUNE NEWS – CRIME

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