Welcome to 2020's last This Week In Compliance news roundup. This week, Google faces a new antitrust lawsuit, and the Dodd-Frank Act undergoes new reforms. Continue reading for the past week's news:
Google Sued By Ten States in Antitrust Bid:
Alphabet Inc. Google is facing a new antitrust lawsuit led by ten states accusing the tech giant of running an illegal advertising monopoly. The lawsuit accuses Google of striking an anticompetitive deal with Facebook in 2017 to receive special data for advertising from the platform. Facebook refused to comment on the case. The suit alleges that Google has abused its market position by buying out competitors and illegally connecting acquired tech platforms to one-another for advertising purposes. Google dismissed any anticompetitive behavior.
Credit Suisse Charged For Money Laundering:
Swiss prosecutors charged Credit Suisse Group AG for money-laundering failures. According to the Swiss attorney general's office, the bank failed to comply with Swiss AML rules and its internal controls from 2004 to 2008. Allegedly the bank was unable to identify that one of its executives helped a Bulgarian criminal organization launder assets through the bank. The former executive and two more individuals that belonged to the criminal organization were charged in the case. The bank denied all allegations and was convinced of its former employee’s innocence. If convicted, the bank could pay the equivalent of USD 5.7M.
Ex-top Venezuelan Official Charged in Bribery Case:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged a former Venezuelan national treasurer and her husband with accepting millions of dollars in bribes from a businessman who owns TV stations in Venezuela. The bribes were paid through U.S. banks in exchange for the rights to engage in sizable foreign currency exchanges amounting to over USD 1B dollars. The former treasurer Claudia Diaz currently resides in Spain and is expected to face extradition to the U.S. This case is a continuation of a long-running bribery conspiracy during Hugo Chavez's government involving several high-ranking officials.
U.S. SEC Fines General Electric for Misleading Investors:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) slapped General Electric with a USD 200M fine for violating anti-fraud statutes, and reporting and disclosure controls. The energy supplier is accused of misleading investors between 2015 to 2017 by misreporting its profit margins and misrepresenting its project costs. While the case is still ongoing, General Electric has not admitted or denied the findings.
SEC Approves Dodd-Frank Reform for Energy and Mining Companies:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved a new anti-corruption provision to the Dodd-Frank Act for the U.S. oil industry. The new rule requires companies in the sector to disclose any payment given to foreign governments. Previously, companies in the industry were required to disclose payments on a contract basis, whereas now they will be able to do so on an aggregated, country-by-country basis. The new reform has been met with significant controversy by critics who argue that it is a step back in the fight against bribery.
Defense Bill With New Whistleblower Rules Approved by U.S. Congress:
The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate approved a national defense bill that includes a new whistleblower program that would compensate individuals who report high-profile money laundering cases. The new defense bill, which President Trump pledged to veto, was approved by a veto-proof majority. The bill is expected to be signed into law by the end of the year. Experts have hailed the new whistleblower program as a potential 'game-changer in AML enforcement.' The bill also includes a groundbreaking measure to ban the creation of shell companies under the so-called 'Corporate Transparency Act.' The act would require U.S. companies to disclose their ownership structure, possibly making it more difficult to evade taxes.
GRECO Criticizes Bosnia's Anti-Corruption Progress:
The Council of Europe's anti-graft group GRECO criticized Bosnia and Herzegovina for making little progress in fighting corruption, citing the country's laggard implementation of the EU's anti-corruption recommendations. In GRECO's third and fourth evaluation rounds, the EU noted that the government had failed to implement an appropriate legal framework to curb corruption and that the judiciary continues to lack independence. Reportedly, the country has made little to no progress in comparison to GRECO's 2017 evaluation.