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Less than 20 years since beginning her legal career at DLA Piper, trial lawyer Bridget Fitzpatrick has secured one of the country’s most high-ranking prosecuting roles as chief litigation counsel at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Having left private practice in 2007, and then progressing her career through government as an assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia, where she tried 30 cases to verdict, Fitzpatrick joined the SEC in 2012 and has been serving as a supervisor and trial lawyer in the agency’s enforcement division for five years.
Among her achievements in her most recent role was bringing charges against the former chairman and vice chairman of US retailer Michael Stores, as well as those against former Goldman Sachs banker Fabrice Tourre, who was convicted of fraud in 2013, and who paid the SEC USD 825,000 in civil fines and pay claw-back.
In 2016, alongside her colleague David Gottesman, Fitzpatrick was appointed as acting co-chief litigation counsel, and she and Gottesman have supervised the SEC’s trial unit in Washington, DC, and 11 regional offices around the country.
Earlier this month, SEC chair Jay Clayton, who was sworn into government in May, joining from Sullivan & Cromwell, elected his senior advisory team, which included trial lawyer Kristina Littman as lead adviser on matters relating to the enforcement division.
With Fitzpatrick now in the permanent role, and Gottesman continuing to serve as deputy chief litigation counsel, the agency is now poised to carve a new path under the leadership of Clayton, who, since being appointed, has praised the SEC’s historic approach to enforcement under former chair Mary Jo White.
In a statement, Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, said: “The combination of Bridget’s impressive track record and strong judgement on litigation and trial strategy will serve the division’s national litigation programme well… and I am pleased that David is going to substantially broaden his role by overseeing more than 40 trial lawyers.”
JOINT FCPA ACTION BRINGS USD 965 MILLION SETTLEMENT
Bearing fruit from the efforts of its formers enforcement leadership, in investigations opened under former enforcement director Andrew Ceresney, who returned to Debevoise & Plimpton alongside White earlier this year, as well as the strong enforcement team it now has in place, the SEC has secured some milestone achievements this year in actions brought under its Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA) powers.
In August, oilfield services company Halliburton agreed to pay a USD 29.2 million over bribery charges relating to its practices in Angola, and last week the SEC announced it had entered into a global settlement, in the form of a three-year deferred prosecution, with Swedish telecommunications company Telia Company, which will pay civil and criminal penalties totalling USD 956 million to the SEC, the US Department of Justice, and Dutch and Swedish law enforcement agencies Openbaar Ministerie and Åklagarmyndigheten, respectively, over FCPA violations relating to its winning of business in Uzbekistan.
According to the SEC’s order dated 21 September, Telia entered the Uzbek market by paying at least USD 330 million in bribes to a shell company that was, on the face of it, providing lobbying and consulting services which never actually occurred.
The shell company was controlled by a government official, also a family member of Uzbek’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who had significant influence over Telia’s growth in the country, which netted the communications company over USD 2.5 billion in revenue over a three-year period between 2007 to 2010.
“Corporate bribery is not just unfair and illegal, it has terribly corrosive effects on business, government, and society. As this global settlement demonstrates, the SEC continues to work closely with our counterparts at home and abroad to expose and pursue such corruption,” Avakian said in a statement.
Those counterparts spanned a wider remit than the aforementioned US, Dutch and Swedish authorities, with the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority and the Central Bank of Ireland receiving praise for their assistance, as did financial regulators and law enforcers in France, Switzerland, Latvia, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong; such cooperation now commonplace in large-scale investigations.
In a statement, Telia said it had terminated the employment of all individuals involved in the conduct, and as a result of overhauling its corporate governance structure and implementing a comprehensive compliance programme, it received an aggregate discount of 25% off the otherwise applicable US sentencing guidelines fine range, and that the appointment of an independent monitor was not deemed necessary by the authorities.
Its president and chief executive Johan Dennelind said the resolution and financial sanction was a “painful reminder” of what happens when a company does not understand the importance of doing the right thing at the right time, and added: “[The] settlement brings an end to an unfortunate chapter in Telia Company’s history. Since 2013, the new board and management have worked diligently and responsibly to understand what went wrong, to remedy what has been broken and to regain trust from all our stakeholders.”
A day after the settlement was announced, the Swedish Prosecution Authority announced it will prosecute a number of former Telia employees, as well as initiate legal proceedings against the company for disgorgement. However, the disgorgement applicable is already included in the global settlement.
In the US, Telia was advised by David Stuart and Rachel Skaistis, litigation partners at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and Angela Burgess, a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell.
A report published by Cornerstone Research and the Pollack Centre for Law & Business in May this year – SEC Enforcement Activity: Public Companies and Subsidiaries –Mid-Year FY 2017 Update, revealed the agency had brought 44 new enforcement actions against public companies and their subsidiaries in the first half of fiscal year 2017.
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