Three Employees of Broker Plead Guilty to FCPA Charges

Three employees of a New York broker-dealer pleaded guilty on Friday, August 30, to charges of conspiracy, violating the FCPA, violating the Travel Act, money laundering and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Specifically, Ernesto Lujan, Jose Hurtado and Tomas Clarke each pleaded guilty to six counts: Two count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA; one count of violating the FCPA; one count of violating the Travel Act; one count of money laundering; and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. U.S. v. Lujan, Case No. 13 Crim 671 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2013); U.S. v. Hurtado (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2013); U.S. v. Clarke, 13 Crim 670 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2013).

Messrs. Lujan, Hurtado and Clarke were employed by New York based registered broker-dealer Direct Access Partners LLP. Mr. Lujan was a Managing Director in the Global Markets Group while Mr. Clarke was a vice president in the same group. Mr. Clarke was an employee of the firm. Beginning in early 2009, and continuing through 2012, the three defendants participated in a bribery scheme involving Maria de los Angeles Gonzales de Hernandes, according to the charging papers. Ms. Gonzales was an official at Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela or BANDES. The bank is a controlled enterprise of the Venezuelan government.

During the period of the scheme, Direct Access is alleged to have received about $60 million in mark-ups and mark-downs from the business directed to it by Ms. Gonzales from BANDES. Substantial portions of those revenues were split with her. Those splits are reflected in e-mail and other documents, according to the charging papers.

In an effort to conceal the scheme, the payments were often funneled to Ms. Gonzales through off-shore accounts or through Switzerland. At the same time Messrs. Lujan and Clarke are alleged to have received substantial benefits from the scheme.

As the scheme was unfolding in November 2010 the Commission staff conducted an inspection of the broker dealer. The three defendants were concerned that the scheme would be discovered. Accordingly, they destroyed certain e-mail. Mr. Clarke also lied to the SEC inspection staff, according to the court documents.

In a related scheme Messrs. Lujan, Clarke and Hurtado are alleged to have paid bribes to an official at another Venezuelan state controlled bank.

Sentencing for Mrs. Lujan and Clarke is scheduled for February 11, 2014. Sentencing for Mr. Hurtado is scheduled for March 6, 2014. The SEC’s parallel case is pending. SEC v. Clarke, Civil Acton No. 13 CV 3070 (S.D.N.Y. Filed May 13, 2013).

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