China: The FCPA Implications Of China’s Plan To Consolidate State-Owned Enterprises

Last Updated: 1 April 2015
Article by Ryan Bonistalli and Alex J. Brackett

China's recently announced plan to restructure and consolidate its state-owned enterprises (SOEs) focuses on bolstering the private sector of its economy and creating economies of scale to allow Chinese companies to better compete internationally. It also may implicate companies' efforts to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), in positive and negative ways. Although the details of the restructuring plan are still unknown, the prospect of any change to China's vast SOE network raises potentially significant considerations for legal and compliance officials dealing with the definition of "foreign official" under the FCPA. Companies operating in China need to watch this space, as significant changes to the SOE landscape could impact anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies and procedures related to business in China.

On March 5, 2015, at the opening of China's annual parliamentary meeting, Premier Li Keqiang announced plans to move forward with a "Made in China 2025" strategy to merge and reorganize SOEs in many key industries. Railways, nuclear power plants, auto and aircraft manufacturing, and shipbuilding are likely initial targets for consolidation. Rumors also are swirling about mergers of conglomerates in the oil and telecommunications industries. The restructuring plan, which is expected to be released by the end of the month and will be implemented by the Small Leading Group for State-Owned Enterprise Reform, is expected to create asset-holding companies (perhaps like Temasek in Singapore) to oversee China's shareholdings in the newly reorganized and consolidated companies and to ensure more economically competitive operations. China is also likely to open its doors to foreign investment as part of the plan, in industries in which foreign investors were never before allowed to participate.

Made in China 2025 was preceded by a pilot program last year, in which six large SOEs were tapped for reforms focusing on "mixed ownership" (i.e., partial privatization), transfers of management control away from political and policy-driven oversight and toward a capital management model focused purely on maximizing shareholder value, and board-centric (rather than centrally planned) appointment of senior management. This pilot program and the reforms announced this month are being viewed as a significant effort by China to make SOEs in key industries look more like − and be more internationally competitive with − Western multinationals through improved governance and increased efficiency.

The question this raises for companies seeking to ensure compliance with the FCPA and similar anti-corruption laws by their operations in China is whether consolidation of the 112 SOE portfolio currently managed by the Chinese government into 50 or fewer SOEs (as some believe is the goal) will improve transparency of government ownership or exacerbate current challenges in understanding just what businesses are owned or controlled, in whole or in part, by the government. Consolidation may bring comfort to compliance-responsible personnel, insofar as there will be fewer SOEs to track and a more recognizable management model with increased visibility into newly consolidated enterprises' ownership and level of government control. Such information could make due diligence efforts easier and more effective.

It is also possible that the restructuring plan will have a neutral or even negative effect, providing a less transparent view into a smaller number of now larger and more influential SOEs. Similarly, opening markets and enterprises to private investment, including foreign investment, could muddy the waters and make it more difficult to determine who or what owns or controls companies of varying sizes throughout various industries. That could be exacerbated as newly consolidated SOEs, or asset-holding companies managing portfolios of SOE investments, push investments into broad segments of the economy, creating an ever-expanding network of SOEs or SOE-affiliated entities through new public companies, joint ventures and even foreign subsidiaries. In that scenario, improved transparency at the consolidated SOE level may not carry forward to smaller entities, including otherwise private entities in which the Chinese government invests.

Regardless of the answer, there is no doubt that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will continue to scrutinize cases involving SOEs as "instrumentalities" of a foreign government (and therefore making any employee of an SOE a "foreign official" under the FCPA), especially in light of last year's Esquenazi decision. That is particularly true in China, which has been and remains a focal point for significant FCPA scrutiny − as evidenced by the roughly 40 companies that were actively investigating or under investigation for potential FCPA violations in China as of January 2015.

China's efforts to promote growth in its economy provide exciting opportunities for those wanting to invest in the country. But they are also an important reminder that China is, in many respects, a country apart in terms of the level and type of involvement its government has in individual companies and entire industries. Over the coming weeks, the Chinese government is expected to share additional details about Made in China 2025. Those announcements should help us understand how focused companies should be on the impact this latest round of SOE reform could have on China-related anti-corruption compliance efforts.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.