By Marcela Blanco, Partner, and Javier Coronado, Associate Attorney, DRT Colombia.
DRT Colombia is well-known for its white collar, compliance, and corporate practices. Our team of bilingual attorneys certified in anti-money laundering and qualified in Colombia and the U.S. represents individuals and corporations in matters involving criminal law, fraud, corruption, money laundering laws, and economic sanctions. We also represent clients from various industries in capitalizations, entity selection and formation, operating and partnership agreements, securities, contracts and governance matters. The Firm also conducts internal investigations and assessments for clients with concerns that their business practices or certain specific transactions may violate international, U.S. and Colombian legal standards, regulations, and best practices. The Firm identifies, isolates, and corrects the questionable transactions and practices; and further develops enhanced corporate governance programs to avoid repeat violations. Our Firm stands out among the rest because it brings to its practice legal experience in the U.S. and Colombia. The Firm also provides access to an international network of attorneys, experts, and private investigators, including a team of former U.S. prosecutors and government agents, and Board-Certified lawyers in international, criminal, and immigration law. With the support of its global network of experts, the Firm is also ready to navigate the rules and dynamics of highly specialized industries and disciplines. Further, the Firm is knowledgeable in handling complex and multi-jurisdictional proceedings, including non-criminal parallel law enforcement actions.
Against this backdrop, the 2020 was a very busy year for our law firm, especially since the legal departments of our corporate clients were required to face the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19. Additionally, the Colombian Government released new compliance guidance to enhance its efforts against corruption and money laundering.
ADDITIONAL COMPLIANCE RISKS
With the Colombian Government allocating significant resources via expedited public procurement processes, the risk of corruption dramatically increased in Colombia. Critically, as pressures grew on sales representatives, consultants, and distributors to keep businesses afloat, individuals received additional incentives to bribe government officials. Not surprisingly, in 2020 Colombian law enforcement agencies launched a number of Government investigations targeting companies for participating in the misappropriation of emergency COVID-19 funds, collusion, opaque contracts, and overpricing, as well as for engaging in the fraudulent purchase of ventilators, masks and other medical supplies.
Moreover, this year companies in Colombia were besieged by criminals impersonating government agencies, international organizations, and healthcare facilities to solicit donations, steal personal information, or distribute malware (imposter scams); fraudsters misrepresenting that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure the coronavirus (investment scams); companies selling unapproved or misbranded products that make false claims pertaining to COVID-19 or fraudulently marketing COVID-19-related supplies (product scams); individuals and entities stockpiling items in high demand to sell them at extremely high prices online and in person (price gouging); and insiders conducting transactions based on, or tipping others with, material non-public information about the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the financial performance of shares (insider trading).