The week in GRC: Société Générale settles US sanctions allegations, and J Crew CEO steps down

Nov 21, 2018
This week’s governance, compliance and risk-management stories from around the web

The New York Times reported that Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn was arrested on Monday after an internal company investigation alleged he had underreported his compensation to the Japanese financial authorities for several years. Nissan said it was co-operating with Japanese prosecutors, and that it had opened its inquiry after a whistleblower alleged Ghosn had been misrepresenting his salary as well as using company assets for personal use. Both he and a director, Greg Kelly, who was also accused of misconduct, were taken in by authorities, the company said.

Earlier in the day, Nissan had said Ghosn and Kelly had been involved in misconduct and recommended that both be removed from their positions. Neither Ghosn nor Kelly could be reached for comment. ‘Nissan deeply apologizes for causing great concern to our shareholders and stakeholders,’ the company said.

– According to CNN, J Crew CEO Jim Brett is stepping down after less than two years in the job. The company said Brett was leaving because of a disagreement with the board of directors over how to ‘evolve’ J Crew. Four senior executives will share CEO responsibilities. Brett took over last July from veteran CEO Mickey Drexler, who led the company for 14 years after a stint at Gap. Brett came to J Crew from West Elm.

CNBC reported that General Electric named retired executive John Rice as chair of its gas power business. GE said during its third quarter earnings that it would divide the power division into two units: GE Gas Power and GE Power Portfolio. Rice will serve as chair of the former. The company also announced that Scott Strazik, president of GE’s power services business, will serve as CEO of GE Gas Power and GE Power CEO Russell Stokes will shift to become CEO of the reorganized GE Power Portfolio.

– The SEC named Kurt Gottschall director of the agency’s Denver regional office. Gottschall began working in the division of enforcement in the Denver office in 2000 as a staff attorney before becoming a branch chief in 2003 and an assistant regional director in 2010. From 2012 to 2016, he was a supervisor in the asset management unit, which focuses on misconduct by investment advisers and investment companies. In 2016 he was named associate regional director for enforcement in the Denver office.

As director of the Denver office, Gottschall will lead a team of more than 100 enforcement attorneys, accountants, investigators and compliance examiners.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Société Générale agreed to pay $1.34 billion in penalties to settle allegations by US and New York state authorities that the bank had processed and concealed billions of dollars in transactions related to countries under sanctions. New York regulators said Société Générale conducted transactions involving parties in Iran, Cuba and Sudan between 2003 and 2013. Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, said the bank engaged in more than 2,500 transactions valued at roughly $13 billion from 2004 to 2010. The transactions violated US sanctions laws, authorities said. The total penalty amount is the second-largest imposed on a financial institution for violations of US sanctions, according to federal prosecutors.

Société Générale CEO Frédéric Oudéa said in a statement that the bank regrets the shortcomings identified in the settlements. The bank co-operated with authorities and has taken a number of steps in recent years to enhance its sanctions and anti-money-laundering compliance programs, Oudéa said.

– The WSJ reported that, according to people familiar with the matter, drugstore owner Walgreens Boots Alliance and health insurer Humana are in preliminary discussions to take equity stakes in each other, as companies in the healthcare industry look for tie-ups that will help them compete in a rapidly changing environment.

The companies, which already have a partnership focused on serving seniors from two Walgreens locations, are having wide-ranging talks that also include the possibility of expanding that venture, the people said. There is no guarantee there will be any new deal between the companies. The talks come nearly a year after CVS Health Corp announced a $69 billion deal to buy insurer Aetna. The proposed acquisition is aimed at securing new avenues for growth for the pharmacy company and capturing more of what consumers spend on healthcare.

 

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