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Feds launch investigation of Net 1

South Africa-based Net 1 UEPS Technologies, Inc. said in an SEC filing that U.S. enforcement agencies are investigating possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Payments to South African government officials to win a contract with the Social Security Agency are the focus of the investigation launched by the SEC, DOJ and FBI.

Net 1 provides payment processing services. It does business in South Africa, Korea, and Europe, among others.

The company didn’t specify the size of the payments under investigation or if the contract might be cancelled.

Net 1 trades on Nasdaq under the symbol UEPS.

Its shares were down more than 50% on Tuesday in New York.

The company said it intends to cooperate with the investigations.

*     *     *

Net 1’s full FCPA disclosure in its Form 8-K filed with the SEC on December 4 said:

On November 30, 2012, we received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division (the “DOJ”) informing us that the DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have begun an investigation into whether Net 1 UEPS Technologies, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including their officers, directors, employees, and agents (collectively, “Net 1”) and other persons and entities possibly affiliated with Net 1 violated provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other U.S. federal criminal laws by engaging in a scheme to make corrupt payments to officials of the Government of South Africa in connection with securing a contract with the South African Social Security Agency to provide social welfare and benefits payments and also engaged in violations of the federal securities laws in connection with statements made by Net 1 in its SEC filings regarding this contract. On the same date, we received a letter from the Division of Enforcement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) advising us that it is also conducting an investigation concerning our company. The SEC letter states that the investigation is a non-public, fact-finding inquiry.

We intend to cooperate fully with the DOJ and the SEC regarding these investigations. We are unable to predict what action, if any, might be taken in the future by either the DOJ or the SEC as a result of the matters that are the subject of these investigations or what impact, if any, this announcement and the existence of these investigations may have on our relations with SASSA, the Net1 BEE option transaction, our financial position, our results of operations and cash flows, our intended business strategies or our share price.

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  1. I'm a former Net1 employee and have no information as to whether this investigation will find anything. I was wondering, what percentage of DOJ investigations under FCPA lead to a successful prosection? I.e. what is the probability that where there's smoke, there's fire?

  2. The DOJ and SEC do not publish any information about pending investigations. Also, they do not release data about how many investigations do not result in enforcement actions — i.e., so-called declinations. The lack of transparency is frustrating. And it means no one (outside the SEC and DOJ) knows what percentage of investigations end up as declinations or enforcement actions.

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