Liquor maker Beam Suntory Inc. will pay $8.2 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of alleged violations of accounting provisions of the main U.S. antibribery law, the parties said Monday.
The company, which Japan’s Suntory Holdings Ltd. acquired in 2014, neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing in the SEC agreement. Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam bourbon, and Courvoisier cognac, are among Beam Suntory’s brands.
Beam Suntory disclosed in 2012 that it had begun an investigation of practices at its Indian operation, saying at the time that it had informed the SEC and the Department of Justice of the probe. The department and commission are both responsible for enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act., which bars bribing foreign officials to win, or keep, a business advantage.
“We are pleased this matter with the SEC has been concluded and we look forward to the future of our India business with confidence,” said Matt Shattock, the company’s chief executive officer.
Beam Suntory, previously known as Beam Inc., said it is cooperating with an ongoing Justice Department investigation. The department declined to comment.
Third parties hired by Beam’s Indian subsidiary made illicit payments from at least 2006 until 2012 to government officials to increase sales and clear regulatory hurdles, the SEC alleged. Those third parties were paid via falsified invoices, leading Beam India–and ultimately, Beam Inc.–to falsely record expenses in their books.
In addition, in 2011, a third-party bottler paid an Indian official about 1 million rupees ($18,000), the equivalent of a year’s salary, to approve the registration of a product Beam was trying to launch in India, the SEC said. Beam officials in Australia approved the payment and reimbursed the bottler, the commission said.
Beam Suntory said in its statement it had fired staff involved in the wrongdoing, temporarily voluntarily suspended the operations of the Indian business and worked to enhance its compliance program.
The company agreed to pay the government about $5.3 million gained via its wrongdoing, roughly $917,000 in interest and a civil penalty of $2 million, the SEC said.