Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Swiss authorities probe oil-services firm SBM offshore over bribery allegations


Oil-services firm SBM Offshore NV is facing an investigation by the Swiss government into bribery allegations that the company said it has already paid hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve in three other countries.

Amsterdam-based SBM Offshore said Monday that three of its subsidiaries had received notice of a probe by Swiss prosecutors who are investigating whether the subsidiaries failed to implement measures to prevent corrupt payments between 2005 and 2012.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland confirmed the investigation in a statement.

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The Swiss probe underscores the risks posed to companies by the proliferation of anti-bribery laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Even highly coordinated settlements resolving allegations of wrongdoing in multiple countries don’t prevent law enforcement agencies in other countries from opening their own subsequent investigations—sometimes years later.

The latest SBM Offshore probe is related to allegations that it has resolved in the U.S., Brazil and the Netherlands, according to the company. SBM Offshore this month concluded a three-year reporting requirement imposed under a 2017 deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over bribery violations across three continents, the company said.

In that settlement, SBM Offshore admitted to violating the FCPA by paying more than $180 million in commissions to intermediaries from 1996 to at least 2012, knowing that a portion of the payments would be used to bribe public officials. It agreed to pay $238 million in penalties in the U.S.

Before the U.S. settlement, SBM Offshore in 2014 resolved related bribery allegations with Dutch prosecutors, paying $200 million in disgorged profits and a $40 million fine. It also reached settlements with Brazilian authorities in 2018.

Erik Lagendijk, SBM Offshore’s chief governance and compliance officer, said the company would engage with Swiss public prosecutors for clarification on the latest probes.

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“The completion of our reporting to the Department of Justice marks the strength of the control measures the Company put in place,” Mr. Lagendijk said in a statement. “We did not expect this development in Switzerland as Swiss authorities have been involved in the matter from the time of the settlement in the Netherlands in 2014.”

The Swiss Attorney General’s Office on Monday said its investigation was linked to prior criminal proceedings against a former senior SBM Offshore executive. Swiss prosecutors didn’t identify the former executive in the statement. A Swiss court in July found the executive guilty of paying bribes to Angolan officials between 2005 and 2008, according to a court judgment.

Source – WSJ


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