Cobalt International Energy Targeted in SEC FCPA Inquiry
Houston-based Cobalt International Energy, Inc. said in an August 5, 2014 securities filing that it received a Wells Notice in connection with the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation of its oil-exploration operations in Angola. The Company stated in its filing that due to the SEC's investigation and recommendation, it may be "exposed to liabilities under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act." Wells Notices indicate that the staff of the SEC has made a preliminary determination to recommend an enforcement action alleging violations of certain federal securities laws. According to Cobalt's 2013 10-K filing, the SEC first began an informal inquiry of the company in March 2011 which was later joined by the Department of Justice. In April 2012, as first reported by the Financial Times, allegations surfaced that three Angolan officials, including the head of the country's state-owned oil company and two military generals, held shares in Nazaki Oil and Gáz, the local partner in a Cobalt-led deepwater oil venture launched in early 2010. The government officials admitted owning shares in the joint venture but denied using their influence to award Cobalt oil-exploration rights in Angola. The company has previously "strongly refuted" allegations of wrongdoing and has said it was forced to enter into a joint venture with two Angolan-based oil exploration and production companies as part of its deal with the Angolan government.