Anheuser-Busch InBev Settles FCPA Civil Charges with SEC, Including Charges of Improper Whistleblower Restrictions
On September 28, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) agreed to pay $6 million to the SEC to settle FCPA civil charges in connection with payments to government officials in India through third-party sales promoters. AB InBev entered into an Administrative Order Instituting Cease-and-Desist Proceedings to settle charges that it violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA. AB InBev did not admit or deny the charges.
According to the SEC’s Order, Belgium-based brewing company AB InBev made improper payments to Indian government officials via third-party sales promoters in order to obtain beer orders and increase brewery hours (which would increase sales and production). The Order found that AB InBev had inadequate internal accounting controls to detect and prevent these payments and to ensure that transactions were recorded properly.
The SEC’s Order also includes allegations that AB InBev violated Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions by impeding an individual from communicating directly with the SEC. The Order describes an individual who told AB InBev about the improper payments and thereafter entered into a Separation Agreement with AB InBev. This individual had previously been communicating voluntarily with the SEC about the improper payments in India. However, believing that language in the Separation Agreement impeded his communications with the SEC, the SEC alleged that the individual thereafter stopped communicating with the Commission until receiving a subpoena for testimony. According to the Order, the employee feared that communications with the SEC would trigger the liquidated damages provision of the agreement, requiring him to pay $250,000 for violating the deal’s confidentiality terms.