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On September 27, 2018, the DOJ announced that Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned oil company, had entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ, as well as settlement agreements with the SEC and Brazilian authorities, and agreed to pay a total $853.2 million in penalties to all jurisdictions. Under the terms of the settlement, DOJ and SEC will each receive 10 percent of the penalty amount, with Brazilian authorities receiving the remaining 80 percent.
As part of the settlement, Petrobras admitted that its Executive Board members “were involved in facilitating and directing millions of dollars in corrupt payments to politicians and political parties in Brazil,” while directors were “involved in facilitating bribes that a major Petrobras contractor was paying to Brazilian politicians.” The conduct included bribes related to several refineries, as well as shipyard and drillship contracts, as well as payments to “stop a parliamentary inquiry into Petrobras contracts.”
Petrobras’ penalty reflects a 25 percent discount off the low end of the applicable U.S. Sentencing Guidelines due to its cooperation and remediation. While the company did not voluntary disclose its conduct, it cooperated with authorities by disclosing the findings of its internal investigation, providing document discovery, and facilitating the interview of foreign witnesses. It also took remedial measures by replacing its Board of Directors and Executive Board, as well as implementing reforms in its policies and procedures.
In addition to the criminal penalty, the SEC announced that Petrobras agreed to an administrative order requiring it to pay almost $1 billion in disgorgement and prejudgment interest. However, Petrobras received full credit for payments it already made to resolve a class action for $2.95 billion earlier this year. The net result is that Petrobras will not have to pay any additional funds to the SEC in the separate disgorgement action.
Prior ScoreCard coverage of the Petrobras and related investigations can be found here.
On December 22, 2017, Singapore-based shipyard operator and shipping vessel repair company Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd. (KOM), and its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, agreed to pay a combined total penalty of $422 million to resolve foreign bribery charges by the DOJ. Authorities in the United States, Brazil, and Singapore alleged that the companies engaged in a decade-long scheme to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Brazil, including those of state-owned oil company Petrobras. As part of the resolution, KOM entered into a deferred prosecution agreement while its U.S. subsidiary, KOM USA, pleaded guilty, as did a former senior member of KOM’s legal department. The settlement is one of the largest FCPA enforcement penalties and also represents DOJ’s first coordinated FCPA resolution with Singapore. The settlement represents a 25 percent reduction off the bottom of the applicable U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range due to substantial cooperation by the companies with the investigation and the taking of remedial measures, including disciplining employees and implementing an enhanced compliance system.
On January 3, 2018, Petrobras announced that it has agreed to pay $2.95 billion to resolve the securities class action pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York regarding the company’s well-known corruption scandal in Brazil. The class action claimed that investors were harmed by alleged corruption when contractors overcharged Petrobras and kicked back some of the overcharges through bribes to Petrobras officials. Under the proposed settlement, Petrobras has agreed to pay the funds in three installments. The agreement does not constitute any admission of wrongdoing or misconduct by Petrobras and Petrobras claims that this reflects its status as a victim of the acts uncovered in Operation Car Wash, as the corruption investigation in Brazil is known. The settlement agreement is still subject to approval by the District Court.
Past ScoreCard coverage related to the Petrobras corruption allegations and investigation can be found here.
On September 14, Braskem SA, a Brazilian petrochemical company, agreed to pay its U.S. investors $10 million for concealing its role in a corruption scandal involving Petrobras. The settlement resolves a 2015 lawsuit brought by U.S. investors against Braskem, which alleged the company had misled investors into believing its operations were legitimate. The settlement follows the December 2016 guilty plea by the company and its affiliated construction firm Odebrecht SA to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Together, the companies agreed to pay $3.5 billion in a combined global settlement with U.S., Brazilian, and Swiss authorities.
On December 21, Brazilian construction company Odebrecht S.A. and its petrochemical affiliate, Braskem S.A., reached a $3.5 billion combined global settlement with U.S., Brazilian, and Swiss authorities to resolve FCPA allegations, in which both companies agreed to plead guilty in the U.S. to conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The DOJ alleged that the companies operated an extremely broad and profitable global bribery scheme, including creating an internal bribery department to systematically pay hundreds of millions of dollars to corrupt government officials around the world from 2001 to 2016. The companies attempted to conceal the bribes by disguising the source and disbursement of bribe payments by passing funds through a series of shell companies and by using off-shore bank accounts. While the scheme in large part involved bribes paid to Petrobras and Brazilian officials, it also included government officials in numerous other South and Central American countries, and in Africa.
Odebrecht agreed to an overall criminal fine of $4.5 billion, but based on its representation of its ability to pay, may end up paying only $2.6 billion. Ten percent of the criminal fine was earmarked for the U.S., with the remainder to Brazil (80%) and Switzerland (10%). The DOJ faulted Odebrecht for failing to voluntarily disclose the conduct, but granted full cooperation credit based on Odebrecht’s actions once it started to deal with the government. As part of its own related resolution, Braskem agreed to pay over $632 million in criminal fines, with the vast majority ($443 million) going to Brazil, and 15%, or $94.8 million, to each of the DOJ and Switzerland. Braskem also agreed to disgorge $325 million, with $65 million going to the SEC and the rest to Brazil. The DOJ noted Braskem’s failure to voluntarily disclose the conduct, and granted only partial cooperation credit due to Braskem’s failure to turn over any evidence from its internal investigation until seven months after it first talked to the DOJ. Both Odebrecht and Braskem agreed to engage independent compliance monitors for at least three years
The resolution is, by far, the largest FCPA resolution ever, with the bulk of the money going to Brazil in apparent recognition of the heavy lifting done by Brazilian prosecutors.
Prior Scorecard coverage of the ongoing Petrobras investigations can be found here.
On January 22, 2016, the Ministerio Publico Federal (MPF), Brazil's Public Prosecutor's Office, reportedly entered into a settlement with Dutch drilling company SBM Offshore's CEO and a member of its supervisory board, resolving misdemeanor allegations apparently tied to the ongoing Petrobras probe in Brazil. If the settlement is approved by the Brazilian judge handling the case, both individuals will be fined approximately $60,000 each, with no admission of guilt. SBM Offshore stated in response that while it "believes that accepting the settlement offers a pragmatic opportunity to expeditiously resolve this matter that avoids long and costly legal proceedings," it remains of the opinion that the accusations are without merit and that it stands behind both individuals. While SBM Offshore declined to comment on the specific accusations of misconduct in this case, the settlement comes a little over a year after SBM Offshore resolved an enforcement action in the Netherlands involving alleged bribes in Angola, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea between 2007 and 2011. Click here to view previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of SBM Offshore and Brazil's Petrobras investigation.
On December 21, Brazilian officials charged twelve individuals with corruption-related offenses in connection with a probe into the relationship between Petrobras and Dutch oilfield company SBM Offshore N.V. Those charged include several former SBM Offshore executives, former SBM Offshore sales agents, and several former Petrobras executives. News reports state that the charges center on $46 million in allegedly corrupt payments made between 1998 and 2012. On December 17, SBM Offshore issued a statement that referred to ongoing discussions with Brazils Comptroller Generals Office and Attorney Generals Office to reach a settlement agreement and to secure disclosure of information relevant to the ongoing investigation into Petrobras. Brazils actions follow SBM Offshores prior settlement with Dutch authorities over allegations that it bribed officials in Brazil, Angola, and Equitorial Guinea; SBM Offshore agreed to pay the Dutch Public Prosecutors Office $240 million as part of the settlement. The company also had announced the conclusion of the DOJs investigation into the matters resolved with the Dutch. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of SBM Offshore settlement and the Petrobas investigation can be found here and here.
On August 4, Vantage Drilling Company, an international offshore drilling contractor, acknowledged that an overseas agent had entered into plea discussions with Brazilian authorities and provided evidence in the ongoing corruption investigation focused on Petrobras. Vantage acknowledged that the agent had purportedly provided evidence related to a former director of Vantage and Petrobras. The company disclosed that it had opened an internal investigation and self-reported the matter to the DOJ and the SEC. The Brazilian corruption investigations into Petrobras and its affiliates and counterparties continue to expand with no end in sight, and the expected related U.S. investigations are beginning to be disclosed.
SBM Offshore Settles Corruption Investigation with Dutch and U.S. Authorities as Investigation Widens in Brazil
On November 12, Dutch oilfield company SBM Offshore N.V. announced that it had agreed to pay $240 million to the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office to resolve an investigation into allegedly corrupt payments made to win contracts in several countries around the world. SBM also stated that the U.S. Department of Justice had simultaneously closed its investigation into the same matter, but news reports indicated that Brazilian and U.S. authorities were investigating payments made by SBM to Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned oil company. The investigation in Brazil is part of a widening investigation into various allegations of corruption involving Petrobras, which has portrayed itself as a victim rather than perpetrator of misconduct. As to SBM Offshore, the Department of Justice's apparent willingness to accept the company's resolution with Dutch authorities is an encouraging indication that U.S. authorities are increasingly cognizant of the need to avoid imposing "double jeopardy" on multinationals. Moreover, while the Netherlands were termed as having "little or no enforcement" in Transparency International's recent "Exporting Corruption -- Progress Report 2014: Assessing Enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Foreign Bribery," this action seems certain to change perceptions about Dutch anti-corruption enforcement activity.
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