Thursday, November 4, 2010
The SEC announced settlements with global freight forwarding company Panalpina, Inc. and six other companies in the oil services industry that violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials to receive preferential treatment and improper benefits during the customs process. The SEC alleged that the companies bribed customs officials in more than 10 countries in exchange for such perks as avoiding applicable customs duties on imported goods, expediting the importation of goods and equipment, extending drilling contracts, and lowering tax assessments. The companies also paid bribes to obtain false documentation related to temporary import permits for oil drilling rigs, and enable the release of drilling rigs and other equipment from customs officials.
The SEC's cases were coordinated with the U.S. Department of Justice's Fraud Section, and the sanctions to be paid by the companies under the settlements total $236.5 million. This is the first sweep of a particular industrial sector in order to crack down on public companies and third parties who are paying bribes abroad.
Without admitting or denying the allegations, the companies agreed to settle the SEC's charges against them by paying approximately $80 million in disgorgement, interest, and penalties. The companies agreed to pay fines of $156.5 million to settle the criminal proceedings with DOJ.