Friday, February 24, 2012
The SEC charged three oil services executives with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by participating in a bribery scheme to obtain illicit permits for oil rigs in Nigeria in order to retain business under lucrative drilling contracts. According to the SEC's complaint, former Noble Corporation CEO Mark A. Jackson, along with James J. Ruehlen, who is the current Director and Division Manager of Noble’s subsidiary in Nigeria, bribed customs officials to process false paperwork purporting to show the export and re-import of oil rigs, when in fact the rigs never moved. The scheme was designed to save Noble Corporation from losing business and incurring significant costs associated with exporting rigs from Nigeria and then re-importing them under new permits. Bribes were paid through a customs agent for Noble’s Nigerian subsidiary with Jackson and Ruehlen’s approval.
The SEC separately charged Thomas F. O’Rourke, who was a former controller and head of internal audit at Noble. The SEC alleges that O’Rourke helped approve the bribe payments and allowed the bribes to be booked improperly as legitimate operating expenses for the company. O’Rourke agreed to settle the SEC’s charges and pay a penalty.Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, O’Rourke consented to entry of a court order requiring him to pay a $35,000 penalty and permanently enjoining him from further violations of Sections 13(b)(2)(A), 13(b)(2)(B), 13(b)(5) and 30A of the Exchange Act and Rule 13b2-1.
Noble Corporation was charged with FCPA violations as part of a sweep of the oil services industry in late 2010. The company cooperated with investigators and agreed to pay more than $8 million to settle civil and criminal cases.