Just so you don’t think that all of the anti-bribery exposure is in the US or the UK, France and the US recently announced their first joint investigation and prosecution.
Total, S.A., a French oil and gas company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange, has agreed to pay a $245.2 million monetary penalty to resolve charges related to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with illegal payments made through third parties to a government official in Iran to obtain valuable oil and gas concessions.
As part of the agreed resolution, the US DOJ filed a criminal complaint in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia charging Total with one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, one count of violating the internal controls provision of the FCPA, and one count of violating the books and records provision of the FCPA. The department and Total agreed to resolve the charges by entering into a deferred prosecution agreement for a term of three years. In addition to the monetary penalty, Total also agreed to cooperate with the department and foreign law enforcement to retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for a period of three years and to continue to implement an enhanced compliance program and internal controls designed to prevent and detect FCPA violations.
In addition, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) entered into a cease-and-desist order against Total in which the company agreed to pay an additional $153 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest. Total also agreed with the SEC to comply with certain undertakings regarding its FCPA compliance program, including the retention of a compliance consultant.
As part of the joint investigation, French enforcement authorities announced that they had requested that Total, Total’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and two additional individuals be referred to the Criminal Court for violations of French law, including France’s foreign bribery law.
In sum, between 1995 and 2004, at the direction of an Iranian official, Total corruptly made approximately $60 million in bribe payments under agreements for the purpose of inducing the Iranian official to use his influence in connection with Total’s efforts to obtain and retain lucrative oil rights. Total mis-characterized the unlawful payments as “business development expenses” when they were, in fact, bribes designed to corruptly influence a foreign official. Further, Total failed to implement effective internal accounting controls, permitting the consulting agreements’ true nature and true participants to be concealed and thereby failing to maintain accountability for assets.
Expect to see more of this kind of joint cooperation as more countries get together to go after global violators.