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Cross-Border Bribery Investigations

A UK firm is paying to settle US charges relating to alleged bribery in Iraq. Nicola Sharp of Rahman Ravelli explains why the payment does not prevent a prosecution for the same offences being brought outside of the US.

A UK-based oil and gas services company has agreed to pay $5.1M to settle foreign bribery charges.

TechnipFMC PLC has also agreed to improve its compliance procedures under the deal with the US securities regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The deal was reached after charges were brought because of $794,000 in payments made between 2008 and 2013 by FMC Technologies Inc - a predecessor company to TechnipFMC - to an unnamed third-party consultant. The consultant used those funds to bribe Iraqi government officials to try and win contracts.

London-based TechnipFMC was formed in 2017 through a merger between Technip SA and FMC Technologies. The $5.1M payment is the amount the company gained from the operating the scheme, according to the SEC.

The agreement comes three months after TechnipFMC said it would pay about $300M to settle joint bribery probes by prosecutors in the US and Brazil and added that it was cooperating with an investigation by French prosecutors into the company’s work in Equatorial Guinea and Ghana.

The SEC said that the company overlooked “numerous red flags” in paying the consultant without seeing evidence of services rendered and that it did not have adequate internal accounting controls to spot illicit payments.

In cases such as TechnipFMC it is important to note that prosecution – or settling of allegations - in the US does not necessarily mean there could not be a UK investigation. As the Bribery Act covers the activities carried out anywhere in the world by any company with a UK connection, TechnipFMC could have been prosecuted in the UK.

Under the UK Bribery Act 2010, it is an offence (under Section 1) to offer, promise to pay or to pay a bribe and an offence (under Section 2) to request, accept or agree to accept a bribe. There are also the offences of bribing foreign officials (Section 6) and failure to prevent bribery: Section 7 of the Act states that a commercial organisation will be found guilty of a bribery offence if a person associated with the organisation has been found guilty of bribing another individual. 

In situations where investigations are being carried out by authorities in a number of countries, it is worthwhile taking legal advice on exactly how – and in what order – to manage those investigations. Read our guide: Multi-Agency And Multi-Jurisdictional Investigations - The Importance Of Coordinating Your Response.

This article was also featured on Lexology and can be viewed here.

Nicola Sharp

Nicola Sharp

Legal Director

+44 (0)203 910 4567 vCard

Specialist Areas of Practice: International Regulation and Corporate Crime, Fraud and Business Crime, Civil Fraud, Corporate Investigations

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