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SAP’s Settling of Bribery Allegations

Author: Dr. Angelika Hellweger  22 January 2024

Angelika Hellweger of Rahman Ravelli details how accusations against the software company have been resolved.

German software company SAP will pay $222 million to settle bribery allegations relating to its activities in seven countries.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that SAP has entered a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) to resolve criminal charges that it conspired to bribe government officials in Indonesia and South Africa to gain business.  

The company has also reached a civil settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding allegations relating to these two countries as well as Azerbaijan, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania.

Under a DPA, a company admits the charges but the prosecution is suspended for a set period of time – in this case, three years – and will never go ahead if the company complies with the authorities and meets specific conditions. The DOJ said that SAP will pay a $118.8 million criminal fine and a $103.4 million forfeiture.

In accepting its responsibility, the company said it welcomed the two settlements and a related settlement with South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority. It added that it had “separated from all responsible parties" more than five years ago.

The alleged bribery was conducted from 2013 to 2022. SAP's records were falsified so that bribes were recorded as legitimate business expenses. In one 2015 incident, SAP South Africa footed the bill for government officials' trips to New York, so it could secure a $13.2 million contract with the city of Johannesburg.

SAP is not a first-time offender when it comes to breaching ethnical business practices. In 2021, SAP resolved DOJ charges for $8 million over sanctions violations regarding software sales to prohibited customers in Iran. The company settled charges with the SEC in 2016 concerning Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations relating to a former executive’s scheme to bribe Panama government officials to gain contracts. It paid nearly $3.9 million to settle those charges.

The DOJ said SAP had received credit in this latest settlement for improving its compliance measures and internal controls, changing its sales commission structure, disciplining the employees involved and cooperating with the investigation by promptly producing documents. SAP began cooperating as soon as allegations were made in South African media in 2017.

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Dr. Angelika Hellweger

Legal Director

angelika.hellweger@rahmanravelli.co.uk
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Angelika is a specialist in international, high-level economic crime investigations and large-scale commercial disputes. She has widely-recognised expertise in representing corporates and conglomerates in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and United States.

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