16 December 2020
Azizur Rahman of business crime specialists Rahman Ravelli emphasises the risks associated with operating in multiple jurisdictions.
Oil services firm SBM Offshore NV is being investigated by Swiss authorities over bribery allegations that it has already paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle in three countries.
The Netherlands-based company has said that three of its subsidiaries are under investigation regarding a failure to implement measures to prevent corrupt payments from 2005 to 2012. These allegations have been resolved in the US, Brazil and the Netherlands.
SBM Offshore has just concluded a three-year reporting requirement imposed under a 2017 deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) that it reached with the US Department of Justice, regarding bribery offences on three continents.
In the DPA, SBM Offshore admitted breaching the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying more than $180 million in commissions to intermediaries for at least 16 years from 1996, knowing that some of it would be used to bribe public officials. It agreed to pay a $238 million penalty.
In 2014, it settled related bribery allegations with Dutch authorities, paying $200 million in disgorged profits and a $40 million penalty. Four years later, it reached settlements with authorities in Brazil.
The news of an investigation by the Swiss authorities into alleged corrupt payments by SBM Offshore subsidiaries will be far from welcome news for the company. It may have thought that the resolutions reached with the US, Brazilian and Dutch authorities were the end of a long and painful road.
But the latest investigation to be faced by the company highlights the dangers faced by multinational corporates who operate in different jurisdictions across the globe. No matter where a settlement is reached, if another authority suspects a breach of their own laws in relation to the alleged wrongdoing then they will also be keen to take action - whenever they believe it is appropriate.
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