Company to Pay More Than $137 Million to Settle SEC and DOJ Charges
Washington, D.C., Dec. 27, 2010 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Paris-based telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent, S.A. with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to foreign government officials to illicitly win business in Latin America and Asia.
The SEC alleges that Alcatel’s subsidiaries used consultants who performed little or no legitimate work to funnel more than $8 million in bribes to government officials in order to obtain or retain lucrative telecommunications contracts and other contracts. Alcatel agreed to pay more than $45 million to settle the SEC’s charges, and pay an additional $92 million to settle criminal charges announced today by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Alcatel and its subsidiaries failed to detect or investigate numerous red flags suggesting their employees were directing sham consultants to provide gifts and payments to foreign government officials to illegally win business,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Alcatel’s bribery scheme was the product of a lax corporate control environment at the company.”
Glenn S. Gordon, Associate Director for Enforcement in the SEC’s Miami Regional Office, added, “The serious sanctions Alcatel has agreed to, including paying back all net profits made on the contracts Alcatel illegally obtained, should serve as a reminder that we are committed to enforcing the FCPA and a level playing field for companies seeking to obtain or retain business in other countries.”
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida, Alcatel’s bribes went to government officials in Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia, and Taiwan between December 2001 and June 2006. An Alcatel subsidiary provided at least $14.5 million to consulting firms through sham consulting agreements for use in the bribery scheme in Costa Rica. Various high-level government officials in Costa Rica received at least $7 million of the $14.5 million to ensure Alcatel obtained or retained three contracts to provide telephone services in Costa Rica.
The SEC alleges that the same Alcatel subsidiary bribed officials in the government of Honduras to obtain or retain five telecommunications contracts. Another Alcatel subsidiary made bribery payments to Malaysian government officials in order to procure a telecommunications contract. An Alcatel subsidiary also made illegal payments to various officials in the government of Taiwan to win a contract to supply railway axle counters to the Taiwan Railway Administration.
According to the SEC’s complaint, all of the bribery payments were undocumented or improperly recorded as consulting fees in the books of Alcatel’s subsidiaries and then consolidated into Alcatel’s financial statements. The leaders of several Alcatel subsidiaries and geographical regions, including some who reported directly to Alcatel’s executive committee, either knew or were severely reckless in not knowing about the misconduct.
The SEC’s complaint charges that Alcatel violated Section 30A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by making illicit payments to foreign government officials, through its subsidiaries and agents, in order to obtain or retain business. Alcatel violated Section 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act by failing to have adequate internal controls to detect and prevent the payments. Alcatel violated Section 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act by improperly recording the payments in its books and records. Alcatel violated Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act when its subsidiaries knowingly failed to implement a system of internal controls and knowingly falsified their books and records to camouflage bribes as consulting payments. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Alcatel has consented to a court order permanently enjoining it from future violations of these statutory provisions; ordering the company to pay $45.372 million in disgorgement of wrongfully obtained profits, and ordering it to comply with certain undertakings including an independent monitor for a three-year term. The settlement is subject to court approval.
The SEC’s case was investigated by Ernesto Palacios and Thierry Olivier Desmet of the Division of Enforcement’s FCPA Unit and by Teresa J. Verges and Fernando Torres – all of the Miami Regional Office.
The SEC acknowledges and appreciates assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice, Fraud Section; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Office of the Attorney General in Costa Rica, the Fiscalía de Delitos Económicos, Corrupción y Tributarios in Costa Rica; and the Service Central de Prévention de la Corruption in France.
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