SEC Charges Willbros Group and Former Employees with Foreign Bribery

Washington, D.C., May 14, 2008 (Lawfuel) – The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed a settled enforcement action charging Willbros Group, Inc. and four former employees with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), alleging that they paid more than $6 million in undisclosed bribes to Nigerian government officials and others to obtain significant contracts for the Houston-based company.

Willbros Group has agreed to pay $10.3 million to settle the SEC’s charges, and the four other defendants also agreed to settle the charges against them without admitting or denying the allegations. The SEC’s complaint names Jason Steph, a former supervisory employee in Nigeria; Gerald Jansen, a former administrative supervisor in Nigeria; Lloyd Biggers, a former employee in Nigeria; and Carlos Galvez, a former accounting employee in Bolivia.

“This case demonstrates the Commission’s continued vigorous enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” said Rose Romero, Regional Director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office. “We will not allow companies to use illicit payments to alter the competitive balance of the marketplace, as alleged here.”

The anti-bribery provisions of FCPA prohibit corrupt payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business, and the corresponding accounting provisions in the federal securities laws require adequate disclosure of payments.

The SEC alleges that, beginning in at least 2003, Willbros Group engaged in a scheme to pay more than $6 million in undisclosed bribes to Nigerian government officials and employees of an operator of a joint venture majority-owned by the Nigerian government in order to obtain two significant contracts that resulted in net profits of nearly $9 million. The SEC’s complaint further alleges that Willbros Group and former employees used fabricated invoices to obtain cash from the company’s Houston headquarters to bribe Nigerian tax and court officials.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that Willbros Group and employees schemed to pay a $300,000 bribe to officials of an oil-and-gas company owned by the Ecuador government in order to obtain a $3 million contract, and implemented a fraudulent tax avoidance scheme in Bolivia that resulted in material misstatements in Willbros Group’s financial statements.

The SEC alleges that Willbros Group violated Sections 30A, 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 13a-1 and 13a-13 thereunder, as well as Section 17(a) of the Securities Act. Willbros Group has consented to the entry of a permanent injunction from future violations of these provisions and an order to pay $8.9 million disgorgement, plus $1.4 million in prejudgment interest.

The SEC alleges that Steph’s actions in Nigeria violated Sections 30A and 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Rule 13b2-1 thereunder, and aided and abetted violations of Sections 13(b)(2)(A), 13(b)(2)(B) and 30A of the Exchange Act. Steph consented to the entry of a permanent injunction from future violations of these provisions. Pursuant to the judgment, the court will determine later whether Steph will pay a penalty.

The SEC alleges that Jansen’s role in the Nigerian bribes violated Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Rule 13b2-1 thereunder and aided and abetted violations of Sections 13(b)(2)(A), 13(b)(2)(B) and 30A of the Exchange Act. He has consented to the entry of a permanent injunction from future violations of these provisions and to an order to pay a $30,000 civil penalty.

The SEC alleges that the conduct of Biggers in Nigeria violated Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Rule 13b2-1 thereunder and aided and abetted violations of Sections 13(b)(2)(A) and 30A of the Exchange Act. He has consented to the entry of a permanent injunction from future violations of these provisions.

The SEC alleges that the conduct of Galvez in Bolivia violated Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Rule 13b2-1 thereunder and aided and abetted violations of Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 13a-1 and 13a-13 thereunder. Galvez has consented to the entry of a permanent injunction from future violations of these provisions and an order to pay a $35,000 civil penalty.

In a related criminal proceeding, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a criminal Information and Deferred Prosecution Agreement in the Southern District of Texas relating to the criminal FCPA charges against Willbros Group and its subsidiary, Willbros International, Inc. (Willbros International). In that case, Willbros Group and Willbros International accepted responsibility for its employees that had violated the FCPA and agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $22 million. Pursuant to the Deferred Prosecution Agreement, the Department of Justice agreed to defer prosecution of these companies for three years and the companies agreed to retain for a period of three years an independent compliance monitor to assess the company’s implementation of and compliance with new internal policies and procedures. If Willbros Group and Willbros International abide by the terms of the agreement, the Department will dismiss the Information when the term of the agreement ends.

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