Originally published September 25, 2009
Keywords: Overseas bribery offenses, SFO,
corruption, Mabey & Johnson Ltd, illicit payments, criminal
charges, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FCPA
Mabey & Johnson Ltd, a British company which manufactures
bridge equipment, pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to a
series of corruption offenses committed overseas and is to pay a
total of £6.55m in connection with these offenses. On Friday
September 25, 2009 the company was ordered by the court to pay
£4.6m in fines and disgorgement of profits. In addition, the
company has undertaken to pay reparations to the affected
countries. It will also pay legal costs and the costs of an
independent compliance monitor to ensure it has appropriate systems
and controls in place going forward.
The company admitted that between 1994 and 2001 it bribed public
officials over a bridge and road project in Ghana and another
building contract in Jamaica. The company also admitted a separate
charge of making €422,000 of illicit payments to Saddam
Hussein's Iraqi regime between 2001 and 2002.
The court stressed that the fact that the company had
self-reported the problem to the SFO and then cooperated fully in
the investigation was the biggest mitigating factor in assessing
the level of fine to be imposed.
It is not yet known whether the SFO will bring criminal charges
against individual former directors of the company, but today's
court ruling does not preclude them from doing so.
This is the first prosecution by the SFO of a British company
for overseas corruption. It should be seen in the context of the
current drive by enforcement agencies, including the SFO, the City
of London Police Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit and the Financial
Services Authority, to be seen to be taking action against those
who engage in bribery as a method of winning foreign contracts.
The SFO wants companies to self-report
The decision voluntarily to disclose the corruption offenses to
the SFO was taken by the management of Mabey & Johnson's
holding company in February 2008 whereupon an investigation was
SFO Director Richard Alderman said, "These are serious
offenses and it is significant that Mabey & Johnson has
cooperated with us to get to this landmark point. This has enabled
this case to be dealt with in just over a year and is a model for
other companies who want to self report corruption and have it
dealt with quickly and fairly by the SFO."
The SFO is looking to encourage...