Chilean Chemical Company Settles FCPA Charges With SEC and DOJ
On January 13, Chilean chemical and mining company Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile, S.A. (SQM) agreed to pay nearly $30.5 million to resolve criminal and civil FCPA charges in connection with payments to politically-connected individuals in Chile. SQM admitted that, from at least 2008 to 2015, it made approximately $15 million in payments to Chilean politicians, political candidates, and individuals connected to them. Many of the payments violated Chilean tax law and/or campaign finance limits and were not supported by documentation. Rather, SQM made many of these payments to third-party vendors associated with the politically-connected individuals based on fictitious contracts and invoices for non-existent services. SQM falsely recorded many of these payments in its books and records.
SQM agreed to a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the DOJ, including a $15,487,500 criminal penalty, and agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor for two years. The criminal penalty reflected a 25 percent discount from the low end of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range due to the company’s full cooperation and substantial remediation. SQM also agreed to pay a $15 million penalty to the SEC pursuant to an Administrative Order Instituting Cease-and-Desist Proceedings to settle the SEC’s charges that the company violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA.
This settlement demonstrates the jurisdictional-reach of the U.S. government in enforcing the FCPA. SQM, a Chilean company with no U.S. operations, agreed to settle both the SEC’s and DOJ’s charges even though the entirety of the conduct occurred outside of the United States and was committed by foreign nationals. The only tie to the United States referenced in the SEC and DOJ settlement papers is that SQM is registered with the SEC as a foreign private issuer (its Series B shares have been listed on the NYSE since 1993).