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GSK responding to inquiries from SFO, DOJ, and SEC regarding its use of third party advisors in China
In a securities filing on Wednesday, Feb. 7, U.K.-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline PLC (“GSK”) announced that it is responding to requests for information from the DOJ and SEC regarding third-party advisors that GSK engaged in China. These requests came about after GSK, pursuant to its continuing obligation to report to the SEC on its efforts to improve compliance following its September 2016 settlement of allegations that it violated the FCPA, informed the SEC and DOJ that the SFO had sought additional information in the course of its own investigation, which began in May 2014. GSK was also investigated by Chinese authorities and, in September 2014, GSK’s Chinese subsidiary was reportedly found guilty of bribery resulting in GSK’s payment of a $491.5 million fine.
On December 2, 2015 the Sweett Group admitted to violating Section 7 of the U.K.s Bribery Act of 2010 failure to prevent bribery regarding its conduct in the Middle East. According to the Sweett Group, the underlying conduct was related to alleged bribery from 2009 to 2011 involving a former employee located in Dubai. While the SFO has not yet announced specifics associated with the conduct or any penalties that may be imposed, it previously announced the opening of its investigation into Sweett Groups activities in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. This investigation appeared to have been triggered by a 2013 Wall Street Journal article that reported allegations of bribery involving the construction of a hospital in Morocco. According to the WSJ, a bribe was offered to a United Arab Emirates officials personal foundation in order to secure the design work contract for the $100 million project.
On November 30, 2015 the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), working with the DOJ and SEC, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with Standard Bank under the U.K.’s Bribery Act of 2010 regarding payments by two former employees that were allegedly made to bribe members of the Tanzanian government. The DPA represents the SFO’s first-ever DPA and the first use of Section 7 of the Bribery Act, failure of commercial organizations to prevent bribery, by any U.K. prosecutor. As part of this DPA, Standard Bank has agreed to pay a combined $32.2 million in sanctions to the U.K. and Tanzania, and to cover the SFO’s litigation and investigation costs. The DPA also requires Standard Bank’s continued cooperation with authorities and the implementation of certain recommendations from its independent compliance consultants.
In addition to the DPA, Standard Bank agreed to pay $4.2 million to the SEC to settle charges related to the failure to disclose the underlying bribe payments in the bank’s offering documents and statements to potential investors. In light of Standard Bank’s cooperation with the SFO and the DPA, the DOJ reportedly closed its own investigation without bringing independent charges.
Notably, in one of the first examples of the SEC implementing its plan to make more defendants admit to the allegations against them as part of resolutions, Standard Bank agreed to the facts underlying the SEC charges.
On August 4, 2014, the United Kingdoms Serious Fraud Office announced that four former executives of Innospec Inc. (formerly known as Associated Octel Corp.) were sentenced following a long-running investigation related to conduct in in Indonesia and Iraq. Three of the four were sentenced to prison terms, with a former chief executive receiving four years in prison after being convicted at a jury trial earlier this year. A former regional sales director received an 18 month sentence following a conviction at trial, and another former CEO was sentenced to two years following a guilty plea. The fourth individual, a former business unit director, received a suspended 16-month sentence following a guilty plea. The sentencing of these former executives comes after Innospec pled guilty in 2010 to FCPA and anti-bribery criminal charges brought by DOJ and the UKs Serious Fraud Office, and after Innospec settled civil charges brought by the SEC. The charges alleged that Innospec, a global specialty chemicals company, had bribed Indonesian and Iraqi government officials to win sales of a gasoline additive after environmental legislation in the US and abroad led to a decline in sales of that additive. As part of the settlement, Innospec paid U.S. authorities $27.5 million, and paid UK authorities $12.7 million. Two of the four individuals sentenced in the UK had also previously settled with the SEC over civil FCPA charges.
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