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Pride Discloses Possible Settlement

Pride International, Inc. said this week it has set aside $56.2 million for an expected settlement with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act offenses. The Houston-based oil-rig operator first disclosed potential FCPA compliance issues in 2006.

In December last year, the SEC accused a former Pride vice president, Bobby Benton, of violating the FCPA. He allegedly bribed Mexican officials in 2004 and altered the company's accounts to hide the payments. The SEC's December 10 civil complaint, filed in federal court in Houston, seeks a civil penalty and disgorgement from Benton, as well as an injunction against future violations.

Pride earlier disclosed that its internal investigation found evidence of illegal payments from 2001 through 2006 directly or indirectly to government officials in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Libya, Angola and the Republic of the Congo. The payments related to clearing rigs and equipment through customs, resolving customs disputes, immigration, tax, licensing and merchant marine issues.

Pride's February 16, 2010 release said:

Pride International, Inc. (NYSE: PDE) today announced that it has accrued $56.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 in anticipation of a possible resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of potential liability under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. As described in Pride's quarterly and annual reports, the company voluntarily disclosed in 2006 to the DOJ and the SEC information relating to initial allegations of potential improper payments to foreign government officials and has continued to cooperate with the agencies' investigations. The accrual in the fourth quarter 2009 represents the company's best estimate of potential fines, penalties and disgorgement related to settlement of the matter with the DOJ and SEC. The monetary sanctions ultimately paid by the company to resolve these issues, whether imposed on the company or agreed to by settlement, may exceed the amount of the accrual.

We talked about Pride's February 2008 disclosure of its internal investigation here.

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