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Friday
Nov102017

Former SBM Offshore executives admit FCPA conspiracy

Two former executives of Dutch oil services company SBM Offshore NV pleaded guilty to bribing officials at Brazil’s Petrobras and two state-owned energy firms in Africa.

Anthony Mace, 65, was SBM’s chief executive officer from 2008 to 2011. He also served as a board member of SBM's wholly-owned Houston subsidiaries.

Mace, a UK citizen, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Houston to one count of conspiring to violate the FCPA.

Robert Zubiate, 66, pleaded guilty to the same charge. He was based in California and served as the sales and marketing director for SBM's Houston units.

Zubiate is scheduled to be sentenced on January 31 next year, and Mace on February 2. They each face up to five years in prison.

SBM said in an SEC filing Monday that it has reserved $238 million to resolve an FCPA investigation by the DOJ. The company said the reserve is "based on advanced discussions" with the Justice Department.

The U.S. investigation involves Monaco-based Unaoil and "legacy issues" that arose between 2007 and 2011 in Angola, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea.

In July last year, SBM signed a settlement agreement with state-owned Petrobras and prosecutors in Brazil to resolve graft allegations.

Under the leniency agreement, SBM agreed to pay Petrobras $342 million by a cash penalty and discounts on future work.

In late 2014, SBM paid Dutch authorities $240 million to settle allegations that it bribed government officials in Angola, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea.

SBM provides floating production systems for the oil and gas industry. Petrobras is one of its biggest customers.

Mace said that before he became CEO, he authorized a total of $16 million in bribes to officials at Petrobras, and at Angola’s Sonangol and Equatorial Guinea’s GEPetrol. Both are also state owned.
 
SBM paid part of the money through Swiss bank accounts set up by an agent in the name of shell companies.

Zubiate said in his plea that he used a third-party sales agent to pay bribes to officials at Petrobras. He also admitted "engaging in a kickback scheme with the bribe-paying sales agent," the DOJ said.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.