Entries in BP (12)
In my research across the developing world, I've heard a common complaint. They'd ask, in an angry tone, "when the DOJ reaches multi-million dollar settlements for conduct that occurred in my country, where does all that money go?"
As compliance professionals, we would be kidding ourselves not to acknowledge that fear of enforcement -- not business ethics -- drives many management decisions to do the right thing.
One of BP's contractors self-reported bribery allegations to the SFO last year, the Telegraph said.
A prolonged failure of BP's safety culture set the stage for a major catastrophe. Compliance officers beware.
Colorado-based independent oilman Jack Grynberg filed a 311-page complaint in December with the European Commission. He's asking for an investigation into alleged bribery and tax evasion in Kazakhstan by several oil companies he once partnered with. His claims relate to oil and gas developments dating back to the early 1990s -- the same ones at the center of the U.S. prosecutions of James Giffen and Brian Williams. See our post James Giffen And America's Secrets.
Grynberg, 78, who speaks six languages including Russian, is alleging "wholesale bribery and corruption of top Kazakh government officials." He claims the corruption led to his company's loss of rights in the Greater Kashagan and Karachaganak Oil Fields -- estimated to hold more than 9 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
His complaint names BP plc, StatoilHydro A.S.A., Total S.A., Royal Dutch Shell plc, ENI S.p.A., ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and Inpex.
In a release he sent to the FCPA Blog, he said:
My lawsuit in Brussels will attempt to open the window on this large scale bribery, tax evasion and corruption scheme, obtain subpoena power, and finally answer . . . questions which have remained unanswered for too long. It is unfortunate that the U.S. Department of Justice is attempting to prosecute the messengers, namely Mr. James H. Giffen and Mr. Brian J. Williams, instead of the main criminals and their cheif executives. My hope is that the European Commission will take a more balanced and assertive approach.
The complaint to the EC asserts that the alleged bribery infringed Articles 81 and 82 of the EEC Treaty (antitrust and abusive behavior).
Why the European Commission? Grynberg says he's exhausted his potential U.S. remedies and hasn't been able to subpoena the witnesses he needs (he deposed Giffen, who asserted his 5th Amendment privilege). Grynberg's civil fraud and Rico suit in the District Of Columbia against BP, Statoil, British Gas, and their top executives was bounced last year. The court ordered private arbitration in Canada under agreements Grynberg had signed for the projects.
Grynberg has a rich history of litigation, some of it productive. According to his own documents, he has been "pursuing fraud in the energy industry for the past 15 years." He cites these examples:
- In 1995, he filed one of the first False Claim Act qui tam lawsuits against 60 natural gas pipeline companies in the U.S., listing "13 ways condensate (light oil) and natural gas are stolen from federal and Native American lands."
- In 2007, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York introduced H.R. 435 (reintroduced this year as H.R. 1462), intended to stop the theft of condensate on federal and Native American lands in ways Grynberg identified.
- In September last year, he was awarded $5.66 million in a federal suit in the District of Columbia against the Central African Republic's President, Minister of Mines and Energy, and former Ambassador to the U.S. His suit claimed they demanded a $2 million bribe for an exclusive oil and gas development concession that Grynberg was ready to develop under previously signed agreements. He has also filed a complaint about the bribe demand in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank. A hearing is scheduled in Paris later this month.
- He's pushing amendments to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Congress through H.R. 6188, which would create a private right of action under the FCPA.
Download the executive summary of Jack Grynberg's complaint to the European Commission here.
A federal lawsuit filed in Miami this week alleges that Republican fundraiser Harry Sargeant III and his company made illegal payments to Jordanian officials in exchange for an exclusive license to move military fuel through Jordan and into Iraq, according to NBC News. If the allegations are true, the payments may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Harry Sargeant is the Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He and his firm, Boca Raton-based International Oil Trading Company (IOTC), deny wrongdoing and say no bribes were paid. A spokesman for them said the allegations in the lawsuit are a "sour-grapes effort by a losing bidder, an attempt to shake down IOTC for a job well done," according to NBC News' Aram Roston.
NBC News says the Miami lawsuit was filed by a competitor of IOTC, Supreme Fuels, based in Dubai. The central allegation is a "conspiracy since 2004 to bribe key Jordanian government officials to ensure that defendants would be the sole recipients of more than one billion dollars worth of U.S. government contracts for the supply of fuels to the U.S. military in Iraq."
The suit against Sargeant and his company reportedly asks for damages under the federal RICO statute -- the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Victims of overseas public corruption cannot bring private lawsuits under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Only the Justice Department and, for public companies and their personnel, the Securities and Exchange Commission, can prosecute FCPA offenses. IOTC is privately-held. (Earlier this year, unrelated private RICO suits alleging foreign bribery were brought against BP and Alcoa.)
Sargeant was the subject last week of a letter written by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca), the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The letter asked Defense Secretary Gates to investigate Sargeant and IOTC in connection with overcharges for fuel deliveries to the U.S. military in Iraq. Concerning IOTC's arrangements with Jordan, Rep. Waxman's letter said,
When the Defense Department awarded IOTC the June 2004 contract, IOTC was the highest bidder of six offers, with an initial bid over twice as high as the lowest offer. None of the five lower bidders were awarded the contract, however, because they were unable to obtain a "letter of authorization" to transport fuel from the Jordanian government. As a March 2004 "Preaward Survey" reported, IOTC's "major strength is the backing of the Royal Family." In effect, this backing gave IOTC a monopoly on the delivery of fuel through Jordan. Mr. Sargeant and IOTC appear to have taken full advantage of their ties to the Jordanian royal family. Under federal procurement law, it is illegal to award a contract to a company whose prices are not "fair and reasonable."The 16-page letter also said,
The contract awarded to IOTC in June 2004 was rebid in March 2005 and December 2006. In neither instance was IOTC the low bidder, but the contracts were awarded to IOTC because it remained the only bidder with a letter of authorization from the Jordanian government. In April 2005, Mr. Sargeant advised a contracting official that the letter of authorization awarded to IOTC "is a sensitive issue in Jordan and they would prefer to keep it as low profile as possible."NBC News says it received an email from a spokesman for Sargeant saying that only a legitimate fee was paid to the government of Jordan. "What Supreme [Fuels] calls a 'bribe' was a required fee for importing and transporting military fuel through Jordan," a spokesman for Sargeant and IOTC said. "The fee was paid to an official agency of the Jordanian state and thoroughly documented. This and any other related charge have been shared with the Department of Defense (and to Congress) as part of our transparent disclosure of any and all costs related to the fuel delivery process."
Payments to government agencies do not violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But payments to government officials to obtain or retain business that are made directly, or indirectly through a government agency, can violate the FCPA.
As reported by the New York Times last week, Sargeant is listed on Senator McCain’s website as having raised $500,000 or more for his presidential campaign. The campaign had to return some of Sargeant's contributions because they were improperly "bundled"to avoid contribution limits. The donations in question were solicited by Sargeant's Jordanian business partner, Mustafa Abu Naba’a, and were all returned.
Another partner, Mohammad al-Saleh, a brother-in-law of Jordan's King Abdullah II, sued Sargeant in Florida state court last year. According to the New York Times, he alleged that he "obtained special governmental authorizations [for IOTC] to transport the fuel through Jordan and was then unlawfully forced out by Mr. Sargeant, who strongly disputed those allegations."
Rep. Waxman’s letter to Secretary Gates said Sargeant’s profit from the fuel delivery contracts may have been $70 million or more.
The New York Times pointed out that there is no evidence Senator McCain or anyone connected to his campaign tried to influence the granting of the contracts to IOTC.
Based on total page views, here are the top five posts from the FCPA Blog so far in 2008:
1. Feeling the Heat Overseas, June 9, 2008
Foreign companies can't be blamed for wondering if they're being singled out under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The names in the FCPA-related headlines alone are enough to cause high anxiety. ABB, Siemens, BAE, DaimlerChrysler, AstraZeneca and many more. But are U.S. prosecutors really focusing too much attention on U.K., European and other foreign companies instead of American firms? Probably not, at least according to the numbers. Here's the situation. . . .2. Why We Keep Plugging, July 17, 2008
It's a familiar and unwelcome moment. Those on the other side of the table spot the FCPA compliance language for the first time:3. Grynberg v. BP et al, April 15, 2008
The joint venture and all its personnel shall comply in all respects with the requirements of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Faces darken. The mood in the room goes sour. . . .
Last week we reported here about the civil suit filed in the U.S. District Court in D.C. by Colorado-based oilman Jack Grynberg, 76, against BP, Statoil and British Gas, along with some of their current or former top executives. The core allegation is that the defendants, without Grynberg's knowledge and using some of his money, bribed officials in Kazakhstan in order to win oil rights for joint ventures in which Grynberg had an interest. . . .4. The FCPA Is No Private Matter, March 3, 2008
Last week we heard that Alba -- not the movie star Jessica but the smelter Aluminum Bahrain BSC -- had sued Alcoa for bribing Bahraini officials in exchange for supply contracts. The allegations sounded exactly like an offense under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Alba's federal lawsuit, however, is based not on the FCPA but on common law fraud and RICO -- the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act found at 18 U.S.C. §§1961-68. So what happened to the FCPA? . . .5. Scandal Hits The Compliance Monitors, January 19, 2008
. . . No matter how you spin it -- and Messrs. Christie and Ashcroft have been doing plenty of that -- the appointments have the appearance of impropriety. Peel away the PR and the best you can say is that there was some obvious cronyism going on. The worst you can say is that the DOJ created a scheme by which U.S. Attorneys can extract millions of dollars from wrongdoers and funnel the money to former bosses, friends and political allies. We don't buy the sinister version for a second, but lots of people will take it as gospel. . . ..