Prison For Ex-Willbros Execs
Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 7:51AM
Richard L. Cassin in Ecuador, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, James Tillery, Jason Edward Steph, Nigeria, Paul Novak, Ramendra Basu, Roger Michael Young, Shu Quan Sheng, Steven Ott, Taxes, Willbros

FCPA violations: The Justice Department is targeting individuals who pay bribes to foreign officials. Photo by Ken MayerTwo former Willbros managers on Thursday were given jail time for conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They bribed foreign government officials and employees of state-owned firms to win pipeline work and gain other advantages.

Jim Bob Brown, 48, was sentenced in federal court in Houston to one year and one day in prison and fined $17,500; Jason Edward Steph, 40, was sentenced to 15 months and fined $2,000.

Steph, who once served as general manager of on-shore operations for Willbros International, pleaded guilty in November 2007. He said in his plea that in 2005 he, Brown, and others arranged to pay about $1.8 million in cash to Nigerian officials.

Brown pleaded guilty in September 2006 to conspiracy to violate the FCPA. He and Steph cooperated with the government’s investigation.

Brown said from 1996 to 2004, he and others plotted to negotiate lower Nigerian federal and state taxes in exchange for bribes to revenue officials. And he admitted conspiring to make corrupt payments to officials in the Nigerian court system in exchange for favorable treatment on pending cases. Brown also paid at least $300,000 in bribes to Ecuadorian government officials from PetroEcuador and PetroCommercial in exchange for contracts. The DOJ said all the payments violated the FCPA's antibribery provisions.

In May 2008, Willbros Group and its subsidiary Willbros International paid $22 million and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ to settle criminal FCPA charges in connection with corrupt payments to Nigerian and Ecuadorian officials. Willbros Group also paid $10.3 million (disgorgement of $8.9 million, plus prejudgment interest of $1.4 million) to resolve the SEC's civil enforcement action.

In December 2008, another former executive and an ex-consultant of Willbros International Inc. were charged in the case. Consultant Paul G. Novak, 43, pleaded guilty in November 2009 to conspiracy to violate the FCPA. He's scheduled to be sentenced on February 19. James K. Tillery, 49, a former Willbros International executive, was also charged but remains at large.

In May 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Steph and former employees Gerald Jansen, Lloyd Biggers, and Carlos Galvez with aiding and abetting Willbros Group's violation of the antibribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA, and knowingly circumventing the FCPA's internal controls and books and records provisions. All four consented to permanent injunctions, with Jansen and Galvez ordered to pay civil penalties of $30,000 and $35,000 respectively. Determination of Steph's civil penalty was deferred pending his sentencing in the criminal case.

*   *   *

Substantive FCPA violations and conspiracy to violate the FCPA both carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Here are some recent FCPA-related sentences:

A copy of the DOJ's January 28, 2010 release is here.

See our prior posts about Willbros and its personnel here.

Article originally appeared on The FCPA Blog (
See website for complete article licensing information.