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Alere pays $13 million to resolve accounting fraud and FCPA offenses

Massachusetts-based Alere Inc. will pay more than $13 million to settle charges that it bribed foreign officials and committed accounting fraud to meet revenue targets, the SEC said Thursday.

Alere subsidiaries in India and Colombia "obtained or retained business" by using distributors or consultants to make improper payments to officials of government agencies or entities under government control, the SEC said.

The company also "failed to maintain adequate internal controls to prevent the payments, and the company inaccurately recorded the payments in its books and records."

According to the SEC’s order, Alere also engaged in improper revenue recognition practices at several other subsidiaries.

A South Korean subsidiary that produces and sells diagnostic testing equipment recorded sales for products that were still being stored at warehouses or otherwise not yet delivered to the customers, the SEC said. 

The SEC settled the enforcement action through an internal administrative order (pdf) and didn't go to court.

Alere didn't admit or deny the SEC's findings.

It agreed to disgorge $3.3 million plus interest of about $495,00, and pay a penalty of $9.2 million. 

The SEC's order said,

Between 2011 and 2013, Alere’s foreign subsidiaries located in Colombia and India indirectly made improper offers government officials for the purpose of making sales of its products. Profits from the sales associated with the improper offers and payments totaled approximately $3.3 million. 

In Colombia, improper payments of about $275,000 helped Alere win business from a government-linked customer.  

In India, the Alere unit through a distributor paid local governmental officials a four percent commission to increase orders for medical testing kits from 200,000 to 1 million units.

The SEC said,

Alere India’s Vice President of Marketing and Sales approved the four percent commission and the India Distributor proceeded to incorporate the increased commission amount into the prices for the test kits. Alere India failed to record the additional commission in its books and records.

In a company statement (pdf) Thursday, Alere said: "We have cooperated with the SEC and we are pleased to fully resolve this matter."

The SEC subpoenaed Alere in January 2016 for records related to revenue recognition practices in Africa.

In March 2016, Alere said in an SEC filing that it received a grand jury subpoena from the DOJ for documents relating to its sales practices in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The DOJ subpoena was aimed at dealings with third-parties including distributors and foreign government officials "and other matters related to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," Alere said then.

Thursday's SEC release and Alere's company statement didn't refer to the DOJ investigation.

Alere Inc. trades on the NYSE under the symbol ALR.


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