Oilfield company to pay $253M to settle bribe case

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Associated Press

Posted on November 26, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 27 at 1:03 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The oilfield services company Weatherford International has agreed to pay more than $250 million to settle federal charges that it bribed officials in the Middle East and Africa to win business.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday it charged the company with violating U.S. law by offering foreign officials bribes, improper travel and entertainment to win contracts under the United Nations' Oil-for-Food program. Regulators say Weatherford falsified its records to hide these payments as well as other transactions in Cuba, Iran, Syria and countries subject to U.S. sanctions.

The Swiss-based company says it agreed to pay $253 million to settle the charges and other claims against it by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce and other federal agencies.

The pact is subject to court approval.

"This matter is now behind us. We move forward fully committed to a sustainable culture of compliance," said Weatherford CEO Bernard Duroc-Danner, in a statement.

SEC officials said in a release that Weatherford's lack of internal controls led to an environment where employees engaged in bribery and failed to maintain accurate records.

Weatherford staffers used code names like "Dubai across the water" to hide business dealings in Iran, according to the SEC investigation. In other cases the company created bogus accounting and inventory records to hide illegal transactions.

Among other improper payments, the SEC said Weatherford paid for a trip to the 2006 World Cup for two officials from a state-owned Algerian company, a honeymoon for an official's daughter and a religious trip to Saudi Arabia for an official and his family.

Regulators documented the misconduct from at least 2002 to 2011, according to the SEC's complaint filed in federal court in Houston.

"This case demonstrates how loose controls and an anemic compliance environment can foster foreign bribery and fraud by a company's subsidiaries around the globe," ''said Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's criminal division.

U.S. shares of Weatherford International Ltd. rose 27 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $16.22 in afternoon trading Tuesday. Its shares have risen more than 42 percent so far this year.

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