SEC Charges Tyco for Illicit Payments to Foreign Officials
The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Tyco International Ltd. with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when subsidiaries arranged illicit payments to foreign officials in more than a dozen countries.
The SEC alleges that subsidiaries of the Swiss-based global manufacturer perpetuated schemes that typically involved payments of fake “commissions” or the use of third-party agents to funnel money improperly to obtain lucrative contracts. Overall, Tyco reaped illicit benefits amounting to more than $10.5 million as a result of the paid to win business.
Tyco, whose securities are publicly traded in the U.S., agreed to pay more than $26 million to settle the SEC’s charges and resolve a criminal matter announced today by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Tyco’s subsidiaries operating in Asia and the Middle East saw illicit payment schemes as a typical way of doing business in some countries, and the company illicitly reaped substantial financial benefits as a result,” said Scott W. Friestad, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
The SEC alleges that Tyco subsidiaries operated 12 different illicit payment schemes around the world starting before 2006 and continuing until 2009. The most profitable scheme occurred in Germany, where agents of a Tyco subsidiary paid third parties to secure contracts or avoid penalties or fines in several countries.
These payments were falsely recorded as “commissions” in Tyco’s books and records when they were in fact bribes to pay off government customers. Tyco’s benefit as a result of these illicit payments was more than $4.6 million.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Tyco’s subsidiary in China signed a contract with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security for $770,000 but reportedly paid approximately $3,700 to the “site project team” of a state-owned corporation to be able to obtain the contract. This amount was improperly recorded as a commission. Tyco’s subsidiary in France recorded payments to individuals from 2005 to 2009 for “business introduction services.”
However, one of the individuals receiving payments was a security officer at a government-owned mining company in Mauritania, and many of the earlier payments were deposited in the official’s personal bank account in France. In Thailand, Tyco’s subsidiary had a contract to install a CCTV system in the Thai Parliament House in 2006, and paid more than $50,000 to a Thai entity that acted as a consultant. The invoice for the payment refers to “renovation work,” but Tyco is unable to ascertain what, if any, work was actually done.
The SEC alleges that another scheme occurred in Turkey, where Tyco’s subsidiary retained a New York City-based sales agent who made illicit payments involving the sale of microwave equipment in September 2006 to an entity controlled by the Turkish government. Employees at Tyco’s subsidiary were well aware that the agent was paying foreign government customers to obtain orders.
One internal e-mail stated, “Hell, everyone knows you have to bribe somebody to do business in Turkey. Nevertheless, I’ll play it dumb if [the sales agent] should call.” The benefit obtained by Tyco as a result of the September 2006 deal was $44,513.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Tyco’s books and records were misstated as a result of the misconduct, and Tyco failed to devise and maintain internal controls sufficient to detect the violations. The complaint also alleges that the payments by the sales agent to Turkish government officials violated the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.
In the parallel criminal proceedings, the Justice Department entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with Tyco in which the company will pay a penalty of approximately $13.68 million.