Even with much of the world under partial lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been no shortage of bribery and corruption cases through the first half of 2020. Each of these stories makes it clear that organisations must have proper controls in place to prevent bribery and corruption. ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management Systems standard provides a comprehensive approach to mitigating bribery and corruption risk. Organisations of all sizes and industries should take steps now to ensure that they don’t end up on a future list of top bribery and corruption scandals.
In no particular order, here are 10 of the top bribery and corruption stories we’ve seen so far in 2020.
In February, French-based Airbus agreed to pay a record $4 billion in fines for alleged bribery and corruption spanning at least 15 years. The company reached a plea bargain with prosecutors in Britain, France and the United States. According to prosecution documents, Airbus used a global network of agents or middlemen for corrupt transactions, included payouts disguised as commissions to push airplane sales.
“Fallout from the Airbus bribery scandal reverberated around the world on Monday as the head of one of its top buyers temporarily stood down and investigations were launched in countries aggrieved at being dragged into the increasingly political row.” (Reuters, 2020)
While the investigation into suspected corruption at Novartis began seven years ago, it appears that 2020 is the year the company can finally close this damaging chapter in its history. The resolution comes at a steep cost. The Swiss-based pharmaceutical company will pay a staggering $1.3 billion in a settlement for kickbacks, bribery and price-fixing.
“The latest settlements cover two different cases. In the first, federal prosecutors claim Novartis used ‘tens of thousands of’ speaker programs and events — some entailing exorbitant meals — as disguise to provide bribes to doctors. The goal, according to prosecutors, was to encourage doctors to prescribe its drugs, including Lotrel, Valturna, Starlix, Tekturna, Tekamlo, Diovan and Exforge.” (Fierce Pharma, 2020)
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder
While political corruption is nothing new, his constituents were nevertheless shocked when Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested, along with four alleged co-conspirators, as part of a $60 million racketeering and bribery investigation. The alleged scheme is being described as one of the biggest public corruption cases in Ohio, U.S. history.
“All the charges are tied to what federal prosecutors said was a criminal enterprise dedicated to securing a bailout for two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio owned by FirstEnergy Solutions of Akron. The bailout is expected to cost the state’s utility ratepayers $1 billion.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, 2020)
Charged by the SEC with violating the FCPA by bribing officials in Turkey and Russia, Alexion Pharmaceuticals will pay $21.4 million to resolve an investigation that began in 2015. The Connecticut, U.S.- based company was also accused of failing to keep accurate financial records at subsidiaries in Brazil and Colombia.
“In Turkey and Russia, Alexion paid government officials and doctors at state-connected hospitals to promote use of its blood-disease drug, Soliris. Alexion retained a consultant in Turkey from 2010 to 2015 with ties to health officials. Alexion Turkey paid the consultant over $1.3 million for ‘consulting fees and purported expense reimbursements,’ the SEC said. … In Russia, Alexion paid doctors at government hospitals over $1 million from 2011 to 2015 to increase Soliris prescriptions. … The bribery resulted in Alexion being ‘unjustly enriched’ by about $6.6 million in Turkey and $7.5 million in Russia, the SEC said.” (FCPA Blog, 2020)
Taiwan Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan
In Taiwan, a scandal embroiling some top legislators prompted Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan to resign from office. Su Jia-chyuan’s nephew, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching, is reportedly under investigation in a bribery case related to the ownership of a department store. Su Jia-chyuan said he has “nothing to hide” and insisted he is stepping down to avoid letting the controversy continue to affect the president.
“Taipei prosecutors on Saturday filed a motion to detain Su Chen-ching, along with four other former and incumbent lawmakers as part of an investigation into bribery allegations against six current and former legislators and their aides. The court hearing on whether to grant the prosecutors’ request to detain them was ongoing as of press time last night. The DPP’s anti-corruption committee convened a meeting at 8 pm to discuss the penalties for Su Chen-ching and former legislator Mark Chen, who has also been implicated in the case and was released on NT$500,000 bail early on Saturday.” (Taipei Times, 2020)
Former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak
As part of the 1MDB corruption scandal, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was convicted on seven counts for charges that include money laundering, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust. Investigators said he transferred about $10 million from a 1MDB affiliate to his own bank accounts, and the Malaysian High Court agreed. Razak was forced out of office in 2018 during the scandal.
“In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Najib deposited about $700 million from 1MDB into his personal accounts. He has always denied the allegations. He faces more trials in Malaysia on at least 35 additional corruption charges. The judge Tuesday imposed a 12-year prison sentence on Najib, 67, but suspended it during any appeals.” (FCPA Blog, 2020)
A multi-year, multi-million-dollar bribery and money laundering investigation involving Alstom Indonesia resulted in more indictments this year. Reza Moenaf, former president, and Eko Sulianto, former director of sales, for Alstom Indonesia were charged along with a former deputy general manager of Marubeni Corporation’s overseas power project department. They are accused by the U.S. Justice Department of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“According to the Justice Department, Kusunoki, Moenaf, and Sulianto engaged in a conspiracy to pay bribes to officials in Indonesia — including a high-ranking member of the Indonesian Parliament and the president of Perusahaan Listrik Negara, the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Indonesia — in exchange for assistance in securing a $118 million contract, known as the Tarahan Project, for Alstom Power and its consortium partner, Marubeni, to provide power-related services for Indonesian citizens.” (Compliance Week, 2020)
Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar
Corruption in local politics is still a major issue, especially in a major city like Los Angeles, U.S. That’s where City Councilman Jose Huizar is alleged to have engaged in a wide array of bribery and corruption acts to enrich himself and his associates. He now faces a laundry list of charges after a federal grand jury returned a 34-count indictment against Huizar.
“Huizar was charged last month with one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Thursday’s indictment charges Huizar with the following criminal charges: 12 counts of honest services wire fraud; two counts of honest services mail fraud; four counts of traveling interstate in aid of racketeering; six counts of bribery; five counts of money laundering; one count of structuring cash deposits to conceal bribes; one count of making a false statement to a financial institution; one count of making false statements to federal law enforcement; and one count of tax evasion, according to prosecutors.” (CBS News, 2020)
Asante Berko, Former Goldman Sachs Executive
Former Goldman Sachs executive Asante Berko was charged by the SEC as a result of their investigation into his alleged bribery plot. Berko is accused of FCPA violations in his effort to help an energy company based in Turkey secure a contract for a power plant in Ghana. He was charged in a civil complaint in New York, U.S., for “aiding and abetting violations of the FCPA anti-bribery provisions.”
“According to the SEC, Berko helped the Turkish energy company pay at least $2.5 million to a Ghana-based intermediary, ‘all or most of which was used to bribe Ghanaian government officials’ to secure approval of an electrical power plant project. … In 2015, Berko negotiated a contract for the Turkish energy company to pay the intermediary $2.5 million at first, and up to $42 million over five years, the complaint said.” (FCPA Blog, 2020)
Ohio, U.S.-based Cardinal Health paid the SEC $8.8 million Friday to settle FCPA offenses related to a Chinese subsidiary that provided marketing services. Cardinal Health allegedly violated provisions for maintaining books and records, as well as internal accounting controls. Cardinal Health first began doing business in China after acquiring an existing company and rebranding it. It appears the company made voluntary disclosures and has been taking proactive steps to address the corruption issues in its ranks.
“In 2016, Cardinal China learned that the marketing employees and the dermocosmetic company had disguised some ‘marketing payments’ that were funneled to healthcare professionals who provided marketing services, as well as other employees of state-owned retail entities. The state-owned entities had influence over purchasing decisions related to the dermocosmetic company’s products. Cardinal took steps to stop the suspect payments in 2016 when it learned about the misconduct, the SEC said. In December 2016, Cardinal voluntarily disclosed the results of its internal investigation to the SEC.” (FCPA Blog, 2020)
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