By Joe Palazzolo, January 31, 2011
Oil services company Noble Corp. has agreed to pay $2.5 million to resolve a Nigerian corruption investigation that piggybacked on a long-running U.S. probe linked to Panalpina World Transport Ltd., the company said in a regulatory filing Monday.
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News
David Williams, chief executive officer of Noble Corp., speaks at the Oil & Money conference at the InterContinental Hotel in London on Oct. 12.
The Switzerland-based company said it had entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the Nigerian Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian attorney general’s office (AGF) over claims that its affiliate there made improper payments to customs agents. The agreement was dated Jan. 28, according to the filing.
Earlier this month, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency said in a statement it arrested 12 executives from multinational oil-servicing firms over an alleged $100 million bribery scheme. Those arrested included executives from Noble, Tidewater Inc., Murphy Shipping and Transocean Ltd.
Noble spokesman John Breed told Corruption Currents at the time that four of the company’s workers had been detained and released the same day. Breed declined to comment on the settlement announced in Monday’s filing.
Noble, Tidewater and Transocean were among seven companies that resolved foreign bribery allegations with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission in November.
The U.S. probe centered on the companies’ relationship with Panalpina, which agreed to pay $82 million in civil and criminal penalties over charges that it bribed foreign officials to expedite services for its customers in the oil services industry.
Noble entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department and agreed to pay $2.6 million fine. The company agreed to pay $5.6 million in disgorged profits and interest to settle the SEC investigation, without admitting or denying wrongdoing.
Noble’s agreement with the Nigerian government was just the latest in a string of cases built on the foundation of U.S. probes.
After settling with U.S. authorities in November, Royal Dutch Shell PLC agreed to pay $10 million in fines to the Nigerian government over alleged bribes paid on its behalf by Panalpina. (Panalpina and others remain under investigation in Nigeria.)
Halliburton Co. announced in December that it would pay a $32.5 million fine to settle bribery charges brought by the Nigerian government. The charges stemmed from $6 billion in contracts with a four-company joint venture that included Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., a former Halliburton subsidiary, to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, off the southern coast of Nigeria.
A unit controlled by Eni SpA reached a $32.5 million settlement with Nigerian authorities in the same probe.
In the U.S., KBR agreed in 2009 to pay a $402 million criminal fine - and KBR and Halliburton jointly agreed to pay $177 million in disgorged profits in a related civil case - to resolve charges that it participated in a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government official for the LNG contracts.
Last year, Snamprogetti Netherlands BV and Eni SpA agreed to pay $365 million to resolve U.S. foreign bribery charges in connection with Snamprogetti’s role in the joint venture.