On January 10, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a $100 million settlement with global software company SAP SE over charges of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The SEC alleges that SAP engaged in bribery schemes in South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Indonesia, and Azerbaijan.
According to the SEC, “SAP, whose American Depositary Shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, violated the FCPA by employing third-party intermediaries and consultants from at least December 2014 through January 2022 to pay bribes to government officials to obtain business with public sector customers in the seven countries mentioned above.”
The SEC further alleges that “SAP inaccurately recorded the bribes as legitimate business expenses in its books and records, despite the fact that certain of the third-party intermediaries could not show that they provided the services for which they had been contracted.”
“Our order holds SAP accountable for misconduct that spanned seven jurisdictions and persisted for several years and serves as a stark reminder of the need for global companies to be attuned to both the risks of their business and the need to maintain adequate entity-level controls over all their subsidiaries,” said Charles E. Cain, Chief of the SEC Division of Enforcement’s FCPA Unit.
The FCPA, passed by Congress in 1977, is a U.S. anti-corruption law that prohibits the payment of anything of value to foreign government officials in order to obtain a business advantage. It also contains accounting provisions which require publicly traded corporations to make and keep books and records that accurately reflect the transactions of the corporation. In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act, which established the SEC Whistleblower Program, added whistleblower provisions to the FCPA. Individuals can disclose information relevant to potential FCPA violations to the SEC.
Through the SEC Whistleblower Programs, qualified whistleblowers, individuals who voluntarily provide the SEC with original information that leads to a successful enforcement action, are entitled to a monetary award of 10-30% of funds recovered by the government. Additionally, under the DFA’s related action provisions, when a whistleblower’s disclosure to the SEC also leads to a successful enforcement action by another agency, the whistleblower is entitled to an award of 10-30% of funds recovered in that action.
In May 2023, the SEC issued a $279 million whistleblower award: the largest in the history of the SEC Whistleblower Program. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, the award was connected to a $1.1 billion FCPA settlement between Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson and U.S. authorities over bribery charges.