SEC Fines Company, Former Exec for FCPA Violations

Posted by CHUA Sing Nee, Year 3 undergrad at the School of Social Science, Singapore Management University

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Thursday it reached settlements with a Tampa, Fla.-based engineering firm and its subsidiary’s former president over allegations of bribery to secure Qatari government contracts.The SEC struck a deferred prosecution agreement with The PBSJ Corp., which defers Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges for two years, provided the company meets certain conditions, such as requiring FCPA compliance training, mandating executives to sign a certification with a code of conduct and to produce any documents the SEC requests. The company, now known as The Atkins North America Holdings Corp. and owned by a U.K. design firm, agreed to pay $3.4 million in penalties to resolve the case, the SEC said.

Sara Lipscombe, a spokeswoman from the U.K. firm, WS Atkins ATK.LN -0.23%PLC, confirmed the SEC settlement, noting that the FCPA violations occurred prior to its acquisition of PBSJ. The WS Atkins spokeswoman also said the U.S. Department of Justice closed its own probe in the case without filing charges, citing the company’s cooperation, internal investigation and self-disclosure.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.Update: A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

PBSJ offered bribes, through its former international unit’s president, Walid Hatoum, to the then-director of international projects at a Qatari government real estate investment company, according to a statement of facts attached to the deferred-prosecution agreement. Mr. Hatoum was a business colleague of the Qatari official before the alleged bribery, the SEC document said.

Without admitting or denying the findings in a cease-and-desist order against him, Mr. Hatoum agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty, the SEC said. Mr. Hatoum didn’t immediately respond to a phone call to his Tampa home.

“Mr. Hatoum offered and authorized nearly $1.4 million in bribes disguised as ‘agency fees’ intended for a foreign official who used an alias to communicate confidential information that assisted PBSJ,” said Kara Brockmeyer, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA unit, in a statement.

The company “ignored multiple red flags” that would have led it to unearth the scheme at an early stage, but it self-reported the allegations and cooperated substantially once it discovered what happened, she said.

PBSJ “took quick steps to end the misconduct,” and it voluntarily made witnesses available for interviews, as well as provided factual chronologies, timelines, internal summaries and full forensic images, the SEC said.


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