The Securities and Exchange Commission reports that a global beverage company has agreed to pay $6 million to settle charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and chilled a whistleblower who reported the misconduct. The payment amount includes $2.71 million in disgorgement plus interest of $292,381 and a $3 million penalty. In addition, for a two-year period the company must cooperate with the SEC and report its FCPA compliance efforts while making reasonable efforts to notify certain former employees that it does not prohibit employees from contacting the SEC about possible law violations.
According to an SEC press release, an agency investigation found that the company used third-party sales promoters to make improper payments to government officials in India to increase the sales and production of the company’s products in that country. Despite repeated complaints from employees, the SEC said, the company had inadequate internal accounting controls to detect and prevent the improper payments and failed to ensure that transactions involving the promoters were recorded properly in its books and records.
The SEC’s order further finds that the company entered into a separation agreement that stopped an employee from continuing to voluntarily communicate with the SEC about potential FCPA violations due to a substantial financial penalty that would be imposed for violating strict non-disclosure terms. Jane Norberg, acting chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, said that the “threat of financial punishment for whistleblowing is unacceptable” and that the SEC “will continue to take a hard look at these types of provisions and fact patterns.”