(Bloomberg) -- ABB Ltd., a Swiss industrial company, agreed to pay $315 million to resolve a multinational investigation into bribery of a high-ranking official at Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the South African state-owned power utility, the US Justice Department said Friday.
ABB bribed the Eskom official between 2014 and 2017 to corruptly obtain confidential information and win lucrative contracts, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. said in a statement. ABB engaged subcontractors associated with the official and made payments intended, “at least in part, as bribes,” the statement said. “ABB worked with these subcontractors despite their poor qualifications and lack of experience.”
“Corruption and bribery are not victimless acts,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia. “They can create hazardous working conditions, hurt honest businesses, and erode trust and integrity in local and global governance.”
The US charged ABB with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and with conspiracy to violate the FCPA, but will defer prosecution and drop the case in three years if the company makes required reforms. Two subsidiaries pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to violate the FCPA, prosecutors said in the statement.
The so-called deferred prosecution agreement comes as the company is resolving probes over its conduct in the US, South Africa, Switzerland and Germany, prosecutors said. The US will credit up to half of the $315 million penalty against payments by the company in the other three countries, according to the statement.
The Justice Department has vowed in the past year to take a tougher stance with repeat corporate offenders.
In 2010, ABB agreed to pay about $58.3 million to resolve claims by US prosecutors and regulators that its units made corrupt payments to win business in Mexico and Iraq.
(Adds statement from US Attorney in third paragraph.)
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