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Glencore reaches $1.1 billion settlement in bribery, price fixing cases

by STAFF REPORT
Staff Report | June 8, 2022 12:20 PM

Hungry Horse News

Glencore International and Glencore Ltd. recently agreed to pay over $1.1 billion to settle a case involving the U.S., the United Kingdom and Brazil in a worldwide corruption case and a separate fuel pricing fixing case.

Glencore is the parent company of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. The plant north of town is defunct and has been torn down and is now a Superfund Site — of which a cleanup plan has yet to be fully devised.

The cases do not involve the aluminum plant or site.

On May 24, the U.S. Justice Department announced the settlement of to resolve the government’s investigations into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and a commodity price manipulation scheme.

In the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case, the company engaged in a scheme for over a decade to pay more than $100 million to third-party intermediaries, while intending that a significant portion of these payments would be used to pay bribes to officials in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Brazil, Venezuela, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Justice Department said.

Between approximately 2007 and 2018, Glencore and its subsidiaries caused approximately $79.6 million in payments to be made to intermediary companies in order to secure improper advantages to obtain and retain business with state-owned and state-controlled entities in the African countries.

Glencore concealed the bribe payments by entering into sham consulting agreements, paying inflated invoices, and using intermediary companies to make corrupt payments to foreign officials.

For example, in Nigeria, Glencore and Glencore’s U.K. subsidiaries entered into multiple agreements to purchase crude oil and refined petroleum products from Nigeria’s state-owned and state-controlled oil company. Glencore and its subsidiaries engaged two intermediaries to pursue business opportunities and other improper business advantages, including the award of crude oil contracts, while knowing that the intermediaries would make bribe payments to Nigerian government officials to obtain such business. In Nigeria alone, Glencore and its subsidiaries paid more than $52 million to the intermediaries, intending that those funds be used, at least in part, to pay bribes to Nigerian officials.

The guilty pleas are part of coordinated resolutions with criminal and civil authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.

In addition, the company was caught allegedly fixing fuel oil prices in California from 2012 to 2016.

Between approximately January 2011 and August 2019, Glencore Ltd. employees (including those who worked at Chemoil Corporation, which was majority-owned by Glencore Ltd.’s parent company and then fully-acquired in 2014) conspired to manipulate two benchmark price assessments published by S&P Global Platts for fuel oil products.

As part of the conspiracy, Glencore Ltd. employees sought to unlawfully enrich themselves and Glencore Ltd. itself, by increasing profits and reducing costs on contracts to buy and sell physical fuel oil, as well as certain derivative positions that Glencore Ltd. held. The price terms of the physical contracts and derivative positions were set by reference to daily benchmark price assessments published by Platts — either Los Angeles 380 CST Bunker Fuel or U.S. Gulf Coast High-Sulfur Fuel Oil — on a certain day or days plus or minus a fixed premium. On these pricing days, Glencore Ltd. employees submitted orders to buy and sell (bids and offers) to Platts during the daily trading “window” for the Platts price assessments with the intent to artificially push the price assessment up or down, the Justice Department said.

For example, if Glencore Ltd. had a contract to buy fuel oil, Glencore Ltd. employees submitted offers during the Platts “window” for the express purpose of pushing down the price assessment and hence the price of the fuel oil that Glencore Ltd. purchased. The bids and offers were not submitted to Platts for any legitimate economic reason by Glencore Ltd. employees, but rather for the purpose of artificially affecting the relevant Platts price assessment so that the benchmark price, and hence the price of fuel oil that Glencore Ltd. bought from, and sold to, another party, did not reflect legitimate forces of supply and demand.

In that case, Glencore Ltd. pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to one count of conspiracy to engage in commodity price manipulation. Under the terms of Glencore Ltd.’s plea agreement regarding the commodity price manipulation conspiracy, which remains subject to court approval, Glencore Ltd. will pay a criminal fine of $341 million and criminal forfeiture of $144, million. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the department will credit over $242 million in payments that the company makes to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Glencore Ltd. also agreed to, among other things, continue to cooperate with the department in any ongoing investigations and prosecutions relating to the underlying misconduct, to modify its compliance program where necessary and appropriate, and to retain an independent compliance monitor for a period of three years.

“The scope of this criminal bribery scheme is staggering,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “Glencore paid bribes to secure oil contracts. Glencore paid bribes to avoid government audits. Glencore bribed judges to make lawsuits disappear. At bottom, Glencore paid bribes to make money – hundreds of millions of dollars. And it did so with the approval, and even encouragement, of its top executives. The criminal charges filed against Glencore in the Southern District of New York are another step in making clear that no one – not even multinational corporations – is above the law.”

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