April 16, 2020

SEC charges former executive of financial services firm with bribery of Ghanaian officials

On April 13, 2020, the US Securities and Exchange Commission announced charges against Asante K. Berko, a dual citizen of the US and Ghana, for violation of the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  As described in the complaint, Berko was an executive in the investment banking division of a UK subsidiary of a US financial services company.   The complaint accuses Berko of paying various officials in an attempt to help a firm client, a Turkish energy company, obtain a Ghanaian government contract to build and operate an electrical power plant. 

From approximately 2015 through 2016, the former executive allegedly devised a scheme to funnel at least $2.5 million to an intermediary company in Ghana that used the funds to bribe various Ghanaian government officials who were responsible for awarding the power plant project.  Berko is also accused of personally paying bribes of at least $66,000 to members of Ghana’s parliament and other government officials. 

The complaint alleges that Berko took steps to hide his conduct from his employer, including using his personal email to arrange the bribery scheme.  According to the complaint, such use of personal email for work was a violation of company policy.  Despite these efforts to conceal the misconduct, in 2016, the parent US financial services company determined it needed to conduct further due diligence on the project.  As a result of that due diligence, including interviews of Berko and questioning of the executives of the client energy company, the financial services firm terminated its involvement in the project in August 2016, according to the complaint.  Berko tendered his resignation from the financial services company in December 2016, effective March 2017.  Following his departure, Berko continued to provide consulting services to the Turkish energy company, according to the complaint.  The SEC alleges that Berko received approximately $2 million from the Turkish energy company for his efforts to facilitate the scheme.

The SEC complaint charges Berko with violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and with aiding and abetting the US financial services firm’s violation of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.  The SEC is seeking civil penalties against Berko and disgorgement of all of Berko’s illegal gains plus pre-judgment interest, among other relief.  Despite the charge that Berko aided and abetted the US financial services firm’s violation of the FCPA, in the press release announcing the complaint, the SEC stated that the financial services company’s “compliance personnel took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction and it [was] not being charged.”

SEC Press Release | SEC Complaint