July 11, 2021

UK-based engineering company enters $177 million global settlements related to bribery and corruption

On July 2, 2021 the Serious Fraud Office announced that it had entered a deferred prosecution agreement with Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited (AFWEL) , a wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-based engineering company John Wood Group plc, for its role in a scheme to bribe officials around the world in exchange for lucrative oil and gas contracts.  Under the SFO’s DPA, AFWEL must pay a financial penalty and costs of £103 million as part of the $177 million global settlement that AFWEL has reached with officials in the UK, US and Brazil.  John Wood Group has assumed responsibility for the financial penalty that includes SFO costs, and agreed not only to cooperate with ongoing investigations with the SFO and other law enforcement authorities, but will also provide annual reports to the SFO regarding enhancements made to its ethics and compliance program.  Under the DPA, AFWEL also admitted its participation in ten separate acts of corruption with corrupt agents in the oil and gas sectors in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India and Brazil between 1996 to 2014.

On June 25, 2021, AFWEL entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice for its role in a scheme to bribe officials in Brazil in exchange a $190 million contract to design a gas-to chemicals complex, agreeing to pay the DOJ over $18.3 million to resolve charges that it conspired to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  The DOJ will credit the company up to 25 percent (over $4.5 million) of the US criminal penalty for payments made pursuant to its UK resolution and up to 33 percent (over $6.1 million) of the US criminal penalty for payments made to Brazilian authorities, resulting in a minimum payment of more than $8 million to the DOJ.  In addition to the monetary penalty, AFWEL agreed to enhance its compliance program and cooperate with the DOJ on any ongoing or future investigations concerning AFWEL or its employees or agents.

According to court documents and the company’s own admissions to the DOJ, between 2011 and 2014, AFWEL conspired with others, including a Monaco-based intermediary company, to pay $1.1 million in bribes to officials at Petróleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) in order to obtain the UFN-IV project, a $190 million contract to design a gas-to-chemical complex. While located in New York and Texas certain AFWEL employees and agents allegedly participated in acts to further the bribery scheme, that resulted in the company earning at least $12.9 million in unlawful profits. 

In a civil matter brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, AFWEL agreed to pay disgorgement and prejudgment interest totaling more than $22.7 million, with the SEC offering similar offsets for any disgorgement paid to the SFO and Brazilian authorities, resulting in a minimum payment of approximately $10.1 million to the SEC.  Under its settlement with the SEC, the company must also cease and desist from committing further violations anti-bribery, books and records, and internal accounting controls provisions of the FCPA.

SFO Press Release | DOJ Press Release | DOJ EDNY Press ReleaseDOJ DPA InformationDOJ Statement of FactsSEC Press Release  | SEC Order