SEC Brings FCPA Enforcement Actions As Promised

February 6th, 2015

In the beginning of February, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought one of its first enforcement actions of the new year. The agency settled with the Tampa-based engineering firm, PBSJ Corporation, over violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  The firm, which has since been acquired by WS Atkins, was ordered to pay $3.4 million in financial remedies.  A former executive of the firm, Walid Hatoum was simultaneously required to pay a $50,000 penalty.  According to the settlement, the firm arranged to divert funds to a foreign owned company to curry favor with a foreign official in the Qatari government in exchange for securing government contracts.

The case is significant as both the SEC and Department of Justice (DOJ) have promised to make FCPA violations key investigatory and enforcement priorities in 2015.  Also notable, is the agency’s decision to bring the enforcement actions against both the corporation and the individual employee at the same time.  The FCPA focus as well as the enforcement style could very well set the tone for the rest of the year.

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