The U.S. unit of the world’s biggest independent oil trader agreed to pay more than $160 million to settle allegations that it conspired to pay bribes in Latin America and attempted to manipulate energy markets, in what’s the most significant anti-corruption case against a commodity trading house in years.
The settlement is likely to revive memories of the murky world of commodity trading back to the era of Marc Rich, the buccaneer trader indicted in the U.S. in the 1980s and pardoned by President Bill Clinton on his last day at the White House. For Vitol, the fine marks a large setback that casts a shadow over its “zero tolerance with corruption” mantra.
The U.S. Department of Justice and authorities in Brazil and Switzerland are also investigating
Vitol was accused of two violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an American anti-bribery law, for its conduct from 2005 through 2020. The company will pay $90 million to the U.S. and $45 million to Brazilian state oil producer
According to the settlement, Vitol paid Brazilian officials more than $8 million in bribes in exchange for oil-product business from Petrobras. The company earned at least $33 million in profits from the corruptly obtained contracts, according to the filing.
Outside of Brazil, Vitol agreed to pay more than $2 million in bribes to officials at Petroleos Mexicanos and Ecuadorian state oil company Petroecuador from 2015 through 2020 to gain advantage in buying and selling oil products.
A Petroecuador spokesperson, after consulting with acting Chief Executive Officer
Pemex didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Under the deal, U.S. prosecutors will drop the charges against the U.S. unit of
“The company fully cooperated,” U.S. Justice Department lawyer Derek Ettinger said in court.
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and are pleased it has been resolved,” Hardy said. “We will continue to enhance our procedures and controls in line with best practice.”
In its statement on the case, the CFTC said that Vitol also had attempted to manipulate two price benchmarks for physical fuel oil, in August 2014 and July 2015.
Vitol’s Americas division has also been a focus of the Brazilian “
In Brazil, the Carwash corruption and money-laundering investigation has toppled some of the country’s top business executives and political leaders, including former President
Many of the biggest trading houses -- including Trafigura, Glencore and
Trafigura and Glencore have also been targeted by investigators in Brazil as part of the Carwash probe. The U.S. Justice Department and
Prosecutors in Brazil this week filed a civil lawsuit against Trafigura, the second biggest independent oil and metals trader, and some of its top executives, alleging bribery payments to secure deals with state oil producer Petrobras.
Trafigura said it hired the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP to review allegations of improper payments.
“Based on its review to date, which is ongoing, Quinn Emanuel believes any allegations that current management were involved in, or had knowledge of, alleged improper payments to Petrobras are unsupported by the evidence and untrue,” Trafigura said in a statement.
The case is U.S. v. Vitol Inc., 20-cr-539, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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