Wall Street hedge fund in bribery settlement
Bribery and corruption
Manhattan-based Wall Street hedge fund Och-Ziff has been instructed to pay $400 million to settle charges relating to accusations of bribery of African officials across the continent.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling included a civil settlement of $200 million, plus a further $213 million in criminal penalties as part of a crackdown on corrupt practices in the world of international finance.
An Och-Ziff subsidiary has admitted to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which bars the use of bribes to obtain or retain business, as the SEC found that Och-Ziff executives were guilty of ignoring corruption risks and allowed illicit transactions to proceed.
The SEC had accused Och-Ziff of being part of a wider plan to secure a commercial advantage in African countries including Libya, Chad, Niger, Guinea and Congo. It pointed the finger at Och-Ziff executives who continued to approve payments despite obvious signs of malpractice.
Och-Ziff’s chairman and chief executive Daniel Och will be required to personally settle $2.2 million in SEC penalties related to record-keeping violations in two transactions with Congo. He is the first sitting company CEO found by the SEC to be culpable for his company’s foreign-bribery violations. Mr. Och had final authority to approve all private investments by the hedge fund and did so, despite knowing the risks involved.
Och referred to the case as ‘a deeply disappointing episode’ that was ‘inconsistent with our core values and not representative of our hundreds of employees worldwide, who are dedicated to serving our clients with the utmost integrity.’
There’s still no resolution to a related criminal case in Brooklyn, in which a Gabonese man, Samuel Mebiame, has been charged with bribing African countries while acting as a consultant on a joint venture with Och-Ziff. In a separate complaint by Federal prosecutors, Mebiame is described as a ‘fixer’ who regularly paid bribes to officials in Niger, Guinea and Chad.
Mebiame allegedly told federal agents that he was ‘a one-man show’ for getting mining concessions for Och-Ziff and that his bribes included ‘nice cars.’
Andrew J. Ceresney, director of the SEC Enforcement Division, said in statement: ‘Senior executives cannot turn a blind eye to the acts of their employees or agents when they become aware of suspicious transactions with high-risk partners in foreign countries.’
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