Swiss Vitol to pay USD 135 million to resolve FCPA violations
On 3 December 2020, the Geneva-based Swiss energy and commodities trader Vitol SA and its Houston-based subsidiary Vitol Inc. reached a resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (hereinafter “DOJ”) to resolve a DOJ’s investigation into violations of the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (hereinafter “FCPA”) and to resolve a parallel investigation in Brazil.
The resolution arises out of Vitol schemes to pay bribes to officials in Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico. Furthermore, according to the DOJ’s press release, Vitol paid these bribes in exchange for receiving confidential information regarding pricing of Vitol’s competitors by Brazil’s state-owned and controlled oil company Petrobras. By doing so, Vitol would have obtained competitive advantages to which the company was not fairly entitled pursuant to the investing authorities. Therefore, Vitol has also agreed to disgorge more than USD 12.7 million to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in a related matter and to pay the CFTC a penalty of USD 16 million related to trading activity not covered by the deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ. In conclusion, this case might portend greater liability where a company’s violations of the FCPA result also in market manipulation pursuant to a first analysis (Market Manipulation Through Corruption) recently published.