Risk & Compliance

Cognizant Settles Foreign Bribery Charges

The company allegedly paid bribes when it was building a campus in Chennai, India.
Lauren MuskettFebruary 15, 2019
Cognizant Settles Foreign Bribery Charges

Cognizant Technology Solutions has agreed to pay $25 million to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Justice said Gordon Coburn, the former president of Cognizant, and Steven Schwartz, the company’s former chief legal officer, were involved in a scheme to pay a $2 million bribe to a senior government official of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu when the company was working to build a 2.7 million square foot campus in Chennai. The SEC said Cognizant was also involved in two additional bribes totaling more than $1.6 million.

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The head of the justice department’s criminal division, Brian Benczkowski, called the allegations “a sophisticated international bribery scheme authorized and concealed by C-suite executives of a publicly traded multinational company.”

The settlement payment by Cognizant includes a $6 million fine and $19 million in disgorgement and interest, and resolves related civil charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We are pleased to reach these resolutions,” Francisco D’Souza, Cognizant’s chief executive, said. “With today’s announcements, we’ve taken a major step forward in putting this behind us.”

Schwartz, who had been with Cognizant for 15 years, left the company in 2016.

A lawyer for Coburn said his client intends to vigorously fight all the charges.

“We are disappointed that DOJ and SEC chose to pursue these allegations,” the lawyer said.

Cognizant settled without admitting or denying the allegations.

“Bribery to further corporate goals is an illusory path to long-term success. While always the wrong choice, it is particularly egregious when senior executives chart that course for those they lead, as our complaint alleges here,” Charles Cain, the chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit, said in a statement. “We are committed to holding them accountable for their actions.”

The FCPA unit was supervised by Robert Dodge. Litigation will be led by John Bowers.