In the first U.S. foreign bribery case against a hedge fund, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group has agreed to pay $412 million to settle charges that senior employees paid off government officials in Africa to secure business for the firm.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, N.Y., said Och-Ziff “positioned itself to profit from the corruption that is sadly endemic in certain parts of Africa, including in Libya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Chad, and Niger,” while the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused the $39 billion firm of “complicated, far-reaching schemes to get special access and secure significant deals and profits through corruption.”
Och-Ziff CEO Daniel S. Och separately agreed to pay nearly $2.2 million to settle SEC charges and CFO Joel M. Frank agreed to a settlement but was not fined.
According to the SEC, neither Och nor Frank knew bribes were being paid but they were aware of “the high risk of corruption” in transactions with the firm’s business partner in the DRC “in light of his reputation and connections to high level DRC government officials.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Och is the first sitting company CEO found by the SEC to be culpable for his company’s foreign-bribery violations.
“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,” Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, said in a news release.
According to Reuters, the settlements capped U.S. probes that centered in part on Michael Cohen, Och-Ziff’s former London-based head of European investing, who was responsible for investments in Libya and other African countries.
In 2007, the SEC said, Och-Ziff secured a $300 million investment from the Libyan Investment Authority by paying more than $3 million in bribes to government officials.
The SEC said the firm partnered in the DRC with an “infamous Israeli businessman,” knowing he would use the funds it provided to him to pay bribes. The WSJ identified the businessman as billionaire Dan Gertler.