Goodyear Tire has agreed to pay $16 million to settle charges that its subsidiaries in Kenya and Angola routinely bribed employees of government agencies and private companies to land tire sales, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday.
The subsidiaries, Treadsetters in Kenya and Trentyre in Angola, were both retail tire distributors. According to the SEC, Goodyear failed to prevent or detect more than $3.2 million in bribes during a four-year period due to inadequate Foreign Corrupt Practices Act controls at the subsidiaries.
The bribes were generally paid in cash and were falsely recorded as legitimate business expenses in the books and records of the subsidiaries, the SEC alleged in an order instituting a settled administrative proceeding.
“Public companies must keep accurate accounting records, and Goodyear’s lax compliance controls enabled a routine of corrupt payments by African subsidiaries that were hidden in their books,” Scott W. Friestad, associate director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, said in a news release.
Goodyear self-reported the FCPA violations and “provided significant cooperation with the commission’s investigation,” the SEC’s order said.
“Coming clean seems to have paid off” for Goodyear, the National Law Journal reported, noting that, in a similar case, Avon Products agreed in December to $135 million to settle civil and criminal foreign bribery charges.
According to the SEC, Treadsetters paid more than $1.5 million in bribes to employees of Kenyan government-owned or affiliated entities. In the case of Trentyre, the Angola subsidiary paid about $1.6 million in bribes to obtain tire sales, the SEC said.
The commission identified a major beneficiary of bribes in Angola as Trentyre’s largest customer at the time, the Catoca Diamond Mine, which is owned by a consortium of mining interests including Angola’s national mining company and a Russian mining company.
After uncovering the bribery scheme, Goodyear divested its ownership interest in Treadsetters and cut off all business dealings with the company. It is now in the process of divesting Trentyre.
Goodyear said in a statement that it has “a comprehensive anti-corruption compliance program and continues to improve and enhance its ability to monitor, detect, investigate, and address potential issues.”