GlobalSantaFe Probes Possible Nigerian Woes

A rash of Foreign Corrupt Practices cases leads the offshore driller to look at its dealings with agents who handle customs matters.
Kate PlourdJune 26, 2007

Offshore oil driller GlobalSantaFe Corp. said it began a voluntary probe of its Nigerian operations for possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and local laws. It said that another company’s settlement of a case involving a customs agent, and similar studies by two other companies, prompted GlobalSantaFe to launch its investigation.

While Houston-based GlobalSantaFe didn’t mention the case by name, in February three subsidiaries of Vetco International Ltd. paid a total of $26 million in criminal fines to settle Nigerian bribery charges filed by the Justice Department under the FCPA. Vetco agreed to hire an independent monitor to oversee future compliance, and committed itself to an internal investigation. It was the largest settlement ever under the FCPA, Justice said at the time.

GlobalSantaFe said in a press release that outside counsel is aiding it in its own investigation, which followed announcements by Tidewater Inc. and Noble Corp. about internal investigations at those oil drillers. GlobalSantaFe said that the company voluntarily notified the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department of the investigation, which is in preliminary stages.

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In February, Tidewater said it had hired outside counsel to investigate the reimbursement of expenses to a customs agent who handled the permits that drilling companies require for operations in Nigerian waters. Noble’s bribery investigation, along similar lines, began this month.

The FCPA was enacted in 1977 to prevent American corporations from making or accepting bribes in dealings with foreign officials or others. About 100 cases have been prosecuted since the law was enacted, with most settled before trial, and only four firms convicted.