[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Tuesday that the three oil drilling companies charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [materials; DOJ backgrounder] have agreed to a plea agreement settling the case for $26 million. The DOJ alleged that Vetco Gray UK Limited, Vetco Gray Controls Inc., and Vetco Gray Controls Limited paid Nigerian government officials $2.1 million in order to obtain expedited clearance through customs. According to a DOJ press release, the defendants authorized a major international freight forwarding and customs clearing company to make at least 378 payments, totaling approximately $2.1 million, to Nigerian Customs Service officials for preferential treatment. The plea agreement also requires the Vetco Gray affiliates to hire an independent watchdog to monitor FCPA compliance and to investigate operations in other countries.
The settlement marks the largest fine ever paid under the FCPA. In 2004, Vetco Gray UK Limited settled FCPA charges for bribing Nigerian officials for insider information on oil and gas contracts. AP has more. The Houston Chronicle has local coverage.