DOJ Investigating Unaoil Bribery under FCPA

Two companies have now disclosed receiving inquiries from the U.S. Department of Justice concerning Monaco-based engineering company Unaoil S.A.M. Media reports published by The Huffington Post earlier this year have implicated Unaoil in what HuffPo has called the “World’s Biggest Bribe Scandal”.

The disclosures of receipt of an inquiry from the U.S. Department of Justice were made by the engineering and construction firm KBR as well as oil service equipment provider FMC Technologies. According to the disclosure by FMC, the DOJ inquiry to them came at the end of March, just before the Huffington Post articles were published.

The Department of Justice investigates potential criminal charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The FCPA prohibits U.S. individuals, companies and issuers from providing anything of value to foreign officials in order to obtain or retain business. The DOJ has joint responsibility for enforcement of the FCPA with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates and brings enforcement actions against U.S. issuers in order to protect the integrity of the securities market.

Unaoil has denied its participation in corruption. However, an article in the International Business Times estimated that it paid out $1 trillion in bribes to corrupt officials based on emails ob taint by reporters from 2003 to 2012. The company represented hundreds of major international brands securing contracts with countries in the Middle East, Africa and former Soviet Union.

The energy sector has accounted for roughly half of the FCPA fines handed out to date. Most of those fines were the result of bribery by intermediaries, similar to Unaoil, which worked on behalf of the regulated entity either with its permission, knowledge or reckless disregard.