Jason Edward Steph, 37, who once served as general manager of on-shore operations for a subsidiary of Willbros Group Inc., entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on November 5, 2007. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe officials of the government of Nigeria with more than $6 million — in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Steph, of Sunset, Texas, was indicted on July 19, 2007. He now faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Willbros third quarter 2007 earnings release reported on October 31, 2007 that the company will pay $32.3 million to resolve FCPA violations related to former operations in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nigeria. Willbros is headquartered in Panama City, Panama and has its administrative offices in Houston, Texas. It provides construction and engineering services to industry and government entities worldwide, specializing in pipelines and associated facilities in onshore, coastal and offshore locations.
Steph was a Willbros employee from 1998 to April 2005. He admitted in his plea agreement that in late 2003 he, another Willbros senior executive in charge of international business, two purported consultants, and certain Nigeria-based employees of a major German engineering and construction company, agreed to make a series of corrupt payments totaling more than $6 million. The DOJ’s release said, “The payments were offered and made to officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (the Nigerian state-owned oil company) and its subsidiary, National Petroleum Investment Management Services, a Nigerian political party, and a senior official in the executive branch of the Nigerian federal government, in order to assist in securing a major gas pipeline construction contract in Nigeria.”
Steph also said that in February and March of 2005 he, former Willbros executive Jim Bob Brown, and others arranged for the payment of approximately $1.8 million in cash to government officials in Nigeria. Brown pleaded guilty to a similar charge on Sept. 14, 2006. Steph and Brown are cooperating with the government’s ongoing investigation and both will probably be sentenced in January 2008.
Willbros Group, Inc. trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WG.
View the DOJ’s November 5, 2007 News Release Here.
View Jason Edward Steph’s November 5, 2007 Plea Agreement Here.