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Halliburton May Face U.K. Charges

Halliburton disclosed Friday in its latest SEC filing that the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) may bring civil claims or criminal charges against it under various British laws. In February this year, Halliburton and its former subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root LLC, admitted paying Nigerian officials at least $182 million in bribes for contracts awarded between 1995 and 2004 to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria. The companies agreed with the U.S. Justice Department to pay a $402 million criminal fine, with Halliburton paying $382 million of that amount. Halliburton also agreed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to be jointly liable with KBR to pay $177 million in disgorgement. See our post here.

In Friday’s disclosure, Halliburton said the SFO is focused on M.W. Kellogg Limited (MWKL), a U.K. subsidiary of KBR. The DOJ’s criminal information had said KBR tried to shield itself from the FCPA by using MWKL to hold ownership in TSKJ, a four-party joint venture that acted as the main contractor on the Bonny Island project. TSKJ’s other members were Technip SA of France, Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. (a subsidiary of Saipem SpA of Italy), and JGC Corporation of Japan. Each partner held about 25% of the venture.

Halliburton said a finding that it broke British laws could “result in fines, restitution and confiscation of revenues, among other penalties.” The amount of final civil or criminal penalties, the company said, will depend on whether MWKL knew about and authorized any of the illegal payments, how much revenue resulted from the bribes, and “the level of cooperation provided to the SFO during the investigations.”

The company said its role in the Bonny Island project is also being investigated by France, Nigeria, and Switzerland and could also result in third-party claims.

In February this year, a federal grand jury sitting in Houston indicted Jeffrey Tesler, 60, of London, England, and Wojciech Chodan, 71, of Maidenhead, England, for violating the FCPA. The two U.K. citizens allegedly helped KBR bribe Nigerian officials. The Justice Department unsealed the indictments after Tesler’s March 5 arrest by British police acting at the request of U.S. authorities. Chodan hasn’t been arrested but faces an outstanding U.S. warrant. The DOJ said it will try to extradite both men to the U.S. to stand trial.

Tesler, a lawyer in London, and Chodan, a former employee and consultant of MWKL, were charged with one count of conspiracy to violate and ten counts of violating the FCPA. They face up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all counts. The indictment also seeks forfeiture from them of more than $132 million — the amount they allegedly paid to Nigerian officials as bribes. See our post here.

In the U.K., the SFO hasn’t indicated whether it plans to take action against Tesler and Chodan or other individuals involved in the case. Tesler was identified in KBR’s 2007 annual report. British and French authorities investigated him two years ago but didn’t file any charges.

In September 2008, Albert “Jack” Stanley, 65, a former chairman and CEO of KBR, pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information that charged him him with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He admitted that from 1995 to 2004, he helped TSKJ bribe government officials in Nigeria. Stanley was sentenced to seven years in prison and a restitution payment of $10.8 million. The sentence is subject to review based on his cooperation. See our post here.

Jack Stanley was a senior vice president of Dresser Industries, Inc. when it merged into Halliburton in September 1998. Dresser’s wholly-owned construction subsidiary, Kellogg, was combined with Halliburton’s construction subsidiary, Brown & Root, Inc., to form KBR. In November 2006, Halliburton spun off KBR, which became a separate publicly-traded company.

Under their agreement for KBR’s spin off, Halliburton is obligated to pay most of KBR’s fines and other penalties for actual or alleged violations of the FCPA and similar foreign laws committed before November 2006. Halliburton has said it gave the indemnity “[t]o enhance KBR’s financial stability and solvency, making possible the separation of KBR . . . .”

KBR, Inc. trades on the NYSE under the symbol KBR.

Halliburton Company trades on the NYSE under the symbol HAL.

Halliburton Company’s Form 10-Q filed October 23, 2009 (for the period ending September 30, 2009) can be downloaded here.

Read all our posts about Halliburton here.

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