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Total SA pays $398 million to settle U.S. bribe charges

In the fourth biggest FCPA case ever, French oil giant Total S.A. agreed Wednesday to pay $398 million in penalties and disgorgement for bribing an Iran official to gain access to oil and gas fields.

Total will pay a criminal penalty to the DOJ of $245.2 million. It received a three-year deferred prosecution agreement that requires appointment of an independent compliance monitor.

In its settlement with the SEC, Total will disgorge profits of $153 million. That’s the second biggest disgorgement in FCPA history. 

The company’s ADRs trade on the NYSE under the symbol TOT.

It paid at least $60 million in bribes for access to the Iran oil and gas fields, and made more than $150 in profit, the enforcement agencies said.

A criminal information filed in federal court in Virginia charged Total with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s antibribery provisions, one count of violating the internal controls provisions, and one count of violating the books and records provisions.

The SEC settled with Total through an administrative order and didn’t file a complaint against Total in court.

In 1995, the DOJ said, Total tried to obtain a concession from the National Iranian Oil Company to develop the Sirri A and E oil and gas fields. An Iranian official in the negotiations designated an intermediary to be a Total consultant. Total paid the consultant $16 million in bribes under the phony consulting agreement over the next two and a half years.

Total retained another consultant in 1997 designated by the same official and paid about $44 million under the agreement. In return, Total secured the rights to develop part of South Pars, the world’s largest gas field.

‘Total attempted to cover up the true nature of the illegal payments,’ the SEC said, ‘by entering into sham consulting agreements with intermediaries of the Iranian official and mischaracterizing the bribes in its books and records as legitimate “business development expenses” related to the consulting agreements.’

In earlier SEC disclosures, Total said it had reserved $398 for the settlement.

Total also was charged today by the prosecutor of Paris (François Molins, Procureur de la République) of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris for violations of French laws, the U.S. agencies said.

The DOJ’s Mythili Raman, who’s heading the criminal division, said the enforcement action is ‘the first coordinated action by French and U.S. law enforcement [agencies] in a major foreign bribery case.’

‘Our two countries are working more closely today than ever before to combat corporate corruption,’ she said, ‘and Total, which bought business through bribes, now faces the criminal consequences across two continents.’


The DOJ’s May 29, 2013 release is here.

The DOJ’s criminal information is here.

Total’s deferred prosecution agreement is here.

The SEC’s Release dated May 29, 2013 is here.

The SEC’s administrative order is here.

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