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Deutsche Bank pays $122.9 million to resolve ‘business development’ FCPA offenses

Deutsche Bank AG agreed Friday to pay the DOJ and SEC $122.9 million in penalties and disgorgement to resolve FCPA offenses in China, Italy, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia.

The Frankfurt-headquartered bank entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice, paying a $79.6 million criminal penalty.

The DOJ charged Deutsche Bank in federal court in New York with one count of conspiracy to violate the books and records and internal accounting controls provisions of the FCPA.

In an internal administrative order, the SEC charged Deutsche Bank with violating the FCPA’s books and records and internal accounting controls provisions.

As part of the SEC settlement, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay $43.3 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest. The SEC didn’t impose a separate penalty.

Friday’s criminal charges included one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution related to commodities trading violations. Deutsche Bank paid a $5.6 million criminal penalty for the commodities trading violations and disgorged about $681,000. The DOJ said the bank had also paid $1.2 million to compensate victims of the commodities trading offenses.

In the FCPA case, according to the DOJ and SEC, Deutsche Bank hired business-development consultants in China, Italy, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia. But it lacked sufficient internal accounting controls for intermediaries, resulting in about $7 million in bribe payments or payments for unknown, undocumented, or unauthorized services.

Some of the consultants were acting as a proxy for foreign officials, the DOJ said.

Deutsche Bank inaccurately recorded the consultant payments as legitimate business expenses, sometimes based on invoices and documentation falsified by bank employees, the SEC said. 

In Saudi Arabia, from 2011 through the end of 2012, Deutsche Bank paid bribes to a general manager of the family office of a senior member of a Middle Eastern Royal Family to obtain and retain the office’s banking business. The manager made investment decisions for the family office and managed hundreds of millions of dollars in investments on its behalf. To pay the bribes, Deutsche Bank entered into a contract with, and made payments to, a shell company owned by the manager’s wife, the SEC said.

In Abu Dhabi, Deutsche Bank contracted with a consultant to obtain a lucrative transaction with an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, despite bank employees knowing that the consultant “lacked qualifications as a [consultant], other than his family relationship with the client decisionmaker,” and that the consultant was acting as a proxy for the client decisionmaker. Deutsche Bank paid the Abu Dhabi consultant over $3 million without invoices, the DOJ said.

In China, Deutsche Bank paid a consultant at least $1.6 million — including payments for services purportedly performed before he was engaged — to help the bank establish a clean-energy investment fund with a Chinese government entity. The consultant submitted invoices for gifts and entertainment provided to government officials that were reimbursed without adequate review or advance approval by compliance, as required under Deutsche Bank’s policies, the SEC said.

In Italy, Deutsche Bank retained a regional tax judge as a consultant from 2007 through 2015 to refer high net worth clients to the bank. The bank failed to conduct reasonable due diligence before the consultant’s engagement, the SEC said.

The DOJ said in a statement, “Deutsche Bank engaged in a criminal scheme to conceal payments to so-called consultants worldwide who served as conduits for bribes to foreign officials and others so that they could unfairly obtain and retain lucrative business projects.”

But Deutsche Bank “received full credit for its cooperation with the FCPA investigation,” according to the DPA. The cooperation included making foreign-based employees available for interviews in the United States and “producing extensive documentation to the DOJ, including documents located in foreign jurisdictions.”

The SEC cited the bank’s cooperation and remediation. Remedial measures included adding anti-corruption compliance staff and increasing regular anti-bribery training “specifically addressing the use of third parties to obtain and retain business,” the SEC said.

Deutsche Bank said in a statement Friday, “We take responsibility for these past actions, which took place between 2008 and 2017. Our thorough internal investigations, and full cooperation with the DOJ and SEC investigations of these matters, reflect our transparency and determination to put these matters firmly in the past.”

In March 2017, the bank first disclosed in an SEC filing that the SEC and DOJ were looking into its “engagement of finders and consultants,” in addition to its hiring practices.

In August 2019, Deutsche Bank paid the SEC $16 million to settle FCPA offenses for hiring of relatives of public officials in China and Russia. At the time, the SEC said that from at least 2006, Deutsche Bank’s Asia Pacific operations hired relatives at the request of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) executives that the bank was seeking business from.

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