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April 10, 2014

Ouch! HP pays $108m to settle bribery charges

Marks largest settlement by a US firm in breach of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

By CBR Staff Writer

HP agreed to pay $108m to settle wide-ranging US government investigations into its bribery activities in Poland, Russia and Mexico, making it the largest settlement by a US firm in breach of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

HP employees in the three countries had allegedly bribed government officials with "bags of cash, jewellery and tours of the Grand Canyon" to retain public contracts.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz said that HP subsidiaries created a slush fund for bribe payments, set up an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts to launder money, employed two sets of books to track bribe recipients, and used anonymous e-mail accounts and pre-paid mobile telephones to arrange covert meetings to hand over bags of cash.

"Even as the tradecraft of corruption becomes more sophisticated, the department is staying a step ahead of those who choose to violate our laws, thanks to the diligent efforts of US prosecutors and agents," Swartz said.

According to the Justice Department, the bribes in Mexico were paid between 2008 and 2009; in Poland between 2006 and 2010 and in Russia from 2000 to 2007.

The latest scam exposed involved contracts worth $40m to deploy IT equipment at Poland’s national police headquarters; €35m of work for Russia’s Office of the Prosecutor General; and a contract to deliver Mexico’s state-owned petroleum firm.

HP executive vice president and general counsel John Schultz said in a statement that the misconduct described in the settlement was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company.

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"HP fully cooperated with both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the investigation of these matters and will continue to provide customers around the world with top quality products and services without interruption," Schulz added.

US prosecutors noted that HP’s Russian unit pleaded guilty to the allegations, while its Polish and Mexican operations reached deals to evade trial in exchange for recovering corporate conduct.

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