An energy company has agreed to pay a total of £103 million over its use of corrupt agents in the oil and gas sector to secure contracts.
Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited has entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which was approved by Lord Justice Edis on Thursday.
Following a brief hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday, the details of the DPA and the reasons the court approved the deal were made public.
In a written ruling, Lord Justice Edis said: “The scale and duration of corrupt practices within Foster Wheeler Energy Limited between 1996 and 2014 amounted to very significant and systemic corruption.
“At all times during this period Foster Wheeler Energy Limited had in place policies which ought to have prevented this from happening, but it has transpired that these policies were not followed.
“Documents were created to conceal the fact that the company had employed agents to channel money to public officials.
“There is no room for doubt about this, because many of the emails exchanged within the company are very transparent.”
The judge added: “It is a matter of great significance in the present context that the widespread and high level culture of criminality, which is accepted to have existed, does not in fact taint the modern company.
“I would not approve a DPA in this case except in circumstances where the company was under new management, and where there is good reason to accept that Wood (John Wood Group) fully intends to ensure that its activity is carried on without corruption in the future.”
The DPA only relates to the potential criminal liability of Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited and does not address whether liability of any sort attaches to any employee, agent, former employee or former agent of Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited.
The SFO said the offences took place around the world between 1996 and 2014, before Amec acquired Foster Wheeler in November 2014 and prior to the combined firm’s acquisition by John Wood Group in October 2017.
By entering into the DPA, Amec Foster Wheeler Energy has taken responsibility for 10 offences of corruption in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India and Brazil by the legacy Foster Wheeler business, the SFO said.
As part of the agreement, the company will pay the SFO’s costs of £3.4 million plus compensation to “the Nigerian victims in this case” of just over £200,000, the watchdog added.
The SFO said the DPA concludes its investigation “into suspected bribery and corruption within the legacy Foster Wheeler and Amec Foster Wheeler businesses as far as the corporate entities are concerned”.
But it added that its “investigation into the conduct of individual suspects continues” and the court heard on Friday that it expected to “reach charging decisions in the next three months”.
The deal is part of a 177 million US dollar (£128 million) global settlement with the SFO, the US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission and the Brazilian authorities.
Lisa Osofsky, the director of the SFO, said: “Over a period of 18 years, Foster Wheeler brazenly and calculatedly paid bribes to officials around the world to cut corners and secure contracts, going to great lengths to conceal its corrupt conduct.
“In doing so, the company subverted the rule of law and harmed the integrity of the economy in the United Kingdom.
“We will continue to deliver justice for the taxpayer by punishing such actions and forcing companies to change for the better.
“Justice also means recovering money to compensate victims wherever possible, and I am delighted that we have been able to secure compensation for the Nigerian victims in this case.”
Robin Watson, chief executive of John Wood Group, the current parent company of Amec Foster Wheeler Energy, said he was pleased that “we have been able to resolve these issues”.
He said: “The investigations brought to light unacceptable, albeit historical, behaviour that I condemn in the strongest terms.
“Although we inherited these issues through acquisition, we took full responsibility in addressing them, as any responsible business would.
“Since our acquisition of Amec Foster Wheeler, we have cooperated fully with the authorities and have taken steps to further improve our ethics and compliance programme from an already strong foundation.”
The group’s chair, Roy Franklin, said: “The historical conduct that led to these investigations does not reflect the values of Wood that unite us as a global team.
“The resolutions underline why we attach such importance to upholding the highest standards of ethics and compliance in all parts of the world where we operate, and why we continue to invest in strengthening our governance in this area.”