Oil Service and Freight Firms to Pay $236.5 Million Bribery Settlement

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Seven companies involved in the oil industry -- including Transocean (RIG), the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded and leaked oil into the Gulf of Mexico for three months earlier this year -- will pay the U.S. government a total of $236.5 million to settle charges that they bribed overseas officials to lower customs duties, extend drilling contacts and streamline permitting for oil-drilling rigs, among other things.

Aside from Transocean, the companies include Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), Panalpina World Transport (PLWTF), Pride International (PDE), Tidewater (TDW), GlobalSantaFe (now part of a Transocean subsidary) and Noble (NE), allegedly bribed officials in more than 10 countries, according to an investigation the Securities and Exchange Commission conducted together with the Justice Department. The companies, which neither admitted nor denied the charges, will pay $156.5 million to settle criminal charges with the Justice Department and $80 million to settle SEC charges.

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Switzerland-based Panalpina, a global freight forwarding company, will pay the most: $82 million. Oil services company Pride will pay $56 million, while oil company Shell owes $48 million.

In a separate statement Thursday, Panalpina said it spent about $130 million on consultants to ensure it meets all of its reporting and compliance obligations. The company, which reviewed its operations in 33 countries, shuttered operations in three of those countries, including Nigeria, because "compliance risks were too pervasive," according to the statement.

"We have enhanced our compliance program and internal controls to better ensure employees and contractors strictly adhere to Shell's General Business Principles and applicable laws," Shell said in its own statement Thursday. "Staff found to be in violation of policy were either disciplined or dismissed from Shell."

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