US Justice Department investigating IBM bribery allegations

US Justice Department investigating IBM bribery allegations
International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) is being probed over corruption allegations in Poland, Argentina, Bangladesh and Ukraine, an investigation that comes on the heels of bribery charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The US Justice Department is investigating whether IBM violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Bloomberg reported on Friday. In Poland, the probe is examining a transaction that the Polish Central Anti-Corruption Bureau was already in the process of studying, the company said.

The DoJ probe comes as IBM is attempting to settle with the SEC over activity in China and South Korea. In March 2011, the company said it had agreed to pay $10 million to settle with the SEC over allegations that it bribed officials to win at least $54 million in government contracts.

The alleged bribes in IBM’s SEC case took place from 1998 through 2009 and were made by employees at three subsidiaries of IBM, as well as LG IBM PC Co., a joint venture with LG Electronics Inc., according to the SEC filing.

The SEC said cash payments to South Korean officials from 1998 to 2003 totaled $207,000.

In China, IBM created “slush funds” at local travel agencies that were used to pay for overseas vacations by government officials, according to the SEC.

IBM employees also gave presents, such as cameras and laptop computers, to Chinese officials, according to the complaint.

Reuters

US District Judge Richard Leon, who has had the case under review, said a condition of the deal is that IBM would be required to report any future law enforcement or administrative probes to the court, according to Bloomberg.

IBM is cooperating with the investigations, the company said in the filing.

The 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits companies or individuals headquartered in the US from paying bribes to foreign officials in order to win business. At the same time, foreign companies and nationals also can be prosecuted if their corrupt acts were committed in the US.

IBM’s filing doesn’t give further detail on the transactions in Argentina, Bangladesh and Ukraine that the DoJ is investigating.

Ed Barbini, an IBM spokesman, said in an email on Thursday that the company has a “robust and effective compliance program.”

“While we will not comment on the specifics of this investigation, it is noteworthy that many such investigations result in no findings of wrongdoing,” Barbini said.

“However, if it turns out that our Business Conduct Guidelines have been violated then we will address it promptly and effectively.” Despite the probe, IBM shares rose 1.4 per cent to $202.39 yesterday in New York. The stock has climbed 5.7 per cent this year.

Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which discusses the dangerous consequences of excessive corporate power in the United States.