“Companies Cannot Put Their Proverbial Heads in the Sand” — Paul Calli on the Trafigura Bribery Settlement

In March 2024, multinational commodities trader Trafigura Beheer BV entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice over the company’s bribes to Brazilian officials with ties to state-owned oil company Petrobras. The company admitted the bribery and agreed to pay approximately $127 million.

The case highlights the extent of the government’s jurisdictional reach per the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) — Trafigura is a private swiss company which did business with a Brazilian state-owned entity and the U.S.-connections were limited to discussions in the U.S. and transactions which moved through financial institutions in the U.S.

Paul Calli was quoted in Anti-Corruption Report’s analysis of the settlement:

The case illustrates that using third-party agents for business origination or retention may be a perilous undertaking, unless those agents are stringently monitored, Calli said. “Clearly, companies cannot put their proverbial heads in the sand, when it comes to the use of third-party agents.”

Trafigura’s remedial efforts included discontinuing its use of third-party agents for business origination. While Trafigura was able to obtain some “credit” with DOJ through its remediation efforts and cooperation, at times it failed to produce or preserve evidence. These failures limited its bid for leniency. This highlights an important lesson for companies — once the choice is made to voluntarily disclose and cooperate with the government, cooperation must be complete.



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