Glencore’s subsidiary has pleaded guilty in a London court to seven counts of bribery related to its oil operations in several African countries.
The Serious Fraud Office, which had brought charges against the FTSE 100-listed company following an investigation, announced that the sentencing hearing would take place on November 2 and 3.
Glencore Energy UK announced last month that it would pay a $1.1 billion US settlement and would plead guilty in the UK. The SFO had charged the company with bribery for preferential access to oil between 2011 and 2016 at Westminster Magistrates Court in London. The case was then transferred to the higher Southwark crown court for the Tuesday plea hearing.
“Glencore Energy (UK) Ltd has today been convicted on all bribery charges brought against it by the Serious Fraud Office,” the SFO said on Tuesday. The company admitted to multiple counts of paying bribes to secure access to oil and generate illicit profit at Southwark Crown Court. The SFO investigation revealed that Glencore, through its employees and agents, paid bribes totaling more than $28 million for preferential access to oil, including increased cargoes, valuable grades of oil, and preferred delivery dates. The company approved these actions for its oil operations in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and South Sudan.”
In 2018, and 2019, respectively, US and UK authorities launched investigations into alleged bribery and corruption at Glencore’s oil operations. Glencore announced in February that it had set aside $1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) to cover potential fines and costs associated with the investigations in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Brazil. While significant, it was far less than the $4 billion that Glencore stated would be returned to shareholders after record profits.
Glencore said it had nothing to add to its May 24 statement that the payments to settle the investigations were “not expected to differ materially” from the $1.5 billion provision. The company stated at the time that it had cooperated with investigations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Brazil, and that it had made “substantial investments” to improve its ethics and compliance program. It also stated that employees involved in the wrongdoing had been fired or disciplined.
Last month, the US attorney general announced that the $1.1 billion settlement reached with Glencore would resolve both a decade-long scheme to bribe foreign officials in seven countries, as well as separate criminal and civil charges alleging that one of the company’s trading arms manipulated fuel oil prices at two of the largest US shipping ports.
According to prosecutors, Glencore has agreed to pay approximately $40 million to settle bribery allegations in Brazil – nearly $30 million to the state-run Brazilian oil company Petrobras in compensation for defrauding the company, and approximately $10 million to Brazilian authorities in civil penalties.
Dutch and Swiss authorities are also looking into allegations of wrongdoing, some of which may be related to operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Glencore’s guilty pleas today are hugely significant as a major corporate bribery conviction,” said Helen Taylor, a legal researcher at the Spotlight on Corruption campaign group. “However, it’s now critical that the court impose a fine that reflects the staggering scale and seriousness of this corporate criminality, or companies like Glencore will simply write this off as the cost of doing business.”
“At sentencing, Glencore’s obligation to compensate victims of its corruption in West Africa must be prioritized.” If the SFO wants to ensure effective deterrence and true accountability for corporate wrongdoing, the bottom line is that the senior executives who supported the bribery scheme must now be investigated and prosecuted.”
“Glencore today is not the company it was when the unacceptable practices that led to this misconduct occurred,” Glencore chair Kalidas Madhavpeddi said in May.