SAP to pay more than $230 million to settle bribery charges: DOJ & SEC

Christian Klein, CEO of the software company SAP, stands on the podium looking at his cell phone before the start of the company’s Annual General Meeting.

Uwe Anspach | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

SAP, the $192 billion German enterprise tech company, will pay more than $230 million to settle investigations into worldwide “recidivist” foreign bribery practices, U.S. authorities announced Wednesday.

The company will enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors, who accused SAP of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to allegedly bribe government officials in Indonesia and South Africa, the Justice Department said.

“SAP paid bribes to officials at state-owned enterprises in South Africa and Indonesia to obtain valuable government business,” Nicole Argentieri, acting assistant attorney general, said in a statement.

SAP and its employees bribed government officials in those countries with cash, political donations, luxury goods and shopping sprees, the Justice Department said in a release.

Concurrently, the company will also pay a $98 million disgorgement to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which alleged that SAP improperly recorded the bribes paid to officials in Azerbaijan, Ghana, Indonesia, Malawi, Kenya and South Africa on its own books as “legitimate business expenses.”

Between payments to the SEC, the Justice Department and South African prosecutors, SAP will pay more than $235 million in total.

Some of SAP’s practices detailed by regulators could have been taken from a spy novel. In one instance, according to the SEC, an account executive at SAP’s Indonesian subsidiary paid bribes to officials in the country’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries ministry, and to hand over the bribes, a “freelance consultant” said that the account executive should have “seventy million, in fifty thousand bills… Bring empty envelope.”

In another instance, SAP’s South African subsidiary signed a deal with South African energy juggernaut Eskom worth $29 million. The SEC identified more than $6.7 million in improperly routed payments to “consultants” who “never performed any services,” according to the SEC’s consent decree.

The settlement is one of the largest of its kind. It’s the second time SAP has settled bribery allegations with U.S. regulators; in 2016, the company forfeited roughly $3.7 million in profit to the SEC over a bribery scheme in Panama.

The settlement has been anticipated since at least June, when SAP set aside roughly $186 million for a potential settlement or fines related to bribery probes.

“SAP fully cooperated with the authorities, and these settlements close all compliance matters under investigation in the United States and South Africa,” a SAP spokesperson said in a statement. “The past conduct of certain former colleagues and former partners does not reflect SAP’s values or our commitment to ethical behavior.”

Don’t miss these stories from CNBC PRO: