The SEC announced on March 1 that it settled FCPA charges with Qualcomm Inc., the San Diego-based mobile chip maker. Qualcomm agreed to pay a $7.5 million civil penalty to resolve charges that it violated the FCPA by hiring relatives of Chinese government officials and providing things of value to foreign officials and their family members, in an attempt to influence these officials to take actions that would assist Qualcomm in obtaining or retaining business in China.
Qualcomm and the SEC settled the case via an Administrative Order Instituting Cease-and-Desist Proceedings, in which Qualcomm did not admit or deny the findings set forth in the order. The order found that Qualcomm had violated the anti-bribery, internal controls, and books-and-records provisions of the FCPA. In addition to the $7.5 million civil penalty, Qualcomm agreed to provide the SEC with self-reports and certifications concerning its FCPA compliance during a two-year period.
According to the order, Qualcomm both offered and provided employment and paid internships to family members of Chinese foreign officials in order to try to obtain business. Many of these hires were referred to internally at Qualcomm as “must place” or “special” hires and did not satisfy Qualcomm’s internal hiring standards. The order also details Qualcomm’s provision of meals, gifts, travel, and entertainment to both foreign officials and relatives of foreign officials in an effort to influence these officials to use Qualcomm technology.
The settlement appears to be an extension of the SEC’s “Sons and Daughters” investigations which, up until now, have been focused on the hiring practices of financial institutions in the Asia Pacific. As previously reported by the Wall Street Journal, in March 2014, the SEC sent letters to at least five U.S. and European banks, including Credit Suisse Group AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc., and UBS AG, seeking more information about their hiring practices in Asia and to examine whether the banks violated the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions by hiring relatives of well-connected government officials. Prior FCPA Scorecard coverage of other aspects of the “Sons and Daughters” investigations around the world is available here.