In February 2012, the SEC brought FCPA claims against three oil services executives associated with Noble Corporation: Thomas O’Rourke, Mark Jackson and James Ruehlen. The SEC complaint alleges that the three executives violated the FCPA by “participating in a bribery scheme to obtain illicit permits for oil rigs in Nigeria in order to retain business under lucrative drilling contracts”.

Mr Jackson (former CEO of Noble Corporation) and Mr Ruehlen (current director and division manager of Noble Corporation’s Nigerian subsidiary) are defending the action and have, separately, moved to dismiss the case. Mr Ruehlen’s motion to dismiss focuses on the allegation that he made corrupt payments to obtain or retain business, and submits that the F C P A makes an exception for “facilitation payments,” which are legitimate payments made to secure routine governmental actions, such as obtaining permits. Further, Mr Ruehlen says, the complaint fails to identify which Nigerian officials allegedly received payments, making it impossible to determine whether the alleged payments were illegal bribes or were facilitation payments.

Mr Jackson’s motion to dismiss asserts that the complaint fails to allege that Mr Jackson knew about the alleged bribes. Mr O’Rourke (former controller and head of internal audit at Noble Corporation) settled with the SEC.