In its 10-Q filing last week, Nabors Industries Ltd. Announced that: "On September 21, 2011, we received an informal inquiry from the SEC related to perquisites and personal benefits received by the officers and directors of Nabors, including their use of non-commercial aircraft. Our Audit Committee and Board of Directors have been apprised of this inquiry and we are cooperating with the SEC. The ultimate outcome of this process cannot be determined at this time." The inquiry seems to have been triggered by a June 2011 front page story in The Wall Street Journal on personal aircraft usage by corporate executives.
Interestingly, except for the NIC Inc. case in January 2011 also involving aircraft use, we have not seen many inquiries like this since last decade (e.g., Tyson Foods), when the SEC investigated several companies for their perquisite payments and disclosures to executive and former executives. Since then, most companies have pared back their perks significantly. However, this should serve as a warning that the SEC (and the media) are still watching closely.