On July 30, 2009, Helmerich & Payne (“H&P”), an international drilling contractor for the oil and gas industry that is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Oklahoma, entered into a two-year nonprosecution agreement with the Department in connection with approximately $185,673 in improper payments it made to Argentine and Venezuelan customs officials.45 H&P acknowledged its conduct and agreed to pay a $1,000,000 fine, strengthen its internal controls procedures, and cooperate with the Department in its ongoing investigations. In announcing the settlement, the Department commended H&P’s voluntary disclosure and thorough self-investigation of the underlying conduct, as well as its extensive cooperation and the remedial efforts it undertook. H&P also consented to the entry of a cease and desist order by the SEC and paid $375,000 in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest.46
According to the order, Helmerich & Payne (Argentina) Drilling Company (“H&P Argentina”) paid Argentine customs officials approximately $166,000 from 2004 to 2008 in order to expedite the customs process, to forego required customs documentation, and to allow the import of goods prohibited by Argentine law, avoiding an estimated $186,000 in charges. The bulk of these improper payments were made through third party customs brokers, who later included them in their invoices to H&P Argentina, labeling them “additional assessments,” “extra costs,” or “extraordinary expenses.”47
Helmerich & Payne de Venezuela, C.A. (“H&P Venezuela”) allegedly paid customs officials in that country approximately $19,673 from 2003 to 2008 to permit the import and export of goods that were not within regulations or to avoid full inspections of imported goods, avoiding an estimated $134,000 in duties. H&P Venezuela also used third party customs brokers to make the improper payments, which were then included in invoices submitted to H&P Venezuela as “urgent processing,” “urgent dispatch” or “customs processing.”48
H&P uncovered the improper payments as a result of an employee disclosure during FCPA compliance training.
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