On January 22, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it had reached agreements with The PBSJ Corp. (PBSJ), a Tampa, Fla.-based engineering and construction firm, and a former executive of PBSJ, to settle allegations of FCPA violations in connection with the offering and authorizing of bribes and employment to foreign officials to secure Qatari government contracts.
PBSJ, now known as Atkins North America Holdings Corp and no longer an issuer in the United States, agreed to pay $3.4 million in penalties, disgorgement, and prejudgment interest, pursuant to a two-year Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the SEC.
In an administrative order, the SEC also charged Walid Hatoum, a former international marketing director for PBSJ, with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery, internal accounting controls, and books and records provisions, and with false records offenses. Hatoum did not admit or deny the findings and agreed to pay a penalty of $50,000 to settle the FCPA charges.
In announcing the settlement the Chief of the SEC’s FCPA Unit, Kara Brockmeyer, stated that Hatoum “offered and authorized nearly $1.4 million in bribes disguised as ‘agency fees’ intended for a foreign official who used an alias to communicate confidential information that assisted PBSJ.” The foreign official subsequently provided Hatoum and PBSJ’s international subsidiary with access to confidential sealed-bid and pricing information that enabled the PBSJ subsidiary to tender winning bids for projects in Morocco and Qatar.
The SEC also noted that PBSJ “ignored multiple red flags that should have enabled other officers and employees to uncover the bribery scheme at an earlier stage. But once discovered, the company self-reported the potential FCPA violations and cooperated substantially.” Such cooperation included making witnesses available for interviews, providing factual chronologies, timelines, internal summaries, and full forensic images.