Energy Trader Vitol to Pay $90 Million to Settle U.S. Corruption Charges
By Dave Michaels and Dylan Tokar
An American subsidiary of Swiss-based energy firm Vitol Group
agreed to pay $90 million to settle criminal charges that its
employees paid bribes to gain an advantage when bidding for oil in
Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador.
Vitol Inc.'s deal with the Justice Department, announced
Thursday in Brooklyn federal court, is the first in what is
expected to be a series of similar settlements involving global
commodity trading companies. Some of the claims grew out of a
sweeping corruption scandal in Brazil that focused on bribery of
officials at state-controlled Petróleo Brasileiro SA, also known as
The deal includes a deferred-prosecution agreement that allows
Vitol to escape charges if it stays out of trouble for three years.
The company will also pay an additional $45 million in a
coordinated settlement with Brazilian authorities, according to
The investigation of Vitol, accused of paying millions in bribes
over a decade, also involved the Commodity Futures Trading
Commission. The fine paid to the CFTC, a civil regulatory agency,
wasn't disclosed at Thursday's court hearing.
Vitol, a private company, trades 8 million barrels a day of
crude oil and also manages upstream assets and refineries,
according to its website. Other companies that have faced similar
investigations include Glencore PLC and Singapore-based Trafigura
Group Pte. Ltd.
Brazilian prosecutors announced in 2018 that they were probing
Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura for paying bribes that won them
better terms on trading contracts. The authorities said bribes were
paid to executives of Petrobras's marketing and trading department
and involved employees in the state-controlled oil producer's
Houston and Rio de Janeiro offices.
Following that announcement, Petrobras in 2018 temporarily
suspended trading with the three companies.
A Glencore spokesman declined to comment. Glencore disclosed in
August that it has spent $56 million in the first half of 2020
defending itself from various government investigations, including
those undertaken by the DOJ, CFTC, U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office and
A spokesperson for Trafigura said the company has responded to
information requests from authorities and hired lawyers at Quinn
Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to investigate allegations of
improper payments concerning Petrobras.
"Based on its review to date, which is ongoing, Quinn Emanuel
believes any allegations that current management were involved in,
or had knowledge of, alleged improper payments to Petrobras are
unsupported by the evidence and untrue," the spokesperson said.
Write to Dave Michaels at firstname.lastname@example.org and Dylan Tokar
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 03, 2020 14:40 ET (19:40 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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