WASHINGTON Dec 20 Archer-Daniels-Midland Co
, one of the world's largest agricultural trading houses,
agreed to pay more than $54 million to resolve U.S. criminal and
civil charges that it paid bribes to Ukrainian officials for tax
benefits, a U.S. Justice Department official said on Friday.
The company's Ukrainian unit, Alfred C. Toepfer
International Ukraine Ltd, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to
violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a U.S. law against
bribing foreign government officials.
"ADM's subsidiaries sought to gain a tax benefit by bribing
government officials, and then attempted to deliberately conceal
their conduct by funneling payments through local vendors,"
Mythili Raman, acting head of the U.S. Department of Justice's
criminal division, said in a statement.
"Paying bribes to reap business benefits corrupts markets
and undermines the rule of law," she added.
According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,
which also settled with ADM, the company failed to prevent some
$21 million in bribes between 2002 to 2008 that had been paid to
secure the release of tax refunds.
The bribes amounted to 18 to 20 percent of the refunds, and
were paid through inflated commodities contracts with a
Ukrainian shipping company that then passed on the payments to
the tax officials, the agency said.
ADM also entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the
Justice Department, and agreed to improve its compliance
programs and internal controls. The company had previously set
aside sufficient funds for a settlement.
Patricia Woertz, ADM's chairman and chief executive, said
the Decatur, Illinois-based company learned of questionable
activity in 2008, and disclosed the matter to authorities in
early 2009 following an internal probe. She said an unspecified
number of employees had been fired or otherwise disciplined.
"The conduct that led to this settlement was regrettable,
but I believe we handled our response in the right way," Woertz
said in a statement.
ADM shares closed down 43 cents at $43.36 in Friday trading
on the New York Stock Exchange.
Settlement papers with the Justice Department were not
immediately available. The SEC case is SEC v.
Archer-Daniels-Midland Co, U.S. District Court, Central District
of Illinois, No. 13-02279.