* LyondellBasell says internal inquiry under way
* Says may have violated Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
* Company cooperating with DOJ
NEW YORK, April 7 LyondellBasell [ACCEIN.UL], the bankrupt chemical company built through a takeover by financier Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, has identified corporate activities in Kazakhstan that may break U.S. anti-corruption laws, according to court documents.
LyondellBasell disclosed in a March court filing that it had contacted the U.S. Department of Justice about activities it said may violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It also said it is cooperating with the department.
The act prohibits payment of bribes to foreign officials to obtain or keep business.
U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment on whether the department is investigating.
LyondellBasell spokesman David Harpole likewise declined to comment on whether the U.S. government has opened its own investigation following Lyondell's disclosure of its own internal inquiry.
"I cannot discuss areas of the investigation or status of the investigation," Harpole said.
Once a company discloses possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to the Justice Department, the DOJ will typically take a look although it may conclude that it is not worth pursuing, according to a lawyer who specializes in FCPA law.
"It's quite possible the Justice Department will decide there's not a lot there, although if a company has made a decision to voluntarily disclose, there's probably something," said Stevan Bunnell, an FCPA lawyer with O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, speaking generally about self-disclosures.
In 2006, LyondellBasell announced a project in Kazakhstan for an integrated chemical plant that was later delayed. LyondellBasell's Harpole said that in February the company informed the partners in the project that it would not be going forward because the project did not fit in with its business plan.
LyondellBasell, which plans to emerge from bankruptcy this year, said that it had hired outside counsel to investigate the activities.
(Additional reporting by Dan Margolies in Washington D.C.)