| July 2
July 2 Two executives from offshore drilling
contractor Noble Corp have agreed to settle civil claims
they participated in a bribery scheme to obtain permits for oil
rigs in Nigeria, days before the case was set to go to trial.
Jury selection had been scheduled for next Monday in the
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's case against Mark
Jackson, Noble's former chief executive officer, and James
Ruehlen, director of the oil and gas services company's Nigerian
subsidiary. The two men were sued under the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act (FCPA), which bans U.S. companies from bribing
A federal judge in Houston called off all trial deadlines on
Tuesday pending a final settlement. The terms, which must be
approved by a judge, were not disclosed in court papers.
While the FCPA has been the at the center of at least eight
criminal trials since 2009, the case would have marked a rare
instance of the SEC bringing a civil action to trial.
It also would also have marked the latest test of the SEC's
enforcement powers following a mixed record before juries, most
recently resulting in two insider trading losses.
The SEC sued Jackson and Ruehlen in 2012, two years after
Noble agreed to pay $8 million to resolve related FCPA civil and
Noble in 2011 agreed to pay $2.5 million as part of a
non-prosecution agreement with the Nigerian government.
The lawsuit against Jackson and Ruehlen centered on
temporary import permits granted by Nigeria's customs service to
Noble's local subsidiary that allowed rigs to remain in the
country for a one-year period.
The customs service had the authority to grant up to three
six-month extensions before the company would either need to
receive a new temporary permit to export and re-import the rigs
or permanently import them and pay significant duties.
The SEC contended Jackson and Ruehlen participated in a
scheme to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to
Nigerian customs officials to obtain 11 illicit permits and 29
Both men denied the charges. Thomas O'Rourke, Noble's former
head of internal audit, agreed in 2012 to pay a $35,000 penalty
to resolve claims he aided and abetted the violations without
admitting or denying the allegations.
The case is SEC v. Jackson, U.S. District Court, Southern
District of Houston, No. 12-00563.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Noeleen
Walder and Tom Brown)