* Mexican oil company seeks $500 mln in U.S. lawsuit
* Siemens paid $1.6 bln in 2008 to settle FCPA case
* Pemex claims bribes caused cost overruns for project
By Nate Raymond and Aruna Viswanatha
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Dec 13 State-owned Mexican
oil company Pemex sued Siemens AG and a
South Korean company for $500 million on Thursday over a bribery
scheme that has dogged the German conglomerate for years, adding
to a short list of cases that raise novel questions about who is
a victim in corruption cases.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York, Pemex
accused Siemens and SK Engineering & Construction Co Ltd
of securing contracts to participate in an oil
refinery modernization project in Mexico through bribes to Pemex
Siemens paid a record $1.6 billion to U.S. and European
authorities in 2008 to resolve allegations of paying bribes
around the world, from Iraq to Argentina.
As part of the settlement, Siemens pleaded guilty to U.S.
criminal charges. The case has been held up as one of the most
egregious bribery cases ever.
While the United States has stepped up its enforcement of an
anti-bribery law, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the
countries in which bribery occurred have rarely appeared in U.S.
courts to seek their own restitution.
Last year, an electric utility in Costa Rica objected to a
bribery settlement French telecoms company Alcatel Lucent SA
entered into with U.S. authorities, and demanded
The Justice Department had accused an Alcatel subsidiary of
paying bribes to Costa Rican government officials, including
five employees of the electric utility. The utility, the
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, lost in the lower
courts and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to look at the case, but
was denied earlier this week.
Alcoa Inc agreed to pay $85 million in October to
resolve a bribery-related case brought in the United States by
Aluminium Bahrain, a settlement that may have inspired the Pemex
lawsuit. Alcoa has not yet resolved any related action from the
U.S. Justice Department or the Securities and Exchange
An FCPA settlement usually signified the end of a matter for
a company, but the recent cases suggest companies could face new
types of post-settlement action, according to Michael Koehler, a
law professor at Southern Illinois University and expert on the
foreign bribery law.
"An FCPA enforcement action in many cases now is not the end
of the day but in many respects, the opening of a whole new day
in terms of potential civil causes of action," he said.
Pemex's lawsuit accused Siemens and SK Engineering of
racketeering violations. Another defendant is Conproca, S.A. De
C.V., a Mexican joint-venture between Siemens and SK
that was created to bid for the state oil company's refinery
contract. Conproca is 85 percent owned by SK, according to the
Pemex contends that bribes caused cost overruns that were a
"significant component" of an arbitration with Conproca,
according to the court papers.
Guenter Gaugler, a spokesman for Siemens, and officials with
Mexico City-based Pemex declined comment. An SK representative
could not be reached. A lawyer for Conproca did not respond to
requests for comment.
Conproca, which has been seeking to recover $530 million in
the arbitration with Pemex, filed a lawsuit, also in New York
federal court, in December 2011 seeking to confirm an award on
In the arbitration, Conproca asserted claims for payment for
work done beyond the scope of the contract and for costs arising
out of delays and disruptions caused by Pemex. The lawsuit
In the 2008 settlement, the case brought against Siemens by
the U.S. Justice Department did not include allegations about
But a parallel action brought by the SEC alleged that
Siemens in late 2004 made around $2.6 million in payments to a
politically connected consultant to help settle cost overrun
claims with refinery modernization projects in Mexico. Siemens
neither admitted nor denied the allegations in settling with the
In its lawsuit, Pemex said that as a result of the SEC's
case, it began an ongoing investigation into "whether any of its
dealings with Siemens were tainted by bribery."
Pemex said the investigation showed that the Conproca joint
venture partners bribed Pemex officials in connection with its
refinery modernization project in the Cadereyta region of
Mexico, which it sought bids for in 1996.
The lawsuit said a criminal investigation in Mexico "has
been substantiated, and is moving forward to uncover the full
extent of the corruption."
The case is Petroleos Mexicanos v. Conproca, S.A. De C.V.,
U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 12-9070.