* Mexican oil company seeks $1.5 bln in U.S. lawsuit
* Siemens paid $1.6 bln in 2008 to settle bribery case
* Pemex claims bribes caused cost overruns for project
By Nate Raymond and Aruna Viswanatha
NEW YORK, Dec 13 State-owned Mexican oil company
Pemex sued Siemens AG and a South Korean
company for $1.5 billion on Thursday over a bribery scheme that
has dogged the German conglomerate for years.
Pemex's lawsuit marks a rare instance of a company owned by
a foreign government seeking restitution through the U.S. courts
for alleged bribery.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York, Pemex
accused Siemens and SK Engineering & Construction Co Ltd
, a subsidiary of SK Holdings Co Ltd, of
securing contracts to participate in an oil refinery
modernization project in Mexico through bribes to Pemex
Pemex said it began looking into whether its dealings with
Siemens were "tainted by bribery" after the company 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
A parallel action brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission as part of that case 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 SEC.
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
The lawsuit seeks at least $500 million in damages, which
could be tripled under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
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.
RESTITUTION LAWSUITS RARE
While the United States has stepped up its enforcement of
its 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
A settlement under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 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
"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.
In its lawsuit, Pemex said its 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.
Pemex contends that bribes caused cost overruns that were a
"significant component" of an arbitration with Conproca,
according to the court papers.
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
Pemex said in its lawsuit that 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.