SAP settles with SEC over Panama bribery scheme

(Reuters) - SAP SE agreed to pay nearly $3.9 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil charges over a former executive’s scheme to bribe Panama government officials in order to win lucrative technology contracts.

A participant sits next to a bag with SAP logo before the company's annual general meeting in Mannheim, Germany, May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The SEC on Monday said SAP’s deficient internal controls enabled Vicente Garcia, a former vice president of global and strategic accounts responsible for Latin America sales, to pay $145,000 in bribes to a top Panamanian official and offer bribes to two others in exchange for the contracts.

Garcia, of Miami, pleaded guilty last August to a related bribery conspiracy charge. He was sentenced on December 16 to one year, 10 months in prison. SAP had fired him in April 2014.

Monday’s settlement calls for SAP to give up $3.7 million of profit and pay $189,000 of interest to settle charges that it violated the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribing foreign officials to win business.

SAP did not admit or deny wrongdoing, and the penalty reflected the Walldorf, Germany-based company’s cooperation and remedial measures, the SEC said.

In a statement, SAP confirmed the accord, adding: “SAP is strongly committed to high standards of integrity and business conduct and has zero tolerance for any form of corruption.”

The SEC said Garcia helped arrange SAP’s sale of software licenses at an 82 percent discount to a Panamanian partner, which used the savings to create a “slush fund” for bribes.

A Mexican subsidiary of SAP then falsely recorded the slush fund as legitimate discounts on its books, which were later consolidated into SAP’s own financial statements, the SEC said.

Garcia was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco.

In a sentencing order, Breyer identified former Panama president Ricardo Martinelli as one of several alleged conspirators in the SAP scheme. That order was released on December 22 and sealed the next day. Martinelli has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay