Schlumberger pleads guilty to violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, Sudan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday that a subsidiary of Schlumberger Oilfield Holdings had pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions related to Iran and Sudan and would pay a $237.2 million fine.

The oil well manufacturing company also agreed to a three-year period of corporate probation, during which it will cease all operations in Iran and Syria and hire an independent consultant to review its policies on complying with sanctions.

“For years, in a variety of ways, this foreign company facilitated trade with Iran and Sudan from Sugar Land, Texas,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Manchen, Jr. said.

“Today’s announcement should send a clear message to all global companies with a U.S. presence: Whether your employees are from the U.S. or abroad, when they are in the United States, they will abide by our laws or you will be held accountable,” Manchen warned.

In a statement, Schlumberger said it voluntarily ceased oilfield operation in Iran as of the second quarter of 2013 and said it has ceased oilfield operations in Sudan as of the plea agreement.

“This plea fully resolves the investigation of the Company, and we understand there is no ongoing investigation of Company personnel,” Schlumberger said in its statement. “The Company cooperated with the investigation, and we are satisfied that this matter is finally resolved.”

The plea agreement is the latest in a series of cases, including the recent $1.5 billion deferred prosecution by Commerzbank, in which the U.S. prosecutors penalized a global company for violating U.S. sanctions.

“Any company that does business in the United States in any way, shape, or form must refuse to work in sanctioned countries or risk criminal prosecution,”said Matthew L. Schwartz, a white-collar defense attorney at Boies, Schiller and Flexner.

Schwartz said Schlumberger was prosecuted in part because U.S.-based employees provided technical assistance with the company’s drilling tools in Iran and Sudan.

(The story fixes typographical error in law firm’s name, paragraph 8)

Reporting by Julia Edwards; editing by Peter Cooney, Lisa Lambert and Leslie Adler