SEC, former Willbros supervisor settle foreign bribery charges

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 15 -- The US Securities and Exchange Commission said it reached an agreement on Sept. 14 with Jim Bob Brown, who formerly worked for a Willbros Group Inc. subsidiary, to settle charges that he violated antibribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In a civil action filed in Houston federal court, SEC also alleged that Brown circumvented internal controls and falsified records while he was a supervisor in Willbros's Nigerian operations.

It said that Brown participated in three separate schemes to bribe foreign officials in Nigeria and Ecuador.

The complaint alleged that in February and March of 2005, Brown procured $1 million on behalf of a Willbros affiliate, which he delivered as partial payment to Nigerian government officials and to employees of a joint venture majority-owned by a Nigerian government division. It said he also assisted in paying another $550,000 to satisfy earlier commitments.

Second, in return for Willbros receiving a $3 million contract, Brown allegedly assisted in a scheme to pay $300,000 to officials of an oil and gas company owned by the Ecuadorian government, according to the complaint.

Finally, it said, Brown knowingly assisted a long-running scheme in which employees of Willbros affiliates fabricated invoices to procure cash from the company's Houston headquarters for bribing Nigerian tax and court officials and for other purposes.

Brown neither confirmed nor denied the allegations in the settlement. Pursuant to the judgment, the court will determine, at a later date in response to an SEC motion, whether Brown will have to pay a civil penalty, the federal agency said.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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