Stericycle, Inc. will pay more than $84 million to resolve Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) charges, as well as charges by Brazilian authorities, related to bribe payments to government officials to win and keep business in Latin America, the SEC and Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on April 20, 2022.
The medical waste services company will pay a $52.5 million criminal penalty to resolve the DOJ’s charges as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement, and pay $28.2 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest stemming from the SEC’s charges. Up to one third of the criminal penalty will be credited against fines the company pays to Brazilian authorities, according to a Justice Department news release. The SEC said its order provides for an up to $4.2 million offset for disgorgement paid in Brazil.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The SEC order lays out violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records, and internal accounting control provisions. The SEC said that, from at least 2012 to 2016, the company paid out millions of dollars over hundreds of bribes “to obtain and maintain business from government customers in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, as well as to obtain authorization for priority release of payments owed under government contracts.”
The order describes the company’s expansion into Latin America, in which it grew through acquisition but kept accounting processes and systems that “remained mostly decentralized with neither uniformity nor proper oversight, resulting in internal control deficiencies.” The company had no centralized compliance department, and did not implement its FCPA policies of procedures before 2016, according to the commission order.
In the case of Argentina, a market the company first entered in 2000, the SEC order describes a scheme - authorized and overseen by Latin American Stericycle executives – surrounding bribes to provincial government officials to secure payment of invoices for services to government-owned hospitals and healthcare facilities.
The company’s Argentina subsidiary maintained “various documents in furtherance of the bribery scheme,” according to the SEC, and in emails used terms that included “alfa” to describe the bribe payments. Alfa is short for Alfajores, a type of cookie popular in South America.
“Stericycle Argentina employees also exchanged a spreadsheet comparing actual and projected revenue with a line item for ‘Alfa’ underneath Stericycle’s “Commercial Expenses,’” the SEC stated in the order. “This line item was generated via an Excel formula that calculated the bribe value based on a percentage of projected government customer revenue in that province.”
As part of the settlement with the SEC, on top of the disgorgement payments, the company also agreed to engage an independent compliance monitor to periodically report to the commission staff.
The SEC, in agreeing to the settlement offer, said it considered the company’s cooperation and the remedial acts undertaken by the company, including “the termination of employees and third parties responsible for the misconduct and enhancements to its internal accounting controls.”
“Stericycle created a compliance organization, including hiring an experienced Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer as well as local compliance staff, enhanced its policies and procedures and compliance communications, and introduced training of employees on anti-bribery issues,” the SEC stated in the order.
This article originally appeared in the April 26, 2022 edition of Accounting & Compliance Alert, available on Checkpoint.
Get all the latest tax, accounting, audit, and corporate finance news with Checkpoint Edge. Sign up for a free 7-day trial today.