Leading brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev will pay USD 6 million (Rs 40.2 crores) to the American authorities for settling charges of making “improper payments” to government officials in India to push sales and production.
Besides, the maker of popular beer brands such as Budweiser and Corona would settle charges that it "chilled a whistle-blower who reported the misconduct".
The SEC was assisted by the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Securities and Exchange Board of India.
Announcing the settlement agreed to by Anheuser-Busch, the SEC said the company “used third-party sales promoters to make improper payments to government officials in India to increase the sales and production of Anheuser-Busch InBev products in that country”.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also said that despite repeated complaints from employees, Anheuser-Busch had inadequate internal accounting controls to detect and prevent the improper payments. Further, the company failed to ensure that transactions involving the promoters were recorded properly in its books and records, it added.
According to the American regulator, the Belgian brewer entered into a separation agreement that stopped an employee from continuing to voluntarily communicate with it about potential FCPA violations due to a substantial financial penalty that would be imposed for violating strict non-disclosure terms.
The company has “agreed to pay USD 6 million (Rs 40.2 crores) to settle charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and chilled a whistle blower who reported the Misconduct”, the SEC said in a release on Wednesday.
Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division's FCPA Unit said Kara Brockmeyer said the company “recorded improper payments by its sales promoters in India as legitimate expenses in its financial accounting”. It then exacerbated the problem by including language in a separation agreement that chilled an employee from communicating with the SEC, Brockmeyer added.
Anheuser-Busch was also found to have violated the books and records provisions and the internal controls provisions of federal securities laws as well as the Securities Exchange Act.
‘Anheuser-Busch InBev agreed to pay USD 2,712,955 in disgorgement plus interest of USD 292,381 and a penalty of USD 3,002,955,’ the release said.
Apart from the settlement, the company would have to cooperate with the SEC for two years and report its FCPA compliance efforts.
Further, the firm has to make “reasonable efforts to notify certain former employees that Anheuser-Busch InBev does not prohibit employees from contacting the SEC about possible law violations”.
The SEC probe was conducted by Morgan B Ward Doran, Sonali Singh and Carol Shau, and supervised by Alka Patel.