SEC Charges Smith & Wesson With FCPA Violations
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when employees and representatives of the U.S.-based parent company authorized and made improper payments to foreign officials while trying to win contracts to supply firearm products to military and law enforcement overseas.
Smith & Wesson, which profited by more than $100,000 from the one contract that was completed before the unlawful activity was identified, has agreed to pay $2 million to settle the SEC’s charges. The company must report to the SEC on its FCPA compliance efforts for a period of two years.
According to the SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative proceeding, the Springfield, Mass.-based firearms manufacturer sought to break into new markets overseas starting in 2007 and continuing into early 2010. During that period, Smith & Wesson’s international sales staff engaged in a pervasive effort to attract new business by offering, authorizing, or making illegal payments or providing gifts meant for government officials in Pakistan, Indonesia, and other foreign countries.
“This is a wake-up call for small and medium-size businesses that want to enter into high-risk markets and expand their international sales,” said Kara Brockmeyer, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit. “When a company makes the strategic decision to sell its products overseas, it must ensure that the right internal controls are in place and operating.”
According to the SEC’s order, Smith & Wesson retained a third-party agent in Pakistan in 2008 to help the company obtain a deal to sell firearms to a Pakistani police department. Smith & Wesson officials authorized the agent to provide more than $11,000 worth of guns to Pakistani police officials as gifts, and then make additional cash payments. Smith & Wesson ultimately won a contract to sell 548 pistols to the Pakistani police for a profit of $107,852.
The SEC’s order finds that Smith & Wesson employees made or authorized improper payments related to multiple other pending or contemplated international sales contracts. For example, in 2009, Smith & Wesson attempted to win a contract to sell firearms to an Indonesian police department by making improper payments to its third-party agent in Indonesia. The agent indicated he would provide a portion of that money to Indonesian officials under the guise of legitimate firearm lab testing costs. He said Indonesian police officials expected to be paid additional amounts above the actual cost of testing the guns. Smith & Wesson officials authorized and made the inflated payment, but a deal was never consummated.
The SEC’s order finds that Smith & Wesson also authorized improper payments to third-party agents who indicated that portions would be provided to foreign officials in Turkey, Nepal, and Bangladesh. The attempts to secure sales contracts in those countries were ultimately unsuccessful.
The SEC’s order finds that Smith & Wesson violated the anti-bribery, internal controls and books and records provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The company agreed to pay $107,852 in disgorgement, $21,040 in prejudgment interest, and a $1.906 million penalty. Smith & Wesson consented to the order without admitting or denying the findings. The SEC considered Smith & Wesson’s cooperation with the investigation as well as the remedial acts taken after the conduct came to light. Smith & Wesson halted the impending international sales transactions before they went through, and implemented a series of significant measures to improve its internal controls and compliance process. The company also terminated its entire international sales staff.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by FCPA Unit members Mayeti Gametchu and Paul G. Block, who work in the Boston Regional Office. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Justice Department’s Fraud Section and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.