U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 21728/ November 4, 2010
Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 3206 / November 4, 2010
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION V. Noble Corporation, Case No. 4:10-cv-4336 (S.D. Tex.)
SEC Charges Noble with FCPA Violations
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced a settlement with Noble Corporation (Noble) for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The SEC alleged that Noble, an offshore drilling contractor headquartered in Switzerland with an office in Sugarland, Texas, made improper payments through its custom agents to officials of the Nigeria Customs Service to obtain permits and permit extensions necessary for operating offshore oil rigs in Nigeria. As part of the settlement, Noble will pay $5,576,998 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.
The Commission's action against Noble was filed in coordination with a parallel criminal action brought by the United States Department of Justice, and several other federal civil and criminal actions against companies involved in oil operations in Nigeria.
The Commission's complaint, filed today in federal court in Houston, alleges that from January 2003 through May 2007, Noble authorized payments by its Nigerian subsidiary to its customs agent, believing that the agent would give portions of the payments to Nigerian government officials to induce them to grant temporary importation permits (TIPs) and TIP extensions for Noble's drilling rigs. Although Noble was required to move its rigs out of Nigeria when TIPs and any extensions had expired, it did not do so in order to avoid the costs of moving the rigs, the potential loss of profits, and the break in performance of rigs under contract. Noble used the customs agents to submit false documents to Nigerian Customs Service showing export and re-import of its drilling rigs when in fact the rigs never moved. Noble paid its customs agents to present these false documents to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and, through the customs agents, made improper payments to officials of the NCS to process the false documents and issue new TIPS. Noble obtained eight TIPs with false documentation.
The Commission's complaint further alleges that Noble improperly recorded in its books and records the payments that its customs agent passed on to Nigerian government officials. Noble also failed to maintain internal controls to detect and prevent these payments.
In the Commission's settlement, Noble has agreed, without admitting or denying the allegations of the complaint, to the entry of a Court order enjoining it from violating the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws. The order also requires that Noble disgorge ill-gotten gains of $4,294,933 and pay prejudgment interest of $1,282,065.
The settlement takes into consideration Noble's self-reporting and its substantial cooperation during the investigation, as well as its remediation efforts following its extensive internal review.
The Commission acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the U.S. Department of Justice's Fraud Section, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
See Also: SEC Complaint