BHP’s Beijing Olympics Outings Broke Bribery Law, SEC Says

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BHP Billiton Ltd. ran afoul of anti-bribery laws when it paid for trips to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics for government officials from Africa and Asia, U.S. regulators said Wednesday.

The Australian miner will pay $25 million to settle the Securities and Exchange Commission claims that relate to hospitality packages the company offered to 176 government officials that cost between $12,000 and $16,000 each, according to an SEC statement.

The agency said BHP failed to train employees on how to evaluate whether the invitations would violate bribery laws. As a result, some invitations were offered to government officials who were involved with BHP Billiton contract negotiations or regulatory dealings.

The officials, from countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Guinea, had “well-known histories of corruption,” the SEC said. The company ultimately paid for 60 such guests as well as some spouses who attended with them, according to the agency.

“BHP Billiton footed the bill for foreign government officials to attend the Olympics while they were in a position to help the company with its business or regulatory endeavors,” Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s division of enforcement, said in the statement.

The company has now taken remedial actions and developed a new compliance program, BHP’s Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie said.

“While BHP Billiton made efforts at the time to address the risks related to inviting government officials to the Olympics, the controls it relied upon were insufficient,” the world’s biggest mining company said in a statement.

In settling the claims, BHP Billiton didn’t admit or deny wrongdoing. An investigation by the Australian Federal Police is ongoing, the company said.

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