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SEC Probes Financial Firms on Sovereign Fund Bribes

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission started a broad investigation involving several financial firms to determine whether they made improper payments to secure investments from sovereign wealth funds, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The sweep in part focuses on whether banks, hedge funds and private-equity firms paid placement agents to win access to the state-owned money, said the people, who declined to be identified because the investigation isn’t public. An agent working with a sovereign wealth fund may be considered a government official, making interactions with that person subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.