BHP Says May Face Regulator Sanctions in Anti-Corruption Probe

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, may face enforcement actions by U.S. regulators in relation to possible breaches of anti-corruption laws linked to the Beijing Olympics and terminated projects.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice recently notified the company of “the issues they consider could form the basis of enforcement actions and discussions are continuing,” Melbourne-based BHP said today in a statement. They “relate primarily to matters in connection with previously terminated exploration and development efforts, as well as hospitality provided as part of the company’s sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics,” it said.

BHP is the subject of U.S. and Australian inquiries into its dealings with foreign officials, including Chinese dignitaries, under a multimillion-dollar hospitality and sponsorship program at the 2008 Olympics, the Age reported in June. The company is also conducting an internal inquiry that stems from a 2009 probe by the SEC.

In June, BHP said it had disclosed to relevant authorities evidence that it uncovered regarding possible violations of anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials. BHP provided the information to authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice, it said today.

Fiona Hadley, a spokeswoman for BHP, declined to elaborate on the nature of the enforcement actions the company may face.

“In light of the continuing nature of the investigations it is not appropriate at this stage for BHP Billiton to comment further or to predict outcomes,” the company said according to the statement.

BHP fell 1.3 percent to A$36.85 at 11:36 a.m. Sydney time, while the benchmark index dropped 0.8 percent.

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