Total settles U.S. bribe probe for $398 million; CEO may be tried

Wed May 29, 2013 5:41pm EDT
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By Muriel Boselli and Jonathan Stempel

PARIS/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Total SA (TOTF.PA: Quote) agreed to pay $398.2 million to settle U.S. criminal and civil allegations that it paid bribes to win oil and gas contracts in Iran, and a French prosecutor has recommended that the company and its chief executive be brought to trial in its home country.

France's largest oil producer on Wednesday agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice to enter a deferred prosecution agreement and pay a $245.2 million fine to resolve three charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Total will also give up $153 million of illegal profit in a related civil settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The criminal penalty is the fourth-largest under the FCPA, an anti-bribery law, Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said.

U.S. authorities said that between 1995 and 2004, Total paid about $60 million in bribes to induce an Iranian government official to help the company obtain lucrative development rights in three oil and gas fields.

The U.S. criminal case will be dropped after three years if Total complies with the deferred prosecution agreement, which calls for it to retain an independent compliance monitor.

But the affair is not over, as a French prosecutor said Total and its Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie should face trial for allegedly corrupting foreign public officials over contracts with Iran in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The prosecutor also said de Margerie should face trial for misuse of company funds.   Continued...

French oil company Total CEO Christophe de Margerie delivers a speech during the company's 2012 annual result presentation in Paris February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer