Total SA Charged in International Bribery Scheme

Published: 31 May 2013


Total SA agreed to pay the United States government $398.2 million to settle an ongoing investigation concerning allegations of bribes to win contracts in Iran, the United States Department of Justice stated in a press release. The settlement consists of $245.2 million in fines for three violations of the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) as well as the surrender of $153 million in illegal profits to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

As part of the settlement, Total SA entered a deferred prosecution agreement, which stipulates that the Department of Justice will drop the criminal case after three years if the company complies with an independent monitor put in place to detect FCPA violations.

Total SA is a French oil and gas company that produces 2.34 million barrels of oil per day. The company employs over 97,000 people and operates in over 130 countries, producing oil and gas in 30 of them. In 2012 the company reported $258.9 billion in sales. The largest percentage of shareholders (29.6 percent) come from North America and the company’s shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and thus the company falls under US jurisdiction.

The Department of Justice and the French government have investigated Total SA over illegal activity that took place between 1995-2004. During that time the company paid a sum of $60 million in bribes to an Iranian official with influence in the nation’s oil sector in order to obtain lucrative contracts. The money was transferred through intermediaries at a Swiss bank as well as a firm in the British Virgin Islands.

While the company has settled the charges brought by the United States, it faces additional charges in France. Prosecutors in Paris are recommending that the company and its CEO, Christophe de Margerie, be sent to trial.  Total SA maintains that it has not violated any French laws. The decision to prosecute remains with the magistrate who is in charge of the investigation.