Pemex sues Siemens, SK Engineering for $1.5 billion over bribery claims

Pemex

RESTITUTION LAWSUITS RARE

While the United States has stepped up its enforcement of its anti-bribery law, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the countries in which bribery occurred have rarely appeared in U.S. courts to seek their own restitution.

Last year, an electric utility in Costa Rica objected to a bribery settlement French telecoms company Alcatel Lucent SA (ALUA.PA) entered into with U.S. authorities, and demanded restitution.

The Justice Department had accused an Alcatel subsidiary of paying bribes to Costa Rican government officials, including five employees of the electric utility. The utility, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, lost in the lower courts and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to look at the case, but was denied earlier this week.

Alcoa Inc (AA.N) agreed to pay $85 million in October to resolve a bribery-related case brought in the United States by Aluminium Bahrain ALBH.BH, a settlement that may have inspired the Pemex lawsuit. Alcoa has not yet resolved any related action from the U.S. Justice Department or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A settlement under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act usually signified the end of a matter for a company, but the recent cases suggest companies could face new types of post-settlement action, according to Michael Koehler, a law professor at Southern Illinois University and expert on the foreign bribery law.

"An FCPA enforcement action in many cases now is not the end of the day but in many respects, the opening of a whole new day in terms of potential civil causes of action," he said.

COST OVERRUNS

In its lawsuit, Pemex said its investigation showed that the Conproca joint venture partners bribed Pemex officials in connection with its refinery modernization project in the Cadereyta region of Mexico, which it sought bids for in 1996.

Pemex contends that bribes caused cost overruns that were a "significant component" of an arbitration with Conproca, according to the court papers.

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