U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 21729 / November 4, 2010
Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 3207 / November 4, 2010
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Tidewater Inc., Civil Action No. 2:10-CV-04180 (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana)
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged New Orleans-based shipping company Tidewater Inc. with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for paying bribes to foreign government officials in Azerbaijan disguised as payments for legitimate services. Tidewater is also charged with authorizing improper payments to customs officials in Nigeria that were inaccurately recorded as legitimate expenses in the Company’s books and records.
The SEC alleges that Tidewater, directly or through its subsidiaries and agents, paid $160,000 in bribes to foreign government officials in Azerbaijan in 2001, 2003 and 2005 in order to influence acts and decisions by Azeri tax officials to resolve local audits in favor of a Tidewater subsidiary. The SEC further alleges that from January 2002 through March 2007, Tidewater, through a subsidiary, reimbursed approximately $1.6 million to its customs broker in Nigeria used to make improper payments to local Nigerian customs officials. These improper payments were made in order to induce the Nigerian officials to disregard regulatory requirements in Nigeria relating to the temporary importation of Tidewater’s vessels into Nigerian waters. Tidewater improperly recorded these payments as legitimate expenses in its books and records.
The SEC’s complaint charges that Tidewater violated Section 30A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) by making illicit payments to Azeri government officials through its subsidiaries and agent. The complaint also charges Tidewater with violating Section 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act for improperly recording the Azeri and Nigerian payments in its books and records and Section 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act for failing to have adequate internal controls to detect and prevent the illegal payments.
Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Tidewater has consented to a court order permanently enjoining it from future violations of these statutory provisions; and ordering it to pay $7,223,216 in disgorgement plus prejudgment interest of $881,146, and a $217,000 civil penalty. The Commission is not imposing an additional monetary penalty against Tidewater in light of a criminal fine the company agreed to pay to U.S. Department of Justice in a parallel criminal case involving substantially the same misconduct.
The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice, Fraud Section and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.