The SEC Settles a Foreign Bribery Case With a U.S. MF Giant
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Monday, August 27, 2018

The SEC Settles a Foreign Bribery Case With a U.S. MF Giant

The SEC's piece of a U.S. asset manager's overseas bribery scandal has come to an end, pushing the firm's combined settlements in the case to more than $71 million.

Baltimore-based Legg Mason [profile] has agreed to disgorge about $27.6 million plus $6.9 million in interest, confirms Charles Cain, chief of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit within the SEC's enforcement division. The settlement follows Legg's June "non-prosecution agreement" with the U.S. Department of Justice over the same matter, after which Legg CEO Joe Sullivan wrote a public letter to the firm's shareholders.

"We do not expect the payment to have any impact on future investment and operations," Mary Athridge, a spokeswoman for Legg, tells MFWire today. "We are pleased that this matter with the SEC is now concluded, and look forward to continuing our mission of Investing to Improve Lives."

The DoJ and SEC actions revolve around the work of Permal Group, a fund-of-hedge fund shop that Legg bought in 2005 and merged into another subsidiary in 2016. According to the feds, from 2004 Permal and French financial services giant Societe Generale won business ($1 billion in AUM in Permal's case) with state-owned companies in Libya by using a Libyan middleman to bribe government officials there, thus running afoul of the FCPA here in the U.S.

"Companies must take adequate steps to identify and mitigate the risks of bribery and corruption present in their global business," Cain states. "Those risks are particularly acute when, as here, agents and middlemen are used as part of a company's efforts to obtain business with government clients."

"The misconduct by former employees of the legacy Permal business that the government found was totally unacceptable," Sullivan wrote in his June letter. "It violated our high standards, our long-held core values and our 'no-chalk' culture."

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