BHP fined $25 million

BHP Billiton has been hit with a US$25 million fine for paying for foreign government officials to attend the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

The Australian mining company invited 176 government officials of state-owned enterprises to attend the Games at the company’s expense, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said.

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These ‘sponsored guests’ were primarily from countries in Africa and Asia, and “enjoyed three- and four-day hospitality packages that included event tickets, luxury hotel accommodations, and sightseeing excursions valued at $12,000 to $16,000 per package”, the SEC said.

SEC official Andrew Ceresney said: “BHP Billiton footed the bill for foreign government officials to attend the Olympics while they were in a position to help the company with its business or regulatory endeavors.

“BHP Billiton recognised that inviting government officials to the Olympics created a heightened risk of violating anti-corruption laws, yet the company failed to implement sufficient internal controls to address that heightened risk.”

Despite agreeing to pay the fine, BHP Billiton neither admitted nor denied the claim. The settlement requires the company to report to the SEC on an anti-corruption compliance program for a one-year period.

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