U.S. Justice Dept. Closes Allianz Indonesia Bribery Probe w/o Charges

By Aruna Viswanatha | February 21, 2012

The U.S. Justice Department has closed its investigation into whether Allianz SE violated a foreign bribery law through its insurance business in Indonesia and does not plan to bring charges, according to a letter reviewed on Tuesday by Reuters.

“Based upon our investigation and the information that has been made available to us to date, we presently do not intend to take any enforcement action and have closed our inquiry into this matter,” Charles Duross, deputy chief of the DOJ’s Fraud Section, wrote to two law firms representing Allianz.

The government was investigating allegations the company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with “securing sales of its insurance products in Indonesia,” the letter said.

Although criminal allegations are off the table, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has not resolved its own investigation into the matter.

Reuters reported in October that Allianz has been in discussions with the SEC to pay between $7 million and $10 million to settle the case.

A spokesman for Munich-based Allianz did not respond to a request for comment after business hours. A U.S. spokeswoman for the company also did not immediately respond to comment. DOJ spokeswoman Laura Sweeney and SEC spokeswoman Laura Egerdal declined comment.

The 1970s-era FCPA law bars U.S.-linked firms from paying bribes to officials of foreign governments.

The Justice Department’s decision to close the case comes as its FCPA team deals with several high-profile losses in court and criticism from both the business lobby and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Earlier on Tuesday federal prosecutors moved to dismiss charges against more than a dozen defendants in a major bribery case involving military equipment sales, after they were unable to convince two juries that what the executives did was illegal.

Also on Tuesday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Justice Department and SEC and asked them to explain how they enforce the law and said the lack of clarity had a chilling effect on business.

Defendants are becoming emboldened after a series of courtroom setbacks for the Justice Department, said Michael Koehler, a professor at Butler University who writes a blog about the FCPA.

“That I think is meaningful and should cause DOJ to hit the pause button in a lot of what they are doing right now,” he said.

Any case against Allianz could have been difficult for the Justice Department because the company’s shares are no longer listed in the United States, a hook the government usually needs.

Allianz SE used to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange but removed its shares in 2009 citing a desire to focus on German capital markets.

The case began when a whistleblower at the company’s operations in Asia contacted its outside auditors at KPMG with allegations of corruption. The auditors informed the board, which hired Claudius Sokenu, a partner at Arnold & Porter, to conduct an internal investigation.

Joel Cohen at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher also represented the company in negotiations with the government.

Allianz originally entered the Indonesian market through a joint venture with a state-owned entity and the projects let the firm get a foothold there.

Separately, the SEC also investigated Allianz for allegations of bribery at one of its private equity investments.

It dropped that case last year, in part because of the difficulties in charging a private equity firm for companies they have passive stakes in.

(Reporting By Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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Latest Comments

  • February 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm
    Ins Guy says:
    Doesn't DOJ have enough to worry about stemming corruption on US SOIL!!! Let's focus on issues here, before we try to solve them elsewhere.
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