PALO ALTO -- Hewlett-Packard has agreed to pay a $108 million fine to resolve allegations that its subsidiaries bribed officials in Poland, Russia and Mexico to win business contracts, the company and federal investigators announced Wednesday.
"Hewlett-Packard subsidiaries created a slush fund for bribe payments, set up an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts to launder money, employed two sets of books to track bribe recipients, and used anonymous email accounts and prepaid mobile telephones to arrange covert meetings to hand over bags of cash," a U.S. Justice Department statement said.
The statement cited HP's "extensive cooperation" with investigators, which included doing its own probe, making its employees available for interviews and gathering "voluminous evidence."
HP is paying the fine to the Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which also investigated the case. In its own statement, HP said the bribery "was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company."
Federal officials said the bribes totaled more than $2 million in Russia, more than $1 million in Mexico and more than $600,000 in Poland.
Among other things, HP Polish subsidiary HP Poland "gave the government official bags filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash, provided the official with HP desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices and other products and took the official on a leisure trip to Las Vegas, which included drinks, dining, entertainment and a private tour flight over the Grand Canyon," the Justice Department said.
"To covertly communicate with the official about the corrupt scheme," it added, an executive with the subsidiary "used anonymous email accounts, prepaid mobile telephones and other methods meant to evade detection."
In Russia, the agency said, the bribes were "largely transferred through a cascading series of shell companies — some of which were directly associated with government officials -- registered in the United States, United Kingdom, British Virgin Islands and Belize." It said the payments were laundered through bank accounts in Switzerland, Lithuania, Latvia and Austria.
"Part of the Russian payments "were spent on travel, cars, jewelry, clothing, expensive watches, swimming pool technology, furniture, household appliances and other luxury goods," it said. "To keep track of these corrupt payments, the conspirators inside HP Russia kept two sets of books: secret spreadsheets that detailed the categories of recipients of the corrupt funds and sanitized versions that hid the corrupt payments from others outside of HP Russia."
And in Mexico, the Justice Department said, HP subsidiary HP Mexico "falsified corporate books and records and circumvented HP internal controls in connection with contracts to sell hardware, software, and licenses to Mexico's state-owned petroleum company, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex)."
In order to get the contracts, Justice officials added, "HP Mexico understood that it had to retain a certain third-party consultant with close ties to senior executives of Pemex. HP agreed to pay a $1.41 million 'commission' to the consultant," who later paid one of the Pemex officials approximately $125,000.