Chicago insurance firm OKs deal with U.S. on foreign bribes

The Securities and Exchange Commission this week filed a settled enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Aon Corp., a Chicago, Illinois,-based global provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, alleging violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The case involves bribes paid to Costa Rican officials as well as similar activities in other countries.

Aon will pay a total of approximately $14.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest to the Securities and Exchange Commission. In a related action, Aon will pay a $1.8 million criminal fine to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Commission’s complaint alleges that Aon’s subsidiaries made over $3.6 million in improper payments to various parties between 1983 and 2007 as a means of obtaining or retaining insurance business in those countries. The complaint alleges that some of the improper payments were made directly or indirectly to foreign government officials who could award business directly to Aon subsidiaries, who were in position to influence others who could award business to Aon subsidiaries, or who could otherwise provide favorable business treatment for the company’s interests.

The complaint alleges that these payments were not accurately reflected in Aon’s books and records, and that Aon failed to
maintain an adequate internal control system reasonably designed to detect and prevent the improper payments.

According to the Commission’s complaint, the improper payments made by Aon’s subsidiaries fall into two general categories: (i) training, travel, and entertainment provided to employees of foreign government-owned clients and third parties; and (ii) payments made to third-party facilitators. Aon subsidiaries made these payments in various countries around the world, including Egypt, Vietnam, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, as well as Costa Rica. The complaint alleges that Aon realized over $11.4 million in profits from these improper payments.

Without admitting or denying the allegations in the commission’s complaint, Aon consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from future violations of the Exchange Act and ordering the company to pay $11,416,814 in profits, together with prejudgment interest of $3,128,206, for a total of $14,545,020.

Aon’s proposed settlement offer has been submitted to the court for its consideration.

In a related criminal proceeding, the Department of Justice announced today that Aon has entered into a non-prosecution agreement under which the company will pay a $1.8 million criminal fine for the misconduct. Aon cooperated with the commission’s and the Justice Department’s investigations and implemented remedial measures during the course of the investigations, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

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