BHP Billiton pays $25M to settle SEC anti-bribery complaint

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NEW YORK (AP) — BHP Billiton has agreed to pay $25 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it violated anti-bribery laws by failing to have a proper system in place to prevent the risk of bribery when it paid for trips of 60 government officials to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"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," Andrew Ceresney, the SEC's director of division of enforcement, said Wednesday in a statement.

He said the mining company "recognized 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."

The SEC said the mining company brought 60 government officials to the Olympics, paying as much as $16,000 for each official and their guests. Travel packages included event tickets, stays at a luxury hotel and sightseeing excursions. Most of the government officials were from countries in Asia and Africa.

BHP Billiton employees were not properly trained to evaluate bribery risks and the paperwork for the trips was inaccurate or incomplete, the SEC said.

In settling the case, BHP Billiton did not admit or deny any wrongdoing. The company said that it cooperated with the SEC and it has strengthened its policies.

"Our company has learned from this experience and is better and stronger as a result," said CEO BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie, in a statement.

BHP Billiton Ltd., based in Australia, is the world's largest miner.

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