The Securities and Exchange Commission announced on September 28, 2016 that Anheuser-Busch InBev agreed to pay $6 million to settle charges that the company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and attempted to silence a whistleblower who reported the misconduct.
An SEC investigation found that the company used third-party sales promoters to make improper payments to government officials in India to increase the sales and production the company’s products in India. According to the SEC order, Anheuser-Busch InBev repeatedly ignored employee complaints, had inadequate internal accounting controls to detect and prevent the improper payments, and failed to ensure that transactions involving the promoters were recorded properly in its books and records.
Additionally, according to the order, the SEC found that Anheuser-Busch InBev entered into a separation agreement that stopped an employee from continuing to voluntarily communicate with the SEC about the potential FCPA violations due to a substantial financial penalty that would be imposed for violating strict non-disclosure terms.
As part of the $6 million fine, the SEC required Anheuser-Busch InBev make reasonable efforts to notify certain former employees that the company does not prohibit employee from contacting the SEC about potential law violations.
The freedom to blow a whistle on the company is the crux of the whistleblower program. Without the freedom to come forward and disclose information about a bad-acting company, there is no whistleblower program. The SEC takes very seriously instances where a company attempts to silence a whistleblower or retaliates against one.
The whistleblower program offers confidentiality, protection from retaliation, and rewards fraud tipsters for reporting wrongdoing that leads to an SEC enforcement action in which over $1 million in sanctions is ordered. The award can range anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the sanctions, according to the website.
To date, more than $107 million has been awarded to 33 whistleblowers who became eligible for an award by voluntarily providing the SEC with original and useful information that led to a successful enforcement action.
Scott L. Silver, managing partner of the Silver Law Group, was an early proponent of the legislation and authored a primer on the SEC Whistleblower Program. Our legal team includes former defense attorneys and government prosecutors now working to protect whistleblowers.
Scott L. Silver and David R. Chase are committed to the protection of whistleblowers through the whistleblower claim process and can prosecute your whistleblower claims. If you have questions about your legal rights as a whistleblower, please contact Scott Silver of the Silver Law Group for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at (800) 975-4345.