The U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have joined a widening German and Russian probe into potential bribes paid by Hewlett Packard Co. executives to officials in the Russian government, according to a Wall Street Journal story published Thursday (subscription required).
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the Journal said that the DOJ and SEC were investigating whether the California-based computer manufacturer had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
According to the article, a company spokeswoman said that HP had discussions with the SEC Thursday about the German investigation “and is fully cooperating with U.S. and German authorities on this matter.”
On Wednesday, the Journal reported that German authorities were investigating nine Hewlett Packard executives in connection with the scheme to bribe Russian officials in order to secure a contract.
Three of the executives, including two who no longer work for the company, were arrested in December in Germany and Switzerland, Wolfgang Klein, a spokesman for the German prosecutors, told the Associated Press.
Russian authorities aided the German probe, searching HP’s Moscow office on Wednesday. German prosecutors believe HP may have paid €8 million — about $10.9 million — in order to secure a €35 million contract that HP acquired in 2000 to provide computers to Russian criminal prosecutors.
U.S. involvement in the case is perhaps unsurprising because the FCPA criminalize bribes paid by all American companies to foreign officials. According to the Journal, German investigators are also looking into whether HP funneled the alleged bribes through U.S. accounts held in the states of Delaware and Wyoming, as well as international accounts in Britain, Austria, Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands, Belize, New Zealand, Latvia and Lithuania.
The American Lawyer Daily reported Thursday that law firms Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Linklaters were advising HP in relation to the German investigation. Gibson Dunn partners Joseph Warin, the head of the firm’s Washington, D.C., litigation department, and Debra Wong Yang, co-chairwoman of the crisis management and white-collar defense groups, will lead the efforts in the U.S., the article said. Linklaters will advise HP in Europe.
Gibson Dunn has worked with HP in the past, winning the dismissal in 2008 of a shareholder suit against HP directors, according to The National Law Journal.