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SEC Charges Orthofix International With FCPA Violations

 Texas Business reports: The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Texas-based medical device company Orthofix International N.V. with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when a subsidiary paid routine bribes referred to as “chocolates” to Mexican officials in order to obtain lucrative sales contracts with government hospitals.

 The SEC alleges that Orthofix’s Mexican subsidiary Promeca S.A. de C.V. bribed officials at Mexico’s government-owned health care and social services institution Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS).

The “chocolates” came in the form of cash, laptop computers, televisions, and appliances that were provided directly to Mexican government officials or indirectly through front companies that the officials owned. The bribery scheme lasted for several years and yielded nearly $5 million in illegal profits for the Orthofix subsidiary.

Orthofix agreed to pay $5.2 million to settle the SEC's charges.

“Once bribery has been likened to a box of chocolates, you know a corruptive culture has permeated your business,” said Kara Novaco Brockmeyer, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit. “Orthofix’s lax oversight allowed its subsidiary to illicitly spend more than $300,000 to sweeten the deals with Mexican officials.”

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the bribes began in 2003 and continued until 2010. Initially, Promeca falsely recorded the bribes as cash advances and falsified its invoices to support the expenditures. Later, when the bribes got much larger, Promeca falsely recorded them as promotional and training costs. Because of the bribery scheme, Promeca’s training and promotional expenses were significantly over budget. Orthofix did launch an inquiry into these expenses, but did very little to investigate or diminish the excessive spending. Later, upon discovery of the bribe payments through a Promeca executive, Orthofix immediately self-reported the matter to the SEC and implemented significant remedial measures. The company terminated the Promeca executives who orchestrated the bribery scheme.

The SEC's proposed settlement is subject to court approval. Orthofix consented to a final judgment ordering it to pay $4,983,644 in disgorgement and more than $242,000 in prejudgment interest. The final judgment would permanently enjoined the company from violating the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA. Orthofix also agreed to certain undertakings, including monitoring its FCPA compliance program and reporting back to the SEC for a two-year period.

Orthofix also disclosed today in an 8-K filing that it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to pay a $2.22 million penalty in a related action.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Carol Shau and Alka N. Patel in the Los Angeles Regional Office. The SEC acknowledges and appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division - Fraud Section and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.