Former Willbros Group Inc. Executive Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Violate the FCPA

19 November 2007 Publication

In November 2007, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Jason Steph, a U.S. citizen and a former executive of Willbros Group Inc. (WGI), pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Nigerian government officials in violation of the FCPA. Pursuant to the DOJ Plea Agreement, Steph, the former General Manager of WGI subsidiary Willbros International Inc. (WII), admitted that he conspired with others to make approximately $6 million in improper payments (funded through sham consultant agreements) to various Nigerian government officials and executives of various Nigerian state-owned or state-controlled companies in order to obtain gas pipeline construction business from a joint venture controlled by the Nigerian state oil company. Steph will be sentenced in January 2008, and the maximum statutory sentence for conspiring to violate the FCPA is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The government's investigation of WGI (a Panamanian company with offices in Houston, Texas whose shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange) and WII is pending. According to WGI's third quarter 2007 earnings release, the company has reached an agreement in principle with the DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve its FCPA liability in connection with business practices in Nigeria, Bolivia, and Ecuador. According to the release, and pursuant to an expected deferred prosecution agreement, WGI and WII  will pay approximately $32 million in penalties and disgorgement.