Helmerich & Payne Pays $1.4 Million in Fines and Penalties

04 August 2009 Publication

Helmerich & Payne Inc. (“H&P”), a Delaware corporation headquartered in Oklahoma that provides oil drilling rigs, equipment and personnel on a contract basis, agreed to pay approximately $1.4 million in combined fines and penalties to settle charges related to various improper payments to customs officials in Argentina and Venezuela.

Pursuant to the SEC’s administrative order and the DOJ’s Release, H&P violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA.The SEC alleges that, from 2003 through 2008, Helmerich & Payne (Argentina) Drilling Company (“H&P Argentina”) and Helmerich & Payne de Venezuela, C.A. (“H&P Venezuela”) made approximately $185,673 in improper payments, directly and indirectly through third-party customs brokers, to foreign customs officials. These payments were made with the purpose and effect of avoiding potential delays typically associated with the international transport of drilling parts.

From 2004 through 2008, improper payments were made to Argentine customs officials in order to expedite the importation of H&P Argentina's equipment and materials, and to allow the importation of materials that could not be imported under Argentine law. Most of these improper payments were made indirectly through customs brokers who invoiced their services as “additional assessments,” “extra costs,” or “extraordinary expenses.” From 2003 to 2008, improper payments were made to Venezuelan customs officials in order to allow the importation and exportation of materials and equipment that were not in compliance with Venezuelan regulations. H&P Venezuela made most of these payments through third-party customs brokers who misleadingly invoiced the payments as “urgent processing,” “urgent dispatch,” or “customs processing.”

In early 2008, H&P began an unrelated effort to improve its FCPA compliance. This effort included worldwide FCPA training for key employees. During one such training session, an employee voluntarily disclosed possible improper payments made by H&P Argentina. This prompted H&P to hire outside counsel and to conduct a thorough internal investigation. This internal investigation uncovered over 50 improper payments. H&P voluntarily disclosed this information to the SEC.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, H&P agreed to consent to an entry of a cease-and-desist order under which it will disgorge $320,604 in profits associated with the improper payments, together with $55,077.22 in prejudgment interest. In resolving the matter, the SEC noted the remedial acts promptly undertaken by H&P and the cooperation of the company in the SEC’s investigation.

Simultaneously, H&P also entered into a two-year deferred or non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department. Under this agreement, H&P agreed to pay a $1 million penalty and to continue to cooperate with the Department. The DOJ recognized “H&P’s voluntary disclosure and thorough self-investigation of the underlying conduct, the cooperation provided by the company to the Department, and the extensive remedial efforts undertaken by the company.”

Copies of the SEC Administrative Order and DOJ Release are attached.