In December 2008, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced the indictment of James Tillery and Paul Novak for violating the FCPA in connection with improper payments to Nigerian and Ecuadorian foreign officials.
Tillery, a U.S. citizen, is the former Executive Vice President and President of Willbros International, Inc. (“WII”) (a Panamanian company with its principal place of business in the U.S.) and was responsible for global operations. Novak, a U.S. citizen, was a consultant to WII whose companies were used, the indictment alleges, as conduits for the improper payments. WII is a subsidiary of Houston-based Willbros Group Inc. (“WGI”), which, in May 2008, settled related DOJ and Securities and Exchange Commission FCPA enforcement actions for making improper payments in Nigeria and Ecuador by entering into a three-year DOJ deferred prosecution agreement and paying $32.3 million in combined fines and penalties.
As alleged in a four count indictment (two counts for violating the FCPA’s antibribery provisions, one count for conspiracy to violate the antibribery provisions, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering), Tillery and Novak conspired to, and did, violate the FCPA’s antibribery provisions by paying or agreeing to pay more than $6 million in improper payments to foreign officials in Nigeria and Ecuador. As alleged in the indictment, the intended recipients of the improper payments were individuals employed by government-owned companies (or subsidiaries thereof) in Nigeria and Ecuador, Nigeria’s dominant political party, and a senior official in the executive branch of the Nigerian federal government, and were made in order to assist in obtaining and retaining business for WGI, WII, and their foreign subsidiaries and business partners, to secure an improper advantage from those officials, and to induce those officials to provide preferential treatment to WGI, WII and their foreign subsidiaries and business partners in connection with oil and gas pipeline construction projects in Nigeria and Ecuador.