SEC Charges Former CEO of Chilean-Based Chemical and Mining Company With FCPA Violations

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September 25, 2018/US SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that the former CEO of Chilean-based chemical and mining company Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile, S.A. (SQM) has agreed to pay $125,000 to resolve charges that he violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

According to the SEC’s order, over the course of seven years, SQM’s then-CEO Patricio Contesse González caused SQM to make nearly $15 million in improper payments to Chilean political figures and others connected to them.  Last year, SQM paid $30 million to settle parallel civil and criminal charges against the company.

The SEC’s order against Contesse finds that he directed and authorized these improper payments through a discretionary CEO account.  The payments were supported by fake documentation submitted to SQM by individuals and entities posing as legitimate vendors.  Contesse caused the related false accounting entries in SQM’s books and records and also lied to SQM’s independent auditor and signed false certifications in SQM’s filings.

“Corporate culture starts at the top, and when misconduct is directed by the highest level of management it is critical that they are held accountable for their conduct,” said Charles E. Cain, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit.

Contesse agreed to the settlement without admitting or denying the findings in the SEC’s order.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by William B. McKean, Tanya G. Beard and Laurie J. Abbott.

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