Bio-Rad Technology, the maker of hospital diagnostic machinery, agreed Monday to pay $55 million to settle charges it bribed officials in Russia, Vietnam and Thailand to gain business.
In a deal with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company avoided criminal prosecution under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by cooperating in the probe.
The Justice Department and SEC said that a French subsidiary, Bio-Rad SNC, made ostensible commission payments to Russian business agents that ultimately were meant for bribes to win contracts with the Russian Health Ministry.
"Bio-Rad managers repeatedly ignored various red flags indicating that the Russian agents were likely bribing government officials, and they condoned an atmosphere of secrecy," the SEC said.
In addition, the company was accused of using intermediaries in Vietnam and Thailand to win sales deals with illicit bribes and commissions.
The SEC said that in all, the company paid about $7.5 million in bribes over five years, earning it $35 million in "illicit profits."
The company also faced charges of falsifying its books and other records to cover up the bribes.
Bio-Rad will pay a $14.4 million penalty to the Justice Department and another $40.7 million to the SEC for disgorgement, or giving up profits linked to the bribery, along with accrued interest.
"Public companies that cook their books and hide improper payments foster corruption," said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell.
"The department pursues corruption from all angles, including the falsification of records and failure to implement adequate internal controls."
But the authorities credited Bio-Rad with disclosing the bribery once it was fully aware, and with cooperating in the investigation.