Expro Group has paid $7.99 million to the US authorities to settle historic allegations around contracts by Frank’s International.
Expro merged with Frank’s in October 2021. Frank’s had disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and US Department of Justice (DoJ) an investigation into actions taken by some of its subsidiaries in West Africa.
The SEC said Frank’s had paid commissions to a sales agent from January 2008 to October 2014 in Angola. The company knew that “there was a high probability that the agent would use the commissions to bribe Angolan government officials on behalf of Frank’s”.
Some of the funds were diverted to a government official in order to win contracts, it said. The company was providing tubular services and technology for deepwater wells.
Frank’s ran into Angolan problems in 2007. State-owned Sonangol had directed companies to avoid giving business to Frank’s, instead directing them to a competitor.
Sonangol could change its mind, Frank’s was told, if the service company established a consulting company for “high ranking Sonangol officials”. Frank’s would have to pay 5% of contracts to the consulting company.
The tubular company opted to hire a sales agent, rather than set up a consulting company. After hiring the agent, Frank’s meetings went from “short [and] unproductive” to “successful gatherings”.
Between 2008 and 2014, the company paid the agent $5.5mn.
The SEC, on April 26, reached an agreement with the company. Expro “neither admitted nor denied” the SEC findings. The company agreed to avoid violations of anti-bribery and accounting controls in future.
Expro paid the $7.99mn in a civil penalty. The company got credit for its self reporting and co-operation with the SEC. It also enhanced internal controls following the 2021 merger.
Frank’s was private until August 2013. It continued to pay bribes after going public, the SEC said. While public, the company won another five contracts while using its sales agent.