WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Six companies including Swiss logistics firm Panalpina <PWTN.S> and Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L> have agreed to settle foreign bribery investigations and will pay some $236 million in criminal and civil penalties, the Obama administration said on Thursday.
A Panalpina unit has agreed to plead guilty, admitting to paying at least $27 million in bribes to officials in at least seven countries including Nigeria, Brazil and Russia between 2002 and 2007 on behalf of its oil and gas industry clients.
"They did so in order to circumvent local rules and regulations relating to the import of goods and materials into numerous foreign jurisdictions," the Justice Department said.
Those customers, which included Shell's Nigeria unit, a unit of Transocean Ltd <RIG.N>, Tidewater Inc <TDW.N>, Pride International <PDE.N> and Noble Corp <NE.N>, admitted to approving or condoning bribes on their behalf, the Justice Department said.
Pride's French unit is also pleading guilty in the case while the others reached deferred prosecution agreements with the Justice Department. The companies also settled related bribery charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Collectively they will pay $236 million in criminal and civil penalties and disgorgement, with Panalpina paying the largest amount, almost $82 million. Shell will pay almost $48.2 million, according to the Justice Department and SEC.
Shell's Nigerian unit agreed to settle charges and pay $30 million in criminal penalties, the Justice Department said.
The settlement is the latest in a series by the Obama administration as authorities try to crack down on corporations paying bribes to foreign officials in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Phil Berlowitz and Matthew Lewis)