Schlumberger Oilfield Holdings Ltd. Agrees to Plead Guilty and Pay Over $232.7 Million for Violating US Sanctions by Facilitating Trade with Iran and Sudan
Parent Company, Schlumberger Ltd., Also Agrees to Continue Cooperation With U.S. Authorities and To Hire an Independent Consultant to Review Its Sanctions Policies, Procedures and Internal Sanctions Audits
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. of the District of Columbia and Under Secretary Eric L. Hirschhorn of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security announced today that Schlumberger Oilfield Holdings Ltd. (SOHL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd., has agreed to enter a guilty plea and to pay a $232,708,356 penalty to the United States for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by willfully facilitating illegal transactions and engaging in trade with Iran and Sudan.
The plea agreement, which is contingent upon the court’s approval, also requires SOHL to submit to a three-year period of corporate probation and agree to continue to cooperate with the government and not commit any additional felony violations of U.S. federal law. In addition to SOHL’s commitments, under the plea agreement, SOHL’s parent company, Schlumberger Ltd., has also agreed to the following additional terms during the three-year term of probation, inter alia: (1) maintaining its cessation of all operations in Iran and Sudan, (2) reporting on the parent company’s compliance with sanctions, (3) responding to requests to disclose information and materials related to the parent company’s compliance with U.S. sanctions laws when requested by U.S. authorities, and (4) hiring an independent consultant to review the parent company’s internal sanctions policies and procedures and the parent company’s internal audits focused on sanctions compliance. The guilty plea concludes a joint investigation commenced in 2009 and led by the Justice Department’s National Security Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Dallas Field Office.
“Over a period of years, Schlumberger Oilfield Holdings Ltd. conducted business with Iran and Sudan from the United States and took steps to disguise those business dealings, thereby willfully violating the U.S. economic sanctions against those regimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The International Emergency Economic Powers Act is an essential tool that the United States uses to address foreign threats to national security through the regulation of commerce. Knowingly circumventing sanctions undermines their efficacy and has the potential to harm both U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives. The guilty plea and significant financial penalty in this case underscore that skirting sanctions for financial gain is a risk corporations ought not take.”
“This is a landmark case that puts global corporations on notice that they must respect our trade laws when on American soil,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Even if you don’t directly ship goods from the United States to sanctioned countries, you violate our laws when you facilitate trade with those countries from a U.S.-based office building. For years, in a variety of ways, this foreign company facilitated trade with Iran and Sudan from Sugar Land, Texas. Today’s announcement should send a clear message to all global companies with a U.S. presence: whether your employees are from the U.S. or abroad, when they are in the United States, they will abide by our laws or you will be held accountable.”
“Today's criminal guilty plea demonstrates the Commerce Department’s commitment to aggressively prosecute multinational corporations for violations involving embargoed destinations,” said Under Secretary Hirschhorn. “We will continue to pursue violators wherever they are located and whatever their size. I commend the Office of Export Enforcement and the Department of Justice for their outstanding efforts to investigate and prosecute this case.”
A criminal information was filed today in federal court in the District of Columbia charging SOHL with one count of knowingly and willfully conspiring to violate IEEPA. SOHL waived the requirement of being charged by way of federal Indictment, agreed to the filing of the information, and has accepted responsibility for its criminal conduct and that of its employees by entering into a plea agreement with the government. The plea agreement, which is contingent upon the court’s approval, requires that SOHL pay the U.S. government $232,708,356 and enter into a three-year period of corporate probation. SOHL’s monetary penalty includes a $77,569,452 criminal forfeiture and an additional $155,138,904 criminal fine. The criminal fine represents the largest criminal fine in connection with an IEEPA prosecution.
In addition to SOHL’s agreement to continue its cooperation with U.S. authorities throughout the three-year period of probation and not to engage in any felony violation of U.S. federal law, SOHL’s parent company, Schlumberger Ltd., also has agreed to continue its cooperation with U.S. authorities during the three-year period of probation, and hire an independent consultant who will review the parent company’s internal sanctions policies, procedures and company-generated sanctions audit reports.
Summary of the Criminal Conduct
According to court documents, starting on or about early 2004 and continuing through June 2010, Drilling & Measurements (D&M), a United States-based Schlumberger business segment, provided oilfield services to Schlumberger customers in Iran and Sudan through non-U.S. subsidiaries of SOHL. Although SOHL, as a subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd., had policies and procedures designed to ensure that D&M did not violate U.S. sanctions, SOHL failed to train its employees adequately to ensure that all U.S. persons, including non-U.S. citizens who resided in the United States while employed at D&M, complied with Schlumberger Ltd.’s sanctions policies and compliance procedures. As a result of D&M’s lack of adherence to U.S. sanctions combined with SOHL’s failure to train properly U.S. persons and to enforce fully its policies and procedures, D&M, through the acts of employees residing in the United States, violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and Sudan by: (1) approving and disguising the company’s capital expenditure requests from Iran and Sudan for the manufacture of new oilfield drilling tools and for the spending of money for certain company purchases; (2) making and implementing business decisions specifically concerning Iran and Sudan; and (3) providing certain technical services and expertise in order to troubleshoot mechanical failures and to sustain expensive drilling tools and related equipment in Iran and Sudan.
The Illegal Schemes
Illegal U.S. Person Approval of Capital Expenditures. According to court documents, one of the important functions of D&M management personnel was the supervision of D&M’s capital expenditure (CAPEX) process. The CAPEX process was a forecasting mechanism enabling oilfield locations to predict what tools and equipment they would need to meet anticipated demand for oilfield services. Oilfield personnel worldwide made requests through an automated system for the manufacture of new tools and for permission to spend money for certain purchases in order to support oilfield operations. Once approved by the D&M Global Asset Manager in the United States, a request for new equipment was transmitted to one of three manufacturing centers for the production of new tools and other assets. The spending of funds for large-scale purchases was authorized once the request was approved by the D&M Global Asset Manager. Under the CAPEX process in place during the relevant time period, approval by the D&M Global Asset Manager, a U.S. person, was required for every CAPEX request, including requests submitted by or for the benefit of D&M oilfields in Iran and Sudan.
Consequently, D&M’s CAPEX process violated sanctions with Iran and Sudan in a number of ways. Although CAPEX approvals were ordinarily sought through an automated computer system, D&M personnel outside the United States frequently sent emails to the D&M Global Asset Manager in the United States justifying particular requests, many of which related to requests submitted by or on behalf of Iran and Sudan. Furthermore, in these email communications, D&M personnel outside the United States referred to Iran as “Northern Gulf” and Sudan as “Southern Egypt” or “South Egypt” in email communications with D&M personnel in the United States.
In addition, D&M personnel outside the United States implemented a process designed to disguise the identities of the embargoed locations in the automated computer system in order to obtain approval from the D&M Global Asset Manager in the United States. Orders entered into the automated computer system were identified by a series of numbers and letters. Typically, the alpha-numeric identifier included a two or three-letter code indicating the country that placed the order. Instead of entering the country code for Iran or Sudan, D&M personnel entered non-embargoed country codes for embargoed location orders. Specifically, the code “BGM,” which identified a bonded-goods warehouse in Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, was used in place of the Iran and Sudan country codes in order to disguise the true locations. These efforts were deliberately taken and demonstrate the company’s involvement in contriving ways intended to evade restrictions imposed by U.S. sanctions.
D&M Headquarters Involvement in Iran and Sudan. According to court documents, separate and apart from the illegal CAPEX approval process that violated U.S. sanctions, D&M headquarters personnel made and implemented business decisions involving D&M operations in Iran and Sudan—again, all in violation of U.S. sanctions’ restrictions on the facilitation of trade with Iran and Sudan. D&M’s illegal involvement in the day-to-day operations in Iran and Sudan, through U.S. persons working at D&M headquarters, occurred with D&M’s knowledge and understanding of the applicability of U.S. sanctions laws to the company.
Technical Services. According to court documents, when technical problems arose in oilfield locations related to the operation of drilling tools, D&M personnel would enter relevant information about the technical issue into an automated computer system. D&M’s automated computer system would generally route the query to a technical expert who could assist the oilfield location in addressing the technical issue. If the technical issue was sufficiently complex, the query would ordinarily be routed to the technical experts located at the product center that manufactured the tool. At times, queries entered by, or on behalf of, D&M personnel in Iran and Sudan were addressed by D&M personnel located in the United States. The technical services provided to Iranian and Sudanese operations, by U.S. persons, violated the prohibitions of trade with Iran and Sudan required by U.S. sanctions.
SOHL and Schlumberger’s Remediation Efforts
In 2009, in consultation with the U.S. Department of State, Schlumberger agreed to no longer pursue new oilfield contracts in Iran. In 2011, Schlumberger voluntarily decided to cease providing oilfield services in Iran and the Republic of the Sudan (North Sudan). As of June 30, 2013, Schlumberger ceased providing oilfield services in Iran, and presently, Schlumberger has ceased providing oilfield services in North Sudan as well.
In announcing the plea, Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Machen commended the work of Special Agent Troy Shaffer from BIS’s Dallas Field Office. They also acknowledged the work of those who handled the case from the National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including former Trial Attorney Ryan Fayhee and former Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Borchert and Ann H. Petalas.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Casey Arrowood of the National Security Division, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maia L. Miller of the National Security Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Zia Faruqui of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.