Washington | Global beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev will pay USD 6 million to settle with US authorities over bribery allegations in India and for attempting to silence a whistleblower, US regulators announced today.
The Belgian-based maker of international beer brands including Budweiser, Corona, Becks and Stella Artois paid bribes to Indian officials to help boost sales in that country, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
US law forbids companies and people from bribing foreign officials to win business.
In entering into the agreement, AB InBev neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, a controversial practice sometimes allowed in settlements with the SEC.
An SEC investigation found that the company used third-party sales promoters to make the improper payments and then entered into a severance package that would have penalized a former employee for continuing to speak to the SEC about the issue, the agency said.
“Threat of financial punishment for whistleblowing is unacceptable,” Jane Norberg, acting chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, said in a statement. “We will continue to take a hard look at these types of provisions and fact patterns.”
The sum the company will pay includes a USD 3 million penalty, with the remainder consisting of disgorgement of profits and interest, which unlike the penalty are tax deductible.
In 2011, the SEC also settled with the London-based spirits maker Diageo, the maker of Johnny Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka, for USD 16 million over alleged bribery in India, Thailand and South Korea to win sales and tax benefits.
The SEC action came as investors on Wednesday approved AB InBev’s proposed USD 103 billion takeover of SAB Miller, which brews Fosters and Peroni, among other brands, cementing AB InBev’s position as the global leader in the beer industry.