Swiss companies implicated in numerous scandals

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In the past decade, various corruption cases connected to Switzerland have come to light – companies headquartered in Switzerland have paid bribes to foreign officials or – as it is described in the Swiss Criminal Code – “failed to take all the reasonable organisational measures that are required” in order to prevent their staff from engaging in corrupt activities.

The first company that was convicted of criminal charges due to non-prevention of bribery abroad was Alstom Network Schweiz AG. Since then, seven further companies have been convicted by the Attorney General of Switzerland.

In addition to these cases, in Switzerland there are also prominent examples of the imposition of foreign sanctions (above all in the US) on Swiss companies for acts of corruption. In summer 2020, Novartis reached a settlement of USD 345 million with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for breaches of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). At the same time, Novertis reached a deal on a second set of proceedings with the US Attorney General. In this instance, Novartis was accused of breaching the False Claims Act and the FCPA by getting doctors to prescribe Novartis cardiovascular and diabetes medication by paying for excursions and visits to gourmet restaurants or even by making cash easily available. In this trial, Novartis committed to pay USD 642 million.

In December 2020, commodities trader Vitol announced that it had reached a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the Department of Justice. Vitol had bribed or failed to prevent bribes being paid to foreign officials in Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico in connection with trades in oil and petroleum products; the company had to pay US 135 million to the US authorities, part of which went to Brazil. It emerged from the trial that Vitol was still involved in bribery in Ecuador and Mexico in 2020.

In addition, investigations are ongoing in Brazil into the commodities traders Trafigura and Glencore due to suspicions of bribery in relation to the investigations into the ‘Lava Jato’ scandal; Glencore is being investigated by the US law enforcement agencies, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General.