COMPUTER INDUSTRY GIANT IBM has agreed to pay $10 million in a settlement agreement over alleged bribery in Asia.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleged that over 100 employees of IBM subsidiaries were involved in widespread bribery in the years from 1998 to 2009.
The SEC alleged that some employees used shopping bags full of cash in South Korea to bribe officials in secret meetings in parking lots, while expensive trips were arranged for and gifts given to members of the Chinese government. In exchange IBM received contracts worth millions of US dollars.
Big Blue depends on the emerging Asian market for a large proportion of its growth, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company saw a 16 per cent increase in revenue in 2010, with a fifth of that coming from emerging markets like China and India. However it is unlikely that this settlement will tarnish its reputation in the region.
The SEC pursued charges against IBM under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, accusing IBM of paying $207,000 in bribes in South Korea and an unquantifiable amount in China. The bribes included cash, laptop computers and cameras, as well as travel and entertainment expenses.
The $10 million payment is significantly more than what the SEC alleged IBM to have paid out in bribes, but it's also a relatively small amount for a case of this nature, which can see fines of up to several hundred million dollars. µ