Chile’s SQM to pay $30 mln U.S. penalty over invoices case

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By Rosalba O’Brien | SANTIAGO

SANTIAGO Chilean lithium and fertilizer giant
SQM said on Friday it had agreed to pay more than $30 million in
penalties to the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and
Exchange Commission to resolve a probe over alleged fake
invoices.

It said the DOJ would defer charges relating to internal
accounting failures and scrap them after three years if the
company agreed to pay $15.5 million and be monitored for two
years.

Meanwhile, SQM said it had agreed with the SEC to pay a
penalty of $15 million, also over accounting violations.

Authorities had been investigating claims that executives at
SQM , one of the world’s biggest
producers of lithium and iodine, had from 2008 to 2015 illicitly
funneled cash into political campaigns via the issue of fake
invoices.

The accusations toppled chief executive, Patricio Contesse,
and led SQM to introduce measures to tighten corporate
governance, as it seeks to reassure investors that include
international resources firms such as Canada’s Potash Corp and China’s Tianqi.

“The SEC has issued a cease and desist order that does not
identify any other violations of United States law and in which
the SEC notes the fact that the company has taken corrective
measures,” SQM said in a statement.

The scandal, which also involved other Chilean companies and
lawmakers across the political spectrum, dominated headlines in
the country for months.



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