Freepoint settles US charges over multi-year bribery scheme

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Freepoint Commodities LLC has agreed to pay over $98 million to settle U.S. charges in connection with a scheme to misappropriate material non-public information and bribe Brazilian officials, authorities said on Thursday.

The Connecticut-based commodities trader has agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $68 million and forfeit another $30 million to resolve the Justice Department probe, and give up another $7.6 million in ill-gotten gains to resolve related charges from the CFTC, the DOJ said in a statement.

Freepoint engaged in a scheme from 2012-2018 to obtain material nonpublic information and bribe Brazilian government officials to secure business with Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petróleo Brasileiro S.A., according to CFTC and DOJ statements.

“Freepoint is fully committed to adhering to the letter and spirit of the laws and regulations in every jurisdiction where we operate,” the firm said in a statement, noting it cooperated with the investigations and has improved its internal systems to prevent and detect violations.

The settlement with Freepoint is the latest in a multi-year push by U.S. authorities to root out fraud and misconduct in the commodities sector. Commodities traders, which buy and sell raw materials, often operate in jurisdictions where corruption is common, putting them at risk of running afoul of a U.S. law that prohibits paying bribes to foreign officials.

A U.S. judge previously sentenced Glencore PLC to pay $700 million after the firm pleaded guilty to a decade-long bribery scheme, and a Vitol unit previously paid $135 million to resolve a DOJ and Brazil corruption investigation.

Reuters previously reported the U.S. and Brazilian authorities were investigating the firm.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by David Gregorio and Christopher Cushing)