In September 2012, David Green, Chief of the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office, announced that the SFO was not particularly interested in pursuing cases concerning corporate hospitality under the Bribery Act. Green stated that the SFO would not be investigating "tickets to Wimbledon or bottles of champagne. We are not the 'serious champagne office.'"
Across the Atlantic, however, the SEC brought a settled FCPA case today against global resources company BHP Billiton that shows that there are still some lines that should not be crossed in the area of corporate hospitality. According to the SEC,
BHP Billiton invited 176 government officials and employees of state-owned enterprises to attend the [2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing] at the company’s expense, and ultimately paid for 60 such guests as well as some spouses and others who attended along with them. Sponsored guests were primarily from countries in Africa and Asia, and they enjoyed three- and four-day hospitality packages that included event tickets, luxury hotel accommodations, and sightseeing excursions valued at $12,000 to $16,000 per package.
Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, stated that BHP Billiton paid for these foreign government officials to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics "while they were in a position to help the company with its business or regulatory endeavors.”
The SEC noted that while BHP Billiton did require employees to complete a hospitality application form for any individuals they wanted to invite to the Olympics, the company otherwise "failed to provide adequate training to its employees and did not implement procedures to ensure meaningful preparation, review, and approval of the invitations.” As a result, BHP Billiton ended up extending Olympic invitations to foreign officials who were connected to pending contract negotiations with BHP Billiton or to other key regulatory dealings of the company.
Under BHP Billiton's settlement with the SEC, the company will pay a $25 million penalty and must report to the SEC on the operation of its FCPA and anti-corruption compliance program for a one-year period.