It was recently announced that Switzerland mining giant Glencore had received a subpoena from the U.S. Justice Department regarding its operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Venezuela for possible FCPA violations. The matters under Justice Department scrutiny in the Republic of Congo are in relation to mining operations, while the matters under review in Nigeria and Venezuela is the company’s ventures in oil trading through those two energy-producing nations. The subpoena seeks information going back to 2007.
Interestingly, Glencore’s stock took a decided dive on the announcement of the subpoenas being issued, with share prices dropping from just over £3.55 (U.S. $4.70) to just over £3 (U.S. $4) in one day. The reason for this dramatic drop was not immediately made clear, but it may have been because of the potential length of an FCPA investigation and potential fines and penalties if a violation was uncovered. Further, it may be the company has signaled that it would fight any such charges through the simple fact that the Justice Department was required to issue a subpoena for such documents. Equally interesting was the timing of a stock buy-back program, announced by the company last week as well.
The buy-back program was announced one day after the public announcement of the subpoena, and the company is purchasing up to £1bn (U.S. $1.32 billion) of stock in two stages. The first transaction is approximately £350 (U.S. $463) worth of stock through Citibank, which will be accomplished by late August in time for the public announcement of the company’s half-year results. The remainder will be accomplished by year-end.
Any stock buy-back announcement can bring scrutiny to a company. Over the past several years under its prior CEO, GE propped up its stock price with an extensive buy-back program. Glencore’s buy-back purchases come not only on the heels of the announcement of the Justice Department subpoena but also the 18 percent drop in the company’s stock price in 2018 and significant legal disputes across the globe. While the full amount of the diminished value may not be certain, the drop in company stock price from the mere issuance of a subpoena is a potent reminder of the costs of running afoul of the FCPA.