WASHINGTON – Glencore, the mining and commodity-trading giant, has agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle charges that two of its units bribed officials in several countries and manipulated oil prices.
The settlement, announced Tuesday by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, followed months of negotiations between the company and prosecutors in the United States, Britain and Brazil over Glencore’s operations in the US, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela and Nigeria dating back to 2018 .
The announcement comes as gas prices have soared, in large part because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and as the Biden administration, concerned with how high prices might affect Democrats during the midterm elections in November, has struggled to find effective ways to bring Americans relief at the pump.
“The rule of law requires that there not be one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless, one rule for the rich and another for the poor,” Mr. Garland, flanked by federal prosecutors and regulators from New York and Connecticut, told reporters during a news conference at the department’s headquarters.
The settlement was not a surprise. In February, the company set aside $1.5 billion in reserves to pay for fines and clawbacks that might result from international investigations into its operations in a handful of resource-rich countries in Africa and South America.
As part of the settlement, two units of Glencore admitted guilt and the company agreed to pay two separate penalties — $700 million to resolve the bribery investigation and $485 million in connection with “a multiyear scheme to manipulate benchmarks used to set prices for oil at two of our country’s busiest ports,” said Kenneth A. Polite Jr., who heads the department’s criminal division.
Two midlevel traders have pleaded guilty, one for conspiring to manipulate a fuel-oil benchmark, the other for bribbing officials in Nigeria for a favorable contract with a state-owned oil conglomerate.
The company has yet to resolve investigations in Switzerland, where it is based, and the Netherlands, but executives said in a statement posted on the company’s website that they believed they would not need to earmark money in addition to the $1.5 billion already set aside.
Gary Nagle, the chief executive of Glencore, sought to distance the company’s current leadership from the activities of executives four years ago, listing a set of internal controls put into place to help ensure the company complies with the law and accepted industry practices.
“We acknowledge the misconduct identified in these investigations and have cooperated with the authorities,” he wrote in his statement. “This type of behavior has no place in Glencore, and the board, management team and I are very clear about the culture that we want and our commitment to be a responsible and ethical operator wherever we work.”