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SEC charges Cognizant and two former executives with FCPA violations

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Staff Writer |
Cognizant
America   Chief Legal Officer Steven E. Schwartz authorized the contractor

Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation has agreed to pay $25 million to settle charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).


Two of the company’s former executives were charged for their roles in facilitating the payment of millions of dollars in a bribe to an Indian government official.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s complaint alleges that in 2014, a senior government official of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu demanded a $2 million bribe from the construction firm responsible for building Cognizant’s 2.7 million square foot campus in Chennai, India.

As alleged in the complaint, Cognizant’s President Gordon Coburn and Chief Legal Officer Steven E. Schwartz authorized the contractor to pay the bribe, and directed their subordinates to conceal the bribe by doctoring the contractor’s change orders. The SEC also alleges that Cognizant authorized the construction firm to make two additional bribes totaling more than $1.6 million. Cognizant allegedly used sham change order requests to conceal the payments it made to reimburse the firm.

“Bribery to further corporate goals is an illusory path to long-term success. While always the wrong choice, it is particularly egregious when senior executives chart that course for those they lead, as our complaint alleges here. We are committed to holding them accountable for their actions,” said Charles E. Cain, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit.

The SEC charged Coburn and Schwartz with violating anti-bribery, books and records, and internal accounting controls provisions of the federal securities laws. The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, monetary penalties, and officer-and-director bars against Coburn and Schwartz.

The SEC’s order as to Cognizant found that the company violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which are anti-bribery, books and records, and internal accounting controls provisions of the federal securities laws.

Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to pay disgorgement and prejudgment interest of approximately $19 million and a penalty of $6 million.

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey also announced that they have declined prosecution of Cognizant after considering the factors set forth in the Department of Justice’s Principles of Prosecution of Business Organizations and the Corporate Enforcement Policy, including Cognizant’s prompt voluntary self-disclosure, cooperation and remediation, as well as Cognizant’s disgorgement to the Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the cost savings that resulted from the bribery scheme.

In the related case with the SEC, Cognizant entered into a cease and desist order and agreed to pay the SEC a civil penalty, disgorgement and prejudgment interest totaling approximately $25 million.

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced the indictment of Coburn and Schwartz on criminal charges of violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery and accounting provisions.


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