British advertising giant WPP will pay $19 million to settle charges brought by the United States over allegations of bribery in India and other emerging markets, the American securities regulator announced Friday.
WPP undertook an “aggressive business growth strategy” that led officials to repeatedly ignore or not respond to warning signs of corruption as it bought interests in local agencies in “high-risk markets,” the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in a news release.
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A subsidiary in India continued to bribe government officials there despite receiving seven anonymous complaints related to the conduct, said the SEC, which also cited “other schemes and internal accounting control deficiencies related to WPP’s subsidiaries in China, Brazil, and Peru.”
The order chronicles conduct between 2013 and 2018 and charges WPP with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
WPP agreed to the financial penalties and to cease and desist from the conduct, the SEC said, though the company did not admit or deny the claims.
“As the Commission’s order recognizes, WPP’s new leadership has put in place robust new compliance measures and controls, fundamentally changed its approach to acquisitions, cooperated fully with the Commission and terminated those involved in misconduct,” WPP said.