-- The federal government has opened a formal
investigation into charges that Halliburton
Inc. bribed Nigerian officials during the 1990s,
when Vice President Dick Cheney was chief executive
officer of the conglomerate, the company disclosed
company's announcement of a formal Securities
and Exchange Commission investigation means
that a majority of the Bush-appointed SEC commissioners
voted -- at the request of investigators --
to give its staff subpoena power to obtain Halliburton
Department of Justice is also looking into the
matter, the company said, and a French magistrate
is also investigating.
case involves alleged payments of $180 million
by TSKJ, a U.S.-French-Japanese-Italian consortium,
to Nigerian officials so the company could build
a $4-billion liquified-natural-gas plant. Halliburton
subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root -- already
under fire by critics who say it overcharged
the U.S. government for services in Iraq --
owns 25 percent of TSKJ.
do not believe the company has violated" the
law prohibiting bribery overseas, Halliburton
spokeswoman Wendy Hall said in an e-mail.
company said in its announcement that an ongoing
internal inquiry found that Halliburton hadn't
violated the law, but it cautioned investors:
"There can be no assurance that government authorities
would not conclude otherwise."
year ago, Halliburton admitted in a document
filed with the SEC that it had made improper
payments of $2.4 million to a Nigerian tax official,
but "none of our senior officers were involved."
spokesman John Heine said he couldn't comment
on the investigation or on what, if any, involvement
Cheney had in the payments. A Justice Department
spokesman declined to comment.
allegation of bribery in the African country,
known as a hotbed of corruption, comes after
Halliburton acknowledged in January that two
of its employees had demanded kickbacks of up
to $6 million from Kuwaiti companies. The employees
House spokesman Trent Duffy referred all questions
to the vice president's office, which had no
was CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000. He
left to become the Republican vice presidential
companies investigated by the SEC agree to cooperate
to keep any probe informal and to prevent the
need for regulators to broaden their inquiry
into a formal investigation, said business ethics
experts and former SEC officials.
appears not to be the case here, they said.
SETH BORENSTEIN at email@example.com.