February 24, 2012 / 6:58 PM / in 7 years

SEC charges former and current Noble executives on bribes

The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hangs on the wall at SEC headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Securities regulators on Friday charged three current and former executives for oil services company Noble Corp with participating in a bribery scheme to obtain permits for oil rigs in Nigeria.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged the company’s former chief executive, Mark Jackson; the current director of its Nigerian subsidiary, James Ruehlen; and its former head of internal audit, Thomas O’Rourke, for their alleged roles in the scheme.

O’Rourke agreed to resolve the charges and pay a $35,000 penalty without admitting or denying the allegations.

The SEC said it is seeking monetary penalties against Jackson and Ruehlen.

Lawyers for Jackson and Ruehlen did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An assistant to O’Rourke’s lawyer said he was traveling and not available for comment.

The company paid $8 million to resolve related Foreign Corrupt Practices Act civil and criminal charges in 2010.

The SEC said Jackson and Ruehlen bribed customs officials to process false paperwork that purported to show some oil rigs had been exported and re-imported — even though the rigs had never moved.

The scheme was designed to save the company from the costs associated with exporting the rigs and re-importing them under new permits, the SEC said.

The SEC said O’Rourke helped approve the bribe payments and allowed them to be booked improperly.

Reporting By Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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