PDE » Topics » NOTE 9. COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES

This excerpt taken from the PDE 10-Q filed Apr 30, 2009.
NOTE 9. COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES

FCPA Investigation

During the course of an internal audit and investigation relating to certain of our Latin American operations, our management and internal audit department received allegations of improper payments to foreign government officials. In February 2006, the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors assumed direct responsibility over the investigation and retained independent outside counsel to investigate the allegations, as well as corresponding accounting entries and internal control issues, and to advise the Audit Committee.

The investigation, which is continuing, has found evidence suggesting that payments, which may violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, were made to government officials in Venezuela and Mexico aggregating less than $1 million. The evidence to date regarding these payments suggests that payments were made beginning in early 2003 through 2005 (a) to vendors with the intent that they would be transferred to government officials for the purpose of extending drilling contracts for two jackup rigs and one semisubmersible rig operating offshore Venezuela; and (b) to one or more government officials, or to vendors with the intent that they would be transferred to government officials, for the purpose of collecting payment for work completed in connection with offshore drilling contracts in Venezuela. In addition, the evidence suggests that other payments were made beginning in 2002 through early 2006 (a) to one or more government officials in Mexico in connection with the clearing of a jackup rig and equipment through customs, the movement of personnel through immigration or the acceptance of a jackup rig under a drilling contract; and (b) with respect to the potentially improper entertainment of government officials in Mexico.


The Audit Committee, through independent outside counsel, has undertaken a review of our compliance with the FCPA in certain of our other international operations. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has asked us to provide information with respect to (a) our relationships with a freight and customs agent and (b) our importation of rigs into Nigeria. The Audit Committee is reviewing the issues raised by the request, and we are cooperating with the DOJ in connection with its request.

This review has found evidence suggesting that during the period from 2001 through 2006 payments were made directly or indirectly to government officials in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Nigeria, Libya, Angola and the Republic of the Congo in connection with clearing rigs or equipment through customs or resolving outstanding issues with customs, immigration, tax, licensing or merchant marine authorities in those countries. In addition, this review has found evidence suggesting that in 2003 payments were made to one or more third parties with the intent that they would be transferred to a government official in India for the purpose of resolving a customs dispute related to the importation of one of our jackup rigs. The evidence suggests that the aggregate amount of payments referred to in this paragraph is less than $2.5 million. We are also reviewing certain agent payments related to Malaysia.

The investigation of the matters described in the prior paragraph and the Audit Committee’s compliance review are ongoing. Accordingly, there can be no assurances that evidence of additional potential FCPA violations may not be uncovered in those or other countries.

Our management and the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors believe it likely that then members of our senior operations management either were aware, or should have been aware, that improper payments to foreign government officials were made or proposed to be made. Our former Chief Operating Officer resigned as Chief Operating Officer effective on May 31, 2006 and has elected to retire from the company, although he will remain an employee, but not an officer, during the pendency of the investigation to assist us with the investigation and to be available for consultation and to answer questions relating to our business. His retirement benefits will be subject to the determination by our Audit Committee or our Board of Directors that it does not have cause (as defined in his retirement agreement with us) to terminate his employment. Other personnel, including officers, have been terminated or placed on administrative leave or have resigned in connection with the investigation. We have taken and will continue to take disciplinary actions where appropriate and various other corrective action to reinforce our commitment to conducting our business ethically and legally and to instill in our employees our expectation that they uphold the highest levels of honesty, integrity, ethical standards and compliance with the law.

We voluntarily disclosed information relating to the initial allegations and other information found in the investigation and compliance review to the DOJ and the SEC. We continue to cooperate with these authorities as the investigation and compliance reviews continue and have commenced discussions with them in an attempt to resolve these matters.  There can be no assurance that a settlement will be reached or, if a settlement is reached, the timing of any such settlement or that the terms of any such settlement would not have a material adverse effect on us.

If violations of the FCPA occurred, we could be subject to fines, civil and criminal penalties, equitable remedies, including profit disgorgement, and injunctive relief. Civil penalties under the antibribery provisions of the FCPA could range up to $10,000 per violation, with a criminal fine up to the greater of $2 million per violation or twice the gross pecuniary gain to us or twice the gross pecuniary loss to others, if larger. Civil penalties under the accounting provisions of the FCPA can range up to $500,000 and a company that knowingly commits a violation can be fined up to $25 million. In addition, both the SEC and the DOJ could assert that conduct extending over a period of time may constitute multiple violations for purposes of assessing the penalty amounts. Often, dispositions for these types of matters result in modifications to business practices and compliance programs and possibly a monitor being appointed to review future business and practices with the goal of ensuring compliance with the FCPA.

We could also face fines, sanctions and other penalties from authorities in the relevant foreign jurisdictions, including prohibition of our participating in or curtailment of business operations in those jurisdictions and the seizure of rigs or other assets. Our customers in those jurisdictions could seek to impose penalties or take other actions adverse to our interests.  We could also face other third-party claims by directors, officers, employees, affiliates, advisors, attorneys, agents, stockholders, debt holders, or other interest holders or constituents of our company.  In addition, disclosure of the subject matter of the investigation could adversely affect our reputation and our ability to obtain new business or retain existing business from our current clients and potential clients, to attract and retain employees and to access the capital markets. No amounts have been accrued related to any potential fines, sanctions, claims or other penalties, which could be material individually or in the aggregate.


We cannot currently predict what, if any, actions may be taken by the DOJ, the SEC, any other applicable government or other authorities or our customers or other third parties or the effect the actions may have on our results of operations, financial condition or cash flows, on our consolidated financial statements or on our business in the countries at issue and other jurisdictions.

Litigation

Since 2004, certain of our subsidiaries have been named, along with numerous other defendants, in several complaints that have been filed in the Circuit Courts of the State of Mississippi by several hundred individuals that allege that they were employed by some of the named defendants between approximately 1965 and 1986. The complaints allege that certain drilling contractors used products containing asbestos in their operations and seek, among other things, an award of unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Nine individuals of the many plaintiffs in these suits have been identified as allegedly having worked for us. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously and, based on the information available to us at this time, we do not expect the outcome of these lawsuits to have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows; however, there can be no assurance as to the ultimate outcome of these lawsuits.

We are routinely involved in other litigation, claims and disputes incidental to our business, which at times involve claims for significant monetary amounts, some of which would not be covered by insurance. In the opinion of management, none of the existing litigation will have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows. However, a substantial settlement payment or judgment in excess of our accruals could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows.

Loss of Pride Wyoming

In September 2008, the Pride Wyoming, a 250-foot slot-type jackup rig operating in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, was deemed a total loss for insurance purposes after it was severely damaged and sank as a result of Hurricane Ike. The rig had a net book value of approximately $14 million and was insured for $45 million. We have collected a total of $25 million through March 2009 for the insured value of the rig, which is net of our deductibles of $20 million. We expect to incur costs of approximately $48.6 million for removal of the wreckage and salvage operations, not including any costs arising from damage to offshore structures owned by third parties.  These costs for removal of the wreckage and salvage operations in excess of a $1 million retention are expected to be covered by our insurance.  We will be responsible for payment of the $1 million retention, $2.5 million in premium payments for a removal of wreckage claim and for any costs not covered by our insurance.  Initial removal and salvage operations for the Pride Wyoming began in the fourth quarter of 2008 but were suspended due to weather conditions.  These operations are expected to resume in May 2009.

The owners of two pipelines on which parts of the Pride Wyoming settled have requested that we pay for all costs, expenses and other losses associated with the damage, including loss of revenue.  Each owner has claimed damages in excess of $40 million.  Other pieces of the rig may have also caused damage to certain other offshore structures.  In October 2008, we filed a complaint in the U.S. Federal District Court pursuant to the Limitation of Liability Act, which has the potential to statutorily limit our exposure for claims arising out of third-party damages caused by the loss of the Pride Wyoming.  Based on information available to us at this time, we do not expect the outcome of this potential claim to have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows; however, there can be no assurance as to the ultimate outcome of this potential claim.  Although we believe we have adequate insurance, we will be responsible for any awards not covered by our insurance.

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