Glencore under investigation for bribery by UK authorities

Sign outside of Glencore HQ (Image from archives)

Glencore Plc is being investigated for bribery by U.K. authorities, deepening the legal troubles that threaten the world’s biggest commodities trader. The shares fell as much as 8.6% to a three-year low.

The move by the Serious Fraud Office adds to ongoing corruption probes that Glencore is facing in the U.S. and Brazil, which have scared investors and shaken the company over the past two years. The SFO cast a wide net, saying it’s looking into suspicions of bribery by the company, its employees, agents and associated persons.

The new probe also ramps up pressure on Glencore’s billionaire CEO Ivan Glasenberg

“This is an obvious negative for the Glencore investment case,” said Tyler Broda, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “We believe this clearly will hamper sentiment in what remains a complex investment case for investors.”

The language of the U.K.’s investigation, albeit with limited detail, suggests it could be wider in scope, Broda wrote in a research note. That potentially raises the penalty, if Glencore is found guilty or reaches a settlement, he said.

The new probe also ramps up pressure on Glencore’s billionaire Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg. He told investors earlier this week to prepare for more leadership changes and hinted that his own departure may come sooner than previously anticipated.

Glencore is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and Brazilian authorities in the Car Wash scandal. The company has also been subpoenaed by the Justice Department for documents relating to possible corruption and money laundering in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is also investigating the company for possible corrupt practices.

In response to the DoJ investigation, which the company also says it’s cooperating with, Glencore set up a board committee to respond to a U.S. probe, that included chairman and former BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward.

(By Thomas Biesheuvel)

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