by Vincent Low
Last week, news broke that Keppel Offshore & Marine was involved in a mega bribery case in Brazil. Some US$55 million (SGD$73.5 million) were reported to have been paid by a Keppel agent to Brazilian govt officials in order for Keppel to secure deals in Brazil. These "improper payments" were made over a period from 2001 to 2014, and they were carried out with the knowledge or approval of former Keppel senior executives.
The company is set to pay fines amounting to US$422.2 million (S$567 million) as part of a global resolution with the authorities in the United States, Brazil and Singapore.
When Bloomberg broke the news in last Aug, reporting that 5 of the Keppel senior executives, including then Keppel Offshore & Marine CEO Chow Yew Yuen, had been named in a Brazilian court as the people who had authorized the agent to pay bribes, Keppel quickly issued a public statement to deny the allegation.
Keppel stated (3 Aug 2016): "Keppel strongly denies the allegations reportedly made that Keppel executives authorised Mr Skornicki (the agent) to pay bribes on its behalf. None of the individuals named in the article, including the current CEO of Keppel Offshore and Marine Mr Chow Yew Yuen, have ever authorised Mr Skornicki to make any payments as bribes."
But in Oct, Keppel issued another statement saying that it had recognized that "certain transactions associated with Mr. Skornicki may be suspicious".
"Keppel has notified the authorities in the relevant jurisdictions of its intention to cooperate and work towards the resolution of the underlying issues arising from or in connection with the transactions," it added.
"Keppel reiterates its zero-tolerance stance against any form of illegal activity, including bribery and corruption, involving its employees or associates."
Then five months later in March this year, Keppel said that its Offshore & Marine CEO Chow Yew Yuen would "retire" with effect from 31 March 2017.
CEO Chow Yew Yuen, a multi-millionaire CEO
Chow Yew Yuen has been the CEO of Keppel O&M since February 1, 2014. He had been with the company for 36 years and first joined Keppel FELS in 1981 as a project engineer. Over the next decade, he worked in various departments and rose through the ranks to become the president of Keppel AmFELS and later the president of Keppel O&M USA.
Prior being named the CEO of Keppel O&M, he became the managing director of Keppel O&M in 2011 and the Chief Operating Officer in March 2012.
According to Keppel's annual reports, Chow earned millions in remuneration in Keppel O&M as its CEO.
In 2014, he earned somewhere between $5.3 to $5.5 million:
The next year in 2015, he earned close to $5 million:
But last year (2016), after Keppel acknowledged that certain transactions associated with the Brazilian agent "may be suspicious" in Oct, Chow remuneration decreased to less than $2.5 million but nonetheless, still in the millions.
It certainly pays to be working as a senior executive in Keppel.
Editor's note: As the "improper payments" were made over a period from 2001 to 2014, Chow, while culpable for the allegations made against him and the other employees, cannot be made to take up all the responsibility as CEO. Chow had taken up the position of CEO three years before the company was caught so who were the ones before him that initiated and supported the act? As COO, Chow would have been in knowledge of the bribes and be an accomplice to the act. His appointment to CEO, probably would not happen if he were to propose a stop to the matter. If Chow had been in the know when he was a director, then the whole board should be pulled out for questioning into how much they know of the bribing operation.
It should be said to be a culture, rather than acts by individuals which led to this national disgrace, which is endorsed by the highest of authority, which go beyond its parent company, Keppel Corporation.