SEC Says Anheuser-Busch Bribed India

     (CN) — The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Anheuser-Busch InBev Wednesday with bribing government officials in India to increase sales in that country, the same day shareholders approved a $100 billion merger with SABMiller.
     Anheuser-Busch InBev, headquartered in Belgium, agreed to pay $6 million to settle the charges against it. Anheuser-Busch was acquired by InBev in 2008.
     An investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission found the company “used third-party sales promoters to make improper payments to government officials in India to increase the sales and production of Anheuser-Busch InBev products in that country. Despite repeated complaints from employees, Anheuser-Busch InBev had inadequate internal accounting controls to detect and prevent the improper payments, and the company failed to ensure that transactions involving the promoters were recorded properly in its books and records,” according to an agency statement.
     It also entered into a termination agreement that stopped an employee from blowing the whistle on the illegal bribes, the SEC says.
     The same day, shareholders approved a merger with SABMiller valued at $100 billion to create an unparalleled giant in the beer industry. The combined company would own Budweiser, Corona, Hoegaarden, Lefee and Stella Artois.
     To avoid antitrust violations, Anheuser-Busch agreed to sell SABMiller’s 59 percent stake in MillerCoors in the U.S. to Molson Coors Brewing for $12 billion. It will also sell its stakes in the brands Snow, Grolsch, Meantime and Peroni.
     Anheuser-Busch has been a sponsor of the presidential debates since 1996, and has actively tried to associate its brand with American patriotism. It is currently a sponsor of the 2016 presidential debates.
     The company, which owns the Budweiser brand, renamed its signature beverage “America” for the 2016 election year. Lyrics from the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” decorate the red and white cans, and the U.S.’s official motto “E Pluribus Unum,” Latin for “out of many, one,” replaced the tagline “King of Beers.”
     Presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed responsibility for the company’s name-change decision when the redesigned cans were released earlier this year.
     “They’re so impressed with what our country will become that they decided to do this before the fact,” Trump told Fox News.

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