UPDATE 1-US judge approves IBM's foreign bribery case settlement with SEC
WASHINGTON, July 25 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday said he had approved IBM's 2011 settlement with U.S. regulators over charges of foreign bribery after prolonged consideration of whether regulators should have more aggressively investigated the case.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon approved the settlement between International Business Machines Corp and the Securities and Exchange Commission after the parties finally reached an agreement over reporting requirements.
Leon, however, warned the company that if regulators or the courts discover new violations in the future, he would be stricter in his review.
"If there's a problem in the next two years, obviously it won't be a day like today, it won't be a happy day," Leon told IBM's General Counsel Robert Weber at the court hearing.
IBM in March 2011 agreed to pay some $10 million to resolve SEC charges over improper gifts to government officials in South Korea and China. IBM neither admitted nor denied the allegations, a common feature in SEC settlements.
In February, Leon scolded IBM for a "history" of violating provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and "major payments" to foreign governments, the latest federal judge to express concerns over U.S. regulators' handling of settlements with corporations during the past two years.
Numerous federal judges who have recently asked whether U.S. regulators were aggressive enough in responding to corporate misconduct.
The law bars payments to officials of foreign governments in exchange for business and also requires companies to maintain accurate books.