The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) today charged Tyson Foods Inc. with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by making illicit payments to two Mexican government veterinarians responsible for certifying its Mexican subsidiary’s chicken products for export sales.

The SEC alleged that Tyson de Mexico concealed the improper payments by putting two veterinarians’ wives on its payroll but they performed no work for the company. The spouses were later removed from the payroll and their payments were processed with invoices issued for “services.” Tyson de Mexico paid the veterinarians, who were responsible for certifying Tyson’s chicken products for export and served as official Mexican government veterinarians at Tyson facilities, a total of $100,311. It was not until two years after Tyson Foods officials first learned about the subsidiary’s illicit payments that its counsel instructed Tyson de Mexico to cease making the payments.

The SEC further charged that in connection with these improper payments, Tyson Foods failed to keep accurate books and records and failed to implement a system of effective internal controls to prevent salary payments to phantom employees and the payment of illicit invoices. The improper payments were recorded as legitimate expenses in Tyson de Mexico’s books and records, and included in Tyson de Mexico’s reported financial results for fiscal years 2004, 2005 and 2006. Tyson de Mexico’s financial results were, in turn, a component of Tyson Foods’ consolidated financial statements filed with the SEC for those years.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Tyson Foods consented to the entry of a final judgment ordering disgorgement plus pre-judgment interest of more than $1.2 million and permanently enjoining it from violating the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the FCPA. The proposed settlement is subject to court approval.

In a related criminal action announced today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Tyson Foods with conspiring to violate the FCPA and violating the FCPA. The DOJ and Tyson Foods agreed to resolve the charges by entering into a deferred prosecution agreement. Tyson Foods also agreed to pay a $4 million criminal penalty.