(Bloomberg) -- Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. will pay $26 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission allegations that the advertising company bribed Chinese government officials to help get display ads on bus shelters and other outdoor spots.
Clear Media, a former Chinese subsidiary of the firm, bribed officials with gift cards, golf clubs and vases, among other gifts, from at least 2012 through 2017, the SEC alleged in its Thursday settlement order. The firm also developed an “off-book cash fund” for payments to undisclosed consultants, the agency said.
“As the SEC’s resolution acknowledges, the company cooperated with the SEC throughout its investigation; has since sold its entire interest in Clear Media; and has undertaken a number of actions to enhance and strengthen its compliance policies and procedures and related recordkeeping and internal controls,” Clear Channel said in an emailed statement.
The company said it will make a series of payments over the following year, and that it had earlier recorded a liability for the entire amount in anticipation of a settlement. It also said that the US Justice Department has declined to pursue any charges against the firm.
Clear Channel didn’t admit to or deny the the SEC’s findings. The firm sold its interest in Clear Media in 2020.
“Despite repeated red flags raised by its internal auditors, Clear Channel failed to address the deficient internal accounting controls that allowed Clear Media to continue these improper payments for many years,” Charles Cain, the head of the SEC’s anti-bribery enforcement unit, said in a statement.
Clear Channel Outdoor was majority owned by iHeartMedia Inc. before separating in 2019, after iHeartMedia went bankrupt.
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