Monsanto agrees to pay $1.5 million in penalties for Indonesian bribes

When agrochemical giant Monsanto’s bid to introduce genetically modified cotton to Indonesia was met with widespread protests from farmers and activists, it bribed a government official in order to avoid having an environmental impact study conducted on its GM crop. Yesterday Monsanto agreed to pay $1.5 million in fines — $1 million to the U.S. Justice Department and $500,000 to the Securities and Exchange Commission — for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The proximate cause was a $50,000 payment to a member of Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment, disguised on the books as “consultant fees,” but the SEC charges include at least 140 payments to government officials or their family members, amounting to more than $700,000. The bad news for Monsanto is that they didn’t even get the repeal of the environmental-study requirement they were after. The good news for the company is that $1.5 million represents only about five hours worth of profits. (Really — we did the math. Or tried to.)