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Monsanto's $80 Million SEC Settlement Carries Penalties for Execs as Well

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Feb 10, 2016
GavelAgribusiness giant Monsanto has agreed to pay the SEC $80 million to settle charges of accounting violations, and while The New York Times said this is one of the largest ever settlements for such a violation, the executives at the heart of the scandal were hit with significant penalties, too. 

At issue, according to the SEC complaint, was a rebate program for the herbicide Roundup that managed to boost sales in the face of lagging demand from increased competition. However, the company failed to account for the cost of this program, $44.5 million in 2009 and $48 million in 2010, each time improperly pushing the costs into the next year. The SEC also faulted Monsanto for accounting for $56 million in rebates in Canada, France and Germany as selling, general and administrative expenses, rather than rebates, which resulted in increased gross profits in these countries. 

In addition to the $80 million fine, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant and former CFO Carl Casale voluntarily reimbursed the company for the bonuses they received during the years the program was in place, paying $3,165,852 and $728,843 respectively. The Washington Post said this probably was not out of the goodness of their own hearts, as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act allowed the SEC to go after that money. 

The SEC also penalized three other executives who will be forced to pay $135,000 between them. They are the External Reporting Lead Sara Brunnquell (fined $55,000), U.S. Strategic Account Lead for Roundup Division Jonathan Nienas (fined $50,000), and U.S. Business Analyst in the Roundup Division Anthony Hartke (fined $30,000). Beyond the monetary fines, Brunnquell and Hartke, both CPAs, were suspended from appearing and practicing before the SEC. Brunnquell was suspended for two years, and Hartke was suspended for one.