US: Hawaii ironworkers' pension fund sues Alcoa, board members over Bahrain bribery allegations

Publisher Name: 
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH: An ironworkers' pension fund has sued aluminum maker Alcoa
Inc. and its board of directors over a purported scheme to bribe
officials in the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh comes
after a judge in March temporarily halted a civil lawsuit against the
company to allow federal investigators to conduct a criminal

The Hawaii Structural Ironworkers Pension Trust Fund accuses Alcoa's
board in the lawsuit of "causing and/or failing to prevent
Alcoa's illegal payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal
bribe payments" to senior Bahraini government officials.

The Pittsburgh-based company's officers and directors "repeatedly
misrepresented how they were overseeing, managing and operating Alcoa
in a lawful and ethical manner," the pension fund said in its
lawsuit, according to court documents.

Kevin Lowery, an Alcoa
spokesman, said he had not had a chance to thoroughly review the
latest lawsuit, but that Alcoa's position on the earlier allegations
by Alba had not changed.

"We have looked into this and we haven't seen any instances of
wrongdoing by our employees at all," he said, adding that Alcoa
was cooperating with Justice Department investigators looking into the
bribery claims.

The ironworkers' pension fund, which owns Alcoa shares, is seeking
unspecified damages for financial losses incurred by the alleged
bribery. It also wants reforms intended to broaden shareholder rights
and tighten the company's governance and accounting practices.

The size of the fund's stake in Alcoa was not immediately known.

The bribery allegations first surfaced in February, when a company
controlled by the Bahrain government, Aluminum Bahrain B.S.C. or Alba,
filed a civil lawsuit against Alcoa and affiliates, seeking more than
$1 billion (¤65 0million) in damages.

The Bahraini company accused Alcoa, the world's third-largest aluminum
producer, of bribing officials through overseas shell companies to
secure hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments over a 15-year
period starting in 1993.

Alba operates one of the world's largest aluminum smelters and has
been an Alcoa customer for roughly three decades. It buys most of its
alumina - a material used to make aluminum - from Alcoa.

The pension fund, which oversees the retirement savings of ironworkers
in Hawaii, has accused Alcoa and its directors of breach of fiduciary
duty, abuse of control, gross mismanagement, waste of corporate assets
and unjust enrichment.

The lawsuit precedes Alcoa's annual meeting, which is scheduled for
Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

AMP Section Name:Natural Resources
  • 184 Labor