SGSOC, an affiliate of New York-based agriculture company Herakles, expressed its intention in 2013 to develop a large oil palm plantation and refinery in South West Cameroon. According to the complainants, SGSOC may have violated the OECD Guidelines anti-bribery provisions by intimidating and bribing community leaders, government officials and local citizens to gain land for their operations. They also assert the company has not worked in good faith with local communities, nor consulted them in accordnance with international Free, Prior, and Informed Consent standards.
CED/RELUFA maintained that SGSOC should address the allegations raised in the complaint either by publicly denying them or by investigating them, and requested that SGSOC create policies and procedures to regularly consult with the community members and members of civil society.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
In response to the complaint the company denied the allegations and stated that it considers its conduct to be fully consistent with the international guidelines. After its initial assessment issued in October 2013, the NCP offered its mediation services to assist the parties in seeking a mutually agreeable resolution to the issues raised. A local mediator was hired to assist with mediation and participated in-person in Yaounde, under the coordination of the U.S. Federal Mediation Conciliation Service (FMCS). The Office of the U.S. NCP observed the mediation.
The mediation was successfully concluded with an agreement between the parties. SGSOC agreed to receive a written request from the NGOs regarding the investigation of any past cases of alleged corruption, to investigate credible cases and respond in writing within three months. The company will also act with the intention to showing their good faith in opposing and taking action against any acts of corruption.
The parties further agree to meet again after SGSOC sends its first report of investigation to the complainants. The US NCP requested the parties to submit a follow-up reports identifying the status of the agreement and any impacts one year from the publication of its final statement.