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Stryker settles U.S. civil bribery charges for $13.2 million

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Medical device maker Stryker Corp will pay $13.2 million to settle civil charges the company bribed doctors and government officials to win business in five different countries, U.S. regulators said Thursday.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said the company tried to mask $2.2 million in bribes in Argentina, Greece, Mexico, Poland and Romania by booking them as legitimate expenses for charitable donations, travel costs, consulting services and commissions.

Stryker is settling the case without admitting or denying the charges. Neither a lawyer nor a spokesman for the company was available for comment.

According to the SEC's charges, filed with the regulator's administrative court, the company reaped about $7.5 million in profits as a result of the bribes.

The payments took place from 2003 to February 2008 and were used to help secure the company's ability to sell its products in public hospitals.

In one example, the SEC said Stryker's unit in Poland paid the director of a hospital and his wife to travel to New York City and Aruba.

Among the perks lavished on the couple were a six-night hotel stay in New York and tickets to two Broadway shows.

Internal documents confirmed what the SEC described as a "quid pro quo arrangement," noting that a form containing the director's schedule stated that the purpose of the visit was to "strengthen conviction that Stryker products are the best solution for her hospital."

The SEC said that the company retained outside counsel in response to the government probe and conducted its own internal investigation.

It has since implemented a company-wide, anti-corruption compliance program and now demonstrates "a commitment to designing and funding a meaningful compliance program."

Stryker's shares were down 55 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $73.42 in late morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Leslie Gevirtz)