32) Other risks and contingent liabilities
TOTAL is not currently aware of any exceptional event, dispute, risks or contingent liabilities that could have a material impact on the assets and liabilities, results, financial position or operations of the Group.
The principal antitrust proceedings in which the Group’s companies are involved are described thereafter.
Refining & Chemicals segment
As part of the spin-off of Arkema(1) in 2006, TOTAL S.A. and certain other Group companies agreed to grant Arkema for a period of ten years a guarantee for potential monetary consequences related to antitrust proceedings arising from events prior to the spin-off. As of December 31, 2013, all public and civil proceedings covered by the guarantee were definitively resolved in Europe and in the United States. Despite the fact that Arkema has implemented since 2001 compliance procedures that are designed to prevent its employees from violating antitrust provisions, it is not possible to exclude the possibility that the relevant authorities could commence additional proceedings involving Arkema regarding events prior to the spin-off.
Marketing & Services segment
- Following the appeal lodged by the Group’s companies against the European Commission’s 2008 decision fining Total Marketing Services an amount of €128.2 million in relation to practices regarding a product line of the Marketing & Services segment, which the Company had already paid, and concerning which TOTAL S.A. was declared jointly liable as the parent company, the relevant European court decided during the third quarter of 2013 to reduce the fine imposed on Total Marketing Services to €125.5 million without modifying the liability of TOTAL S.A. as parent company. Appeals have been lodged against this judgment.
- In the Netherlands, a civil proceeding was initiated against TOTAL S.A., Total Marketing Services and other companies by third parties alleging damages in connection with practices already sanctioned by the European Commission. At this stage, the plaintiffs have still not communicated the amount of their claim.
- Finally, in Italy, in 2013, a civil proceeding was initiated against TOTAL S.A. and its subsidiary Total Aviazione Italia Srl before the competent Italian civil court. The plaintiff claims against TOTAL S.A., its subsidiary and other third parties, damages that it estimates to be nearly €908 million. This procedure follows practices that had been sanctioned by the Italian competition authority in 2006. The procedure has not evolved, the existence and the assessment of the alleged damages in this procedure involving multiple defendants remain strongly contested.
Whatever the evolution of the proceedings described above, the Group believes that their outcome should not have a material adverse effect on the Group’s financial situation or consolidated results.
An explosion occurred at the Grande Paroisse industrial site in the city of Toulouse in France on September 21, 2001. Grande Paroisse, a former subsidiary of Atofina which became a subsidiary of Elf Aquitaine Fertilisants on December 31, 2004, as part of the reorganization of the Chemicals segment, was principally engaged in the production and sale of agricultural fertilizers. The explosion, which involved a stockpile of ammonium nitrate pellets, destroyed a portion of the site and caused the death of thirty-one people, including twenty-one workers at the site, and injured many others. The explosion also caused significant damage to certain property in part of the city of Toulouse.
This plant has been closed and individual assistance packages have been provided for employees. The site has been rehabilitated.
On December 14, 2006, Grande Paroisse signed, under the supervision of the city of Toulouse, a deed whereby it donated the former site of the AZF plant to the greater agglomeration of Toulouse (CAGT) and the Caisse des dépôts et consignations and its subsidiary ICADE. Under this deed, TOTAL S.A. guaranteed the site remediation obligations of Grande Paroisse and granted a €10 million endowment to the InNaBioSanté research foundation as part of the setting up of a cancer research center at the site by the city of Toulouse.
After having articulated several hypotheses, the Court-appointed experts did not maintain in their final report filed on May 11, 2006, that the accident was caused by pouring a large quantity of a chlorine compound over ammonium nitrate. Instead, the experts have retained a scenario where a container of chlorine compound sweepings was poured between a layer of wet ammonium nitrate covering the floor and a quantity of dry agricultural nitrate at a location not far from the principal storage site. This is claimed to have caused an explosion which then spread into the main storage site. Grande Paroisse was investigated based on this new hypothesis in 2006; Grande Paroisse is contesting this explanation, which it believes to be based on elements that are not factually accurate.
On July 9, 2007, the investigating magistrate brought charges against Grande Paroisse and the former Plant Manager before the Toulouse Criminal Court. In late 2008, TOTAL S.A. and Mr. Thierry Desmarest, Chairman and CEO at the time of the event, were summoned to appear in Court pursuant to a request by a victims association.
On November 19, 2009, the Toulouse Criminal Court acquitted both the former Plant Manager, and Grande Paroisse due to the lack of reliable evidence for the explosion. The Court also ruled that the summonses against TOTAL S.A. and Mr. Thierry Desmarest were inadmissible.
Due to the presumption of civil liability that applied to Grande Paroisse, the Court declared Grande Paroisse civilly liable for the damages caused by the explosion to the victims in its capacity as custodian and operator of the plant.
The Prosecutor’s office, together with certain third parties, appealed the Toulouse Criminal Court verdict. In order to preserve its rights, Grande Paroisse lodged a cross-appeal with respect to civil charges.
By its decision of September 24, 2012, the Court of Appeal of Toulouse (Cour d’appel de Toulouse) upheld the lower court verdict pursuant to which the summonses against TOTAL S.A. and Mr. Thierry Desmarest were determined to be inadmissible. This element of the decision has been appealed by certain third parties before the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation).
The Court of Appeal considered, however, that the explosion was the result of the chemical accident described by the court-appointed experts. Accordingly, it convicted the former Plant Manager and Grande Paroisse. This element of the decision has been appealed by the former Plant Manager and Grande Paroisse before the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation), which has the effect of suspending their criminal sentences.
On January 13, 2015, the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) fully quashed the decision of September 24, 2012. The impugned decision is set aside and the parties find themselves in the position they were in before the decision was rendered. The case is referred back to the Court of Appeal of Paris for a new criminal trial. The trial date has not yet been set.
A compensation mechanism for victims was set up immediately following the explosion. €2.3 billion was paid for the compensation of claims and related expenses amounts. A €10.3 million reserve remains booked in the Group’s Consolidated Financial Statements as of December 31, 2014.
Blue Rapid and the Russian Olympic Committee – Russian regions and Interneft
Blue Rapid, a Panamanian company, and the Russian Olympic Committee filed a claim for damages with the Paris Commercial Court against Elf Aquitaine, alleging a so-called non-completion by a former subsidiary of Elf Aquitaine of a contract related to an exploration and production project in Russia negotiated in the early 1990s. Elf Aquitaine believed this claim to be unfounded and opposed it. On January 12, 2009, the Commercial Court of Paris rejected Blue Rapid’s claim against Elf Aquitaine and found that the Russian Olympic Committee did not have standing in the matter. Blue Rapid and the Russian Olympic Committee appealed this decision. On June 30, 2011, the Court of Appeal of Paris dismissed as inadmissible the claim of Blue Rapid and the Russian Olympic Committee against Elf Aquitaine, notably on the grounds of the contract having lapsed. Blue Rapid and the Russian Olympic Committee appealed this decision to the French Supreme Court.
In connection with the same facts, and fifteen years after the termination of the exploration and production contract, a Russian company, which was held not to be the contracting party to the contract, and two regions of the Russian Federation that were not even parties to the contract, launched an arbitration procedure against the aforementioned former subsidiary of Elf Aquitaine that was liquidated in 2005, claiming alleged damages of $22.4 billion. For the same reasons as those successfully adjudicated by Elf Aquitaine against Blue Rapid and the Russian Olympic Committee, the Group considers this claim to be unfounded as a matter of law and fact. The Group has lodged a criminal complaint to denounce the fraudulent claim of which the Group believes it is a victim and, has taken and reserved its rights to take other actions and measures to defend its interests.
In 2003, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) followed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a formal order directing an investigation in connection with the pursuit of business in Iran by certain oil companies including, among others, TOTAL.
The inquiry concerned an agreement concluded by the Company with consultants concerning gas fields in Iran and aimed at verifying whether certain payments made under this agreement would have benefited Iranian officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Company’s accounting obligations.
In late May 2013, and after several years of discussions, TOTAL reached settlements with the U.S. authorities (a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the DoJ and a Cease and Desist Order with the SEC). These settlements, which put an end to these investigations, were concluded without admission of guilt and in exchange for TOTAL respecting a number of obligations, including the payment of a fine ($245.2 million) and civil compensation ($153 million) that occurred during the second quarter of 2013. The reserve of $398.2 million that was booked in the financial statements as of June 30, 2012, has been fully released. By virtue of these settlements, TOTAL also accepted the appointment of a French independent compliance monitor to review the Group’s compliance program and to recommend possible improvements.
With respect to the same facts, TOTAL and its late Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, who was President of the Middle East division at the time of the facts, were placed under formal investigation in France following a judicial inquiry initiated in 2006. In late May 2013, the Prosecutor’s office recommended that the case be sent to trial. This position was reiterated by the Prosecutor’s office in June 2014. By order notified in October 2014, the investigating magistrate decided to refer the case to trial.
At this point, the Company considers that the resolution of these cases is not expected to have a significant impact on the Group’s financial situation or consequences for its future planned operations.
Several countries have launched investigations concerning possible violations related to the United Nations (UN) Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq.
Pursuant to a French criminal investigation, certain current or former Group employees were placed under formal criminal investigation for possible charges as accessories to the misappropriation of Corporate assets and as accessories to the corruption of foreign public agents. In 2007, the criminal investigation was closed and the case was transferred to the Prosecutor’s office. In 2009, the Prosecutor’s office recommended to the investigating magistrate that the case against the Group’s current and former employees and TOTAL’s late Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, formerly President of the Group’s Exploration & Production division, not be pursued.
In early 2010, despite the recommendation of the Prosecutor’s office, a new investigating magistrate, having taken over the case, decided to indict TOTAL S.A. on bribery charges as well as complicity and influence peddling. The indictment was brought eight years after the beginning of the investigation without any new evidence being introduced.
In October 2010, the Prosecutor’s office recommended to the investigating magistrate that the case against TOTAL S.A., the Group’s former employees and TOTAL’s late Chairman and Chief Executive Officer not be pursued. However, by ordinance notified in early August 2011, the investigating magistrate on the matter decided to send the case to trial. On July 8, 2013, TOTAL S.A., the Group’s former employees and TOTAL’s late Chairman and Chief Executive Officer were cleared of all charges by the Criminal Court, which found that none of the offenses for which they had been prosecuted were established. On July 18, 2013, the Prosecutor’s office appealed the parts of the Criminal Court’s decision acquitting TOTAL S.A. and certain of the Group’s former employees. TOTAL’s late Chairman and Chief Executive Officer’s acquittal issued on July 8, 2013 was irrevocable since the Prosecutor’s office did not appeal this part of the Criminal Court’s decision. The appeal hearing is expected to start in October 2015.
As part of an investigation led by the Prosecutor of the Republic of the Potenza Court, Total Italia and certain Group employees were the subjects of an investigation related to certain calls for tenders that Total Italia made for the preparation and development of an oil field.
The criminal investigation was closed in the first half of 2010.
In May 2012, the Judge of the preliminary hearing decided to dismiss the charges against some of the Group’s employees and to refer the case for trial for a reduced number of charges. The trial started in September 2012.
On July 9, 2012, the Swiss Tribunal Fédéral (Switzerland’s Supreme Court) rendered a decision against Rivunion, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Elf Aquitaine, confirming a tax reassessment in the amount of CHF 171 million (excluding interest for late payment). According to the Tribunal, Rivunion was held liable as tax collector for withholding taxes owed by the beneficiaries of taxable services. Rivunion, in liquidation since March 13, 2002 and unable to recover the amounts corresponding to the withholding taxes in order to meet its fiscal obligations, has been subject to insolvency proceedings since November 1, 2012. On August 29, 2013, the Swiss federal tax administration lodged a claim as part of the insolvency proceedings of Rivunion, for an amount of CHF 284 million, including CHF 171 million of principal as well as interest for late payment.
On February 14, 2014, Total Gabon received a tax re-assessment notice from the Ministère de l’Économie et de la Prospective of the Gabonese Republic accompanied by a partial tax collection notice, following the tax audit of Total Gabon in relation to the years 2008 to 2010. The partial tax collection procedure was suspended on March 5, 2014 further to the action that Total Gabon engaged before the Tax Administration.
Discussions with the Gabonese authorities led to the termination in early November 2014 of the tax assessment procedure to which Total Gabon was subject. Net income for Total Gabon as of September 30, 2014 includes the impact of the closing of this procedure, following which Total Gabon obtained a tax clearance for the relevant period, extended to and including the years 2011 to 2013.
In Kazakhstan, the start-up of production of the Kashagan field, in which TOTAL holds an interest of 16.81%, occurred on September 11, 2013. Following the detection of a gas leak from the export pipeline, production was stopped on September 24, 2013. Production was resumed but then stopped again shortly thereafter following the detection of another leak. Pressure tests were performed in a fully controlled environment revealing some other potential leaks/cracks. The production of the field was stopped and a thorough investigation was launched.
After the identification of a significant number of anomalies in the oil and gas export lines, it was decided to replace both pipelines. The remedial work will be conducted according to best international oil and gas field practices and strict HSE requirements in order to address, mitigate and remedy all problems prior to the restart of production.
On December 13, 2014, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the co-venturers of the consortium settled the disputes raised over the last several years concerning a number of operational, financial and environmental matters. This settlement agreement definitively closed these proceedings without a significant impact on the Group’s financial situation or consolidated results.
Since July 2014, members of the international community have adopted economic sanctions against certain Russian persons and entities, including various entities operating in the financial, energy and defense sectors, in response to the situation in Ukraine.
Among other things, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has adopted economic sanctions targeting OAO Novatek, a Russian company listed on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange and the London Stock Exchange in which the Group held an 18.24% interest as of December 31, 2014 through its subsidiary Total E&P Holdings Russia, and entities in which OAO Novatek (individually or with other similarly targeted persons or entities collectively) owns an interest of at least 50%. The OFAC sanctions applicable to OAO Novatek prohibit U.S. persons from transacting in, providing financing for or otherwise dealing in debt issued after July 16, 2014 of greater than 90 days maturity, including OAO Yamal LNG, which is jointly-owned by OAO Novatek (60%), Total E&P Yamal (20%) and CNODC (20%), a subsidiary of CNPC. Consequently, the use of the U.S. dollar for such financing is effectively prohibited.
In order to comply with these sanctions, the financing plan for the Yamal LNG project is being reviewed, and the project’s partners are engaged in efforts to develop an alternate financing plan in line with the applicable regulations.
TOTAL continues to closely monitor the different international economic sanctions with respect to its activities in Russia. Within this framework, the Group is filing the requests for prior authorizations required by EU restrictive measures concerning technical assistance, brokering services, financing and financial assistance related to certain technologies. The Treasury Department of the French Ministry of Finance, the competent authority on the subject, issued authorizations
especially for the projects of Yamal LNG, Kharyaga and Termokarstovoye. The United States has also imposed export controls and restrictions on the export of goods, services, and technologies for use in certain Russian energy projects that may affect TOTAL’s activities in Russia.
Since July 18, 2014, the Group has not acquired any additional shares of OAO Novatek.
(1) Arkema is used in this section to designate those companies of the Arkema group whose ultimate parent company is Arkema S.A. Arkema became an independent company after being spun-off from TOTAL S.A. in May 2006.
Following the confirmation of their conviction by a final judgment of the facts regarding pollution that occurred in the port of Djibouti in 1997, Total Djibouti S.A. and Total Marketing Djibouti S.A. each received in September 2014 an order to pay €53.8 million to the Republic of Djibouti. The amounts were contested by the two companies which, unable to deal with the liability, in accordance with local law, filed declarations of insolvency with the court on October 7, 2014. With respect to Total Djibouti S.A., the insolvency proceeding comprised a recovery plan.
Following a judgment delivered on November 18, 2014, the recovery plan proposed by Total Djibouti S.A. was rejected and the two companies were put into liquidation.
Total Djibouti S.A., a subsidiary indirectly 100% owned of TOTAL S.A., fully holds the capital of Total Marketing Djibouti S.A.