Thursday, February 28, 2008

Alcoa to fight Bahrain allegations (Pittsburgh Business Times)

Alcoa Inc., accused of overcharging and fraud by a company controlled by the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain, said it is unaware of wrongdoing and will "vigorously defend" itself in a lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Pittsburgh by Aluminum Bahrain BSC, the Wall Street Journal reported in its Thursday edition. According to the suit, Aluminum Bahrain alleged that New York-based Alcoa (NYSE:AA) steered payments for an aluminum precursor ingredient to a group of companies abroad in order to pay kickbacks to a Bahrani government official. The firm also alleged that Alcoa had overcharged it for the precursor material, alumina. Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery said the suit was filed late Wednesday, "so we have not had an opportunity to completely review the allegations. "However, we are completely unaware of any wrongdoing by any Alcoa employees or representatives," Lowery said. But, Lowery said, Aluminum Bahrain contacted Alcoa two weeks ago. "They gave us two weeks to investigate the claims and to settle. That's not enough time to do any serious work. In that time frame, we did a fast review and haven't found anything that deviates from our normal practices. We offered (Aluminum Bahrain) an opportunity to do a full review of the last 20 years, but obviously they chose to immediately file a lawsuit instead. "We will vigorously defend ourselves in the matter. We have a strong commitment to compliance and don't tolerate any improper conduct by any employee," he said. Attorney Mark J. MacDougall of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, which represents the Bahraini manufacturing firm, could not immediately be reached for comment.

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