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Companies give up profits to avoid bribery charges

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(Reuters) — Akamai Technologies Inc. and Nortek Inc. have agreed to pay U.S. regulators profits made as a result of bribes the U.S. companies' units paid to Chinese officials, in exchange for avoiding prosecution, the SEC said on Tuesday.

Akamai, an internet services provider based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will pay $652,452 plus $19,433 in interest, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement. Nortek, a building products manufacturer based in Providence, Rhode Island, will pay $291,403 plus $30,655 in interest, it added.

Under the agreements, neither company was charged with violations of U.S. foreign bribery laws for the "improper" payments and gifts intended to boost business in China, the SEC said.

"When Akamai learned of potential wrongdoing, we immediately conducted an investigation, disclosed the improper conduct to the U.S. government and cooperated with them throughout," Akamai spokesman Jeffrey Young said in a statement.

"The involved parties were terminated and Akamai immediately began an aggressive remediation plan," Young said.

Nortek's spokeswoman and lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment.

Akamai's foreign subsidiary arranged $40,000 in payments to Chinese government-owned entities as a means of enticing them to buy more services than needed, the SEC said.

Employees at the Akamai subsidiary violated the company's policies by providing improper gift cards, meals, and entertainment to officials to build business relationships, the SEC said.

Employees at the Nortek subsidiary gave $290,000 in improper payments and gifts to Chinese officials in order to receive preferential treatment, relaxed regulatory oversight, or reduced customs duties, taxes, and fees. The sum included cash, gift cards, meals, travel, accommodations and entertainment, the SEC said.