A prominent Florida engineering firm and major government contractor, Tampa's PBSJ Corp., is coming off a series of corporate stumbles from campaign contribution miscues and internal embezzlement only to run into new questions over the way it conducts business overseas.
In a filing dated Dec. 30 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, PBS&J said its board of directors is internally investigating whether any bribery laws have been violated, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in connection with projects undertaken by subsidiary PBS&J International Inc. "in certain foreign countries." The company said it must delay filing its 2009 annual report to the SEC pending the investigation's outcome.
Last year, PBS&J's woes involved iffy campaign contribution practices. A Federal Election Commission report made public last month says PBS&J regularly made illegal campaign contributions. Investigators concluded that "political contributions were an important part of PBS&J's business strategy" and that "the practice of making illegal campaign contributions involved officers at all levels of the company and was not limited to a few rogue employees."
Investigators said chief executive John Zumwalt admitted that checks "made payable to them by a PBS&J subsidiary were reimbursement checks for political contributions." Such reimbursements are illegal.
PBS&J relocated its headquarters to Tampa from Miami in 2006 amid a widely reported $36 million embezzlement scheme. The employee-owned company provides infrastructure planning, engineering, construction management, architecture and program management services to public and private clients. The firm has nearly 3,900 employees and more than 80 offices.