BMW will pay a $ 18 million fine to settle allegations that it has inflated its monthly sales numbers in the US for five straight years.
The SEC said Thursday that the luxury German carmaker has maintained a reserve of unreported sales that it has capitalized on to meet monthly targets from 2015 to 2019.
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The agency said BMW exposed the disinformation while raising about $ 18 billion in several corporate bond offerings.
“Companies entering the US market to raise capital have an obligation to provide accurate information to investors,” said Stephanie Avakian, director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission, in a statement.
The agency said the measures helped BMW maintain a leading retail position among other luxury carmakers.
BMW in North America also improperly adjusted its sales reporting calendar in 2015 and 2017 to meet internal targets or bank excess sales for use in the coming months, according to the SEC. The agency said the reserve for unreported sales was referred to internally as “the bank.” The SEC said BMW had also paid dealers to designate the cars as demonstrators or lenders so that they could be considered sales.
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The Securities and Exchange Commission said BMW cooperated with its investigations, even as the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close its offices and make workers stay home. The agency said that the cooperation was taken into account when the punishment was imposed.
BMW AG, BMW North America and BMW US Capital neither acknowledged or denied the agency’s findings. The three agreed to pay the fine and stop violating securities laws.
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BMW said in a statement that much of the behavior occurred more than three years ago, and that it was caused by negligence. “There is no allegation or discovery in the order that any BMW entity has been involved in willful misconduct. The BMW Group attaches great importance to the correctness of its sales numbers and will continue to focus on comprehensive and consistent sales reporting,” the company said.
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BMW is the second carmaker in recent years to face sanctions due to ballooning sales numbers. Last year, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay $ 40 million to settle a complaint from the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that the company misled investors by exaggerating its monthly figures over five years. The company inflated sales by paying merchants to report fake numbers from 2012 to 2016, the SEC also alleged in a complaint.