Rio Tinto hit with record FCA fine and United States fraud charges

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Instead, they concealed the adverse developments, allowing Rio Tinto to release misleading financial statements days before a series of US debt offerings.

Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) and two of its former chief executives have been charged with fraud in the U.S.

The UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also fined Rio Tinto £27.4 million for breaching disclosure rules - the largest such fine - over the Mozambique coal purchase.

The company had planned to barge coal from the mines down the Zambezi river to the coast for export, but it became apparent that this would not be possible and higher cost alternatives would be needed, the watchdog said.

Despite internal financial modelling by Rio indicating this had destroyed the value of the acquisition, the company decided not to carry out an impairment test as it was meant to do under global accounting standards. "As a result, by the end of 2011, Rio Tinto knew that it could transport and sell only about 5 percent of the amount of coal it had originally assumed".

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Also, insider Jonathan Friedland sold 2,496 shares of the company's stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, July 19th. It upped its target to 270 from 200. "You can see that we've done very well in worldwide without it", Hastings said.

Rio Tinto has said it will "vigorously defend itself against these allegations".

Rio Tinto acquired the assets in 2011 through its USD3.7 billion acquisition of Riversdale Mining Ltd, later renamed Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique.

"The UK listing regime requires listed companies to adhere to high standards of disclosure and transparency. They tried to save their own careers at the expense of investors by hiding the truth".

The SEC demands that Rio Tinto, former CEO Thomas Albanese and former CFO Guy Elliott disgorge all ill-gotten gains, in addition to paying prejudgment interest and civil penalties. On Wednesday after the announcement of the charges, FTSE 100-listed oil major Royal Dutch Shell PLC said that Elliott had stepped down as non-executive director with immediate effect.

"We fully respect and appreciate Guy's decision which is related to his involvement in legal proceedings regarding his former employment at Rio Tinto", Shell chairman Charles Holliday said in a statement.

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Rio Tinto said that the SEC case was "unwarranted" and argued that once "all the facts are considered" by the court or a jury its claims will be "rejected".

In its complaint filed Tuesday, the SEC accused Rio Tinto, Albanese and Elliott of trying "to hide the rapid and dramatic decline in value" of the coal business. J P Morgan Chase & Co set a GBX 4,000 ($53.15) target price on shares of Rio Tinto plc and gave the company a buy rating in a report on Wednesday, August 2nd. As a result the assets were recorded at their acquisition price in the 2012 interim results published 12 months after the transaction and the losses were only brought to light in January 2013 when the company announced it had written off around 80% of its investment. After a second reduction, Rio Tinto sold the Mozambique subsidiary for $50 million, billions of dollars below the acquisition price. As a outcome, Rio Tinto qualified for a 30% discount to the fine.

"Rio Tinto and its top executives allegedly failed to come clean about an unsuccessful deal that was made under their watch", Steven Paikin, co-director of the the commission's enforcement division, said in a statement.

"The FCA made no findings of fraud, or of any systemic or widespread failure", the company added.

Albanese was removed from the top job at Rio Tinto in 2013 after the company wrote down the value of its assets by $14 billion. "The case is now closed".

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