German automaker BMW has been slammed with an $18 million fine for allegedly inflating its sales figures while raising billions of dollars from investors.
The Munich-based company’s North American unit inflated US sales numbers from 2015 to 2019 to close the gap between its actual performance and internal targets, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.
The scheme involved a “bank” of unreported vehicle sales that BMW of North America used to meet its monthly goals regardless of when the sales actually occurred, officials alleged. The luxury automaker also paid dealers to inaccurately label cars “loaners” or “demonstrators” so it could falsely claim they had been sold to customers, authorities said.
BMW used these practices while raising about $18 billion through several corporate bond offerings, officials said. The information BMW gave investors for those offerings contained “material misstatements and omissions” about its US retail vehicle sales, according to the SEC.
“Companies accessing US markets to raise capital have an obligation to provide accurate information to investors,” Stephanie Avakian, director of the SEC’s enforcement division, said in a statement.
BMW and its American subsidiaries involved in the case, BMW of North America and BMW US Capital, agreed to the $18 million penalty without admitting or denying any of the SEC’s findings, the agency said.
The fine was less than 1 percent of the amount of money BMW allegedly raised from the bond offerings. But the SEC said it accounted for BMW’s cooperation with its probe even as the coronavirus pandemic forced companies around the world to close their offices.
BMW said most of the sales inflation happened more than three years ago and claimed it was the result of negligence rather than “intentional misconduct.”
“The BMW Group attaches great importance to the correctness of its sales figures and will continue to focus on thorough and consistent sales reporting,” the company said in a statement.