The Securities and Exchange Commission has slapped Germany's BMW AG and two of the company's U.S. subsidiaries with a $18 million penalty for allegedly fudging U.S. sales numbers to mislead bond investors. The SEC said late Thursday it has settled charges against the auto maker for disclosing "inaccurate and misleading information" about retail sales volume in the U.S. while raising about $18 billion from investors in several corporate bond offerings. BMW "inflated" its U.S. retail sales from 2015 to 2019, helping to close the gap between actual retail sales volume and internal targets "and publicly maintain a leading retail sales position relative to other premium automotive companies," the SEC alleged. BMW of North America LLC kept a reserve of unreported retail vehicle sales it internally referred to as the "bank," the SEC said in a press release. That was used to meet internal monthly sales targets "without regard to when the underlying sales occurred," the SEC said. BMW North America also paid dealers to designate vehicles as test-driving vehicles or loaners so that the company could count them as having been sold to customers. Additionally, BMW North America "improperly" adjusted its retail sales reporting in 2015 and in 2017 to meet internal sales targets or bank excess retail sales for future use, the SEC said. As a result, the information that the company provided to investors looking at bond offerings through a BMW U.S. financing subsidiary as well as to credit ratings agencies "contained material misstatements and omissions regarding BMW's U.S. retail vehicle sales," the SEC said. BWM cooperated with the investigation, which was taken into consideration in imposing the penalty, the SEC said. The three companies agreed to pay a joint penalty of $18 million and "to cease and desist from future violations of these provisions," the SEC said.
Sept. 24, 2020, 5:13 p.m. EDT