Judge dismisses SEC lawsuit against ex-Siemens executive

A U.S. federal judge dismissed a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit on Tuesday against a former Siemens AG executive who was accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes in Argentina.

The SEC accused Herbert Steffen, 74, a German citizen, and seven other former Siemens executives of paying $100 million in bribes in Argentina, about a third of which were paid after March 12, 2011, when the engineering and electronics conglomerate became subject to U.S. securities laws.

The U.S. regulator said Steffen urged another executive to bribe Argentine officials, but that executive did not agree to pay the bribes until he spoke with "higher ups," according to the decision by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin.

The judge, who sits in the Manhattan federal court, wrote that Steffen's role in the bribes was "tangential at best," and not closely associated enough to do any harm in the United States so she lacked jurisdiction.

The SEC's interest in ensuring that conduct like bribery is punished will not be harmed by dismissing the suit, she wrote, in part because the agency and the U.S. Department of Justice have already obtained remedies from Siemens.

In December 2008, Siemens settled with the SEC, agreeing to be disgorged of $350 million in wrongful profits.

It also separately settled with the Justice Department by pleading guilty to violating sections of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and paying $449 million in fines.

An SEC spokesman said the regulator was reviewing the decision. Steffen's lawyer, Erich Schwartz, said his client was pleased with the decision.

The civil case is U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Sharef et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 11-09073.

(Reporting By Erin Geiger Smith; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)