BMW fined $18 million for inflating sales figures

Posted September 25, 2020 10:56 a.m. EDT

— Luxury automaker BMW has agreed to pay an $18 million fine for misreporting its car sales figures over the course of five years, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced.

The SEC said that between 2015 and 2019, BMW "maintained a reserve of unreported retail vehicle sales — referred to internally as the 'bank' — that it used to meet internal monthly sales targets without regard to when the underlying sales occurred." That practice allowed BMW to maintain a leading retail sales position relative to other premium automotive companies, the agency said.

The investigation was disclosed late last year. BMW Group, which includes the BMW and Mini brands, agreed to the settlement and fine without any admission of wrongdoing.

"Much of the conduct at issue in the SEC settlement occurred over three years ago," said BMW's statement. "The BMW Group attaches great importance to the correctness of its sales figures and will continue to focus on thorough and consistent sales reporting."

A year ago the SEC hit Fiat Chrysler with a $40 million fine for a similar massaging of its sales numbers. In that case the company's database of unreported sales that were used to hit sales targets during weaker months was known internally as the "cookie jar," according to the regulatory agency.

The SEC is a watchdog for investors, and BMW shares are not sold in US markets. But because the German automaker regularly sells bonds to US investors -- about $18 billion during the period involved -- it was subject to the agency's oversight.

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