Sony Subpoenaed in Bribery Probe Over 'Resident Evil' Release

Resident Evil: Afterlife
Screen Gems

Even Sony was stunned when the film, thanks in large part to the upside of 3D, grossed a whopping $234 million overseas. Domestically, it grossed $60.1 for an global cume of $294.1 million. Costing around $60 million to produce, Resident Evil turned a handy profit for Sony.

The SEC is investigating whether the studio bribed a Chinese official to get its film released in that country

Leaked Sony Pictures documents appear to show that the studio has been under fire for alleged bribery relating to its Resident Evil franchise.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony was subpoenaed in June 2013 by the Securities and Exchange Commission over possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws bribing a foreign government official.

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The SEC has been investigating whether Sony bribed someone in China to secure distribution in that country for 2010's Resident Evil: Afterlife. Beijing firm Dynamic Marketing Group has worked with Sony over the years to maneuver around China's quota and censorship systems to get its films released in the country.

After issuing the subpoena, the SEC told Sony it had learned that one of the studio's Beijing-based employees sent a 2011 email revealing that DMG used "special influence" to get the Milla Jovovich film into theaters. Documents show that Sony was preparing a response to the SEC in October 2014 about its strategy for the film, which grossed $296 million worldwide, including $21.6 million in China.

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L.A.-based attorney Bethany Hengsbach, who works for the law firm representing DMG, told the Journal that the firm has found "absolutely no evidence of improper payments or other actions that would violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act."

Sony's systems were breached in November by hackers, unhappy with the film The Interview, who leaked troves of the studio's documents and emails to the media.

Twitter: @_RyanGajewski