on Wednesday said it has agreed to pay a $500,000 civil fine to settle a complaint by the

Securities and Exchange Commission

regarding the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The settlement enables the company to pay the fine without admitting or denying the SEC's original allegations that a Schering-Plough subsidiary in Poland tried to influence a government agency's purchase of drugs. Schering-Plough agreed to hire a consultant to review corporate compliance with the law and to implement any recommendations by the consultant.

"We have worked closely and cooperatively with the SEC in resolving this inquiry, and we are looking forward to putting this matter from the past behind us," said Brent Saunders, senior vice president of global compliance and business practices for the Kenilworth, N.J.-based drug company.

In midafternoon trading, Schering-Plough's stock was off 27 cents, or 1.6%, to $16.31.

The SEC filed a complaint in November 2003, investigating "improper payments" from a Schering-Plough subsidiary to a Polish charitable foundation. The leader of the foundation was also director of a Polish government health agency that purchased pharmaceuticals. The agency influences the purchase of drugs by hospitals and other entities through its allocations of funds.

The SEC said the foundation got the equivalent of $76,000 from Schering-Plough's Polish subsidiary between February 1999 and March 2002 to induce the agency's director to steer drug purchases to Schering-Plough. The SEC said the subsidiary's records didn't "accurately" reflect any of the payments. It added that the company's system of internal accounting controls was inadequate to detect or prevent improper payments.