In 2014, a record-setting year for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the largest-ever DOJ FCPA resolution—an over $772 million criminal fine for French power company Alstom S.A. That resolution, in turn, was the driving force behind the collection of over $1.25 billion by the DOJ for FCPA violations, also a historical record. Recent moves signal that 2015 promises to continue and expand upon this trend.
In January of this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the DOJ Fraud Section first reported a massive boost to FCPA enforcement efforts. Under a new FBI initiative, roughly 30 agents have been assigned to three new “dedicated international corruption squads” based in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. This move represents a threefold increase in the number of agents focused on foreign bribery. A written announcement by the FBI last week confirms the initiative and proclaims that the “new squads will help keep the Bureau at the forefront of U.S. and global law enforcement efforts to battle international corruption and kleptocracy."
The enhanced focus on international corruption, which will include specialized anticorruption agents and expanded resources, is just the most recent development in a well-established trend. Since 2010, there have been seven FCPA resolutions for which the DOJ component exceeded $200,000,000, and over 115 DOJ FCPA actions in total during that time. In 2012, the DOJ further affirmed its focus on the FCPA when it issued A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act. The record of enforcement and resolutions in 2014 speaks for itself. And now, with these new efforts in 2015, the FBI and DOJ are sending a clear signal that they are going all in on FCPA enforcement.
In this era of enhanced focus on FCPA enforcement, companies cannot afford to gamble but instead must redouble their efforts to evaluate and improve existing FCPA policies. Existing compliance and control structures should be reviewed to ensure that programs and training are up to date, both domestically and internationally. Only with adequate compliance policies, procedures, and monitoring can companies establish the vigilance necessary to prevent corruption when doing business abroad.