On March 10, a U.S. Justice Department official announced that agency will continue its one-year Pilot Program, which was introduced by DOJ’s Fraud Section and set to expire on April 5 of this year. As we described in an earlier Alert, the program clearly explains the requirements for participation and offers leniency to corporations that voluntarily disclose violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the criminal statute governing the payment of bribes to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. DOJ instituted the program to provide an incentive for companies to come forward and self-report discoveries of bribery and corruption within their organizations.
A number of companies have benefited from the Pilot Program since its inception. These companies were said to have promptly and readily disclosed the misconduct, shared details of their own internal investigations, fully cooperated with the federal government, and wholly remediated the wrongdoing. In exchange, the Justice Department generally entered into agreements with the companies that did not include prosecution. Some of the agreements required disgorgement of profits and no fines. Another agreement required disgorgement and a fine, but the fine was reduced by 50%.
At the conclusion of the trial period, the Justice Department will review program performance, evaluate its “utility and efficacy,” and make any adjustments deemed necessary before determining whether or not to extend the program. However, the official stated unequivocally that global corruption is on the rise, while affirming that DOJ will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute FCPA violations. For that reason, companies should continue to maintain a robust compliance program while keeping a watchful eye over its international employees and business partners; promptly and thoroughly investigate any allegation of wrongdoing; and make a careful and well-reasoned decision whether or not to self-report to DOJ.