Recent events have called attention to the increasingly global nature of anti-corruption investigations and the rise in international cooperation among anti-corruption authorities. One such event involves the activities of the little-known International Foreign Bribery Taskforce (IFBT).
Generally working outside the public eye, the IFBT was established by the FBI, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Australian Federal Police and the City of London Police Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit in the Spring of 2013. The IFBT provides a platform for authorities in Australia, the US, Canada and the UK for real-time information sharing and cooperation on cross-border anti-corruption investigations and prosecutions. Additionally, representatives of the four investigatory bodies meet annually to share investigative techniques, methodologies and best practices, and to determine the IFBT member best suited to lead on particular multi-jurisdictional matters.
Recently, more light was shed on the inner workings of the IFBT when representatives of the group addressed the 2016 Annual Conference of the International Forum on Business Ethical Conduct for the Aerospace and Defence Industry (IFBEC), held in London on November 15 and 16. Panelists representing the four law enforcement agencies comprising the IFBT discussed how the organization operates and its idiosyncrasies. The speakers explained that if one of the agencies is investigating misconduct involving another IFBT country, the agencies will often start communications “quite early” in the process and keep in close contact, in many cases interacting on an almost daily basis. Panelists also indicated that the agencies informally assign one entity to take a leading role in each investigation. Generally, this decision is based not only on the location of the misconduct or the situs of the evidence, but where the largest penalty can likely be obtained.
Representatives also shared the number of cross-border bribery investigations each agency is currently handling. Predictably, the United States has the most—around 140 open FCPA investigations. Britain reported having around 38 active cases involving its Bribery Act, and Australia and Canada each reported 20 ongoing investigations. According to the panel, personnel from the member agencies frequently work out of each other’s offices. For instance, contemporaneous with the IFBEC conference, the FBI and the Australian Federal Police both had agents in London working with the UK National Crime Agency and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The IFBT is one effort among the several host countries to focus on international cooperation in combating bribery and corruption. For example, over the past few years, the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”), which has primary law enforcement responsibility for investigating serious or complex fraud and corruption in Australia, has sought to proactively address global fraud and corruption issues through greater inter-agency cooperation, which includes increasing cross border networks with similar agencies globally. To this end, in 2013 the Australian Commonwealth Government established the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre (“FAC”) with the aim of enhancing the AFP response to serious and complex fraud against the Commonwealth, corruption by Australian Government employees, foreign bribery and complex identity crime involving the manufacture and abuse of credentials. Through the FAC, the AFP works closely with partner agencies using a multi-agency approach to strengthening the Commonwealth’s capability to respond to fraud and corruption. This includes the AFP working alongside those agencies (including cross-border) in undertaking or assisting with investigations.
Reinforcing this international anti-bribery cooperation effort, just last month, the Department of Justice announced the creation of a new attorney position in its Criminal Fraud division dedicated to improving relationships with the DOJ’s counterparts around the world to advance international regulatory and enforcement cooperation. The position, which is based in London, aims to work with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and SFO. According to the job posting, the position requires the attorney to spend the first two years in London—one year with the FCA and the other with the SFO—before returning to Washington, DC, to investigate and prosecute anti-corruption in the United States and “to provide additional training to other Fraud Section prosecutors on the best practices and experiences learned at the FCA and the SFO.”
These events emphasize the international scope of anti-bribery efforts and increasing collaboration among anti-corruption investigative authorities. Companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions, and particularly the four countries in the IFBT, should be aware that the respective regulatory agencies will cooperate closely to investigate any credible allegations of bribery. The growing collaboration among anti-corruption authorities in today’s increasingly globalized world reinforces the need to implement effective compliance programs that create true partnerships between business leaders and compliance personnel. Such partnerships create compliant business friendly solutions and help multinationals avoid getting caught in the ever-tightening web of cross-border enforcement illustrated by this international cooperation.