With the arrival of 2017, the pace of cross-border investigations is expected to continue, if not increase. For multinational companies, the regulatory and enforcement landscape remains one which merits attention, both for internal investigations and in response to government inquiries.
Many major criminal and civil authorities have signaled their intention to pursue active review across several sectors and areas. In the People's Republic of China, for example, news media are reporting that antitrust enforcement is on the rise, with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) being an active investigation body. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), David Green, has commented that his agency has an active docket of investigations, some of which he expects will result in deferred prosecution agreements within the next few months and others which are likely to be maintained under investigation for some time.
The SFO and US regulatory authorities, including the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, have also stated that they are committed to cooperating on cross-border investigations. As part of that cooperation, the UK and US agencies announced in early December 2016 that the DOJ will be assigning one of its attorneys to work in London, the first year with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the second with the SFO. US Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell stated that this position "builds on years of parallel investigations and significant cooperation" and that the FCA and SFO are "highly interested in reciprocating" with a position assigned from the UK to the US.
Elsewhere in the world, investigation and enforcement activity is also on the rise. An ongoing tax probe by Brazilian authorities which reaches companies with operations in multiple markets is reportedly expanding, certainly reflective of the enhanced interest by regulators across Latin and South America.
In light of these and other global developments, as legal and compliance departments prepare to focus on their top areas of risk and challenge in 2017, they should continue to prioritize resources for investigation for their organizations.