United States Anti-Corruption Enforcement

June 06, 2017
In the closing weeks of the Obama administration, enforcement officials punctuated efforts to crack down on violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by concluding approximately a dozen high-profile settlements involving more than $1 billion in monetary penalties. That came on the heels of a blockbuster year for the US Government, which neared record levels of anti-corruption enforcement, in terms of both the number of cases settled and the total value of penalties assessed.

The flurry of activity came after a relative lull in anti-corruption enforcement in 2015, suggesting that a number of ongoing investigations from prior years were brought to a conclusion in 2016. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) concluded 56 FCPA enforcement actions in total last year, including 4 of the IO largest settlements in FCPA history. The enforcement boom was the product of both greater international collaboration between and among enforcement authorities and dedication of additional resources by the US Government.
 
While the trend of robust enforcement is likely to continue in the near term as investigations initiated under the Obama administration are concluded during the early stages of the new Trump administration, the change in administration also may signal change for US anti-corruption efforts. In particular, the Trump administration may shift or reduce anti-corruption enforcement resources. For example, the administration has already implemented a hiring freeze for all federal employees other than defence and safety personnel, likely to chill further plans for relevant government agencies to continue adding personnel. Discussing the FCPA in a 2012 interview, Donald Trump stated, "It's a horrible law, and it should be changed", as it puts US companies at a disadvantage in the global market. 5 It is not clear whether, and to what extent, President Trump's views may change now, and analysis of the new administration's initial stated objectives might indicate a continuation of strong anti-corruption enforcement.

This article highlights key enforcement actions from the final year of the Obama administration and discusses trends in international co-operation, voluntary self-disclosure and individual prosecution. It also draws on past commentary by members of the incoming administration to identify potential shifts in the US Government's approach. If the last year provides any indication as to future enforcement efforts, companies must be diligent in assessing their anti-corruption compliance policies and practices.

Read "United States Anti-Corruption Enforcement: Highlights and Trends at the End of the Obama Administration and Potential Changes under the Trump Administration"