- FCPA Professor - http://fcpaprofessor.com -

DOJ Prosecution of Individuals – Then vs. Now

Yesterday’s post [1] highlighted the following statistics concerning Foreign Corrupt Practices Act individual criminal prosecutions by the DOJ.

Since NPAs and DPAs were first introduced to the FCPA context in December 2004 (see here [2]), there have been 83 corporate DOJ FCPA criminal enforcement actions. 53 of these corporate enforcement actions were resolved solely with an NPA or DPA. In only 5 of these actions – 9% – was there related criminal charges of company employees.

More broadly, other statistics recently published on this site highlighted how in this new era of FCPA enforcement approximately 75% of corporate DOJ FCPA enforcement actions have not (at least yet) resulted in any DOJ charges against company employees.

Prior posts proposed, based on these statistics, that instead of asking the “but why was nobody charged” question in connection with most corporate DOJ FCPA criminal enforcement actions, the more appropriate question is asking whether NPAs and DPAs necessarily represent provable FCPA violations.

To best highlight how NPAs and DPAs have transformed the nature and quality of FCPA enforcement, it is useful to analyze FCPA enforcement statistics prior to the introduction of NPAs and DPAs to the FCPA context in 2004.

For starters, it must be recognized that few meaningful conclusions can be drawn when comparing early FCPA enforcement (lets say 1977 – 2004) to FCPA enforcement 2005 to the present.

Growing pains associated with a new law, and a pioneering one at that, were understandable as both business organizations and enforcement agencies alike were absorbing the law and its new expectations and challenges.  More substantively, for much of the FCPA’s history there were material differences in the law, enforcement agency policies, and the global business environment that all impacted early FCPA enforcement.  

Nor can any meaningful conclusions be drawn from comparing fine and penalty amounts in early FCPA enforcement actions to fine and penalty amounts in this new era.  For starters, the FCPA’s statutory fine and penalty amounts have changed over time.  Perhaps more significantly, criminal fine amounts in FCPA enforcement actions are rarely based on the statutory amounts, but rather based on the Alternative Fines Act, a statute passed in 2006, which can result in a fine amount up to twice the benefit the payer sought to obtain through the improper payment. Moreover, for much of the FCPA’s history, the SEC did not have authority to assess civil monetary penalties in a wide variety of securities law enforcement actions including FCPA enforcement actions, and disgorgement, a central feature of most SEC FCPA enforcement actions in this new era, was not used for most of the FCPA’s history.

Although certain historical comparisons of FCPA enforcement lack meaningful value, other comparisons are noteworthy.

For instances, while one can question how the DOJ held individuals accountable (i.e whether the criminal fines and sentences were too lenient) for most of the FCPA’s history, the DOJ did frequently hold individuals accountable when a company resolved an FCPA enforcement action.

Indeed, from 1977 to 2004, approximately 90% of DOJ criminal corporate FCPA enforcement actions RESULTED in related charges against company employees.

Compare that to FCPA enforcement in this new era when approximately 75% of DOJ criminal corporate FCPA enforcement actions HAVE NOT RESULTED (at least yet) in related charges against company employees. 

Consider also that when a DOJ criminal corporate FCPA enforcement action is resolved solely with an NPA or DPA, approximatley 90% of such actions HAVE NOT RESULTED (at least yet) in related charges against company employees.

In other words, NPAs and DPAs have significantly distorted the nature and quality of FCPA enforcement and if the statistics recently published on this site do not convince you of this, no statistics ever will.