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The Origins Of 2020 Corporate Enforcement Actions

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This recent post compared corporate FCPA enforcement actions in 2020 to prior years. However, before a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action is announced, scrutiny must first arise.

This post highlights the origins of the 12 core corporate enforcement actions in 2020. (See here for a similar post highlighting the origins of 2019 corporate enforcement actions; here for 2018 corporate enforcement actions; here for 2017 corporate enforcement actions and here for 2016 corporate enforcement actions).

As highlighted in the post, like prior years, 2020 corporate enforcement actions originated in a variety of ways from voluntary disclosures, to pro-active government investigations, to foreign law enforcement investigations.

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Corporate FCPA Enforcement In 2020 Compared To Prior Years

Statistical Analysis

This post, the first in a weeks-long statistical feast on FCPA Professor, compares corporate FCPA enforcement in 2020 to prior years. As reflected in the post, measured in terms of actual settlement amounts, 2020 was the largest in FCPA history as the DOJ/SEC collected approximately $2.78 billion (eclipsing the approximately $2.65 billion collected in 2019) in corporate enforcement actions.

Keep the numbers in this post in mind when you see other 2020 FCPA enforcement statistics that use creative and haphazard counting methods or fail to use accurate or consistent math. (See here for instance – ridiculously asserting that the DOJ/SEC “imposed financial penalties totaling a record $6.4 billion” in 2020).

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Trace’s Bribery Risk Matrix Restates The Obvious

captain obvious

Recently Trace International released its Trace Bribery Risk Matrix.

Like other rankings of bribery and corruption, there is nothing per se wrong with the Bribery Risk Matrix. However, as stated several times on these pages (see here and here), I am not sure what these rankings really do (other than generate media coverage for the organization releasing the rankings) given that they generally restate the obvious (hence the picture of “Captain Obvious”).

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Observations From The OECD’s Phase 4 U.S. Review Report

oecd

Recently, the OECD released its Phase 4 review of the United State’s implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention … in effect a review of the FCPA, its enforcement, and related issues.

The first question one needs to ask themselves is whether they care what “experts from Argentina and the United Kingdom” (as stated by the OECD “the report and its recommendations reflect the findings of experts from Argentina and the United Kingdom”) think about the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, U.S. law enforcement (DOJ and SEC) policies and practices, and U.S. jurisprudence.

In any event, the Phase 4 Report “explores issues such as detection, enforcement, corporate liability, and international cooperation, as well as covering unresolved issues from prior reports.” (See here for a 2010 post summarizing the OECD’s Phase 3 review).

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Top 20 SEC Disgorgement Amounts

Disgorgement

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act contains specific penalty provisions for both violations of the anti-bribery and books and records and internal control provisions. However, in the FCPA’s modern era there has been a dramatic shift by the SEC away from the FCPA’s statutory penalties in most corporate enforcement action towards disgorgement.

The 2004  FCPA enforcement action against ABB is believed to be the first FCPA enforcement in which the SEC sought a disgorgement remedy and since then the SEC has secured approximately $4.9 billion in disgorgement (and associated pre-judgment interest) in approximately 140 corporate enforcement actions. Set forth below is the current top 20 list of SEC disgorgement amounts.

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