Something big, very big, is happening in FCPA enforcement. The top ten FCPA settlements of all time involve penalties of $2.8 billion. The top six happened in just the past 20 months and account for 95% of that, or $2.67 billion.
So far this summer, Snamprogetti / ENI of Italy and Technip of France each paid more than a third of a billion dollars to resolve FCPA offenses. Just three years ago, the biggest settlement on record was Baker Hughes’ $44.1 million payment, and that amount electrified the FCPA world. Who could have guessed that only a few years later, settlements that size would hardly get a glance, and payouts eight times bigger would become the norm.
As we ride this hockey stick toward heaven, we need to ask some questions. Like, are mega-settlements good for compliance or do they simply put a price tag on non-compliance? What about shareholders? They’re innocent of the corruption but ultimately pay the tab. Why do five of the top six settlements involve non-U.S. corporations? Do giant penalties punish wrongdoers or shield top executives from criminal prosecution? And do they distort enforcement decisions in ways we don’t yet understand?
Those are some of the questions. Ruminations to follow.