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FBI International Corruption Squads: What are they, and what do they do?

At the end of each Department of Justice press release about FCPA-related settlements, the DOJ generally thanks those who have assisted with the case, including the prosecuting attorneys, other agencies, and foreign governments. 

In its December press release announcing the General Cable Corporation settlement, the DOJ also drew attention to its cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation International Corruption Squads. If you’re wondering what these International Corruption Squads are working on, you’re not alone.

The DOJ’s General Cable press release noted:

“In 2015, International Corruption Squads across the country were formed to address the national and international implications of foreign corruption,” said Assistant [FBI] Director [Stephen] Richardson. “This settlement is an example of the exceptional efforts of those dedicated squads and investigators. The FBI looks forward to continuing to work with our law enforcement partners to address corruption, no matter how big or small.”

The FBI announced the formation of its International Corruption Squads almost two years ago, with Squads to be located in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. 

According to the FBI, the Squads would help the Bureau to combat both the supply and demand of corruption — FCPA violations and Kleptocracy.  The FBI anticipated that investigating one side of corruption could lead to information about the other and that creating Squads with both objectives would be more effective in achieving the overall goal of combating international corruption. 

In pursuing leads, the Squads would have FBI tools at their disposal, including “financial analysis, court-authorized wiretaps, undercover operations, informants, and sources.”

Until recently, little public attention was paid to the FBI International Corruption Squads. However, over the the past year, the DOJ and FBI have been highlighting the involvement of the Squads in various investigations.

In unveiling the FCPA Pilot Program last spring, the DOJ noted that the FBI had established three new squads of special agents for FCPA investigations and prosecutions. And in July, the Bureau said that its squads were “uniquely positioned” for Kleptocracy investigations and that they were working with the DOJ on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) investigation.

In recent settlements, beginning with those involving Odebrecht S.A. and Braskem S.A. in December 2016, DOJ press releases have thanked the International Corruption Squads by name. The DOJ’s Odebrecht and Braskem press release noted not only a Squad’s involvement, but its lead role in investigating the case: “The FBI’s International Corruption Squad in New York investigated this case.” 

Other press releases since then have also mentioned the FBI Squad’s involvement. For example, in its January press releases announcing settlements with Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc. and Rolls-Royce plc, respectively, the DOJ noted that the FBI’s International Corruption Squad in Washington, D.C. had investigated each case.

To be clear, the FBI had teams of agents dedicated to investigating foreign bribery before the creation of the International Corruption Squads. The DOJ even publicly thanked these teams on occasion, such as in its press release announcing the Siemens AG settlement in December 2008 (“The criminal case was investigated by FBI agents who are part of the Washington Field Office’s dedicated FCPA squad”) and in its press release announcing the Weatherford International Limited settlement in November 2013 (“The FCPA case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and its team of special agents dedicated to the investigation of foreign bribery cases.”).  

Other acknowledgements through the years — perhaps when the teams were less active or on hiatus — were broader, and thanked only an FBI field office. This time around, however, both the DOJ and FBI appear to be making an effort to draw more attention to the role of the FBI’s International Corruption Squads in FCPA investigations. 


Ann Sultan is a Senior Associate with Miller & Chevalier’s International department. Her practice focuses on international corporate compliance and white collar defense related primarily to the FCPA.

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