Beginning in 2008, when Siemens resolved its mega-FCPA case for $800 million, December has been a month of FCPA fireworks.
For example, in December 2016, there were three big resolutions: General Cable at about $76 million, Braskem at $160 million, and Teva Pharmaceuticals at $519 million.
In 2017, the big December news came from Keppel Offshore, with its $422 million FCPA resolution.
It wasn’t so dramatic in December 2018, with Polycom and Electrobras paying $16 million $2.5 million respectively.
Last year, however, Ericsson paid just over $1 billion for its December settlement.
This year in December (so far), Vitol Inc. paid $135 million for its FCPA resolution.
By the way, three December resolutions are in our current FCPA top ten — Ericsson (#4), Siemens (still, at #7), and Alstom (#9).
After the traditional year-end clean up, January is usually a quiet month for FCPA enforcement. In January 2019, 2018, and 2016, there were no FCPA corporate enforcement actions, and just one in 2015.
But there’s a giant exception to the “quiet January” thesis. The last time new occupants headed to the White House, corporate FCPA enforcement went wild.
In January 2017, during ten-days just before the Obamas moved out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, six companies — Mondelēz International, Zimmer Biomet, SQM, Rolls-Royce plc, Orthofix International, and Las Vegas Sands Corp. — paid a combined total of about $256.5 million to settle FCPA offenses. That tied the record for the busiest FCPA corporate enforcement month.
Why so many resolutions before the new POTUS took over? Probably top lawyers at the DOJ and SEC wanted to finish what they’d started before leaving office themselves. And companies near the finish line would naturally want to wrap things up with familiar prosecutors, and remove the FCPA cloud darkening their balance sheet.
Will January 2021 be a busy FCPA enforcement month? If regime change in Washington is indeed a trigger, watch this space.