Since the start of 2021, four companies have disclosed new investigations, including Braskem and Toyota. During the same period in 2020, three companies disclosed new FCPA-related investigations, according to FCPA Tracker.
Three companies have closed their FCPA-related investigations in 2021 — two by declinations and one by an enforcement action.
In the only enforcement action, Deutsche Bank AG agreed to pay the DOJ and SEC $122.9 million in penalties and disgorgement to resolve FCPA offenses.
By this time in 2020, three companies had resolved FCPA-related investigations. Uber received a DOJ declination. Airbus paid $2 billion to U.S. authorities as part of their global settlement. And Cardinal Health paid the SEC $8.8 million to settle FCPA offenses related to a Chinese subsidiary that provided marketing services.
By this time last year, the DOJ and SEC had collected around $1.87 billion more for FCPA-related offenses, according to FCPA Blog+.
Yes, 2020 was unusual. The year kicked off with a resolution — Airbus — that earned the top spot on the FCPA Blog top ten. Last year also ended with a new enforcement-action record — Goldman Sachs’ $3.3. billion settlement for 1MDB-related offenses.
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Why has there been less enforcement so far this year? Why have the feds collected so little from FCPA defendants?
Maybe these aren’t the right questions to be asking. The FCPA, as an industry, has become a behemoth. The average settlement in 2020 topped $534 million — half a billion dollars.
Are monetary penalties the best way to evaluate enforcement? If yes, then the DOJ and SEC crushed it last year. But this year, they’re woefully behind.
Or should we instead be watching the industry for something else? Maybe a quiet start to 2021 is a sign of good things. It might be evidence that 15 years of enforcement, compliance programs, and training are paying dividends. Maybe we’re seeing the results of a cumulative and consistent effort of companies promoting compliance worldwide.
Or it might just be the calm before the storm. There’s a new administration finding its footing in DC. And there are at least 110 companies with open and ongoing FCPA-related investigations.
Let’s see what the next three quarters of 2021 bring.