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Harry Cassin
Publisher and Editor

Andy Spalding
Senior Editor

Jessica Tillipman
Senior Editor

Bill Steinman
Senior Editor

Richard L. Cassin
Editor at Large

Elizabeth K. Spahn
Editor Emeritus

Cody Worthington
Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox
Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn
Contributing Editor

Bill Waite
Contributing Editor

Shruti J. Shah
Contributing Editor

Russell A. Stamets
Contributing Editor

Richard Bistrong
Contributing Editor

Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

Why has corporate FCPA enforcement stopped?

The first four months of 2021 saw only one FCPA enforcement action against a corporate defendant. That’s the slowest start for at least 10 years.

The single corporate FCPA case was Deutsche Bank’s $123 million settlement with the DOJ and SEC on January 8.

There hasn’t been another one since then.

On average from 2012 to 2020, there were about 4.5 corporate FCPA resolutions during January-through-April, compared to this year’s one action.

By this time last year there had been three corporate enforcement actions (Eni, Cardinal Health, and Airbus) with total combined financial penalties of over $2 billion.

In 2019 there also had been three corporate FCPA resolutions (Fresenius, Cognizant Technologies, and MTS) with total combined penalties of about $1 billion.

Some other January-Aprils looked like this:

2018 — five corporate FCPA resolutions

2017 — seven

2016 — nine

2015 — two

2014 — three

2013 — four

2012 — four

Why so little FCPA enforcement against companies so far in 2021?

An obvious explanation is high-level personnel changes in the federal government since the January 20 inauguration.

There’s traditionally a lot of turnover when the White House changes hands, especially when one political party replaces the other, as happened this year.

A new U.S. Attorney General is running Main Justice, with a mostly new slate of top prosecutors.

The post-election changes are still happening. Last week, for example, the head of the DOJ’s FCPA unit since 2019, Christopher Cestaro, left for private practice.

At the SEC, enforcement chief Alex Oh resigned on April 28 after just a week in the job. She cited “a complication in a case from her prior legal career.”

In mid-April, the Senate confirmed Gary Gensler as the SEC’s new chair. That shifted control of the five-member commission from Republicans to Democrats.

The FCPA units at the DOJ and SEC are likely waiting for the dust to settle. New leaders bring new agendas and priorities, and pending actions need fresh reviews.

But during the current enforcement hiatus, the volume of unresolved corporate FCPA investigations has remained high.

According to FCPA Tracker, there are at least 111 companies with disclosed and pending FCPA-related investigations.

That’s about the same number of active investigations that companies and agencies had disclosed as of this time last year and in 2019.

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