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These are the biggest FCPA cases for each of the past ten years

The biggest FCPA resolutions yearly show enormous variation and no predictable pattern. Although four of the biggest cases for each of the past ten years settled for more than $1 billion, with an overall average settlement size for the ten cases of about $996 million, a couple of years were laggards.

The year during the past decade with the biggest FCPA enforcement action is 2020, with Goldman Sachs’ $3.3 billion resolution.

In contrast, the biggest case in 2021 was just $122.9 million, and in 2015 the biggest case was a paltry (by FCPA standards) $25 million.

Seven of the companies with the biggest FCPA settlements for each year since 2013 still appear on the FCPA Blog Top Ten list, where the “smallest” resolution amounts to $700 million.

Settlement amounts, per data from FCPA Blog+, are tabulated this way: The total monetary value of the enforcement action is derived from the enforcement documents filed or otherwise produced by the DOJ or SEC or both. The settlement includes all criminal and civil penalties imposed on the highest-level entity and all related entities named in the enforcement action documents, as well as special assessments, forfeiture, disgorgement, and prejudgment interest, without regard to where the DOJ and / or SEC said the money would or could be paid.

Here are the biggest FCPA cases by year for each of the past ten years:

2022 – Glencore plc (Switzerland) $700 million

2021 – Deutsche Bank AG (Germany) $122.9 million

2020 – Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (United States) $3.3 billion

2019 – Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (Sweden) $1.06 billion

2018 – Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. – Petrobras (Brazil) $1.78 billion

2017 – Telia Company AB (Sweden) $1.01 billion

2016 – VimpelCom Limited (Netherlands) $795 million

2015 – BHP Billiton (Australia) $25 million

2014 – Alstom S.A. (France) $772 million

2013 – Total S.A. (France) $398 million

The biggest takeaway? FCPA enforcement is unpredictable, at least when measured a year at a time.

In 2015, when the biggest case was BHP’s $25 million settlement, the DOJ and SEC brought 12 corporate FCPA enforcement actions overall. But somehow, all the cases settled for relatively small amounts.

A year earlier in 2014, the biggest case was Alstom’s $772 million settlement, and a year later in 2016 the biggest case was VimpelCom’s $795 million resolution. No one could have predicted that the year in between would have so many small cases.

There’s probably no explanation for the variation except randomness. FCPA cases take a long time to resolve, usually many years, and the DOJ and SEC generally aren’t working against deadlines. So the cases end when they end.

But perhaps the agencies used 2015 as a “clean up” year for the dozen smaller cases they had pending and returned to the bigger cases the next year. That might explain it.

Still, 2021 was another year when the biggest FCPA case was quite small by modern standards — Deutsche Bank’s $122.9 million resolution.

Again, it was preceded by Goldman Sachs’ $3.3 million settlement in 2020 and followed by Glencore’s $700 million resolution this year. There’s no obvious explanation for the wide variation except the unpredictability of when the DOJ and SEC are ready to reach the finish line.

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