FCPA Resolutions Hit Nine Year Low

In 2015, enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by U.S. enforcement authorities, at least in terms of resolved actions, dropped to its lowest level since 2006.


That’s according to a report from Miller & Chevalier.

According to the report, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought 20 resolved FCPA enforcement actions in 2015 which represents a significant drop in the average number of cases brought by the agencies since 2006.

The report found that the drop in enforcement development can largely be attributed to the precipitous decline in corporate criminal FCPA prosecutions.

The two corporate FCPA dispositions the Department entered into in 2015 are the fewest such actions the Department has brought since 2003.

The SEC’s enforcement levels, by contrast, have remained relatively stable, the report found.

Justice Department spokesperson Peter Carr has said that the Department is adjusting its focus from smaller cases, primarily those based on corporate self-reporting, to “bigger, higher impact cases, including those against culpable individuals, both in the U.S. and abroad, [which] take longer to investigate and absorb significant resources.”

This adjusted focus might explain why the Department failed for the first time since 2003 to bring a parallel action in a single one of the SEC’s corporate FCPA cases this year, as all of these cases could be fairly characterized as smaller and lower impact, the law firm reported.

The low number of resolved FCPA enforcement actions in 2015 was partially counterbalanced by an uptick in known declinations, or decisions not to bring an enforcement action, over the same period, the report found.

In fact, the recent emphasis on declinations by the agencies, particularly the Department of Justice, may have contributed to the decline we have seen in resolved enforcement, the report found.

“To date, we have identified 19 declinations from 2015, the second highest year on record and a total likely to further increase given the typical lag time of several months or more that we encounter in identifying declinations, since companies generally announce the closure of investigations in their quarterly securities filings or annual reports (assuming they choose to disclose them at all),” the law firm reported. “Note that, as in the past, we have tracked ‘declinations’ based on a broad interpretation of the term, counting any instance in which the DOJ or SEC chose to close an FCPA investigation without pursuing an enforcement action regardless of the agency’s reason for doing so.”


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