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By Yin Wilczek
June 4 — There were more non-U.S. enforcement actions regarding bribery of foreign officials in 2014 than U.S. actions, a new report finds.
According to TRACE International's 2014 Global Enforcement Report (GER), there were 15 non-U.S. enforcement actions last year, compared to 13 U.S. actions.
Since 2004, the only other time that non-U.S. anti-bribery actions have outstripped U.S. actions was in 2011, when there were 16 non-U.S. actions compared to 15 U.S. actions, according to the June 3 report.
The data shows that anti-bribery enforcement remains a worldwide priority, TRACE President Alexandra Wrage said in a release.
Enforcement “of anti-bribery laws is gaining momentum,” Wrage said. “Companies and individuals should be aware that they face real consequences for engaging in bribery as a marketing strategy.”
As worldwide efforts ramp up, that likely will impact U.S. enforcement efforts.
“The vast majority” of corporate enforcement actions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are the result of voluntary disclosures or are initiated because of foreign law enforcement investigations, observed Mike Koehler, a professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law and founder and editor of the FCPA Professor blog.
As overseas investigations increase, the amount of information coming to U.S. authorities on overseas bribery activity also is increasing because of greater cross-border cooperation, Thomas Fox, founder of Houston law firm tomfoxlaw.com and creator of the “FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog,” told Bloomberg BNA.
“The work by the Department of Justice with prosecutors in all these countries to teach them about bribery and corruption is, I think, beginning to bear fruit,” Fox said.
In other highlights, TRACE's GER report found that as of Dec. 31, the U.S. was conducting 111 investigations involving bribery of foreign officials. Of those probes, 44—or 40 percent—involve companies headquartered outside the U.S. or individuals who are non-U.S. citizens.
Despite the high percentage of probes, only 24 percent of U.S. enforcement actions in connection with the bribing of foreign officials from 1977 to 2014 involve non-U.S. companies or individuals, according to the report.
“It is important to keep in mind that an investigation may not lead to an enforcement action,” Danielle Rowland Lindahl, TRACE associate, member services and advocacy, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail. Lindahl played a leading role in compiling the report.
The report found that 66 percent of the U.S. investigations of non-U.S. entities and individuals are centered in Europe. The top three countries implicated are the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Canada.
Meanwhile, non-U.S. companies have paid some of the highest fines in the FCPA's history. These include Siemens AG, which paid a combined $800 million to the DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2008, and Alstom SA, whose $772 million settlement with the DOJ in December is the highest-ever paid to the department under the foreign bribery statute.
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TRACE's 2014 Global Enforcement Report is available at http://www.traceinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/TRACE-Global-Enforcement-Report-2014.pdf.
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