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By Che Odom
March 9 — While U.S. enforcement actions and investigations in connection with the bribery of foreign officials increased slightly in 2015, there was a significant drop off in actions by non-U.S. regulators, a new report found.
According to the Global Enforcement Report released March 9 by compliance consultancy TRACE International Inc., U.S. regulators conducted 16 anticorruption enforcement actions in 2015, in line with the 13 actions they filed in 2014.
However, non-U.S. enforcement actions dropped 73 percent to four in 2015 from 15 in 2014, the report said. In fact, 2015 saw the lowest level of non-U.S. enforcement actions involving the bribery of foreign officials since 2007.
Despite the lackluster numbers, companies would be well advised not to lower their compliance efforts, especially where U.S. regulators are concerned, TRACE President Alexandra Wrage told Bloomberg BNA in an interview March 9.
“Whether this year will yield more enforcement actions than last year remains to be seen, but companies should not take variance in the number of enforcement actions as proof of a shift in policy on the part of U.S. authorities,” Wrage said.
She added that U.S. enforcement officials have “described their pipeline as ‘very full with large, significant FCPA cases.' ”
According to the TRACE report, as of Dec. 31, U.S. regulators were conducting 126 investigations into allegations of bribery of foreign officials, compared with 125 by regulators in the other 26 countries covered in the study.
The Justice Department is increasing its global presence and resources to combat international crime, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a March 4 speech . The department has begun hiring 10 new prosecutors to its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit, increasing the unit by 50 percent.
Among other recent FCPA enforcement actions, medical device maker Olympus Corp. of the Americas agreed to pay $646 million to resolve criminal and civil charges, the DOJ announced March 1 .
Russian mobile-phone operator VimpelCom Ltd. settled bribery claims with U.S. and Dutch prosecutors Feb. 18 for a near-record $795 million.
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TRACE's Global Enforcement Report 2015 is available at http://www.traceinternational.org/publications/.
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