5 Key Trends in Global Anti-Bribery Enforcement

5 Key Trends in Global Anti-Bribery Enforcement

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October 15, 2015

It seems the headlines this year have been dominated by one corruption scandal after another, and the resulting enforcement actions. The Global Enforcement Report (the “GER”), published annually by TRACE, summarizes worldwide trends in anti-bribery enforcement. The information is based primarily on investigations and cases tracked in the TRACE Compendium, an online database of cross-border anti-bribery cases. Below are five key trends reflected in the GER that have practical implications for compliance professionals.

  1. Enforcement of anti-bribery laws remains a priority across the globe, not just in the U.S. Companies face the risk of prosecution from U.S. and non-U.S. authorities for violation of anti-bribery laws. While the U.S. leads the world in total number of investigations and enforcement actions, more and more countries are beginning to take action against companies and individuals who have bribed foreign officials. Non-U.S. enforcement actions have more than doubled in the past few years. In fact, in 2014 the number of non-U.S. enforcement actions (15) surpassed the number of U.S. enforcement actions (13). [gap size="20px"]
  2. An increasing number of countries are focusing on bribery of their own government officials. Companies also face the risk of prosecution for violating local anti-bribery laws.  Almost twice as many countries are investigating bribery of their own officials compared to bribery of foreign officials. This may be an upward trend. Countries have brought a number of enforcement actions in the past for bribery of domestic officials; however, according to the GER, there were twice as many ongoing investigations as of December 31, 2014 than those past enforcement actions. Even if only a portion of these investigations results in enforcement actions, the next few years could far exceed the prior rate. [gap size="20px"]
  3. U.S. regulators continue to have non-U.S. companies in their sights. Companies headquartered outside of the U.S. should not overlook their risk of prosecution under the FCPA. As of December 31, 2014, approximately 40% of investigations by U.S. authorities involved non-U.S. companies, and of those the majority were European.  Non-U.S. companies account for almost all of the top 10 largest FCPA enforcement actions, with only two U.S. companies making the list (France now has three companies in the top 10, with the addition of Alstom’s $772 million settlement in 2014). [gap size="20px"]
  4. Anti-bribery enforcement actions are highest in China, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia. Virtually every country in the world has been impacted by bribery. But operating or doing business in certain countries comes with an increased risk of prosecution for bribery. China, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Russia, Brazil, and Indonesia have seen the highest level of enforcement activity. China took the top spot with Chinese officials having allegedly received bribes in 90 separate enforcement actions. This type of information from the GER and tools like the TRACE Matrix can help companies more accurately assess risk when thinking of expanding business to a foreign country. [gap size="20px"]
  5. The extractive industries continue to have the highest number of anti-bribery enforcement actions worldwide. The extractive industries remain the focus of enforcement activity throughout the world (followed by engineering, manufacturing, and aerospace and defense industries). In addition to the extractive industries, the U.S. has seen a higher number of investigations in the technology, financial services, and entertainment and film industries.

The trends identified in the GER highlight the challenges facing companies in the current enforcement environment, but also provide compliance professionals an opportunity to strengthen compliance programs. With this information, companies can tailor their compliance programs and avoid becoming another enforcement statistic. A version of this piece was originally published by Alexandra Wrage in The Compliance & Ethics Blog.

For more on this topic, please see the following resources:

Global Enforcement Report
TRACE 2014 Global Enforcement Report: Non-U.S. Enforcement Actions Outpace U.S. Enforcement in 2014
A Sea Change in Global Anti-Bribery Enforcement

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