U.S. Anti-Corruption Efforts At An All-Time High (Part 2 of a 5-Part Series)
The U.S. government has placed the fight against bribery of foreign public officials at the top of its list of critical law enforcement priorities. The October 21, 2010, OECD Phase 3 report concludes that this focus translates into vigorous law enforcement action: Prosecutions have increased from less than 5 per year between 2001 and 2005, to almost 19 per year between 2006 and 2009. Between 1998 and September 2010, some 50 individuals and 28 companies were convicted of foreign bribery-related offenses, while 69 individuals and companies have been held civilly liable for foreign bribery. Of the 36 individuals who have been convicted of FCPA violations and sentenced during this period, 25 received sentences of imprisonment, with the average sentence being slightly more than 30 months. 26 companies have been publically sanctioned for foreign bribery under increasingly-popular non-prosecution agreements and deferred prosecution agreements.
Since 1998, the U.S. has imposed over $2 billion in bribery-related criminal fines against legal persons. Rounding out this impressive -- and peerless -- enforcement picture, the OECD report emphasizes the U.S. government's imposition of massive sanctions for accounting misconduct and money laundering related to foreign bribery. Consider, for example, that between 1998 and 2003, the maximum monetary sanctions leveled against a company in an FCPA case was $2.5 million. But in the past 6 years some 23 companies were sanctioned to the tune of more than $10 million each, and during roughly the same time U.S. disgorgement actions have reeled in more than $1 billion in foreign bribery proceeds. In fact, in one case, the U.S. government imposed sanctions totaling $800 million against a single company.
The SEC, a federal agency increasingly in anti-bribery motion, obtains civil penalties separate from DOJ criminal fines for foreign bribery-related misconduct. In the first 9 months of 2010 alone, the SEC obtained over $404 million in disgorgement, interest and civil penalties from 13 companies and 8 individuals. And the business and legal communities have certainly noticed these ramped-up, multi-faceted (and multi-agency) enforcement efforts. According to the OECD report, business leaders credit heavy sanctions and amplified prosecutions for having "significantly raised the FCPA's profile," resulting directly in more finely-tuned anti-bribery measures and internal controls, and more carefully-calibrated compliance systems.