In case companies had any lingering doubt about enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated in remarks this week that FCPA enforcement is alive and well.
In remarks at the Ethics and Compliance Initiative Annual Conference, AG Sessions said, “[U]nder my leadership, the Department of Justice remains committed to enforcing all the laws. That includes laws regarding corporate misconduct, fraud, foreign corruption, and other types of white-collar crime.”
Sessions also spoke to the uncertainty that comes along with a new administration or new leadership at the Justice Department. “This Department of Justice will continue to investigate and prosecute corporate fraud and misconduct, bribery, public corruption, organized crime, trade-secret theft, money laundering, securities fraud, government fraud, healthcare fraud, and Internet fraud, among others.”
“Companies that obey the law and do the right thing should not be at a disadvantage simply because their competitors choose to break the rules,” Sessions added. This is particularly true of FCPA enforcement. “This type of corruption harms free competition, distorts prices, and often leads to substandard products and services coming into this country,” he said. “It also increases the cost of doing business, and hurts honest companies that don’t pay these bribes.”
The Department of Justice “wants to create an even playing field for law-abiding companies,” Sessions said. “We will continue to strongly enforce the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws. Companies should succeed because they provide superior products and services, not because they have paid off the right people.”
During his remarks, AG Sessions further emphasized the importance of holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct. “It is not merely companies, but specific individuals, who break the law,” he said. “We will work closely with our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to bring these persons to justice.”
Additionally, when making charging decisions, the Department of Justice will continue to consider “whether companies have good compliance programs; whether they cooperate and self-disclose their wrongdoing; and whether they take suitable steps to remediate problems,” AG Sessions said.
Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Trevor McFadden similarly pledged support for FCPA enforcement a week earlier at the Anti-Corruption, Export Controls & Sanctions 10th Compliance Summit. “My fellow prosecutors and I at the Justice Department are intent on creating an even playing field for honest businesses,” McFadden remarked. “Corruption introduces significant uncertainty into business transactions, and it actually increases the cost of doing business.”
“Bribery has destructive effects within a business as well, undermining employee confidence in a company’s management and fostering a permissive atmosphere for other kinds of corporate misconduct—such as employee self-dealing, embezzlement, financial fraud and anti-competitive behavior,” McFadden added. “Companies that pay bribes to win business ultimately undermine their own long-term interests and the best interests of their investors.”
McFadden further stressed that the Department of Justice intends to speed up the pace of FCPA investigations. Over the last few years, he said the Justice Department has hired additional trial attorneys in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit “to help investigate cases more quickly, and the Fraud Section leadership and I are focused on wrapping up old investigations. This will maximize our ability to bring cases against responsible individuals, before applicable statutes of limitations have run or evidence is lost.”