The Justice Department has increasingly recognized the international aspect of anti-corruption investigations and enforcement. In November, in remarks to the FCPA/OECD Anniversary Conference at the NYU School of Law, Acting Assistant Attorney General Ken Blanco said “The commitment of the signatories to the [OECD Anti-Bribery] Convention is grounded in the recognition of the harms and a collective desire to stand firm against them, united in our efforts. But what makes the OECD Convention so unique, and so effective, is that it not only requires its signatories to affirm their commitment to fighting transnational corruption, or even that they pass laws to do so, but it also encourages cooperation and a collaborative approach. Each of the signatories to the Convention has agreed to abide by strong provisions for mutual assistance, peer evaluation, and systematic monitoring. In particular, the comprehensive peer review process motivates countries to ensure the highest level of compliance with the Convention and to take concrete action to fight foreign bribery and corruption.”
Blanco provided three examples of this international cooperation. The first was the Odebrecht case. It “paid an unparalleled amount of bribes to high-level officials in a dozen countries to secure billions of dollars’ worth of projects around the globe. The United States, Brazil, and Switzerland were able to achieve the largest global fine ever imposed in a corruption case.” Approximately 80 people have been charged in connection with the case so far and the “company pleaded guilty in the United States and is required to cooperate with the respective countries’ ongoing investigations of individuals, as well as to retain an independent compliance monitor for three years.”
Blanco noted that through the countries’ cooperation they not only “assisted one another in gathering evidence and building the case, but made sure to credit the fines and penalties paid to each country, rather than imposing duplicative fines and penalties. This ensures fairness to the companies and provides the right incentives for companies to cooperate fully with the relevant jurisdictions implicated in the case.”
The second was the Rolls Royce Ltd. matter, which is still ongoing. RR “paid about $170 million in U.S. penalties as part of an $800 million global resolution to investigations in three countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.” In November, the Justice Department announced it had secured four guilty pleas and issued one indictment for individuals involved in a corruption scheme for one project. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office followed on these U.S. prosecutions and indictments with their own indictments of two individuals under the U.K. Bribery Act.
When you couple Blanco’s speech with the remarks of Rod Rosenstein, made at the same conference, tying the intersection of corruption, money-laundering, and international investigations to U.S. leadership in prosecutions, it is clear FCPA enforcement is not going away.
September brought the resolution of the Telia Co. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. Here the United States, Netherlands, and Sweden secured another “large-scale global corporate settlement against Stockholm-based telecommunications company Telia. That case followed on the heels of the 2016 settlement against Amsterdam-based Vimpelcom; both of these companies admitted to paying over $440 million in bribes to a corrupt official in Uzbekistan.” Swedish prosecutors have brought individual criminal charges against the former president of the company as well as the former country manager and regional VP.
Blanco also pointed out that other international partners are on the horizon, ready to pick up the mantle of this international fight against bribery and corruption. He specifically mentioned Argentina which, he commented, he had been “meeting with the highest levels of the Macri government, and with their Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. For the last year, we have been working closely with the Argentines in the areas of corruption, organized crime and money laundering. I am impressed with their strong commitment and the actions they are taking, towards rooting out corruption in all its forms. We share a common commitment to continue working closely together.”
Even after Blanco’s speech came the FCPA prosecution of SBM Offshore. The company had previously settled anti-corruption enforcement actions with Dutch and Brazilian prosecutors for values over $300 million. In November, the company settled with the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission for an additional $236 million. It was coupled with guilty pleas by Anthony Mace, a former CEO, and Robert Zubiate, a sales and marketing director. Shortly thereafter, the SFO charged two former SBM Offshore executives, Paul Bond, a senior sales manager, and Stephen Whiteley, a former VP, for paying bribes to foreign officials in Iraq, using the infamous intermediary Unaoil.
When you couple Blanco’s speech with the remarks of Rod Rosenstein, made at the same conference, tying the intersection of corruption, money-laundering, and international investigations to U.S. leadership in prosecutions, it is clear FCPA enforcement is not going away. Led by the Justice Department and SEC to foster the OECD Anti-Corruption Initiative, to train other international investigators and prosecutors in anti-corruption prosecutions, these efforts saw significant payoffs last year and will continue to do so.