The U.K. pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has resolved an outstanding FCPA matter for the conduct of its China subsidiary, GSK-China that settled an SEC investigation for a fine of $20 million, with no profit disgorgement—quite a favorable move for the company. Even more amazingly, the company received a declination from the Justice Department, even though it was under the equivalent of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, called a Corporate Integrity Agreement, for the actions unrelated to its FCPA violations in marketing off-labeled marketed products.
Of course these resolutions did not stand alone as the company had been sanctioned by the Chinese government with a fine of approximately $490 million back in 2014 for the actions of GSK-China. Company employees were criminally convicted and non-Chinese senior executives of the China business unit, who were convicted were deported from China. GSK’s sales in China went in the tank and continue to suffer through this date.
Perhaps the U.S. authorities felt the company had suffered enough. However, in this age of increasing international enforcement, it may well be the SEC and Justice Department missed an opportunity to demonstrate how they would give credit for anti-corruption prosecutions, done by other governments, under local anti-corruption laws; such as was done by Chinese authorities with GSK-China. U.S. authorities could have not only cited to the successful use of domestic Chinese laws as an example in the international fight against bribery and corruption but also specifically stated that how the fine and penalty paid by GSK-China was considered in the calculation of the fine by U.S. regulators.
Such an approach would have emphasized the U.S. government’s favorable outlook for greater international sanctions against corruption, as well as shown companies that they would not be whip-sawed by regulators across the globe for the same conduct. It could have been one of the most public examples of how the U.S. government viewed the international fight against corruption.
I think an opportunity may have been missed.