Overseas Bribery Prosecutions to Stay Strong, Firms Say

, Corporate Counsel

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Prosecution of corporations for overseas bribery will continue at a healthy clip in 2014, with increasing criminal penalties and more cooperation from other countries, according to new Foreign Corrupt Practices Act reports from three New York City law firms.

The studies released this week include Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's "Year-End 2013 FCPA Update"; Hughes Hubbard & Reed's "FCPA/Anti-Bribery 2013 Alert"; and Shearman & Sterling's "FCPA Digest—Recent Trends and Patterns in the Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," along with the firm's full annual review of 2013 FCPA cases.

The 432-page Hughes Hubbard report recapped 2013 cases, as well as major settlements back to 2005 and larger trends. It stated that corporate monitors, which fell into disfavor, are again gaining prominence and being imposed in most high-profile cases.

"Where once we watched the Shot Show prosecution crumble, we now see indictments and plea deals for even non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. issuers," according to Hughes Hubbard's report. "And where once we wondered if non-U.S. governments would continue to strengthen and enforce anti-bribery laws, we see resounding confirmation in the form of investigations and enforcement activity from previously unseen jurisdictions such as Australia and Canada."

The report also cited greater cooperation among international regimes; rising enforcement among development banks; expanded jurisdictional reach; prosecution of payments to non-government officials and private parties; and broader interpretations of what constitutes a "foreign official."

Hughes Hubbard's anticorruption and internal investigations group is headed by Kevin Abikoff, formerly general counsel and head of compliance for American General Corp.

Gibson Dunn's report noted "a return to the robust enforcement totals of recent years, to a nearly fourfold increase in the size of the average corporate fine, to increasingly aggressive deployment of traditional criminal investigative techniques, to the expansion of multi-jurisdictional, [and] cross-border cooperation and prosecutions."

Remarking on the high cost of resolving FCPA cases, Gibson Dunn said that in 2013 the average was more than $80 million—nearly four times the average in 2012.

"And looking at the horizon of cases to come while speaking at the 2013 American Conference Institute FCPA Conference, DOJ's FCPA Unit Chief said that he expects DOJ to bring more 'top 10 quality type cases' in 2014."

The reference was to the top 10 companies that have paid the most money to resolve cases with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Siemens AG remains on top with $800 million in 2008, but two new companies broke into the top 10 in 2013: TOTAL S.A. with $398.2 million, and Weatherford International with $152.8 million.

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