Toronto downtown Skyline

In a noteworthy trend picked-up by Trace International’s Global Enforcement Report, in 2014 non-U.S. enforcement actions concerning bribery of foreign officials outpaced U.S. enforcement actions for the first time.  The widely held perception has been that only the United States enforces its anticorruption laws.  The recently released report indicates enforcement by overseas regulators is on the rise, doubling since 2012, beginning to match the past decade of heightened enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act While the traditional perceptions of non-U.S. enforcement may have matched reality in the past, practitioners and other observers have witnessed the changing global investigations and enforcement landscape over the past few years. Asia-Pacific, among other regions, has witnessed this sea change through changes to its legal framework, with notable changes to both corporate criminal liability and the underlying anticorruption laws in many countries. China has levied legal fines and penalties of the same magnitude as the U.S. regulators, an indication that it will pursue corporate misdeeds with the same vigor as its U.S. counterparts. The headlining trend to be taken from Trace’s report is clearly the development of non-U.S. enforcement, however, the accompanying charts also provide a reminder of the U.S.’s leading global role in investigations and enforcement. For instance, the U.S. has five times as many open investigations concerning bribery of foreign officials as the next closest country (the U.K.). The report also notes that 40% of all U.S. investigations concerning bribery of foreign officials involved non-U.S. companies or individuals. As this statistic and the recent headlines of the evolving FIFA scandal have shown, the U.S. continues to vigorously pursue corrupt extra-territorial conduct that routes through the U.S. financial services industry. Finally, Trace’s report is largely analytically driven, but the trend of non-U.S. enforcement has implications for how companies assess disclosure risks and the ongoing need to enhance corporate compliance programs. Particularly those industries Trace’s report highlights as disproportionately targeted for enforcement, like the Extractive Industries.