TRACE, the world’s leading anti-bribery standard setting organization, recently announced the findings of its 2018 Global Enforcement Report (GER), noting an increase in the number of U.S. enforcement actions and a worldwide expansion of anti-bribery investigations.
In the GER, an enforcement action includes resolutions of bribery allegations involving fines or penalties, a guilty plea, a sentencing, or a settlement of charges. The 2018 GER, TRACE’s ninth annual compilation, provides anti-bribery enforcement data from 2018 and summarizes 42 years of anti-bribery enforcement activity.
The past year saw a surge in the number of foreign bribery investigations being conducted worldwide. European countries in particular are now collectively engaged in a total of 157 investigations into bribes paid to foreign government officials—an increase of approximately 37% over the previous year.
Additionally, this past year showed more countries investigating bribery of their own domestic officials by foreign entities than has been previously seen.
In 2018, the U.S. undertook a total of 25 enforcement actions—a notable increase over the 16 in the previous year, though falling short of the U.S.’s record-setting 31 enforcement actions in 2016. This number includes two matters resolved through “declination-with-disgorgement,” a resolution made possible for self-reporting companies by recent government policy and perceived as a “soft option” for corporations.
Overall, from 1977–2018, the U.S. has carried out a total of 263 enforcement actions, or about 67% of all enforcement actions worldwide.
“It is encouraging that anti-bribery enforcement continues to be an international priority and that the DOJ and the SEC are rewarding voluntary disclosure,” said TRACE President Alexandra Wrage.
“This sort of cooperation from the business community will continue to be invaluable as more countries join in investigating and prosecuting acts of transnational bribery. We are hopeful that U.S. authorities will remain vigilant in ensuring that incentives like the declination-with-disgorgement policy are not abused by wrongdoers looking to get away with a slap on the wrist.”
Critics say the existing policies are not far-sighted and comprehensive enough.