Press Release
February 7, 2022

Aggressive FCPA Enforcement Looms Despite Slow Start to Actions Under Biden Administration


Goodwin Releases Report Revealing Major FCPA Trends and Developments

Global law firm Goodwin today announced the release of its second annual report on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it unlawful for U.S. persons and entities and others who act within the jurisdiction of the U.S. to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Year in Review — FCPA, authored by members of the firm’s FCPA practice, provides an in depth analysis of the key trends, enforcement actions, and cases of 2021, and forecasts enforcement trends in the year ahead.

“Companies and individuals across all industries must get ahead of FCPA compliance, especially as the Biden administration sharpens its focus on combatting corruption in the year ahead,” said Jennifer Chunias, Goodwin partner and co-author of the report. “Our second annual report identifies key issues to consider to minimize risk amid an evolving regulatory and enforcement landscape.”

“Preoccupied with domestic issues in 2021, the Biden administration had a slow start to FCPA enforcement, with the lowest number of enforcement actions we’ve seen in a decade. Still, with a significant uptick in whistleblower complaints and several announcements on the development of new policies broadening and prioritizing global anti-corruption enforcement efforts, we expect FCPA enforcement to heat up in the years ahead.”

The report’s key findings include:

  • Enforcement actions reach lowest point in a decade. Last year reflected a steep decline in the overall number of FCPA enforcement actions by both the DOJ and SEC, as the world continued to navigate the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and associated business and operational disruptions. But, other indicators suggest that the DOJ and SEC remain committed to and focused on aggressive FCPA enforcement.
  • Whistleblower complaints reach all time high, suggesting strong investigations pipeline. In FY2021, the SEC received more than 12,200 whistleblower tips, an approximate 76% increase from FY2020, and made more whistleblower awards in a single year (2021) than in all prior years of the program combined (2011-2020). The number of FCPA specific tips also increased, from 258 in FY2021, as compared with 208 in FY2020, and 200 in FY2019. This notable increase in whistleblower tips and awards potentially suggests a corresponding increase in number of investigations in the pipeline. 
  • DOJ continues focus on “FCPA-related” charges. The DOJ continues to bring a significant number of “FCPA-related” charges, including money laundering, mail and wire fraud, Travel Act violations, tax violations, and false statements, in addition to, or sometimes instead of, FCPA charges. Consistent with this, as seen in enforcement actions in 2020, the DOJ now seeks to pursue both the briber and the recipient of bribes, frequently using money laundering theories to charge foreign officials who are not themselves subject to the FCPA.

To view the full analysis, download the report.

Goodwin’s FCPA practice, which includes a number of former federal prosecutors, represents corporations, boards of directors, special committees, and individuals around the world in internal investigations and civil and criminal enforcement actions arising under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as well as other global anti-bribery, anti-corruption, and anti-money laundering laws. Goodwin is ranked as a leading White Collar firm by The Legal 500 US, and a leading cross-border investigations practice by Global Investigations Review 100.