On March 19, the anti-bribery business association and training provider TRACE issued its 2019 Global Enforcement Report. The Report characterized 2019 as “a relatively slow year for enforcement actions in transnational bribery cases.”
The Report’s principal findings included the following:
- The numbers of enforcement actions in cases involving bribery of foreign officials decreased for both the United States (19 percent, from 21 to 17) and non-U.S. jurisdictions (45 percent, from 11 to 6) (pp. 3, 8).
- The United States had by far the highest number of investigations concerning bribery of foreign officials (121), followed by the United Kingdom (46), Germany (27), Switzerland (20), and France (16) (p. 6). As of the end of 2019, Brazil was conducting the most investigations concerning alleged bribery of domestic officials by foreign companies (32), followed by India (17) and China (14) (p. 13).
- Companies in the extractive industries had the highest number of U.S. investigations concerning bribery of domestic and foreign officials (24, constituting approximately 19 percent of all U.S. investigations), followed by financial services (20, constituting 16 percent) and manufacturers/service providers (15, constituting 12 percent) (p. 20).
- Companies in the extractive industries had the highest number of non-U.S. investigations concerning bribery of foreign and domestic officials (95, of which 49 were investigations involving foreign officials and 46 investigations involving domestic officials). Engineering/construction companies had a total of 83 non-U.S. investigations, and aerospace/defense/security companies a total of 72 non-U.S. investigations (p. 18).
- Among countries of bribe recipients in investigations concerning bribery by U.S.-headquartered companies, China has the highest number (27), followed by Brazil (19) and India (11) (p. 16).
- Since 1977, China also had the highest prevalence of alleged bribery by foreign companies. Chinese officials were the alleged recipients of bribes in more than 110 different enforcement events (p. 15).
Note: The Report correctly states that “the resulting enforcement levels were not out of line with historical trends of anti-bribery enforcement” (p. 3). That means, among other things, that while multinational cooperation in foreign-bribery investigations and enforcement actions continued through 2019, since 1977 the United States has continued to outpace other countries in the number of enforcement actions concerning bribery of foreign officials (279), with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands a distant second and third (42 and 14, respectively) (p. 7).
At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, it is highly likely that many countries, including the United States, will be forced to slow the pace and productivity of their anti-corruption enforcement programs through the remainder of 2020. Whether participants in ongoing foreign-bribery schemes will be similarly constricted in their maintenance of those schemes remains to be seen.