2021 Global Anti-Corruption Update

January 14, 2021
5:57 minutes

Developed by attorneys in Ropes & Gray’s award-wining anti-corruption and international risk practice, this fifth volume analyzes recent anti-corruption enforcement trends and developments in more than 30 countries across Africa, Asia and Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, and North and South America.


Amanda Raad: Welcome to the 2021 Global Anti-Corruption Update, Ropes & Gray’s fifth edition of a series that provides you with insight into anti-corruption and international risk enforcement trends and developments in more than 30 countries across Africa, Asia and Asia-Pacific, Europe & the Middle East, and North and South America. Our Global Anti-Corruption Update is organized into chapters specific to individual countries, covering their enforcement framework, current landscape, and recent enforcement actions. We publish this series bi-annually to ensure that our colleagues in this space can gain up-to-date insight into anti-corruption developments across the globe. We hope this update will prove to be helpful in navigating this tricky and ever-evolving subject matter.

I’m Amanda Raad, co-chair of the firm’s global anti-corruption and international risk practice and R&G Insight Lab, an innovative, full service legal consulting group – and the industry’s first-ever analytics and behavioral science offering.

Today, I’m joined by my colleagues and co-chairs of the firm’s anti-corruption and international risk practice, Ryan Rohlfsen and María González Calvet.

Ryan Rohlfsen: Hi, this is Ryan Rohlfsen. 2020 has resulted in unprecedented changes in the way companies do business, both in adapting to new or expanded remote work environments and in navigating turbulent markets. But companies must be ever vigilant and ensure that compliance remains a core focus because regulators around the world have made clear, that even during an ongoing pandemic, they will continue to be aggressive and sophisticated in their enforcement activities. This trend is not expected to subside.

María González Calvet: Indeed. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen record-breaking penalties in multijurisdictional enforcement actions like Airbus’s $3.9 billion global settlement, for example, and the subsequent resolution show there’s no suggestion that we’ve reached a ceiling. Many recent cases also show us continued and significant cooperation between U.S. enforcement authorities and their foreign counterparts, which has allowed for more streamlined investigations and resolutions, but also means that companies must navigate a myriad of regulatory regimes and obligations.

Ryan Rohlfsen: In recent years, we’ve also seen a clear uptick in FCPA-related charges brought by U.S. authorities against individuals, in addition to companies. For example, the annual number of individual defendants that the SEC or DOJ charged with FCPA-related offenses increased steadily every year between 2014–2019, from only 8 in 2014 to 44 in both 2018 and 2019. In 2020, we saw a slight decrease in activity, with 24 individual defendants being charged last year. Despite what was likely a temporary decline in enforcement, we expect the trend of aggressive anti-corruption enforcement efforts to continue through 2021 and beyond. This is principally due to the large increases in government spending globally to address the economic effects of the health crisis, increased international law enforcement cooperation, and potentially redeployed resources by the incoming Biden administration.

María González Calvet: That’s right. The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normal business practices, including in the public sector. For example, we’ve seen the easing of restrictions related to government procurement processes to ensure that critical resources and support reaches governments and their citizens more easily, as well as increased public spending to address the pandemic’s devastating effects. These conditions, combined with potentially vague rules, limited oversight and increased economic pressure, lay fertile ground for bribery. We anticipate an increased focus on anti-corruption enforcement by U.S. and foreign regulators. Reports of COVID-19-related investigations have already begun to emerge and the DOJ and SEC again demonstrated their focus in this area by issuing new guidance on FCPA matters in June and July of last year.

Amanda Raad: Thank you, María and Ryan for providing that overview of our 2021 Global Anti-Corruption Update, and thank you to our listeners and readers. To download our 2021 Global Anti-Corruption Update, or for more information on our global anti-corruption and international risk practice, please visit our anti-corruption and international risk practice page at www.ropesgray.com.

On our practice page, please be sure to view our other cutting-edge initiatives, programs and products launched in the last year, including R&G Insights Lab, an innovative, full service legal consulting group – and the industry’s first-ever analytics and behavioral science offering. The Lab is a global, integrated and cross-industry advisory capability that combines Ropes & Gray’s dynamic legal team with specialized expertise in analytics, behavioral science, and strategic consulting.

Also, be sure to visit our Enforcement Express, an interactive website offering resources relating to corruption risks and enforcement environments worldwide. The global corruption risk and enforcement resource offers interactive maps that provide instant access to regularly updated profiles of the relevant laws, enforcement regimes and risk developments in more than 40 countries across the world. The site also includes articles, webinars, videos and podcasts on a wide-range of anti-corruption and enforcement topics.

If we can help you to navigate this complex and rapidly developing area of the law, please do not hesitate to contact our team. You can also subscribe and listen to this series wherever you listen to podcasts, including on Apple or Spotify. As always, we welcome your feedback or suggestions for jurisdictions in our next publication, and hope to continue providing you with content you can use in practice. We hope to hear from you. Thanks again for listening.

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