Recent Study Finds Positive Momentum in Global Anti-Bribery Efforts

Since 2003, U.S. enforcement has dominated international anti-bribery efforts, with nearly twice as many formal foreign bribery actions as all other countries combined. However, according to data recently released in TRACE International's fourth annual Global Enforcement Report, the rest of the world is making significant strides in enforcement, with a 71% increase in anti-bribery action by countries other than the U.S. between 2012 and 2013.

Recent Trends

Although U.S. enforcement in 2013 remained flat from 2012 — and was down nearly 50% from 2011 — corporate fines nearly tripled to $731 million over the $283 million secured in 2012. American enforcement actions also comprised the majority of the 34 foreign bribery actions worldwide, with the UK in second place. It was China, however, that took the lead in domestic anti-bribery enforcement actions in 2013. Chinese officials instituted 13 domestic enforcement actions — defined as the bribery of a country's own government official by a foreign company — followed closely by South Korea and Nigeria, while 11 other countries pursued their first domestic bribery enforcement in 2013, including Poland, Brazil, Namibia and Egypt.

Anti-Bribery Actions between 1977 and 2003

The pervasiveness of international bribery of public officials is evidenced by the fact that at least one domestic and foreign bribery allegation has been made in 125 nations since 1977. The international response to bribery, however, has steadily increased over the past 36 years, with 26 nations and three public international organizations — the United Nations, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank — now pursuing enforcement of foreign anti-bribery laws, 64 enforcing domestic anti-bribery laws and many pursuing the enforcement of both.

Other highlighted trends include —

  • China tops the list of nations where bribes of government officials are most likely to occur, followed by Iraq, Nigeria and India.
  • A total of 515 enforcement actions have been taken worldwide since 1977: 61% of which were undertaken by the U.S., 23% by the UK, followed by Germany (10%), Denmark (nearly 8%) and South Korea (nearly 6%).
  • Many countries have not taken any foreign anti-bribery enforcement action in the 36-year period covered by the survey.
  • Since 1977, U.S. officials have pursued enforcement actions against 82 companies headquartered outside of the U.S. — or against individuals employed or retained by such companies —  representing over 25% of U.S. enforcement actions. Most of these were brought against companies headquartered in the UK, followed by the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan and Germany.
  • Companies in the extractive sector top the list of industries most often subject to domestic and foreign anti-bribery enforcement actions, followed closely by those in manufacturing. The aerospace/defense/security and healthcare sectors rank third and fourth, respectively.

Overall, TRACE found that the international community is increasing the pressure on companies to take bribery seriously, and creating very real consequences for engaging in both foreign and domestic bribery. Companies need to be aware of this enforcement environment and implement anti-corruption and anti-bribery policies within their organizations. A valuable tool for preventing corruption is compliance training.

Topics:  Anti-Bribery, China, Enforcement, International, TRACE

Published In: General Business Updates, International Trade Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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