Ten Top Lessons from Recent FCPA Settlements-Lesson No. 2, the Need for Speed

Thomas Fox - Compliance Evangelist

Thomas Fox - Compliance Evangelist


Over the past 15 months the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has made clear through three Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions and speeches, their priorities in investigations, remediations and best practices compliance programs. Every compliance professional should study each of these enforcement actions closely for the lessons learned and direct communications from the DOJ. They should guide not simply your actions should you find yourself in an investigation but also how you should think about the priorities.

The three FCPA enforcement actions are ABB from December 2022; Albemarle from November 2023 and SAP from January 2024. Taken together they point a clear path for the company which finds itself in an investigation, using extensive remediation to avoid a monitor and insight for the compliance professional into what the DOJ expects in a best practices compliance program on an ongoing basis.

Over a series of blog posts, I will lay out what I believe are the Top Ten lessons from these enforcement actions for compliance professionals who find themselves in an enforcement action. Today we continue  with Number 2, the Need for Speed. The DOJ expects a company to share information with regulators as quickly as it found those facts, without necessarily knowing how such admissions might affect its overall case and settlement chances.

In a 2023 speech, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite announced the change which I have monikered as ‘the Need for Speed’. Polite characterized the change as from ‘full’ cooperation to ‘extraordinary’ cooperation. He noted the DOJ has differences between corporations and individuals, in both investigations and enforcement but “with respect to how we consider cooperation, the lens and framework through which we analyze the level and degree of cooperation aren’t so different.”

Polite named three concepts, “immediacy, consistency, degree, and impact—that apply to cooperation by both individuals and corporations, which will help to inform our approach to assessing what is “extraordinary.”” He went onto note, that “In assessing the quality of a cooperator’s assistance, we value: when an individual begins to cooperate immediately, and consistently tells the truth; individuals who allow us to obtain evidence we otherwise couldn’t get, like quickly obtaining and imaging their electronic devices, or having recorded conversations;  cooperation that produces results, like testifying at a trial or providing information that leads to additional convictions.” He emphasized there are “examples in the individual context.”

Then came the puzzling part. Polite stated “we know “extraordinary cooperation” when we see it, and the differences between “full” and “extraordinary” cooperation are perhaps more in degree than kind.  To receive credit for extraordinary cooperation, companies must go above and beyond the criteria for full cooperation set in our policies—not just run of the mill, or even gold-standard cooperation, but truly extraordinary.” He closed by intoning, “At the same time, the government will not affirmatively direct a company’s internal investigation, if it chooses to do one, and companies are often well positioned to know the steps they can take to best cooperate in a particular given case.” He concluded with the following, “And of course, the facts and circumstances of each case will be unique.”

Perhaps Polite may simply be channeling his inner Potter Stewart with his line ‘we know it…when we see it’. Of course, if there are two or more people looking at the same set of facts, there is always the chance for two or more interpretations. The question then becomes how to define extraordinary cooperation.


It also ties directly into what Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in announcing the Monaco Doctrine, when she stated, “it is imperative that Department prosecutors gain access to all relevant, non­ privileged facts about individual misconduct swiftly and without delay.” [emphasis supplied] This meant, “to receive full cooperation credit, corporations must produce on a timely basis all relevant, non-privileged facts and evidence about individual misconduct such that prosecutors have the opportunity to effectively investigate and seek criminal charges against culpable individuals.” If a company fails to meet this burden, it will “place in jeopardy their eligibility for cooperation credit.” The DOJ goes the next step by placing the burden on companies to demonstrate timeliness, stating they “bear the burden of ensuring that documents are produced in a timely manner to prosecutors.”

In the ABB enforcement action, ABB received credit for extraordinary cooperation based on the following: “(i) promptly providing information obtained through its internal investigation, which allowed the Offices to preserve and obtain evidence as part of their own independent investigation; (ii) making regular and detailed factual presentations to the Offices; (iii) voluntarily making foreign-based employees available for interviews in the United States; (iv) producing relevant documents located outside the United States to the Offices in ways that did not implicate foreign data privacy laws; and (v) collecting, analyzing, and organizing voluminous evidence and information that it provided to the Offices, including the translation of certain foreign language documents.”

Some additional insight is found in the SEC Order, where it stated, “ABB’s cooperation included real-time sharing of facts learned during its own internal investigation.”  This meant “ABB was sharing information with regulators as quickly as it found those facts, without necessarily knowing how such admissions might affect its overall case and settlement chances.” [emphasis supplied]

From the SAP enforcement action, extraordinary cooperation has a bit more difficult to ascertain. While there was no mention of the super duper, extra-credit giving extensive remediation which Kenneth Polite discussed; when SAP began to cooperate, it moved to extensively cooperate. The DPA noted SAP “immediately beginning to cooperate after South African investigative reports made public allegations of the South Africa-related misconduct in 2017 and providing regular, prompt, and detailed updates to the Fraud Section and the Office regarding factual information obtained through its own internal investigation, which allowed the government to preserve and obtain evidence as part of its independent investigation…” Most interestingly, the DPA reported that SAP imaged “the phones of relevant custodians at the beginning of the Company’s internal investigation, thus preserving relevant and highly probative business communications sent on mobile messaging applications.” This is clear instruction around messaging apps in FCPA enforcement actions.

Albemarle was credited with significant cooperation by the DOJ during the pendency of its investigation. The NPA went on to note that “the Company also received credit for its substantial cooperation and extensive and timely remediation. However, there was only a standard list of items relating to this cooperation and nothing on extraordinary cooperation.

We are back where we started, there is the need for speed. However, the only functional definition we have for it comes from the SEC and not the DOJ. As laid out in the SEC Order for ABB, it is real time sharing of facts.


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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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