What is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)?

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a powerful tool in preventing corporations from bribing foreign officials. Since the law’s passage in 1977, the government has recovered billions of dollars from bribery schemes across the globe — from South America to North Asia – and prosecuted conglomerates across numerous and divergent industries. In recent years, both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have pursued some of their largest recoveries, establishing a new normal for this area of the law.

Top 8 Largest FCPA Settlements in History

1. Goldman Sachs

In October 2020, Goldman Sachs settled charges that it paid over $1 billion in bribes to high-level officials in Malaysia and the UAE to obtain lucrative business contracts. As a result, Goldman Sachs was forced to pay $1.6 billion to the US government — $1.2 billion to the DOJ and $400 million to the SEC — as well as an additional $1.3 billion to the United Kingdom, Singapore, and elsewhere. 

In a parallel development, several employees faced charges of their own. In March 2023, Roger Ng, a former Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery and related crimes. His boss and the former chairman of Goldman’s Southeast Asia division, Tim Leissner, also pled guilty and faces sentencing in September 2023. 

2. Ericsson

In December 2019, the Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson settled charges that it engaged in a years-long bribery scheme to win contracts from state entities in Africa and Asia. According to court documents, the company paid $62 in bribes to leaders in Djibouti, China, Vietnam, Indonesia in Kuwait to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profits. Ericsson subsequently falsified its business records to hide its scheme from US authorities. As a result, the company was forced to pay over $1 billion to the US government: $520 million to the DOJ and $540 to the SEC.

In March 2023, Ericsson’s troubles resurfaced. The company was caught repeatedly breaching the terms of the 2019 settlement and, as a result, pled guilty to two more criminal charges and paid an additional $206 million fine. 

3. Mobile TeleSystems

In March 2019, the Russian telecommunications company Mobile TeleSystem pled guilty to laundering and issuing $865 million in bribes to officials in Uzbekistan. As a result, the company paid $850 million to the US government: $750 to the DOJ and $100 million to the SEC. 

Several prominent individuals also faced criminal charges, including the daughter of the former Uzbeki president as well as the CEO of the company’s subsidiary. 

4. Siemens AG

In December 2008, the German industrial manufacturer Siemens AG pled guilty to corruption and falsifying business records in Argentina, Venezuela, and Bangladesh, eventually paying $800 million in fines to the US government: $450 to the DOJ and $350 to the SEC. It was at the time an extraordinarily large settlement for an FCPA case and permanently shifted the paradigm for enforcement in the years to come.  

5. Alstom SA

In December 2014, the French power and transportation company Alstom SA pled guilty to a years-long scheme involving tens of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Indonesia, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Bahamas. In total, the DOJ estimates that Alstom paid more than $75 million to obtain $4 billion in contracts around the world (with a net profit of approximately $300 million). As a result of the scheme, Alstom SA had to pay $772 million to the US government through the DOJ.

6. Glencore

In May 2022, the Swiss commodity mining and trading company Glencore PLC pled guilty to vast corruption charges for conduct that spanned over a decade. According to the DOJ, Glencore, and its subsidiaries paid over $100 million in bribes from 2007 – 2018 to officials across Nigeria, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Brazil, and Venezuela. According to one attorney, the scope of their scheme was “staggering. Glencore paid bribes to secure oil contracts. Glencore paid bribes to avoid government audits.  Glencore bribed judges to make lawsuits disappear.” As a result, the company was fined $700 million by the US government. 

7. KBR/Halliburton

In February 2008, the American-based companies KBR and Haliburton pled guilty to bribing officials in Nigeria over a ten-year period to obtain large construction contracts. In order to conceal the payments, the corporations heavily falsified their business records and funneled money through shell companies in the United Kingdom and Japan. As a result of their scheme, they had to pay $579 million to the US government: $402 million to the DOJ and $177 million to the SEC. Their guilty plea occurred mere months after the fine against Siemens AG and sent shockwaves through the international business community.  

8. Teva

Finally, in December 2008, the Israeli-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its Russian subsidiary pled guilty to bribery in Russia, Ukraine, and Mexico in order to gain market approval for its drugs and to sign larger contracts with state departments of health. As a result of the scheme, Teva had to pay $519 million to the US government: $283 million to the DOJ and $236 million to the SEC.

Phillips & Cohen Can Represent Your FCPA Case

To understand the scope of this problem, the map below in which countries that hosted the aforementioned corporations are in red and the countries they targeted are in yellow.

Global map showing counties with FCPA-violating corporations vs countries that were targeted by FCPA-violating corporations.

At Phillips and Cohen, our whistleblower attorneys fight foreign corruption by suing companies like these and by using our expertise as one of the most successful law firms in the US representing whistleblowers. For a free consultation, contact Phillips & Cohen.

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