The number of deals resolving U.S. government investigations into corporate misconduct declined sharply last year as President Joe Biden’s administration took over the reins, U.S. Justice Department data showed on Tuesday.
The Justice Department’s fraud section in Washington, tasked with policing corporate crime, inked eight corporate resolutions in 2021, versus 13 the previous year, largely due to a drop in settlements related to foreign corruption and bribery, the data showed.
The data tracks resolutions such as non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements in which the Justice Department agrees to drop the investigation in return for a fine and other conditions.
Global penalties and other payments in cases involving U.S. justice authorities totaled $3.3 billion, down from 2020’s $8.9 billion. The share of those that were levied in the U.S. fell more moderately, from $4.4 billion to $3.1 billion.
The tally included high-profile deals with Deutsche Bank AG and Credit Suisse AG to resolve bribery investigations, and a settlement with Boeing Co over 737 MAX airliner crashes.
While the decline appears to be at odds with the Biden administration’s tough stance on bad corporate actors, it is common for enforcement activity to slow during a change in administration.
In October, the Deputy Attorney General laid out a series of policies aimed at toughening its stance with big corporations, especially repeat offenders.
Since then, companies have been put on notice and charged for failing to abide by the terms of previous settlements. That includes NatWest Group, which pleaded guilty to market manipulation last year and took additional charges for breaching a prior deal with the Justice Department.
Though the corporate resolutions overall slowed, activity in the section’s market integrity unit picked up as the agency pursued investigations into fraud related to COVID-19.
The fraud section charged 333 individuals last year and saw 329 people convicted, up from 326 charged and 213 convicted in 2020.