On February 24, 2022, Illinois-based waste disposal company Stericyle, Inc. (Stericycle) disclosed in its annual report that it agreed in principle to pay approximately $81 million to the Department of Justice (the DOJ) and the Securities Exchange Commission (the SEC) to settle charges relating to an alleged conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery and books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the FCPA). The government began its investigation in 2017, when the SEC issued a subpoena to Stericycle requesting information regarding the company’s compliance with the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws in connection with its business in Latin America.
The SEC and DOJ have not yet publicly disclosed details regarding the alleged misconduct, as the settlement agreements reportedly are not yet finalized. But in the interim, it is noteworthy that as part of the settlement, Stericycle stated that it will be required to retain an independent compliance monitor for two years and comply with self-reporting obligations for another year.
As we previously wrote, late last year, the DOJ announced changes to its corporate enforcement policies, including the rescission of prior DOJ guidance that appeared to pull back from corporate monitorships, and the clarification that prosecutors may freely consider whether a monitor is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of the particular matter. The requirement that Stericycle hire a corporate monitor is consistent with the DOJ’s recent policy shift and may be indicative of what is to come as the DOJ seeks to ensure that companies have strong compliance programs in place.
It remains to be seen what specific patterns of alleged behavior factored into the DOJ’s decision to require a corporate monitor for Stericycle. We will analyze that information when it becomes public. But until then, the Stericycle settlement is another indication that the Biden administration is ramping up its white-collar enforcement. Companies should continue to take reasonable steps to ensure their compliance programs operate effectively to monitor and remediate misconduct or risk facing costly consequences down the line.