International Regulatory Enforcement

Top 10 Predicted Business and Human Rights Issues for 2021
As 2020 edges toward a close, we can look forward to a 2021 defined by three Rs - recovery, rebuilding, and restoring. With that in mind, selecting just 10 business and human rights issues we predict will be salient through 2021, given the unpredictability of this past year and the number of issues we will confront next year, is a risky proposition. But in honor of Human Rights Day last week, below are 10 business and human rights issues we believe will receive particular attention between January 1 and December 31, 2021.
It's Only the Beginning: COVID-19, Public Procurement, and Corruption
As public money is increasingly used to mitigate the damage of COVID-19 on the world economy, the guidance document issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Corruption (UNDOC) on August 31, 2020, should raise the interest not only of public authorities but also of all companies bidding for public procurements
International Chamber of Commerce Releases COVID-19 Recovery Guidance
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), representing more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries has just issued its ICC Guidance on Integrity for a Covid-19 Response and Resilient Rebuild. The Guidance has been finalized under the leadership of the Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-corruption, taking into consideration input and commentary from ICC national committees and members. According to the ICC, “with this Guidance, ICC encourages business and governments to continue to uphold the highest standards for integrity in business transactions during the Covid-19 crisis and for the post-Covid rebuild”.
Foreign Investment Control and COVID-19 in Germany
In June 2020, the German government tightened again the rules of screening of foreign direct investments by revising the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance ("AWV"). The initiative is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of protecting critical technology and assets in the current crisis and extends the ability of the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to scrutinize, intervene in, and prohibit the acquisition of companies in critical sectors—with an emphasis on the health care sector—by non-EU investors. Moreover, the German Parliament is currently revising the Foreign Trade and Payments Act ("AWG") to streamline the screening of foreign direct investments and to implement the EU Regulation on the Screening of Foreign Direct Investments ("EU Screening Regulation").
COVID-19 and Corruption-Related Risks: High on the International Agenda
As countries around the world grapple with providing quick relief from the COVID-19 pandemic to individuals and companies, many governments have taken a two-pronged response: providing significant public funds while simultaneously implementing regulatory changes aimed at quickly addressing the ongoing crisis. The availability of public funding, combined with changes in the regulatory environment, presents new opportunities for fraud and corruption, and a number of international organizations and enforcement agencies have begun to sound the alarm regarding this rising risk. Their concerns highlight the fact that this new risk environment may be one of the most troubling and unintended (but not unique) consequences of the response of governments around the world to the COVID-19 pandemic. To paraphrase George Santayana (later borrowed by Winston Churchill), “those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”
Déjà-vu All Over Again: Government Enforcement in Response to Economic Crises
With the dust from enforcement actions stemming from the post-2008 recession beginning to settle, COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) has thrust the world into an uncertain economic future. Companies must confront the obvious public health implications of COVID-19, as well as pandemic-induced shocks to supply chains, demand conditions, and business operations. Many will debate the similarities and differences between 2008 and 2020, but one similarity is apparent and inescapable: a crisis requiring trillions of dollars of government stimulus invites significant regulatory oversight and enforcement scrutiny. This oversight and scrutiny will look not only for the causes of the crisis, but also reactions thereto, by both public and private actors. Company actions, including those viewed as necessary to respond to the crisis, will be evaluated by government investigators in hindsight with a rearview mirror after the crisis has subsided and in the light of subsequent events and perceived consequences not known at the time of the crisis. If the past is prologue, the following areas will draw the most governmental interest and may require extra diligence.
Details on Washington, D.C. COVID-19 Closure of Non-Essential Businesses Order
On March 24, 2020, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order requiring the closure of non-essential businesses and prohibiting gatherings of ten or more individuals (“Order”). The Order, issued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, went into effect at 10:00 pm on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and will continue through April 24, 2020, unless further extended.