Criminal violations of the FCPA anti-bribery provisions must be enforced within five years of the last act required to complete the crime or violation.1 Criminal violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions have a six-year statute of limitations.2 With respect to civil violations, any action for civil fines or penalties must be brought within five years from the date when the claim first accrued.3 However, as of January 1, 2021, with respect to an action seeking disgorgement for an anti-bribery violation or seeking an equitable remedy (e.g., an injunction), such an action must be brought within ten years of the “latest date of the violation” for which disgorgement or an equitable remedy is sought.4 An action seeking disgorgement for a books and records or internal controls violation has a statute of limitations of five years, unless the SEC charges that there was a knowing circumvention or a knowing failure to implement a system of internal controls, or a knowing falsification of a book or record, in which case the statute of limitations is ten years. Furthermore:
- the limitations period for civil claims against foreign individuals does not begin to run until the defendant is physically present in the US, even if service of process is available under foreign or international laws; and
- the limitations period does not run for any disgorgement or for any equitable remedy sought during the time the person against whom such relief is sought is outside of the US.
Tolling. There are two situations in which the statute of limitations may be tolled:
- when the government makes an ex parte application to the court based on an outstanding request for overseas evidence;5 or
- by agreement between the subject of the enforcement action and the government. For more on tolling, see here.
Conspiracy Charges. The government may reach acts outside of the five-year limitations period by charging a conspiracy under 18 USC § 371. The five-year limitations period for criminal conspiracy begins to run from the last overt act during the existence of the conspiracy.6 Only one overt act is required during the five-year period to charge all of the conduct that was part of the alleged conspiracy, regardless of when the conduct took place.
118 USC § 3282 (statute of limitations for criminal violations).
2 18 USC § 3301 (statute of limitations for “securities fraud” offenses); 15 USC § 78ff(a).
3 28 USC § 2462 (statute of limitations for civil fines).
4 William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, Pub. L. No. 116-283, § 6501 (2021).
5 18 USC § 3292.
6 See, e.g., Fiswick v. United States, 329 U.S. 211, 216-17 (1946).