Not many people realize that the US has elected one president who served as a prisoner of war. That man was Andrew Jackson, who was captured by the British during the Revolutionary War. Now, can you name the American President who killed another man in a duel? If you guessed Andrew Jackson you are right and if you knew that today is the anniversary you receive extra credit and can proceed directly to Final Jeopardy.
I thought about the somewhat surprising history on Jackson when I read the recently released the “2013 Anti-Bribery and Corruption Benchmarking Report-A joint effort between Kroll and Compliance Week” (the “Survey”). Much like Jackson himself, the Survey had some interesting and somewhat disturbing findings as well regarding companies and their third parties. The findings were troubling because I think that most compliance practitioners recognize that their highest compliance risks under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FPCA) and UK Bribery Act revolve around third parties. Some of the highlights of the survey are as follows.
While 43% of respondents said their bribery and corruption risks have increased in the last two years, another 39% said those compliance risks have remained mostly the same and, finally, 7.7% reported that they believe their compliance risks have actually fallen. Regarding future corruption risks, the respondents were split with half saying they expect compliance risks to rise in the next 12 months, and half do not. The single most common reason given for increasing compliance risks was expansion into new markets, followed by more vigorous enforcement of current anti-bribery laws. The Survey reported the “good news is that 57% of respondents say they conduct an enterprise-wide assessment of bribery and corruption risk annually. The bad news: the other 43% conduct such an assessment less than once a year, and 16.9% say they’ve never conducted a corruption risk assessment at all. A solid majority of companies also say they have some sort of documented approach to managing bribery and corruption risks; 37.7 say they have a “well-defined, documented process dedicated solely to global bribery risks,” and another 42.7% say they treat corruption risks as part of a larger documented process to address all compliance risks.”
II. Due diligence
The Survey indicated that most companies have a good understanding of the need to, and performance of due diligence on third parties or acquisition targets. It found that 87% perform at least some sort of due diligence on third parties, and the criteria that help a compliance department decide how much diligence to perform generally seem risk-based. The top criteria were, in order, the nature of the work a third party would provide; the amount of contact the third party has with foreign officials; and where the third party is domiciled. A variety of tools were used to perform due diligence. These tools included: certifications from the third party that it has no corruption problems; reviews by your company’s legal or finance team; and data collected by your local business-unit leaders. Reference checks, on-site interviews, and research from professional investigators were some of the less-used techniques.
III. Third parties
The Survey found that many companies are still struggling with ongoing anti-corruption monitoring and training for their third parties. Regarding training, 47% of the respondents said that they conduct no anti-corruption training with their third parties at all. The efforts companies do take to educate and monitor third parties are somewhat pro forma. More than 70% require certification from their third parties that they have completed anti-corruption training; 43% require in-person training and another 40% require online training. Large companies require training considerably more often than smaller ones, although when looking at all the common training methods, fully 100% of respondents say their company uses at least one method, if not more.
An astonishing 47% of all respondents said they conduct no anti-corruption training with their third parties at all. The numbers are even higher for companies based outside of North America (51%) and those with less than $1 billion in annual revenue (55%). Violet Ho, senior managing director for Kroll’s practice in greater China, was quoted as saying, “A lot of companies have very good intentions of doing a thorough job looking at their third parties,” Ho says. “But ultimately when you are a very large organization with more than 10,000 vendors, it’s not financially viable. You do not really have the time or resources to look deep into each and every one of them.” Another factor that Ho noted was significant is that companies often do not even know how many third parties they use, which makes training all of them impossible. Moreover, corporations typically have much less bargaining power with third parties, especially when they are located in far-flung jurisdictions. The result: if a company is using only one vendor to source an item and asks that vendor to promise to follow some anti-corruption code of conduct, the vendor feels emboldened to refuse.
Lastly, Ho stated “Trying to reach all third parties with a generic, headquarters-issued policy is a waste of time and money. Such policies tempt employees and third parties to find loopholes, and they ignore important regional differences. On-the-ground workers, are focused on revenue and profit, not compliance. Those goals aren’t mutually exclusive, but they do require coordination for a policy’s effective implementation—which adds all the more pressure on compliance officers to articulate why strong anti-corruption programs are good for business.” Clearly this Survey shows the challenges around third parties.
For all a company’s efforts at risk assessment, due diligence, and monitoring third parties, the ultimate question for a compliance officer is simply does my system work? Questions about effectiveness, therefore, get to that core issue of whether all the compliance activities outlined above actually make the business less vulnerable to corruption risk. The Survey found that the responses in their anti-corruption procedures depended on how close to home the tasks actually are. 73% rated their training of domestic employees as “effective” or “very effective.” That figure dropped to 63.8% for foreign employees, and only 30% for third parties.
Melvin Glapion, Kroll managing director in EMEA, said that this phenomenon was the “downward and outward” problem. He explained that this meant that companies tend to overestimate how seriously messages sent from corporate headquarters are received elsewhere. Cultural differences abound, and many employees don’t see how anti-bribery policies apply to them in their daily jobs. Worse, the person doing compliance checks is often less senior than the executives he or she is monitoring.
Companies with less than $1 billion in revenue were actually more confident in their procedures’ effectiveness than larger businesses, the survey showed. Glapion was quoted as saying “that may be because smaller organizations have less bureaucracy and fewer third parties, or they may feel that they are not necessarily in the firing line.”
The Survey appears to indicate that companies still have a long way to go in certain areas, particularly third parties. The Survey provides the compliance practitioner with a good benchmark to look at the overall company program.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2013