Elmore Leonard died this week. He was certainly one of the most prolific authors of the second half of the 20th Century, turning out a book a year for almost 60 years. Although he began his writing career penning short stories for Western fiction magazines, he gravitated to crime novels. But he was more than just a crime novelist. In his New York Times (NYT) obituary, entitled “A Novelist Who Made Crime and Art, and His Bad Guys ‘Fun’”, reporter Marilyn Stasio quoted from his recognition by the American Chapter of PEN, which said “his books are “not only classics of the crime genre, but some of the best writing of the last half-century.””
For me, reading Leonard was akin to reading Hemmingway, sparse and taut, direct clean writing. Leonard’s writing style is an instructive way to think about compliance so I considered Leonard and his ability to communicate in connection with the upcoming Hanson Wade Supply Chain Compliance Europe 2013 Conference in London on November 4-7. I have attended several HansonWade conferences and they have all been first rate. But one thing that stands out for me is that each conference has speakers which provide you with direct information that you can use in your compliance program.
Over the next two days I will write about an interview Hanson Wade conducted with one of the speakers, Paul Zietsman, who is the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) at Sasol Ltd (SSL). In today’s post, he shares his insights into the company’s compliance journey since their fine 6 years ago and the lessons they have learned. In tomorrow’s post we will continue our tribute to Elmore Leonard and learn from Paul about the development of their new internal culture and attitude towards compliance after gaining ongoing board level buy in and investment.
Paul, can you start by telling us about your recent compliance experience?
I am a Chief Compliance Officer of Sasol since 2009. Sasol is a multinational petrochemical company with listings in both Johannesburg and New York with at least 32,000 employees and we operate in 38 jurisdictions. I initially started off at Sasol in the commercial department and eventually after the major incident we had on competition law, I was requested to head up a new project in the compliance area. Which involved improving our compliance function at the time.
Now, and over the past few years I have been exposed to various, interesting scenarios and certainly learned to manage compliance in the developing worlds. Since our head office is based in Johannesburg and we have quite a few businesses in Africa. At the same time I also have been exposed to fairly good global based practices, due to my interaction with other multinational companies in Europe and America as well as Australia. This interaction has involved discussions and key benchmarking exercises with my fellow chiefs of compliance at a number of multinational companies.
Paul, Sasol was one of the companies that, due to compliance issues, received a fine six years ago. Could you tell about the journey since that fine for Sasol?
It’s a long journey and I do not think one will ever really reach the spot where you would say “that everything is perfect now” That said, we would certainly not have a similar incident again, moving forward it’s an ever evolving journey and we are always challenged to improve on what we have. It was a very interesting journey, but we have come through it.
When I start off here in the compliance team we had only a small number of compliance officers who were not centralized or centrally based. They operated within the business units. We’ve changed that around to a well skilled global compliance team with 22 resources, all reporting centrally into the compliance function core at head office.
This gives a general overview, but our plan also entailed specific actions that we have taken. For instance, a following clean-up investigation took place, where we had to find out if there was any similar instances lurking somewhere in our business. We also had to look at more robust compliance structures and specifically look at compliance in our various business units as well as our corporate structure. We reviewed our former compliance framework and adopt a new one , which involved benchmarking our practices against others. I am pleased to have regularly interacted with my colleagues at various other multinational companies on a regular basis. So I had something to measure our framework against.
I must say in my experience talking to these people at these other companies was totally positive and really surprising. I know that some companies are usually not that willing to share but, when it comes to compliance and it comes to doing the right thing, most of the compliance people are very willing to share.
The last point in our journey but a very important point; was to ensure we were effective in cementing our compliance program as a standing item on our board’s agenda. It is important that the senior leadership of a company takes charge of the compliance program and that is exactly what we have done at Sasol.
The Hanson Wade event will have some of the top compliance practitioners from the US, Europe and Africa to speak on some of the biggest compliance challenges and solutions that you can implement to meet these challenges. For instance you will learn how to identify how to build and update a robust, real world global compliance program and embed it effectively from ConocoPhillips. You can hear about Shell’s perspective on how to move from theory to reality in implementing a practical risk-based compliance program. You will pick up tips on how to work effectively to ensure compliance in the world’s most complex operating environments. Other topics will include how to mitigate compliance risks when working with third parties through tight contract controls and specific information on how GE Oil & Gas rolled out their compliance program effectively, to achieve truly global compliance.
Readers of this blog can receive a discount to the event. Use the code, FOXLAW10 when registering. For details and more information about the event, click here, or go directly to the HansonWade website.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2013