The building blocks of any Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) anti-corruption compliance program lay the foundations for a best practices compliance program. For instance in the lifecycle management of third parties, most compliance practitioners understand the need for a business justification, questionnaire, due diligence, evaluation and compliance terms and conditions in contracts. However, as many companies mature in their compliance programs, the issue of third party management becomes more important. It is also the one where the rubber meets the road of actually doing compliance.
In the March/April issue of Supply Chain Management Review is an article by Mark Trowbridge, entitled “Put it in Writing: Sharpening Contracts Management to Reduce Risk and Boost Supply Chain Performance”, that provides some useful insights into the management of the third party relationship. While the focus of the article was about having a “strategic approach to contracts management” I found the author’s “five ways to start professionalizing your approach to outsourcing contracts” as steps a compliance practitioner can use in the management of third party relationships, both on the sales side and those which come into your company through the Supply Chain.
By taking his analysis into the compliance realm, I believe there are concrete steps you can take going forward. The key is to have a strategic approach to how you structure and manage your third party relationships. This may mean more closely partnering with your third parties to help manage the anti-corruption compliance risk. It would certainly lead towards enabling your company to “control risk while optimizing the performance” of your third parties. To achieve these goals, I have revised Trowbridge’s prescriptions from suppliers to third parties.
I. Consolidate Third Parties but Retain Redundancy
It is incumbent that consolidation in your third party relationships on the Supply Chain side to a smaller number of suppliers will “yield better cost leverage.” From the compliance perspective it also should make the entire third party lifecycle easier to manage, particularly steps 1-4. However a company must not “over-consolidate” by going down to a single source supplier. Trowbridge advocates a diversified supplier base, with a technique he calls “dual-sourcing”. From the compliance perspective, you may want to have a primary and secondary third party that you work with in a service line or geographic area to retain this redundancy.
II. Keep Tabs on Subcontracted Work
This is one area that requires an appropriate level of management. If your direct contracting party has the right or will need to subcontract some work out, you need to have visibility into this from the compliance perspective. You will need to require and monitor that your direct third party relationship has your approved compliance terms and conditions in their contracts with their subcontractors. You will also need to test that proposition. In other words, you must require, trust and then verify.
III. When Disaster Strikes, Make Sure Your Company is Legally Protected Too
This is where your compliance terms and conditions will come into play. One of the things that I advocate is a full indemnity if your third party violates the FCPA and your company is dragged into an investigation because of the third party’s actions. Such an indemnity may not be worth too much but if you do not have one, there will be no chance to recoup any of your legal or investigative costs. Another important clause is that any FCPA violation is a material breach of contract. This means that you can legally, under the terms of the contract, terminate it immediately, with no requirement for notice and cure. Once again you may be somewhat constrained by local laws but if you do not have the clause, you will have to give written notice and an opportunity to cure. This notice and cure process may be too long to satisfy the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) during the pendency of a FCPA investigation. Finally, you need a clause that requires your third party to cooperate in any FCPA investigation. This means cooperation with you and your designated investigation team but it may also mean cooperation with US governmental authorities as well.
You also need the ability to move between third parties if the need arises. This is the redundancy issue raised above. You do not want to be stuck with no approved freight forwarders or other transporters in a certain geographic area. If a compliance related matter occurs, you may well need certain contractual rights to move your work and to require your prime third party to cooperate with the transition to your secondary third party.
IV. Keep Track of Your Third Parties’ Financial Stability
This is one area that is not usually discussed in the compliance arena around third parties but it seems almost self-evident. You can certainly imagine the disruption that could occur if your prime third party supplier in a country or region went bankrupt; but in the compliance realm there is another untoward Red Flag that is raised in such circumstances. Those third parties under financial pressure may be more easily persuaded to engage in bribery and corruption than third parties that stand on a more solid financial footing. You can do this by a simple requirement that your third party provide annual audited financial statements. For a worldwide logistics company, this should be something easily accomplished.
Trowbridge says, “Automated financial tracking tools can also be used to keep track of material changes in a supplier’s financial stability.” You should also use your in-house relationship manager to regularly visit key third party relationships so an on-the-ground assessment can be a part of an ongoing conversation between your company and your third parties.
V. Formalize Incentives for Third Party Performance
One of the key elements for any third party contract under the FCPA or UK Bribery Act is the compensation issue. If the commission rate is too high, it could create a very large pool of money that could be used to pay bribes. It is mandatory that your company link any commission or payment to the performance of the third party. If you have a long-term stable relationship with a third party, you can tie compensation into long-term performance, specifically including long-term compliance performance. This requires the third party to put skin into the compliance game so that they have a vested, financial interest in getting things done in compliance with the FCPA or other anti-corruption compliance regime.
Additionally, as Trowbridge notes, “The fact is, linking contractual compensation to performance does make a significant difference in supplier performance. This is especially valuable when agreed upon key performance indicator (KPI) metrics can be accurately tracked.” This would seem to be low hanging for the compliance practitioner. If you cannot come up with some type of metric from the compliance perspective, you can work with your business relationship team to develop such compliance KPIs.
While Trowbridge’s article focused on the suppliers, I found his ideas easily transferable to the compliance field. Near the end of the article Trowbridge suggested ranking suppliers based upon a variety of factors including performance, length of relationship, benchmarking metrics and KPIs. This is a way for the compliance practitioner to have an ongoing risk ranking for third parties that can work as a preventative and even proscription prong of a compliance program and allow the delivery of compliance resources to those third parties that might need or even warrant them.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2015