Compliance EvangelistWhat does it mean to be the Compliance Evangelist? A colleague put that question to me last week. This friend is a loyal and long time reader of my blog and listener of my podcast and I thought if it was not clear to her, perhaps I should set some of my thoughts and goals down on paper to explain what I mean by this new role.

Since 2010 I have endeavored to write about the nuts and bolts of anti-bribery and anti-corruption compliance programs. In 2011, Howard Sklar introduced me to the world of podcasting when he asked me to join him on the original version of This Week in FCPA. Later I founded my own podcast, The FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report, as a solo effort and then two others Unfair and Unbalanced with Roy Snell and Compliance into the Weeds with Matt Kelly. Now Jay Rosen and I have taken up the weekly mantle of the new version of This Week in FCPA through the live video service of Blab. In short, I have tried to use social media as a platform to talk about many aspects of anti-corruption compliance, the practice of compliance and provide solid information for the compliance practitioner.

Yet I see the opportunity for continued growth in our field. I see the terms Compliance 2.0, 3.0 and beyond as descriptive and indeed useful expressions to explain how compliance has evolved and where it may be going in the future. I see compliance as a business response to lead a worldwide effort to combat the scourge of bribery and corruption and I want to be one of the people who helps this effort going forward. No one person, corporation, enforcement agency or regulator stands still in this profession.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is a prime example of this evolution, in its thinking around a best practices compliance regime. It’s formulations on compliance programs has evolved from the Metcalf & Eddy enforcement action, to Opinion Release 04-02, to the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program in the 2012 Guidance, to the metrics released in late 2015, and, most recently, to the 2016 Pilot Program prong on remediation of a compliance program during an enforcement action. Similarly companies have expanded their compliance program for an even simpler reason, doing compliance is good business.

Back in 2010, in a post on the FCPA Blog, Dick Cassin posed the following questions, “Will compliance become second nature, part of the corporate fabric, so that FCPA violations become rare? Will the growth and success of the compliance industry result in its own demise? Where are we on the growth curve — at the beginning, somewhere near the middle, or already close to the end?”

While enforcement actions may ebb and flow, witness the dearth of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions in 2015 to the explosion in February 2016; this does not mean that the FCPA is ineffective; it simply means that those enforcement actions settled in those time periods. Yet in 2015, when enforcement was allegedly down, this did not mean the FCPA was not working for all those compliance professionals toiling in the day-to-day work of actually doing compliance making corporate compliance programs more effective.

I can think of no better illustration of the effect of doing compliance than the example provided by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates wrote the following in his memoirs, entitled “Duty: A Memoir of a Secretary at War”, “In a private meeting, the king [King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia] committed to a $60 billion weapons deal including the purchase of eighty-four F-15’s, the upgrade of seventy-15s already in the Saudi air force, twenty-four Apache helicopters, and seventy-two Blackhawk helicopters. His ministers and generals had pressed him hard to buy either Russian or French fighters, but I think he suspected that was because some of the money would end up in their pockets. He wanted all the Saudi money to go toward military equipment, not into Swiss bank accounts, and thus he wanted to buy from us. The king explicitly told me saw the huge purchase as an investment in a long-term strategic relationship with the United States, linking our militaries for decades to come.”

I would ask you to consider just how many US interests can be identified in the above quote? I can identify at least five: (1) US security interests; (2) US foreign policy interests; (3) US military interests; (4) US economic interests; and (5) US legal interests as reflected in compliance with the FCPA. For any person or business interest that does not think that the FCPA has a positive aspect, I would commend you to Gates’ quote, buried at page 395 of a 618-page book, did not even merit an entry in the Index. Yet, I find it to one of the finest, clearest and most concise affirmations of the positive power of anti-corruption compliance. Anytime you face criticism of your compliance program, a senior executive wants to know why you need resources to comply with the FCPA or you hear a business colleague whining about how ‘those people’ do business corruptly, I would suggest that you read them this quote to show the power of the compliance in international business.

Everyone has a role in the fight against the bane of bribery and corruption. Certainly the regulators have a role in enforcing the law, just as others have a role in commentary and critique of those regulators, at least in a democratic society. Yet because there is a business solution to this problem, there will be companies that provide those business solutions. That is how a market economy works in a free society; there is a business need and the market moves in to fill that need. In the case of anti-corruption compliance, that need can range from legal services to technological solutions. One of the reasons I signed on as the Compliance Ambassador for the Red Flag Group, who now sponsors this blog, is that they provide both services and products to help further the goal of fighting corruption through business solutions.

The Gates story demonstrates the power of a business solution to the legal issue of corruption. This is the role that I will to evangelize upon, the business solution to the legal problem of bribery and corruption across the globe. I will evangelize through commentary, current events and compliance know-how. I will continue to use the ever-expanding world of social media to bring this compliance evangelism forward. I hope will continue to join me on this journey.


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© Thomas R. Fox, 2016