The FCPA Guidance states, that “In addition to evaluating the design and implementa­tion of a compliance program throughout an organization, enforcement of that program is fundamental to its effec­tiveness. A compliance program should apply from the board room to the supply room—no one should be beyond its reach. DOJ and SEC will thus consider whether, when enforcing a compliance program, a company has appropri­ate and clear disciplinary procedures, whether those proce­dures are applied reliably and promptly, and whether they are commensurate with the violation. Many companies have found that publicizing disciplinary actions internally, where appropriate under local law, can have an important deterrent effect, demonstrating that unethical and unlawful actions have swift and sure consequences.”

This means you need to have recognized incentives for doing business under your Code of Conduct and in fulfillment of your compliance policy and procedures. Incentives can be immediate such as cash bonuses or other awards or more long term, such as promotion within an organization. Conversely, if someone violates your Code of Conduct, there needs to be consequences for such violation.


There are some general ideas around incentive, which you can implement as compliance incentives do not have to be extravagant or groundbreaking. Even rather plain vanilla incentives can work if you deliver it consistently, if you make the rewards visible, as the FCPA Guidance states, “Beyond financial incentives, some companies have highlighted compliance within their organizations by recognizing compliance professionals and internal audit staff. Others have made working in the company’s compliance organization a way to advance an employee’s career.” Lastly, make certain that your compliance incentives can be implemented on all levels within your organization.


Another important part is around promotion of employees up to senior management. Human Resources (HR) could help you in compliance lead the effort to promote only employees who demonstrate a commitment to doing business in compliance. Once again the Fair Process Doctrine is critical here as a part of ongoing employee evaluations and promotions. If your company is seen to advance and only reward employees who achieve their numbers by whatever means necessary, other employees will certainly take note and it will be understood what management evaluates, and rewards, employees upon. I have often heard the tale about some Far East Region Manager which goes along the following lines “If I violated the Code of Conduct I may or may not get caught. If I get caught I may or may not be disciplined. If I miss my numbers for two quarters, I will be fired”. If this is what other employees believe about how they are evaluated and the basis for promotion, you have lost the compliance battle.


The types of discipline within a company are fairly standard. Most generally it is any negative consequence, up to and including termination. However, I believe that the key to discipline is procedural fairness and this will help to bring bring credibility to your compliance program. Procedural fairness also goes by the moniker of the Fair Process Doctrine and this Doctrine generally recognizes that there are fair procedures, not arbitrary ones, in processes involving rights.

Discipline must not only be administered fairly but it must be administered uniformly across the company for the violation of any compliance policy. Simply put if you are going to fire employees in South America for lying on their expense reports, you have to fire them in North America for the same offense. It cannot matter that the North American employee is a friend of yours or worse yet a ‘high producer’. Failure to administer discipline uniformly will destroy any vestige of credibility that you may have developed.

Three Takeaways

  1. Always remember and employ the Fair Process Doctrine.
  2. Discipline must be administered fairly throughout your organization and across the globe.
  3. Consider the compliance angle in promotions.

For more information, check out my book Doing Compliance: Design, Create and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program, which is available by clicking here.