As I conclude this section on joint ventures, I want to emphasize again the risk they pose under the FCPA. Mike Volkov has stated, “A joint venture requires the integration of disparate company cultures. It can be successful, and is usually one of the significant reason for the joint venture itself.” Both parties should assess each other and decide that the joint venture is a good fit, meaning that each side will benefit. Too much time is spent on looking at the joint venture partner’s compliance toolbox (e.g. policies, procedures, and controls), and not enough time is spent on identifying compliance strengths and weaknesses. You must bring it all together with one format.

While the 2012 FCPA Guidance only provided that “companies should undertake some form of ongoing monitoring of third-party relationships”. This means that you must have an experienced compliance and audit team, actively engaged in the corporate office and in the business units, to ensure that financial controls and compliance policies are followed and that remedial measures for violations or gaps are tracked, implemented and rechecked, as additional detection and prevention. Caldwell noted it is a more encompassing “sensitization” to anti-corruption compliance that is needed. There are several ways for you to do so in a joint venture relationship. 

The starting point for the both the compliance and business management of a joint venture, is a Relationship Manager for every joint venture with which your company does business. The Relationship Manager should be a business unit employee who is responsible for monitoring, maintaining and continuously evaluating the relationship between your company and the joint venture. Some of the duties of the Relationship Manager may include:

  • Point of contact with the joint venture for all compliance issues;
  • Maintaining periodic contact with the joint venture;
  • Meeting annually with the joint venture to review its satisfaction of all company compliance obligations;
  • Submitting annual reports to the company’s Compliance Oversight Committee summarizing services provided by the joint venture;
  • Assisting the company’s Compliance Oversight Committee with any issues with respect to the joint venture.

Just as a company needs a subject matter expert in compliance to be able to work with the business folks and answer the usual questions that come up in the day-to-day routine of doing business internationally, joint ventures also need such access to such a resource. A joint venture may not be large enough to have its own compliance staff so a company should provide such a dedicated resource to joint venture, if so required. I do not believe that this will create a conflict of interest or that there are other legal impediments to providing such services. The US partner can also include compliance training for the joint venture, either through onsite or remote mechanisms. The compliance professional should work closely with the Relationship Manager to provide advice, training and communications to the joint venture. 

A company should have a Compliance Oversight Committee review all documents relating to the full panoply of a joint venture’s compliance program. It can be a formal structure or some other type of group but the key is to have the senior management put a ‘second set of eyes’ on any joint ventures. In addition to the basic concept of process validation of your risk management of joint ventures, this is a manner to deliver additional management of that risk going forward.

After the commercial relationship has begun the Compliance Oversight Committee should monitor the joint venture on no less than an annual basis. This annual audit should include a review of remedial due diligence investigations and evaluation of any new or supplemental risk associated with any negative information discovered from a review of financial audit reports on the joint venture. The Compliance Oversight Committee should review any reports of any material breach of contract including any breach of the requirements of the Company’s of joint venture’s Code of Ethics. In addition to the above remedial review, the Compliance Oversight Committee should review all compliance-impacted payments by the joint venture to assure such payment are within the company guidelines and are warranted by the contractual relationship with the joint venture. Lastly, the Compliance Oversight Committee should review any request to provide the joint venture any type of non-monetary compensation and, as appropriate, approve such requests.

A key tool in managing the affiliation with a joint venture post-contract execution is auditing. Audit rights are a key clause in any compliance terms and conditions and must be secured. Your compliance audit should be a systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which your compliance terms and conditions are followed. Noted fraud examiner expert Tracy Coenen described the process as (1) capture the data; (2) analyze the data; and (3) report on the data, which is also appropriate for a compliance audit. 

In addition to monitoring and oversight of your joint ventures, you should periodically review the health of your joint venture management program. The robustness of your joint venture management program will go a long way towards preventing, detecting and remediating any compliance issue before it becomes a full-blown FCPA violation. As with all the steps laid out, you need to fully document all steps you have taken so that any regulator can review and test your metrics. The Evaluation of Corporate Compliance programs lays out what the DOJ will be reviewing and evaluating going forward for your compliance program. You should also use these metrics to conduct a self-assessment on the state of your compliance program for your joint ventures. 

Three Key Takeaways

  1. It all starts with a Relationship Manager.
  2. Have company oversight of all joint ventures. Couple this with a Compliance Oversight Committee for a second set of eyes.
  3. Audit, monitor and remediate (as appropriate) your joint ventures on an ongoing basis.

 

This month’s podcast series is sponsored by Michael Volkov and The Volkov Law Group.  The Volkov Law Group is a premier law firm specializing in corporate ethics and compliance, internal investigations and white collar defense.  For more information and to discuss practical solutions to compliance and enforcement issues, email Michael Volkov at mvolkov@volkovlaw.com or check out www.volkovlaw.com.