Today, I want to take a deep dive and exploration of the levels of due diligence. Due diligence is generally recognized in three levels: Level I, Level II and Level III. Each level is appropriate for a different level of corruption risk. The key is for you to develop a mechanism to determine the appropriate level of due diligence and then implement that going forward.

Under the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (Evaluation) it states in Prong 10. Third Party Management: Risk-Based and Integrated Processes How has the company’s third-party management process corresponded to the nature and level of the enterprise risk identified by the company? How has this process been integrated into the relevant procurement and vendor management processes? 

The question becomes how do you use the information you obtained in the business justification and the questionnaire to determine an appropriate level of due diligence for the next step in the five-step process of third-party management. A three-step approach of varying levels of due diligence is the appropriate analysis to take going forward.

A three-step approach was discussed favorably in Opinion Release 10-02. In this Opinion Release, the Department of Justice (DOJ) discussed the due diligence that the requesting entity performed. “First, it [the requestor] conducted an initial screening of six potential grant recipients by obtaining publicly available information and information from third-party sources…Second, the Eurasian Subsidiary undertook further due diligence on the remaining three potential grant recipients. This due diligence was designed to learn about each organization’s ownership, management structure and operations; it involved requesting and reviewing key operating and assessment documents for each organization, as well as conducting interviews with representatives of each MFI [microfinance institution] to ask questions about each organization’s relationships with the government and to elicit information about potential corruption risk. As a third round of due diligence, the Eurasian Subsidiary undertook targeted due diligence on the remaining potential grant recipient, the Local MFI. This diligence was designed to identify any ties to specific government officials, determine whether the organization had faced any criminal prosecutions or investigations, and assess the organization’s reputation for integrity.”

This Opinion Release sets out a clear break which every compliance practitioner should use in considering an appropriate level of due diligence to engage with your third-party risk management process or when considering the level of due diligence required on a potential business venture partner. I break due diligence down into three stages: Level I, Level II and Level III. A very good description of the three levels of due diligence was presented by Candice Tal in an article entitled “Deep Level Due Diligence: What You Need to Know”.

Level I

First level due diligence typically consists of checking individual names and company names through several hundred Global Watch lists comprised of anti-money laundering (AML), anti-bribery, sanctions lists, coupled with other financial corruption and criminal databases. These global lists create a useful first-level screening tool to detect potential red flags for corrupt activities. It is also a very inexpensive first step in compliance from an investigative viewpoint. Tal believes that this basic Level I due diligence is extremely important for companies to complement their compliance policies and procedures; demonstrating a broad intent to actively comply with international regulatory requirements.

Level II

Level II due diligence encompasses supplementing these Global Watch lists with a deeper screening of international media, typically the major newspapers and periodicals from all countries plus detailed internet searches. Such inquiries will often reveal other forms of corruption-related information and may expose undisclosed or hidden information about the company; the third party’s key executives and associated parties. I believe that Level II should also include an in-country database search regarding the third party. Some of the other types of information that you should consider obtaining are country of domicile and international government records; use of in-country sources to provide assessments of the third party; a check for international derogatory electronic and physical media searches, you should perform both English and foreign-language repositories searches on the third party, in its country of domicile, if you are in a specific industry, using technical specialists you should also obtain information from sector specific sources.

Level III

This level is the deep dive. It will require an in-country ‘boots-on-the-ground’ investigation. I agree with Tal that a Level III due diligence investigation is designed to supply your company “with a comprehensive analysis of all available public records data supplemented with detailed field intelligence to identify known and more importantly unknown conditions. Seasoned investigators who know the local language and are familiar with local politics bring an extra layer of depth assessment to an in-country investigation.” Further, the “Direction of the work and analyzing the resulting data is often critical to a successful outcome; and key to understanding the results both from a technical perspective and understanding what the results mean in plain English.  Investigative reports should include actionable recommendations based on clearly defined assumptions or preferably well-developed factual data points.”

But more than simply an investigation of the company, critically including a site visit and coupled with onsite interviews, Tal says that some other things you investigate include “an in-depth background check of key executives or principal players. These are not routine employment-type background checks, which are simply designed to confirm existing information; but rather executive due diligence checks designed to investigate hidden, secret or undisclosed information about that individual.” Tal believes that such “Reputational information, involvement in other businesses, direct or indirect involvement in other law suits, history of litigious and other lifestyle behaviors which can adversely affect your business, and public perceptions of impropriety, should they be disclosed publically.”

Further, you may need to engage a foreign law firm, to investigate the third party in its home country to determine their compliance with its home country’s laws, licensing requirements and regulations. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you should use a Level III to look the proposed third party in the eye and get a firm idea of his or her cooperation and attitude towards compliance as one of the most important inquiries is not legal but based upon the response and cooperation of the third party. More than simply trying to determine if the third party objected to any portion of the due diligence process or did they object to the scope, coverage or purpose of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA); you can use a Level III to determine if the third party is willing to stand up with you under the FCPA and are you willing to partner with the third party?

The Risk Advisory Group, has put together a handy chart of its Level I, II and III approaches to integrity and due diligence. I have found it useful in explaining the different scopes and focuses of the various levels of due diligence.

Level Issues Addressed Scope of Investigation
I ·      That the company exists

·      Identities of directors and shareholders

·      Whether such persons are on regulators’ watch lists

·      Signs that such persons are government officials

·      Obvious signs of financial difficulty

·      Signs of involvement in litigation

·      Media reports linking the company to corruption

·      Company registration and status

·      Registered Address

·      Regulators’ watch lists

·      Credit Checks

·      Bankruptcy/Liquidation Proceedings

·      Review accounts and auditor’s comments

·      Litigation search

·      Negative media search

II As above with the following additions:

·      Public Profile integrity checks

·      Signs of official investigations and/or sanctions from regulatory authorities

·      Other anti-corruption Red Flags

As above with the following additions:

·      Review and summary of all media and internet references

·      Review and summary of relevant corporate records and litigation filings, including local archives

·      Analysis and cross-referencing of all findings

III As above with the following additions:

·      But seeking fuller answers to any questions raised by drawing on a wider range of intelligence sources and/or addressing specific issues of potential concern already identified

 

As above with the following additions:

·      Enquiries via local sources

·      Enquiries via industry experts

·      Enquiries via western agencies such as embassies or trade promotion bodies

·      Enquires via sources close to local regulatory agencies

There are many different approaches to the specifics of due diligence. By laying out some of the approaches, you can craft the relevant portions into your program. The Level I, II and III trichotomy appears to have the greatest favor and one that you should be able to implement in a straightforward manner. But the key is that you must assess your company’s risk and then manage that risk. If you need to perform additional due diligence to answer questions or clear red flags you should do so. And do not forget to Document, Document, and Document all your due diligence.

 

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2018

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