The Compliance Evangelist is still on assignment in Brazil. Today’s compliance lesson came from a tour of the Fazenda Nossa Senhora Da Conceição coffee plantation (www.fnsc.com.br). Our tour guide and host was the plantation owner Antonio Ferreira Sestini. The plantation has been an ongoing commercial concern for over 200 years. It still produces some wonderful coffee and the tour includes a Coffee Museum, Chapel, tour of the hacienda, production facilities and fresh lunch cooked in the restaurant to end the thorough lesson in coffee and Brazilian history around the phenomenal bean. Truly Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand are alive and well in Brazil.
Our host told about the life of coffee in Brazilian society, how his family had immigrated from Italy and started farming coffee. His family history was interesting and chocked full of the history of this part of the country. The hacienda still has many of the items used by his grandparents when they were still alive. Finally, with a nod to Ken Randolph and Dan Chapman, our host attended the University of Kentucky on a soccer scholarship so he had an American connection. Senor Ferreira is very much a jack of all trades, running the plantation, giving tours, heading the upkeep of the museum and memorials as well as creating and serving some excellent coffee. In short, he is a modern Adam Smithcharacter.
I thought this side variety of services by Senor Ferreira and products created by the Fazenda Nossa Senhora Da Conceição coffee plantation when I read some of the (yet again) commentary about representatives from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) appearing at for-profit conferences to give presentations to attendees. Personally, I was shocked, simply shocked, to find out that one has to pay to attend these events. Further, it appears that one or more of the companies running these events, ACI, Momentum, IQPC, HansonWade, among others, might actually be for-profit companies. It was intimated that one of the ways the conference providers enticed registrants to pay their fees was to provide a forum of lawyers practicing in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) space, that representatives from the DOJ and SEC could speak to. Now I am really, really, really shocked to find that people actually pay to obtain knowledge.
Armed with the new piece of information that there is a marketplace where people actually pay to obtain information, I have decided to practice what I preach and perform a self-assessment to determine if I am part of this commerce in ideas. Unfortunately I have come to the understanding that not only do I participate in that marketplace but also I actually use information provided by representatives of the US government in my very own marketing and commerce. So, with a nod to Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand of the Marketplace; I now fully self-disclose that I digest to what US government regulators say about the FCPA compliance, repackage it and then (try) and make money from it. (I know you are probably as shocked, shocked as I was to discover this.)
Where can one go to find out information about the FCPA, its enforcement and how the DOJ and SEC view compliance programs? First and foremost is the FCPA Guidance, jointly issued by the DOJ and SEC back in 2012. It is still the best one volume resource on the government’s thinking on a wide range of issues relating to the FCPA. For a ‘Nuts and Bolts’ guy like me, it even has some suggested building blocks of FCPA compliance called the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program. Of course, such a treatise must cost thousands of dollars so that it is only available to a very select few. Oops, it is available for FREE on the DOJ website. Darn, as I planned to buy up all of the copies and then put on for pay seminars across the world as the only source of such knowledge.
Since the FCPA Guidance is available for free, perhaps I can corner the market on all known enforcement actions and Opinion Releases. I am sure that they will provide lots of good information such as what might constitute an effective compliance program, what are some of the actions that got companies into FCPA hot water and suggestions by the DOJ and SEC as to what might have constituted compliance failures. I have even heard that in Opinion Releases, the DOJ will pass upon fact patterns and indicate if they believe such facts might be prosecuted for FCPA violations. Double oops, as all of those are publicly available as well and for FREE. Double Darn.
OK, well if the FCPA Guidance is free and all the enforcement actions and Opinion Releases are available for free; maybe I can corner the market on court opinions, which discuss the FCPA. I am a lawyer and I bet all the other lawyers would pay me if I were the only person in the world who had access to them (or even better yet we were in China where the trials are held in secret – imagine that market!). I know there are only a handful of such cases but imagine the power I would have if only I knew about them. Why I could I put on seminars and pay people to attend. Triple oops, as I just found out that the court decisions are public recordand available for FREE. Drat.
Well if all this information about the FCPA is available for free what can I do to make money?Hmm, maybe, just maybe, if I put information together from all of the above sources in a book people might be interested in buying it. What if I wrote multiple books? Do you think there might be a market for such written texts? I certainly hope so and to further entice you to join in this nefarious act of for-profit commerce, perhaps you might want to purchase one of the other 15 books I have written on the FCPA, compliance and ethics and leadership. But wait a minute, wouldn’t that mean I am making money off free government information? I guess I better self-disclose those facts and let the chips fall where they may. Hopefully Adam Smith will give me a declination of the Invisible Hand.
If no one will buy any of the books I have written, maybe they would attend training that I might put on. I could talk about all this free government information, put it in power points slides and other written materials and then charge people to get trained. I could even call it the Compliance Master Class Training. Maybe I could go to other parts of the country and put on training, maybe in places where they might not have heard about all the free DOJ and SEC information. Of course, I would have to find such a place. But wait a minute, wouldn’t that mean I am making money off of free government information. I guess I better self-disclose that as well.
If no one will buy any books I write or go to training seminars that I might put on, I could always write a blog. Do you think anyone would pay to read a blog? Nah. How about if I started a podcast, or even founded an entire podcast network, do you think companies might pay to sponsor a podcast or even an episode? Maybe.
How about the following as a business strategy? I will tell people I am lawyer and I will give them legal advice on compliance. Of course, to do so, I will have to use all of these free resources listed above and then charge for my legal services. Think there might be a market for that legal advice? I am not really sure so perhaps I should make a provisional self-disclosure that if any clients came to me for legal advice, I would charge them and hence engage in commerce. It would also allow me to apply to join that hallowed group, FCPA INC. whose members (1) practice law around the FCPA compliance, (2) put on FCPA compliance training, (3) write books on compliance and (4) generally pontificate on all things FCPA and compliance. Sounds like a great group to belong to, you think they will take me? If so I can’t wait to learn the secret handshake so I can proudly commune, in secret, with its members. Hopefully they will not haze pledges too badly, as I am way too old to survive another Pledge Week.
If you have not quite ascertained the point of today’s post, please consider the following – knowledge is power. If you want knowledge about compliance there are plenty of places you can look for free to obtain that knowledge. If you want to hear the DOJ or SEC’s most current thinking on compliance related issues, you can also attend a (for-pay) compliance conference. If so, I am sure I will see you there because I certainly value what they have to communicate to us. I also plan to continue to communicate it to you; sometimes even for profit. Long Live Adam Smith and his Invisible Hand!
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2018