There are numerous reasons to put some serious work into your policies and procedures. They are certainly a first line of defense when the government comes knocking. The 2012 FCPA Guidance made clear that “Whether a company has policies and procedures that outline responsibilities for compliance within the company, detail proper internal controls, auditing practices, and documentation policies, and set forth disciplinary procedures will also be considered by DOJ and SEC.” And by using the word “considered” it is clear that this means the regulators will take a strong view against a company that does not have well thought out and articulated policies and procedures; all of which are systematically reviewed and updated. Moreover, having policies written out and signed by employees provides what some consider the most vital layer of communication and acts as an internal control. Together with a signed acknowledgement, these documents can serve as evidentiary support if a future issue arises. In other words, the “Document, Document, and Document” mantra applies just as strongly to this area of anti-corruption compliance.
The specific written policies and procedures required for a best practices compliance program are well known and long established. The 2012 FCPA Guidance stated, “Among the risks that a company may need to address include the nature and extent of transactions with foreign governments, including payments to foreign officials; use of third parties; gifts, travel, and entertainment expenses; charitable and political donations; and facilitating and expediting payments.” Policies help form the basis of expectation and conduct in your company. Procedures are the documents that implement these standards of conduct.
Three key takeaways:
- The Code of Conduct, together with written compliance policies and procedures form the backbone of your compliance program.
- The DOJ and SEC expect a well-thought out and articulated set of compliance policies and procedures.
- The Fair Process Doctrine holds for the application of policies and procedures.