In this episode I visit with Eric Feldman on the why’s, what’s and how’s of an independent assessment of a target. Feldman began with the observation that most of the issues in the M&A context come from the target or acquired company and most usually from the acquiring entity simply not paying enough attention during the pre-acquisition phase and making a discovery post-closing. This one of the reasons the Department of Justice (DOJ) has put such important stock in the pre-acquisition phase where a company needs to perform compliance due diligence and a risk assessment which will inform the entire process.
Near and dear to my mantra of Document, Document, and Document, was Feldman’s thoughts on keeping a thorough record of your entire process. Not only should the target (or at least you would hope) have a documented process of all of the above issues, but you should be sure to document your entire pre-acquisition process as well. This could be important if you discover any nefarious conduct in the pre-acquisition phase which you should report to the DOJ or if such discovery occurs after closing. If it happens after closing you will need to be able to document the reasonable steps you took in pre-closing and how you will remediate the issue(s) going forward.
Finally, your pre-acquisition investigation and due diligence will inform your post-acquisition steps. Hallmark 10 of the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program mandates that companies will develop and implement policies and procedures for mergers and acquisitions requiring the company to conduct appropriate risk based due diligence on potential new business entities including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and anti-corruption due diligence. Obviously, this should be a documented process. By having an independent third party do this, with a documented process, it can lower the risk if there is a problem. As problems are identified, the acquiring entity can decide whether to go forward with the M&A. If there is a very specific identification of misconduct, the company can make a disclosure to the DOJ. By using this process, there is a road map created for remediating the issue as a part of your post-acquisition steps after closing.