Water Going Uphill 2Usually the question I am posed is how far down the chain must you go in your due diligence to ensure that your suppliers are in compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). I would pose that now, after the Petrobras scandal, a company may need to examine the flow in the other direction. I thought about this directional shift when I read an exhaustive report in the Sunday New York Times (NYT) on the Petrobras scandal, entitled “Brazil’s Great Oil Swindle, by David Segal. The article reviews the genesis of and details the ongoing nature of the Petrobras scandal.

While I have previously written about the other Brazilian companies that have been caught up in the scandal, such as Oderbrecht, Camargo Corrêa and UTC Engenharia, Segal’s article detailed a level of immersion in corruption that should concern every US Company subject to the FCPA and catch the eye of Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors handling FCPA cases. It appears that the companies that had direct contracts with Petrobras also colluded in the old-fashioned anti-trust sense, so that not only did they control all the subcontract work done on any Petrobras project but they would also demand bribes from the subcontractors which they then passed up the chain to Petrobras executives and eventually Brazilian politicians. If this scheme turns out to be true, it literally could explode potential FCPA exposure for any US Company doing business on any subcontract where Petrobras was the eventual beneficiary.

Segal reported, “according to prosecutors, these companies stopped competing and started to collaborate. They formed a cartel and decided, in advance, which of them would win a particular deal. A charade competition was orchestrated, and the anointed winner could charge vastly more than it would in a free market.” Further, “A document obtained by prosecutors laid out what it called the “rules of the game.” The trumped-up bidding process was labeled a “sports tournament”, with an assortment of rounds and a “trophy.” There was a no-sore-loser codicil, too: “The teams that participate in a round should honor the rules that have been agreed on, even when they are not the winner.”

But the corruption did not stop simply at these non-Petrobras entities. These companies would demand bribes from their subcontractors that they passed up the line to Petrobras. Segal wrote, “From 1 to 5 percent of the value of a given contract was diverted to those on the receiving end of the scheme, a group that included 50 politicians from six parties, according to prosecutors. Money from cartel members took a circuitous route to politicians’ pockets, passing through ghost corporations whose owners made bribes look like consulting fees.”

Think about all of this for a minute. What happens when everyone and every company associated with a National Oil Company (NOC) is in on the corruption? I thought about this question when I read an article in the Financial Times (FT) by Andres Schipani, entitled “We were terrorized by the drop in oil prices, where he discussed how the drop in world oil prices has negatively affected Venezuela more than any other top oil producing company. Part of the country’s trouble is the rampant corruption around its NOC PDVSA. Schipani quoted a former minster for the following, “The design of the political economy here only benefits the corrupt.” Moreover, the country is near the bottom of the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (TI-CPI) coming in at 161st out of 175 countries listed.

Most Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) and compliance practitioners had focused their third party risk management program around third parties, first on the sales side and then in the Supply Chain (SC). However now companies may well have to look at other relationships, particularly those where the company is a subcontractor involved in a country prone to corruption with a NOC or other key state owned enterprise. Last year the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in an article entitled “Venezuelan Firm Is Probed In U.S.”, by José De Córdoba and Christopher M. Matthews, reported that a US company ProEnergy Services LLC (ProEnergy), a Missouri based engineering, procurement and construction company, sold turbines to Venezuelan company Derwick Associates de Venezuela SA (Derwick), who provided them to the Venezuelan national power company. The article reported that the DOJ’s “criminal fraud section are reviewing actions of Derwick and ProEnergy for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”. Derwick was reported to have been “awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts in little more than a year to build power plants in Venezuela, shortly before the country’s power grid began to sputter in 2009”. All of this with a commission rate paid by ProEnergy to Derwick of a reported 5%.

The Brazilian investigation poses far more dire consequences for any US Company that did business with the cartel of Brazilian companies that had locked up the Petrobras work. It means that you need to go back immediately and not only review the underlying due diligence which you did (probably none); then review the contracts with those entities; and, finally, cross-reference to see if there were any contract over-charges which were rebated back to the cartel members. If so, you may well have a serious problem on your hands as any unwarranted rebates, refunds, customer credits or anything else that could have been readily converted into cash to be used to fund a bribe.

This second part is one thing that challenges many compliance officers. The compliance function does not always have visibility into the transactions assigned to specific contracts or projects like your company might be engaged in for Petrobras in Brazil. However it also speaks to the need for transaction monitoring as not simply a cutting edge technique or even best practice but a required financial controls tool that is also applicable to compliance internal controls as well.

As Brazilian prosecutors expand ever outward from Petrobras, US companies subject to the FCPA and UK companies and others subject to the UK Bribery Act would do well to review everything around their Brazilian operations, contracts and dealings. The Petrobras scandal has shown two clear trends to-date. First is that we are far from the end of this scandal. Second, the prosecutors have been fearless so far in following the corruption trail wherever it may go. If they follow it to US companies, they could prosecute them on their own in Brazil for violation of domestic anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws or turn the evidence over to the DOJ. The thing to do now is to get out ahead of this all too certain waterfall.

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, 2015

great pyramid of giza

I continue my Great Structures Week with a focus on great structures from the earliest times, ancient Egypt and Greece. I am drawing these posts from The Teaching Company course, entitled “Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity”, taught by Professor Stephen Ressler. From Egypt there are of course the Pyramids, of which Ressler says, “They’re important, not just because they’re great structures, but also because they represent some of the earliest human achievements that can legitimately be called engineering. The Great Pyramid of Giza stands today as a testament to the strength and durability of Egyptian structural engineering skills.”

From Greece we derive what Vitruvius called the “Empirical Rules for Temple Design” which define a “single dimensional module equal to the radius of a column in the temple portico, then specify all other dimensions of the building in terms of that module.” These rules are best seen in Greek temples, largely consisting of columns, which are defined as “a structural element that carries load primarily in compression” and beams, which are “structural elements subject to transverse loading and carry load in bending.” My favorite example of the use of columns is seen in the Parthenon; the most famous of all Greek temples still standing.

In many ways these two very different structures stand as the basis of all structural engineering and Great Structures that come later throughout history. For any anti-corruption compliance regime based on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act or other anti-bribery statutes, the same is true for a Code of Conduct and written policies and procedures. They are both the building blocks of everything that comes thereafter.

In an article in the Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) Complete Compliance and Ethics Manual, 2nd Ed., entitled “Essential Elements of an Effective Ethics and Compliance Program”, authors Debbie Troklus, Greg Warner and Emma Wollschlager Schwartz, state that your company’s Code of Conduct “should demonstrate a complete ethical attitude and your organization’s “system-wide” emphasis on compliance and ethics with all applicable laws and regulations.” Your Code of Conduct must be aimed at all employees and all representatives of the organization, not just those most actively involved in known compliance and ethics issues. From the board of directors to volunteers, the authors believe that “everyone must receive, read, understand, and agree to abide by the standards of the Code of Conduct.” This would also include all “management, vendors, suppliers, and independent contractors, which are frequently overlooked groups.”Parethnon

There are several purposes identified by the authors that should be communicated in your Code of Conduct. Of course the overriding goal is for all employees to follow what is required of them under the Code of Conduct. You can do this by communicating what is required of them, to provide a process for proper decision-making and then to require that all persons subject to the Code of Conduct put these standards into everyday business practice. Such actions are some of your best evidence that your company “upholds and supports proper compliance conduct.”

The substance of your Code of Conduct should be tailored to the company’s culture, and to its industry and corporate identity. It should provide a mechanism by which employees who are trying to do the right thing in the compliance and business ethics arena can do so. The Code of Conduct can be used as a basis for employee review and evaluation. It should certainly be invoked if there is a violation. To that end, I suggest that your company’s disciplinary procedures be stated in the Code of Conduct. These would include all forms of disciplines, up to and including dismissal, for serious violations of the Code of Conduct. Further, your company’s Code of Conduct should emphasize it will comply with all applicable laws and regulations, wherever it does business. The Code needs to be written in plain English and translated into other languages as necessary so that all applicable persons can understand it.

The written policies and procedures required for a best practices compliance program are well known and long established. As stated in the FCPA Guidance, “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 and Procedures are the documents that implement these standards of conduct.

Another way to think of policies, procedures and controls was stated by Aaron Murphy, now a partner at Foley & Lardner, in his book “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”, when he said that you should think of all three as “an interrelated set of compliance mechanisms.” Murphy went on to say that, “Internal controls are policies, procedures, monitoring and training that are designed to ensure that company assets are used properly, with proper approval and that transactions are properly recorded in the books and records. While it is theoretically possible to have good controls but bad books and records (and vice versa), the two generally go hand in hand – where there are record-keeping violations, an internal controls failure is almost presumed because the records would have been accurate had the controls been adequate.”

Borrowing from an article in the Houston Business Journal (HBJ) by John Allen, entitled “Company policies are source and structure of stability”, I found some interesting and important insights into the role of policies in any anti-corruption compliance program. Allen says that the role of policies is “to protect companies, their employees and consumers, and despite an occasional opposite outcome, that is typically what they do. A company’s policies provide a basic set of guidelines for their employees to follow. They can include general dos and don’ts or more specific safety procedures, work process flows, communication guidelines or dress codes. By establishing what is and isn’t acceptable workplace behavior, a company helps mitigate the risks posed by employees who, if left unchecked, might behave badly or make foolhardy decisions.”

Allen notes that policies “are not a surefire guarantee that things won’t go wrong, they are the first line of defense if things do.” The effective implementation and enforcement of policies demonstrate to regulators and the government that a “company is operating professionally and proactively for the benefit of its stakeholders, its employees and the community it serves.” If it is a company subject to the FCPA, by definition it is an international company so that can be quite a wide community.

Allen believes that there are five key elements to any “well-constructed policy”. They are:

  • identify to whom the policy applies;
  • establish the objective of the policy;
  • explain why the policy is necessary;
  • outline examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior under the policy; and
  • warn of the consequences if an employee fails to comply with the policy.

Allen notes that for polices to be effective there must be communication. He believes that training is only one type of communication. I think that this is a key element for compliance practitioners because if you have a 30,000+ worldwide work force, the logistics alone of such training can appear daunting. Consider gathering small groups of employees, where detailed questions about policies can be raised and discussed, as a powerful teaching tool. Allen even suggests posting Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) in common areas as another technique. And do not forget that one of the reasons Morgan Stanley received a declination to prosecute by the Department of Justice (DOJ) was that it sent out bi-monthly compliance reminder emails to its employee Garth Peterson for the seven years he was employed by the company.

The FCPA Guidance ends its section on policies with the following, “Regardless of the specific policies and procedures implemented, these standards should apply to personnel at all levels of the company.” Allen puts a bit differently in that “it is important that policies are applied fairly and consistently across the organization.” He notes that the issue can be that “If policies are applied inconsistently, there is a greater chance that an employee dismissed for breaching a policy could successfully claim he or she was unfairly terminated.” This last point cannot be over-emphasized. If an employee is going to be terminated for fudging their expense accounts in Brazil, you had best make sure that same conduct lands your top producer in the US with the same quality of discipline.

For a review of what goes into the base structures of a best practices compliance program, I would suggest you check my book Doing Compliance: Design, Create, and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program, which is available through Compliance Week. You can review the book and obtain a copy by clicking here.

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, 2015

Brooklyn BridgeI recently completed a course from The Teaching Company, entitled “Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity”, taught by Professor Stephen Ressler. It was a wonderful learning experience about some of the world’s greatest structures and the development of structural engineering throughout history. As I worked my way through the course, it occurred to me that many structural engineering concepts are apt descriptors for an anti-corruption compliance program. So today, I will begin the ‘Great Structures Week’ as an entrée into an appropriate topic for your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act or other anti-corruption/anti-bribery compliance program. Each day I will discuss a structural engineering concept together with one my favorite examples from Professor Ressler’s course.

To open the series I will consider what makes a structure great. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (Vitruvius) was a Roman author, architect, and civil engineer during the 1st century BC, known for his work entitled De Architectura. Vitruvius is famous for proclaiming that a structure must exhibit the three qualities of firmitas, utilitas and venustas, meaning that it must be solid, useful and beautiful. These are sometimes termed the Vitruvian Triad and today these are loosely translated that great constructions must have form, function or structure. Form is the arrangement of space and harmony. Function is the measure of usefulness. Structure contains innovative techniques in its creation.

My favorite example of a structure that incorporates all three of these concepts is the Brooklyn Bridge. The beauty of the form follows the functions of the scientific principles that underlie the bridge’s structure. As Ressler noted “Each element of the form of the Brooklyn Bridge serves a structural purpose based on mathematical principles.” First the form itself is one of great beauty. The function remains the same, even if the modes of transport have evolved; the Bridge was designed to carry people from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Yet as Ressler notes, “beyond the aesthetic, these features are a direct reflection of the scientific principles underlying the bridge’s design. They are, in a word, structure – a system of load carrying elements that cause the bridge to stand up.” We have a graceful and elegant design, which operates to safely conduct people over the Hudson River, through an engineering design that allows the structure to act as intended.

This convergence of Vitruvius’ tripartite view of what makes a great structure is an appropriate analogy for a best practices anti-corruption compliance program to facilitate compliance with the FCPA, UK Bribery Act or similar regime. Over the years both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have made clear that each company should have a compliance program that fits its needs. Indeed, in the FCPA Guidance, it could not have been made clearer when it stated, “Individual companies may have different compliance needs depending on their size and the particular risks associated with their businesses, among other factors. When it comes to compliance, there is no one-size-fits-all program.” The Guidance goes on to state the obvious when it notes, “companies may consider a variety of factors when making their own determination of what is appropriate for their specific business needs. Indeed, small- and medium-size enterprises likely will have different compliance programs from large multi-national corporations”.

The Guidance goes on to note, “Compliance programs that employ a “check-the-box” approach may be inefficient and, more importantly, ineffective. Because each compliance program should be tailored to an organization’s specific needs, risks, and challenges, the information provided below should not be considered a substitute for a company’s own assessment of the corporate compliance program most appropriate for that particular business organization. In the end, if designed carefully, implemented earnestly, and enforced fairly, a company’s compliance program—no matter how large or small the organization—will allow the company generally to prevent violations, detect those that do occur, and remediate them promptly and appropriately.”

Yet when viewed through Vitruvius’ prism, it is clear that an anti-corruption compliance program is much more holistic, with form, function and structure. A good compliance program is really about good financial controls. I think this is one outlook of FCPA compliance which is not discussed enough. Stanley Sporkin, in many ways the progenitor of the law, recognized that if a company was going to engage in corruption it would have to hide such activity through falsified books and records. Hence, he articulated the basis for having the accounting provisions included when Act was originally written and enacted into law. These provisions include both the books and records provision and the internal controls provision. The Guidance says, “the accounting provisions ensure that all public companies account for all of their assets and liabilities accurately and in reasonable detail”. So the form of a compliance program should be largely in financial controls that are baked into a company.

The formula of a compliance program can follow several forms. It can be based on the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program from the FCPA Guidance, the Six Principles of Adequate Procedures as contemplated by the UK Bribery Act; the OECD 13 Good Practices or other formulations such as the Five Elements of an Effective Compliance Program developed by Stephen Martin and Paul McNulty from the law firm of Baker & McKenzie. The form of any of these articulations meets the Vitruvius definition.

Next is the function. Here I think it is appropriate to consider what the FCPA Guidance says regarding internal controls, that being “Internal controls over financial reporting are the processes used by compa­nies to provide reasonable assurances regarding the reliabil­ity of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements. They include various components, such as: a control environment that covers the tone set by the organi­zation regarding integrity and ethics; risk assessments; con­trol activities that cover policies and procedures designed to ensure that management directives are carried out (e.g., approvals, authorizations, reconciliations, and segregation of duties); information and communication; and monitor­ing.” Moreover, “the design of a company’s internal controls must take into account the operational realities and risks attendant to the company’s business, such as: the nature of its products or services; how the products or services get to market; the nature of its work force; the degree of regulation; the extent of its government interaction; and the degree to which it has operations in countries with a high risk of corruption.” This language points to function of any best practices compliance program, to make the company a better-run company.

Finally, in the area of structure it is incumbent to recall that any best practices anti-corruption compliance program continues to evolve. It evolves with technological innovations such as transaction or continuous controls monitoring. But a compliance program must evolve as your company evolves. Changing commercial realities and conditions can create new or increased FCPA compliance risks. Your compliance program needs to be able to detect, assess and manage new risk as your business creates new products; moves into new territories or develops new sales channels. The FCPA Guidance states, “They are dynamic and evolve as the business and the markets change.” To do so, “a good compliance program should constantly evolve. A company’s business changes over time, as do the environments in which it operates, the nature of its custom­ers, the laws that govern its actions, and the standards of its industry.”

For a review of what goes into a best practices compliance program, I would suggest you check out my book, entitled “Doing Compliance: Design, Create, and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program, which is available through Compliance Week. You can review the book and obtain a copy by clicking here.

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, 2015

All Star GameToday is the 83rd anniversary of the initial Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game, which took place on this date in 1933, in Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The brainchild of a determined sports editor, the event was designed to bolster the sport and improve its reputation during the darkest years of the Great Depression. The sports editor of the Chicago Tribune convinced his owner to allow him to lobby for the game with MLB’s Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and the owners. To win over the public, they allowed fan balloting for the Game’s players. The proceeds went to a charity for retired baseball players. The Game was a rousing success and has continued as an institution to this day.

The conception and execution of the first All-Star Game shows what a committed tone from top management can create. Last week I wrote a couple of posts dealing with the tone for an organization around compliance with anti-corruption laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA); one on tone in the middle and one on tone at the bottom. As usual, when I begin writing about a topic, I do not seem to be able to start where I thought I would end. So today, with the anniversary of the first MLB All-Star Game in mind, I decided to round out my triumvirate of posts by concluding with some thoughts on Tone at the Top and the reasons why it is so important to any anti-corruption compliance program.

Quite simply, any compliance program starts at the top and flows down throughout the company. Before you arrive at tone in the middle and bottom, it must start with a commitment at the top. All regulatory schemes for anti-corruption compliance recognize this key hypothesis. The concept of an appropriate tone at the top is in the US Sentencing Guidelines for organizations accused of violating the FCPA; the FCPA Guidance; the UK Bribery Act’s Six Principles of Adequate Procedures; and the OECD Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics and Compliance (OECD Good Practices). The reason all of these guidelines incorporate it into their respective practices is that all employees look to the top of the company to see what is important.

The US Sentencing Guidelines reads:

High-level personnel and substantial authority personnel of the organization shall be knowledgeable about the content and operation of the compliance and ethics program … and shall promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law. 

The OECD Good Practices reads:

  1. strong, explicit and visible support and commitment from senior management to the company’s internal controls, ethics and compliance programs or measures for preventing and detecting foreign bribery; 

The UK Bribery Act’s Six Principles of Adequate Procedures reads:

The top-level management of a commercial organisation (be it a board of directors, the owners or any other equivalent body or person) are committed to preventing bribery by persons associated with it. They foster a culture within the organisation in which bribery is never acceptable. 

The FCPA Guidance, under the section entitled “Commitment from Senior Management and a Clearly Articulated Policy Against Corruption”, states, “Within a business organization, compliance begins with the board of directors and senior executives setting the proper tone for the rest of the company. Managers and employees take their cues from these corporate leaders. Thus, DOJ and SEC consider the commitment of corporate leaders to a “culture of compliance” and look to see if this high-level commitment is also reinforced and implemented by middle managers and employees at all levels of a business.” But the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) expect more than simply to have senior management say the right things. They both expect that such message will be pushed down the ranks of an enterprise so that “A strong ethical culture directly supports a strong compliance program. By adhering to ethical standards, senior managers will inspire middle managers to reinforce those standards. Compliant middle managers, in turn, will encourage employees to strive to attain those standards throughout the organizational structure. In short, compliance with the FCPA and ethical rules must start at the top. DOJ and SEC thus evaluate whether senior management has clearly articulated company stan­dards, communicated them in unambiguous terms, adhered to them scrupulously, and disseminated them throughout the organization.”

The FCPA world is riddled with cases where the abject failure of any ethical “Tone at the Top” led to enforcement actions and large monetary settlements. In the two largest monetary settlements of enforcement actions to date, Siemens and Halliburton, for the actions of its former subsidiary KBR, the government specifically noted the companies’ pervasive tolerance for bribery. In the Siemens case, for example, the SEC noted that the company’s culture “had long been at odds with the FCPA” and was one in which bribery “was tolerated and even rewarded at the highest levels”. Likewise, in the Halliburton matter, the government noted that “tolerance of the offense by substantial authority personnel was pervasive” throughout the organization.

So how can a company overcome these employee attitudes and set, or re-set, its “Tone at the Top”? In a 2008 speech to the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, reprinted in Ethisphere, Larry Thompson, PepsiCo Executive Vice President (EVP) of Governmental Affairs, General Counsel (GC) and Secretary, discussed the work of Professor Lynn Sharp at Harvard. From Professor Sharp’s writings, Mr. Thompson cited five factors, which are critical in establishing an effective integrity program and to set the right “Tone at the Top”.

  1. The guiding values of a company must make sense and be clearly communicated.
  2. The company’s leader must be personally committed and willing to take action on the values.
  3. A company’s systems and structures must support its guiding principles.
  4. A company’s values must be integrated into normal channels of management decision-making and reflected in the company’s critical decisions.
  5. Managers must be empowered to make ethically sound decisions on a day-to-day basis.

David Lawler, writing in his book “Frequently Asked Questions in Anti-Bribery and Corruption, boiled it down as follows “Whatever the size, structure or market of a commercial organization, top-level management’s commitment to bribery prevention is likely to include communication of the organization’s anti-bribery stance and appropriate degree of involvement in developing bribery prevention procedures.” Lawler went on to provide a short list of points that he suggests senior management engage in to communicate the type of tone to follow an anti-corruption regime. I had a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a client who, after I described his role in a best practices compliance program, observed, “You want me to be the ambassador for compliance.” I immediately averred in the affirmative. The following is a list of things that a CEO can do as an ‘Ambassador of Compliance’:

  • Reject a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality;
  • Not just ‘talk-the-talk’ but ‘walk-the-walk’ of compliance;
  • Oversee creation of a written statement of a zero tolerance towards bribery and corruption;
  • Appoint and fully resource, with money and headcount, a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO);
  • Oversee the development of a Code of Conduct and written compliance program implementing it;
  • Ensure there are compliance metrics on all key business reports;
  • Provide leadership to middle managers to facilitate filtering of the zero tolerance message down throughout the organization;
  • Not only have a whistleblowing, reporting or speak up channel but celebrate it;
  • Keep talking about doing the right thing;
  • Make sure that you are seen providing your CCO with access to yourself and the Board of Directors.

Coming at it from a different perspective, author Martin Biegelman provides some concrete examples in his book, entitled “Building a World Class Compliance Program – Best Practices and Strategies for Success”. He begins the chapter discussed here with the statement “The road to compliance starts at the top.” There is probably no dispute that a company takes on the tone of its top management. Biegelman cites to a list used by Joe Murphy regarding actions a CEO can demonstrate to set the requisite tone from the Captain’s Chair of any business. The list is as follows:

  1. Keep a copy of the Constitution on your Desk. Have a dog-eared copy of your company’s Code of Conduct on your desktop and be seen using it.
  2. Clout. Make sure your compliance department has authority, influence and budget within the company. Have your Chief Compliance Officer report directly to the Board of Directors.
  3. Make them Accountable. At Senior Executive meetings, have each participant report on what they have done to further the compliance function in their business unit.
  4. Sticks and Carrots. Have both sanctions for violation of company compliance and ethics policies and incentives for doing business in a compliant manner.
  5. Don’t do as I say, Do as I do. Turn down an expensive dinner or trip offered by a vendor. Pass on a gift that you may have received. Turn down a transaction based upon ethical considerations.
  6. Be a Student. Be seen at intra-company compliance training. Take a one or two day course or attend a compliance conference outside your organization.
  7. Award Compliance. You should recognize outstanding compliance efforts with companywide announcements and awards.
  8. The Board. Recruit a nationally known compliance expert to sit on your company’s Board and chair the audit or compliance committee.
  9. Independent Review. Obtain an independent, outside review of your company’s compliance program and report the results to the Board’s Audit Committee.
  10. Vendors. Mandate that all vendors in your Supply Chain embrace compliance and ethics as a business model. If not, pass on doing business with them.
  11. Network. Talk to others in your industry and your peers on how to improve your company’s compliance efforts. 

Many companies struggle with some type of metric that can be used for upper management regarding compliance and communication of a company’s compliance values. One technique might be to require the CEO to post companywide emails or other communications once a quarter on some compliance related topic. The CEO’s direct reports would then also be required to email their senior management staff a minimum of once per quarter on a compliance topic. One can cascade this down the company as far as is practicable. Reminders can be set for each communication so that all personnel know when it is time to send out the message. If these communications are timely made, this metric has been met.

I hope that you can use some of the techniques for setting, creating and moving an appropriate tone for compliance throughout your organization. And, of course, enjoy the 2015 All-Star Game. Although the Astros now play in the American League (AL), my heart is still with the National League (NL).

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, 2015

Custer's Last StandOn this day in 1876 one of the greatest failures in risk management took place when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his entire 7th Cavalry were wiped out at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Custer had split his command into three wings and he took his battalion of 200 or so men down the center of what he thought would be little resistance. Instead he found that he was facing a far superior force of 3000 largely Sioux warriors who quickly overwhelmed and defeated Custer’s command, with all US troops being killed. There is now some debate on whether all the cavalrymen were actually killed by the Native Americans or took their own lives, saving the last bullet for themselves, in western parlance.

Historians have debated over time the reason for Custer’s defeat. Was it arrogance; bad intelligence; faulty command, just plain stupidity or even a wish for martyrdom by Custer? Whichever the cause, it was the worse defeat of the US Army by Native Americans in the Western campaigns of the later 1800s. Today, it might be termed as a faulty assessment and management of the risks involved.

I thought about Custer and his defeat when I read a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), entitled “Strategy How to Live With Risks. It presented risk, risk assessments and risk management in a new light, a key acumen being that risk management should be used as a “protection shield, not an action stopper.” It was based upon a research paper by the CEB, entitled “Reducing Risk Management’s Organizational Drag”, which I thought it had some interesting insights for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner.

The first insight is that, in many instances, companies are assessing risks that are in the rear-view mirror. The author pointed to the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act, passed in response to the Enron and Worldcom accounting scandals in noting, “In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis many large banks changed their business models, and other companies implemented systems to better manage credit risks or eliminate overreliance on mathematical models.” This type of mentality can lead to what the author says, is “a variation on what military historians call “fighting the last war.” As memories of the recession fade, leaders worry that risk management policies are impeding growth and profits without much gain.” The author went on to quote Matt Shinkman of CEB, a member based advisory company, for the following insight “Firms are questioning whether the models they put in place after the financial crisis are working—and more fundamentally questioning the role of risk management in their organizations.”

This retrospective look back is coupled with what the author says is a decision making process which “is too slow, in part because of an excessive focus on preventing risk” and not managing risk; in other words, companies were slowed down even further by something termed “organizational drag”. Companies need to find new mechanisms to assess and manage risk going forward. The best way to do so, many companies have indicated, is through reorganizing or reprioritizing risk management and the article presented “three best practices” in doing so.

Strike the Right Balance Between Risk and Reward

Recognizing that risk management is often simply ‘just saying no’, the HBR articcle suggests that “Today’s risk managers see their role as helping firms determine and clarify their appetite for risk and communicate it across the company to guide decision making. In some cases this means helping line managers reduce their risk aversion.” The interesting insight I found here is that if an asset is low performing it may be because the management is so risk averse. This may present a CCO or compliance practitioner with an opportunity to increase growth through other risk management solutions that they could implement.

Focus on decisions, not process

This insight is one that CCO and compliance practitioners should think about and try and implement. Recognizing that risk assessments are important, the author believes that risk managers should focus more on decisions concerning risk rather than the process of determining risk. This means, “In addition to relying on paperwork or process, risk managers are turning to tools (such as dashboards that show risks in real time) and training that help employees assess risk. They are also helping companies factor a better understanding of risk into their decision making.”

By having a seat at the senior management’s table, a CCO or compliance practitioner can help identify risk issues early on in planning. This allows a COO to help craft a risk management solution, or even better yet show colleagues how to “spot potential problems and managers see how their projects fit into the company’s overall portfolio of projects, each with its own set of risks.” The author again quoted Shinkman, “This is less about listing risks from a backward-looking perspective and more about picking the right portfolio of risky projects.”

Make employees the first line of defense

The author channels his inner Howard Sklar (water is wet) by stating, “Decisions don’t make themselves, people make them”. However from that insight, the author believes that “smart companies work to improve employees ability to incorporate appropriate levels of risk when making choices.” But this means you must not only adequately train your employees to spot the appropriate risk but you, as CCO must provide them with tools to manage the risk. The author wrote, “Companies are also trying to identify which types of jobs or departments face a disproportionate share of high-risk decisions so that they can aim their training at the right people. They’re focusing that training less on risk awareness and more on simulations or scenarios that let employees practice decision making in risky situations. Finally, risk managers are becoming more involved in employee exit interviews, because people leaving an organization often identify risks that others aren’t able or willing to discuss.”

The article ends by noting that the goal is “to transform risk management from a peripheral function to one with a voice integrated into the day-to-day management” of an organization. That is also viewed as a component of CCO 2.0 and a more mature model of improvement. By focusing on training employees on how to spot Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance risks and then providing them with the tools to adequately manage that risk, CCOs can deliver greater value.

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, 2015