FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

August 13, 2014

Thinking Through Risk Rankings of Third Parties

7K0A0014-2One question often posed to me is how to think through some of the relationships a company has with its various third parties in order to reasonably risk rank them. Initially I would break this down into sales and supply chain to begin any such analysis. Anecdotally, it is said that over 95% of all Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions involve third parties so this is one area where companies need to put some thoughtful consideration. However, the key is that if you employ a “check-the-box” approach it may not only be inefficient but more importantly, ineffective. The reason for this is 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.

Sales Side

I tend to view things in a straightforward manner when it comes to representatives on the sales side of your business. I believe that third party representatives you might have, whatever you might call them, i.e. sales reps, sales agents, sales agents, commissioned sales agents, or anything else, are high risk and therefore they should receive your highest level of scrutiny. This is also true with any party that might be called, charitably or not, ‘a partner’ whether that is a joint venture (JV) partner, plain old partner, Teaming Partner or another monickered ‘partner’. However, under this approach you should also consider the perception of corruption in the geographic area that you will use the third party. I recognize that you can overlay a financial threshold but the reality is that if a sales representative generates such a small amount of money for your business you probably do not need them as representative.

At least with distributors, I have seen merit in more sophisticated approaches such as that set out by David Simon, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP, who advocates a risk analysis should more appropriately based on the nature of a company’s relationships with their distributors. The goal should be to determine which distributors are the most likely to qualify as agents; for whose acts the company would likely to be held responsible.  He argues that it is a continuum of risk; that is, on the low-risk end are distributors that are really nothing more than re-sellers with little actual affiliation with the supplier company. On the high-risk end are distributors who are very closely tied to the supplier company, who effectively represent the company in the market and end up looking more like a quasi-subsidiary than a customer.

Simon looks at agency principles to guide his analysis of whether a distributor qualifies as an agent for FCPA purposes. He argues that factors to consider include:

  • The volume of sales made to the distributor;
  • The percentage of total sales of the distributor’s total business the principal’s product represents;
  • Whether the distributor represents the principal in the market, including whether it can (and does) use the company trademarks and logos in its business; and

Whether the principal company is involved in the running of the distributor’s business (such as by training the distributor’s sales agents, imposing performance goals and objectives, or providing reimbursement for sales activity).

Once a company segregates out the high-risk distributors that likely qualify as agents and potentially subject the company to FCPA liability from those that are mere re-sellers and pose less FCPA risk, FCPA compliance procedures can be tailored appropriately. For those distributors that qualify as “agents” and also pose FCPA risk, full FCPA due diligence, certifications, training and contract language are imperative. For those that do not, more limited compliance measures that reflect the risk-adjusted potential liability are perfectly appropriate.

Supply Chain

This determination of the level of due diligence and categorization of a supplier should depend on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, whether the supplier is (1) located, or will operate, in a high risk country; (2) associated with, or recommended or required by, a government official or his or her representative; (3) currently under investigation, the subject of criminal charges, or was recently convicted of criminal violations, including any form of corruption; (4) a multinational publicly traded corporation with a recognized exemplary system of compliance and internal controls, that has not been recently investigated or convicted of any corruption offense or that has taken appropriate corrective action to remedy such conduct; or (5) a provider of widely available services and products that are not industry specific, are offered to the public at large and do not fall under the definition of Minimal-Risk Supplier detailed below.

A High-Risk Supplier is an individual or an entity that is engaged to provide non-project specific goods or services to a company. It presents a higher level of compliance risk because of the presence of one or more of the following factors: (a) It is based or operates in a country (including the supply of goods or services to a company) that poses a high risk for corruption, money laundering, or commercial bribery; (b) It supplies goods or services to a company from a high-risk country; (c) It has a reputation in the business community for questionable business practices or ethics; or (d) It has been convicted of, or is alleged to have been involved in, illegal conduct and has failed to undertake effective remedial actions. Finally, it presents one or more of the following factors,: (1) It is located in a country that has inadequate regulatory oversight of its activities; (2) it is in an unregulated business; (3) its ultimate or beneficial ownership is difficult to determine; (4) the company has an annual spend of more than $100,000 with the supplier; (5) it was established or registered in a jurisdiction where ownership is not transparent or that permits ownership in the form of bearer shares; (6) it is registered or conducts business in a jurisdiction that does not have anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws comparable to those of the United States and the United Kingdom; or (7) it lacks a discernable and substantial business history.

A Low-Risk Supplier is an individual or a non-publicly held entity that conducts business such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or privately held corporation, located in a Low-Risk Country. Some indicia include that it (1) supplies goods, equipment or services directly to a company in a Low-Risk Country; (2) a company has an annual spend of less than $100,000 with the supplier; and (3) the supplier has no involvement with any foreign government, government entity, or Government Official. However, if the supplier has other indicia of lower risk such that it is a publicly-held company, it may be considered a Low-Risk Supplier because it is subject to the highest disclosure and auditing and reporting standards such as those under the US Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including those publicly traded on a reputable and highly regulated stock exchange, such as the New York or London exchanges, and are, therefore, subject to oversight by highly regarded regulatory agencies.

Below the high and low risk categories I would add the category of ‘Minimal-Risk Suppliers’ who generally provide to a company goods and services that are non-specific to a particular project and the value of the transaction is $25,000 or less. Some examples might be for the routine purchase of fungible items and services, including, among others: Office supplies, such as paper, furniture, computers, copiers, and printers; Industrial or factory supplies, including cleaning materials, solvents, safety clothing and off-the-shelf equipment and parts; Crating and other standard materials for packing products for shipping; Leasing and rental of company cars and other equipment; and Airline or other travel tickets or services. This category would also include those third parties that provide widely available services and products that are not industry specific, are offered to the public at large. Here you might think of periodicals, florists, daily limousine and taxi, airline and food delivery (including coffee shops, pizza parlors and take out) services.

Last, but certainly not least, is the category of Government Service Providers, which includes entities that generally come into a company through the supply chain, who interact with a foreign government on behalf of your company. Examples might be customs brokers, providers who obtain and process business permits, licenses, visas, work permits and necessary clearances or waivers from government agencies; perform lobbying services; obtain regulatory approvals; negotiate with government agencies regarding the payment of taxes, tax claims, and tax audits. These third parties present some of your highest risks so they need to have not only the highest level of scrutiny but post contract-signing management as well.

The risk ranking of third parties is one of the areas that seems to continue to cause confusion, if not outright bewilderment. The manner in which the articulated risk rankings presented herein is not to be the ‘be-all and end-all’. As the FCPA Guidance reminds us, “An effective compliance program promotes “an orga­nizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law.”…A well-constructed, thought­fully implemented, and consistently enforced compliance and ethics program helps prevent, detect, remediate, and report misconduct, including FCPA violations.” If you think through your risk rankings and can articulate a reasonable basis for doing so followed by documentation, I think your own risk ranking system will survive regulatory scrutiny.

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, 2014

August 12, 2014

Does Your Company Still Allow Facilitation Payments?

IMG_3289One of the more confusing areas of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is in that of facilitation payments. Facilitation payments are small bribes but make no mistake about it, they are bribes. For that reason many companies feel they are inconsistent with a company culture of doing business ethically and in compliance with laws prohibiting corruption and bribery. Further, the FCPA Guidance specifies, “while the payment may qualify as an exception to the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, it may violate other laws, both in Foreign Country and elsewhere. In addition, if the payment is not accurately recorded, it could violate the FCPA’s books and records provision.” Finally, further the FCPA Guidance states, “Whether a payment falls within the exception is not dependent on the size of the payment, though size can be telling, as a large payment is more suggestive of corrupt intent to influence a non-routine governmental action. But, like the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions more generally, the facilitating payments exception focuses on the purpose of the payment rather than its value.” [emphasis in original text]

In recent remarks, Thomas C. Baxter, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicated a general unease with facilitation payments. Baxter was quoted in the FCPA Blog for the following, “Baxter said an organizational policy that allows some types of official corruption — including facilitating payments – “diminishes the efficacy of compliance rules that are directed toward stopping official corruption.”” Further, “While I understand that the exception is grounded in a practical reality, I feel that zero tolerance for official corruption would have been a better choice. To any public servant with an extended hand, I would say in a loud and clear voice, “pull it back and do your job.” And, let me note the OECD Working Group on Bribery recommends that all countries encourage companies to prohibit or discourage facilitating payments.”

In addition to these clear statements about whether the FCPA should continue to allow said bribes; you should also consider the administrative nightmare for any international company. The UK Bribery Act does not have any such exception, exemption or defense along the lines of the FCPA facilitation payment exception. This means that even if your company allows facilitation payments, it must exempt out every UK Company or subsidiary from the policy. Further, if your company employs any UK citizens, they are subject to the UK Bribery Act no matter who they work for and where they may work in the world so they must also be exempted. Finally, if your US Company does business with a UK or other company subject to the UK Bribery Act, you may be prevented contractually from making facilitation payments while working under that customer’s contract. As I said, an administrative nightmare.

  1. The Statute

When the FCPA was initially passed in 1977, the facilitating payment exception was found under the definition of foreign official. However, with the 1988 Amendments, a more explicit exception was written into the statute making it clear that the anti-bribery provisions “shall not apply to any facilitating or expediting payment to a foreign official, political party, or party official the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action . . .” The statute itself provided a list of examples of facilitation payments in the definition of routine governmental actions. It included the following:

  • Obtaining permits, licenses, or other official documents;
  • Processing governmental papers such as visas and work orders;
  • Providing police protection, mail services, scheduling inspections;
  • Providing utilities, cargo handling; or
  • Actions of a similar nature.

It is important to note that the language of the FCPA makes it clear that a facilitation payment is not an affirmative defense but an exception to the general FCPA proscription against bribery and corruption. Unfortunately for the FCPA Practitioner there is no dollar limit articulated in the FCPA regarding facilitation payments. Even this limited exception has come under increasing criticism. As far back as 2009, the OECD studied the issue and recommended that member countries encourage their corporations to not allow the making of facilitating payments, “in view of the corrosive effect of small facilitation payments, particularly on sustainable economic development and the rule of law.”

Interestingly, one of the clearest statements about facilitation payments comes not from a FCPA case about facilitation payments but the case of Kay v. US, 359 F.3d 738, 750-51 (5th Cir. 2004). This case dealt with whether payment of bribes to obtain a favorable tax ruling was prohibited under the FCPA. In its opinion the Fifth Circuit commented on the limited nature of the facilitating payments exception when it said:

A brief review of the types of routine governmental actions enumerated by Congress shows how limited Congress wanted to make the grease exceptions. Routine governmental action, for instance, includes “obtaining permits, licenses, or other official documents to qualify a person to do business in a foreign country,” and “scheduling inspections associated with contract performance or inspections related to transit of goods across country.” Therefore, routine governmental action does not include the issuance of every official document or every inspection, but only (1) documentation that qualifies a party to do business and (2) scheduling an inspection—very narrow categories of largely non-discretionary, ministerial activities performed by mid- or low-level foreign functionaries.

2. Enforcement Actions

Con-way

The FCPA landscape is littered with companies who sustained FCPA violations due to payments which did not fall into the facilitation payment exception. In 2008, Con-way Inc., a global freight forwarder, paid a $300,000 penalty for making hundreds of relatively small payments to Customs Officials in the Philippines. The value of the payments Con-way was fined for making totaled $244,000 and were made to induce the officials to violate customs regulations, settle customs disputes, and reduce or not enforce otherwise legitimate fines for administrative violations.

Helmerich and Payne

In 2009, Helmerich and Payne, Inc., paid a penalty and disgorgement fee of $1.3 million for payments which were made to secure customs clearances in Argentina and Venezuela. The payments ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 but were not properly recorded and were made to import/export goods that were not within the respective country’s regulations; to import goods that could not lawfully be imported; and to evade higher duties and taxes on the goods.

Panalpina

Finally, there is the Panalpina enforcement action. As reported in the FCPA Blog, this matter was partly resolved last year with the payment by Panalpina and six of its customers of over $257 million in fines and penalties. Panalpina, acting as freight forwarder for its customers, made payments to circumvent import laws, reduce customs duties and tax assessments and to obtain preferential treatment for importing certain equipment into various countries but primarily in West Africa.

DynCorp

Then there is the DynCorp International investigation matter. As reported in various sources the matter relates to approx. $300,000 in payments made by subcontractors who wished to speed up their visa processing and expedite receipt of certain licenses on behalf of DynCorp. This investigation has been going on for several years and there is no anticipated conclusion date at this time.

3.      Some Guidance

So what does the Department of Justice (DOJ) look at when it reviews a company’s FCPA compliance program with regards to facilitation payments? Initially, if there is a pattern of such small payments, it would raise a Red Flag and cause additional investigations, but this would not be the end of the inquiry. There are several other factors which the DOJ could look towards in making a final determination on this issue. The line of inquiry the DOJ would take is as follows:

  1. Size of payment – Is there an outer limit? No, there is no outer limit but there is some line where the perception shifts. If a facilitating payment is over $100 you are arguing from a point of weakness. The presumption of good faith is against you. You might be able to persuade the government at an amount under $100. But anything over this amount and the government may well make further inquiries. So, for instance, the DOJ might say that all facilitation payments should be accumulated together and this would be a pattern and practice of bribery.
  2. What is a routine governmental action? Are we entitled to this action, have we met all of our actions or are we asking the government official to look the other way on some requirement? Are we asking the government official to give us a break? The key question here is whether you are entitled to the action otherwise.
  3. Does the seniority of the governmental official matter? This is significant because it changes the presumption of whether something is truly discretionary. The higher the level of the governmental official involved, the greater chance his decision is discretionary.
  4. Does the action have to be non-discretionary? Yes, because if it is discretionary, then a payment made will appear to be obtaining some advantage that is not available to others.
  5. What approvals should be required? A facilitation payment is something that must be done with an appropriate process. The process should have thought and the decision made by people who are the experts within the company on such matters.
  6. Risk of facilitation payments and third parties? Whatever policy you have, it must be carried over to third parties acting on your behalf or at your direction. If a third party cannot control this issue, the better compliance practice would be to end the business relationship.
  7. How should facilitation payments be recorded? Facilitation payments must be recorded accurately. You should have a category entitled “Facilitation Payments” in your company’s internal accounting system. The labeling should be quite clear and they are critical to any audit trail so recording them is quite significant.
  8. Monitoring programs? There must always be ongoing monitoring programs to review your company’s internal controls, policies and procedures regarding facilitation payments.

So we return to the question of when does a grease payment become a bribe? There is no clear line of demarcation. The test seems to turn on the amount of money involved, to whom it is paid and the frequency of the payments. Additionally, accurate books and records are a must. Finally, remember that the defense of facilitation payments is an exception to the FCPA prohibition against bribery. Any defendant which wishes to avail itself of this exception at trial would have to proffer credible evidence to support its position, but at the end of the day, it would be the trier of fact which would decide. So, much like any compliance defense, the exception is only available if you use it at trial and it would be difficult to imagine that any company will want to use the facilitation payment exception.

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, 2014

August 6, 2014

Theme from Shaft and Continuous Improvement of Your Compliance Program, Part I

Isaac HayesThe composer of what I believe to be the absolute coolest movie theme ever was born on this date in 1942, Isaac Hayes. Hayes continually succeeded in many areas. In the 1960s it was with soul music on the great label Stax. In the 90s it was as the voice of Chef on the animated TV series South Park. But for my generation it was for the theme song, and indeed entire soundtrack, to the movie Shaft that I will always remember Hayes for. The success of that soundtrack led not only to nearly four more decades in the public eye, but as I will never forget sight of Isaac Hayes, playing shirtless in heavy chains and sunglasses as he performed the #1 pop single “Theme from ‘Shaft'” on national television the night he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Score.

How Hayes continued to reinvent of himself as a performer informs my blog posts over the next two days as I look at continuous improvement in your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance program. Today, I will review the regulators view on continuous improvement and tomorrow I will provide some specific techniques that you can engage in to help satisfy this prong of the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program.

You should keep track of external and internal events that may cause change to business process, policies and procedures. Some examples are new laws applicable to your business organization and internal events driving changes within a company. Such internal changes could be a company reorganization or major acquisition. This type of review appears to be similar to the Department of Justice (DOJ) advocacy of ongoing risk assessments. The FCPA Guidance (Guidance) specifies, “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. In addition, compliance programs that do not just exist on paper but are followed in practice will inevitably uncover compliance weaknesses and require enhancements. Consequently, DOJ and SEC evaluate whether companies regularly review and improve their compliance programs and not allow them to become stale.”

Continuous improvement requires that you not only audit but also monitor whether employees are staying with the compliance program. In addition to the language set out in the FCPA Guidance, two of the seven compliance elements in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (FSG) call for companies to monitor, audit, and respond quickly to allegations of misconduct. These three activities are key components enforcement officials look for when determining whether companies maintain adequate oversight of their compliance programs.

A review plan is an excellent tool for the compliance practitioner because it provides a method for the ongoing evaluation of policies and sets forth a manner to communicate and train on any changes that are implemented. More than simply staying current, this approach will help provide the dynamics that the DOJ continually talks about in keeping your program fresh. Lastly, such a review plan can also guide the compliance practitioner in creating an ongoing game plan for compliance program upgrades and updates that Stephen Martin advocates.

The Guidance makes clear that each company should assess and manage its risks and specifically notes that small and medium-size enterprises likely will have different risk profiles and therefore different attendant compliance programs than large multi-national corporations. Moreover, this is something that the DOJ and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) take into account when evaluating a company’s compliance program in any FCPA investigation. This is why a “Check-the-Box” approach is not only disfavored by the DOJ, but, at the end of the day, it is also ineffectual. It is because each compliance program should be tailored to the enterprise’s own specific needs, risks, and challenges.

One tool that is extremely useful in the continuous improvement cycle, yet is often misused or misunderstood, is ongoing monitoring. This can come from the confusion about the differences between monitoring and auditing. Monitoring is a commitment to reviewing and detecting compliance variances in real time and then reacting quickly to remediate them. A primary goal of monitoring is to identify and address gaps in your program on a regular and consistent basis across a wide spectrum of data and information.

Auditing is a more limited review that targets a specific business component, region, or market sector during a particular timeframe in order to uncover and/or evaluate certain risks, particularly as seen in financial records. However, you should not assume that because your company conducts audits that it is effectively monitoring. A robust program should include separate functions for auditing and monitoring. Although unique in protocol, the two functions are related and can operate in tandem. Monitoring activities can sometimes lead to audits. For instance, if you notice a trend of suspicious payments in recent monitoring reports from AsiaPac, it may be time to conduct an audit of those operations to further investigate the issue.

Your company should establish a regular monitoring system to spot issues and address them. Effective monitoring means applying a consistent set of protocols, checks, and controls tailored to your company’s risks to detect and remediate compliance problems on an ongoing basis. To address this, your compliance team should be checking in routinely with local Finance departments in your foreign offices to ask if they’ve noticed any accounting irregularities. Regional directors should be required to keep tabs on potential improper activity in the countries in which they manage. These ongoing efforts demonstrate that your company is serious about compliance.

The DOJ emphasized again with the 2011 Pfizer Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), the need for a company to establish protocols for auditing. It included the following detail on auditing protocols:

  • On-site visits by an FCPA review team comprised of qualified personnel from the Compliance, Audit and Legal functions who have received FCPA and anti-corruption training.
  • Review of a representative sample (appropriately adjusted for the risks of the market) of contracts with and payments to individual foreign government officials as well as other high-risk transactions in the market.
  • Creation of action plans resulting from issues identified during the proactive reviews; these action plans will be shared with appropriate senior management and should contain mandatory remedial steps designed to enhance anti-corruption compliance, repair process weaknesses, and deter violations.
  • A review of the books and records of a sample of third party representatives that, in the view of the FCPA proactive review team, may present corruption risk. Prior to such an investigation, however, the company should have procedures in place to make sure every investigation is thorough and authentic, including document preservation protocols, data privacy policies, and communication systems designed to manage and deliver information efficiently.

Tomorrow, I will review some specific steps you can take to meet these goals.

For your listening pleasure, close your eyes and listen to the Theme From Shaft, 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, 2014

August 4, 2014

The Houston Astros and a Compliance Defense in the FCPA

IMG_3289It is not as if I have tried not to write about the Houston Astros this year or that I am consciously ignoring them, it is simply that they are so not relevant they rarely seem to exist or at least raise their pathetic head for a compliance lesson or two. Not only are they on track to have the worst record in baseball for the fourth consecutive year but last week they had yet another 0.00 television rating. For those of you keeping score at home, this is the third time in less than one calendar year that no persons, registered through the Nielsen TV-rating system, indicated they watched an Astros game on television. Nevertheless in July the Astros managed to yet outdo themselves again in the field of idiotic statements and actions that were so profound they once again inform your compliance program and indeed those advocating the appending of a compliance defense to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

For the privilege of having the worst record in baseball over the past 3+ seasons, the Astros had the right to the No. 1 selection in this year’s baseball draft. With this year’s selection they took a high school pitcher, Brady Aiken. But for reasons only known to the Astros, they managed not to sign this year’s first round pick, for only the third time since the amateur draft began back in 1968. The sordid tale was laid out in a Grantland article entitled “Houston You Have a Problem by Michael Baunmann.

After drafting Aikens, he and the Astros reached a handshake deal for a contract worth $6.9MM. Shortly thereafter, a medical examination “revealed that his left UCL (the ligament that gets replaced during Tommy John surgery) is unusually small.” Note this examination did not reveal any damage to the nerve or any injury, simply that Aikens’ UCL was small. So what did the Astros do? They reneged on their agreement (as in our word is really not our word) and then offered Aikens $3.5MM. Why would the Astros go back on their word? As explained by Baunmann “Tiny UCL Affair of 2014 was actually a smoke screen to cut Aiken’s bonus and use the savings to help sign other players. MLB regulates how much teams can spend on draft picks, and the Astros entered post-draft negotiations with an overall signing budget just north of $13 million. The league places a dollar amount on each draft pick in the first 10 rounds, so if you add up the numbers for each pick, you get the total salary cap each team is allowed to spend on its draftees. If one player signs for less than the recommended slot, the team can use the savings to sign other picks to richer bonuses, including players in the last 30 rounds, who’d ordinarily only be able to sign for $100,000. If a team goes over its spending limit, the league taxes the overage. If a team goes over by enough, it loses draft picks in coming years.” But it all backfired on the Astros who ended up with a big Nada.

In other words, the Astros were trying to game the system by underpaying its first round pick so they could use the saved money to pay to other picks. However, when they did not sign their No. 1 pick, under MLB rules they could not use any of the saved money on other picks. The Astros were accused by the Players Union of illegal action under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and a formal grievance has been filed against the Astros. But perhaps the most damning was this statement by Buanmann, “This isn’t about sabermetrics or how the Astros chose to rebuild. This is distinctly about the human element. If your word is not your bond, if you’re willing to brazenly exploit teenagers to gain an edge, endangering their educational and professional futures out of spite, you might lack an appreciation for the human element. I’d say you lack humanity altogether.”

I know you have all been waiting for the compliance angle to all of this so here it is. The Astros act like a corporation and like almost all corporations they look to pay the absolute cheapest that they can to get something. Those who advocate that there be a compliance defense added to the FCPA miss this fundamental tenet of the corporate world. Corporations that are unwilling to spend money to put a best practices or even adequate compliance program in place now, will not do so simply because an amended FCPA says they will have a defense if they do so. It is not a matter of having a compliance program in place, but doing compliance because doing compliance costs money. Since the Supreme Court has told us that corporations have the same rights as people, it makes sense that cheap corporations will not put in effective compliance programs, simply because they are cheap. If your business model for the past 35+ years has been that you are too cheap to follow the law and put in an effective compliance program, as required by the existing law, simply by amending the FCPA to add a compliance defense will not change your basic nature.

It costs time, money, effort and commitment to put a compliance program in place. By simply having language that says you will get credit for having a defense in place, corporations who are not committed to compliance will not magically get committed. These companies who are too cheap to follow the law now will simply throw a paper excuse up and then crow to the world that they have an adequate compliance program. The Astros, reported last year to be the most profitable baseball team of all-time and “a multimillion-dollar corporation that could find $3.4 million in the change jar on the nightstand, tried to nickel and dime a kid who’s trying to break into an industry that’s stacked the deck against him, and then they tattled on him to the NCAA once they failed to get their way.” If a compliance defense was amended to the FCPA, corporations will give even less money to the compliance function because they will sit smugly behind their paper compliance program and not devote the time, money or commitment required to having an adequate compliance program.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has continually made clear that company’s will receive credit for having a compliance program in place even where a potential FCPA violation occurs. The Morgan Stanley declination is but the most prominent publicly announced statement on the matter. Additionally, there are the six examples cited in the FCPA Guidance where declinations were issued, with the company identifying information scrubbed from the facts presented. Moreover, the US Sentencing Guidelines also touches directly on this point. So the importance of not only complying with a 35+ year old law but how to do so is easily apparent to any company which might be researching the issue.

It is not the lack of knowledge of how to comply with the FCPA which keeps a company from putting an effective compliance program in place but what might charitably be called a cost-aversion ethos. Just as with the Astros, cost-aversion exists in a wide number of areas outside FCPA compliance. In an article in the New York Times (NYT), entitled “Valeant’s Cost-Cutting Ethos May Yet Give Wall Street Indigestion”, Jesse Eisinger reported on the company’s attempt to rebrand the drug Sculptra for use as a “cosmetic touch-up” treatment when it had been approved for use by HIV patients with “facial wasting”. Valeant had purchased the drug from another pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, and also the “inherited the responsibility for conducting the study when it purchased the drug”

However, Valeant did not want to go through the time and expense of conducting the required clinical trials to have the drug approved for this new use. Eisinger wrote, “From the start, Valeant executives were concerned the study would cost too much, according to three current and former executives who spoke on condition of anonymity. The five-year safety study could cost $25 million to $40 million, according to Tage Ramakrishna, Valeant’s chief medical officer. According to the executives, the message was clear and emanated from Mr. Pearson: The company should try to avoid having to perform the study. Ryan Weldon, who until recently was the head of Valeant’s aesthetics business, said to one executive that “we’re not going to spend money on that,” referring to the study.” Eisinger also reported that even though the company never completed the required study, “the company sold the treatment.”

Beyond putting a compliance program in place, a company must actually do compliance. This means putting in a compliance function commensurate to the size and risk a company has with its business model. Not only must money be spent but compliance professionals hired and given real authority to help the company prevent, detect and remediate FCPA violations that may arise. Once again, if a company is not incentivized to follow a 35 year old law with as much enforcement publicity as the FCPA, saying they will be given credit for something they could already receive credit for, in the form of a compliance defense, is not going to change conduct or even attitudes.

I cannot think of a better way to sum this up than to pass along the Astros gift to their fan base, which they announced on Friday. They are raising ticket prices in 2015.

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, 2014

July 25, 2014

Code of Conduct, Compliance Policies and Procedures-Part IV

Policies and ProceduresThis is the fourth and final installment of my series on the the importance of a Code of Conduct and anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures in your compliance program and how you should go about drafting or updating Code of Conduct and anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures. On Tuesday, I reviewed the underlying legal and statutory basis for the documents as a foundation of your overall anti-corruption regime. In subsequent posts, I looked at how to go about drafting your Code of Conduct and anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures. Today, I will end the series on how to keep all of the above vibrant and dynamic through a discussion of how to assess, review and revise them and your Code of Conduct on a timely basis.

Simply having a Code of Conduct, together with policies and procedures is not enough. As articulated by former Assistant Attorney General, for the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice, Lanny Breuer, “Your compliance program is a living entity; it should be constantly evolving.” In an article in the SCCE Magazine, entitled “Six steps for revising your company’s Code of Conduct”, authors Anne Marie Logarta and Ruth Ward suggest considering the following issues before you take on an update of your Code of Conduct.

  • When was the last time your Code of Conduct was released or revised?
  • Have there been changes to your company’s internal policies since the last revision?
  • Have there been changes to relevant laws relating to a topic covered in your company’s Code of Conduct?
  • Are any of the guidelines outdated?
  • Is there a budget to create/revise a Code?

After considering these issues, the authors suggest that you should benchmark your current Code of Conduct against others companies in your industry. I would also add that your standards, policies and procedures should be reviewed and updated in the same manner. If you decide to move forward the authors have a six-point guide which they believe will assist you in making your revision process successful, which I have used as a basis to include revisions to your compliance policies and procedures.

  1. Get buy-in from decision makers at the highest level of the company 

The authors believe that your company’s highest level must give the mandate for a revision to a Code of Conduct and compliance polices and procedures. It should be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), General Counsel (GC) or Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), or better yet all three to mandate this effort. Whoever gives the mandate, this person should be “consulted at every major step of the Code review process if it involves a change in the direction of key policies.”

  1. Establish a core revision committee 

You should have a cross-functional working group would be ideal to head up your effort to revise your Code of Conduct and compliance polices and procedures. This group should include representatives from the following departments: legal, compliance, communications, HR; there should also be other functions which represent the company’s domestic and international business units; finally there should be functions within the company represented such as finance and accounting, IT, marketing and sales.

From this large group, the topics can be assigned for initial drafting to functions based on “relevancy or necessity”. These different functions would also solicit feedback from their functional peers and deliver a final, proposed draft to the Drafting Committee. The authors emphasize that creation of a “timeline at the outset of the revision is critical and hold the function representatives accountable for meeting their deliverables.”

  1. Conduct a thorough technology assessment 

The cornerstone of the revision process is how your company captures, collaborates and preserves “all of the comments, notes, edits and decisions during the entire project.” They believe that technology such as SharePoint or Google Cloud can be of great assistance to accomplish this process even if you are required to train team members on their use.

In addition to this use of technology in drafting your Code of Conduct and compliance polices and procedures revisions, you should determine if they will be available in hard copy, online or both. If it will be available online, you should assess “the best application to launch your Code and whether it includes a certification process”. Lastly, there must be a distribution plan, particularly if the Code and compliance polices and procedures will only be available in hard copy.

  1. Determine translations and localizations 

The authors emphasize, “If your company does business internationally, then this step is vital to ensure you have one Code, no matter the language.” They do note that if you decide to translate your Code of Conduct be sure and hire someone who is an “approved company translation subject matter expert.” Here I would simply say to contact Jay Rosen at Merrill Brink, as those guys are the one of the top Language Service Providers and know what they are doing when it comes to translations. The key is that “your employees have the same understanding of the company’s Code-no matter the language.” 

  1. Develop a plan to communicate the Code of Conduct 

A rollout is always critical because it “is important that the new or revised Code is communicated in a manner that encourages employees to review and use the Code on an ongoing basis.” Your company should use the full panoply of tools available to it to publicize your new or revised Code of Conduct and compliance polices and procedures. This can include a multi-media approach or physically handing out a copy to all employees at a designated time. You might consider having a company-wide Code of Conduct and compliance polices and procedures meeting where the new or revised documents are rolled out across the company all in one day. But remember, with all thing compliance; the three most important aspects are ‘Document, Document and Document’. However you deliver the new or revised Code of Conduct, you must document that each employee receives it.

6.   Stay on Target 

The authors end by noting that if you set realistic expectations you should be able to stay on deadline and stay within your budget. They state that “You want to set aside enough time so that you won’t feel rushed or in a hurry to get it done.” They also reiterate that to keep a close watch on your budget so that you do not exceed it.

These points are a useful guide to not only thinking through how to determine if your Code of Conduct, and compliance policies and procedure needs updating, but also practical steps on how to tackle the problem. If it has been more than five years since it was last updated, you should begin the process that the authors have laid out. It is far better to review and update if appropriate than wait for a massive FCPA investigation to go through the process.

There are numerous reasons to put some serious work into your Code of Conduct, policies and procedure. They are certainly a first line of defense when the government comes knocking. The FCPA Guidance makes 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 considered, I think 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, procedures or Code of Conduct; all of which are systematically reviewed and updated. Moreover, as Allen emphasized, “having policies written out and signed by employees provides what some consider the most vital layer of communication.” 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.

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, 2014

July 24, 2014

Code of Conduct, Compliance Policies and Procedures-Part III

Policies and ProceduresToday, I continue with Part III of my four-part series on the best practices surrounding your Code of Conduct and anti-corruption policies and procedures. In this post, I take a look at drafting policies and procedures. I conclude with some thoughts by well-known policy pundit Michael Rasmussen on management of policies going forward.

One of the key components of any best practices compliance regime under any anti-bribery and anti-corruption program is policies and procedures. Policies and procedures tie together a company, its business environment, the risks it faces and the compliance requirements. Policies procedures are a specific requirement for any anti-corruption/anti-bribery compliance regime. In the FCPA Guidance it stated, “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.” Under the UK Bribery Act, policies are discussed in the Six Principles of an Adequate Procedures compliance program under Principle V – Communication, where it states “The business seeks to ensure that its bribery prevention policies and procedures are embedded and understood throughout the company through internal and external communication, including training, that is proportionate to the risks it faces.”

As further 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.

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, simply the logistics of training can appear daunting. Small groups, where detailed questions about policies can be raised and discussed, can be a powerful teaching tool. Allen even suggests posting FAQ’s in common areas as another technique. And please do not forget that one of the reasons Morgan Stanley received a declination to prosecute by the 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.

Interesting, Allen emphasizes, “having policies written out and signed by employees provides what some consider the most vital layer of communication. A signed acknowledgement can serve as evidentiary support if a future issue arises.” I also like it when others recognize my ‘Document, Document and Document’ mantra for FCPA compliance.

While I think that most compliance practitioners understand this need for policies and procedures, one of the things that is not usually emphasized at a company is effective policy management. Michael Rasmussen writing in Compliance Week in an article entitled “Improving Policies Through Metrics” discussed the need for effective policy management. He believes that it requires that a company must periodically review their policies to ensure that they are relevant and aligned with both current laws and corporate objectives. This is because today’s business environment is dynamic and involves both internal and external factors, so, consequently, as a company evolves and changes its policies need to be updated to reflect these changes.

Rasmussen believes that at a minimum, policies must be reviewed annually. He recommends that each policy should go through a yearly review process to determine if it is still appropriate. There should be a “system of accountability and workflow that facilitates” any policy review process. The end product should be a decision to “retire the process, keep the policy as it is, or revise the policy.” Rasmussen lists five items that a policy owner should evaluate as a part of the policy review process.

  • Violations. Here Rasmussen believes that information from reporting systems such as hotlines or other anonymous lines as well as internal or external investigations must be reviewed. Not only would such information indicate if a company policy was violated but the follow-up investigation would help to determine how the policy might have failed, whether it was through “lack of awareness, unauthorized exceptions [or] outright violations.”
  • Understanding. Here Rasmussen writes that there should be an analysis of “training and awareness programs, policy attestations” and attendant metrics to determine an appropriate level of policy understanding. He believes that questions to a helpdesk or compliance department could help to discover any ambiguities in a policy that might need to be corrected.
  • Exceptions. If you have a policy it should be followed. If an exception to a policy was granted the reason for the exception should have been documented. If there are too many exceptions granted for a policy, it might indicate that “the policy is inappropriate and unenforceable” and therefore should be revised.
  • Compliance. A policy should govern and authorize internal controls. These internal controls should be reviewed in conjunction with the policy review to determine overall policy effectiveness. This is because “At the end of the day the policy needs to be complied with.”
  • Environment. All the factors around a policy are in flux. This includes a company’s risk profile, its business strategy, laws and regulations. Since a business’ climate is dynamic, a policy should be reviewed in the context of a company’s overall situation and revised accordingly.

If there is a change in a policy it is important that not only the correct change be made but that any change is documented. An audit trail is a key component for a company to internally understand when a change is made and the reason for that change but also to demonstrate to a regulator effective policy management and to present “a defensible history of policy interactions on communications, training, acknowledgements, assessments and related details needed to show the was enforced and operational.” This audit trail should include “key data points such as the owner, who read it, who was trained, acceptance acknowledgements and dates for specific policy versions”. In addition to an audit trail, policy revisions should be archived for referral back at a later time. So, once again, the key message is document, document and document.

Just as best practices in the FCPA compliance arena evolve, so do business practices, markets and risks. If you throw in the complexities from an inter-connected global business milieu, the task becomes even tougher. Business policies are one of the keystones of a company’s communications to its employees on what it expects and what is required of its employees. To keep policies up-to-date and properly take advantage of this valuable tool, policies need to be evaluated and updated as appropriate. If your company fails to do so this takes away from the value of having policies in the first place. I hope that you will use the techniques which Rasmussen has described to help you effectively manage your policies going forward.

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.

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, 2014

July 22, 2014

Code of Conduct, Compliance Policies and Procedures-Part I

Policies and ProceduresFor the remainder of this week, I will have a four-part episode on your Code of Conduct and anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures. In today’s post I will review the underlying legal and statutory basis for the documents as a foundation of your overall anti-corruption regime. In subsequent posts, I will review how to go about drafting your Code of Conduct and anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures and how to assess, review and revise them on a timely basis.

The cornerstone of a US Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA) compliance program is its written protocols. This includes a Code of Conduct, policies and procedures. These requirements have long been memorialized in the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines (FSG), which contain seven basic compliance elements that can be tailored to fit the needs and financial realities of any given organization. From these seven compliance elements the Department of Justice (DOJ) has crafted its minimum best practices compliance program, which is now attached to every Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) and Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA). These requirements were incorporated into the 2012 FCPA Guidance. The FSG assumes that every effective compliance and ethics program begins with a written standard of conduct; i.e. a Code of Conduct. What should be in this “written standard of conduct? The starting point, as per the FSG, reads as follows:

Element 1

Standards of Conduct, Policies and Procedures (a Code of Conduct)An organization should have an established set of compliance standards and procedures. These standards should not be a “paper only” document, but a living document that promotes organizational culture that encourages “ethical conduct” and a commitment to compliance with applicable regulations and laws. 

In the FCPA Guidance, the DOJ and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) state, “A company’s code of conduct is often the foundation upon which an effective compliance program is built. As DOJ has repeatedly noted in its charging documents, the most effective codes are clear, concise, and accessible to all employees and to those conducting business on the company’s behalf.” Indeed, it would be difficult to effectively implement a compliance program if it was not available in the local language so that employees in foreign subsidiaries can access and understand it. When assessing a compliance program, DOJ and SEC will review whether the company chapter has taken steps to make certain that the code of conduct remains current and effective and whether a company has periodically reviewed and updated its code.”

In each DPA and NPA over the past 36 months the DOJ has said the following as item No. 1 for a minimum best practices compliance program.

  1. Code of Conduct. A Company should develop and promulgate a clearly articulated and visible corporate policy against violations of the FCPA, including its anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions, and other applicable foreign law counterparts (collectively, the “anti-corruption laws”), which policy shall be memorialized in a written compliance code. 

Stephen Martin and Paul McNulty, partners in the law firm of Baker and McKenzie, developed one of the best formulations that I have seen of these requirements in their Five Elements of an Effective Compliance Program. In this formulation, they posit that your Code of Conduct, policies and procedures should be grouped under the general classification of ‘Standards and Procedure’. They articulate that every company has three levels of standards and controls. First, every company should have a Code of Conduct, which should, most generally express its ethical principles. But simply having a Code of Conduct is not enough. So a second step mandates that very company should have standards and policies in place that build upon the foundation of the Code of Conduct and articulate Code-based policies, which should cover such issues as bribery, corruption and accounting practices. From the base of a Code of Conduct and standards and policies, every company should then ensure that enabling procedures are implemented to confirm those policies are implemented, followed and enforced.

FCPA compliance best practices now require companies to have additional standards and controls, including, for example, detailed due diligence protocols for screening third-party business partners for criminal backgrounds, financial stability and improper associations with government agencies. Ultimately, the purpose of establishing effective standards and controls is to demonstrate that your compliance program is more than just words on a piece of paper.

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.”

There are several purposes identified by the authors which 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, 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.

As I often say, the three most important things about your FCPA compliance program are ‘Document, Document and Document’. The same is true of communicating your company’s Code of Conduct. You need to do more than simply put it on your website and tell folks it is there, available and that they should read it. You need to document that all employees, or anyone else that your Code of Conduct is applicable to, has received, read, and understands the Code. For employees, it is important that a representative of the Compliance Department, or other qualified trainer, explains the standards set forth in your Code of Conduct and answers any questions that an employee may have. Your company’s employees need to attest in writing that they have received, read, and understood the Code of Conduct and this attestation must be retained and updated as appropriate.

The DOJ expects each company to begin its compliance program with a very public and very robust Code of Conduct. If your company does not have one, you need to implement one forthwith. If your company has not reviewed or assessed your Code of Conduct for five years, I would suggest that you do in short order as much has changed in the compliance world.

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, 2014

July 17, 2014

John Bell Hood and the Measurement of Conduct Risk

John Bell HoodReaders of this blog know I am huge Civil War buff. Growing up in Texas, I only focused on the Southern side as a youngster and while this led to a sometime myopic view of events, in my mid-20s when I did begin to study the Northern side of the war, because I had never seriously studied from that perspective an entire panorama opened up for me.

One thing that never changed however, was the disaster that befell the South from the appointment of John Bell Hood to commander of the Army of Tennessee, which opposed General Sherman’s advance into Georgia since his stunning defeat of the Confederate forces at Chattanooga and later Lookout Mountain in Tennessee in late 1863. On this day 150 years, Confederate President Jefferson Davis replaced General Joseph Johnston with John Bell Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Davis, impatient with Johnston’s defensive strategy in the Atlanta campaign, felt that Hood stood a better chance of saving Atlanta from the forces of Union General William T. Sherman. President Davis selected Hood for his reputation as a fighting general, in contrast to Johnston’s cautious nature. Hood did what Davis wanted and quickly attacked Sherman at Peachtree Creek on July 20 but with disastrous results. Hood attacked two more times, losing both and destroying his army’s offensive capabilities. Over the next two weeks in 1864, Hood’s actions not only led to President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection but spelled, once and for all, the doom of the Confederacy.

I thought about the risks of appointing Hood to command when I read a recent article in the Compliance Week Magazine by Carol Switzer, co-founder and President of the Open Compliance and Ethics Group (OCEG), entitled “A Strategic Approach to Conduct Risk”. Her article was accompanied by an entry in the OCEG Illustrated Series, entitled “Managing Conduct Risk in the GRC Context”, and she also presented thoughts from a Roundtable which included John Brown, Managing Principal, Risk Segment, Financial and Risk Division at Thompson Reuters; Tom Harper, Executive Vice President-General Auditor Federal Home Loan of Chicago and Dr. Roger Miles, Behavioral Risk Lead, Thompson Reuters.

In her article, Switzer pointed to the “Ill-advised risk taking” which led to the near-collapse of the financial sector as the genesis for the creation of the UK’s new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). But she also noted that conduct risk is something that exists in industries far afield from the financial sector where “sales schemes driven by inappropriate incentive plans and outlandish short-term objectives” can cause severe financial consequences to an organization. As an example of the need for change in the financial section, Switzer quoted Clive Adamson, FCA director of supervision, on the need to address conduct risk, “Achieving an effective conduct- or customer-focused culture is challenging for firms, particularly for those whose focus has been primarily on profitability and shareholder returns. … From what we see, there are key drivers that set and re-enforce this conduct-focused culture, with the most important being clear and ongoing leadership from the top of the organization, constant re-enforcement, hiring practices, incentive structures, effective performance management, and penalties for not doing the right thing, all of which should set the tone for a framework for decision making on a day-by-day basis.”

Switzer continued that “Throughout his speech and other materials published by the FCA, there is a theme that returns over and over again to integrity, leadership, culture, the concept of controls over conduct, and strong risk management—all tied to an outcome of business success. What is this? It is a vision of principled performance—a point of view and approach to business that enables organizations to reliably achieve objectives while addressing uncertainty and acting with integrity. And it is refreshing to see leaders (and in some cases past wrongdoers) in the financial sector rising to the occasion and establishing a principled performance approach to conduct risk, even though they may not yet call it that.”

Harper described conduct risk as follows, “Conduct risk embodies elements of the risks that we have been discussing over the past few years, including not only operational and compliance risk, but also reputational risk and tone-at-the-top. The idea that organizations need to ‘do the right thing’ and balance the immediate pressure of short-term growth and revenue along with meeting the aspirations of equity holders and managers is not new. In the past, conduct risk was primarily mitigated by the long-term focus on the goals of the organization of the board and management.”

In the Illustrated Series piece included with the article, Switzer set out four principles for managing conduct risk. These principles are an excellent starting point for the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act or other anti-corruption compliance practitioner in that it can be used to evaluate, assess and manage conduct risk in such a context.

Assess Conduct Risks

Miles stated that, “The idea of benchmarking “conduct” as a basis for business, or life in general, is actually of course a very old one. Constraints on behavior are exactly the right direction to go in, though it’s not yet clear how these will be framed, let alone policed. Now with the FCA’s new Risk Outlook 2014, there’s a big step forward. They have a deep commitment to sharing understanding about how various elements of behavior feed through into good and bad product design, into selling or mis-selling.” Based on this Switzer believes that you should first identify potential conduct risks in your business. After such identification, you should conduct a risk and control assessment. From this measure, you can best determine the level of inherent and residual risk. Finally, you should carry out an emerging risk workshop to develop a more complete risk profile.

Establish Risk Appetite

Brown pointed towards the increased complexity in financial institutions as a key problem. As part of the solution, Switzer writes that the first step is to connect the risks, controls and other framework elements to your company’s organization chart. From there, you should determine risk capacity, your company’s current risk profile and its risk appetite. Next you should measure your risk appetite adherence. Finally, you will need to align your risk appetite with your company’s risk governance framework.

Measure and Monitor 

Here Switzer suggests that there be a detailed information collection on any issues associated with risk events. It is important from that point, you begin to track key risk indicators. Miles noted that “Managing risks due to behaviors and cultures requires a deep understanding of psychological drivers and developing programs to modify those drivers”; as such measurements would allow your company to begin to move from simple detection and prevention to predictive controls through the use of behavioral and analytical modeling. Finally, you could use the above information to perform scenario analysis on emerging risks.

Communicate and Manage

Switzer advocates that you communicate and train your company’s employees on your organization’s risk culture. You should also work to ensure that employees have accepted their risk conduct appetite metrics. Brown said, “Behavioral drivers will vary around the world based on societal culture. I’ll focus on what might be appropriate for U.S.-based organizations. Most people operate to maximize their personal return, so compensation structures are an obvious avenue to modify conduct. If my bonus or equity compensation is based on specific targets, such as new accounts, loans written, or customer satisfaction index, I will try to maximize those targets.” This is why you should continue to collect all key data about conduct risk in one data repository. Finally, you should also continue to provide reports and analyses on conduct risk to key stakeholders and regulators, if required.

Switzer ended her article with the following quote from Gary Kasparov, “Think about it: After just three opening moves by a chess player, more than 9 million positions are possible. And that’s when only two players are involved in the game. Now imagine all the possibilities faced by companies with a whole host of corporations responding to their new strategies, pricing, and products. The unpredictability is almost unimaginable.” From this she added, “This couldn’t be truer than when facing the myriad challenges presented under the umbrella concern of conduct risk. Masterful strategic planning and execution is essential to stay in the game and win.”

The risks that General Hood was willing to engage in were catastrophic for his army and the Confederacy. If Jefferson Davis had used a risk conduct analysis to think through the effects of elevating Hood to command of the Army of Tennessee the results might have been very different for all involved. Switzer’s article provides a valuable tool for the compliance practitioner to bring to bear on specific conduct which could put a company at risk.

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, 2014

July 16, 2014

Mergers and Acquisitions Under the FCPA, Part III

M&AToday I conclude my three-part series on mergers and acquisitions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) with a review of the post-acquisition phase.

Previously many compliance practitioners had based decisions in the M&A context on DOJ Opinion Release 08-02 (08-02), which related to Halliburton’s proposed acquisition of the UK entity, Expro. In the spring of 2011, the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) DPA changed the perception of compliance practitioners regarding what is required of a company in the M&A setting related to FCPA due diligence, both pre and post-acquisition. On June 18 2012, the DOJ released the Data Systems & Solutions LLC (DS&S) DPA which brought additional information to the compliance practitioner on what a company can do to protect itself in the context of M&A activity.

08-02 began as a request from Halliburton to the DOJ from issues that arose in the pre-acquisition due diligence of the target company Expro. Halliburton had submitted a request to the DOJ specifically posing these three questions: (1) whether the proposed acquisition transaction itself would violate the FCPA; (2) whether, through the proposed acquisition of Target, Halliburton would “inherit” any FCPA liabilities of Target for pre-acquisition unlawful conduct; and (3) whether Halliburton would be held criminally liable for any post-acquisition unlawful conduct by Target prior to Halliburton’s completion of its FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence, where such conduct is identified and disclosed to the Department within 180 days of closing.

I. Halliburton 

Halliburton committed to the following conditions in 08-02, if it was the successful bidder in the acquisition:

  1. Within ten business days of the closing. Halliburton would present to the DOJ a comprehensive, risk-based FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence work plan which would address, among other things, the use of agents and other third parties; commercial dealings with state-owned customers; any joint venture, teaming or consortium arrangements; customs and immigration matters; tax matters; and any government licenses and permits. The Halliburton work plan committed to organizing the due diligence effort into high risk, medium risk, and lowest risk elements.

a)     Within 90 days of Closing. Halliburton would report to the DOJ the results of its high risk due diligence.

b)    Within 120 days of Closing. Halliburton would report to the DOJ the results to date of its medium risk due diligence.

c)     Within 180 days of Closing. Halliburton would report to the DOJ the results to date of its lowest risk due diligence.

d)    Within One Year of Closing. Halliburton committed full remediation of any issues which it discovered within one year of the closing of the transaction.

Many lawyers were heard to exclaim, “What an order, we cannot go through with it.” However, we advised our clients not to be discouraged because 08-02 laid out a clear road map for dealing with some of the difficulties inherent in conducting sufficient pre-acquisition due diligence in the FCPA context. Indeed the DOJ concluded 08-02 by noting, “Assuming that Halliburton, in the judgment of the Department, satisfactorily implements the post-closing plan and remediation detailed above… the Department does not presently intend to take any enforcement action against Halliburton.”

II.Johnson & Johnson (J&J)

In Attachment D of the J&J DPA, entitled “Enhanced Compliance Obligations”, there is a list of compliance obligations in which J&J agreed to undertake certain enhanced compliance obligations for at least the duration of its DPA beyond the minimum best practices also set out in the J&J DPA. With regard to the M&A context, J&J agreed to the following:

  1. J&J will ensure that new business entities are only acquired after thorough FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence by legal, accounting, and compliance personnel. Where such anti-corruption due diligence is not practicable prior to acquisition of a new business for reasons beyond J&J’s control, or due to any applicable law, rule, or regulation, J&J will conduct FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence subsequent to the acquisition and report to the Department any corrupt payments, falsified books and records, or inadequate internal controls as required by … the Deferred Prosecution Agreement.
  2. J&J will ensure that J&J’s policies and procedures regarding the anti-corruption laws and regulations apply as quickly as is practicable, but in any event no less than one year post-closing, to newly-acquired businesses, and will promptly, for those operating companies that are determined not to pose corruption risk, J&J will conduct periodic FCPA Audits, or will incorporate FCPA components into financial audits.
  3. Train directors, officers, employees, agents, consultants, representatives, distributors, joint venture partners, and relevant employees thereof, who present corruption risk to J&J, on the anticorruption laws and regulations and J&J’s related policies and procedures; and
  4. Conduct an FCPA-specific audit of all newly acquired businesses within 18 months of acquisition.

These enhanced obligations agreed to by J&J in the M&A context were less time sensitive than those agreed to by Halliburton in 08-02. In the J&J DPA, the company agreed to the following time frames:

  1. 18 Month - conduct a full FCPA audit of the acquired company.
  1. 12 Month - introduce full anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures into the acquired company and train those persons and business representatives which “present corruption risk to J&J.”

III. Data Systems & Solutions LLC (DS&S)

In the DS&S DPA there were two new items listed in the Corporate Compliance Program, attached as Schedule C to the DPA, rather than the standard 13 items we have seen in every DPA since at least November 2010. The new additions are found on items 13 & 14 on page C-6 of Schedule C and deal with mergers and acquisitions. They read in full:

  1. DS&S will develop and implement policies and procedures for mergers and acquisitions requiring that DS&S conduct appropriate risk-based due diligence on potential new business entities, including appropriate FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence by legal, accounting, and compliance personnel. If DS&S discovers any corrupt payments or inadequate internal controls as part of its due diligence of newly acquired entities or entities merged with DS&S, it shall report such conduct to the Department as required in Appendix B of this Agreement.
  2. DS&S will ensure that DS&S’s policies and procedures regarding the anticorruption laws apply as quickly as is practicable to newly acquired businesses or entities merged with DS&S and will promptly:
  3. Train directors, officers, employees, agents, consultants, representatives, distributors, joint venture partners, and relevant employees thereof, who present corruption risk to DS&S, on the anti-corruption laws and DS&S’s policies and procedures regarding anticorruption laws.
  4. Conduct an FCPA-specific audit of all newly acquired or merged businesses as quickly as practicable.

This language draws from and builds upon the prior Opinion Release 08-02 regarding Halliburton’s request for guidance and the J&J “Enhanced Compliance Obligations” incorporated into its DPA. While the DS&S DPA does note that it is specifically tailored as a solution to DS&S’s FCPA compliance issues, I believe that this is the type of guidance that a compliance practitioner can rely upon when advising his or her clients on what the DOJ expects during M&A activities.

 

FCPA M&A Box Score Summary

Time Frames Halliburton 08-02 J&J DS&S
FCPA Audit
  1. High Risk Agents - 90 days
  2. Medium Risk Agents - 120 Days
  3. Low Risk Agents - 180 days
18 months to conduct full FCPA audit As soon “as practicable
Implement FCPA Compliance Program Immediately upon closing 12 months As soon “as practicable
Training on FCPA Compliance Program 60 days to complete training for high risk employees, 90 days for all others 12 months to complete training As soon “as practicable

 

The Guidance, coupled with the 08-02 and the two enforcement actions, speak to the importance that the DOJ puts on M&A in the FCPA context. The time frames for post-acquisition integration are quite tight. This means that you should do as much work as you can in the pre-acquisition stage. The DOJ makes clear that rigor is needed throughout your entire compliance program, including M&A. This rigor should be viewed as something more than just complying with the FCPA; it should be viewed as just making good business sense.

Nat Edmonds, in an interview in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) entitled, “Former Justice Official: How to Buy Corrupt Companies”, emphasized that if a company does not have the opportunity to make these types of inquiries in the pre-acquisition stage the “DOJ and SEC generally recognize that sometimes it’s not possible to do complete due diligence beforehand. However, if there are good faith efforts to conduct due diligence, integrate compliance programs and take remedial actions by removing those wrongdoers — if all of that is done on a quick basis [authorities] give very strong credit. The best example of this is the 2009 purchase by Pfizer of Wyeth. I was prosecutor on the Pfizer Wyeth [bribery] case. Pfizer was able to do some due diligence before the acquisition but because both are massive organizations it was not possible to do complete due diligence prior to acquisition. But after the acquisition within 180 days they had identified much of the wrongdoing at Wyeth and ensured it was halted. As a result of that we gave them credit. On the criminal side Pfizer was not held criminally liable for any of the conduct at Wyeth. Most of what Pfizer was held responsible for was as a result of a previous acquisition of Pharmacia, which they acquired in 2002 and 2003. At the time of the Pharmacia acquisition, acquirers did not typically conduct anti-corruption due diligence on targets. And during the investigation most of the violations of FCPA [Pfizer] was held criminally liable for began prior to the acquisition of Pharmacia –some was afterwards. Pfizer was held responsible for the misconduct at Pharmacia both before and afterwards. The Pfizer case is interesting because it shows both the good and bad.”

I believe that he information is out there for the steps to take in a merger or acquisition to avoid FCPA liability. You should place emphasis on both the pre and post acquisition phases; equally because as with most FCPA compliance program components, they just make good business sense.

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, 2014

July 15, 2014

Mergers and Acquisitions Under the FCPA, Part II

M&AYesterday I began a three part series on mergers and acquisitions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). In Part I, I reviewed what you should accomplish in the pre-acquisition stage. Today I want to look at what you should do with the information that you obtain in your pre-acquisition compliance due diligence.

Jay Martin, Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) at BakerHughes Inc. suggests an approach that reviews key risk factors to move forward. Martin has laid out 15 key risk factors of targets under a FCPA analysis, which he believes should prompt a purchaser to conduct extra careful, heightened due diligence or even reconsider moving forward with an acquisition under extreme circumstances.

  1. A presence in a BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) country and other countries whose corruption risk is high, for example, a country with a Transparency International CPI rating of 5 or less;
  2. Participation in an industry that has been the subject of recent anti-bribery or FCPA investigations, for example, in the oil and energy, telecommunications, or pharmaceuticals sectors;
  3. Significant use of third-party agents, for example, sales representatives, consultants, distributors, subcontractors, or logistics personnel (customs, visas, freight forwarders, etc.)
  4. Significant contracts with a foreign government or instrumentality, including state-owned or state-controlled entities;
  5. Substantial revenue from a foreign government or instrumentality, including a state-owned or state-controlled entity;
  6. Substantial projected revenue growth in the foreign country;
  7. High amount or frequency of claimed discounts, rebates, or refunds in the foreign country;
  8. A substantial system of regulatory approval, for example, for licenses and permits, in the country;
  9. A history of prior government anti-bribery or FCPA investigations or prosecutions;
  10. Poor or no anti-bribery or FCPA training;
  11. A weak corporate compliance program and culture, in particular from legal, sales and finance perspectives at the parent level or in foreign country operations;
  12. Significant issues in past FCPA audits, for example, excessive undocumented entertainment of government officials;
  13. The degree of competition in the foreign country;
  14. Weak internal controls at the parent or in foreign country operations; and
  15. In-country managers who appear indifferent or uncommitted to U.S. laws, the FCPA, and/or anti-bribery laws.

In evaluating answers to the above inquiries or those you might develop on your own, you may also wish to consider some type of risk rating for the responses, to better determine is the amount of risk that your company is willing to accept to do so you will need to both assess risk and subsequently evaluate that risk. Borrowing from a matrix developed by Michele Abraham from Timken Co., I have found Timken’s matrix for risk rating and assessment useful. Risks should initially be identified and then plotted on a heat map to determine their priority. The most significant risks with the greatest likelihood of occurring are deemed the priority risks, which become the focus of the your post-acquisition remediation plan going forward. A risk-rating guide similar to the following can be used.

LIKELIHOOD

Likelihood Rating Assessment Evaluation Criteria
1 Almost Certain High likely, this event is expected to occur
2 Likely Strong possibility that an event will occur and there is sufficient historical incidence to support it
3 Possible Event may occur at some point, typically there is a history to support it
4 Unlikely Not expected but there’s a slight possibility that it may occur
5 Rare Highly unlikely, but may occur in unique circumstances

 

‘Likelihood’ factors to consider: The existence of controls, written policies and procedures designed to mitigate risk capable of leadership to recognize and prevent a compliance breakdown; Compliance failures or near misses; Training and awareness programs. Product of ‘likelihood’ and significance ratings reflects the significance of particular risk universe. It is not a measure of compliance effectiveness or to compare efforts, controls or programs against peer groups.

The key to such an approach is the action steps prescribed by their analysis. This is another way of saying that the pre-acquisition risk assessment informs the post-acquisition remedial actions to the target’s compliance program. This is the method set forth in the FCPA Guidance. I believe that the DOJ wants to see a reasoned approach with regards to the actions a company takes in the mergers and acquisitions arena. The model set forth by Michele Abraham of Timken certainly is a reasoned approach and can provide the articulation needed to explain which steps were taken.

It is also important that after the due diligence is completed, and if the transaction moves forward, the acquiring company should attempt to protect itself through the most robust contract provisions that it can obtain, these would include indemnification against possible FCPA violations, including both payment of all investigative costs and any assessed penalties. An acquiring company should also include reps and warranties in the final sales agreement that the entire target company uses for participation in transactions as permitted under local law; that there is an absence of government owners in company; and that the target company has made no corrupt payments to foreign officials. Lastly, there must be a rep that all the books and records presented to the acquiring company for review were complete and accurate.

To emphasize all of the above, the DOJ stated in the Pfizer Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), in the mergers and acquisition context, that a company is to ensure that, when practicable and appropriate on the basis of a FCPA risk assessment, new business entities are only acquired after thorough risk-based FCPA and anti-corruption due diligence is conducted by a suitable combination of legal, accounting, and compliance personnel. When such anti-corruption due diligence is appropriate but not practicable prior to acquisition of a new business for reasons beyond a company’s control, or due to any applicable law, rule, or regulation, an acquiring company should continue to conduct anti-corruption due diligence subsequent to the acquisition and report to the DOJ any corrupt payments or falsified books and records.

Tomorrow in Part III, I will take a look at your post-acquisition actions in the mergers and acquisition context.

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, 2014

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,591 other followers