FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

November 29, 2012

Sherlock Holmes as Teacher

We continue our exploration of all things Sherlock Holmes this week by considering Holmes as a teacher. In an article in Scientific American, entitled “Don’t Just See, Observe: What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach Us About Mindful Decisions”, author Maria Konnikova explored some of the ways that Holmes “insights into the human mind do more to teach us about how we do think and how we should think than many a more conventional source.” Her insights included that Holmes “teaches us to be constantly mindful of our surroundings”; he goes beyond seeing to actually observing; and teaches us to use our senses to increase our mindfulness.

I thought about Konnikova’s insights into Holmes while reading an article in the Corner Office Section of the New York Times (NYT), entitled “In Sports or Business, Always Be Prepared for the Next Play”, where Adam Bryant reported on an interview he did with LinkedIn Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeff Weiner. The article had many nuggets of wisdom from Weiner who talked about his journey to becoming the CEO of LinkedIn and some of the things he has learned along the way.

I.                   Be Prepared

The first thing is to be prepared; which Weiner expressed in the phrase “next play”. He came up with this from Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski who says it each time his Blue Devil team goes up and down the court “he doesn’t want the team lingering too long on what just took place. He doesn’t want them celebrating that incredible alley-oop dunk, and he doesn’t want them lamenting the fact that the opposing team just stole the ball and had a fast break that led to an easy layup. You can take a moment to reflect on what just happened, and you probably should, but you shouldn’t linger too long on it, and then move on to the next play.”

I thought about this statement in the context of something I touched on in yesterday’s post regarding Wal-Mart and this  was that the company started its initial Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation in a relatively routine audit of how well its foreign subsidiaries were complying with its anti-corruption policies. According to the NYT, “The review was initiated by Jeffrey J. Gearhart, Wal-Mart’s general counsel, who had seen news reports about how Tyson Foods had been charged with relatively minor violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He decided it made sense to test Wal-Mart’s internal defenses against corruption.”

Indeed this was a similar scenario to the Watts Water Technology, Inc. (Watts) matter. In this enforcement action, the ball was put into motion when the Watts General Counsel (GC) became aware of an enforcement action against another company for unlawful payments to Chinese state-owned design institutes. This led to FCPA training for certain Watts Valve (Changsha) Co Ltd (CWV) management where allegations were disclosed. Subsequently, the company instituted an internal investigation and self-disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Watts paid a fine of $200,000, agreed to disgorge profits of $2,755,815 and paid prejudgment interest of $820,791.

In another context, I have previously written about Stephen Martin, of Baker & McKenzie, who urges compliance counsel to put together a 1, 3 and 5 year strategic plan which should be utilized as a road map for a compliance program in these time frames. Martin believes that such a strategic plan could well lead to the development of credibility for your company and your compliance program in the event of one of the aforementioned eventualities. In other words, “next play”.

II.                Culture and Values

Weiner spoke about LinkedIn’s culture and values. He defined culture as “who we are” while defining values as “the principles upon which we make day-to-day decisions.” He stated that the company’s culture has five dimensions: transformation, integrity, collaboration, humor and results. The company has six values which are “members first; relationships matter; be open, honest and constructive; demand excellence; take intelligent risks; and act like an owner. And by far the most important one is members first. We as a company are only as valuable as the value we create for our members.” Weiner recognizes that values are a subset of culture so that they are “inextricably linked”. He believes that the company’s culture and values help in several ways including recruiting, motivating, inspiring and productivity.

III.             Going Forward

Bryant ended his interview with Weiner by asking him “What career advice do you give to business school students?” While recognizing that Weiner’s answer was for a different target market than compliance professionals, nevertheless I found his advice highly practical for the compliance practitioner. First, you must have two things, passion and skill. In other words, to do compliance well you not only need the technical capacity but you should also be passionate about doing it. Second, you should endeavor “to surround yourself with amazing people.” Weiner believes that “in this more networked, interconnected world we live in, it’s just all about the people you work with.” This is not about having a mentor but it’s “about the people you work with and the people who report to you. It’s about everyone you’re associated with, day in and day out. Surround yourself with only the best you can find.” Lastly, Weiner said that you should always be learning. You should never lose your intellectual curiosity.

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, 2012

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