FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

March 4, 2014

How Does the 20th Amendment Inform Your Compliance Program Incentives?

FDR InagurationOn this date in 1933, FDR held his first inauguration. It was also the final inauguration held in March before the passage of the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution that moved the inauguration date to January 20th. What was the reason the Constitution originally set an inauguration date in March, some six months after the November election? It is because a Roman Tribune’s annual term of office began in March, rather than in January. During this six month period, the old administration did not have much incentive to do anything, which could benefit the incoming Presidential administration, if they were from different parties. That was the driving force for the 20th Amendment.

I thought about this dis-incentive when considering the question of how could you incentivize your senior management team so that they will integrate compliance into their business routine? Put another way, how can you measure compliance in senior management or evaluate it for the purposes of a bonus calculation? This issue has often been difficult to sustain in a company because the compliance evaluation of whether a senior manager or company leader is often viewed as too subjective. However, in a recent article in the Compliance Insider magazine, put out by the Red Flag Group, I came across an article that directly addresses these issues and concerns.

The article was entitled, “Integrating Your Compliance Programme Into the Variable Compensation of Executives”. The article was built around a case study of the Sorin Group, which is a healthcare multinational and the company’s incentive program for its compliance regime. Interestingly, the reason the company created such an incentive program in the first place was to “influence actual behaviors, and not merely the consequences of any wrong doing that may occur.” With this premise, at the Sorin Group, compliance has been made an integral part of each manager’s performance objectives. Members on the company’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and the other leaders of all of its corporate functions and “business units are directly responsible for the culture, understanding, observance and adoption of the Sorin Code of Conduct, the Sorin United States and international compliance policies and procedures” and their respective health industry codes of practice.

Further, each of the different functions within the Sorin Group has adopted individual performance objectives specifically regarding compliance. The individualized “compliance objectives are agreed and documented every year for each function and senior manager, and form part of the process of continuous performance review (written reviews twice yearly) managed by Sorin’s human resources team. The responsible executive of each function or group is required to cascade each of the compliance obligations to those employees under them. This ensures that the whole company has compliance integrated into their variable remuneration.”

The company’s evaluation process includes the staff that report to each senior executive who are interviewed by the General Counsel (GC) or other member of the compliance function “to determine their adherence to the compliance objectives.” Additionally, “An assessment is performed alongside line managers and a member of the human resources team to determine whether the obligations have been met, and to what extent.” Lastly, this same system applies to the company’s Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

The variable compensation awarded at the end of each year can be affected in two ways by his or her compliance evaluation. The first is for an entire group and “If a group fails to meet expectations for the specific objectives the executive and their whole team will miss out on the entire variable pay for that year.” But “If a group meets some expectations for the compliance objectives they will receive payment of the variable, with the amount dependant on the amount of objectives that have been met.” The same holds true for the individual within the group so that “if an employee fails to meet his or her compliance objectives, the whole bonus for that employee will remain unpaid.”

The article also gave some specific examples of compliance obligations that are measured and evaluated. This is an excellent list for the compliance practitioner to use in benchmarking a company’s compliance program in this area or instituting such an incentive compensation system for your company. They include the following.

For the ELT

  • Lead from the top – in your own conduct (lead by example) and in the decisions you take, to the resources and time you commit to compliance
  • Facilitate and proactively practice in day-to-day activities the key compliance competencies, both internally and externally
  • Support specific initiatives from the CEO, legal and compliance functions. 

For Department Heads

  • Demonstrate, facilitate and proactively practice in day-to-day activities the key compliance competencies, both internally and externally
  • Support specific initiatives from the legal and compliance functions
  • Ensure that all employees, agents and contractors directly or indirectly reporting to you fully complete all required training and communications in a timely manner
  • Provide full cooperation with investigations conducted by the compliance or legal functions of any alleged violation of compliance policies
  • Include the Chief Compliance Officer or another legal or compliance function representative in your management meetings at least twice per year, per geography
  • Identify instances of non-compliance and support compliance monitoring and reporting systems
    • Partner with compliance in resolving compliance issues.

For Country Heads of Sales

  • Certify that all employees, agents and contractors directly or indirectly reporting to you have fully reported all sales and marketing interactions with all HCPs (Health Care Professional) in a timely manner
  • Certify that all employees, agents and contractors directly or indirectly reporting to you have fully, promptly and accurately reported all expenses with HCPs on Concur. 

The article also speaks of five things to consider when developing such a compliance incentive program.  (1) The program needs to be cascaded down the organization so that it applies to all levels in the company. (2) Include both a 360 degree review and mid-year review. (3) To truly incentive senior management, the compliance objectives should be at least 25% of the overall discretionary bonus program. (4) Do not have simply ‘tick-the-box’ incentives but include subject incentives.

As the final item to consider, the article says that you need to have SMART compliance objectives, which are defined as:

  • Specific: A specific objective has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general objective (e.g don’t just say “ensure training has been completed by your team”, say;
    • Who: who needs to be trained?
    • What: what training objectives do you want to accomplish?
    • Where: identify a location for the training
    • When: establish a time frame for the training to be completed
    • Which: identify requirements and constraints for any training
    • Why: provide specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the training objective.
  • Measurable: Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each objective you set.
  • Aggressive but attainable: When you identify objectives that are most important to the compliance function and the relevant business, employees are more likely to see the value in making them come true.
  • Realistic: To be realistic, an objective must represent something which you are both willing and able to work toward.
  • Timely: An objective should be grounded within a timeframe. 

The article ends with some insights into lessons learned by the Sorin Group in its role of the compliance incentive program. These lessons included the following:

  • Top down: If your ELT is truly on board you can make big leaps and not limit your compliance ambitions to incremental steps.
  • Personalize: The objectives should be more personal to each function and more granular.
  • Balance: Have qualitative judgments but couple them with concrete and – most importantly – objective and measurable key performance indicators.
  • Publicize: Talking about the real company examples of its people make the difference.
  • Be positive: Focus your company’s efforts on positive incentive behaviors. In other words, use both the stick and carrot.
  • Just do it: Stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.

The FCPA Guidance made clear that the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission expect that incentives to be built into your best practices compliance program. The Sorin Group case study in Compliance Insider provides solid tips for the compliance practitioner on steps to take for his or her company’s compliance program. Is some of this subjective? Yes it is but that does not mean financial incentives cannot be written into the evaluation of any senior management to help guide ethical business practices.

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

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