FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

January 23, 2013

The FCPA Guidance on the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program

Many commentators are still mining the Department of Justice (DOJ)/Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) publication, A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, (the “Guidance”), which was released last November. I continue to find nuggets to provide to the compliance practitioner, as do others. But as we are a Base 10 culture, today I want discuss the 10 points listed as the ‘Hallmarks of Effective Compliance Programs”. They are a change in style, but not content, from the prior 13 point minimum best practices that the DOJ has in the Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) since at least November, 2010 and, indeed, from prior information made available by the DOJ.

I.                   Where Have We Been

Beginning with at least the Metcalfe & Eddy Consent and Undertaking, filed in December, 1999, the DOJ has laid out its thoughts on what should go into a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) anti-corruption compliance program. In the Metcalfe & Eddy Consent and Undertaking, the DOJ laid out ten points of an effective FCPA anti-corruption compliance program. This was modified somewhat in Opinion Release 04-02, which laid out a best practices compliance program in 12 points, where the DOJ reviewed the proposal by an investment group who were acquiring certain companies and assets from ABB Ltd. ABB Vetco Gray Inc. and ABB Vetco Gray (UK) Ltd., two of the entities being acquired, had previously pled guilty to FCPA violations. The investment group desired to protect itself from further liability, to the extent possible, by proposing to the DOJ a comprehensive best practices compliance program. While the DOJ noted that this compliance program was not a shield against future violations, the DOJ would not “intend to take an enforcement action [against the investors] for violations of the FCPA prior to their acquisition from ABB.”

In the Panalpina DPA, issued in November, 2010, the DOJ laid out a 13 point minimum best practices compliance program. This number was changed this past summer when the Data Systems & Solutions LLC (DS&S) DPA was announced. In this enforcement action the DOJ listed 15 points on its minimum best practices FCPA anti-corruption compliance program. Then later in the summer, the DOJ moved to a 9 point compliance program in the Pfizer DPA. Even with all these changes in the number, the substance of each compliance program has remained the same.

II.                Where Are We Now? Hallmarks of Effective Compliance Programs

The Guidance cautions that there is no “one-size-fits-all” compliance program. It recognizes that depending on a variety of factors such as size, type of business, industry and risk profile that a company should determine what is appropriate for its own needs regarding a FCPA compliance program. But the Guidance makes clear that these ten points are “meant to provide insight into the aspects of compliance programs that DOJ and SEC assess”. In other words you should pay attention to these and use this information to assess your own compliance regime.

  1. Commitment from Senior Management and a Clearly Articulated Policy Against Corruption. It all starts with tone at the top. But more than simply ‘talk-the-talk’ company leadership must ‘walk-the-walk’ and lead by example. Both the DOJ and SEC look to see if a company has a “culture of compliance”. More than a paper program is required, it must have real teeth and it must be put into action, all of which is led by senior management. The Guidance states that “A strong ethical culture directly supports a strong compliance program. By adhering to ethical standards, senior managers will inspire middle managers to reinforce those standards.” This prong ends by stating that the DOJ and SEC will “evaluate whether senior management has clearly articulated company standards, communicated them in unambiguous terms, adhered to them scrupulously, and disseminated them throughout the organization.”
  2. Code of Conduct and Compliance Policies and Procedures. The Code of Conduct has long been seen as the foundation of a company’s overall compliance program and the Guidance acknowledges this fact. But a Code of Conduct and a company’s compliance policies need to be clear and concise. The Guidance makes clear that if a company has a large employee base that is not fluent in English such documents need to be translated into the native language of those employees. A company also needs to have appropriate internal controls based upon the risks that a company has assessed for its business model. Some of the risks a company should assess 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.”
  3. Oversight, Autonomy, and Resources. This section starts with a discussion on whether a company has assigned a senior level executive to oversee and implement a company’s compliance program. Not only must a company assign such a person with appropriate authority but that person, and the overall compliance function, must have “sufficient resources to ensure that the company’s compliance program is implemented effectively.” Additionally, the compliance function should report to the company’s Board of Directors or an appropriate committee of the Board such as the Audit Committee. Overall the DOJ and SEC will “consider whether the company devoted adequate staffing and resources to the compliance program given the size, structure, and risk profile of the business.”
  4. Risk Assessment. The Guidance states that “assessment of risk is fundamental to developing a strong compliance program”. Indeed, if there is one over-riding theme in the Guidance it is that a company should assess its risks in all areas of its business. The Guidance lists factors that a company should consider in any risk assessment. They are “the country and industry sector, the business opportunity, potential business partners, level of involvement with governments, amount of government regulation and oversight, and exposure to customs and immigration in conducting business affairs.” The Guidance is also quite clear that when the DOJ and SEC look at a company’s overall compliance program, they “take into account whether and to what degree a company analyzes and addresses the particular risks it faces.”
  5. Training and Continuing Advice. Communication of a compliance program is a cornerstone of any anti-corruption compliance program. The Guidance specifies that both the “DOJ and SEC will evaluate whether a company has taken steps to ensure that relevant policies and procedures have been communicated throughout the organization, including through periodic training and certification for all directors, officers, relevant employees, and, where appropriate, agents and business partners.” The training should be risk based so that those high risk employees and third party business partners receive an appropriate level of training. A company should also devote appropriate resources to providing its employees with guidance and advice on how to comply with their own compliance program on an ongoing basis.
  6. Incentives and Disciplinary Measures. This involves both the carrot and the stick. Initially the Guidance notes that a company’s compliance program should apply from “the board room to the supply room – no one should be beyond its reach.” There should be appropriate discipline in place and administered for any violation of the FCPA or a company’s compliance program. Additionally, the “DOJ and SEC recognize that positive incentives can also drive compliant behavior. These incentives can take many forms such as personnel evaluations and promotions, rewards for improving and developing a company’s compliance program, and rewards for ethics and compliance leadership.” These incentives can take the form of a part of senior management’s bonuses or simply recognition on the shop floor.
  7. Third-Party Due Diligence and Payments. Here the Guidance focuses on the ongoing problem area of third parties. The Guidance says that companies must engage in risk based due diligence to understand the “qualifications and associations of its third-party partners, including its business reputation, and relationship, if any, with foreign officials.” Next a company should articulate a business rationale for the use of the third party. This would include an evaluation of the payment arrangement to ascertain that the compensation is reasonable and will not be used as a basis for corrupt payments. Lastly, there should be ongoing monitoring of third parties.
  8. Confidential Reporting and Internal Investigation. This means more than simply a hotline. The Guidance suggests that anonymous reporting, and perhaps even a company ombudsman, might be appropriate to have in place for employees to report allegations of corruption or violations of the FCPA. Furthermore, it is just as important what a company does after an allegation is made. The Guidance states, “once an allegation is made, companies should have in place an efficient, reliable, and properly funded process for investigating the allegation and documenting the company’s response, including any disciplinary or remediation measures taken.” The final message is what did you learn from the allegation and investigation and did you apply it in your company?
  9. Continuous Improvement: Periodic Testing and Review. As noted in the Guidance, “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.” The DOJ/SEC expects that a company will review and test its compliance controls and “think critically” about its own weaknesses and risk areas. Internal controls should also be periodically tested through targeted audits.
  10. Mergers and Acquisitions. Pre-Acquisition Due Diligence and Post-Acquisition Integration. Here the DOJ and SEC spell out what it expects in not only the post-acquisition integration phase but also in the pre-acquisition phase. This pre-acquisition information is not something that most companies had previously focused on. Basically, a company should attempt to perform as much substantive compliance due diligence that it can do before it purchases a company. After the deal is closed, an acquiring entity needs to perform a FCPA audit, train all senior management and risk employees in the purchased company and integrate the acquired entity into its compliance regime.

As I commented earlier in this article, the DOJ and SEC have communicated what they believe are the important parts of a risk based, anti-corruption compliance program for many years. I do not think that a compliance defense could be set out any more succinctly. However, I do like things set out in Base 10 and the “Hallmarks of Effective Compliance Programs” is an excellent compilation of where we are and what you need in place to go forward. I recommend this as a good a starting point for any compliance practitioner to implement a new compliance program or to evaluate the state of an ongoing compliance regime so assess your company’s risks and use these hallmarks as a basis to move forward.

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, 2013

June 28, 2012

2012 First Half FCPA Enforcement Round-Up: Part II

In yesterday’s post we reviewed three of the most significant enforcement actions so far for 2012. In today’s post we conclude with the final three enforcement actions that I believe provide the best or most recent insights for the compliance practitioner.

IV.       Biomet

On March 26, 2012, both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the resolution of enforcement actions against Biomet Inc. a US entity which manufactures and sells global medical devices around the world. It is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Company admitted to a lengthy run of bribery and corruption of doctors to purchase its products and paid a criminal fine of $17.3MM to resolve charges brought by the DOJ. It also agreed with the SEC to settle civil charges by paying $5.5MM in disgorgement of profits and pre-judgment interest.

A.     Bribery and Corruption Facts

The Company engaged in an eight (8) year scheme to bribe and corrupt doctors in the countries of Argentina, Brazil and China to induce the physicians to purchase Biomet products. The SEC Complaint reported that “2000 to August 2008, Biomet Argentina employees paid bribes to doctors employed by publicly owned and operated hospitals in Argentina in exchange for sales of  Biomet’s medical device products. The doctors were paid approximately 15-20 percent of each sale.” In Brazil, the SEC Compliant reported that from 2001 until 2008, Biomet’s “Brazilian Distributor, paid bribes to doctors employed by publicly owned and operated hospitals to purchase Biomet’s implants. Brazilian Distributor paid the doctors bribes in the form of “commissions” of 10-20 percent of the value of the medical devices purchased.” In China, Biomet subsidiaries and its Chinese distributor paid from 5% up to 25% commissions to doctors for the sale of its products which were used during surgeries and also paid for Chinese surgeons to travel for training “including a substantial portion of the trip being devoted to sightseeing and other entertainment at Biomet’s expense.”

B.     Internal Audit Failures

The SEC Compliant reported that the Company’s Internal Audit was not only aware of the bribery program but discussed it in Memorandum to the Company’s home office, including the head of the Company’s Internal Audit Department. For instance in Argentina, the Company’s head of Internal Audit noted, as early as 2003, they “circulated an internal audit report on Argentina to Senior Vice President and others in Biomet in Indiana in which he stated, “[R]oyalties are paid to surgeons if requested. These are disclosed in the accounting records as commissions.” The Internal Audit report described the payments to surgeons, but only in the context of confirming that the amount paid to the surgeon was the amount recorded on the books.” However, the Company’s Internal Audit Department, took no steps to determine why royalties were paid to doctors or why the payments to the doctors were 15-20% of sales. Internal Audit did not obtain any evidence of services which the doctors might have performed entitling them to the payments. The SEC Complaint noted that Internal Audit “concluded that there were adequate controls in place to properly account for royalties paid to surgeons without any supporting documentation” and Internal Audit’s only recommendation was to change the journal entry from “commission expenses” to “royalties.”

The SEC Complaint also noted that “Biomet’s books and records did not reflect the true nature of those payments. The Company’s payments were improperly recorded as “commissions,” “royalties”, “consulting fees”, “other sales and marketing”, “scientific incentives”, “travel” and “entertainment.” The SEC Compliant concluded with the following “False documents were routinely created or accepted that concealed the improper payments.”

C.     Lessons Learned for Internal Audit

The SEC Complaint had some very clear guidance for the role of Internal Audit in detecting bribery and corruption in a best practices Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance program. First, if there are any types of commission payments being made, Internal Audit needs to review the documentation supporting why such payments are being made. A review of contracts or other legal requirements which may obligate a company to make such payments should be a basic undertaking in any internal audit. After an internal auditor has determined if commission payments are legally authorized, the internal auditor should review the evidence that such commission payments have been earned. Another role delineated in the SEC Complaint for Internal Audit is to correctly classify payments so that the books and records of the company accurately reflect them as expenses. As noted, the Director of Internal Audit instructed that bribes paid during clinical trials of the Company’s products should be reclassified as ‘expenses’.

Key Takeaway: This enforcement action lists the specific role of Internal Audit in a FCPA compliance program.

V. Morgan Stanley and Garth Peterson

This is the first instance of the public release of a Declination to Prosecute a company under the FCPA, where an employee agreed to an underlying FCPA violation. Morgan Stanley Managing Director Garth Peterson conspired with others to circumvent Morgan Stanley’s internal controls in order to transfer a multi-million dollar ownership interest in a Shanghai building to himself and a Chinese public official. Peterson encouraged Morgan Stanley to sell an interest in a Chinese real-estate deal to Shanghai Yongye Enterprise (Yongye) a state-owned and state-controlled entity through which Shanghai’s Luwan District managed its own property and facilitated outside investment. However, the DOJ declined to prosecute Morgan Stanley and noted in its Press Release, “After considering all the available facts and circumstances, including that Morgan Stanley constructed and maintained a system of internal controls, which provided reasonable assurances that its employees were not bribing government officials, the Department of Justice declined to bring any enforcement action against Morgan Stanley related to Peterson’s conduct. The company voluntarily disclosed this matter and has cooperated throughout the department’s investigation.”

A.     Declination to Prosecute

Both the DOJ and SEC went out of their way to praise the Morgan Stanley compliance program. This written praise demonstrated that not only do company’s receive credit from the DOJ for having a compliance program in place but also gave solid information as to why the DOJ declined to prosecute Morgan Stanley. In other words, it was a very public pronouncement of a declination to prosecute.

The SEC Complaint detailed the compliance program it had in place and how it directly related to Peterson.

(1) Morgan Stanley trained Peterson on anti-corruption policies and the FCPA at least seven times between 2002 and 2008.

(2) Morgan Stanley distributed to Peterson written training materials specifically addressing the FCPA.

(3) A Morgan Stanley compliance officer specifically informed Peterson in 2004 that employees of Yongye, a Chinese state-owned entity, were government officials for purposes of the FCPA.

(4) Peterson received from Morgan Stanley at least thirty five FCPA-compliance reminders.

(5) Morgan Stanley required Peterson on multiple occasions to certify his compliance with the FCPA.

(6) Morgan Stanley required each of its employees, including Peterson, annually to certify adherence to Morgan Stanley’s Code of Conduct.

(7) Morgan Stanley required its employees, including Peterson, annually to disclose their outside business interests.

(8) Morgan Stanley had policies to conduct due diligence on its foreign business partners, conducted due diligence on the Chinese Official and Yongye before initially conducting business with them, and generally imposed an approval process for payments made in the course of its real estate investments.

B.        Compliance Program as Compliance Defense

If it was not clear that a company receives credit for having a best practices compliance program it is now. Recognizing that a compliance program is not available as a formal affirmative defense, it is clear that Morgan Stanley was able to use not only their written compliance program, but its ongoing maintenance, communication and due diligence aspects to shield the employer from liability. The bottom line is what the DOJ and SEC representatives have been saying all along and that is that companies with best practices compliance programs receive credit in negotiating with the government.

Key Takeaway: The compliance defense is alive and well.

Key Takeaway II (for the DOJ): Publicize Declinations to Prosecute. It is solid information for the compliance practitioner to use and it will help companies do business in compliance with the FCPA.


Last, but certainly not least, we end our Top 6 of 2012, to date, with the Data Systems & Solutions LLC (DS&S) case.

A.     The Bribery Scheme

The bribery scheme involved payments made to officials at a state-owned nuclear power facility in Lithuania, named Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP). The payments were made to allow DS&S to obtain and retain business with INPP. The Information listed contracts awarded to DS&S in the amount of over $30MM from 1999 to 2004. Significantly, DS&S did not self-disclose this matter to the DOJ but only began an investigation after receiving a DOJ Subpoena for records.

The bribery scheme used by DS&S recycled about every known technique there is to pay bribes. The Information listed 51 instances of bribes paid or communications via email about the need to continue to pay bribes. The bribery scheme laid out in the Information reflected the following techniques used:

  • Payment of bribes by Subcontractors to Officials on behalf of DS&S;
  • Direct payment of bribes by DS&S into US bank accounts controlled by INPP Officials;
  • Creation of fictional invoices from the Subcontractors to fund the bribes;
  • Payment of above-market rates for services allegedly delivered by the Subcontractors so the excess monies could be used to fund bribes;
  • Payment of salaries to INPP Officials while they were ‘employed’ by Subcontractor B;
  • Providing travel and entertainment to Officials to Florida, where DS&S has no facilities and which travel and entertainment had no reasonable business purpose;

and last but not least…

  • Purchase of a Cartier watch as a gift.

B.     The Discounted Fine

DS&S received a discount of 30% off the low end of the penalty range as calculated under the US Sentencing Guidelines, which specified a fine between $25MM down to $12.6MM. The ultimate fine paid by DS&S was only $8.82MM, which the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) states is “an approximately thirty-percent reduction off the bottom of the fine range…” In addition to its real-time internal investigation and extraordinary cooperation, the DPA reports that DS&S took the following extensive remediation steps:

  • Termination of company officials and employees who were engaged in the bribery scheme;
  • Dissolving the joint venture and then reorganizing and integrating the dissolved entity as a subsidiary of DS&S;
  • Instituting a rigorous compliance program in this newly constituted subsidiary;
  • Enhancing the company’s due diligence protocols for third-party agents and subcontractors;
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) review and approval of the selection and retention of any third-party agent or subcontractor;
  • Strengthening of company ethics and compliance policies;
  • Appointment of a company Ethics Representative who reports directly to the CEO;
  • The Ethics Representative provides regular reports to the Members Committee (the equivalent of a Board of Directors in a LLC); and
  • A heightened review of most foreign transactions.
  1. C.     Mergers & Acquisitions

There were two new additions are found on items 13 & 14 on Schedule C of the DPA that dealt with mergers and acquisitions (M&A). They draw from and build upon the prior Opinion Release 08-02 regarding Halliburton’s request for guidance during an attempted acquisition and the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Enhanced Compliance Obligations which were incorporated into its DPA. The five keys under these new items are: (1) develop policies and procedures for M&A work prior to engaging in such transactions; (2) full FCPA audit of any acquired entities “as quickly as practicable”; (3) report any corrupt payments or inadequate internal controls it discovers in this process to the DOJ; (4) apply DS&S anti-corruption policies and procedures to the newly acquired entities; and (5) train any persons who might “present a corruption risk to DS&S” on the company’s policies and procedures and the law.

Key Takeaway: Minimum best practices evolve so you should stay abreast of them. IN the M&A arena, the DOJ continues to listen to comments on ‘buying a FCPA violation’ and provide guidance to manage the 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, 2012

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