FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

June 23, 2015

Fraud and the Detection of the Sources for Bribery

 

Detection of FraudIn a recent White Paper authored by Peter Smith for OFS Portal, entitled “Procurement and Fraud in the Supply Chain”, where he examined “fraud linked to procurement and supply chain activities.” Smith focuses on where fraud can occur in the procurement process. From this starting point, he suggests “mitigating actions that organisations can take to protect themselves against fraud.” I found this article to be an excellent review of Supply Chain (SC) activities which the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner could put to good use in reviewing their company’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) anti-corruption and anti-bribery regime.

A. The Problem – How Does Fraud Happen?

Smith starts by classifying fraud in way which will assist the reader in understanding how it occurs. He believes there are “three critical factors to consider: the perpetrator(s), the plan and the point of failure.” The perpetrator is the one “behind the fraud and either executes it directly or through others.” In the anti-corruption world of the FCPA, this can be through an agent or a supplier who is working to help execute the fraud.

Interestingly, in the area of these third parties (and hence the greatest area of risk for FCPA compliance practitioners to consider) Smith notes that “The plan and point of failure factors are linked in that often the plan relies on the point of failure. In other words, most frauds take advantage in some weakness in the process, technology, policy or systems of combination of those.” Smith writes that there are three key phases “in the procurement life-cycle that can be considered; (1) the supplier selection phase; (2) the contract negotiation and award phase; and (3) the contract delivery management phase.”

Phase I – Supplier Selection and Qualification

This phase should be well known to the compliance practitioner as a part of the third party life-cycle management step denominated as due diligence. But Smith asks that you consider factors other than simply whether someone is on the Denied Parties List (DNP) or is a Politically Exposed Person (PEP). He suggests that you consider misrepresentation by the third party in the nature of “concealing the true nature of its business, history or ownership when it bids for the work.” He also points out that through collusion and cartels, persons or entities can work to control a market. If you did any work with Petrobras over the years, you will certainly recognize that many if its approved suppliers operated in this manner. Given what we now know about how corrupt Petrobras was, this is not too surprising.

But Smith also suggests that employees may be involved in skewing the selection process towards a corrupt agent or other partner. He recommends reviewing the bid process to see if there was bias in the competition, which would push an otherwise arms-length award to a corrupt partner. This could occur through biased competition through specification, where an employee would “construct a specification that makes it likely or inevitable that a particular supplier will win the competitive process.” The next is biased competition through tailoring the evaluation process which gives weight to the specific strengths of a corrupt third party. Finally, Smith points out that there can be biased competition through information leakage when a company employee will leak confidential information to a third party to give them an advantage in the bidding process.

Phase II – Contracting

Smith says the “next critical point at which fraud can take place is during the contract negotiations and in agreeing the detailed terms and conditions.” Moreover, Smith believes this stage is critical if often overlooked because “the seeds are often sown at the contracting stage.” Scenarios can include where there is a certain level of ‘local content’ required “but without any clear contractual mechanism to explain how it will be measured or policed.” As any CCO or other FCPA compliance practitioner would recognize, local content is one of the easiest ways to get into FCPA high risk so managing that risk is critical. I found Smith’s concern with setting out the clear legal terms and conditions around any such requirement as a good way to manage the high risk.

Phase III – Contract Delivery and Management

Here Smith laid several different fraud schemes which could facilitate a bribery plan. The first is fake invoices which can rely on “poor processes within an organisation” to spot. However this scheme can also rely on a company insider to approve such fabrications. Next is “volume over-invoicing”. In this scheme, while a supplier does supply some goods or services, the invoice is raised for more than has been delivered. If there is a scheme to create a pot of money to be used to fund bribes, there will need to be an internal company accomplice to “smooth the way by authorizing receipts or invoices.” Next there is “price-related over-invoicing” the third party will over-price the goods or services, above what is allowed under the contract. Another scheme set out by Smith is “invoice diversion” where “a legitimate payment that should go to a certain supplier is diverted to a third party fraudulently.” Another scheme can simply be to ease the contract terms and conditions which allow the third party to receive a benefit with nothing in return being delivered back to the company. Finally, there is what Smith details as one of the “toughest frauds to detect”, that being the delivery of lower quality products than is contractually specified.

B.The Solution – How to Reduce Fraud

Smith believes that fraud prevention can be built around a troika of concepts. (1) You need to have “effective procurement and spend management policies in place. (2) You must “use appropriate and robust processes”. (3) Finally “applying the right technology to support and manage those processes.” In his paper he followed the same outline on how to reduce the instances of fraud.

Phase I – Supplier Selection and Qualification

While a clear procurement policy is the starting point, it is only the starting point. Having a transparent process is important as well as adequate supplier qualification details. He notes that multiple sign-offs should be in place to ensure that one person does not control the entire process. This should also be incorporated into the communications trail with the competitors to ensure that no one third party receives confidential information. Obviously an appropriate level of due diligence should be applied to confirm that not only are the third party’s who they represent themselves to be but that they are also qualified to do the work or deliver the services. Finally, there should be controls around onboarding “so that firms who are actually going to be suppliers go through more rigorous checks before they are accepted onto” the Vendor Master List.

Phase II – Contracting

Obviously the starting point for any business relationship should be a well-drafted contract. However, for larger organizations Smith believes that “a contracts database or contract lifecycle management system is essential.” To the greatest extent possible there should be standard compliance and legal terms and conditions, coupled with an “appropriate level of sign-off and approvals management for contracts.” Finally, segregation of duties (SOD’s) “to make sure that there are checks and balances and that no one person holds too much power in the process.”

Phase III – Contract Delivery and Management

As I often say in the lifecycle management of third parties, the real work begins when the contract is signed. Smith believes that many of the routes of fraud, “can be closed off by taking a few precautions” which include some of the following steps. First and foremost is “no purchase order, no pay” but this also means there should be an invoice from the vendor which is matched to the contract for accuracy. Once again checks and balances, SOD’s for sign-offs and approvals must be built into your payment system. There should be controls around changes to the contract and, more importantly, changes to any payment details. Lastly, ongoing oversight and monitoring through controls analytics and auditing should be employed on the back end to verify delivery of goods or services.

I found Smith’s White Paper to be an excellent review for the CCO or compliance practitioner around not only the mechanism of how fraud occurs but a review of the techniques for fraud prevention. While his concepts may seem like a review for the compliance practitioner, it also allows you to think through how corruption might take place in your organization. The briber has to get the money from some source and Smith’s White Paper can give you insights on where you might look.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2015

 

August 13, 2013

GSK and Missed Red Flags in China

One of the questions that GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) will have to face during the next few years of bribery and corruption investigations is how an allegedly massive bribery and corruption scheme occur in its Chinese operations? The numbers thrown around have been upwards of $USD500MM. It is not as if the Chinese medical market is not well known for its propensity towards corruption, as prosecutions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are littered with the names of US companies which came to corruption grief in China. GSK itself seemed to be aware of the corruption risks in China. In a Reuters article, entitled “How GlaxoSmithKline missed red flags in China”, Ben Hirschler reported that the company had “more compliance officers in China than in any country bar the United States”. Further, the company conducted “up to 20 internal audits in China a year, including an extensive 4-month probe earlier in 2013.” GSK even had PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) as its outside auditor in China. Nevertheless, he noted that “GSK bosses were blindsided by police allegations of massive corruption involving travel agencies used to funnel bribes to doctors and officials.”

Types of Bribery Schemes

The types of bribery schemes in China are also well known. In a Financial Times (FT) article, entitled “Bribery built into the fabric of Chinese healthcare system”, reporters Jamil Anderlini and Tom Mitchell wrote about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how bribery occurs in the health care industry in China. They open their article by noting that the practice of bribing “doctors, hospital administrators and health officials is rampant.” They quoted an un-named senior health official in Beijing for the following, “All foreign and domestic pharmaceuticals operating in China are equally corrupt”. The authors also quoted Shaun Rein, a Shanghai-based consultant and author of “The End of Cheap China” for the following, “This is a systemic problem and foreign pharmaceutical companies are in a conundrum. If they want to grow in China they have to give bribes. It’s not a choice because officials in health ministry, hospital administrators and doctors demand it.”

Their article included a diagram which visually represented two methods used to pay bribes in China, which were designated the Direct incentives and Indirect incentives methods. Whichever method is used, the goal is the same – to boost sales.

In the Direct incentives method, a third party representative of a company would provide cash to the department head of a clinic or hospital. The department head would in turn pay it to the physicians to encourage them to prescribe the company’s medical products. But a third party representative could also contact a physician directly and reward them with “gifts such as storecards, vouchers and travel” expenses. Other direct methods might include the opening of bank accounts or charge accounts at luxury goods store and then the company would hand “the debit card or VIP card directly to the recipient.”

The FT noted that the Indirect incentives method tended to be “used by larger pharmaceutical groups with stricter governance procedures.” Under this bribery scheme there were two recognized manners to get benefits into the hands of prescribing physicians. The first is to have cash incentives paid to a third party representative, such as a travel agency, which would then “pass on some of these rewards to the physician directly.” Another method was for the company itself to make a “lump sum sponsorship paid to hospitals”. The hospitals would then distribute perks “to the doctors as a monthly or annual bonus.” Another indirect method noted was that companies might organize overseas conferences and site visits, which might “include free first class travel and five-star accommodation.”

Anderlini and Mitchell reported that “The 2012 annual reports of half a dozen listed Chinese pharmaceutical companies reveal the companies paid out enormous sums in “sales expenses”, including travel costs and fees for sales meetings, marketing “business development” and “other expenses”. Most of the largest expenses were “travel costs or meeting fees and the expenses of the companies’ sales teams were, in every case, several multiples of the net profits each company earned last year.” They cited the example of Guizhou Yibai Pharmaceutical Co Ltd which earned a net profit last year of Rmb333.3m. However its “sales expenses came to a total of Rmb1.25bn, including meetings expenses of more than Rmb295m and wages of just Rmb88m.” Indeed the “largest expense for the company’s sales team of 2,318 people was Rmb404m spent on travel, for an average of more than Rmb174,000 per sales representative for the year. That is roughly what it would cost every single sales representative to fly 10 times a month between Beijing and Guiyang, where the company is based.”

Auditing Responses – Missed Red Flags?

But what should GSK have done if such expenses were kept ‘off the books’? Hirschler, in his Reuters article, quoted one un-named source for the following, ““You’d look at invoices and expenses, and it would all look legitimate,” said a senior executive at one top accountancy firm. The problem with fraud – if it is good fraud – is it is well hidden, and when there is collusion high up then it is very difficult to detect.” However, Jeremy Gordon, director of China Business Services was quoted as saying “There is a disconnect between the global decision makers and the guys running things on the ground. It’s about initially identifying red flags and then searching for specifics.”

There are legitimate reasons to hold Continuing Medical Conferences (CME), such as to make physicians aware of the latest products and advances in medicine. However, this legitimate purpose can easily be corrupted. Hirschler quoted Paul Gillis, author of the China Accounting Blog, for the following “Travel agencies are used like ATMs in China to distribute out illegal payments. Any company that does not have their internal audit department all over travel agency spending is negligent.” Based on this, GSK should have looked more closely on marketing expenses and more particularly, the monies spent on travel agencies. Hirschler wrote, “They [un-named auditing experts] say that one red flag was the number of checks being written to travel agencies for sending doctors to medical conferences, although this may have been blurred by the fact that CME accounts for a huge part of drug industry marketing.”

One other issue might be materiality. If GSK’s internal auditors had not been trained that there is no materiality standard under the FCPA, they may have simply skipped past a large number of payments made that were under a company’s governance procedure for elevated review of expenses. Further, if more than one auditor was involved with more than one travel agency, they may not have been able to connect the dots regarding the totality of payments made to one travel agency.

What about the external auditors, PwC? Francine McKenna, who writes and speaks extensively on all things related to Big 4 auditing, wrote last year, in blog entitled “What The SEC And PCAOB Fail To Acknowledge About Chinese Fraud”, that Pam Chepiga, of Allen & Overy LLP, in 2012, “told the audience that FCPA investigations in China are difficult because, “you can’t take the documents out of the country.”” After her panel, Chepiga, told McKenna “that not only does China restrict the dissemination of documents outside of China, but internal investigations by multinationals must be done by Chinese lawyers with support from the Chinese accounting firms. Given the experience that the SEC is having with Deloitte, it seems, “previous cooperation agreements are not in force”. The SEC would have a hard time going over and investigating a fraud or FCPA violation by the Chinese arm of a US based company”. So things may not have been any easier for PwC. However, the recent agreement between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission will allow the SEC some access to audit the work papers of Chinese companies listed in the US may influence this issue.

Ongoing Monitoring

Another response that GSK could have implemented was to engage in greater ongoing monitoring. In the Texas Law, Out of Order column, entitled “5Tips for Avoiding Email Compliance Traps”, Alexandra Wrage, President of TRACE International, reported that “Internal Glaxo documents and emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show Glaxo’s China sales staff was apparently instructed by local managers to use their personal email addresses to discuss marketing strategies related to Botox. In the personal emails, sales staff discuss rewarding doctors for prescribing Botox with cash payments, credits that could be used to meet medical education requirements and other rewards.”

Wrage uses the GSK matter as a jumping off point “For companies wanting to get a handle on the compliance risks they face through email (mis)uses and other forms of technology”. She gives five tips to avoid email compliance traps: (1) Encourage communication between compliance and IT departments. (2) Map out your universe of data. (3) Know your obligations, then develop an established set of policies and procedures around them. (4) Train employees to speak up about the new uses in technology. (5) Stress-test your program.

Remember with the technology available to companies today it is possible that companies have the ability to determine if employees are accessing personal email accounts business computers. Also to Wrage’s list, I would add one other point and that is call Eddie Cogan at Catelas Software. Relationship monitoring is what they do and they can help you out immediately.

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

February 6, 2013

Socio-Economic and Cultural Risk Factors That Drive Corruption: A Focus on the ‘Supply Side’ of the Equation

Ed. Note-today we conclude a three-part series by our colleague Mary Shaddock Jones on occupational fraud. 

This is the last installment of my three party series regarding Occupational Fraud.  One can never lose focus on what I consider the key question as they enter or play within the international arena:  What are the socio-economic and cultural risk factors that make companies and individuals conducting business in a particular location more vulnerable to possible corruption schemes?   We cannot adequately address corruption unless we address both the “supply side” and the “demand side”. Yesterday we considered the “Demand Side” of the equation.  Today we will focus on the “Supply Side”.  If your company has a clear policy against corruption- why would your employees risk losing their jobs or worse, going to jail by violating these laws?

A side benefit to being married to a CPA and a Certified Fraud Examiner is the ability to read not only legal and compliance magazines on a monthly basis- but also the Journal of Accountancy and the publications from the ACFE society.  I loved the August 2012 cover of the Journal of Accountancy- “Think Like a Thief”! There were three very pointed articles contained in this publication:  (1) Fraudsters Reveal Weaknesses They Exploited; (2) Detecting a Criminal Mind Before It Strikes; and (3) Antifraud Controls Can Benefit Small Businesses.   In addition to this publication, I will be examining some of the conclusions recently published in the “Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse- 2012 Global Fraud Study” which is recognized as the authoritative annual national report on fraud

Considering the “Supply Side” of the Equation:

The fraud triangle is a model for explaining the factors that cause someone to commit occupational fraud. It consists of three components which, together, lead to fraudulent behavior:  (1) Pressure; (2) Opportunity and (3) Rationalization.

Pressure- According to the ACFE, the first leg of the fraud triangle represents “pressure”. This is what motivates the crime in the first place.  The individual has some financial problem that he/she is unable to solve through legitimate means, so he or she begins to consider committing an illegal act, such as stealing cash or falsifying a financial problem, or entering into an improper payment (perhaps thinking of the bonus he or she will get if they land a lucrative contract for their employer) as a way to solve their problem.   The 2012 ACFE report concluded that “Most fraudsters exhibit behavioral traits that can serve as warning signs of their actions. These red flags — such as living beyond one’s means or exhibiting excessive control issues — generally will not be identified by traditional internal controls. Managers, employees and auditors should be educated on these common behavioral patterns and encouraged to consider them — particularly when noted in tandem with other anomalies — to help identify patterns that might indicate fraudulent activity.”  The report found that “More than three-quarters of the frauds in our study were committed by individuals in six departments: accounting, operations, sales, executive/upper management, customer service and purchasing.

Opportunity- The second leg in the fraud triangle is perceived as “opportunity”, which defines the method by which the crime can be committed.  The person must see some way the he or she can use (or abuse) their position of trust to solve their financial problem with a low perceived risk of getting caught.

Rationalization- The third leg of the fraud triangle is “rationalization”. According to the ACFE, the vast majority of fraudsters are first time offenders with no criminal past; they do not view themselves as criminals. They see themselves as ordinary honest people who are caught in a bad set of circumstances. Consequently, the fraudster must justify the crime to himself in a way that makes in an acceptable of justifiable act”.  Again, according to the ACFE, the most common rationalizations fraudsters use include a) I was only borrowing the money; b) I was entitled to the money; c) I had to steal to provide for my family; d) I was underpaid; my employer cheated me and e)  My employer is dishonest to others and deserved to be fleeced.

As discussed in the first part of this series, Occupational Fraud is broader than just anti-corruption as it relates to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or the U.K. Bribery Act.  However, the motivating factors and conclusions reached in the 2012 Global Fraud studies should be examined by companies when examining its overall anti-corruption risk profile.

I will end this series by listed two of the conclusions and recommendations contained within the 2012 Global Fraud Report which I believe are excellent advice:

Targeted fraud awareness training for employees and managers is a critical component of a well-rounded program for preventing and detecting fraud. Not only are employee tips the most common way occupational fraud is detected, but our research shows organizations that have anti-fraud training programs for employees, managers and executives experience lower losses and shorter frauds than organizations without such programs in place. At a minimum, staff members should be educated regarding what actions constitute fraud, how fraud harms everyone in the organization and how to report questionable activity.”

“Our research continues to show that small businesses are particularly vulnerable to fraud. These organizations typically have fewer resources than their larger counterparts, which often translates to fewer and less-effective anti-fraud controls. In addition, because they have fewer resources, the losses experienced by small businesses tend to have a greater impact than they would in larger organizations. Managers and owners of small businesses should focus their anti-fraud efforts on the most cost-effective control mechanisms, such as hotlines, employee education and setting a proper ethical tone within the organization. Additionally, assessing the specific fraud schemes that pose the greatest threat to the business can help identify those areas that merit additional investment in targeted anti-fraud controls.”

What is your company’s risk for corruption?  When is the last time that you conducted a risk assessment for corruption? As yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have a Code of Conduct?
  2. Do you have a policy which clearly addresses the company’s position on anti-corruption? If so, is the policy easily accessible to your employees in their native language?
  3. Do you have an anonymous reporting system or other method in which employees can elevate concerns relating to occupational fraud to the appropriate person within the company?
  4. Do you provide any type of meaningful training on fraud and corruption to your employees?
  5. Do you have internal controls to prevent and detect fraud or corruption within your organization?

________

Mary Shaddock Jones has practiced law for 25 years in Texas and Louisiana primarily in the international marine and oil service industries. She was the first woman to earn TRACE Anti-bribery Specialist Accreditation. Mrs. Jones has extensive experience in creating and designing compliance programs to reduce the risks of such violations, including policies and procedures, educational and training materials and programs, contract provisions and due diligence protocols. She implements and works with in-house counsel and compliance vendors to execute compliance policies and training programs tailored to the client’s business structure and the market conditions in the client’s target countries.  She can be reached at 337-513-0897 or via e-mail at msjones@msjllc.com. Her associate, Miller M. Flynt, assisted in the preparation of this series.  He can be reached at mmflynt@msjllc.com.

February 5, 2013

Socio-Economic and Cultural Risk Factors That Drive Corruption”: A Focus on the ‘Demand Side’ of the Equation

Ed. Note- today we continue with Part II of our three part series by out colleague, Mary Shaddock Jones. 

Yesterday we discussed Occupational Fraud and how, according to the ACFE, survey participants estimated that the typical organization loses 5% of its revenues to fraud each year. Applied to the 2011 Gloss World Product, the ACFE estimates that this translates into a potential projected annual fraud loss of more than $3.5 trillion dollars.

One can never lose focus on what I consider the key question as they enter or play within the international arena:  What are the socio-economic and cultural risk factors that make companies and individuals conducting business in a particular location more vulnerable to possible corruption schemes?   We cannot adequately address corruption unless we address both the “supply side” and the “demand side”.

Considering the “Demand Side” of the Equation:

I recently ran across an article that was published in the 2010 World Policy Journal[i] entitled “THE BIG QUESTION: How Can Nations Break the Cycle of Crime and Corruption”? The World Policy Journal asked a panel of experts to weigh in on the challenges of crime and corruption.  Two of the quotes contained in the article are as follows:

“Corruption thrives where civil liberties, free press, transparency, and contestable politics are absent. A functioning rule of law matters for controlling both crime and corruption, but again differences emerge: an independent judiciary is crucial for combating political corruption; an effective police is important for fighting petty corruption as well as common crime. There are also differences between the determinants of common crime and organized crime, since the latter does relate to corruption.”  Daniel Kaufmann (at the time of the article was a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institute)

“Corruption should not be approached as a moral problem, as too often happens, but as a symptom of serious political and economic problems that need correcting. Petty corruption, such as low-ranking civil servants demanding payment for services they should provide for free, is a problem that requires restructuring the civil service, reducing the number of public employees within a government, and providing those who remain with decent wages. Attempts to curb petty corruption are unlikely to have an impact when extracting payments from the public is the only way a government employee can feed his family. Grand corruption, such as large payments to high-ranking officials to secure lucrative public contracts, requires political solutions. If there is no renewal of the government and the political class, grand corruption inevitably becomes a problem. Frequent turnover of government officials make it more difficult for corrupt networks to consolidate power. Democracy is the best anti-corruption measure…Donor countries worried about corruption should focus on two tasks: putting in place good control mechanisms over the funds they provide; and promoting fundamental political, economic, and administrative reform.” Marina Ottaway (at the time of the article was director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

In March of 2012, Compliance Week 2012 had an online program entitled “Targeting the Demand for Facilitating Payment- Compliance Week (Online).  The Article discussed the efforts undertaken by a consortium of compliance executives primarily from the energy industry is taking aim at one of the most vexing headaches businesses face today: facilitation payments.  While “facilitating payments” are permitted under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, they are not allowed under the U.K. Bribery Act or the local laws of most foreign countries.  In addition, the line between a true “facilitating payment” and a “bribe” is indeed a fine one.  With this in mind, the group formed the new Committee to Address Facilitating Payments (“CAFP”).  According to the article, the committee’s strategy is to convince governments to crack down on requests for facilitation payments by their officials, thus reducing the demand. It wants governments to review the documentation that certain transactions require, how the required fees are paid (cash or wire transfer, for example), and whether the processes can be automated to reduce risk. CAFP is also working on a country-by-country basis to convince governments to provide more training to officials that facilitation payments are improper and to make sure that those officials are fairly compensated.

Multiple Kudos need to go out to this group of executives.   The fight against corruption must target both the “demand side” as well as the ‘supply side”.   Tomorrow we will discuss the “Supply Side”.

________

Mary Shaddock Jones has practiced law for 25 years in Texas and Louisiana primarily in the international marine and oil service industries. She was the first woman to earn TRACE Anti-bribery Specialist Accreditation. Mrs. Jones has extensive experience in creating and designing compliance programs to reduce the risks of such violations, including policies and procedures, educational and training materials and programs, contract provisions and due diligence protocols. She implements and works with in-house counsel and compliance vendors to execute compliance policies and training programs tailored to the client’s business structure and the market conditions in the client’s target countries.  She can be reached at 337-513-0897 or via e-mail at msjones@msjllc.com. Her associate, Miller M. Flynt, assisted in the preparation of this series.  He can be reached at mmflynt@msjllc.com.

[i] The World Policy Journal is the property of MIT Press.  See www.worldpolicy.org

February 4, 2013

Occupational fraud involves a personal breach of trust

Ed. Note-today we are pleased to begin a three part guest series from our colleague Mary Shaddock Jones. 

My husband, Brian R. Jones, is a CPA, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. He recently received the annual publication entitled “Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse- 2012 Global Fraud Study” which is recognized as the authoritative annual national report on fraud.  One of the introductory statements contained in the report was as follows: “For businesses to operate and commerce to flow, companies must entrust their employees with resources and responsibilities, so when an employee defrauds his or her employer, the fallout is often especially harsh.” This statement rings true- whether the employer is a public or a private entity. Occupational fraud involves a personal breach of trust. The unfortunate fact is however, that organizations of all sizes invariably are losing some percentage of their annual revenues to occupational fraud conducted by employees.  So what can be done to minimize the risk of fraud occurring in the first place, then  detect the fraud once it has been perpetrated?

In order to answer this question, it is important for us first to discuss how occupational fraud is committed.  According to the ACFE, occupational fraud schemes fall into three primary categories:

  • Asset Misappropriation – schemes in which an employee steals or misuses the organization’s resources, such as cash, inventory or other assets.
  • Corruption- schemes in which an employee misuses his or her influence in a business transaction in a way that violates his or her duty to the employer in order to gain a direct or indirect benefit, such as through conflicts of interest, kickbacks, bribery, illegal gratuities or economic extortion.
  • Financial Statement Fraud- schemes in which an employee intentionally causes a misstatement or omission of material information in the organization’s financial reports, such as through asset/revenue overstatements via recording fictitious revenues or asset/revenue understatements  by understating reported expenses.

Once a company understands the typical method of committing occupational fraud, it can then devise internal controls to minimize the risk of loss in the first place, and/or to detect the fraud early enough to minimize the loss.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has broken down corruption into four schemes, namely: conflict of interest, bribery, illegal gratuities, and economic extortion.  Attorney’s and compliance professionals continue to write articles and blogs on a daily basis.  The reason for this is simple- according to the ACFE, survey participants estimated that the typical organization loses 5% of its revenues to fraud each year. Applied to the 2011 Gloss World Product, the ACFE estimates that this translates into a potential projected annual fraud loss of more than $3.5 trillion dollars.  Unfortunately, it does not appear that Occupational Fraud and Corruption are going away anytime soon.

One can never lose focus on what I consider the key question as they enter or play within the international arena:  What are the socio-economic and cultural risk factors that make companies and individuals conducting business in a particular location more vulnerable to possible corruption schemes? Tomorrow I will discuss how a company can examine the “big picture” to try and predict and minimize these risk factors.

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Mary Shaddock Jones has practiced law for 25 years in Texas and Louisiana primarily in the international marine and oil service industries. She was the first woman to earn TRACE Anti-bribery Specialist Accreditation. Mrs. Jones has extensive experience in creating and designing compliance programs to reduce the risks of such violations, including policies and procedures, educational and training materials and programs, contract provisions and due diligence protocols. She implements and works with in-house counsel and compliance vendors to execute compliance policies and training programs tailored to the client’s business structure and the market conditions in the client’s target countries.  She can be reached at 337-513-0897 or via e-mail at msjones@msjllc.com. Her associate, Miller M. Flynt, assisted in the preparation of this series.  He can be reached at mmflynt@msjllc.com.

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