FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

January 14, 2015

Marx Brothers Compliance Week Continues – The Stateroom Scene and High-Risk

Stateroom SceneI continue my exploration of the Marx Brothers’ movies by looking at the famous Stateroom scene from the MGM release A Night at the Opera. In researching this I was somewhat stunned to find that the scene was written and developed with the Brothers by that silent comedy great Buster Keaton, who was at the time a gag writer for MGM. Talk about provenance for a scene, one of the greatest purveyors of gags (Keaton) writing for three of the greatest screen comedians, the Brothers Marx.

The scene starts with Driftwood discovering that Fiorello, Tomasso, and Baroni snuck onto the boat by stowing away in his steamer trunk. Fiorello and Tomasso have to hide out in the room while parades of people walk in to use the cabin or to carry out their duties. Crammed into this little space at the end of the scene are Driftwood, Fiorello, Tomasso, Baroni, two cleaning ladies who make up the bed, a manicurist, a ship’s engineer and his assistant, a girl looking for her aunt, a maid (“I come to mop up.” “You’ll have to start on the ceiling.”), and four waiters with trays of food (prompting Driftwood’s classic line: “Is it my imagination, or is it getting crowded in here?”). Eventually there are 15 people in Driftwood’s tiny cabin. The mass of humanity tumble out into the hallway when Mrs. Claypool opens the door. I particularly like the way they sped up the film for the dénouement.

I thought about the Stateroom scene in the context of an article in the New York Times Magazine, entitled “The Wreck of the Kulluk”, and an article in the New York Times (NYT) by Joe Nocera, entitled “The Moral of the Kulluk.” The Magazine piece was an except from Of Ice and Men to be published later this month by Deca, authored by McKenzie Funk. In his longform piece he detailed the miss-steps that led to the grounding and sinking of the Shell Oil Company drill rig Kulluk after an unsuccessful attempt to drill for oil in the Artic Ocean. It was a tale of greed, high-risk drilling for oil and the attendant potential for a high reward and, at the end of the day, safety and engineering shortcuts that cost Shell the loss of the drill rig and the end of the potential of Artic drilling for the foreseeable future. The tale itself if riveting but for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner it had many key elements which should be considered for an anti-corruption compliance program under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act or other anti-bribery laws.

The US Geological Service had estimated that the Artic held “nearly a quarter of the world’s undiscovered petroleum.” Moreover, when Shell put its plan in place, it was reeling from an accounting scandal. Funk said that the purchase of the Kulluk and drilling for oil in the Artic “was important not because Shell needed oil in 2005. The company had plenty of oil. It was important because Shell had spent the previous year engulfed in a scandal involving what are known as proved reserves”. This meant that “Shell still had to show to investors that it’s long-term future was as bright as it once looked”, i.e. before the accounting scandal.

For an energy production company such as Shell, drilling in the Artic Ocean is about the most difficult place left on earth in which to try and drill. In 2012, Shell was the world’s largest corporation and clearly thought it was up to the task. Funk wrote, “It was on track to spend $6 billion preparing for Arctic Alaska, and that March the Obama administration approved exploratory drilling. The task that remained was not to tame the frontier so much as to bring it within reach, to bind Arctic Alaska to the rest of the world. Shell imagined a future of new ports, new airports and permanent rigs.”

The journey of the Kulluk up to the Artic Sea was delayed and had several problems that would later haunt the drill rig. However, Shell was able to claim a victory as it actually began drilling in October 2012, but then shortly had to depart due to unanticipated ice floes threatening the drill rig. The Kulluk began the long tow out from the Artic Sea to its homeport in Seattle. However the boat towing it was so badly damaged it had to break off the tow. Shell then made the fateful decision not to leave the Kulluk in port in Dutch Harbor, because as Funk noted “If the Kulluk was in an Alaskan port on New Year’s Day, [Shell] executives believed, it would be subject to a state oil-facilities tax of as much as $6 million. In late December, a spokesman confirmed Shell’s fears in an email to a longtime reporter at a local newspaper, The Dutch Harbor Fisherman, writing, “It’s fair to say the current tax structure related to vessels of this type influenced the timing of our departure.””

This fateful decision, not to spend the winter in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, led to the beaching of the drill rig after it had broken free from its tow cables in stormy weather and hit the Alaskan coast. Funk concluded, “In the early hours of New Year’s Day [2013], the Coast Guard flew over the wreck. In aerial photos published around the world, the rig was dwarfed by the auburn, grass-covered hills of the uninhabited island where it had finally come to a rest.”

In his article Nocera wrote of some of the highlights he took away from Funk’s piece. He said, “Despite spending $6 billion preparing to explore for oil in this remote part of the world, it didn’t plan adequately, and it cut too many corners. According to the Coast Guard, which investigated the Kulluk disaster, not only had Shell’s risk management been “inadequate,” but there also had been a significant number of “potential violations of law and regulations.”” Nocera identified three key risk factors that were not managed. First was the weather. The second is the US government’s (or any government’s) ability to regulate such a high-risk venture.

Just as there were too many people in the Marx Brothers’ Stateroom, sometimes the risk is so high that a company cannot operate safely. The same is true in compliance. Sometimes a company cannot do business within the parameters of the FCPA. In such a case, a CCO needs to speak up and say so. Mike Volkov, the Two Tough Cookies and Donna Boehme oft-times tell us that part of the job of a compliance practitioner is to say No when it needs to be said. Joe Nocera certainly is not against oil companies drilling in inhospitable locations or their making money. Yet he concluded the lesson in the story of the Kulluk disaster is oil companies are not in position to drill for oil in the Artic safely. It is simply too risky. If a deal is so high-risk, the chances of completing it without engaging in conduct which violates the FCPA cannot be reasonably assured, it is time for compliance to step up and say No. If Shell had understood and managed its risk more prudently, it would not be out $6bn in losses from the Kulluk disaster.

For a YouTube clip of the Stateroom scene, click 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.

January 13, 2015

What’s the Password for Compliance? Swordfish and Lessons for the CCO

SwordfishI continue my exploration of the Marx Brothers this week by looking at their most successful commercial film made for Paramount, Horse Feathers. While Duck Soup is and always will be my favorite film due to its overall and complete anarchy, Horse Feathers comes in a close second. The movie takes place on a college campus and generally revolves around Huxley College’s attempt to win ‘the big game’ against Darwin College and payments to college football players (does that sound familiar?). I remember after the first time I saw it and told my father about it, he was still able, some 40 years after he first viewed it, to quote the famous password scene involving all manners of puns on the word ‘swordfish’. I quote the entire scene, where Professor Wagstaff (Groucho) attempts to gain access to a Speakeasy guarded by Baravelli (Chico).

Baravelli: …you can’t come in unless you give the password.

Professor Wagstaff: Well, what is the password?

Baravelli: Aw, no. You gotta tell me. Hey, I tell what I do. I give you three guesses. It’s the name of a fish.

Professor Wagstaff: Is it “Mary?”

Baravelli: [laughing] ‘At’s-a no fish!

Professor Wagstaff: She isn’t? Well, she drinks like one! …Let me see… Is it “Sturgeon”?

Baravelli: Aw, you-a craze. A “sturgeon”, he’s a doctor cuts you open when-a you sick. Now I give you one more chance.

Wagstaff: I got it! “Haddock”.

Baravelli: ‘At’s a-funny, I got a “haddock” too.

Wagstaff: What do you take for a “haddock”?

Baravelli: Sometimes I take an aspirin, sometimes I take a calomel.

Wagstaff: Y’know, I’d walk a mile for a calomel.

Baravelli: You mean chocolate calomel? I like-a that too, but you no guess it. [Slams door. Wagstaff knocks again. Baravelli opens peephole again.] Hey, what’s-a matter, you no understand English? You can’t come in here unless you say, “Swordfish.” Now I’ll give you one more guess.

Professor Wagstaff: …swordfish, swordfish… I think I got it. Is it “swordfish”?

Baravelli: Hah. That’s-a it. You guess it.

Professor Wagstaff: Pretty good, eh?

Harpo (“Pinky”) takes the perhaps more direct approach. When Baravelli challenges him for the password, he gets into the speakeasy by pulling a sword and a fish out of his trench coat, putting the sword down the throat of the dead fish and presenting the combined sword and fish the doorman. While I still guffaw when reading all of this, I would urge you to click through to the YouTube video I have linked to at the end of this blog post.

I do find some lessons for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner in this scene. I have adapted the lessons from an article in the Financial Times (FT) by Michael Skapinker, entitled “Seven lessons in management I learnt over the last decade”.

  1. Do not rush. It takes Groucho a while but he does not rush and he gets in. We all arrive with a new plan. Your plan may be right or wrong but unless the barbarians are at the gate (i.e. banks or creditors) you will have time to listen, refine and build alliances and to identify those folks who were actually waiting for what you may want to propose. Skapinker believes the most important promise you will make in an interview is to talk to everyone first and then work towards your implementation.
  2. A good deputy helps you sleep at night. This one may seem to be a counter-intuitive lesson from the above skit but not in reality, as it is in the interest of the establishment for Groucho to actually enter the Speakeasy. However, Skapinker believes you should have someone who not only understands what you want but also “a deputy with different skills from yours. You want someone who will alert you to problems. But you also want someone who sees the business the way you do”.
  3. Decide what your business stands for and tell everyone until you can no longer stand the sound of your voice. The Marx Brothers did this every time they opened their collective mouths; insanity prevailed. Skapinker wrote, “You need to decide what yours is, and you need to keep telling people, both inside and outside. Whether they believe you depends on how true it is”. I cannot think of anything more important for the CCO or compliance practitioner to follow.
  4. Hire people on probation. This would seem to be the entire point of the swordfish exercise. You need to find a way to determine if folks are going to do and say the right thing before you let them in. In the corporate world this should take place in the form of employees being evaluated for doing business the right way and in compliance with anti-corruption laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act. Whenever someone is promoted to senior management or into a position where there is a high risk of corruption, such as to a region with a propensity for corruption, such an evaluation should be made by the compliance function in conjunction with the Human Resources (HR) function of an organization.
  5. Treat your team like adults. If the Marx Brothers were anything it certainly was adults. By this I mean their humor worked on multiple and a multitude of levels. It worked for me as a teenager in the 1970s just as it worked for my father who was then in his late 40s. Skapinker relates what might seem self-obvious that “Most people want to do a good job. They do not come to work to rip you off. So trust them. Judge them by their results and do not hover over them.” However, coming from the energy industry in Houston, I have certainly seen companies that treated employees like they were in the third grade. It simply does not work in the compliance arena because if you are big enough to be international, you will not have the ability to lord over all your employees, all the time. You have to try and hire the right folks, train them and give them the tools to succeed.
  6. Tell people what they have just told you. This technique simply shows you are listening, which is how Groucho finally figured out the password and got into the Speakeasy. In a company, Skapinker believes that “There is no more powerful management tool than showing people that you have listened to them. The best way not only to show you have listened, but really to do so, is to repeat their views in good faith back to them. That way, even if you decide something different, they feel they have had a good hearing.” At the close of meetings you can use this strategy to help rally your team around your decision including those who might have disagreed with you.
  7. Make your numbers. I think Harpo’s example here is paramount. Let folks see what you are doing. Since he was the mute one, he gave a visual representation of a swordfish but it communicated the message. For the CCO or compliance practitioner, you need to come up with some metrics to demonstrate the value you are adding. I would suggest that it comes in the area of accounting controls because at the end of the day, internal controls under the FCPA are accounting controls. You need to communicate your mission and that you are achieving it to the Board of Directors or senior management. 

I still grin when I think about the swordfish scene. For a clip of the scene on YouTube, click 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, 2015

December 18, 2014

Ty Cobb and the Compliance Performance Appraisal Review

Ty CobbToday we celebrate greatness, in the form of one of the greatest baseball players ever, with the anniversary of the birthday of Ty Cobb. Coming up to the majors as a center fielder for the Detroit Tigers in 1905, he emerged in 1907 to hit .350 and win the first of nine consecutive league batting titles. He also led the league that year with 212 hits, 49 steals and 116 RBIs. In 1909 he won the league’s Triple Crown for the most home runs (9), most runs batted in (107), and best batting average (.377). In 1911, he led the league in eight offensive categories, including batting (.420), slugging percentage (.621), hits (248), doubles (47), triples (24), runs (147), RBI (144) and steals (83), and won the first American League MVP award. He batted .410 the following season, becoming the first player in the history of baseball to bat better than .400 in two consecutive seasons.

Cobb set a record for stolen bases (96) and won his ninth straight batting title in the 1915 season. He faltered the next year, but came back to win another three straight titles from 1917 to 1919. He left the team in 1926 and signed with the Oakland Athletics, hitting .357 and becoming the first-ever player to reach 4,000 total career hits before retiring after the 1928 season. His record of nine consecutive batting titles as well as his overall number of 12 will never be succeeded.

While Cobb certainly had quite a bit of natural ability, he was also a very dedicated baseball player, forever working to improve his craft. He might not have taken well to criticism but he did work to improve all aspects of his game. One of the modern ways to improve employee performance is through an annual employee performance review. Recently I read an article in the Houston Business Journal entitled “6 Ways To Make Performance Reviews More Productive” by Janet Flewelling. I found her article provided some interesting perspectives on some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ work that you can put into your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act anti-corruption program that can be relatively low-cost but can add potentially high benefits.

One of the ways to drive compliance into the DNA of an organization is through incentives such as making it a component of a year-end discretionary bonus payment. Indeed the FCPA Guidance states, “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. Some organizations, for example, have made adherence to compliance a significant metric for management’s bonuses so that compliance becomes an integral part of management’s everyday concern.”

Most Human Resources (HR) experts will opine that properly executed performance appraisals are crucial to organizational productivity as well as the development of employee skills and employee morale. Moreover, they can serve a couple of different functions for a best practices compliance program. First, and foremost, they communicate to each employee their job performance from a compliance perspective. However, one key is not to approach the performance appraisal review as an isolated event but rather a continual process. This means that instead of trying to play catch-up at the last minute, supervisors should provide feedback and assess job performance throughout the year so annual reviews are grounded in a year’s worth of experience. This includes the compliance component of each job. The second area performance appraisals impact is compensation. As noted above, the DOJ and SEC expect that your compliance program will have both discipline and incentives. But those incentives need to be based upon something. The score or other performance appraisal metrics will provide to you a standard which you can measure and use to evaluate for other purposes such as employee promotion or advancement to senior management going forward.

In her article Flewelling provides six points you should consider which I have adapted for the compliance component of an annual employee performance appraisal. 

  1. Prioritize reviews in your schedule – You should schedule the employee performance appraisal at least several days in advance, rather than when a time slot suddenly opens up. You would make sure that you allot sufficient time for unhurried give and take between the reviewer and the employee.
  2. Review the entire year’s performance – You should resist the attempt to focus the discussion on the latest compliance experience. This is called recency bias. If a compliance issue arose in the past month or so, you need to keep it in perspective for the entire review period. Moreover, by focusing a review on a recent problem you may obscure prior accomplishments and make an employee feel demoralized. Take care not to go too much in the opposite direction as recency bias can work both ways, and one should not let a favorable recent compliance event overshadow the full review period.
  3. Do not hesitate to critique – Be generous with praise where it is warranted, but do not hesitate to discuss improvements needed in the compliance arena. Many supervisors are reluctant to confront and indeed desire to avoid confrontation. However remaining silent about an employee’s compliance shortcomings is a disservice to both the company and the employee.
  4. Do not dominate the conversation – Remember that you must give the employee time for self-appraisal and to ask questions or to comment about the feedback received from the compliance perspective. If there are specific questions or concerns raised by the employee you need to be prepared to address them as appropriate.
  5. Understand the employee’s role – You need to understand and appreciate that if the recent economy has resulted in many employees assuming the responsibilities of more than one position. If relevant to the employee, acknowledge that fact and take it into account in the review. This is certainly true from the compliance perspective as many non-Compliance Department employees have cross-functional responsibilities. If they claim not to have the time to handle their compliance responsibilities you will need to address this with the employee and perhaps structurally as well.
  6. Anticipate reprisal – Although it is rare, you can face the situation where an employee who is very dissatisfied with a review may refuse to sign it. The employee may be offered the opportunity to add a statement to the review. Also point out that the employee signature is an acknowledgement of receiving the review and does not signify agreement. If the employee still refuses to sign, have a second supervisor come in to witness the refusal. This may be particularly important from the compliance perspective.

Flewelling ends her piece by noting, “A proper annual review requires considerable effort from employee supervisors. It should be a full-year process involving regular guidance and feedback and perhaps several mini-reviews along the way. But rather than viewing it as onerous, supervisors should keep in mind that it is a tool for making their departments work more efficiently and yields better results for everyone involved.” I would add this is doubled from the compliance perspective. Nonetheless the potential upside can be significant from your overall compliance program perspective.

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

December 1, 2014

Sherlock Holmes and Innovation in the Compliance Function, Part I – A Study In Scarlet

A Study in ScarletToday begins a week of double themed blog-posts. First I am back with an homage to Sherlock Holmes, for it was in the magazine Beeton’s Christmas Annual that the characters Sherlock Holmes and Watson were introduced to the world in 1887, in the short story A Study in Scarlet. The second theme will be innovation in the compliance department. I will take some recent concepts explored in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) and apply them to innovation and development of your compliance function. I hope that you will both enjoy my dual themed week and find it helpful.

Today I begin with the first novel, A Study in Scarlet. There are two items of note that I learnt in researching this work. The first is that it was written in 1886 and even Conan Doyle had trouble finding a publisher for what went on to become the most famous detective character of all-time. The second was the title. I had always thought it referred to the color of blood but it turns out that it comes from a speech given by Holmes to Dr. Watson on the nature of his work, in which he describes the story’s murder investigation as his “study in scarlet”: “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.” Furthermore, a ‘study’ is a preliminary drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished piece.

I thought Doyle’s first work would provide an excellent entrée into today’s topic, that being leadership in the compliance function. While many compliance departments may have begun more as a command and control function, set up by lawyers to comply with anti-bribery laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act or others; this type of leadership model is now becoming outmoded in today’s world. It is not that employees are interested in the ‘why’ they should do business ethically and in compliance with such laws but it is more that power is shifting inside corporations. In a HBR article, entitled “Understanding “New Power””, authors Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms explore how leadership dynamics are changing and what companies might be able to do to harness them. I found them to have some excellent insights, which a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) moving to CCO 2.0 or compliance practitioner might be able to garner for a compliance function.

The authors begin by noting that ‘new power’ differs from ‘old power’ in a bi-lateral dimension of intersection. This intersection is between the models used to exercise power and the values which are now embraced. It is the understanding of this shift in power, which will facilitate the compliance function moving more to the forefront of a business integration role. The new power models are fourfold. Under sharing and shaping a company is much more integrated with its customers and supply chain. Second is funding which continues this integration by adding a vertical component of funding, whether equity positions or some other type of funding. Third is producing in which “participants go beyond supporting or sharing other people’s efforts and contribute their own.” Finally, there is co-ownership, which is the most decentralized, pushing participation down to the lowest or most basic levels.

But beyond these new power systems, the authors believe that “a new set of values and beliefs is being forged. Power is not just flowing differently; people are feeling and thinking differently about it.” The authors call them “feedback loops” which “make visible the payoffs of peer-based collective action and endow people with a sense of power. In doing so, they strengthen norms around collaboration”.

The authors lay out five new values. They include the area of governance where the authors note, “new power favors informal, networked approaches to governance and decision making.” Next is in the area of collaboration where the authors believe that this new power value rewards “those who share their own ideas, spread those of others, or build on existing ideas to make them even better.” The next new value is DIO or do it ourselves. Under this value, there is a “belief in amateur culture in arenas that used to be characterized by specialization and professionalization.” Next is transparency which, while not a new concept, says that more permanent transparency between business and social lives will lead to a “response in kind from our institutions and leaders who are challenged to rethink the way they engage with their constituencies” specifically including their employee base. The final new value identified by the authors is affiliation, which means that new and younger employees are less like to “forge decades-long relationships with institutions.”

The authors have three prescriptions that I found could be useful for the CCO or compliance practitioner to incorporate into a mature and evolving compliance program moving forward. Compliance functions need to “engage in three essential tasks: (1) assess their place in a shifting power environment, (2) channel their harshest critic, and (3) develop a mobilization capacity.

Assess where you are

This prong is quite close to something compliance practitioners are comfortable with in their role, a risk assessment. However the authors suggest that the assessment be turned inward so you should assess the compliance function on this “new power compass—both where you are today and where you want to be in five years.” You can benchmark from other companies in responding to this query. Internally, you can begin this process with a conversation about new realities and how the compliance function should perform. More importantly such an assessment can help you identify the aspects of their core models and values that should not be changed.

Incorporate business unit interests

The authors note, “Today, the wisest organizations will be those engaging in the most painfully honest conversations, inside and outside, about their impact.” However, I think this question should be asked first by the CCO or compliance practitioner. For it is not only what you are doing to work with your business units but more importantly what are you doing to incorporate their concerns and suggestions into your compliance regime. If you are going to ask the business unit to be a significant partner or better yet be your business partner, you will need to have a mechanism in place to engage your business unit so there can be an inflow of input before the compliance function has an output of requirements. As the authors write, “This level of introspection has to precede any investment in any new power mechanisms” to which I would add any successful compliance function.

Mobilize your capacity

Here I suggest you consider contracted third parties and other third parties such as joint venture (JV) partners as an avenue through which the compliance function can bring greater benefits to an organization. I have often heard compliance expert Mary Jones talk about her training of her company’s third parties and how thankful they were that when she, Global Industries Director of Compliance, would personally travel to their locations and put on in-person training. Her efforts to travel to their locations, spend the money required to do so not only directly strengthened Global Industries’ compliance function but created allies for her efforts by giving these suppliers the information and training they needed to comply with their customers requirements. By reaching out in this manner, Global Industries used its contracted third party suppliers to create a stronger company compliance program.

As the anti-corruption compliance profession matures, it will become more a component of a company’s business function. This means less of a lawyer’s top down mentality of do it because I said to do it, to more collaboration. It also means, as with the premier of Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet that something new is on the horizon and it could be here for quite sometime to come.

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

 

November 26, 2014

Doing Business in India – Corruption Risks and Responses

IndiaRecently the US law firm of Foley and Lardner LLP and MZM Legal, Advocates & Legal Consultants in India jointly released a white paper, entitled “Anti-Bribery and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Compliance Guide for U.S. Companies Doing Business in India”. For any compliance practitioner it is a welcome addition to country specific literature on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act and other anti-corruption legislation and includes a section on India’s anti-corruption laws and regulations.

FCPA Enforcement Actions for Conduct Centered in India

Under the FCPA, several notable US companies have been through enforcement actions related to conduct in India. Although not monikered as a ‘Box Score’ the authors do provide a handy chart which lists the companies involved, a description of the conduct and fine/penalty involved.

Company Description Disposition (in USD)
Pride International Payment made for favorable administrative judicial decision regarding customs issues $56.1 million
Tyco International German subsidiary paid third parties to secure contracts; payments recorded as commissions $26 million
Diageo Subsidiary made payments to government official responsible for purchase/authorization of Diageo’s products in India $16.4 million
Textron Subsidiaries paid foreign officials to secure contracts; characterized as commission and consulting fees $5.05 million
Oracle Corporation Oracle distributor allegedly created “slush” fund to pay third parties $2 million
Dow Chemical Company Payments made to India Central Insecticides Board to expedite registration of products $325,000

India Anti-Bribery/Anti-Corruption Laws 

The authors identify the principal anti-corruption legislation in India as the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PCA), which focuses on bribery of public servants. They go on to state, “Bribery under the PCA includes any “gratification” that a public servant receives other than his/her legal remuneration. Gratification constituting a bribe would include anything intended to motivate, influence, or reward a public servant for performing (or forbearing performance of) an official act, or for showing “favour or disfavour” to any person, or for rendering any service or disservice to a public servant.” However, there are other laws, in addition to the PCA, which govern such issues. These include “specific public servants’ Conduct Rules, which set specific guidelines on the value of gifts that may be accepted in furtherance of local or religious customs (where no reciprocal action is expected and where the public servant has no current or expected future official dealings with the gift giver). The guidelines for permissible gifts are based on the public servant’s rank and service classification and broadly range between 500 – 7,500 Rupees (approximately $8 – $120 U.S. dollars).”

Corruption Risks in India

Corruption risks in India are generally perceived to be high due to its “complex administrative and bureaucratic environment”. Similarly the FCPA Professor would say there are a high number of barriers to trade. Coming at it from a different direction, the Department of Justice (DOJ) would say the risk is high because of the number of licenses and permits required. More pruriently, I would say this leads to more folks having their collective hand out looking to speed things up. Indeed, in the recently released TRACE Matrix India comes in at 185th out of 197 countries listed, with a corruption score of 80, based largely on its score of 92 in the highest weighted category of “Interactions with Governments”.

a. Licenses and Permits

The authors identify that “a host of regulatory hurdles exists in India, including the need to obtain permits, licenses, and other regulatory approvals and to pay various application and registration fees. These types of low-level transactions provide opportunities for bribery. Payments made in such transactions — whether in cash or gifts — may appear minimal (by U.S. standards) and may seem harmless, but they can nonetheless result in violations of U.S. and/or India law.” They go on to list some “Examples of Problematic Conduct” around this issue they identify the following:

  • Paying (or providing some other benefit to) a customs official to bypass inspection or overlook incorrect or incomplete paperwork;
  • Paying a local tax regulator to overlook errors or inconsistencies in filings;
  • Paying an official to expedite the processing of a permit or license;
  • Paying a utilities provider to reduce billings; and
  • Paying a local health and safety regulator to overlook code violations.

b. Gifts, Travel and Entertainment

In the area of gifts, travel and entertainment, the authors state that “companies run the risk of triggering the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws if their marketing and entertainment expenditures cross a line into conduct that could be characterized as bribery or lends to the appearance of attempting to induce a breach of trust or impartiality on the part of the recipient…the various conduct rules for public servants in India establish specific guidelines for accepting gifts and hospitality, and, for some public servants, the maximum permissible gift value may be as low as 500 rupees ($8 U.S. dollars). Companies operating in India should thus familiarize themselves with these guidelines before providing even what may seem to be a modest gift or hospitality.” Some examples of problematic conduct identified is these areas are as follows:

  • Paying for extravagant meals, drinks, and entertainment in connection with a visit by a foreign official;
  • Paying for “side trips” so that foreign officials can visit tourist attractions (e.g., Walt Disney World, Las Vegas) while in the United States;
  • Providing per-diems or “pocket money” for foreign officials to use during a visit;
  • Paying for a foreign official’s spouse or family to accompany the foreign official on a trip; and
  • Providing foreign officials with excessive gifts for birthdays, weddings, holidays, or other events.

c. Third Parties

This is always recognized as the highest FCPA risk and in India it is no different. More importantly, it may be even greater in this country because “Navigating India’s extensive regulations and bureaucracy often requires U.S. companies to rely on third parties, such as agents, brokers, consultants, sales representatives, distributors, and other business partners…The PCA similarly criminalizes bribery through third parties as a direct violation by the third party and as an abetment violation by the company on whose behalf the bribe is being made.” The key is subject any third party to rigorous due diligence and closely manage the relationship after the contract is signed. If a Red Flag appears at any point in the third party lifecycle it should be evaluated and cleared. The authors provide a handy list of some examples of Red Flags regarding third parties when doing business in India. They include:

  • A third party is listed in databases reporting known corruption risks (e.g., World Bank List of Debarred Firms) or has been previously investigated for, charged with, or convicted of corruption or other ethics violations;
  • A foreign official has specifically requested that a certain third party be involved in the company’s transaction or business;
  • An agent or consultant holds himself out as someone with close connections to an important minister or minister’s aide;
  • A third party does not appear to have sufficient resources, real estate/infrastructure, or experience to perform the requested tasks;
  • A third party asks the company to provide it with unreasonably large discounts, excessive commissions, reimbursements, or contingency fees; and
  • A third party requests payment in an irregular or convoluted manner (e.g., cash, offshore bank account, payments to another company, over/under invoicing).

Managing Corruption Risk in India

In their concluding section, the authors relate solid risk management tools tailored to the Indian market. It all starts with robust standards and procedures. From there you should train not only your employees on what may be illegal conduct and how to resist requests for bribes but also your third parties. Annual certifications are an important tool for not only risk management but also communication about anti-corruption expectations. Your compliance program should devote the appropriate level of personnel and resources for your operations in India. Finally, a robust reporting mechanism is key but equally critical is your response after any information comes to light. It must be thoroughly investigated, quickly remedied and reported as appropriate.

The Foley & Lardner/MZM Legal white paper is a welcome addition to literature about country specific risks, remedies and responses. A copy of the full white paper can be obtained 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

November 6, 2014

Supplier Risk Management – Interconnected Processes

The Last EmpireI recently read a book review in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) by Archie Brown, entitled “One into fifteen”, where he reviewed the book “The Last Empire” by author Serhii Plokhy. Plokhy’s book is about the dissolution and final days of the Soviet Union. One of the more interesting precepts from the book is end of the Soviet Union as announced on Christmas Day, 1991, by then Communist Party Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Brown wrote, “All too often the dissolution of the Soviet Union is conflated with the end of Communism and with the end of the Cold War. But the book points out that the Politiburo had ceased to be the ruling body of the USSR in March of 1990 and thus it was “entirely fallacious to speak of either Communism or the Cold War as having ended in December 1991. The transformation of the system was a precondition for the demise of the state, with the latter being an unintended consequence of the former. But these were distinctive, albeit interconnected processes.””

I considered ‘interconnected processes’ when I saw the Compliance Insider, Illustrative Case Study Series, entitled “Supplier Risk Management”, in which The Red Flag Group laid out in a visual format how a company can effectively identify and manage risks in its supply chain. The process is dubbed ‘Report, Review and Improve’ and consists of six steps.

Step 1 – Collect information on the suppliers. This step begins with a review and assessment of your own Vendor Master files to make an initial determination if a new or indeed other supplier is needed. If there is a business justification for bringing the supplier into a commercial relationship with your company, then you should gather performance data on the proposed vendor. The article suggests that a technological solution can help to provide risk-rated questionnaires to facilitate the process by building workflows and approvals directly into your questionnaires.

Step 2 – Validate the collected information. This is the investigative step. You should take the information provided to you by the proposed supplier and test it. You can check on references. You should also engage the supplier directly by interviewing the internal staff of the proposed supplier and review documents and records as appropriate. When necessary, you may also wish to consider the use of outside experts or internal consultants for recommendations or validations. This step should end with the creation of a risk score of the data you have gathered. Here a technological solution can assist by automating your analysis of completed questionnaire with a risk-based scoring of the answers to facilitate the validation process.

Step 3 – Rate the risk of the supplier. This is the analysis step where you should “compare the risks against your complete knowledge of the proposed supplier.” You should also compare your assessed risks against industry data and the risk-rank the proposed supplier or suppliers. A technological solution can also help to crunch large amounts of numbers or other data to give a first pass on your risk-ranking which can be further refined if required.

Step 4 – Implement risk management controls. The article posits that this step should include the conducting of background due diligence and integrity analysis by screening against known watch lists, sanctions lists and those of politically-exposed-persons (PEPs). A technological solution can help this step by managing the request and delivery of due diligence reports, aid in the reviewing, approving and tracking of completed reports and ensure ongoing compliance with automated daily reviews of such lists. Another suggested component of this step is to meet with your internal and external stakeholders to convey expectations. From this point you should be ready to enter the contracting phase, with appropriate compliance terms and conditions. To the extent required, you should also create and manage your compliance policy for the supplier at this stage as well.

Step 5 – Assess and monitor the supplier. In any relationship with a third party in the compliance world, this step is where the rubber hits the road and you have to manage the relationship. The article discusses custom eLearning that can allow you to quickly and efficiently create training programs for your suppliers based upon your compliance regime and not hypothetical training based on legal standards. A technological solution can also assist you in obtaining online certifications to certify that your supplier is in compliance with your company’s business requirements and internal controls. Finally such a solution can help to automate the process going forward to ensure that certification updates are provided, executed and tracked. But more than the ongoing certifications and training, you will need to monitor the transactions you engage in with a supplier. This may entail reviewing a large amount of data through transaction monitoring but it may also entail going to visit a supplier and going through the deep dive of an audit.

Step 6 – Continuous reporting, review and monitoring. All of this information you obtained must be fully documented. Of course, it must be documented to produce to a regulator if the government comes calling. However, this information can also be used to improve the supplier relationship and perhaps even your vendor system. One of the most interesting suggestions was to create a ‘Virtual Data Room’ dedicated to your suppliers. Not only would the creation of such a stored environment enable you to call up information requested by a regulator on short notice, you would also have it in an accessible format for supply chain process improvements. The article suggests trying such techniques as implementing performance incentive programs which can push compliance culture and behavior changes based upon the data you collect. Interesting the clothing company Levi Strauss instituted just such a policy for suppliers in the area of corporate social responsibility, it announcing it earlier this week.

If you do not subscribe to The Red Flag Group’s Compliance Insider publication, I suggest that you do so. It is one of the very best periodicals around on the building blocks of compliance. The six steps it has laid out for process of identifying and managing your supplier compliance risks under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act demonstrates the thesis of Plokhy’s book reviewed in the TLS; that it is interconnected processes which usually mark change and management. In the case of the former Soviet Union, it may be been drawn by more human factors but there are now a variety of technological tools available to assist your facilitation of this process under any anti-bribery or anti-corruption compliance regime.

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

September 23, 2014

Billy the Kid Begins and the GSK China Verdict

Billy the KidAccording to This Day in History, 139 years ago today, Billy the Kid was arrested for the first time, for theft. Billy the Kid was believed to have been born in New York City and was later taken out west by his mother. He was arrested on September 23, 1875 when he was found in possession of clothing and firearms that had been stolen from a Chinese laundry owner. Two days after he was placed in jail, the teenager escaped up the jailhouse chimney. From that point on Billy the Kid was a fugitive. He later broke out of jail and roamed the American West, eventually earning a reputation as an outlaw and murderer, allegedly committing 21 murders.

I thought about the start of Billy the Kid’s outlaw career and more particularly how it ended as I was thinking through some of the issues surrounding the GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) bribery conviction in China last week. For instance, did GSK obtain a negotiated settlement with the Chinese government when it was announced that the company pled guilty to bribery and corruption and was fined almost $500MM by a Chinese court? Further, what lessons can be drawn from the GSK matter for companies operating in China and the compliance practitioner going forward? Today, I want to explore the lessons that a company might be able to draw from the GSK matter.

I think the first lesson to draw is that the Chinese government will focus more on companies than on individuals. Andrew Ward, Patti Waldmeir and Caroline Binham, writing in a Financial Times (FT) article, entitled “Pain from graft scandal likely to linger”, quoted Mak Yuen Teen, a corporate governance expert at the National University of Singapore for the following, “By handing suspended sentences rather than jail terms to Mark Reilly, GSK’s former head of China, and four of his top lieutenants, the court in Hunan province was holding the company more accountable than the individuals.”

However other commentators said, “GSK got off more lightly than expected for bribing doctors to prescribe its drugs.” The article went on to note, “People close to the situation denied that the outcome amounted to a negotiated settlement. But Bing Shaowen, a Chinese pharmaceuticals analyst, said it was likely that GSK made commitments on research and development investment and drug pricing to avoid more draconian treatment. A further FT article by Andrew Ward, Patti Waldmeir and Caroline Binham, entitled “GSK closes a chapter with £300m fine but story likely to run on”, cited Dan Roules, an anti-corruption expert at the Shanghai firm Squire Sanders, who said that he had expected the penalty to be harsher. Roules was quoted as saying “The fact that GSK co-operated with the authorities would have made a difference.” The article went on to say that Roules “pointed to GSK’s statement on Friday pledging to become “a model for reform in China’s healthcare industry” by “supporting China’s scientific development” and increasing access to its products “through pricing flexibility”.”

What about reputational damage leading to a drop in the value of stock? The market had an interesting take on the GSK conviction, it yawned. Moreover, as noted in the FT Lex Column “The stock market was never bothered. The shares moved little when the investigation, and then the fine, were disclosed.” Why did the market have such a reaction? The Lex Column said that one of the reasons might be that the “China may be too small to matter much for now” to the company.

Another lesson is one that Matt Kelly, editor of Compliance Week, wrote about in the context of the ongoing National Football League (NFL) scandal, in an article entitled “The NFL’s True Problem: Misplaced Priorities Trumping Ethics & Compliance”, when he said that a company must align its “core values with its core priorities.” GSK moved towards doing that throughout the last year, during the investigation into the bribery and corruption scandal in China. Although the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GSK, Sir Andrew Witty, has been a champion for ethical reform in both the company and greater pharmaceutical industry, the FT reporters noted that the China corruption scandal, coupled with “smaller-scale corruption allegations in the Middle East and Poland, has raised fresh questions about ethical standards and compliance.” If Witty wants to move GSK forward, he must strive to align the company’s business priorities with his (and the company’s) stated ethical values.

Which brings us to some of the successes that GSK has created in the wake of the bribery and corruption scandal. These successes are instructive for the compliance practitioner because they present concrete steps that the compliance practitioner can do to help facilitate such change. As reported by Katie Thomas, in a New York Times (NYT) article entitled “Glaxo to Stop Paying Doctors To Boost Drugs”, one change that GSK has instituted is that it will no longer pay doctors to promote its products and will stop tying compensation of sales representatives to the number of prescriptions doctors write, which were two common pharmaceutical sales practices that have been criticized as troublesome conflicts of interest. While this practice has gone on for many, many years it had been prohibited in the United States through a pharmaceutical industry-imposed ethics code but is still used in other countries outside the US.

In addition to this ban on paying doctors to speak favorably about its products at conferences, GSK will also change its compensation structure so that it will no longer compensate sales representatives based on the number of prescriptions that physicians write, a standard practice that some have said pushed pharmaceutical sales officials to inappropriately promote drugs to doctors. Now GSK pays its sales representatives based on their technical knowledge, the quality of service they provided to clients to improve patient care, and the company’s business performance.

In addition to the obvious conflict of interest, which apparently is an industry wide conflict because multiple companies have engaged in these tactics, there is also clearly the opportunity for abuse leading to allegations of illegal bribery and corruption. Indeed one of the key bribery schemes alleged to have been used by GSK in China was to pay doctors, hospital administrators and other government officials, bonuses based upon the amount of GSK pharmaceutical products, which they may have prescribed to patients. But with this new program in place, perhaps GSK may have “removed the incentive to do anything inappropriate.”

This new compensation and marketing program by GSK demonstrates that companies can make substantive changes in compensation, which promote not only better compliance but also promote better business relationships. A company spokesman interviewed the NYT piece noted that the changes GSK will make abroad had already been made in the US and because of these changes, “the experience in the United states had been positive and had improved relationships with doctors and medical institutions.”

In addition to these changes in compensation and marketing, Ward/Waldmeir/Binham, reported that GSK announced it would strive to be “a model for reform in China’s healthcare industry” by “supporting China’s scientific development” and increasing access to its products “through pricing flexibility”. They further stated “Rival companies will now be watching nervously to see whether more enforcement action takes place in a sector where inducements for prescribing drugs have long been an important source of income for poorly paid Chinese medics,” which is probably not going to be a return the wild west of bribery and corruption that occurred over the past few years in China. Bing Shaowen was quoted as saying that the GSK matter “is a very historic case for the Chinese pharmaceutical industry. It means that strict compliance will become the routine and the previous drug marketing and sales methods must be abolished.”

Whatever you might think of the GSK result, the company certainly ended its legal journey better in China than Billy the Kid did in New Mexico. But the company still faces real work to rebuild its reputation in China. Moreover, it still faces legal scrutiny for its conduct in the UK under the Bribery Act and the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Acct (FCPA). So stay tuned…

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

September 11, 2014

King Arthur’s Roundtable – The CCO as Chief Collaboration Officer

RoundtableMany commentators such as Donna Boehme and Mike Volkov often talk about what is required for the position of Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), both in terms of corporate support and skills as a leader of a company’s compliance function. But in many ways a CCO can be seen as a collaborator because so much of the job is working with and interfacing with various functions within a business. I thought about that concept when I read an article in the Corner Office section of the New York Times (NYT) entitled “Titles Don’t Matter. Teamwork Does.” by Adam Bryant where he interviewed and profiled Girish Navani, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of eClinincalWorks, a provider of clinical information systems.

I found Navani’s leadership style focusing on collaboration to be a good model for a CCO or compliance practitioner because what the compliance function needs to bring is a partnership to help the business and other units do business in compliance with the relevant legal and regulatory scheme. In the world of anti-bribery and anti-corruption that means compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act and similar laws. Navani said that his leadership style is to be as open as possible. One of the techniques that he uses is to have an oval table for meetings. No doubt channeling his inner King Arthur (or perhaps Richard Harris playing King Arthur), the configuration of the table actually seems to facilitate conversation and learning.

Another interesting insight was that Navani structures his company around teams. I thought this could be something that the compliance function could use in its dealings with business units because compliance is really a partnership with the business units and compliance spans multiple functions within any company. I also found another leadership insight from Navani’s leadership style. Navani said he continues “to learn every day. Leadership to me is many different qualities. Some are very basic. You’ve go to be approachable, humble and hard-working. Then there are ones regarding how you treat people. I listen more now. Before, I’d speak all the time. I will still do a lot of talking in meetings, but I absorb others opinions more. And I’m completely open to being told “no”. Questioning my own decision-making with others in the room is fine.”

I found that last point quite useful to consider. Coming out of the legal department and into compliance, I did not always take kindly to being told ‘no’ by someone from the business unit. I thought every pushback was some type of pressure test looking for weakness or tension. However, Navani’s style brings up the useful reminder that often the business function can assist compliance in learning how to perform the function more quickly or more efficiently. Certainly the business can assist the compliance function in understanding the highest risks that a company should focus on managing. In such a partnership role, compliance and the business unit can compliment each other to stop wasting time on immaterial risks so that resources can be delivered to the company’s highest risks.

Navani also stressed accountability. At his company “You’ve got to be accountable to yourself first, and you’ve got to be accountable to your team.” This certainly has application to the compliance function as well. One of the battles that compliance can fight is to be ‘The Land of No’ and the CCO is the head of it, or ‘Dr. No’. However by stressing accountability and creating transparency in the compliance process, I believe that a CCO can go a long way towards ameliorating that misperception.

I also found Navani’s techniques for hiring instructive for compliance. He said, “I look for the heart first. I don’t ask for direct experience.” He expects a modicum of professional expertise by the questions he asks most often are “Do you want to win? What drives you every day? Why health care IT? Can you spend 10 years of your career here? What do you want to do in those 10 years?” Navani went on to say that if he received satisfactory responses to those queries the technical aspects of a position can be taught. But he strives to see if a candidate’s heart is in the right place.

In addition to using these questions to ferret out candidates who will not work with his company, Navani uses these questions to set both a tone and expectation. The message he sends is “We’re not going to stifle you. If you can think out of the box, you will.” Navani believes that by hiring such employees they have the opportunity to become game changers at his company. Now imagine if you could have your Human Resource function use the hiring process to ask questions around attitudes around business ethics or other compliance issues. It would have the dual effect of allowing your company to have a front line inquiry that might weed out those who might be prone to cutting corners through bribery and corruption. But equally important would be the expectation set on the high value your company has on compliance and business ethics. The message would begin pre-hire, set again during employee orientation training and continued throughout the employment tenure.

Through migrating some of these leadership techniques that Navani espoused into your compliance tool-kit; a CCO or compliance professional can help to shift a company’s conversation around compliance. You can move from simply being seen as a safety backstop to one of developing and implementing solutions. Some of the other insights that I drew from Navani include setting out your core function of compliance. A compliance function should be able to offer expertise and insight into solutions. One part of that may be delivering data and other information to the business function to help them make better economic decisions for the company. But another way might be through compliance coaching advocacy.

Navani’s leadership once again demonstrates that if your compliance function shows integrity and responsibility, it can lead to greater teamwork between departments. Many business units fear that the compliance function will take away control of the business process from them. However by demonstrating that compliance is really in partnership, this can move a long way to alleviating this concern.

And do not forget the Round Table.

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

September 8, 2014

Board of Directors and FCPA Oversight – An Internal Control Under SOX, Part II

Circle DiagramIn Part I of this two-part post regarding a Board of Director’s Role in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) oversight from the internal controls perspective, I reviewed how a Board might have independent liability for its failure to act as an appropriate internal control as required by Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX). Today I will review what internal controls are and what a Board’s role is within the context of internal controls.

Beginning on Tuesday, in conjunction with this two-part blog, my colleague Henry Mixon, Principal of Mixon Consulting, and myself are recording a podcast series on internal controls, which can be found on FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report. We are discussing the following areas: what are internal controls; how a company might use them and how they can be implemented? In the first of the podcast series I asked Mixon what are internal controls? He began with the textbook definition, which he said was “Internal controls are systematic measures (such as reviews, checks and balances, methods and procedures) instituted by an organization to:

  • conduct its business in an orderly and efficient manner,
  • safeguard its assets and resources,
  • deter and detect errors, fraud, and theft,
  • ensure accuracy and completeness of its accounting data,
  • produce reliable and timely financial and management information, and
  • Ensure adherence to its policies and plans.

Mixon noted that internal controls should be instituted entity wide, not simply limited to those functions used or reviewed by accountants and auditors. For an anti-corruption compliance regime such as the FCPA or UK Bribery Act, internal controls are measures to provide reasonable assurances that any assets or resources of a company (not limited to cash) cannot be used to pay a bribe. This definition includes diversion of company assets (such as by unauthorized sales discounts or receivables write-offs) as well as the distribution of assets.

Mixon noted that the basic framework for internal controls is derived from the COSO Model developed by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission in 1992 (COSO). This model has become the standard for an internal control framework and provides a structure to ensure companies address the key elements that should result in an effective system of internal controls. Using the COSO Model, as modified in 2013, provides a very supportable approach when adversarial third parties challenge whether a company has effective internal controls. The COSO Model defines internal controls in a pyramid, from bottom to top, as follows: (a) Control environment, (b) Risk assessment, (c) Control activities, (d) Information and communication, and (e) Monitoring.

In the 2013 update the basic framework was retained with substantial support from user companies, and 3 specific objectives were added: (I) Operations Objectives – effectiveness and efficiency of operations, including safeguarding assets against loss; (II) Reporting objectives – internal and external financial reporting; and (III) Compliance objectives – adherence to laws and regulations to which the entity is subject. According to the guidance in the 2013 update, the system of internal controls can be considered effective only if it provides reasonable assurance the organization, among other things, complies with applicable laws, rules, regulations and external standards. With the addition of those specific objectives, the COSO framework now specifically includes the need for controls to address compliance with laws and regulations.

We then turned to the question of which internal controls does a company need to institute? Mixon said that each company defines its internal controls to fit its business by determining what the Company wishes to protect and what type of control environment does it want to have in place. This means that they can be less formal in smaller companies but still effective if the focus is on the right risks. Based upon FCPA guidance, the most common control needs have been identified as follows: (i) Dealings with third parties; (ii) Gifts and entertainment, and (iii) Charitable donations. Yet even within those categories, a wide range of risks exists, depending on a company’s business practices. Mixon emphasized that a Top Down ‘Check-the-box’ generic set of policies will not likely result in effective controls.

The process to determine which internal controls are needed will be of some familiarity to the compliance professional. It all starts with a risk assessment to establish the corporate policies which are applicable, tailored to the company, and sufficiently specific. The risk assessment will also help to identify the types of transactions across the company which should be addressed (gifts and entertainment, maintenance of bank accounts and movement of cash, dealings with third parties, etc.). The next step is to prepare a set of documents which define the control objectives to be in place for each type of transaction – example: “Controls will be in place to ensure no vendor has been added to the vendor master file until complete due diligence has been completed and the vendor has been approved in accordance with Corporate policies. Thereafter, you will need to document how the controls will be performed and how they will be evidenced and then incorporate the control procedures into applicable work instructions and job descriptions.” Mixon cautioned that for each business location, determine the specific controls needed to accomplish each control objective. In many companies, a disparity of operating practices and accounting systems will result in different controls being needed. He ended by emphasizing that while this assignment may seem overwhelming it can be done in reasonable stages, pursuant to a specific implementation plan – it does not have to be done all at once for the entire company.

As you will recall from Part I, I believe, as gleaned from Jim Doty’s remarks, that a Board must not only have a corporate compliance program in place it must also actively oversee that function. This led me to conclude that failure to perform these functions may lead to independent liability of a Board for its failure to perform its allotted tasks in an effective compliance program. Doty’s remarks drove home one of the roles that a Board performs, which fulfills those tasks. Internal controls work together with compliance policies and procedures as stated by Aaron Murphy, a partner at Akin Gump, in his book “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”, as “an interrelated set of compliance mechanisms.” Murphy went on to say that, “Internal controls are policies, procedures, monitoring and training that are designed to ensure that company assets are used properly, with proper approval and that transactions are properly recorded in the books and records. While it is theoretically possible to have good controls but bad books and records (and vice versa), the two generally go hand in hand – where there are record-keeping violations, an internal controls failure is almost presumed because the records would have been accurate had the controls been adequate.”

Murphy breaks down internal controls into five concepts, which I have adapted for a Board or Board subcommittee role for compliance:

  1. Corporate Compliance Policy and Code of Conduct – A Board should have an overall governance document which will inform the company, its employees, stakeholders and third parties of the conduct the company expects from an employee. If the company is global/multi-national, this document should be translated into the relevant languages as appropriate.
  2. Risk Assessment – A Board should assess the compliance risks associated with its business.
  3. Implementing Procedures – A Board should determine if the company has a written set of procedures in place that instructs employees on the details of how to comply with the company’s compliance policy.
  4. Training – There are two levels of Board training. The first should be that the Board has a general understanding of what the FCPA is and it should also understand its role in an effective compliance program.
  5. Monitor Compliance – A Board should independently test, assess and audit to determine if its compliance policies and procedures are a ‘living and breathing program’ and not just a paper tiger.

There have been several FCPA enforcement actions where the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) discuss the failure of internal controls as a basis for FCPA liability. The Smith & Wesson enforcement action is but the latest. With the questions about the Walmart Board of Directors and their failure to act in the face of allegations of bribery and corruption in the company’s Mexico subsidiary, or contrasting failing to even be aware of the allegations; there may soon be an independent basis for an FCPA violation for a Board’s failure to perform its internal controls function in a best practices compliance program.

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 28, 2014

Risk Assessments-the Cornerstone of Your Compliance Program, Part III

7K0A0129Today, I conclude a three-part series on risk assessments in your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act anti-corruption compliance program. I previously reviewed some of the risks that you need to assess and how you might go about assessing them. Today I want to consider some thoughts on how to use your risk assessment going forward.

Mike Volkov has advised that you should prepare a risk matrix detailing the specific risks you have identified and relevant mitigating controls. From this you can create a new control or prepare an enhanced control to remediate the gap between specific risk and control. Finally, through this risk matrix you should be able to assess relative remediation requirements.

A manner in which to put into practice some of Volkov’s suggestions was explored by Tammy Whitehouse, in an article entitled “Improving Risk Assessments and Audit Operations”. Her article focused on the how Timken Company, assesses and then evaluates the risks the company has assessed. Once risks are identified, they are then rated according to their significance and likelihood of occurring, 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 audit/monitoring plan, she said. A variety of solutions and tools can be used to manage these risks going forward but the key step is to evaluate and rate these risks. 

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.

PRIORITY 

Priority Rating Assessment Evaluation Criteria
1-2 Severe Immediate action is required to address the risk, in addition to inclusion in training and education and audit and monitoring plans
3-4 High Should be proactively monitored and mitigated through inclusion in training and education and audit and monitoring plans
5-7 Significant
8-14 Moderate
15-1920-25 LowTrivial Risks at this level should be monitored but do not necessarily pose any serious threat to the organization at the present time.

Priority Rating: 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.

At Timken, the most significant risks with the greatest likelihood of occurring are deemed to be the priority risks. These “Severe” risks become the focus of the audit monitoring plan going forward. A variety of tools can be used, such as continuous controls monitoring with tools like those provided by Visual RiskIQ, a relationship-analysis based software such as Catelas or other analytical based tools. But you should not forget the human factor. At Timken, one of the methods used by the compliance group to manage such risk is by providing employees with substantive training to guard against the most significant risks coming to pass and to keep the key messages fresh and top of mind. The company also produces a risk control summary that succinctly documents the nature of the risk and the actions taken to mitigate it.

The key to the Timken approach is the action steps prescribed by their analysis. This is another way of saying that the risk assessment informs the compliance program, not vice versa. This is the method set forth by the DOJ in its FCPA Guidance and in the UK Bribery Act’s Adequate Procedures. I believe that the DOJ wants to see a reasoned approach with regards to the actions a company takes in the compliance arena. The model set forth by Timken certainly is a reasoned approach and can provide the articulation needed to explain which steps were taken.

In an article in Compliance Week Magazine, entitled, “Lessons on Risk Assessments from Winnie The Pooh” Jason Medford articulated that a key use of a risk assessment is to assist the internal audit function in developing their internal audit plan. He cited to the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) standard 2010.A1, which states “The internal audit activity’s plan of engagements must be based on a documented risk assessment, undertaken at least annually.” He went on to note that “In order to have a truly integrated GRC capability it is necessary for internal auditors to work with other GRC professionals in their organization. They must align their annual audit plan with the organization’s objectives, strategies, and initiatives of the other GRC professionals. They must collaborate, coordinate, and align their audit activities with other GRC professionals to increase visibility, improve efficiency, accountability and collaboration.

Carol Saint, Vice President of Internal Audit for 7-Eleven, who was interview by OCEG President Carol Switzer for the same article said that “We start with a risk assessment, beginning with business units because this is how the organization has designed accountability.  We decompose business units into the processes and sub-processes they own and execute. We evaluate how sub-processes align to achievement of strategic objectives: How do they affect the company’s value drivers? Next, we map financial statement lines to the sub-processes to help prioritize from that lens. Finally, for each sub-process we consider specific risks that could hinder achievement of strategic objectives, as well as fraud risks, significant accounting estimates, benchmarking/ hot topics, and ERM risks. We created an “intensity rating” that measures how often a process/sub-process was mentioned in our stakeholder interviews as a risk to the company. And we also considered how cross-functional a process is so that the element of complexity—a risk accelerator—could help determine audit plan priorities. This year’s plan development process was quite intense, but I think we did a good job of creating a baseline so that future risk assessments are more efficient.”

I hope that you have found this series on risk assessments useful. If you have any questions or better yet would like me to work on a risk assessment for your organization, please contact me.

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

« Previous PageNext Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.