FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

July 20, 2015

Farewell to Moe Green and the Promise to Pay a Bribe Under the FCPA

Filed under: FCPA,New York Times,Promise to Pay — tfoxlaw @ 12:01 am
Tags: , , ,

Moe GreeneMoe Green died again yesterday but this time he was not shot through the glasses, it was from cancer and the fictional Las Vegas mobster lived to the ripe old age of 79. Of course I am referring to “Alex Rocco, the veteran tough-guy character actor with the gravelly voice best known for playing mobster and Las Vegas casino owner Moe Greene in The Godfather”. As reported in the Hollywood Reporter, Jeffrey Dean Morgan was quoted as saying, “For those of us lucky enough to get to know Rocco, we were blessed”; “He gave the best advice, told the best and dirtiest jokes and was the first to give you a hug and kiss when it was needed. To know Roc was to love Roc. He will be missed greatly.” But it was his scream of the line, “I buy you out, you don’t buy me out!” in response to a buyout offer from Michael Corleone for which Rocco may well best be remembered in an almost 60 year acting career.

Rocco’s death and Green’s line about offers and counter-offers, with attendant promises to pay, with your life or otherwise, inform today’s blog post. Compliance practitioners will recognize that payments of bribes to foreign government officials, officials of state-owned enterprises, and certain others are illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which reads, in relevant part, that: “It shall be unlawful for any issuer which has a class of securities registered pursuant to section 78l of this title or which is required to file reports under section 78o(d) of this title, or for any officer, director, employee, or agent of such issuer or any stockholder thereof acting on behalf of such issuer, to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value to…”

The above is the operative prohibition from the FCPA and its violation can lead up criminal sanctions. However, most Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs), compliance practitioners and those practicing in the FCPA space have focused on all of the language except the words promise to pay. The reason would seem straightforward; not until a bribe has been paid would there be evidence sufficient to uphold sanctions under the FCPA. Yet, just as the Rosetta Stone revealed a new source of information long lost to the world, a promise to pay under the FCPA can have just as serious consequences for companies or individuals.

I thought of these issues when I read a recent article in the New York Times (NYT), entitled Scandal Casts Shadow on Private Equity Firm’s Quest for a Bargain, by frequent contributor Steven Davidoff Solomon. In his article, Solomon detailed a transaction by “Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm headed by Stephen A. Feinberg, acquired the agency’s Northern Ireland loan portfolio, which had a face value of 4.5 billion pounds (currently about $7 billion), for £1.3 billion in April 2014.”

The FCPA angle came into play because a law firm engaged by Cerberus, Northern Ireland’s Tughans, disclosed “that it had discovered that Mr. Coulter [the now former Managing Partner of Tughans] had diverted the £7 million in professional fees owed to the firm to an account in his name without the knowledge of his partners.” Further, a member of the Republic of Ireland’s parliament, Mick Wallace, “contended that £7 million was put in an offshore bank account on the Isle of Man to pay off an unidentified Irish politician or political party in connection with the Cerberus deal.” Before the money could disappear from the Isle of Man bank account Tughans retrieved it and the firm “parted ways with Mr. Coulter.” Solomon noted that at this time, “no politician has been identified as the potential beneficiary of the £7 million, though speculation is rampant. Police in Northern Ireland have opened a criminal investigation.”

According to Solomon, “Cerberus pointed out in a statement that it has not been accused of any wrongdoing and that it has “zero tolerance for inappropriate or unethical activities. We insist on the same high standards of conduct from our advisers,” it added. “In this matter, as is our standard business practice, we codified these expectations in our engagement letters with our outside advisers so that there was no room for interpretation.” It said it had received assurances from both law firms that they were in compliance with all laws and regulations.”

Henry McDonald, reporting in a The Guardian entitled “Lawyer denies bribery claim over £1bn Irish property sale”, wrote that former Tughans Managing Partner Coulter said, “denied that he or any politician had benefited financially. “The fees payable were paid into a Tughans company account supervised by the firm’s finance team,” he said. “In September 2014, a portion of the fees was retained by Tughans and I instructed Tughans’ finance director to transfer the remaining portion into an external account which was controlled only by me. Not a penny of this money was touched.” Coulter added this rather amazing statement, released through his PR firm, “he had directed the transfer of money for “a complex, commercially and legally sensitive” reason.”

If someone wanted to give a FCPA exam question, where the students had to spot the FCPA issues, this one would probably be about as good as you could dream up. But to think that a law firm’s fee would be put into a bank account in a well-known location which raises as many Red Flags as the Isle of Man, seems stretching things a bit too far. McDonald also reported that the Tughans firm “had passed all documentation relating to this to the Law Society of Northern Ireland. “The firm voluntarily brought the matter to the attention of the Law Society and will continue to cooperate with any inquiry,” it said.” He also noted that Northern Ireland officials had “called in the UK’s National Crime Agency to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption relating to the property deal.”

So what if there had been a promise to pay a bribe, but one was never paid because the money was no longer available in a separate bank account? Under the FCPA, a promise to pay is viewed with equal suspicion as the payment of a bribe. Cerberus is clearly a US entity, so the FCPA would apply. The firm’s expectations of law firms compliance with the FCPA, written into their engagement letter, coupled with the “assurances” the company received from its law firms that it was in compliance with all laws and regulations could protect the firm in a FCPA investigation. But we do have at least one person, Irish Parliament member Mick Wallace, saying the money was put into the Isle of Man bank account to pay off an Irish politician or political party. If there was a promise to pay, the result under the FCPA could be the same as if there was an illegal payment.

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

July 17, 2015

Great Structures Week V – The Tacoma Narrow Bridge Failure and Preventing Failure in Your Compliance Program

Tacoma Narrows BridgeI conclude my Great Structures Week with a focus on structural engineering failures: suspension bridges and the challenges of wind in their construction and maintenance. I am drawing these posts from The Great Courses offering, entitled “Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity”, taught by Professor Stephen Ressler. In his chapter on suspension bridges he notes that the “Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third longest span in the world when it opened to the world, this month of July in 1940.” Yet it collapsed only four months later, in one of the most famous visual images of a bridge’s collapsing. This is due to the “inherent flexibility of cable as a structural form”. A bridge can move in longitudinal vibration, that is up and down and in torsion, where it twists from side-to-side.

Most people recognize unstiffened suspension bridges as old as man and engineering itself. It was not until the 1820s that serious study was brought to bear on the issue of wind-related collapse of suspension bridges. The initial solution was to simply use more weight to reinforce the span. However, while that solution did bring some stability, it reinforced damage as the structure became a textbook example of Newton’s Second Law of Motion, which states that the acceleration of an object is dependent upon two variables – the net force acting upon the object and the mass of the object; meaning that once a heavy weight is in motion, it is more resistant to deceleration.

Yet it was scientific methodology that led to the disaster with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. An engineer named Leon Moisseiff had developed a theory that long spanned suspension bridges were heavy enough that they did not require stiffening trusses because “their mass stabilized them against wind-induced vibrations.” However this theory failed to take into account how air flows around a bridge and the “dynamic response of the structural system.” Ressler concludes this section by stating, “this case has become a classic symbol of the dangers of arrogance born of overconfidence in science-based design methods, and belt-and-suspenders engineering has made a bit of a comeback.”

I thought about the catastrophic failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the context of one of the greatest risks in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance; that being third parties. Many non-compliance corporate employees assume that if a third party passes due diligence muster; they are in the clear. After all, you cannot stop a third party from making a bribe or other corrupt payment. Fortunately the Department of Justice (DOJ) does not take such a myopic view as many business types. Under the FCPA, a company is responsible for the actions of its third party representatives.

The real work around your third party compliance program begins after the contract is signed and it is in the management of the third party relationship. While the FCPA Guidance itself only provides that “companies should undertake some form of ongoing monitoring of third-party relationships”. Diana Lutz, writing in the White Paper by The Steele Foundation entitled “Global anti-corruption and anti-bribery program best practices”, said, “As an additional means of prevention and detection of wrongdoing, an experienced compliance and audit team must be actively engaged in home office and field activities to ensure that financial controls and policy provisions are routinely complied with and that remedial measures for violations or gaps are tracked, implemented and rechecked.”

Carol Switzer, writing in the Compliance Week magazine, set out a five-step process for managing corruption risks, which I have adapted for third parties.

  1. Screen – Monitor third party records against trusted data sources for red flags.
  2. Identify – Establish helplines and other open channels for reporting of issues and asking compliance related questions by third parties.
  3. Investigate – Use appropriately qualified investigative teams to obtain and assess information about suspected violations.
  4. Analyze – Evaluate data to determine “concerns and potential problems” by using data analytics, tools and reporting.
  5. Audit – Finally, your company should have regular internal audit reviews and inspections of the third party’s anti-corruption program; including testing and assessment of internal controls to determine if enhancement or modification is necessary.

Additionally there several different functions in a company that play a role in the ongoing monitoring of the third party. While there is overlap, I believe that each role fulfills a critical function in any best practices compliance program. 

Relationship Manager

There should be a Relationship Manager for every third party which your company does business. The Relationship Manager should be a business unit employee who is responsible for monitoring, maintaining and continuously evaluating the relationship between your company and the third party.

Compliance Professional

Just as a company needs a subject matter expert (SME) in anti-bribery compliance to be able to work with the business folks and answer the usual questions that come up in the day-to-day routine of doing business internationally, third parties also need such access. A third party may not be large enough to have its own compliance staff so I advocate a company providing such a dedicated resource to third parties. This role can also include anti-corruption training for the third party, either through onsite or remote mechanisms. The compliance practitioner should work closely with the relationship manager to provide advice, training and communications to the third party. 

Oversight Committee

A company can have an Oversight Committee review documents relating to the full panoply of a third party’s relationship with the company. It can be a formal structure or some other type of group but the key is to have the senior management put a ‘second set of eyes’ on any third parties who might represent a company in the sales side. In addition to the basic concept of process validation of your management of third parties, as third parties are recognized as the highest risk in FCPA or Bribery Act compliance, this is a manner to deliver additional management of that risk.

After the commercial relationship has begun the Oversight Committee should monitor the third party relationship on no less than an annual basis. This annual audit should include a review of remedial due diligence investigations and evaluation of any new or supplement risk associated with any negative information discovered from a review of financial audit reports on the third party. The Oversight Committee should review any reports of any material breach of contract including any breach of the requirements of the Company Code of Ethics and Compliance. In addition to the above remedial review, the Oversight Committee should review all payments requested by the third party to assure such payment is within the company guidelines and is warranted by the contractual relationship with the third party. Lastly, the Oversight Committee should review any request to provide the third party any type of non-monetary compensation and, as appropriate, approve such requests.

Audit

A key tool in managing the relationship with a third party post-contract is auditing the relationship. I hope that you will have secured audit rights, as that is an important clause in any compliance terms and conditions. Your audit should be a systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which your compliance terms and conditions are followed.

Perhaps now you will understand why I say that managing the relationship of your third party’s is where the real work of your FCPA compliance program comes to the fore. It also demonstrates a key difference in having a paper compliance program and doing compliance. Having a paper compliance program is simple but doing compliance is not always easy; you have to work at it to maintain an effective program.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week’s offering based around some of the world’s greatest structures, their engineering concepts and innovations and how they all related to a best practices compliance program. I am a huge fan of The Great Courses offerings and if you are interested in learning in a great many areas it is one of the best resources available to you. For a more detailed discussion of how you can develop and implement a best practices anti-corruption compliance program, I hope you will check my book Doing Compliance: Design, Create, and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program, which is available through Compliance Week. You can review the book and obtain a copy by clicking here.

For a dramatic video of the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge 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

July 16, 2015

Great Structures Week IV – The Gothic Cathedral and Compliance Incentives

Our Lady at ChartresI continue my Great Structures Week with focus on great structural engineering and its innovations in the medieval world – that being the Gothic Cathedral. I am drawing these posts from The Great Courses offering, entitled “Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity”, taught by Professor Stephen Ressler. When it comes to Gothic Cathedrals, Ressler notes that they are a rich case study in the development of “architecture and the limits of empirical design, literally written into the walls of the buildings.”

The innovation of the Gothic Cathedral was to use elements of the Roman basilica but to add “height and light, featuring ever taller naves, pierced by ever-larger clerestory windows, and delineated by ever-more-slender engaged columns”. The first innovation came with the pointed arch followed by ribbing on the columns to help stiffen and strength them more effectively. However the truly dynamic innovation was the creation of flying buttresses, which were huge additional columns outside the structure yet were designed to become load-bearing members so the highest point inside the cathedrals could be filled by light through ornately stained glass windows. Two of the finest examples of these Gothic Cathedrals are both found in France. They are the Cathedral of Our Lady at Chartres and Cathedral of St. Stephens at Bourges.

Just as the medieval world built up the structural engineering techniques from their forebears, as your compliance regime matures you can implement more sophisticated strategies to make your Foreign Corrupt Practices Acct (FCPA) compliance program a part of the way your company does business. Using an article in the Spring 2014 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, entitled “Combining Purpose with Profits”, as a basis, I have developed six core principles for incentives, for the compliance function in a best practices compliance program.St. Stephens at Bourges

1. Compliance incentives don’t have to be elaborate or novel. The first point is that there are only a limited number of compliance incentives that a company can meaningfully target. Evidence suggests the successful companies are the ones that were able to translate pedestrian-sounding compliance incentive goals into consistent and committed action.
2. Compliance incentives need supporting systems if they are to stick. People take cues from those around them, but people are fickle and easily confused, and gain and hedonic goals can quickly drive out compliance incentives. This means that you will need to construct a compliance function that provides a support system to help them operationalize their pro-incentives at different levels, and thereby make them stick. The specific systems which support incentives can be created specifically to your company but the key point is that they are delivered consistently because it signals that management is sincere.
3. Support systems are needed to reinforce compliance incentives. One important form of a supporting system for compliance incentives “Is to incorporate tangible manifestations of the company’s pro-social goals into the day-to-day work of employees.” Make the rewards visible. As stated in the FCPA Guidance, “Beyond financial incentives, some companies have highlighted compliance within their organizations by recognizing compliance professionals and internal audit staff. Others have made working in the company’s compliance organization a way to advance an employee’s career.”
4. Compliance incentives need a “counterweight” to endure. Goal-framing theory shows how easy it is for compliance incentives to be driven out by gain or hedonic goals, so even with the types of supporting systems it is quite common to see executives bowing to short-term financial pressures. Thus, a key factor in creating enduring compliance incentives is a “counterweight”; that is, any institutional mechanism that exists to enforce a continued focus on a nonfinancial goal. This means that in any financial downturn compliance incentives are not the first thing that gets thrown out the window and if my oft-cited hypothetical foreign Regional Manager misses his number for two quarters, he does not get fired. So the key is that the counterweight has real influence; it must hold the leader to account.
5. Compliance incentive alignment works in an oblique, not linear, way. The authors state, “In most companies, there is an implicit belief that all activities should be aligned in a linear and logical way, from a clear end point back to the starting point. The language used — from cascading goals to key performance indicators — is designed to reinforce this notion of alignment. But goal-framing theory suggests that the most successful companies are balancing multiple objectives (pro-social goals, gain goals, hedonic goals) that are not entirely compatible with one another, which makes a simple linear approach very hard to sustain.” What does this mean in practical terms for your compliance program? If you want your employees to align around compliance incentives, your company will have to “eschew narrow, linear thinking, and instead provide more scope for them to choose their own oblique pathway.” This means emphasizing compliance as part of your company’s DNA on a consistent basis — “the intention being that by encouraging individuals to do “good,” their collective effort leads, seemingly as a side-effect, to better financial results. The logic of “[compliance first], profitability second” needs to find its way deeply into the collective psyche of the company.”
6. Compliance incentive initiatives can be implemented at all levels. Who at your company is responsible for pursuing compliance incentives? If you head up a division or business unit, it is clearly your job to define what your pro-social goals are and to put in place the supporting structures and systems described here. But what if you are lower in the corporate hierarchy? It is tempting to think this is “someone else’s problem,” but actually there is no reason why you cannot follow your own version of the same process.

Looking for some specific compliance obligations to measure against? You could start with the following examples of compliance obligations that are measured and evaluated.

For Senior Management

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

For Middle Management

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

For Business Development or Company Sales Representatives

• Certify that all employees, agents and contractors directly or indirectly reporting to you have fully reported all sales and marketing interactions with all government officials in a timely manner.
• Certify that all employees, agents and contractors directly or indirectly reporting to you have fully, promptly and accurately reported all expenses with third party sales representatives have occurred.

The Gothic Cathedral is one of the greatest structural engineering feats mankind has ever created. It combined a dimension of height not surpassed for nearly 1000 years with an ingress of light not previous seen in structures. This use of light facilitated the development of the artistry of stained-glass windows.

For a review of what goes into the incentive structures of a best practices compliance program, I would suggest you check my book Doing Compliance: Design, Create, and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program, which is available through Compliance Week. You can review the book and obtain a copy 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, 2015

July 15, 2015

Great Structures Week III – The Roman Arch and Resourcing Your Compliance Program

Pont du Gard aqueductI continue my Great Structures Week with focus on structural engineering innovations from ancient Rome. I am drawing these posts from The Teaching Company course, entitled “Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity”, taught by Professor Stephen Ressler who said “When I think of Rome, the first image that comes to mind is an arch.” It is present in aqueducts, in the triumphal arches that adorn the city of Rome, in the city gates and even in the Coliseum.

The arch was a major engineering advancement because the prior method for traversing horizontal distance was the beam, which was limited in its use. Ressler notes “because the arch carries its load entirely in compression, its span isn’t limited by the tensile strength of the material, the size of its stones, and it can span greater distances which might be conceived of with stone beams”. The arch itself has two essential characteristics. First it carries an entire load in compression, that is it counter-balances against itself, which allows for construction using the most basic building materials known in the ancient world: stone, brick and concrete.Arch of Titus

Yet the second characteristic of the arch is equally significant. An arch requires “both vertical and horizontal reactions to carry a load. The downward load of the arch is balanced by an upward reaction from the base”. Both the Arch of Titus and Pont du Gard aqueduct are still standing and can be seen today as magnificent examples of this Roman innovation.

I wanted to use the dual load system whereby an arch supports not only great weight but also esthetic engineering designs to discuss how a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner might develop resources to implement a best practice anti-corruption compliance program under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act or other anti-bribery law. Funding of a compliance program is always one of the biggest challenges. Short of being in the middle of a worldwide FCPA, UK Bribery Act or other anti-corruption investigation, you are never going to receive all the funding you want or even think that you are going to need.

However, this corporate reality is not going to save you if the government comes knocking. The FCPA Guidance provides the following, “Moreover, the amount of resources devoted to compliance will depend on the company’s size, complexity, industry, geographical reach, and risks associated with the business. In assessing whether a company has reasonable internal controls, DOJ and SEC typically consider whether the company devoted adequate staffing and resources to the compliance program given the size, structure, and risk profile of the business.”

Stephen Martin often says that an inquiry a prosecutor might make is along the lines of the following. First what the company’s annual compliance budget was for the past year. If the answer started with something like, “We did all we could with what we had ($100K, $200K, name the figure), the next inquiry would be, “How much was the corporate budget for Post-It Notes last year?” The answer was always in the 7-figure range. Then the KO punch question would be, “Which is more business critical for your company; complying with the FCPA or Post-It Notes?” Unfortunately, most companies spent far more on Post-It Notes than they were willing to invest into their compliance program.

However this corporate reality will allow you to look to other areas to assist the compliance function. An obvious starting place is Human Resources (HR). There are several areas in which HR can bring expertise and, in my experience, enthusiasm to the compliance function. Some of the reasons include the fact that HR is physically located at or touches every site in the company, globally. HR is generally seen as more approachable than many other departments in a company, unfortunately including compliance. A person’s first touch point with a company is often HR in the interview process. If not in the interview process, it is certainly true after a hire is made. Use this approachability.

HR has several key areas of expertise, such as in discrimination and harassment. But beyond this expertise, HR also has direct accountability for these areas. It does not take a very long or large step to expand this expertise into assistance for compliance. HR often is on the front line for hotline intake and responses. These initial responses may include triage of the compliant and investigations. With some additional training, you can create a supplemental investigation team for the compliance department.

Clearly HR puts on training. By ‘training the trainers’ on compliance you may well create an additional training force for your compliance department. HR can also give compliance advice on the style and tone of training. This is where the things that might work and even be legally mandated in Texas may not work in other areas of the globe; advice can be of great assistance. But more than just putting on the training, HR often maintains employee records of training certifications, certifications to your company’s Code of Conduct and compliance requirements. This can be the document repository for the Document, Document, and Document portion of your compliance program.

Internal Audit is another function that you may want to look at for assistance. Obviously, Internal Audit should have access to your company’s accounting systems. This can enable them to pull data for ongoing monitoring. This may allow you to move towards continuous controls monitoring, on an internal basis. Similarly, one of the areas of core competency of Internal Audit should also be internal controls. You can have Internal Audit assist in a gap analysis to understand what internal controls your company might be missing.

Just as this corporate function’s name implies, Internal Audit routinely performs internal audits of a company. You can use this routine job duty to assist compliance. There will be an existing audit schedule and you can provide some standard compliance issues to be on each audit. Further, compliance risks can also be evaluated in this process. Similar to the audit function are investigations. With some additional training, Internal Audit should be able to assist the compliance function to carry out or participate in internal compliance investigations. Lastly, Internal Audit should be able to assist the compliance function to improve controls following investigations.

A corporate IT department has several functions that can assist compliance. First and foremost, IT controls IT equipment and access to data. This can help you to facilitate investigations by giving you (1) access to email and (2) access to databases within the company. Similar to the above functions, IT will be a policy owner as the subject matter expert (SME) so you can turn to them for any of your compliance program requirements, which may need a policy that touches on these areas. The final consideration for IT assistance is in the area of internal corporate communication. IT enables communications within a company. You can use IT to aid in your internal company intranet, online training, newsletters or the often mentioned ‘compliance reminders’ discussed in the Morgan Stanley Declination.

Finally, do not forget your business teams. You can embed a compliance champion in all divisions and functions around the company. You can take this a step further by placing a Facility Compliance Officer at every site or location where you might have a large facility or corporate presence. Such local assets can provide feedback for new policies to let you know if they do not they make sense. In some new environments, a policy may not work. If your company uses SAP and you make an acquisition of an entity which does not use this ERP system, your internal policy may need to be modified or amended. A business unit asset can also help to provide a push for training and communications to others similarly situated. One thing that local compliance champions can assist with is helping to set up and coordinate personnel for interviews of employees. This is an often over-looked function but it facilitates local coordination, which is always easier than from the corporate office.

All of these other corporate functions can greatly assist you in the actual doing of compliance. Moreover, in a resource-constrained environment, these other corporate disciplines can be used to strengthen your compliance program, in a manner similar to vertical and transverse integration of structural integrity presented in an arch. Finally, just as the arch utilized some of the most basic construction elements in existence, by using the other corporate disciplines, engaging in precisely their corporate functions, you can create a strong foundation in your compliance program going forward.

For a more detailed discussion of how you can internally resource your FCPA compliance program, I would suggest you check my book Doing Compliance: Design, Create, and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program, which is available through Compliance Week. You can review the book and obtain a copy 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, 2015

July 14, 2015

Great Structures Week II – Structures from Ancient Egypt and Greece

great pyramid of giza

I continue my Great Structures Week with a focus on great structures from the earliest times, ancient Egypt and Greece. I am drawing these posts from The Teaching Company course, entitled “Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity”, taught by Professor Stephen Ressler. From Egypt there are of course the Pyramids, of which Ressler says, “They’re important, not just because they’re great structures, but also because they represent some of the earliest human achievements that can legitimately be called engineering. The Great Pyramid of Giza stands today as a testament to the strength and durability of Egyptian structural engineering skills.”

From Greece we derive what Vitruvius called the “Empirical Rules for Temple Design” which define a “single dimensional module equal to the radius of a column in the temple portico, then specify all other dimensions of the building in terms of that module.” These rules are best seen in Greek temples, largely consisting of columns, which are defined as “a structural element that carries load primarily in compression” and beams, which are “structural elements subject to transverse loading and carry load in bending.” My favorite example of the use of columns is seen in the Parthenon; the most famous of all Greek temples still standing.

In many ways these two very different structures stand as the basis of all structural engineering and Great Structures that come later throughout history. For any anti-corruption compliance regime based on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act or other anti-bribery statutes, the same is true for a Code of Conduct and written policies and procedures. They are both the building blocks of everything that comes thereafter.

In an article in the Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) Complete Compliance and Ethics Manual, 2nd Ed., entitled “Essential Elements of an Effective Ethics and Compliance Program”, authors Debbie Troklus, Greg Warner and Emma Wollschlager Schwartz, state that your company’s Code of Conduct “should demonstrate a complete ethical attitude and your organization’s “system-wide” emphasis on compliance and ethics with all applicable laws and regulations.” Your Code of Conduct must be aimed at all employees and all representatives of the organization, not just those most actively involved in known compliance and ethics issues. From the board of directors to volunteers, the authors believe that “everyone must receive, read, understand, and agree to abide by the standards of the Code of Conduct.” This would also include all “management, vendors, suppliers, and independent contractors, which are frequently overlooked groups.”Parethnon

There are several purposes identified by the authors that should be communicated in your Code of Conduct. Of course the overriding goal is for all employees to follow what is required of them under the Code of Conduct. You can do this by communicating what is required of them, to provide a process for proper decision-making and then to require that all persons subject to the Code of Conduct put these standards into everyday business practice. Such actions are some of your best evidence that your company “upholds and supports proper compliance conduct.”

The substance of your Code of Conduct should be tailored to the company’s culture, and to its industry and corporate identity. It should provide a mechanism by which employees who are trying to do the right thing in the compliance and business ethics arena can do so. The Code of Conduct can be used as a basis for employee review and evaluation. It should certainly be invoked if there is a violation. To that end, I suggest that your company’s disciplinary procedures be stated in the Code of Conduct. These would include all forms of disciplines, up to and including dismissal, for serious violations of the Code of Conduct. Further, your company’s Code of Conduct should emphasize it will comply with all applicable laws and regulations, wherever it does business. The Code needs to be written in plain English and translated into other languages as necessary so that all applicable persons can understand it.

The written policies and procedures required for a best practices compliance program are well known and long established. As stated in the FCPA Guidance, “Among the risks that a company may need to address include the nature and extent of transactions with foreign governments, including payments to foreign officials; use of third parties; gifts, travel, and entertainment expenses; charitable and political donations; and facilitating and expediting payments.” Policies help form the basis of expectation and conduct in your company and Procedures are the documents that implement these standards of conduct.

Another way to think of policies, procedures and controls was stated by Aaron Murphy, now a partner at Foley & Lardner, in his book “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”, when he said that you should think of all three 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.”

Borrowing from an article in the Houston Business Journal (HBJ) by John Allen, entitled “Company policies are source and structure of stability”, I found some interesting and important insights into the role of policies in any anti-corruption compliance program. Allen says that the role of policies is “to protect companies, their employees and consumers, and despite an occasional opposite outcome, that is typically what they do. A company’s policies provide a basic set of guidelines for their employees to follow. They can include general dos and don’ts or more specific safety procedures, work process flows, communication guidelines or dress codes. By establishing what is and isn’t acceptable workplace behavior, a company helps mitigate the risks posed by employees who, if left unchecked, might behave badly or make foolhardy decisions.”

Allen notes that policies “are not a surefire guarantee that things won’t go wrong, they are the first line of defense if things do.” The effective implementation and enforcement of policies demonstrate to regulators and the government that a “company is operating professionally and proactively for the benefit of its stakeholders, its employees and the community it serves.” If it is a company subject to the FCPA, by definition it is an international company so that can be quite a wide community.

Allen believes that there are five key elements to any “well-constructed policy”. They are:

  • identify to whom the policy applies;
  • establish the objective of the policy;
  • explain why the policy is necessary;
  • outline examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior under the policy; and
  • warn of the consequences if an employee fails to comply with the policy.

Allen notes that for polices to be effective there must be communication. He believes that training is only one type of communication. I think that this is a key element for compliance practitioners because if you have a 30,000+ worldwide work force, the logistics alone of such training can appear daunting. Consider gathering small groups of employees, where detailed questions about policies can be raised and discussed, as a powerful teaching tool. Allen even suggests posting Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) in common areas as another technique. And do not forget that one of the reasons Morgan Stanley received a declination to prosecute by the Department of Justice (DOJ) was that it sent out bi-monthly compliance reminder emails to its employee Garth Peterson for the seven years he was employed by the company.

The FCPA Guidance ends its section on policies with the following, “Regardless of the specific policies and procedures implemented, these standards should apply to personnel at all levels of the company.” Allen puts a bit differently in that “it is important that policies are applied fairly and consistently across the organization.” He notes that the issue can be that “If policies are applied inconsistently, there is a greater chance that an employee dismissed for breaching a policy could successfully claim he or she was unfairly terminated.” This last point cannot be over-emphasized. If an employee is going to be terminated for fudging their expense accounts in Brazil, you had best make sure that same conduct lands your top producer in the US with the same quality of discipline.

For a review of what goes into the base structures of a best practices compliance program, I would suggest you check my book Doing Compliance: Design, Create, and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program, which is available through Compliance Week. You can review the book and obtain a copy 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, 2015

July 6, 2015

The All-Star Game and Tone at the Top

All Star GameToday is the 83rd anniversary of the initial Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game, which took place on this date in 1933, in Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The brainchild of a determined sports editor, the event was designed to bolster the sport and improve its reputation during the darkest years of the Great Depression. The sports editor of the Chicago Tribune convinced his owner to allow him to lobby for the game with MLB’s Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and the owners. To win over the public, they allowed fan balloting for the Game’s players. The proceeds went to a charity for retired baseball players. The Game was a rousing success and has continued as an institution to this day.

The conception and execution of the first All-Star Game shows what a committed tone from top management can create. Last week I wrote a couple of posts dealing with the tone for an organization around compliance with anti-corruption laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA); one on tone in the middle and one on tone at the bottom. As usual, when I begin writing about a topic, I do not seem to be able to start where I thought I would end. So today, with the anniversary of the first MLB All-Star Game in mind, I decided to round out my triumvirate of posts by concluding with some thoughts on Tone at the Top and the reasons why it is so important to any anti-corruption compliance program.

Quite simply, any compliance program starts at the top and flows down throughout the company. Before you arrive at tone in the middle and bottom, it must start with a commitment at the top. All regulatory schemes for anti-corruption compliance recognize this key hypothesis. The concept of an appropriate tone at the top is in the US Sentencing Guidelines for organizations accused of violating the FCPA; the FCPA Guidance; the UK Bribery Act’s Six Principles of Adequate Procedures; and the OECD Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics and Compliance (OECD Good Practices). The reason all of these guidelines incorporate it into their respective practices is that all employees look to the top of the company to see what is important.

The US Sentencing Guidelines reads:

High-level personnel and substantial authority personnel of the organization shall be knowledgeable about the content and operation of the compliance and ethics program … and shall promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law. 

The OECD Good Practices reads:

  1. strong, explicit and visible support and commitment from senior management to the company’s internal controls, ethics and compliance programs or measures for preventing and detecting foreign bribery; 

The UK Bribery Act’s Six Principles of Adequate Procedures reads:

The top-level management of a commercial organisation (be it a board of directors, the owners or any other equivalent body or person) are committed to preventing bribery by persons associated with it. They foster a culture within the organisation in which bribery is never acceptable. 

The FCPA Guidance, under the section entitled “Commitment from Senior Management and a Clearly Articulated Policy Against Corruption”, states, “Within a business organization, compliance begins with the board of directors and senior executives setting the proper tone for the rest of the company. Managers and employees take their cues from these corporate leaders. Thus, DOJ and SEC consider the commitment of corporate leaders to a “culture of compliance” and look to see if this high-level commitment is also reinforced and implemented by middle managers and employees at all levels of a business.” But the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) expect more than simply to have senior management say the right things. They both expect that such message will be pushed down the ranks of an enterprise so that “A strong ethical culture directly supports a strong compliance program. By adhering to ethical standards, senior managers will inspire middle managers to reinforce those standards. Compliant middle managers, in turn, will encourage employees to strive to attain those standards throughout the organizational structure. In short, compliance with the FCPA and ethical rules must start at the top. DOJ and SEC thus evaluate whether senior management has clearly articulated company stan­dards, communicated them in unambiguous terms, adhered to them scrupulously, and disseminated them throughout the organization.”

The FCPA world is riddled with cases where the abject failure of any ethical “Tone at the Top” led to enforcement actions and large monetary settlements. In the two largest monetary settlements of enforcement actions to date, Siemens and Halliburton, for the actions of its former subsidiary KBR, the government specifically noted the companies’ pervasive tolerance for bribery. In the Siemens case, for example, the SEC noted that the company’s culture “had long been at odds with the FCPA” and was one in which bribery “was tolerated and even rewarded at the highest levels”. Likewise, in the Halliburton matter, the government noted that “tolerance of the offense by substantial authority personnel was pervasive” throughout the organization.

So how can a company overcome these employee attitudes and set, or re-set, its “Tone at the Top”? In a 2008 speech to the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, reprinted in Ethisphere, Larry Thompson, PepsiCo Executive Vice President (EVP) of Governmental Affairs, General Counsel (GC) and Secretary, discussed the work of Professor Lynn Sharp at Harvard. From Professor Sharp’s writings, Mr. Thompson cited five factors, which are critical in establishing an effective integrity program and to set the right “Tone at the Top”.

  1. The guiding values of a company must make sense and be clearly communicated.
  2. The company’s leader must be personally committed and willing to take action on the values.
  3. A company’s systems and structures must support its guiding principles.
  4. A company’s values must be integrated into normal channels of management decision-making and reflected in the company’s critical decisions.
  5. Managers must be empowered to make ethically sound decisions on a day-to-day basis.

David Lawler, writing in his book “Frequently Asked Questions in Anti-Bribery and Corruption, boiled it down as follows “Whatever the size, structure or market of a commercial organization, top-level management’s commitment to bribery prevention is likely to include communication of the organization’s anti-bribery stance and appropriate degree of involvement in developing bribery prevention procedures.” Lawler went on to provide a short list of points that he suggests senior management engage in to communicate the type of tone to follow an anti-corruption regime. I had a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a client who, after I described his role in a best practices compliance program, observed, “You want me to be the ambassador for compliance.” I immediately averred in the affirmative. The following is a list of things that a CEO can do as an ‘Ambassador of Compliance’:

  • Reject a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality;
  • Not just ‘talk-the-talk’ but ‘walk-the-walk’ of compliance;
  • Oversee creation of a written statement of a zero tolerance towards bribery and corruption;
  • Appoint and fully resource, with money and headcount, a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO);
  • Oversee the development of a Code of Conduct and written compliance program implementing it;
  • Ensure there are compliance metrics on all key business reports;
  • Provide leadership to middle managers to facilitate filtering of the zero tolerance message down throughout the organization;
  • Not only have a whistleblowing, reporting or speak up channel but celebrate it;
  • Keep talking about doing the right thing;
  • Make sure that you are seen providing your CCO with access to yourself and the Board of Directors.

Coming at it from a different perspective, author Martin Biegelman provides some concrete examples in his book, entitled “Building a World Class Compliance Program – Best Practices and Strategies for Success”. He begins the chapter discussed here with the statement “The road to compliance starts at the top.” There is probably no dispute that a company takes on the tone of its top management. Biegelman cites to a list used by Joe Murphy regarding actions a CEO can demonstrate to set the requisite tone from the Captain’s Chair of any business. The list is as follows:

  1. Keep a copy of the Constitution on your Desk. Have a dog-eared copy of your company’s Code of Conduct on your desktop and be seen using it.
  2. Clout. Make sure your compliance department has authority, influence and budget within the company. Have your Chief Compliance Officer report directly to the Board of Directors.
  3. Make them Accountable. At Senior Executive meetings, have each participant report on what they have done to further the compliance function in their business unit.
  4. Sticks and Carrots. Have both sanctions for violation of company compliance and ethics policies and incentives for doing business in a compliant manner.
  5. Don’t do as I say, Do as I do. Turn down an expensive dinner or trip offered by a vendor. Pass on a gift that you may have received. Turn down a transaction based upon ethical considerations.
  6. Be a Student. Be seen at intra-company compliance training. Take a one or two day course or attend a compliance conference outside your organization.
  7. Award Compliance. You should recognize outstanding compliance efforts with companywide announcements and awards.
  8. The Board. Recruit a nationally known compliance expert to sit on your company’s Board and chair the audit or compliance committee.
  9. Independent Review. Obtain an independent, outside review of your company’s compliance program and report the results to the Board’s Audit Committee.
  10. Vendors. Mandate that all vendors in your Supply Chain embrace compliance and ethics as a business model. If not, pass on doing business with them.
  11. Network. Talk to others in your industry and your peers on how to improve your company’s compliance efforts. 

Many companies struggle with some type of metric that can be used for upper management regarding compliance and communication of a company’s compliance values. One technique might be to require the CEO to post companywide emails or other communications once a quarter on some compliance related topic. The CEO’s direct reports would then also be required to email their senior management staff a minimum of once per quarter on a compliance topic. One can cascade this down the company as far as is practicable. Reminders can be set for each communication so that all personnel know when it is time to send out the message. If these communications are timely made, this metric has been met.

I hope that you can use some of the techniques for setting, creating and moving an appropriate tone for compliance throughout your organization. And, of course, enjoy the 2015 All-Star Game. Although the Astros now play in the American League (AL), my heart is still with the National League (NL).

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

July 1, 2015

Mifune Gets a Star on the Walk of Fame-the Petrobras Scandal Only Gets Worse

MifuneIt was announced last week that actor Toshirō Mifune (1920-1997) will be honored with a star bearing his name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce will add the star in 2016, together with new stars in the motion picture category for Quentin Tarantino, Michael Keaton, Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Ashley Judd and Kurt Russell. For those of you who may not have heard of Mifune, he was a veteran of sixteen films directed by Akira Kurosawa as well as many other Japanese and international classics. His films with Kurosawa are considered cinema classics. They include Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, High and Low, Throne of Blood, Sanjuro, and Yojimbo. While there are many great, great performances in these films, my personal favorite is Yojimbo where Mifune plays an un-named Ronin, who cleans out a village infested by two warring clans. The film was the basis for the great first Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood Spaghetti western, A Fistful of Dollars. 

I had always thought that the Hollywood Walk of Fame honors actors but it turns out that it honors a great many more performers. For instance, next year will also see names like LL Cool J, Cyndi Lauper, Shirley Caesar, Joseph B. “Joe” Smith, Itzhak Perlman, Adam Levine, and Bruno Mars added in the music category. I considered this category of entertainers wider than simply actors when I recently read more about the burgeoning scandal in Brazil around the state owned energy company Petrobras and its ever-growing fallout.

The fallout has extended far beyond Petrobras, Brazil and even the direct parties who may have been involved. In an article in the Financial Times (FT), entitled “Petrobras woes loom large in Shell deal for BG”, Joe Leahy, Jamie Smyth and Christopher Adams reported on how the ongoing matter is affecting the world of super sized mergers and acquisitions. The rather amazing thing about this issue is not that British Gas (BG) has been caught up in the scandal or even has been alleged to paying bribes to Petrobras.

Rather it is because of assets that BG has in its portfolio. The article said, “Brazil has the potential to become the location of the most troubled assets in BG’s portfolio because the UK company is partner to Petrobras in some of the vast pre-salt oilfields off the country’s east coast in the Santos Basin.” This has led to speculation that “There is a risk that Petrobras will struggle to fulfill its mandate as sole operator for all new pre-salt oilfields because of the corruption scandal, and that this leads to delays in developing the deepwater discoveries, including those involving BG.”

This development arising out of the Petrobras scandal is so significant that BG mentioned it in their annual report, saying “In Brazil, we are closely monitoring how the current corruption allegations affecting Petrobras may impact the cost and schedule of the Santos Basin [pre-salt] development because of supply chain disruption and/or capital and liquidity constraints placed on Petrobras.” Think about that statement for a moment. It is only in the annual report because it could have a ‘material’ effect on BG and BG is a company being acquired by Shell to the tune of £55 million. However, as noted in the FT article, “many analysts say that Petrobras, partly because of the magnitude of the scandal, does not have the capital or management bandwidth to be the sole operator of all new pre-salt fields.”

What if Petrobras becomes unable to develop enough resources to feed South America’s largest democracy’s need for energy? In 2014 alone, the company posted a new loss of $7.4 billion, of which $2.5 billion was attributable to the ongoing bribery and corruption scandal. How much will it cost the country of Brazil to bring in outsiders to develop its own natural resources? This is a real possibility and it was further driven home by another FT article by Joe Leahy, entitled “Petrobras plans 37% cut in investment”. Petrobras currently is required by Brazilian “government policy forcing it to import petrol at international prices and sell it in the domestic market at a subsidized rate.”

Things can only get worse as Leahy reported that the company announced it “was cutting its projection for investment in 2015-2019 to $130.3bn or by 37 percent in relation to its previous plan.” This would lead to a reduction in “domestic production to 2.8m barrels per day of oil equivalent by 2020 from the previous target of 4.2m.” The article ended by noting that Petrobras would “divest $15.1bn in assets and undertake additional restructuring and sales of assets totaling $42.6bn in 2017-18.”

All of this certainly bodes poorly for the citizens of Brazil. For those who claim that bribery is a victim-less crime; I would point to this as Contra-Example A. But this information is also of significance to any Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner for a US, UK or other western country. Not only must you review any contracts you had with Petrobras and any of its suppliers; now you must digger several levels deeper. If you are in an acquisition mode, you not only need to look at the contracts of your target to see if they may have been obtained through bribery and corruption, the simple fact of having a contract with Petrobras may put your potential portfolio asset base at risk. For if Petrobras has to cut back 37% on investments at this point, chances are it will only get much worse. This 37% reduction is based on only the first round of estimates of the cost to the company of the bribery scandal.

But more than simply contracts directly with Petrobras, if you are evaluating a target who has contracts with Petrobras suppliers, you may be at equal risk. Not only could those suppliers obtain their contracts with Petrobras through bribery and corruption, those same contracts, even if valid, may not be worth their estimated value if Petrobras cannot fulfill them or even worse, pay for the goods and services delivered thereunder. How about payment terms? Do think for one minute, Petrobras would not unilaterally extend payment dates out 30, 60, 90 even 180 days when it finds itself in more bribery and corruption hot water?

Finally, I think there is a very good chance the US Department of Justice (DOJ) or Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could come knocking, unannounced, for any US company doing business with Petrobras or even with significant operations in Brazil. The SEC could do something as simple as send a letter requesting clarification of your internal controls or books and records regarding subcontractors or other third parties in Brazil. If you received such a letter, would you be in position to respond from the requirements for a public company under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

Toshirō Mifune had a long and distinguished acting career. While it is not clear how long, how far and how deep the Petrobras corruption scandal will reach, it is clear that its repercussions will extend far past the energy industry or even Brazil. You need to review and be prepared to respond now.

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

June 29, 2015

Bristol Palin, Abstinence and the Compliance Defense

AbstinenceToday Bristol Palin informs the debate on the efficacy of a compliance defense to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). A noted expert on many areas around ethical behavior and family values, Ms. Palin was credited by Mary Elizabeth Williams in a Salon article, entitled “Bristol Palin’s pregnancy announcement is her coming out”, as being the “world’s least successful spokesperson for abstinence” when she announced last week, that, for the second time, she was pregnant out of wedlock. Ms. Palin had previously been a spokesperson for the Candie’s Foundation on, you guessed it, prevention of unwanted pregnancy through abstinence. How does Ms. Palin’s announcement inform the debate on a compliance defense to the FCPA? Quite simply, much like abstinence, the compliance defense is not effective if you say you have one but only if you are doing compliance.

This rather sad fact that although both abstinence and a compliance defense are simple in concept but perhaps not easy to accomplish in the real world was further driven home last week in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article by Joel Schectman, entitled “Russian Uranium Probe Reaches Into Small-Town Ohio”, where he reported that “A widening U.S. bribery probe involving Russian uranium has reached from Moscow to a company in the heart of America’s Rust Belt. U.S. authorities are investigating whether an executive in Bremen, Ohio—a rural community with about 1,500 residents roughly 40 miles southeast of Columbus—bribed Russian energy officials to win his company millions of dollars in contracts to supply shipping containers for uranium, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The rather amazing thing about this report is not that bribery and corruption had occurred in the past century or even the past decade but that bribery is reported to have begun in 2011 by Westerman Company and continued at least through 2013 after the entity was acquired by Worthington Industries Inc. Indeed the article identifies the company executive “Barry Keller, a Bremen native who has spent more than three decades at Westerman, working his way up from the shop floor to senior management” as the person involved in paying the bribes. Further, it does not even appear that the bribery scheme itself was too sophisticated or unique. According to Schectman, it involved paying a Russian middleman who “arranged for the bribe payments to be channeled through a maze of secret accounts in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland, where they were collected by higher-ranking officials at Rosatom, Tenex’s parent.” The bribes were funded via “5% of a Westerman contract, and would be paid through a consulting invoice”.

Keller’s involvement brings up a key reason why I think having a compliance defense will not increase the doing of compliance. He was the head of the company and then head of the business unit. Is it really possible that a company that did business internationally, with a foreign state owned enterprise and was a US public company did not understand that it needed to have a FCPA compliance program in 2011? Even aside from the fact that the bribery is alleged to have begun when Westerman was an independent entity, did Worthington bother to perform any pre-acquisition due diligence in the FCPA arena when they purchased Westerman in 2012? If Worthington did bother to engage in any pre-acquisition due diligence prior to buying Westerman, how about when it integrated the newly acquired entity into its ongoing compliance program, trained Westerman employees and performed a full FCPA forensic audit of Westerman as surely it identified Westerman’s sales to “Tenex, part of state-owned Russian nuclear company Rosatom” as potentially high risk?

From Schectman’s article it does not appear that Worthington determined internally that there was any FCPA violation in its operations as he quotes the company’s General Counsel (GC), Dale Brinkman, for the following statement “We first learned of [the investigation] in November, and we are fully cooperating with the Justice Department.” That does not sound much like a company that has appropriate internal controls or keeps books and records in accordance with public accounting requirements under the FCPA. But as with abstinence, saying you engage in it is easy.

I think the lesson to be learned from the Worthington matter, and the clarion call for a compliance defense appended to the FCPA, is that adding a compliance defense to the FCPA will not increase compliance with the FCPA. Corporations take their lead from the top on their priorities. If there is not senior management desire to do business in compliance, it does not matter what the benefits of having a compliance defense bring. In 2015, if a company is doing business outside the US with foreign government officials or officials of state owned enterprises, someone in the business, i.e. their lawyers, their auditors or their Board of Directors, knows that they must do business in compliance with the FCPA. I would argue that it was just as well known in 2011 when Westerman Companies is alleged to have begun its bribery scheme. Having a compliance defense will not help drive compliance if the business owner, business leader or senior management is not committed to doing business in compliance with the FCPA.

For even if such a company does institute a compliance defense, it is the doing of compliance which makes a compliance program effective, not having a written program. A key is how a company incentivizes conduct. For doing compliance in any effective way, a company must commit time and resources to the effort. No ‘out of the box’ solution will allow a company to do compliance because the doing of compliance means dealing with an intersecting matrix of employees, technology and third parties. This means that there must be money spent on compliance. In addition to the resource issues, if the company bases its salary, compensation and benefits to employees solely or even largely on sales only; that is what will be emphasized in a company. If, however, there are incentives built into the compensation structure, it will emphasize the importance of the doing of compliance in the day-to-day work of a company.

Bristol Palin has announced she does not want to be ‘lectured’ about her current pregnancy. Maybe her unique intellect has allowed her some insight into the irony of her situation (or then again perhaps not). However she was right about one thing. If you want to ensure that you do not get pregnant, abstinence is about the best way to do so. But abstinence only works if you are doing abstinence, not simply saying you are abstinent. The same is true for adding a compliance defense to the FCPA. A compliance defense only works if you are doing compliance.

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

June 25, 2015

Custer’s Last Stand and Risk Management

Custer's Last StandOn this day in 1876 one of the greatest failures in risk management took place when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his entire 7th Cavalry were wiped out at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Custer had split his command into three wings and he took his battalion of 200 or so men down the center of what he thought would be little resistance. Instead he found that he was facing a far superior force of 3000 largely Sioux warriors who quickly overwhelmed and defeated Custer’s command, with all US troops being killed. There is now some debate on whether all the cavalrymen were actually killed by the Native Americans or took their own lives, saving the last bullet for themselves, in western parlance.

Historians have debated over time the reason for Custer’s defeat. Was it arrogance; bad intelligence; faulty command, just plain stupidity or even a wish for martyrdom by Custer? Whichever the cause, it was the worse defeat of the US Army by Native Americans in the Western campaigns of the later 1800s. Today, it might be termed as a faulty assessment and management of the risks involved.

I thought about Custer and his defeat when I read a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), entitled “Strategy How to Live With Risks. It presented risk, risk assessments and risk management in a new light, a key acumen being that risk management should be used as a “protection shield, not an action stopper.” It was based upon a research paper by the CEB, entitled “Reducing Risk Management’s Organizational Drag”, which I thought it had some interesting insights for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner.

The first insight is that, in many instances, companies are assessing risks that are in the rear-view mirror. The author pointed to the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act, passed in response to the Enron and Worldcom accounting scandals in noting, “In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis many large banks changed their business models, and other companies implemented systems to better manage credit risks or eliminate overreliance on mathematical models.” This type of mentality can lead to what the author says, is “a variation on what military historians call “fighting the last war.” As memories of the recession fade, leaders worry that risk management policies are impeding growth and profits without much gain.” The author went on to quote Matt Shinkman of CEB, a member based advisory company, for the following insight “Firms are questioning whether the models they put in place after the financial crisis are working—and more fundamentally questioning the role of risk management in their organizations.”

This retrospective look back is coupled with what the author says is a decision making process which “is too slow, in part because of an excessive focus on preventing risk” and not managing risk; in other words, companies were slowed down even further by something termed “organizational drag”. Companies need to find new mechanisms to assess and manage risk going forward. The best way to do so, many companies have indicated, is through reorganizing or reprioritizing risk management and the article presented “three best practices” in doing so.

Strike the Right Balance Between Risk and Reward

Recognizing that risk management is often simply ‘just saying no’, the HBR articcle suggests that “Today’s risk managers see their role as helping firms determine and clarify their appetite for risk and communicate it across the company to guide decision making. In some cases this means helping line managers reduce their risk aversion.” The interesting insight I found here is that if an asset is low performing it may be because the management is so risk averse. This may present a CCO or compliance practitioner with an opportunity to increase growth through other risk management solutions that they could implement.

Focus on decisions, not process

This insight is one that CCO and compliance practitioners should think about and try and implement. Recognizing that risk assessments are important, the author believes that risk managers should focus more on decisions concerning risk rather than the process of determining risk. This means, “In addition to relying on paperwork or process, risk managers are turning to tools (such as dashboards that show risks in real time) and training that help employees assess risk. They are also helping companies factor a better understanding of risk into their decision making.”

By having a seat at the senior management’s table, a CCO or compliance practitioner can help identify risk issues early on in planning. This allows a COO to help craft a risk management solution, or even better yet show colleagues how to “spot potential problems and managers see how their projects fit into the company’s overall portfolio of projects, each with its own set of risks.” The author again quoted Shinkman, “This is less about listing risks from a backward-looking perspective and more about picking the right portfolio of risky projects.”

Make employees the first line of defense

The author channels his inner Howard Sklar (water is wet) by stating, “Decisions don’t make themselves, people make them”. However from that insight, the author believes that “smart companies work to improve employees ability to incorporate appropriate levels of risk when making choices.” But this means you must not only adequately train your employees to spot the appropriate risk but you, as CCO must provide them with tools to manage the risk. The author wrote, “Companies are also trying to identify which types of jobs or departments face a disproportionate share of high-risk decisions so that they can aim their training at the right people. They’re focusing that training less on risk awareness and more on simulations or scenarios that let employees practice decision making in risky situations. Finally, risk managers are becoming more involved in employee exit interviews, because people leaving an organization often identify risks that others aren’t able or willing to discuss.”

The article ends by noting that the goal is “to transform risk management from a peripheral function to one with a voice integrated into the day-to-day management” of an organization. That is also viewed as a component of CCO 2.0 and a more mature model of improvement. By focusing on training employees on how to spot Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance risks and then providing them with the tools to adequately manage that risk, CCOs can deliver greater value.

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

June 24, 2015

Pink Flamingos and the Compliance Audit

FeatherstoneThe creator of one of the most ubiquitous symbols of mid-century Americana died earlier this week. Don Featherstone, the creator of the pink plastic lawn flamingo, the ultimate symbol of American lawn kitsch, has died. He was 79. Featherstone, a trained sculptor with a classical art background, created the flamingo in 1957 for plastics company Union Products, modeling it after a bird he saw in National Geographic. Millions of the birds have been sold. Whether you think of the Pink Flamingo as a symbol of Miami Vice, Jon Waters and Devine or for something less salacious, here is to Featherstone, a true original.

While Featherstone created one of the ultimate symbols of the second half of the 20th century for a generation of South Floridians, the Japanese company Takata Corporation (Takata) continues to be in the news for much less prestigious reasons. As reported in the New York Times (NYT), in an article entitled “Senate Panel Says Tanaka Cut Audits on Safety”, Hiroko Tabuchi and Danielle Ivory said “In the middle of what would become the largest automotive recall in US history, the Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata halted global safety audits to save money”. Interesting (or perhaps ominously might be a better word) Takata responded by saying it had not halted safety audits for products but rather for worker safety. Doesn’t that give you some comfort?

A US Senate committee report found that “Takata halted global safety audits at its manufacturing plants in 2009, a year after Honda had started recalling a small number of cars to replace the airbags.” These audits were later restarted in 2011 but when they found safety issues related to airbag manufacturing in two key plants, “those findings were not shared with Takata’s headquarters in Tokyo, the report said, citing internal emails from Takata’s safety director at the time.” Moreover, “when the safety director returned to the plant months later to conduct a follow-up audit, employees appeared to scramble to create the appearance of a safety committee within the plant.” Finally, and perhaps most damningly, the report cited an internal Takata email which said, “No safety committee, as such, has been formed” at the plants in question.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance in many ways follows some of the paths laid out by corporate safety departments some 20-30 years ago when safety became much more high profile in US corporations. The safety committee and safety audits became mainstays of any best practices in the area of safety for a company. These techniques inform any anti-corruption best practices compliance program, either under the FCPA, UK Bribery Act or any other anti-corruption regime. Indeed audits are specifically delineated in the FCPA Guidance as a way to assist in the continuous monitoring of your compliance regime. Such an audit can be thought of as a systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the compliance criteria are fulfilled. There are three factors which are critical and unfortunately with Takata seemed to be lacking in its safety audit protocol: (1) an effective audit program which specifies all necessary activities for the audit; (2) having competent auditors in place; and (3) an organization that is committed to being audited.

Auditing can take several different forms in an anti-compliance program. As a matter of course, you should audit the compliance program in your own organization. A forensic audit can collect and analyze accounting and internal-controls evidence in your compliance regime. This information can be used to produce a fact-based report that can inform the decision-making process in inquiries, investigations and dispute resolution. The by-products of a forensic audit can include remediation strategies to help a company mitigate and remedy procedural or internal-controls gaps that allowed the underlying issue to occur. Further, an internal audit can review a compliance process to determine if employees are following prescribed processes or internal controls, in an operational Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) or FCPA compliance audit.

In addition to the collection and analysis of evidence, an auditor’s objective is to attest to the credibility of assertions that are under examination, such as the material accuracy of financial statements for which the audited company’s management is responsible. Obviously one of the functions of such an audit is to determine if further investigation is warranted.

Now imagine if this scenario had been followed by Takata. The lack of a safety committee is a glaring omission at any manufacturing facility. Simply noting this and reporting it up the chain could have gone some way towards preventing the situation the company now finds itself in; with a worldwide recall of up to 32 million vehicles. The same is true for a compliance audit. Just as monitoring can provide information to you on a more real-time basis; a compliance audit compliments this real-time oversight with a much deeper dive into what has happened on a historical basis.

The recent BHP Billiton FCPA enforcement action is certainly one to look at in this context. Although there was a committee set up to review gifts and travel requests for the company’s 2008 Olympic hospitality program, the committee did not fulfill this charge. It was alleged in the Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC) settlement documents that this committee was never intended to pass muster on the applications for tickets and travel for government officials but was simply there to provide guidance.

Once again this situation points out the difference between having a paper compliance program in place and the actual doing of compliance. Even with an appropriate oversight structure in place BHP Billiton did not do the work of compliance by evaluating the applications for travel and tickets to the Beijing Olympics but left it to the devices of the business unit employees who were making the requests and ultimately most directly benefited from the gifting.

Another area ripe for audit in your compliance program is your third parties. While there is no one specific list of transactions or other items which should be audited when it comes to your third parties below are some of the areas you may wish to consider reviewing:

  • Contracts with supply chain vendors to confirm that the appropriate FCPA compliance terms and conditions are in place.
  • Determine that actual due diligence took place on the third party vendor.
  • Review the FCPA compliance training program for any vendor; both the substance of the program and attendance records.
  • Does the third party vendor have a hotline or any other reporting mechanism for allegations of compliance violations? If so how are such reports maintained? Review any reports of compliance violations or issues that arose through anonymous, hotline or any other reporting mechanism.
  • Does the third party vendor have written employee discipline procedures? If so have any employees been disciplined for any compliance violations? If yes review all relevant files relating to any such violations to determine the process used and the outcome reached.
  • Review expense reports for employees in high risk positions or high risk countries.
  • Testing for gifts, travel and entertainment which were provided to, or for, foreign governmental officials.
  • Review the overall structure of the third party vendor’s compliance program. If the company has a designated compliance officer to whom, and how, does that compliance officer report? How is the third party vendor’s compliance program designed to identify risks and what has been the result of any so identified?
  • Review a sample of employee commission payments and determine if they follow the internal policy and procedure of the third party vendor.
  • With regard to any petty cash activity in foreign locations, review a sample of activity and apply analytical procedures and testing. Analyze the general ledger for high-risk transactions and cash advances and apply analytical procedures and testing.

The compliance function still is behind the safety function in terms of maturity. Because of this there are many lessons which a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner can draw upon from our colleagues in safety. The safety audit is certainly a technique that can be drafted into your compliance program. But as the ongoing Takata air bag debacle demonstrates, your audit only works if you actually perform it. In other words, the protocol is simple, everyone understands you need to audit, but try and cut costs or corners and you will pay for it in the long run.

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

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,408 other followers