FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

January 21, 2010

Conducting Effective Compliance Training-Part II


What type of training is most effective in the ethics and compliance arena. The consensus seems to be that there are three general approaches to ethics and compliance training which have been used successfully. The first is the most traditional and it is in-person classroom training. This gives employees an opportunity to see, meet and speak directly with a Compliance Officer, not an insignificant dynamic in the corporate environment. Such personal training also sends a strong message of commitment to compliance and ethics when training is held away from a corporation’s home office. It gives employees the opportunity to interact with the Compliance Officer by asking questions which are relevant to markets and locations outside the United States. Lastly it can also lead to confidential discussions after such in-person training.

An important part of in-person training is the opportunity to interact with the audience through Q&A. There are a couple different approaches to Q&A. The first is to solicit questions from the audience. However many employees are reluctant, for a variety of different reasons, to raise their hands and ask questions in front of others. This can be overcome by soliciting written questions on cards or note pads. A second technique is to lead the audience through hypothetical examples in which the audience is broken down into small (up to 5 person) discuss groups to discuss a situation and propose a response.

The second approach is on-line training. Rick Chapman, Assistant General Counsel for Halliburton in its Compliance & Ethics Practice Group, has said that online training is a one of several training approaches used by Halliburton in ethics and compliance training. On-line training can be a helpful adjunct to live training because it can permeate a globally distributed organization and lends itself to automatic recordkeeping, tickling, and expiration management. He discussed this approach and its use by Halliburton to enable it to “effectively reach every employee at Halliburton worldwide” in Ethisphere Magazine, June 7, 2007 “Expert Corner” Ethics and compliance courses are tailored to different categories of Halliburton employees and provided in multiple languages to ensure that all Halliburton employees will participate in ethics and compliance related learning activities at least once every two years by taking our general ethics and compliance training and/or issue-specific courses such as FCPA.

A third option has been suggested in Wrageblog. It is a combination of live in-person training followed by a live Q&A session filmed. Such a program can then be shown at other company offices around the world. Such a presentation should be lead in-person by a Compliance Officer who can follow up the filmed presentation by conducting a Q&A teleconference with the Compliance staff in the company’s home office. Wrageblog believes that this approach can be a “very robust and inexpensive way to reach a large number of employees with a clear, tailored and forceful compliance message.”

All three ethics and compliance training approaches should be coordinated and both the attendance and result recorded for the combined approach, online training and traditional training for all types of employees in all countries. Results can be tabulated through short questionnaires immediately following the training and bench-marked through more comprehensive interviewing of selected training participants to determine overall effectiveness.

Whatever approach is used, one of the critical factors is the length of time of the training session. While lawyers and ethics and compliance professionals can (sometimes) sit through 8 hours of such training, it is almost impossible to keep the attention of business and operations employees for such a length of time. The presentation must be kept to a manageable length and number of PowerPoint slides before eyes start to glaze over. My experience in all types of legal and compliance training has led me to believe that 3 hours is about the maximum length of in-person training which can hold the attention of business and operations employees for ethics and compliance training. For on-line training I would suggest a maximum length of one hour.


As noted in Part I, a company’s ethics and compliance training may well comprise several different audiences and different cultures around the globe. Top notch training should be able to reach all of the learners at such training sessions. One way to do so is to grab the audience’s attention early by demonstrating the commitment of top management to ethics and compliance and make clear to each audience member how compliance laws such as the FCPA pertain directly to them. In his blog, the FCPA Professor has put forward a suggestion in his posting, “FCPA — The First Few Minutes” by proposing that an FCPA training session begin with an opening such as:

“Today, I will be talking about a U.S. law that applies to all of you – regardless of whether you are in the sales and marketing department, the executive office suite, the finance and audit department, or the logistics department. This law can cover a wide range of payments the company makes, or could make, either directly or indirectly, in doing business or seeking business in foreign markets. Your understanding of this law and how it may relate to your specific job function will best ensure that the company remains compliant with this law and is able to achieve its business objectives.”

Another technique to get the attention of the audience simply might be remind the them that hardly anyone looks good in a prison-orange jumpsuit and that you are here to present training to keep them out of such clothing.


At the end of the day, an effective training program will incorporate all learning tools available to reach the widest target audience possible. An individual’s understanding of the rules is always important but it should be grounded in a company’s ethical corporate culture. Coupled together, these Approaches listed in Part I, together with types of training discussed in Part II, should embolden employees to make the right decision even if they cannot remember a specific rule governing a situation. More importantly, such effective training provides knowledge about what an employee can and cannot do when confronted those ‘grey areas’ that exist in the real world of international business.

This is the second of a two-part series on ethics and compliance training. Part I was posted on January 19, 2001

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.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2010

January 19, 2010


Effective Compliance Training

“Conducting effective training programs” is listed in the 2005 Federal Sentencing Guidelines as one of the factors the Department of Justice will take into account when a company, accused of an FCPA violation, is being evaluated for a sentence reduction. The Sentencing Guidelines mandate states “(4) (A) The organization shall take reasonable steps to communicate periodically and in a practical manner its standards and procedures, and other aspects of the compliance and ethics program, to the individuals referred to in subdivision (B) by conducting effective training programs and otherwise disseminating information appropriate to such individuals’ respective roles and responsibilities.”

But what is an “effective training program”? Andrea Wrage has written in her blog Wragblog and Ethisphere Magazine that she believes there are two general approaches to ethics and compliance training. The first approach focuses on knowledge of the rules “as clear and sharp as barbed wire” so that the cowboys in the company will not run wild. This is the approach most US in-house lawyers feel is required for their company’s operations teams and is generally designed to help avoid criminal liability.

The second is to train on ethical values and is more prevalent in Europe where ethics and compliance are more designed to communicate a company’s underlying corporate values in its operations. This approach anticipates that most employees are decent and law-abiding and will not knowingly engage in bribery and corruption. Additionally, you can never create enough rules to govern every situation and train each employee on every rule so a company must hire trustworthy people and give them sufficient information to make the correct ethical and compliant decision. Ms. Wrage characterizes the two different approaches as “ethics” vs. “values”.

Both approaches have merit but both can catastrophically fail without the other components of an effective compliance program. Although it was not brought down by an FCPA violation, the Enron Code of Ethics was viewed (at least at one time) as one of the strongest in the energy industry. And not to focus on US companies only, Siemens had one of the most robust Codes of Ethics for a European company before its multi-billion dollar (or euro-take your pick) fine and profit disgorgement. So the training on both of these company’s “Gold Standard” codes of ethics did not turn out to be too helpful.

So what should a company’s training focus on to be “effective” under the Sentencing Guidelines? It appears that effective ethics and compliance training should emphasize both approaches. Americans are long taught what the rules are in whatever life they choose. They expect to be told what the rules will be so that they know where the line is drawn that they should not step over. Probably the single comment I have heard the most when putting on ethics and compliance training in the US is “Just tell me what I can and can’t do”. However, really effective training requires that employees be able to apply the rules to the incredibly wide and ever-changing situations which confront them in the real world. This is where communicating a company’s values are important. In other words, how would your conduct look if it was plastered on You Tube the next week?

This is the first of a two-part series on ethics and compliance training.

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.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2010

December 18, 2009


As recently reported in WragBlog, the OECD announced a new recommendation at the OECD’s celebration of “International Anti-Corruption Day” and the Tenth Anniversary of the “Entry into Force of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention”. This change relates to facilitation payments (aka “grease payments”) which are legal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría described these low-level payments, designed to expedite performance of a “routine government action” such as obtaining mail delivery, phone or power service, as “corrosive . . . particularly on sustainable economic development and the rule of law”.

Facilitation payments, also known as “expediting payments” or “grease payments,” are bribes paid to induce foreign officials to perform routine functions they are otherwise obligated to perform. Examples of such routine functions include issuing licenses or permits and installing telephone lines and other basic services. The only countries that permit facilitation payments are the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. Facilitation payments, however, are illegal in every country in which they are paid. They have come under increasing fire under the FCPA as inconsistent with the totality of US policy on anticorruption.

This change by the OECD brings the considerable problems associated with facilitation in the international business arena into keener focus. Just like large commercial bribes, grease payments abuse the public trust and corrode corporate governance. Treating them as anything other than outright bribery muddies the compliance waters and adds confusion where there should be clarity. This new stance by the OECD, coupled with the increased enforcement under the FCPA, may well bode the end of facilitation payments.

I. TRACE Facilitation Payments Benchmark Survey

In October, 2009, TRACE International published the results of its “Facilitation Payments Benchmark Survey”. TRACE conducted a global survey with the following objectives: (1) to understand how facilitation payments are perceived in the international business community, including the level of risk they are deemed to pose and the compliance challenges they present; and (2) to map corporate policies on facilitation payments, including whether they are permitted and, if so, the types of safeguards corporations impose on their payment.

The results of the TRACE survey reveal a definitive move by corporations to ban facilitation payments, coupled with an awareness of the added risk and complexity presented by facilitation payments:

• 76% of survey respondents believe it is possible to do business successfully without making facilitation payments given sufficient management support and careful planning.
• Over 70% believe that employees of their company either never, or only rarely, make facilitation payments, even if their corporate policy permits facilitation payments.
• Over 93% revealed that their job would be easier, or at least no different, if facilitation payments were prohibited in every country.
• Nearly 44% reported that their corporations prohibit facilitation payments or simply do not address them because facilitation payments are prohibited together with other forms of bribery.
• Almost 60% of respondents reported that facilitation payments pose a medium to high risk of books and records violations or violations of other internal controls.
• Over 50% believe a company is moderately to highly likely to face a government investigation or prosecution related to facilitation payments in the country in which the company is headquartered.

II. Facilitation Payments under the FCPA

The original version of the FCPA, enacted in 1977, contained an exception for payments made to non-US officials who performed duties that were “essentially ministerial or clerical”. In 1988 Congress responded by amending the FCPA under the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act to clarify the scope of the FCPA’s prohibitions on bribery, including the scope of permitted facilitation payments. An expanded definition of “routine governmental action” was included in the final version of the bill, reflecting the intent of Congress that the exceptions apply only to the performance of duties listed in the subcategories of the statute and actions of a similar nature. Congress also meant to make clear that “ordinarily and commonly performed actions”, with respect to permits or licenses, would not include those governmental approvals involving an exercise of discretion by a government official where the actions are the functional equivalent of “obtaining or retaining business for, or with, or directing business to, any person”.

The FCPA now contains an explicit exception to the bribery prohibition for any “facilitation or expediting payment to a foreign official, political party, or party official for the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action by a foreign official, political party, or party official”. “Routine government action” does not include any decision by a public official to award new business or continue existing business with a particular party. The statute lists examples of what is considered a “routine governmental action” including:
• obtaining permits, licenses, or other official documents to qualify a person to do business in a country;
• processing government papers, such as visas or work orders;
• providing police protection, mail pick-up and delivery, or scheduling inspections associated with contract performance or transit of goods across country;
• providing phone service, power and water supply, loading and unloading cargo, or protecting perishable products from deterioration; and
• actions of a similar nature.

There is no monetary threshold for determining when a payment crosses the line between a facilitation payment and a bribe. The accounting provisions of the FCPA require that facilitation payments must be accurately reflected in an issuer’s books and records, even if the payment itself is permissible under the anti-bribery provisions of the law

III. Risks associated with relying on the “facilitation payments” exception

Facilitation payments carry legal risks even if they are permitted under the anti-bribery laws of a particular country. In the US enforcement agencies have taken a narrow view of the exception and have successfully prosecuted FCPA violations stemming from payments that could arguably be considered permissible facilitation payments. Violations of the accounting and recordkeeping provisions of the FCPA are also more likely when a company makes facilitation payments. Abroad, countries are increasingly enforcing domestic bribery laws that prohibit such payments. Companies that allow facilitation payments face a slippery slope to educate their employees on the nuances of permissible payments in order to avoid prosecution for prohibited bribes.

A. US enforcement authorities construe the exception narrowly

Other than as discussed above, there is no definitive guidance on circumstances in which the facilitation payments exception applies. There may be less risk of enforcement by US authorities in cases involving bona fide facilitation payments that are made specifically for one of the purposes enumerated in the FCPA. However, companies still face the risk of at least facing a governmental inquiry to explain the circumstances surrounding the payments, possibly resulting in penalties based on an unanticipated restrictive interpretation of the exception.

B. Potential non-compliance with the FCPA’s accounting and recordkeeping provisions

While the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA permit facilitation payments, the accounting and recordkeeping provisions of the law nevertheless require companies making such payments to accurately record them in their books and records. Companies or individuals may be reluctant to properly record such payments, as it shows some semblance of impropriety and effectively creates a permanent record of a violation of local law. However, failure to properly record such expenditures may result in prosecution by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) even if the underlying payments themselves are permissible. One example of prosecution resulting from the misreporting of seemingly permissible facilitation payments involves Triton Energy Corporation, which settled an investigation by the SEC involving multiple alleged FCPA violations, including the miss-recording of facilitation payments. An Indonesian subsidiary of the company had been making monthly payments, of approximately $1,000, to low-level employees of a state-owned oil company in order to assure the timely processing of monthly crude oil revenues. The SEC did not charge that these payments violated the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA; however, these payments were miss-recorded in corporate books and therefore violated the FCPA’s accounting and recordkeeping provisions. Triton Energy consented to an injunction against future violations of the FCPA and was fined $300,000.

C. Increased enforcement of non-US laws that do not recognize an exception for facilitation payments

While the FCPA and certain other national anti-bribery laws contain exceptions for facilitation payments, such payments typically are considered illegal in the country in which they are made; there is not any country in which facilitation payments to public officials of that country are permitted under the written law of the recipient’s country. Accordingly, even if a particular facilitation payment qualifies for an exception of the FCPA, it, nevertheless, is likely to constitute a violation of local law – as well as under anti-bribery laws of other countries that also might apply simultaneously – and thus exposes the payer, his employer and/or related parties to prosecution in one or more jurisdictions. While enforcement to date in this area has been limited increased global attention to corruption makes future action more likely. Countries that are eager to be seen as combating corruption are prosecuting the payment of small bribes with greater frequency.

D. Corporate approaches to facilitation payments may exceed the legitimate scope and applicability of the exception

As demonstrated in the TRACE Benchmark Survey, businesses struggle with how to address the “facilitation payments” exception in their compliance policy and procedures, if the subject is covered at all. Businesses should be wary of allowing employees to decide on their own whether a particular payment is permissible. Unless such payments are barred completely or each payment is subject to pre-approval (which in many cases would be unrealistic (e.g., passport control)), there is always the risk that an employee, agent or other person whose actions may be attributed to the company will make a payment in reliance on the exception when in fact the exception does not apply. In addition, the temptation to improperly record otherwise permissible facilitation payments has been discussed above.

IV. End of facilitation payments?

The global business environment has changed even as the FCPA has remained static. In the absence of any legislative action to roll back the facilitation payment exception, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the SEC plainly have set out to repeal it on a case-by-case basis. US companies should recognize the weakening of the argument supporting a facilitation payment exception and should develop compliance policies that do not permit any kind of grease payments. A policy that prohibits all payments (unless there is high level of legal and compliance approval) will relieve businesses of the compliance burden of differentiating between lawful and unlawful payments. From the point of view of the modern global corporation, a compliance regime that attempts to differentiate between “good” corrupt payments and “bad” corrupt payments will do more harm than good.

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