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What’s Missing from the Dialogue around FCPA Compliance Training?

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What’s Missing from the Dialogue around FCPA Compliance Training?

The past few weeks have brought a slew of high-profile bribery cases. If you’re tired of reading about Alstom, Avon and Wal-Mart, you can read about Sony’s India operations and the Navy scandal. The Wall Street Journal has a lovely summary in their January 20th Corruption Currents news roundup.

You could also immerse yourself in new research. Charney Research, a polling firm specializing in emerging markets, released a report that provides insights into the level of corruption in China. While China is widely seen as a lucrative market, the country dropped 20 places on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2014, from 80th to 100th.

As Michael Volkov wrote,

“Everyone is against corruption. Everyone knows that corruption can stifle economic development and increase economic disparity and poverty. When government officials take money for their own benefit, they are robbing the law-abiding public of the benefits of public and private spending.”

And yet it’s clearly still a problem – one of the key findings from Charney Research’s report is that 35% of companies in China said they must pay bribes or give gifts in order to do business there. The report quoted a CFO who described bribery as “an unspoken rule”, blatantly displaying how common of an act it is in that country. The report’s summary listed the leading reason for offering corrupt payment as “competitive pressure.” It’s also important to take note of the recent OECD Bribery Report, which demonstrates a surprisingly high percentage of upper management having knowledge of corrupt conduct. When the OECD Bribery Report findings are combined with those of Charney Research’s Report, it becomes apparent that the current compliance models, while essential, still need to be examined and recalibrated to the continued risk.

We’re always interested in new research about why and how bribery happens (see our breakdown of the OECD findings, part 1 and part 2), but we felt that there was likely a perspective we (and other compliance professionals) were missing when researching ways to improve our FCPA compliance training programs. We felt like we were missing the vital perspective of people on the front-lines. Their perspective can be easily overlooked by compliance professionals, because although these scenarios are seen on the front-line everyday, they are less of a reality, and more abstract, to someone in a corporate compliance office. We approached Richard Bistrong, noted anti-bribery blogger and former FBI/UK cooperator, to ‘pull back the curtain’ as to the behaviors, motivations and temptations which occur on the front-lines of international business. Richard agreed, and gave us a behind the scenes look in “Behind the Bribe – What Compliance Officers Can Learn From A First Hand Account Of The Dark Side Of International Business.”

As Richard says:

“What I don’t hear in the current compliance discourse is how to deal with the behavioral “dark side” of international business. I hope that by addressing the rationalizations, temptations, and emotions that front-line international business teams face, that perhaps compliance personnel can develop a more practical set of real-world compliance tools to support those field teams that confront corruption risk in their work. While many of these issues are not often acknowledged in the compliance debate, if the goal is to prevent bad outcomes and bad decisions at the front-lines of international business, then perhaps this journey through overseas business and corruption can provide some value to today’s practitioners and professionals.”

So in a nutshell, ethics and compliance officers need to read this paper for a few reasons. Firstly, while they do fantastic work every day, they typically sit in an office and are not faced with the realities of conducting business in foreign cultures. They also don’t face what international sales people may feel is a conflicting set of pressures, vis a vis, a compensation plan that incentivizes “getting the deal done” and compliance mandates that prevent activities, like gifts that are often accepted and expected to get the deals done.

Finally, and what we feel is most important, is that Richard’s voice is a new one in the industry. We’ve all attended the conferences and heard case studies on training roll outs that went well and successful compliance awareness initiatives, but Richard can tell us why the anti-bribery compliance programs that many companies are doing are actually NOT working… or are not as preventative as they should be. By asking us to look at the behavioral and psychological pressures and emotions that exist at the front-lines, rather than simply developing policies and implementing more training, he’s giving us a clue how to develop better preventative measures.

Read his journey through the world of international commerce and corruption (which is a real page-turner) and examine your own anti-bribery compliance program. I think you’ll see his perspectives are relevant and will help you develop a practical model for anti-bribery compliance that is actually effective.

For More Information About FCPA Compliance Training, Check Out These Resources:

About the Author

Pia Adolphsen, Associate Manager of Marketing Content Strategy. Pia leads content strategy at The Network. Previously, she led client advocacy and marketing initiatives in the competitive intelligence industry. She is strongly in favor of lattes, 1.0mm pens, and her Georgia Bulldogs. Connect with Pia on LinkedIn

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