Traditionally, one of the most difficult parts of a compliance officer's job is gaining sufficient executive and board level buy-in. Good news compliance officers: it seems that C-level executives have more skin in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance game than you do! A recent study focused on the prosecution of individuals for FCPA violations found that the overwhelming majority of those charged were CEOs, presidents and COOs.
The study also found that there were far more criminal than civil cases filed. This disparity also grew with larger bribes and increased levels of knowledge and involvement on the part of the individual in question. Finally, the study found that individuals conducting business in Mexico, Central and South America were the most likely to be prosecuted, with Asia a close runner up.
This study not only provides fodder for a compliance officer's case for expanded support and budget from the board, but also serves as a warning to those board members that see compliance purely as a cost center. However, the study does make it clear that avoiding such prosecution is not as hard as it may seem. Some of the most salient pieces of advice include:
- Don't be an ostrich (keep your head out of the sand).
- Don't be a fool, and
- It's never too late.
Therefore the message is simple: if you are the CEO, president or COO of a company doing business in one of the many markets frequently involved in FCPA cases, you should take a personal interest in seeing to it that your compliance programs are up-to-par. "Use the same skill, drive and intellect on the anti-corruption front that earned you that leadership role in the first place," says the study's author, M. Scott Peeler. Compliance isn't simply a cost of doing business, it's good business and should be treated as such.