Archive for the ‘Guest Posts’ Category

Year End Review Of Anti-Corruption Law North Of The 49th Parallel

Monday, January 19th, 2015

CanadaA guest post  from Mark Morrison (Blake, Cassels & Graydon), the Canada Expert for FCPA Professor, and Blakes attorneys Michael Dixon and James Reid.

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This past year has been one of mixed results for Canadian authorities under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA), Canada’s equivalent to the FCPA. On the one hand, Canada increased its rating on Transparency International’s well known Exporting Corruption: Progress Report 2014: Assessing Enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Foreign Bribery to a “Moderate Enforcement” rating from 2013’s classification of  a “Limited Enforcement” rating. In addition, 2014 saw precedent setting court decisions and sentencing of individuals.

Despite these developments, it has now been two full years since the last penalty was imposed on a corporate defendant under the CFPOA, that being Griffith’s Energy who was sentenced to a $10.35 million dollar fine in January 2013.  The lack of proceedings against corporations in 2014 may be reflective of the considerable resources being dedicated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to the ongoing, high profile investigation of Canada’s largest construction and engineering company, the resolution of which is widely anticipated to make headlines in 2015.  This post discusses some of the developments in Canada’s anti-corruption efforts in 2014 and what can be expected in the year ahead.

Enforcement Proceedings

In 2014, Canadian authorities appear to have focused their attention on pursuing individuals who had violated the provisions of the CFPOA. Noteworthy for corporate officers, 2014 marked the first jail sentence for an individual, and several other individuals are being pursued by authorities in Canada. Notable enforcement proceedings are discussed below.

Karigar – On May 23, 2014, Nazir Karigar was sentenced to three years in prison for offering to bribe foreign officials.  This sentence was the most significant development in Canadian anti-corruption enforcement proceedings in 2014, as it marks the first time a jail term has been handed out to an individual convicted under the CFPOA. This case will likely stand as a precedent for sentencing in future corruption cases.

Karigar was convicted on August 15, 2013.  The case concerned an agreement to pay approximately US $450,000 in cash as well as certain shares to Air India officials and the Indian Minister of Civil Aviation to secure a contract.  At the time, Karigar was acting for Cryptometrics Canada.  Karigar was convicted despite Cryptometrics not being awarded the contract or there being any evidence the bribe was actually offered or paid to Indian officials, as the internal agreement amongst Karigar and Cryptometrics management to offer a bribe was held to be an offence.

In sentencing, Justice Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court took Karigar’s age (67) and other circumstances into account as mitigating factors.  However, the bribery scheme was viewed as a serious crime.  Accordingly, principles of denunciation and deterrence were placed at the forefront in administering the three year sentence.

It is also important to note, that at the time Karigar was charged, the maximum prison sentence for a CFPOA violation was only five years. Since then, the 2013 amendments to the CFPOA raised the maximum penalty from five years to 14 years.

Chowdhury – Five individuals were jointly charged with bribing a foreign public official to obtain a contract to provide consulting services for building the World Bank funded Padma Bridge Project in Bangladesh.  One of the individuals charged, Abdul Hasan Chowdhury, was a Bangladeshi citizen and resident who had never been to Canada.  On this basis, and without submitting to the jurisdiction of the Canadian Court, Chowdhury applied to prohibit the Crown from proceeding in Canada with the charge against him under the CFPOA.

Ultimately, the Court found that Canada did have jurisdiction over the offence since many of the acts making up the offence took place in Canada, the investigation was conducted in Canada and the bulk of the evidence was gathered in Canada. However, Justice Nordheimer held that the CFPOA does not give the Court jurisdiction over foreign nationals who do not reside, or are not otherwise present (such as through extradition or otherwise) in Canada.  The Court held that the mere fact Chowdhury was a party to the offence was not sufficient to give the Canadian courts personal jurisdiction over him unless he either physically came to Canada or Bangladesh offers to surrender him to Canada. Notably, Canada does not have an extradition treaty in place with Bangladesh.  In result, the charges against Chowdhury were stayed.

The allegations in question in this case pre-dated the 2013 amendments to the CFPOA which expanded the jurisdictional reach of the CFPOA from territoriality to nationality based jurisdiction.  Notwithstanding this expanded jurisdictional scope of the CFPOA, however, the key point to be taken from this case is that a Canadian court needs to have jurisdiction over both the offence and the person before it may exert jurisdiction.

Ongoing Cryptometrics Investigations – Following the Karigar sentencing in May, on June 4, 2014, the RCMP charged US nationals Robert Barra (former Cryptometrics CEO) and Dario Berini (former Cryptometrics COO) for bribery offences under CFPOA.  UK national Shailesh Govindia, an agent for Cryptometrics, has also been charged with bribery under CFPOA and with one count of fraud contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada.  Canada-wide warrants have been issued for all three accused.  These charges go to show that Canadian authorities will continue to pursue enforcement proceedings, even against foreign nationals, despite being unsuccessful in the Chowdhury case discussed above.  One key difference between these charges and Chowdhury, however, is that Canada does have extradition treaties in place with the US and UK, creating a potential avenue by which Canadian authorities could assume personal jurisdiction over these individuals.

Ongoing Investigations – The most significant Canadian anti-corruption enforcement action is the ongoing, high profile corruption investigation relating to allegations that Canada’s largest construction and engineering company (the Company) bribed foreign public officials to secure contracts in a number of foreign countries, including Libya, Bangladesh and Algeria (the Engineering Investigation).  Canadian authorities have been carrying out the Engineering Investigation since 2011 with the cooperation of others, including the World Bank and Swiss authorities.  It is reported that the Company is providing its full cooperation with authorities.

To date, at least three former executives of the Company and two others connected with the Padma Bridge Project in Bangladesh have been charged under the CFPOA and are awaiting trial. On the domestic front, the Company has also faced corruption allegations related to the construction of a $1.3 billion hospital in Montreal, regarding which several former executives are facing charges, including, fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust.

The allegations currently subject to the Engineering Investigation are the most serious to involve a Canadian company to date and onlookers are intently watching what will unravel in 2015, when it is expected that a resolution of this high profile case will likely occur.

New Legislation and Government Policy

Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act – In October 2014, the Canadian Government introduced the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA) which will create mandatory public reporting of payments to governments and government officials by the extractive sector.  The reporting obligations in ESTMA will apply to companies that are engaged in the commercial development of oil, gas or minerals in Canada or abroad and are either listed on a stock exchange in Canada or have a place of business in Canada, do business in Canada or have assets in Canada, and meet certain size thresholds.

ESTMA, which is expected to come into force in the spring of 2015,  is designed to further Canada’s fight against corruption by enacting reporting obligations with respect to payments made to foreign and domestic governments (and government officials), and will eventually include aboriginal governments.  These proposed mandatory reporting requirements are in line with other countries implementing similar requirements, including the European Union and the United States.

Amendments to the Federal Government Integrity Provisions – In March 2014, the Federal Government announced it had made significant changes to its Integrity Provisions, which are incorporated in all solicitations administered by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).  PWGSC handles the majority of Federal Government procurement transactions.  By adding a requirement that bidders certify that neither the bidder, nor any of the bidder’s affiliates, has been convicted of (or received an absolute or conditional discharge) under any foreign offense that PWGSC regards as having “similar constitutive elements” to listed Canadian offenses (including fraud, money laundering and bribing a foreign public official), the new Integrity Provisions establish rules for debarring corporations and individuals where they or their affiliates have committed an integrity offence.

The integrity provisions impose rigorous certification provisions, which, if not complied with can result in significant consequences including debarment from participating in Government procurements for 10 years from the date of conviction and the right for the Government to terminate a contract for default.  The Canadian Government also maintains the right to pursue other remedies available, including the ability to sue for damages that may occur as a result of termination.

Conclusion

The introduction of ESTMA and the new Integrity Provisions continue the trend towards a stronger legislative commitment to anti-corruption enforcement in Canada, which began with the 2013 amendments that strengthened the CFPOA.  Given this clear legislative direction and the likely freeing up of enforcement resources, expected after the imminent resolution of the Engineering Investigation, our forecast is that 2015 will be an active year for Canadian anti-corruption enforcement.

Checking In Down Under

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

AustraliaToday’s post is from Robert Wyld (Partner, Johnson Winter & Slattery – here).  Wyld is the Australia Expert for FCPA Professor.

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The key issues that are covered in this post include: (i) Australia’s anti-corruption ranking slips down; (ii) The G20 Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan 2015-2016; (iii) Australia’s Attorney General Department’s Foreign Bribery website module; (iv) Australia and ASIC corporate penalties; (v) Australia and China – Operation Fox Hunt – chasing Chinese economic fugitives; (vi) Australia and extractive industry transparency; and (vii) Asia-Pacific Corruption Network.

Australia’s Anti-Corruption Raking Slips Down

On 3 December 2014, Transparency International released its well-known Corruption Perception Index for 2014. Australia slipped out of the top 10 “clean countries” and now sits at No 11 in the ranking of 174 countries.

Prof AJ Brown, a director of Transparency International Australia made the following comments to illustrate why Australia has slipped down the rankings, despite the progress made in leading the G20 to a new Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan (see below):

  • accumulating corruption scandals;
  • a heightened concern as to whether scandals reported in the media and investigated by authorities actually result in any prosecutions;
  • an increasing public perception that Governments do not do enough to seriously target the “big end of town” with the refusal within the Reserve Bank of Australia to admit any problem (with the Securency banknote printing scandal or to independently investigate the conduct of the relevant companies and their Boards of Directors) is just one example; and
  • the consistent reluctance of the Australian Government to acknowledge that corruption is a national problem and failing to even acknowledge that a robust, properly resourced independent national anti-corruption body has a role to play.

It appears that this reluctance to see corruption as a systemic national and international problem in Australia afflicts both the left and right side of politics. In an era of cost cutting, blow-out fiscal budgets and razor gangs cutting swaths through the public sector, business calling for less regulation, it so often just seems too hard for politicians to address. This is unfortunate given the excellent progress Australia demonstrated in leading the G20 to target foreign bribery – now the challenge is to address initiatives focusing on both domestic and foreign bribery with equal zeal and live up to the G20 ideals, failing which the perception of Australia’s anti-corruption efforts is likely to continue to fall, which reflects poorly on us all.

G20 Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan 2015-2016

After the breathless excitement of the G20 meetings in Brisbane in November 2014, the G20 published their collective Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan 2015-2016 (the G20 AC Plan).

The G20 AC Plan identifies key action areas and then for each Action Area, a set of Deliverables over the 2 years of the Plan.  The key Action Areas with their identified Deliverables are as follows:

  • member countries are to identify concrete steps to require the disclosure of ultimate beneficial owners behind any commercial or other structure to promote transparency in all commercial dealings;
  • member countries must promote their own rules on improving transparency in the public sector, including open data, whistleblower protections, immunities from prosecutions, fiscal and budget transparency and standards for public officials, with the Deliverables ranging from practical toolkits, disclosure of assets by public officials to self-assessments of each Members’ compliance with the Plan;
  • to actively promote the criminalisation of foreign bribery and the legal liability of persons (companies and individuals) with a key Deliverable being to focus on the role of intermediaries;
  • improving all levels of government cooperation with a Deliverable focus on acting to identify, recover and return the proceeds of corruption to the victims, countries or entities with enhanced criminal, civil and administrative sanctions and the improved use of anti-money laundering processes;
  • targeting anti-corruption initiatives in high risk areas with a Deliverable focus on customs, extractive industries, fisheries and primary industries and the construction industry; and
  • working to improve private sector transparency and integrity, particularly for small business, incentives for self-reporting, the role of the financial sector in detecting suspicious transactions and for business to adopt robust ethical standards to combat corruption.

The challenge over the next 2 years will be for the G20 member and other countries to take real and meaningful steps to address these issues in the face of inevitable complaints from business about the costs of regulation and compliance, so that these costs and attitudes are seen to work towards sustainable economic growth.

Australia’s Attorney General Department’s Foreign Bribery Module

On 9 December 2014 (world Anti-Corruption Day), the Australian Minister of Justice launched a new inter-active module addressing Australia’s key foreign bribery laws, sanctions, international issues and how business should manage its foreign bribery risks.

The Minister said:

The Australian Government has a zero tolerance approach to foreign bribery and corruption. This type of criminal offence poses a significant risk to Australian businesses operating in overseas markets. There are serious criminal implications for individuals and corporations, both under Australian and foreign laws. Business needs to be aware of the risks and take action to minimise them. The online learning module provides advice on Australia’s anti-bribery policy, the relevant laws and how they apply, and steps that business can take to help promote compliance. It also assists with our whole-of-government programme on foreign bribery and ensures our awareness-raising efforts are efficient, cost-effective and consistent across Government. Australia is reporting to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Working Group on Bribery later this week on initiatives undertaken since their evaluation of Australia in 2012. The online learning module helps address recommendations to continue to educate and engage with the business community.

The module is available here and companies should consider incorporating the ideas from the module into their existing e-learning or other training modules.

Australia and ASIC Corporate Penalties

Over the last few months, the question of the adequacy of corporate penalties for commercial offences has been bubbling along. In light of various scandals involving banks, their financial planning businesses and other ventures where average investors invested lot and lost a lot more, the ability of ASIC to really prosecute individuals, remains a live debate. Many see ASIC as too weak and too beholden to large companies that generate the fees ASIC collects for the Australian Government.

In the wake of the various Libor-related investigations and prosecutions oversea, ASIC’s Chairman was recently quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald (on 2 December 2014) as saying:

“Tougher penalties, such as more jail sentences, would deter would-be white collar criminals…fear had to be lifted in others to ‘smother the greed’…white collar criminals are scared of going to jail. I had 10 years on Wall Street and going to jail is the thing that scares them most…when they come up to the 18th floor and they put people in handcuffs and wheel them off they don’t come back – it sends a message.”

Yet, despite this bravado, little is seen of any aggressive pursuit of economic criminals in the manner described by ASIC. Hyperbole is all good and well, but without demonstrable action to back up the emotive statements, ASIC appears to many to be little more than a regulator with an angry feather duster.

Australia and China, Operation Fox Hunt

Since July 2014, there has been a range of media coverage on Operation Fox Hunt, a joint initiative between Australian and Chinese investigators and police forces (in China and overseas), targeting corrupt Chinese officials who are purportedly investing corruptly secured assets in Australia.

The media has reported that China has arrested 288 suspects accused of financial crimes across 56 countries as part of its sweeping Operation Fox Hunt. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security said 126 of those suspects were brought back to China and confessed to their crimes. Some of them were apprehended in the US, Canada, and Australia, which have become popular with white-collar criminals because they do not have extradition treaties with China.

The Chinese government declared a deadline of 1 December 2014 for suspects to come forth and surrender to authorities, which could get them more lenient punishments. The operation has required Chinese authorities to co-operate with law enforcement in each of the countries where fugitives reside. While details are scarce, Chinese media quotes the Ministry of Public Security thanking countries for “cooperation and support” in the operation.

In Australia, these developments and the free trade negotiations between Australia and China there have fuelled debate about whether an extradition treaty might be negotiated between China and Australia.  While there are significant issues to address, including the substantial differences in the criminal legal system in the two countries and China’s use of capital punishment, a treaty may not be so insurmountable as some might think, given the new era of trade relationships between China and Australia.

As one Chinese commentator, Yang Hengjun noted in October 2014:

“This is why I believe the “fox hunt” is of the most importance, along with continuing to hunt “tigers and flies” domestically. But compared to “tigers” (which make huge targets) and “flies” (who are everywhere and can be easily caught), the “foxes” are quite cunning. Unless I’m mistaken, the Ministry of Public Security’s “Fox Hunt 2014” has had only limited success. Otherwise, why would the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly issue a notice urging overseas “economic criminals” to turn themselves in.”

Australia and Extractive Industry Transparency

The recent Corporations Amendment (Publish What You Pay) Bill 2014 (Cth) is Australia’s response to improving transparency in the extractive industries sector, following the US, the UK and Canada introducing mandatory reporting of what in fact is paid by companies to secure valuable business contracts.

Key features of the Bill to note include the following:

  • a mandatory reporting regime for all Australia Stock Exchange listed companies, unlisted public companies, large proprietary limited companies and controlled joint venture companies, involved in a resource extraction activity;
  • a report must be made of any payment, or series of payments of more than AU$100,000 made to a domestic or foreign government (including any authority or company owned by the government);
  • the “reportable payments” are defined broadly to capture such payments as taxes, royalties, licence fees, dividends and “social payments” (to or for community projects);
    • an annual report must be lodged with ASIC making the report publicly available 28 days after receipt by ASIC of the report; and
    • any contravention of the reporting obligations will give rise to an offence under Chapter 2M of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and civil penalties will be available to ASIC if a defaulting company is prosecuted.

The Bill reflects Australia’s commitment to enhancing transparency following the G20 meetings and the increasing focus on how and what type of payments are made to governments and agencies controlled by governments in order to help target and combat corruption. Australian extractive companies should ensure there procedures are reviewed to ensure compliance with the Bill once it is enacted.

Asia-Pacific Anti-Corruption Network

At the 2014 APEC leaders’ meeting in Beijing held in November 2014, APEC agreed to establish an informal structure to facilitate “information sharing” among anti-corruption and law enforcement authorities in the Asia-Pacific region.

It commits the 21 APEC countries, including the United States and China, to “deny safe haven to those engaged in corruption, including through extradition, mutual legal assistance and the recovery and return of proceeds of corruption,” a joint-statement from APEC members said.

Western governments have resisted making extradition deals with China in the past because corruption crimes there are often punished with the death penalty. China has extradition treaties with 38 countries, but not with the United States, Australia or Canada, which have “the highest concentrations of corrupt officials” using those countries to safeguard their illicit assets according to Wang Yukai, an anti-corruption expert at the Chinese Academy of Governance. Mr Yukai also said that:

It will be of great significance if China can build cooperative mechanisms with these countries to capture corrupt officials on the run and recover some economic losses.

The Terms of Reference, adopted at the November APEC meeting require APEC Member States to:

  • establish the ACT-NET as an informal regional anti-corruption platform to permit prosecutors to consult and share practices to improve their investigation and prosecution of corruption (with China as the initial host for 2014 and 2015);
  • help in the training and targeting of corrupt assets to secure their capture and return; and
  • to promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

The Challenges Of Pursuing Foreign Bribe-Takers

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Today’s post is from Mike Dearington, an associate at Arent Fox LLP in Washington, DC. Dearington has previously authored several FCPA Professor guest posts on the Siriwan matter (see here).

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Last week, Leslie Caldwell (Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Criminal Division) spoke at the American Conference Institute’s International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Caldwell discussed the Criminal Division’s approach to combatting global corruption, warning that corrupt foreign officials are also in the government’s crosshairs.  “And now we also are prosecuting the bribe takers, using our money laundering and other laws,” Caldwell stated. “[O]ur efforts to hold bribe takers as well as bribe payors accountable for their criminal conduct are greatly aided by our foreign partners.”

Meanwhile, the very same day, federal prosecutors in the Central District of California requested that a court postpone an extradition status hearing in United States v. Siriwan, the government’s bellwether case against a foreign official who allegedly accepted bribes.  In the filing, DOJ prosecutors revealed that the foreign official, Juthamas Siriwan, former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, has been indicted on domestic bribery charges at home in Thailand.  Thailand’s indictment reduces the possibility that it will extradite the former official to the United States to face money-laundering charges.

Prosecutors charged Siriwan in 2009 with violations of the Money Laundering Control Act, alleging that Siriwan used the US financial system to promote or conceal violations of the FCPA and Thai law.  A jury convicted the alleged bribe payers, Hollywood film executives Gerald and Patricia Green, of FCPA violations in 2010 for allegedly paying Siriwan $1.8 million in bribes in exchange for lucrative film festival contracts.  But prosecutors’ case against Siriwan has stalled due to the government’s inability to obtain Siriwan’s extradition from Thailand.  The court has deferred ruling on the government’s somewhat novel legal theory in Siriwan until such time as Siriwan is extradited to the United States to stand trial.  Now that Thailand is contemporaneously prosecuting Siriwan at home, extradition seems even more unlikely, and prosecutors may be unable to convince the court to further stay the case, which has been pending for nearly six years.

The government’s extradition challenges in Siriwan suggest that the Criminal Division’s tactic of pursuing bribe-taking foreign officials can be fraught with diplomatic challenges and uncertainty.  Enforcement agencies in a corrupt official’s home country have a significant interest in holding officials accountable at home.  And a country’s unwillingness to communicate and coordinate with prosecutors in the United States can further complicate an already‑complicated case.  Thailand has been less than clear about whether it intends to extradite Siriwan.  Indeed, prosecutors seem to have learned of Thailand’s decision to indict Siriwan only after finding an article in the Bangkok Post.  In the DOJ’s filing, prosecutors explained, “On November 13, 2014, the Bangkok Post published a report that ‘a joint panel of the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has agreed to indict former Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Juthamas Siriwan in a film festival bribery case.’  The parties are each gathering more information regarding the development.”

Thailand’s unilateralism with respect to Siriwan has posed problems for prosecutors in the past.  Back in July 2012, after requesting Siriwan’s extradition, prosecutors admitted to the court that the government “has not yet received a response from Thailand regarding extradition,” only to learn from Thailand four months later that, “[Thailand is] in the process of gathering further evidences [sic] before completing the investigation in order to bring both offenders to court to be formally charged.  Hence, we must postpone the extradition . . . as requested by the U.S. Government, according to the Extradition Act . . . .”

Although the Criminal Division has obtained guilty pleas from foreign officials in other enforcement actions since indicting Siriwan in 2009—including in Haiti Teleco (Robert Antoine) and Direct Access Partners/BANDES (Maria de los Angeles Gonzalez de Hernandez)—Siriwan remains an important test case.  Prosecutors will likely encounter extradition challenges in future cases against bribe-taking foreign officials, whose home countries have significant interests in prosecuting the officials domestically.  And while the court in Siriwan awaits further information from the government about whether Thailand plans to extradite Siriwan, prosecutors’ legal theory remains untested.

The views expressed in this post are personal views and do not represent the views of Arent Fox LLP, its partners, employees or clients. Furthermore, the information provided is not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Actionable Intelligence On The Risk Of Bribery Internationally

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Today’s post is from Alexandra Wrage (President of TRACE International).

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Compliance officers and in-house counsel for multi-national companies are well aware of the risks and consequences of bribery schemes. What to do about it is the challenging part. Companies have long relied on Transparency International’s authoritative country-by country corruption risk ratings to prioritize their limited resources. But knowing what specific steps are necessary to mitigate your risks is not something that can be gleaned from an overall country risk rating.  Because two countries with the same overall risk rating can present very different types of corruption risk, the ratings alone don’t provide actionable intelligence. A compliance officer needs to know how corruption in a particular country will confront their business. Last week, another tool in the compliance and risk assessment arsenal was launched to meet this need: the TRACE Matrix.

We at TRACE have long heard the laments from compliance officers and general counsel that they need the actionable information that would come from more granular country risk ratings.  One general counsel noted after looking at other indices, “once you get past the first 30 – 40 countries, all those lower countries start to look the same. If you are comparing Angola to Romania, the ranking isn’t useful, but if you are able to give guidance as to what types of corruption you might see, that would be extremely helpful.”

Enforcement officials have also recognized the limitations of country level risk ratings. “Multinational companies need additional tools beyond those currently available to more effectively measure country risk.”  Charles Duross, Partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP and the former deputy chief in the fraud section in the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

And so, working in collaboration with RAND Corporation, TRACE set out to develop an actionable business bribery index for the compliance community.  This project involved more than a year of research and benchmarking.  We asked companies what features they would like to see in a business bribery index and asked them to identify information that would assist their assessment of business bribery risk.   As part of our research, we also conducted interviews with regulators and enforcement officials to understand their views of country risk assessments.

The resulting TRACE Matrix provides not only a country level risk-rating but also four different domain risk ratings and nine different sub-domains of risk.  Although the TRACE Matrix can be used to rank countries by their composite scores, it is also possible to view the results for specific risk factors included in the composite score to identify what drives the overall score. This allows firms to identify not only where a country falls in terms of overall business bribery risk, but also to use the domain and subdomain scores to tailor compliance practices further.   For example, if the business is one that has to have many interactions across many government offices, then a country with a high risk in this domain would be of particular concern.

In the 1990s, Transparency International gave the world the Corruption Perception Index (CPI). TI gets great credit for raising awareness of this issue and putting countries on notice that levels of corruption were being monitored.  The CPI is a valuable instrument for addressing overall levels of perceived corruption in a particular country.  It combines numerous surveys about perceived levels of corruption across government functions:  judiciary, health, education, etc. These country level ratings are informative, but they also obscure important and actionable differences among countries with similar ratings. The business community’s needs are more specific.

The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators also aggregates corruption-related data, but as the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre states, “the main use of the indicators by international organization [sic] and donors is to incentivize developing nations to improve their governance and to improve the allocation of aid.”   Another valuable tool, this alone does not meet the needs of the business community.

Companies that use existing indices to measure threats associated with business corruption risk developing either overly aggressive or inadequate compliance and due diligence procedures. They need more nuanced data to tailor their compliance processes appropriately.

So, after hearing from the business community for years that a tailored tool to gauge levels of commercial bribery was needed we set out to explore just what should be measured.   Most respondents cited “touches” with the government as the most important indicator for commercial bribery.   In a great assessment of ports in Nigeria, the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) determined that 142 signatures were needed to clear cargo in the port of Lagos.  That’s a powerful indicator of the likelihood of a bribe demand.

At the same time, as one participant noted, the compliance community needs “something that is more targeted, more precise than the CPI, [but] the more complicated it gets, the less likely people will be to use it.”

And so, leveraging our own experience and tapping our stakeholders all over the world, we identified four domains relevant to companies

(1)   business interactions with government,

(2)   anti-bribery laws and enforcement,

(3)   government transparency and civil service, and

(4)   capacity for civil society oversight.

RAND further refined this by including nine sub-domains. For example, when it came to business interactions with government, the Matrix addresses the nature of contact with local governments, expectations of paying bribes and regulatory burdens. Likewise, in examining capacity for civil society oversight, the Matrix addresses the quality and freedom of media, as well as human capital and social development.

Ultimately, by offering a clear, actionable snapshot of the risk of commercial bribery in a country, the TRACE Matrix should help multinational companies make better decisions about foreign investments, bolster compliance and reduce the likelihood of violating anti-bribery laws.  No approach is perfect and we expect a lot of debate about the weighting of the data and about scores or rankings that people find surprising. But we hope it will provide a practical and effective tool to help assess bribery risk and thereby enable in-house counsel and compliance professionals to allocate their limited resources with more confidence.

Alexandra Wrage is the president of TRACE International, a nonprofit antibribery compliance organization offering practical tools and services to multinational companies, including the TRACE Matrix. 

A Compliance Professional Speaks

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

myster person2Today’s post is from a compliance professional who wishes to remain anonymous.

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When you’re the Chief Compliance Officer (“CCO”) of a company that ends up in the middle of one of “those” all-encompassing FCPA investigations (as if there’s any other kind), people often want to know . . . what is it like?  How does it feel to be at ground zero of pure FCPA adrenaline?   This is my answer,  based on my repeated experiences.  I wish I could say it just happened once.  This is also based on my discussions with other CCOs.

It’s a rollercoaster with few ups and a lot of downs.

There’s that moment at the beginning when you know something is wrong.  Usually you know it’s not going to be trivial.  So you dig a bit more. Or have someone else dig a bit more.  Somewhere along the line, it strikes you.  This is going to be big.  Very big.  We can just call that the “oh crap” moment.  Every CCO I know has had at least one.

You feel a rush.  An excitement.  It’s what you’ve trained for, and read about.  And now it’s happening.  But there is invariably, immediately, a sense of dread.  Depending on the size of the issue and the seniority of the people involved, that sense of dread can range from a knot in the stomach to downright nausea.  Will the C-suite management understand it?  (Do you even have the ear of the C-suite management?) Will they do the “right thing”?

You know exactly what should happen next.  You should get on the phone with your favorite skilled, independent investigations counsel.  But before you can do that, you have to be a salesman.  You need to convince someone (sometimes the CEO, sometimes the General Counsel, sometimes a non-executive director) that this is something.  Or at the very least, it’s not nothing.  With any luck, you can make them see sense.  Most of the time, they’ve never been through this.  The education process can be slow and tedious.

You know who the right counsel are . .  . but not so fast.  You don’t have the budget.  Many times, you don’t even have the ability to hire outside counsel  without the approval of your General Counsel.  Do you have the GC’s backing?  Do they see compliance as a help or as a nuisance?  Do they believe you when you say this needs independent investigation?  Or do they think you’re just being alarmist?  What if the GC (or someone else) wants to investigate themselves?  Or hire the go-to corporate counsel?  Or hire their buddy, the jovial law school classmate of the GC who has never actually done an investigation but, really, how hard can it be?  You have to explain – calmly, rationally and often repeatedly – why that just isn’t the right thing to do.

In the meantime, a clock may be ticking. The company may be facing a quarterly SEC filing or the signing of a deal contract or the receipt of monies on the deal.  All of these have implications.  All of your powers of (gentle) persuasion are brought to bear.

And your reward for all of this?  If you’re lucky, they listen to you. The right outside counsel walks in the door and the matter rests in their capable hands. It’s a leap of faith to put something this sensitive in the hands of outside counsel.  Or, more specifically, outside counsel’s judgment of when enough is enough.   These issues always reach higher than you think.

More often than not, the legal group squeezes you out.  Compliance, after all, is not generally part of legal.  You may be kept in the loop, or you may be completely excluded.  If you’re very lucky, you are kept abreast of what is happening and people seek out your guidance and opinion.  But honestly?  Don’t hold your breath.  Particularly if this all results in a report to a regulator, you’ll definitely be pushed to the side.  Privilege is held in a tight circle that doesn’t generally include you.  So just go back to your office and keep the compliance program moving along.

What if you’re not lucky?  What if you can’t get anyone to understand? What if the issue is too subtle, or involves too senior a salesperson (they bring in the revenue, after all) or too important a client?  Not many can just stake out the moral (and legal) high ground and resign.  Sometimes the situation is that bad, or you have regulatory obligations, and you’re forced into that decision.  I know a brave few who have actually done that.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Think what it would mean for yourself and your family to walk away from a steady (and often healthy) paycheck.  What a price to pay for your convictions.

It’s far more common that you hold your tongue and bide your time. You find a way to rationalize the situation.  You compromise.  Being a CCO is, above all else, about compromise.  Does that surprise or appall lawyers in private practice or working for the government?  It shouldn’t.  Good CCOs are always “commercial” (whatever that is supposed to mean). As a CCO,  you’re being “business friendly.”  Or, to be less cynical, you’re doing your job.  You’re there to balance the company’s interests with the legal requirements.

But mostly you hope and pray that you’ve done the right thing.  And that a regulator never second guesses your actions.  That seems to be happening more and more.  I know too many CCOs  who are being subpoenaed to give testimony and defend their actions in front of regulators.  Sometimes as witnesses, but sometimes (rarely) as suspects.  So much for regulators seeing CCOs as the guys in the white hats.

Even if the  (right) lawyers do come in and they investigate, you hope that you didn’t raise a false alarm.  Then you hope none of your friends in the business were involved (CCOs always have friends in the business).   And when it turns out you were exactly right, and it really was worse than what you thought, it’s a hollow victory.  People lose their jobs.  People that you know and sometimes people that you like and who weren’t malicious or evil.  They were just doing their jobs and got caught up in the tide.  Sometimes they are sued or brought up on criminal charges.  The rest of the company is left in a state of shock.  You may have been trained to spot a FCPA issue when it arises, but there’s very little training on how to deal with the human element.  It is far and away the worst part of the job.