Employee Health and Wellness
April 11, 2023
Fostering integrity and ethical business practices is one of the best ways an organization can build trust, accountability and transparency with employees, third parties and regulators.
The importance of implementing an effective compliance program is one of the key takeaways from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recent actions and policy revisions. In a speech to the American Bar Association, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. urged the audience to, “push to create a culture of compliance and empower ethical employees.”
For legal and compliance practitioners, anti-corruption training that is tailored to your organization, industry and risk areas is a valuable tool to create and maintain a culture of compliance, promote ethical conduct among employees and other relevant parties, and reduce the legal, financial and reputational risks of violating anti-bribery and corruption laws, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
These are 6 ways (among others) that anti-bribery/anti-corruption (ABAC) training can support your organization’s anti-corruption policies, procedures and best practices by –
1. Explaining why FCPA compliance is important
The FCPA is the principal US federal law that makes it a crime to pay a bribe to a foreign public official for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. (The FCPA includes a books and records and internal controls provision, too). Enforced by the DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FCPA applies to any company that does business internationally or whose securities are listed in the US. Understanding how to comply with FCPA regulations is essential in reducing the risk of employees, suppliers, consultants and other third parties engaging in corrupt practices.
2. Defining what constitutes bribery
The DOJ’s resource guide to the FCPA makes the point that bribery can come in many forms. In general, the law prohibits, “offering to pay, paying, promising to pay, or authorizing the payment of money or anything of value to a foreign official in order to influence any act or decision of the foreign official…. to secure any other improper advantage in order to obtain or retain business.” While bribes are often thought of as cash and lavish gifts, a bribe can be a job offer to a friend or relative of an official, travel and accommodations, donations to a charity or a political party, trade secrets, stock tips and hospitality and entertainment. And the gift or offer does not have to be accepted to be considered an offense.
3. Putting bribery into everyday context
What is considered a bribe is not always obvious and intentions matter. Employees need to be familiar with situations and circumstances that are vulnerable to bribery in the context of their industry, work, and specific risk areas. ABAC training connects the dots between a company’s code of conduct and other policies and practices, providing relevant examples, red flags and real-life scenarios that demonstrate what behaviors and practices are acceptable and what is prohibited under the FCPA. Again, the question is, what is the intention? Did the person offering or giving the bribe intend it to influence the public official? If so, then it is more likely to be deemed something of value; even if the item has little commercial value.
4. Clarifying who is a foreign official under the FCPA
Under the FCPA, foreign officials include, ‘any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, or of a public international organization.’ The term “instrumentality” is broad and can include state-owned and state-controlled entities, such as aerospace, telecommunications, defense and railroad companies, whose employees are considered foreign officials. Other examples of public officials are employees and representatives working on behalf of public international organizations, such as the United Nations, the Red Cross and the World Bank.
5. Encouraging reporting
While preventing misconduct is always the goal, incidents and ethical grey areas do occur and organizations should encourage individuals to report any suspicions of corruption and provide a designated contact and reporting mechanisms. Depending on the organization, the designated contact may be the legal, compliance or HR department. Reporting channels include ethics and whistleblowing hotlines or other platforms that make it easy and accessible to report workplace misconduct. The underlying message is, when in doubt, ask!
6. Fostering a speak-up culture
Assistant AG Polite’s ‘empower ethical employees’ remark reflects the heightened spotlight on fostering a speak-up culture in which individuals feel confident that if they ask questions and report issues and concerns, they will be taken seriously and not face retaliation. Organizations that encourage a speak-up culture are better able to identify and address troubling hotspots and reduce financial and reputational risks. In addition, a speak-up culture attracts and retains talent and fosters trust and transparency.
Anti-bribery and anti-corruption training that is tailored to your organization is a cornerstone of an effective compliance training program, equipping employees and third parties with best practices to ensure a business environment of trust, accountability and transparency.