FCPA – coming to a mid-sized company near you! Thanks for the interview, Mike Volkov!


Having read blogs for close to 5 years now, I always look forward to this time of year when predictions are made. I tend to select my reading based on subject matter expertise and style, focusing on people I like and respect. I have also learned to leave the predictions to the experts rather than making my own!

Last week at Catelas we interviewed Mike Volkov to gain his insights into FCPA Compliance and try to get a sneak peak into 2012. If you have not already read his blog (here) I highly recommend that you do. We thought we would share a 3 minute audio clip of our interview with Mike,which covers many of the same topics, but reinforces the message through our auditory senses. I hope we played a small part in helping Mike compile his thoughts.

One key prediction that resonated with me was “FCPA coming to a mid-size company near you”. Okay, this is a play on words, but the gist was that FCPA enforcement will expand beyond large multi-national companies and into mid-size or smaller public companies. These companies, who for the large part I assume do not have the people or money resources to handle these types of inquiries, will need some help. Both in the form of advice from people like Mike Volkov but also in the form of “audits or assessments” of where to start and what to prioritize from companies like Catelas.

For example: Mid Size company  – 20% of their business (and growing) comes from China. Step 1 and Priority 1 is to understand how the company does business in China, in particular understanding the relationships it has with its Partners and 3rd Parties in China.

Our interview goes on to discuss how resource-sensitive companies can use Catelas in a very targeted and cost-effective way – ie pinpointing the relationships they have in high-risk FCPA countries where they do business that is of importance to them.

I hope you enjoy the audio clip. Feel free to contact me if you want to listen to the full webcast or discuss the topic in more detail.

Rob (robert.levey@catelas.com)

Internal Investigations continue to rise


The latest Fulbright & Jaworski Litigation Trends Survey is out – slightly less litigation in 2011 compared to 2010, yet the cost of litigation per company rose. However, regulatory actions and internal investigations are climbing.

The report also reveals that whistle-blowers remain a concern in the coming year stating that one-quarter of respondents anticipate an increase in the number of claims or lawsuits brought by whistle-blowers next year. This year, 22% of respondents said their organizations were subjected to whistle-blower allegations. I suspect that this percentage has been increasing steadily over the last few years, but 25% !!! That certainly registers on the “take-notice” meter.

I also listened to a TechLaw10 podcast #42 this week, where Jonathan Armstrong was talking about the many challenges of internal investigations… more regulations, businesses being more global, more value on corporate data, more employee turnover. This last one certainly resonated – the work force of today statistically averages 2.2 years per company, a far cry from our Dads’ generation when jobs were for life. Whether people today are stealing corporate secrets more than they were before is not the issue; but the chance of this happening is significantly higher simply because people move around more and it is much easier to ‘take’ secret data with you.

All put together, I sense the perfect storm brewing to corroborate this trend of increasing investigations.

So to the people who actually have to do the work and respond to this trend, my question is how are you coping? In this economy it is not simply a case of asking General Counsel for a bigger budget – more people and more technology. It’s more complicated than that. It requires putting together a well thought out “mini-business plan” – what are the key areas of focus, how do you prioritize investigations, when and how do you deploy resources (locally and internationally), what policies and processes do you have to train and educate employees, etc. And of course if additional resources are required they need to be justified via an ROI calculation. This last piece is absolutely key – coming from the sales side, believe me, sales commission are directly proportional to a customer’s ROI.

Faced with an increase in internal investigations, the key is to use technology to your advantage – at Catelas, we are all about upfront intelligence – arming you with the facts about a case as early as possible, so that you can prioritize your investigations, spending time on the important, not the trivial, one’s, collecting only the relevant data specific to that investigation and thereby saving time and cost per investigation.

If you are interested in learning more, look here.

Voluntary Disclosure of FCPA violations


To disclose or not to disclose… that is the question. Definitely a thorny issue which Compliance Officers have to deal with. From my standpoint, I am seeing more voluntary disclosures hitting the press – here Maxwell and here Analogic, which is a good thing. Right?

Personal Disclosure – I have never been inside a Compliance Officer’s shoes when he or she is being chewed out by the CEO, so my opinion may not count for much. But what I have observed over the last few years being around corporate FCPA investigations is the following:-

1. We will investigate, prioritize and disclose potential violations that are brought to the Compliance Team’s attention:  what this means is that most companies have an investigation process in place and when they find something wrong and potentially serious, for the most part they will voluntarily disclose. Clearly, this begs the question what is “serious”, but most companies I would hope will not deliberately try to hide blatant stuff.

2. I don’t want to know what I don’t need to know: this is really about proactive monitoring or going out and finding potential violations. We work with a few companies in highly regulated industries where this is a must, but for most companies it is a step too far – ie I don’t want to uncover stuff that I don’t need to know about. This does not mean that these companies have blinders on, simply that they are doing what is necessary from a compliance and enterprise risk perspective. They feel they no not need to go the extra 9 yards.

3. Cover my backside principle:  this is about policies, processes, employee training, ‘walking the walk’, ‘top down approach’, etc. It’s what all good Compliance Teams do: they enforce and remind employees, partners, etc about good business practices. Often this is driven by past experiences – has the company been investigated by the authorities before, have they had whistle-blower incidents, etc?

4. Who is the target?  The company or the Executive: this is probably the one dynamic that has changed the most in the last 2 years. The charges are becoming personal, in that CEO’s (SEC charges CEO $20M in fraud case) or Compliance Officers are being charged for violations, resulting in possible jail time. No longer is it simply the company that stands to be charged.

Of course each company is different, but the underlying theme is reputation risk – enterprise and personal. Voluntary disclosure provides an avenue for ‘coming clean’, for putting some level of  ‘positive spin’ out of a bad situation and hopefully ultimately saving the company money in fines, etc. To all Compliance Officers – are you feeling the disclosure heat? Or is it still business as usual? I would love to hear your views.