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)

How well do you know your Partners and 3rd Parties?


Reading through the Mike Volkov and Tom Fox blogs certainly provides food-for-thought around FCPA violations and infringements. Mike is holding a webinar next week to talk about FCPA with respect to Private Equity and Hedge Funds, in particular when such companies are considering international mergers or acquisitions; Tom talks about whether FCPA scrutiny revolves around the oil and gas company because of the places where they operate or the ‘cowboy tradition’ of the industry.

These articles got me thinking about the partners and 3rd parties that such companies contract with to conduct business in countries like Russia, China and Mexico. My question for companies with significant international operations is simply “How well do you really know your Partners and 3rd Parties?” I posed a similar question in my blog last month, but the point is worth repeating.

Most companies it seems, who are expanding their international businesses or looking at potential M&A activity, do a pretty good job at the front end – ie the due diligence stage. Vetting partners, 3rd party relationships, etc. The problem is that business relationships are not static – they change and evolve. Personnel changes, from sales to research and development teams to supply chain partners. With these changes, so does ‘who we do business with’ and more importantly ‘how business is conducted’.

At Catelas we are not advocating that companies need to monitor every business relationship every minute of the day, but we certainly recommend regular check-ups (or assessments). For example, a company might be have expanded its business operations into South America. Well it would not hurt to conduct a business partner / 3rd party assessment after 1 year to examine what those business relationships look like. Or a major pharma company conducting clinical trials in Indonesia may find it makes sound business sense to identify the key relationships that exist between the company, partners, 3rd parties and hospitals, six month into those trials.

As this picture shows, these 360 degree assessment need not be a massive, expensive investigation in-country. Nor is it a major audit of the company’s financials and partnership contracts. Rather they are designed to be a non-obtrusive examination of how  business is really being done on a day-to-day basis – ‘who is talking to who’, and ‘what are the key business relationships in place’. It provides first and foremost ‘peace of mind’ that the company is conducting business ethically. But if red flags are raised as a result of the assessment, then it provides a process for undertaking a more detailed examination.

And hence the MRI analogy we have used before – the Catelas 360 degree assessment provides an MRI into your foreign business operations – answering the question “How well do you know your 3rd parties?”. To learn more take a look here or give us a call. I would love to hear your views.

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.

How corrupt are your foreign business operations?


Welcome to the first of the Catelas blog posts. We have been working with companies on FCPA compliance for the past 3 years and continue to be astounded at just ‘how in the dark’ most Compliance Officers are with respect to their overseas business operations.

While the lure of doing business in countries like China, Russia and Indonesia is certainly great, the risks that come with it are equally so. Our experience is that most companies do a pretty good job at vetting potential partners, 3rd parties and individuals when they first enter a new country (through fairly rigorous background checks), but apart from re-inforcing policies and codes of conduct, that is pretty much where it ends.

The full-time, round the clock monitoring of these partners (or individuals) to uncover potential bribery or corruption is clearly cost-prohibitive and not usually practical. And most of the monitoring is focused on the financials, ie expense reports to try to uncover unreasonable or unwarranted spending.

That is why Catelas has approached the problem from a totally different perspective. If we could analyze the daily communications of a company (both inside and outside the company) and focus on those high-risk countries, partners and individuals, then we could uncover potential risks to the company, before potential FCPA infractions occur.

Tall order? Sure. And costly too? Perhaps. So we have developed a fast, effective and non-disruptive way to audit and report high-risk relationships, typically at 6 monthly intervals. Like an MRI, Catelas is able to provide Compliance Officers peace-of-mind with respect to potential FCPA violations. We identify ‘who is doing business with whom’, providing 360° profiles for companies to help them understand which countries, partners or individuals pose the highest risk based on the day-to-day communication patterns inside and outside the company.