Tomorrow is May 1st — also known as May Day or International Workers’ Day — a public holiday in much of the world, including our present location. It’s a day to honor workers and their achievements, and to give people a well-timed spring holiday.
We’re totally in favor of honoring workers and taking a day off. Who isn’t? But our enthusiasm for the international labor movement is, shall we say, somewhat cautious. It’s been that way since our first visit to the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. From that and many subsequent stays in the Workers’ Paradise, we learned to tell the difference between “capitalism” and the other competing “isms.” The relative advantages of the former are very clear in our mind.
But getting back to the business of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, we’re convinced that one of the best things a company can do for its employees is to have an effective compliance program. When the rules against bribing foreign officials on company time are clear, life is simpler and a lot safer. Employees we talk to sometimes assume a compliance program is just another way to punish hapless workers. Not true, we tell them. A compliance program is for everyone’s protection. Be grateful your company cares about staying on the right side of the law.
Companies that ignore compliance or settle for slipshod programs are putting themselves and their employees at great risk. Without clear lines, workers naturally become confused. They might think a well-placed bribe to help the company will enhance their careers. Imagine their surprise and horror when the company fires them, as it must, and helps the Justice Department prosecute them for a crime that carries a possible five-year prison term.
Companies that respect their employees will give them a safe workplace by having an effective FCPA compliance program. What’s that? The elements are described in the United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Features include a written program, high-level oversight, personal responsibility, adequate authority and resources, communication and training, anonymous reporting, consistent enforcement, and constant self-evaluation and correction. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In other words, it’s within easy reach of any organization that wants to comply.
View Chapter 8, Part B of the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines here.