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Hire Local Talent, Get Local Practices

A reader sent us this comment, reprinted here with his permission:


Dear FCPA Blog,

As a former Bristol-Myers Squibb employee, and as an actual Business Development Manager in Latin America, I am disappointed that B-MS is on the corporate investigations list. I am still a proud B-MS veteran, and know how hard the folks at the company work, especially in the international realm. 

At the same time, I see many other pharma companies listed, so one could question certain industry practices. I would like to offer some insight to the public and make a request: please don’t rush to judge U.S.-based employees working in these countries. 

I for one was solicited over a dozen times for bribes, and every time I refused or gave the solicitor an incredulous look, the subject was quickly changed. But the general public needs to understand the typical management model for doing business in foreign countries: you hire local talent because they purportedly “know the market” better than some naive American can. Unfortunately, there is a high probability that they will also bring “local business practices” with them. 

These foreign employees may not divulge their activities to their employer…all that anyone at HQ can see is a high-performing Latin American manager, ergo we must have hired a “superstar” from the local marketplace. We train them to do the right thing, and we trust them to do the right thing because they are vested with the authority of our brand.

In my opinion, when these industry investigations are completed, it’s likely that if there are guilty employees, a majority will wind up being local nationals entrusted with the reputation of their employers, who wound up sacrificing that reputation in an effort to perform. 

To play devil’s advocate, these markets in Latin America (heck, in most foreign countries) have a long history of bribery and corruption — it becomes an ingrained practice to solicit and provide “bribes” — but to a local businessman, they aren’t bribes, they are just how “business is done.”

Feedback and shared experiences welcome.

Rudy Quiles


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