The International Anti-Corruption Academy’s Wittgenstein Villa reminds us to use our time and freedom well. I’m thinking about Siemens (which helps fund the IACA). And I am wondering if an historic reckoning for Wal-Mart could have positive consequences for all compliance officers and the global public.
Last week, IACA students from 25 countries heard the chief compliance officer of Siemens, Klaus Moomsmayer, describe his company’s remarkable turn around. To move forward at all required a revolution in attitude and new management. Siemens embraced the opportunity to do business in a new way. With 500 compliance officers, direct board access for the chief of complaince, and most “best practices” in place, Siemens is confident it can do business wherever it needs to, including countries notorious for corruption.
Moomsmayer tells skeptics, “You think there are no people in those countries who are honest, who want to do business with us our way, without bribes. You’re wrong.”
Siemens now claims a competitive advantage because it doesn’t add bribery costs into its quotes. And this might eventually break up the strangle hold of corruption on local institutions.
Siemens’ 2008 FCPA settlement conditions and $800 million in penalties were unprecedented. But Siemens may have been the easy one.
Wal-Mart is still investigating alleged illegal payments in Mexico, India, Brazil, China and other countries. No charges have been brought in the U.S. or elsewhare, and the company and everyone involved is presumed innocent. But looking forward to a potential FCPA enforcement action, should there be one, here are some facts to consider.
Wal-Mart is roughly 400% bigger than Siemens measured by sales, 300% bigger by profits ($17 billion versus $5 billion), and six times bigger than Siemens by number of employees — 2.2 million versus 360,000.
Wal-Mart is facing allegations of not only bribery but also a cover up during six years starting in 2006. Over 30 current and former Wal-Mart employees, possibly including top executives, have reportedly received DOJ subpoenas.
And a Delaware court order under appeal could require the company to disclose years of internal records related to alleged Board member misconduct.
Siemens set the bar high for what can be done by leading companies when compliance is elevated to a top priority. Could Wal-Mart some day step up and “scale up” due to its fame, size, and resources, and set the bar even higher?
If Wal-Mart, one of the world’s greatest businesses and brands, faces an FCPA enforcement action, we should all want it to succeed afterwards, just as Siemens did. That’s what will do the most good for the public and for the compliance profession.
Michael Scher is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog. He has over three decades of experience as a senior compliance officer and attorney for international transactions. He is affiliated with ethiXbase, the owner of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.