Yesterday’s post by Jose Da Silva about progress in Colombia against graft is a welcome push back to the out of date stereotype that corruption is just how business is done there. To paraphrase a senior executive at Siemens, there are honest, decent people everywhere who want to do business the right way. You find them and then you can do bribe-free business.
When business is done using bribes, it entrenches the bribe takers and obstructs the honest people. It also cheats on the international business consensus to resist it through collective actions. In another post it would be great to learn the details of how collective action is working in Colombia: “And at the start of this year, a new anti-corruption initiative began that promotes cooperation between the government and the private sector to improve compliance standard.”
In a comment to Jose Da Silva’s post, Joe Murphy, a top compliance expert for the SCCE, said: “I think it is also true that there is a growing awareness of the importance of compliance and ethics programs in South America, including Colombia. Companies looking to do business [there] should be asking about such programs in their potential partner-companies and helping those who are interested to develop and improve them. We would all benefit from this.”
Joe is quite right to focus on real compliance programs staffed by compliance officers trained for the work.
Investors should ask hard questions on what compliance programs are in place. For example: Is the board involved and are compliance officers protected from retaliation. (Joe Murphy has written many outstanding guides to the right questions to ask.) As he notes, actual compliance officers empowered to run a compliance program demonstrate the commitment.
Michael Scher is a senior editor of the FCPA Blog. He has over three decades of experience as a senior compliance officer and attorney for international transactions. He can be contacted here.