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Bistrong to Garcia: ‘It gets better’

The story of Vicente Garcia, SAP’s former head of sales for Latin America, reminded me of one of the darkest periods in my life — the time before sentencing.

Garcia pleaded guilty last week to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s antibribery provisions. Now he’s waiting to be sentenced. Nothing is worse than the uncertainty of a sentencing hearing, when life might change in a matter of minutes.

But if I could share anything with Mr. Garcia today, it would be this: It gets better.

Once you start your first day of incarceration (should Garcia be sentenced to prison), you’re working your sentence down, and you move closer to your “last wake up” (the night before your release), when you’ll be reunited with your loved ones. As the inmates say before lights out, “another day down.”

There are many elements of Vicente Garcia’s experience similar to my own. But there was one line in his charging document (available here) that caught my attention: “winning the contract meant that SAP would be favored to win additional anticipated contracts in Panama, as the government worked to harmonize technology solutions across multiple government agencies.”

I call that the “win big, lose big” dynamic of international business.

As Mr. Garcia’s experience demonstrates, in many regions, international public procurements are centralized at the national ministry level, where procurements are large, and far and few between. Worse, the rules of procurement are often chaotic and deliberately confusing; that presents ample opportunities for corrupt employees, intermediaries and public officials to conspire and “game the system.”

In my experience, those dynamics need to be better understood in the development and implementation of compliance and incentive programs. It puts enormous pressure on front-line employees to “win above all else,” because the loss of a national procurement opportunity becomes a long-term issue, with significant impact on forecasts and bonus plans.

For those like Vicente Garcia and myself, who corruptly took advantage of such elements, the loss of liberty is the ultimate and appropriate price to pay for that conduct.

But Mr. Garcia, if your sentence includes incarceration, don’t worry. Soon enough you’ll be telling your cellies, “I’m down to a wake-up.”


Richard Bistrong is CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC. He consults, writes and speaks about compliance issues from his experience as an international sales VP and conviction for violating the FCPA, where he pleaded guilty and served fourteen and a half months in prison. He can be reached via his website, twitter and email.

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1 Comment

  1. Mr. Bistrong, Yet again, you sir are incredible. I saw your name this morning in my email box, the FCPA Blog Newsletter. It's been a grueling several weeks. I wasn't looking forward to reading email. I read FCPA Blog . . . Richard Bistrong . . . My eyes lifted, because I knew there would be something new and refreshing associated with the FCPA Blog and Bistrong. I was not disappointed. You make me want to pick it up and go another round sir. There is no gratitude I can express in writing that adequately conveys my heartfelt appreciation. You're awesome. As is your family, staff, and those around you who see the true grit integrity and intestinal fortitude in you that your readers and followers see. Thank you from my heart of hearts.

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