A week ago I started receiving a stream of emails and “likes” congratulating me on LinkedIn for my one-year anniversary as a Contributing Editor of the FCPA Blog.
My appreciation to the LinkedIn algorithm, as that anniversary would have passed without me thinking of it.
More importantly, thank you to those who took the time to email me, including fellow contributors to the FCPA Blog, with your kind and supportive notes. And my gratitude to the editor who asked me to join the FCPA Blog team a year ago. He challenged me to share my own history, including the time I spent in prison for FCPA offenses.
That challenge brought plenty of anxiety. Most of us have parts of our life we keep private and don’t share. And besides, I was already intimidated. As a long-term follower of the FCPA Blog, I knew it was a community of well-resourced and experienced compliance professionals. What could I say to them?
At the start, I played it safe. My first piece for the FCPA Blog was in May 2015, Confronting corruption: My own perfect storm. I talked about my prior bad behavior as a possible “compliance lesson learned” for others facing similar challenges in their work.
I continued to post about compliance lessons — incentives, the dynamics of frontier markets, and debarment, among other current issues.
But eventually, and with more editorial encouragement, I understood that those weren’t the things I most wanted to write about. My real goal was to put a real face on the FCPA.
Yes, there’s plenty of information to dissect in a Plea Bargain, Statement of Offense, or Indictment. Those official documents deliver lots of facts. But they don’t tell us much about the people involved. What’s it like to hear that you’re the target of a federal investigation? What’s the impact of an individual prosecution on families and loved ones? What does it feel like to wait for a prison designation and finally start serving a sentence?
With a lot of support and encouragement, I was finally able to write on the FCPA Blog about how the stress of that crucible can be unbearable. I addressed how the consequences of prison can last well beyond the actual time spent behind bars, and I described my health problems that started in prison and continued after my release. Fortunately those problems are now behind me. But even fourteen months in prison can have lifelong consequences.
I still hope my sometime-focus on compensation, stretch goals, and “bribing not to lose” helps compliance leaders to raise awareness about the importance of how business gets done in the real world. It’s critical. But that’s not where I want it to end.
Rather, I hope my posts about spending Thanksgiving in prison, dealing with health issues there, and learning what not to do as a new inmate, have found their way to the those on the front-lines of business, in remote offices, far from the C-suite.
Why? So the men and women in the field, often alone and under enormous pressure to make a sale, might ask themselves before their next decision: Is what I’m about to do really worth it?
Richard Bistrong is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog and CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC. He was named one of Ethisphere’s 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics for 2015. He consults, writes and speaks about compliance issues. He can be contacted by email here and on twitter @richardbistrong. He’ll be a speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.
Richard Bistrong’s posts on the FCPA Blog can all be found here.