My Federal Probation formally terminated on January 14, and with that termination came the return of my passport.
My ten-year crucible in the criminal justice system began when the DOJ targeted me in 2007 — with only myself to blame. My voting rights were restored prior to the November 2016 election, so the passport was the final return of my civil liberties.
About a month after receiving my passport, I boarded a flight to China. I spent eight days in Beijing and other cities speaking at corporate events and a compliance roundtables. Since that initial China trip, I have visited Europe three times and returned to China again.
For those who travel internationally as part of their work, that probably doesn’t sound too daunting or challenging. But for someone who once traveled 250 days a year overseas for over a decade and then lost the right to travel internationally for around seven years, through a self-inflicted catastrophe, my restored travel privileges are something I appreciate more than I ever thought possible.
Now I’m able to address corruption risk where corruption risk resides — in the overseas markets. It’s an honor to be part of the open, honest and engaging discourses with groups and organizations that are trying to bring the commercial realities of international business to their compliance, audit and executive teams. I heard one CEO describe his own management style as “servant leadership,” where it’s not about how you need to succeed, but rather how you can help someone else succeed. To be in corporate settings where Fortune 500 CEOs encourage their commercial and compliance teams to help one another is inspiring.
Now that I’m crossing borders again, I’m listening to my own advice. That means staying close to family, friends and colleagues — the same people I disengaged from during my sales VP work. Now my favorite day of travel is when I return home. And when I’m away, it’s about Facetime and Skyping with loved ones, even at odd hours due to time zones.
While I no longer have the stress of commercial objectives and quotas, jet lag and sleep deprivation still hit me hard. But these days I politely leave group dinners early, for a good night of rest and an elliptical in the morning.
I never before appreciated or understood the impact a good night of sleep, a healthy diet (in my case, vegan), and a half hour of morning exercise can have on focus, concentration and clarity, but it’s significant, no matter what one’s role might be. For compliance leaders, having a “duty of care,” as one CCO put it, over the health and welfare of commercial teams, is something not to be discounted. As I learned the hard way, mental, emotional and professional well-being can all work together for everyone’s personal and commercial benefit.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll reflect on these past months and talk about common compliance challenges and solutions across regions.
I’ve found a very refreshing attitude among compliance leaders who want to know how they and their organizations can do better. As one leader put it, “We know the disconnects are there, so how do we ‘lean in’ and get to them.” And as someone responded, “We won’t find those answers in our code of conduct.”
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My sincere thanks today to all the international event organizers who were kind enough over the past three years to bring me to their forums and conferences via remote satellite feeds, and to all the corporations and conferences that have recently invited me to their overseas symposiums so soon after my travel liberties were restored. And to all of you for following me on this journey.
For the next few posts, if you’re able to read any of Mary Gentile’s articles, including her book, Giving Voice to Values, as well as Todd Haugh’s essay in the Stanford Law Review, Cadillac Compliance Breakdown, they will make for great companion guides.
Richard Bistrong is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog and CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC. In 2010 he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the FCPA and served fourteen-and-a-half months at a U.S. federal prison camp. He now consults, writes and speaks about compliance issues. He was named to Compliance Week’s list of Top Minds in 2017 and was one of Ethisphere’s 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics in 2015. He can be contacted by email here and on twitter @richardbistrong.