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Harry Cassin
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Andy Spalding
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Jessica Tillipman
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Cody Worthington
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Julie DiMauro
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Thomas Fox
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Marc Alain Bohn
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Bill Waite
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Shruti J. Shah
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Russell A. Stamets
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Richard Bistrong
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Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

Richard Bistrong: The compliance community is shaped by common challenges

At an event last week in London, one of my co-panelists was Brian Saulnier, a partner at K&L Gates. More than ten years ago he was part of an outside team, engaged by my former employer, to look into my illegal conduct, including the United Nations bribery investigation, among other allegations.

Sitting with Brian, I thought about my past, and about today’s ethics and compliance community.

Since my release from federal prison five years ago, I’ve seen how the discourse in the compliance field can sometimes get heated (or overheated). But if I can exchange perspectives with Brian Saulnier over a compliance roundtable dinner — shedding a few tears and sharing a lot of laughs (mostly at my expense) with other guests — what does that say about our field? 

To me it says we’re surrounded by like-minded peers and colleagues, many of whom face significant anti-bribery challenges, and who are open minded about exchanging actionable and practical perspectives.

While the London event was hosted at K&L Gates, it wasn’t the “Brian and Richard” show. Instead it was an evening organized around four discussion topics, all of which all led to useful exchanges among our guests, coming from senior levels and diverse industries.

The discussion included Brian’s London-based partern, Dylan Moses and forensic perspectives from Forensic Risk Alliance co-hosts Toby Duthie (an FRA founder) and FRA Director Eddie Nkune, as well as co-chair Jo Morgan, the CCO at Rolls-Royce.

Jo launched the discussion around these four challenges:

Prevention: How can we ensure that business leaders work in tangent with compliance teams to promote compliance policies, as well as ethics and integrity though their corporate narrative, not just the compliance one? We identified the need to proactively address tensions between the pressure to perform and the pressure to comply with anti-bribery and corruption policies which are calibrated to realistic marketing conditions and commercial environments on a regional basis. We also addressed how compliance teams need to become more integrated in performance and objective related discussions.

Preparation: Are we properly preparing employees for the real-world risks they will inevitably face in certain regions? Are we developing training tools for employees that spark ethical agency and voice where there might not be a rule, to help employees arrive at their own ethical decisions by better understanding the spirit and the ‘why’ of policies? That’s the antithesis of “if there’s not a rule, it’s permissible.”

Investigation: Are organizations considering transactional sampling? Are there transactions that are unusual due to their timing or nature? What about what might seem like accidental overpayments, and the use of distributors where there’s no business case to have one? (In my own case, there were red flags including unexplained high performance and consistently hitting or exceeding sales goals over an extended period of time.) And in today’s enforcement environment, are wrongdoers more likely to cooperate in an internal investigation or march right to the regulators, as to tell what happened in their voice, instead of having internal investigators tell their story for them.

Remediation: If a problem occurred, why was the bribery and corruption able to happen? Are there discussions with employees about what issues led to the problems? We addressed the need to encourage open discussion among compliance and business leaders, across the enterprise, to understand the lapses but to also share the successes.


That’s a quick summary. If anyone would like to see the full evening takeaways, feel free to get in touch here.


Richard Bistrong, pictured above, is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog and CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLCIn 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 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 was named by Thomson Reuters in 2018 as a Top 50 Social Influencer in Risk, Compliance and RegTech.

His popular real-life compliance training video, Behind the Bribe, produced in cooperation with Mastercard, was released in 2017. To request a demo of the full eleven-minute video or a licensing fee schedule, please click here.

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1 Comment

  1. Human beings are driven by motivational forces.

    Ignore that and you will fail.

    The rest is Humpety Dumpty so to speak.

    Ergo, the fight against corruption and bribery will fail.

    Talking simply is not enough.

    Ethics and moral is like bodybuilding, what happens if you stop excercising ? Lack of motivation and you stop going to the gym.

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