Richard Bistrong | Contributing Editor
Richard Bistrong spent his career as an international sales executive and currently consults, writes and speaks on foreign bribery and compliance issues from that front-line perspective.
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.
Richard was the vice president of international sales for a large, publicly traded defense supplier, which included residing in the UK and extensive overseas travel.
In 2007, as part of a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and subsequent Immunity from Prosecution in the UK, Richard assisted the U.S., UK, and other governments in understanding how FCPA and other bribery and export violations occurred in international sales.
In 2012, after the collapse of the Africa Sting prosecution, Richard was sentenced as part of his own plea agreement, and served fourteen-and-a-half months at a U.S. federal prison camp.
He holds an MA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.
Richard writes about current anti-bribery and compliance issues at www.richardbistrong.com. Information about his consulting practice, Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC, can also be found on that website.
Last month Fiat Chrysler paid the SEC $40 million in penalties. The company had accumulated unreported sales in what FCA employees called a “cookie jar.” In months when FCA wanted its vehicle sales to appear better than they were, it dipped into the cookie jar to inflate sales numbers.
Mastercard has followed the success of its first compliance training video with a second release, this time about the perils of getting too close and comfortable with third parties, be they suppliers, agents, or other intermediaries.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Professor Eugene Soltes shared how “allowing integrity gaps to grow is especially unwise in an era when employees are increasingly likely to bring allegations straight to the media or regulators if they feel ignored by their leadership.”
When I was beating my sales targets every quarter over the course of a decade, it’s understandable why no one wanted to uncover anything that might disturb those results. So a “dangerous silence” marked my relationships with both peers and those above me in the chain of command.
Not all FBI stings in FCPA cases are alike. That became clear in the prosecution of Roger Richard Boncy and Joseph Baptiste. They were found guilty of FCPA and related offenses last month after a two-week jury trial in which the DOJ said they solicited “bribes from undercover agents posing as potential investors in a proposed port development project in the Mȏle St. Nicolas area of Haiti.”
In Wolfburg, Germany, at the global headquarters of the world’s largest automaker, there was little concern among VW’s engineers that they were doing anything unethical or illegal when they created “cheating” software for emissions tests.
Both the Financial Times and Fortune named Billion Dollar Whale the Best Book of 2018. It’s the story of how Goldman Sachs helped Jho Low steal more than $5 billion from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB.
At Fresenius Medical Care, according to a recent post on the FCPA Blog, management owned the graft and senior executives directed the bribery and the global cover up. The failures were both wide and deep, where “legal, compliance, and internal audit functions failed to detect and prevent the bribery,” the company said in an SEC filing.
In 2010, I pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the FCPA and served fourteen and a half months at a U.S. federal prison camp. About five years later, I began telling my story in public, to help others understand the compliance risks those on the front lines of business face every day.
Today I write from Berlin, staying in what was old East Berlin. Last week I spoke at an event in Malaysia. Both societies that have experienced and are experiencing (respectively) political, social and economic change that was once unimaginable.