Fostering Anti-Corruption Compliance at the Local Level

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As anti-corruption efforts around the globe get more aggressive, more multi-national businesses are implementing best practices to ensure compliance with laws like the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the UK Bribery Act. Local laws and cultures, however, often make compliance difficult and require proactive measures to stem inappropriate behavior by foreign subsidiaries and business partners.

One of several tactics employers can use in fostering compliance is designating a compliance officer or attorney in high-risk countries who speaks the local language. This type of local presence reminds employees of the company's commitment to compliance and provides someone with whom employees may voice concerns. This person will also be more capable of understanding the way business is carried out at that location and be able to more accurately report on — and respond to — compliance issues.

Similarly, management must make it clear that ethical behavior is expected and corrupt activities will not be tolerated. Anti-corruption policies and procedures should be both implemented and enforced. For example, including ethical behavior as part of performance reviews and regular training on procedures will make compliance a normal part of the job. Additionally, establishing local hotlines that connect to real people who speak the local language will encourage internal whistleblowers.

Finally, companies should consider taking advantage of local employees' knowledge of their country's business practices. These employees are usually in the best position to highlight areas of risk. Such discussions can also help employees understand that they have a significant role to play in helping the company avoid potential liability.

While corruption may be standard operating procedure in certain countries, companies that operate in these areas are not excused from making efforts to comply with applicable anti-corruption laws. Reasonable compliance measures include training employees on the law and how to recognize and avoid potential violations.