Life Cycle Of Third Party Management – Step 3 – Due Diligence

by Thomas Fox
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Five stepsMost companies fully understand the need to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Act regarding third parties as they represent the greatest risks for an FCPA violation. However most companies are not created out of new cloth but are ongoing enterprises with a fully up and running business in place. They need to bring in resources to comply with the FCPA while continuing to do business. This can be particularly true in the area of performing due diligence on third parties. Many companies understand the need for a robust due diligence program to investigate third parties, but have struggled with how to create an inventory to define the basis of risk of each foreign business partner and, thereby, perform the requisite due diligence required under the FCPA.

Getting your arms around due diligence can sometimes seem bewildering for the compliance practitioner. However, the information that you should have developed in Steps 1 & 2 of the life cycle of third party management should provide you with the initial information to consider the level of due diligence that you should perform on third parties. This leads to today’s topic of Step 3 in the five steps of the life cycle management of third parties – Due Diligence.

Jay Martin, Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) at BakerHughes, often emphasizes, when he speaks on the topic, that a company needs to evaluate and address its risks regarding third parties. This means that an appropriate level of due diligence may vary depending on the risks arising from the particular relationship. So, for example, the appropriate level of due diligence required by a company when contracting for the performance of Information Technology (IT) services may be low, to reflect low risks of bribery on its behalf. Conversely, a business entering into the international energy market and selecting an intermediary to assist in establishing a business in such markets will typically require a much higher level of due diligence to mitigate the risks of bribery on its behalf.

Our British compliance cousins of course are subject to the UK Bribery Act. In its Principle VI of an Adequate Procedures compliance program, the UK Ministry of Justice (MOJ) stated, “The commercial organisation applies due diligence procedures, taking a proportionate and risk based approach, in respect of persons who perform or will perform services for or on behalf of the organisation, in order to mitigate identified bribery risks.” The purpose of Principle VI is to encourage businesses to put in place due diligence procedures that adequately inform the application of proportionate measures designed to prevent persons associated with a company from bribing on their behalf. The MOJ recognized that due diligence procedures act both as a procedure for anti-bribery risk assessment and as a risk mitigation technique. The MOJ said that due diligence is so important that “the role of due diligence in bribery risk mitigation justifies its inclusion here as a Principle in its own right.”

Carol Switzer, writing in Compliance Week, related that you should initially set up categories for your third parties of high, moderate and low risk. Based upon which risk category the third party falls into, you can design specific due diligence. She defined low risk screening as “trusted data source search and risk screening such as the aforementioned World Compliance”; moderate risk screening as “enhanced evaluation to include in-country public records…and research into corporate relationships”; high risk screening is basically a “deep dive assessment” where there is an audit/review of third party controls and financial records, in-country interviews and investigations “leveraging local data sources.”

A three-step approach was also discussed favorably in Opinion Release 10-02. In this Opinion Release, the Department of Justice (DOJ) discussed the due diligence that the requesting entity performed. “First, it [the requestor] conducted an initial screening of six potential grant recipients by obtaining publicly available information and information from third-party sources…Second, the Eurasian Subsidiary undertook further due diligence on the remaining three potential grant recipients. This due diligence was designed to learn about each organization’s ownership, management structure and operations; it involved requesting and reviewing key operating and assessment documents for each organization, as well as conducting interviews with representatives of each MFI to ask questions about each organization’s relationships with the government and to elicit information about potential corruption risk. As a third round of due diligence, the Eurasian Subsidiary undertook targeted due diligence on the remaining potential grant recipient, the Local MFI. This diligence was designed to identify any ties to specific government officials, determine whether the organization had faced any criminal prosecutions or investigations, and assess the organization’s reputation for integrity.”

Based upon the wisdom of the aforementioned compliance experts, Opinion Release 10-02 and others I have reviewed break due diligence down into three stages: Level I, Level II and Level III. A very good description of the three levels of due diligence was presented by Candace Tal in a guest post, entitled “Deep Level Due Diligence: What You Need to Know”.

Level I

First level due diligence typically consists of checking individual names and company names through several hundred Global Watch lists comprised of anti-money laundering (AML), anti-bribery, sanctions lists, coupled with other financial corruption & criminal databases. These global lists create a useful first-level screening tool to detect potential red flags for corrupt activities. It is also a very inexpensive first step in compliance from an investigative viewpoint. Tal believes that this basic Level I due diligence is extremely important for companies to complement their compliance policies and procedures; demonstrating a broad intent to actively comply with international regulatory requirements.

Level II

Level II due diligence encompasses supplementing these Global Watch lists with a deeper screening of international media, typically the major newspapers and periodicals, from all countries plus detailed internet searches. Such inquiries will often reveal other forms of corruption-related information and may expose undisclosed or hidden information about the company, the third party’s key executives and associated parties. I believe that Level II should also include an in-country database search regarding the third party. Some of the other types of information that you should consider obtaining are country of domicile and international government records; use of in-country sources to provide assessments of the third party; a check for international derogatory electronic and physical media searches, you should perform both English and foreign-language repositories searches on the third party, in its country of domicile, if you are in a specific industry, using technical specialists you should also obtain information from sector specific sources.

Level III

This level is the deep dive. It will require an in-country ‘boots-on-the-ground’ investigation. I agree with Tal that a Level III due diligence investigation is designed to supply your company “with a comprehensive analysis of all available public records data supplemented with detailed field intelligence to identify known and more importantly unknown conditions. Seasoned investigators who know the local language and are familiar with local politics bring an extra layer of depth assessment to an in country investigation.” Further, the “Direction of the work and analyzing the resulting data is often critical to a successful outcome; and key to understanding the results both from a technical perspective and understanding what the results mean in plain English. Investigative reports should include actionable recommendations based on clearly defined assumptions or preferably well-developed factual data points.”

But more than simply an investigation of the company, critically including a site visit and coupled with onsite interviews, Tal says that some other things you investigate include “an in-depth background check of key executives or principal players. These are not routine employment-type background checks, which are simply designed to confirm existing information; but rather executive due diligence checks designed to investigate hidden, secret or undisclosed information about that individual.” Tal believes that such “Reputational information, involvement in other businesses, direct or indirect involvement in other law suits, history of litigious and other lifestyle behaviors which can adversely affect your business, and public perceptions of impropriety, should they be disclosed publicly.”

Further, you may need to engage a foreign law firm, to investigate the third party in its home country to determine the third party’s compliance with its home country’s laws, licensing requirements and regulations. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you should use Level III to look the proposed third party in the eye and get a firm idea of his or her cooperation and attitude towards compliance as one of the most important inquiries is not legal but based upon the response and cooperation of the third party. More than simply trying to determine if the third party objected to any portion of the due diligence process or did they object to the scope, coverage or purpose of the FCPA; you can use Level III to determine if the third party is willing to stand up with you under the FCPA and are you willing to partner with the third party.

The Risk Advisory Group, has put together a handy chart of its Level I, II and III approaches to integrity and due diligence. I have found it useful in explaining the different scopes and focuses of the various levels of due diligence.

Level

Issues Addressed

Scope of Investigation

One

  • That the company exists
  • Identities of directors and shareholders
  • Whether such persons are on regulators’ watch lists
  • Signs that such persons are government officials
  • Obvious signs of financial difficulty
  • Signs of involvement in litigation
  • Media reports linking the company to corruption
  • Company registration and status
  • Registered Address
  • Regulators’ watch lists
  • Credit Checks
  • Bankruptcy/Liquidation Proceedings
  • Review accounts and auditors comments
  • Litigation search
  • Negative media search

Two

As above with the following additions:

  • Public Profile integrity checks
  • Signs of official investigations and/or sanctions from regulatory authorities
  • Other anti-corruption Red Flags

As above with the following additions:

  • Review and summary of all media and internet references
  • Review and summary of relevant corporate records and litigation filings, including local archives
  • Analysis and cross-referencing of all findings

Three

As above with the following additions:

  • But seeking fuller answers to any questions raised by drawing on a wider range of intelligence sources and/or addressing specific issues of potential concern already identified

 

As above with the following additions:

  • Enquiries via local sources
  • Enquiries via industry experts
  • Enquiries via western agencies such as embassies or trade promotion bodies
  • Enquires via sources close to local regulatory agencies

As you can see from this blog post, there are many different approaches to the specifics of due diligence. By laying out some of the approaches of other experts in the field, I hope that you can craft the relevant portions into your program. The Level I, II & III trichotomy appears to have the greatest favor and one that you should be able to implement in a straightforward manner. However, as Jay Martin constantly says, you need to assess your company’s risk and manage that risk. So if you need to perform additional due diligence to answer questions or clear red flags you should do so. And do not forget to Document, Document and Document all your due diligence.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Thomas Fox, Compliance Evangelist | Attorney Advertising

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