Amnesty for Armstrong? Lessons for the Compliance Practitioner

by Thomas Fox

The Lance Armstrong saga continues to provide many lessons for the compliance practitioner. A recent article on, entitled “Lance calls for amnesty program”, reported that Armstrong has come out in favor of those who openly speak about the doping culture of cycling, of course most notably him. The article stated “Now that doping has become such a big problem, Armstrong said a truth and reconciliation program is the “only way” to rid cycling of performance-enhancing drugs, and the sport’s governing body should have no role in the process.” In an interview given to Cyclingnews, it was reported that Armstrong said that the “best way forward is a truth and reconciliation process offering amnesty to riders and officials who detail doping in the sport.”

When asked which anti-doping agency should give this amnesty and which one should take such testimony Armstrong answered that “the program should be run by the World Anti-Doping Agency and not the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the body that produced a scathing report detailing systematic doping by Armstrong and his teams. The USADA report led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned from elite sport for life.” Not too surprising that Armstrong does not want to get anywhere near USADA given the report they released on him last summer. Armstrong stated that complete amnesty must be given “otherwise no one will show up.” Any chance that ‘no one’ he refers to would be himself?

While Armstrong’s idea of a ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ program may seem, well shall we say, a tad self-serving, the use of a suspended or lessened sentence has been successfully used to elicit testimony in the cycling world. According to the New York Times, USADA had “the ability to offer other cyclists reduced suspensions if they provided information about Armstrong’s doping. Similar to how prosecutors try to persuade lower-level drug dealers to share information about their superiors, the anti-doping agency sat down one by one with cyclists from Armstrong’s teams. Ultimately, 11 agreed to cooperate.” So I guess people will show up if you offer them some type of amnesty, just not the top banana.

What is the compliance angle to amnesty programs? Siemens used an amnesty program to help it investigate its worldwide bribery scheme. In November 2007, Siemens began an amnesty program relating to possible violations of anti-public-corruption laws in order to expedite the independent investigation and facilitate clarification. According to an article in the FCPA Blog, entitled “Siemens’ Employees Come In From The Cold”, Siemens began this amnesty program because its “internal investigation reportedly had stalled because of stonewalling by managers in various countries.”

In the first three months 66 employees came forward in connection with the amnesty program. In addition, a large number of employees received information about the program. “The amnesty program has been very successful” Peter Y. Solmssen, member of the Managing Board and General Counsel of Siemens AG said. He went on to say “We’re pleased that so many employees have made use of the program and are thereby expediting clarification.” By mid-January, 2008, Siemens’ counsel, Debevoise & Plimpton, said that “[s]ince November 28, 2007, we have obtained significant new information and developed very substantial leads from participants in Siemens’ amnesty program, as well as other sources, regarding topics relevant to our investigation.” Siemens itself said that information provided by the employees who ‘came in from the cold’ through this amnesty program gave it new leads to pursue in its internal investigation. At the end of the day, the Department of Justice (DOJ) lauded Siemens amnesty program, which it characterized as “innovative” in helping to further Siemens internal investigation.

Further, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in March 2008, in an article entitled “Siemens Amnesty Plan Assists Bribery Probe”, that the amnesty program “was offered to all employees except 300 of Siemens’s top executives and expired at the end of February [2008], prompted about 110 employees to offer information about alleged wrongdoing.” Under the amnesty program, the company did not make claims for damages or unilaterally terminate employee relationships. However, Siemens reserved the right to impose lesser disciplinary measures.

So what about Armstrong and his ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ idea? In the article, he intones that he is really the victim here. First of all, he feels that he is really the fall guy for the sport of cycling, because you know, everybody was doing it. He just did it better. He also said it was unfair that those who testified against him had received “minor off-seasons sanctions versus the death penalty” for himself. He was quoted as saying, “What is relevant is that everyone is treated equally and fairly. We all made the mess, let’s all fix the mess, and let’s all be punished equally.” That certainly sounds like someone who is repentant, doesn’t it?

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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Thomas Fox

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