World Cup Finale – Compliance Lessons to be learned from Success and Failure

by Thomas Fox

World Cup 2014Over the past few weeks, I have written several articles on the lessons a compliance practitioner can draw from this year’s World Cup and the international group which runs the event, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or more commonly know as FIFA. Over on my podcast site, the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report, Mike Brown, the Managing Director of Infortal and myself have just concluded a 7 part World Cup Report, where we discussed issues surrounded FIFA and this year’s World Cup in the context of anti-corruption programs. Whatever else FIFA may be, it is certainly is a compliance practitioner’s dream for lessons learned on bribery and corruption.

The 2014 championship is over and Germany came through this year’s tournament as the clear victors. Over the past couple of weeks, I was lucky enough to see the current Queen/Adam Lambert Tour. They ended both concerts with We Are the Champions and I could not but help think of the German soccer team and indeed the entire German country, winning its first World Cup title since unification. And, of course, any discussion of Germany, its title and this year’s World Cup will have to include is absolute destruction of the Brazilian team and the hearts of the host country with its 7-1 uber-win in the Semi-Finals. How long will that game be remembered? My guess is as long as soccer is played.

While Argentina did have its shots at Germany in the finals, in order to win they were required to play a near perfect game, which, unfortunately for the team and the country, it failed to do in the finals. Does this mean that Messi is not the greatest player in the game today? I really do not know but I still love watching him play and that is good enough for me.

From all of this, the lessons for the compliance practitioner can be many but I wanted to focus on two leadership lessons: What can you learn from failure? and What can your learn from losing? Losing first. In an article in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, entitled “And Then There was Ein”, Grant Wahl wrote about how Germany turned its national soccer program around from one of its most devastating performances in Euro 2000 where it finished last in its group and did not win a single match in the tournament. From that nadir, “the national federation teamed up with German clubs to overhaul the country’s youth development.” Players from this development program were instrumental in leading the 2014 German team to the 2014 World Cup win. In other words, the German soccer federation learned from its past mistakes and grew a team that became champions.

Contrast this lesson with Wahl’s take on Brazil. He quoted Alex Bellos who said the following, “What does it mean to be the five-time champion if you let in four goals in six minutes?… The world’s biggest footballing country hosting a World Cup, in front of their own fans, and were made to look like they couldn’t play football. And against a team that was playing with artistry and sophistication and happiness, all the thing that Brazil is supposed to play with. You couldn’t have devised a more devastating epitaph for the Beautiful Game.” Bellos went on to say, “Brazil’s week from hell revealed a nation satisfied with resting on past soccer achievements and unwilling to seek new ideas abroad.”

Just as lessons can be learned from failure they can also be learned from success. In this week’s Corner Office section in the New York Times (NYT), Adam Bryant profiled Kat Cole, the President of Cinnabon, in an article entitled “Questioning Success More Than Failure”. While thinking about Germany’s success in the World Cup I was intrigued when Bryant quoted Cole for the following, “I’ve learned to question success a lot more than failure. I’ll ask more questions when sales are up than I do when they’re down. I ask more questions when things seem to be moving smoothly, because I’m thinking: “There’s got to be something I don’t know. There’s always something.” This approach means that people don’t feel beat up for failing, but they should feel very concerned if they don’t understand why they’re successful. I made mistakes over the years that taught me to ask those questions.”

Both of these perspectives can be very useful for the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act compliance practitioner. Just as it is axiom that your compliance program should not be static but dynamic and evolving, what are you learning from your compliance failures and compliance successes? Most lawyers and compliance practitioners can review root cause/analyses to help determine how a compliance failure might have arisen. But how many are looking at your compliance successes. By this I do not mean celebrating your compliance successes but performing the same type of root cause/analyses to determine how a fact pattern arose but was prevented from becoming a full-blown FCPA violation. If something came in through the hotline, did you interview the whistleblower about what caused them to have confidence to report in that manner? Did you look at the training delivered to the whistleblowing employee? How about their supervisor? Did you interview that supervisor to see how he or she got the message out to not only use the hotline but stress the message of no retaliation?

In her interview Cole put it another way when she said, “I learned to make sure I take the full authority of my role. When I haven’t, I knew it immediately. And so I keep a keen eye out for whether my young leaders are forgoing an opportunity to lead. Their intentions might be right but the action and outcome are wrong. I remind people that they were hired for their point of view: “I want 100 percent of your brain 100 percent of the time, and there is a respectful way to communicate and disagree. Please do not hold back, because I want 100 percent of my investment in you.””

For the compliance practitioner, I found Cole’s insights useful in other areas. Although given in the context of ambitious employees who might want to succeed at Cinnabon, I found them to be useful in compliance as well. “First, I talk about being incredibly coachable, because we all give each other feedback. If you want to move up, you’ve got to get as many inputs as possible to continue to develop. Second, take your development into your own hands and be curious about the entire company. If there’s something you want to learn, go learn it. The structure here is like a start-up. Then I talk about productive achievers and destructive achievers, and that I only promote and support productive achievers. And that’s about mentoring and helping others while you are delivering results.

Germany is the new king of the soccer world. Long live the King, at least until the next World Cup. The lessons that Germany took to heart in the wake of its disaster in Euro 2000 directly led to it hoisting the trophy this year. Conversely, Brazil rested on its considerable laurels and now must live with the ignominy of a 7-1 shellacking, probably for the rest of the country’s collective memory. For a compliance program to be effective it must evolve. As Wahl’s Sports Illustrated article makes clear, lessons can be learned and evolution made from failure. However, as Bryant’s Corner Office article interview of Cole makes clear as well, lessons can be learned from successes as well.

Perhaps that is the final lesson from the 2014 World Cup…


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

Written by:

Thomas Fox

Compliance Evangelist on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.