Interview with C. David Morris, Senior Counsel International at Northrop Grumman Corporation
With the steady increase in enforcement, organizations need to now move beyond FCPA compliance and embrace a global anti-corruption compliance program. Global companies should assess their existing anti-corruption compliance programs and adjust them to meet potentially more stringent requirements.
C. David Morris, Senior Counsel International at Northrop Grumman Corporation is a speaker at the 6th FCPA & Anti-Corruption Compliance Conferencetaking place on June 22-24, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Mr. Morris is Senior Counsel in the Northrop Grumman Corporation International Law Department located in Linthicum, MD. His practice focuses on international regulatory compliance and cross-border transactions involving the corporation’s domestic and international businesses and joint ventures. David answered a series of questions on how to enhance FCPA and anti-bribery initiatives to adapt to heightened global anti-corruption enforcement.
What is the importance for companies to conduct regular compliance training for FCPA and foreign anti corruption laws?
DM: From a legal perspective, the U.S. Government has made it clear through many Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission settlement agreements and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that regular training is an essential component of a corporate compliance program for companies that conduct business with foreign government entities. As such, a company’s history of conducting anti-corruption training can be viewed as either a mitigating or aggravating factor should a company find itself in litigation on a FCPA matter. Likewise, the Guidance to the UK Bribery Act also identifies training as a key component to the corporate defense of having adequate compliance procedures. In this regard, the failure to provide training could be detrimental to the statutory defense. From a business perspective, anti-corruption training is a wise investment as part of a preventative law program. Regular anti-corruption training helps to reinforce and shape a corporation’s ethical culture and standards of business conduct. When clear policies and expectations are communicated, a culture for ethical behavior becomes engrained throughout the enterprise.
How can companies not only meet the minimal expectationsfor FCPA compliancebut also exceed them?
DM: Two features of a robust compliance program that companies can undertake to achieve top tier status are to conduct benchmarking activities relative to their industry peer companies and to regularly conduct comprehensive internal risk assessments on a periodic basis. Collaboration with outside experts on these activities can be particularly helpful because they can bring an independent perspective to aid in the decision making process. In addition, there are numerous webinars, conferences, and bar association committees that provide useful practice tips and networking opportunities to stay abreast of best practices. Finally, the OECD published guidance in this area last year with their Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics, and Compliance, which is often cited by enforcement authorities as a model for companies to embrace.
What are the effects of non-compliance on share price, organizational reputation etc?
DM: The effects of a corruption related enforcement action can be devastating on all of a company’s constituencies. For shareholders, it is fairly common to see a company’s market capitalization decline following the announcement of a government investigation or a financial reserve set aside to cover potential fines and penalties. In 2010 alone, there were five settlements with the DOJ and SEC in excess of $100M. For customers and trading partners, uncertainties about the reliability of a company undergoing an enforcement action can be problematic because of the possibility of suspension, debarment, and/or revocation of export privileges in some cases. For employees, morale can take a hit when they observe their leaders prosecuted for criminal activity. Lastly, the enterprise as a whole can suffer because the lifecycle of a typical enforcement action (investigation, litigation, consent decree, and compliance monitor) can consume management focus for many years.
How can existing anti corruption programs be strengthened to take account of emerging global anti-corruption trends?
DM: Given the extra-territorial reach of the FCPA, the jurisdictional reach of the UK Bribery Act, and the level of inter-country prosecutorial cooperation, companies need to review their policies, procedures, and internal controls to ensure their anti-corruption compliance program is in lock-step with their corporate footprint. As with any business activity, capital, human, and technological resources need to be deployed where they will be most effective and adjusted as the business evolves. An internal risk assessment and procedural gap review are two features of a healthy continuous improvement program. Lastly, I would add that partnering with Internal Auditors, Country Managers, Ethics Officers, Finance personnel and others with an anti-corruption focus can be a beneficial way to leverage and extend the reach of existing resources.
How best can red flags of possible FCPA violations be identified?
DM: The FCPA’s accounting and internal controls provisions require companies to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that transactions are executed in accordance with management's authorization and are recorded as necessary to maintain accountability for assets. In addition, there are Sarbanes-Oxley requirements for management to provide a statement of the effectiveness of the company's internal control structure and procedures for financial reporting. As such, procedures and controls should be established for entering into third party commitments, making payments, and cash disbursements to detect red flags which may require additional due diligence. In addition to periodic internal risk assessments and related interviews of key personnel, it is a good practice to provide awareness training on red flags and to require those involved with international transactions to certify if they are aware of red flags or adverse information at milestones throughout a business transaction. The establishment of an anonymous hot line to report ethical concerns is also often cited as a best practice to detect red flags. In terms of identifying red flags of external trading partners, periodic media searches can reveal a wealth of information. The commercial attaché of the US Embassy of the country in question can also be a valuable red flag identification resource, as well as in-country employees and outside counsel.