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  • Richard Bistrong

Bribery at the “Sharp End.” Lessons from the field.

To many, an understanding of corruption, bribery  and compliance comes from the field of regulators, auditors, investigators and attorneys. Each one of these practices brings an important perspective and set of compliance “goggles”  to assist those on the front lines of business who are most likely to confront corruption, as well as to those who are tasked with providing anti-bribery and compliance tools.  It is not often that one hears of  “real-world” perspective and experience with respect to anti-bribery, corruption and compliance issues. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise, after posting “A Tale of Two Sentences,” when I received an e-mail from Pinset Masons Partner Barry Vitou, about an upcoming UK conference which will address the dynamics of international corruption, enforcement and cooperation.

Accordingly, on October 23rd, 2014 I am pleased to be presenting (via video feed) through a Q and A with Mr. Vitou, at the Pinset Masons Regulatory Conference (link here). As stated in, Pinset Masons “figure people want to understand the mindset of the prosecutor, what their peers are doing when it comes to compliance and learn from other businesses who, shall we say,  have more experience than most of compliance…and in some cases non compliance (allegedly).”

The morning session, will consist of “key note speakers from law enforcement and in house counsel of global companies who will share with us their insight and perspectives.” The key-note speaker is David Green, Director, Serious Fraud Office, and who was a signatory to my own “Immunity from Prosecution” in the UK prior to his SFO appointment. Mr. Green will be joined by other speakers who are all recognized leaders in the field of anti-bribery compliance, from both the public and corporate sectors.

As announced, “Richard Bistrong will join the speaker line up at this year’s Regulatory Conference after our breakout sessions in the afternoon. Mr Bistrong was a former international sales executive and FBI/UK co-operator who pleaded guilty to bribery offenses and served 14 months in a US federal prison. Mr Bistrong will share his experiences and insights ‘at the sharp end’.”

Accordingly, in what I am sure will be an engaging and challenging interview with Mr. Vitou, I hope to share some of my observations and experiences which remain relevant in both the UK and US, with respect to enforcement and compliance efforts. Having faced a near carbon-copy prosecution in the US and UK, I can reflect  that the degree of enforcement cooperation between both countries, “from the sharp end,” is indeed a reality.

I also hope to share that for many international business executives who operate on the front line of international commerce, that bribery, especially the issue around small bribes, which Mr. Vitou has written about, can become a default behavior. Such conduct can become “rationalized,”  especially as those in the field of international business come to confront bribery in the context of compensation, the illusion of “no-victims” and in the environment of “no-witnesses.” Instead of a traditional presentation, I am confident that the exchange with Mr. Vitou will most definitely bring these issues “to life” through a lively exchange of perspectives. When I asked Mr Vitou for his own perspective on our session, he stated “Businesses need to understand the risks they really face, how to reduce them and what prosecutors think of those who don’t. We don’t often hear from the person at the sharp end who paid the bribe and how and why they did it. Richard, you add this important dimension through your insight and thoughts. Business should listen.”


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