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  • Richard Bistrong

Is Anti-Corruption a Business or Legal Issue?

Used with permission from Mak Yuen Teen

On June 5, 2014,  Philippe Montigny, President of Ethic Intelligence ( asks exactly that question in an editorial (here).  My own perspective of compliance remains much along the lines of those such as Mr. Montigny and that of Professor Mak Yuen Teen (National University of Singapore), whose article I discussed in a recent post (here).

On June 4th 2014, I addressed an internal audit and investigatory group at a global hedge fund, where I discussed my experience through international sales, cooperation, and sentencing. I concluded my presentation by sharing my thoughts on current compliance challenges and asked the attendees for feedback relative to my own journey and their  professional challenges. What I found interesting is that many of the questions from the audience during the presentation addressed a number of the issues which are now starting to rise in the compliance debate, including “what is the role of corporate strategy and compensation when trying to drive compliance policies and procedures to the front line of the business?”

These questions were encouraging, as I am starting to see a gradual shift in the debate from the specifics of compliance, including “tone at the top,” “third party management,”  and “how to organize a compliance department,” (among others) all of which have a fundamental and valid place in the compliance discussion, to one of looking at business strategy as the primary foundation of compliance. Lately, we see in the news companies such as GSK and Citibank which are edging the discourse away from the “rogue employee,” model or as Professor Mak calls it, “plausible deniability” towards one where business strategy itself is coming under scrutiny, sometimes from regulators, sometimes from shareholders, and often,  both.

In any case, while the details of a compliance program are not to be ignored, if the business strategy itself supports contradictory messages to the field between the “means” of compliance and the “ends” of winning above all else, then as Mr. Montigny concludes, compliance programs will “continue to be perceived by employees and other stakeholders as providing window dressing only.”

Or, as I recently asked Donna Boheme @donnacboheme on a tweet, “when does the paradigm shift with respect to the “rouge employee” concept.” Her response “when #boards stop accepting #lame excuses +demand accountability from management.” Sometimes the limitations of a tweet  make the points of a message so much more relevant!


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