Now that we have reviewed all of the public record pronouncements from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), this post will try and suggest what you might need in your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance policy and attendant procedures regarding gifts, travel and entertainment. Most generally, every company has three levels of written standards and controls around its compliance function. The first is its Code of Conduct, which every company should have to express its ethical principles. I assume your company has a Code of Conduct but if you are reading this blog post and you do not have a Code of Conduct, call me. The second is its standards and policies, which every company should use to build upon the foundation of the Code of Conduct and articulate Code-based policies, which should cover such issues as bribery, corruption and accounting practices. The third, and final component, is procedures, which every company should have to ensure that enabling procedures are implemented to confirm those policies are implemented, followed and enforced.
Rebecca Walker, writing in the Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics Complete Compliance Manual [Second Edition], in an article entitled “Gifts and Entertainment Compliance”,said written policies around gifts, travel and entertainment typically contain the following elements:
Mike Volkov, in a blog post entitled “Safe Harbors and Gifts, Meals, Travel, and Entertainment Expenses”, gave these general guidelines about gifts:
About travel he had the following insights:
Below are some of my thoughts about what should go into your gifts, travel and entertainment policy.
There are no Opinion Releases on the threshold that a Company can establish as a value for entertainment. I am comfortable that such a value can go up to $500 in an appropriate circumstance. However this must be tempered with clear guidelines incorporated into the business expenditure component of a FCPA compliance policy, which should include the following:
The incorporation of these concepts into a FCPA compliance policy is a good first step towards preventing potential FCPA violations from arising, but it must be emphasized that they are only a first step. They must be coupled with active training of all personnel, not only on the policy and procedures, but also on the corporate and individual consequences that may arise if the FCPA is violated regarding gifts, travel and entertainment. Lastly, it is imperative that all such gifts, travel and entertainment be properly recorded, as required by the books and records component of the FCPA.
I view one of the key reasons for the attendant procedure of implanting the company policy around gifts, travel and entertainment is to allow oversight by a second set of eyes. Process validation requires oversight of compliance with gifts and entertainment policies is important to ensuring consistency in policy enforcement. This helps to ensure that there is the perception of fairness in this area, particularly if there must be discipline administered. Nothing is worse for an organization if, say, a salesman from the US is disciplined via a warning letter for cheating on his expense account whereas salesmen in Brazil are fired for the same offense.
Mike Volkov, in another blog post entitled “Creating a Framework for Reviewing Gifts, Meals, Travel and Entertainment Expenses”, said that he believes “There are three basic requirements for making the review process more efficient.” They include:
The final point from Walker, Volkov and myself is that whatever policy and procedures you set up and utilize, they should be designed for your company. The FCPA Guidance speaks to a well-thought out and designed system for any compliance risk and gifts, travel and entertainment is no different. Further, you must not only train but monitor and audit on your gifts, travel and entertainment. As this is one of the top areas that employees generate monies from their employers it is one of the top areas for fraud and hence corruption. And finally, Document, Document and Document.
Visit the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog, hosted by Thomas Fox, for more commentary on FCPA compliance, indemnities and other forms of risk management for a worldwide energy practice, tax issues faced by multi-national US companies, insurance coverage issues and protection of trade secrets.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2014
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